Icebreakers don’t actually break ice with the sharp prow of the boat.
Instead, they push themselves up onto the ice and the weight of the reinforced hull pushes down on the ice to open up a channel.
It is a process of throwing themselves forward, breaking open the way, then throwing themselves forward again.
Needless to say, a ship designed as a icebreaker needs a number of features. It has to have powerful engines for its size so it can repeatedly climb onto the ice, and an extra strong body to handle the bashing and crashing that inevitably comes as the ice tries to close in and retake the gap it was forced out of.
And since icebreakers operate alone and in dangerous conditions, not only is great maintenance required, but they have to be very self sufficient, able to survive when stuck or to get past failures.
It’s a tortuous existence for an icebreaker, always having to be exposed in a dangerous place, crashing up onto the frozen sea and coming down again, breaking open a way for other ships to follow.
Visible transpeople understand this process.
We push the boundaries in any space we enter, immediately discovering where the hard and soft points are in the room, revealing resistance and possibility.
We take the pounding at the edges, offering a direct target for anyone who who wants to stop forward movement and offering a fresh open channel for people who want to follow into the future.
Everyone checks out the room when they come into it and sets their own personal queerness knob. If the queerest person in the room is a 4, well you gotta keep it low. But if someone in the room has dialed the number up to 7, well, then you can even get a way with a 5 or 5.5 and not have to be the icebreaker.
Jeanette used to watch this phenomenon in rooms full of gay men. Her flamboyance opened the way for them to reveal themselves in ways they wouldn’t do in more normative rooms.
This process of moving the goalposts, resetting the norms, is one that conservatives have been using to great effect in the political realm. For it to work, though, you don’t just need icebreakers, you also need people who are more assimilated and normative to fill in that space behind the ice breaker, consolidating gains and providing support.
Icebreakers need the support of the entire network. Without support, they are just out on their own, being bashed and battered to break new pathways, wearing down without replenishment or rescue.
So, support your local icebreakers, eh?
It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.