Tag Archives: cis privilege

12th International Transgender Day of Remembrance

For the past 12 years, November 20th has marked TDOR, the International Transgender Day of Remembrance. As a cisgender person, I am not the one you should be listening to on this day. But as a cis person, it is my obligation and my honor to recognize this day and help hold the space for trans persons the world over. Please read each of these posts, as you are able to and as is safe for you to do so.

About TDOR:

The Transgender Day of Remembrance was set aside to memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. The event is held in November to honor Rita Hester, whose murder on November 28th, 1998 kicked off the “Remembering Our Dead” web project and a San Francisco candlelight vigil in 1999. Rita Hester’s murder — like most anti-transgender murder cases — has yet to be solved.Although not every person represented during the Day of Remembrance self-identified as transgender — that is, as a transsexual, crossdresser, or otherwise gender-variant — each was a victim of violence based on bias against transgender people.

Number dead because of anti-transgender sentiment:

This means that, this year, there are almost 180 trans people to be included in the list of names to be remembered, mourned and honoured at the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance tomorrow (20th November).

“The TDOR 2010 update has revealed a total of 179 cases of reported killings of trans people from November 20th 2009 to November 19h 2010. The update shows reports of murdered or killed trans people in 19 countries in the last year, with the majority from Brazil (91), Guatemala (15), Mexico (14), and the USA (14)”.

Why a day of remembrance matters:

As someone who was around and part of the local and national trans leadership when the TDOR started in 1999, as time inexorably marches on I have seen eleven previous TDOR’s come and go. I have that intimate understanding of why we have them and militantly resist the calls from some transpeople to change the focus from a memorial ceremony to a happy-happy joy-joy event because it’s in their words ‘morbid and depressing’
[...]
70% of the transpeople we memorialize are people of color. I don’t want people forgetting that salient point either as we read this year’s list of names. Until anti-trans violence is reduced to nothing and the people who perpetrate it get properly punished for doing so, there will continue to be a need for the ‘morbid and depressing’ TDOR.

A plea to cis folk:

Around the world today, there are many vigils and memorials taking place – if there is one near you, and you can make it, please go along. Spare a few moments to remember those we have lost, to pay your respects – and to remind yourself and cis society at large that trans people are somebody’s children, somebody’s parents, somebody’s friends, somebody’s neighbours, somebody’s partners, somebody’s lovers.

More than anything else, today and every day, please remember that trans people too are part of the human race – and we’re as entitled to life as any other member of humanity.

Most of the dead are women. Most of them are nonwhite. This is not a coincidence; it is a vital reminder that we continue to allow some persons to be more valued than others because of their gender, the color of their skin, and whether their true gender matches that assigned to them at birth.

Every one of the people murdered because of anti-transgender bigotry matters. Each one of them deserves to be remembered and honored — even if we don’t know their names. Too, we are called to bring to mind the ones whose lives and deaths were so held as meaningless to their society that their murders were not reported and did not make this year’s list of the dead.

Today, I remember and memorialize the dead. Tomorrow, I will do what I can to make there not be need for a list next year, and I ask you to join me. If it seems too large a task for you, do something small. But do something. Because this must not continue.

Babble about Babble, and a controversial Controversial award

So there’s this site, Babble.com (Parenting for hipsters is how I’ve heard it explained, in a nutshell), and they, a fan of lists, came out with a new one this week: Top 50 Twitter Moms. And yours truly is on it. And not only on it, but #1 for the category Most Controversial.

I gotta say, I SQUEEd when I first heard I was on the list at all (via a pre-release email from an editor, asking for a photo to go with the story). And then didn’t believe it. And then checked into it some, and squeed and hyperventilated some more. And then sent a photo and tried to breathe. And then, as the days wore on, started to become completely convinced it was all some elaborate hoax and/or prank. Because as hard as that was to believe (who goes phishing for publicity photographs??), even harder was that I — not exactly a high-follower, heavy-hitter on Twitter, and annoyingly high volume — would actually be on a list like that. Truly, I could not believe it. (Thanks, paranoid crazy brain.)

But it was true. And as I looked at the list when it finally came out, it became more clear.

Because this list? It is white. It is very, very white. It is not only white (there are at least a few women of color on it that I know of — I don’t want to make the mistake of saying there are no black people there –, and some I may call white at first glance might in fact be nonwhite women I am misracializing), but there are no women of color among the ten Most Controversial of us.

Really?

I mean… really??

‘Cause I could name a few major bigger-than-me nonwhite players in the Controversial category off the top of my head, without even pausing to take a breath first (PhD in Parenting, also on Babble’s list, came up with nearly 30 in less than 24 hours). And I? Don’t even follow Big Names. I don’t know who’s-who on Twitter, and I don’t even particularly care. And yet I can quickly and conclusively prove that popular moms + opinionated + twitter =/= exclusively white.

And while we’re on the subject, let’s think about who else was left off the list, or was underrepresented. What about woman-partnered moms? Trans moms1? Non-custodial moms? Moms with disabilities? There are some of at least the last (hey, I’m on there), and not knowing all fifty women I can’t say for sure there were none of the others. But it’s a pretty damn homogeneous list in a lot of ways.

