faithfulimage: A photograph of a button displaying a symbol of queer women—namely, an inverted black triangle. (Default)
Dear Transgender Sibling,

I have noticed that today you found my blog after using this search query:
transgender “why go on living”
There are a lot of reasons someone might input this search phrase, but I am going to risk erring and assume you are a transgender person who is asking yourself a question I have asked myself countless times before: “Why go on living?”

I do not know about the specifics of your situation, but I can tell you a bit about mine. When I first told my mother that I was a girl, I encountered hostility, and that was only a preview of things to come. When I came out to the family member I thought was the most likely to be supportive, she ended all communication with me. I have survived abuse at the hands of a partner who used misgendering as an instrument of pain. I recently had a painful reminder that even a close friend and ally can fuck up in an inexcusable way. I am currently worried that I will lose a source of income once I come out to an institution that has in the past paid me for my work. If it seems that I am trying to make this all about me, I am sorry. That is not my intention. Rather the point I want to make is that when I say, “I know being transgender is hard,” I am not (entirely) full of shit. I know being transgender is hard.

So why go on living? I am not presumptuous enough to know what the answer is for you, but I can tell you what it is for me: Love. I do not mean the love cisgender people have for me. Perhaps you can relate when I say that cisgender people’s love is elusive, and it seems it is always on vacation when I am at my lowest. I also do not mean the love of other transgender people. There are a number of factors, including the structures in the cissexist society we live in, that have by and large kept me from establishing close relationships with other transgender people. When I say that love is the answer for me, I mean my love for transgender people. Looking back, I can say without hyperbole that the people who have inspired me the most over the past few years have all been transgender. More importantly, I love transgender people for the resilience we show when we refuse to deny our gender identities and our gender expressions when most of society or even our very bodies seem to mock us for it—resilience that you no doubt understand, my transgender sibling. I seldom say this, especially here, because I created this blog in part as an act of resistance against people who thrust me into the position of being the person who is transgender above all else, when quite often what I want to do is organize around women’s issues or queer issues. But when it comes to women’s issues, I am most passionate about the issues that affect transgender women, and when it comes to queer issues, I am most passionate about the issues that affect transgender queer people. The cisgender people I love most know that if they ever lose sight of the fact that they are your and my oppressors, they will lose whatever place of significance they have in my life. No matter what I do transgender people are never far from my mind.

If I were to off myself today, I would no longer be able to play a role in preserving a record of the contributions transgender people have made. I would no longer be able to talk about Sketch, the Chicago artist I had the privilege of meeting shortly before ze died in 2005 and who is often frequently misgendered and misnamed in cisgender people’s accounts of hir life. I would no longer be able to call out the cisgender feminists who say that transgender women have no place in conversations about reproductive rights and remind them that it was a transgender woman—namely, Kinsey AKA Genderbitch—who gave us one of the most cogent and widely-known defenses of the pro-choice stance. I would no longer be able to commemorate the transgender people of Stellar—people who surmounted a number of personal challenges to resist the Chicago Dyke March Collective’s cissexism in 2010. Cisgender people, especially those who are actively involved in our oppression, typically do not record our history for us. Like it or not, if we want these memories preserved, we will have to be the archivists.

Sometimes my love for transgender people manifests itself as rage—rage for the people who hate us or hurt us. There are people who say that nothing constructive can come from anger. I say, “Fuck them.” Many people have channeled their anger into constructive outcomes. And why this sweeping dismissal of everything that is destructive? The society we live in has a wide array of irredeemably cissexist structures that are unworthy of nothing more than being smashed to bits. There are people who say anger is a negative emotion. I say, “Fuck them.” If in my anger you, my dear transgender sibling, are the only person who sees that there is someone in this fucked up world who gives a damn, no emotion has ever served me better.

I go on living so that I can go on fighting. I fight to help build a world where no transgender person has to die in a hate crime or has to feel that they have nothing to live for. And don’t think for a moment this doesn’t include you. The first time I went to a Transgender Day of Remembrance vigil I was still pre-ho (i.e. still infused with emotion-suppressing testosterone), but I nevertheless fell into inconsolable sobbing when the names were read—names of people I had never had the opportunity to meet. The next time I read that a transgender person has committed suicide, I will likely respond in much the same way. It is not at all unusual for people who believe they have no influence in their lives to affect people profoundly in their deaths.

I cannot tell you why you should go on living. This is something you will need to figure out for yourself. As I said, I can only tell you why I go on living. I hope that you find something of value in what I have said. If you should want me to clarify or expand on anything I have written, please write to me.

Yours in the struggle,
Veronika

E-mail: faithfulimage@gmail.com

2011–09-18 Edit: Comments on this post will be screened and will remain private.

You Belong

2010-10-10 12:17 pm
faithfulimage: A photograph of a button displaying a symbol of queer women—namely, an inverted black triangle. (Default)
In the wake of tragedy an ad campaign has been launched to tell TBLGQ youth, “It gets better.” I think others (see Lisa Harney’s remarks at Questioning Transphobia, for example) have already done a good job elucidating what’s wrong with the ads. I will simply say that however well-intentioned the campaign may be, it would not have helped me when I was close to suicide, because I would not have believed that my situation would ever get better.

So why go on living? For me it comes down to this: I belong. I don’t mean that I’ve regularly had people close to me who tell me I belong—quite often I haven’t. And I certainly don’t mean that I find belonging in the cissexist, heterosexist society I’ve been forced to live in. What I mean is that I find belonging through the shared experience of being trans or queer. No matter how painful it becomes, there are people who know exactly what I’m feeling.

Have you ever felt so dysphoric in the body of the wrong sex that you thought it would be better to be dead? I’ve been there.

Have you ever felt so guilty about your same-gender attraction that you thought it would be better to be dismembered? I’ve been there.

Have you ever come out to a family member you thought would be understanding, only to find yourself estranged from that family member? I’ve been there.

Have you ever been in an abusive relationship and remained silent because there seemed to be no resources available to someone of your trans status or sexual orientation? I’ve been there.

Have you ever felt marginalized, even among oppressed people, because you’re queer or trans? I’ve been there.

Have you ever felt marginalized, even among other TBLGQ people, because you face oppressions apart from being queer or trans? I’ve been there.

Have you ever had a painful experience that seemed so typical of the trans or queer experience that you said nothing out of fear that people would say it was cliché? I’ve been there.

Have you ever had a painful experience that seemed so atypical of the trans or queer experience that you said nothing out of fear that no one else would understand? I’ve been there.

In saying this I don’t mean to suggest that any of the people who recently committed suicide are to blame for not understanding that they were not alone. It isn’t often that we’re told that we’re not alone. And perhaps they did know, but it wasn’t enough. Who are we to judge? There won’t be progress until we stop pointing fingers at the victims and start asking ourselves, “What could we be doing differently?”

I also don’t mean to suggest that the message I offer here is new or the solution to all the problems we face. I have no idea how helpful it will be in the grand scheme of things. However, it is something that has helped me, and it is something that I can say to you with all sincerity. You are not alone. You belong.

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faithfulimage: A photograph of a button displaying a symbol of queer women—namely, an inverted black triangle. (Default)
Veronika Boundless

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