Z okazji piątego już Dnia Widzialności Fundacja Trans-Fuzja publikuje oświadczenie, które ma nam przypomnieć przede wszystkim, jak ważna jest zarówno kwestia bycia widzialnym, jak i możliwość pozostania w tajemnicy i prawo do prywatności i zachowania swojego trans statusu dla siebie. Szerzej pisałem już kiedyś o tym w tekście Szafa szafie nierówna, a ponieważ za oświadczeniem stoimy ja i Edyta Baker nie mam w zasadzie więcej do dodania.
Pamiętajmy jednak, że choć coming out bywa ważny, nie każdy powinien być do niego zmuszany.
Warto przy okazji zwrócić uwagę na obecną pracę Parlamentu Europejskiego nad prawem zaostrzającym przepisy dotyczące prywatności. W ramach swoich działań PE chce objąć ochroną również orientację seksualną i tożsamość płciową – bardzo, ale to bardzo dobra wiadomość. Szczególnie dla osób przechodzących proces korekty płci metrykalnej w Polsce, gdzie wciąż mamy do czynienia z nanoszeniem wzmianek w aktach urodzenia, zamiast wystawianiem nowych dokumentów.
Znów podróże, transport, tym razem jednak udaje się znaleźć kilka spokojnych minut, aby dokończyć zadania związane zarówno z działalnością Trans-Fuzji, Transgender Europe, jak i wiecznie piszącego się doktoratu. W kwietniu wybieram się do Katowic na konferencję Transgender Transdyscyplinarnie z (jak sądzę) ciekawym referatem, który jest właśnie w trakcie (się) pisania. Tematu nie zdradzę, poczekajmy na oficjalny program.
Dzień w podróży. Dwie i pół godziny w pociągu w celu przeprowadzenia 50-minutowego wywiadu i kolejne dwie i pół godziny z powrotem. Wraz z czasem spędzonym na dworcu i przygotowaniach do rozmowy daje to 7 godzin poza domem, co de facto oznacza pracującą sobotę.
Niedziela, 16 marca
Dzień (prawie) wolny. Jedyne, co robię, to sprawdzam, czy przypadkiem nie pojawiają się jakieś nowe wiadomości mailowe, na które muszę odpowiedzieć teraz, zaraz. Pracuję też nad krótkim tekstem, nad którym nie za bardzo mam kiedy przysiąść.
Poniedziałek, 17 marca
Zwykła praca biurowa spędzona głównie na przygotowaniach do zbliżającego się weekendowego spotkania Komitetu Sterującego Transgender Europe. Już teraz wiem, że przyszły tydzień spędzę głównie na pisaniu, skoro musimy przygotować Walne Zgromadzenie organizacji.
Wtorek, 18 marca
Niespodziewane spotkanie online, zapowiedziane na 10 minut okazało się niemal dwugodzinnym wywiadem, przez który omal nie spóźniłem się na lekcję języka migowego. Po lekcji spędzam jeszcze kilka godzin wieczorem na ukończeniem zadań odłożonych z powodu rozmowy.
Środa, 19 marca
Kolejny dzień biurowy – odpowiadanie na maile, rozwiązywanie drobnych problemów, administracja, opracowywanie listy rzeczy zadań do zrobienia w przyszłym tygodniu. Innymi słowy dzień jak co dzień. Tylko tydzień odrobinę inny, ponieważ nie muszę pojawiać się w biurze.
Czwartek, 20 marca
I po raz kolejny administracja. Przypominanie osobom z Komitetu, aby nie zapomniały o powierzonych im zadaniach, pakowanie się, a o 16:00 pociąg do Budapesztu na trzydniowe spotkanie. Chyba nigdy nie zmęczę się brakiem weekendów.
Piątek, 21 marca
Całodniowe spotkanie Rady Nadzorczej TGEU od 9:00 do 17:00. Przygotowywanie dwudniowego spotkania Komitetu, ostateczne decyzje przed przygotowaniem Walnego Zgromadzenia, kwestie prawne, praktyczne, słowem – to, co (jak dla mnie) najlepsze.
