Why is cis/white discourse around trans/QTPOC issues so behind?

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At the LGBT town hall, Chancellor Blumenthal promised nothing to us as we screamed to him for help, but this has been much the same across the university. Notably, he mentioned that he would look into the possibility of hiring a “tran coordinator.” The administration is changing the admissions process to ask for gender identification on applications, but this form still phrases “Woman” and “Trans Woman” as different options. The campus climate survey done by the administration had four gender options: “Woman,” “Man,” “Transgender,” and “Genderqueer.” The same survey lists ethnicity options as “Multi-Minority,” “Underrepresented Minority,” “Other People of Color,” and “White.” This is where we are at with the administration’s understanding of us. How can we focus on improving the school if we can’t even talk about these issues respectfully? But this problem doesn’t surprise me. What surprises me is that mainstream queer dialogues are almost just as bad.

City on a Hill Press just recently published an article about the queer fashion show that phrased trans women as “transwoman.” They didn’t mention what they said, only that they were there, and kept on with the Queer Fashion Show’s “Freak Show” exploitation and consumption of disabled, POC and trans bodies. Student programming is continually behind in other facets as well.

People are still sweeping trans people under the term queer. It is rarely clear who these events are for. The Queer Prom, for example, uses trans flag symbolism, but has no trans organizers or mentions of trans inclusion. They’ll co-opt us, but they won’t watch out for us. Kresge PRIDE strives to involve ecosexuals, while trans people and QTPOC still struggle to even be mentioned in most of these events.

We’ve established that the mainstream dialogue is failing trans people and queer/trans people of color, but why? Honestly I think it is because they think they’re doing a good job.

I would say most people on campus want to be trans inclusive, but rather than improve their events, the mainstream queer community waits for us to fix it for them. But there aren’t many trans people/QTPOC involved in the first place. Those who are involved in organizing for the mainstream queer community are primarily white cis or CAFAB trans folks, which by no means represent the interests of the entire queer and trans community. It isn’t surprising that transmisogyny and racism are rampant. But ultimately, merely waiting (or asking) for trans women or queer/trans people of color to get involved, expecting we’ll help fix up your act when we get there, isn’t a good way to include us.

For white CAMAB trans folks and queer/trans people of color, it is a fight against bad allies to occupy mainstream queer spaces or even our own spaces that don’t focus on separatism. You should care about inclusive language because it tells us that you are trying to be a good ally, that you are aware that mainstream queer spaces push the labor of inclusion onto us, those you are trying to include, and that you are trying to take some of that work on, by fixing at least the language and starting the larger project of thinking differently about these issues. Make the space friendly before we walk in the door, not after.

[Note: Confused by my language? If so, I’d advise googling some of the terms I used. We need to be able to have dialogue without stopping for extensive education. Besides, I’m a student with an opinion, not an educator. Don’t expect trans students to serve as educators (unless you hire them to)]. 

C.S. Henderson
 
C.S. Henderson is a queer white trans woman student at UC Santa Cruz.