“Sexuality is a tricky question. You get into transgender — it embraces all of that — and you have people’s fear and dislike of things that are different. Nobody is more different to an average person than a transgender person, and that makes them nervous.”
–Gay U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., to New York’s Village Voice, June 17.
“Barney [Frank] is a hero in many ways, but he’s hung up on trans issues. I was once too, so I know all these bullshit arguments inside out.”
–Former National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Matt Foreman to New York’s Village Voice, June 17.
Quote Unquote #385, July 01, 2008, by Rex Wockner
I get crazy when I hear a Trans101 presentation that starts by discussing the different types of transpeople, spewing out acronyms: TV, TG, TS, MTF, FTM, DQ, whatever, whatever, whatever.
To me, what is different about transpeople is so much less important than what is the same about them that it is almost not worth mentioning.
And Barney Frank makes my case above. As long as transpeople are the most different people, transpeople will always be the most scary people, making people nervous.
Years ago I argued that using a clincal term to describe us was not useful. One church recently rigged its news site to automatically replace the word “gay” with the word “homosexual” because that would keep the stigma around, make the difference clear. Of course, this also made Christian singer “Jason Gay” into “Jason Homosexual.”
It’s when transpeople — not “transgenders,” never “transgenders” — get a comfortable name that assimilation will be well and truly underway. I once suggested “flips” since we flip sex and gender. I’d much rather be identified across the room as a “flip” than “really a man,” and I do understand the push for such identification; if we can’t talk about our history how can we ever really get past being so different than we get people all nervous? Speak it out, make it clear and move on, eh?
Difference is the exploration of the adolescent — Clique Me Up, Scotty — and too often it is adolescents, still in the throes of emergence who end up speaking for transgender.
Until we can speak for how people are more the same, we are screwed.
“In a culture where gender is rigidly bi-polar, rituals of gender crossing remind us of our continuous common humanity,” I heard anthropologist Anne Bolin say over 15 years ago now, and I knew instantly that was my personal mission statement.
Continuous common humanity, one human nature and we all share it. We expose how vibrantly the same all humans are, even across the percieved lines of sex and gender.
Barney Frank is right. Nobody is more different than transpeople. And transpeople are just the same as any other human. Our only difference is that we perform an atavistic role of speaking for continuous common humanity, beyond percieved walls. And that makes many people nervous.
It’s the people who have moved past spotlighting tiny differences in essence and gotten that we are fundamentally the same who are past the bullshit.
Keep the light on what we share, on what connects us. That’s the only way to make people comfortable with us, comfortable with each other. We can’t be fearsome aliens and still be embraced; we can only be embraced if we are just human, even humans who cross bridges and walk through walls.
Continuously common and just human.