trans.cafe

News + Politics

Why Trans Movements In India Must Be Anti-Caste

News + Politics, Community + Allies, Relationships, FamilyGee Imaan Semmalar

By Gee Imaan Semmalar

It is a recent development that the word “transgender” has made its way into common usage in India as an umbrella term to describe various gender-variant identities. Though there are many local terms to refer to trans feminine gender identities—aravani, kinnar, hijra, thirunangai, mangalamukhi and others—the term “transgender” is increasingly being used in state policies as well as by activists. Scholars Susan Stryker and Paisley Currah explain, “Because transgender can be imagined to include all possible variations from an often unstated norm, it risks becoming yet another project of colonization, a kind of Cartesian grid imposed on the globe for making sense of human diversity by measuring it within a Eurocentric frame of reference, against a Eurocentric standard.”

On one hand, globalized activism, NGOs, the classification regimes created by the state for administrative control, and the pressures felt by gender-variant communities to make themselves legible (in order to access state benefits) form the politics that have popularized the term “transgender.”

On the other hand, there is a particular way in which some trans activists rely on Hindu epics to prove that gender variance has always existed—to counter criticisms of homosexuality and gender variance being “western imports.”

Some of the local terms like “aravani” [1], in fact, are derived from Hindu myths. While this is a result of an unfair burden of proof imposed on vulnerable communities, relying on Hindu myths to affirm our identities gives rise to another danger—of a regressive kind of trans identity politics that does not take into account the brutality of the caste system that finds its origin and sanction in the same Hindu religion.

Caste is a system of vertical social stratification based on exclusion and violence, and intrinsically linked to Hinduism and its notions of purity and pollution. According to it, caste is transmitted intergenerationally, and occupations and social status are fixed based on caste. For the caste system to perpetuate itself, people are required to marry only endogamously (within one’s caste). Similar to the anti-miscegenation laws that were practised in the U.S. until the Supreme Court declared them unconstitutional in 1967, the caste system even today enacts a stringent punishment on those who defy the rules of endogamy.

Many inter-caste couples who defy the rules of caste endogamy have been and continue to be expelled from families, made to flee, and often, brutally murdered.

Anti-caste revolutionary and leader, Dr B.R Ambedkar, historically places the system of sati, child marriage and compulsory widowhood as mechanisms to maintain caste endogamy. According to his formulation, when a woman and a man marry endogamously, and one dies before the other, it creates the problem of the surplus man / surplus woman. Now, after the death of the husband, the surplus woman becomes a threat to endogamy and caste morality if she loves or cohabitates with a person of a different caste. So, the practice of sati, in which the woman burns herself on the funeral pyre of the husband, was created. To prevent the husband from outliving the wife (which would result in the “problem” of the surplus man), compulsory widowhood or marriages of older men to younger women/girls was promoted. Many inter-caste couples who defy the rules of caste endogamy have been and continue to be expelled from families, made to flee, and often, brutally murdered.

I strongly believe that our movements for gender justice compulsorily have to be anti-caste. Apart from the fact that anyone with a sense of justice and equality should do everything to destroy the caste system, there are various ways in which the violence faced by trans communities are rooted in the caste system.

It is a fact that many trans women across castes are disowned by their families, or leave their homes due to violence and join trans/hijra families, which work in a matrilineal (from the mother) system. The 1881 imperial census classified the hijras in Berar, under the title “hijada” and included them under the category of a “Mendicant and Vagrant Caste” whereas in Bombay, they were listed as a caste of dancers and musical instrument players. In Central Provinces, the hijras were included under the caste category of singers and dancers at birth and marriage feasts; beggars.

Whether it is British colonial records, media, court judgments, Hindu myths, modern day cinema, academic writings or social movements, the trans person is a figure who is hyper sexualized, overdetermined by gender characteristics/expression who is engaged in immoral activities and who is to be relegated to the peripheries: the perpetual “other” against whom public decency and caste morality could be constructed, reinforced and perpetuated.

I grew up hearing my relatives say with pride about me, “You know, she can do anything a boy does and at most times, even better.”

