Thursday, November 16, 2017

My thoughts during Trans Awareness Week

It's Trans Awareness Week. Most of what I post and share on social media is about trans themes and experiences. This is often what I write about and have made movies about. Why is this? I feel inspired and compelled to post and share about current articles, news, art, and culture that is about and impacts the Trans community. If I don't advocate and show support for my own basic rights as well as the rights of all Trans people and the Trans community, then who will? Yes, there are amazing allies who speak up, support, and are open to continually learning. Yet, as I continue to live my life and meet all kinds of new people as well as sustain friend and community connections with folks who are allies or LGBTQ themselves, I continually encounter individuals who expect me to educate them about trans themes and experiences. This is an expectation. A request. Yet, I'm not offered payment for my time educating people. There are so many articles on the internet, more books about trans people, trans history, and rights now than ever before! There is more media representation. Yet, there is still an issue with casting trans/gender non-conforming talent for trans/gender non-conforming roles. As well as a big issue that I will continue to voice and bring up until it is rectified; most of the filmmakers, writers, and powers that be with funding and money to make media are white, cisgender, straight, or even LGBQ! Trans and gender non-conforming people need to be the ones telling their own stories and creating their own media. They deserve to be fairly compensated and paid to do so.

I recently applied for a grant to make a short trans themed film. I wrote the draft for the proposal, chose a friend who is a trans man of color to be the protagonist, and created a compelling story to tell. Then updated the story arc to the producer's specification within a super short turn around time. I only dealt with one cis, white, female, queer identified producer. I then found out that the two producers, i.e. powers that be were both white, cis, female, queer identified filmmakers who were the gatekeepers to choosing which trans proposals would be picked to receive funding. This is an issue. Why weren't there trans people and trans people of color hired to decide/produce which trans films and trans filmmakers would receive funding to create new and compelling work? Being queer identified does not give one free reign and access to tell trans stories and profit from the films one makes about them. Nonetheless, my proposal didn't make it to the final round to be picked to receive funding.

I personally would love to see more films by queer identified directors and filmmakers that focus on their experiences and stories. i.e their perspective/relationship with their trans best friend, trans cousin, trans partner, etc. I do find it an issue when filmmakers create media with a lead trans protagonist and they aren't trans themselves. Hire a co-director who is Trans to work with you if you truly feel that called to create media that is about trans lives and is not from your lived perspective. Overall, tell your story. Tell the stories that you have lived and experienced. Give space and funding opportunities to trans artists and trans artists of color. We need to be the ones telling and creating our own media.

I'm currently living in my hometown; which is a conservative area. The area is changing and growing. Yet, it is still conservative overall. There are pockets of progressive people and I'm grateful that there is an active trans and LGBQ community here. I've been meeting new people and involved in the community since I recently moved back here. I've heard comments and received questions from well intentioned members of the LGBQ community here whom I've just met. Some examples of inappropriate comments and questions asked were, "Have you had THE surgery?" Or, "I was confused; fooled when people told me you were trans." Lastly, a white, cis, gay man from Boston made several transphobic remarks in front of me and several other cis, gay, male identified people, assuming that I was cisgender and gay. That shows how much transphobia and misinformation there is in the LGBQ communities.

#1. It is never okay upon first meeting someone to ask, "Have you had THE surgery?" That would be the equivalent of me asking an individual whom I've just met to disclose their medical history. That is a personal question. Unless the person asking is a medical professional and one is receiving healthcare, do not ask that question. Yet, when my transgender identity is disclosed or made visible to new people and community members, it seems that people are fixated on the body. Trans people are more than their bodies. Society's and individual's fixation on trans bodies deflects the focus from trans lives and realities. It is a fact that 40+% of Trans people have attempted suicide. Half of all homeless youth are LGBTQ identified. Trans individuals have one of the highest rates of unemployment in the U.S. It's even higher for Trans people of color. The same goes with homelessness. Trans people face housing discrimination, employment discrimination, discrimination trying to simply use the bathroom. In all facets of society and everyday life, trans people face discrimination. Under the current T**** administration, trans rights are continually on the chopping block. The current administration has made it clear that trans lives and rights do not matter. Telling service members, that they are a burden and not wanted to serve in the U.S. military. There is a cycle of not "enough-ness" that trans and gender non-conforming people are continually hearing from the T**** administration.

Why do I post so much about trans and gender non-conforming lives? One reason is because people's lives and basic rights are at stake!

#2. Intent and impact are two different things. One can have trans friends, work with trans people, and still make comments such as, "I was confused and fooled when I found out you were trans." How I look and present myself in the world is who I authentically am. I'm not wearing a disguise or hiding who I am. Who I am is who you see. I'm being and living my truth. Automatically assuming everyone is cisgender is an issue. I feel that most people have met trans people and haven't known it. It's an example of cisnormativity*--to assume that everyone you meet is cisgender. This is an issue for people who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and queer as well. Just because someone is in the LGBQ communities, doesn't mean that one is automatically an ally or aware of their internalized cisnormativity and working against that. It's up to the individual to educate themselves. Also, there are plenty of articles to read online about how to be a better ally to trans and gender non-conforming people. I recently heard from a person whom I met, "I don't know which articles to read online. There are negative ones against trans people. I don't even know where to start." Start with the publication, Everyday Feminism. Start with articles that are positive and inclusive of trans folks. It's not that hard to google this information online.

#3. It's shocking and sad when people in the LGBQ communities are unsupportive and blatantly transphobic! Including this happening in front of a trans person, myself. While people assume everyone around them is cisgender. Gender diversity trainings can be beneficial to all people. It's painful when people who one is in community with are blatantly judgemental, hateful, and not inclusive of trans people. Who is left to stand and speak up for trans people? It can't only be trans people speaking up for trans people. Allies are needed to educate people. As well as to support the trans people in their lives. It's important that allies are the ones to speak up and defend trans people and trans rights!

These are some thoughts, musings, feelings and experiences that I wanted to share during trans awareness weeks for any and all interested readers.

Thanks for reading!

If you feel moved to write and comment or repost, please do.

In light and continual learning,

Ewan Duarte

* Cisnormativity is the assumption that all, or almost all, individuals are cisgender. Although transgender-identified people comprise a fairly small percentage of the human population, many trans* people and allies consider it to be offensive to presume that everyone is cisgender unless otherwise specified. --The Queer Dictionary

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