It's 2012 and I've been reflecting for a few days on my identity and activism. Being home for the holidays I've been forced to remember that I am a daughter, sister, and niece in the eyes of at least 48 of the 50 people who crowded my aunt's home to eat and reminisce. All of these folks don't know how hard I fought to come to terms with my identity for the past few years. Yet, for once, I didn't withdraw from conversations or hide in the back room. I wore my tie and suspenders after a little anxiety about what older family members would think. I prepared myself for the silence around my personal life. I prepared myself for the pronouns and name I haven't been called by in a while.
A 7 year old boy cousin took to me instantly thinking that I was cis-male...his step sister called him out on his error in a jarring scene. "Toi...aren't you a girl? See. She's a girl!" What an awkward moment that was. I went upstairs defeated...not really knowing what could be going through his mind. A couple hours later...we were back to hanging out again. While playing basketball he told me , "I keep forgetting you're a girl." I consoled him, "It's ok. Not many people think of me that way anyway. And I prefer it that way."
In my family, I guess we don't really ask questions. We keep our assumptions to ourselves. (At least in front of your face). I bet they think I'm gay or some kind of tomboy. Nobody comments on it...or asks me if I have a girlfriend or boyfriend. (Though most of them know I've had girlfriends). As a matter of fact, no one asks anyone about who they're with. Maybe we just want to get through the holidays as smoothly as possible. Who knows. I do know that I was ready to do battle if anyone made a trans or homophobic comment. I had heard a couple jokes a few days before and was ready to confront whoever I had to. It didn't happen. I missed the opportunity to have dialog.
Sometimes I feel so torn about opening up to my family about my identity. Part of me feels like I just want to live my life away from the added scrutiny of family members. Now that I'm back in the South, I deal with it enough on a day to day basis. But deep down I want them to accept me...want them to accept that there are others out there like me. I want to be able to talk about who I'm dating or have dated with them. I want to be able to talk about my queer activism with them, since it's such a big part of my life. While I know I probably can't go spouting queer theory, it'd just be nice to actually be able to talk about things that are important to me.
So with TPOC activism
I have found it hard to get people to contribute to this chapter on race and ethnicity in this trans resource guide. I want it to represent the TPOC community but we're barely getting any submissions. I suspect that it's because our project is mostly organized by white folks. The title also uses the name "Trans"- forcing people to identify as Trans which a lot of QPOC don't do. Not everyone wants to be under that umbrella term.
I've also found it hard to get in contact with QPOC organizations to get support. They probably don't trust the project, are too busy to worry about it, or who knows what else. I want this chapter to come from our community and speak to our community. I want this chapter to expose what is happening in the larger LGBT community. It's been slow going. I bet it would be different if I was doing a zine and the majority of the writers were POC.
Some have asked me why I keep going with this project...and it's simple really. Who else if not me? I have invested so much time and effort and I really believe in this. So, I'll continue with it to the best of my ability. I just wish we had more support...wish the people behind this project were more committed to building with POC organizations and reaching out to TPOC. But maybe that's a separate project. It's just so frustrating, though, to see a project with such potential that is supposed to be a resource guide for EVERYONE become so narrow and representative of such a few in the community. It just goes to show that our intentions are not enough. They are never enough. It takes work ....and a real committment to inclusiveness.
The last few years of my work have been dedicated to figuring out how to promote diversity and inclusion in different settings. Hospitals, academic institutions, groups and organizations....And the work isn't easy. We just had the civil rights movement 50 years ago. So much of this world...these systems....our thought, operate on the belief of the inferiority of others. So many times during the Occupy movement (and way before this) activists and organizers have urged us to decolonize our minds. They're right. This whole idea of inequality and superiority complexes comes from the mentality of the colonizer. Colonialism. This whole idea of "Integration" or "Inclusiveness" is impossible without acknowledging deeper, systemic issues AND our mindset. The value system of this country is deeply flawed. How can we pull our self up by our bootstraps with the man's foot on our neck? We have to address racism, classism, sexism, homo and transphobia and all other forms of hate and discrimination before we can create a better society. Many don't want change because they profit from those whose necks their foot is on...others don't have time to think about change because they are trying to survive. With the economy in the state that it's in...change is coming whether we like it or not. It's better to be proactive than reactive, as they always say. We have to come together and support each other while valuing each other's differences. In this day and age- the rhetoric of being "equal" is not enough. All I hear is that we "should" be able to be equal. Should doesn't mean anything to me right now. There is so much in place to keep the poor, poor which informs every other aspect of their life -education, housing, health care. I just don't believe in the American sense of equality anymore...especially if based on "meritocracy". No one deserves to be poor or discriminated against...or to die because they don't have housing or health care.
So much to think about as we start off a New Year. I am still committed to anti-oppression and making institutions and organizations more inclusive for the betterment of society. And also creating dialogue across differences to build healthier and more supportive communities.