When trans exploitation isn’t

fullsizeoutput_20eaWe did a show recently about Rihanna’s statement about trans exploitation. It was taken out of context and reported that she would not hire transgender people as part of her cosmetic line’s marketing campaigns. She didn’t actually say that. But people in the trans community were quickly polarized by her comments. Some said her desire not to exploit trans people was spot on. Others, like the woman who wrote me personally about it, said Rihanna was a transphobic false ally like many other people in the world.

On IN YOUR FACE we talked about nuance of interpretation. How interpretation determines mind set and vice versa. Your perception of the world, in other words, is determined by your mindset. And, your mindset is ongoingly re-shaped by your perception. Since you can control your perceptions, you can consciously design your mindset.

However, most people live life unconsciously, focusing on nearly anything crossing their path, and allowing pretty much anything into their perceptions with little question as to whether those things are shaping the mindset they want to have or not. So, as one IN YOUR FACE audience member aptly put it: “Sometimes we focus on the negative out of habit”. So the question is, what is your habit?

There is no doubt in my mind transgender people are being exploited. The question is, is that exploitation harmful or not?

The woman who wrote me about Rihanna’s purported comments claimed I need to get better at “reading between the lines” so I could see what is really happening. What is really happening usually when people “read between the lines” is they are making up an interpretation of what they are perceiving, not actually reading between the lines. That interpretation is determining their mindset. So it should be no surprise that some people will see Rihanna as transphobic while other see her as an ally. Some people have trained themselves to see a mostly negative world, in which people are generally not very nice. Some see the opposite: a world where people are generally agreeable, happy and positive. And there are all kinds of shades in between. How you see the world is crucial, for it shapes your life experience.

Putting this in our language, the stories you tell yourself about life experience determines how you experience your reality. If you tell yourself the story that people are mostly transphobic, or that there are transphobic people in the world, then it’s easy to read a misleading story then conclude Rihanna is transphobic. Rather than, say, thinking critically about the article, doing some more research and thereby coming to an alternative interpretation. One that gives Rihanna more grace in the matter.

Same goes for how you see yourself. If you’ve been taught certain stories that make being trans-attracted a negative personality characteristic – one that is sinful, aberrant, gross, perverse, “gay” or whatever – those stories are going to shape your mindset of not only your world, but of you. So key to overcoming these stories is become aware of them, then create new ones that, over time, change the momentum of your self-perception and of the world. It’s not always easy…well it is…but it’s definitely worth doing. We talk about this in the show I referred to above as well. It’s really worth going back and watching if you haven’t.

There is no doubt in my mind transgender people are being exploited. The question is, is that exploitation harmful or not? I don’t think it is. In the end exploitation leads to more awareness and understanding that transgender people are human. Which by the way means they are capable of being exploited. Along with that realization comes something every human community can benefit from, particularly the trans community: compassion. Compassion for ourselves and compassion for others.

And maybe then, we in the trans community can extend a bit of compassion to those we think are transphobic. For even their transphobia promotes understanding and compassion for our transgender brothers, sisters, lovers and friends.

When racism and transphobia look the same

racism-transphobiaIt’s an interesting question. This articlearticle takes a good, long look at that question. It begins with recounting the murder of a transwoman, so be forewarned…

The article’s main message is, you’re transphobic if you think a person who is trans needs to tell potential suitors that fact before they engage in a relationship. The argument goes that a person who is not attracted to transwomen will want to know ahead of time who they are getting involved with. Because if that person is transgender, there is a possibility the cis-person (or other variety of human) won’t choose to be with that person.

I guess the same argument could be made for being racist: if somehow black people could conceal their blackness, racists would want to know ahead of time whether the person they find themselves interested in is black, so they can check their interest.

Sounds dumb, right? I mean, in order for a person to want to be sure they aren’t interested in said black person is because they are somehow interested in them, right? Interestingly, we don’t have to worry about that because black people can’t conceal their blackness. Most anyway. As a result, people who make their partner choices based on skin color alone can merrily avoid all us niggers. lol.

Not so with transgender people apparently.

Which is the point, I think, of the article. Not that all transgender people conceal their trans ness…many actually do. Intentionally and unintentionally. But that’s not the point I’m making. I’m saying it’s quite possible that a person who is scared of being with a transgender person can easily find themselves attracted to a transgender person before discovering the person is indeed trans. I mean have you seen Dusty Rose? This of course has happened in many of the trans murder cases in recent years.

But being scared of a person because they are trans is an interesting thing.

The author puts it more plainly:

None of this means it is transphobic to not be attracted to individual trans people. Nor is it transphobic to not be attracted to specific genitals. But it is transphobic to claim to not be attracted to all trans, people. For example, there is a difference between saying you won’t go out with someone for having a penis and saying you won’t go out with someone because they’re trans.

It’s similar to someone saying they aren’t attracted to all black people. So is it a preference? Or is it phobia/racism?

Incidentally, many, many transwomen are racist if held to this same definition. Couldn’t a transwoman’s lack of interest in black men – because of their skin color – or some other aspect of their physical disposition, something they can’t help bing, be interpeted the same way?

You better believe it.

“Oh, but THAT’S a preference,” some will say….Not according to many,  many, many, many people. But not everyone. Some think it’s just prejudice. Others do think it’s a preference. So how is not wanting to be with a transwoman, even if a person is initially attracted to such a person, not a preference then? I think it depends on the story.

Dusty Rose
That’s Dusty Rose. And yes, she’s fine, period

After all, there are a LOT of black people, men too, who are loving, caring people. Just as there are probably similar such people among transwomen.

Here’s a great definition of racism: “people making negative assessments of large groups of individuals that they’ve never met, based solely on the color of their skin.” Replace “based solely on the color of their skin” with “based solely on their status outside the heteronormative binary”, and we start coming to some interesting parallels.

Suffice it to say this is an great example of why I wrote the post recently on why it’s so hard to be the “woke” police. Everyone has a picadillo or two. You’re bound to have yours exposed when you start exposing others. So it’s tough to call people racist or transphobic, especially in the grey areas. If a person is calling people racist slurs, or anti-trans slurs, or demeaning a person, or a group of people in either category on the basis of that alone, that’s one thing. But it gets really slippery when a person starts trying to parse out examples that could be just preference.

It’s far better – if you’re wanting to be happy – to leave all that shit to other people. It’s far better to create stories which create the best reality circumstances for your life and let other people live. If that means sometimes (in the early stages) meeting a dick, or a racist or a transphobe or two, so be it. In the end, those people won’t be able to find you….if you’re telling the right stories.

And you’ll live happily ever after.