Our first #TransAwarenessWeek piece focus on trans rage and using it to fight back against those who work to stop us from existing, by Carrie Marshall.
As Trans Awareness Week ends this year, I’ll be celebrating a big milestone. It’ll be my fiftieth birthday as a human, but only my sixth birthday as me.
You know those trans people who “always knew”? Not me. I was clueless for nearly half a century, in constant denial of what’s incredibly obvious now. Although I try not to, I think about that sometimes and I’m overwhelmed with sadness, and with trans rage.
Sadness about the childhood, adolescence and young adulthood I spent trying to be somebody else, and trans rage now I understand how much vital knowledge was deliberately kept from me.
We’re not supposed to rage, are we? We’re supposed to be the good ones, public representatives of a community that we might not even feel part of or connected to but whose rights are apparently conditional on our collective good behaviour. Which goes double for trans women, who are told that our anger is evidence we’re not who we say we are. Real women, we’re told, don’t get angry.
Trans woman: *tells transphobes to fuck off*
Transphobes: "LOOK AT THAT MALE AGGRESSION"
Trans man: *tells transphobes to fuck off*
Transphobes: *confused bigoted seething*
— Jay Hulme (@JayHulmePoet) May 24, 2022
Maybe that’s true in some benzo-blurred 1950s fantasy of submissive suburban housewives barefoot and pregnant behind white picket fences. But in the real world, women have no shortage of things to be deeply, righteously, incandescently fucking furious about. Including if they’re trans. Especially if they’re trans.
Forty-four. That’s when I finally worked it out, when I stopped trying to pretend that all the signs that were collectively spelling out TRANS TRANS TRANS TRANS TRANS didn’t mean what they so clearly meant. Take away the early years and that’s still four decades of trying to be somebody I wasn’t, because I didn’t know I could be anybody else.
It’s not that the information didn’t exist. It’s that the information was kept from me, and from everybody like me. Had I known at fifteen what I know now at fifty, I’d have been a completely different person. I’d have lived a completely different life.
But I didn’t live that life, because I grew up in the era of Section 28. I left school just as it came into force, but the intolerance and wickedness that created it had been present throughout my brief and bullied secondary school career.
Section 28 didn’t come from nowhere; it was the culmination of years of increasingly vicious and fact-free demonisation of LGBT+ people generally and gay and lesbian people in particular, first by the right-wing press and then by right-wing politicians. Queerness to them was more contagious than COVID, and the only safe level of exposure is no exposure at all.
The result was conversion therapy on a national scale, predicated on the belief that LGBT+ people shouldn’t just be kept in the closet, but kept in the dark.
I appear to have woken up in the year 2000. Two headlines 22 years apart. Same whipping up of a moral panic. pic.twitter.com/7lIM7F870R
— colin macfarlane (@Cmacf76) November 6, 2022
Ignorance has a body count. I shudder to think how many people have been killed by others’ determination to keep them ignorant. My teenage peers were denied even the most basic information about safer sex even as AIDS was sharpening its scythe. An entire generation of children and the elders who could have helped them were taught to hide who they were.
It would be years before the internet could come along and enable us to find our tribes online; back then the only information available to me was in print, filtered through a cis and straight lens that was at best ill-informed and more often, malicious and malevolent.
You know the line: we cannot be what we cannot see. And for decades I did not get to see anybody like me.
I saw gay people and lesbians and straight transsexuals who wanted to marry men. But I didn’t see anybody who was failing miserably at being a man, terrified of the very thought of transition and attracted almost exclusively to women. As a result I spent my teens and twenties in self-imposed and sometimes suicidal isolation, convinced that I was uniquely broken and shamefully, unlovably so.
Still, I am one of the lucky ones. How many of us didn’t make it to fifty? How many chose to end their sadness by exiting the planet rather than the closet? We won’t hear their names on Trans Day of Remembrance but we should rage against the dying of their light all the same.
But we need to be careful with our trans rage; we need its heat and its light to sustain us, not consume us. For as long as there are privileged and powerful people who see this shameful history not as something to atone for but something to aspire to, something to duplicate rather than deplore, we will need all the energy we can summon.
We cannot let these ghouls deny yet another generation the simplest, most important, most beautiful words in the English language: