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More on the trans* umbrella

(This was originally posted at Womanist Musings. Reprinting here for archival purposes.)

Over at TransGriot, there has been a very fascinating and educational series of posts about the trans* umbrella. The first part details the origins of the umbrella term and why it was chosen, while part two discusses why an umbrella term is needed.

In the first part the transgender label is described in the following way:

We understood that to be transgender is to have a non-conforming gender expression regardless of one’s gender identity. Transgender therefore is a meta-group consisting of many distinct groups, each sharing common causes but each also having unique challenges. Together we are stronger then we are when we are alone.

Which is, of course, how bakla ended up being part of the SF Trans March’s original call out. My first post on Womanist Musings called into question the applicability of such a rubric when removed from its cultural context and put into other contexts. I still think that this argument fails. One reason is couched in another statement, “The real problem is that the labels we have all SUCK.” Maybe all the English words suck, but I’m quite happy with bakla. It expresses everything I need it to about my gender/sexuality.

Of course it is a problem if anglophones/westerners have no words to express or identify their gender in ways that they like. Apparently, the solution to this problem is trans* or transgender. Which, of course, is a good thing. But it isn’t something I need (or want).

Most especially, I don’t need it for the reason part two of this series identifies as a reason for adopting the term: “Transgender was originally intended to be the label used to describe the sociopolitical alignment of interests between multiple groups who face discrimination, harassment & violence due to having non-conforming gender expressions.” While it is true that I belong to a group of people who might face discrimination, harassment, and violence due to my gender expression, I question the coherence and validity of any movement that demands I identify in a specific way in order to participate.

I stand in solidarity with trans* people. I am an ally and, even if I want the exact same rights, I still don’t accept the claim that people who “perceives they have been, are being or will be discriminated, harassed or suffer physical harm because of their gender expression” (italics in original) should identify as transgender, for political reasons. I’m well aware that I can identify as trans, should I desire to. But this imperative command is exactly the undercurrents of imperialism I discussed in my first Womanist Musings post.