Right now I’m taking a figure drawing class. Basically, we draw nude models. It should come as no surprise that some of the explanations of the figure are cissexist. But every day in that class I get thinking:
I really want to have a trans figure drawing class.
Trans people predominantly (both students and models), cis people have to prove that they’ll be okay and will be kicked out the first time they say something bigoted. Trans models of all genders and any stage of medical treatment and non-treatment, I suppose the occasional cis model if I can’t get a trans one but, again, they have to prove they’ll be okay. For each model, give all the artists a paper with what kind of body the model has (self determined), what pronouns to use, what gender the model is, and (if the model’s okay with it) any medical transition information. Try my best to pay the models more than is usual for this, try to make sure that any who really need the money are definitely comfortable with doing it, even if that means having parts covered up. Major sliding scale, hopefully also getting donations so that for people who can’t afford anything and want to be there anyways I can give them all the materials. Do my best to make sure it’s in a place that’s completely accessible and to make sure that anyone who has issues with standing up for long periods of time (model or student) or whatever else is accommodated.
I don’t know if it’ll ever happen. But I would really like to have a place for trans art students to be able to learn to draw the body without having to deal with cissexism. And I would also really, really, really like to have a place where ideas about the body are thrown out the door to help with detangling every lie we’ve been fed about the body.
This school caters to rich kids. What this means is that they expect you to have a lot of spare change, so that it’s okay for them to randomly shut the dining hall to make people eat at the fundraising dinner for the school. Which really, really bites you in the ass when you aren’t rich.
One of the issues is that, if you miss a counseling appointment, they charge you money. Now, I could understand that if you get charged $X for every session, so even if you miss that session you still get charged that $X. But, no, that’s not how it works. They only charge you when you miss it. So if you’re missing it because you’re really stressed out and have been sick for a month and really did try (I set a fucking alarm and everything) and still managed to miss it, you get charged. Which is fine if you’re rich and have a lot of money on hand, so mummy and daddy give you a stern talking to about being more responsible while pumping a few hundred more dollars into their account.
When you haven’t got that much disposable income? Not so great. It costs 3 weeks of pay for every appointment I miss. I’ve missed two, entirely by accident. 2 weeks ago I realized exactly an hour late that I had an appointment. Today I really did mean to. I was reminded of it every time I checked my email. I set an alarm to go off half an hour before it. But it ended up under a pile of about 5 coats during dinner so I didn’t hear it. I didn’t have enough time today to check my email because I’ve been so tired because, once again, I’m sick. I can’t do that. I’m too stressed out to be getting counseling appointments because I keep forgetting them and get charged money I don’t have for it.
This also means that I didn’t get my prescription for anti-depressants, but I can’t do this right now. Weening yourself off something over 2 days is hardly a good plan, but it’s what I’ve got to work with. And I can’t help but be so pissed off and upset that this school is set up that this is the option I’m left with.
I am really nervous about going back to college because of how transphobic the cisCenter, which is generally considered to be an expect on trans issues by cis people because they have a “T” in their official title, is. I think it’s a sign of how widespread the myths that “trans people are just super gay and/or gay people trying to get acceptance” and “you’re either gay, straight, or lying (so you can’t be bi, poly, pan, or ace)” are that people think that just because you call yourself “LGBT”, you’re automatically knowledgeable about to only the LG but ALSO the B and T. Come on, it’s the same thing, the last two letters just want to horn in on straight privilege! That or it’s just bright eyed idealism that otherwise privileged gays and lesbians are above prejudice and ignorance.
Bitter rant aside, it’s probably going to kick me in the ass because it means that cis people are a better authority on my life than I am. I can’t just say “X is offensive to trans people”, they have to check with the cis people at the “LGBTQ” center to make sure it really is. You know that us gender confused trannies can’t be trusted to know what’s going on in our lives, we don’t even know what our gender actually is!
As you may or may not know, this blog got started when a “LGBTQ” Center, specifically a “Trans Activism” group (run by a cis man), turned out to be spectacularly transphobic. Sadly, this is not terribly uncommon. Yes, it’s probably ignorance (which is transphobia)- but because the cis-privileged people I had to deal with responded to being told they were being offensive with either “you’re wrong” (and their proof of why was, of course, transphobic) and “it’s offensive to tell me I’m being offensive”, it is officially willful ignorance and not “innocent” misinformation. And while it isn’t my job to educate them, even if it were, I wouldn’t be able to do it and there’s absolutely no way to make this place trans friendly until they get over their privilege.
