CommunityPam's House Blend

In Response To Stating The Goal Of Trans People Is Blending In

My wonderful friend Jillian Page is an editor at the Montreal Gazette. She has a blog at her publication’s website entitled Trans Talk where she writes about trans issues. It’s a must read blog for me, and I automatically tweet her blog entries on my twitterfeed.

She currently has a piece up on her blog where she expresses what she believes the ultimate goal of trans people are, and I have a different point of view what the ultimate goal of at least some 24/7 trans people are.

So below, I share with you the link an original post of hers, and the two paragraphs of hers I respectfully disagreed with. (Jill graciously posted my response on the Montreal Gazette‘s website here.)

What I didn’t mention in my response to her is that I agree with one of the main points of her piece, which is that many mainstream media outlets will interview trans people, or post stories about trans people, only to leave these same trans people to be savaged in these articles’ comment threads. That is a disgraceful component of online commenting on most mainstream media websites — the lack of reasonable levels of moderation in their article comment threads. Jill makes the point that trans people may want to stay away from most, if not all, mainstream media because that savaging in the comment thread may be damaging not only to the individual trans people highlighted in articles, but to transsexual, transgender, and gender nonconforming people in general. And, that point seems to me to be a reasoned, valid POV, although I believe we trans people need to engage mainstream media even if we are savaged in the comment threads.

Hi Jill,

I take a different POV than the POV you put forward in your piece “Transgender Issues: Media Undermined by Some Readers,” in which you wrote:

The ultimate goal of trans people is to blend in with society, and not to draw any special attention to themselves. I think we are getting to the point where the less said to the media, the better, especially about such personal things like having babies. I mean, whose business is it, anyway?

Yes, there are times when we need to raise trans awareness in the media — when there is a real news story about discrimination, for example. But we also have to stop giving transphobes and bigots forums to unfairly and ignorantly attack trans people or anyone else. Sadly, those bigots are undermining the very publications they are commenting in.

At PHB I wrote the piece “It’s Time For Trans People To Be Out Of The Closet,” and a more abbreviated posting on the same thought at LGBT Weekly entitled “Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are.”

As a trans woman, my ultimate goal isn’t to blend in with society, but instead to challenge society — to create tension for the purpose of creating social change. To quote Martin Luther King Jr. from his “Letter From A Birmingham Jail“:

You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.

One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: “Why didn’t you give the new city administration time to act?” The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor will bring the millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hope that Mr. Boutwell will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

If one is going to do direct action then one has to begin from the place of being a visible member of society. I believe in embracing difficult labels for the purposes of owning who one is, and finding community of others who experience a commonality of human experience. This should, in my mind, apply to 24/7 trans people.

I also believe we 24/7 trans people have to be visible in society to be in a place where direct action changes the world, even if it means being on the receiving end of hate speech; even if it means being on the receiving end of harassment and/or discrimination that we wouldn’t receive if we invisibly blended into society. Without radical visibility, we appear as a population of transgender, transsexual, and gender nonconforming people to embrace internalized transphobia.

This need for visibility is the reason the I AM: Trans People Speak COMMUNITY project exists.

Warmest thoughts,

~~Autumn Sandeen~~

Magazine columnist:
Trans Progressive column for San Diego’s LGBT Weekly

Firedoglake’s Pam’s House Blend, rated by Technorati as one of the United States’ Top 50 U.S. Politics Blogs

“[T]he job of the gay community is not to deal with extremists who would castigate us or put us on an island and drop an H-bomb on us. The fact of the matter is that there is a small percentage of people in America who understand the true nature of the homosexual community. There is another small percentage who will never understand us. Our job is not to get those people who dislike us to love us. Nor was our aim in the civil rights movement to get prejudiced white people to love us. Our aim was to try to create the kind of America, legislatively, morally, and psychologically, such that even though some whites continued to hate us, they could not openly manifest that hate. That’s our job today: to control the extent to which people can publicly manifest antigay sentiment.”
~Bayard Rustin, From Montgomery to Stonewall (1986)

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Autumn Sandeen

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