This has slurs about intelligence. I’m sick of blotting them out in my blogging, because they’re very real words with a very real meaning in my life. It also talks about people who commit sexual assault. If this isn’t going to work for you, stop now. And yes, I call myself “stupid”, because that’s my word to reclaim, thank you very much.
There’s this band from Toronto called Metric. If you live close enough to the border that you can get Canadian radio, you’ve probably known them since the early 00s. They didn’t blow in the US until 2008, so that a lead singer in her mid-30s got away with the line “you’re gonna make mistakes, you’re young.” The Canadian audience chuckled, the American audience didn’t get it, and a rather salty music critic dismissed the band as being “3 replaceable guys behind a 23-year-old blonde.” The response was this video, two outstretched middle fingers at the concept, as well as at the reviewer. When I’m warming up at karaoke, it’s what I sing…I can sing the song in my sleep, as it’s the middle of my range. It’s pretty close to a psych-up song, the one that enables the real belting after two more doubles of whiskey. But the song actually contains a pretty powerful message: screw you all, we want to be ourselves.
And, well, trans activism often elicits this reply from me in my mind, because frankly I do kind of want to be myself. I used to see writing as a tool of change, but I’ve quit writing so many times, folks, whether over MRA pressure, having to delete the blog to be “allowed” in a trans women’s group on FB, or just outright being sick of being told I’m an “asshole on the internet” by middle-class white trans dudes. The message isn’t exactly subtle: it’s who the hell are you? You’re not involved, all you do is write…it makes it feel rather selfish and pointless to keep doing so.
I get asked…a lot…why a picture of me doesn’t grace this blog. You see, you can pick and choose from the answers. One is that I’m the lying fabricated sock puppet of some sad white man. Two is that I’m fond of having a job. Three would be that frankly every time my picture has moved in to the orbit of Caucasian abled trans women, the response is some combination of retarded/fat/stupid/ugly/broken & cow/pig/man/bitch. You can pick and choose between these three reasons…I sort of wish for one, because I could just walk away from this, couldn’t I then? There is also that a face really isn’t necessary for criticism unless your predilections to judge that face are somehow, pardon the pun, facially neutral. White abled trans women have failed me over and over again at being able to be so neutral, so I will just allow for the implicit bias. But why is the abuse necessary? Why the informing me how much FFS I will “need to ever pass” when that’s not what I asked for? It’s kicking the unfamiliar. Why not “Hi, what’s your name?”
This is, unfortunately, typical of the outright abuse that is used as an informal gatekeeping system within any organized commons that “trans community” is supposed to gather in. And, well, when you’re an unknown, that’s the only option you’re given. I have never been able to understand why the abuse is so necessary, but there’s always an excuse, and you think you’re out, have some basic trans-related question, and get pointed back to that commons again. The unknown party has to clear whatever the hazing ritual is. I didn’t pledge in college (WOO NON-HELLENIC ELITIST BULLSHIT LIBERAL ARTS SCHOOLS!) but I know men and women who did. Despite the public lie that there’s no more hazing, it’s as true as climate change or the pay gap. It’s benignly ignored because they consented to it. It’s benignly ignored as long as nobody dies. It’s benignly ignored if nobody calls the cops.
Is benign ignorance really something we’re comfortable with? Is it okay to mock someone’s disability or their name and then put the onus on them for leaving after they’ve been mocked and thus explicitly told they aren’t welcome in this intentional space? Do you make fun of the names of people you think you’ll ever see as an equal? No, no you don’t, or you’re an asshole a la It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. The joke in that show? It’s always on The Gang. Just like the joke was always on Archie Bunker. It means that isn’t how you’re supposed to behave, and you really shouldn’t do that. When the American media tells you, in comedic form, not to mock people, maybe there’s a hidden message there.
See, you may well say I’m weak. But we need to talk about something here, and that something is microaggressions. You know, old meme, sometimes misused. But those microaggressions add up. Pretty much any day I leave the house and venture into Polite White Society, I play a fun game called “how long will it take for someone to call me a retard?” Some days, I get lucky and don’t hear it. Some days, it’ll be 3 times before lunch. Generally, the fancier I look, the less it happens…in my suit, it’s rare. In my daily wear, it’s not. It’s the white abled man’s way of reminding me I am beneath him on the food chain and in his way, and this makes him unhappy. It rarely comes from white women, and almost never from people of color. Nope, just white abled men. I know what your reaction is, though. It’s “she’s saying this so I’ll feel sorry for her.” No. I’m saying this because this is a fact of my life, and like the facts of your life, it is how it is. If you feel pity, you’re looking down on me as a person. If you roll your eyes, you’re saying it’s not a fight you can or want to take. But what I want is for you to get angry. I don’t want your money, your sympathy, or your cheapening pity. No, I want change, and the only way the dispossessed really get change is anger.
Microaggressions have this way of stacking at bad times, like when you’re depressed, your joints hurt, you’re under stress at work, etc. Because of this, these are the times you may notice things you’d otherwise ignore, like, say, a white dude slamming past you and calling you a “retard” as he chucks you into the farebox of the bus. A good day, you mutter “rude”. A bad day, you spend the entire trip down Fourth Plain trying not to cry, duck behind the weed shop when you get off, and lose it…this happened to me just the other day. The world is full of them, and as a person who has to participate in the world to not be miserable and to have a paycheck, they can roll into a big ball by the end of the week.
