Subject: A post-transgender life
Date: Mon 18 Jan 1999 - 15:38:54 GMT
Michaelangelo Signorile has a fascinating column in the current Advocate,
titled "Ex-gay. Too gay. Postgay. What happened to gay?" In this essay, he
looks back at 1998 and the fragmentation in the gay community that came from
having gay people at so many stages in their life, from the obsessive coming
out of Ellen to the notion that one could be "too gay" to the selling of the
Signorile ends by using the Matthew Shepard murder as an iconic event to show
that all gays are in the same boat, faced with imminent homicide, a state that
holds the gay community in a state of fear of what can happen to someone 'just
for being gay.' I don't believe that Shepard was killed just for being gay,
but the point Signorile makes, that even if we have transcended an identity in
our own vision, that identity can be projected on us by people who choose to
see us on that is interesting. It's like he sees the gay community not as the
"self-identified as gay" community, but the "seen as gay" community, the same
point Barney Frank makes in his reasoning as to why TG people will benefit
from a non-TG inclusive ENDA.
I'll be honest. I am beginning to crave a post-transgender life. The
challenge of being a professional tranny is overwhelming, specifically because
of the projections of what other people see transgender as. For me, the
challenges in my life are not coming to grips with my transgender nature, but
rather finding a way to express all of who I am in a world that stigmatizes
transgender in any form. I am getting sick of discussions about how many
genders can dance on the head of a pin, a topic I have much more tolerance and
capacity for than the average bear.
This is, of course, the call of the ex-transsexual and the closeted
crossdresser. For them, "need to know" is paramount, and out is limited.
It's a great personal platform but a bad political platform, because it
doesn't change the way we are seen.
There has been an interesting discussion on alt.support.srs about the
complaints of one transsexual in the Boston area and the perceptions others
hold about her. They believe that she could be more normative and therefore
more accepted if she tried harder -- weight, clothes, presentation, etc. --
and she believes she has done all she can. They believe she can life herself
by her bootstraps and she believes she is a victim who is trapped by her
nature and the social pressure against that.
I had been thinking of creating a contest, where people would write essays on
"The Most Obnoxious Tranny I Have Ever Known." Everyone has known one or two,
and fought with them. I'm sure, in many cases, we would have people writing
essays about each other, two trannies locked in mortal combat, sure that the
other one is the problem -- in fact, writing an essay would be a good
indicator that the author might be on the list. Ralph Waldo Emerson:
"People seem not to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession
What makes transgendered people obnoxious? It would be interesting to analyze
the entries and see the commonalties. It's my suspicion that the shared
thread would be simple: People who see themselves as victims and who want to
change the world rather than change themselves are seen as obnoxious. It's
the people who challenge us who we get angry with, and the people who
challenge us and who refuse to challenge themselves can really infuriate us.
One of the hardest things is that we get no credit for the exceptional things
we do to appear normative. No points for what we don't say or what we don't
do, no points for the challenges we go though. This is very hard for
marginalized people, who know the costs of pounding themselves into
normativity, only to be told that they are still not normative enough. It's
painful and it can enrage us.
Rage and anger, though, are no good way to connect with other people.
Signorile says that we get uncomfortable with people who are 'too gay' for the
same reason his family got uncomfortable with people who were 'too Italian,'
just over on the boat and not well assimilated. We know that assimilation
give us power by giving us standing, and that being "too" anything leaves us
I have immersed myself in the stories of transgender people. I obsessively
search for new and interesting narratives about what it means to be TG, how it
feels and how various choices play out for us. These narratives, however, are
very rare -- it's much more likely that what gets put out is some shallow,
canned ideas, parroting whatever origin tale gives people comfort. We tend
not to write brilliantly about our discomfort, rather we rationalize and
justify our choices. I'm sick of hearing the parrot voices of trannies, which
is why I want to move past that identity.
Yet, I know that the expectations of others make it hard to move past that
identity. From teenagers who see me as a she-male sex toy to feminists who
demand that sex differences be aggrandized, it's hard to move beyond. We end
up having to pick a stereotype and work it: TS, Drag, CD, whatever. Once we
end up there, we can expand the boundaries a bit -- gain standing and then
The most obnoxious trannies are the trannies who can't get over their own TG.
Winston Churchill "A fanatic is one who can't change is mind and won't change
the subject." Yet, we live in a culture that seems to have trouble getting
over our TG. We can't get standing until we have a post transgender life, yet
having a post transgender life means losing ourselves in normativity.
What a choice.
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