Seasonal Exhaustion

The holiday is pretty much directly upon me. This weekend I have Christmas with my family. We are going up tomorrow night.

But I don’t feel super merry. In the words of Bilbo Baggins: “I feel thin. Like butter spread over too much bread.”

It has been a long and tumultuous year. The world has continued to terrify me with its ability to be random and cruel while simultaneously delighting me with the warmth and full hearts and adorable cat photos that I have found within it.

Normally at this point in the season I am wearing a festive hat and bouncing around the house to Christmas music like there’s no tomorrow. But I’m not doing either of those things. And what’s weird is that I don’t really care to.

I think the weight of everything that has happened this year has just hit me all at once. The deaths of black women, the burning of black churches, the police brutality, the trans lives that have been lost, rape culture, the everyday harassment that comes along with being femme on the internet or on a street or wherever. Shit, some asshole even killed a lion.

I’ve talked before about the exhaustion that comes from dealing with social justice stuff all the time. The compassion fatigue that we all can feel merely from having access to the internet on a daily basis.

It wears. It takes a toll.

I’m not in a place right this second where I can talk about how to cope with that toll. I’m in it. I’m just looking forward to going home tonight, slapping on some Christmas music and faking it as if I’m going to be making it while I mix up some holiday cookies.

We cope. That’s all we can do sometimes. And I’m just learning now that it’s OK to just cope. To breathe into whatever we’re going through and to be not 100% for a while.

That’s actually a pretty good Christmas gift for me to give myself, now that I think about it.

 

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Transgender Day of Remembrance

November 20th is a day set aside to remember those who have been lost to in acts of violence against transgender people.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance was started on November 28th, 1998, when Rita Hester was murdered. Her murder, which has yet to be solved, galvanized the community to start a web project titled “Remembering Our Dead,” which then spun out to become the Day of Remembrance that we observe today.

The transgender community is effected by anti-LGBT violence disproportionately when compared to the rest of the LGBT community. A report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) found that 72% of victims of anti-LGBT homicide were trans women, while 67% of anti-LGBT homicide victims were trans women of color. So far this year we have lost 30 members of the trans community to unspeakable acts of violence. Please take a moment to learn their names, if you do not already know them. Hold them in your heart today.

Trans people are also more likely to be subjected to police violence than other members of the community at large. According to the survey conducted by NCAVP, transgender people of color are 6 times more likely to experience physical violence at the hands of police when compared to white cisgendered people. The trans community generally are 7 times more likely to experience physical violence when interacting to the police when compared with cisgendered people.

Added to that sobering number, the trans community also faces staggering numbers regarding suicide rates. According to the Williams Insitute, 46% of trans men reported having attempted suicide. The numbers for trans women are not much better at 42%. The rate of suicide attempts among the LGB community is half that. And the rate among the overall population outside of the LGBT community is a mere 4.6%. Those numbers are deeply skewed and also deeply frightening.

Not only do trans people face violence when it comes to heterosexuals who may be transphobic, the fact of the matter is that trans people are frequently overlooked and underrepresented within the LGB community as well. One of the latest and possibly best examples I can give you of this is the recent Stonewall film debacle. But Stonewall isn’t the only example of this issue. Trans erasure and trans silencing and even transphobia are rampant within the LGB community.

The trans community faces a disproportionate level of violence and hardship within the LGBT community, and they get so little support

For my part, I am at a loss when it comes to days like today. I cannot imagine what it must be like for people to walk through their lives so maligned by the people around them. Grappling with a trans identity in a society that is so hetero- and cis-normative must be difficult enough, without that added fear.

I think the worst thing has to be the sense of betrayal when faced with transphobia and transmisogyny in the LGB community. I get that no community is perfect, but the fact that I’ve had to shut down repugnant phobic remarks within my community has shocked me. The fact that there is so little recognition or acceptance of trans issues is so disheartening.

To my trans friends and anyone reading this who I may not know: I see you. I will do my best to be an ally to you in every way that I can. And if you are struggling, know that you are valued. That you are seen and cared for by the people around you. Please reach out if you are suffering. Please stay.