It’s not that I didn’t in any way earn this honor (despite what my “you’ll never be any good” crazy-brain says) but that it is inarguable that I and many others are on here in no small part due to our completely unearned privilege. This list would be damn different in a non-racist, non-cissexist, non-kyriarchal society. Would I still be on it? Maybe, maybe not. But a lot more people would see themselves reflected in it, whether they themselves made it on, and that is the far more important point.

Screen capture from Babble.com September 10, 2010

There’s also this: in the bio written for me (y’know, the person named Most Controversial), nowhere are these words: (anti-)sexism; (anti-)racism; (anti-)heterosexism / homophobia; kyriarchy; privilege; feminism / feminist2; not even patriarchy.

Here instead is what it says about me:

The Who, What, Why?
Arwyn hails from Portland and is bipolar, bisexual, pro-choice and anti-anything that smacks of hypocrisy. So in a nutshell she’s lovely — provided you agree with her, but even then she won’t hold it against you. She’s all about moms banding together to fight the big boys (big money, big pharma, big brother). Amen to that!

Yea, ok, most people still go “huh?” at kyriarchy and privilege, and roll their eyes at patriarchy, but… hypocrisy3? Are even the words “racism” and “sexism” and “homophobia” (skipping right on over “biphobia” or “cissexism” as “advanced” topics, and just contemplate why that is for a moment) — and stating that one works against same — too controversial for a Most Controversial list? How can we eradicate these things if we can’t even talk about talking about them (which is sort of What I Do and, I imagine, why I’m on a list like this)?

I’m trying to walk a line here between not being ungracious and not fawning because someone said Nice Things About Me. The thing is, I am honored. When the list came out, I forwarded it to all my family, because look! proof that I’m not just sitting on my butt all day. Or, rather, I am, but I’m Doing Something while sitting (or bending over my iPhone, thumbs flicking), and people are noticing. And that feels really good. Who doesn’t love validation, especially for work done without any sort of tangible pay?

But the knowledge that the list is so skewed — so racist, so cissexist, so entrenched in raising up already-privileged bodies (with intent or not hardly matters, because the result is the same) — poisons my enjoyment. It turns my sweet success sour in my mouth, sourer still in digestion. Did I really earn this? Or am I here only because so many deemed unworthy — because their bodies and beings and lives are “wrong” — are not? This is the least of reasons to protest whitewashed lists like these, but it serves as a reminder: white (cis, class, hetero-partnered) privilege isn’t “good”. It taints everything those of us with this privilege receive. It dulls every award, flattens every accolade. Because we didn’t — wholly — earn them. Others were passed by, passed over, pissed on that we could have our moments. Is it worth it? Hardly seems so to me.

I am controversial? Fine, Babble, have controversy: do better. In this list, in all lists, as long as you insist on making them: do better. If any category be monochrome, you’re doing it wrong: go back to the selection process, and try again. Because it’s not that worthy women representing greater diversity aren’t out there, it’s not that you’d have to “hunt” for an unworthy “token” to “get the numbers right” — no, it’s that you aren’t paying attention. What, exactly, does that say about you?

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This is hardly the only problem to be had with Babble. Please do read the post at PhD in Parenting, and check out her links, which talk about issues Babble has had with violating copyright and trademark as well as their willingness to put corporate profit above infant and maternal health. Also please read Womanist Musing’s take — if I were making a list of opinionated or “controversial” Twitter moms, she’d be on the top.

And as a side peeve, while I am ensuring that I never get promoted by them again anyway, Babble re-directs everyone in Australia (and elsewhere outside the USA/Canada?) to an alternate site, making the list nigh-impossible to view for hundreds of my Twitter followers. I have, however, been told that going via an anonymizer such as anonymouse.org will allow one to view the main US Babble.com site.

  1. Keeping in mind that it can be extremely risky to be out as trans, and a thousand times more so when one has children at stake.
  2. Though feminism does feature prominently in the bio of the 2nd Most Controversial.
  3. “1. a pretense of having a virtuous character, moral or religious beliefs or principles, etc., that one does not really possess.” — Dictionary.com

Whose child is this? Kyriarchy, privilege, and motherhood

Y’all know that I blame the kyriarchy — to talk only of patriarchy is to whitewash (ha ha) the myriad ways that people, including women, are variously oppressed and privileged. It pretends that all women experience oppression in the same ways, and focuses on sexism as the prime or only marginalization of women (because the concept was formulated by highly privileged women — white, US, middle class, mostly educated, abled, cis, and largely straight), which erases the experience of the majority of women on this planet.

To think only in terms of patriarchy leads to false assertions based on too-narrow perspectives, on the belief that what one experiences as a cis white upper class academic woman is typical of all women. Like the assertion that women with children are privileged over women without. (No, I’m not going to link to where I encountered said assertion.)

