Calling Out Transphobia … Less?

I think it might behoove us to pick our battles, and respond with a smile and a sense of humor, sometimes. I hope that this doesn’t make me Sheryl Sandberg, and I am not trying to make the “Lean In for Queers” point here.

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If I were doing Lean In for queers, I would tell you to man up.
I seem like the least sensible person in the universe
to be telling anyone to man up, particularly
as I continue the process of, well, manning down

I talk about misogyny, but you’ll notice that, so far, I don’t use the term transphobia much in this blog. It’s a real thing. It can make it illegal to use restrooms, deprive us of work, and in some cases, kill us. Part of being a connected queer is attacking this miasma of phobia by giving people a chance to know who we are, rather than hiding in the shadows and letting hatemongers do the public describing of us.

But, on Facebook, I found myself with … less of value to say on the whole topic of Jared Leto and Dallas Buyers’ Club (to be honest I haven’t gotten around to seeing it, but I think it’s in RedBox). I noticed I wasn’t the only trans woman with mixed feelings (Jenny Boylan, as always, brings a lovely balance of insight, perspective, and humor to this). More in my case, it’s a balance of being a person who just can’t hate anything or anyone if I see some small amount of good in them, and that I’m also a very live-and-let-live kind of woman. I don’t talk about transphobia that much on Facebook, either. Especially, I don’t talk about the million and one jokes that I find mildly distasteful, even though feminist scholars are increasingly studying some of this kind of behavior as “micro-aggression.” My point really is that we as a community are spending way too much time cataloging every micro-aggression and calling out everyone from Jesus Christ to Ellen Degeneres out for transphobia. Enough is too much. I’m not oops-shaming people who have chosen to be allies when they say something for which I don’t care. (Do ya like oops-shaming? I’ll also drop in a link to this great blog about abusing the word shaming in the women’s blogging world).

It’s not that I always find these jokes funny. When I can, I do gentle education. But, among my favorite movies, the ones where I know the lines by heart, I choose (yes, choose) to overlook humor I find mildly distasteful. Love, Actually has an unfortunate joke about hiring prostitutes for a bachelor party and how it “turned out they were men.” Music & Lyrics has a comment where the main character criticizes musicians for “wearing panties.” Because of my prism of gender experience as a trans person, I don’t care for these jokes. I still love these movies. I’ve been watching Love, Actually at least once a year for a decade now, and I don’t really ever watch movies even twice anymore. And Hugh Grant dancing is just fundamentally funny (& a little sexy).

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Hugh Grant characters are sexy, but if I ever actually had a real
relationship with a man, I would take pretty much any
character Colin Firth ever played. So there, I’m even giving him
more than the usual 300pix width, because yum

I’m also not really backing down on my principles. I still think exclusionary models of feminism are falsely radical, that they are not real feminism, because they spend more time hating out groups than empowering even the women they do accept as women. I embrace anyone’s right to identify their sexual orientation as they wish, and I think there are some people who are fluid by nature and can “choose” things like the political lesbianism of radical feminism and have it help them be more authentically “them,” but I think the way exclusionary radical feminism uses it runs the danger of being tantamount to the same controlling of women’s bodies and experiences of the patriarchy we’re all supposed to be fighting. As a trans woman in love with a lesbian cis woman, who has more lesbian friends than trans friends, I also find the idea that I hate lesbians absurdist (and you can ask my girlfriend if you want independent verification). These kinds of ideas, which mostly take their roots in third wave feminism organized around the “RadFem” identity (everyone more or less agrees whom and what was in the first two waves of feminism; whether there is a third and a fourth wave, and what constitutes what, are a little more contentious), especially when they are about controlling or excluding women, are dangerous to all women. When I first started coming out, I thought that people who spend all their time fighting “TERFs” and other exclusionary / hate-mongering people hiding under the premise of feminism, were being heroines. The truth to me, now, is that this is a waste of time, much like having debates with “creation scientists” take good people and wastes their time.

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When “feminists” spend their time arguing
about who is and isn’t a woman, and
who is and isn’t a woman worth empowering,
they need to be more radical, not less radical

We need to stand up against major acts of transphobia. Our sisters and brothers must be safe in the world. It is not okay when states try to make it a crime for us to use the restroom, or when it is open season for us to be fired because of our gender identity. And anyone who thinks I am a man (and that a trans man is, absurdly, a woman) is not an ally. But I think we need to shift the balance far, far, in the favor of publicizing strong and talented trans people, trans stories that go beyond the narrative around facial electrolysis and bottom surgery to how trans people are leading their communities, innovating, and living and loving alongside cis people. We need to do mor to help the cis world, including the cis queer world, have some idea of who and what on earth we are. Judging from all the cis people who have gotten to know me and are very loving and accepting, who enjoy my company, and don’t just include me on principle, I think this has to be a primary arm of our approach to building an inclusive world. For me, it’s simply also consistent with who I am – I am way too full of joy to spend all my time complaining.

Along the way, I may need to be held to my own standard, to not let this blog become negativistic. I did feel the need to start by clearing the air on some differences and nuances in perspective compared to other dominant views within trans and queer advocacy. But I need to spend more time being positive and lifting up, more time telling my story, and not be someone who silences her sisters. Please don’t oops-shame me, but I will accept your gentle reminders to be true to myself, and I’ll love you for it.

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4 thoughts on “Calling Out Transphobia … Less?

  1. I like this thought– I firmly believe all real change happens person to person rather than in major “movements” anyway. Movements are nice, and all, but if someone is going to change their mind it’s because they’ve gotten to know someone/put a human face on what was once an abstract concept.

    So, my point is, kudos you!

    • Thank you! And I think you’re absolutely right – I mean, I’ve changed for the better (oh, God!) over time, and it’s almost always been in person-to-person moments, for my own change.

      • Right. Movements and legislative change happen because enough people have person-to-person interactions with “the other” that they change for the better and we all move another inch closer to peace

  2. Pingback: I Am A Radical Feminist (And Proud of It!) | Mira Charlotte Krishnan

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