Most narratives of family violence are rooted in the shame that families feel when their kids are trans. Shame and respectability in the Indian context are entirely linked with caste. I have often wondered why most trans men across caste stay with their families longer than trans women. The reasons could be the difficulties in establishing financial independence, the increased control and anxiety over our sexual safety and choices and the fact that masculinity as a trait is more revered than femininity, which is generally seen as a weakness when expressed by a person of any gender. So as a kid, I grew up hearing my relatives say with pride about me, “You know, she can do anything a boy does and at most times, even better.” Many years later, I have wondered whether they would have taken pride if I had been raised as a boy and expressed femininity.

There are many exclusions that trans people face in health care, education, employment and more, all of which which are compounded by factors of caste, class and ability. In the third world, apart from government hospitals lacking trans-specific health care services, privatisation of health care makes the cost exorbitant and the culpability under medical negligence laws minimal. Since trans people constitute a group that is neither numerically large nor in possession of much buying power, very minimal funds are allotted to trans-specific medical research. This results in poor knowledge about trans health care even among medical professionals. It is common knowledge that historically until now, a significantly smaller amount is spent on cis women's health and research than on that of cis men. Thus, compared to cis people, hardly any money or attention is given to trans people; our lives don't seem to matter to governments or medical institutions

What is the most accessible trans surgery globally? Breast augmentation. Why? Because, in a hetero-pornographic sexual division, cis men want cis women to have . Tbigger breasts. And so, a small number of trans women are able to access a surgical intervention designed for maximising the pleasure of  cis men and reclaim it to affirm their own gender identity.

Most trans women in India either beg or do sex work for a living. This could be because most of them are rendered homeless at a young age and drop out of schools. The possibility of continuing education within the hijra family is minimal due to financial and social reasons. Add to that the fact that most cis people are prejudiced. They fear or mock trans women (this is a common representation of trans women in most regional and national cinema) and are not willing to employ them.

As my sister Living Smile Vidya says, “Begging and sex work have become almost like fixed caste occupations for trans women in India.” The only other jobs are provided by NGOs which depend on HIV funding and retain feudal power structures of having cis, dominant caste people at the decision-making level in high salaried posts with trans women from lower caste backgrounds working in low-paid positions as condom distributors or community mobilisers. Having said that, the fact that NGOs provide a semblance of dignity in employment where a trans woman can work in an office rather than face public and police harassment doing street-based labour cannot be denied.

 In November 2014, 53 trans women were rounded up by the police in Bangalore city under the Karnataka Prohibition of Beggary Act, 1975. Trans women who were in any public place were rounded up regardless of whether they were begging or not and forcibly taken to an infamous rehabilitation home called Beggar's colony. Just as certain tribes were deemed criminal in the British colonial period, the entire trans community is targeted and criminalised under various laws like the one mentioned before, the Karnataka Police Act 36 (A), the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act (which in practise, criminalises all women in sex trade and not just traffickers) the public indecency and public nuisance provisions etc. Trans women are seen as a “polluting” presence along with other marginalised communities that do street vending and other street-based  labour. Public indecency and the notion of immorality are concepts  intrinsically linked to caste patriarchy.

Trans communities have a familial system in which sisterhood across caste is possible and often practiced.

The rejection of endogamous reproductive function by trans people means an abdication of the reproduction of caste relations and labour force making us lesser citizens of the Brahmin empire/Indian nation state. I opened my heart and mind to the possibilities of creating families outside of heteropatriarchy and caste endogamy after I started living among trans communities. Trans communities have a familial system in which sisterhood across caste is possible and often practised. There are of course, caste practices and differences among trans communities, however the collective experience of being disowned by families, structural exclusions in employment, education and housing create at the very minimum, the possibility of a strong sense of belonging and “consciousness of kind”. I have seen trans women raise orphaned babies into strong, beautiful people. My most beloved trans brother was raised by his trans mother. I am inspired by so many such stories of resilience, courage, love and beauty. On the most depressing days I just think about how privileged I am, and how much harder I need to fight to destroy systems that oppress me and systems that benefit me

Nina Simone when asked in an interview about what freedom meant to her said, “lack of fear.” I believe we all need to fight until every single one of us can say, “I have no fear. This is what freedom feels like.”

