(from an anonymous question)
okay okay so there are a lot of things I am going to try to respond to. hopefully they will all make sense? also, I’m not really an authority on any of this, but apparently the fact that I’m a transfeminine radical feminist makes me the target of this question? haha anyway. so.
what is a fetish?
Rather than immediately answering “is it strange”, I want to start by deconstructing the concept of a “fetish”. Most of this is going to be done on a more abstract level, just to identify the discourses we are dealing with. Towards the end, I’ll attempt to relate this back to your specific question. So, anyway. I’m assuming you use the word fetish to mean what mainstream society constructs as a sexual fetish - a specific object or situation which causes sexual arousal. For the most part, this object/situation is somehow assumed to be “weird” or “different” - in other words, most people wouldn’t consider a vagina to be a fetish in the context of a heterosexual man being attracted to a cis woman. (However, I would encourage people to complicate this understanding - radtransfem has some done some excellent writing about Cultural Heterosexuality as the fetishization of femininity). In mainstream heteronormative patriarchal hegemony, a fetish is something “weird” or “different” or “unique” which turns someone on (such as clowns, or being tied up with rope, or popping balloons by stomping on them in heels). There are varying definitions of how crucial a fetish is to a person’s sexuality - some people declare that for something to be a fetish, sexual arousal/satisfaction/climax/whatever is only possible when that fetish is present. In other words, some people frame a fetish as something that is *necessary* for sexual pleasure. Others, however, place a fetish more on the level of a “turn-on” - something that increases sexual pleasure, but isn’t inherently *necessary*.
critiquing the societal definition of a fetish
There are two things I want to start problematizing about the above-stated cultural definition(s) of a fetish. First of all, how different is “different”? In other words, where is the line between what is considered “normal” sexual arousal, and what would be considered a fetish / weird / kinky / etc.? Is there a difference between a fetish and a kink? Take bondage, for example. Some people would consider bondage to be a fetish, or a kink. Other people (especially those in a more “sex-positive” / sexualized setting) might consider it to be pretty normal, relatively speaking. I’d like to take a moment to quote the wikipedia article for sexual kink, which states:
Kinky practices go beyond what are considered conventional sexual practices as a means of heightening the intimacy between sexual partners. Some draw a distinction between kink and fetishism, defining the former as enhancing partner intimacy, and the latter as replacing it. While others define “kink” as lesser (possibly socially acceptable) form of fetishism. Because of its relation to “normal” sexual boundaries, which themselves vary by time and place, the definition of what is and is not kink varies widely as well.
The point is, the definition of what is “unconventional” depends on what society has constructed as “conventional” - making any discussion of fetishes and kinks subjective and context-dependent. I do find it interesting the way the article suggests that a fetish could be a “replacement” for partner intimacy - this is a topic I’ll return to in a bit when discussing radical feminist / psychoanalytic definitions of a fetish.
But anyway, sticking with the mainstream definition, I want to bring up another point of critique - what is the difference between a fetish and a turn-on? People are often able to identify a list of things that they find particularly attractive (a certain hair color, wearing glasses, tattoos, a certain accent, etc.) - but when does something actually get defined as a fetish? Many people would say that a fetish is meant to refer to a specific object (such as a specific article of clothing), but how different is this from being turned on by someone wearing glasses / suits / tutus / etc? One could argue that something becomes a fetish when it is used in a specific sexual context - for instance: most people have feet, so it could be assumed that a foot fetish doesn’t refer to being turned on by someone who has feet, but rather by focusing sexual activity on the feet.
