I recently had a public discussion with an organization about their extremely clumsily worded policy of excluding anyone but cisgender men from their event.
The result? I’m not mad, just disappointed.
I tried my best to be informative but firm, and they responded with all the grace and aplomb of a newborn gazelle.
That’s not to say they shouldn’t try. I believe through good communication and community we can smooth off each others edges, to be better, to blunt the hurtful barbs of misinformation, resentment, hierarchical ego and other ills. This gentle sandpapering, like rocks in a tumbler, is often painful and uncomfortable, but through it, we become refined and beautiful.
That’s what community is for me; a place we can grow and learn and uplift each other. To be open is to accept the inevitability of wounds. People make mistakes. Let them.
I believe in the power of education, too. I’ll do this for friends and family, for anyone who approaches me with sincerity and openness, and I will do it gladly and with love. I make myself open to questions and discussions, from simple to complex. I don’t believe in shaming people for never having previously had the opportunity to learn the perspectives of others. We all have to start somewhere, and the internet is a vast and often hostile place. This is work I am happy to do as a gift for the betterment of my fellows.
But gifts must be given freely, and when an event is being organized, as a potential attendee, I shouldn’t have to ask what their policy on trans people is.
There is utility in having autonomous, intimate spaces, but care must be taken where one draws that line.
Straight men, brothers, fathers, queer men, men of colour, men of significantly different ages, socioeconomic backgrounds, neurotype and ability are going to have very different lived experiences of manhood even within the same broader culture. Gender is not monolithic.
If one is going to be discriminatory in this fashion, then they need to have the bravery to stand with their convictions.
I’m happier knowing who to avoid, and where I am not welcome.
I’m tired. I want to know at a glance if something is appropriate for me, not wade through pages of middling justifications and shame-faced excuses for why I’m being excluded.
I only attend events which are explicitly queer and trans-inclusive, because anything else is a signal of hostility. While I’m aware of the dangers of ghettoizing queerness, and I appreciate the counter-argument that all events should be explicitly trans-inclusive, I don’t want to attend an event in which no one has been briefed on how to treat me with respect. I don’t want to be the only one in a room full of strangers weathering their sharp edges off on me in their struggle to achieve understanding as the price of admission for my mere existence.
The burden placed on the oppressed is severe enough already.
If you’re running an event or organization which deals with gendered issues, especially if it’s for profit, you better show your commitment to eliminating transphobia, preferably with money. Pay a consultant.
Listen to them.
Telling trans people they’re free to make their own event is not good enough.
Or learn to do it properly on your own time.
Because if I’m showing up to experience, you don’t get to do it on mine.