Transitioning Towards Solidarity
A strange kind of nostalgia tickles me when I look at this old website again.
I don’t think I looked at it all after a handful of brief, almost guilty skims of its front page and link browsing back in 2004. I definitely never felt attached to the old TS Roadmap, but looking back now, it’s a powerful feeling. The best way I can describe it is that it feels almost like stumbling onto something I didn’t believe existed, a sort of small tether that drops me right back into the place where I was tortured with questions, knowing I had to do something, no idea what that would be, knowing the life to that point was essentially over, and no life at all would follow if I didn’t move, didn’t act. I thought I was “done with all that”.
But this space isn’t appropriate for discussing my feelings at length. Suffice it to say, I was spectacularly wrong, even hilariously wrong from my largely privileged position. It’s easy to laugh when well fed and secure in an air-conditioned home where I’m loved.
Others are not so fortunate. Coincidentally, eerily, this last week or so saw a lot of personal pain for many of my favorite people. Writers, and trans folk, like myself, people who are my greatest professional inspirations, have been relating sad news after more sad news, pushing many of them to the edge of hopelessness.
Fact is, many of us live in places where there’s no guarantee, and slim to no support, of second-generation rights. Even in Western societies that belong to the G8, many of us aren’t even guaranteed all first-generation rights of basic citizenship. Remembering this, it’s both heart breaking and predictable that so many of these writers have to take breaks sometimes from giving us vital and informed content, because they too face the prospect of homelessness, poor or no medical care, abandonment and violence.
This is bad enough, but it’s even worse to see them apologize for it, for their own suffering. The final horror is how so much of their suffering is caused by our own kind.
It’s not fair, I think, to point out all of these cases, even when those I’m referring to are posting publically. Much of what they say is raw, posted in the moment, and it’s hard to quote them without both trigger warnings and explicit permission. I have permission from one though, who very briefly captures the spirit I’ve seen echoed across many blogs, twitters, forums, and face to face groups lately, from the local to the international. You’ll see her post here where she’s spoken out a good while now.
This is what they’re talking about, not just her, but so many. Safe spaces to obtain reliable information on service providers, on resources, to have questions answered and to make connections, do not truly exist. They are often compromised, exploited, and made toxic by our very own.
Another line I saw echoed over and over again was “how do we do it?” How do we build something that can actually meet our needs, acknowledging the reality that it cannot be built for us? If we expect it to be, then we can expect to remain at the mercy of gatekeepers, and those few the gatekeepers are willing to dub their proxies.
What we need is a new roadmap, towards the formation of wholeness and accessibility of a greater trans community. Over forty years ago, a feminist pioneer described, in “The Tyranny of Structurelessness”, how it is that groups of people astonished enough to discover they even exist as a group, with shared experiences, often become vulnerable to dominance by the informal structures that naturally evolve in groups. Their unwillingness to adapt their unspoken, informal structure to new goals, which would require more formal structure, while remaining democratic, makes them ineffective at anything beyond companionship.
Later in this ongoing discussion, we’ll likely have to return to examine that document far more thoroughly. I also want to get in touch with other writers potentially willing to participate in a dialogue about “how we do it”, because for all their hurt and undeserved shame, they DO have the answers; we’re the only ones who can answer this.
For now, I think about my own partner, going through their transition some eight years after I saw that website and had to make a choice. Their well meaning, intelligent, and highly specialized therapist shares a handout with all clients of hers who ask for it, two pages of trans-friendly resources. When I decided to check some of those numbers, I found at least a third were obsolete.
When it was my turn, I made some poor choices for sure. Like buying a damn “gaff” from a link on that old roadmap, which did not work, and I later found on another website marketed as just a plain pair of panties, which I’d paid quadruple for. Other choices weren’t as laughable, even many years on. Thankfully, I did choose to take the road anyway, since whatever else is true it did save my life to walk it, reliable map or none to guide me.
So, what I want to start here is a large, democratic, dialogue about how best we can map the territory we live, in every way that matters. What kind of applications and repositories of information can we make, how accessible can we make them, for every service provider out there, medical, legal, anything relevant? What kind of forums can we build which effectively walk the line between responsible and firm moderation, and embracing diversity of thought? What code of principles and conduct can we fashion for broad distribution among local support groups, and create strong, informed links between every fellow traveler, be they in transition themselves, or a genuine ally? What can we raise up to serve as a strong counterbalance to the already organized and powerful forces that seek to delegitimize us?
These are practical questions with practical answers. Those answers will lead to projects and real world things we can point to, the work of our own hands. Some of the ideas or plans may sound absurd, innovative things tend to when first conceived, especially because there must be transparency to the dialog. However, when much of the world already dismisses all that we are as fundamentally absurd, we can’t not try.
And because it is also urgent, expect many updates here moving forward. The map of normativity we were all given from the start doesn’t go as far we must, and we are, at best, the “dragonnes” in its uncharted corners. Looking forward to hearing any and all contributions, examples of truly functioning groups, wild plans, anything at all that you have, has value.
Finally, for those suffering right now, please know that you also have value, beyond measure.
((Featured Image, found through Mother Jones shows which US states had any transgender employment protections by 2011. Other maps I found are likely too much of a trigger; they placed red dots anywhere in the world where a trans person was murdered and the crime reported. Hard to know which was scarier, the clusters or the vast blank spaces where there isn’t even a report. Again, we could use better maps.))
This is why I am glad I live in the UK. Sure the NHS is a huge bureaucracy, but at least I get treatment for next to nothing, I am protected by employment law, and can even get a new Birth Certificate. I all ways feel sorry for those in other countries having to make far more sacrifices just to be who they are (not that I haven’t made sacrifices but I got off comparatively easy).