Kit Yan, transguy activist and poet, and the more masculine half of Good Asian Drivers, posted a spoken word response to HRC’s “Transgender Day of Remembrance” video that really got me thinking. For those of you who don’t know, HRC does not have a history of supporting its trans community, even though it calls itself a “GLBT” organization. A lot of gay rights groups add the “T” to their alphabet soup but apparently don’t really mean it. HRC is a big ass deal in gay politics but they’re the Abercrombie and Fitch of same in that they have always seemed to be more interested in a generic but compelling sexiness than in serving messier aspects of gender and sexuality. If you see a car with a blue and yellow “equal” sticker on it, that’s HRC. But please understand that sticker does not include me as equal.
HRC has persistently supported bills that exclude protection for transpeople. There’s a political strategy behind it – you want to pass the best bill you can, with the most protection for the most people, but that often means leaving people out, people whom senators and representatives find challenging. I worked in gay politics and I worked on a bill that excluded trans. This was in
But I digress. My political work lies somewhere else, and here is where it is. Kit spoke eloquently about how transpeople aren’t “good looking” enough for the HRC to absorb and assimilate, like the gay Borgs they can be. Trans makes people really uncomfortable, and that, in part I believe, is because it can look so AWKWARD. Trans can translate to ill at ease, but it’s also deliciously wabi-sabi. Male bodies transitioning to women are especially confronting. People are like “why doesn’t he make that look better? Why does he even bother?!” It’s almost impossible for Americans to let people have their process. And by “Americans” I surely mean me.
Adolescence is awkward and ugly too. Epicene boys, once angelic and faunlike, coarsen and thicken, become graceless sporters of random and unrestricted pubic hair, can be a veritable fairground for facial eruptions. The public humiliation of puberty is compounded by the open knowledge that your outsides are merely mirroring your interior. I didn’t understand trans in 2000; the women I knew personally were painfully mentally ill, tortured by their dysmorphia, clawing with newly-grown nails to create a cubby-hole they could tuck into and feel safe and secure. They were precisely the kind of transperson that I’ve heard made fun of: tons of makeup, inappropriate clothing choices atop a physicality that wanted to burst through same. Ever did their scalp lose tresses; ever their chins, despite electrolysis, push dark thick beard to the fore; always their bones and bodies betrayal, thin hipped and broad-shouldered, overly large mitts and feet, the voice and its external punctuate, the adam’s apple, on and on to be ignored, or dealt with or reckoned or despaired or surrendered.
And here am I, with my saddle-bags, with my breasts, my belly and my hips, looking for all the world like a mannish woman, and feeling like something else entirely. And now, finally, I find my compassion.
My friends began to transition. Now it wasn’t just some outliers I could take under my maternal wing while clucking to myself about what a good, open-minded mother hen I was. My friends weren’t ill, nor were they monstrous. But the idea was! Monstrous to change one’s sex! How could they!? I vaguely recall going through this same evolution with bisexuals, feeling at first abandoned and betrayed, wanting to shame them even for “leaving” even though they never actually left. It’s hard for me to stay mad at an idea, particularly when the idea never really dovetailed with reality, which was just some friends falling in love. This impacted me how?
Bisexuals are monsters. Obese people are monsters. Disabled people. Transgendered people. There’s a chaos, entangled limbs, in these. We’re confronting, even and especially to ourselves. We’re all monstrous, aren’t we? Even so-called beautiful people are monstrous somewhere, sometimes.
Monsters are gorgeous. Wabi-sabi is beautiful. How lucky we are to bear witness to such an extraordinary flowering! Look, it’s too full of light to almost contemplate – that’s why people often want to strike it down, smuffocate it. Let’s not cover our love light under a bushel, my siblings, let’s fucking blast that hate with the shine god gave us. HRC knows better, that’s the shame of it. I’m not buying into anybody’s idea of beauty but God’s. Can I get a witness?