The Trans Power Manifesto

I have so much on my mind. I’ve been carrying around a burden of rage for weeks. Probably I’ve actually had it for months, or even a year, but only recently has it become articulate. Only in the past few days have I finally embraced my anger, and decided to give it a name. I’m calling it “trans power.”

Ever since I decided to stop pushing away my feelings about living in a cis world, to accept my rage as valid and dignify it with a name, I have felt re-energized. These two little words hold infinite possibility. I am excited by what they could mean.

My anger, as I’ve said, is not new. I frequently introduce myself as an “angry transsexual,” at which people laugh. And yeah, maybe I do mean it as a joke, a little bit, but it’s a joke with teeth. It’s a joke which is designed to let people know that they can’t get away with shit in front of me. Only now I realize that maybe it was too subtle.

Some of my posts are for cis people, and are intended to explain things which many trans people already understand. This post is for trans people. Cis people are welcome to listen in, with the awareness that some of this may be a little over their heads. I have something to say that I feel is important to say to the trans community, and I don’t want to have to slow down to explain.

So here’s what I have to say.

Hello trans people. It’s a fucked up world, isn’t it? We’ve all got plenty of problems. As trans people, we suffer from poverty, violence, lack of employment, lack of education, bigotry, contempt, and constant hostile scrutiny in public. We are desperate, and we have nowhere to turn.

Early on we found out that we could not rely on family and friends. Then we learned that we could not reliably use a public bathroom without suffering harassment or worse. Even the most basic parts of us– the names, nouns, pronouns and genders which we know to be appropriate for ourselves– were up for debate by others. Others in academia. Others on TV. Others in our schools, in our workplaces, in our homes.

The clothing we wear was declared inappropriate for us. The ways in which we talk and move were closely monitored and decried as unacceptable.

Then perhaps we learned that we could not rely on the police to help us when we were assaulted, kidnapped, raped, robbed. We learned that the media, when we turned to them, would report our stories only with puerile sensationalism and snide cruelty. We learned that jobs would be even harder to come by, that housing, likewise, would be very difficult to find. If we made it through college, we often found the wrong names on our diplomas.

Some of us were stopped by the police for “walking while trans,” profiled as being sex workers. Some of us were sex workers just to survive. Some of us were arrested for these or other reasons, and then we ended up in gender-inappropriate prisons.

Some of us got sick and found out that we can’t rely on healthcare. Some of us got bullied in school and found out that the ACLU doesn’t give a shit. We all learned that the cis LGB community wants nothing to do with us. The T is for tokenism. The T is a mockery.

We were told again and again that we were not “born” transgender. The term “gender identity” was co-opted by the condescending to mean “gender delusion” (“well that’s OK, you can identify however you want,” they cooed, humoring us). We were constantly harassed about our bodies. Cis people, even those who claimed to be understanding, unrelentingly sought to define us by our biology.

When legislation finally came along that supposedly served our interests, it came with barbs embedded in it.

The HRC does not represent us. The ACLU does not represent us. GLAAD does not represent us.

Congress does not represent us.

In the face of all this, we are expected to meet violence with pacifistic martyrdom, intolerance with tolerance, ignorance with enlightenment. We are told we must be grateful for what progress is made, that it gets better, and that we should be thankful to anyone whose intentions towards us are not murderous. We must not lose our tempers, we cannot afford to lose our tempers, we will hurt our all-too fragile cause if we get angry. Above all, under no circumstances may we make our self-styled allies or even our oppressors uncomfortable.

Trans power, in my mind, is the attitude that says: fuck that. Trans power is refusing to turn the other cheek, to be civil to somebody who is being grossly offensive to you, to give free education to people who can’t be arsed to educate themselves (or even adhere to common sense and common manners and keep their mouths shut when they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about).

Trans power is rejecting martyrdom in favor of survival.

Trans power is not so much what we ask for as the way in which we demand it. It is not a laundry list of goals so much as the absolute commitment to those goals. It is believing fiercely in one’s dignity as a trans person in all situations. It is refusing to accept being misgendered with the feeble excuse that “people make mistakes,” and replying to the offender with the loud truth: “people like you are brainwashed.”

Trans power is refusing to apologize for our emotions, our needs, or our existence.

Look, trans people, I know a lot of you already know this. But we get so precious little validation for this truth in our daily lives that it’s easy to get to thinking– am I crazy? Am I overreacting? Am I “just playing victim?” I am here to tell you that no, you aren’t crazy, you’re not overreacting– in fact, if you are like me or most trans people I have observed you are underreacting about ninety nine percent of the time– and that the best way to stop feeling like a victim is to hit back when hit and answer verbal digs with a loud “FUCK YOU.”

A small reality check– as good as this all sounds, I realize, of course, that there are situations in which retaliation is simply not safe, when it could lose you a job, a home, or even your life. Recognizing that we are all outgunned most of the time is another part of trans power, because trans power means never minimizing what is happening to us all, all the time. We have to find ways to network and organize and give each other support. It is hard when we have so few resources, but we do have one resource in abundance, and that is our rage. I think that anger could be our strength, our emergency reserve, our five-hour energy shot. But it will never help us if we keep turning it on ourselves instead of allowing our attackers to feel it.

Does this make sense? Am I crazy? Am I overreacting? Or is this story your story, this truth, your truth?