To the contrary, childfree/child-having is a classic double-bind of womanhood; there is absolutely no way to “win”, no choice to be made that does not result in discrimination and oppression. For to be sure, childfree women — if they are the “right” kind of women, or perceived to be so — are absolutely criticized, and marginalized in many ways; there can be no doubt of that, I think, and this is absolutely not a competition of who has it worse. But let’s go back to that caveat, because that is why the narrow-minded privileged academics get it wrong: it is only some women — the “right” women, privileged women, women like the ones making that assertion — who are most definitely expected to be mothers, and woe unto them if they fail to fulfill this imposed obligation.

What if you’re not the “right” kind of woman? What then?

If you are not white, if you are not cis, if you are not well-off (forget being on public assistance of any kind), if you are disabled or have a history of psychiatric diagnoses, if you are “too young”, if you are “too old”, if you have “too many” children, and especially if you exist at the intersection of more than one of those “failings” — if you are not the “right” kind of woman, motherhood further invites society to comment on and assert control over your life, if society allows you motherhood at all.

Motherhood does not confer privilege, but is a function of privilege; it is conditional, a “right” granted only to those whom society is best pleased with — and only for as long as we continue not only to be “right” but to do “right”.

Because even the rich cis white etc etc mother is policed, often with further double-binds:  the work for pay question is a classic example — there is simply no winning that one, no matter whether one works out of the home, in the home for money, in the home for sticky kisses, or some impossibly juggled combination thereof.  But if she shares sleep space with her children, breastfeeds for “too long”, lets her child roam “too far”, or in any of a million other ways steps outside of what her society deems the “right” way to mother (whatever that is where and when she lives), even the most privileged mother still risks comment and criticism, risks losing her children to “protective” services.

(To some extent, I don’t think that is even necessarily wrong — I entirely approve of lines drawn against physical and psychological and sexual abuse, against reckless child endangerment and neglect, against child slavery and prostitution. The problems come when those definitions of abuse or neglect are defined by a kyriarchy-fueled society, implemented in kyriarchal ways with biases against the already marginalized, and are used to enforce kyriarchal norms: don’t let your child be too emotionally close or physically distant, don’t let women ever have a moment’s rest, don’t let women use their bodies as they choose, don’t respect the personhood and autonomy of children. There are ways to do serious, inexcusable harm as a parent, to be sure, but there are a far, far more ways to be “bad” in society’s eyes.)

We cannot, we simply cannot extrapolate from a singular, privileged experience of motherhood/childfree womanhood to the entire population of women and think it relevant or right. And to pit women against each other, to pretend that one side of a double bind is “better” or “better off” than the other? That’s how we all lose, and kyriarchy wins.

If you want to help broaden the understanding of what it means to be a woman with a child, please tell your story — any one of your stories — as part of the Womanist/Feminist Parenting Primer.

International Transgender Day of Remembrance 2009

November 20 is the International Transgender Day of Remembrance:

The Transgender Day of Remembrance serves several purposes. It raises public awareness of hate crimes against transgender people, an action that current media doesn’t perform. Day of Remembrance publicly mourns and honors the lives of our brothers and sisters who might otherwise be forgotten. Through the vigil, we express love and respect for our people in the face of national indifference and hatred. Day of Remembrance reminds non-transgender people that we are their sons, daughters, parents, friends and lovers. Day of Remembrance gives our allies a chance to step forward with us and stand in vigil, memorializing those of us who’ve died by anti-transgender violence.

[Quote from Remembering Our Dead]

I hesitated to write this post, because I have no desire to appropriate TDOR — as has been done before, by well-off, acceptably-queer, white cis folk like me, and will likely continue to be done. (The “white” is especially important to point out here, because of the way race intersects with transphobia to devalue certain lives even more than others: trans women of color are most at risk of being mourned on this day.)

Nor do I wish to detract from the vigil, nor dishonor the dead.

Note: Read that list, please. They all had names, even if we do not know them. They all had lives, even if we never hear about them. And they were all murdered, even if we never bother to find their killers.

But neither do I wish to contribute to a trope that leads to cis people, like me, associating only doom and gloom and death and despair to trans persons lives. I know how much it pisses me off to have only one day a year — and have it be entirely “Woe is the marginalized person, for their life is miserable!” That’s what we risk when outsiders come in, and take over, and use our public mourning to show just how good we are, see, we care, look at how miserable those people are, how horrible, let us pity mourn them — until the day is over, the vigil ended, and we walk away, proud of another box we can tick off on our Good Ally(TM) checklist.

That isn’t what this day is supposed to be. It is by trans persons, for trans persons, as they take a moment to honor and remember their fallen, as a community. We cis persons are called to witness, to hold the space, and to remember that what we do contributed to their deaths.

We are called to take that lesson not so that we beat ourselves up with it, but so that we can change, so that these murders stop happening.

We are called to walk into the rest of the year with this knowledge: that what we do, and fail to do, every day, creates the environment in which this can happen.

And perhaps most important, we are called to walk into the rest of the year with the duty of celebrating trans lives: with remembering the dead, yes, and remembering those who live.

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Posts for the dead, by the living: