Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Damned If We Do - Damned If We Don't

In the wake of the Angie Zapata killing in Greeley last week, the debate raging in the blogosphere and beyond that has emerged since her tragic and untimely death has depended on who's doing the interpretation of it.

For non-transgender people, we've heard the ludicrous she 'deceived' Allen Andrade, so he was somehow justified in killing her spin on many comments. Some can't even get the pronouns right, or are doing it to be disrespectful or sensationalist.

In the transgender community, the discussion has been all over the map. I had two of my young TransGriot readers take me to task over the dating safety post I wrote Saturday because they felt in their words it was 'condescending to young transwomen' and 'insensitive to Angie's memory' because of the timing of it, even though that wasn't my intent when I wrote it.

One point Megan was correct about was that I didn't highlight the core dilemma of all transwomen who embark upon establishing a satisfying romantic relationship with biomen: to tell or not to tell.

We transpeople agree with our biobrothers and biosisters that the logical and sensible thing to do in an ideal world and an ideal dating situation would be to just simply reveal your transgender status at a certain juncture in the courtship process. In our intracommunity discussions we've agreed that point would usually be just before getting intimate with that person. By doing so, you would give that person the option of staying or going.

But in the real world it's not that black and white. The dilemma we face and the questions we ask ourselves are - when is that point? What will be the bioman's reaction when you do tell him you're a transwoman and will you have a relationship, much less be alive after you reveal that personal bombshell?

It doesn't matter when or where she tells him, once she reveals the deep secret about herself, she's damned if she does and damned if she doesn't. She's also putting her life in jeopardy if or when she does.

If she follows conventional wisdom and she's fortunate, the worst she'll get on the lower end of the scale is getting embarrassed if she's out in public when she tells him because the guy cursed her out before storming off.

On the other end of the scale that far too many transwomen experience, is a violent reaction that ranges from a simple beatdown to murder. That is consistent irregardless of the transwoman's age, ethnicity, social status or whether she's pre/non-op or post-op. Even marriage won't protect you if you make the revelation to the wrong person. There was a case a few years ago in which a post-op transwoman came clean to her husband and was subsequently found dead.

The other problem is that once you disclose you're a transwoman, as far as some biomen are concerned, you may as well wear a scarlet 'T' embroidered on your clothing. If you don't, they will damned sure create a virtual scarlet letter for you since they will tell all their homies and a few of their biofemale friends for good measure.

So even if you show up in the club one night looking so fly you make all the biowomen in it look like your ugly stepsisters to your Cinderella, you not only won't be getting any play from the fellas if just one biomale or biofemale is around who knows your business, but by the time they've finished spreading the news, in some cases you'll be getting dissed by some of the biomen and biowomen hanging out in that nightspot severely enough to make you leave.

So what's a transwoman to do who's not into GLBT clubs, who's looking for love but also wants to survive the process as well?

While there are biomen who do wish to date us, want us as life partners, and will be perfect gentlemen about it, there are others, the 'tranny chasers' as we call them in the transgender community, whose perceptions of us are colored by too much exposure to transsexual porn sites. Get one of them on a date, and they treat you like a porn star or an object instead of a human being with feelings.

If you are a Latina, African-American or Asian transwoman, that problem is even more acute because much of the transgender porn disseminated these days disproportionately features transwomen of color.

For a transwoman, finding true love can be as elusive as an NBA playoff spot for the LA Clippers. But even the Clippers make the NBA playoffs from time to time. The trick for us is to find that true love without losing our lives in the process.

And sometimes, to avoid living the rest of their lives alone, some of my sisters will take that chance. If they find a guy they like, they'll cross that disclosure bridge when they come to it.

So we're damned if we do tell- damned if we don't.


Maddie H said...

"So what's a transwoman to do who's not into GLBT clubs, who's looking for love but also wants to survive the process as well?"

I've had this done to me in a lesbian club. There's really no safe place when this happens.

Monica Roberts said...

True Lisa. As I said in the post, we're damned if we do, damned if we don't.

Maddie H said...

You speak the truth so hard it hurts.

Unknown said...

Lisa is right, you do speak a hard truth. A truth so hard it just made me examine my own motives for how I handle that question. I am very up-front about being trans and bring up early and now I realize I do that partly out of fear. Fear of what might happen if the person finds out for themselves, fear of the emotional pain if the reject me after I've gotten emotionally involved with them and most of all fear of physical violence.

Damn you're good Monica, your writing triggered a nice bit of self knowledge.

planet trans said...

Even though I have their pictures I did not realize that most, if not all our communities recent homicides were woman of color. Please tell your date in public on the first date who you are. Be sexy, proud and alive.

Nichole said...

I have to admit that the dilemma is one that many women discover and wrestle with. And, as usual, Monica, you speak a very hard truth, one that involves both trans and cissexual people in its implications.

