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Lithium What being transgender truly means during pride

Jun. 27, 2019
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By Ethan James, as told to Andrea Panaligan

Illustration by Alyssa Etoile for Rookie Magazine

I don’t really celebrate Pride Month. I mean, sure, I go to the festivals. I tweet about LGBTQ topics; I even change my profile picture to a transgender flag. Yet it doesn’t really feel like a celebration—I don’t feel pride for my identity, but fear and hopelessness. 

Pride Month is a time when LGBT people can be their most authentic selves—but that isn’t the case for me, because I’m still scared of my identity and how it’s viewed by the world. This time last year, the people leading London Pride voiced that they see transgender people as predators and monsters. They waved flags and raised signs, declaring that the “T SHOULD BE DROPPED FROM LGB.” Nobody seemed to notice, though; London Pride went on as usual. One of the most oppressed identities is being rejected from a community which should be the most accepting. 

This seems to be a regular occurrence for pride season, as people who aren’t white cis gays are rejected and isolated for not fitting the queer standard. The death rate for black trans women is 1 in 12—such an incomparable number, one that should evoke outrage—yet it often gets overlooked.

The queerest of spaces is not exempt from this, either. In RuPaul’s Drag Race, a show constantly praised for its inclusivity, there exists constant debate on whether trans drag queens can be let on the show, and whether trans slurs can be used by cis gay people—the latter usually resulting in the expression of incredibly transphobic comments, clumsily assuaged with the declaration that it was “a joke.” 

To give credit where credit is due, Drag Race has been a wonderful platform for trans women to express their voice. But I can’t forget the time they stopped a trans woman from taking her hormones, or when they joked about “females or shemales.” Most people seem to forget about all of this, or they choose to ignore it—but I and so many other trans people can’t enjoy the luxury of forgetting. This is mirrored in a lot of queer spaces, especially pride events: trans people’s issues are pushed under the rug in favor of cis people’s feelings. An example of this is when artists with questionable views on trans people, like Cardi B, are invited to perform at pride events or are included in pride playlists. 

Even within the trans community—which one would expect to be a safe space—certain issues and experiences are ignored. People who don’t identify within the gender binary are isolated and ridiculed for not being “really trans.” Some are angry at the existence of other trans people, whereas others are angry at how some binary trans people act and present themselves—some would say they are enforcing gender stereotypes by dressing in a cis-normative manner. Others would argue that trans men who dress feminine aren’t really trans, as they aren’t trying to pass as male. 

It doesn’t help that mainstream media also pines on these petty issues, with articles being made about how the new Snapchat filter is “transphobic” and why Santa should be gender neutral. This not only completely ridicules trans issues, but gives us a bad image, making our everyday lives more exasperating and challenging. It trivializes us. In one instance, when I introduced myself as a trans man to a girl, she instantly asked me if that meant I was trans-racial. This is a result of mainstream media’s perpetuation of insignificant—and wrong—stereotypes, othering us and invalidating our struggle. Trans folk will also most likely internalize what others say and see themselves as others do: a joke. Particularly within British media, news outlets are more likely to report on trans people murdering others in prison and how trans people in restrooms make others feel uncomfortable, instead of talking about trans folk’s high death rate due to hate crimes. It’s hard not to feel like we’re getting nowhere.

Pride Month is a celebration of how far we’ve come. For trans people, though, it feels like a long way ahead. Tolerance, let alone acceptance, isn’t likely to occur within a society that continues to ignore the trans community, and pride just feels like a reminder of this.