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Hollowness and meaning: On Being Trans and Creative
breaking open or just broken
I whisper each morning,
“I am still here.”
I hear each day,
“Why are you here?”
Friends say kind words
that I do not hear.
Others say vile words
and I hold them all dear.
There are times when I feel the light going out of my eyes, but somehow, I am still here. Words float through the air like bees seeking a flower on which to land. It needs to allure, to call, to invite them in. If the conditions aren’t right, they fly away. Where do they go?
Do they travel over the horizon seeking another place to land, somewhere that will nourish them and provide them with what they need?
I wonder too much about the words that fly by and whether there was anything I could have done to catch them. If I caught them, would I imprison them or give them a wonderful home? I like to think it would be the latter, but there is no way to know for sure… nothing can ever really be known for sure…
Certainty is a trap
It is a gilded cage, encrusted with gems, but it is a trap all the same. Certainty is a lie. It is a pleasant smelling, suffocating gas lulling us to be comfortable as it silently chokes the life out of us.
First, it dulls us to the ideas, ideal, dreams, hopes, and fears of others before it takes away our sensitivity to our own. The more certain we become, the harder it is for us to accept when we are wrong. We will be wrong about many things, and need to always keep learning.
Openness is vulnerability’s breath.
Vulnerability opens us up to listen.
Openness invites us to greater depths.
This invitation is heard by all
and if traveled not lightly, beacons
foes who long for our deaths.
On being vulnerable with a target on our chest
It is hard to be open and honest in this world, not just for trans people, but all queer people, people of color (as problematic as that term is), women, and neurodivergent people, all the people with targets on them. The more open we are, the more fuel we give to the fires longing to consume us. If we are willing and able to walk through the fire, the pain works for our benefits. I understand not volunteering to have our heads chopped off. You never know if it is a green knight or a true enemy that will take it off for real. Stay safe out there.
Just to rest my head on the chopping block, I understand where TERFs are coming from. It is fear. I don’t know how many of them recognize it, but it is a pure fear that is controlling them. It isn’t fear of trans folk. It is fear of men, of misogyny, of the victimization they have suffered in their lives. This isn’t true for all of them. The Grifters saw a market to plunder and have rushed in as well, but they have no morals and cannot be reached. The TERFs who are acting out of fear can. It won’t be easy, but each of them has a path to work beyond their fear, but they have to choose to walk it. Our job is to encourage them to take the first step.
Don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying we don’t fight back and we don’t stand up for ourselves. We have to keep our people safe. Vulnerability is being honest, but part of being honest is seeing the motivations of the opposition. Most of them act out of fear, and the most vocal, and tiny, part of them are acting out of hate and for the grift of it.
Our pain and fear is money in their pockets.
Notes on the Rebellion: Oppression is the mask of fear
There will be times when the struggle seems impossible. I know this already. Alone, unsure, dwarfed by the scale of the enemy. Remember this: Freedom is a pure idea. It occurs spontaneously and without instruction. Random acts of insurrections are occurring constantly throughout the galaxy. There are whole armies, battalions that have no idea that they've already enlisted in the cause. Remember that the frontier of the Rebellion is everywhere. And even the smallest act of insurrection pushes our lines forward. And then remember this: The Imperial need for control is so desperate because it is so unnatural. Tyranny requires constant effort. It breaks, it leaks. Authority is brittle. Oppression is the mask of fear. Remember that. And know this, the day will come when all these skirmishes and battles, these moments of defiance will have flooded the banks of the Empire's authority and then there will be one too many. One single thing will break the siege. Remember this: Try."
—Karis Nemik, Andor, season 1, episode 12: "Rix Road"
Existing in the world as a trans person is an act of insurrection. It is an attack on the patriarchy. It challenges the power of cis, heterosexual, white hegemony. They define all of their identities as pairs of opposites. If those opposites don’t stand, all their definitions fall apart.
Foundational to all this are the patriarchal definitions of male and female. First, I have to say that the words male and female, even though they look similar, do not share root words. Female comes from the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) word for “one who nurses.” Male comes from the PIE for, “young man,” beyond that we are uncertain though it may be related to the word pole. Having said that, the active, living definitions of the words are defined against each other.
