We need to challenge the deliberate erasure of gender non-conforming people — people who visibly defy gender norms, binaries, and roles — from our social movements. Stigmatization of gender non-conformity isn’t new, it’s an intentional strategy of respectability and assimilation that is as old as feminist, queer, and trans movements themselves.
Historically gender non-conforming people have been cast aside by feminist movements who rely on the incorrect premise that you have to be a (cisgender) woman to experience patriarchal violence. Gender non-conforming people have been silenced by racial justice movements who view us as “contaminated by the influence of white culture” or failures of the type of patriarchal manhood and womanhood required to be a part of the struggle. Gender non-conforming people were thrown under the bus by a gay movement which chose to pursue a politics of love and assimilation versus one of gender and difference. (Love won because gender didn’t.) What’s becomingly increasingly evident is that gender non-conforming people are being forsaken by a trans movement which increasingly relies on gender binarism and palatability and proximity to cisgender and white ideas of beauty.
What’s becoming evident is that gender non-conforming people are becoming symbolic failures for the very movements that claim to fight for justice for all. Often the victories of feminist, gay, and trans movements have less to do with how much they have challenged gender binarism and more to do with how they have become incorporated by it.
Rather than rallying around difference we continually find ourselves in the same trap of fighting that we are “just like” the very people who oppress us. This logic has a disproportionately negative impact on visibly gender non-conforming people who often may not look like the norm. Not only do we have to navigate a world that thoroughly denies our existence we also have to carry the burden of all shame of the people around us who project their own feelings of insecurity and inadequacy on us.
We didn’t cross the gender binary, the gender binary crossed us.
It means a very different thing to fight for gender self-determination — a world where people can express their genders without fear of persecution and violence — than to simply fight for transgender rights. The problem isn’t just about misgendering, it’s about gendering to begin with. We are fighting for a world where all people are able to self-determine who they are without fear of state, communal, and interpersonal violence.
1. People do not have to identify as transgender to experience transphobia.
2. People do not have to identify within the gender binary of male or female to experience transphobia.
3. People should not have to “pass” as cisgender in order to ensure their safety. We should not have to be palatable to be safe. We should not have to appeal to racist and ableist ideas of beauty to be safe.
4. Patriarchy is the institutionalized regulation and policing of the gender binary. Those of us who visibly defy cis, white, and able-bodied ideas of what a “man” (and especially) what a “woman” should look like often experience the brunt of the violence.
5. Gender non-conforming people are regarded and treated accordingly as “failed” men and/or women and because we live in a world where participation in gender binaries and norms is a requirement for humanity.
5. The project of gender self-determination is a political conviction that holds everyone and does not draw hierarchies of authenticity of who is “trans/queer/radical enough.” It’s about imagining and creating a world where people are given back the power to self narrate their own bodies, identities, and experiences. It’s about remembering that there is enough room for all of us — that we do not need to invalidate one another’s realities in order to realize our own.
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