It is becoming clear to me that much of 2013 will be taken up by analysis of current events, looking at them more closely and with an eye to the ways in which trans lives are overwritten by Ciscentrism as well as how our own internal issues can contribute to those issues being worse — if that happens to seem to be the case.
The thing I am looking at most closely, right now, is Twitter, which for much of 2012 was a hotbed of interaction on the basis of stupid people being called out for their stupidity, regardless of the level within society at which they operate.
So let’s run down these, shall we?
AZEALIA BANKS & PEREZ HILTON
Now this one is a bit odd, as many people might think that this particular exchange wasn’t Trans related.
Except it was entirely trans related, and it is an example of how Cis folk can supposedly be “good people” and still use our lives as insults, our experiences as ways of cursing someone.
It is absolutely horrible that Azealia Banks called Perez Hilton a Faggot. Flat out, it is one of the stupidest, most foolish things she could possibly have done.
Janet really nails the element of privilege that is in play here, from multiple perspectives, and her strong connection to the issues are present. Most Trans people are called faggot at some point, and it is meant, very much, as a deeply negative word. It is meant to hurt them deeply, and it does — moreso than other terms because it is wrongly used.
As I pointed out to some hecklers I had one day (who became supporters as a result of the exchange), if you are going to insult a trans person, you need to use the right insult. Trans people are not faggots (unless they are gay, but even then it gets a tad bit confusing since gay doesn’t really apply to trans people seeing as how it is a Ciscentric concept), they are Trannies.
There is a great deal of humor in that, and it will be included in the video I do on that part eventually, but a lot of trans people are not able to see that humor because it is hard to do so when you are in the middle of dealing with jerks being, well, jerks.
Now, one thing that the whole argument seems to forget is that gay men — especially white gay men who have money and tend to match the stereotype for flamboyant — actually call each other faggot all the time.
Which is never right. Not even for them, anymore than it is ever right for one of my black brothers sisters, or siblings to call each other nigga.
It just isn’t. Yes, it is an act of reclaiming; yes, it is a way of reinforcing the in-group function; but it is still really, really stupid when you are on the receiving end of a lot of deeply negative crap and in particular discrimination.
Now, I’ve never liked Perez Hilton. His particular brand of bullhockey isn’t very much up my alley because for the most part it consists of finding nasty things to say about other people, and worse, just because they are famous. Yes, he makes money at it. Yes, he gets some measure of fame at it. No, he does not contribute anything meaningful or important to just about anything.
So I have no sympathy for him. He is a Ciscentric, often transphobic (because it gets eyeballs) jerk who smiles when he says dumb, rude, mean things. How the hell he gets to be a “celebrity” is one of the things that gives me serious pause in the country.
He is also very popular among Cis White Gay Men With Money. And more than a few Trans White Gay Men Without Money. Because a lot of people like it when folks talk trash about others — something I am intimately familiar with since a chunk of my own internet views come from my doing the same, although I often hope I’m at least a smidgen more erudite than he is when I do so (in my mind I am, of course, but I’m an egocentric bitch and biased to boot).
He is popular in part because his image is very much that of the horribly stereotypical Gay Man — slightly swishy, caustic, quick witted, with definite tastes in fashion. Now here’s the kicker:
In our culture, he is basically a male Girl. That is, as messed up as that idea can be at times, the basis of his public image, his persona. His existence in that arena is more or less a caricature of how men see women, and because he is gay, that is how people expect him to be.
Because the culture is not merely Ciscentric, it is also heterocentric — it places the ideas and needs of straight folks way, way way before the same of gay folks.
But look at that again — a male Girl. That is, basically, how people see Trans folk. He’s not trans, but a lot of the very thing that his image is based on is the idea that surrounds Trans people — he just doesn’t put on the clothing people associate with Trans folk.
Because Trans folk are not about the clothing, but people are still learning that. Hell, Perez is still learning that.
Now, this is made even more interesting by the exchange itself, and by Azealia Banks’ comments about the whole explosion. According to her she only uses the word faggot to describe men who act like women. Specifically, men who act like a specific women’s body part. Which is widely viewed int he very culture she is a part of as having pretty much two purposes and only two purposes: as a sheath on demand for pricks and as the place babies come out (although oddly enough we have surgeries to prevent that since it makes it less inviting for use as a sheath).
What do I mean by all of that?
She said she only calls men who act like cunts that. And a cunt is a woman’s body part that culturally is seen as exactly those things. Part of the reason that cunt is so popular a derogatory term is that it reduces a woman to her only “real use”, and discards pretty much everything else, including humanity. It is objectification in the extreme, and there is, in our culture, few things worse than objectifying a man as a woman’s body part.
Note, however, that in that same cultural standard, that is what he is seen as. A vagina, because men who act like that are assumed to always be bottoms, since the assume the “woman’s” role. Which is, as those of us who are familiar with and love our gay friends and family already know, really very stupid and horrible, and means that it is just as wrong as anything else in this messed up excuse for a firestorm.
So this woman, with whom I share a bisexual nature, is really doing the same thing he did. And on top of it, it demonstrates that she has an openly stated aversion to Trans people bu her specific use of faggot to refer to people who are, to her and most other people in a Ciscentric society, indiscernible from us without getting to know them personally.
Which means that she is transphobic, no matter how many “trannies” she knows that are cool with being called that, just like it doesn’t matter when people use nigger because they have friends who use it all the time.
This isn’t a brabble, although if you look at the coverage of it in general that’s what it’s been made unto, Perez style this is a very real example of everything that Trans people are fighting against an almost perfect example of just how deep and broad the discrimination and social ostracism against us goes, because you have two people who are essentially having a fight over being called a trans person but using the wrong insult.
That is the dark secret that no one is seeing — except Janet Mock, who only got involved to point out that within the LGBT community, White Gay Men determine what our movement looks like where the resources in our movement go, who decides what is important, what is important and every thing else and they have done so most often at the cost of trans people, especially trans gay men (whom they see, for the most part, as women, which is really insulting), and especially trans people of color.
Now that is fact. That is borne out by actions, not the words used to disguise those actions, but for someone like me, who uses thpse words and looks beneath them to the things that are needed to use those words, it is as plainly visible as the world is around us.
(which, I will note, is usually such that we only see small parts of it at any given time, but know the rest is out there).
And because she dared to speak out, she was accused of being on one side or the other, when she isn’t — like most Trans folk who see this, Ms. Mock is saying to them “*Hey*, stop that. Both of you.”
Because they are all Cis people, and this is a world and an idea that is Ciscentric, she is being attacked for it. That is why we need Transcentrism, that is why it isn’t about them being gay, it is about them being Cis people, in a world that is hostile to us.
This same kind of argument has erupted many times before. And it has never been examined as closely as this one, in part because of the rise over the last seven years in the Trans community.
Over at the crunkfeministcollective, the same spat is interrogated for its femmephobia and racialized sexism, giving it three intersections, but it is an interrogation that is at least aware of the additional intersections on some level, even if the writer hasn’t been able to express it.
There are many levels to how bad this is — sexism, racism, transphobia, homophobia, and all of it is, basically internal stuff that is being played out on a larger more public stage. And because of these intersections, ultimately it is Ms Banks who is suffering the worst of the effects — and not because she used the word faggot, but because she challenged a system that is already stacked against her, and then because she did so in a manner that actually piled it on highe because she herself contributes to additional levels of oppression as shown above.
And as a black woman, and a bisexual woman, there is no damn good reason she should have that, when the problem really isn’t her.
It is the behavior of Mr. Perez. He is not the victim of some horrible assault here, He is not the target of a hate crime. He is someone who is existng in a place of power and authority, and that power and authority was challenged — it was challenged in a horrible and terrible way, but still it was challenged, and if you are not paying attention to it, then you are missing some of the more subtle things that are going on, and we, as a community, are missing an opportunity to use this as chance to make a change in the behavior of people.
In the other case that falls into the same example of Trans lives being used as a negative, a way of saying “worse than”, and the way that the ciscentrism that dominates social discourse is not actually one in the US.
It is in the UK.
Journalist Suzanne Moore recently wrote an article in The New Statesman that allowed her to say that the ideal shape for women according to men in our society is that of a Brazilian Transsexual.
Leftygirl has put together a storify of the event you can check out here: http://storify.com/leftytgirl/suzanne-moore-timeline-of-trans-misogynistic-twitt
This one took place across multipel sites, as well, because after it was pointed out to her, Ms. Moore became highly defenisve about her use of the comparative, and began a campaign to distance herself from it.
This is not unusual — the same thing is gong on with Ms. Banks, because when women break the rules, the punishment is inherently harder them than it will ever be on men; at least in the Cis world.
Trans people rank somewhere below women in the Cis world — no matter what some women (I am thinking of a certain insectile named sort) might say to defend their own points.
Defensiveness only happens when someone knows they crossed a line. Flat out, you cannot get defensive if you don’t know you have, It is as predictable a trait of human behavior as the stages of grief, and is inevitable only in cases where the individual is aware on some level they screwed up.
That knowledge is useful, but most folks don’t have it. They see defensiveness as a reason to push harder, to dig more, and what you have is people digging into a position that they do not ever back out of.
This is happening with Ms. Moore, who in addition to the tweets, wrote this post; where she makes the now standard “I know trans people so I can’t be transphobic” argument that she herself has had to butt heads with when it comes to men doing really terrible things to women.
Yet she herself may not be transphobic (and in general, she isn’t, but she a part of a deeply transphobic and hostile culture and society, so by default she is going to be such and probably has little to no reason to actively consider that.
well, until now, of course.
Her biggest issue, of course, is that she is ignorant of trans issues, of trans people, of trans concepts. She’s also not very familiar with intersectionality given the way she throws it away and describes it poorly (which is also obvious in the way she talks about it).
We can tell that because she talks about “sex changes” now being called “transition”. We can tell that from the way she says she knew “transsexuals” who had “botched surgeries” in morocco, which is just a way of saying she overhead some things without understanding them — an all too common ailment in a world rapidly filling with information but not enough context.
We can see that because she describes what all this looked like, to her, was:
Mostly this seemed to be an obsession with secondary sexual characteristics: peeing sitting down if they had been a man, wearing horrible lumberjack shirts and refusing to wash up if they had been a woman.
Which is how it appears to people who don’t know anything about trans lives, how it looks to people who are ignorant, what it seems to be in a Ciscentric society and worldview.
Yet the clincher is when she says:
Some trans people appeared to reinforce every gender stereotype going.
Then uses it as an example of a controversial statement.
It isn’t controversial. It is, indeed, a fact. Some Trans people are extremely binary. I am. But some trans people is not all, and that’s what she overlooked, because she figured making a statement is easy, and on top of it, her Brazilian Transsexual comment combines elements of ethnocentric thinking by applying the cultural standards of her heritage to people not of that culture or heritage.
Let’s be pretty frank: according to a few widely published survey results from men’s magazines where polls were taken unscientifically and then subjective assessments applied, the way that men think a woman should look is narrow hipped, small waisted, size 12 with bog boobs, which many Brazilian models who have reached the press of the UK tend to actually look like.
Her choice of comparative is messed up in both cases, as well. She’s doing the same thing that Ms Banks did.
She is still stuck on the term Transsexual — and thinks it applies, in a very Ciscentric fashion, only to some people. She ignores that cis wmen and men are even more inclined to reinforce gender stereotypes, and instead goes straight to Trans people.
She closes the post by noting that it hurts her that anyone would say she hates trans people — indicating that she doesn’t understand what transphobia is — that hate is actually the rarest form of it, the least common part of it. That the aversion and anxiety she demonstrates and verbalizes is the problem that is being referenced not hate — but by doing so she shifts the conversation away from her own failings and onto the less than socially acceptable idea of describing someone else’s emotional state.
She strips the legitimacy of transness when she does that.
And all of this is because she buys into the myth that Ru Pal provides her like some protective covering — that we are all born naked and the rest is just drag.
That’s a Ciscentric viewpoint, itself. Trans people are not in it for the drag, and that perhaps is the biggest problem that most people finding themselves in this place forget, and that not enough of us point out.
Transness is not about the drag, it is about the naked. It isn’t about the performance, it is about the nature beneath the performance, the reason for the performance, the very physicality of existence.
Instead, we have cis people dominating the narrative and stopping them is hard because they are everywhere and they outnumber us by at least 250 to one.
That means we can ill afford to send or create mixed messages to them if we are going to make a change, and that we cannot afford to have them drop into defensiveness because once they do, they close themselves off to the possibility of hearing — defensiveness, in its most basic form, is a child standing with fingers in ears going “na-na-na-na-na” while someone is talking.
Smarter, not harder. For Trans people, that’s not a stretch. But we do it far less than we should.
For 2013 I will absolutely continue to post elements of transcentrism and related items, revisiting some old classic posts, but mostly I will be doing this kind of analysis, looking at current events through a transcentric lens to show how the ways in which society acts are often not in our best interests, and the why they do it as well as the how they do it.