News, opinions, commentary, history and a little creative writing from a proud African-American transwoman about the world around her.
Monday, February 10, 2014
TransGriot Note: Been too damned long since I've had a guest post from Denny Upkins here and it's past time to rectify that. In this one Denny discusses his journey and thoughts about becoming a trans ally
ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and
convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
nothing about the trans experience or trans issues. As an ally I strive not to
know a single thing and I remind myself of this daily.
me to explain. When I state that I know nothing of trans issues, it isn't
because said issues aren't important. In fact, quite the contrary. By reminding
myself I know nothing of trans issues, it is a personal reminder that as an
ally, I am a student and it is imperative that I humble myself and be willing
to listen to understand, learn to be an asset to my trans siblings.
experience Ive found that a willingness to do the right thing, a willingness to
listen and learn and healthy display of
compassion, humility and respect, goes a long way with those who I stand in
solidarity with. The shorthand: don't be a dick.
justice isn't rocket science, not the core concepts of equality and human
rights anyway, but in my younger years it often seemed that way.
education in being a trans supporter began several years ago on Livejournal. I
was still trying to find my way having recently come out as a cis-gendered queer
person of color. At the time I belonged to an Interracial forum where I met my
good buddy, we'll call her Deanna and her girlfriend. I initially didn't know
that either of them were trans women but I soon put two and two together as we
continued to converse on the regular. Deanna was a riot and a fellow comic book
geek. A woman of color herself, we connected on many levels and I was
privileged when I made other friends through her.
began to feel guilty because we were growing closer as friends and I realized I
knew next to nothing about being a trans person and what they have to face in
their day to day. I realized that if I was gong to be in Deanna and my other
new friends' lives then I owed them and our friendships the proper respect to
educate myself and be knowledgeable of their issues so I could provide support
and be an asset, if they needed me.
though I had been active in social justice both online and in 3D space, the
fears set in. What if I make a mistake, what if I get information mixed up when
calling out transphobia and do more harm than good? What if—
that point, my reflection stepped out of the mirror backhanded me, instructed me to get over myself and stop
being a punk.
first began reading Questioning Transphobia which is maintained by the amazing
Lisa Questions. I rarely commented as I didn't want to disrupt their space and
I was there in a learning capacity.
thereafter I had the pleasure of meeting our very own Monica on Jasmyne
passed and eventually I became privileged to count both Lisa and Monica as not
only mentors but friends as well. I also sat in on trans meetings at a local
LGBTQ Youth Organization I volunteered for.
often I was heartbroken by the horrors trans folks survived and then amazed at
what many of them have accomplished in their lives in spite of the obstacles
and the dangers. Over time, I became more aware of the casual transphobia and
microaggressions that I witnessed in the media and in society. See bigotry
isn't always grandiose, it can be subtle and coded but a marginalized person
has to be aware because it can literally make the difference between life and
as I've learned time and time again, not all bigots are that sophisticated or
clever. In fact, to quote my buddy Paul Pogue, some fools are always trying to
vacation in Chernobyl.
years back, I was a moderator for a popular comic book forum known as Scans
Daily. The other mods claimed they were
wanting to take the forum into a more progressive direction and thought my
experience and expertise in social justice would be a huge benefit. Trial by
fire doesn't even begin to cover it but one of the worst incidents happened one
day when a commenter started discussing how women are drawn in comics and
proceeded to spew some transmisogynistic bile. A female commenter, a young
trans woman herself, understandably outraged and hurt and read him the riot
act. I also stepped in and made it abundantly clear that he was out of line and
I was going to personally see to it that he was severely reprimanded for his
actions. And of course the pushback commenced from other (white) members. My
actions were tyrannical, we don't need politics in comic books, the female
commenter should be punished as well for being angry and lashing out because
calling out bigotry is worse than the actual bigotry. I won't mention all the
flattering things I was called.
next day I posted a video on the forum where a young black trans woman
recounted a situation where she was violently attacked, and when she went to to
the police for assistance, she was nearly arrested. It was my hope that the
video would appeal to the forum's humanity. I was hopeful they would realize
that transphobia isn't some abstract offshoot theory of political correctness
but a real cancer on our society that is claiming lives. And hopefully by
hearing this woman's story we would strive to be more sympathetic and respectful
of one another.
when all hell broke loose.
post broke the record with over a thousand comments. Half the forum stood tall
and applauded our efforts to making the forum a safer space for minorities and
the other half wanted to lynch yours truly, the uppity Negro for harshing their
white comic book fanperson squee with political correctness.