This is why the culture of hazing in our community’s commons is a problem. See, when you’ve got this giant ball of bullshit you’ve accrued, it really hurts to go into a setting where you’re told about how welcoming and diverse our community is…and almost everyone’s white. And one of those people sent you 12 FB messages during the fucking meeting about what a horrible person you are. And one of those people decided to make fun of your name, a name you can’t even stand, but can’t get away from using, because our community demands the greatest “accountability”, a nice way of saying “you don’t ever get to make a mistake”, from the people who are positioned as outgroup. Because as your Twitter feed will remind you every day, serial abusers, rapists, ex-“T**F” white trans women, and my god WILL YOU SHUT UP ABOUT CAITLYN JENNER get endless second chances, but the assumption that someone who can’t handle constant microaggressions in intentional space is somehow sinister means you get one chance and every mistake is permanent. I guess skinny white rapists are just better Calvinists…er, I mean white women….than you.
So you get reminded of this, every day. You get your name mocked, but yet you get threatened that your name will be reported to Facebook if you speak out about how we treat you (bring it). You get invited to things for “femme-of-center trans women only” and can’t figure out how to say that you can’t go because you’re explicitly unwelcome, but then people get weird that you didn’t go. Well, let’s see. If you go, and you’re adjudged “not femme enough” by the same caliber of white trans woman who’s busy calling you a man, you’ll be accused of invading space. Invade space, that makes you a monster and you’ve blown your one chance. You’re not friends with the organizer on FB or even know what name they’re using on there, and there’s no handy email address to ask. But you’re crap for not going. And then when you bring it up, you get told you’re “shitting on” femmes for pointing out that something marketed as a TRANS WOMAN’S WHATEVER isn’t open to you. So you ask hard questions, like “if you make fun of me and call me a man in jeans and a t-shirt, what would you say about my fat ugly ass in a dress and presenting femme?” and nobody is willing to answer. I’ve been pushed into a role of being more femme than I’m comfortable with for religious compliance and to be “allowed” to transition. (This is, of course, used to deride my entire narrative, because God knows Spack wasn’t notorious in the 90s for insisting on “perfection”. Oh, wait, he *was*!) I’ve recovered from that to “whatever” as in I present however the hell I want, which is neither butch nor femme, but I know that to a white trans woman who wants to exclude, I’ll be “not femme enough” no matter what I do. Gotta keep carrying water for that patriarchy, ladies! Calvinism is your friend!
This is why it adds up. It looks like a bunch of little things to you. But it becomes a very large stack of shit to me. It looks like nothing to you, but you’re not the outsider in the picture. It looks like nothing to you, because you’ve been insulated from the path that the undesirables are shoved into: you have to go to the support group if you want to branch out.
But then you get mocked, because the support group is just too high on bullying. So you try the political group. And then you get mocked. You know what they used to tell us in home ec? After the second insult from the head of the household, when you’re a guest, you and yours politely excuse yourself and go. It’s the calculus that has worked through interminable schmoozefests and awful dinners. When you know you’re going to lose, you leave. If you stick it out and react, you’ll be called an asshole. If you stick it out and ignore it, it keeps happening. If you leave, you at least are responding to the signal that you’re not welcome. The fact that people feel the need to broadcast this signal confuses me, bit I have more theories than Foucault here…not tonight.
We go through enough shit every day as living, breathing trans women. I do not understand why an order that favors the skinny white trans woman with a tech job and a rape problem over the weird fatty from the wrong side of the tracks is inviolable, but something’s gotta give, and until then, the aspersion cast that “you’re just an asshole on the internet” is retorted to with “yes, but you’re the asshole who cast the first stone.” Exclusionary politics and the idea that there should be multiple classes of trans women, an organization of classes that favors the most privileged in every way but one and yet can’t seem to bother admitting it, is casting that stone. The idea that when you don’t know what doctor to see and you’re not rail-thin, the answer is “go to the support group and ask”? That’s casting stones.
You want me to carry the water of being a stupid girl from the hood for you, my ass being the one that’s much more likely to get stabbed if I got outed in my local community, every day? You can understand that maybe the burden of that water means the hazing isn’t necessary. Maybe the burden of that water is understanding why it took me an hour to get here. Maybe the burden of that water is chancing that perhaps a newcomer can bring you something and not “who the fuck are you?” Maybe the burden of that water is holding your tongue rather than “you come from a place of deficit.”
Because until there’s a commons, political, social, or whatever (or people stop using them as methods of screening) that doesn’t come with snippy comments about one’s intellect, the size of their ass, the place they live, their ostensible education level, or the consistency of their hair, there’s no commons that’s open to all of us. So it’s your call: consider that the people mainstream white trans theology considers beneath them aren’t actually beneath you, or change your damn commons. Stop writing off trans women who don’t agree with you in absolute cultlike lockstep as “T**Fs” and aim your dislike at the people who do seek to harm us from within through something much greater than polite dissent. The priorities you may end up needing to address aren’t all the same, and the exclusionary tactics like “trans femmes only” to narrow down trans women’s spaces to only being for some trans women will need to come to an end, but…isn’t that better if your commons actually cares about the diversity it’s guilting some white people about without actually letting in the diverse cast of characters that forms the greater reality of what trans women are generally?
Don’t pity me. Don’t tell me how great I am. Fucking change things, or make new roads. But until then…until then much like the rest of the people who have been shoved aside by a purity-obsessed community that shelters abusers and grifters because they’re thin and white…there is no road for us. Road or not, I’d rather keep being myself. Being someone else kind of isn’t true to the “authentic self” we hear so much about in trans community. Because I don’t want to be the Beatles or the Rolling Stones, I want to be myself, too, and I know I’m not alone, it just feels that way.