radical feminist definitions of fetish
Now that we’ve examined a “mainstream” definition of a fetish, I want us to take a look at what radical feminist theory has to say about fetishes. I’ll start by quoting radtransfem’s summary of Mary Daly’s writing (with the note that Mary Daly has said many terribly racist and transphobic things - this is in no way meant to be an endorsement of all of her work, just an examination of one particular idea of hers):
For Daly, a fetish is a sexual connection to a thing which is unable to relate back. So, it can be towards an inanimate entity/concept such as a boot or a smell. Or it can be towards a body part, context-free without a human being present. Or, and this is where I found Daly’s analysis most striking, it can be a sexual relation with a person who does not have the power to relate back as an equal. And the power of the “sexiness” of that fetish can be based on that lack of power to reciprocate. This is a kind of sexual attraction based on the way that processes of objectification can reduce a person (a woman)’s agency so that we can be related to in a way more closely resembling an object/a non-living thing, a process which requires the (largely figurative, sometimes literal) death of ourSelves.
When discussing fetishization, especially of a specific type / group of people, it is important to keep these facts in mind. Especially with regards to your question - your fetishization of trans women seems to be completely “towards a body part, context-free without a human being present”.
complicating sexual orientation - sex and gender
Now that we’ve unpacked some of the meanings of the word “fetish”, I want to take a minute to do the same with sexual orientation. As feminism / queer theory / transfeminism has already worked to explain, gender and sex are complicated social constructions. At birth, infants are assigned to be either “male” or “female” (even though many do not fit neatly into these categories), and throughout their lives people are read as being either “physically male” or “physically female” through a complex combination of primary sexual characteristics (genitalia / reproductive systems, which do NOT exist in a binary), secondary sexual characteristics (breasts / body hair / fat distribution / etc, which each exist in a spectrum), chromosomes (XX vs. XY, even though others are possible), and hormone levels (estrogen and testosterone, of which all people have varying amounts). In other words, sex doesn’t neatly match up into the oppositional binary categories of “male” and “female” that a cissexist/heterosexist society insists upon. Gender is even more complicated! Based on the sex they are assigned at birth, a person is assumed to identify with what society has defined as either “male” or “female”, when in reality these are just arbitrary groupings of abstract traits (dominant, violent, passive, emotional, logical, creative, nurturing, protective, etc.). In addition, different people “perform” or “present” their gender different ways - not all people who identify as female wear pink frilly dresses every day!
So, once we’ve acknowledged that sex and gender are both 1) very complicated, and 2) social constructions, what does it actually mean to define a sexual orientation? When someone says they are attracted to men, what do they mean? Do they mean penises? Do they mean masculine body characteristics (i.e. flat chest, body hair, muscles, testosterone-influenced skeletal structure, facial hair, etc.)? Do they mean masculine presentation (suits, t-shirts, jeans, boots, other “manly” clothes, etc.)? Do they mean behavioral traits that society has identified as masculine (aggressive, dominant, logical, stoic)?
I encourage everyone to take a minute to examine their own desires, and figure out what it means to define sexual orientation in a fluid, non-binary system. Instead of simply explaining your orientation in terms of “men” and “women”, try to figure out what ACTUALLY determines your attrition.
With regards to your specific question - both of the situations you suggest (a trans woman with a penis, or a (cis?) woman with a strap-on - involve being penetrated with some sort of phallic object. Would you define yourself as being attracted to anyone with a penis, regardless of their gender? Are you also attracted to (cis?) men? Are you attracted to women, without a penis/strap-on? I think these are all important aspects of your orientation to interrogate.
is it strange? more importantly, is it problematic?
Okay, I’ll finally try to answer your question. Is it strange? I guess this depends on what you mean. Is it uncommon? A little bit, but not that much - there are many people who define themselves as being attracted to trans women (even though the way they do so is often problematic - more on this later). There are also many people who enjoy being penetrated by a strap-on. I find it interesting to note that your strap-on situation includes being tied up - is this an unrelated kink/turn-on/fetish, or would you still enjoy having sex with a woman with a strap-on/phallus, even if you weren’t tied up? Anyway, I guess the point is this: I don’t really feel comfortable labeling a specific kink/turn-on/fetish as “strange”, since that implies an inherent “normalness” of some kinds of sex, and “weirdness” of others… and also, it feels kinda awkward to say that anyone who would be attracted to my body type would be experiencing a “weird” sort of attraction.