Powiedzmy sobie szczerze – pod względem długości nie jest to największa Pięciodniówka, ale to tylko dobitniej pokazuje, jak nudna bywa aktywistyczna praca. Może pryszły tydzień będzie bardziej interesujący. Znów szykuje się praca weekendowa. ;-)
That awkward moment when you almost came out as lesbian, then thought you were actually a straight man, had everyone label you as a gay man a few years later and now you’re just there trying to be a bi*/pan* genderqueer trans* person.
Pięciodniówka – cz. 11, 12, 13 i 14 (miesięczniówka)
Ze względu na to, że z powodu nadmiaru pracy Pięciodniówka zniknęła na miesiąc, zamiast zanudzać osoby czytające spisem wszystkich dni, postanowiłem podzielić relację na tygodnie i spisać najważniejsze sprawy, które miały miejsce. Jeśli chodzi o wydarzenia w ciągu ostatniego miesiąca, ograniczę się tylko do wzmianki o tekście zbierającym moje doświadczenia bycia osobą grubą – Transitions of Fatness, nowym blogu – Everyday Cissexismoraz nowej przestrzeni na reblogowanie – dynarski.biz (sam się już trochę gubię w tych domenach, ale skoro są, to dlaczego ich nie używać).
Tydzień pierwszy (15 – 21 lutego)
Czas spędzony w Polsce. W sobotę przyleciałem do Warszawy o 9 rano, o 11 zaś byłem już na spotkaniu grupy fokusowej w związku z projektem na temat funkcjonowania organizacji pozarządowych. Niedziela spędzona na wypoczynku i przygotowaniu się do kolejnej podróży. W poniedziałek jednodniowy wyjazd do Poznania w celu przeprowadzenia wywiadu do doktoratu. Od wtorku do środy drugie i końcowe spotkanie w OBWE w ramach tworzenia rekomendacji w sprawie bezpieczeństwa obrońców praw człowieka. Kolejny wywiad do doktoratu zamyka środowy wieczór, a następny wywiad rozpoczyna czwartkowy poranek. Czwartek to cały dzień w biurze z dwoma spotkaniami na skypie (w sumie prawie 3 godziny). Piątek to spotkanie ws. planowanego badania ilościowego (mam wielką nadzieję, że wiele się nauczę), ostatni już wywiad do doktoratu w Warszawie i wieczorem rozpoczęcie weekendowego spotkania Zarządu Trans-Fuzji.
Tydzień drugi (22 – 28 lutego)
Sobota to całodzienne spotkanie Zarządu. Niedzielę spędzam na połowicznym relaksie, a około 17 wylatuję z Warszawy do Wiednia. Od poniedziałku do piątku zwykła praca biurowa przeplatana spotkaniami na skajpie i jednym telefonicznym wywiadzie do doktoratu, tym razem przeprowadzonym po słowacku.
Tydzień trzeci (1 – 7 marca)
I znów weekend w połowie nieobecny. W sobotę jednodniowa podróż do Zvolena na nowo powstałą tam grupę wsparcia dla osób transpłciowych i w celu przeprowadzenia wywiadu do pracy doktorskiej (najwyraźniej ostatnie 3 tygodnie przeszły pod znakiem pracy akademickiej – już się cieszę na przepisywanie). Niedziela spędzona na szczęście głównie na odpoczynku i obejrzeniu drugiej części Nimfomanki. I znów to samo, co z Antychrystem. Film do połowy świetny i naprawdę ciekawy. Potem było już zwyczajnie nudnawo, sztampowo i nie do końca rozumiałem motywację postaci i mam wrażenie, że podobnie reagowała reszta osób oglądających.
