Wow. The world has done gone crazy-er. Just when all the clamor, brouhaha, ruckus and to-do about Catilyn Jenner has started to die down a little bit, along comes Rachel Dolezal, the former head of the NAACP branch in Spokane, Washington, who has been recently outed as being white after she claimed that she was in fact, black.
It didn’t long for some to compare Ms. Dolezal’s lie to Caitlyn Jenner’s transition.
On the black side, accusations were made that Dolezal’s claim was one more appropriation of their culture by whites, while the feminists and Fox News derided Jenner as fraudulent for not having had a lifetime of female experiences. And though I hate to say it, there is truth in both. But the differences far outweigh the similarities.
The media has elevated people like Laverne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner to celebrity Trans status. They breathe rarified air and live in the relative safety of their station. And while I applaud them for their success, they are not us, the thousands who are unknown, and who often live in stealth, fear and danger. Theirs is a different world than ours. But the one thing we share with Ms. Cox and Ms. Jenner is that our world is not as simple as checking “black” on an application as Rachel Dolezal did. Our lives are far more complicated than that and to compare the two is not only absurd, it is insulting.
I have lived and built a life as Julia now for nearly 15 years. I have a history. But my experiences are not ‘authentically’ female in the conventional sense. While it is true that I have never been pregnant or given birth, there are thousands of infertile cis-women who have lived the same way. Does that make them any less genuine a female?
What the Trans community shares with the black community is our visibility. At any stage of our transition, it is usually difficult to hide what or who we are. We become a target for every hate-monger out there. We have been killed, beaten, refused the use of bathrooms, living quarters, jobs, and churches. Until recently, we have been stereotyped in the roles we are offered. In comedy clubs we were relegated (and still are to some extent) to a particular type of venue. Even within our so-called LGBT community, we are often neglected, overlooked and viewed with some disdain.
We know what it feels like to be looked at with contempt and treated like an “other”. Our suicide attempt rate is an obscenely high 41%. Yes, we know.
As far as appropriating ‘femaleness’, our lives are anything but a bed of roses. In addition to experiencing the day to day injustices that cis-women face, such as lower pay, violence against us, body image, etc., we have to come out to everyone in our lives (often losing those we love), undergo electrolysis, psychotherapy, get approved for hormones, get two psychologists’ approval for surgery, and somehow find enormous amounts of money to get those services performed because they aren’t covered by health insurance. On top of that we are expected to keep our jobs and our sanity while our entire world crashes down around us. Yet no one bats an eye when a cis-woman augments her breasts up or down, gets a tummy tuck, ass tuck, nose job, botox, or any one of the dozens of other surgical procedures designed to make them more beautiful and feminine. Are they less than other women for doing those things?
Feminists are correct. We don’t know their life experiences and they sure as hell don't know ours. Let them spend a week in a Trans woman’s often oversized shoes, and I seriously doubt that they will ever complain again that we are appropriating them. They couldn’t handle our life.
I will appropriate this one sentiment from them, however; this is MY body and no one is going to tell me how or what I can do with it.
And don’t even get me started on relationships!
Look, I get it. By current definition, I’m not 100% female. I never was. I never will be. But you know what? I’m damned glad I’m transgendered. It hasn’t been easy, but I and every other Trans person have a perspective on life cis-folk never will. We have been with both tribes. We have lived two lives. We are two spirits and we would be happy to share that knowledge with anyone who cares to know.
I don’t know what Rachel Dolezal’s issues are, but I wish her luck in sorting them out. I DO know that comparing her lie to Caitlyn Jenner’s truth is a cheap, lame attempt to minimize and marginalize who and what we are as people of transgendered experience. Those with a political agenda to ply find it easy to use the Trans community as their scapegoat. Not this time though. Not ever again. More and more, science is proving what Trans folks have known forever; that ours is a medical and not a psychological issue. We’ve been around since antiquity and we will continue to be around until the end of the planet.
So, you can either deal with us or not. Just leave us out of the stupid arguments you use to justify your so-called superiority. Find another group to pick on. We’re not taking it anymore.