Whether or not the fetish is “strange”, I do think we should try to examine whether it is problematic. While some people may balk at the idea of critiquing a particular desire/fetish/turn-on, I think it is important. After all, all sexuality exists in a patriarchal society defined by power gradients. I particularly enjoy this quote from radtransfem, in her article discussing the attempt to define a feminist sort of desire:
“Sexual subjectivity is about realising that we get to have our own desires, and that the existence of others’ desires doesn’t automatically make ours disappear. [ … ] Sexual subjectivity is different from entitlement, which says that we get to have those desires met. And it’s different from individualist liberalism, which says that because they are our desires, they’re automatically right. We don’t get to have automatically right desires – we just get to have desires. After all this whole Progress depends on the idea that we can identify our own desires and those of others as problematic and imagine something different.”
So, about your desire for trans women / women with strap-ons. I feel like context is important. After all, a straight(?) cis man being attracted to a trans woman has a *very* different power dynamic than another queer/trans* person being attracted to a trans woman. In addition, how does this attraction fit in to your orientation? Like I asked earlier, is this consistent with other body types you feel attracted to? I think that trans people are often used as “in-between” points, for cis people exploring/repressing their sexuality. A “straight” man may use trans women as a “excusable” experience with “homosexuality” - she has a penis, but it doesn’t *actually* count as gay, since she’s a woman. I feel like this is very dangerous territory, which is why I encourage people to explore their orientations, and be as honest as possible.
In addition, I feel like there is a blurry line between “preference” and “fetish”, particularly when it comes to a specific body type / type of person. When you fetishize a person, are you objectifying them into a mere object for sexual pleasure? When you fetishize a trans woman, do you value anything about her other than her penis? Or have you reduced her to a glorified sex toy? It’s important to remember that all people are different, and that not all trans women may conform to your generalized expectations. We all have different bodies, different opinions about our bodies, different wants, different needs, different things we enjoy, different things we want to avoid. Some of the authors I link to at the end provide a more thorough discussion of what it means to be someone’s fetish… this is something I strongly encourage you to keep in mind.
what others have said
As I said at the beginning, I’m not “the authority” on anything. I just happen to be a queer transfeminist who reads a lot about gender, sex, and sexuality. As such, I’d like to provide some links to things other people have written about the topic. Natalie Reed has an article specifically about the fetishization of trans women, which can be found here - http://freethoughtblogs.com/nataliereed/2012/02/15/chicks-with-dicks-trap-chans-chasers-and-trans-fans-the-question-of-fetishization/. Matt Kailey has two articles about the fetishization of trans people - one discussing the fine line between preference and fetish - http://tranifesto.com/2009/05/22/preference-or-fetish-the-very-fine-line/ - and one exploring the problematic nature of fetishization of trans women - http://tranifesto.com/2009/10/29/another-transsexual-fetish-call/. Drew Cordes has an article about what it feels like to be someone’s fetish - http://www.bilerico.com/2010/10/im_somebodys_fetish.php. I hope these articles help answer your question!
an interesting note - psychoanalytic definition of fetish
If we examine the psychoanalytic definition of a fetish, given by scholars such as Freud and Lacan, we find a very specific (and oddly, humorously, relevant) definition. According to Freud, all (cis) boys developed a fear of castration after they first saw their (cis) mother’s genitals, and realized that she didn’t have a phallus. He theorized that all male children were under the impression that their mothers originally had penises, but had been castrated by their fathers. Therefore, a fetish was a sexualized object meant to draw attention away from the female genitals and the castration anxiety they were assumed to imbue. In your case, the fetish would quite literally represent the mother’s penis! For some reason, I find this really funny. Anyway. yeah.
Soooo this has been a really long post. Hopefully some people read it, and found it interesting / informative / thought-provoking? Anyway, I welcome any and all discussion/critiques/disagreement/comments! Please let me now what you think!
Crossing Over tells the particular and complex story of the transgender Latin immigrant community in Los Angeles through three of its most distinctive members.
Brenda came to the United States from Mexico over ten years ago to escape mental and physical abuse, and after initially struggling to survive in the U.S. by any means possible, eventually sought asylum and was allowed to stay. Brenda works as a community advocate and HIV support-group leader, but it is her vivacious personality and light that truly makes her a matriarch among her community.
Abigail is newer to the US than Brenda, and though she too has sought asylum, she is still figuring out how to get by. She works as a nightclub dancer and quinceñara planner in order to put herself through community college. While she dreams of eventually becoming a lawyer to fight for the rights of people like her, she must battle what seem like insurmountable demons to achieve her goals—depression, addiction, and poverty.
Francis has worked for a decade as a housekeeper and caretaker for the same family in Los Angeles, and is on the brink of the final asylum hearing that will determine whether she can remain in the United States.
Each subject lives a very different facet of the trans-Latina experience, and yet the message that their stories convey is unified and clear—that this is a community that has faced inconceivable abuses and yet have risen to create an environment of love, leadership, and support, and for these reasons deserve to live in this country.
Watch the trailer below:
Crossing Over is currently in the stages of post-production. Look for the finished product September 2013. Katrina Sorrentino, from Nomadique, is the Producer for Crossing Over. This post was written by Alex Pitz, who is the Associate Producer and screenwriter for Crossing Over.
Photos taken by Isabel Castro
“This result is the product of a legal system that constantly devalues trans lives, particularly trans people of color,” Jason Terry, an activist with the D.C. Trans Coalition, told the Blade. “Officer Furr’s defense team actively sought to portray the victims as somehow deserving of this violence, and apparently they succeeded. If roles had been reversed and a black trans woman had gotten drunk and shot a gun at a police officer, the results would be drastically different.”
Bolded for truth.
oh hey look a new and up-to-date version of my transition timeline!
edit: tumblr is being annoying so CLICK HERE FOR FULL-SIZE!!!
now you too can witness my my magical evolution from ugly awkward nerd to… queer emo princess?
a.k.a. the story of me dying my hair black and starting to use eyeliner.
a.k.a. fuck yeah estrogen is awesome and totally worth the massive mood swings and fact that I cry ALL OF THE TIME
yeah okay I should really stop blogging while on pain medicine.
lol lol remember that time when I used to post on more trans*/mtf-related message boards, and then one time some people criticized a picture of me because they said that flipping off the camera looked “masculine” and aggressive, instead of “passive and feminine”…
fuck all y’all and your gender policing
Why I hate the term “Cis”
First off, an explanation of my basic understanding of /Cis/ /Cisgender/ and /Cissexual/ …
- /Cisgender/ - Basically a match between the gender you were born with and your identity.
- /Cissexual/ - Loosely meaning NOT trans.
- /Cis/ - From my…
And might I add that anybody who gets red-zone enraged over being called “cis” is both proving the point and aiding to the problem. Basically, if people think simply being called “cis” is worse than cissexism and the violent and oppressive shit that cispeople inflict on transpeople all the damn time, they have a problem.
i agree. the original post is really long and really angry and i, for one, am getting upset with the number of ~cis allies~ who are angry at trans people for how we choose to express our anger on the internet, and i am upset regardless of whether or not these people are our friends, partners, past partners, or spouses.
trans people experience the brunt of cissexism and gender essentialism, both as it is institutionalized and as it is perpetuated by individuals; and sometimes when we get angry we might say we “hate cis people” - but we are not attacking you personally; we’re upset about the institution that you are a part of. if you actually think that we’re attacking you at the individual level when we post things about hating cis people, your arrogance and self-centeredness are illustrative of your privilege (your belief that your feelings matter more than ours in this context and that you deserve to be listened to over us), and it co-creates and re-creates this entire problem.