Od poniedziałku do środy znów praca biurowa. W czwartek podróż do Krakowa w celu wzięcia udziału w konferencji studenckiej (bardzo przyjemny i interesujący panel dyskusyjny pt. Modyfikacje ciała, podczas którego zastanawialiśmy się nad różnymi formami ingerencji w ciało, w tym instytucjonalnych ingerencji) i spotkania się z nowymi i starymi znajomymi (w tym również spotkania związane z pracą). Zaplanowałem w tym czasie również wywiad do doktoratu, ale osoba, z którą wywiad miał się odbyć, niestety nie pojawiła się na spotkaniu.
Tydzień czwarty (8 – 14 marca)
W sobotę podróż do Warszawy, w niedzielę zaś udział w Manifie i fantastycznie spędzone kilka godzin w towarzystwie osób z Miłość Nie Wyklucza.
Od poniedziałku do wtorku znów zwykła praca biurowa. Wtorkowy wieczór upłynął nam dodatkowo na spotkaniu z Jerzym Ferenzem z Ministerstwa Sprawiedliwości (relacja dostępna na stronie Fundacji Trans-Fuzja), a w środę rano czekała na mnie kolejna podróż, tym razem pociąg do Bratysławy. Czwartek i piątek spędzone znów na pracy biurowej i spotkaniach na skajpie (do 10:00 rano do 21:00) oraz przygotowania do kolejnej podróży weekendowej związanej z doktoratem i późniejszym spotkaniem Komitetu Sterującego TGEU w Budapeszcie. Jak dobrze, że od 24 marca do 15 kwietnia nie zamierzam nigdzie wyjeżdżać. Przynajmniej odpocznę.
Liczę na to, że kolejna Pięciodniówka pojawi się wtedy, kiedy powinna, zamiast po kolejnym miesiącu. A jeśli wydaje się to Wam dziwne, że tyle pamiętam z ostatniego miesiąca – wszystko dzięki odpowiednim notatkom w kalendarzu.
Before I begin with this quite the autobiographic text, let me post some acknowledgements.
I owe A LOT to fat positive blogs, communities and everyone who is willing to share their experiences with being fat. Whether it’s just a set of photos showing how fabulous you can be or a story exposing the unfairness of Western culture and its obsession with dieting, living up to size standards or everyday fat-shaming, whatever you have shared, I would like to let you know that it actually makes a difference and helps people. It surely helped me. Without your efforts, I wouldn’t have made the effort to start enjoying the way I am. It is amazing how online communities build our real life experiences with our bodies.
Some interesting references I would like to direct you to (and invite you to share your own as well!) that were extremely helpful in shaping the final version:
I tried to expand on these ideas and explore the trans masculine spectrum of fatness, rather than repeat what has already been said. However, as a lot of our stories have much in common, therefore repetitions are to be expected. That said, I would also like to underline that I have yet to study fatness as an issue from a social perspective and this text is to be treated as personal.
Stories of fatness usually start from the very beginning, of our first memories of being labeled or identified as fat, which usually comes with verbal abuse, shaming and constant reminders of our different status. Whether it was someone who decided to point our characteristic to a parent, guardian or a teacher or to explicitly address us about our bodies – it usually never goes beyond a power-hungry concern combined with a false compassion for others. In my mind this always echoes as: I am telling you that you are this and that, because I know deep inside my heart you can be someone different who will surely live up to my standards and will one day be welcome to my world. Whatever your message might be, this is not how you get through to me. Concern doesn’t help. Hearing out, however, can do wonders.
My story or rather the story of deciding to write this text starts a bit later than my childhood or teenage years. It starts with a Google search and two keywords (without quotation marks) being fat and being fat and transgender. To be honest, I don’t know what I was looking for with the first one. Maybe some guidelines or a discussion on everyday survival and general successful experiences. The second was obvious – what are people’s experiences as fat transgender people. Where do we get our empowerment from?
It needs to be said that I was not seeking real answers at this point (I believe most of us are quite aware that it takes more concrete phrases to get what we are looking for on the web), but rather checking what would happened if I actually decided to ask the web. And these would be the first two things I would put into the search field when feeling depressed, desperate and driven to the self-hating part of living as a fat person. Because, let’s be honest, we tend to deal with self-hate a lot.
