Tag Archives: transphobia

Post the Seventy-First or On Rewriting Narratives

This week is Boston’s LGBT Film Festival. Held over many days and in many different theaters, the festival screens films that celebrate and shed light on the queer experience. And while most of the films are centered around white queers, there were a number of films that featured QPOC only cast. Yesterday, I saw one of those films. It’s called Leave It On the Floor. The program billed it as a black gay musical inspired by the groundbreaking documentary Paris is Burning. There were gorgeous boys and sickening queens, voguing and lots of singing. And, for the most part, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was the perfect mix of campy realness and torrid love affair drama.

About half way into the movie, however, one of the characters dies. I’m sure you can guess what her identities were. She was a poor, black, trans woman. And this really, really bothered me. And while she wasn’t murdered, she died in a car crash, it still frustrated me. She was also the only character in the movie to die. Why is it that many, if not most, portrayals of black and brown trans women in the media have them dead? Without fail, when a trans woman of color is introduced into a film or TV show they are dead before the end of the movie. Even in the news, we never hear about the victories or successes of trans women of color. We only hear about their murders, if we hear of them at all.

On top of that, the protagonist of the movie was kicked out of his home for being gay by his mother. Her character was completely one dimensional. She was callous, completely unremorseful that she was sending her kid to the streets.  She verbally assaulted and insulted the protagonist for being gay. She was written in such a way that her only defining characteristic was her hatred for her son.

The reason for this is because that is the narrative that society has given to us. The script, if you will, that is given to all trans women of color. We come out, we get kicked out of our homes and we are killed. Since PoC, apparently, have the patent on homophobia and transphobia, there is no other result to our coming out. What is particularly egregious about this instance is that the writer and director of the film were both gay white men. These two men were not only operating from two of the worst of QPoC narratives but they were also doing so with complete lack of analysis as to why they are problematic. It is an extremely sneaky form of racism because for all the audience knows, this film was a production for black queer and trans* folk for black queer and trans* folk. The cast was entirely black. And this makes it easy for the audience to miss the implicit racist stereotypes.

We need to be rewriting this narrative. We need to take our stories into our own hands and rewrite it to reflect our own lives. We need to be telling our own stories for ourselves, for others like us. We need to stop blindly accepting the messages that white supremacy, heteropatriarchy and capitalism would have us consume. We need to start telling stories that demonstrate our lived lives. We need to write poems, short stories, plays, screen plays that celebrate our identities, that reflect our experience has survivors. We need to make art and space that is meaningful for us. That accurately represents us. I’m not saying that we should erase the hardship that surrounds our lives because that would be just as bad. What I am saying is that we need to be talking about our victories, our loves, our hopes, our accomplishments.

What I am saying is that we need to rewrite the narrative so that we become human and not just corpses.

My story used to end with my early death at the hands of transphobia. I had no doubt that it was a question of when, not if. And that is because I accepted the narrative given to me. I won’t lie to you; I still often worry about that and I know it is a very real possibility. But it’s different today. I know that I am given that narrative so that I give up before the fight has even started. And I know might story might still end up that way, but I am determined to make sure that it isn’t a certainty. I am determined to rewrite the ending so that women that come after me can have hope.

I am determined to rewrite my narrative for myself.

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Post the Fifty-Forth or Red and Blue Lights

The red and blue lights flash

Behind me

How do I put into words

the Fear

the Terror

the Dread

That I feel when I see those

Lights

That unnamable and unspeakable Horror

Which precedes the knowing that

The long arm of injustice

Has finally caught me

How can I convey to you

Just how real and desperate and percarious

My life is

How can I make you understand

How disposable this world sees me?

Memories of my sisters

Dead at the hands of those Lights

Arise to my mind unbidden

Stories cut short

By the brutality of white men

With guns

And ownership of the world

Brutalities

That most people willfully ignore

And my sisters

Go unburied unmourned unclaimed

Except by those who walk the path

That they walked

Their cries for JUSTICE

Unheard by all

Save for those who have the experiences to hear

I searched those lights for news of my fate

Would tonight be the night?

I served a cop coffee once

And wondered

Would he be so polite

If we had met on a street corner

Instead of across a counter


Post the Fifty-Third or Toxic

He tells me that he doesn’t Pay

Mexicans

The voice in the back of my head

Tells me to

Breathe

But how can I draw breath

When I’m drowning

In this sea of Racism

She asks

Pointing at my head full

Of wild curls and thick roots

“Is that all yours?”

And I want to scream

Who else would it belong to?

The white man who enslaved me?

Or the white woman who is complicit

With white man’s racism?

Or the brown sister

Who drank the white supremacy Kool-Aid

And assumes that anyone with natural hair

Would straighten it

or Buy it.

The stranger asks

How long have you been living as a woman?

And I am gagging

 On the bitter taste of

that briny water

The transphobia of that statement

Suffocating me

Depriving my brain of oxygen

The urge to strike mounting

And I try to breathe despite myself

But I wonder

Is it healthy for me

To breathe air

To exist in water

To live in a medium

That is so toxic?


Post the Fortieth or On Horizontal Oppression

Yesterday, I was at the bus stop doing what most people do at the bus stop. I was waiting for the bus. As I was waiting, a gale of laughter ripped through the air. I turned and saw that it was a group of teenage boys and that they were pointing at me. They were laughing at me. They yelled, “Hey, tranny!” I had the sense to ignore them but they persisted. They continued to laugh and some of them even took out their phones and began to take pictures and videos of me standing there. In hindsight, I wonder if some of them will frantically whack off to them or wish that they could some how inhabit the space that I was inhabiting. I wonder how much their jeering and laughter was really projected sexual desire. At the time, I felt humiliated. Like a freak on display. I felt like some grotesque aberration. And that my freakiness, my queerness, gave them license to do, act and say whatever they wanted. I wondered if that was going to be it. The time where I get beaten and bashed for daring to be freaky. And while it isn’t the first time I’ve been harassed, it was the first time in quite some time.

But despite all this, I could feel nothing but sadness and despair. Sadness because this was still happening to me. Despair because I wonder if this world will ever get better. If the wounds inflicted upon us by colonization, capitalism and patriarchy are ever going to heal. Because you see, these were young men of color who were harassing me. Young men who I know have been some of the gravest victims of the system that we live in. Who experience an alienation from themselves that I will never know. Who are marked almost from birth to live out their lives in prison or locked in poverty. Who do not even know how they are participating in their own oppression.

Because harassing me and humiliating me will not make their lives any easier. It will not change the amount of their brothers and fathers and uncles who are incarcerated. It won’t take them out of poverty. It won’t improve their opportunities for a decent education or a fulfilling job. It won’t alleviate that suffering and alienation of the soul that is a part of the wound that colonialism and diaspora inflicts on all of us. It only keeps us all divided.

Because these young men should be my brothers in arms. Instead of inflicting oppression on each other, we should all be working in concert to dismantle those systems that keep us all oppressed. Because that is the oppressor’s secret. The oppressor keeps us oppressed by keeping us divided and estranged because then we spend precious energy fighting one another and we fail to organize against the true source of oppression, namely white patriarchal colonialism.

And this division goes two ways. I can’t tell you how many headaches I’ve gotten by white queers thinking that the struggle for “equality” did not involve indigenous rights or labor rights or rights for people of color and poor communities. For them, the only issue they need to worry about is their queerness and getting “equality” for that. All the while not understanding that by fighting for “equality” they are just assimilating into the class of the oppressor and they actually aren’t facilitating any sort of systemic change. They are keeping themselves oppressed (because lets face it, liberal white colonial heteropatriarchy can only tokenize queers) and by refusing to acknowledge their brown, poor, differently abled, sisters and brothers they are only furthering the cause of oppression. Their unwillingness to see that our liberation is all bound up together will on keep us all oppressed (I’m looking at you HRC).

Sisters and brothers, I say to you now. United we stand a chance in bringing about a fully equitable world. Divided, there is no chance at all.