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Caitlyn, Laverne and Janet: a NZ trans woman's thoughts

Mon 20 Jul 2015 In: Our Communities View at Wayback View at NDHA

Wellington's Shelley Te Waiariki Howard writes on how high-profile trans women in the US are raising both awareness, and unrealistic expectations. Here’s a thing. Transgender people are making headlines in ways that I could only ever have dreamed when I was a child. Society in general is waking up to the reality transgender people not only exist but, via the activism of people such as Laverne Cox who featured on the cover of Time magazine recently, Janet Mock, author activist and media presenter and now Caitlyn Jenner has featured on the cover of Vanity Fair, they can be “normal” functioning members of society. That these people and their activities are being reported on is good for transgender people everywhere . . . . . Surely? It is and too, it is not. While the discussion regarding transgender issues is occurring and thus promoting awareness, it is not addressing the real issues for those transgender people who are not contemporaneously “attractive” and “normal appearing”. The discussion remains traumatically offending to transgender people whose own ‘accident of birth’ will never allow them to be a Caitlyn, a Janet or a Laverne. These average and real people will never garner the attention nor the affection such wonderful women as they have achieved. Why? Because the discussion surrounding those successful transgender women remains deeply rooted in the normative binary perception society rigidly adheres to. Unless transgender women (in particular, but the same holds true for transgender men) meet societal expectations of how an attractive woman (or man) should appear and behave, they remain marginalised and victimised. I am one of those unattractive transgender women. My physical reality has been a significant barrier to my coming out. No amount of surgery or hormones is likely to alter my reality to the point I can appear unselfconsciously in public and not expect to be in some way mocked or pilloried. But my personal agenda is not ego-centric nor based upon any self-seeking sympathy vote. My concern for the way we treat our fellow humans is much more widely based than the transgender issue. There are people throughout our communities who bring many different capabilities and characteristics to the table. It is a sad reality that the vast majority are to greater or lesser degrees, in some way marginalised. Men of colour, women (all women), people with “disabilities”(I hate that term - I prefer “different]-abilities”) both mental and physical, people who identify as non-binary gender and/or sexuality, in addition to people who differ for reasons of ethnicity and/or religion. In short, any among us who is not a white, hetero-normal [Christian] male is invariably denied privilege in some way. Therein lies the real issue for us. It is not that Bruce is now Caitlyn. Nor is it that transgender people should be demanding specific rights befitting any other human being. The real issue is those privileged white, male ‘rulers’ of this patriarchy we regard as “normal” society should be made to understand they cannot deny ANY of us our right to live our lives with dignity and in safety without fear of prejudice. Human rights are not anyone’s to give or deny. Live and let live. Embrace our wonderful diversity and all it offers and become much stronger and more cohesive together. - Shelley Te Waiariki Howard is a Wellington trans woman Shelley Te Waiariki Howard - 20th July 2015    

Credit: Shelley Te Waiariki Howard

First published: Monday, 20th July 2015 - 12:57pm

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