4: Remember Where You Came From (A Check-In)

Jul 26, 2017

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Hey friends, before I say anything else, I want to acknowledge recent news of Trump calling for a ban of transgender folks in the military. I know that there’s a lot of conversations going on of if he can even do that, if he’s just trolling and trying to take attention away from the healthcare bill, and I don’t really want to get into all of that, but what I want to say is: if you are trans, gender non-conforming, non-binary or even questioning your gender identity, I see you, you are not a burden, you are not a distraction, your needs are valid and you are such a gift.

If you’re cisgender (meaning you identify with the gender identity you were assigned at birth), we must do better for our trans siblings, y’all. So, I have some questions I want to share with you. I came across an article earlier today entitled “To the cis person angrily sharing news of the Trump transgender military ban” written by Angela Dumlao, who identifies as queer, non-binary and Filipinx-American!

Within it, they asked:

What do you do to support trans people? I don’t need answers, but I want you to think about whether you:

  • Actively use peoples’ pronouns both when they’re around and not around. Do you correct other cis people when they misgender someone? Use their deadname?
  • Do you intake media by trans people? TV? Books? Articles? Art? Music?
  • Do you laugh at jokes like Trump being made up with makeup? Do you realize this is transphobic? Do you perpetuate the idea that trans women are really men, even in the most innocent, subtle way?
  • Do you know about the epidemic of trans women of color being murdered in the U.S. and beyond? Do you share these articles? Do you sad react them? Do you avoid them?
  • Do you actively use your privilege as a cis person to make the world better for your trans siblings?

These are some of the things I’m working to hold myself accountable to and if you’re committed to our collective liberation and cultivating communities and a world that supports the existence and growth of transgender people – I hope you’ll take these on as well because we have so much work to do.

Now, onto the rest of this episode, which relates to what I just mentioned and this is something that Ifasina and Bani in episodes 1 and 3 touched on a little bit as well – accountability and humility.. There is another article that has been floating around my social media world for a couple weeks called “Excommunicate Me From the Church of Social Justice,” written by Frances Lee, a queer and trans person of color. This will also be linked in the show notes.

They wrote about the connections they’ve seen between the culture of evangelical Christianity that they’ve experienced and the culture of activism and social justice. I really resonated with this piece, especially related to the push for purity or ultimate wokeness. The expectations we set for what it means to be a good person or a good activist. The lack of space and compassion we give ourselves and each other to fuck up, make mistakes, and learn or unlearn in public. The ways we punish those who aren’t where we want them to be in terms of the language we use, understanding, how they practice activism. All of this is nuanced, right? But the question that been on my mind for a while is: how do we hold ourselves and each other accountable to the values and visions we’re committed to in a way that is liberatory? Meaning in a way that is actively anti-oppressive, acknowledging the nuance of our various identities and intersections and supportive of our collective liberation – whatever that means of looks like to the parties involved?

I believe that part of this must include staying connected to the past versions of ourselves. The parts of ourselves that didn’t know what we know now. The parts of ourselves that said or perpetuated harmful thoughts or ideas. The parts of ourselves that hurt others intentionally or unintentionally. We have to remember where we came from. Where we’ve grown from. Where we healed from. Otherwise, when we experience the harmful words or actions of another that seem similar to what we used to say or do, we will dispose of them the same way we dispose of ourselves. Which is something we cannot afford to do. No human is dispensable.

Sidenote: I do believe that there is a difference between setting boundaries in our relationships with one another as we navigate our complex experiences and identities or cutting off those that are unwilling to be held accountable and consistently exhibit toxic or abusive behaviors AND socially ostracizing / scarlet lettering them with a capital P for problematic because they’ve said, done or believe something we disagree with.

The belief systems and ways of being that I was socialized into growing up around race, gender, sexuality, class, etc are so uncomfortable to look at. The first time I came into contact with the language and deeper understandings of non-binary, gender non-conforming and trans folks’ experiences, I felt the importance of it, but it also clashed so much with my previous worldview that a part of me felt that things like pronouns we use and the specific words we put on our gender identities was kind of trivial. That was and is my privilege, you know? That I have been able to go throughout my life and never skip a beat when others assumed my gender, referred to me as a girl or woman or used she or her pronouns. I’ve been misgendered less than 5 times in my life and each time, by feelings were hurt but only once did I feel like my safety was on the line and that was when two masculine presenting teenagers followed me down the street and verbally harassed me because they assumed I was transgender.

This is something that some trans peeps have to anticipate and navigate on a daily basis. (If you’re trans and reading this – you know this. I do not and that is my privilege. And I have learned and changed so much and I still have unlearning and healing to do, but I refuse to dispose of that version of Andréa that got mad at a non-binary person when they corrected me on their pronouns. If I do, when I come across someone who is doing the same or is misgendering another person, I may lose the ability to see myself in them and therefore lose the ability to empathize with them – which is very important to me. And the empathy is not just for them, it also for me and my own protection.

I have been told so many times that I can tend to jump down folks throats if their doing something harmful that I used to do just a year ago and that is not the person that I want to be. Not because it’s wrong, necessarily, but because it doesn’t support my vision, my goal of cultivating spaces that can hold our complexity, as we are right now. And so I want to see myself in the person that’s doing harm. I want to say: “what part of them reminds me of me? What part of what they’re doing reminds me of something I’ve done?” Because seeing someone doing harm and saying: “that person’s problematic as fuck,” does not allow me to see the humanity within myself. And does not make space for the part of myself that is reflecting within them.

*This may sound kind of spiritual or touchy feely and that’s kind of who I am – hey I’m Andréa.

But that’s what I have for you. Overall I want us to remember where we are coming from. That we were all born into this world that has so many problems. We were all taught so many problematic, harmful, dehumanizing, oppressive things about ourselves and each other and various identities and we’re all unlearning it and healing from it. So do what you can with what you have but also remember where you’re coming from.

When you know better, do better, but don’t lose connection with that part of yourself that didn’t know anything.