Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Trans Woman Fired In A Case Of Discrimination

image I came across the story of Andre Edwards over at Deeply Problematic. It seems Ms.Edwards was fired from her job in what appears to be a case of transmisogny.  She worked as a cab driver and was accused of having a “bad attitude”  Too often when society wants to discipline women, we are constructed as bitchy, angry, and just plain ill tempered.  Luckily, she was able to find a new job and she reports that she is happy.

Since reading about Ms. Edwards, I have been thinking about the ways in which capitalism is used to discipline certain bodies. She alleges that issues at work began when she started wearing skirts and nail polish .  Many trans women live in poverty strictly due to the high levels of transphobia.  Employers either refuse to hire them, or fire them when they begin to transition.  They view them as a threat to business because some customers will complain about being served by someone who is transgendered.

We continually discipline bodies in an attempt to force them to conform to what we have constructed as norms.   This can take the form of unemployment as in the case of Ms.Edwards, or denial of service.  We understand capitalism as promoting free thinking but in fact, it quite often is used to punish those that we have applied a spoiled identity to.  The transgender community is often given the choice of living their lives as they see fit or experiencing poverty.  We see this as a freedom but how can this be so, when the cost of transitioning is more often than not poverty?

Capitalism is a tool used by dominate bodies to control and inflict punishment upon those that we have chosen to “other”.   It is not accidental that those that we perceive as less than largely live in poverty, in spite of the social myth regarding meritocracy.  When we purposefully build walls  to deny access, how can it possibly be the fault of the individual?  We use terms like lifestyle to mark difference and yet we would never consider walking through the world as a cisgender person an active choice.   If we do not choose our subconscious gender as cisgendered people, why is it purposefully insisted that the trans community has a completely different experience?  An equal society would apply the same logic and assumptions to both bodies.

Unless the trans person in question is willing to fulfill our voyeuristic fantasies, we regard them as difficult.  Why was it necessary for Ms.Edwards to reveal her life pre transition in order for this story to be written?   Clearly the issue was not about the fact that she was discriminated against, but that cisgendered bodies wish to force the trans community to continually confess the private details of their lives.  When the reporter wrote this story, it was made as sensational as possible on purpose to sell papers and not from the point of view that discrimination is wrong.  Even in this instance, we can once again find capitalism working to control how the trans community is written about and therefore understood.

We constantly use tools like capitalism to discipline bodies and yet we do not understand this as an expression of power.  We seek power, we express power and it is evident in all of our actions, yet we deny this in order to seen as benign.  We are in complete control of the discourse we choose to perpetuate and therefore the ability to re-imagine our social understanding of power dynamics is completely within our ability.  These forces are not at all invisible we simply have to acknowledge them as existing.