Supporting Trans Resistance: Nothing About Us, Without Us

What happens when “transgender resistance” centers cis voices?

Mahdia Lynn
Feb 25, 2017 · 4 min read

Let’s play a thought experiment:

Say there’s an Intersectional Women’s March planned for next Saturday. There are four central organizers for the march, and every one of them is a white man. When the issue is raised that a Women’s March without any women isn’t a women’s march at all, let alone an intersectional one, the organizers assert that women simply need to come to them to ask for a seat at the table. The burden is placed upon women to ask men’s permission to help plan the event. Women who raise the issue that this is unacceptable are told they’re being divisive & to just stay quiet and roll with it because they already rented the sound equipment. Near every major feminist organization in the city has boycotted the event, but they continue on without them. The media praises the organizers for their allyship and everything goes off without a hitch.

This would be ridiculous, right? It would be seen as paternalizing and patriarchal and this kind of event would never be able to get off the ground.

So why is it okay when cis people are claiming to represent transgender resistance?

This is happening in Chicago today: a “transgender rights march” is being planned by white cisgender men — men with no connection to Chicago’s vibrant and prolific transgender organizing base. When I contacted the organizers to ask what the event was doing to protect transgender immigrants, QTPOC and disabled people, instead of an answer I was asked to invite transgender immigrants to speak at his event. News articles begin to surface about the event and not one of them bothers to quote a transgender person.

There is an rally planned on March 3rd, led by trans people and centering women of color in the planning process. When trans organizers ask the cisgender-led march to give up their leadership positions and throw resources behind the efforts of transgender organizers, they refuse. They choose not to defer to trans leadership and instead tack on a link for the March 3rd event onto their mission statement. The first news article to mention this transgender-led event discusses conflict between the two events as if it’s a minor political disagreement.

When the issue is raised that a trans march without trans leadership is no trans march at all, objectors are called divisive and ungrateful.

This is happening in Chicago today.

Now is not a time for performative solidarity. Trans rights are under attack and it’s time for the LGB-Q community to line up in support. HOWEVER, there can be nothing about us without us. Transgender people have a long legacy of organizing for our people. We know strategy. We know what works. I’ve been at this for over a decade and my mentors and ancestors have been at it long before I was ever born. Hell, we’re often the ones holding down the gay movement just the same (who threw the first bottle at Stonewall? who rose up at the Compton Cafeteria Riot?). Want to fight for trans rights? LISTEN TO US. Because we are the people who put our lives on the line to make the world safer for our youth. Because we’re not just a political gambit or a rhetorical device. Because these are our lives.

If you are more concerned with your feelings and image as an “ally” — you do not care about transgender rights.

If you host an event “for” trans people and no leadership from within the community is involved, you do not care about trans people.

If your event doesn’t connect the dots between transphobia, racism, xenophobia and state violence, your event is not safe for most trans people.

If at the last second you have to tack “especially trans women of color” to the end of your literature, you do not really care about trans women of color.

If you really want to be an ally to the transgender resistance stop making it about yourself and center trans voices.

original art by Ethan X. Parker

We’re here, we’re fighting. And we need your support. But we need you all in. Please, please, give up the conditional support and performative solidarity. Show up for trans-led events. Promote trans leadership. Listen to us for once.

We know what we’re doing. Just follow the leader.

[Madison Mahdia Lynn is a community organizer in Chicago and founder of Masjid al-Rabia, a women-centered LGBTQIA+ affirming organization providing spiritual care for marginalized Muslims. She is a Muslim woman of trans experience, and has been at this long enough to know a thing or two. You can follow her on Twitter.]

Mahdia Lynn

Written by

educator, advocate, abolitionist // Director, Masjid al-Rabia

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