lamentations for the good ol' days
June 3, 2013
Okay. So. I’m involved in two different Facebook groups for trans women. One is for all trans women and one is just for #girlslikeus of colour.
Now. One is obviously significantly larger, so it might account for the current bemoaning of ‘what has happened to this group’ and the exodus of people leaving the group. Without a doubt, it gets incredibly difficult to maintain a group that numbers in the hundreds and have most people feel safe and comfortable with participating. And it certainly could be the case that if the twoc split off group ever reaches the same numbers (and i hope it does) that the same problems will occur. Maybe a bunch of disabled twoc and/or fat twoc and/or some other axis of oppression will split off because they find the group hostile or unsafe for them to participate in. and that’ll be okay.
but what i really want to address is this lament in the white group about ‘what happened? this group used to be so supportive’. orly?
it is interesting for me to see this because i’ve only been in the group for about a week. so i guess i’m included into one of those things ‘that happened’ (likely not since i’ve never posted or commented on a post within the group). but what i did seen when i came into the group was a bunch of white hegemonic discourse and, after a few days, out and out anti-Black racism. so i can only take it on faith that at some earlier point the space was safe and warm and full of awesome sharing.
and, honestly? all this really tells me is that in this alleged ‘golden age’ either the number of twoc involved in the group was fewer or they simply let a lot of microaggressive and/or aggressive behaviour slide out of necessity (or, on the white people’s part, out of ignorance). the problems with groups like this is that they are usually just fine as long as the membership remains mostly homogenous and that the contextual power hierarchies are reified and left unchallenged.
and then, the group expands and suddenly there is (visible) diversity[1. spaces are almost always more diverse than anyone really gives them credit for]. then, ‘suddenly’ there are problems with people getting called out and fights happening and privileged people doing the upmost to maintain their relative position in the hierarchies. and, after this, we get the lamentation for the golden age.
the interesting thing is that these lamentations never recognize that, if this is the problem your group is having, it was already unsafe/unwelcoming/unprepared for people who’d disrupt the largely hegemonic membership. For people who’s very existence serves to challenge the discourse they seek to control and the hierarchies they wish to maintain.
in another sense, this is one of the biggest weaknesses of identity politics. Since, if you are operating within this realm alone, than identification is all that is necessary for membership. Thus, a trans woman’s / trans feminine group accepts anyone who IDs this way. And, yeah, there is a great deal to be said for this, since IDs should be respected and understood in this fashion.
however, this and the creation of the space itself, are not the same thing. Being provided membership should not be considered equivalent to being given space. Or rather, it is insufficient on its own to construct a ‘safe’ space.
because we live in an oppressive society. the default is oppression. if you start something with ‘all trans women can join’ and do nothing else, you’ll simply replicate and reify the default. This means your space will be defacto hostile to iaopoc, to people with disabilities, to fat people, to the poor, to sex workers, etc etc etc.
and the lamentations and reminiscing for the ‘golden age’ of the group just as the same ring to it as when white people are nostalgic about the 20s or the 50s, or whatever. Way back when, when live was simpler and they didn’t need to treat any iaopoc with even an ounce of humanity. life was simply because you had human beings (white people) and everyone else.
i see these lamentations and all i see are people with more relative privilege than me wishing that they were still able to maintain hegemonic control over both the group and the dialogues. lamenting that, all of a sudden, they need to start checking their oppressive behaviour and realizing that they are the only ones with the privilege to ‘just be a trans women’.
there is a reason why the only anglo word i use for my gender that isn’t me reclaiming a slur used against me is “transpinay”. It very clearly marks the ways that my race and my gender cannot be separated and can only be understood as a single concept ‘transpinay’.
as a method of my personal decolonisation i try to remind myself daily that everything i do, from this point on, is for the sole purpose of elevating, empowering, and freeing trans feminine iaopoc. Everything. because, even me, colonized body that i am, falls into the trap of defaults. of thinking of mostly white women when i say ‘trans woman’. get into the trap of thinking that if i do something to benefit a white trans woman, that this will actually help iaopoc trans women[2. sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn’t, however everything i do that benefits trans feminine iaopoc does benefit white trans women]. this is me. and i actually work actively to disrupt these thoughts.
i see these lamentations and i understand: this group was never for me. it was not created with the notion to accomodate people like me. always and forever one of the ‘bad elements’.