Societal and personal bodily obsession(s)
First page of answers to my being fat query turned out to be a mixture of inspirational porn (I got tired of being fat and I did something <insert whatever thing stereotypically aligned as an opposite of being fat>), a Wikipedia page on overweight, a few pages on how bad it is to be fat (it sucks, I hate it and so on), one extremely offensive title (Why Not Throw People In Jail For Being Fat? – don’t mean to advertise, but it was published on the Business Insider’s webpage and I still can’t get over it), one article concerning children and health, a tumblr page for the being fat tag and (almost at the very end) a Huffington Post article Striving for Enough: Being Fat in a Thin World. With answers like these and a lack of will to look further, I don’t think it would be possible for me to not end up with a poor judgment of myself. Some of the related searches, however, include quotes that might help me realize I was not the only one looking for acceptance: i love being fat (!), how to stop being fat, benefits of being fat (!), tired of being fat, i’m tired of being fat, fear of being fat, being fat and dating (!).
What about the transgender part of the search? This one was a surprise in many ways and the first two references mentioned earlier are, actually, the first two results of that query. Another great source that was also included on that page was the Transgender People’s of Size Journal and the Fat Studies Reader. Other than that a few links on trans fats (not much to do with trans people, really), one webpage dedicated to trans women and dieting (lose muscle, gain fat – yes, this way) and two pages concerning one of the most popular (and extremely valid to a lot of people) questions related to medical transition – is loosing weight essential for some surgeries and hormones? Can a medical professional advise someone to loose weight before prescribing hormones?
These (and many other) trans-specific questions confirm the obsession our societies have with bodies, their shapes and sizes. Whether it is about covering something, showing it off or having better surgical results, we cannot escape the fact that we have to work with something usually referred to as an average type of body, usually being not the actual average, but rather an oversimplified idea of how an average type should look like.
From a trans masculine perspective this is especially true when one considers chest and genital reconstruction, where you will almost always be advised to loose as much weight as possible for better results. And this would not be an issue if hints like these were shared after having thoroughly studied a persons’ body image and reconstructive needs, but – unfortunately – these instructions are very often based on general assumptions rather than an individual approach.
I, too, became a victim of these assumptions at a young age, when the very thought of transitioning was just blooming inside my already tired head. At the age of 16, having had already spent days and nights online and offline reading on transsexuality and the possibilities of transitioning, by my mother’s request I went to see a psychologist in my home town. He had decent reviews as a practitioner (although the profession of a psychologist back then was a bit mystical to many) and was said to have some knowledge on the matter. Little did I know, my body and the way it presented itself was the first issue I had to defend facing this sadistic gatekeeper.
I remember entering his office with hope. I honestly anticipated a heart-to-heart talk, finally being able to come out to someone who was not as afraid of it as my mother (she was always supportive, but was also lost in the beginning of my process, which – today – I completely understand). Although the room itself was dark and creepy (oddly enough, located in a basement) I found myself calm and relaxed. When asked what it was my mother brought me with, I explained with all the words I had at that time: I wish I was a boy. I feel I am a boy. I want to do a sex change.
He looked at me with compassion, smiled in a friendly way and leaned towards me. I backed out a bit, conscious and protective of my personal space. There was a desk separating us, but I felt as if it disappeared at that very moment.
“Don’t you think you’re having these thoughts because of your weight?” his body language did not change, I could see he was still concerned. “That you think you want to be a boy, because you are fat? Maybe you hide under these baggy boyish clothes, because you are afraid of embracing your femininity. Maybe you’re just a fat lesbian”.
I can still feel these words stab me in the heart every single time I recall this scene. After a few more minutes of my arguments against his theory, when I tried my best to put into words all my feelings of gender at that point, to explain to him how I framed my identity, how I couldn’t be a lesbian, because I liked both boys and girls, how I really needed to transition in order to stay sane and to not be someone I was never going to be anyway, I asked – almost in tears – “Are you going to help me?”.
