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?