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Yesterday, while wandering through the wonders of the internet(s), I came upon an essay by Stephen Ira which was (specifics aside) a critique of media portrayals of trans people. The article gnawed at me all day and by this morning, once I was able to untangle my internal response, I realized I feared that in writing and sharing our story, I am furthering that narrative.

This construction of the emotionally tortured transsexual does another important job: it normalizes trans suffering. Much of the emotional suffering that trans people have to deal with is a result of cissexism.  Lack of access to medical care, disrespect from family and peers, and constant media reminders that trans bodies are worthless and require frequent monitoring/destroying.  But if cis people create the impression through media that suffering is trans people’s natural state, they can erase the real cause of trans suffering: cissexism.
I am acutely aware that I come to this with my own privilege and I struggle to walk a fine line, speaking about though not for my child and the trans people in our life. I write about doctors, psychiatric professionals and school administrators, those who who were helpful (the few) and those who weren't (the many). I write about family and friends, those who rose to the occasion with unexpected acceptance, and those who could only see her as some kind of Other, whether a soon-to-be victim of violence, a mentally unstable child or a slave to sinful things. I write about her friendships with older trans women and about the emerging generation of trans people we knew, living lives full of hope and promise.

As I wrote two years ago in a sharp-tongued memo, I do not believe that Ashlie's gender brought about her death. In this way the narrative of “The Boy Suit” is perhaps false, but the larger story, the one I wake up every day intent on pounding out piece by piece, is one that I hope addresses in some ways, the cissexism that Ashlie and those like her face.

Despite the desire to remain an ally to the trans community, the fear nags at me that perhaps I am doing more damage than good.  No defense of my work should undermine the experiences, ideas and reality of the very people I seek to support. It is a fine line and I suspect that I will continue the struggle to find myself on the right side of it.

Originally posted to laurustina on Tue Oct 16, 2012 at 01:52 PM PDT.

Also republished by TransAction.

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Comment Preferences

  •  "Much" not "all" (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Nulwee, MooseHB, hazey, chimene, weck

    I don't think Ira's views and yours are mutually exclusive.

    Surely even a transsexual in a perfectly accepting environment would be frustrated that their physical body doesn't match their inner gender image.

  •  I can gather you are upset by something. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    chimene, Transactivist, weck

    But I am unable to grasp what it is in your meanderings.

    Despite the desire to remain an ally to the trans community, the fear nags at me that perhaps I am doing more damage than good.

    Obviously something is bothering you. You start out on the demonization of us in the media. But I'm not understanding how that is your fault.

    "Til you're so fucking crazy you can't follow their rules" John Lennon - Working Class Hero

    by Horace Boothroyd III on Tue Oct 16, 2012 at 03:02:19 PM PDT

  •  Please don't stop. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    For any reason. What you write has power. It may reach the right reader, at the right time, and provide them with the critical bit they need to cope with a particular situation. I find benefit for myself in seeing a mother who actually cares, who is working through the grief.

    My zwei pfennig.

  •  Your stories bring awareness of the struggles (0+ / 0-)

    of transpersons to me for the first time. I see your writing as a window into the confusion and problem solving that a family must address as the child becomes an adult. I hope you will continue to write for me and the others who have no idea at all what to do or say.  Understanding that there are unique difficulties during adolescence is a given, but how you have told the story of Alice with such tenderness makes those situations easier for those of us outside the loop to understand. My new understanding makes me a more compassionate human being, and I thank you for that.

    Please donate to Okiciyap food pantry. . If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever.

    by weck on Wed Oct 17, 2012 at 06:48:28 AM PDT

    •  Potential Allies (0+ / 0-)

      When Ashlie/Alice was alive, it became my job to seek out potential allies, people who would, if given the chance, be accepting and become in some small way her cheerleaders. Then she was gone and yet I still felt that need to change the hearts and minds of anyone I could.

      I am not skilled at making ideological arguments. I'd be a disaster in any kind of debate. But I CAN tell a story and your comment encourages me to keep telling them, to keep putting it out there in hopes of reaching potential allies like you.

      Thank you

      "All politics is personal"

      by laurustina on Wed Oct 17, 2012 at 08:29:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I don't know... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ... but I think there has to be a balance.  I mean, at what extent does this become (and I don't mean to level this at yourself or Stephen Ira, but as the farthest logical extension of the argument) a question of "trans people can't talk about their emotional suffering anymore?"  We have to be able to talk about it, it's cathartic, it helps to exorcise pains that we've genuinely experienced.  And additionally, I do believe that those stories have power, and help cissexual people understand and gradually empathize with experiences outside their own comfort zones.

    My preference is not to linger too long in the emotional turmoil, because ultimately, that's the objective: to move on from it.  It's like the principle in which it is important to remember the past, but detrimental to live in it.  Speak of the emotional turmoil; but also speak of where you've arrived, in your journey away from it.

    So, balance.

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