Introducing Trans Realist


 

I know for a fact that many trans people are actually frustrated about where the loudest activist voices are taking our community and our priorities right now. At a time when many members of our community are still struggling with the basics of life, when many of us live in fear of the building resentment and backlash to current trans activism and what real life effects that is translating into, the activist establishment is basically refusing to even listen to our concerns with an open mind.

Which leads me to the next question: is all visibility good? Drawing on experiences from gay rights movements, particularly marriage equality, it has been concluded that visibility is important for acceptance. However, the experience of trans visibility in the past decade has painted a very different picture. When I came out in 2006, we were at least left alone by most people, unfortunately I don't think we can say the same today. The fact is, all visibility is not equal. Some forms of visibility advance acceptance, others lead to backlash and misunderstanding.

A related question is the over-focus on philosophical and epistemological views of transness. As I often like to say, I don't expect the whole world to agree with me on the philosophy and epistemology of gender and transness, because we can't even agree on these issues within the trans community itself. For example, I don't believe that gender is a social construct, but some trans people do believe in that theory. Ultimately, what trans people need from society is acceptance and reasonable accommodation, so we can live our lives without fear of discrimination, and unfair limitation on our opportunities in life. This does not have to depend on answers to philosophical questions such as 'what is gender', 'what is a man', 'what is a woman', and so on.

This is why I am advocating for a 'trans realist' approach, as an alternative to the self-defeating kind of activism that has been far too dominant in our community in recent years. In this approach, we take a realistic, reality-based view of what can and should be done to actually improve the lives of trans people in the real world. In saying this, I don't mean that we need to abandon philosophizing about the trans experience at all. I am philosophical by nature, I love to have philosophical debates about the trans experience, and I won't stop doing that. However, there is a time and place where we must focus on the pragmatic needs of trans lives, and I hope that a 'trans realist' movement can provide that space. 

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