Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Your Transistion Ain't Like Mine

A few months ago I had someone post a comment to a blog post I'd written and ask the question, 'Is transition for an African-American versus a white person really that dufferent?

Yes, it is.

I say that because we start from two very different places on the social scale. A white male to female transperson is coming from a position of privilege, whether they acknowledge it or not. The society revolves around you. Because of that, many feel they have too much to lose if they transition, and tend to do it later in life.

It adds complications once they do so. Many tend to be married and deep into careers. It also impacts passability. The later you do a gender transition on the M2F side, the more testosterone buildup you have to overcome. In addition to that most white women on average tend to be shorter.

An African-American male to female transperson comes from a position in which they are reviled by society. For an African-American M2F it's an improvement in status because Black women tend to run thangs in our community. We also deal with our issues at an earlier age, which helps with passability because there's less testosterone buildup to impede feminization. Another thing that helps enhance our passability is that it's not unusual to see full figured sistahs or sistahs over six feet in height with broad shoulders.

I honestly believe that one of the reasons transpeople receive so much flack is because in addition to confounding rigid gender boundaries and making peeps insecure and uncomfortable with their gender identity or sexual orientation is WMP (white male privilege).

I think some white males find the idea of one of their own willingly stepping down from white malehood and all the perks that it bestows upon them to become a white woman so incredulous that they take it upon themselves to punish this 'deluded' individual for the 'crime' of abandoning white manhood.

The elements of the gay community that bought into Jim Fouratt's rantings tend to believe this as well.

It's more odious to the peeps who feel that 'whiteness' is under attack by the demographic trends stacked against them. They feel that EVERY white male is valuable and must not only stay in that gender role, but help produce their share of babies to perpetuate the race or get assimilated out of existence.

If you think I'm off base about this, then explain to me why white fundamentalists have basically been preaching this message since the early 90's, have a virulent hatred for gay people, have savagely attacked immigration with disgusting racist rhetoric and pressure their wives to leave the work force and have multiple children?

Black transpeople not only get the residual fallout from the attacks on white transpeople, but we get attacked by segments of our own community as well. We have to deal with the sellout ministers preaching anti-gay sermons in order to keep their faith-based bucks flowing into their pockets. That message gets interpreted by the nekulturny elements as 'it's okay' to attack transpeople.

Since we are the most visible spectrum of the GLBT community, and because one of the tragic instances of early transition sometimes results in some kids being tossed out of their homes by 'christian' parents, it leaves many of my sisters more vulnerable to the violence stirred up by these hatemongers.

While we do catch hell from some portions of the African-American community, on the other hand, we receive love and acceptance from the parts of it who correctly believe that our solidarity as African-Americans trumps the BS. They feel that people who have been historically hated for who they are shouldn't be doing the same things to transpeople, who are also being hated for superficial reasons as well.

In the African-American GLBT/SGL community, for the most part we don't have the gays and lesbians vs transpeeps or transpeeps vs. crossdressers battles that roil relations in the white GLBT community. One thing that keeps it in check for all of us SGL community members is the realization that 25% of this country hates us no matter if we're straight or gay.

We African-American transwomen have our own cross to bear when it comes to our images. We transsistahs have the double whammy of getting saddled with the hypersexy vixen image that burdens our biosisters, the angry neck-rolling SWA (sistah with attitude) stereotype and being considered less attractive when we are compared to European beauty standards.

We are also disproportionately saddled with the burden of having African-American transwomen images (along with Latina and Asian transwomen) and sexuality linked in some people's minds to transgender porn and the sex industry.

So no, our transgender journeys are not alike. We have common interests in terms of having our civil rights protected, codified into law and respected. We are both concerned about unemployment/underemployment issues. We have to continually work on educating the public about our issues and understand each other enough to build a larger transgender community as well.

But on others, we must bear that burden alone.


Mes Deux Cents said...

Hi Monica,

I really got a lot from reading this post. You may have already thought of this but have you considered putting all of your posts about transitioning and being Transgender in general into a book? If not you should.You have an amazing way of explaining things.


Maddie H said...

Silly profile interface stuff! :(

Wow, that's certainly to the point. I do think that more and more white transwomen are transitioning early these days - I started at 18. That was 20 years ago, though, and it was at least a year before I met another transwoman my age...and I met her through my hobby, not the transsexual social/support network. I'd probably met at least 30 transwomen in total during that time.

Your analysis of white male privilege and how it affects transitioning is, in my opinion, just about dead on. Thank you for posting this.

Monica Roberts said...

You're right. These days there are more white people starting their transitions earluer because the information is available.

Look at little six year old Jazz, the transkid profiled in Barbara Walters recent 20/20 story on transgender children.

There's also now 14 year old Kim in Germany who started her transition 2 years ago.

One of my friends in TATS started her transition during her senior year of high school.

Ms Deux,
Thinking about it.