The Invisible Tranny in the Room

I know what I want everytime I walk into a room of new people, especially a room full of tran-activists from across New York, where I was this afternoon.

I want someone to look at me and say “You’re fascinating.  I need to learn more about you!”

Now, of course, I don’t expect that to happen, though a lovely butch thought I was kind of neat after they saw me help a retired police officer who transitioned after an on-the-job injury shape her story to be more potent, more elegant.

I was there with a full face of beard, and I did what I do here everyday: I did the work.  I carried food from the car, set up the lunch, cleaned up and so on.   Heck I even left early (just after a big chunk of the NYC crowd left) to get back and make dinner for my mother who was still in her robe and not really going to go out and eat.  She has taken to getting dressed just as I put dinner on the table, which frustrates me.

Invisibility is a strange thing.  People I had worked with before didn’t recognize me, and that was fine.   I barely recognize myself anymore.  I omitted my name during the introductions and only one person noticed and asked it.

The focus was on in-person lobbying to move the GENDA bill forward, a bill required because gender variant expression was deliberately excluded from the SONDA bill, which got passed when Empire State Pride Agenda cut a deal with Pataki and the Republicans.   I’m a bit cynical, though — I suspect GENDA also needs a high level deal to get passed, and tiny lobbying has limited power.  I do, however, believe that as a tentpole of an education campaign, GENDA lobbying is a powerful vehicle for public education.

“I want GENDA so I don’t have to say I am sick just to get what I need,” one person said.

Education would be easier, though, if we transpeople had more beliefs in common.  Even the powerful Melissa Sklarz wondered if the model of out and active trannys really worked in this world as it did for gays.  She understands that only queer identification gives us the grounds for political power, that assimilation erases us, but maybe erasure is required.  “I mean, being out works for me, but just barely,” she said.

This kind of high level thinking wasn’t really played in the room.  Too many newbies who had to learn, who needed to tell their own stories of life and loss.

And that too was why I was pretty much invisible. It’s thought and theology where I am interesting and compelling.

But I served, did the work, helped things go more smoothly.

And stayed invisible, and of course, alone.

The Non-Trans Privilege Checklist

 The Non-Trans Privilege Checklist

I’m pretty sure it’s from Rikki Anne Wilchins, probably included in “Read My Lips.”  We transpeople are thin on the ground, and a voice this distinctive is memorable.

One thing I find it hard to express is the kind of marginalization and oppression, internalized or otherwise, that trannys experience.   Since it’s outside of their experience, they want to locate these feelings in my “depression” or some such, hoping a pill will take them away.

This list tries to move though that.  It is impossible to be someone’s ally until you have internalized their narrative, seeing though their eyes by listening to their stories and believing them.

We all have an obligation to push past our own internalized expression, sure, but too many scars are too many scars, no matter what.