 

[1] In the Mahabharata it was prophesied that the Pandavas would win the battle of Kurukshetra only if they sacrificed a ‘perfect’ male from among themselves. Aravan, the virgin son of Pandava prince Arjuna, offered himself up for sacrifice. But he had a request: that he be allowed to spend one night as a married man. No king was willing to give his daughter in marriage only to have her widowed the next day, so finally, Lord Krishna assumed female form and married Aravan, and after a night of sexual bliss, Aravan was beheaded. Some trans women in Tamil Nadu consider themselves to be the female form of Krishna and perform widowhood as Aravanis at the Koovagam festival conducted every year.

 

image1.JPG

Gee Imaan Semmalar is a 29 year old writer, trans activist and theatre artist from India. He co-founded Panmai theatre along with Living Smile Vidya and Angel Glady in 2014 and toured extensively in India and internationally with their debut production Colour of Trans 2.0. He works voluntarily as a working group member of Sampoorna, the largest network for trans* and intersex Indians globally. He scripted, directed and acted in Kalvettukal (Sculptures, 2012) on Trans men in South India. Recently, he co-directed and acted in a stop motion animation film, "Won't the Real Transformers Please Stand up?” He can be reached at gee.ameena@gmail.com

 


Transgender 101: A Guide To Gender And Identity To Help You Keep Up With The Conversation

Community + Allies, Work + School, News + PoliticsSam Dylan Finch

If you haven’t noticed, the Transgender Train has definitely left the station. Transgender people are now featured in magazines, television shows, books, websites—you name it. And yet, for some of us, it can start to feel overwhelming.

After all, it’s not like we were taught what any of this gender stuff meant when we were growing up. And it’s true that a lot has changed in a short amount of time. How can we be expected to keep up?


7 Things Everyone Needs To Know About Being Trans + A Minority

Stories, News + Politics, SocialNyra Wekwete
nyra.jpg

By Nyra Wekwete

Trans Day of Remembrance is upon us (November 20), and we as the trans community sure have come a long way—but still have far to go. Being trans, black and an immigrant in 2016 has its own set of unique challenges. Different from those behind us. In my trans experience, I’ve learnt many things but these are at the top.

1. Non-binary identities exist, and there is no such thing as “trans enough”.

Transgender is an umbrella term used to refer to all people who do not identify with their assigned gender/sex at birth, or the binary gender system.

Non-binary describes folks who choose to identify themselves as such when their gender identity does not fit within the gender binary.

Trans-ness comes in all shapes and sizes, in different variations crossing multiple lines and just as the entire sexuality spectrum is fluid so is being trans. There is no specific point where you are deemed worthy enough to fly the trans flag. If you are trans, and identify with that term, then you will know it. It’s something you will always be no matter what critiques or policing others may try to impart on your identity from the outside.

2. You don’t have to transition to be trans.

For a long time, trans women who have undergone MTF transitions have been the poster girls for all trans people. This is understandable as many of those women have had it the hardest, but this image has also allowed us to think that the only way to be a “true” trans person is to “fully transition” and that is not the case.

Transitioning is a privilege experienced by people with the resources necessary to pursue transitioning, and more often than not, they are surrounded by people who understand and are willing to listen. These folks are, by and large, safe and tend also to have the ability to move to a new place where no one knows who they used to be. Transitioning is a process that is only available to very few and I myself know many trans folks who can’t transition for a whole slew of reasons…

So let me ask you: does that make them less trans? Because they can’t afford the hormones, medical care, clothing or other resources? Because it isn’t safe to? See my point?

3. POC folks are already outsiders...

Without even telling the world I am trans, I am black, followed by the fact that I am a (perceived) woman and an immigrant. Already the odds are not stacked in my favor. The sad truth is that white queers are treated a million times better than their PoC counterparts. I am surrounded by white supremacy, hoteps and misogyny, all of which are trying very hard to break me (as a black woman), to eradicate me from the world, and make me “know my place.” Add in being an immigrant and we reach a new level and in addition to racism, xenophobia kicks in. Mix that in with being queer and we have a lifetime of hell.

Growing up, I have gotten used to how the world sees and treats me and it has made me resilient. Being raised in countries far from home has taught me how the real world treats little black children, especially girls who are far from their people, far from home. I grew up thinking I was wrong, I was broken, that the skin I was in was a curse, that I was less than human, that I was a savage from Africa…

This went on for many years and it took many years to unlearn it all. But through it, I did learn one thing: being different doesn’t make you wrong it just makes you different. Your self worth is not defined by what others think and say about you. The only opinion that matters is your own. Being a minority helped me in being trans, as I was already accustomed to rude remarks and hate speech. Suffering gracefully had become second nature.

