Invisible & Unrepresented

Watched the self-aggrandizing farewell documentary for The L Word.

“Such a breakthrough for visibility and representation, and the way we made television about lesbians was nothing less than astounding.”

And Max was touted as the first regular transsexual character ever.  Yeah, well, I understand why Ms. Sea didn’t want to actually have to transition, but that kept trans representation very marginalized, down to the wacko season six pregnancy plot.

What I saw, though, was women who came together to make something they thought was good and valuable and accessible.

And then I rack my brain for examples where transpeople who come together to create something good and valuable and accessible.  And beyond some conferences and lobbying groups, well, I just don’t see it.

I have been looking at transpeople these last months, and the more I see, the more I really get, deep down in my synapses, that getting past it enough to understand and value other transpeople who make choices you would never make for yourself is really, really, really hard.

Transpeople are where they are, and they are all struggling against one stigma limit or another, one chip or one boulder or one darkness, and that limit becomes the center of their own myopia, the focus they churn against so hard.   We think we open up so far, and then we just find another challenge were we have to squeeze though, keep our head down, not make waves, try to breathe, just make a life.   There doesn’t seem to be any open pasture to be trans and free, rather we have to keep going into different passages where some part or another of us has to be left behind or shrunken down or silenced just to get to what we need.

To me, this is the trans experience, this move from cell to cell, from closet to closet.  Because there is no place where trans is just natural and understood, we keep having to educate or insulate, to help others or lock ourselves down.   I know this is hard, and I know why even transsexual women find it challenging,  even if their imagining that somehow it’s the transgenders who sneak into their bedrooms and mark their foreheads with a big red T every night are the problem, not a society that doesn’t have any idea how to make room for the idea that we are our indvidual choices, not just the outgrowth of our genitals.

There is an old aphorism that wonders why the in-fighting in academia is so fierce.  The offered answer is that the fighting is fierce because the rewards are so small.    It’s not like business where you make your own rewards, rather you fight for a share of a tiny pie.

There almost no benefits in identifying as transgender, so few, indeed, that maybe the only real one is visibility.  Is there any wonder why so many fight so hard to define trans as whatever they take it to mean, trying to hold onto the visibility for themselves and not for those who challenge them?   We have so little representation that every crumb counts, and rather than working to expand that representation, a real hard task from inside the box we feel we have to be in to get what we need, we snipe at those who do speak up and speak out.

Why don’t we come together to make something good and valuable and accessible?

It starts, I think with the incredible difficulty of affirming someone else who makes choices you never would make for yourself.  In a potential sex partner those different choices may be titillating and exciting, but in a mirror those different choices are often frustrating and infuriating.  We are working so hard to be seen and affirmed that different choices can easily make us feel trivialized, mocked and dismissed.

Until we can get to affirmation and comfort in our own expression of who we are, until we can become mature and confident, then we will always have trouble affirming diversity and seeing the beauty in difference.  And as long as we struggle from cell to cell, closet to closet, pocket to pocket, we cannot be mature and confident.

I know how hard it is trying to get to a safe space.

I heard this week about a butch woman who owns a bar and enforces genital purity in her rest rooms, demanding an examination of suspect trannies for the results of surgery.  It reminds me that it is always the gender variant gay and lesbian people who are the most viligant inforces of gender purity, because they want to make sure that no matter how swish they are they cannot slip out of man, no matter how butch, they cannot slip out of woman.

And I talked to a woman who wondered why I didn’t become a butch lesbian rather than a femme lesbian, since it would fit my body better and be hotter, at least to her.  Did she choose to be a femme lesbian?  Why didn’t she decide to be a straight woman, since it would fit her body better, and give her much more opportunity for partners.

As long as trans identification is always open to question and challenge by heterosexism, including the heterosexim of homosexuals, who may even need clear sex/gender boundaries enforced more than straights, how do we find the space?

And as long as there is no space, where can we come together to make something we feel is good and valuable and accessible.

I despair.

But maybe that’s just because I am old.

After all, that’s why I though The L Word was defined by the plotlines: ludicrous.

3 thoughts on “Invisible & Unrepresented”

  1. I still haven’t seen a single episode of it, and it’s because I read about how they were treating the Max character, honestly.

  2. As Shane said in the final episode… no one else can speak for how I feel.

    Anyone that calls folks that seek sex reassignment “trans” people seeks to marginalize them through involuntarily classifying them as other.

    I’d find undergoing a panty check far less humiliating than being called “trans”…

  3. Trans people are starting to come together, at least they are here in Canberra, Australia. We have a social group and a political group, and both have a range of age groups and genders represented.

    There is also an Australian art project that was started by some of the locals here, which is admired and participated in by queer and trans people and our allies ranging from 4 years old, to 64 years old.

    You can find it here: http://trannypanic.com.au

    I am very passionate about the idea of community building. If we build unity, we will see far greater gains in visibility, and political action… There’s safety in numbers. We marched in Mardi Gras, and we thought that no one would march with us. We ended up with a group of 22. People felt safe in such a large group. Having seen our boldness, even more people want to come out and stand with us in an act of pride and defiance.

    So, maybe you are old, but don’t lose hope yet! Change is happening. :)

    Also, I love your blog, especially the post called ‘Love it

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