To my fellow cis people: Do your best today and every day to be open to what trans people are saying to you. Learn to be called out with dignity. Learn to open yourself to experiences that differ from your own. If you have anything to spare, please consider donating time or money to trans organizations and communities in your area.

Cis is not a slur.

Hello, my lovelies, come sit at my feet and let me impart unto you some wisdom.

Cis is not a slur. I say this as a cis person. And a gay person. And a woman. It’s not.

A slur is defined as the following:

slur

See right there where it says that it is likely to insult them or damage their reputation? That’s what a slur is. Now, being insulted is a pretty broad thing. I can be insulted by the way that someone looks at me. But the key to any good insult, when it is a verbal insult, which is when words like cis get used, is in what, exactly, you are being insulted for.

When someone spits the word cis at you in a conversation, what they are likely expressing is their ire at your privilege. And, while that might sting, it doesn’t do much more than sting. Cis, after all, is a term meant to define a group of people who conform with the norm regarding gender expression and physical appearance.

cis

But cis is not a slur in the same way that cracker is not a slur. Having it flung at you can get you upset. But, at it’s root, it’s just a mean word. It is devoid of any threat to your person or reputation. It is neutered.

Now the second part of the definition of slur as a noun is where the real action is. A slur is something that can damage a person’s reputation. In order to demonstrate how this can be done, I’m going to use the gay community as an example. In order to avoid shitty language, I’m going to make up a slur for gay people that doesn’t exist for the purposes of this example. Our new made up slur is “floof.”

When someone uses a word like floof as a slur against a gay person, the moment in which that word is used becomes pregnant with all kinds of possibilities and meanings for the person being targeted:

  1. They may be beaten up or sexually assaulted.
  2. They may be outed to someone who can make their lives difficult, as being gay is not a protected status under hate crime legislation everywhere (yet). They can be evicted from their homes or lose their jobs.
  3. In addition to imminent threats that are brought to bear upon the person having this word flung at them, the word carries with it centuries of oppression enacted upon they gay community. Demeaning words such as floof do not exist in a vacuum. They have been used intentionally for a long time and they carry a history of oppression.

When you hurl a slur at someone, you are effecting their reputation. When that slur is a word directed at someone’s sexuality, that can do serious damage to them internally, over time, as well as externally and immediately.

The fact of the matter is that you cannot make a slur out of a word that expresses a group’s privilege. Slurs are designed to punch down. When they are used by a member of a privileged group against a member of a less privileged group, they do serious damage. When they are directed from one member of an oppressed group to another, they are being owned by that group. Which is why I can call myself a dyke or why white people can’t use the “n” word. And when they are used by a member of an oppressed group against a privileged group, they are virtually devoid of any impact.

Something to think about when you hear the word cis being used in a derogatory fashion is where that comes from. It comes, more often than not, from a place of anger and pain. That anger is the anger of a community of people who are constantly overlooked and undervalued by people who pass unharassed through society. Who don’t have to deal with uncomfortable questions being asked by strangers about their genitals in public places. Who can go into bathrooms without being asked if they’re lost. Who don’t face very specific forms of gendered violence in their everyday lives.

So while it may suck to have someone fling a mean word at you from time to time, cis isn’t a slur. And honestly? Cis people should consider themselves lucky that it isn’t. Because having to endure the types of hadrship that non-cisgendered people have endured in order to make the words used against them a slur? That doesn’t sound like fun to me.

TL;DR Being cisgendered is a privilege. Acting like you are being persecuted by being identified as what you are is ridiculous.


Featured image taken from Shutterstock.

Trans Lives Matter: Caitlyn Jenner & Representation in Media

Ever since the announcement of their womanhood, there has been speculation as to when “Bruce” Jenner would change their pronoun and name to feminine ones. We all knew it was coming, but we had no way of predicting when.

Well! It finally happened. On June 1st, Caitlyn Jenner tweeted for the first time. And then Jenner set a world record for the fastest time to 1 million followers in just 4 hours.

Caitlyn’s announcement was accompanied by photos of her on the cover of Vanity Fair. Fittingly, the announcement coincided with the year anniversary of Laverne Cox’s featured position on the cover of TIME magazine alongside the headline “The Transgender Tipping Point.”

