CommunityMy FDL

Three Years In

This is actually a comment to a thread.  This thread:

I was going to post a series of comments, but as I started on the first one, it just kept growing, and so what I have instead is this – a diary, which will likely be crossposted to my own blog. 

I'm a divisive sort, admittedly.  I have very strong feelings on the underlying themes here.

In 12 days I will have reach the 3/4 point in this four year point.

I have privileges, and plenty of them.  I pass for white.  I can, in a moment, pass for Native, for Black, for cis, for Trans, for anti-intellectual, for intellectual, for wealthy, for poor, for Christian, for pagan, for so many things that the list seems, at times, endless.

Privilege is situational — and while for most people that situation cannot change, for me it is constantly changing.

I asked permission to post in this thread. There is humor and pathos in my doing so.

I'm not going to persuade anyone on this subject. Persuasion is something I do in person.

I fell into the two year model, here, myself.  Two and a half, maybe, as I've found that I haven't the will to subsidize my own ongoing efforts when, as pointed out, I tend to neglect my own personal needs.

Some may have expected me to come into the thread and stand still and take on all challengers.

Well, sorry, but no —  not in this area. As I noted, this is a break from something else.

Passing is indeed racial. Its where you first learn of it, first are enjoined with it.  I would come to school after a summer of play and hear the n word and watch it fade as my high color did.

It taught me to avoid the sun at an early age. After all, I'm one of exceedingly few Black folks here — and as a native to the state, it’s even more rare.

I have cis passing privilege as well — and, indeed, a big deal was made about my behavior and dress when I recently made note that I was clocked for the first time in months.

Mostly by people who don't like me, but eh.

It took me a long time to realize I have that, though — to see that it exists in me, and it is really nice to go through my life and hear ma'am and occasionally miss, and never half to worry to about how others are seeing me, the slight glances, and the questioning looks.

My critics Suggested I change my dressing, basing this on limited amount of information and a sense that perhaps I attract too much attention, and since I do, that must be because I'm trans, and for no other reason; and since I am a sexual being, and thrilled to have reached this point, I must be some sort of sex worker, and that's embarrassing.

Which is funny, because I don't get that in the cis community.  I only get it from the Trans community.

I get told by others I'm too harsh, too angry, too dominating, too…

Again, not from cisfolk in general who usually confine themselves to chuckling and saying maybe I'm a tad strident, but almost always by transfolk.

I have not fought so hard, however, for me.  My situation, despite the evictions for being trans, the joblessness, the loss of my family, the whole kit and kaboodle, has been fairly decent the whole time.

I sat down in a chair three years ago, roughly about this time, and started researching something because I had a question.

And somehow I never saw how transfolk eat their own — in terms of the apathy and survival of the individual over the rest.

As a black woman, there's a term in my history for that. I don't use it often, and when I do its always specific to the individual, never a group. I don't use it even as a matter of deeply thought through discourse — it has to be specific and exacting, because I'm well aware that it can be applied to me, as well, since I am not above using my passing abilities to get something I want or need.

I am inherently selfish as a person.  Admittedly so — much of my philosophy about life is based on that inherent selfishness of the individual — survival is a selfish concept.

I do things for others because it makes me feel good.

I do things for others because I have a set of rules I live by, and one of them holds that people need to be treated equally, and equitably.

That's two different concepts there, as well — one alone is not good enough.  Equity is worthless without equality, and equality has no meaning without equity.

One poster asked why is passing written of in a negative context, and the answer to that is that when you pass, you are not being true to the whole of yourself; you are being true to only a part of it.

When one passes for white, you have to be careful not to step across lines, you have to meet the expectations of those around you, to not show things that might make you suddenly be perceived to be Black.

It makes you edgy, nervous, even after long practice, because you need to be on your guard, you need to be more aware of what you do and how you do it, and you become a sort of anti-Black person after a while — not actively, not in the sense that you believe anything wrong there, but in the sense that you have a secret to keep, and you will protect that secret.

Not everyone does that, of course, but that's often what happens, and especially so when one rises to a position of authority or power.

Worse, however, is the association, the mental image you develop of yourself as not being black. In trans terms, this comes out as the ones who proclaim loudly I am a ciswoman, do not tell me otherwise.

Passing is not the goal of transition. It does not determine success.

Success is determined by your ability to be successful in the gender role you take and in living your life to be true to yourself.

That's a lesson easy to forget.  Not passing means you suffer daily, moment by moment, and they compound on you, they build up in you, and it becomes at times unbearable.

You can be evicted for not passing – rendered homeless.  You can be fired.  You can not be hired. There are real consequences to not passing that are important and effective and true.

And we forget, caught up in all of that, caught up in the fears of all of that when we start, that even though the first words we speak to our therapist might be “I can’t do this is I can’t pass”, it is not about passing, it is about being true to yourself, to your life, to your history, to the good in you and the bad in you, to the whole of your being,

And passing allows for that, it allows for an expectation – because privileges are expectations, nothing more, nothing less – that you will not be questioned on the basis of what you do not appear to be.  That you will not be rendered homeless, that you will not be fired, that you will not suffer as greatly.

And I’ve fought, as I’ve passed, in person and remotely, and I have written letters and watched as others do not write them.  I have commented and watched as others do not comment. I have made phone calls and watched as others did not, even though the phone calls and letters and posts and more I was making were not for me, but for them, and for those yet to come.

And, over  time, doing so has felt less and less good, and so here it is, a point where I’m admittedly burned out from not having taken a break, where my  very nature has caused friends to find me to be too uncomfortable to be around because I attract too much attention, even when just sitting still, being quiet.

And I sit here wondering why am I still doing this?

The first 18 months of my activism were spent more in the area of GLB rights than T rights.  Not because I’m GLB, but because it was the right thing to do and because yes, people do generally see transfolk as GLB.

But that’s changing.

And, to be frank, watching the debacle that was ENDA the last time unfold, it went a long way to wiping out the feel good about doing so.  It took several months to wipe it out, and now while I am still very supportive, I’m not really a great ally. I’m no longer willing to put myself at risk for GLB rights – and that’s because of the issues that still percolate between GLB and T folks.

I don’t like that, though, and the thought of not doing so makes me feel bad, and that’s why I’m still here.  Not because I want to, but because I don’t want to not do so.

I’m  headed there with Trans stuff.  And I’m too close to it to feel bad when I’m not involved, because it feels good to take care of me for a change.  Instead of a couple months where I could just be myself, just live as me, now I’ll get a week, and it’s not going to be enough.

At one point – a year ago, in fact – I reached a moment in time where I had two choices.

I could right then, have gone stealth.  Moved away from everything I ever knew, and gotten married, and just turned invisible – blended into the woodwork.  I’d be having little dinner parties and decorating a home and wondering which pets to get and shopping at the mall or having my mani-pedi.  I’m really that shallow in terms of my simple wants and needs – pamper me, dammit, or I’ll kick your ass.

I’d likely be writing piss poor novels instead of long, piss poor stream of consciousness comments that are going to have to be diaries and blog posts.

Or, I could do what I’ve done instead.  Started a support group in my home, taken in transfolk who needed a place to live and a chance to get their feet on the ground, worked with a few incredible organizations like TYFA and TransMentors,  done research for universities and independent organizations, annoyed people at Bilerico and Pam’s House Blend, lobbied for three weeks in Washington DC, visiting Senator’s and Representatives and trying my damndest to make a difference, and working on legislation to introduce to the Phoenix City Council.

I’m out.

I don’t regret that. I don’t find it to have been in error.  I’m glad I did that, and I’m not likely to go back to anything less.

That doesn’t mean I climb to tall buildings and shout out how I’m trans. For one, that’s hard to hear what with all the street noise and the distance and all, but also do you have any idea how hard it is to get to the top of the tall buildings in Phoenix?

On the other hand, on rare occasions I will hear people discussing it on a bus – and I will engage them in discussion, always using my passing privilege until the end when I let them know I’m trans.

It means if someone asks, I say “why yes, I am – want to try it?”  It’s a well rehearsed speech I’ve not had a chance to give.

It means I don’t hide from the symbolism, even if I find it rather ugly at times.

It means that I have control over the information, and I use it when and where it’s of value to me.

I’m trying, right now, to hold on tight to the last little bit of caring I have.  Because I plan to run for office – the last thing I will do as an activist.  I expect to win, but win or lose, that’s it.  I’m running because in all the work I’ve done, I’ve learned that the only way to make an effective change is going to be to gain political office, and that requires sacrifice.


So that’s my direction.  The problem is that if I run out of juice before then, I won’t have the will to run.

The trans community, at a non activist level, is unaware of how the community works.   On a facebook posting regarding the article, one friend commented on how the four year system is how *it should be* — a strong disconnect with the reality of Denney’s commentary on the idea of eating our own.

It was observed that those who have money are often unwilling to donate it – and this is true. Money counts – a lot. It counts for more than people realize, and even if one is in stealth or blended and passing, it still behooves them, because there is some truth to the message that others within the community carry, as negatively as it is done:

The days of blending are coming to a  close.  Part of the backlash from the efforts being done now will likely be outings, provoked by any excuse as our opponenets begin to dig into the pasts nd lives of people they mistrust.

Increased media exposure will make people say “hey, ya know that one guy, I think he might be one of those trans men thingies” or “that tall girl may just be transgendered” and  it will make it more difficult to achieve that in the future.

I happen to support media exposure – even the kind that starts with makeup being put on, although I’d prefer to see more guys get the treatment, lol.

I think we need to create a media group that’s sole purpose is to create PSA’s and get them aired.  They count, they matter, and they do far more good among the 70% of Americans who are not us or our opponents and generally don’t give a damn.

But then, I think a lot of things. And maybe where I need to turn now is to expressing them and describing them not for this group of activists, but for the next.

Advocates and activists stand against a tide. A tide of ignorance, a tide of anger, a tide of lost understanding, a tide of history and change and times and events.

And it hits them from both sides, and the side that hurts the most is the side they stand on.

Activists, however, are not rocks.  They do not have the ability to last for aeons, slowly being worn away.

They are humans, and in the face of such tidal forces, we are not surprisingly frail.

Today – right now – there are more actively involved people than likely at any time previously in our modern history.

Anger, a lack of understanding, a desire to be a part of the change and to shape it, all play a part.

But more than anything else, there is hope.

All those eggs of hope are in one basket right now, once again.  ENDA.

And it’s critical, because it while it won’t stop th evictions and the desperate desire, it may mean that there will be more money in the community, and with more money, the community can do more, because this is a world where there currency of faith – faith in the effort of others – is the almighty dollar.

And Mammon’s curse is a powerful tool.

Yes, I have many privileges – many expectations of my safety and support – and yeah, I’m an activist.

Yes, I’m one of them who is slowly turning away from it, trying hard to break that connection I feel for the want and the need, and yes, I’m doing it for my own self.

And it shouldn’t be that way.

What’s cool, though, is that I *could* do it.

That I can speak on behalf of others, that I can agitate and express the rage of myself and so many others at the various issues.

There is a strong history here – and although it may have been better had we had more of the activists who stayed around longer, there have always been activists, and they have still kept it going, although we deal with the constant loss of history and connection to it because we don’t have those long term people to point to.

But we are still moving forward, still making it happen.

And although my part has been miniscule and irrelevant, I’m glad I was able to at least contribute a little to it.

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