4. Pronouns matter. (AKA: #Pronounsmatter)

This cannot be stressed enough. I have always said that misgendering someone by mistake is fine (it happens) but continuing to use incorrect pronouns is an act of violence and is transphobic. There is no excuse under the sun that excuses you from using the wrong pronouns. None. No, not even the one you are thinking of now.

No matter what you think or how you feel if someone tells you their pronouns, you respect them, use them, and correct the next person using the wrong ones too.

That said, a note for all my trans people: don’t be afraid to enforce your pronouns. Don’t let people erase how you feel. Feel free to get mad at people who don’t listen and cut off those who don’t comply. It’s your right to be addressed how you want to be; the same way no one would stand to be called the wrong name their whole life, you should never stand to be misgendered

5. We (you) don’t HAVE to explain anything to anyone.

Believe it or not my story is no ones business but my own which I can choose to share or not to. Many people harass transgender people with 101 questions that most of us don’t want to answer. Constantly have to deal with ignorant people asking the most personal and invasive questions gets old really quickly and I soon learned that it is not my job to educate anyone on being trans. For many trans people this has been a hard and heavy road and not something we want to have to relive by talking about it. You do not have to tell anyone anything if you don’t want to. You don’t have to explain your choices to anybody. You don’t have to prove yourself to anyone. If people can’t accept you without you having to prove yourself then they don’t deserve you anyways.

6. Intersectional trans experiences are valid.

As a queer black trans person who is perceived as a straight cisgender black women, my trans experience has collided head on with many different aspects of my life and as a result my trans experience has been different from the rest. Being trans is not an isolated event in one’s life and cannot be treated as such there are many things that shape and define it. Just because one experience doesn’t reflect your own or one that you know of doesn’t make it invalid. There is not a single trans person who has not suffered in some way at the hands of society and we must all be sensitive to the pain that has been endured. Everyone’s story is different and every story is valid.

7. It gets better—but it’s nowhere near perfect yet.

I know it often doesn’t feel like it doesn’t but the world is slowing getting better and like I like to say “The Revolution is coming”. This is a time of change all around the world we can clearly see that things are moving more drastically than ever and the same goes for the trans community. More and more people are coming out every day. Trans brothers and sisters holding their own and providing hope for those of us who are lost. Stay strong but remember it’s ok to fall, have faith in yourself, surround yourself with people who really love you and learn that it’s ok to cut people off (even your own blood). This life of yours is precious. Don’t let anyone take that from you.  

 

Nyra is a 22 year-old transmasculine science student and writer from Johannesburg, South Africa.


Transcestor Wisdom In Trump Times

News + Politics, Community + AlliesAaron Rose

Last week, we shared current trans leaders’ reactions to the election results and their inspiring words of solidarity and encouragement. This week, as we recognize Trans Day of Remembrance, we pause to remember the generations of trans leaders who came before us. Whatever ability we have to embody our genders authentically and survive in the face of oppression is directly tied to the work they did, in their individual lives and on a collective level. 


Finding Courage In The Face Of Trump

Mind + Spirit, News + Politics, Home + Community, Community + AlliesSeamus H. Robertson

The recent election results have shaken me and many of my loved ones right down to our glittery, queer boots—and for good reason. There is a red House, red Senate, a white nationalist president with a conversion therapy-promoting sidekick to look forward to come January. To top it off, Trump has vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in his first one hundred days in office, which will leave many folks, especially low income trans folks, vulnerable to lapses in critical care of all kinds. 


When Crisis Calls

Mind + Spirit, News + Politics, Community + Allies, CommunityJames Blake

It was late one evening, and my wife and I had had a pretty rough day. She had been in physical pain all day, and we hadn’t much money left to last until payday. We were hungry, broke, exhausted and ready for a break. As we were driving, our tire blew, and it was the final straw. Our spare was already flat. We felt hopeless and didn’t know what to do. Perhaps that’s the definition of a crisis.