i feel like it’s been being said around tumblr all the time recently (three individual links there), but it’s possible to hate an oppressive group in general without hating all of its individual members.
some of us are mad oppression exists. some of us are just mad about the oppression we personally experience. we’re all at different places along the learning curve, as well as the healing curve, and as much as i believe the internet is important it’s also not the same to rant here as it is to perpetuate interpersonal violence in real time and space. many of us who rant here about cis people are overly kind to cis people in our daily lives, even after being asked invasive questions time and time again. we need a place to voice our frustration. we need a place to build trans-oriented community and dialogue.
as to the phrase “die cis scum”, i had a really useful and productive conversation with a white trans woman friend of mine about this the other day. basically i said to her i didn’t like the phrase and she said to me, basically, “at the end of the day, it’s just a phrase. imagine actually implementing a practice where trans people actually tried to kill off cis people? it wouldn’t even last a day. we’re such a small (percentage wise) and vulnerable (social capital wise) part of the population that we’d get squashed in hours.” so really “die cis scum” is primarily at expressing our outrage at the system (cis-tem) of cis oppression, that is systematic, institutionalized, pervasive cissexism that we cannot simply escape even in forming loving communities, partnering with people who care about us, reading affirming things online, etc. because as soon as we step back out into society, we’re reminded of our lower class status, our less-than-humanness.
if you are more angry with seeing trans people express their anger than you are that the “cis-tem” exists, i don’t even really have words for you at this point. allies don’t get cookies; my partners who have dated me don’t get high-fives for being decent human beings (we wouldn’t be together if they were anything less); it’s just their/your duty. obviously when we’re complaining about cis people and you do your best to smash the cis-tem (as an “ally”) then we’re not talking about you.
although, after a reaction like this from you… maybe we are talking about you.
“I wish there was a way to make all of this information [about transgender people] more easily accessible to people who aren’t actively interested in pursuing a deep knowledge of gender/sexuality but still want to understand.”
i think that it can be made fairly basic, and i’ve seen it reduced down to basic points before. can’t think of any references off the top of my head at this moment but essentially:
- if you can’t place someone’s gender, don’t gender them. structure sentences without gendered words. saves everyone pain and embarrassment.
- if knowing someone’s gender is important to you (beyond mere curiosity or, even, anxiety), find a way to talk to them privately about it, away from other people. usually the person will be cool with telling you what language they prefer. another helpful tip is to pay attention to what language other people are using in reference to that person, and use that language.
- if you wouldn’t ask a question of someone who was cisgender or more gender normative, you probably shouldn’t ask it of a gender variant, transgender, or transsexual person.
- google is your friend; there are thousands of good resources available to understand trans identities and lived experiences, and there are thousands of trans people in educational positions ready and willing to have these dialogues.
- you don’t have a right to impose your feelings about someone’s gender or body onto them. basic respect, but also, hello, boundaries.
in short, cisgender people don’t particularly need to understand gender “deeply”- they simply need to respect the requests of gender nonconforming people and yield to their expressions and experiences, withholding judgment. that’s all they need to know. “this person identifies as this and uses this language” should be sufficient. the response should be, simply, “okay”, no protest, no explicit confusion. if they’re confused, they should go home, find a trusted search engine, and try to make sense of their confusion. that responsibility is aaaall on them.
- cis people don’t deserve our respect.
edit: (on tone) the above point is relatively tongue-in-cheek. what i mean by this is that i do not feel that cis people (as a class) deserve for us to make intentional, deliberate actions to cater to them as cis people. i believe we should show gentleness (a point i will get to later on), but we (trans people, as a class) are under no obligation to illustrate any particular degree of patience (or other qualities i will also get to later on).
it is not necessary for us to freely hand out “respect” to our oppressors as some moral imperative or obligation, simply because “they are people too.” we can offer it to them if we’d like (which i encourage), but there shouldn’t be any expectation; no one should feel entitled to our respect.
