Tuesday, June 19, 2007

One trans community?

When I first started to come out I was searching for ways to get in touch with other transgendered people - crossdressers, transsexuals, etc. I lived under the belief that despite their differences the "trans community" was united by some intangible I couldn't identify. One thing that was amazing was how quickly trans people accepted me - it was shocking the day that I was first added to someone's friends list.

As the days, weeks, and months wore on I started to get a sense of something not quite right with my community view. But I persisted with the notion anyway, and even was taking to the practice I saw of calling some of the trans-people I met sisters. I did this to a very select few. And that intangible was a little smaller in my eyes but still real.

Time marched on. I started to see more divisions - some by economic situation (people railing against rich transsexuals or those who had easy access to medical support), and also divisions between crossdressers and transsexuals, or some people defining transgendered as a person who "chooses" to change their sex whereas a transsexual was a person who had no choice - their physical sex didn't match their bodies. But despite these issues I still stubbornly clung to the idea that we are a community. Hey, we all face discrimination! Any of us could be fired if a boss didn't like the fact that we were transgendered. The non-trans people mostly don't see differences between us.

Some days the voices of division were quite loud to me. I started to question my belief in this trans community. The intangible was so small I started to doubt it existed. But I could see places where there were transgendered people coming together! This didn't make sense to me.

After more thinking I started to realize - yes, I saw a trangendered community. In fact, I belonged to several transgendered communities, some of whom shared members (like me). UR Not Alone, the My Husband Betty forums, Crossdressers.com, Tri-ess, Renaissance, etc. Overlapping communities of trans people. And sometimes these communities come together, and sometimes they don't, and people join and leave them as they see fit. And there are transgendered people who don't belong to any of these communities and are alone (often closeted and in hiding, but not always).

I no longer believe in the transgender community. It's not important. But that intangible does exist - our right to be treated with the same respect and dignity as people who are not trans. We have a right to live and work as ourselves and not be punished because we don't conform to someone else's views. After all, to quote Shakespeare (from The Merchant of Venice):

If you prick us, do we not bleed?/ If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you/ poison us, do we not die?