I have read a few things lately by trans women who are I suppose a generation younger than me (I don’t say that to imply any ageist shit, but rather to say that time has surely passed a fair bit for me). Some were public essays1, and some were just Facebook updates, but they resonated with such a common frustration at the biases they faced as trans women. I was really moved by how honest they were with their pain and disappointment at queer communities they’d hoped would be better. It struck in me a sadness I’d grown so used to I’d nearly forgotten it, and I didn’t know how to respond. It all read so true.
Often over the years I have tried to convince myself that my many challenges with living a trans life in a cis world were just the inevitable scars of having faced so much resistance to making queer space for myself. Still, they felt like important scars, reminders of space I’d made, we’d made, so many of us, and that maybe we’d made some more room for those who would come after us. Now, I’m not sure much has changed, and I’m not sure how much space we actually made. And I’m wondering a little bit what some of those scars were for.
Lately I have wanted to write so badly something that spoke to this deep alienation, not just for myself – and there is a great deal of personal catharsis to writing this out, mind you – but to add another voice, not to Trans Woman as a monolithic idea, but as a reminder that we are a diversity of women (I know such an array of amazing trans women, but it is a function of transmisogyny that we are nonetheless so often reduced to the singular). We are a diversity of women who nonetheless face a common experience of discrimination. It is perhaps the most tragic part of this system of oppression that we must expend so much of our time responding to it, and those hours are lost forever to generations of writers, artists, musicians, everyone.
I commented on one blog that the piece read a lot like something I might have written ten years ago, and that is such a frustrating realization. I was talking tonight with some friends about that frustration, about having said these things again and again, and now not knowing what new there is to say. One friend said she’d been reading zines from ten to fifteen years ago, and they were talking in radical communities then about the same things we’re talking about today: racism, transphobia, sexual assault in communities, ableism, and so much else. I don’t know how to feel about that; perhaps things are getting better, but slowly? Still, it makes me think we need new tactics, new responses, or maybe just new conversations.
I think we can do better than to gauge our progress by decades.
1Such as Morgan Page’s “Just Call Me Hunter,” which if you haven’t read yet you really should.