Know what? Ever since I got back from Minneapolis last weekend, I haven’t worked on my voice at all.
I don’t want to. I feel like I have to (in order to pass, in order to feel safer, in order to access the privileges afforded cis women). Feeling like I have to makes me not want to do it.
I don’t want to feel like my transness is some kind of performance, like performance is an innate part of it. I don’t want it to feel forced, I don’t want it to feel like something I can fuck up. If it feels forced and tenuous, it stops being fun, it stops feeling…something like authentic, whatever that means.
I don’t want my appearance, or my manner, to feel like something I do, especially something I do to appease anyone, something for anyone besides myself.
So I don’t know where I’m at with my voice anymore.
A friend told me years ago that the most radical thing (or one of them) an oppressed person can do is to live as if ze is not oppressed. Meaning to afford oppressive forces no quarter on shaping one’s existence, or to disregard those forces and demand to be treated fairly when they arise.
I’d like to live in a world where no matter what kind of body you have, or voice you speak with, or clothes you wear or can afford, people treat you with dignity. I do not think this world is that world. I think it wants to be there though.
I see trans people on facebook, on twitter, and often I see images of trans people who look super natural and at ease in bodies that aren’t easily categorized. They look like they can touch something vital and good and fulfilling that way. I am assuming of course. I am assuming they are not-passing intentionally. I assume if they wanted to, they could pass, though I know this is wrong of me, to make an assumption about someone, and to assume passing is possible where perhaps it is not.
I want to be one of those badasses who lives as if ze doesn’t waste any time caring about passing. I used to know what that was like, before I started transitioning. It was infinitely easier. OF course, then, I didn’t have to try. I didn’t even know what passing was.
I want to be radical and let my body act as a message, as confounding evidence against the gender binary, as evidence of the value of femininity, as evidence of gender equality, of gender fluidity, against biological determinism, yatta yatta. But I don’t actively encourage those messages in my appearance. Maybe they’re there whether I want them to be or not. I would like to be IN YOUR FACE trans. For now, I am not. I am afraid, anxious, somewhere on the spectrum between reasonably and unreasonably fearful/anxious. Maybe that’s the anxiety disorder doing the thinking. Maybe that’s the transphobia I internalized when I was growing up in a transphobic home.
Considering I am trans, I would like to unlearn that very pointed and particular fear. I would like to reach into my skull and pluck out the bad circuits, the ones that get caught in paralyzing feedback loops and keep me indoors and afraid of nothing more than phantoms I invent and situations I recreate in my mind’s eye.
No good comes from this fear of and disdain for myself that keep me from celebrating myself. I would unlearn them as swiftly as possible.
I have been thinking about fear a lot recently. How it shapes me and my decisions. I am learning fear is a significant dimension of my transition so far, larger after the PULSE massacre, larger when examining possible futures after the presidential election (i have not decided how to vote yet). I would like it to be a smaller part of my life. More useful, less of a barrier.
Recently, the leader of my guild (a loose group of gamers who share a chat box and help each other out in-game) said some transphobic stuff. This was a tremendous surprise, because this was the nicest, most welcoming, and most helpful group of gamers I had ever met online. I probably jumped between twenty or so guilds before I stopped playing World of Warcraft this spring. I left them all because of insensitive and hateful language that nobody seemed to care about. I don’t play games to invite more hate and judgment into my life.
She wanted me to not post about anything related to my trans experience in guild chat. I had mentioned something about trying to change my voice in guild chat, since I was out to the guild already, but some people were curious. Many players thought I was male. Some said it was because of how I write. I guess I don’t pass even when my body isn’t a factor.
When I pressed the guild leader for why, she invoked religion. To her, trans people are violating our bodies–given to us by god under some sort of unspoken contract–by changing them, because god makes everyone perfect and so undergoing a gender transition is sacrilege and *gasp* offensive. I told her that made me feel silenced and hurt. My attempts to educate her (I was trans all my life before I started transitioning, you don’t need to change your body to be trans, what about puberty, what about illness, what about healing, what about medicine, doesn’t Jesus’ apparent message of love apply to everyone, lepers, sinners, prostitutes, the ill, thieves, etc) of course failed. I expected them to. Her mind was made up before we started typing at each other. And if the Trump nomination means anything, it means that in some circles, information, facts, and truths no longer change people’s minds. At one point, she said something like, “I don’t hate you, I just think you’re defying the will of god.” I told her I would probably leave the guild, and did.
I felt awful. Existentially disappointed. This was the best guild I had been in ever. It felt like a family. I’d been in it for three months but I felt like I knew people enough to be open with them, to be out with them, vulnerable.
I spoke to some other guildies who were on, because I needed help figuring out how to leave, and they expressed surprise and mild outrage, said they wanted to have words with her.
I learned from a friend a few days later that there was a voice chat (like a conference call through a separate communication client) between the guild leader, a bunch of officers, and other members about what had gone down. Some officers (high-ranking members of the guild with responsibilities like recruitment, raid organizing, managing the guild bank, etc) stood up for me, called her on her hate, and left.
A few of us banded together (classic RPG lingo) and formed our own guild, to make an lgbtq-safe space. I’m still friends with the folks who went a separate way after they left, and we chat on occasion, help each other with in-game stuff, run dungeons together. You know. Normal gamer stuff
I did not expect people to stand up for me. It was really refreshing to learn they did. Gamer culture is notoriously awful at inclusivity, at sexism, at queer-bashing. Women are basically invisible in gamer spaces. Trans women and other lgbtq folks might as well not exist outside of the epithets players insult each other with. To be a part of a space where I don’t have to fear that is a big deal.
Words hurt. They have consequences. As a writer, my existence is a consequence of words.
I spent the better part of three months deciding when would be a good time to tell the guild I was trans. I asked for female pronouns a few weeks in, but I worried about outing myself, though I wanted to be out, to have more authentic, whatever that means, relationships, to not have to erase parts of my history or mark them as unshareable.
Visibility matters. The more visible trans people are, the more acceptance we create, the more normal we seem, the more immediate trans issues and lives can become to people who don’t otherwise know or encounter any of us. It’s a very, very small way to help the movement for equality, but it’s there and it’s real.
I don’t want to worry about being out any more. Yet I feel I have to. The trans people I admire don’t appear to.
Now that I’m in a safe space in-game, where most of my social interaction occurs these days, that’s that much less worrying to undergo. That fewer things to fear.
I need to go shopping for clothes tomorrow for an interview. Though I would like the clerks to treat me a certain way and to call me certain things and not others, I will try not to care.