6 Podcasts To Listen To This Thanksgiving Instead Of Your Racist Uncle

News + Politics, Home and Community, Home + Community, FamilyJohanna Campbell Case

Are you pretty sure that your in-laws, siblings, or parents will discuss how grateful they are to be a part of “Making America Great Again” this Turkey Day?

Is your excitement around eating your grandmother's sweet potato pie being overshadowed by the knowledge that it will be made by a person who believes Black Lives Matter is a terrorist group?


Every Day Is Trans Remembrance Day

Stories, News + Politics, Social, Home and CommunityPersephone Smith
FB_IMG_1479337384340.jpg

By Persephone Smith

“This is a day when we remember those who were taken from us this past year.”

“Let’s take a moment of silence to remember those who have passed.”

“Tonight we remember those who were taken away from us this past year.”

“Let us recite the names of those who have passed on this previous year.”

These four lines are burned into my memory. One line for each year I have been out as transgender. Four years of me living out and proud to be the person I am. Every November 20th is a reminder that I do not live a lie anymore. And each year in the days that follow November 20th (Trans Day of Remembrance), I always feel invisible and silenced by its weight. Transgender Day of Remembrance has held a space in my memory and soul, reminding me and others of those of us who have fallen.

But from the time I became aware of this day I, like many of us, forget what it is about.

So let me remind us again.

Trans Day of Remembrance started as a web project in 1998 called “Remembering Our Dead” in response to the murder of Rita Hester, a transgender woman, who was found murdered in her apartment in Allston, Massachusetts on November 28, 1998. This led to Gwendolyn Ann Smith, a trans woman, activist, columnist and graphic designer, to found Transgender Day of Remembrance in 1999.

I am not here to give a history lesson. I am here because I have a chance to voice my anger, opinions and sadness. This is my chance to have a voice and not be silenced. If my words make you feel attacked or chastised in any way, then perhaps this is a chance for you to look deep within yourself and re-examine why that is. Perhaps I am chastising you for some of the choices that are made in the name of this day.

What I am here to talk about today is those who are being remembered. Let us not overlook them as we are attempting to remember them. 

I want to say something about statistics and the various places that we all find the numbers. Knowing these numbers does not express the problems we are facing. Because the problem is more insidious than we want to believe. It is not just that we are being erased and silenced. It is more about the question of “Who?”—by whom are we being erased and silenced? And in what ways other than murder are we being silenced and erased that then lead to murder? Is it by those who proclaim they are helping us? Is this at all possible?

So who is it that we are remembering? To me, it seems that we are only remembering the people that organize these events. We memorialize the people who use hashtags to demonstrate their anger. We idolize the allies that dress up their Facebook avatar with whatever filter of the day is on tap. This day is not about remembering those who were killed. It seems to have become about selfish pride, social capital and shameless plugs. Has it been effectively co-opted?

I want to see trans people bolster the voices of trans people of color and let us kick-start this movement again.

I want to know how we got to this point. How did we get to this place where people’s reputations are built on the graves of the oppressed? Oh wait, it has always been this way. And it will continue to be this way until we do something about it. In the microcosm that is the LGBT community, I have seen calls for our dismissal. We, who have kick-started this movement of fighting for respect and equality. To this day, we are still the ones who are the oppressed and marginalized. Still there are those we have fought alongside for so long that want to throw us under the metaphorical bus.

In these times, Trans Day of Remembrance is not just about mourning those who have been taken away from us. To me, November 20th and all of the days before and after are to remember us all. Because to so many we are already dead and forgotten even as we exist in the here and now. This needs to change.

We are as dead as the many personal friends that I have lost to suicide over the last four years. We are as forgotten as the uncounted number of trans people who have died worldwide who have gone unreported. We are as erased as those who fear coming out and realizing their true self due to the uncertain fate of this country from the impending Trump presidency.

I would like to see us reclaim Trans Day of Remembrance in a new and different way. Bring it back to the people it was meant for. It is not for cis folks, gays and lesbians or allies to score cookies with us. It is by us and for us, the trans people who are continually disregarded and often even derided as being divisive. I want to see our flag held high by trans people every day of the year. I want to see trans people bolster the voices of trans people of color and let us kick-start this movement again. I believe every day should be Trans Day of Remembrance.

