[Content note: transphobia, racism, violence, guns, anti-choice rhetoric, homophobia, fat hatred]
Earlier today I tweeted:
The most terrifying thing about the Grantland fiasco is that sooner or later I’m going to need to go out and buy groceries.
In my case (in large part because was not Essay Anne Vanderbilt and did not know her), that was not hyperbole.
A cis person just outed a trans woman. After the trans woman took her own life, the cis person published his account of outing her and the subsequent suicide. That was just for starters.
Then, I got to watch cis people hold a national circle jerk over:
* When it’s appropriate to out a trans person
* How bad it feels like when “bloggers” and “activists” are mad at you for treating a trans person like shit
* The ways in which one cis person failed another cis person by not giving him adequate guidance over when and how to out a trans person
* The relative bravery of the two cis people in question and the powerful corporation that stands to make money from the story of how they outed a trans woman.
The story has largely faded from the national spotlight. Slate, The Washington Post, NPR, The New Republic and the two initial perpetrators (Grantland and ESPN) have moved on to other things, now that cis people are satisfied with the degree to which they discussed the ways in which trans people should be handled.
While very important cis people go on to the next topic, my ass still needs to get up in the morning and go to work. I still need to go to the store to buy groceries. I still need to live my life. Except now I have to live it with the reenforced knowledge that at any time, some cis person with a reputation to build and a fixation on my genitals can start digging into my past, can dehumanize me for money, and, should decent people object, the national media will take the time to discuss the pressing issue of what cis people should have done to me. That’s so neat. Very encouraging.
When I was a child, I had nightmares that people would find out about my “difference.” Since I’ve come out, I’ve regularly had nightmare about the consequences of other people’s feelings about my transsexuality. The past few days have been worse than usual. I’m terrified of what privileged people might decide to do with me.
Not only is this not a new experience for trans* people, it’s not a new experience for any oppressed people. It’s the defining experience for oppressed people.
When George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin, a lot of my fellow white people looked upon the event as an opportunity to debate the relative merits of shooting an unarmed black teen.
*Under what hypothetical situations was it permissible to kill Trayvon Martin?
*Was it fair that “activists” were unhappy with George Zimmerman?
*What would George Zimmerman’s murder of Trayvon Martin mean for George Zimmerman?
*What about other young black men? What behaviors should “we” be suspicious of? When is it okay for “us” to shoot them?
It’s not like those of you who are black didn’t hear those discussions. I suppose a few white people occasionally even invited you to join in. How gracious.
Cis men have this tendency to discuss what pregnant people should and shouldn’t be allowed to do with their own bodies.
Pretty much every day I see a news article debating what “we” need to do about fat people. That’s only because I’m not looking, though.
How do non-natives feel about native-American mascots?
Should gay people be allowed to adopt children?
The issue isn’t oppressed people aren’t involved in these discussions. The discussions are the issue. They are the violence. The same power structure that supports these discussions supports the outings, the murders, the dehumanization of the oppressed.
As ESPN would have you know, this latest fiasco was a learning experience. Oppressed people are fond of that expression.
Who learns what?
Privileged people learn “bloggers” and “activists” or “Twitter” (or whatever term we’re using to avoid framing the oppressed and their allies as actual people) get upset when you shit all over them.
Privileged people learn that it always blow over.
Privileged people learn that other privileged people have their back.
The rest of are reminded of the need to watch ours. We learn to not call attention to ourselves. We learn the consequences of sticking our necks out. We learn how to navigate hierarchies of privilege. And we learn who are allies are, and who is annoyed about our feelings and our “call outs.”
Everybody learns that “these things happen”, but only those of us on the receiving end are required to understand why. A lot of us are already discussing the why. The rest of you are welcome to join us.