We, traditionally, associate all the adjectives related to power, action, control, and strength to masculinity. Words associated with frailness, weakness, delicateness, passivity, and softness to femininity. This dichotomy became worse under colonialism and American Chattel Slavery in order to justify racism. The frailty and inability of white women to defend themself was one of the lies used to justify the oppression of black people. It is impossible to separate our modern definitions of male and female from this history of misogyny and racism.
If this current definition of the gender binary breaks, the foundational lies of white supremacy, patriarchy, and misogyny is pulled out from underneath them. This is what they are fighting to protect.
Look at their arguments. Men bad, trans women are just bad men looking to take advantage of women. Protect women. No one is arguing that we shouldn’t protect woman, what we are arguing about are the two basic assumptions:
women are all weak, frail, and soft
trans women are not women who are threatened by the same dangerous actions as other women.
If you pay attention to the arguments made against trans people, the vast majority of them ignore the existence of trans men and nonbinary folk. They insist on defining women as weak and in need of protection and not on the men who endanger those women through their actions. They then falsely claim that trans women are the bad men, actually.
This is how patriarchy works. It demeans women while pretending to be their savior from an outside enemy. Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull, who works publically under the name Posey Parker, has actually called for Cis Straight Men to invade women’s restrooms to keep trans women out. Weren’t they arguing that they wanted to keep those they see as men out of female spaces?
That has never been the goal. The goal has always been to protect the patriarchal status quo so we don’t have to think about our broken relationship to gender and how it feeds misogyny and white supremacy.
Our existence is a threat to their system of power. They are afraid of losing power.
Knowledge is power but not strength
It is powerful to know that this new face of misogyny exists only to support patriarchy and white supremacy, but this knowledge will not change the minds of those trapped in the system. The grifters will grift so long as there is money to be made. Haters will hate until something shakes them out of their hate. But that is the minority of the opposition. The majority of the opposition to trans rights are afraid, and we have to address those fears.
We can never be respectable enough to convince people we are not dangerous. It hasn’t worked for the civil rights movement, the feminist movement, or even the Queer rights movement. It wasn’t and will never be respectability politics that will move public opinion.
Exposure changes minds and hearts. You cannot have compassion for people you are unfamiliar with. That is the hardest part of this.
We have deceived ourselves into believing that humans are rational animals. We aren’t. We are emotional animals who justify our feelings with reason. That doesn’t mean we stopping fighting for the facts, but we cannot allow ourselves to believe that the facts will save us. Connection and getting others to see us as valid human beings will save us.
When arguments don’t work, change the mode of debate. Make music, art, sculpture. Tell stories. Write fiction. Tell jokes. Be creative.
Creativity speaks to the deepest parts of us.
Use your strengths. If you debate well, debate. If you are a creative, make magic. The biggest thing we can do, as long as we are safe about it, is show up to be seen.
Running on empty
Yes I feel broken, beaten, empty on the inside. I remember being bashed leaving the club in a skirt. Like so many others, I am so tired of having to repeat myself over and over again.
Just over the past five month months:
And those are just the posts I’ve had the energy to make. I’ve given talks and presentations, not to mention all the one on one and small groups discussions I’ve had in that time. I don’t want to spend all of the little energy I have on this, saying the same things over and over again.
I am empty, hollow. That is why so many of us are so tired of engaging with people in order to justify our right to exist.
The Beauty of Hollowness
devoid of joy
lost in pain, grief
whole while cut into pieces
untouched by their words
free from caring
The beautiful thing I have found in being hollowed out is that I am open for something new to grow in me. Their hate is a forest fire that may have scorched me but it has fertilized the dormant seeds within me to sprout and bring forth new creative work.
It isn’t easy to create after or during devastation, but old things must be torn down for the new to take their place. The harder they go scorched earth on me and my people, the more fertile soil they make for us to take root and grow.
The truth isn’t a rose, it is a weed. It takes advantage of any opening it can find to spread and grow. Once it is introduced, it is impossible to eradicate.
Be creative, my siblings, sisters, and brothers. Stay safe, and know that it is okay to take a break from the battlefield. We will hold the front until you are ready to come back.