Thursday, February 12, 2015

chewed up by the machine

Laverne Cox is going to be in a CBS pilot. Glee has gathered a goddamn 200-person all-trans choir. The BBC is making a transgender sitcom.

I'm mourning, and I'm goddamn furious.

Look, I love TV, probably more than anyone I know. I watch a ton of it, I write about it, I constantly agitate for more minority representation. I'm in no way saying that having more trans people on TV is in itself a bad thing (though God knows bumping a trans women of color in favor of a white trans guy reflects real life so perfectly that, on a decent show, I'd think it was a brilliant piece of meta-commentary).

But it's a bitter, bitter pill to be expected to rejoice, to cheer how far we've come, to grovel in thanks at the feet of TV execs who want to cash in on the current high visibility of trans people – to see all of this fanfare happening among the so-called LGB(T) community, while women are being murdered.

Trans women, mostly trans women of color, are being fucking murdered. Two hundred trans folks making jazz hands about how far we've come doesn't address their murders. If anything, it obscures that reality by focussing attention on an all-singing, all-dancing celebration of assimilation into the capitalist mainstream.
So far, a trans woman or gender non-conforming person of color has been murdered in the United States every week of 2015. This week, the horrifying trend continued when 21-year-old Black trans woman Penny Proud of New Orleans was shot multiple times early in the morning of February 10. She joins fellow trans women of color Yazmin Vash Payne, Ty Underwood, Lamia Beard and Taja DeJesus and gender non-conforming person of color Lamar Edwards, all of whom were under the age of 35.
Assimilation always leaves a remainder, and the remainder must be dealt with. Trans people aren't being welcomed aboard the shiny happy American Dream, even if it looks that way to those of us at the top of society's transgender league tables. We're being consumed by the machinery of imperialist, white-supremacist, heteropatriarchial neoliberal capitalism. If we're deemed the good ones, we slide willingly down its gullet, clapping along with a show choir as we fuel its ongoing machinations. Otherwise, we're chewed up and our mangled bodies are spat out to bleed to death in an alley.

(And I say "we" and "our" in that last sentence not to appropriate the struggle – since people like me, the white socioeconomically-privileged trans guys, are not the ones dying – but as a deliberate gesture of solidarity with my sisters.)

Nowhere is the operation of the machine of death clearer to me than in last week's appointment of a State Department envoy for LGBT rights around the globe, enshrining a supposed concern for LGBT people in US foreign policy.
“While there is currently strong momentum in the United States toward equality, there are many places in the world where the LGBT community is at risk, sometimes even for their lives,” added Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin in a press release. “This is an important way for the United States to facilitate diplomatic conversations with countries where we see ongoing violence, harassment and discrimination of LGBT people.”
Look at that phrasing, that eye-gougingly disingenuous phrasing designed to set up the US in opposition to "places in the world where the LGBT community is at risk," as if this is not one of the "countries where we see ongoing violence, harassment and discrimination of LGBT people." As if our very right to exist in public spaces isn't currently being legislated against right here. As if trans panic defense isn't still legal in 49 states of the union.

As if this is about human rights, as if this is about caring about LGBT people, and not just another excuse for neoimperialism. As if any of this means something, and isn't just about placating public outcry in the emptiest, most breathtakingly cynical way possible.

Women are being murdered. I'll join the party when that stops.

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