The Two Sides of the Trans Community Should Respect Each Other
There’s no incompatibility actually
Today, I am going to revisit the assimilationist vs openly queer thing. There’s no incompatibility there, actually.
I am, of course, closer to the assimilationist end of the spectrum. And I guess it makes sense for me. Everyone around me is cis and straight. In fact, I’ve never had a close LGBT friendship in my whole life. All my friends are cis and straight, in other words. Therefore, I practically exist in the cis-straight culture in real life. It’s simply my living situation. There should be nothing taboo about stating this, it’s the way a lot of LGBT people live out there in the real world. And given that we all like to fit in with our family, our friends and our social groups, I’m naturally not going to make being trans a big part of my identity. Again, this is simply real life, not some form of ‘respectability politics’. The other thing is, I can only take being reminded of being trans in small doses. If I were always reminded that I’m trans, it would be very dysphoric for me. Again, it’s not internalized transphobia, it’s simply the way my dysphoria works. I can go for days without consciously remembering that I’m trans, and I like it that way.
Now, I understand that not all LGBT people, not all trans people, like to live life the way I do. Some apparently want to celebrate their queerness every day. If that’s their thing, then more power to them. As a Moral Libertarian, I’m very pluralist when it comes to cultural and aesthetic matters. Each to their own. Surely, I’m not going to wear trans pride badges or any rainbow stuff when I go out. But if other people do, I certainly don’t mind. I even think it looks great on other people. Just not me.
The problem, I think, is that there hasn’t been enough mutual understanding, respect and acceptance, and this goes both ways. For example, I understand that some of my fellow assimilationists have bad things to say about the very openly queer, and I don’t agree with that. On the other hand, some of the people on the other side think that we have internalized transphobia, that we pursue respectability politics, or that we don’t have a spine and will always bow down to mainstream society. This biased view of who we are, and the resulting disrespect towards our needs, is equally uncalled for. For example, parts of the LGBT community kept calling gay marriage a respectability politics issue. This was very unkind to those of us who live in communities where rights and dignity are only conferred with marriage, whether we like it or not. Similarly, a trans person living in mainstream society wants mainstream acceptance because we want a job, we want friends, and we don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb. Honestly, I don’t think this is too much to ask for. As assimiliationists, we do have needs and priorities to help us integrate into mainstream culture, because that’s where we live our life. If you respected us more, you may become more empathetic to this need. Trust me, if you were living my life, and you suffered from the disadvantages of not living in a very pro-LGBT community, you too would prioritize some of the things I prioritize too.
The fact is, we may live under the same umbrella, but we have very different needs. I think it’s time to respect and support each other, though our lives may be different. Let’s end the pointless cultural and aesthetic wars, so we may achieve some practical progress together.
TaraElla is a singer-songwriter and author, who recently published her autobiography The TaraElla Story, in which she described the events that inspired her writing.
She is also the author of The Trans Case Against Queer Theory.