CIS PPL DON’T READ THIS FUCK OFF
a couple of weeks ago we woke up to two london trans pride events, cus the new one @londontranspride followed maz and not noa LOL, and we’ve been thinking a lot about it. noa wrote the first draft of this at 5 am while crying on the sofa downstairs because maz kicked her out of the bed because she was making too much noise writing this and crying IN bed. And we didn’t wanna say anything cus we didn’t wanna cause a fuss and possibly hurt and undermine other trans ppl so we sat on it for a while. but we do wanna say something, so here goes.
so a split has happened, and it’s quite telling. the original plan of an indoor space for trans community to gather has had to cancel, and a march has been announced. we’re not out here questioning which one, gathering or march, should take precedence - probs both should have happened. but we wanna question the ideas behind the now only trans pride event. The organisers of the march say this: ‘there is great power in the image and voice of trans+ people. We exist and we are proud. Imagine how far we can spread this message, imagine how many people we can reach. We welcome cis allies to join us’. (it’s important to note that the + is for intersex ppl, whereas the old event was called London Trans and Intersex Pride)
There’s a lot of statements going on here:
1. there is great power in the image and voice of trans+ people
2. we exist and we are proud
3. Imagine how far we can spread this message
4. We welcome cis allies
Here are questions in response to them:
1. is there great power in the image and voice of trans people? in what context and why
2. we exist, but are we proud/do we have to be?
3. what message are we spreading, and to whom?
4. what cis allies, and what are we going to do with them?
first things first, being trans isn’t inherently politically radical. (almost) everything can be hijacked by power. radicality has to be practised, and when it gets comfy then it has to be challenged. Young trans people like us were born into a time of rampant individualism which has infected everything, and everywhere we see examples of people who use the language and aesthetic of radical politics with the vague aim of furthering their careers and see assimilation or co-option as a win. we were taught to exploit ourselves wholly and manipulate any streak of otherness in our identity into a selling point, raising ourselves above our unexceptional siblings. And then we add a hero narrative to this discomfort to make ourselves feel better about upselling our traumies. many of us have learnt about radical movements from bad depictions in TV and film, where there’s usually a ‘chosen one’ narrative and the protests and actions are fun, unplanned, sexy. There’s no admin in these depictions, none of the hard thankless work behind the visibility, and none of the losses.
We understand the call for positive visibility but we have to be realistic about what’s going on. the forces of neoliberalism are on alert and attacks on trans people are being launched regularly in the press - people know we exist, more than ever. Despite increasingly Liberal (pun intended) use of the aesthetic and language of activism in the cultural output of brands/art stuff/club nights, there is currently no unified movement or struggle - only pockets of radicalism acting under great pressure. there is no trans-wide community irl, and maybe there doesn’t need to be, but tbh there is no stable community for anyone anymore and yet the term is thrown around increasingly particularly in arts council applications and the faux-radicalism of yt middle class people who would’ve never had a need for a community had they not turned out to be trans and/or queer. and maybe this is the issue with any movement without rigorous class analysis and collectivism. our goals will never be unified. this is why the only decipherable aim of this march is for visibility, and what is visibility at the end of the day? If the march is being figurheaded by one or two ppl then it’s starting to look a lot like CLOUT. a group of trans people need to march through the streets, being VISIBLE for the cis. But the cis know we’re here and they have done for decades, so who is this for really? can we really have visibility on our own terms?
also, this call to arms is being written by a white woman, and u can use as much universal language as u like and put up pics of poc on ur insta but it’s still as far as we are aware being headed by yt ppl. Dunno, maybe we’re wrong, and i (noa) don’t wanna claim some oppression olympics here, but as a (part) latina woman can u please not say ‘from e-mails of gratitude and inspiration from trans+ youth in Brazil...London Trans+ Pride has already inspired so many people across the globe’. look, i’m not brazilian, but plz don’t speak on behalf of ppl, especially not ‘people from X’, because it sounds like ur being super fetishisticcccc. and please don’t say u have ‘inspired’ them, it’s a bit white saviour complex. also when you announce ‘food chain Wagamamas creating gender neutral bathrooms in our honor’ in the same breath it seems like you’ve missed the point. We point this out not to shoot down ppl but to recognize the seemingly blanket whiteness of this event, and how privilege can make us act in damaging ways even when we have the best intentions. we are all in danger of doing this.
