Can you imagine a conference of, by and for transgendered people? I couldn’t until the very end of the Trans Politics, Social Change and Justice conference held at the CUNY Grad Center on May 6-7.
There were touching moments and tense points throughout the weekend. An older woman of trans experience stood up and expressed her confusion that some from the younger generation were gender fluid, not transitioning from one spectrum of binary to another. “I just don’t get it,” she said.
Sexy trans men dominating conversations. A white, normative male psychoanalyst curious about auto- gynophelia and really not understanding what it is like for people to be defined by a hostile medical establishment. Listening to people present ethnographic work on my kindred. Gender-normative participants questioning our ability to study our communities, because people might think we are biased.
During the conference, I was constantly reminded that so much of our lives are shaped (or ended) by the fear, ignorance and disgust of “normal” people. The possibility of some hypothetical person being uncomfortable with my presence in a women’s shelter means that I am not considered by city government worthy of safe housing.
Beyond nuts-and-bolts discussions about organizing strategies and tactics and the oh-shit! appraisal of what is arrayed against us, the conference clarified for me our larger progressive struggle.
The strength of our coming together – talking, respecting each other and working together for our right to be seen as individuals – is what the capitalistic empire or any empire is profoundly afraid of. It is why being trans is so dangerously subversive. We might wake people up to the fact that who they are is a matter of choice. Our struggle is more than working for a world free of our unnoticed murders, and the denial of our access to basic services. We are asserting our basic human right to be understood.