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Progress

August 10, 2011

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.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. August 10, 2011 8:36 pm

    We still have many hurdles to clear to get to where the LGB community is. We’re about 20 years behind.

  2. evmaroon permalink
    August 10, 2011 10:09 pm

    Agreed, my friend. I came out as queer in 1991 and trans in 2004, and holy crap, we’re still struggling with the same smelly pile of BS. And even so, somehow we’ve made some kind of progress—that teenagers have the wearwithall to create gay-straight alliances and anti-bullying groups really amazes me. The idealist in me refuses to die.

    Meanwhile, I’m so glad you took to writing about this. I really appreciate your thoughts.

  3. August 12, 2011 5:35 am

    I just clicked over here after reading yet another transmisogynistic screed premised on “you’re all just men and we have every right to tell you to get the f out of our clubhouse.”

    But at the same time, this fall I will be going back to school at a college where there is an annual staff training panel for respecting LGBTQ students, progress is being made on updating the information systems to allow preferred name without needing legal change ahead of class starting, trans-accepting dorm policies, and gender neutral bathrooms. Had I transitioned during my first time there, I would have been in a men’s dorm, had to use the men’s room, use my legal name in all classes, and have to be the first person to ever tell my professors why they are being disrespectful every single time I have a new professor.

    There is certainly material progress being made even if some fringe elements are still just as angry and transmisogynistic as ever.

  4. August 20, 2011 11:02 pm

    Progress, indeed.

    Watching white trans women’s stars rise has been an amazing sight over the decades. For twoc, well, we still have a very long way to go.

    It is good to see you writing again. For this somewhat tired old street queen turned middle aged homemaker…that’s progress.

    You know where to find me, and know that there’s always a seat for you at my kitchen table.

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