No Transgendered People Allowed

The people running the Kingston Spring Fling, which is claimed to be space for “the entire TG community” actually have a session where “No Transgendered People [Are] Allowed.”

The idea that any space is so marked is deeply offensive to me.

The space is for born female partners of self-identified heterosexual crossdressers — “Spouses” — and creating safe space for that affinity group is a reasonable goal. Doing it by banning a class of people, on the other hand, is unreasonable. Where else would we not challenge such a ban?

My challenge to this choice was responded to by them trying to paint me as an over-hyped nasty destructor of community, finding me an asshole and wanting to silence me.

It all feels like white boys pulling cock, which is not surprising for transpeople who cling to their identification as straight white men. They want to dismiss queerness rather than engage it, sanitizing trans in the way SSS did, denying any erotic components in a way Amy Bloom found distasteful in “Normal”

I wrote about the view. . .

Assuming Arrogance

Most of the time, we don’t know what we don’t know.

What we don’t know is out of our experience, out of our sight.

At the SUNYA College LGBT conference a couple of weekends ago, I spoke with a woman, now a teacher in a low-income area of NYC, who came to the University At Albany from a upstate town near Oswego.

“I didn’t know I that was white until I came to Albany,” she said. “I thought I was just normal. It was coming here, seeing and engaging people of color, that opened my eyes to how I was different.”

In the late 1990s I spent a lot of time in the space of Trans-Men. I did this because I was starting to understand how much I didn’t know about the experience of growing up trans and female bodied. I learned a great deal, about the range of challenges & choices that Trans-Men face, and about the experience about growing up female and queer, being pressed into a woman role that didn’t fit their manly hearts.

Most of the time we don’t know what we don’t know, and that’s OK.

It’s when we assume that what we don’t know isn’t important, when we assume we know all we need to know, that we slide into arrogance.

The more marginalized we understand ourselves to be, the more we understand how much we don’t know. If we are raised a woman, we have to understand both the world of women and the world of men. If we are non-white, we have to understand the world of our culture and the mainstream world of whiteness. If we are non-Christian, we have to understand both our religion and the dominant Christian Culture. If we are non-heterosexual, well, you get the point.

These challenges are additive. The farther off normative we understand ourselves to be, the more we know how much we don’t know.

Only people at the center, who see themselves as normative, can imagine that they know all that needs to be known, and that any challenges to their knowledge can be dismissed, erased, and negated. This is the gift of privilege, this assumption of owning and controlling the normative, policing troublemakers into silence so they can maintain and assert their own power, often seen as God-given power.

To serve the marginalized — and what are transpeople but marginalized people? — requires an attitude of humility. You have to be open enough to know that you don’t know everything, that your view of “truth” is just one view, and the views of others who are not in the center are real, valid and valuable. After all, how can we see the cracks in our own edifices if we don’t listen to observers outside of our own assumptions & expectations?

It is impossible to speak for the experience of all. But even the attempt to speak broadly can always be foiled when we don’t have the humility to engage others who have different views of our shared world.

Personally, I have given up any attempt to speak for all. Rather, I just try to speak my own truth with humility & reverence, trying to be specific enough in the details to touch common experience, the one human nature that we all share.

When I hear people claim to speak for some idealized group, without the humility to also listen to others, it irks me. When I see people arrogantly trying to deny standing to speak to challenging others, it irks me. And when I look closely at these people, I most often see people who live in privilege, believing they are at the center of the world, holding essential truth and not only not knowing what they don’t know, but also dismissing any idea that what they don’t know might be an important and transformative view of the world.

The assumption that mainstream normativity is the only view of value is an assumption of arrogance and blindness. People who hold that view may not see their own limits, but those limits are usually brightly illuminated to those who have been denied the mainstream. The more people who want to claim normativity want to silence others, the more their fear of their own difference, fear of their own separation, shows as motivation.

For people whose see transgender as something they put on, like a pair of pantyhose, while holding onto a more normative identity as straight, white man everyday, they may have no problem with deep and daily marginalization of trans people.  They only want the freedom to dress up, not to be in the world as different, unique, trans, queer.

That may be OK, but when they then have the arrogance to speak for “the entire TG community” they speak from their own hobby and not from their own deep commitment.  They don’t know what they don’t know, and more than that, they don’t believe that what they don’t know is important.

And that is just arrogant, dismissive and destructive.