After about 25 years out in the organizations of the trans-community, over a decade leading a local club and acting nationally enough to give a keynote at IFGE, I have come to the conclusion that there is no trans-community.
There is an interlocking network of trans-communities, each with some specific focus, be it partners or crossdressers or a convention or cured transsexuals or political activists or queer faieries, or whatever, but there is no trans-community.
So when someone tells me that I should be “building community now,” that sets me on edge, because what they usually mean by that is that others should rally round the flag that person is standing under.
Most don’t want to do the hard, hard work of being allies with people who make choices you would never make, who make choices that squick you, who make choices that you don’t really want people to associate with your life.
That, though, is the key to real, healthy community. And it’s when the divisions get minute, when there is very little ground to fight over, that the battles get their fiercest. You are much more likely to be assaulted or murdered by someone close to you than by a stranger.
In 1997, I spent a weekend in a Uniting As Allies workshop sponsored by the local G&L community council, and later that year spoke on TGIC receiving an award for Building Bridges. It was there I watched a transitioned transwoman lash out against a black gay man, accusing him of pedophilia, watched transpeople beat up on each other. Different transpeople came to me and thanked me for being a good model, but were agast at the other trannys, the classic self-loathing firing squad, standing in a circle and firing.
In other words, I have done the work. It’s my challenge in queer theory/theology to let challenges make me rethink, become more inclusive. This is very different from so many trannys who just look for reasons to dismiss challenge, to silence others, to always pull the conversation back to their own doctrine. Ah, yes, my karma may want to run over their dogma, but zombie dogs don’t laugh and be reborn, they continue on as hulks driven by fundamentalism.
So when a born female SOFFA — spouses, family, friends & allies — leader, who has written a couple of books on being married to a tranny, is coming into town to lecture us on “Building Community Now.”
I remember the last time she did this. She told us we have to be embracing, but then lavished special attention on another partner because “she’s one of my peeps.”
It sure as heck felt to me like she was telling the boys what they needed to do, because that’s a woman’s job, but doing what she wanted.
I have tried to communicate with her in the past, but rather than engaging me, she wanted to throw my stuff up on the blog that fronts her forums, grabbing content to maintain her enclave, which she holds up as a symbol of possible community.
I spent well over a decade leading in a local transgroup, plus acting nationally. Having a woman who keeps crossdressers happy telling me what to do, keeping her focus by keeping separate from the boys, well, that feels dismissive & intrusive.
It’s my experience that she feels open around gays, and trannys born female, but that trannys born male all feel the same as her partner, or at least the same as she has to hold about her partner.
I know this drill. I know what it feels like to have my own expression dismissed as just an expression of the sickness I need to drop to be what someone else expects me to be. And when I complain about being erased, it is seen as another expression of sickness.
Build community now? And do it by oversimplification to an reductive form of imposed normativity rather by than respecting complex and contradictory narratives?
Not me, thanks.