I just read an article that got me thinking, but not in a good way.
The article stated that cisgender people (including cross-dressers and drag queens) should not become involved in discussions relating to transgender issues. They argue that cisgenders are unable to understand trans issues, and by joining in the discussions they ‘claim ownership’ over them. Further, not only can cisgenders never truly understand transgender issues, but by seeking to become involved they drown out the voice of the ‘true trans’.
Whilst I can understand this argument, to an extent, I find it symptomatic of the labelling system as a whole. If you keep pushing people out from under your umbrealla and telling them ‘you don’t really understand’, ‘you don’t have a right to speak’ ‘you can’t be part of our community because you’re not [xx] enough’ we’re moving into the area of exclusivity. This breeds resentment and is always counter productive.
How do you define who’s trans enough to be trans? Who gets to decide? Can you identify as trans without going all the way to surgery? Can you identify as trans if you don’t live as your trans gender but feel as if you should. Do you have to dress as a woman to be a woman?
This kind of talk makes me very uneasy. I don’t like exclusivity, end of. If I’m told I’m not allowed to go somewhere, be something, say something, do something, my natural reaction is to say, first why and second what right do you have to dictate to me? If I don’t get a satisfactory answer my next impulse is to say ‘fuck you’.
There’s a huge danger in boundaries. If they are hard ones, lines in the sand, there are always going to be people who straddle them and either will not be welcomed on either side, or will not feel they are welcomed on either side. The truly vulnerable people are not those standing in the middle of the umbrella surrounded by their peers, but the ones being edged out into the rain. That’s what worries me most.
There are just as many people struggling to find labels as there are fighting for those they own. The quagmires of gender and sexuality are not always easy to traverse, and to those struggling in the mire, labels are the only things they have to cling to. If you start snatching them away how are they ever going to be able to find their place?
And while we’re at it – this whole – you don’t have a right to take part in discussions unless you have first-hand knowledge and experience – arguement is a dangerous and insulting one. First. How far would you take it? Should men have any part in discussions that relate to women (and vice versa)? Should straight people have any part in discussions regarding gay issues (how would that have worked with the recent legal decisions)? Should humans have any part in discussions regarding animal rights? Yes, that’s ridiculous, but it’s the far edge of the same argument.
Anyway, who decides? Who within any ‘community’ sits in judgement over who should or shouldn’t be a member and who should or shouldn’t be ‘allowed’ to take part in discussions and have a view on issues.
I absolutely admire strong trans people standing up and fighting for their rights. But I would suggest those are not the people we should be worried about. Yes, they have it hard, but they have the strength to fight. The people we should really be worried about are the ones who can’t fight. The ones who don’t even know what to fight for. We need to worry about the people who, struggling to find their own identity and place in the world are being sent the message they don’t fit anywhere.
Surely it should be down to the individual to choose their labels, and shouldn’t communities be quicker to embrace than to reject?
Be careful what you say. Telling someone they have no right to do or say something is treading a dangerous path, and could lead to unintentional suffering. By all means define your boundaries, but don’t make them blanket ones. Don’t make them hard lines. And don’t alienate your friends by disenfranchising them.