Is “trans power” the name of your anger today?

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About Asher

Asher Bauer is fast becoming a fixture in the San Francisco kink community, and intends to stay that way. He has worked as a Queer Educator at LYRIC (Lavender Youth Recreation And Information Center), and since has taken his talents as an educator to a wider variety of audiences, teaching on subjects ranging from safer sex to BDSM to trans and queer identities. He is also one of the hosts and originators of Transmission, the new trans-centric party at the San Francisco Citadel, and Invasion, the Citadel's all-genders queer party. View all posts by Asher

55 responses to “The Trans Power Manifesto

  • hyperkinky

    You are not crazy, nor are you overreacting. This post is spot on.

  • BritishJoie

    Hi, I’m one of the people ‘listening in’ as you put it, and thank you for sharing this with a wider audience as well as the trans community. This is brilliantly written and I’m very glad to see such powerful emotion being put to such excellent effect. I hope it works.

    I’ve never ‘understood’ as such, but I am a person who tries to understand all different types of people. I want to understand because I know that every time I come to understand someone, I find beauty in them. Reading this has significantly helped already, but I will read more of what you write too. All the best to you.

    • Asher

      Hey, thanks for reading.

      I do appreciate cis people listening in and think it’s probably possible for them to get a lot from this. I just didn’t do as much explaining as I generally do in more cis-oriented posts.

      If you want more resources for understanding, I can probably direct you to some places. For instance, Questioning Transphobia is great but it can be a somewhat unpredictable mix of trans 101 and much more advanced topics. (Honestly, I rarely see a trans 101 that I like. Maybe I should do one myself sometime.)

  • asia vitale

    thank you for saying this. for those who are not in that place yet to feel safe in expressing such emotions, there’s plenty of truth here and it resonates. i am one of the transwomen that did not retaliate and chose to “conform” in order to create change in the sytem, in little steps, from the inside. 10 years of work with and within the HIV/AIDS system has made a difference in many lives and affected funding and programs for those in need.

    the work is not finished and transpower is needed to keep going. just like the giant wind turbines on the 5 up to SF, some of us are harnessing that power to get us to where we all need to be.

    thank you again.

  • Dee

    ::sigh:: yea…

    Maybe I’m still more bitter – I’m relatively new to this – throwing away my cis-privilidge. Maybe I’ll become jaded with time? More resigned to it? More willing to educate others? But probably not. It’s not my job.

    • Asher

      Don’t get jaded. I mean, a little bit of… not resignation, but recognition of how things are… is necessary to keep oneself from snapping. But my experience is that anything like resignation just makes me feel like a collaborator with my own oppression. You can’t control how other assholes treat you. But you can control how you respond to that bad treatment. And “just taking it” probably will not make you feel better about yourself.

      As far as educating goes, I used to say “I only educate for money.” Then CarnalNation went under, and I stopped getting paid to write Transgression, but kept doing it anyway. So I guess a better way to put it would be “I only educate under circumstances I can control.” Don’t educate as a defense– it won’t work. It’s hard to make a point when you’re under pressure from a bunch of basically hostile passive-aggressive people. Find your own platform to educate from if you’re gonna educate at all, and make sure you get rewarded for it somehow– whether in money, webpage hits, appreciative comments, recognition, whatever.

      Just my advice for somebody starting out.

    • Dreki

      I’m going the other way. I was more willing to educate and cater to cis people at first because I thought that was what I had to do, I still bought into the idea that it *was* my job to do so, that I owed something to cis people who took a non-violent (even if incredibly offensive and demeaning) interest in trans people.

      Now I agree with this post- fuck that. I DO enjoy educating people about this, on my terms and when I feel like it. However, it is NOT my job. It’s THEIR job to educate THEMSELVES.

  • Syr Falcon

    Thank you for writing this. I’ve been pretty full of rage too for awhile now, but at the same time, being removed my main support network has made me feel utterly powerless. I’m working on finding the inner strength to fight back alone. But, finding things like this post help me feel less alone and remember that my feelings are justified, so thanks.

  • GallingGalla

    I think the issue for me – and to be clear, I’m speaking only for myself – is that my rage is eating me up inside. I’ve done the “fuck you” thing, and I only feel more torn up than ever (and I’ve lost some friends because my rage is unfocused, like a shotgun).

    I don’t want to give in to cis people. I don’t want to bend over backwards to make them comfortable. I certainly don’t want to waste my energy “educating” the willfully ignorant. Where I’m trying to get to is calmly and resolutely witnessing the fundamental goodness and holiness of myself as a queer, genderqueer trans person, the goodness and holiness of all trans people. This is the message that I’ve taken from little light’s “clamavi ad te” post that you’ve linked in your blogroll, and the message that I’m taking from my rather new-found faith.

    I’m having trouble expressing exactly what I mean. I don’t mean giving in and letting cis people walk all over me. It means, frex, correcting people when they misgender me and confronting them with their responsibility for their reactions. “I see that you feel threatened by me. That’s on you to work out, not me to accomodate your fear” type of thing. Followed by disengaging from the person, if that’s possible.

    • Asher

      Yeah, well I’m actually with you in many ways. I think we basically agree. Being angry hurts. My hope is that by releasing my anger in a productive way it will poison me less, and I’ll be able to get it out in the world where it can possibly do something good.

