romanticizing the trans native? or how to avoid a critical mistake
May 27, 2013
no, this isn’t about the article of a similar title although it is related to the notion of what it means to romanticize iaopoc genders.
it is something i have somewhat talked about before, that white gq and/or non-binary people will use the existence of iaopoc genders to legitimize their own genders, and while doing so, they often have the ahistorical, romantic notion of these genders so common whenever discussing Indigenous or pre-colonial societies.
but this post isn’t about them.
it is a reminder to myself and a caution to others who may have fallen into the same trap. [1. I can’t find the post right now that gained me this insight into a critical mistake that i was either making or had definitely made. to a certain extent because of one historical reality i’ve been reasonably good at not being too bad on this account, i think.]
it is about those iaopoc among us (me included) who – if we have access to it – maybe or can or definitely do over-romanticize whatever indigenous gender we might have. This can definitely be a very big problem for those of us living in a diaspora [2. now that i think about it this concern is related to my post on Pin@y appropriation of Indigenous traditions]. Because at heart of the issue is by invoking an indigenous or ‘historical’ gender, many of us (and I’ve been guilty of this) do so as a means to legitimize our genders.
but our genders aren’t legitimate because they have a long, documented history. because they are woven into the fabric of our culture. no.
our genders are legitimate because here we are, today, living and breathing. they are legitimate because we still exist. that we can connect our current existence to a larger tradition doesn’t make them more real, it simply means that we have a longer history than some other genders. another way to put this is: old genders aren’t any more real than new genders.
and am i not talking about white genders here. a transpinay who chooses to id as a woman (or transgender woman, or just ‘transgender’ as I’ve seen), is just as legitimate and real in how she embodies her gender. it is, without a doubt, a more recent thing that some bakla (or Tagalogs who might have once identified this way) identify not as bakla, but as an unqualified woman. This is real. And nor should she be considered to be anything other than what she identifies as, a woman.
While ‘woman’ isn’t new, those who purposefully and intentionally modify ‘woman’ and id as a trans woman… this is something rather new. Yes, we can understand and locate this in a larger historical context, but we must also understand and respect that when she IDs as a trans woman, the unconsentual third gendering is just as transmisogynist as calling someone who IDs as bakla, a trans woman [3. if you’ll forgive me momentarily talking as if these are mutually exclusive IDs – they certainly aren’t and a person can be both, if they want].
Now, we could go around at act as if a pinay IDing as a trans woman is a seriously problem because it shows how she is internalizing and allowing herself of be colonized by white genders or we could just shut the fuck up and respect her very real right to self-identify however the fuck she wants.
moreover, acting as if ‘old’ or ‘traditional’ is somehow better or more legitimate also erases the fact that in today’s world, having one of these genders (or in the societies with these genders) that colonialism hasn’t left is marks and that transmisogyny is still very much a reality for #girlslikeus. The danger of romanticizing the genders and the cultures with them, is why i periodically see all these articles (often not written by actual Pinays living in the Philippines) glowing about how much better/more accepting it is for #girlslikeus in the homeland.
which simply serves to erase the very real oppression being experienced by transpinays in the PH this very moment: the realities of transmisogynist violence, sex work, sexual exploitation, sex tourism, sex trafficking, HIV, legal discrimination, challenges with documentation, medical abuse and discrimination, poverty, etc etc etc. and erases the ways that, despite being a result of colonialism, that mobilizing and having available the IDs of ‘woman’ or ‘trans woman’ [4. not exclusive categories, but i am trying to highlight the benefits of strategic identity] has empowered many transpinays to work within the current realities and society present right now in the PH, to obtain rights, resources, recognition, and respect. [5. related but somewhat off topic is the fact that not everyone has direct access or knowledge of their heritage, because colonialism works to dislocate and displace us from this. and there are many many iaopoc for whatever reason use ‘white’ words to describe their genders and their experiences – fuck, i need to use english because I cannot speak Tagalog. me using english or english words to talk about myself and my gender doesn’t suddenly render it invalid]
this is real
my gender is real because it is mine and i say it is. it is no more realer because it happens to have a specific history and context
the past is in the past and we cannot recover it. more to the point, there was no golden age. how things were is not necessarily better.
I enjoy learning about my history not because i have a romantic vision of the past or because i wish to return to the old ways of doing things, but because it helps me formulate ways that i can move into the future in ways that maybe can prevent us from repeating the same mistakes and for pushing towards a world and life where #girlslikeus can be free. it fuels my creativity and helps me look towards the future. i have no interest in resurrecting the desiccated corpse of the past, the imperfect past.