Friday, January 10, 2014
Making the World A Little More Trans Friendly
From time to time, when someone on a social media site mentions an upcoming event or a new venue, an inevitable question is raised, “Is it trans friendly?”
And while I understand the place where that question comes from, I have to admit I’m not sure how it should be answered. If the event has been shared by someone in the tg/cd community, then I think it’s pretty safe to assume that the person who presented it considered it trans friendly.
But what actually constitutes “trans friendly”?
I actually have a little bit of experience in this area. Although that experience has nothing to do with the transgender community. I grew up in Western New England in a small town that was predominately white. Actually, that’s an understatement. My town was entirely white... with the exception of a few families.
I don’t consider the people who live there to be racist. Although every community has its share of the ignorant and the prejudiced. The problem with our little town was that there was no diversity... no exposure to other races or cultures. No opportunity to form close bonds or personal ties with anyone outside our own culture.
In that vacuum, unfortunately, stereotypes and preconceived notions prevail. And if those stereotypes are negative -- as they often are -- then negative stereotypes prevail.
And that, to me, is the problem that America is having right now with the transgender community. People don’t know us. They’ve heard about us. Perhaps they’ve seen depictions of us on television or in the movies. But those depictions are rarely realistic. And they’re often unflattering.
In addition to attending events in all kinds of different clubs and venues in Southern California and Las Vegas, I’ve also come out to many of my co-workers, and hung out with some of them outside of work. Usually that means nothing more than a bit of barhopping after work. And yet... I know it’s had an effect. I know they see me differently now. And they also see the trans community differently.
As with the people back in my hometown, the people I work with aren’t prejudiced. In fact, I consider them to be quite open and welcoming. Some of them are pretty cool and hip. Much cooler than me. But most of them had never met a transgender person in the flesh before. (At least not that they were aware of.)
I can’t say for sure what they thought a typical transgender person would be like. But after knowing me as a guy and then getting to know me as a trans girl, I think they’ve realized that there is no “typical” trans person. Our community is -- as all communities are -- made up of a variety of very distinct and unique individuals.
Now that may sound like I’m stating the obvious. And I am. But in a vacuum of familiarity, the obvious sometimes isn’t so obvious and we fall back on stereotypes. I’ve done it. You’ve done it. And right now, others are doing it to us.
So what’s the solution? Fortunately, the solution is in our hands. But it won’t be easy. It involves getting past our inhibitions. Getting outside of our comfort zones. And basically... getting out.
We have to broaden our horizons. We have to mingle. We have to dare to go to places that might not be trans friendly. Because the first step to making a non-friendly place (or person) more friendly is by putting your friendly face on the stereotype.
In Los Angeles, I’ve been to concerts and movie theaters and shopping malls -- and thought to myself, I just might be the only tgirl in this crowd. (Of course there may have been others, but if so, they were extremely passable. And therefore invisible.)
Think about that for a second. I’m at a concert in Los Angeles... one of the largest cities in the world and a veritable melting pot of diversity. All around me, I can see many different races and ethnicities represented. Several gay and lesbian couples. Women in evening gowns. Guys in Hawaiian shirts and shorts. People from almost every single walk of life. And yet, I’m the only trans girl.
No wonder we’re not well known. Most of the time we’re not present.
Now does this mean that we all have a responsibility to go out more often? To push boundaries? I don’t think so. That might sounds like a contradiction. But that’s my honest opinion.
This is a topic I was discussing recently with a good friend of mine, Isabel Omero of Omero Creative. Isabel produces and hostesses cultural events for mainstream audiences around LA. Though part-time, she created her classy, real-world, femme persona after stepping outside her comfort zone. She encourages trans people to (responsibly) step outside theirs and show the world their best selves. Our conversation sparked the idea for this blog.
I won’t try to speak for Isabel, but I personally don’t feel as though we have a responsibility to anyone but ourselves. I certainly can’t put myself in your position. I can’t tell you when and where you should go out. After all, I don’t know your wife or your kids or your friends or your boss. So I can’t tell you how they’d react. Nor can I tell you that living a more open life won’t put at risk some of the things (and people) you hold dear.
So I’m not saying that you have to go out more often or to a greater variety of places. But I am saying that your world isn’t going to become more trans friendly until you do.
Happy 2014! Let’s all make it a much more trans friendly year for everyone!
Take care out there.
Stay smart. Stay safe. Stay sexy.
Posted by CiCi Kytten at 1:41 AM