Trans Activism and Allies: Reflection on a Twitter Fight

Earlier today on twitter, a (now former) follower of mine started complaining about a feminist forum I moderate and which she doesn’t belong to but which apparently she reads or something.  Her complaint was that every discussion in there is derailed by trans people talking about transmisogyny and transphobia.  Which I suppose is something to discuss but then she started taking about how one movement (trans activism) is derailing another movement (feminism) and started talking about these horrible things trans women and other trans people supposedly did at MichFest which she found out about from a transphobic blog post that ‘names and shames’ and advocates harming the trans people and…  We’ll not even get into the whole reducing trans women to their genitals and using phrases like ‘dick-slapping their faces’.  Okay, we’ll get into it enough to mention it but that’s it.

So I blocked her for her transmisogyny and transphobia but not before she tried to make clear that the main problem as far as she was concerned was that trans activists were alienating would-be allies and generally DOIN IT RONG.  And that’s what I want to talk about.

Thinking my trans activism and my correcting feminists for their transphobia and transmisogyny is about gaining allies is to misunderstand my activism.  I honestly don’t give a shit about gaining allies.  That’s a waste of my time.  Allies that can be gained or lost by my activities are allies I don’t count as allies.  If my actions determine whether or not you act against transphobia, transmisogyny, cissupremacism, and cissexism, then you are not someone I want to waste my time on.

My activism is for trans people.  My activism is for making sure that trans people see this trans person opposing all the crap we face, not bowing down to it.  My activism is so that trans people can see that being trans is not something to be ashamed of, something to hide, something to apologise to cis people for.

My activism is for all the trans women, trans men, genderqueer people, fems, butches, femmes, agender, neutrois people out there so that they might get heard, might get listened to, might get fucking included instead of considered derailing when being part of feminism or any other activism when they name their concerns and problems.

My activism is for the child who is told that he is not a he, who is told that his name is not his name and that he must be called the name others determined is his real name, whose parent is implicitly threatened with removal of his child because he is seen as forcing his child to be trans.  My activism is so that child can maybe grow up without contemplating or trying suicide because he is trans and people don’t understand and shame him for it, unlike so many trans people now.  My activism is so that child can just have his being trans considered to just be part of him, not a defining characteristic by which he will be oppressed for his whole life.

But my activism is not for allies, would-be or otherwise.  Because an activism that centers on allies, that considers them in its every action, that focuses its energies on them, is an activism that fails the people for whom it supposedly it exists.  To those who think I am wrong, I direct you to Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s excellent response to people who suggested that he was alienating potential allies.  I want to acknowledge my eternal debt as an activist to Dr King, Malcom X, the Black Panthers, and others who lived their activism not for white allies but for people of colour, the people who mattered.  In trans activism, there was STAR, Sylvia Rivera, Marcia Johnson, Miss Major, the Stonewall Riots and so many more.  I apologise for not naming everyone in all the different movements, but I hope you get the point that I owe so many people for shaping my trans activism, for showing us all the right way on activism.

So, yes, I love my allies, the ones who fight the good fight because it’s the right thing to do, but my trans activism is not about them.  And it never should be.

Update: The person who inspired this rant contacted me and pointed out that she did actually belong that forum but that she doesn’t speak up in it (although I did not see her as a member when I checked) and begged me not to ban her (which is something I wouldn’t do whether she was in it or not and was not something I had planned on doing since this was a fight with me).  She also said a lot of other things, that according to someone who I asked to read the email for me, that basically justified her transphobia so I am not going to change this post to otherwise address her email.