CommunityMy FDL

I need help with dialogue around race and (trans)gender

Pam, your calls for dialogue across racial boundaries have not fallen on deaf ears. I’m hurting, and I’m perplexed, and wise woman, you’re the only person I feel I can turn to now.

The only times when I get openly dissed for being trans–the only times when I get harassed for not passing perfectly– have been when I was in the District of Columbia, the jurisdiction with the very best gender-identity equal rights in the whole USA.

I’m in a tough place with this. I was raised to be anti-racist during the Civil Rights era, and have worked on it and practiced what I believe my whole life. Plus I’ve worked on developing a class-based consciousness and working honestly through my white middle-class privileges. Yeah, I know remarks by white people that are prefaced in this self-justifying defensive way usually don’t turn out well. But this is why it’s so hard for me to talk about and why I need some compassionate interracial help with it.

10 out of 10 times I’ve been harassed on the street, it’s been by black men, not just any black men in general, many of whom respect me as a woman, but specifically by ones who do things like loiter on street corners and shout things to women walking past.

When I first came out, I found “passing” impossibly difficult and went through tranny hell with that for a couple years. But after enough hormones, I started passing better, and since I transitioned last year, I’ve been passing consistently and have been able to live quite well as a woman 24/7.

That’s why Saturday night’s incident in downtown DC hit me so hard in the solar plexus all the more, because it was the first time this had happened since I transitioned almost 6 months ago. I know nobody can expect to pass 100% of the time, but I have been doing amazingly well with it since I transitioned, compared to before.

I was walking along minding my own business. Since I’ve started passing well, the loitering guys have only been shouting the stuff all women get like “Hey baby / Hey beautiful / I love you / Come with me” etc. Saturday night when this guy started it, I ignored him as always. Then he said “You’re a man, aren’t you!”That was hard for me to take. I thought I’d left that problem behind in the past. All I could think of was to give him the finger and say “Fuck you” in a very feminine voice.

But I’ve been fuming since then and thinking: It’s time for me say, OK, WTF!? and go to work very seriously on processing just what is going on after all with conflicting racial/class interpretations of gender and LGBT issues? What is up with the aggressive urge to harass me for being trans in this very loud, public, and humiliating way? Which has happened several times, always in the same geographical/cultural setting. This time wasn’t the worst of it, I’ve been targeted for much more serious harassment in the past, been followed at night on the street. This time was just annoying, but other times it’s been scary.

I didn’t get any sense that this was racially motivated harassment of me for being a white woman. It was all about gender identity and would have been aimed at me the same if I were black.

I can grasp that this is coming from a cultural perspective on gender identities different from the narrative I’ve been living. I just want to understand why it has to be that way. I just need to process this because I never wanted it to be about race. Help, please!

Previous post

Forgive and forget. Mostly the forget part.

Next post

Sunday Talking Heads: March 30, 2008