regarding a certain presentation

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First uploaded May 9, 2012

(Someone asked about whether it was ok to dress like a skinhead.  This is my response.)

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I made the decision to stop using that particular aesthetic because when one is out in public, people have to judge each other by how they look.  And what I looked like was a fucking fascist.  It’s not cynicism or pessimism to assume the worst about what people might be, it’s pure survival.  So I felt like my presence as a white person in boots and braces and a shaved head and all the rest was harmful and threatening.  On the bus and the sidewalk, I do not want to force others to give up their space to put up reasonable and completely understandable defenses against me and the threat of racist violence which I embodied.

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long overdue

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First uploaded March 21, 2012

I need to address something.

I want to offer an apology for my racism.  Obviously saying “sorry” is not a solution, and I want to make it clear that this apology is offered with no expectation of having it accepted, acknowledged, or even read.  But, while simply apologizing is in no way a solution, I think recognizing fucked-up actions and clearly marking them as wrong and harmful is a necessary first step towards an honest change in behavior and attitude.

I want to apologize for being racist.  My pervious username here on tumblr is a reference to a significant Nazi atrocity.  For a white skinned blue eyed Christian raised US citizen like me, there is no legitimate motive or rationalization possible for this.  Such a reference can only ever be a reminder of racist violence by white people against everyone else.  It was harmful of me to use that name and I knew it and I did it anyway.  And while I am ashamed of myself, I do acknowledge that shame does not actually fix anything.

I also want to offer an apology for my presentation in a photo that has circulated a bit online.  In it, my fashion very consciously echoes the style of extremist groups, specifically fascist and racist groups.  Presenting like this was an obscene display of my lack of empathy and was clearly harmful to anyone who might be threatened by those groups (that is, the overwhelming majority of people).  The fact that I thought at the time that such a look was a valid choice at all speaks volumes about the huge amounts of white privilege and internalized racism I have.

I am very, very grateful that I was called on my shit, but I’m incredibly bothered about the pretty clear fact that I participate in and contribute to the pervasive racism in queer culture.  I think working towards making our communities less racist is vital and long overdue.  What that means to me is more than simply calling out strangers on the internet.  If I wanted to do that I could just spend all my time over at the Stormfront boards, wasting time, getting nowhere.  When I think about making our communities less oppressive, I think about things like calling out bustedness specifically in those we love and admire and want to respect.  It means being both vigilant for oppressive thoughts and behaviors in ourselves as well as being welcoming and grateful to those who call us out.  Callouts, after all, are compliments, implying that the person being called out is worth spending that time and energy on.  Apparently someone thought I was worth that effort.  I am sincerely fucking humbled.

Racism and Die Cis Scum

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First uploaded February 19, 2012

Note: This is a two-part entry.  The first part in italics was sent anonymously to my tumblr.  The second part was my response.

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Forgive me for sending this as a submission and not an ask, but it’s way too long and I didn’t want to whittle it down and lose the nuance. Let me start off by saying that I’m happy that the fervor over your “die cis scum” tattoo has died down, and I don’t want to pile on for the sake of piling on. However, certain things have been nagging me about it for a while, and while it clearly took me a longer time than everyone else to process my thoughts, it’s still important for me to try to engage even though it would appear the moment has passed; I’m submitting this anonymously because, even though I follow you, I don’t want to “take credit” for calling you out, and because my intention is not to attack you or to potentially incite more hostility from my followers. As a trans, mixed-race, first-generation American, I submit this to you in concern and solidarity, in the hopes that you will simply consider what I have to say.

While the fact of your trans identity has been what’s been most discussed with respect to your tattoo, as somebody who’s white, American, not an immigrant, TAB, etc., the fact that you are even able to name one form of oppression and throw the weight of a prominent “die cis scum” tattoo behind it is as much a statement about your privilege as it is your oppression. The absence of “die racist scum” or “die colonialist scum” tattoos on your body is jarring—clearly it would be absurd for you to have them because you do not experience those oppressions and are by definition complicit in furthering them, and yet as a white American, you fail to recognize how you are still complicit in much of the violence committed against trans people. The trans folks who most often are murdered in anti-trans hate crimes are women and MAAB folks of color, many of whom live in countries directly and indirectly under the control of the U.S.: whether by way of American foreign policy; predatory practices of the U.S.-controlled WTO, IMF, and “development”-oriented NGOs; or simply the legacy of Western cultural imperialism. The impact of Western and particularly U.S.-ian neocolonialism is largely responsible for the ways in which anti-trans violence plays out on a global scale. (I would recommend doing some outside reading on this point if you don’t believe me, but I really can’t do this idea justice as a tangent here.)

