Less than a week from today, transgender people and their allies, supporters and loved ones around the world will father in many various locations to light a candle, say a prayer, meditate, or simply congregate in order to honor the memory of those transgender individuals who’ve lost their lives in the past year, often losing them for no other reason than their trans status. If you have been at all connected online to those who share your interests (and clearly you have if you are reading this), you know about the TDOR and what it represents. I wonder, though, if it doesn’t present something of a conflict for those who identify themselves as crossdressers. In fact, the question goes to the larger question of how we even define what is and is not “transgender.”
I know that from a politically activist point of view, there is considerable peer pressure to include each and all gender non-conforming person under a broad umbrella as “transgender” but I’m also aware that not everyone is entirely comfortable with that. Let’s be honest, those of us who are non-conformist live in a world that simply does not comprehend on any level how and why we exist. Laying aside the reality that our culture has virtually no problem with women who are most comfortable being “butch” (to use the common term rather than spell out what I mean), all other sort of gender non-conformity is filed under terms like “weird” r “creepy” or “perverted” or “sin.” So the lack of understanding of the subject is pervasive and overwhelming in the general cis population.
The problem with the umbrella, then, arises in the fact that it sets up a natural clash of interests between those who’s trans status arises, admittedly, from behavior choices (i.e. a drag queen) and those which arise from a physiological condition (the so-called “true transsexual”). The latter does not wish to be readily associated with the former, lest the ignorant public assume incorrectly they are simply “choosing” to be the other gender. The former is possibly troubled by association with the latter and being considered, therefore, mentally ill or gay.
To be sure, there is real and unmistakeable political advantage to being allies where common interests occur, just as there are political areas in which trans people and the homosexual community (admittedly considerable overlap exists) wold be foolish not to stand shoulder to shoulder. But it would be equally foolish to ignore that there is that underlying uneasy tension among some members of the community. All of which provokes me to wonder this: how does the recreational crossdresser really feel, and how should they feel, about the TDOR? Is the cause of the transsexual the cause of the crossdresser and vice versa? Not always, in my view – but in this matter, yes.
Because the bigot who attacks us does not no, or care, if we are transsexual or crossdresser. For them, it is enough that we threaten their conformity, we challenge their assumptions, we provoke their irrational judgments. Whether we will go home at night and take off our make-up only until the morning, or take it off until the next weekend – whether our acquaintances know us as Sandy or Andy – it makes no difference to the level of risk we assume when we step out of our homes (or even, sadly, within those supposedly safe walls). So, whatever we may think about the political issues of the day, it seems to me that on the day of Remembrance, it behooves us to remember that if we don’t do all we can to change the attitudes of society, too many of our sisters (and brothers) will suffer the same fate – maybe even we ourselves.
Ultimately, the TDOR is not a day of mourning alone, but it ought be a day of resolve. A day which reminds us that if we don’t speak up, none will speak for us. Sorry to be so serious this time, but some occasions call for reflection, ya know?