Jayne County talking about trans and queer life in New York City in the 1960s. She explains the “sex searches” police would conduct on drag queens and trans women during gay bar raids, making people expose their genitals to the police.
This evening I had the pleasure of listening to an older trans woman, an elderly drag queen, and an older trans man discuss their lives as out gender non-conforming queers in the 1960s-90s. They were talking about how Yonge Street used to be where all the gay bars, like the Saint Charles and The Manatee, were before the Church/Wellesley Village was created.
The older trans woman talked about how, before the laws against cross-dressing were changed, she used to overhear the cops telling young men they could go beat her up, and that “if they caught you going home with a man in heels — that was it!”
Then the elderly drag queen raised up their pant leg to show us the scars from the bullet that was shot through their leg back in the day. They said they’d also been stabbed before as well, for going out in drag.
It was an immensely humbling experience and made me feel very deep gratitude for the struggles of those older trans and queer generations that came before mine.
My friend and curator Alvis Parsley is launching an amazing project called the Chinatown Think-Tank and is raising funds for it. Donate to this awesome queer POC project!
Here’s what Alvis has to say:
Who am I?Hello, my name is Alvis Choi. I also go byAlvis Parsley:)
I am an artist, curator, project manager, researcher, and an aspiring clown.
Born and raised in Hong Kong, I came to Toronto two years ago. I started mingling with the Chinese-speaking community as I worked my underpaid bakery job in Chinatown and searched for my identity. In 2012, I started conceptualizing the connections between of all of the above into art/social projects!
What is Chinatown Community Think Tank?Chinatown Community Think Tank (CCTT) turns the storefront space of Whippersnapper Gallery into a social space for the Chinese-speaking community in the Chinatown of downtown Toronto. The project started with the simple question of “Can Whippersnapper’s programming be accessible for the Chinese-speaking community in Chinatown?”
I speak fluent Cantonese, Mandarin and English, which allows me to facilitate dialogues with Chinese-speakers, touching on themes of home, migration, race, family, language barrier, and survival, topics that relate to everyday life in the community. I want to invite community members to envision the role of art in Chinatown. I will host regular community gatherings including: karaoke night, sharing sessions by Chinese doctors, a self-organized Chinese guided tours to the free evenings at the Art Gallery of Ontario which is also located in Chinatown! EXCITING!
RADICAL FEMINISTS ARE WORTH NONE OF YOUR TIME
a litany of prayers to the self and the Trans Ancestors
In the names of the Mothers, Sylvia Rivera and Marsha Pay-It-No-Mind Johnson,
the Daughters, Venus Xtravaganza and Greer Lankton,
and the Holy Ghosts, Mark Aguhar and Candy Darling,
I pray for the strength to not let my attention be diverted,
from the artwork and lifework of those Beautiful Queens.
Let not the terrible machinations of those False Feminists,
C.B., Dirt, et al.,
occupy my mind, body, or soul,
which I dedicate unto the divine work of #girlslikeus.
For late at night, though I may walk through the Valley of the Shadows of their hate-filled blogs,
I shall fear no evil.
For I know that I am among the chosen.
I stand on the shoulders of Ancestors spanning all of time, in every culture,
where we have been and are healers, artists, spirit-workers, and lovers.
And from these Ancestors I will have strength.
And from that strength I will remember
that it does not befit a Queen to Pay It Any Mind,
and I will remember that we are all Great Queens on this Earth.
My doctor, who is a trans woman, and I had a conversation today about the guy who raped me earlier this year. At first she was like “did you charge him?” When I explained that he’s a trans man of colour, she immediately got why I hadn’t. Not because I couldn’t bare to put a trans person, especially a trans person of colour, in jail (which I can’t), but also because it would cause me to be completely ostracized by the queer/trans community in Toronto. I’d be “just another crazy trans woman.” It was an uncomfortable realization for both of us to sit there, as trans women, knowing that we have literally no recourse when violence is enacted on us within the community (though if the same violence conveniently came from a white cis straight man, we would be celebrated as heroes for standing up to such an easy target, at least within the queer/trans community).
She and I both, as professionals in the community, are well aware of the fine line we have to walk in order to be taken seriously in the queer/trans community. We not only have to look a certain way (both in terms of passing and in terms of conforming to queer normative acceptable standards of appearance), we also have to make sure not to rock the boat too much. We have to appear as sane and calm as possible, no matter the circumstances. If we show too much emotion at any time (read: any inconvenient emotion), we get hit with a double-whammy of misogyny and transphobia, quickly written off as hysterical “crazy trans women.” Accuse the wrong person of something, anyone too close to queer-home, and that’s the end of our credibility and the revoking of our entrance passes to Queerlandia.
It’s exhausting having to walk such a fine line. I’ve found that there are so many “danger zones” to watch out for. Trans women have to not only be queer-literate (knowing queer social justice language), we have to be exceptionally good at using it. Any minor slip of language or politics and we’re labeled “crazy trans women” by cis people while trans men nod knowingly in agreement — rarely standing up for us, and just as often perpetuating the ‘crazy trans woman’ stereotype themselves.
