I want Heidi Klum to be wrong.
On Project Runway she intones that in fashion, you are either in or you are out, and then names the next person to be out.
That binary, well, it feels confining.
I know where trans is nothing. I have lived in the wider world, gone to work, moved about learning to hide.
I know where trans is everything. I have been in the interlocking communities around transgender where fear and oppression are always the topic, where we get immersed in trans. The world is seen through trans eyes, big and binary and refusing.
It’s this binary, the binary of the marginalized that makes me crazy. Trans is everything or trans is nothing, everything or nothing, everything or nothing.
Marginalization sets binary boundaries on polite society. “In or out, In or out!”
Marginalization forces people to pick a side, to defend a position, to follow the rules or break them. “In or out, In or out!”
Marginalization purges mainstream language and understanding of marginalized thoughts and understanding. “If society wanted the gift, they wound already have it,” Joseph Campbell tells us about the last part of The Hero’s Journey, the return of the gift.
My entire quest for the last twenty years has been to find language to communicate my transgender experience in effective ways. I shun cliche and binary, reject abjection and victimization, demand connection and empowerment.
I haven’t had any raging success at this, even if some have found words and ideas through my work. Too many are caught in the binary, transpeople trying to use notions that others hold or then to just drop trans discussion from their world, normies wanting a quick handle on those poor trannys, blinkered by binary expectations.
I want to live in a world where trans is just something, a part of us that is out but doesn’t dominate our lives. I want to be able to go into trans spaces and talk about success, empowerment and business, I want to be able to go into normie spaces and talk about transcending binaries, transformational identities and shimmering queerness.
I don’t want to have to be rejected in both worlds because I don’t just buy into the binaries they have created. I don’t want to be that abused.
The burden of taking transgender away from a marginalized status, a status of either nothing or everything. We need to build a place where trans is just something, not our defining characteristic, but not an invisible characteristic either.
This takes away the normie idea that trans is something odd, sick, deviant, and for them. It also takes away the trans idea that trans is something marginalizing, abusive, sick, and broken.
There is so much to lose by trans inclusion. We lose the idea that people are one or the other, this or that, that those other people are to blame, that we are the victims and they are the oppressors, that they need to change before we can be successful in the world. We lose the idea that we can force children into binaries without hurting them, that we are safe from individuality if we police norms, that different means sick and rejectable.
I’d love to lose all that, even if others want to cling to it.
To have to run between transgender being nothing and transgender being everything is to be stuck in a cycle where we can’t build trans experience into the shared life of the community.
And that just feels like a huge loss for everyone.