Saturday, 9 April 2016
Trans People Need to Honour Their History
I was at a trans event the other day. The speaker was a self-identified trans writer and performer who uses the pronoun ‘they.’ The room was filled with what appeared to me to be lesbians (along with a smattering of trans people). The trans speaker was talking about their experience as a young girl playing hockey and not being allowed to play on the boys’ team. It struck me as ironic that a room full of lesbians had come to hear someone speak about a subject that used to be a lesbian narrative (i.e. ’my difficult tomboy past’). However, now — it has become a trans narrative.
I’m not of course suggesting that the tomboy narrative should be owned exclusively by either lesbians or trans people. But it does strike me that what was once thought largely to be a lesbian life story, has now for many become instead a trans story.
And could this have something to do with what some have termed the dilemma of the ‘vanishing lesbian’?
I would certainly say that gays and lesbians are somewhat to blame. Gays and lesbians these days want to be just like straights. In the same way that gay men no longer wish to be associated with effeminacy, lesbians no longer wish to be associated with masculinity. Gays and lesbians would rather be seen as gender ‘normal.’
But there is another huge contributing factor here: the trans community’s rejection of its own history. Traditionally, trans people claimed to be ‘trapped in the wrong body.’ Through surgery they were able to correct this. These days, the mantra I hear from trans people everywhere is ‘Please don’t repeat that annoying old idea that trans people are people who are trapped in the wrong body! That’s really out of date!’
Is it out of date?
Or is it history?
And why anyone seek to erase history?
Now I understand that trans people might want to expand the notion of trans to include people who have no desire for surgery. And I agree with the whole concept of self-identifying. We all must all be allowed to choose our gender, regardless of our equipment. But must the trans community reject those whose trans identity is intrinsically bound up with dramatic body modification (i.e. the creation of a new set of genitals?).
It seems to me that — at the same time as lesbians and gay men are disassociating themselves from gender issues— the trans community is seeking exclusively to own gender issues.
The result is more than just a tragic denial of history.
Being gay and lesbian is now only about who we have sex with, and being trans is now only about gender. Doesn't this fracture our community? Doesn’t this now, ironically, divide us further and increase our dependence on labelling? And doesn’t this encourage tomboys to think of themselves as young trans people, rather than as lesbians?
Why can’t trans people proudly include in their ranks (and their philosophy) those who wish to have sex changes due to dissatisfaction with their own bodies? Why can’t trans people realize that being gay and lesbian is as much a gender issue as an issue of sexuality? And most of all, why can’t gay and lesbian people be proud of masculine dykes and feminine fags — instead of demonizing them and trying to convince the world that all gays and lesbians are gender normal?
I say this as proud gay man, and a drag queen. But I also say this as someone who identifies as a trans person.
Come on, let’s all get together! It will serve us all. And it will serve the cause we all have in common.
The liberation of queer people.