We all need space to survive and thrive. Living space in which we can rest and recuperate. Working space in which we can produce. Recreative space so that we can enjoy ourselves. Many of these different kinds of space can, and often do, overlap so that our living space can also be our recreative space or working space or both. There are, obviously, many other divisions and manifestations of space that I haven’t mentioned but you understand what I’m getting at.
Space is holistic. By that I mean, the different kinds of space that we occupy effect one another. What happens in one space, effects the rest. What happens at work, you bring home and what happens when you are enjoying yourself is brought to work. They are all interrelated and interdependent on each other. Obviously, one can compartmentalize one’s spaces so that the external factors don’t effect each other but they are all still connected within you. The internal factors, namely your thoughts, emotions and reactions to the space all effect each other.
There is one type of space in particular that I would like to explore here. That is, what I like to call, social space (if there is a better term I would love to hear it). Social space is the energetic, emotional, psychic, and physical space that allows individual’s voices to be expressed and heard. It allows for an articulation of a specific experience and a platform from which that experience can be articulated. This space is, more then all the others, is vital for the thriving and longevity of those who occupy it. It is through this space that we meet others like us, where we see our stories reflected in each other and where we can find our spiritual ancestry, our elders. This space can manifest many ways, from an anthology of writing or media program to a party to a protest.
For many folks, social space is given to them. Especially if one is white, male, cisgender, able-bodied, straight etc. The more privileged identities that one possesses, the more space society gives you to live and express yourself safely. Conversely, the fewer privileged identities that one possess, the less space one is given. Further, not all privileges are equal. The privilege that you get for being white, and thus the space that you are given, is a lot larger then the lack of space that one experiences if one is gay (especially since the rise of Gay, Inc). Put in another way, one experiences more privileges for being white then disadvantages to being gay. If one is white and gay, one still has it pretty good.
And yet the ones who need to most to even survive are often denied it. They have to carve that space out for themselves from the margins of society. They have to fight tooth and nail to not be subsumed by those elements that would rather that they don’t exist. Those spaces are hard to find and when one does find them, they are often hard because they need to be for their continued existence.
I write this piece to, hopefully, start the conversation about having a space for trans feminine people of color. If this was the 80s and I lived in New York, I would just have to go to the Balls to get that space. Or I could be a street-based sex worker to get that space. But these are both not open to me for many reasons. These spaces, while at the same time life-saving and risky as hell, are tucked away and inaccessible to those who don’t live in a major city. Further, it seems that where there is community and space for trans feminine POC, there is no articulated body politic about what it means to be trans feminine and brown in this world that is male and white. (If this isn’t the case and this exists somewhere, PLEASE TELL ME.)
Past movements have created spaces for themselves. The feminist movement, both WOC and white, have created spaces for themselves. White mainstream lesbians and gays have also created spaces for themselves. The Chican@ and immigrant’s rights movement have created spaces for themselves. Trans masculine POC have created a space for themselves. The list goes on. And trans feminine POC have existed in the fringes of each of these movements but have never, to my knowledge, had an articulated presence. Even in the beginning of the queer rights movement which was started by trans feminine POC, the difference between trans* people and gay people was not articulated until gay people expelled trans* people from their movement.
I want to help create a space for trans feminine POC that envisions a radical restructuring of the world where power and resources are shared equitably. I want a space where our stories, our narratives, our spirits, our desires will be heard, understood and celebrated. I want our art, our poetry, our writing to have a platform from which others can hear it. I want our fucking to cease being fetishized and freaky. I want my sisters to stop being killed for their desire. I want a space where we can develop our body politic for ourselves, not by outsiders. I want to bring our elders out of hiding or create a space for elderhood to exist.
But most of all I want to know that I am not alone.