i find that a lot of people who are spiritual, religious, humanist, or philosophically inclined (myself included) put a lot of pressure on the individual to always act in the interest of All People as if people were equal and weren’t assigned to different classes, living out different experiences… but a classless society void of oppression exists only in fantasy and doesn’t represent modern society (or even much of history) at all. and since we don’t live in a world of ideals, i don’t think this necessarily needs to be practiced.
we don’t have to be “nice” or “polite.” we don’t have to volunteer explanations, placate our cis friends and family, or offer them support in their efforts to not offend us. we don’t have to do anything. we should instead be reaffirmed that we are entitled to our anger, pain, and sadness; we didn’t do anything to deserve our oppression, and we don’t have to forgive it, pardon it, or come to terms with it.
that said, one thing that has been helpful for me as a religious person, beyond just reminding myself that “some cis people are truly ignorant and uneducated on the subject of trans lives”, is to try to actively channel my anger into gentleness. i know this sounds like a contradiction of the above about politeness, and maybe it is, but i am doing it out of my own personal need for human connection.
this is what it looks like for me:
(1) an understanding that i am absolutely entitled to my anger.
(2) a feeling that, to me, anger when actually expressed as anger does not feel terribly productive or seem to yield “productive” results.
(3) holding “anger-to-gentleness” as a goal to aspire to in my interactions.
(4) not being upset with myself when i fail at being gentle.
anger-to-gentleness is NOT something to be held accountable for. it is not something we should expect or demand of ourselves or others in our community; it is not something anyone should expect or demand of us. we do not owe it to anyone to be nice, polite, or gentle, when they implicitly and explicitly contribute to our oppression. we don’t owe them patience. we don’t owe them kindness. we don’t necessarily have to feel anything but anger.
i just find that, for me, on my own spiritual walk, what feels best is to not hold on to that anger for too long; to try to find something—anything—transformative about it. to allow it to radicalize me and politicize me.
i want to have a gentle political self.
“Somebody told me the other day that there are people who find me ‘unapproachable’ because of my politics. Good. I don’t want people who disagree with my politics to approach me. Ever. My politics are not abstract. They cannot be sacrificed for social convenience, because they are not about saving the pandas, they are about preserving myself and my friends. I am completely unmotivated by idealism. I do not have that luxury. What drives my beliefs is a burning sense of necessity.” - Asher Bauer
“What want to see is a world in which people do not have to be criminalized, or cast out of their family, or cut off welfare, or sexually harassed at school, or subjected to involuntary mental health care, or prevented from getting housing because they organize their gender, desire, or family structure in a way that offends a norm. I hope we can build that vision by practicing it in our own queer and activist communities and in our approaches to ourselves. Let’s be gentle with ourselves and each other and fierce as we fight oppression.” - Dean Spade
i have great respect for both these people and find that, while these quotes may look contradictory, there is nothing contradictory about them.
i also want to give credit to my good friend, waxpapereyes, for giving a voice to this feeling i’ve been having, of wanting to channel my anger into gentleness.
I am not going to cry this November 20, the annual Day of Trans Remembrance. It’s not that I do not mourn the passing of so many of my transgender siblings – the memory of their passing, their stories of brutality and violence and despair experienced at the hands of an oppressive, colonial, transmisogynistic society by and large determined to wipe out our transgender expression, our transgressive identities, our transcendent lives. There are certain names, launched to dubious fame by the sensational reporting that followed their deaths, written indelibly in the walls of my memory. Gwen Araujo. Lawrence King. Sylvia Rivera. Brandon Teena. There are hundreds, thousands more people, ignored by the media, who died in relative silence; they were not deemed worthy of remembrance in the mainstream public’s consciousness. Some of them, I met, spoke to, knew not long enough. I do mourn them. I don’t forget.
But I have spent too many tears over the past decade. I’ve spent too long wondering, thinking about, fearing transgender deaths – other people’s and my own. According to some (not entirely unproblematic) statistics, the average life expectancy of trans* people in North America is 23 years. There is not a week gone by since the beginning of my own transition that I don’t experience some form of harassment or assault – and I, capable of passing when I choose, ensconced in the upper middle class world of McGill, have it easy by trans* standards.
The echo chamber of the queer community’s collective memory resounds with the telling of violence and death. It often seems that in the queer community, if you have not directly known a trans* person who has been killed or committed suicide, then certainly one of your friends or acquaintances has. Yes, it is easy to remember terror and pain and grief – those things come to claim us trans* people and our blood and chosen families, no matter what day it is.
Sometimes it is too easy to sink into fear, to think about those who suffered and died, to imagine ourselves in their place. This, I believe, is an end goal and great victory of transmisogyny and queerphobia: to keep us trapped within our own nightmares, in the memories that tell us we have no future. To break free, to deny cisgender supremacy this victory, I propose we move beyond weeping, beyond sweetly mournful circles of candles in the dark of the November night, beyond remembrance of death.
I want to remember hope – the hope it takes to walk out the door, every day. I want to remember the courage of youth like Gwen Araujo and Brandon Teena, who lived and died as the people they wanted to be, and the courage of activists like Sylvia Rivera, transwomen of colour who fought for our future. I want to honour the agency it takes to die on one’s own terms.
And I want to remember, too, the ones who did not die. We, who have not died. We, the suicides that failed, the self-harm and abuse and sexual assault that we survived, we the transitioned and transitioning and pre-transition, and every other stage of transformation and being that our people can imagine. I want to remember our strength and our rage, our capacity for loving each other and fighting back. I want us to remember Stonewall and every other riot, to remember that we can bring this cis-supremacist society to its knees.
I have cried many times remembering trans* folks who have died, the people I have lost, the sacrifices I’ve made. I’ve wondered and will wonder again: why me? Why am I alive, when so many others are not, and for how long? But not on this year on the Day of Trans Remembrance. This year, I will not cry. I will light my candle against the dark of the November night and send a message to the fallen: Your memory is grief, and more than grief. Your memory is loss, and more than loss. Your memory is joy. Your memory is strength. Your memory is combat. Your memory is life, and love.
Ryan Kai Cheng Thom is a trans* writer and artist. Their column is an homage to the enduring power and love of the community. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Just some quick thoughts on Transgender Day of Remembrance:
As a white man, as a white transgender man, as a white transgender man with minimal exposure to violence and passing privilege, TDOR is for me a way to stand up for my trans WOC sisters, my gender non-conforming sisters and brothers, almost all of color, who’ve been killed, attacked, or marginalized with breathtaking brutality this year.
Also, it’s complicated.
Which is not to say that I don’t personally fear violence, because I do. I fear it in emergency rooms, men’s rooms, rural areas, sports arenas, truck stops, etc. I fear it because sometimes people think I’m gay, and I fear it because I was in high school when Brandon Teena’s story put me off my own.
But TDOR isn’t about the many small violences that affect lives like mine: the violence of fear, of legalities, of insurance, of medical discrimination. It’s not even about the horrifying rash of recent suicides of white trans men, though we do need a day to hold them, together, in our hearts.
TDOR is about the systematic violence that ends in murder, and if you go to a memorial tonight you will find that 99% of those murders are of women of color.
Here’s what I think, white trans brothers, especially those of us with passing privilege: we need to take this opportunity for a reality check. And remember this: not just today, not just tomorrow, but every time we make community, every time we think we know what needs to be done, every time we consider the needs of the TRANS COMMUNITY, we need to take a step back and ask somebody. Because until people quit getting killed for being themselves, none of us can be. Until people quit getting arrested for defending their right not to be killed for being themselves, we can’t stop won’t stop.
It’s different for everybody. I’m not so much an on-the-streets type, but this is a pervasive problem and we need millions of arrows to shoot at it. Don’t just do something, ask someone. Don’t just vigil, open your eyes, see where you stand.