“No.” he had no trouble answering and a smirk of supposed victory appeared on his face. “There’s nothing to help you with. You should loose some weight”.
I stormed out of his office and never came back, although I sometimes wonder how many trans men had to go through the same evaluation, where your identity was immediately dismissed because of your body. As if only the skinny boyish types got to transition. Because if you can’t pass pre-anything, you can’t pass at all.
I wish I had the strength I have today to be able to laugh right in his face. To just shout at him for being sexist, transphobic, uneducated, pseudo-psychologist from a shitty little town in the middle of nowhere. I couldn’t do it back then. My trans boy pride took over instead. I knew I would never come to see him again, but he helped me realized what other specialists might think or desire of me.
Challenge accepted confirmed my young, ambitious brain. They want to see an average dude, they will get an average dude.
The waiting room
This was the second time in my life I decided to loose weight because someone told me too, the first time being when I turned 13 and puberty hit both hard my self esteem and my parents’ concern about my health. We drove to a different city to see a specialist in child and teenage obesity and I hated every single minute of being there. The waiting room was filled with kids like me and their guardians. I particularly remember one boy who was constantly watching the floor in shame while his grandparent was describing all the reasons which led them to this decision (although it was clear that nobody asked the boy for consent, he was just there, taking it – taking it like a man) and how amazing the progress has been. The boy had already lost more than 10 kilos and was leaning to the end, with only 5 or 6 more to go. Amazing progress! – all the adults agreed. And we just sat there, trying our hardest to make ourselves smaller and invisible. But we weren’t. We were two obese, fat children handled by their parents and guardians.
I hated the diet and the whole process. Medical evaluation, pills, constant monitoring and the anticipation for results. But I liked the actual results. Which, ultimately, fed with my controlling and obsessive personality and became one of the biggest issues of my entire life. I learned I could control my body and its calorie/food intake and hence became even more and more depressed when I lost that control. Whenever I gained weight, I lost self-respect.
Coming out as fat
The anticipated and quite radical results of the diet (more than 30 kilos lost in under 8 months) left me in a good mood. I felt lighter, noticed some features of my body which were previously quite hard to spot and felt generally better about myself. Which is where the real problems started – I began to notice how important my body was to my social validation.
At that time, pre-high school and pre-trans coming out, I was a very good student, an active one, too. I took part in various interest clubs, was interested in pretty much everything, had skills in math, biology, chemistry, science in general and humanities. I was quite the nerd, you might say. But it wasn’t after I lost weight that I became a person with a full embodiment. Teachers at school started looking at me from a different perspective. I was taken more seriously, my voice mattered in class and some teachers even went to the point of making me stand up during class telling me how good I finally looked. I thanked them, having no other point of reference, but boiled inside, realizing that for them I started existing. Although I was a person and a human being before, at that time, thanks to the diet, I gained that status for others. I became one of them. Normal. Average.
When this sank in, I faced the truth. It was a masquerade. I could spend my whole life dieting and being thin/skinny however I wanted, but I could never escape the fact that it would always be playing someone’s game. I was fat. Whatever my weight might have been, however I starve myself or exercise until I throw up, I will always be coming back to these teenage memories, remembering how a supposed issue of health became an issue of social acceptance.
And this was how I understood what being fat means. And I did, in fact, come out. I was finally able to tell myself that my experiences, my predispositions and my general life style choice is about being fat. And this is where another question came in – what does “being fat” actually mean?
How fat is fat?
Between my 19th and 21st birthday I lost another 30 kilos. All linked to my thoughts about transitioning. I started exercising, stopped eating and focused all my energy on my studies. I could forget about the constantly misgendering reality, my own fears of life to come and everything else that pushed me into the life of a dieting martyr. Seeing muscles form under my skin thanks to testosterone, cycling and the regime I put myself into did not – as I previously anticipated – make me be fond of myself or love my body. Trying to accept my bodily reality, I pushed away the thoughts of a gaining weight again, playing someone who has never had issue with weight or obesity. Which was not easy nor real – even in my thinnest years I was still overweight. What to me was playingthe thin game to others was being an average type. My expectations certainly did not met the reality of others.