 

 

Persephone Sarah Jane Smith is a non-binary trans femme of color. She is a writer, poet, musician and programmer turned activist. She is a resident of Northampton, Massachusetts.

 

 


Don’t Forget Trans Immigrants

News + Politics, Community + AlliesAisling Fae
14358648_10157422891580246_6259195190698116549_n (2).jpg

By Aisling Fae

In 2014, I attended my first ever Trans Day of Remembrance event. I marched with a demonstration led by the Brooklyn Community Pride Center into Manhattan. The procession broke off but most of us moved on to the LGBT Center on 14th Street where several people spoke and reflected on the importance of remembering the lives lost to transphobic violence.

From the onset of the event, something bothered me. The night started with a quote from President Obama who that year had affirmed his commitment to protect "transgender Americans." Several of the invited speakers mentioned “transgender Americans” in their statements to the crowd. After the invited speakers, members of the public were invited to go to the mic and say whatever they felt needed to be said: say the names of people they lost or air their frustrations at having to live in this world that seldom cares for transgender lives. Several non-Americans took to the stage to speak about violence they've experienced in their home countries and for the people they lost back home in countries like Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico, which also have extreme murder rates. When I was given the opportunity, I decided to speak to an issue everyone else seemed frightened to address. The issue Americans ignore—including transgender Americans—is how we’ve failed those of us who aren't American, but who live here.

I wasn't the only immigrant in the room. Cristina Herrera, a trans Latina, was the project coordinator for the Gender Identity Project, the group that planned the event. Many of us were there in force, we helped organize the event, and took care of feeding those in attendance. The trans Latinas are comprised of Latina trans women of all types of immigration statuses, including undocumented. This event would not have happened without them. Most trans organizing in New York City would not happen without Latina trans women and immigrant trans women from all over the world. So, to come and listen to people speak incessantly about "transgender Americans" and their plight was more than a little bit insulting.

The issue Americans ignore—including transgender Americans—is how we’ve failed those of us who aren’t American, but who live here.

I immigrated to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic in 2010. I came as a student on an F-1 Visa. I set out to immigrate to the U.S. in what conservatives call "the right way". I attempted to go through the correct process, but the process failed me. In 2014, after I graduated, I found myself in the “process” but barred by a bureaucratic slip-up. I never got the work permit that would allow me to stay. I moved back to the Dominican Republic, but by this point I realized I was a trans woman. I could not stay in the Dominican Republic where I had no support network and no real way to medically transition. And so, I moved back to the U.S.—New York City—to live with a dubious legal status.

For me, it can be challenging to listen to my community members discuss how excited they are about all the things they have access to that many of us do not. Those of us who are legally allowed to live and work in the U.S. are still not able to vote on the very issues that will affect our lives. We are forced to rely on well-meaning Americans to secure our rights. Many of us who are transgender and immigrants devote our lives to trans activism, sex work reform, anti-racist crusading. We are also helping secure the rights of people who do not in turn, think about what we are going through as immigrants.

Recently, the State of New York where I currently live passed regulations expanding Medicaid to cover several trans-related expenses, including surgeries. With a heavy heart, I've read the requirements for some exciting opportunities, scholarships, internships and job training only to be disappointed when I arrive to the condition that states, "must be a U.S. citizen, or permanent resident to apply."

Many believe that because gay marriage has become the law of the land, I can get citizenship. The fact is that the costs to immigrate through marriage, between $1000 and $3000 dollars in fees and related costs, is not an attainable option for me.

Most trans people are discriminated against when it comes to hiring and employment, but trans immigrants are not only matched with the transphobia involved in looking for work but also the struggle of finding work as an undocumented citizen. These restrictions force us into poverty and into dangerous means of survival. Trans immigrants have to turn to sex work, drug dealing, and other high-risk jobs—snubbed by the same Americans who will mourn us after we die.

Those murdered in the US in 2016 were overwhelmingly black and brown trans women. Often, they were also sex workers killed by clients. The complicated picture is that many of the same people who show up to Trans Day of Awareness are the people who seek to pass legislation outlawing or over-regulating sex work, making it more difficult for sex workers to get good help and protection and subjecting them to police violence through stringent regulation. While these laws are bad for American sex workers, they hurt immigrant sex workers all the more as they also have to worry about ICE whenever they go on the job.