Despite the harassing emails and the hateful
comments, I kept griping to a minimum because this was nothing compared to what
trans folks deal with every day and if I can bear the brunt to help my peeps,
then so be it.
all of the progressive efforts with Scans Daily proved to be for nothing. As
the other mods, all of them white, decided a year or so later that cis white
fangirls and their fee fees take priority and they should have a space to be
racist, homophobic and transphobic and there were plans to penalize PoCs and
trans members if they called out bigotry with an improper tone. And with that I
departed, with a middle finger proudly raised.
the drama, the stress, the bigotry, the hypocrisy, and the gaslighting, I
learned a lot. I learned that you don't have to the foremost authority on
social justice issues to be a good ally, sometimes it's simply a matter of
taking a stand and doing the right thing, in spite of the risks, in spite of
the repercussions. Sometimes its not even about taking up arms. Sometimes it
can be showing kindness and respect to a trans customer who comes into the
bookstore you work at and shares your love for all things Xena. A small act of
kindness like that can shame a bunch of snickering transphobic co-workers into
realizing what douchebags they were being..
often you do have to kick some butt and take names because there are some
things worth fighting to protect and preserve, such as the humanity of trans
people, and make no mistake, society has waged war on them and other
minorities. But if you know your history, then you know it's a war that's been
going on for ages.
credit the Stonewall Riots for being a key moment in the fight for LGBTQ
rights. What the history books and most of Gay Inc (read: mainstream white
queers) doesn't want you to know is that
it was PoCs and trans folks who were on the frontlines. I've previously stated
that I believe that LGBTQ equality will happen in spite of the gay community
and it will be the result of PoCs and trans folks in the trenches doing the
heavy lifting. I believe that more than ever. It's always PoCs and trans folks
on the frontlines and yet somehow we're erased from history and our humanity is
minority's humanity is denied, it allows for cis gay activists to push for
legislature and agendas that conveniently omits trans people from the basic
rights Gay Inc is pushing for.
trans person's humanity is ignored white interviewers have no qualms about
violating personal boundaries of black trans women.
LGBTQs are facing job discrimination,
queer teen homelessness, violence against trans people, and high suicide rates,
being able to register at Neiman Marcus should be at the bottom of the priority
list, but white supremacy teaches otherwise. After all white supremacy teaches
that some lives matter more than others. And privileged cis white queers being
to marry most certainly trumps the fact that 53 percent of anti-LGBTQ murder
victims were trans women or that 73 percent of all LGBTQ homicide victims were
people of color.
That is the legacy of a white supremacist
society, because trust, no matter the marginalized issue, more often than not,
it comes back to race. White supremacy teaches that in order for whites to
thrive, they must step on others in order to be superior. There's a reason why
white gays have been actively campaigning against people of color, most notably
during the Prop 8 fiasco. It also explains why white fauxminists constantly
throw women of color and trans women under the bus. It's also why many white
gays are proud Log Cabin Republicans and supporting the very people who oppress
us. See not everyone is fighting for equality, in fact many white minorities
are fighting to regain their privilege and gain a seat at the oppressor's
know why most white minority leaders are so quick to compromise and negotiate
with bigots. Because they don't like falling out of favor with other whites.
Despite all of their denials, they understand white privilege is very real and
they rely on it. This is why many poor whites will vote Republican even though
the GOP is constantly pushing to deny the poor basic benefits and necessities.
This is why a number of whites, cis and trans alike have all but waged war on
Laverne Cox and Janet Mock, two accomplished black trans women whose only crime
is actively working to attain equal rights for all trans people. But such is
white supremacy. It has people go against anything that benefits them, betray
their very self preservation just to enjoy white privilege and remain in the
good graces of other bigoted whites.
same dynamic that played out in Scans Daily is repeating itself here. Two
extraordinary and accomplished black women are being attacked simply for
wanting to better their communities and help change lives. And just as I stood
tall to help defend the humanity of the SD forum member, and the bookstore
customer, I'm standing with these ladies as well.
these experiences I've learned one fundamental truth. True allies, true
advocates, true supporters, are like family, or as I say your Ride or Die. They
will fight to protect you no matter the cost, they will celebrate you and
appreciate you as the gift you truly are. After all, you're family. Thinking back on these past few years, the
irony is not lost on me. I set out to educate myself (because I "knew
nothing") to be a useful resource to my trans friends if they ever needed
me to be so, and in the process, I'm the one who grew and evolved.