Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Welcome to Minority Status
Transgriot Note: One of my first published articles. I was expressing my frustration at the time (2003) with white transwomen and my perception that despite transitioning to womanhood, they were desperately attempting to hold on to White Male Privilege.)
Congratulations! If no one else has done so, let me be the first person to welcome you to minority status. You are now about to experience firsthand what I and other people of color have seen and grown up with since birth. I know you are a little disoriented trying to adjust to being transgendered, so I will happily help you out by giving you the four-one-one on how to cope with your new station in life.
The first order of business is to get it through your heads that you are no longer part of the white male clique, so quit trying to hang on to white male privilege like a wino clutching his last bottle of MD 20/20. News flash: You gave up your claim to white male privilege the second that you took your first hormones and began developing a feminine body. Your former colleagues now see you as a confused soul who surrendered your membership in the fraternity, and worst of all is getting rid of the Almighty Phallus. You are nothing more than a traitorous queer, excuse the expression, to them and you will be severely punished for your 'crime'.
Get used to the fact that you will be looked upon as 'the enemy'. You are more dangerous to your former gender colleagues because you were once one of them and know their secrets. They are going to do whatever is necessary to ensure that you are NEVER their equal. That includes negative comments, stereotypical statements, disinformation and outright lies told about you by them in the print and broadcast media outlets they control.
Let's touch upon the financial aspect of your new minority status. You are now going to have to work twice as hard for less pay. If you mess up at work, you will not get multiple chances to hang on to that job. In some cases you can compile an exemplary work record and still be terminated. When you begin searching for employment, you will constantly run into the maddening situation of being passed over for jobs that you are eminently qualified for in favor of someone who doesn't have your educational background or experience. The same dynamic will apply when you are employed and get repeatedly passed over for promotions.
I know it's going to be tough on you, and unlike transpeople of color you're not used to being in this situation. Hey, I've never been part of the brotherhood, either. One advantage that I've obtained over you is that I along with many other people of color have been equipped since birth with the coping skills and mental fortitude necessary to operate in this problematic environment. This is the first time in your life that you have had to deal with discrimination, less-than-equal treatment, someone discounting your intelligence, or the realization that someone hates you simply because of who you are.
Speaking of someone hating you for who you are, as a new minority member you must be vigilant about your personal safety. There are some people out there who will read that cultural disapproval of transgendered people as a signal that it is okay for them to do whatever they want to you, up to and including murder, without fear of retribution.
Think I'm kidding?
Ask Chanelle Pickett's family in Boston what her killer was sentenced to. Ask Tyra Hunter's mother in Washington DC what happened to the EMT who stopped treating her after a car accident once he found out that Tyra was transgendered. If you have an Internet connection, check out Gwen Smith's Remembering Our Dead list. It has grown to over two hundred names and counting, so watch your back when you go out.
As a minority an understanding of politics and how it works is now essential to your survival. You can no longer afford to be apathetic to what goes on in City Hall, your county courthouse, your state capitol building, or Capitol Hill because you don't have the influence you once had. You can't ignore the court system, either. If you do, yo do so at your peril. Just ask the transgendered people who have turned to the legal system expecting simple justice and gotten screwed in the process by judges injecting their personal biases in their opinions.
Politics and the law will now be used as a weapon against you. You must concern yourself with electing candidates whose primary mandate is to strengthen civil rights laws in this country, not weaken them. It is vital that you know the difference between your friends and your enemies. You will now have to immediately learn how coalition politics works and how to come together with your partners to fight a common foe. Unfortunately that's something the T-community still hasn't learned how to do, and we're running out of time to get it right.
You will hear in the course of your interaction with other transgendered people the term 'horizontal hostility'. It refers to he vicious cycle of good people putting their necks on the line and offering their talents to help lead this community, and then quitting in frustration. Many times it is because they are tired of defending themselves from the very people that reap the benefits of their hard work, the street trannies and the stealth trannies quivering in their closets. Neirher group is doing anything constructive to help us gain our rights, but excel in posting destructive comments on transgendered Internet lists criticizing the people who are.
The street trannies rail about 'elitist' sellout conservative trannies not caring about the plight of their poor brethren working the streets. When those so-called 'elitist' trannies call their bluff and offer their help, they'll defiantly huff that they don't want their handouts. The stealth trannies want nothing more than to protect their closeted status. They whine that if the activists would just leave well enough alone and stop rocking the boat, everything will be fine and our enemies will move on to other targets.
Hate to tell you this, but it ain't happening. The high yellow passing argument in which this misguided lament is descended from didn't work during the Civil Rights Movement, and this one won't fly either. The Religious Right doesn't have 'godless communism' to pick on anymore. They tried to take on the feminists and have been battled to a standstill. We are now the people that the Pat Robertson's and Jay Sekulow's of the world are gunning for. They are turning transgendered peeps into the bogeyman they need to generate the funds they require to keep their organizations viable. We are the peeps that they are going to use to justify to their money men (once again predominately white males) that they can win for a change and we'd better be ready to oppose them.
Before we can even think about building a community, we T-people must overcome the shame and guilt issues that plague us. We need a new attitude. We should be mature enough to realize that we are not going to be in lockstep agreement on many issues, and we must respect our fellow T-people who express divergent opinions. We need to accept constructive criticism that comes from individuals within the community instead of viciously attacking the messenger.
We must also stress personal responsibility. Like it or not, you must conduct yourself as a role model. My behavior in society reflects on you as a transgendered person, and what you do reflects on me. What we both do impacts the entire transgendered community, and we need to be sensitive to that. That 'rugged individualist' John Wayne mentality no longer applies. You are now a minority and you must be better than the society at large that we interact with.
We must be proud of being transgendered human beings. There is an old African-American saying: Nothing you know is worth anything if you don't know how to be proud of yourself. In terms of expressing that pride, we must not only talk the talk, but walk the walk. Too many of us are content to hide in the closet. Thanks to the Littleton and Gardiner cases and the Religious Right retraining their targets on us, that will not be a viable option much longer.
If the Right is going to come after me, I'd rather be in a fighting stance battling tooth and nail for my constitutional rights than in a kneeling position submitting to whatever evil they have planned for us. I hope you feel the same way, too. Your life depends on it!
Welcome to minority status.