living your truth - a double edged sword
May 7, 2016
Not sure why, but some of the now standard phrases I’ve heard used to describe the whole trans thing have started to bother me. I don’t like ‘living authentically’ and maybe I’ll write about that next. But today I want to talk about the whole ‘living/speaking your truth’ framework for articulating trans identity.
I’m trying to remember when I might’ve first noticed this phrasing. It might be from Janet Mock’s Redefining Realness (a quick google search shows the phrase appearing on page 235). This is probably the most likely place I’ve seen it since I don’t think anyone in my immediate circle has ever framed their identity like this.
I don’t think I’ve said too much about this type of trans/gender discourse because as much as I don’t like it, its a much better framework than the whole ‘i’m trapped in a x body’. So there are definite merits to this framework since it takes a step away from the medical, pathologizing framework we used to have1. Anything that takes us away from the medical model of trans/gender identity is a Good Thing as far as I’m concerned.
The problem, though, is that on a very basic level I don’t actually understand what this phrase is supposed to mean. What is living my truth? What is this truth? How am I living it?
Most cases where I’ve seen this being used is basically trans people being out? Transitioning? Something like this?
Basically a narrative that at some point in your life you figure out what your truth is and then take some kind of substantive step to live it. Or maybe its that you’ve always known the truth but have decided to stop denying it. What worries me is that at some point in your life we were living falsely, which sure I have no doubt that some people think of it that way.
I’ve spoken in the past why I don’t like frameworks like this in relation to the usual closet narratives that place a moral imperative for people to be ‘out’ otherwise you’re hiding, living a lie, etc and so on. Its an alientating framework that only serves to shame people who – for whatever reason – aren’t out.
The bigger problem with ‘living my truth’ is the individualism and subjectivity of the framework. Which might not be a problem if this didn’t fit into the same model that many conservatives and radical ppl on the left use to push transmisogynist agendas.
Here’s what I mean by this. Almost on a daily basis I’ll read some reactionary article talking about trans ppl using restrooms and privacy. The writer will usually say something to the effect, “why are these deluded people allowed to force us to accommodate this?”. For them, it’d be the same as letting someone become the absolute monarch of the US simply because they had this ‘delusion’. Just because this person believes they are the King of the USA, this doesn’t actually make them so.
Similarly, this is how reactionaries invoke biology and sex as a weapon. They ask, ‘why are we allowing a group of people with false beliefs to influence policy?’. I mean. A ~male~ thinking she’s a woman is clearly disconnected from reality because biology2. No one should be forced to conform or affirm a person’s erroneous belief about the world, especially when it clearly runs contra to fact.
‘Living my truth’ plays into this. Why is the fact that I’m bakla my truth. It isn’t mine. It is neither personal nor subjective. The truth is that I’m bakla. This is a factual statement about the world. This is true regardless of whether or not other people believe that people like me don’t exist (and remember that I’ve read in textbooks claiming people like me do not exist anymore).
Basically, the problem I have with ‘living my truth’ is that it appears to make recognition of my humanity an optional thing. This my truth and I’m living it. To some radfem, well her truth is that I’m sub-human abomination who deserves to die. And in this framework of personal, subjective truth, both are apparently the same.
So no… I’m not living my truth. My living is all the truth there is.