I was hooking up with two people when I went on T. One was a genderqueer assigned lady at birth in New York, the other was a guy in my hometown. I wasn’t the first trans-masculine assigned lady person he’d dated, and I wouldn’t be the last either. I guess we were his type. We had porny S&M style encounters, and he commented “all you trans guys are the same” about that, that we all wanted to be mimic abuse in the bedroom.
He said a lot of things. He said a lot more than me, because he was a white guy who had gotten an engineering degree from an engineering school, and so his inner monologue could flow out of his mouth without any concern for whether his audience was interested in his words.
We’d known each other for years by the time he asked me out, we’d been at the same activist-y events, but it wasn’t until he saw me march at Slutwalk that he asked me out. On our second date he commented, “I didn’t know you were so radical.” It didn’t strike me as odd, because that’s how the activist kids are in my hometown. They’re a scene of young people, competitive in the signifiers of radical-ness they exhibit. Rat tails and torn clothing and aggressively strict diet choices and endless who are you/who do you know. In retrospect, I get angry at my younger self for letting him say that to me when I’d been an actual labor organizer (albeit an inept one) and his job was at the university he’d done his undergrad at managing a vanity project lab that exists to be showcased in the alumnae magazine. But he was vegan and he had a lot more pull in that activist scene and I had some concept of myself as not worthy.
When I came back to my hometown he asked me out to brunch. He asked about my job at the trans nonprofit. That place had really done a number on me, really wrecked my self-confidence and was profoundly disillusioning, so I told him I didn’t want to talk about it. I started to tear up and had to go to the bathroom to compose myself.
We hung out a couple more times. We tried to have sex. He wanted to have the same porny power-trippy sex we’d had back before I moved. He wanted to relate to my body by the same rules we’d had back then, not touching my breasts or ass. I placed his hands on my ass. I wanted to be aware of myself there, I didn’t want to block out tracts of my body from my awareness. He looked unnerved.
Afterwards he said to me, “you should really go to the Philly Trans Health conference.” Because he had gone several times. As an ally. Who had sex with the trans guys.
Now, I had gone to Philly, 3 years back. I’d had sex at Philly. Going to Philly had indeed been the event that turned what had been an idea of mine (I think I’m trans) to a plan of action (everyday in which I don’t take steps to medically transition is a day wasted). I went to Philly right after I wrote a research paper on the standards of care therapists are guided by while seeing trans clients. Then I would go on to work at that trans nonprofit, which is regarded as a pace setter in trans health.
I hate being condescended to. I have a real hangup about it. I’m trying to be less reactive to it, if only because it is a constant in my life and in our culture.
But that was all I could take from that guy. It was clear he had a story line about who I was supposed to be and if I didn’t share that storyline it was because I didn’t know better. But all he knew about trans people was from fucking them. What I knew about trans people was from being one and serving them in a professional context and doing academic research. But I wasn’t living out his storyline. So I must not know any better. What I needed was to be educated about my options. I told him shortly after I wasn’t interested in hanging out anymore, that I felt chronically condescended to by him and thus being around him wasn’t an enjoyable experience.
I stay away from the radical kids in my hometown now. Mostly because I am too old to find their social dynamics interesting and because I am deeply disillusioned with white radical people. When I was trans I was made the token trans friend over and over, used as a signifer like a rat tail or a vegan cookbook. So I can’t help but see how people who cleave to the identity of “radical” end up using the people they scream they are committed to being an ally for.
They sometimes try to court me as a friend. They remember me being trans, and they must think I’m some new kind of trans. I’m definitely not a new kind of trans. I’m a woman who got things twisted because I was in a lot of pain no one would respond to. I’m not trying to talk about anyone else’s life but I also am not willing to lie about my own to make things comfortable for people. And I never, ever need to experience being a signifier for someone else’s radical-ness ever again.
I don’t know what’s radical about putting on a uniform to broadcast your political identity to the world. I don’t know what’s radical about having token friends. I don’t know what’s radical about a white engineer being into BDSM. Maybe veganism could be radical? But Gwyneth Paltrow has a lifestyle newsletter that promotes veganism, so I don’t know about that.
Also, is being radical for the sake of being radical of any value to anyone? The nuclear bomb being developed was a pretty radical development, and that’s a terrible evil we all live in the specter of now.
I don’t want to have an identity rooted in politics. I don’t want to be a person who interacts with other people in that hierarchical, proscriptive way. I don’t want to barge through life telling people how to talk, what words they can use, what ideas they are allowed to think. I just want people to be stronger and more sure of themselves and braver about taking back their own power and dignity, and if there is a way I can be helpful in that process I would like to be helpful in that process.
But man what a dumbass. What a totally confident and sure of himself dumbass. Getting laid left and right through aggresive radical-itude while also making bank from being a white guy in the white guy club which is that engineering school. Who can even deal with the scams people run in this world? Not me.