Sometimes, it’s not the fist in your belly that gets to you.
Sometimes, it’s when they’re quiet, even polite.
Sometimes, it’s how they look at you day after day that finally gets to you.
If they’re in a crowd, they shift their eyes so their friends can’t tell they’re looking at you.
You can read the fear behind the smirk,
The hatred just past the disgust.
You worry it’s your paranoia.
(Confidence, they’ve told you, helps you pass.)
But there’s always one of them who looks at you with longing.
And that scares you the most,
Because if you let that longing into your heart, you have to accept yourself just the way you are.
It’s not only people who intentionally transgress gender who get into trouble. Eventually the gender system lets everyone down. It seems to be rigged that way. Sometimes, even with all the time and effort we put into obeying the rules, we get hurt. We can get badly hurt by being a real man or a real woman.
And this brings up a great deal of anger. [...]
We don’t deserve the ridicule, the stares, the fist in our bellies. We are entitled to our anger in response to this oppression: our anger is a message to ourselves that we need to get active and change something in order to survive. So we resist the oppression, the violence – we resist the tendency of the culture to see us as a joke.
Loose canons of activism
One trouble in having only a few of “us”, and a lot of “them”, is that it’s easy to hit out at the wrong “them”. [...]
When I’m angry, I don’t have the judgement to select a correct target to hit out against. I do believe that anger is healthy, that it can lead to a recognition of the need for action, but activism itself is best accomplished by level heads who can help steer others’ anger toward correct targets. A correct target is the group that has both the will and the power to oppress you wherever you go. [...]
It does hurt, being excluded or even attacked by other oppressed groups, and it makes me feel a shame I thought I’d gotten over a long time ago. It’s not what people say when they exclude me and my people, or how they say it, but rather it’s a very long ache that I don’t believe will stop until there’s a whole lot more room in the world for difference. Sometimes it’s a seemingly insignificant act of exclusion that will tip the scale [...]
Something happens, some final bit that lights up the injustice of the gender system, and in that flash, we see that the emperor is wearing no clothes. That this either/or gender system we’ve got is truly oppressing us. That happens, and we snap; we begin to fight.
In this struggle for our freedom of expression there comes a point where the gender system reveals itself to be not only oppressive, but silly. When we see how ridiculous it is, we can truly begin to dismantle it.
I dunno, Kate. There’s a lot in there that resonates with me. But those last couple of paragraphs? I just don’t know, there’s… something that doesn’t quite… sit right with me, somehow. Yes, the gender system is problematic and both a cause of, and target for, this rage that I feel – but no, I’m not sure that that’s all there is to it. The gender system is, I think, only one part of the puzzle. I’d like to know what you mean by the term ‘gender system’ – what is it? How is it defined, by whom and to what end? Does it exist in isolation? (Does anything?) And if not, what are the other things that relate to it, and how do they all interact?
Y’see, I have this rage in me. It’s a comparatively new thing for me, and it’s unsettling me deeply. I’m trying to figure out where it’s come from, what its significance is. Do I embrace it or reject it? I feel with a solid certainty, but in a way I find hard to articulate, that my being trans is a part of it, a big part. But how? Why? And what, if anything, is to be done about it – does anything even need to be done about it?
It feels like my rage nourishes me at the same time as it devours me…
I need to think about this a lot more, but right now my mind is fizzing and spinning like a firework – and I’m tired, I need to sleep. Maybe things will seem clearer in the morning.
I hope so.