As a trans person, trans issues are where I personally find most traction – though I’m also queer, and lesbian. For me personally, however, it’s being trans that has the greatest bearing on how I’m treated sometimes, because for those who see it and are inclined to be awkward, this wholly inconsequential fact of my existence overrides all others and they make it an issue. Once upon a time it would embarrass me – these days, not so much so. While this article is primarily trans related, it could equally find some traction with other people who identify with the LGBTQIA grouping.
After reading what turned out to be quite possibly the best ‘Trans 101’ I have ever read, I decided to look at what else the author of the piece had written, I soon stumbled on this; The Trans Power Manifesto. I could ramble on forever about what Asher Bauer says in this article, but I encourage you to read it for yourselves. Instead, all I need say here is that it starts;
Hello trans people. It’s a fucked up world, isn’t it? We’ve all got plenty of problems. As trans people, we suffer from poverty, violence, lack of employment, lack of education, bigotry, contempt, and constant hostile scrutiny in public. We are desperate, and we have nowhere to turn.
… and ends;
A small reality check– as good as this all sounds, I realize, of course, that there are situations in which retaliation is simply not safe, when it could lose you a job, a home, or even your life. Recognizing that we are all outgunned most of the time is another part of trans power, because trans power means never minimizing what is happening to us all, all the time. We have to find ways to network and organize and give each other support. It is hard when we have so few resources, but we do have one resource in abundance, and that is our rage. I think that anger could be our strength, our emergency reserve, our five-hour energy shot. But it will never help us if we keep turning it on ourselves instead of allowing our attackers to feel it.
Does this make sense? Am I crazy? Am I overreacting? Or is this story your story, this truth, your truth?
Is “trans power” the name of your anger today?
I’m sure the message is clear just from those two paragraphs. Inspired by the article, a few weeks later I found the opportunity to put its sentiment into practice. At a local shop I visit regularly, there’s often a young guy and an older guy serving behind the counter. The young guy never fails to gender me correctly, and treats me with decency, courtesy and a very friendly manner every time. The older guy is a different story. On this occasion, when I went into the shop I was greeted in the usual manner by the younger guy – a non-patronising, friendly “hello dear”, such is his way. I held a conversation with them both and all went well, until of course I tried to pay the older guy for my purchases. “That’ll be £21.68, Sir.” This was deliberate. Very deliberate.
“Actually, that’s Madam”, I responded… I wasn’t going to stand for it. I was somewhat taken aback when he confidently responded.
“I’m just old fashioned”, he said.
Old fashioned? since when is such blatant impoliteness and bad manners old fashioned in the traditional well mannered days of yesteryear? Old fashioned is having manners, not feigning ignorance and pretending it’s polite! Needless to say, I wasn’t going to let it drop there…
“There’s nothing old fashioned about it!”, I replied, wielding the debit cart I intended to use to pay, which clearly displayed my name and correct title of ‘Miss’. “It’s just as well that my bank aren’t ‘old fashioned’ too isn’t it, lest I not be able to pay you owing to a card in the wrong legal name and title!”
He didn’t respond to that. At all. In fact, much as he probably brushed it off, it showed him up for the sort of person his behaviour suggested. A further incident will result in my telling him of my intent to contact his employer, or failing that, to contact his employers franchise to tell them just how the staff treat long time paying customers!
I felt satisfied. I felt good about myself. What I didn’t feel was a hint of embarrassment or upset. What overcame me rather than negative feelings about myself was indignation at the man’s behaviour. I was angry, I was rightly angry, and I damned well showed him as much, taking him down a peg in the process. Of course, having the moral high ground, and feeling no discomfort, I continued to engage him in idle conversation about the weather before leaving, showing just who the better person was!
The moral of this story? Well, even when you think you’re done with it, it just keeps coming, doesn’t it? The thing is, you actually don’t have to care! Yes, it can hurt, and yes, it can strike out at you…. and yes, it can make out lives far harder than they need to be… but we don’t need to lie down and take it. We don’t need to rise above and transcend it.
Those that would criticise us as being aggressive towards those who wrong us can be damned right, but it doesn’t make us any less women or men…. it makes us people. REAL people, with self esteem, and with the knowledge that its US who have the moral high ground. It’s US who have the courage to be ourselves and to stand up for what’s right. as real people, it’s both our responsibility and right to react to those who wrong us as any other human being would and let them know about it in no uncertain terms. It’s not worth putting your life at risk for (for example, LGBTQIA or not, it isn’t a good idea to front up to a guy with a gun in his hands!), but from day to day, and from place to place, stand up for yourself, your pride, your self esteem, your moral high ground and your right to be yourself, because you can, and you deserve it! Be angry when someone pointlessly and/or deliberately offends you – because it’s natural, and because you have the right!