I fell in love during this period and then again two years after. The second time the relationship was – for the first time – healthy for my body issues. I was not judged based on my built, not forced into anything, but able to be as I have always been. Sometimes larger, sometimes smaller. I gained confidence, learned to be myself and enjoy what I like. My now former partner liked bears and I thought – why not. Maybe I could become a part of this community? But somehow I could not. Although I chose the identity of a cub, quite a few times it was dismissed because, apparently, I was not fat enough. And it made me wonder. Can one be not fat enough? Can a person be seen as too fat? How much of this measurement depend on our own ideas of what is desirable and what is not? I know my BMI and I know what it means in itself (whatever that scale represents in the extremely contextual conditions it has been created and used). But this does not change the fact that we perceive weight through a complex perspective, including gender stereotypes.
Nevertheless, it still frightens me that I actually had to find someone to show me that my body was, in fact, beautiful. I wish I could have learned it on my own. I know I should have.
Gaining my self-respect as a fat person meant, unfortunately, that I needed to learn how to challenge and call-out others. It took some time, but I was able to achieve that state of mind thanks to a lot of fat-positive media I was digging into. I practiced everyday in front of the mirror – challenging hypothetical situations and working on my supposed reactions. It did not work perfectly and there were times I could not win an argument (mostly because there was non, only labels and statements thrown at me), but it led to both improving my own self-esteem and realizing that one of the most amazing things a fat person can do to people having problems with it is to smile and say: “Do you feel better about yourself now?”. To some, it often sounds very offensive. As if an innocent question triggered something deeper, something unspoken.
People like to control other’s lives and it shows clearly when we take a look at obesity, overweight and the general idea of being fat. In my own community I have experienced times when comments about my body were shared to make the people responsible for them feel better about themselves. I will share them for the sole purpose of recognizing that being surrounded by trans* people does not mean that you and your body are free of being judged. These are my two personal favorites:
“You don’t look like you’re vegan!” Because all vegans look the same and they also share a similar BMI. You can get fat on a vegan diet, I can assure you.
“Yeah, your chest would look a lot better if you weren’t fat.” I think I smiled with pity at the person who shared this particular comment. Mostly because I received it after showing my chest reconstruction results per request. Because nothing’s better than a fellow trans man telling you how good he feels about himself in comparison. With friends like these, who needs enemies?
At this point in my life, I could not care less. The problem here, however, is that not everyone has the courage to say no to others’ intrusion in their lives and learn to protect themselves from verbal abuse and hence we tend to end up in a spiral of despair, trying to balance between who we actually are and what others expect from us.
Accepting the yoyo – accepting oneself
Being able to challenge prejudice was one thing, but what helped most was coming to terms with the fact how my body works and how I can accommodate to it. I learned to accept that I balance between ups and downs and that as much as I like eating, I also like these brief moments of starvation. I can label it as an eating disorder – and I will, but the fact is – I have grown to accept it and am all the time working on reducing its effects on my everyday life. Because part of health is being ok with one’s choices and lifestyle. Even if it does not seem ok to a number of people.
Accepting oneself and one’s embodiment is also a key to happiness and enjoyment, an invitation to learn something about yourself every single day. And happiness is not a constant-positive state of mind or mindless acceptance of the reality around you. It is, in my view, that nice thought somewhere in the back of your head that puts you to sleep everyday – This was tough. But I made it. I survived and I know I can survive.
I am aware, however, that I speak from a privileged position of being surrounded by a reality that allows me to do this every single day. Coming from a fat perspective, I also accept the fact that there is no single remedy to accept oneself or to be comfortable in one’s skin. But I try to get there. And even if I don’t get there – who cares. It’s not a contest – it’s a process. And its mine to execute.
P.S. I manage my fat-struggles with selfies. They remind me that I can be good looking, regardless of my size.