It bothers me to no end that this place is still called the “LGBTQ Center”. The “T” should indicate that it is a safe space for trans people. A group, club, organization,etc should never call itself “LGBT/Q” unless it backs that up by making sure it’s a safe space for every single letter. That means that if you’re doing activism, you do not drop trans issues to make it easier to make the changes. That means that you don’t stock books like “The Transsexual Empire” anywhere but in a section of “Know Your Enemy”. That means that if people are being biphobic or transphobic or anything else, you speak against it. And if you don’t, but someone else does- you let them and don’t let people bully them into silence. It means that you correct people who make a reference to “both” genders or sexes or being able to determine gender by genitals. That means making it clear that trans men are allowed to use the men’s room and trans women the women’s and trying to have a bathroom for non-binary genders and that anyone who has a problem with trans men using the men’s room or trans women using the women’s room is free to use the non-binary bathroom because you will not be othering trans people.
But that’s not usually what happens. It’s way too common for “LGBT” spaces and groups to be as transphobic as the most anti-gay church. It can even got to the horrific extreme of a trans woman being beaten by cis gay men at a so-called “LGBT” place. And that is not the only time I’ve heard of it happening. I’ve seen cis lesbians bragging about ganging up on trans men who went to a LGBT night club. This is allowed to happen.
No place should ever be allowed to be called “LGBT” unless it is genuinely supportive of lesbian, gay, bisexual AND trans people. We should be able to know that places that have the “T” are actually safe for us. But there’s no way to make that actually happen.
I go back to school in just under 2 weeks. So I finally did something I really should have done before. I came out as trans to people at school via facebook. My procrastination on this (6 months after school starts) is understandable- it’s only in the last month or two that most of the people have been added. I tagged 12 people and so far 6 people have commented on it or sent me a message thanking me, another (who I’d already come out to) just liked it. One person asked me about why I dislike sie/hir (because of German and mispronouncing “hir”, I only perceive it as female), I ended up in a conversation about the cisCenter with another who’d been more involved but is transferring to another school.
One thing kind of bugs me, but this is just a “Cissexism Sucks” and not a problem on their parts, I’ve gotten a lot of “I didn’t know what to use for you”s. I really freaking wish we lived in a society that not only is it safe for people to ask that without fear of offending people when they aren’t sure, but where it’s commonplace to ask everyone. Not in my lifetime…
I just need to tune out the center as much as possible. Forget it exists, remember that I don’t need it, remember that it’s not my job to fix it just so that it’s better for other trans people. It’s not even my job to find out whether or not the other trans people are happy with it. Because it is a serious source of anxiety for me because, I think, LGBT people are trained to think that they need to seek out places like the cisCenter so I have this idea that I have to be able to be there. That I have to have it to be able to have support, even though it’s clear that I’ve got support already. It shouldn’t be as hard as it is.
I am an introvert. I don’t do well with people in person. I can’t keep up a conversation with any regularity, mishear things all the time, mess up my words, and only remember the gist of things rather than the exact words- so in a later conversation I always get the me: “you said _____” them:”No, I said ____” aggravation. I get overwhelmed in crowds and prefer to be able to control when I get faced with bullshit because my mental health isn’t good enough to be able to handle it on demand.
The internet is pretty much my home for those reasons. And I forgot that. I forgot that that’s okay. I forgot that, through the internet, I’ve helped a few multiple systems come to terms with themselves. I’ve helped people who never heard the term “asexual” feel less alone. For awhile I was a sort of vigilante on an incredibly binarist forum, saving non-binaries from their clutches by saying “Hey- it’s okay to be you, whatever that means”(before it got to be too much for me to handle). Which would have been damn helpful for me to hear before.
