While a lot of consciousness raising activism for the well being of the LGB community exist in the West similar actions for transsexuals and intersex people is sorely lacking. Personally, I have observed the lack of activism in these groups first hand. The fact that certain activists literally thrive on ignoring transsexual or intersex issues is alarming given what activist in the LGB have been through in the past. Yes, LGBT groups do insist on including the “t” and “i” as attachments and their functionality seems to end there.
Why gender supremacy? you may well ask and with good reason. gender supremacy is about entitlement, superiority and in effect, supremacy born of the assumption that their sex or gender identity is “natural” and transsexual or intersex people is ‘unnatural.’ So through out this essay, gender supremacy will be described as, ‘gender supremacy’ and gender supremacist will be called, ‘gender supremacists’ to illustrate where this leaves the “t” and “i” in this equation.
This is not to say all activist shy away from support work for the course of transsexual and intersex right but genuine ones are scarce on the ground. This results in Abandonment of transsexuals and intersex who end up left on the battlefield to face the music of our perceived wrong doings, stripped of gender supremacy which is then turned against us and is used to render us voiceless. Is it any wonder that gender supremacist know hardly anything about transsexuals and intersex people except what they have constructed without asking us? I can only wonder how we ended up at this juncture, given stonewall and the previous allies found in transsexual and intersex people, now excluded, or left by the way side.
When one’s very life becomes an act of constant “embodied activism” (by which I mean the transsexual and intersex’ and bodily juxtaposition as a site of physical activism) it is not enough to accept conferred isolation while gender supremacists write us out of existence in the name of acquiring knowledge. Every time a transsexual or intersex person waits on gender supremacists that person becomes complicit in their view of themselves and others like them. Transsexual language is the path to transparent transsexual agency as oppose to gate keeper’s agency which prevails at transsexual and intersex cost.
Is it being silent when you make your presence felt every time you go out? I definitely know that, that, is not the case. Could it be said, that my silence was some sort of sabbatical I took from tackling issues facing transsexuals and intersex people? Some sabbatical that would have been. I have had a few hard knocks of late in which a white gay friend mounted a vitriolic attack on me to the point that I became homeless. “Go stay in a hostel or something” they shouted barely allowing me enough time to digest my Christmas dinner never mind check my presents. At the worse time ever to go house hunting I was thrown out but that’s just one of many things that could go wrong apart from one attempt at groping me which I stopped before it got out of hand and another at purloining money which was for me to stay until January, not! In the end, I just stopped speaking in the face of abuse since I discovered that I was a fowl in a wolves’ den, basically sleeping with one eye open, in that gender supremacist’s lair. Thank goodness that is over or is it? I wondered when the phone rang and I was asked to come pick up my DVD player’s remote control. The last thing I expected was more objectification but that was what I got. My friend was scarce. I was asked to pick up my stuff from a seventy something year old woman who’s questionings eyes told a telling story.
Activism from the standpoint of transsexual and intersex people is almost completely dead in the water of gender supremacy even before it is voiced. Precisely, and this is in the Western world or should we just call it, “gender supremacy heaven” which old colonies then perpetuate by vent of their colonial past. Since as informed by a school boy, “but we are in Europe” who was speaking to a transphobic friend of his; another school boy, no less. I felt that didn’t matter! Had I developed a thick skin, or something? But what does one do in circumstances that render one “dead inside” as some gender supremacists contended with impunity faced with silence. Nothing? Definitely, not, as the saying went even if verbalising a response potentially risks the prospect of violence all you need to do is stay present in the face of humiliation. Hiding won’t do. Facing gender supremacy face on is the only way ahead be it from hetero/homo normative quarters. Face it; you have to whether you pass or not, by being confident.
Trust me, I have been following the news surrounding LGBT Africa and it doesn’t make pleasant reading or viewing but that is not to understate some of the positive moments we have gained over the years in post colonial. In South Africa, Uganda, Malawi, Nigeria and so many other countries in this culturally diverse continent, we exist to fight the fight of getting on with our lives on a daily basis. However, what I discover in the African Diaspora is a near non existent activism not to mention how you are likely to be pathologised for being the person you are; as is the case in my experience. So much so that I was overjoyed to see this femme black figure on a bus on my way home. I smiled remembering having seen the figure before, I heard the abuse go out and saw her/his reaction to it. I would even had decided to get off three stops before my stop just to say, “Hi!” or something but such run ins were not particularly helpful as they could provoke unwanted attention so I had to let go.
Have we given up the fight even before we start? I so hope not. I stopped going to support groups where the ethos was compulsory “passing.” Personally, every waking day is another battle. I arm myself with my Afro transsexual body, with a head tie sometimes, with make up every time and at times, with a shoulder bag to face the world deliberately not feeling the need to hide my past nor displace my future. However when I look at what is prescribed as “existing in our body” the image that flirts back at us doesn’t always sit well. What I mean by this is that we are not all “ultra femme” but this is the only guise the lesbian, gay men, bisexual, heterosexual seem to ascribe to us. Anything else is viewed as an affront to their worldview. I should know after a stint of about 6 years in various roles that the LGB wants to define who is acceptable and who isn’t (just like heterosexuals carry on doing.) Anything else and we are accused of being disrespectful, dishonest or worse, just keeping the outdated binary fixation as if we did not have lives beyond our gender identities or sexual orientations to live. I cannot forget seeing a reputed HIV/AIDS activist lose his rag on You Tube. There caught on camera was a personification of the depth of LGB angst toward transsexual and intersex people.
Remember this, if nothing else, as transsexuals and intersex people are human beings, women or men, lesbian, gay, bisexual or even heterosexual but this is not the sum total of our experiences.
Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Women by Julia Serano, p. 161 – 193, Seal Press, Berkeley, CA, 2007.
Mia Nikasimo © March 2010.