I have been feeling really angry, and part of me is relieved.
I have been holding my breath and trying to survive an extraordinary sea of change in my life. I have been trying to make sense of the senselessness of for the first time being perceived as a straight cis man after a year of painful misgendering, and the relief of being referred to correctly was overrun with the knowledge that I just got lucky is all, that it doesn’t mean anything is actually better. I am still not fully seen.
I have been holding my breath as I got lost in a world of high pressure science, a new field, a new group of coworkers, and the same culture of anxiety that gave me the idea that maybe I should skip going on a trip that would be life-affirming for me, because two more regular work days in the lab is probably more important – because maybe my ability to be productive, in our capitalist society, is more important than my well being, than my humanity.
When I don’t breathe, I am numb. This anger is a cracking open.
This week I am reading too many opinions from cis people about what it means to be a woman, cis women searching publicly for ways to reconcile their identities – or not – with Caitlyn Jenner, as if she represents all trans women and all trans people, or is somehow trying to represent all women, or anyone but herself. It is especially painful coming from cis queer women, as if trans women haven’t been around for a long time, as if trans women weren’t an essential part of the Stonewall riots that launched the gay rights movement before they were discarded from the movement, as if they don’t get shit on for trying to be whole, too. It feels as if cis people believe they have some right to weigh and assess the validity of trans identities, and dissect us as if we’re dead specimens in a lab and then discard us when we become too inconvenient. When we cry out, we’re told that we’re being unreasonable 0r impatient.
What did you expect? we’re told. It’s hard for us to understand, we’re told. This is just how it’s always been, we’re told. My life has been hard too, get over it, we’re told.
I am flinging every well-written article by trans women about Caitlyn Jenner that I can find out on social media, just in case it might make a dent in the knowledge of my majority cis community of friends, just in case this extra education will somehow protect me or other trans folks from this poisonous bullshit in the future. I am frantic for the antidote, and to bring it to everyone I possibly can. I am beginning to sense my own desperation.
Sometimes, I educate to advocate.
Sometimes, I educate because it feels like the only way I can protect myself.
Sometimes, I educate because I am desperate to be seen.
Education is my tool of survival.
I went to the Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference last week, a life-affirming experience for me to be in a trans-centered space. I felt a mix of relieved and vulnerable being in a place where I could actually be read as a trans man, rather than misread as cis man or woman. It was even a little uncomfortable, like a bandaid being ripped off. But even PTHC isn’t safe for everyone. Attendees are predominantly transmasculine, predominantly white. We are not immune to the systems that oppress us. We internalize them and throw them back at ourselves and each other. We are all infected.
My anger, painful as it is, is a breath of life. It is a reminder that my wholeness, everyone’s wholeness, is still worth fighting for.