      Anger is definitely a tool to be used with care, though. I had a little episode of that shot-gun, or maybe even machine-gun rage last night, and I hope I’m not looking at a lost friendship because of it. Another time I risked my job by physically retaliating to somebody who was being a transphobic asshole. It’s a definitely a careful-where-you-point-that-thing kinda deal. And I can’t emphasize the point I made about anger not always being safe to express enough.

      (On a side note, I’m happy you found your way here, I always love your comments on Questioning Transphobia. And “clamavi ad te” was definitely an inspiration for me to go ahead and finally write this.)

  • Athena Mauga

    Talofa & Warm Greetings fr the south seas,

    I appreciate you sharing your story or rather our story. Your voice is heard loud and clear and at one point I find it appalling just reading what you have to tell. Yes, we live through the same struggles [with a give and take] yet at very different levels in comparison to what we go through around our own neighborhood. For the most part, we have it made here in our homeland. There may be some cursing involved and raising of voices to make a point amongst a gathering, or a job is available yet it comes with some mockery and unwanted fashioning, still our transgenders are able to take up an education, live the life they want to live freely here – almost freely. Because there will always be human hate and what not, life is just full of challenges yet also filled with opportunities. We are a minority and that is a realization to be made clear, so the rage within us needs to gathered so to build a strong voice altogether.

    I agree wholeheartedly that there is still much we need to do so to accommodate “everyone”. Sharing one’s story helps another make their own. There is truth to be told and as long as we keep educating the masses through such means as made through here, then help will come and many more will get the point.

    Personally, I am a teacher by profession and I usually share talks with my fellow sisters that to conquer the world takes commitment, and what one person may lack in thereof, another is sure to find success in. Although the ideal may seem impossible, we shall continue on with our work – for we set the standards and not the other way around for transgender issues and matters of concerns.

    I look forward to sharing more of your written messages with our transgender community here. Fa’afetai – Thanks;)

  • Abby

    Anger empowers me to confront those who would misgender me or label me with perjoratives, like “tr***y.” Fortunately, I’ve learned how to keep it from festering inside by learning how to express it appropriately without using it to hurt others.

    One small correction: The ACLU’s LGBT Rights Project has done, and continues to do, awesome work for trans people. For example, they represented Diane Schroer pro bono in her lawsuit against the Library of Congress that is now one of the leading precedents in establishing that employment discrimination against trans people because of who we are is illegal (whether or not ENDA ever passes). (Follow this link for more about the Schroer case: http://www.aclu.org/lgbt-rights_hiv-aids/schroer-v-library-congress-case-profile.) The ACLU’s decision not to represent Juin Baize in suing the Itawamba, MS school district may be subject to criticism, but saying that the ACLU doesn’t “give a shit” about trans people is unjustified.

    • Asher

      Thank you for the information. I do think, though, that an organization like the ACLU needs to be conscious of the message it sends when they tell a trans student to “just change schools” and “move on” with his life. The message it sends to somebody like me, who may not be fully appraised of their other work with trans people, is not one of caring.

  • mathildaisangry

    Love love love the message in this post..all the posts really. I was wondering if you would be willing to let my blog link to yours, my collective blog is on gender, anger and humor, creating space for angry voices…and your blog would be a great connection to it. Check it out if you are interested…mathildaisangry.wordpress.com

    I feel like your words might resonate with our readers as well.

  • bidyke

    Thank you for this awesome post. Just to put in some context before I go into my bit of criticism, I need to say that I’m a genderqueer anarchafeminist, and that everything you said about trans opression resonated deeply with me. However -

    You had me completely with you, until you bundled LGB together all in the same bunch and contrasted it with “T for Tokenism”. Making this bundle was hugely problematic in my opinion, as it implied that power relations between L, G, and B are equal and that all of these groups participate in trans erasure to the same extent and in the same ways. It also created a false impression that these groups don’t suffer from erasure themselves. It mostly struck a chord with me as a bisexual, who has very deeply felt the power of bisexual erasure and biphobic oppression (to the extent of suffering physical violence at the hands of the LGBT community). It also disturbed me as a genderqueer bisexual activist who feels very much at home in her bisexual community, which is hugely comprised of bi transpeople and genderqueers. It’s also kind of problematic in regards to any other LGBTQ group which isn’t cisgender, white, middle class, able-bodied gay males – they all suffer erasure by the “LGBT” (=GGGG) movement. Rather than finding connections and solidarity between these groups (in the very least, bi and trans, if not others), your text put us all in the same category, of blind trans erasure, and ouch – that hurt.

    • Asher

      I see what you’re saying, but honestly I have seen trans erasure from queer cis people of all kinds. *All* cisgendered people, queer or not, have cis privilege over trans people (queer or not).

      • bidyke

        Two thoughts on that:

        1. If the case in point was made only about cispeople, why not write “cis LGB people” instead of contrasting LGB with T as if they were exclusive and separate groups?

        2. Even if you had done that, I still feel that the approach of solidarity should be preferable to that of division – especially in this context of LGBTQ people, and in particular in the context of erasure. I repeat the factor of erasure since bisexuals suffer from wide amounts of it, and grouping us along with L&G when speaking about trans erasure, provides ample space to ignore or overlook the erasure that both trans and bisexual people and communities experience. One of the most important things to me about anarchafeminism and queer anarchism is finding the common points of oppression between us, the forms in which the same social powers work to opress various groups in similar as well as in different ways. And yes, those different ways of opression need to be addressed, but let’s mind that in our discussion of our own opression, we don’t mistakenly erase that of other disprivileged groups.

