Today, we are candles.
I come from huge families. My mother was one of seven, and my father’s mother was one of nine. Between them, I have fourteen first cousins, at least five second cousins, eleven first cousins once removed that I know about, and more miscellaneous spouses and siblings than I care to track.
Mom never forgave her siblings for moving away from each other. Most of the brood ended up within driving distance of one another in the Great Northeastern Conurbation, albeit in three different states, but one stayed in Puerto Rico, one followed work to North Carolina, and Mom followed the needs of her husband’s family and moved to Miami. Most of the seven are involved in the US military in some way, and some of my cousins continued that legacy, and that meant being passed around bases and active duty for years at a time, far from their kin.
Dad’s family all ended up in Miami, sooner or later. My grandmother used to visit relatives in Cuba, but she is long gone, and it is likely they are as well. Most of Dad’s side of the family made Miami their first home outside of Cuba, but Dad’s path passed through New Jersey first. I grew up there, getting acquainted with Mom’s nearby relatives first and not really recognizing Dad’s side of the family until they became our frequent reality after the move. Even then, Dad was an only child, so all of the relatives were a generation apart from me, whereas my maternal cousins were close to my age, so Dad’s family and I are not well acquainted.
After picking through the family tree to survey my safety within it, I find this a tragedy.
I told myself I wouldn’t write this. I told myself this was a conversation that, quite frankly, no one outside the transgender and especially transfeminine community has any business in having. I told myself that indulging this topic at all is dangerous in a world where the idea that men and trans women have anything socially in common gets people killed. Yet here we are.
CN suicide, transmisogyny, violence
To the endless bafflement of people whose sense of ethical behavior does not include driving strangers to self-harm, the transgender community faces intense hostility. What is interesting in our case is that people with extraordinarily different overall ideologies come to equally intense hatred of transgender people in general and trans women in particular, and this makes some words we are tempted to use to encompass all of our detractors a poor fit. This brings is to that famously deadly group, the TERFs.
“You know…I figured a department store would have more food.” Jessie mused as they examined a poster depicting a recumbent Seviper. “And clothes.” They picked at the hem of their form-fitting black vest, which left a little skin visible above their black slacks and white walking shoes.
“On the bright side,” Jane answered, leaning down to pet her Sylveon, cautious hand on the back of her knee-length pleated black skirt, “they have lots of Pokémon vitamins.”
“That they do,” Jessie answered as their Dustox fluttered to their shoulder and their Wobbuffet released himself from his Pokéball, playfully saluting. Jessie gave their Pokémon partners an amused half-smile and reached over to gently scratch their heads. They approached the poster aisle, Dustox and Wobbuffet following, and Meowth returned from the direction of the drink vending machines. Jane crouched down to Meowth’s level.
“Quick, while they’re not looking,” Jane whispered, handing Meowth her paper shopping bag, “take this to the cash register and buy it. The money’s in the bag.” Sylveon looked quizzical. “It’s Jessie’s birthday present, and a little something for us, too.” Sylveon nodded, and accompanied Meowth in scampering toward the registers.
I was asked to provide facilitation and a keynote address of sorts for “Violence and Trans Women of Colour: The Intersections,” an event hosted by Carleton University’s Carleton Equity Services, Graduate Students’ Association, Carleton University, and CUSA Womyn’s Centre as part of the university’s Sexual Assault Awareness Week. While my remarks during the event did not exactly match what I prepared, the original material is now here for others’ perusal.
Social justice classes are an RPG player’s riff on the reclaimed slur “social justice warrior.” Not all of us find the warrior ethos a good fit, nor does it appropriately value contributions from many different sorts.
At my core, I am an academic. There is power in knowledge, satisfaction in completeness, and peace in order. I could have been a wizard, and trained to be one. But there is otherworldly music in my heart and strange wires in my mind, and I found paths they never considered.
There are many places where I won’t go. I hate moving, in general, and would gladly donate a kidney to whatever demiurge could reconfigure the universe to render this unwholesome task unnecessary for achieving any of my goals ever again, but that’s not what this is about. There are many locales where it is plainly unsafe for me to be, on any of various axes, and I intend to particularly avoid relocating to those places. Right now, that includes the United States, despite overwhelmingly better career prospects there than I seem to have where I am. This unsafeness is not something I’ve had an easy time getting a number of sympathetic people in my life to recognize, and it comes down to one crucial error: they think stealth is safe.
“Stealth,” for the uninitiated, refers to pretending one’s gender doesn’t bear the adjective “trans.” It means pretending to be a cis representative of one’s gender, to have been recognized as a member thereof for one’s entire life, and to have never borne a different name. “Going stealth” means hiding a large chunk of one’s past and papering over the resulting gaps with denial and occasional lies. This was once medically mandated for transgender women, who were expected to leave their hometowns and live somewhere where no one knew their history. And it doesn’t work. Continue reading “Stealth Is Not Safe”