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Mon 29 Feb 2016 In: Our Communities View at Wayback View at NDHA

Has the transgender community really passed a tipping point in terms of acceptance, or are we just being manipulated into a contemporary and binary world view for our assimilation? What can we do to control our destiny?

 The transgender community are certainly in the spotlight just now. Everyone is cashing in, including straight (appearing comediennes) and the occasional decrepit TERF crone. Love her or hate her, Caitlyn has had a fair bit to do with our more recent high profile exposure. And let’s face it, as a community seeking recognition - we have the same rights and privilege as every human- we needed a bit of a jump start and Caitlyn has provided it. We don’t so much talk about her any more. Her naivety about herself, confused with her politics, has seen her integrity take a pounding in the media glare because, let’s face it, is there anything more exhilarating for lesser mortals than tearing down and dismembering the tall poppy? There is no doubting her ill-considered public comments have served to alienate her from sectors of the transgender community… as if her privilege was not already reason enough, right? There can be little doubt the furore surrounding Caitlyn has also brought attention to the plight of the transgender community. But in truth, and despite her comments on the issues impacting the much less privileged transgender people in society, the world has really not given a damn. We are bound to see more reportage in the media about Caitlyn signing up with MAC Cosmetics than we will ever read about Monica Loera or Veronica Cano (I bet you have never heard of them either). Geena Roccero, Janet Mock and Julia Serano are activists busily engaged in representing transgender people as human but they receive zero coverage in mainstream media. Our ‘tipping point’ has provided unprecedented visibility for the transgender community, but that visibility remains quintessentially one-dimensional. The people ‘representing’ us are easily assimilated by society because they are invariably, dare I use the term, ‘passable’. There is a ‘block’, a wall of indifference which remains entrenched in society and which impacts all transgender people. No amount of legislation will, it seems, remove that block. Acceptance is predicated very much by ‘passibility’ and the misogynist perception of contemporary beauty. I think it is a fair reflection on what is being achieved for the transgender community, that society is much less ‘shocked’ when transgender people manifest in the public domain. But it is my lived experience this ‘supportive narrative’ is one of apathetic tolerance (indifference) and not one of acceptance. Our youth report the very same bigotry, bullying and hate I feared when I was still trying to work out who I was during my own youth and through much of my adult life. I chose to leave my previous employment just before last Christmas because despite anti-harassment and anti-bullying policies, management appeared more concerned for the “majority view” than for my mental and emotional safety. When discussing transgender issues with cis-gender people, I often hear the phrase; “to each their own… ” and the - mostly, but not always - unstated; “…as long as it does not impact me.” Unfortunately for all of us, it impacts everyone. It is just that everyone doesn’t properly realise it yet. Within this dynamic - and here I am talking specifically the transgender community- we are doing ourselves poor service. Sure, media does not represent us fairly. But to be fair, we do not represent ourselves with the consistency and integrity that ensures we are perceived fairly either. The public bitch-slapping that seems rife within our community is comedic while also being destructive. Our preciousness and our inability to agree on common essential needs makes it really, really difficult for supporting groups and organisations to commit to that support. I am aware of at least one queer support group walking away from the transgender issue out of frustration and exasperation. The transgender people they were trying to support were focused on individual agendas and not interested in or simply unable to conceive of a collective strategy. The worst behaved in our community when it comes to raising a collective voice, are those of “older” generations. We, supposedly wiser heads, appear more focused on arguing with other personalities within our community and our often way too public social media debates, rather than engaging in constructive dialogue to discuss philosophical and/or political differences to construct a collective and cohesive strategy going forward. Our youth, and hell’s bells let us be real here, our whole damned community, demands leadership, not oneupmanship from us older transgender people. It is time we learned to set aside our pretentiousness, our exclusivity and our self-righteousness to instead speak with consistency and self-respect if not for our individual selves, then for our community as a whole. If we cannot respect each other, who the hell are we to demand respect from society as a whole? Within the queer community, the transgender and non-binary gender folk who are (to me) talking the most sense, who are walking the walk, who are far less confused and who represent us with dignity and respect, are our youth. We should learn to listen to them… With our heads and our hearts, not just our ears. Shelley Howard - 29th February 2016    

Credit: Shelley Howard

First published: Monday, 29th February 2016 - 11:52am

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