      • Asher

        1. That would probably have been better. Queer and trans are not separate categories, which is painfully obvious to me, being both queer and trans.

        However I do have problems with the LGBT acronym itself because of the way that the T really is usually only included as tokenism and an afterthought.

        ALSO, trans issues are often separate from LGB issues and usually get ignored by people claiming to tackle “LGBT” rights, to the point where the acronym has become, in my mind, laughable and meaningless.

        2. I am up for some solidarity, but I am not receiving the message from most cis LGB people that they are up for some solidarity. And that is the point I am making.

        I think trans people by and large need to stop waiting around for cis folks queer or not to get on board with us. We are not getting much of anywhere by dovetailing into the mainstream LGB movement in which our issues are seen, again, as an afterthought. We need to strengthen our own TGQI movement.

        And finally, look, I hate to get into this old discussion here, but if we’re going to talk about erasure, we need to talk about the way the term “bisexual” itself erases non binary people.

    • GallingGalla

      In response to BiDyke: One thing that frustrates the fuck out of me is how cis LGB people demand that trans people do all the work of “solidarity”. When will cis LGB people begin to do the work of solidarity of trans people? When will we see cis LGB people condemn and root out transphobia within the cis LGB community? When will we see cis LGB organizations (like GLAAD, ACLU, and dare I even think HRC) begin to pay as much attention to trans issues as they do to cis LGB issues? When will cis LGB people begin to treat the murders and suicides of trans folk as seriously as they do the murders and suicides of cis LGB folk?

      BiDyke, you’re demanding that trans folk stand with cis LGB folk, but when will cis LGB folk stand with us? Frankly, I’m getting quite tired of the one-way nature of this arrangement, where cis LGB folk want our money and our scut-work labor for their causes, but are all too happy to throw us under the bus (Barney Frank and his bathroom panic, HRC refusing to support protecting gender identity and expression in ENDA). When do cis people pitch some money to our organizations? When do cis people volunteer to do scut-work in our organizations so that we can go out and organize?

      This is why the “T” on LGBT stands for tokenism.

      And yeah, I’m agreeing with Asher that the focus on bisexual people totally erases non-binary people like myself.

  • bidyke

    Regarding solidarity – I definitely agree. I should clarify and say that when I say “solidarity”, I mean outside support. I most certainly don’t mean waiting around for cispeople to do our work for us. Not that I think we’ve ever actually done that – I think there are some very powerful structures that keep us silenced, within and without the LGBTQ community.

    Referring to a “mainstream LGB movement” performs the same erasure that I was referring to in my previous replies. There is no mainstream LGB, as the “LGBT” movement systematically erases the particular needs of bisexual people (as well as lesbians, and any other non-privileged white-middle class-cis-gay-male group).

    Regarding the alleged binarism of the word bisexuality – I’m inclined to disagree. First of all, I have to mention the fact that attributing transphobia to bisexuality erases years of history in which the bisexual community has been one of the most accepting towards transgenders (and vice versa). Secondly, attributing transphobia to bisexuality ignores all historical uses of the term by the bisexual community and movement (as opposed to the medical institution, which invented it), always using the word to describe attraction to more than one sex or gender (even when no available language existed – as we recall, the bi and trans communities started off on similar points in time, and terminology has not fully developed yet). Thirdly, I’m not into identifying myself according to my objects of desire. Identifying ourselves according to other people ends up in defining other identities (including trans and genderqueer identities) on our terms rather than on theirs (and even if we are trans or genderqueer – who are we to define other people?). Also, I’m into reclaiming words: bisexuality being one of the most widely despised identities, I find particular revolutionary pleasure in using it.

    • Asher

      Well, I’ve had this conversation before, which is part of why I was reluctant to have it again. What seems to happen every time is that the individual defending the term “bisexuality” dismisses or minimizes the concerns expressed by trans people who are made uncomfortable by it by saying, “No, that’s not what it means to me.”

      Also, transgender is not a noun, please try saying “trans people” or “transgender people” instead of “transgenders.” That’s pretty othering.

      • bidyke

        Should I mention again that I’m genderqueer? Talking to me as if I was cis is highly disrespectful to me, my identity, my identification and my knowledge. It might be unacceptable in your community to say “transgenders”, but in my trans/genderqueer community it’s commonplace. Please don’t assume that your standards are the defining ones.

        Regarding bisexuality: defining an identity for other people and then feeling uncomfortable based on YOUR definition of THEIR identity is highly dismissive and disrespectful. Imagine I decided that transgender meant “horrible person” and started feeling uncomfortable with transpeople based on that definition. Would it still be acceptable in your opinion?

        I also want to draw attention to the way you started ignoring my genderqueer identity the moment I mentioned the word “bisexual”. Doing that is disrespectful towards me, as well as other genderqueer and transpeople who identify as bi. We have good reasons for choosing to identify this way and I would expect at least some credit from a member of my (extended) community. I, for one, would frown upon choosing an identity for myself which I felt was derisive towards myself or any one of my other identities (in fact, this is precisely why I indentify as bisexual and not as pansexual/queer).

