Last week I attended my first meeting of the local trans youth (under 30) group. It was an interesting evening, I met my first in-person genderqueer/gender neutral person (who prefers the ze/hir/hirs pronouns) that I’ll call Z (I’m terrible with names and they all tended to call hir “the ze”), but at the same time, I felt kind of awkward. It was mostly trans guys 25 and under (there was one other trans woman, plus the mom of one of the guys and Z), and the conversations tended to follow along with their interests. We went out to a cafe and got dinner, and at my end of the table were the other trans woman, one of the guys, and Z. The three of them were discussing programming, modding video games, and playing video games, but mostly video games I hadn’t played or hadn’t played in a long time (and their game discussion tended toward the maximizing stats/levels powergaming kind of talk while I play games for the story and the atmosphere). I’m going to keep giving them a chance, they meet every week, but that doesn’t change the fact that I feel out of place.
We have another trans group locally through the same resource center, and the idea is that once one hits 30, they move from one group to the other. Realistically, however, this isn’t the case. The older group really is the older group. It’s mostly trans women that are at least 45, and many are 50+. I have a trans guy friend who started going to the monthly meetings for that group the same night I did, and if not for him, I wouldn’t have gone back. While he’s about 40, he feels out of place for being a guy and for being younger than them all (never mind how out of place I feel being 12 years younger than him), and I’m one of only two there that he really gets along with. He’s on the steering committee for the group now, working on education and outreach, and he and I discuss it a lot.
See, we have a gap within our local community, or several gaps actually. Trans men and women from about 30 to about 50 don’t really have a place they fit in, while younger trans women and older trans men don’t quite fit into the groups that do exist. In addition, both groups are predominantly white, and while the color of my skin is white, I was raised under a mix of Native American and Eastern philosophical and cultural influences. We have few to no trans men or women of color attending our meetings, and in an area as massive as Dallas, I know there have to be some. Especially considering how racially and ethnically diverse Dallas is. I live about 4 blocks from an Indian restaurant that I went to last weekend and I was the only one there who was not from the India/Pakistan region. I’ve regularly seen men and women from the middle east (still showing cultural standards in dress) at the grocery store or at Wal-Mart. The local “gayborhood” is right up against a rather sizable black neighborhood. And this close to the Mexican border, we have a lot of latino/a people around. Where are our brothers and sisters of color?
The reason I bring all of this up is because this isn’t unique to my local trans community; it occurs everywhere and within other communities too. Within the “adult alternate lifestyle” community that one of my roommates works within, they have groups they call TNG (The Next Generation) that are 35 and under, formed for the younger women to avoid being hit on by the older men, and you have people on both sides of the age gap poking the other side with sticks. Within the GLB communities, we have the younger generations trying to do away with words that the older generations identify with, such as butch, while also identifying as other words that were offensive slurs to the older GLB members (I know more than a few younger lesbian women who prefer to identify as d*kes). And within the trans community, we see a similar issue with not just the age gap, but the gender gap and the language issues. Within all of these communities, our brothers and sisters of color are underrepresented.
One of the best examples of our gender/language gap occurred back between September and January when there was a huge conflict between the trans men and women over the word tr*nny. For those who weren’t in the know, back in September, the Kardashian sisters made a comment in an interview that their father turned them into a bunch of tr*nnies, and as you can imagine, the trans community blew up. Then over the next several months, a group of other celebrities followed suit, until Ru Paul in a January interview with Huffington post said that he likes the word and that others shouldn’t have to apologize for using it. All of this lead to a lot of trans guys trying to identify with the word, a bunch of others telling them not to, with varying levels of calmness and anger, but in either way dividing our community. The trans women were being offended, the trans guys who wanted to identify with the word couldn’t understand what the issue was, and the trans guys siding with the trans women were dividing the trans male community.
As I posted on Tuesday, we have enough issues facing us from outside our community. So why are we dividing ourselves even more? We should make strides to create inclusion and work together. Whether young or old, male or female (or both, or neither), closeted (I consider “stealth” to be trading one closet for another, and while I understand the desire, I disagree with both the term and the need to hide) or out, gay or straight (or some other orientation),black or white (or another color, or mixed), are still a community and until the climate of the world around us changes, sometimes we’re all we have. Yes, I’m aware we have allies, but allies are few and far between, and we always need more. Part of the issue on the national level is that the various communities under the GLBTTQIPPA umbrella tend to either ignore one another or actively throw one another under the bus, and ethnicism or colorism (I don’t like the term racism, we’re all members of the human race), misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia all play their parts as well. Gay rights activists like Dan Savage have been critical of Obama for years, saying that he’s not pushing for gay rights enough, ignoring that he’s the best president ever for GLBT rights (especially for the T). They push for marriage equality, and yes it’s also a trans issue, but when push comes to shove, they’re perfectly happy to throw us trans folk under the bus in order to get what they want when it comes to things like the repeal of DADT, or getting ENDA passed. And then they turn and demand we help them with things they want. That is not how we make alliances, and it leads to bridges being burned.
I’m working with my trans guy friend on addressing our specific local issue of the age gap, and I plan on working to address the issues at the school with the help of the local GLBT group (if they’ll help, the more I look into things, the more I suspect they’re more GLB and the T was tacked on to look more inclusive). I’m not sure how to increase our ethnic inclusiveness, or to attract members of other ethnicities. What are other ways we can mend the wounds we’ve inflicted on our own communities and bridge the various gaps? What do you do to improve things in your local community?