Whoah, haven’t done this in a while.
So earlier this morning I may have made an angry tweet that apparently a hundred of you thought was pretty cool even though some of you do not know who I am or have no reason to know who I am or in some particularly odd edge cases, may have me blocked on twitter, which is a little weird, but anyway the point is, today I got mad about how ‘trans folk’ problems are almost always ‘cis folk’ problems. Like ‘bullying’ is not actually a problem of the weird kid with the gawky teeth, bullying is the problem of a bully being shitty to someone and not being given any reason or incentive to stop doing it, but fixing that problem is often hard and doesn’t work so we instead I dunno, teach the victim kung fu and that creates a satisfying story we can hang our collective moral consciousness on.
When it comes to issues of trans folk I, as a cis folk, do not seek to devalue experiences that are wholly trans folks’, like I understand a lot of trans folk have a reason to pee a lot and that’s probably not a byproduct of anything cis people do as much as it is a function of hormones, but what cis people do do is, like, almost everything else. The things like suicide rates, mental illness, PTSD, social ghettoisation, fear of going out in public, fear of sexual assault, fear of trans people, fear of associating with trans people, etcetera is all functionally a byproduct of cis people doing things to make life harder for trans people, sometimes in really invisible ways (“Hey guys!”) and sometimes in really blatant shitty ways that we try to pretend are about something else (lookin’ at you North Carolina and the Pope).
The thing is, I know what it’s like to have had a moral foundation of my life built on hating other people, because it was basically all we were good at when I was a kid, and I was so good at hating people I could even improvise reasons to hate them, and attach that to a list of silly Bible verses like some sort of mortifying horribleness scavenger hunt, especially since there are some great catch-all arguments in a book that old and that poorly edited. Then when I got out of that environment and realised a lot of that hatred was directed at myself I kind of realised I needed to get to the root of why we actually think of things as good or bad and then slowly come around to ways to fix or address that problem because I knew I was pretty heavily fucked in the head.
Anyway, one of the things I learned through this, particularly summarised by Dr. Professor Luke Galen (a professor at the Grand Valley State University, which is weird because I’ve never heard of Grand Valley State but whatever) is that most people make moral judgments to justify emotional reactions. Most often, the thing that really trips people up when they regard a moral action isn’t someone’s context or their intentions it’s our initial gut feeling of disgust, and disgust comes in a lot of really silly ways because disgust keys off socialisation and personal self-image. There are a lot of guys who are totally okay with gay marriage when they’re being asked about it by a cute woman who are against it when they’re asked about it by a big hairy dude, and even more dudes are uncomfortable with it when it’s asked of them by a guy they can see as their personal superior
Note that this is a byproduct of how we tie the sexuality of women to a commodity and suddenly the idea of two women kissing is seen as a commodity men can consume and that’s not good either but the point is that these things flow not from a reasoned philosophy or, in many cases even a religious textbook but from a personal experience of finding something icky. And you know what a lot of people find super icky? The Non Standard Queers.
I know full well that once you kinda fall into a queer society you will wind up getting steadily more and more contact within that so you’ll eventually joke six months later when talking to me that you forgot heterosexual cis men even exist as actual human beings, but for a lot of people outside of queerness, they don’t have a lot of identities or humanity they can attach in their minds to people who use nonstandard pronouns or any of the off-the-shelf genders, and for anyone who jumps out of a gender box, the main place they’re going to think of that is, well, probably these days if we’re lucky, SheZow and if we’re unlucky, Buffalo Bill.
For me personally understanding queerness came at first by connecting to people, becoming their friends, then learning about their queerness. It humanised ideas I had no understanding of, and it then let me slowly come to terms with them not as things that gave me a gut reaction but rather as people. I keenly remember a queer girl telling me once that after we were done talking, she had to explain to her Indonesian mother ‘transgender’ in a language that had literally no adverbs and used repetition for emphasis. That really echoed with me personally because I too had to once have a conversation with my dad for which neither of us had language, and again, I do not seek to claim the struggles of trans people for my own struggles, but I can say that some of the notes struck harmonies with my own. It let me translate the experience of other people into the experience of mine, which gave me empathy which helped me realise I was not dealing with some assault on my own identity or disgusting pile of teeth and hair and flesh, but rather a person and it was my responsibility to recognise that, not their responsibility to assuage my fears.
I bring this up not because I want to get lots of smooches for my great tweet all over again but rather to put a call out there for the creatives I know who are Some Variety of Queer who are trying hard to make things. I know a lot of soulful, thoughtful, caring queer folk who want to make things and then seem to resort to writing A Queer Perspective On Blank or A Memoir Of A Queer Trans Girl or whatever and it is fine to write those things if you would like to write them, but.
If you want to write a story about a girl like you or a boi like you stopping at the gate of the Star Pillar of Eternity, turning back and saying to eir partners, “I’ll see you three later,” before hefting a giant laser pistol and diving in to do battle with the Capitaliser, a ninety story tall robot made entirely out of bitcoins, you should feel free to do that too because representation of queer people in media is important not just because it gives you a voice but because it lets you see you can be heroes. It lets the people who also feel powerless who are not like you see you as people and it adds another way that people can humanise and understand characters. When people realise that it doesn’t matter if He She Or Zir are the one who pulled the trigger and slew the Diabolical Museum Magnate, it will be easier for them to realise people exist.
I have not ‘done my part’ by including trans characters in my work, though so far all my major works have sought to include a noncis person at least. I just know those types of people exist, thanks to other people bringing them to my attention and I include them because not including them would be pretty weird.
You don’t have to write miserable plodding memorial pornography. You can write about lasers and gunships and dinosaurs and shamans and fistfighting superheroes and all of that stuff because you know the stuff you love and you’re allowed to build in that space too. There are pitfalls – and success is, basically random – but please, please, please, remember that creative work and media are places we practice ideas. The people who read memoirs are either in a place to seek them out, or doing it for a class assignment. I learned first about what a racist chucklefuck I was by reading and comparing storybooks. I learned about trans women because I talked with a fan of Ranma 1/2 writing her fanfiction. And there are a lot of cis people out there and we don’t get a monopoly on the cool, fun kinds of story to tell.