this is not exactly my trans day of remembrance post, though if it helps you to think about it that way please do so. instead it is a palette of ideas about transness and trans people that have come into my head recently and which i might want to expand into something more at a later date but which i do not have the energy or spoons to nurture further at the moment. i make no claims as to the originality of these ideas as many of them are appropriations of other concepts or even probably flat-out paraphrasing of stuff i’ve read elsewhere but which i have forgotten the origin of. (n.b.: if you’ve heard what i’m talking about elsewhere and i didn’t credit them, link me and i will update the post) i will do my best to cite sources in both cases, or at least give references to similar ideas. they are arranged roughly by ascending relevance to what TDOR is actually about, that is, the trans lives snatched from us violently by transmisogynists and transphobes and in particular violence against trans women of color and transmisogynoir violence (directed at Black trans women).
trans impostor syndrome
this one practically writes itself and much ink has been spilled on it elsewhere, but near as i can tell i came up with it myself and it’s just a popular concept. tl;dr: am trans but actually? etc. sometimes everyone else’s transness feels infinitely more legitimate than mine, especially on those dark and stormy nights when i get the bad dysphorias. why is it worse now? simple explanation: the fog of emotional blunting has lifted, and now it’s a lot easier to see that yes, i do hate these parts of my body, and no, i wasn’t imagining it. highly unlikely and much more convoluted explanation courtesy of depressed cognition and a pervasively cissexist and transmisogynistic society and culture: i’m actually a man, and what i’m experiencing now is “real” dysphoria at being forced to live as a woman. reasons this is unlikely: i really love being a girl.
if you’re dealing with similar problems my favorite framework for externalizing validation is natalie reed’s appropriation of a somewhat Bayesian framework in the context of trans identity, as expounded in this wonderful essay. briefly: stop thinking about the chances of whether a random person is trans, because you’re not a random person, you’re you. given all the knowledge you have about yourself right now, is it more likely that you’re trans or cis? (hint: that knowledge includes the fact that you’re questioning in the first place, especially if that process is really eating you up. cis people categorically do not spend their lives agonizing over whether or not they’re actually trans, and it took me a while to learn that.)
trans identity as a subculture / collective cultural identity among transgender people
here i’d like to think about what it means to be part of the “trans community” in its manifold incarnations and permutations. what is the “trans community?” who inhabits such a place? what does it mean to identify yourself as a member? what do you give up to join this community? what do you gain in exchange for what you give up? and so forth. (pardon the stylistic butlerism of this paragraph, i can’t control myself)
the direction i’m thinking of is one which would actually enable a more grounded and materialist conception of trans identity because i find many of the present depictions to hew to a sort of idealism and metaphysics that i find grating. a lot of trans spaces also carry with them a specific brand of philosophy, politics, ethics, and psychology, and i would like to investigate the ways in which the use of those disciplines in the trans community (and perhaps even the original description of a trans community as such) regulates who is and isn’t allowed to be trans.
this would be working from the thesis that there is no trans identity without other trans people, and that there is no trans subjectivity without other trans subjects.
when is trans life grievable?
yup, this is the butler one. well, more than the others at least. the linked article at the verso books blog is a shorter version of an argument judith butler makes in Frames of War about the nature of grief and the impossibility of grieving a death when you never understood the deceased as alive, originally in the context of the largely anonymous and unknown and ungrieved victims of US imperialism overseas. this is what inspired what i eventually wrote on pride’s TDOR event poster: “what’s in a name if we only hear it when someone is dead?” the bolded parts are supposed to convey the idea i had that a list of names on a TDOR poster is only a list of names when in fact no, it’s not a name that has been brutally murdered, they’re a person.
and it’s nearly impossible to feel that pain and grieve as we should when all we have are numbers and names. the sheer invisibility and precarity of trans lives, particularly that of trans women of color, cannot be quantified. how can i grieve properly for the lives of 25 trans people, especially when the only reason i know of their birth is that i know of their death? even worse is when murder is the only exposure we have to the existence of trans people of color in the first place and what should be the inviolable legitimacy of their bodies and struggles. it must be ensured that white trans people cannot hide from our complicity in white supremacy behind a veneer of superficial grievance for the violence perpetrated against trans people of color. i think it’s not too much of a stretch to say that butler’s conception of grievability is a powerful one in this context.