  • Asher

    I apologize for the way I came across. I wasn’t ignoring your genderqueer identity. But I *was* focusing on your identification as bi rather than your identification as trans because that seemed to be what you were focused on and what you seemed to be centering. If your concern for trans issues seemed to be equal to your concern that people be allowed to use a word that erases large categories of trans people, I would not have spoken like that.

    Now, it’s not like I’m basing my feelings about the term “bisexual” on my personal definition of the word. I am basing it on a widely accepted definition of the term, a definition which is much more common than the one that you are using. The binaryism is right there in the language, deeply embedded in the term itself. It’s not really as if my objection to it is based on something arbitrary (such as randomly deciding that “transgender” means “horrible person,” a false analogy). Instead, I am interested in unpacking the historical and linguistic implications of the term “bisexual,” a word created by a worldview that only considers two genders to be valid. Since this worldview continues to be dominant, I cannot really consider the term “bisexual” to have any transgressive or “revolutionary” value, or see using it as reclamatory.

    Finally, with regard to “transgenders” and my standards not applying to everyone– perhaps not, but this is my blog, and I reserve the right to call out language that I think is fucked up here.

    • bidyke

      I find that a discussion focusing entirely on the linguistic level of the word widely ignores power structures and material conditions. When a certain group of people suffers from bad reputation (and obviously, that includes the words this group chooses to use), I like looking into said structures and conditions, see if that bad reputation happens to be a pattern, and whether it comprises part of opression against that group.

      So, looking into material conditions, life experience and power structure:

      Culturally, we see almost no reference to bisexual people in any context (hetero, LGBT, sexual, political, etc.) – in culture, media, academic research, activism, community and personal levels. When it does happen, it almost always appear with some sort of denial to its side. For example, out of every movie I have ever seen (and I’m a film studies graduate – I’ve seen many), I have only heard the word “bisexual” said in a movie or TV series four times. Three out of these four were coupled with “not”. All this refers to discourse.

      Now to material conditions: research shows us that bisexual people are the sexual orientation group (between gay, lesbian, bisexual and heterosexual) most likely to suffer from poverty, depression and suicidality, low physical health, and a few more discouraging factors. Needless to say, these factors bar the way of many bisexual people from proper employment, housing, medical care, health care, etc. And so all this is to say that material conditions of bisexual people also seem concurrent with the culrutal discourse that I mentioned above.

      And so, when I see negative references to bisexuals and bisexuality, I notice that these are in keeping with the above: it looks suspicious.

      A note about words and etymology:

      “Lesbian” is a word named after a bisexual woman (Sappho). It also implies that all lesbians are Greek. Surely no one today would consider changing their lesbian identification for that reason. Also: “lesbian” used to be an exclusive word for lesbian butches. Should femmes change their identification in light of that?

      “Feminist” is named after “female”, and so implies that feminism is only for female-bodies and female-born people. During the many years of feminism, feminist discourse has been repeatedlly used to exclude transpeople (and many others) from the feminist movement. Should feminist transgenders and genderqueers, then, stop identifying as such?

      The atom is often reffered to as “the indivisible” in the field of physics, even though we now know it can be divided.

      The word “bisexual” was invented, as we both already ascerted, long before any gender-variant language was available to describe more than two genders.

      On the same token, so were “homosexual”, “lesbian” and “heterosexual”, which are just as binary as the word “bisexuality”.

      In my community, to identify as bisexual is to identify as a radical (possibly an anarchist), a feminist, a queer activist, a radical left political activist, likely genderqueer (or trans), and often an animal rights proponent. In fact, I know of some bi people who started identifying as “gay/lesbian” since bisexual was suddenly too radical for them.

      Words change.

      A word about language @Dreki:

      As I mentioned above, I find it suspicious when some groups criticize other groups’ use of language. In the case of “proper” language/grammar (either or both), I find that such is often being performed by white native speakers of higher classes and accessibility to education, with the recipients being racialized people, working class people, non-native speakers and those with lower acceess to education.

      I may pass as a white American native English speaker online, but allow me to assure you, I am not.

      And so I would appreciate, again, if my language were not corrected. It comes off badly.

      Thank you.

      • Asher

        I really don’t have much more to say in this conversation except that language really fucking matters to trans people. When your identity is not seen as congruent with your so-called “biology” by society one of the only ways to assert it is through language.

        I deeply dislike the implication, therefore, that all people who care about using language that is non oppressive are white middle class college educated sorts, because that is simply not true.

        An unwillingness to respect preferred language comes off very, VERY badly. As does treating attributing people’s preferences for certain language as coming from some kind of namby-pamby bourgeois academic bullshit.

        Now I appreciate that words change but bisexuality is a word that many consider to have not changed or aged well, hence many people’s preferences for “queer,” “pan,” “polysexual,” “omnisexual,” etc. etc.

        But at this point I am much less concerned with the terms you are using for your own sexual orientation than with some of your other language. To be clear: use of extremely problematic, othering, offensive, or essentialist language such as “transgenders,” “female-bodied,” “female-born,” etc, will certainly be called out on this blog. If you can not deal with that you may find another forum for discussion. Because this post of all places is not where I want to have to read that kind of shit.

