So the local Trans Advocacy group is putting together a survey to determine what the needs of transpeople in the area are. Good on them.
Personally, I’m not a huge fan of surveys. To try and quantify things that aren’t easily quantifiable, like quality of life for transpeople, or even just transpeople themselves, well, that’s hard. I always make the point that while it’s easy to reduce a population to statistics, it’s impossible to then “rehydrate” those statistics to say anything about individuals. For example, we can determine that statistically, males are taller than females, but we all know male bodied people who are around five feet tall and female bodied people who are over six feet.
Still, surveys have their place, no doubt.
The question that got me, though, is this one:
In order of priority, what do you think should be the First priority for group resources?
__ Legislative advocacy
__ Other political/legal advocacy
__ Social Gatherings
__ Collaborative events with other LGBT organizations and/or non-profit organizations
__ Other (please list) ____________________________________
Now, I know I am old, but when I think back to other civil rights movements, like the struggle against racism, or the women’s movement, or even gay liberation, there was one requirement that came before all the action.
First, there was consciousness raising. Good old CR. We needed to understand our struggle, what we wanted, what we needed, what our challenges are before we started moving. We had to create a shared consciousness, first within the group and then amongst our allies.
To me, this is the fundamental work. It’s one reason I did activism even when I knew the outcome was doubtful, because I knew that working together with other transpeople, with different histories, different ethnicity, different class experiences and even more differences was going to help me raise my consciousness and understanding of what we shared, and what made us different. I had to get comfortable with fighting for the rights of people who were making choices I would never make in my life. I needed to find common ground and solidarity with others who weren’t really like me but with whom I shared a struggle.
Startup Weekend, caring for my parents, all that, is about one thing to me: working the process. And that means that the priority has to be the empowerment that comes from consciousness raising, from sharing enlightenment, no matter what the ostensible goal of the group might be. Deeper understanding isn’t just a nice by-product of working together, rather working together has the basic goal of developing deeper understanding. And developing that deeper understanding creates empathy and empowerment, the strength of being heard and affirmed, the empowerment of being supported in creating change.
My response to the first public meeting of this group was how much the stories and lives of transgender people seemed put to the background to create goals and consensus. Though the room was full, I didn’t feel like many transpeople were actually present. Now, I know that there is only so much you can do in a two-hour business meeting, but my suggestion to create forums where people could share their stories, a technique I had seen motivate communities in the past, or my suggestion to use visibility to turn public events into trans-positive spaces were passed over quickly.
Transpeople are doing CR work every time they are visible in the world. We teach about what being trans is, what it looks like, what it means. But so few of us have any shared vision of trans, beyond our own very real and very present struggles. Few shape their own narratives to be inclusive and expansive, so that we can fit many diverse expressions of trans under the same umbrellas.
I know there is work to be done. And I know that doing work together creates shared understanding.
I just think the fundamental work is consciousness raising, and the work for specific change comes out of that growth.