While threatening violence against an oppressive class is certainly not abusive, the impact of your words cannot be divorced from the fact that you are a white American saying them. A white American advocating violence against folks who may not be white or American will always be coming from a position of relative power and be imbued by a legacy of violence. While you’ve suggested that your statement is acceptable because it comes from a person oppressed by cissexism, thus selectively invoking your identity as a trans person and not as a white person, your message is still etched into your white skin. By claiming that this tattoo is not coming from a place of institutional power because you are trans, you are obscuring the fact that your trans identity is shaped by your whiteness. While you have clearly experienced cissexist violence personally, your tattoo still speaks on behalf of an experience and therefore a class of people among whom you hold immense privilege: while intersectionality is colloquially used to refer to multiple oppressions operating at once, it is also important to consider intersectionality as a reminder of the ways in which our each of our identities influence our other identities—this is to say, your whiteness and nationality means that, even given your marginalization due to your trans identity, you hold privilege with respect to other trans folks in terms of the types of cissexist violence you are subject to.

What troubles me about your tattoo is not that an oppressed person is advocating violence against their oppressor: I support this completely, and on somebody other than you I would support your tattoo 100%. Rather, what troubles me is that you point the finger to others as your oppressors in a way that conveniently excludes you as somebody responsible for the systems of oppression that facilitate most forms of violence against trans folks. For you to advocate on behalf of a class of people whom you largely oppress and thus do not and cannot speak for troubles me; there is a reason you, as a white American citizen, are only person to publicly boast such a tattoo, and I suspect it’s related to the fact that you live in enough relative freedom and safety to be able to access having and displaying such a tattoo without already experiencing swift and violent repercussions.

This isn’t to say that your experiences and indignation at your own experiences of oppression are not valid; I simply wish to implore you to consider the context in which, as a white American, you are pointing your finger at cis people categorically as if they are solely or even primarily responsible for the violence that is actually carried out against trans folks. Are colonized cis folks and/or cis folks of color more responsible for these global and intersecting systems of violence that enable this particular brand of violence than you are? I doubt it; I certainly don’t think it’s useful to compare the severity of various oppressions, but it is necessary to consider the ways in which your other identities perpetually mire you in violent racist, colonialist, and cissexist systems that, while harming you, also greatly reward you.

There are times when “types” of oppression cannot be teased apart neatly into an SJ framework of separate vectors or axes or what have you (i.e. sexism, colonialism, cissexism), and when most of the people on lists of murdered trans folks and victims of anti-trans hate crimes are disproportionately oppressed by systems you benefit from, this becomes such an occasion. You cannot believe that the cissexism you experience is the cissexism they experience, and that you are not implicated in the latter.

In case it needs saying, it would be inappropriate for a cis person to have a tattoo reading “die cis scum”, because their voice would displace the voices of people they wield power over by virtue of their cis identity, and would speak for them (to say things they may not want to be said). Your particular relationship to cissexism is not one in which you are solely on the receiving end, and by advocating violence against cis folks as a white American while failing to acknowledge that you continually benefit from violence against trans folks, you are speaking for other trans folks in order to say things that are incredibly disconcerting given your relative position of power to them.

-submitted by anonymous

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I want to thank you for your excellent commentary and for putting in the time and energy to send it over.

You are absolutely correct.  I cannot and will not argue against the fact that I, as a white middle class US citizen, profit from the rape and murder of trans* people of color worldwide.

I’m familiar with the TDoR lists.  I acknowledge the fact that, as a white trans* person, my risks are incredibly lower and my privilege is overwhelmingly greater than any trans* person of color.

I do think that the murder of any trans* person adds to the normalization of violence against all trans* people.  Exponentially so for people of color, obviously, but I think that the general acceptance of anti-trans* violence does affect everyone under the umbrella.  Again, I realize it is vital to be aware that this increase in the risk of being trans* has a huge disparity which is rooted in race and class.

