enby vs trans woman -- or reason 20893 why white trans women need to stfu
April 15, 2016
One thing I can always could on is that some white trans woman will write something on Gender that’ll irritate me enough to push past my depression-induced brain fog and lack of motivation. So, I guess in one respect I ought to be grateful bc I’ve been stuck with my writing for a week or so.
Today’s edition of ‘when will white trans women stfu’ is brought to you by a white trans woman who worries that the increasing visibility of enbies will eclipse the current visibility of trans women and, thereby, decentre ‘us’ from the movement/discourse/community/whatever. Toss in a sprinkle of identity policing over who can all themselves ‘trans’ or not1.
I don’t care so much about the identity policing beyond the fact that its ahistorical, given that ‘trans/gender’ is supposed to be a political identity that can include ‘cis’ and ‘trans’ ppl. I did see a mention of some kind of qualification that enbies ought not to use ‘trans’ as a personal identity… or something. What this means no one may ever know. Given the current state of things, its impossible to distinguish between the people who use ‘trans/gender’ as political or personal label (or sometimes both).
Total eclipse or something
What interested me more was this notion that enbies are eclipsing ‘trans women’ as a focal point in community politics (or, rather, that if enbies are left unchecked they could eclipse ‘trans women’). There was a mention of TDoV and how many of the posts/selfies were enbies (or whatever). There was also a mention of Laverne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner.
I think where I have to start with deconstructing this, is with pointing out that ‘trans women’ have never been and still are not the focus of trans politics and organizing. There are a few different ways to conceptualize this. The first is noting how ‘trans women’ were pushed out of teh ~movement~ shortly after Stonewall and ‘we’ve’ never been allowed back in.
The more interesting way to slice this is by noting that ‘trans women’ aren’t the current focus, but one could argue that white trans women are closer to the centre while trans women of colour continue our marginal existences. To any extent that its true that trans women are currently the centre of trans organzing, this is only true of white trans women.
On the whole, the few trans women with mainstream media platforms and in charge of various organizations are all white. A great deal of the mainstream trans discourse is entirely driven by white trans women (and men). Whenever I see a trans woman involved in some org that actually pays money (and has a budget), this trans woman is almost guaranteed to be white. I also know, on a smaller level, that the spaces, support groups, etc, that have a trans woman in some kind of leadership role… well, that trans woman is likely also white.
So what about twoc? Well… I know it might look like we are central to teh Discourse, but it isn’t true. What is central to the discourse is people talking about us. The white trans ppl who don’t coopt our experiences will use us as rhetorical props. The white trans women who perhaps do neither will just generalize us out of existence (which is what the white trans woman I’m talking about did).
It is a grave error to call twoc hypervisibility plain ol’ ~visibility~. These aren’t the same things. They’ll never be the same things. The rise in enby visibility really has no relation to twoc hypervisibility. Which is why, despite growing visibility for enbies, not much has changed for us on this account.
There is no such thing as an enby trans woman, I guess
The other thing that kills me about the post is that she very much posits a clear demarcation between ‘trans women’ and enby, such that it is apparently impossible to be both at the same time. This all while also recognizing that ‘enby’ isn’t really a coherent category.
Like… this white bitch really thinks she has the authority to decide that some of the people oppressed by racialized transmisogyny ought not to call ourselves ‘trans’ because we might eclipse trans women like her. Or that, I guess, if you’re a PORT who primarily identifies as nonbinary, you shouldn’t also identify as ‘trans’. Or, at the very least, you are not a trans woman.
Just a few days ago I wrote a post about the difficulty of articulating a perspective of being a twoc and nonbinary at the same time2. One of the things I realized during the course of writing that post is that ‘trans woman of colour’ is a composition of two different political labels, rather than an intrinsic identity of its own (or rather the political usage of ‘twoc’ is just as meaningful as the personal use).
For a while, I identified that way for political reasons. I used ‘trans’ because I was making a half-hearted attempt to connect with the ~community~. And I use/d ‘woman of colour’ as a way to mark my political committment towards inter-racial support with a focus on Black women/misogynoir3.
In any case, the post was mainly about the difficulties inherent with trying to be an enby trans woman of colour. Most that I know end up just…. not talking about being nonbinary because shitbags like this white trans woman are only too happy to deny our womanhood because of it. Others end up not expressing it (in presentation or otherwise) because there is a distinct stereotype for nonbinary people opppressed by racialized transmisogyny (and for white enby trans women too to a certain extent).
More or less, if you aren’t a bearded man in a dress with a full face on, few people will be willing to recognize or acknowledge your actual gender, choosing instead to conflate your political label with your personal identity. This includes other enby PORT, btw, who assume that by presenting in this way, they are the most/only visibily trans PORT and experience some kind of special hypervisibility4.
All of which results in the current situation, wherein a white trans woman feels perfectly justified in sending out a message that if you’re an enby PORT, you shouldn’t ID as ‘trans’ lest you ‘eclipse’ trans women like her.