Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bearing the Weight of One's Allies (Part 1)

This post got started when, once again, a homosexual person said something transphobic and a trans person somewhere on the Internet, once again, responded by saying that this is why trans people should disassociate themselves from the queer community.  In short, take the T out of LGBT.

My first response to that was, "And are you going to stop associating with the straight community because straight people can also be transphobic?"  Transphobia is a sad fact of life.  But if we refused to associate with all cis people we wouldn't get very far.  (I admit that I'm biased on the subject of LGBT.  I knew I was queer long before I knew I was trans, so for me the two things naturally go together.  That is my community.  I can't just leave.)

Anyway, I was all set to write a preachy little post on the importance of working with one's allies: which means both holding them accountable and making allowances for their ignorance and ingrained social prejudices.  I used to believe all the bad things that society said about trans people.  I know what it's like to be ignorant.  I can't judge other people for that.  Moreover, allies, by definition, are people who don't get it.  Allies, by definition, are people who don't share your experience.  But if they are true allies then they want to learn.  They can't ever really live it or understand it the way that you do.  But they can make room in their souls for people who are different from them.

That's what I was going to say.  And then I made the mistake of posting a story about a murdered trans girl in an online community I frequent, which is about 99% cis.  I call it a mistake because if I'd known it would get the response it did, I would never have posted it.  The response was not hostile - no one said anything openly transphobic.  But it was completely lacking in sympathy and comprehension.

My first reaction was the desire to leave and never come back.  I was shocked and frightened.  I no longer felt welcome there.  Forget all this crap about "working with our allies."  They didn't deserve it.  And I don't stick around where I'm not wanted.  That's not my style.

Well, I didn't leave.  I did post a followup, articulating my concerns.  Several people replied, expressing sympathy and apologizing for not getting involved in the earlier conversation (or for neglecting to mention that it is in fact a shame when a trans kid gets killed at school.)  A couple people maintained their previous position.  We'll see what happens.  I expect to write more on this subject.

I am not the only trans person over there.  We have talked about our experiences before and met with sympathy.  But a general ignorance of trans issues was also apparent, and occasionally I would think to myself, "This is going to cause problems someday."  I had absolutely no intention of being the person who stepped on that landmine.  But these things happen.

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