      • Dreki

        I explained to you why the language is problematic. Also, you should be willing to accept your language being corrected- ESPECIALLY if you aren’t a native speaker. I love learning languages and you can be sure that if a native German-speaker tells me that a German word I use to talk about trans issues is offensive, I’ll listen.

        Asher already explained that language is important- and I already explained WHY “transpeople” is offensive. That you aren’t a native englih speaker shouldn’t keep you from getting jobs, having access to education, etc. It also shouldn’t stop you from listening when someone tells you you’re saying something offensive.

        We aren’t telling you to use perfect grammar, that’s a near-meaningless concept in English. We’re telling you not to be othering and cissexist. I brought up it being an adjective only because too many people mistake the trans in “trans man” with the prefix “trans”, it isn’t the same thing.

        Also- don’t assume that we made assumptions regarding your race, location, or native language. I know quite a few non-native speakers who are VERY good at using non-offensive English language and who don’t use their non-native status to justify cissexist terms.

    • bidyke

      Oh, and I almost forgot to refer to your first paragraph, and say that my disconnection from trans activism is in great part a result of such alienating treatment at the hands of the trans community. In general, it serves to distance bisexual trans and genderqueer people from activism and the community. It’s odd that solidarity between trans and genderqueer people ends the moment these transgenders and genderqueers start identifying as “bi”. As I said before: suspicious.

    • Casey

      Hey Asher,

      First of all, thanks so much for a great post. Your blog is a haven of rationality in a sea of stupid. I always love coming here to get a breath of fresh air and read your perspective. Thanks for all your hard work.

      I realize this post is a year old, so maybe you’re not checking comments here anymore, but I wanted to go ahead and throw this thought out there.

      I identify as a bisexual trans man, and I have been involved in numerous conversations about this very topic. For a while, I’d wondered if perhaps there was something to this notion that identifying as bisexual entrenches oppression of people who identify outside the binary, but the more I think about it, the less I think this is true.

      Don’t get me wrong. I agree with you almost entirely here, especially about the importance of language and how its implications have real world effects on people and their social locations. Hear me out though: I don’t see how it’s binarist to label myself as bisexual when I feel it’s a more accurate description of my attractions. Personally, I feel like labels are basically approximations for the infinity of human experience rather than being anything set in stone. That being said, I find that I *am* attracted almost entirely to binary-identified people (trans and cis). I’m not saying that the occasional exception hasn’t occurred (it has), but I do not think it’s truthful for me to say that I experience long-standing, consistent, and predominant attraction toward non-binary people.

      Furthermore, why is “bisexual” singled out and not “heterosexual” and “homosexual”? Hetero (different) and homo (same) don’t necessarily imply a binary, but the way they are used in common parlance would generally seem to indicate that’s what most people believe.

      As far as the other linguistic implications, I’m still not seeing it. If I say that some bill was bipartisan, does that imply that two and only two parties exist? If I say that someone is bilingual, does it mean that two and only two languages exist in the world? In both of these cases, I can argue that there are two predominant parties or two predominant languages, but that does not negate the existence of others beyond these two categories. How is “bisexual” different?

  • Dreki

    @BiDyke: “Trans” is also an adjective in this use because it’s short for “transgender” (adj) and/or “transsexual” (adj), so you shouldn’t say “transpeople”. It’s Trans [space] People. The same way that you wouldn’t say “catholicpeople” or “whitepeople”. Mashing them together makes it sound as though trans people are some weird subecategory that aren’t REALLY people the way people who are just people are.

  • rampaige

    As a queer individual, I see where you’re coming from. I know that I will never face even have of these absolutely terrible things, I am angry that organizations that we hold to be a safe and strong force against such social travesties aren’t being what they’re supposed to be. I just wanted to let you, and everyone in the trans community that there are those that are fighting, albeit too few, that aren’t trans. Currently the LGBT center at my school has a transAction! community that many LGBT students, along with faculty attend. I know it’s only a very small step in this battle, but after reading this I just had to let someone know that we advocates are here, we are pissed off, and we want a safe haven (not to mention acceptance and a step towards change) for the WHOLE of the LGBT community.

    I hope this didn’t come off as insensitive or stupid. It’s late… and I just stumbled upon this post, and start simultaneously crying/writing. I love ALL of you.

    PS: My school held the candlelight vigil for the trans day of remembrance today. Maybe that’s why this post made such an impact. On the plus side, we had a bigger turnout than we have had in three years! Thanks for your time.

  • Cas

    Thank you for this manifesto. I find myself agreeing with almost every part of it and it’s one of the things which has cued me over the last few days to expanding my activism around my own trans identity. I’m a queer-identified genderqueer person who is just beginning to dare to use female pronouns and even think about hormones, and it’s fucking scary.

    I would also like to stand with bidyke on one of the issues mentioned here. I’m glad to see that you changed “LGB” to “cis LGB” but I think it’s wrong that you still place L, G and B in the same acronym.

    As bidyke says, there is a community of cisgendered white middle-class currently able-bodied gay men which calls itself the “LGBT” community. On the margins of that community exist people of colour, people from the working class, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender people, people with disabilities and other marginalised groups, but that community does not effectively represent their needs, campaign on their struggles or provide them with solidarity or refuge.

