by Giselle RenardeI won't say who (because it really doesn't matter), but one time I mentioned online that my girlfriend is trans and a fellow author was absolutely FASCINATED. She said, "Oooh that's so interesting! I've never had the honour of meeting a trans person, but I've always wanted to." Not the first time I've encountered that reaction, but it's one that always leaves me feeling a little uneasy. And I'll tell you why:
The whole world's got a Madonna/Whore complex when it comes to the trans population. I don't know what the deal is, but it's like there are two categories trans people get dumped into:
- "Eww! Gross! Disgusting perverts! Keep them away from me!"
- "Wow, they're so special and spiritual and fascinating and inhabit a higher plane of existence than us mere mortals."
People are people.
I won't even touch on the "Eww" reaction because if you're reading this I'm sure you realize that being grossed out by trans people is really really super-duper transphobic. If you carry this reaction inside you (even buried deep deep down), that's something you should probably look at.
But what's so wrong with the flip side? What's so bad about being like, "Wow every person in population X is totally awesome. They're all THE BEST!!!"?
Well, because positive stereotyping is actually pretty dehumanizing. When I hear someone being either fascinated or disgusted by an entire population, all I can think is like... that's A LOT of people you're grouping together right there. A lot of different people. It's not like every member of the trans population is exactly the same person. Being fascinated or disgusted just sort of reveals the speaker as having little/no experience with that population.
Which isn't news, I guess. I mean, look at the quote I started with. The author was telling me straight out that she'd never met anyone who was trans (to the best of her knowledge, I'll add). But the most telling part of that quote was the word "honour." It implies a kind of otherizing fascination that emphasizes difference. "Those people are not like us."
Now, I don't want it to come across like I'm saying there's no commonality within the trans population. Obviously there is an aspect of shared experience for those who are raised one gender and and have lived any portion of their lives with another gender identity.
But ultimately trans people are just people who are trans. Some may feel a degree spirituality or yin/yang-ness in relation to their transness, but everybody's different that way.
So, is it an honour to meet someone who's trans? Well, sure, I guess--in the same cosmic sense that it's an honour to meet anyone (Namaste means "the divine in me greets the divine in you." I know I act like a jaded old bastard sometimes, but I do believe there's divinity in everyone.) But it's no more so an honour to meet a transgender person than it is to meet a cisgender person... unless we're talking about someone famous like Janet Mock, because OMG wouldn't you just DIE? She is so cool. But I'm sure she would laugh at me for gushing and be like, "I'm just a person too."
I feel like I'm doing a really crappy job of articulating my point,but it is three in the morning and I totally just derailed myself by mentioning Janet Mock, so maybe I'll say if you're stuck inside a fascination/disgust feedback loop, read her book Redefining Realness.
What Do Lesbians Do In Bed? And, yes, it includes a few stories with trans characters.I write what I know.