On Trans Celebrities and the Axis of Politics
Why hello there! It is Saturday, and I am back from a lovely little walk and it is time to talk about the Friday thing, even if I am late doing it.
Not my fault — I was being treated for Mother’s day.
One of the absolute worst things I see is when a trans person gains a high profile during or shortly into transition — and by shortly into or during I mean in the first three years after “full time” and medical and that kind of thing.
This never works out well for trans people on the larger scale. There is a reason for this, and it is not the way the media sensationalizes everything, or how there is a bubble around that person.
That reason is that we, trans folk of every stripe and sort, have a crapton of misinformation and bad information and half heard, rarely understood bullshit combined with stuff passed down from 50 years ago that we still pass on and out and talk about today.
We have passing and disclosure and stealth and woodworking and daylight tests and are you trans enough and are you too trans.
That’s inside — that’s internal, not something from the out. They are survival strategies in a world and place and time that says to live you must be unseen.
We have ten gazillion non-doctors who will tell you exactly how much of this hormone to take and what strength and omg, you need to totally not wear that and your whole attitude is wrong and…
We have fights about how those who advocate for us in public should be or shouldn’t be paid for that work. We fight over who should and shouldn’t when we are so damned diverse a group that no single person can ever, even if they wanted to, represent all of us properly or reflect us all.
We have endemic racism, mass cultural appropriation, tremendous sexism, and that’s just on the more liberal side of things.
And all of that is just to start. All your faves are problematic, folks, and that includes you.
The current trans gal du jour of varying degrees of love and or hate is Caitlyn Jenner.
She inspires a tremendous amount of passion in things, but, factually, Caitlyn doesn’t know her shit. She gets attention because she’s newsworthy. She would get that attention even if she wasn’t related to a sex tape star who parlayed being a laughingstock thanks to slut shaming into a massive business.
Because Caitlyn Jenner is a trans woman who has won a holy moley ton of medals in the Olympics.
Stop for a moment there and think on that. Transgender Olympic athlete who held records for decades.
Being woke means you have to acknowledge that at the same time you realize this is also someone who supports one of the most prolific serial liars of the modern age, in or out of politics. Sorry to my readers who are Trump supporters, he really is a massive liar. Unabashed.
Then again, all the other candidates are politicians, and you know how to tell when a politician is lying right?
Their lips are moving.
So, now that I will have all the Trump supporters hating and the sharper Bernie, Stein, and Hillary lovers mad at me, let me point out that this isn’t about presidential politics.
This is about us.
Now, the media is basically currently structured around getting people to pay attention. There are still many in the media who think telling the truth is a big deal, and a lot who care about sensitivity and we are trans folks — we are EVERYWHERE!!
We are in those media boxes and we are outside of them. We are part of them, just like we are part of the broader world in which we live.
I recently re-opened this blog. I have regular readers in Russia, in Uzbekistan, in Australia and South Africa and Thailand and — thank you for sticking around — even in a tiny little nation called Vanuatu.
There is no question that this is a US centric blog, and English language site, and that even though I very obviously give a damn, that I am not going to make an attempt to speak to things outside my area of understanding in other countries.
I know great trans writers in Russia who cannot be heard. I know several trans folk in South Africa — and I’ll be blunt, they are still in that dark period where hiding is essential.
So why would they want to read me? Because Here in the US, and especially now, in 2016, we are fighting not from the shadows but from the streets and in the light.
A woman I think of as a friend recently wrote a piece where she thanks cis folk for doing something “that we ourselves would not do”.
The emotional reaction was “what, bitch?”. Not gonna lie there. Because I know for a fact that a lot of us have been trying to do it, only to often be shut down by the same cis people she was thanking.
So that should give you an idea here, and for those who are new to me, you should know something about Dyssonance: I don’t play the game here.
This isn’t my work, this is my living room. I don’t mince words and I don’t play the pleasing game. You want that, go to my work. Here you can be a great Trans Hero or Heroine and I will still tell you where to stick it when you start running your mouth and I note you need to find a place real fast.
I don’t do the party, so I don’t do the party line.
I do facts. You got a fact for me, cool. But there is a reason that as an Expert on Trans Lives I am simultaneously watched carefully and asked for help — sometimes what people think are facts about us are not, and I will not suffer fools easily, even if they have been lied to.
Unless they are trans people. Which brings me back to someone who has been lied to her whole life, and hasn’t had the time or opportunity to understand just life is like for most trans people.
IF you do not include, in your efforts around trans people, those who are the poorest as well as those who are the wealthiest, you are not doing your job properly.
IF you think you know what does and doesn’t make a trans person, and you speak to that issue outside your own living room, you do not know what the hell you are talking about.
