Vigils Are Not Enough

I struggle with the Trans Day of Remembrance. I’ve been going every year for the last several years and this year was no exception, but to honest, I struggle with the TDoR. I struggle with vigils in general. By nature, I do not mourn quietly and I do not pray for peace or love or understanding. I cannot muster any gratitude for the fact that the dead are in a better place, only sorrow for their loss, rage for the injustice, fear for my own loved ones and bitter hatred for their killers.

I understand that not everyone feels this way. I understand that for a lot of folks the Transgender Day of Remembrance brings catharsis and healing, but I do not understand how you can hear that 238 trans* people were murdered this year, more than last year, and then listen to the gruesome brutality of murder after murder after murder be described to you and not be overwhelmed with silent rage while you sit quietly in your pew. I do not understand how lighting candles can be enough. I didn’t express this yesterday because I wanted to be respectful of other people’s feelings and needs surrounding something as painful and personal as this, but it does need to be said.

The deaths of our people make me furious. They make me rage inside and I want to harness this fury and use it to grind the bones of those who would hurt my people into dust. When they hurt us, kill us, threaten us I want to fight, I want revenge, I want to scream myself hoarse. To me, vigils feel helpless, vigils feel like defeat, and I love too many trans* people too dearly for vigils to ever be enough for me. I do not want to simply remember my dead, I want to avenge them. And I want to fight to keep the living alive.

I remember the first year I ever attended the TDoR memorial service and one of my best friends made me promise that if they were ever murdered for being transgender that I would make sure that cities burned as their funeral pyre. Knowing full well that this was not by any means within my power to guarantee, I promised. I promised because the request was not entirely literal (though with anarchists these things are always a tiny bit literal in some small, wishful, optimistic way), but the meaning was clear enough: “don’t stand around with candles reminding each other what a wonderful person I was, fight back. Fight to avenge me and fight to keep yourselves alive.” I promised because I believe that if you want peace you have to fight for justice, not pray for it. I promised, because if that’s how our deaths were memorialized then maybe they would stop killing us.

I certainly pray (or, I would if praying was a thing that I did) for a day when I don’t have to worry about our safety and I don’t have to be ready for a fight every time my partner and I leave the house, but until then I will carry my knife with me every time we go out in public, because I will rot in prison until I die before I will sit in a church and hear them read off my partner’s name.

TDOR

Over two weeks ago now, my partner and I went to the Trans* Day of Remembrance candlelight vigil at the local Unitarian Universalist church. While the service was, as always, two parts depressing and one part hokey, it reminded me very acutely just how rare and pleasant it is to be in a public space where my partner can wear a skirt safely.

I am surrounded by gender non-conformity in my daily life and I live in a community where it is embraced, so I have forgotten that we are not normal, and why we cannot be safe everywhere. I am losing the ability to see my life in the context of the dominant culture’s values, which makes being confronted with them and the dangers they pose fairly jarring. I can no longer understand or remember why they are disgusted by us or why they fear us.  I have lost the ability to see that there is something “wrong” with us according to the unwritten rules that govern gender, because I know that we are absolutely and perfectly beautiful.

My survival instincts, however, will never let me completely erase my cultural conditioning. Whenever we walk down the street, whenever we enter public space and my partner does not pass as a cis person I feel it, our own very real, very immediate lack of safety. It puts me on high alert, I am wary, watching everyone, assessing potential threats. I intentionally make eye contact with everyone who looks at us for too long.

Despite the fact that I can no longer remember why anyone would bat an eyelash at a trans* person, much less fear, hate or wish to harm one, when my partner and I leave the bubble of safety that is our community it all comes rushing back. Tumultuous, clashing with my own most fundamental beliefs, my cultural baggage, my long lost instinct for discerning unspoken cultural rules and transgressions, honed from childhood to understand and digest gender and its rules without ever contemplating them. I wish someone would take this fucking culture back from me because I don’t want it. It’s just dead weight, baggage I have to fight off, like a person dumped into cold water in heavy clothes struggling to stay afloat.

That’s not all true of course, in those moments I have to remember their rules because that’s the only way to know when we’re breaking them, to know when we’re not safe. It’s in those moments I feel like I have a strange sort of double vision. I see my partner the way I have always seen them, beautiful, androgynous, and a bit femme-y, but I am also painfully aware of how the outside world sees them and what the cost of that can be, has been for so many trans-feminine people. That’s when my partner walking out the door in a skirt simultaneously seems to me an ordinary thing and some monumental act of bravery. It seems so strange to me that a thing like that, putting on clothes, should carry so much weight.

In Support of “Die Cis Scum”: A Compilation

The following is a not so recent post from Asher Bauer’s blog, Tranarchism. It is going to be the first in a series of several posts that I’m going to be reblogging on the subject. I feel like its important for me to compile some of the better write ups that voice support for the phrase because it helps me  in developing and articulating my own particular stance on the issue.

This guest post on Asher’s blog was the first place I ever encountered the phrase, and I have heard some speculation on the internet that his blog is where the discussion originated. As an anarchist, militant rhetoric jives pretty well with my ideology and I wholeheartedly support the use of this phrase by members of the trans* community.  I also support people’s right not to use the phrase if it makes them uncomfortable or they disagree with it, but I don’t think that members of our community should be telling one another that they cannot or should not use it. I feel like its kind of like abortion, if you don’t like it, don’t have one, but leave the rest of us alone.

Also, for anyone who doesn’t know TDoR stands for Trans* Day of Remembrance.

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GUEST POST: Die Cis Scum

This is for TDoR.

Die cis scum.

It’s not ironic. It’s not cute. It is a threat.

How many people are murdered because they are cis? How many people are denied employment, housing, health services, turned away from shelters, refused aid, and are subjected to constant ridicule and abuse because they are cis?

If you are cis, do my tattoo and jacket make you feel uncomfortable? I can only hope so.

Right now, when I see a cis person in public, I worry. I tense and hold my breath and get ready to sprint away. You frighten me. This fear is entirely justified. I’ve already been sent to the hospital for the crime of walking down the sidewalk towards my home while visibly gender variant. I fully expect to be attacked again, severely. (The less severe attacks, the screams and threats and disapproval and hatred and thrust elbows and shoves, these are the givens. These are part of the cost I know I will be forced to pay if I wish to leave my house.)

Die cis scum. It is hostile. It’s aggression, on my part. It is a whisper of personal agency. When the cissexism and transphobia of this culture crush in, overwhelming and unstoppable, these three words are how I push back.

Would that I could push harder.

-A beloved friend who wishes to remain anonymous

ETA: I, Asher Bauer, did not write this post but I did personally give my friend the tattoo shown above, by hand, using a sewing needle and tattoo ink, and I support this message 100 percent.

via GUEST POST: Die Cis Scum « Tranarchism.

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I would also strongly advise people to check out the actual post of this on Asher’s blog because a lot of conversations that I feel are fairly important take place in the comments on that post.