Trans Role Models Chosen by Non-Trans People?
This is one of my rare less-professional rant posts that I could not not write, even though I’m supposed to be headed out the door for a gig in Columbus. So please excuse any typos or less than well rounded points. Today, I had only been awake for an hour and already 2 things had offended me.
1) a queer blog posted Lady Gaga’s new racist, queer-disempowering song as if it was something to cheer about. Come on, community! Get it together! If you ACTUALLY listen to it the lyrics, or have decent politics, you will hear how racist and pitying-queer it is. Do I need to go into how tired I am of people idolizing icons who don’t know queer from quack? No? Ok, I’ll move on.
2) a trans blog posted THIS article about trans role models.
First it opens up with some snarky comment about how the “role models” presented are not “going to be telling you to stay off of drugs in the near future.” WTF? How do you know these people use drugs (like it matters). Plus, it completely delegitimizes the people its supposed to be praising before the article even starts, essentially calling them wild, crazy drug users. Stigma and stereotype says what? Second, what’s with the “traditional” vs. “non-traditional” word play? The only thing “non-traditional” about the people listed is that they are trans. All are activists, artists, and writers, doing what all other activists, artists, and writers do, they are just trans while doing it – which is apparently SO non-traditional. Us trans folks have only been around since the beginning of humanity, but yeah we’re breaking those boundaries! But its an article about trans people so why is it using language that puts us in the ‘other’ box? Well, it is written by a non-trans person who, from what I can find has a stellar career in sex positive work but has NO background in trans activism or writing. Exoticize much?
You start to read and see the expected folks- Sylvia Rivera, Kate Bornstein, then WHAT? Thomas Beatie?? Ok, he stood up to adversity; gave birth and publicized it in an attempt to quash the idea that it isn’t ok for transguys, or men, to do so. (I still think he’s a little press hungry…) But he also lives a cushy life in the Pacific Northwest, is rolling in money from his books… I don’t see him making any statements about ENDA or founding educational movements, creating groundbreaking art, or marching on Washington. (CORRECTION: So I fucked up and in my rapid rant post I didn’t look into Beatie enough, and he has done lots of activist work. Apologies.) I donno, when I think trans-activist, Oprah appearances is not what comes to mind. Maybe someday, but not today. I think comparing someone like Sylvia Rivera, who lived their whole life on the streets working in the shit of the system for trans rights and created a legacy for trans and queer youth, CAN NOT be fairly compared to someone who birthed his own kids in a media circus. (too harsh?) And I recognize this article is in the “GLBT Teens” (anyone else get irked when its GLBT and not LGBT? I think it should be TBLG) and because its for teens they may be trying to show variety of professions. It does not however, show a wide variety of trans folks. For the main transguy to be Thomas Beatie? I totally respect Murry Hill, I just have never heard or found any info that he identifies as a transguy per se so that is why I don’t include him here. AND that Beatie would be listed before Murry Hill, who has worked in this movement for decades, is another insult. Another transmasculine spectrum person is showcased, a 17 year old vblogger who I am sure is totally awesome – their stuff looks awesome. I am in no way saying they should not be listed. Its good for young people to see other young people being awesome. But hopefully even they would admit that there are other transmasculine folks also worth highlighting to inspire youth like S. Bear Bergman or Dean Spade. And speaking of me naming two white people…
There is only ONE person of color on this list. One out of seven. There are countless, amazing POC trans activists – to name a couple favorites: Miss Major, Ignacio Rivera, and Pauline Park – who I want to marry someday. And this list has no genderqueer or gender non-conforming representation on it. Again, I don’t know exactly how Murry Hill identifies himself but in all my community connections I have never heard that he is GQ. But where are all the non-binary kids gonna look when they want a role model? I just had a conversation with a young person last night about how hard it was for them to grapple with their identity because they had no genderqueer role model. Maybe they stumbled upon this article.
I’m not saying this is what happened, but what it looks like is that the author just did a google search for trans folks and threw up what they got. I think if people want a list of trans role models maybe they should let trans people write it? Or at least someone who is an active member of the trans-ally community (cause I know tons of non-trans folks who would write a better article than me!) If I was a young trans/GQ I would not have been empowered by this article at all. No nice try about.com, but better luck next time. Maybe you should check out my blog roll for some trans blogger role models to aspire towards.