Transition and access
April 16, 2012
(Originally posted at Womanist Musings. Posting here for archival purposes.)
So,this post about how race affects queerness (and gender) hit a strong chord with me. Particularly this part:
It affects my DESIRE to transition. I don’t want to deal with more fear than I already deal with. People are pretty much already looking for any reason they can to attack black men and women. I live my life avoiding ANYONE I don’t know that I perceive to be a man out of abject fear of shit going down. That is bad enough for me. My desire to present properly is far, far, faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar inferior to my fear. That is not true for some black people, and that is amazing and beautiful and wonderful.
I find this is a discussion that doesn’t happen often enough in trans* circles. You hear a lot of discussion about how medical gatekeeping for transition adversely impacts the lives of trans* folk, but nothing about the various issues and societal barriers that can impact a person’s desire to transition, regardless of what access they may or may not have.
(Now this is also not to brush aside a very necessary discussion about how white trans* folk will have an easier time navigating the medical industrial complex or how TPoC will undoubtedly experience serious barriers when attempting to access medical transition.)
But let us discuss the actual decision to transition and how not everyone will have equal freedom or desire to choose to do so.
(Again, not discounting the experiences to TPoC who transition as a necessary means of their own survival.)
If you look at the recent Injustice at Every Turn report, you’ll not that TPoC faired worse on almost ever single measure than white trans* people (and I’m sure many will notice that Asian trans* people often had similar number as white trans* folk – as much as I’m a proud Filipin@, I’m also mixed and this matters). I look at a report like this and note other stories that discuss the high rates of sex work among trans* Filipinas and I become decidedly less interested in engaging in transgressive gender behaviour (while I’m not a woman, this binary obsessed society would likely perceive me to be if I presented as I’d like).
In a world where I can see just how much more difficult getting a job (and keeping it), getting housing, and living would be if I were to do what I’d need to alleviate my dysphoria, I (too easily) decide that I’ll just deal with the dysphoria rather than transition. I (it may be surprising) have a strong desire to continue living and working. Part of this means recognizing that being out (being visible) is not in my best interests.
Of course, I’m not just a PoC. So it isn’t just that. I also have agoraphobia and have anxiety about leaving the house. I’m not sure I could manage to leave the house at all presenting in an authentic way.
(I used to when I was young and had some scary experiences that are with me today and feed into my current fears.)
All of this is to say: where are the conversations in the white trans* community talking about this? I don’t see it mentioned (often, if at all). It is one more reminder of the privileges whiteness grants people because getting to transition or express your authentic gender is a (at least in part) a function of a privilege that not everyone has.