I’ve got an idea. Why don’t we all get together and agree that we are screwed? Let’s talk about how our life is shit, will always be shit, and be clear that it is all their fault for oppressing and abusing us!
After all, what bonds all transpeople is being shamed & stigmatized, being scared into the closet by a world which forces choices that erase us. Isn’t that what we should bond over?
Once we figure out who the enemy is, we should attack, attack, attack, forcing them to change! As individuals we are challenged, but as a group we are formidable, a mob to be reckoned with!
I believe in empowerment. That means I believe that individuals can muster the power to create change in their own lives, in their families, in their communities and in the world.
Empowerment asks us to bond over our possibilities rather than over our fears. It asks us to come from potential rather than from brokenness.
The experience of growing up in this culture is the experience of learning to self-police. Other people teach us how to fit in, how to assimilate, how to be the person that others expect us to be if we want to get what we need from them.
For transpeople, this process isn’t just shaping, it is crushing. We are left inside our own head trying to figure out what part of us we have to deny and demolish in order to get what we need. We learn to recognize our limits, to understand the bits other people see as queer and challenging, learn to hide our difference from everyone, even from ourselves as we put part of us in a deep, dark closet.
Sharing that experience of dispempowerment is easy. We all know the attacks we faced, the pain we suffered. the fear that lives in us. We understand the challenges of having our hearts plunged into the cold and dark places, how that made us feel less than, broken and very deeply ashamed.
Finding someone, some group, some culture to blame for those attacks is a very human reaction. If it wasn’t someone else’s fault, then we are complicitious in our own destruction.
I don’t see, however, how bonding over what they did to us, over how they have to change, over their responsibility ever empowers us to change our own relationship with the world. Instead, it just emphasizes our own victim-hood.
Any support group that asks people to stay silent in order to honour the most broken person in the room is a group that supports disempowerment. Any group that looks for enemies, places blame and centres around the politics of enforcing group identities over individual possibility is a group that supports disempowerment.
We do need to go into our own dark spaces, need to excavate the pain and shame, need to identify where change is needed. Doing that, however, without also affirming light, openness, and personal responsibility does not serve empowerment.
Transgender is about changing your mind, about claiming the possibilities of transformation past convention, past expectation, and past internalized fears. To support that transformation, we need to affirm that the pain of the past can be turned into tools for growth and healing, not just left as crippling scars that will always lead us to our doom.
It’s easy to bond over blame. It’s easy to join the mob.
It’s hard to claim your own blossoming as an individual, unique and powerful child of the creator. It’s hard to support that blossoming in others when you haven’t gotten past your own fears and blaming.
But isn’t that the only thing that can save us?