On the Transgender Community and its Internal Division.

As some of you already know, I identify as genderqueer. It’s a term I’ve known since the 90’s, and claimed for myself in my mid-20’s (during the mid 2000’s).  After spending twelve years believing I was a “trans-man”*, and supporting my partner at the time through the beginnings of his transition, I realized that I didn’t wish to change my body. At all, really.

Of course there are things I would change, I’m sure everyone wishes their ears didn’t stick out, or their hips were a little narrower, or whatever, but I liked my breasts, for all the damage I’d done to them binding with duct tape for so many years. I liked my genitals, too, once I figured out how they worked.

I didn’t know what being a woman felt like. I’d never really been one. I “decided” I was trans at 16, after spending a few years believing I was butch, simply because I’m not a societal ideal for feminine. I was at a loss. I knew what being a man was, I’d been one successfully for years, but it wasn’t right. Never really had been, if I was honest.

I discovered there were “feminine” things I enjoyed, like wearing skirts and carrying nice purses (that’s my “girly” indulgence, right there lol) but I much preferred my cargo shorts and chained wallet.

Classic social gender roles are ridiculously damaging. Twenty-seven years spent confused because I must be certain things because of random bits of myself that make me comfortable. I felt pulled in all directions, even more so because autism and multipotentiality give me interests across the board.

I like reading, and long skirts, so I must be a girl. But I like chained wallets and action figures, so I must be a boy. Back and forth like a ping-pong ball. In my early 20’s, I dated a person who considered themselves genderqueer. Being politically driven, and trans-identified, I’d heard the term since it first coined, but being trained to truscum**, I didn’t know what it really meant.

They explained to me that they just didn’t bother with gender or roles. They picked and chose what terms they would like and accept (They preferred they, I remember, but accepted “she” as they were afab***) like still referring to their (just as genderqueer) life mate at the time as their wife.  It really struck a chord in me at the time.

Several years later, after the realization that I didn’t want to change my body, but dealing with the confusion of where I fit, I remembered, and claimed it for myself. I did some research, and discovered new pronouns had been created by someone in the corner of the internet: xe. It resounded with me in a way I never felt before. It felt so good that I didn’t even have to tell people. I kept it close to my heart like a treasured secret. I had something that felt like me.

I told a few people, some laughed, some scoffed, some said “I’ll try” and then didn’t, some said “I’ll try” and then tried, failed and never bothered again… and I didn’t care. In my own head, it’s how I referred to myself, and no one could take it away from me.

I believed I was no longer allowed to consider myself transgender. The term was now fleshed out, in the mid-late 00’s. Transcending gender. Except I didn’t mind being called she, I didn’t feel that my “birth name” was my deadname****, it didn’t bother me.

Many years later, I realized that I am allowed to identify how I want to. I am definitely transgender. Not only am I non-binary, but I have journeyed through gender.

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And I’ve fought as hard as I can for transgender rights. I was part of the lobbying group that added “gender identity and expression” to the NYC Human Rights Commission’s anti-discrimination policy – a huge win, in the 90’s.

I founded Family Transcends, the FIRST trans-exclusive big-sibling mentorship program. I loudly shout against transmisogyny, trans-sexism, and racism in the trans community. I fight against it from the very bottom floor. The current political stance of the transgender community at large has become very bigoted against non-binary transgender people. There’s an aura of non-importance, because many of us can pass (this is called “conditional passing privilege”), so we do not face the same risk as other transgender people.

This is the wrong way to think. Dividing the community into those who can pass and those who face risk openly is as bad as the truscum I was taught to believe. We are all transgender, and as such we all matter. There can be no division, there can be no separation, like there is between “us” and “them”.

If we divide “us” into us and them, then what? It creates an elitist class within an oppressed class. Literally, a “my oppression is worse than yours”. What does this accomplish?

divide-and-conquer

It’s a frightening trend that shows no sign of ending without serious work to do so. Quite recently I was told by someone that I’m “not trans enough” to have an opinion on trans matters. It hurt badly enough that I was knocked on my ass for several days. This is an alarming trend within the larger trans community, the division to isolate non-binary people is hardcore.

By the same token, the language we as activists has changed, and not necessarily for the better. As activists we are supposed to be the leaders of the fight. It is our job to know the political language. Remember the “PC” movement in the 90’s? Everyone suddenly began using our language. With the increase in awareness of the public, we should have evolved. Instead, we began to pick each other apart for being “pc enough”, and for privilege. Privilege. I’m not certain people even really understand the concept anymore.

Privilege comes in two types: Social, and Institutionalized.

Social privilege is how you seem to other people. It has passing privilege for some types of trans people, and passing privilege racially. It’s the privilege people give you because of how they see you.

