It’s Transgender Awareness Week, and I wanted to take this opportunity to say:
trans people are beautiful and valid and brilliant, especially BIPOC trans people
we’ve had to fight so hard to be ourselves, in the face of so much garbage, that we come out more powerful and more fully realized
I’m incredibly grateful for countless cis allies, but being a part of the trans community has been a total thrill and a privilege that has shaped my life.
The popular image of the trans person is frequently that we’re isolated, outcasts, we’re islands apart from the mainland of humanity. And I’ve for sure felt isolated at times in my life, and I have known some trans people who were lonesome and felt disconnected from the world. But I’ve also been lucky to be part of some rich and intersectional groups of trans people, both online and in meatspace. I’ve hung out with groups of awesome trans people in St. Louis and Indianapolis and Oxford, MS, and countless other places, and I know now that wherever I travel, there’ll be a local trans community. This wasn’t always the case, and it makes me so happy.
Before the covid pandemic hit, I was co-organizing a monthly Trans Nerd Meet-Up with Isaac Fellman. Every month, we were getting twenty to forty trans/nb nerds packing out a local queer coffee shop to play board games and geek out about our favorite science fiction and fantasy stories. Whenever I stood in the middle of that coffee shop, surrounded by the most resplendent nerds, I felt as if I must have done something right in my life.
When I think about what’s changed the most since I transitioned years ago, I’d say that the trans community is stronger and bigger and more diverse and inclusive than it used to be. And that’s one of the main things that fills me with hope for the future, even though I know for sure there are going to be a lot of hard times.
Back in the day, I was part of a trans performance scene here in the Bay Area, which included events like GenderEnders and Gender Pirates. (Here’s an article from 2003 which quotes me!) I got to see a local scene spring up seemingly out of nowhere, while other local queer scenes were also becoming more trans-inclusive. But a lot of those events didn’t end up lasting more than a year or two, because they just weren’t getting enough turnout, month after month. I definitely never went to events that were as huge and boisterous and full of diverse voices as the ones I was going to before the pandemic.
To me, the story of trans rights is inextricable from the story of our communities getting stronger. We’ve become more of a political force as more of us have come out and transitioned, and as we’ve grown more supportive networks. And White trans people, like me, have gotten better at listening to BIPOC trans people — not nearly enough, and definitely not well enough — and we center ourselves a little less than we used to. There’s so much more to do, but we’re making progress.
Back in 2012, Julia Serano asked me to speak as part of an event called Girl Talk: a Trans & Cis Dialogue, in which cis women and trans women talked about how to include trans women in women’s spaces. This was an annual show that happened from 2009 to 2013 as part of the Queer Cultural Festival. I was kind of nervous about taking part, partly because I had decided to take a step back from trying to speak for the trans community. And partly because I wasn’t sure if people were going to like what I had to say.
What I told that audience, basically, was: trans people will only win respect and inclusion from other communities if our own communities are open and inclusive. If trans people try to exclude each other or put up barriers or don’t listen to each other, then we’ll always be at risk of marginalization. Back then, there was more gatekeeping and status-obsession in the trans community, based on stuff like how much medical treatment you’d had. Or what types of surgeries you’d had. Or who you dated. A lot of people had internalized some oppressive rules about the “right” way to be trans, or who deserved to be a part of the community. It was toxic, and I’m glad I see way less of that these days, especially with younger people.
So I measure the progress of trans people not just by stuff like legal protections, as amazing as those are. Especially during a time when we’re under attack by so-called feminists and progressives, based on paranoia and junk science, I measure our progress in large part by how well we stand up for each other, and how expansive and accepting our own communities are. And like I said, today’s trans/nb communities are one of the things that give me hope in these horrendously dark times.
Right now, everyone is isolated because of this horrible pandemic. And everyone, cis or trans, is feeling alone and vulnerable. I feel like this has to be especially hard for trans people, because our communities do so much to sustain us and remind us of who we are. Our networks help us to survive and figure out our shit. So this Trans Awareness Week, I hope we don’t just showcase trans people or shout out our heroes. I hope we check in on each other. Whether you’re cis or gender non-conforming, please keep in touch with your trans friends and let them know you’re thinking of them.
This Trans Awareness Week, I hope we strengthen our bonds, because we need each other more than ever.
I finally got around to reading Gail Simone’s run on Red Sonja, which ran for 18 issues and is phenomenal. (I got the trade paperbacks, but there’s now a hardcover omnibus.) Gail Simone is one of a handful of writers in comics who’s a must-buy for me, going back to Birds of Prey, Secret Six, The Movement and countless other series. But her Red Sonja still blew me away and surprised me. Simone’s version of Red Sonja is boorish, obnoxious, horny, drunk, brawling, and emotionally vulnerable. She wants to have sex with everyone, men and women and others, but they recoil from her terrible stench even though she’s utterly gorgeous. (Walter Geovanni’s art is also lovely.) I found Red Sonja a wonderful escape during a very stressful first half of November.
Today at 2 PM PT (or just in a couple hours), I’m doing a chat on Twitch as part of Felicia Day’s Women are Storytellers series, with Fonda Lee, Tracy Deonn and V.E. Schwab. Just go to twitch.tv/feliciaday. No need to RSVP.
Also, you can pre-order my young adult novel Victories Greater than Death, coming in April 2021. And the book version of those essays I’ve been writing about how to use creative writing to survive hard times, Never Say You Can’t Survive, which is out in August 2021. Please do pre-order these from your local bookstore, because both they and I will appreciate your support.