Lately, I have learnt one thing above all. Sharing differences in ourselves and being part of a minority is not enough to sustain a friendship or build common bonds.
Commonsense you might think but when you begin to introduce the notion of a community into the discourse, then you take it for granted that the community speaks with one united voice. This has been the case on Twitter this weekend with the fuckcispeople hashtag.
Most communities, as Benedict Anderson posited, are imagined.
The motivation behind the hashtag was to alert non-trans people to the ways in which they oppress the trans community. It was meant to provoke a debate about how we treat trans people in society and how we could do better.
Well, it would be fair to say that the hashtag provoked a debate with many supporting the hashtag, saying it highlighting the oppressed status whilst others felt it did not speak for them.
I am not denying for one moment the trials and tribulations trans people face in everyday life.They include; Street harassment, discrimination in the job market and also punitive irrational social exclusion.
However no matter how much pain you are going through, a whole group should not be demonised. They are not responsible for your pain.
Being in a minority is hard I know. I have done it through no choice of my own for 32 years. Indeed one question posed to me with a kind of devils advocacy was why would I put myself through the process of joining another minority, bearing in mind the pain and the extra prejudice it would bring?
Well as long as I’m happy that what matters, as long as those who love me love me that what matters.
What does not matter is the ignorance of a few people.
I understand the pain underlying the fuck cis people hash tag genuinely but it is not the right way to go about it. If you want to think I’m telling you you’re doing feminism wrong then fine think it. I no longer care. The world is broadly made up of cis people. The job market is probably made up of cis people. Educational establishments are made up of cis people. They are here and they are not going anywhere! So get used to it.
The way to bring about change is not to pile on people for having views you disagree with. The way to bring about change is not to swear shout and be belligerent. I am not saying that women of any hue should be chaste silent and obedient for that is a discourse that belongs to a bygone age.
What I am saying is that you don’t win an argument by simply turning the volume to maximum and putting your fingers in your ears wilfully ignoring what people are trying to say to you. People who could give you useful advice and support are instead turned on for the most minor infractions of a rulebook which nobody has ever had the pleasure of reading. They are manipulated into apologising over the most minute issues and end up issuing grovelling kowtowing apologies.
Nobody can be expected to be an expert on trans issues within five minutes. We are all still learning as life is a journey of discovery. But how can you expect people to want to learn more if all you do is show them hostile aggression and present the so-called misery narrative?
The happy days of My Transsexual Summer on Channel 4 now seem a distant memory. Donna, Lewis, Sarah, Karen, Fox and Drew were fun people having fun times going out and enjoying life to the max. That’s a positive outcome for trans men and women. When I wrote about that TV show I looked forward to writing about it and I was happy to meet the cast. I admired their zeal, their passion and their determination to show that people who are trans can live a good, happy and fulfilled life.
Yet oh my god how the worm has turned. Gone are the heydays of that time. Gone is the good work they did. It’s been replaced with sadness and misery after misery. Putting myself into this misery narrative for a moment it seems to me that for some, trans is an oppression, an affliction they would rather not deal with but garner sympathy instead and as much of it is possible.
What did you expect when you came out as trans? An easy ride? Candy floss? A medal?
You know I don’t know whether some of the shock I see on Twitter is real. People staring in the street, people making rude comments, people bullying. Now in an ideal world of course bullying wouldn’t exist. We would all live happily ever after, as one harmonious homogeneous humankind. But it isn’t going to happen.
I have been in a minority for 32 years. I have had to deal with stares in the street for as long as I can remember. I have never passed society’s ideals of beauty. When I hear some of you talk about passing as cis men, quite frankly it makes me jealous yes jealous, for you have at least experienced that life of normalcy before you joined a minority. I never have. I look at your pictures and I think some of you are really beautiful in the same way as all women are but then I see you moaning about has how much you’re suffering in this oppression Olympics and I feel angry with you because you don’t realise how lucky you are. I assume for most of you even though you are trans you can still drive if you’re old enough. I assume you can put your clothes on in the morning and cook your own meals go on a holiday and choose what you want to eat and cook it for yourself. Well I can’t so count yourself lucky.
Lastly I want to address the Trans Excluding Radical Feminist Issue. I am not a sympathiser to any kind of exclusionary ideal. I am not ambivalent to trans deaths of women of colour or otherwise.
Indeed I saw yesterday that I was called a shitbag for merely expressing another view, the view that the hashtag was destructive and would not bring about greater dialogue or discourse.
I am a sympathiser of many issues radical feminists campaign about including sexual violence, and rape. I also support an end to sexism and misogyny in society. I would dearly love for trans women to attend radical feminist conferences. The way things are going though I think that will happen in the year 3013. If you continuously attack and belittle motives and beliefs of fellow women then what do you expect them to do in return; welcome you with open arms?
The backgrounds of radical feminists often make sorry listening. What is revealed are a litany of woes and misogyny at the hands of men. If we just put our fingers in our ears and ignore that that it shows an utter disrespect and disregard of the suffering of the class we are transitioning into. We must be mindful of the fact that woman space is politically sensitive and painful sometimes. In some countries space for women to meet together is not even granted.
The central plank and the immovable plank of my thesis against the hashtag however is this. Cis people have problems too. Just because somebody is born in a body that is congruent with how they feel inside it does not mean they have a problem free existence with roses round the door.
They have problems too, just like us. This is such a basic fact I can’t believe I’m saying it but it’s true. Being trans is not the only oppression ever to have faced the Earth. It may feel like it is but it isn’t.
When you say fuck cis people, do you know what you’re really saying? You are saying fuck the doctors who kept me alive; they don’t matter just collateral damage. You’re saying fuck my mother; the person who gave birth to me and had to deal with the heartache of having a disabled child when she didn’t expect it. You are saying fuck the world, stop it I don’t want to be part of it I want to live in my own trans utopia where everything is perfect nobody disagrees with me and there is no challenge to my experience where I can say what I like without condemnation or critical voices. That isn’t reality.
However, we don’t transition in a vacuum. We transition into the real world. And whether you like it or not that is how it is. I would hate to live in a world where everyone was disabled or trans or lesbian, an exact copy of me. How dull! How anodyne and boring. Moreover how fucking unrealistic do you want to be?
What sort of dystopia are we living in when somebody with an opposing view is a shitbag? When the only view people are interested in is an identikit one? A sad dystopia of Orwellian dimensions is that sort of dystopia.
The greatest irony is I used to write the sort of blogs the dystopians would lap up like cream. Loads of likes, happy trans community job done. These days for seeing beyond the prism of the trans community I’m often attacked or at worst blocked on Twitter. But I know one thing. I go to sleep at night with my integrity intact because I am not writing what people want to hear. Instead I am writing what I believe.
Some elements of the train carriages of the trans community appear to have broken away from the train and are travelling in an increasingly separatist direction. If that is you please end all contact with me on social media it is not something I want to be part of.
You may feel alienated from society; you may feel abused and let down by the wider population? What do you expect when you never leave the safe confines of the trans community and only talk to each other, and a coterie of allies? Of course this way you will get affirmation and solidarity and a challenge free life, but is that integration? Is that truly living? I understand this may feel safer but how do you know until you try?
By creating the hashtag fuck cis people you are creating division and ghettos where there need be none. I think it is getting to the stage where the trans community or at least some elements of it is becoming its own worst enemy.
It bemoans lack of acceptance from society, but yet refuses to engage with it at every turn. It creates hashtags writing off the majority of society, but if society were to do the same merry hell would break loose.
The stench of hypocrisy is alive and well. Who is now going to step up and make the air fresh once again?
It is no good fighting discrimination with yet further discrimination. If politics operated in this way the country would be ungovernable. People in opposing parties sit down and have congenial discussions for the good of the country.
If you want acceptance and understanding don’t belittle half of society to get it. I was disgusted by this hashtag yesterday. It made me feel almost ashamed to be trans.
And I love myself I’m proud of myself my achievements in life and my positivity in life. And I will sure as hell not be dragged down the tunnel of misery and negativity by a group of people who feel the whole world is against them. That mindset is easy. Far harder though is the challenge to do something about it. Change starts from within all of us whether we are cis, trans or dolphin.
We can either be part of that change or stay closed off in our ghetto. I broke free from the ghetto last year through my own choosing. I engage with people, I write professionally. I don’t feel the world is against me because I don’t hate myself. I put it to those who originated that hashtag that perhaps your quarrel is not with cis people at all. It is perhaps a quarrel in your soul.
Finally I will say this. I heard somebody suggest yesterday that cis people need to know how they fuck us up. Yes fine! I agree. However it is our choice and within our grasp to decide how much we let circumstances fuck us up. It is also within our grasp to determine how long we want to stay that way for. Otherwise we would be puppets with no control whatsoever of our own lives. I know people for whom this is their reality. Now that’s oppression.
What we go through may be tough but it is not the only kind of oppression there is. We could be LGBT in Russia right now for example. It’s not easy to deal with people staring at you in the street, but you can get stronger and learn to deal with it. If you choose a certain path you have to accept the consequences. You are different but living in a way that feels amenable to you should be a comforting experience not a horrible one.
You cannot write off a whole subset of society based on your experience. That hashtag was a damaging point in my lifetime. I hope I never have to see it again. I will continue to campaign for the rights of women and trans women. I will continue to be a successful writer. I will continue with my happy positive outlook on life that has paid dividends so far. What I will not do is place the T above all else and ignore the world generally.
I have grown up with and around women all my life. If I was to ignore cis people my life would be pretty lonely. If that makes me a shitbag then so be it.
Many trans people also spoke out against the hashtag. This was dismissed as hatchet jobs. No! It’s real people disagreeing with your actions. It’s called democracy.