I don’t want to email my teachers to ask for the correct pronouns
I don’t want to go to another class or room or place where everyone thinks I’m a girl
I don’t want to have to explain my gender to have any hope of getting it
I don’t want to deal with a world that refuses to acknowledge I exist except to attack me
I don’t want to feel like I have to take T even if I don’t want what it’ll do to my body
I don’t want to have to wonder if my friend’s room is actually a safe space or not or if it sort of is but she’d still vote against me having equal rights to her
I don’t want to have to wonder if I’ll ever have true friends in meatspace
I don’t want to take two tests tomorrow because on Thursday I threw up breakfast and probably had had the flu for a week so couldn’t take the test then and I haven’t been able to study well for either of them because of depression and exhaustian and still being sick.
I don’t want to continue living on this hall where I have to hear that asshole‘s voice because the walls are too thin and he practically lives here
I don’t want to have to move when he doesn’t
I don’t want the best place to move to be so far from everything else that on days like this it’ll be even more difficult to drag myself to class or food.
I don’t want to have to convince some cis guy that I’m depressed just to get medicine that may not even help
I don’t want to worry about money any more
I don’t want to deal with this
2 years ago I did a semester at university, before I started again here. I went into it very cocky, I’d gotten he’d a lot without realizing it was because people thought I was younger than I was. I thought I’d be able to pass without a problem. The first people I talked to there about being trans were people inc harge of housing, and they really didn’t care that I was trans beyond hoping that I’d work well with the trans guy on campus who really wanted a roommate. It was kind of awkward, we got thrown into a room together and it was the first time I’d met another trans person in person and I started finding out and being disturbed by how much transphobia I’d really internalized. The person in charge of my residence hall was also very good. I definitely felt like there were people there that I could go to if I had problems. I also had friends who accepted me and who I could talk about stuff with.
It wasn’t perfect, it was painful the horrible looks I’d get from other people when I told them I wasn’t a girl. Their LGBT group didn’t seem to have much awareness of the T and something happened between me and a member to make me not want to go back*, but I didn’t have serious problems with it. I felt safer. I felt safe enough to dress in drag for Halloween. There were people I could hang out with and feel respected and not have to worry about anything.
And I have that to compare my current school to. My current school where there is no one I really feel comfortable or safe around and a host of people who I feel are not only dangerous but would likely undermine me if I ever faced problems. I’ve actually started getting severe anxiety when using the bathroom because I really am afraid that someone might hurt me here, and I’m more afraid that no one will care if they do.
*long damn story that I still don’t know quite what happened…
Read the full post here
Good ally work also means learning to check ourselves – to acknolwedge our own bigotries and privilege. When (not if) we’re called out for doing or saying something offensive, are we more concerned with the fact that we’ve caused hurt or offense, or with defending the illusion that we’re incapable of ever doing or saying something offensive? Good ally work requires us to evaluate ourselves not by our intentions, but by the effects of our speech and actions – not so we feel guilty (which helps no one), but so we can do better. We also need to own whatever privilege we might have at the expense of others – whether that’s based on skin color, sex, gender identity, sexuality, socioeconomic status, body shape, mental and physical health or abilities, religion, etc. We need to acknowledge how our privilege has given us access to opportunities and resources that others don’t have, and use our privilege to make those benefits freely and equally accessible to all. We also need to recognize that both privilege and discrimination are intersectional, not one-dimensional.
I have been trying to remind myself of two things today: 1. They have no power over me if I don’t give them that power, I’ve been overestimating the amount of influence they have. 2. I don’t have to fight them if I don’t want to. And I don’t, I’m not interested in a power struggle with someone who has a host of privileges (male, cis, straight, possibly neurotypical* and some class stuff going on) over me, when I have none over them.
I’ll hopefully be meeting with Em to watch a movie this weekend. I’ll see if she’s up for a revolution. I know at least one professor who is. (and by revolution, at least right now, I mean doing the fiasco that happened before and should’ve been a trans-run event right, making a separate club next semester, and maybe, just maybe, submitting an article to the school newspaper about the trans 101 workshop. I’ll leave everyone else’s names off of it- that one is all mine.)
The article will, of course, be politically written. Written to inform people about it, say that while trans people aren’t running it they are involved, and that if anyone wants to hear from actual trans people about trans 101- do not go to the “trans” group, but go straight to the source. We’ll hopefully have a group next semester.
*I don’t think I am, I think he is, etc.
**I don’t htink this is an actual revolution, btu saying it feels nice. Like something’s actually gonna get done. And it sounds better than “seceding”. The south lost.