Working through my personal experiences and feels is sort of what this journal is meant to do.
I don’t want this journal to be as much about the concentrated critical analysis characteristic of trans feminist, theory-heavy blogs. That’s what this about section is for. Instead, I’d prefer this journal to be a place where I can work through what I’m feeling. A lot of it’s really personal. It’s about what I struggle with every day.
I live in a small town called Toronto. It’s in the Canadian province of Ontario. It’s possible you might have an idea of who I am, but you’re just as likely to be wrong. Try not to bother guessing online or in the flesh, because such probing behaviour tends to be really disruptive. It’s also intrusive and antisocial. Should I choose to disclose my being trans to you, it’s because my choice is being made on a basis of trust and respect which I feel you’ve earned for being a genuinely decent person. There’s probably a good reason why I’m voluntarily disclosing this to you, too.
Ententa isn’t my “real name”. It’s a nom de plume. It allows for basic anonymity. To write about marginalized experiences while using one’s own name is a privilege not afforded to most who experience that marginalization. A writer named Kinsey Hope, a trans woman, deserves full credit for inspiring this pen name, as it’s a wordplay on her magnificent essay, “Intent! It’s fucking magic!” Because if I was given a quarter for each time a cis person backtracked on me and said, “Oh gosh, I didn’t mean to offend you with what I just said!” then much of my debt would be paid down by now.
Intent has an ugly head
I find that the mock-chastening which comes from the healing powers of intent (or when I’m addressed as something other than how our mutual acquaintances are addressed) tends to begin only after I disclose myself as trans. Sometimes it’s subconscious of people when they change their behaviour, but the hurtful outcome is still the same. It means that cis people around me tend to say a lot of offensive things which position trans people as inferior, lesser, or oppositional to themselves.
Once she’s in the know, sometimes it’s as subtle as having a cis woman say something to you in mixed company which implies how you couldn’t possibly know what some kind of gendered or corporeal experience was like. That’s because in light of her now knowing that you’re not cis, she believes you suddenly lack that experiential knowledge. It’s this kind of differential treatment which hints that all girls and women share some kind of grand narrative (remember that second-wave aspiration?). It’s this same kind of differential treatment which hints that all trans girls and women share some kind of grand narrative.
It’s cissexist (a specific sexism directed at trans people generally), and it’s a special kind of misogyny. (More about that shortly.) This treatment isn’t something you hear from other cis women whenever you haven’t disclosed yourself as a woman who’s trans. So when she does this, it’s deeply condescending. It can strike at your heart — even though she didn’t intend it to be hurtful. Intent is magic.
If it’s furtively bad with cis women, then it’s overtly bad when cis men do the same in their own way. It tends to be a lot more violent, loud, and wilfully harmful. It’s a pattern of behaviour whose root is misogyny, augmented by cissexism, and jacked up with violence. A cisnormative culture still allows for such reactionary behaviours to be OK, if not “forgivable”. The intention is what counts, not the action. Intent is magic, even if the action caused undeniable humiliation, tangible hardships, broken jaws, raped bodies, or a coroner’s report.
Because I’m not disclosed to most cis people as a trans person, it’s rare that I have the chance to call cis people on their cissexism. Or transmisogyny (a special kind of misogyny which any kind of man and even cis women can direct toward trans women). Or outright transinvidia, which is a fancy, but maybe better way to describe what “transphobia” cannot: not so much a fear, but a grudging malice and animus toward the existence, welfare, and/or respect of trans people. Because I can’t say a lot about it to my peers, I’ve often little choice but to internalize a lot of this toxicity. At times, this has lead to my feeling valueless, irrelevant, and very disposable.
Welcome to what it’s like to be a woman who is trans in real life who can’t otherwise talk about what it’s like to be a woman who is trans in real life. Despite this, I have hope for things to get better while I’m still alive.
If you’re cis, then I need your support to get there: help to change this world (which intersectionally works for you as a cis person) into a world which works just as well for trans people like me. This mostly means facilitating to help me feel safer than I do now. It means speaking up and not tolerating when your peers say or do cissexist, misogynistic things.
Here’s why doing this matters: your making this a safer place for me also makes it a safer place for yourself, and it additionally means I can direct more of my attention toward confronting the systemic barriers we share — rather than just the barriers I face alone. It means I can devote more energy toward advocating against the intersectional barriers you face which I don’t.
For those intersectional privileges I have which you don’t, please tell me how I can help make this world be safer and better for you. Support and advocacy can only begin to work once support and advocacy become a two-way street.