Monday, June 4, 2012

The default setting is not set to ‘inclusive’

Biyuti is a bakla Filipina living on stolen Algonquin land. He works to sustain and increase the biyuti of the world through decolonization and through her explorations of the intersections of race with queerness/gender. She also blogs at The Biyuti Collective and you can find her on Twitter: @JustBiyuti

I had someone ask me not too long ago about how I thought the language of the trans* movement was exclusionary or erased PoC. A little bemused, I essentially pointed them to my posts here because it is practically all I've been talking about. In the course of answering, however, I said something, the truth of which still makes me feel something I can't quite describe.

What it was, was that the language of the trans* movement is so full of erasure and marginalizing of some narratives that it took me until about a year ago to even realize that the 'movement' thought that it had been including people like me this entire time.

I began my posts at Womanist Musings talking about gender imperialism. One of my sources was the call out for the first SF trans march. A callout that haphazardly lumped bakla with a bunch of other non-western and western identities. This is what I'm talking about. The trans movement thought it was including people like me.

The way that the movement and the trans* umbrella conceives itself, the fact that I belong (or that they think I do) is something that is taken for granted. Simply assumed. White trans people stay assuming that by doing what they've been doing and by building the community they've built, this bakla girl would simply skip under their umbrella and live happily ever after.

The reality, unfortunately, is very far from this ideal. Instead, the trans movement has organized around a rhetoric and discourse that almost precludes its ability to represent me. And when it tries, like the trans march, it simply ends up exercising an updated form of gender imperialism.

One question I could ask in reply is “At what point did trans* discourse actually include people like me?” Because, as the title of this post says, the default setting for movements is not set to ‘inclusive.’ At the beginning of the movements people always *think* it is inclusive because of the way that the default human is white and the white/western experience is universal. Except, that it very much isn’t.

The arrogance behind the very idea that their movement and discourse is already including me, that I somehow should have seen myself reflected and represented in their discourse, is simply breathtaking in the ability to highlight just how much white privilege is driving the discourse and the movement.

At some point the trans movement will need to recognize its participation in a larger, colonial discourse that silences and erases people of colour. It must grapple with the idea that it is a continuation of this system and not a disruption of it. It must recognize itself as complicit and it must seek to dismantle the structures it is currently supporting.

Otherwise? The community and discourse will never have the space for someone like me. It will never represent me. It will never be for me.