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More than anything else, I am thrilled to see Caitlyn living her life as her genuine, authentic self. There is nothing more freeing than living your life without shame. I am also delighted to see yet another glamorous woman kicking ass and taking names in her 60s. I cannot get enough of gorgeous older ladies being fabulous. Between Jessica Lange, Caitlyn, and shows like Grace & Frankie, I really hope this is getting to be a trend.

In the brief time since revealing herself in her new identity, Caitlyn has caught some serious criticism as a trans person for a couple of reasons. The first has been her position as a fairly prominent and wealthy person undergoing transition. She is in a very privileged spot in that she has access to stylists, personal trainers, and medical treatments that have undoubtedly made her movement into the sphere of womanhood comparatively easier than the journeys taken by many other trans people.

On the issue of her privilege I am not prepared to judge Caitlyn. Yet. And I say “yet” because I am waiting to see what she decides to do with her new position as a visible and wealthy trans woman. There is so much work that needs to be done in the trans community. In her open letter to Caitlyn Jenner, Kai Cheng Thom says:

I want to know how you feel about all of these things: the ties that bind and the differences between us. And most of all, I want to know what you plan to do about them. You’ve said that you want to hear the stories of other trans women and use your platform to “make things better.” I want so badly for this to mean more than just “raising awareness” through glamour photos and reality television – it’s true that trans people have been experiencing unprecedented visibility in recent years, but visibility alone will not save us. My community organizer’s mind goes wild just imagining all of the social programs I could run with a fraction of the money at your disposal.

With that said, if Caitlyn takes her considerable money and influence and applies it to working in communities and making a difference in trans lives, I will applaud her unreservedly. If, however, Caitlyn takes her new, privileged self out into the world of tawdry reality television and thinks that the mere presence of her in the public eye is going to stop the considerable violence and hardship that trans women (and particularly trans women of color) face every day? That will be a different story altogether. And I admit to being unsure as to which way she will go.

Aside from being privileged in the means by which she has transitioned, Jenner has also been criticized for her connection to the dreaded Kardashians and their publicity stunt mentality. Let me say two things on that score. First of all, you have to be seriously out of touch with reality if you even thought for a second that Caitlyn’s transition was some kind of publicity stunt. And secondly, I think that her use of the letter “C” in a name that could easily be spelled with a “K” was rather telling, don’t you?

It is true that what is surrounding Jenner at this point could not be called anything less than a media circus. But I don’t think that is a bad thing at all. I think that her transition as a person living a prominent and public life was going to generate a lot of buzz to begin with. And I think that having someone so prominently transition is going to make a difference in the lives of trans youth, because representation matters.

On that note I want to get a little personal. I lived a large portion of my life confused and uncomfortable with who I was as a person. I thought I was straight… Or maybe bisexual? I had no one in my life upon whose example I could model myself as a gay woman. I cannot begin to express how valuable it would have been for me to see alternative sexualities and genders represented in the media. Caitlyn would have been a huge deal to me. Just seeing that there were other ways to live your life might have meant that I found my way to myself far earlier and spared myself a lot of pain.

More than just allowing young people to see that there are other ways to live than as cisgendered heterosexuals, I believe the prominent representation of LGBTQ people can save lives. Suicide rates among LGBTQ youth are notably higher than those of the general population. According to The Trevor Project, “nearly half of young transgender people have seriously thought about taking their lives, and one quarter report having made a suicide attempt.” Having people like Jenner out there in the world for trans youth to look up to means a lot. And I think that, as the years roll on and we as a community gain more and more trans role models, The Trevor Project and groups like them will have better and better news for us.

Despite the jury being out on whether Caitlyn will utilize her privileged position as a trans person in a positive way, having her transition in the public eye is, as Rachel Maddow put it, “absolutely history in the finest, living sense.” I think considering Caitlyn’s journey as “living history” is an important distinction. Because this is not the end of the story of trans rights. This isn’t the beginning, either, it is just a very important moment. A chapter that will stand out when we look back at it. But there is still so much work to be done.