on domestic violence and twoc
(this is an excerpt from the conclusion to my forthcoming 2015 anthology of essays)
I started this year with a long essay about Leelah Alcorn. Unfortunately, many of the suggestions I had for practical action appear to have had very little uptake by people within the community, much less people without. This is especially true concerning domestic or intimate partner violence. As has been true for a while, a significant portion of twoc murdered in the US (and likely internationally, but I can”t assert this with any confidence beyond my suspicions) where murdered/killed by intimate partners. Far more than, outside of a few consistent voices, anyone is bothering to examine or notice.
It doesn”t help that there are certain trends within the community that make talking about DV/IPV difficult. That have managed to silence or derail many budding conversations about this. What I”m mainly talking about here is that dating women (or just not men in general), especially other trans women, has become a way to signal your ideological purity. A way to gauge just how radical and political you are (yes, up to and including, people outright stating that political lesbianism for trans women ought to be encouraged).
So… whenever any of us who date men try talking about the dangers and problems of doing so, it takes about five seconds for someone to go “this is to hetero” or whatever. It means that when Laverne Cox talks about how men who date trans women are stigmatized, the backlash against her is swift and furious _from her own community_1. While I do disagree with her phrasing, this is actually something we desperately need to talk about.
We can”t really start conceptualizing the problem of domestic violence (and its deathly impact on twoc) without, you know, paying some kind of attention to the trans women who date men.
I”m sure more than a few people have noticed my usage of the phrase ‘trans women who date men” rather than the (likely) expected ‘hetero” or ‘straight”. One of the barriers to having an open, honest, and sincere discussion about how cis men are killing their trans partners of colour, is that the women who date men just get handwaved away as ‘straight” or ‘hetero”. Its an interesting simplification in a community that is often more nuanced with in how it attempts to conceptualize gender and sexuality.
Its a simplification that relies on the general insistence that gender and sexuality are two distinct aspects of a person”s identity. That one has nothing to do with the other. Of course… if you reject this claim (as I always have) then assigning a hetero identity to any given trans women who dates men becomes an issue (additionally, for some bizarre reason everyone seems to assume that all twoc who date men are binary-identified, because of course being non-binary is radical and thus does not date men).
This is still one of the most mind boggling things that comes up all the time. I know that I often am dismissed as a ‘straight” when I talk about this topic (either dating/romance OR intimate partner violence). Despite the fact that I quite openly identify as third gender. Above all, its this perspective that got me to understand that this has created an atmosphere where it is incredibly difficult to talk about the fact that the men we are dating are fucking killing us.
Between this and sex work (which aren”t really distinct things btw), these are the two main classes of twoc murders. And, in the end, in both cases, twoc are dying at the hands of, more or less, the same class of people, aka cishet men. And yet, twoc who date men and, um you know, want to actually talk about this are dismissed (or derided) for talking up too much space, since one of the things about ~queer~ politics is that queer ppl should be centered. Not something I disagree with, in a general sense, but apparently we can”t be more nuanced in the trans community.
Its interesting because of how many are murdered, we can totally understand why twoc sex workers need to be centered in whatever it is that we are doing. And they absolutely do. Its just… interesting how the group that has the second highest number of deaths are just dismissed as ‘straight” and told not to take up space by discussing the fact that we are being murdered.
And if I sound bitter, its because I am. I”ve seen discussion after discussion get shutdown and derailed because ‘who cares about men” or ‘who cares about heteros”. And, like, I have totally encountered people within teh ~community~ who are embarrased, ashamed, or just plain quiet about dating men. Because of the current political dynamics. I”ve seen women who ought to be front and centre of our discussions of racialized transmisogynist violence hesistate to even mention that they are attracted to and date men.
What impact do you think this has on twoc who want to seek support or resources for dealing with an abusive male partner? Its too fucking uncool and regressive to date men and so the silence around DV/IPV continues and many discussions around it are stifled before they can really get off the ground.
And its a shame because pretty much all of zero organizations that are focused on DV/IPV actually pay any substantive attention to twoc. Most that I”ve seen pretty much seem to think that this a problem that impacts cis women only. Certainly, there hasn”t been any real discussion about how to, you know, make these services and supports accessible to twoc (up to and including shelters). I see very little organizing around the fact that many rape crises centres and IPV shelters outright exclude trans women from their services (esp. if we do not ‘pass” or haven”t had teh surgery).
Its ironic. Given recent events in my own life, I know that even as I write this, I”ve already been dismissed by more than a few radical twoc because I, a heterosexual, am busily silencing trans lesbians by existing as a straight. I know that I”ve been talking on and off about this for the past year and pretty much nothing has changed. The few twoc who were talking about this before I started are, more or less, still the only ones who appear to care.
But hey, if I do end up getting killed, I can take comfort in the fact that there are queer twoc who neither do sex work nor date men who”ll be more than happy to pretend like they are at equal risk for being murdered. And use this as a way to position themselves as leader and authorities within teh community. 😀