Transgender Day Of Remembrance, (TDOR)the event Gwen Smith started in 1998 (and I helped a little bit at that time too) will probably be marked in the area again this year.
I probably won’t hear about what is being planned, because the event is coordinated now by professional activists, mostly from a local organization that supports LGBT people of colour and by a statewide political lobbying organization that also is responsible for divvying up state government funds to groups across the state. I was in the senate lobby when they got a sexual orientation non discrimination act that deliberately excluded protection for gender identity in 2002, promising they would come right back and cover queers. There will still be no statewide legal protection for trans people in 2014.
These organizations have trouble dealing with individual transpeople, preferring to deal with groups and people who belong to them. They are focused first on group identities because group identities have political clout that queer individuals never will. Too queer and you are just going to gum up the works, just like those damn bisexuals who are too creepy to just pick a side and stick with it.
Now, the National LGBTQ Task Force (NGLTF) has decided that TDOR isn’t enough, isn’t the vehicle that serves their needs. They are having an action on November 18, two days before the annual TDOR, on Trans Lives Matter, a part of their Stop Trans Murders campaign.
I got a pitch on a local list to create an action from a professional trans activist who used to work for the statewide group. When I asked why they felt the need to do this around TDOR, I got reprimanded for my tone and asked who I was. Challenging someone’s standing to speak is the easiest way to dismiss challenges.
Is there an “epidemic of violence and murder targeting transgender people?” Is it different from the challenges that TDOR has been addressing for the past 16 years?
I was always a challenger to the transpeople are murdered at extreme rates thesis. I wrote No Jihad in 2006 and included a poem I wrote for TDOR 1999.
Professional activists, though, know what pushes buttons. They know how to collect and collate power by effective marketing. That is, after all, their job.
I remember when TBB confronted the head of Human Rights Campaign (HRC) when they addressed Southern Comfort Conference. He came over and sat next to us, trying to smooth things over. He was glib and convincing, even after having sold out transpeople in the past to achieve other goals. I looked at him closely, thinking “My, that is a lovely suit he is wearing. You know that no transpeople paid for a suit that nice.”
This weekend, I heard a pastor who leads a “More Light” church that claims to welcome LGBT people say that she has a problem with “non-passing transpeople,” especially those who will never pass, because they are too disruptive to her congregation. I watched a professional transgender organizer from inside her denomination refuse to confront her on the transphobia of that position, the rejection of queer.
The notion that transpeople are only appropriate and useful if they assimilate well into a group identity, merging into current structures, is one hugely transphobic. It was what kept transpeople hidden, was what doctors enforced when they demanded gender tests before supporting transition, was what so many transgroups demanded for entry.
Jamison Green said it so well. “When you hear the word trans, open your mind to a person who walked outside of social convention and gendered expectations to claim their own unique path.”
This bold, unique walking away from group identity to be powerfully and purposefully ourselves is both awesome and political suicide. Politics is a game of numbers, numbers of dollars and numbers of votes, so to keep your budget full, you gotta keep people in line, because having them run around like cats is not useful.
Iconoclasts and bold voices need to be silenced in favour of the public platform. The organization has to be paramount, and if that means creating competing remembrance celebrations so they can have control over their own, so be it.
Paid lobbyists don’t really want an educated and thoughtful public. They want a compliant and controlled mass, skillfully marking down strong and contrarian voices as losers, wackos and nut jobs. You don’t want to be like them, they tell the impressionable, so make sure you are politically correct like us, one of the people in the right, the ones who can look down and dismiss the weak-thinking crackpots.
My crackpot pedigree is strong and solid. My queer, eremetic, theological bent mixes nicely with the stand up traditions of my father. I’ve been talking about transgender as a personal journey since 1994 in public, though when I was in eighth grade I refused to give a counsellor an easy code to my identity, saying that my highest goal was to be myself.
If we force transpeople into identities then they can never find their own centre. For transpeople, the freedom to be non-passing, to be not clearly identified as members of one group or the other, is the only freedom that can lead us beyond history, convention, expectation, social pressure and political demands and allow us to blossom as the unique and brilliant people that exist in our heart.
For professional activists, though, individual transcendence is not what they are out to support. It’s not what their employers, the people who have political goals, pay them to make happen. It’s not the way they measure the results of the power game being played by masters.
Wrangling people into compliance with what is being sold is the name of the game, best done with the appearance of real concern and sharing, but only successful when people come to the proper beliefs. Yes, everyone, share your ideas, and then we will tell you which are right and important. Mental moulding disguised as consensus building, using social pressure to get you conform your voice to the group, a group led by a sanctified someone who already knows the deeper agenda.
I really wanted to be a pol when I was a kid. I did serious campaign work at high levels. I know why my voice isn’t respected by professional hacks & flacks. They have their job to do, and strong voices just get in the way. I understand their techniques. If they can’t be controlled, then they can be left on the margins while the pros gin up the centre, get the group mind moving in ways that achieve planned goals. If I want to challenge them, then I need to have my own group, some bargaining chips, and that is not where I have been moving.
A flack loves someone with a short attention span who can be influenced by emotion. Someone with a strong personal sense of integrity and a clear vision of their own knowledge and beliefs is much more challenging to all the manipulators, one reason that transpeople who have claimed their own authenticity beyond fear are just easier to marginalize and shut down.
One argument goes that only by riding the coattails of the big, well-funded, professional lobbying organizations can transpeople get what they need in society.
In any case, after years of us being the “too queers” that could be compromised for bigger group goals, the political pros have finally come around to transgender as the cause of the week. All they need to do to sell it to the country is to present it in a clear, compelling package that their audiences can gasp.
“Trans People Matter! Stop the epidemic of violence and murder against transpeople!” Send your cheque today to help these abject freaks who threatened with horrible things!
But let non-passing transpeople into your church, where you might have to open to what they offer? They better learn to fit in better and not scare the children first!
Transgender is a bold claim that the exceptional content of individual hearts matters more than simplified and imposed group identity.
Transgender says that the creativity locked inside our diverse humans is the way that we open up a new future beyond dated conventions.
Or, maybe, transgender is just another device to keep pols and lobbyists working the system for the benefit of… well, probably not you.