    The sands are shifting, of course. Sometimes lesbians, transsexual people presenting a binary-gender narrative or queer men will be allowed to move closer to the centre of the discourses in that community. As a rule, though, they will be the people considered most “acceptable” by that community and by the outside world, selectively assimilated into this “ciswhiteabledmiddleclassGGGG” movement in a way which can only further marginalise those who don’t meet with its approval.

    So, I agree with you that we can’t expect help from that monolithic thing which calls itself the “LGBT Movement”. But I think we can expect significant help from lesbian, gay and bisexual *people*, many of whom either share our transgender identity or act as allies. (They help me every day.) And some of those people are organised into their own movements, for example women-only groups, zines focussed on the needs of people of colour and radical bisexual movements. We can also expect help from – and should offer help to – those smaller movements.

    ~ Cas

  • kangent

    Hear, hear! I have found many of your posts incredibly validating, this one included. Thank you thank you thank you for writing.

  • Dreki

    Asher- Sorry if this isn’t the right place to ask, but in relation to “extremely problematic, othering, offensive, or essentialist language such as “transgenders,” “female-bodied,” “female-born,” etc”- is assigned _______ (or mis/assigned ______), perceived ______, etc alright? I wanted to check before I use something that you find problematic.

    • Asher

      Hey,

      Assigned, mis/assigned, perceived, etc, all awesome. I usually use AMAB and AFAB.

      And really, people don’t have to get my approval BEFORE they say something here, that would be ridiculous. I just ask that people take corrections/suggestions/critiques of language in good faith, both from me AND others commenting here.

      • Dreki

        I generally don’t ask for approval, but I realized that I had some language that I thought was okay and I’ve been wrong before (for years I thought “bodied” and “bio” were totally okay. *shudders*) and wanted to make sure it was.

  • CJ

    You aren’t crazy. You are exactly right.

  • Joneko

    I feel where a lot of your anger is coming from. And I know that being a poster for anything is frustrating as hell — you don’t WANT to answer the same ignorant questions over and over and over again. But a lot of people are not so much willfully ignorant — it isn’t that they choose not to know — it’s that the possibility really isn’t fathomable to them. It isn’t something that was ever introduced to them before. And many of these people may well be potential allies if only they are educated.

    And that’s one of the unfortunate problems for the trans community. I feel like few people are taking the time and energy and commitment to teaching about trans issues who may not necessarily be trans. Would that be a possible solution? For people to become true allies, to learn about the issues and the feelings and the particulars, and to educate about the transcommunity so that the trans community doesn’t have to? I’m asking as a lesbian who sees a great rift in the community, a lot of hurt, and a lot of rage that creates an us-vs.-them mentality that worries me a lot, one that seems like it would feed itself in the worst way possible.

    I want to know what we can do, those of us who aren’t trans but who want to better understand what trans is, and who want to help the rest of the world better understand too. As an educator who wants to see all students treated equally as human beings. As a psychologist who wants to see people in the trans community treated with dignity, compassion, and respect. And as an onlooker who doesn’t want to see rage beget hate beget further alienation.

    • Asher

      Hey,

      I’m actually pretty against people who aren’t trans speaking for trans issues. There are actually a lot of trans people who are willing to educate, myself included, but it HAS to be on our terms. There’s a different between being unwilling to answer ignorant questions at the drop of a hat in casual settings, and being unwilling to blog or teach a formal class. The former I won’t do, the latter I clearly will. Trans people need power, recognition, and most of all, perhaps, money… hire trans educators. Buy the books people write.

    • Dreki

      ….As a cis person who doesn’t seem to realize that all students are not treated equally- cis people expect, nay, demand that we kowtow to them and act as walking encyclopedias no matter what kind of day we have while trans people are shunted aside and spoonfed transphobia even from trans people who are forced to cater to cis people. As a cis person who seems to completely miss that, no, it IS willful ignorance- every single joke made at the expense of trans people makes it clear EXACTLY how trans people see ourselves, cis people just exercise their privilege to not care. As a cis person who, when talking about the rift in the community, I’m guessing is talking about hte LGb(t) community, the rift which is not helped by cis gay, lesbian, and bisexual people ATTACKING trans people in LGBT spaces while other cis gay, lesbian, and bisexual people watch on or justify it afterwards, which isn’t helped by cis gay, lesbian, and bisexual people ERASING the genders of trans people whenever we’re inconvenient just to further YOUR rights while furthering our OPPRESSION.

      The people who genuinely want to learn? There is a ton of information out there PRODUCED BY TRANS PEOPLE. They can educate themselves. The people who demand to be educated? Yeah, they really want to learn.

  • Erick

    Asher,

    Thank you so much for this post. I’m a transguy and a medical student in South Carolina. It was a huge struggle to decide whether I was going to come out during medical school or not, and I’m so glad that I chose to refuse to conform to cis expectations. Part of the reason I came out is because I want people to know that it is more than possible to be a good doctor and be trans too, and also let people know that there are doctors out there who understand the needs of the LGBT community — especially the trans community, where medical issues such as SRS and hormones are extremely important in maintaining good health.

    I’ll be in ER doc in a couple of years, and I study my ass off every day to make sure that when a trans person comes into my ER they are treated with the very best care and the same respect as cis people at the time they need it most.