I became aware of this initially through cryptic warnings from an older queer trans woman friend of mine, years before I became involved in the queer community, but I didn’t realize the extent of it at first. That is, until I was invited to participate in it. When I first became involved heavily, I befriended two trans men whom I looked up to a great deal, and one of the first conversations we had in private was a gossip session in which they “warned” me about various trans women and got me to agree that they were “crazy.” I’ve found similar conversations throughout the community, often used in a way that it makes me wonder if what’s really happening is that they’re subconsciously testing my loyalty to the queer zeitgeist. Am I good tranny or a bad tranny? Am I willing to be part of their clique, giving them the ability to deflect any and all criticism of transmisogyny, or am I a “problem?”
Before I realized that this was a system, that trans women were being systematically tested and written off, I engaged in it myself. You get a self-esteem boost, knowing that the cool kids don’t count you among those trans women. Those trans women who stepped on the wrong toes, who take up “too much space,” who don’t have the right guilt-producing identity complex to be worthy of space (disabled young trans sex workers of colour who vogue are considered highly prized friend-accessories, to be seen but not really heard beyond the occasional “gurl” for comedic effect, but only if they have the right haircut and the right clothes and are working towards a bachelors of gender studies or similarly useless degree).
Who are these “crazy trans women?” Often they are incredibly sincere activists who haven’t had the privilege of being taught all of the ins and outs of anti-oppression social justice practice that is a prerequisite to membership in this queer community. Often they are labeled “too emotional” and “too angry,” “loose cannons” who are out of control when speaking about our experiences of sex work that don’t fit into the easily digestible “I do queer feminist porn on weekends to pay for my fluevogs while I’m in grad school” vision of sex work that the queer community has deemed acceptable. Often they are trans women who are said to take up “too much space,” while everyone whispers about how “you know, I know it’s wrong to say, but she just seems like she has male privilege, you know? Like you can just feel it. Not that I’m saying she’s a man, but, you know, you never know.”
At the end of the day, this whole complex of issues is simply misogyny, ableism, and transphobia dressed up as “community accountability.” It holds trans women to impossible standards, opening us up to vulnerability to all forms of in-community violence (physical, sexual, social), and creating a fear within the minds of so many queer trans women that our second-class position within the queer community could be ripped from our hands at any time for any minor infraction.
I’m tired of trying not to be a crazy trans woman in the voyeuristic eyes of queer community.
Morgan M Page/Odofemi, 2013.
Trans Women’s Arts Toronto festival!
Please share widely!!
AUGUST 9th 2012
at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre
Experience cutting edge video, performance, new media, and visual art created by trans woman-identified (and trans female-spectrum) artists in the world’s first trans women’s fine arts festival. Curated and organized by Morgan M Page.
Featuring work by
Mirha-Soleil Ross (Montreal)
Izzy Ellis (Toronto)
Morgan Sea (Montreal)
Raphaële Frigon (Montreal)
Lily Butter (Sybil Lamb) (Toronto)
Madeline Hoyle (Cleveland)
Morgan M Page (Toronto)
More details soon!
Buddies is a wheelchair accessible venue. More accessibility information coming soon!
This event is being put on entirely out of my own pocket! We have no funders. So please, please come to this event, and tell all your friends, and support trans women and trans-female-spectrum artists!
Here’s a list of ways I’ve come up with for trans people to deal with attacks by radfems.
1. Let some trans people who are being attacked (or, if you’re the one being attacked, then any trans friends you have, especially trans women) know that you appreciate them/their work, that you think they are awesome and lovely, and that you support them, and that you’re glad that they are part of your life.
2. Build community! The cure to poisonous community is not to try to save that community, but to build new, stronger, healthier community. Create events, blogs, youtube videos, art, or whatever you want that will draw in likeminded people and make a safer space for people who are awesome. Or even just have a few trans friends over for dinner (maybe make it a regular thing, or turn it into a bookclub or sex party). Eventually, most of the jerks will give up being jerks and come to the cool side of things that you’ve created.
3. Play with cats, or dogs, or babies, or books.
4. DO NOT ENGAGE. This is the most important part. Do not engage with radfem trolls. You will waste all of the energy you could be spending building community, making art, having amazing sex, petting cats, and having fun. And that will make you sad. So just don’t engage. You can’t convince them that they are wrong, usually, but you can live a much better life than theirs.
5. If you are going to engage with them, take the moral highroad. Don’t let them wind you up. Don’t let them bait you into saying things they can misconstrue as offensive or violent. Be careful with your words. This will illustrate just how hateful they are to any casual observer, because when this approach is used, they get wound up and become nearly incoherent. It’s also really funny.
What are your ways of dealing with radfem hate mongers?