Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Why It's Important To Claim The 'Trans' Label

While surfing the Web Sunday night was involved in a FB discussion which started when a person made this comment.
I do not publically identify as transsexual as the entire point, for me anyway, is to be perceived as what I am: female. Nothing more, nothing less.

To which I immediately responded to that person

Running away from the trans label is like me trying to deny I'm Black.   

She huffily fired back 
I'm not running from it, I just refuse the label. I don't want that label.

I was thinking at that moment, 'Naw chick, you are in serious denial'.  Had I wrote that, the FB discussion thread would have exploded, so I decided to try reasoning with this person.

'To each their own.   The last 55 years however have proven that having shame and guilt issues over the trans label and hiding from it hasn't been successful in garnering us the societal respect either that is a prerequisite for civil rights advancement..

Joelle agreed with what I had to say and chimed in with this comment:

"It is also a slap in the face to those of us who are carrying the trans/transgender/transsexual umbrella to have people say: I am not that thing! Well, how special of you!
Just let us do all the work so you can take and take and not give back to our community! I was trans yesterday, trans today and trans tomorrow! This is not some transitory "stage" between male and female--it is my PRIMARY identity, thank you very much!"
Joelle later wrote in that FB thread:
"Yes, I agree folks have the right to self-identify. But there are some (and I am not saying this person falls in this category) who think they are "too good" to claim the trans* label esp. due to passing privilege, white privilege, post-op status and class privilege. As in, well I went through a trans "period" during transition, but now I am a "real" woman. Well yes, of course you are a woman, but are you not a woman of transsexual history? And I think the point Monica is making is important, if everyone sees trans as only transitory, how do we construct a trans movement based on that identity? And isn't the reluctance to claim transness, or a trans history, in some cases, related to internalized oppression that cis-ness is inherently desirable?

As Jennifer Lawson says, 'Discussion is healthy, even if it gets loud.'

On this subject, transpeeps can drown out the Right Wing Noise Machine when we get going on it..
Yes, this person and 'errbody' else in the community who feels this way has the right to self-identify.   That part wasn't in question.    However, there are many of us who believe just as adamantly that you can claim the trans label and your womanhood status as well, and reject the idea that they are mutually exclusive.

We also reject the premise that being trans is just a temporary phase on the pothole filled road to getting your SRS.  Don't even get me started about the disco era BS the radical feminist Borg are still spouting about transwomen. 

You 'real women' may not personally want that label, but the reality is that it's a FUBU created one to define our community and the one politicians are familiar with .  The 'transsexual' one many of you 'I'm a woman only' peeps want to reclaim is one created by the scientific community to define a medical condition .

Frankly, I do not wish to be defined by a scientific label or a medical condition..  

And for the trans folks who want to be considered 'women only, nothing more, nothing less'  I have a simple question.:  Why hang around trans sites or trans people if 'you're a woman' now?

Is it because you want to rub it in other trans people's faces that you aren't 'trans' any more?

Feeling superior or special because you were fortunate enough to have SRS while other trans people are either struggling to get to that point, made a conscious choice not to or can't because of medical/financial issues?

Is it because you're wallowing in either white privilege, feeling superior, or both?

Or is it because deep down you know you're trans,  don't want your cis girlfriends to know you are, and want to stay in contact with other trans people so you can discuss the issues that impact your life that you can't or won't discuss with your cis girlfriends?

As I said in the thread, nobody is demanding lock step 'our way or the highway agreement' with our position.   We're not stating that you must wear trans logos on your clothes 24/7/365 (366 in a leap year) or introduce yourself as "Hi,. I'm so-and-so and I'm a transsexual."

What many of us are saying, especially those of us who put our asses on the line to lobby and fight for trans civil rights and see first hand is that the decades old strategy of hiding in plain sight and running away from the trans label ain't working.   We have the media, GL people and right wing opponents spouting disinformation about us on a regular basis and going into stealth mode won't make that reality go away.    

The only thing that counteracts inadvertent and deliberate disinformation about us is person to person contact, mass education, out and proud people living their lives and role modeling a positive image of an intelligent professional transwoman.   .    

If some of you weren't so busy because of shame and guilt issues running away from the trans label at warp speed, maybe the appropriation of the label some of you complain about wouldn't have happened in the first place.

As Joelle said in her comment earlier in this post,  how can we build a trans community if some of you are trying to claim that being trans is just a temporary state or doesn't exist?

The trans community has been anything but transitory since 1953..   Transitory or non-existent communities don't have a history, heroes or sheroes,  a distinct culture based on shared experiences and values, agitate for political self determination and freedom, or organized cultural events and organizations.

I've also observed that the segment of  trans people quickest to part their lips and say that 'I don't publically identify as trans' are predominately white transpeople.

Big surprise.  You've had over 55 years of public education and overwhelming media coverage that positioned your ethnic group as the positive public face for it while we non-white transpeople are struggling to shake off the bonds of  'unwoman' negativity and being moving targets for anti-trans violence..   

But since I'm a proud African-American, fighting negative perceptions of me and my people is nothing new.    

So yes, I'm proud and not ashamed to be an African descended transwoman.    I'm not ashamed of and refuse to run from that label, and neither should you be.

The sooner we stop feeling guilty about being trans and being ashamed of the label, the sooner we can get cis people to see that trans= human.   That light bulb moment with cis people will get us to the day that transwomen are considered women only, nothing more, nothing less.

Right now, just as we aren't even close to the United States being considered a colorblind society, we transwomen are light years away from being universally considered women only.

But that day is coming as surely as the fulfillment of Dr. King's dream is.  

1 comment:

genevieve said...

Monica, I'm proud to be transgender. I told this to my spouse and to others. No going stealth for me.