Caitlyn Jenner has done these things. Now, I have all kinds of issues with that. Chief among them is disappointment because I remember those Olympics. They were the ones I fell in love the games during. I remember a cabin in southern Utah in a time when plumbing was what you did to get water from the giant water tank because this was undeveloped land in the mountains, and we had to figure out how to get a signal from the broadcast and it did include climbing a really freaking tall tree.
I saw those medals get won. I rooted for her.
So there was a bit of “awesome” being colored by “ugh, really? Can it not be just one of my faves one time?”
I do not watch the currently in vogue transgender television programs. I do not watch transparent, I do not watch the reality spectacle of Caitlyn’s.
So I won’t speak to the qualities of either show, or the way they are edited or the people chosen to be involved, or the rest.
At least, not yet.
I know a lot of those folks. Among those involved in those shows is another woman who I really think doesn’t get enough recognition and that’s Alexandra Billings.
That might change, of course. I am in the business of recognition, after all.
Part of the reason for that lack of watching is that much of that stuff is really heavily filtered through cis perceptions and the need to appeal to cis perceptions. Realities of the marketplace.
But when you have something like The Trans Rating in your head, it takes something phenomenal — such as the HerStory project from Angelica Ross and Jen Richards — to make me sit up.
I want more than a positive 3 or four on my rating for a show to be worth my time.
Caitlyn’s overall media presence, generally speaking, rates about a -6.
Seriously. Go look for yourself.
But what bugs me is that we, collectively — and especially those of us on the liberal side of things — have more than occasionally forgotten that this woman is still uninformed and ignorant of much of our lives.
What does she know — what can she know — about the desperation of trying to find hormones when you cannot see a doctor?
What does she know about the challenges of navigating the world when you don’t meet the social expectations of appearance?
What does she understand about the risks of dating, or, to put a very fine and obscure turn on it, getting “donations” to make your living ?
What does she know about the lives of trans people?
What does she know about the history of trans people, about the science behind transness, about the nature of the way that someone in her position is structured to work against her?
She has surrounded herself with some fairly smart people — people who, I will note, do not always agree with me, and whom I am likely to hear from given some of the posts coming up in the future.
Now, to be fair, the overwhelming majority of trans people don’t know anything about our history, or the science behind transness or the way that things like passing and disclosure are part of the problem now and not a solution.
Let me put it like this:
In 2007, before the largest gathering of trans people ever, a “leader” of the LGBT movement made a promise even while his organization was working on backtracking from that promise.
From roughly 2001 until then, there had been a lull in trans activism. The marriage argument swept the nation, transphobia was rampant beyond imagining by today’s standards within the major organizations, and at one point this person’s predecessor had sworn they would never work for trans rights.
The mistrust was deep, and this speech was supposed to be a healing.
Instead, it ignited the current trans movement. it sparked all the older folks who were tired back into action, it breathed life into a new generation, it was the trigger point that created this massive number of people.
In a year, the number of trans related blogs exploded. The number of organizations expanded massively. In a five year period, more articles about trans people were published than in the entire 40 years previous.
What does she know about this? Damned little. She isn’t connected to it.
Now, let’s step back a bit. Look at another trans celebrity who was previously the du jour.
Lana Wachowski may have flubbed at the Trans 100 event a couple years back, but she is definitely connected — perhaps tenuously, but I suspect not — to these times and events.
By the time we saw her openly and on her terms she was much more informed. And it made a difference.
She is still sheltered — money, fame, whiteness, many of the same things that shadow Caitlyn Jenner — but she is also more present, and I don’t mean politically.
I mean in terms of the ability to grasp what is going on and what this is all about.
Some of that no doubt comes from her choice of inspiring material — Caitlyn’s inspiration as a youth was sports related in the 1960 and 1970’s folks, she’s gonna be conservative in that sense — but that can only take you so far.
It takes a willingness to hear and learn and then incorporate instead of doubt. Caitlyn has shown signs of this, as we all do.
But she hasn’t had the time to do it. The freedom to do it. The liberty to do it.
We, collectively, need Republican Trans folk. We need green trans folk, and Libertaran trans folksand all the rest — because we are trans people, which means people who happen to be trans, for those who don’t understand how adjectives and modifiers work in English.
People. We are all different, and our strength and our power and our beauty comes from that diversity.
The Caitlyn of now is not the Caitlyn we will see in three years if she is given the time to grow and experience and learn as a trans woman.
I know this, so I am willing to not treat her like crap because she wants to be Ted Cruz’s trans Ambassador when the son of a bitch says we shouldn’t even use the bathroom in public.
But I will tell you something. Kate Bornstein is far less likely to reach Ted Cruz and help him to change his mind about trans people than Caitlyn is.
But for her to be able to do so, she has to unlearn some old hateful crap she has rattling around in her head and get some real info, solid stuff, truthful stuff.
And she won’t do that without our help.
Because who else knows better than we do?
Next Friday, I’m going to talk about some of the sources for the Bathroom Bill talking points the Religious Extremists are using…