Being trans is an act of generosity

Being trans is an act of generosity. Being trans is hard, tiring work, and joyous creation.

Reflect on which identities you are most comfortable discussing? Which give you the most joy? Conversely, which identities are you least comfortable discussing and involve the most pain?

Which of your identities do you question the most? Is there an identity you often need to defend?

Sara Ahmed: When being is labouring, we are creating more than ourselves.
Sara Ahmed: When we loosen the requirements to be in a world, we create room for others to be.

I read these questions from a white cis straight professional male, and they do not fit me. They imply that the identity I am comfortable discussing gives me joy. Well, sometimes it’s hard to be a trans woman, and I can be intensely uncomfortable talking about it with a woman who wants me excluded but says she “only wants the freedom to say sex is real and women need single sex spaces”- with one of her “male allies” it’s much worse- so I wondered, does my joy only come from self-actualisation? There’s nothing joyous about being a trans woman per se, it’s just that having suppressed in fear I realise in courage and being myself and finding myself gives me joy? Or even being a trans woman is inherently uncomfortable because I have to explain myself all the time.

Being normal or having one of the acceptable characteristics- white, middle-class, with a degree- is comfortable. I am white, and it is comfortable, I don’t have to think, Oh God, another room full of white men. It’s not necessarily comfortable talking about it, though. I am woker than most, I have heard a small amount of experience, two people separately talking about white people touching black people’s hair and how invasive that is. I am uncomfortable, but pleased, to talk about whiteness with a Black person: pleased because I can find how better to be an ally, be one of the good people who is supportive whose support they need and so polish my halo because I want to be seen as a good person, and give evidence of that by doing good. Uncomfortable because I glimpse how much I don’t know. Then I talk about whiteness with a white person and with some we nod our heads wisely and want to be better allies, though not all white people are like that.

I am comfortable when I am reinforcing the rules of my social group: with the white man who like me wants to be an ally. There was the Suffragan bishop who wants to be an ally, and then he came out to me as “lower-middle class”, the grammar school boy in society on suffrance, with some privilege and some matters excluded. We want to be allies because we too are excluded in some ways. It seems everyone on the Diversity and Inclusion course is excluded in some ways.

I am uncomfortable when I am labouring, when whether I can go to the toilet without being shamed comes into question. The Equality Act 2010, with its rules on how I can be excluded if it is reasonable to exclude me, was fragile toleration of me, rather than acceptance, and some are working hard to tear down even that.

So we build as men must build
with the sword in one hand and the trowel in the other

Building is fighting, for women as well as men, and in Eliot’s poem they were building necessary defensive walls for Jerusalem.

And the trans-excluder might see herself as building, a space for women, for women to be in solidarity, where a trans woman would damage that precious fragile space. We are set against each other. It is tragic that we fight each other.

There is joy in being trans. All my personality and all its beauty is ὁμοούσιον with being trans. I am one essence. There is me, not a trans bit I can separate out from the rest of it, not one bit which is to be deprecated and fenced in, or removed so I could be a productive member of society.

There is work in being trans, in defending my right to be, in being myself despite the flak. It is creative work. It expands the realm of the possible for everyone and particularly for those whom gender stereotypes do not fit (Everyone, but some more than others, some much much much more than others).

Which of your identities do you question? Well, that is a personal question. “What are your most vulnerable, insecure spots?” None, I tell you. “What of yourself do you doubt?” That might lead me to finding that imposed identities are forced and not real, self-concept not organismic self, not “myself” at all but a lie. And, I think I have ferreted out most of that already.

You are oppressing us!

Trans women cannot oppress any other group. There are too few of us. What is happening when we are accused of oppression? It is a threat: others are defending themselves when they lash out at us; sometimes they are defending children from us, which is particularly threatening, as it becomes right to erase us in order to defend children.

We are accused of wrongful “No platform” techniques to prevent free speech, of seeking the end of the University as a place of rigorous enquiry to be replaced by a cosseting crèche for self-absorbed “snowflakes”. What is going on? A machine of oppression. When trans people exercise our freedom of speech by protesting against transphobic speech, our freedom of speech is understood as oppressing such people as transphobe Julie Bindel with her columns in The Guardian, Standpoint, The New Statesman and The Spectator. We have no freedom of speech, it is for others. We are called bullies, intimidating and silencing others: this is a bullying tactic. A commenter elsewhere resented any contradiction by a trans woman or in favour of trans folk: he labelled every such contradiction “narcissistic rage”, however reasonable it was.

This wilfully misunderstands freedom of speech. It is not freedom from opposition, or freedom for acceptable views, or the power to be heard.

Our tactics are vilified as “No-platforming” though they are free speech themselves: refusing to be on the same platform as a transphobe, holding an alternative event somewhere else, boycotting the transphobe’s event. I support free speech, but have no obligation to listen to anyone. Julie Bindel gets endless platforms to complain of being no-platformed, of being bullied.

Accusations that trans women are violent are an incitement to violence against us. Rape threats and death threats on Twitter are shocking. We need to see the texts of them: the term “rape threat” is not as shocking as reading CHOO CHOO MOTHERFUCKER THE RAPE TRAIN’S ON ITS WAY. NEXT STOP YOU. I would love to knock you the fuck out. Not because you’re a female or a feminist, but because you’re an enormous bitch. If any trans person is sending such things, that is vile; but trans folk as a group are not responsible for that. Saying that we are, as a group, is incitement to violence against us.

No incitement to violence is less abominable than any other. Minimising or trivialising threats of violence against us is a threat to us.

All this comes from Sara Ahmed again. When you have “dialogue or debate” with those who wish to eliminate you from the conversation (because they do not recognise what is necessary for your survival or because they don’t even think your existence is possible), then “dialogue and debate” becomes another technique of elimination. A refusal to have some dialogues and some debates can thus be a key tactic for survival. But if we express our anger, the TERFs take that as more evidence that we wrong them.

Silver and gold woman