On this trans day of remembrance, I’d like to ask that we recognize all that immigrant trans people do for our community and our country, and that you take a moment to consider the various ways in which you can help us and consider us. Giving us space to speak about these problems, being mindful of advocating for other issues that can unintentionally impact and hurt us, or helping us find healthcare are a few ways to support transgender immigrant people. With the looming threat of an authoritarian fascist government that openly seeks to incarcerate and deport us, we need your engagement, support and your allyship. We are immigrants, but we need to be considered as Americans—our plight must be considered. Don’t let this day pass by without thinking of our unique struggles because now more than ever we need to be remembered.

 

 

Aisling Fae is a transgender woman of colour, writer, scientist, and activist. She was born in the Dominican Republic, and now resides mostly in Brooklyn, NY, where she is a member of the trans literary scene. She sometimes lives in Berlin, Germany, where she organises spaces for trans women, and tries to foment and create a trans literary scene in the city. More of her work can be found on her website Transfaerie.com. She's on twitter @transfaerie.

 


Trans Leaders React to the Election

News + PoliticsAaron Rose

It has been quite the week. In these dark and uncertain times, I am holding close in my heart the knowledge that we have been in this fight for a long time, and we know how to survive.

As trans people, our existence has always been resistance. Just like queers, people of color, Muslims, immigrants, and all those targeted by the new administration, we have always had a bullseye on our backs. Trump’s hate is the latest manifestation of a system that has always been predicated upon our oppression.


Surviving Trumped Up LGBT Policies

News + PoliticsAlex DiFrancesco
Notmypresident_still.jpg

By Alex DiFrancesco

In the wake of the election results, many demographics across the nation have been faced with a sense of anxiety and despair. Upon finding out the news that Donald Trump had become President-elect the LGBTQIA community’s worst fears quickly set in. Many older LGBTQIA people, who witnessed the atrocities of the Reagan era and AIDS crisis, painted a dim picture of the future based on their past. Younger community members suffered immediately, with calls to crisis hotlines such as The Trevor Project and Trans Lifeline hitting unprecedented numbers.

Steve Mendelsohn, Deputy Executive Director of The Trevor project, said that incoming calls to the crisis line increased by three times the usual amount in the days directly following the election, and chats and texts were up 50% from genderqueer identified youth, 18% from trans identified youth, and 30% from youth who self-identified as “other” in terms of gender. Mendelsohn said that common fears included loss of healthcare, repealing of rights, and fear that progress made in the last few years will be rolled back.

Mendelsohn says that The Trevor Project will be “working harder than ever before” both in the capacity of providing mental health support of youth and putting pressure on government representatives.

Various probabilities of the coming years struck fear into the hearts of the transgender community in particular. With a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, as Trump has promised to do within his first one hundred days in office, many would lose access to the care that has literally saved their lives. Social media sites gave transgender people a place to make offers of assistance to one another. A large push amongst the community spread online that informs those with U.S. citizenship to get passports before they could no longer do so under their appropriate gender marker, and some began to plead with cisgender friends for help. Testosterone which is often prescribed to cis men for low sex drive and gives them greater alertness and concentration later in life. Estrogen is easily prescribed to menopausal cis women and spironolactone is provided at ease for cis women who have acne or “excessive” hair growth. Trans people have asked cis people try to get these prescriptions and pass them along to their trans friends who may lose access to hormones.

“This election has, for many of us, made real our worry that many of the people around us don’t want us to exist. It’s confirmation of the internalized rejection we carry with us every day. It’s important to offer affirming care and attention to others around us, to remind them that they’re valuable to us.”

A Google doc* that is being passed around the LGBTQIA community contains best practices for us during this time such as making protective decisions about gender markers on legal identification, seeing doctors for everything possible while still covered under ACA, and protecting ones’ family through any possible citizenship processes or second parent adoptions.

A different living document, that’s also graced the internet, invites donors for trans folkseveryone from doctors willing to provide necessary documentation to people willing to donate money or emotional support.

Ronica Mukerjee, a nurse practitioner with eight years of experience servicing the trans community, warns against the adeptness of some of these methods.

“Do I think it’s foolish for people to fear they’ll have less access to medication? No, it’s not impossible for people to have insurance go away. We’re trying to create community alternatives.”