I get a little emotional discussing this sort of thing so please bear with me.  I know that my chances for being killed as a result of my trans status are nowhere near what they would be if I was not white.  Here, in my apartment, typing this out at my laptop, this is an obvious certainty.  During those moments in which I have been convinced through abundant evidence that I would not live out the next few minutes, the fact that my chances of being killed are lower has not served as a useful comfort.  Again: I understand that my experiences are limited and reasonably benign in comparison to what someone without my privilege must endure.

I suppose I’m trying to say that there is a point at which I believe people ought to feel that anger is an acceptable reaction.  I thought I had come to that point, and I thought my anger was justified.  I generally support a wide range of expression for survivors coping with their trauma; however,  I get the message that my having the ability to advertise that anger does come from privilege and entitlement.

If people want to comment on this, I’d actually appreciate it a lot because obviously I need some additional perspective.  I would like it if anyone who is white could take a back seat in this conversation.  I do not want this to turn into a space for people to whitesplain racism.

basic shit

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First uploaded January 18, 2012

Let’s chat about pronouns and grammar.

Many people say that gender-neutral pronouns are grammatically incorrect.  This phenomenon is common as dirt.  I guess I didn’t realize so many people felt so strongly about Proper Grammar.

Making this argument is equivalent to saying “I value the fictional ideal of a pure language over the prospect of having to exert the slightest amount of energy to give another person the modicum of respect they are entitled to.”  Those priorities are lacking, in my opinion, but… sure.  Following that logic, you would welcome my perusal of your blog, going through every post with a fine-tooth comb, pouncing on every failed capitalization and misused punctuation.  “WHERE IS THE POSSESSIVE APOSTROPHE YOU WORTHLESS PIECE OF SHIT?”

Because, honestly, I promise you that in fact you don’t care about Proper Grammar as much as you say you do.  You’re hiding behind the fallacious conceit of pure language.  You are using this tired, false argument in an effort to avoid the task of using pronouns in a way which may be unfamiliar to you.  Stop it.

My pronoun is they.  It is actually grammatically correct to use “they” for an individual, but honestly that should not matter one way or the other.  If someone uses ze/zir pronouns, or xe/xyr, or ey/eir, or it/its, you should fucking respect that person and their pronoun.  If someone does not use pronouns, you should respect that.  Trying to deny that tiny bit of dignity and agency that one might assert through their pronoun with the self-aggrandizing and incorrect non sequitur of proper or improper grammar is a horrible, fucked-up thing to do.

pride

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First uploaded January 14, 2012

I do not aspire in any way to look cis, act cis, or be perceived as cis.

Look at my face.  I invite you to note the shadow on my chin.  You are welcome to admire my bone structure as well as the bulge in front of my neck.  Take time to enjoy the width of my shoulders and the size of my hands.

I do not find cis standards to be the measure or apex of beauty.  I am visibly trans very intentionally.  My body, as it is now and as it continues to develop, represents the highest ideal of beauty I have.

I am trans and I am fucking proud of it.  I would not have it any other way.

(note: This is very much my experience and where I am at right now.  I am not trying to represent or speak for anyone else.)

Bashing

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First uploaded January 9, 2012

What always goes through my head when I am being harassed is the fact that my assailant had a choice.  This is a person who, on some level, has done a cost/benefit analysis and come to the decision that they have more to gain than to lose by threatening and/or attacking me.

It is something of a life goal of mine to cause some shift in the parameters of that equation for many people.  I want to help increase the cost people can expect to pay when they decide to bash anyone else.

Myth of Perpetuation

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First uploaded December 6, 2011

Violence, I am told, begets violence.  In my experience, violence is not the only thing that will only bring about violence.  For me, being in a public place seems to beget violence.  My appearance and mannerisms apparently incite violent impulses in others.  Being quiet and trying to look invisible and hoping that I will make it back home without having bottles thrown at me from passing cars are all things that, in my experience, have beget violence.  My heels and eyeshadow and lipstick beget violence.  Glitter begets violence.

Go right ahead and fuck yourself if you think my tattoo will increase the level of violence directed at me in any significant way.  People already had all the excuse they needed to bash the hell out of me since I was a teenager.

Die Cis Scum

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First uploaded November 21, 2011, here and here.

It’s not ironic. It’s not cute. It is a threat.

How many people are murdered because they are cis? How many people aredenied employment, housing, health services, turned away from shelters, refused aid, and are subjected to constant ridicule and abuse because they are cis?

If you are cis, does my tattoo make you feel uncomfortable? I can only hope so.

Right now, when I see a cis person in public, I worry. I tense and hold my breath and get ready to sprint away. You frighten me. This fear is entirely justified. I’ve already been sent to the hospital for the crime of walking down the sidewalk towards my home while visibly gender variant. I fully expect to be attacked again, severely. (The less severe attacks, the screams and threats and disapproval and hatred and thrust elbows and shoves, these are the givens. These are part of the cost I know I will be forced to pay if I wish to leave my house.)

Die cis scum. It is hostile. It’s aggression, on my part. It is a whisper of personal agency. When the cissexism and transphobia of this culture crush in, overwhelming and unstoppable, these three words are how I push back.

Would that I could push harder.

Why Misgendering is Bad

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First uploaded April 26, 2011, here and here.

As a trans person, one of the more difficult parts of being around those who are not trans is the danger of being misgendered- that is, being addressed with a pronoun (he/she/etc) which is incorrect.  This happens to trans people with unfortunate regularity, and is an error committed almost exclusively by those who are aware of the trans status of the person being misgendered.

When someone is misgendered, I often get quite visibly angry.  The thing is, I know that kind of strong reaction can take someone who has committed this offense off guard, especially if one has little experience with interacting with openly trans people.  I can understand why someone who has made this mistake with a trans person might feel hurt and defensive in response to that person’s clear anger, when one is not sure why this is such a sensitive issue in the first place.  So I was hoping to take just a moment to explain why we react this way.

People with trans history are not able to take their gender for granted, the way that people without that history do.  We go through a long and really difficult process, almost all of which is invisible to anyone else.  For example, I struggled with profound gender dysphoria for over a decade before deciding to take any steps to alleviate it.  This struggle did not kill me, but it came close on countless occasions.  At this point, I see my active transition process as the only alternative to suicide, a perspective shared by quite a few trans people.

We’re not ignorant of the consequences of being trans, after all.  Our culture fears and hates us, openly and actively.  It seems that every damn day I see another reporting of assault on a trans sibling of mine.  We would not accept the clear day-to-day risks of living in such a trans-hostile environment if we were not convinced that the alternative to transition were worse.  All of which is simply to illustrate the fact that gender is not something we take lightly, but is an aspect of our identity upon which we place great value and importance.

People who have misgendered anyone with trans history often take the defensive position that misgendering is not such a big deal.  Often the argument is made that they, personally, would not take such offense if they had been misgendered.  First, let me reiterate that gender is something people with no trans experience or history can take for granted.  If you have never had to earn the right to be your gender from an unwelcoming physician, or fight for the right to exist as your gender while waiting for the bus or trying to use a public restroom, then you are probably a whole lot less invested in the way that people see you.  Second, I have to disagree with the idea that trans people are the only people who are offended by misgendering.  In my years in the service industry, I have seen firsthand countless reactions of people exploding in rage when offered an incorrect ma’am or sir.  Gender is important to most people’s identity, regardless of trans history, and most find the egregious insult of misgendering pretty darn offensive.

Also important for myself and many like me is the question of sexual orientation. When my boyfriend or I have been misgendered, the message implied (despite any intent on the part of the person who misgendered us) is that he and I are engaged in a heterosexual relationship.  The further implication is that we are playing the part of a queer couple, faux faggots, merrily appropriating the fashion of the gay community while actually living out a straight lifestyle.

The gaybashers on the street corners disagree.  We are read as homos by people who don’t know us- a fact which highlights the interesting point that without exception, the people who misgender my boyfriend are those who know that he is trans.  So we find ourselves stuck: attacked by homophobes for being gay, and snubbed by the gay community for being transgendered.  Being misgendered brings up these frustrations and resentments, reminding us that it is impossible for us to leave our house without being scrutinized and attacked by both strangers and acquaintances.  It may seem like a small Freudian slip in conversation to the person who misgenders us, but in fact it is a reminder that the rest of our lives will be spent under fire, as second class citizens.

The next time you are in conversation with a trans person and you misgender them, don’t try to brush it off as inconsequential or become defensive when your error is pointed out.  Simply apologize honestly for your mistake, and try to be more aware of what is coming out of your mouth in the future.