— Kai Green, Navigating Masculinity As A Black Transman: “I Will Never Straighten Out My Wrist” (April 5, 2013)
i had this conversation with my friend deegan after i told him how much i loved southern comfort. every film with a trans character follows one of two plotlines: how they died too young/were murdered because they were trans or the trans person is a psychotic murderer driven mad by their desire to be the “opposite” gender. it’s so fucking shitty. even when we’re telling the stories of real people we feel the need to impose these scripts on them. where’s the multiplicity of stories? or representations?
What I am saying here is this: don’t just open your eyes. It’s not enough.
Seeing my pencil skirt isn’t enough to tell you I’m femme. Seeing me with a butch isn’t enough to tell you I’m femme. These signifiers can be hints–take them as an invitation to your senses, all of them. Especially the senses that are deeper than the usual five, your sense of space, of proximity, of vibes, if you will. Noting the aesthetics of clothing or makeup or hair is not enough, because aesthetics are not enough to convey something as complex as one’s gender/identity. When we rely on aesthetics, we get lazy and reductive. When we are lazy, we make people invisible by refusing to recognize them, as what they are and as part of our communities–for identities are intelligible only in communities. When we are lazy, we take trans femmes for drag queens and straight white hipsters for femmes. In our laziness we reduce the entirety of femme to the singularity of an aesthetic: one type of body (with tits), one way of dressing, one way of partnering and fucking. Question your desire. Do more. See more."
disclaimer: i must admit, i try to avoid arguments that begin with “why are talking about THIS when THIS is happening?!” but it has been on my mind for far too long and i can’t shake this. no, i’m not the best person to write about this, but i can’t find anyone else who has expressed similar concerns about it so i’m going to put it out there.
important note: this is not intented to criticize trans women, or the choices of one trans women over another; it is a criticism of which stories about trans women get told, and why. it is a criticism of silence. it arguing for a space in newspapers, on televisions, on the radio, and online for productive discussions about how dismantle institutional forms of transphobia, racism, and intersecting systems of oppression.
jenna talackova’s story, in short:
the Miss Universe Organization will allow Jenna Talackova, a transgender woman, to compete in the Miss Universe Canada pageant.
“provided she meets the legal gender recognition requirements of Canada, and the standards established by other international competitions.”
cece mcdonald’s story, in short:
Chrishaun “CeCe” McDonald is a young African American transgender woman who is charged with two counts of “second degree murder” after an incident that began when she was violently assaulted because of her gender and race.
unfortunately, if you know anything about oppression you wouldn’t be surprised to know which story is front-page news, and which one isn’t being talked about at all. talking about what happened to cece means confronting instituional racism and transphobia.
when you google “cece mcdonald,” you get 3 680 results.
when you google “jenna talackova,” you get 6 290 000 results.
asking to be allowed to participate in a beauty pageant, and being granted permission even though you were forcibly assigned male at birth, is perceived as revolutionary, forward-thinking, wonderful. jenna gets invited to talk shows, she gets her photo and name published thousands of times. she fought for the right to live her life the way she chooses to.
but what about cece? asking people to question and challenge the legal system that puts an african-american trans woman behind bars, charges her with murder, for defending herself against racist & transphobic slurs and physical attacks? no. that’s asking too much. that’s too complicated. “we don’t know the whole story,” they say.
do we not want to hear or challenge the stories that are too “complicated?” people don’t see one simple solution in the case of cece macdonald. it’s not a happy subheadline with an accompanying glamour shot. it’s not a matter of one rich white guy changing a rule after being pestered by a few LGBT organizations and having the financial means of filing a law suit.
in this case, you can’t even use the argument of the big bad mainstream media turning a blind eye. look at gay media outlets, too, and you’ll find radio silence. the advocate, “the world’s leading source for LGBT news and entertainment,” has three full-length articles about jenna tacklova. and when you search for cece? nothing. most of where i’ve found this information has been through tumblr and twitter.
SIGN THE PETITION TO HAVE THE CHARGES AGAINST CECE DROPPED.
TELL CECE’S STORY, because not enough people know her name or her story.
- Support CeCe McDonald
- This is what happened to CeCe by Redlark at Feministe (February 9th, 2012)
- Undoing Racism, Undoing transphobia: Demand justice for CeCe by Savannah Lefty Girl (February 12, 2012)
- Sign the petition here
- The View Needs To Widen Their Scope on Jenna Talackova: Discussing Transphobia While Being Transphobic by Jorge Antonio Vallejos at Black Coffee Poet (April 9th, 2012)
- No Feminism without Trans Feminism by Laurie Penny (November 2009)