Where is my place?
I had hoped to learn more about the trans* community in order to become a better ally and advocate for trans* equality. It has been a huge learning process for me. Often times when discussing “LGBTQ” rights and activism the ‘T’ is silenced and not given space to be visible. Many people classify themselves as “LGBTQ” activists, yet they do nothing for our trans* siblings who paved the way for the beginning of our movement.
I think it’s a step that all of the social justice movements need to take as we continue to learn the horrendous statistics of trans* womyn being murdered around the world. This pains me. The death of any body/life is morbid. I get extremely emotional when I think about this. To think that there is a community of beautiful bodies that is being not only oppressed, but murdered hurts me. Many trans* womyn resort to sex work as a way of sustaining themselves, a sad but real truth. However, this is not something they should be shamed for, because what else are you suppose to do when you are being discriminated against for getting hired? You use the one thing you have: your body. The interesting piece is that around the world the vast majority of trans* womyn that are being murdered are sex workers. Most likely being murdered after doing their job by the very men that hired them for their services.
What about trans* men? Where are they? Well, they’re there. They just aren’t given as much visibility. Let alone genderqueer individuals or gender non-conforming people that don’t fall on a binary. Then when you throw in intersectionality and being a person of color it’s even worse. Granted, a lot of work has been done for trans* people, the majority of that work has been done for white trans* people. Any film or TV segment dedicated to exposing trans* identity ascribes to solely those who have a positive story – and those people are always white.
I recently watched different clips from an episode titled “Trapped in the Wrong Body: Growing Up Transgender” that aired on February 26th, 2013 for Katie Couric’s syndicated talk show. It was amazing to see these conversations being done on television. Creating visibility for these incredible stories. Words like “cisgender” and “marginalized” were being thrown around. Words that I have NEVER heard on TV. It was absolutely wonderful to see this. These were stories of young trans* people who had very accepting transitions. But that’s just it; they had the access to resources to be able to transition. I think it has to do with the fact that all of the families and people on that episode were white and upper middle class. As if the majority of trans* people experience a positive coming out process. Definitely not. This just makes me think of the Barbara Walters special “My Secret Self” on 20/20 that aired in 2007 that explored transgender youth and was my very first exposure to the trans* identity. The special was good only for the fact that it gave exposure to this identity, but it had a lot of problems after rewatching it a few months ago. The segment used “transgendered,” just as the Katie one did, which implies that it is a verb or choice rather than an identity. Barbara also didn’t respect the children’s preferred pronouns when they weren’t around. She only used them when they were present. Let alone the fact that the entire segment was, once again, just white families with trans* youth.
The phrase “gender identity disorder” keeps getting thrown around in both of these segments to identify what these trans* children are dealing with. This absolutely BOILS my blood. “Disorder” as if these individuals are “abnormal” or “messed up.” Ugh. I hate that word in this context. I’m happy to hear that the DSM (Diagnostical and Statistical Manual) is changing from GID to “gender dysphoria” which creates less of a negative stigma. However, it should not be in the book all together, in my opinion. At the same time, it is also important to take note of the fact that many trans* folks take advantage of the “disorder” piece in order to receive treatment to aid in their transition. So it will be interesting to see what direction the trans* movement takes after this is put into effect.
Where do I come into all of this? I am a cisgender male that holds many privileges because of that. I don’t ever have to worry about what bathroom to use, how people will read my gender, how people will challenge my gender, about binding or tucking to be able to express my gender, etc. What else can I do? I cannot speak on behalf of the experiences of trans* folks, but I can use my privilege to create space for them. Use the unearned resources allotted to me to give visibility when necessary in a responsible and respectful matter while still checking my cisgender and male privilege. I am still learning and being an ally to the trans* community is a process that I embark each and every day.