(and those who might be interested in the long talk about what makes a community)
I have to say, being a trans activist here in Central Eastern Europe is not an easy task (although I am perfectly aware it’s not easy anywhere, I just want you to know where my perspective comes from). Although funding opportunities may be a bit easier, especially giving the fact how our region has always been portrayed, there is one particular matter that bothers me and has been bothering me for a long time.
It concerns activism, politics and fighting for our issues in various spaces, areas, you name it. And the issue is - do we actually need the T in LGBT?
(And please forgive me, but I will not speak on behalf of the I, my experiences do not make me a legitimate speaker for this very issue. Although I work for one and cooperate with another TIQ organization, this post concerns my personal feelings and only the experiences I can relate to).
As a pansexual (bi* politically, because try to use the word pansexual during a political event, am I right?) trans person, I experience these brief moments in life when the (cis)LGB agenda aligns with mine. I do get energetic when we talk about equal marriage and access to appropriate measures to tackle hate crime and discrimination and I know that it’s not simply “gay marriage” nor is it actually “equal marriage” since it still does not tackle the quite obsolete issue of prohibited polyamory. I cannot, however, get on board when I hear people claiming “equal marriage is the biggest struggle of our century”. Because you know it’s not. You know that some people cannot even afford the “privilege” of LIFE, the “privilege” of safety.
I am perfectly aware that no one is safe in a world where heteronormativity and cissexism reign supreme. But, honestly, even if the L, G, B and T agenda intertwines on a number of occasions, I am really tired of organizations labeling themselves as LGBT and then focusing on the “T” by doing one workshop per year on one single matter that is a trans-specific issue, instead of working on including the T agenda in their already established activities. If you work on preventing hate crime and hate speech or advocating for a new law – be aware that it could also be a trans* issue and take the extra mile to teach yourself on how to include others in your activities.
Ask, research, find trans communities to ask them, try to understand what we are all about. But never, never ever try to do anything on someone else’s behalf. It’s not only shameless and ignorant, it is plain wrong.
And here’s where my biggest problem arises. When I think about some of our struggles – legal gender recognition, being discriminated, surviving violence, hate speech and hate crime, parental issues – I see that we are not being understood, we are often being put into “T drawers” and not even asked about our involvement in these subjects. “This doesn’t concern you, it’s not a trans issue!” (Yes, HRC, we still remember). And much of it comes from the fact that a number of LGBT activists have absolutely no idea what makes an issue a “T issue”.
We tend to say “LGBT” but very often the “T” magically disappears when it is too complicated for a single issue. I think my favorite example was a conversation I had with one activist from our region and the fact that one of their organizations was at that time discussing the topic of surogacy (this is the wording used during that very conversation) and whether the organization would have a supportive stand on it.
So I immediately asked: ‘What were you discussing in this particular topic?’
And the answer: 'You know, when two gay men pay another woman to carry their child and then she resigns as a mother, leaving them to take care of the baby’ (Honestly, I didn’t even think about tackling that “GAY” there)
Follow-up question: 'Did you discuss this from a point of view of a cis man and a trans man having their own genetical baby, but carried by someone else so that it is their DNA is someone else’s body?’
The confused face was all I needed to know about the LGBT aspect of that discussion.
There’s no reason to get upset, though. Trans lives, trans bodies and trans issues ARE complicated. But mostly to those who have no experiences with them, especially not the experience of being trans, of living the horror of going beyond what is considered stable and unchangeable. We might make it seem easy, but for many, it is the greatest struggle of their lives.
With that said, do we always need the T in LGBT? Should T issues pop up when a LGB matter can be connected to a T issue and in other cases we can just go on with our agenda? Or maybe it is the cisgender activists who need to learn that it is actually perfectly ok to say “we work for cisLGB stuff, we have no expertise in trans* issues”? Maybe it’s just an matter of finally teaching cisgender people about their cisgender status?
I’m struggling with this question and am very curious what others have to say.