    In a conservative profession within a conservative state, I often feel like I’m fighting a steep uphill battle every day, and I’m always so happy to read your posts. They inspire and give me the strength to keep going, regardless of the inevitable adversity I face every day just by being me. A thousand times, thank you.

    Solidarity,

    Erick

    • Asher

      Erick,

      It does me good to hear about the good you do. As you know, we REALLY need trans doctors. Because sometimes, “Trans friendly” is not enough…

      Keep fighting,

      Asher

  • Who has the power? | No More Lost

    [...] read, I decided to look at what else the author of the piece had written, I soon stumbled on this; The Trans Power Manifesto. I could ramble on forever about what Asher Bauer says in this article, but I encourage you to read [...]

  • Gabriel

    I really needed to hear this, especially as a young person and especially right now. Not so much because I didn’t already know it but because it means so much to read someone who I respect elegantly and fully express conclusions that have been shunned and devalued as extreme and cry-babyish by the people I’ve trusted most… After a lot of thought I understand now that they harmed me more then anyone.
    conflict scares people and it seems like with all this talk about open-mindedness, understanding and inclusion(at least in my upbringing) that we lost the concept of believing something strongly enough to fight for it… Even if that thing is as simple as our humanity or our validity and right to defend ourselves.

  • Jazzi

    I would like to thank you for this and other columns that you’ve posted so far on this blog.

    I am a white, middle-class woman from a small town in the Midwest. I have been actively working to educate myself about my own privilege and prejudice, and to do something about it. My location makes that more difficult than I would have imagined; that is one of the reasons I am so thankful to you.

    The more I learn, the more I realize I have to learn. Thank you for having the courage and patience to be an educator, at least part-time.

  • Dovey

    Fuck ya you are dead on with all of this, it is a lot of the very thing I have been raging about for months, I hit a turning point a few months ago and adamantly refuse to accept the condescending bs anymore, as an activist I have really turned a few heads, having fought for their rights as mine get pushed to the backburner over and over again, then being expected to go out and celebrate any victories they get, and I get to celebrate their victory alone because trans women are the pariah of the queer world, or as every single one of them say if you try to get a date, a dance, a kiss, a phone #…”oh I dont think of you that way” as another trans woman put it, they think of us as their fag hag…well I aint no fag hag and as for activism, when they demand equality anymore in my eyes if you cant give equality to trans folk…then they sure as fuck dont deserve it you get what you give…and I think we all know what they give us!!!

  • Koka Valenti

    Although my Yogic lifestyle does not support any sort of retaliation or attack, and as a result has allowed me to have a peaceful life in this polluted-minded world, I totally understand your approach and I support your rage 100%. I really liked the way you put this piece together. I am a Trans gendered person and luckily I have been able to make peace with everybody I meet. I am a Yoga instructor and that has helped me a lot, especially when I came across people living in fear of the unknown.

    I am looking forward for more of your posts!

    Koka Valenti – NYC

  • calistair

    (Sorry if this is off-topic/derailing)
    I agree that many people use ‘bisexual’ in a very binarist way (“I’m attracted to all genders, therefore I’m bisexual’) but would it also be binarist to literally mean it as being attracted to two specific genders (eg androgyne and genderqueer)?(I don’t use it because I don’t actually like the word much and it feels an oversimplification.)

    • Asher

      I would not say that “androgyne” or “genderqueer” are words that describe singular genders. Many genders are described as “genderqueer” or “androgynous.” Non-binary genders tend to be super individual. So I would be really skeptical of someone being like “I’m bi! I’m attracted to genderqueers and androgynes!” because I don’t think that those are two genders, I think those are two words which each describe a huge range of genders.

      • bidyke

        Respectfully, “bi” doesn’t relate to two genders but to two categories. Even on the etymological level of the word itself, no reference to gender is made (contrary, for example, to words like “androgyne”, which literally means “man-woman”). A lot of people see their bisexuality as conveying attraction to genders similar to their own (=homosexuality) + attraction to genders different from their own (=heterosexuality).

      • Asher

        And that interpretation is the one that makes the most sense to me personally.

        Honestly my views on this have changed somewhat since you and I last clashed on this issue. I now frankly feel more skeptical of pretty much any gender-based orientation, probably monosexual orientations more so than multisexual ones. However it’s not a battle I am super interested in fighting at the moment. There are more important things for me as a trans person to worry about and it all kind of tends to degenerate into in-fighting between marginalized sexual and gender categories.

      • calistair

        Oh, thanks. Do you think ‘male’ and ‘female’ are both names for categories/ranges of genders as well? (If I sound accusatory, sorry. My internet tone is pretty awful.) Also, do you think there’s any sort of way of using ‘bisexual’ without being cissexist/binarist?

      • Asher

        Yes, I actually do think so but it’s not a popular opinion. Frankly I think it’s completely ridiculous to describe oneself as being categorically attracted to a gender. I don’t know if there’s any way to use bisexual without being binarist and at the moment I don’t care. I don’t really have much of a position on this stuff anymore/at the moment.

  • Nat

    Maybe I’m out of line here, but this post made me so angry. I’m not sure if I even have a right to be angry, being cis, but the anger’s real. Nobody should go through this kind of discrimination. Not that that isn’t old news.
    On another note, and while trying to steer this comment away from my own emotions, this piece (and the others I’ve read) are very well written and informative. You do a really good job wording things that don’t beat around the bush.

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