Institutionalized privilege is what you’re given because of your qualitative traits; race, economic background, education level and/or cisnormative gender.

The way privilege works is tricky, and often blindly spread cross-board without realizing there are exceptions and loopholes to the rules. A transgender woman may still experience “male privilege” when she appeared male to the public; that’s structured privilege, along with social passing privilege.

On the other hand, within the same “oppressed group”, in this case the conversation is about transgender people, squabbling about privilege from one trans person over another is ridiculous, unnecessary, and damaging.

I have never been politically correct, ESPECIALLY as an activist. It’s my job to break norms, to create new words when we need them, to use them and educate and move on to the next thing. We’re being trapped by our own language; we’re allowing ourselves to become overly sensitized by it. We can no longer make mistakes among ourselves. We check each other with increasing frequency, and judge each other on the value of how correct we are. Fuck that. It’s my duty as an activist to challenge things where I see idiocy, and I will continue to do so.

When blood runs thin,

Faith Alana Alastair
Founder/Pres/CEO, Family Transcends
VP, The LGBT Pink Panthers Movement, Intl

*Referring to female-to-male GAP (gender-affirming procedure,as opposed to sex-reassignment surgery) seeking, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) desiring. My use of the hyphen in this case is pointed – during the 90’s and even into the double-naughts, the “trans” was hotly debated, as most people who identified that way considered themselves pre- or mid transition. Those who had completed the process (according to the archaic definitions of such) and could now pass, considered themselves, simply, men.

**Truscum is a term for transgender people who believe they have a medical condition, and transition will “fix” them, and they won’t be transgender anymore. Many truscum claim this term for themselves, and many gender-inclusivists use it as a slur for transmisogynist and transsexist behavior.

***Assigned Female At Birth. afab or dfab (defined) and amab or dmab are always preferable to “biological” as gender itself is ingrained and has nothing to do with our genitals or even chromosomes. Some people accept “birth sex” but I personally find it erasing.

****Many trans people find their transition***** to be their rebirth, and thus their chosen name is their birth name, the old name/identity being dead.

*****Transition refers to the process in which a trans person becomes their authentic self. For some, this process involves HRT and GAP, for some, like me, it’s a mental thing, a social thing or something else entirely. All of these are valid.

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About Faith Alana Alastair

36. Prez of Family Transcends. VP of The LGBT Pink Panthers Movement. Pro Piercer and Mod Artist. New Yorker. Queer Lesbian. Transgender Genderqueer. Autistic. Enlightened. Artist. Geek. Retrosexual. Open book.
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20 Responses to On the Transgender Community and its Internal Division.

  1. I actually had a distinction between transgender and non-binary (with the trans* label with the asterisk) removed from some literature made by a local advocacy group just the other day. Went into a lengthy explanation of how non-binary is one of many ways one can be transgender, and that everyone is either cisgender or transgender.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: On the Transgender Community and its Internal Division | Faith Alana Alastair

  3. unilantern says:

    I think there is a difference between gender identity and gender role orientation and this is getting lost. Grouping every form of gender diversity as trans is a problem. Gender identity was originally based around sexual identity (body sex identity), and gender roles based around how we fit into cultural concepts of masculinity and femininity. The sex binary and sex role binary are two separate things.

    Its possible to have a female gender identity and as a result of that want to use female pronouns but have a masculine sex role orientation and as a result of that want to dress more masculine and have a high level of traits considered masculine. This would make a person gender role queer or non binary in gender role but not in gender identity.

    The problem today is trans* people who are trans gender role and those who are trans gender identity are getting grouped together and this is bad for both sets of people. Those who are trans gender identity and focused on the body and identity as a man or woman or other gender identity may use cultural markers of that gender to express their gender identity but its about the gender identity not the gender role. These people face different discrimination because their body sex and gender identity does not line up with the expected one.

    Those who are trans gender role are in a situation where their societal behavior and mode of expression does not line up with the behavior expected for their sexed body and gender identity. But their sexed body and gender identity may line up and it may lead some to calling these people gender non conforming cis people. The problem here is these people dont get full cis privilege and they are not free from the constant pressure to conform to assigned gender role. It can feel like these people dont fit into the binary, but the reality is the binary is not one thing its several things. So they may not be a female assigned, female identifying and femininity preforming woman or a male assigned, male identifying and masculinity preforming man but they may be binary on one level but not on another.

    I dont think current gender theory is right, i think there are a few layers of gender missing from it because a lot have been peeled off by other movements.

    Like

    • To answer your first point:

      Grouping every form of gender diveristy as trans is necessary. Deciding some gender-variant people or some types of people who TRANSCEND GENDER “don’t get to” is transphobic and wrong.