Having discussed this for years with other transsexual women I still find no hard and fast answers to it. Yet, we so often make a blanket statement about "what one should do." We often lace those statements with appeals to "morality," our own sense of that, of course; and "rationality," also our own senses of that.

It just seems so very easy to do a post-mortem "I told ya so" in the wake of someone like Angie Zapata. So easy to lay the fact of her murder at her own door. We too often, trans woman and other people, blame the victim for her alleged deception and feel O-so-righteous in doing so. *sigh*

I wish it were that easy. It isn't and you've done an excellent job of laying out the hard parts.

Monica Roberts said...

Natasha, Lisa, Kelly, Nichole,

The last time I was in a relationship was during the Clinton administration- The first Clinton one.

I consciously made the decision early in the transition to focus on learning who Monica was and what she stood for. I felt that trying to deal with a relationship would complicate that, although I had a few opportunities in the 90's to do precisely that, and two of those opportunities surprisingly came from biowomen who knew my status.

At the time I was begining my transition my relatiionship with my flight attendant ex girlfriend ended on a less than pleasant note and I needed the emotional break from romantic entanglements.

I began getting involved in national transgender politics in 1998, which ate up time I probably could have used in the search for love as well.

I have a 28 year old T-girlfriend I envy who's beautiful, smart, sexy and rather successful in having and sustaining long term relationships with biomen. Another of my t-homegirls back in H-town was in one with a bioman for ten years.

So I know that loving, stable long-term relationships are a possiblity. I've witnessed it firsthand and I keep hope alive that it may happen for me someday.

But even if it doesn't, it's more important for me to love myself first before I worry about anyone else loving me.

Fireblossom said...

It seems to me that trans are the only people who are expected to trot out their deepst personal history--when transitioning, to work, family and friends, and when dating to anyone they date--or be accused of deception.

Nothing strikes me as more ridiculous than people who say that a transwoman is "really" a man. No, she isn't. She's really a woman.

crys said...

this is why i come to this site:

"It seems to me that trans are the only people who are expected to trot out their deepst personal history--when transitioning, to work, family and friends, and when dating to anyone they date--or be accused of deception."

that is so true. i probably never would have came up with that perspective on my own.

Nichole said...

"It seems to me that trans are the only people who are expected to trot out their deepst personal history--when transitioning, to work, family and friends, and when dating to anyone they date--or be accused of deception."

So right, Shay.

Question is, why?

Does it take anyone that much time to figure this out?

Because cissexuals demand that that is the only moral way.

Yep, even in what we do we are consistently strait-jacketed by cissexual privilege, cissexual trans-phobia, cissexual strictures. We have to tell because they want to know, wanna know if they are gay. They apparently need to know about us to know what their own sexuality is.

Our therapists, cissexuals for the most part, "help" us do that. Just as they once "helped" women by telling them, even demanding, that they never tell.

It would be really helpful if cissexuals could simply decide what they want. Do they wanna know, or do they not?

Perhaps a national vote at the same time as the presidential election this year? Afterall, what better way to affirm cissexual privilege? A majority vote.


@ Kelli

I agree with you! The time to tell is on the first date. It may result in a potential partner NOT being interested in pursuing anything further, but at least you have not wasted YOUR time or emotions on someone who has not dealt with their own issues.

Most transwomen have friends who are in the transcommunity so if a person is hesitant to get involved with a person who is trans, then they will most likely act a bit shady around your transfriends.

How can a real relationship develop when a person has "issues" with your community?

It's best to tell the truth right up front. It's safer. And it's emotionally just.

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!

shemale said...

I agree with everything you said here.

Just so you know i didn't really feel the way rebecca did, like you were "condescending to young trans women" in your other posts; i just thought that it was a bad time and place for that lesson that kind of walked at the edge of coming off as victim blaming--which i didn't think was your intent and you've clarified that it wasn't.

(btw i'm going by Andrea or Drea now rather than Megan, lol :) )

queen emily said...

Personally, I'm with Kelli, but yeah, it's got its risks alright like Monica said.

Not for them, but cos I wouldn't want to waste MY time. The question's hypothetical for me though, I have a lovely girlfriend :)

But I can't blame any trans woman who doesn't want to do it straight away unless they know someone's worth it. It's painful, and why *should* you do it just cos you wanna see a movie and eat a meal with some company, ya know?

Unknown said...

Yes, this. You're spot on. Nichole and Fireblossom, too. I've been trying to write something similar for days.

I'm personally in the "it's none of your damned business unless I decide that it is" camp, and I tend to want to date someone and decide whether *I* like *them* before I start pouring out my personal history. But that carries with it its own risks and issues to deal with, and while I might get closer to being not defined by my transness, I'm always going to have to be hugely more vigilant than ciswomen. It's an impossible double-bind, and there's no option that doesn't downright suck.

Monica Roberts said...

Point noted. You know I have much love and respect for you too.

Keep telling it like it is on this blog and yours as well. Lord knows this community could use a few more truth tellers.

This post is also sparking major discussion on the Bilerico Project as well on the topic.