Monday, September 13, 2010

Trans is the Next Cool Thing


Matt Kailey is a transman living in Denver, Colorado, and an author, public speaker, and trainer on transgender issues. He blogs at Tranifesto. In his ideal world, no one would be equal to anyone else – everyone would just be equal.
 
There's always a “next cool thing” - something hip, something edgy, something rebellious that puts you just one step ahead of everyone else in your crowd. This year, I think we're it. 2010 is the year that it's cool to be trans.

After being relegated to Jerry Springer for more than a decade, we're now on just about every reality show on TV. We're modeling, we're blogging, we're running for office, and we're just there - everywhere you look. 

And although we can still get fired in 38 states just for being trans, and although we can still get arrested in probably just as many places for using the restroom that corresponds to our gender (unless our paperwork is in order), it's still very cool to be us.

It's even cooler to have a trans friend. It not only brands you as open and accepting, but also, in many cases, as hip, edgy, and rebellious - and who doesn't want to be that?

When I was growing up female - in the 1960s, in the Midwestern United States, in predominantly white middle- and lower-middle-class neighborhoods - the “cool thing” for some of the girls was to have a black boyfriend. 

It was hip, edgy, and very rebellious - guaranteed to piss off your parents and make them ground you so that you could sneak out your window to see your man, adding a layer of romance and intrigue to the whole affair. The problem was that it didn't work with my parents because they didn't care. The race or ethnic background of my date was of no concern to them whatsoever. As long as the guy was polite to them and nice to me, got me home by curfew, and didn't try to have sex with me, they were happy. (No boy I went out with ever met the last criterion, but I didn't tell my parents that.)

It was hard to find a way to be rebellious, because my parents were the ones who ended up taking me to my first “love-in” (a big hip, edgy, rebellious thing back in the '60s). They liked my Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix records. Their friends were more racially, ethnically, and culturally “diverse” than mine. They smoked cigarettes. They wore beat-up blue jeans.

And I couldn't even refuse to go to church - which a lot of the kids did back then to rebelliously reject their parents' faith - because my parents didn't go to church. 

When you're raised in an atheist household, you soon discover that you become the vehicle for your friends' rebellions. There were a couple of kids who weren't even allowed to hang out with me because of it, but they snuck over anyway - mostly to be rebellious. 

My sister and I finally figured out that the only way we could rebel against our parents was to actually go to church, which did succeed in annoying them, but we could only hold out for so long before sleeping in on Sunday became more attractive.

Now trans people are the next cool thing, and, even in middle age, I can sense that some of my non-trans friends are just dying to tell their friends that I'm trans. When they introduce me - “This is Matt” - I can almost hear the unspoken second half of the sentence: “(my trans friend).”

Then when I leave to go to the bathroom and come back, I know the unsaid has been said, because the dynamics have changed or the pronouns slip or the topic of conversation shifts - usually to the trans person on the latest reality show.

But I don't care. I'm totally out. Once you're out on the Internet, you're out for life. And I don't even care if someone introduces me as “Matt, my trans friend.” 

It's certainly objectifying, but at least it gets the discussion out on the table right away.  And it adds that layer of hipness, edginess, and rebelliousness that I could never have - and that I definitely want in a friend.

If being trans is the next cool thing, that's okay with me. I'm cool with being cool. It's about time.