When you feel the urge to make an intimate action, like holding your lovers hand in public, and then feel like the only way you can do it is as symbol, as a public statement and a political act, it takes the spontaneity and intimacy out of it, becoming the antithesis of what you wanted to express.
An advocate for marriage equality in Ireland wanted to explain how, in a world where his love was devalued and dismissed, simply expressing love became a politicized act.
For transpeople, we understand that just getting dressed is always a political act.
Most people get up, get dressed and walk out the door without much thought about the political status of their outfit. It’s just about some blend of appropriateness — fitting in — and personal expression — standing out.
Transpeople, though, all have a history of their choice of outfit as being seen and challenged as political expression.
- You can’t wear that!
- Are you trying to embarrass all of us?
- What will people think?
- You deserve whatever you get if you look like that!
- Have you no shame?
- You are so queer you look disgusting and terrifying!
- Is that outfit some kind of a joke?
- Those clothes will never be appropriate!
- Who are you trying to fool, anyway?
- Why do you want to show the world your perversion?
- Are you some kind of freak?
- Look at the faggot!
- God will smite you!
Anyone who has been shamed into the closet can hear that kind of chatter from their self-police when they make what they have been taught is an act against propriety and decency. We know we risk attack and we do it anyway because somehow, the call of our heart is stronger than the fear of our attackers.
To have acting on our own desire turned into a political act which then can be judged, devalued, dismissed and terrorized means we always have to have a political position to contextualize our choices.
Sadly, the context is often “Sure, it’s offensive and disgusting when they do it, but when I do it, it’s graceful and gracious.” This plays out in so many ways, from “We are just like every other couple in the neighborhood, it’s just that we like a little sodomy on Saturday night,” to “Sure, I stick gerbils up my butt, but I’m not sick enough to shove guinea pigs up my ass like him!” The line of where the political and perverted starts is always, somehow, just past where we stand.
Claiming our own queerness as sacred, blessed and good demands that we accept our choices as political, choosing to stand for freedom and against the naysayers, even the naysaying voices planted in our head.
Most queers don’t want to be political bomb throwers, breaking barriers, we just want to follow the call of our heart, seeking intimacy and acting spontaneously.
Choosing to do that by pulling the wire just past where we are and painting others as too queer, though, is the act of a goat.
That intersection of the personal and the political is where I live, of course. I understand the political to be very personal, not some kind of abstract concept but an expression of love. I fight because I love, and when that love goes un-mirrored, the fight can go out of me.
It is that intersection, though, that is so hard for us. It’s easy to take the actions of our heart, but it is tough to have those actions politicized, hard to be made an outlaw and an outcast when we just want to express our nature though our choices.
Very few people dream of being a political operative when they grow up and fewer still dream of being an activist every time they get dressed and leave the house.
I know how to manage the political demands of being visible and trans, but I also know that negotiation is not particularly nourishing or rewarding to me. My political actions are met with silence or resistance, so I avoid going out to just let people politicize me, assigning their own motives and judgements to the simple act of trying to show my own heart in the world.
I learned very early that people had trouble hearing over my penis, that their own assumptions about separation meant they couldn’t engage my heart, their own political beliefs erasing my most considered and polished expression.
When the our truth is denounced as lies, invalidated as only our attempt to demolish sacred social values, we become criminals for only acting on the love in our heart. Is there any wonder we twist ourselves into pretzels to try and get around that fate?
Whatever the busters want to think, we didn’t politicize the expression of our love; they did. We just were born into a world where hearts like ours had to be broken and silenced for the good of the status quo.
Homosexual desire is a kind of gender variance, the expression of a love that goes against the heterosexist convention which tries to separate the world into binaries, denying wholeness unless we come together in approved ways. It is the basis of the idea that we can only be happy and successful when we follow the standard rules.
The power of liberation is in expressing all the love in our heart, not just for partnering but also for emotional, intellectual and creative brilliance. That’s what queer is.
Queer is, though, political, wearing and exhausting. Queer is right and good, but it is also the antithesis of intimacy.
I’m not trans for the politics. I’m trans because I have a tender trans heart.
The politics are just something every transperson has to negotiate everyday in this fakakta culture.
When just needing to use the toilet requires a political act of will, well, it can wear you right down.
And that makes the people who keep trans expression politicized very happy.