Visibility can not be the only demand for the movement, nor the only method. It can only be part of a larger struggle. One which intersects with decolonial practices, class struggle, disability liberation. If we want cis allies, we want it to exist as working class and anti-racist solidarity in the fight against capitalism, not cis people thinking we are fit. Visibility under these circumstances is important - we need to know what trans people are, and seeing a magazine spread could help a baby trans in an isolated community do that. But visibility under these circumstances will almost always be offered in the context of extreme otherness. look at this hot trans girl, you’d never guess/she’s hot for a tran. People already desire trans women and think trans women are hot, men’s desire will not save us and generalised cis approval will not save us because it can be redacted at any time. Visibility will barely offer assimilation, and what to those of us who do not wish to assimilate, or simply cannot due to intersecting oppressive forces like not being white or non-disabled?
personally we are sick of the cis looking at us. Every time we’ve gone out together as a couple we’ve been harassed or attacked. one of the less dangerous but very telling times was on maz’s birthday. We’d been getting stares and double takes and shouts in Richmond, so were relieved to be back in waterloo station trying to buy a pudding in marks&sparks. This posh white man came over to us, stopped us and said ‘that was hilarious!’. We realised he’d been watching us as we looked at our face shapes in the reflection of the window - noa’s is changing and I’m worried I have no jawline as usual. He said ‘It was so funny!’ and tried to do a pose like ours. He told us we were vogueing and started making a box around his face with his hands and said there were a few photos being taken. We said oh that’s not great and he said oh isn’t it?? that’s what u were doing - It’s not a one way mirror! and we ran off and didn’t even get to buy a pudding. It’s really great that this guy knows what vogueing is, because visibility is important guys. ppl in power think everything is usable for them: just because they are forced to see u doesn’t mean they see u as a human. Instead they see u as something to be taken from - another experience in the new experience economy.
The publicity for this event seems to suggest that this is about marching for marching’s sake - to be the first (questionable considering Queer Picnic and @ukblackpride have been around for time and are pretty trans-focussed, but maybe they not white enough eh?), in a time when being the first is a bastion of visibility (the first unmarried girlfriend of a sitting prime minister - big up!). But where are the elders on this historic occasion? I guess most of them are dead, but there are some about - maybe they just aren't returning ur phone calls? Let’s face it we are all 20 something art ppl who shouldn’t be acting like we represent the whole trans community. Especially if one of our main goals from all this is to get in to some of the most exclusive industries in the world - fashion, contemporary art etc. If we are going to put ourselves on the front line and march, it should be for real demands - social housing, homeless shelters, refuges, access to decent trans healthcare, getting rid of the gatekeepers, trans education in schools, subsidised taxi services for trans ppl, 4 years fkin sick leave while u transition, we could go on but at a certain point these demands aren’t about just trans people anymore cus they’re what we need for everyone who’s struggling. But these aren’t cute fun demands that will get you cis allies in positions of power. They are, however, demands that will get you working class cis allies, cis allies with just as little individual power as you, actual potential allies in the fight against capitalism. Too many to fit in a fashion editorial, tho.
most of the work of a movement is building a collective and inclusive voice, otherwise really all you are doing is speaking on behalf of people. that’s not easy to do but it has to be done. none of us invented being trans. A lot of us have it better because of legitimate change brought about by real struggle by working class trans women of colour who, at the end of it all, died penniless on the street because social and economic conditions did not change for them. These are the ppl that u post pics of on ur insta with inspirational quotes. And truuuuuussss me, i (noa) wanna b famous so bad!!! I wanna b interviewed!!! I’m white-looking-yet-exotic enough!!! I can say funny things on cue!!! But idk i’m too anxious and too scared and i like to think that, if that happens, i can swerve that shit hard because i know that i know as much or less than any other trans person out there. And i wouldn’t wanna b the person who programmes a cis headliner for the trans pride afterparty.
this constant fighting wears me (noa) down. I wanna talk about how i like looking at old buildings and learning about the history of local farming practices. i want to talk about going to synagogue and the movies. I want to be something more than Trans-Woman, which is the only thing i can be in this violent society if i’m not being a jew or a latin american or idk a race-traitor. i want to be a vibrant and complicated whole. I never thought society was gonna change enough to treat me like i’m a human, cus i got told about the camps and i got told about when the CIA trained a dictator to blow up la moneda and kept him in power for decades. and i’m white-passing and from the west. we wont go cus we’re tired, and maybe that’s our weakness.. But if u want to, go and be present and be powerful and have a good and safe time and love each other and get angry if u need. solidarity is important. but we feel it’s necessary to hold ourselves accountable and be rigorous in our demands. We really hope the organisers are more open with their politics and what they hope to achieve. And we want to have a community and to hang out with all the transes in all our limitless forms, so hit us up if you wanna spend time or talk about things. We are thinking of putting on an event which will be called London Trans Shame (lol), which will be a sit down chilled daytime thing for all the transes intersex ppl nbs and gender non conforming ppl to hang out together out of the cis gaze (that is wheelchair accessible). maybe a regular thing, who knows?