If There’s a Transgender Culture, I’m Not Part of It

From Jezebel:  http://roygbiv.jezebel.com/if-theres-a-transgender-culture-im-not-part-of-it-1567486036

Kat Callahan
April 27, 2014

Recently the term “transgender culture” has became more and more common a term in discourse about LGBT topics. Perhaps alongside “gay culture” or “queer culture,” this new term is seen as recognising the unique lived experiences of transgender individuals. Yet, is this a term with actual substance?

There most certainly are transgender cultures, such as the Hijra in India, the Kathoey in Thailand, the Waria in Indonesia, etc. There are transgender communities within indigenous cultures. This is not what seems to be discussed here. What is a transgender culture in a Western, and especially Americentric, context? This Western, even Americentric, idea of a “transgender culture” seems to have really come up in wider pop culture headlines, in articles, in blog posts, and in comments over the past year.

There’s just one big issue with this concept of a “transgender culture.” I have no idea what it means. And I can’t seem to figure it out in the references to it.

Even Huffington Post’s transgender page references a “culture.” Of course, as Mitch Kellaway says, HuffPo probably isn’t exactly the best source when it comes to learning about trans issues, let alone what might constitute a transgender culture. Kellaway was one of HuffPoGay’s writers until the website’s decision to run Alaska Thunderfuck’s controversial video which many (including myself) felt targeted trans women writers (and perhaps one in particular). That incident was what finally pushed him to end the relationship, but he’d been uncomfortable with the website for some time.

My growing qualms had everything to do with your position as a non-trans-run platform that has real effects, via your editorial choices, on how trans people can expect to be publicly related to…

It’s really important to note that when I have seen “transgender culture” written, it has almost always invariably been in works by cisgender individuals. The works seem more like those of amateur anthropologists discussing some foreign group, rather than descriptions of an actual culture, while others just don’t even describe what it is. Vogue ran a piece on Barney’s use of transgender models which included a title that referenced “transgender culture,” yet then did not go on to explain of what this supposed “transgender culture” actually consisted. Huffington Post, as mentioned earlier, didn’t either. The closest I could find to anyone actually discussing “transgender culture” as an actually identifiable culture was extremist religious groups denouncing “transgender culture” as part of the “gay agenda.” Not exactly reliable.

Honestly, if there is a “transgender culture” of which I am a part, I sure don’t know it. How do I identify this “transgender culture,” anyway? Before answering this question, I think we have to ask ourselves what marks out identifiable transgender communities in these non-Western cultures (India, Thailand, and Indonesia), and perhaps what marks out identifiable “gay” or “queer” subcultures within our own. Is there any real way to compare? And just what is culture anyhow?

Continue reading at:  http://roygbiv.jezebel.com/if-theres-a-transgender-culture-im-not-part-of-it-1567486036

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Blah, Blah, Blah: Sylvia Rivera and community identity

I was a contemporary of Sylvia Rivera.  We never met.  I was west coast, she was east coast.

I never thought of her as some sort of great saint.  I never considered myself to be part of the street queen hustler culture.

But then I never really saw being transsexual as the basis for forming “a community.”

All the identity politics jive came much later.

There has been this hagiography developed around Sylvia.  STAR may have been important in NYC but its impact was bordered by the Hudson and East Rivers.

Tapestry did more to create the modern “trans-community” than anyone else.

But everyone is looking for saints, everyone wants a trans* Rosa Parks when many of the actual pioneers were sex workers and scam artists out of economic necessity.

Most of the pioneers died unrecognized.  Way too many from drug abuse and too many others from AIDS.  Yet others died from lack of health insurance to cover things like heart disease.

Those who stayed in the ghetto had harder lives than those who broke free.  SRS led to better lives for those who had it and got out than did staying non-op and remaining “in the community.”

Oddly enough the latest skirmish in the perpetual trans-wars, which had died down over the last couple of years involves the “Trans-Community” attempting to distance itself from the very scene Sylvia came from, the scene that was documented in “Paris is Burning.”

For what it is worth: Sylvia had zero impact on my life or the lives of my friends who went through SRS in the early 1970s.  To us Sylvia was a queen who drank to much and made scenes that created hassles for us in the women’s movement.

From The San Diego LGBT Weekly:   http://lgbtweekly.com/2014/04/24/sylvia-rivera-and-community-identity/

Sylvia Rivera and community identity

by Autumn Sandeen

A friend recently pointed me to a video of trans advocate Sylvia Rivera’s Y’all Better Quiet Down speech at New York City’s 1973 Liberation Day Rally. In the speech she stated, “I believe in the gay power. I believe in us getting our rights or else I would not be out their fighting for our rights.” She saw gender variant people as herself belonging to the gay community.

Rivera referred to her “gay brothers and gay sisters” in jail who were “beaten up and raped,” and they hadn’t “spent much of their money in jail to get themselves pumped and to try to get their sex change[s]. The women have tried to fight for their sex changes and become women of the women’s liberation.”

In a pamphlet entitled Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries written about the STAR project of the early 1970s, Rivera talked about being a “half sister.”

“Transvestites are homosexual men and women who dress in clothes of the opposite sex,” Rivera wrote. “Male transvestites dress and live as women. Half sisters like myself are women with the minds of women trapped in male bodies. Female transvestites dress and live as men. My half brothers are men with male minds trapped in female bodies. Transvestites are the most oppressed people in the homosexual community. My half sisters and brothers are being raped and murdered by pigs, straights and even sometimes by other uptight homosexuals who consider us the scum of the gay community. They do this because they are not liberated.”

Continue reading at:  http://lgbtweekly.com/2014/04/24/sylvia-rivera-and-community-identity/

Considering the current skirmish in the Transgender Community regarding the word “tranny” and the attacks on Jayne County, Andrea James and Calpernia Addams I some how have a hard time imagining that today’s “Trans-Community” would embrace the Sylvia of the late 1960s- early 1970s any more than the transsexual women of my era embrace her or the crazy west coast person who went by the name of Angela Douglas for a while.

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