I am unequivocally a supporter and accomplice to the LGBTQIA+ community. Anyone who knows me knows I’ve been actively pushing for LGBTQ + rights since high school, when I was able to move independently from my parents. In high school, I was a part of the gay/straight alliance we had. There were events at our school where gay and lesbian educators came in to educate those of us who identified as straight on a number of things, and also to educate LGBTQIA+ students on the different subcommunities and how they each experience different challenges. As straight-identifying students, we learned how to ensure we were aware of our words and the effects they had on others, when slurs such as “gay” and “fag” are thrown around as high schoolers are want to do. We had sleepovers and other community building events. I was once selected by a teacher of mine as a representative of my school to go to an all day conference that was for students who had shown leadership qualities, particularly around inclusivity. I got to sit in groups with young LGBTQ+ students from across different schools on Long Island and talk about some of the challenges they face and how as straight students we can help create safe and inclusive spaces for them. From educators to both gay and straight students, we were an allied community. We had one purpose and one goal of helping to make the world inclusive for everyone, no matter how you identified. The LGBTQIA+ members who attended knew that anyone that was there was not just an ally but an actual accomplice; someone who was willing to get in the trenches with our gay and lesbian family and fight the good fight. I mention my backstory not in any way to brag or be and sound condescending. I simply bring up the receipts to show this work is not new to me. I’ve been fighting for gay rights before it was the “in” thing to do socially. I always felt included by the LGBTQ+ community and that I was a part of the solution and not the problem.
However, lately I’ve been very triggered by some of the comments that I’ve seen and heard made by trans women, particularly Black trans women, about cisgender women. I follow and support a number of Black trans female activists on social media, for two main reasons. First, these are women I genuinely admire and respect. They have done so much for their community of trans women, within the larger community of women. While I long for the day when we no longer need to apply labels to human beings and can just refer to them by their names, as a Black woman I understand in the current times we live in the importance of your community and the label you choose to give to yourself. Second, it is important to me to constantly educate myself not only through literature and courses when needed, but also through listening to people who are actually living the lived experience of being a trans women, and a trans women of colour at that. I will never truly understand what that experience is like, so it is important to me to listen and hold space for understanding. I pride myself on being someone who makes a concentrated intention that in everything I do to be aware of those in the LGBTQIA+ community and ensure I’m a constant accomplice in my deeds, words and actions. So I think that’s why for me I’m a bit bothered by some of the generalizations and catch alls that cisgendered women are being put into by some members of the trans community.
To be clear, there are many trans women out here who do not attack cisgendered women for being cisgendered or assume we are all the same. One of my favourite humans and someone who I personally believe expresses her truth and the truth of many trans women so clearly and eloquently is Black Lives Matter, LGBTQIA+ activist and artist Ravyn Wngz. If you have ever heard Ravyn speak or write, you know she is unabashedly straightforward and direct. There is nothing about her words that leaves you questioning where she stands on issues surrounding Black women, the trans community or any other injustice she chooses to address. Ravyn stands firmly, boldly and proudly in her truth. She has faced unimaginable traumas, some of which she touches on in her IG lives. Yet through it all, one of the most consistent messages you will hear from her is about accountability and accompliceship from cisgendered women and men. She highlights the issues and who is responsible for them and then creates a space for actionable items to be discussed and implemented. In the short period of time I have known of her and her work, I have never heard or seen her attack cisgender women for simply being cisgendered or implying that cisgendered women in general created transphobia and are therefore responsible for dismantling it. She has always provided context and ensured she does not make generalizations about anyone, as that is extremely dangerous and also completely unfair.
I want to be very clear. In no way am I criticizing other trans women who choose not to take the same approach as Ravyn. I am fully aware that just like the Black community is not a monolith, neither is the trans community and especially the black trans women community. As a cisgendered woman who has never been questioned openly about my sex or abused because someone hated me for living my truth, I literally cannot imagine the trauma, pain and suffering the trans community experiences when their community members are abused or worse, murdered simply for being trans. Ravyn once briefly spoke about having friends disappear right in front of her face and the trauma that created and has caused. I’ve never had to experience anything close to that so I cannot even imagine how that must be to have to work through on a daily basis. But as a Black woman, there are traumas that I have from my life as a Black woman. I am watching my people, gay, straight and everything in between be murdered for the colour of their skin, on top of the other reasons people choose to hate and do hateful things. So as someone who has experienced and is still experiencing severe trauma, I have made a conscious decision to hold space for black trans women who are not fans of cisgendered women. Even though they do not like me or have a high opinion of me or others like me, I choose to still love and hold space for these women. Because here is what I know for sure: Hurt people hurt people. No one is born hating anyone. Black trans women were not born inherently hating cisgendered women because they all came from one. Their mothers or primary caregivers to some degree took care of them and ensured that they lived to be able to grow up. In no way does that mean that their experience was a good one but I also know that not all trans women experienced abuses and rejection. I have trans people in my family whose cisgendered mom’s were the ONLY ones who supported them initially through their transitions (as opposed to their fathers) so I’ve seen first hand that there are loving people out there who are not hateful assholes. And if there was one thing I’d want hurting Black trans women to know, they are not alone.
I will never agree with the statement that “it is the work of cisgender people to undo what they have created.” Cisgendered people as a whole totality did not create transphobia and to put it on all of us as if we all created it and contribute to it is extremely unfair and incorrect. Just like all white people did not create racism, because they didn’t, ALL cisgendered people did not create transphobia or homophobia. That being said, there are cisgender people who have benefitted from transphobia and/or homophobia and that to me is what needs to be addressed. We get nowhere as a community of people trying to live and prosper if we start doing to others what they do to us. If we start generalizing people and using hateful language because we are angry or in pain, how does that help our cause? Making the world and everyone in it who doesn’t look like you out to be an evil enemy that you automatically assume doesn’t like you is not healthy. There are so many cisgendered people who have and will continue to do the work. We will hold space for trans folks and their pain and listen to their stories. We will continue to educate ourselves on how we can do better, because we always can. It would just be nice if we were not all considered an enemy by the trans community.
There is such an extreme irony to me in all of this that I cannot deny. I imagine that there were many white people I personally know who may feel exactly the way I do about this subject towards the Black community and maybe even me personally. The one thing I am very cognizant of in my writings to the best of my abilities is to not make generalizations about anyone, because I am fully aware that not all white people or non-Black POC are racist or prejudice. I make an effort to say things like “some” white people if I am referring to racist behaviour that some of us knows happen. And maybe this is the Universe’s way of humbling me so that I truly understand how others feel and where they are coming from. So if my triggered emotions have brought me to a place of deeper humanity, understanding and compassion then I’ll take it. I would just ask the black trans female community to remember that there are many of us still fighting and will continue to fight for you. You’re NOT alone. Many of us are doing the work. We’re not all assholes.