      Gender identity was not originally based around anything but gender identity. If you want to go down that path, socialized medicine decided gender based on visible genital sex characteristics, but clearly that’s wrong, and to say otherwise is truscum bullshit, and I won’t have it. Gender roles are invented social boxes that society shoves people into, and it’s a very new concept. Sex is not a binary, and sex roles are not in a binary either.

      (a link to back me up: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/11-008-x/2010001/article/11125-eng.htm Gender roles are extremely new.)

      And your second paragraph:

      Sex roles and gender roles are two different things. Gender roles are socially induced. Sex roles are individually decided and implemented. And have zero to do with gender identity. Your “explanation” is problematic and false… and it makes no sense. If someone expresses masculinity, they are “expressing masc” and that’s it. Their gender identity is whatever they decide it is.

      Third paragraph:

      And let me begin by asking, are you transgender? Because the first sentence “the problem today is trans people…” is extremely offensive and problematic. That said, there is no such thing as trans-gender-role. Gender roles, again, are societally implemented, and have ZERO to do with gender identity, which is for an individual to decide, and no one else.

      ALL trans people are transgender. If you identify as transgender, you are. All trans people belong under the “label” of trans, if they feel they do. Stop making arbitrary rules that no one believes but you.

      The rest of that paragraph is so ridiculous. ROLES HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH IDENTITY. Trans people face discrimination because they are different. Trans people face discrimination because of bigotry, hate, misogyny and lack of education. To say that non-passing trans people are discriminated against because their ROLE doesn’t match with their face is overly simplistic, and I will say this once: your usage of “These people” shows how little of this issue you understand.

      Your conclusion:

      Again, “trans gender role” is not a thing. Your attempt to “splain” transgender issues to me could be considered laughable if it wasn’t so offensive.

      “Those who are -slur- are in a situation where their societal behavior and mode of expression does not line up with the behavior expected for their “sexed body” and gender identity” — Absolutely false. Caitlyn Jenner is not called slurs because she’s not a good “woman” as far as roles go.

      “But their sexed body and gender identity may line up and it may lead some to calling these people gender non conforming cis people” — let me stop you right there. If someone is transgender, they are not cisgender. Gender-non-conforming people are transgender. End of story.

      “The problem here is these people don’t get full cis privilege and they are not free from the constant pressure to conform to assigned gender role” Again, you’re over simplifying this. This has NOTHING to do with ROLES.

      “It can feel like these people don’t fit into the binary, but the reality is the binary is not one thing its several things” The word binary literally means two. So the BINARY system, is between woman and man. This is GENDER. NON-BINARY people, such as myself, are still: a) Transgender b) Valid.

      The last sentence literally makes no sense. If someone is not female assigned or male assigned, it’s irrelevant. Their expression is their own, and has no bearing on their gender identity at all. I could wear a dress every day, be a stay-at-home parent(traditionally a “woman’s” role) and STILL identify as genderqueer. I could identify as male, if that were right for me. EXPRESSION AND ROLES HAVE NO BEARING ON GENDER.

      Your last word:

      Gender theory is science trying to make sense of something that exists inside an individual’s mind. I cannot know what you are thinking, and science is ill-equipped to explain what I think. “layers of gender” is bullshit, and other movements- that’s called intersectionality.

      In conclusion, you’ve said a lot of nothing that sounds an awful lot like I don’t get to be trans, and I’m not trans enough for you.

      So kiss my ass.

      Liked by 2 people

      • J says:

        yes! thank you so much for standing up for nonbinary transgender people! we are often told that we are not actually transgender, and I have even seen people WITHIN the nonbinary community itself saying that it isn’t transgender….this is a myth we have to address. thank you so much.

        Liked by 1 person

      • You’re quite welcome. Nonbinary people are absolutely transgender, and no one will ever be correct when stating different.

        I wish you could have seen the harassment that followed. That person I responded to blew up this blog’s inbox with horrible things, threats on my person and the like.

        Narrow-minded people are always so quick to violence.

        Thanks for reading, I hope you visit our virtual rec center and take a look around.

        We’re also protesting in Houston in January, so keep an eye out for information about that, too 😀

        When blood runs thin,

        Faith Alana Alastair
        Supreme Taco

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  4. Ashley Wells says:

    Trans women NEVER experience male privilege. To argue so is trans-misogynist to the core. I notice a lot of people who argue this are either cis women, TERFS and or non transitioning genderqueer people. Thats not to say all, some of the best supporters I’ve seen are non-transitioning genderqueer people. But its a disturbing trend based on an assumption that I wonder just doesn’t get discussed or examined in genderqueer circles. But as long as that behavior and assumptions about trans women not being really women or that they were once “men” a lot of binary leaning trans women will never feel safe in inclusive trans spaces and it often radicalizes some of the more trigger-able and abused trans women to become reactionary and become truescummy or of the true trans crowd. Thats not to excuse that behavior but vulnerability and perceived backstabbing by other members of the community can lead to extreme actions. Just sayin.