Mukerjee worries not just about the loss of hormones for transgender people, but the loss of funding for HIV prevention. She says that currently trans women, and especially black trans women, are at a vastly increased risk for contracting HIV, and cuts to funding could worsen the situation.

Many of these solutions leave out care and planning for those in rural areas of the United States. The trans population often faces greater discrimination medically and legally. Risks such as homelessness, low income status, and widespread discrimination, which the 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey reported as staggeringly high when combined with systemic racism, are only likely to increase under a presidency that has openly condoned bigotry.

Mukerjee says that an effective course allies might take is providing transportation to transgender people who live outside city limits to see specialists within them if all possible, and providing funds necessary to visit doctors.

Many solutions to what we’re facing lay in private organizations that support us, but some solutions also lie in our relationships with one another.

 “We at the Trevor Project know it only takes one supportive person to save a life. We need to be there to listen to each other,” Mendelsohn said.

Vivien Ryder, a trans community organizer and poet, agrees.

“This election has, for many of us, made real our worry that many of the people around us don’t want us to exist. It’s confirmation of the internalized rejection we carry with us every day. It’s important to offer affirming care and attention to others around us, to remind them that they’re valuable to us.”

Almost immediately after disaster struck, many LGBTQIA people began to do what we’ve done for years—organizing our own survival systems to combat a transphobic and desperate future. Many of us felt in the first days after the election that it would be better to die than to go back to our lives without access to the care and support we need to survive. There are certainly dark times ahead, but as trans people, it’s our heritage to fight back, to love each other fiercely, and to leave no one behind.

 

*The Google doc for best practices requests that media outfits not link to it directly, so as not to be overwhelmed. If you are interested in the doc, please email us directly: submit@trans.cafe.

 

 

Alex DiFrancesco's fiction has appeared in The Carolina Quarterly, The New Ohio Review, and Monkeybicycle. Their first novel, a radical acid western called The Devils That Have Come to Stay, was published in 2015. Their nonfiction has appeared in Brevity and Crixeo, and they have done storytelling at The Queens Lit Fest, The Fringe Festival, Life of the Law, and The Heart Podcast.


A Nation In Transition: What Every Trans Person (+ Poll Worker) Should Know Before Going To The Polls

News + Politics, Community + AlliesBennett Kaspar

In one week, on Tuesday November 8, 2016, voters all over the United States will head to the polls to cast their ballots on Election Day, but early voting has already begun in many states. Voting is a key part of maintaining our democracy and having our voices heard. Right now, it is the single most important thing we can do to change things for the better, for all of us. 


When Exploitation Makes You Feel Good

Male-To-Female, News + PoliticsDane Figueroa Edidi

When I heard the rumor that the new Secret ad featured a trans woman, I thought perhaps Secret will be crafting a full campaign, hire a bunch of trans women at a wage where they can thrive in this (violent) economy and donate to trans-led organizations. I thought perhaps Secret would have a commercial that featured the music of transgender non-conforming people of color, as well as feature multiple trans actors. 


Meet The First Trans Homecoming Queen In North Carolina

Male-To-Female, Stories, News + Politics, For Kids + Teenagers, Work + School, Community + AlliesBasil Soper

On Monday, October 24, 2016, an 18-year-old transgender girl said she experienced a feeling of "nothing but love and support" when her North Carolina high school announced that she was homecoming queen. Selena Milian had recently won the popular vote for the school award at Overhills High School in Spring Lake, NC the previous week—on Friday, October 21st.

It’s believed that Selena, who is also Native American, is the first transgender homecoming queen to be crowned in the state of North Carolina. 


Sleep Away: An Interview With Nick Teich, CEO & Founder Of Camp Aranu’tiq For Trans And Gender Variant Youth

Stories, Female-To-Male, Male-To-Female, News + Politics, Family, For Kids + Teenagers, Social, Allies + VolunteeringCharlotte Lieberman

Within mainstream media, childhood and adolescence are typically depicted as “magical.” As a kid, I was probably my most anxious, self-doubting and socially-neurotic self. I felt estranged from my body, and mistrusting of my friendships. And all of this was as a cisgender, white, pretty privileged kid. What I mean to say is this: growing up is—or can be—hard.