the trans tax, or why I’d really like a ‘polite word’ with Caitlin Jenner

There’s this thing called the “pink tax”, the reality that things intended for women to purchase, or services provided to women. If you’ve ever heard the BS reasons provided as justification, it should be quite obvious that the belief of the manufacturer and/or service provider is that somehow women “deserve” to pay more. It’s especially bad if you’re not a size 2-10, if you require specific shapes or cuts of clothing, and if you need adaptive technology. Apparently disabled women have more disposable income to spend on basic survival?

The pink tax is obvious to basically anyone less regressive than an MRA, so that means about 99% of the world. It’s not even debatable as to why, it’s debatable as to how severely it disadvantages women, but basically everyone agrees that it does, and I think most people understand that since we’re already getting paid less and face more basic obstacles in the activities of daily living in a patriarchal world, the “pink tax” is pretty severe, especially if you work in a situation where extensive grooming is forced upon you; it’s one thing to choose it, but being forced to wear makeup is like being forced to spend money, and unfortunately for some reason this kind of thing is often even considered legal, a pleasant reminder that what is legal isn’t always the same as what is moral.

The pink tax is, obviously, morally repugnant. It’s occasionally supported by three factions of people: marketers, who will basically support anything that makes money and damn the torpedos, Calvinist “Christian” fundamentalists, aka a bunch of white men who hate the idea of women having independent thoughts, or MRAs, who are a bunch of white men who really hate the idea of women having independent thoughts. Strange they’re completely alike, eh?

So let’s talk about a different issue. The “trans tax”.  See, a lot of us out here in the real world who don’t come from privilege and a six-figure tech salary, we have to woodwork to survive. That doesn’t mean, as white trans orthodoxy always screams, not being out to anyone or not working for trans rights. You’re welcome to that reductive point of view, but that reductive point of view, like much of white trans orthodoxy, literally kills TWoC, disabled trans women, and working-class trans women. You may be out to your friends, but not at work. You might be out to your work, but not to your family. You might be out at work and school but not to your neighbors.  This has been our basic safety method for decades, since trans time immemorial, really.

Trouble is, the “transgender tipping point” makes people like me more visible; there are many of us, more than you might know, and it’s somewhat hard to ponder why we stay out. Is it that trans culture is so toxic and obsessed with external beauty? Is it that it sucks to get called a man and stared at by our peers? Is it that when you have to worry about your spoons, trans orthodoxy is that you don’t get to be part of the group? Is it that there’s nowhere for you when something’s for “cuties only” and you can’t be good enough in the eyes of the skinny abled white trans woman who arbits who is and isn’t a “cutie” to be seen as female, much less a female person?

And then there’s our public relations problem. For every Laverne Cox, Imogen Binnie, Julia Serano, or Kim Coco Iwamoto out there who does great things for us, we have…(HBSer, Republican, kinda killed someone with her car) Caitlyn Jenner, (unashamed racist) Lana Wachowski, or (Republican, warhawk, Romney and the NRA-loving) Jennifer Prtizker. The former use their visibility and placement to uplift us all. The latter, well…let’s just say they modem the punching down that trans orthodoxy loves, yet at the same time, the latter use their hypervisibility to do things like traffic in tired racist stereotypes and to make sure they get their 15 minutes of fame in a reality show that focuses in an almost lurid fashion on trans women as living zoo exhibits.

Trouble is that such media exposure tends to tend the people who get off on living zoo exhibits to start looking under the eaves for them. In the past couple of years since Caitlyn Jenner endorsed a goddamn Fascist and since that goddamned Fascist has been enabling people who want to, you know, “morally mandate” people like us out of existence, it’s been different out there. When I go to work, I feel a little more on edge; I feel a little more terrified when the occasional Staring White Trans Woman thing happens on the train. I get a little more cautious, because what could happen next?

So I know I’ve said it before somewhere on the intertubes, so apologies for rehashing it: when you’re visibly disabled, people treat you like a goddamn zoo exhibit. Sometimes, they just grab you or your adaptive equipment. People assume that anything you do is somehow seeking attention. Custom paint job on your wheelchair? Must be seeking attention. In the meantime, people wear suits and nobody says that’s seeking attention; something that goes with you is as much a part of your clothing as a suit or your unders. The idea that because you left the house you deserve this inspection…it’s pretty ableist, yet almost everyone who is visibly disabled knows this as part of daily life.

See, those of us most at risk of coming to some sort of grief over our trans status suffer the worst in the post-I Am Cait world. And many of us are starting to feel the pinch because we are in no way able to pay the “trans tax” whilst horror stories make us think we might not be able to woodwork our way through that manicure or haircut, or going to the mall for a new pair of jeans, or picking up our meds at the pharmacy. If I even get the slightest hesitation when picking up hormones, I change pharmacies. Life’s too short to wonder if you’ll even get them the next time, or if they’re putting you on a list of Those People.

There’s an explicitly queer-friendly nail salon here in River City. I don’t want to single them out by name, since they’re both part of the problem but seem to be decent people trying to make a living. Trouble is, that’s where I’d feel safe getting my claws did anymore because what if this is the time the tech notices how big my hands are and then what?

But I can’t afford what they charge. The knowledge that that will be the safe judgment-free option is the reason they ain’t cheap.  If you had nappy hair and were a trans woman in New England back in the day, you know that one lady who didn’t give a shit and didn’t tell tales. I’m sure there’s more options now, but that was a pain in the ass back then half because she was across the universe from me and half because it felt weird I couldn’t just stroll down Main Street and get my tresses tended to. None of my friends had to leave the state to get their hair did. And I’m pretty sure even the bougie ones paid less.

This is the trans tax. It sucks, and it hits other/Outsider trans women without access to the commons even harder. If there’s some trans-friendly nail tech at 88 Lines About 44 Nails or something where word of mouth says they’re awesome…perhaps they won’t carry the same tax as the ones who advertise out and out being trans friendly. Well, the one. Single. Un. Solo.  I’ve been pondering getting a tattoo; unfortunately, I know of literally one tattoo artist in all River City who is okay with working with a trans woman. I’m sure there are others, but again, this is the one visible option. A lack of access to the commons is particularly costly in these situations, as those who lack such access can’t find out others through word of mouth. (I’ll gladly take suggestions in my Tumblr Ask Box if you have one and you know what I’m saying when I say River City.)

There’s the ones that affect us all, too. Like having to pay ridiculously spendy shipping (looking at you, Torrid) because you can’t just go into a clothing store without fear anymore. What if this is the time someone decides you’re a perv and you get trespassed from the mall? I mean, this is the kind of thing the far-right is encouraging people to do. What if the friendly salesperson trying to sign me up for store credit gives my address to K!w!Farms?

I’m not given to magic solutions about what to do about the trans tax. I know service providers gotta get paid, and I know that it is meant as a labor of love after a fact. I’d just really like to be able to afford it. I know that for the more moneyed among us that perhaps it’s great to be able to buy that kind of peace of mind and…well, bully for you, but why can’t we *all* have that? I mean, this is the kind of thing where trans orthodoxy is merciless toward outsider/Other trans women: grooming. I’m already harshly judged for not meeting impossible white-abled beauty standards, and I imagine that sooner or later in finding things to complain about it would get to that my cuticles look like hot ass. I’d say it’s ironic, but perhaps the grandest irony of all is that I’m sure the same hot garbage people who defend the pink tax laugh their ass off at the idea of a trans tax.


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