    Like

    • You seem to be under the mistaken impression that I spoke in present tense at all.

      Transgender women, regardless of their level of transition, did at one point experience privilege that was bestowed upon them by society based on their appearance of being male to said society.

      It’s just a fact. These women know they are and always were women – you know that, and I know that. Anyone with half a brain(pardon the ableist language) knows these women are and always have been women.

      The problem is outside society “sees” what they “see”, and bestow privilege or not based on that.

      Like

  5. riverblake says:

    Thanks so much for this! I’ve been attacked and pushed out of conversations for trying to assert this to people with attitudes around whos the “most oppressed” and it was upsetting coz I didn’t have the language or any resources to back me up , now I have a go to 🙂

    Like

  6. Jessie Lynn says:

    Hi Faith.

    I agree with you. It is much better for us to stay together than divided.
    I am a transwoman and once told to some non-binary friends, I do not understand non-binary (yet), but you have all my respect and help.
    I believe that there is a lot of intersectionality between the two groups and you gained a lot of points saying that you fought against transmisoginy being AFAB.

    That being said, there is a lot of inconsistencies in trans moviments right now. The “exclusion” of non-binary is only one example.
    There is the lack of focus in of older trans people that are starting the transition at 40+ years – the focus being children/youth that need less suppport as older transgender.
    There is a lack of differentiation in policies for trans women (the fact that is much easier to transition to men is undeniable)…

    Like

    • You bring up some very valid issues. My focus is on youth, that’s just my area of expertise, but I do agree older trans people need love and care, too. Maybe you should start an organization like SAGE for trans folx… Family Transcends’ program is based on older trans folx mentoring younger ones, perhaps we could work together.

      Thanks for commenting.

      Faith Alana Alastair
      Red Ice Pop

      Like

  7. I welcome all to my group. The bigger the tent, the better.

    And- we have different concerns. What if the Bathroom Police will let me in, but not you? Or, let me in, but not if I say you should be let in too?

    I feel you are transgender, as long as that does not create a category which excludes me- those who alter their bodies have been fooled by the Patriarchy into a false way; the proper way is to celebrate your body and carve your own role, or whatever.

    I think in terms of loyalties and interests. Are there moments where our interests diverge and my loyalties might be divided?

    Like

    • Hi there.

      In the interests of including nonbinary individuals within the trans umbrella, we shouldn’t automatically turn our backs on those who need to transition either. People have all types of different experiences, and they’re all valid. Some people medically transition, some don’t. That’s okay.

      Thanks for commenting.

      Like

  8. Jo Mosier says:

    I think you make a very important point that the trans community should not turn nonbinary/fluid folk away, and say they cannot claim to also be trans. I am both transmasculine and nonbinary/fluid. [ I call myself AFAB transgenderfluid.]

    However, I know many genderfluid/queer/nonbinary folk who do not identity as trans. They view trans as meaning ‘from this to that,’ as opposed to ‘transcending’ gender labels. I also know binary trans folk who view trans as having the same definition, of ‘from this to that’. I think the definition of trans that you are discussing, with its focus on transcendence, is equally valid – but I think the trans community itself is divided on if trans* has both these meanings, or if we have to pick one.

    The nonbinary/fluid folk I know who identify as cis still do so because they still identify physically, in body presentation and gender expression, more closely to the gender they were assigned at birth, than to the other of the two binaries – or, they might present as fluid in dress, but they still do not want to masculinize or feminize their appearance beyond androgynous – so they still do not feel that trans applies to them. They are, in their minds, merely androgynous / fluid in terms of masculinity and femininity in gender presentation or expression / or any other variation of nonbinary.

    I never will insist to the nonbinary/fluid folk I know who identify as cis that they are indeed trans. Labels are for us to self-identify, and I don’t ever agree with forcing them on others. So, I like your points, and I share your opinions on the synonymous nature of being trans and genderqueer/fluid, for myself PERSONALLY … but I again don’t think it is our place to tell others they MUST consider themselves trans, if they are nonbinary/nonconforming/fluid/queer/androgynous/etc.

    Like

    • Jo Mosier says:

      [ oh and to clarify on my ‘two binaries’ comment – I by no means think the binaries are legitimate – I just meant they identify as more one or the other of the current, socially-constructed binaries of Male and Female, that we are obviously fighting to overturn, but that still influence so many people’s perceptions of Self and others.]

      Like

    • I am not advocating for pushing labels on people they do not want or use.

      This is an article addressing the exclusion of nonbinary people from trans spaces.

      Like

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