I was just in a scrap on an internet forum where I have participated for over a decade. It’s about technical stuff, and it is a model of decorum, but one hothead decided they needed to spank me because while I addressed my experience with the topic of a thread, I didn’t note that a referenced link already mentioned my conclusion.
To this hothead, I needed to be put down, slapped for my ignorance. Since I care about the safety of this space, I chose to confront them as a bully because I know many people would just stay silent and allow their behaviour to continue.
I made my case as to why my answer was reasonable and germane, but they chose never to address why their calling me out on “not reading the linked article” was such a sin and needed to be met with a slap from them.
In the end, my words won as the bully smugly showed they had put me on their ignore list. They had judged me so heinous and offensive that they tried to silence me with words, but failing that, they chose to use technology. They chose ignorance over engagement, refusing to reflect on how their choices were in any way rude and problematic.
They tried to shame and silence me for doing something they thought was stupid, but they were matched with someone who has had to transcend a lifetime of that kind of shit.
I chose the name Callan for many reasons, one of the first because it is gender neutral. I knew I would always be trans, always cross worlds, always be beyond simply one or the other. That revealed me to be very different than most crossdressers who wanted a pair of names to code their selves, “Now I’m Biff! Now I’m Suzy!” as I am want to say, swinging between rather than seeking integration.
After I chose it, though, I found out on a baby names site that Callan came from the Gælic feminine for “powerful in battle.”
I came of age in a period when Leslie Feinberg was talking and writing about “Transgender Warriors.” I never really wanted to be a warrior. That was what I was running from, something that might reveal my masculine heritage. We had a lot of TERFs running around back then who were looking for any reason to claim transwomen who spoke up strongly were speaking from their “male privilege.”
When I was in high school, I was in the car with my brother & his friends when the topic of fighting came up. I offered to challenge anyone verbally.
“My brother can beat you up!” one kid said.
“Verbally means with words,” my brother explained with exasperation. It was hard for him to be proud of an elder sibling that the family had decided was so verbal that they were actually “Stupid,” my approved nickname for years.
My fighting skill never came from any sort of macho posturing, rather it came from the akido of feminine fancy, turning blows back against others with a quick twist of thought. I was never in a fistfight, never bruised another person, but I did make them cry or stamp their feet in frustration, much like I took care of my attacker on the forum today.
The idea that it was the feminine in me who was the battler was hard to get out there in transland. Aren’t women supposed to be submissive, dainty, sweet and reserved? Isn’t that what going to the girl side is about?
One crossdresser called me on it.
“Do you think that if I had been born female,” I asked them, “I would have been a mouthy broad?”
They thought for a minute and took my point. Callan == the feminine for powerful in battle.
I have always been a fighter, and the gifts I give others come from my ability to fight demons that swirl inside of us.
If you are very blessed, if you are very very favoured by the universe, then you just might find someone to fight with you as well as Callan fought with me. -- Eulogy
What I haven’t been, though, is a brawler. A long time ago, I learned to avoid picking fights unless I had something specific to gain from them, usually working out some of my own thoughts and getting them down in writing.
When I get in a brawl, that urge to trounce my opponent riles up in me. I see red, feel less than centred, jangled and raring. Anyone who is powerful in battle has to have some of that drive to win, to be the victor, to kill.
I don’t like that feeling. That means, though, that I tend to hang back, to not get out there and fight for myself. Like any mom, fighting for your family, knowing that there is a place you can go back to and be cared for, is very different than just being an everyday brawler.
Virginia Prince used to go back to the hotel room after a day at a conference, put on an elaborate peignoir set & satin eye-mask, lay herself out on the bed as it it were a bier, and then start reliving her battles of the day out loud, assuring herself she had done the valiant and sacred work, at least according to Sharon Ann Stuart who roomed with her.
I never wanted to be the kind of transgender warrior who valued winning over connection, a bold and brave solitary knight in breast forms battling for some kind of right politics and belief. It was team fighting for me or nothing, but then again, that’s a very feminine approach.
Attenuating my own power to tend to those around me, knowing that they have to heal in their own time and their own way has become my habit. My fight is to offer texts that can challenge people, knowing that planting seeds and tending to growth is the way that change happens.
That has cost me much of my own energy, though, denial of my own nature, the decay of my body and my power.
If I want to claim more of my womanhood, I need to claim more of my own power, as I coded well over twenty years ago in my first question at my first trans conference.
And my power, my feminine, beautiful, shimmering power, is to be powerful in battle. Underneath all my defences, I am just a mouth bitch who knows how to ask just the wrong question at just the right time.
That gal, well, she has plenty to offer communities. She can bring them focus, discipline and energy.
But she will also offer them challenge, illumination and expectations. Standing for healing, those who are not yet ready to confront their own darkness, not yet ready to stand up and let go of sickness will find her bristly, will try to silence her.
As someone who has spent a life being flattened, attacked and erased, though, she feels every blow. If she wasn’t so sensitive, she wouldn’t be so sharp, for she is a wounded healer. She doesn’t want to feel battered and devalued again, for her body keeps the score of a lifetime of battles.
I see the fights everyday about trans, just like every transperson in the country does. They aren’t about me, they are about people acting out of their fear, using transpeople as straw agents to be set up and pounded down. We are used to have people act out their own issues on us.
Even if we know, really know, that the attacks of others say much more about them than about us, know that we are just being used as punching bags, we still end up taking the blows. There is a cost to that, a price that makes us want to duck and hide, trying to escape the third gotcha.
The idea that I have to get out and fight again, but this time, things will be different because I will have allies who are ready to stand up beside me, who are ready to embrace, value and cherish me, well, that’s a tough sell. I know how to be too hip for the room, too big, too intense and too queer, and I don’t see how the room has changed all that much.
I challenged someone on a forum with smart and silvery words and won, but the win was basically hollow. They didn’t get it, just running away because he could not bully me into silence, and no one stood to support me, let alone saying that they learned something.
But I got all juiced up, distracted, tense. The only think I could do was come here and turn it into writing that very, very few will read and even fewer will value. Sure, it helps me become more aware, with better and clearer words, but it doesn’t bring comfort or succour.
Everyone has to pick their battles. Indiscriminate and unconsidered brawling doesn’t really move you or the world ahead. Don’t piss into the wind, fight the ones where you have a chance.
Women fighters have always understood the challenge. Even today, people dismiss a woman candidate as “un-presidential” because they refuse to imagine a woman with power, someone with both a sharp, committed mind and a tender, caring heart. Women’s power is meant to be clandestine and sub-rosa or they are seen as acting like a man, something any transwoman wants to avoid.
Fighting, though, is where my feminine soul has always blossomed.
It just has never been something that brings me the sunlight and nourishment I so desperately need.