Transgender Life

I don’t want this site to be solely about being transgender. From my experiences so far, it’s not even something I could write about every week – being in the closet is far more intense and frustrating and writeable. However, there are moments when things happen, unique to trans people. I’d like to share those moments with you, and let you into the mystery.

Identity Politics

GinaWarhol

Identity Politics

Sunday morning, I dropped £1 into the empty cardboard cup of a homeless person while the snow fell around us. It's the first time I've done such a thing in a while. It didn't make me feel good, it felt like a drop in the ocean. Earlier this week, the staff of my university went on strike. At one point, a picketing staff member jumped before me and asked warmly if I'd like to join. I said I couldn't, and walked on.

It's been a week for self-reflection, snowed in with my flatmate while the university got closed. I've thought especially about the strike. Why don't I care more? Is Slavoj Zizek right when he says that too many people are deceived by the illusion of identity politics? We fragment, focusing only on our own causes (in my case, trans activism), while the Universal Cause – addressing the inherent injustices of our global economic system – gets abandoned.

I'm writing to articulate how I feel, in case Zizek reads this post (as indeed, he must). The truth is, I feel little emotional connection with my university. I got my funding applications turned down back in 2016 and 2017; evidently I'm not worth investing in. Edinburgh University, I reciprocate. My relationship with you feels entirely transactional; I give you most of my life's savings, and you give me career support. At the protest gathering at the beginning of the week on Bristo Square, I heard one speaker attack the attitude of those who run the university: they treat students like customers. I thought to myself as I stood there in the freezing cold: unless you're funded, you are a fucking customer.

So far, so bitter. But let's broaden these reflections, as I'd like to express the greater complexity that these issues deserve. My sympathies are with the staff of Edinburgh University; their pensions are being put at risk, by being floated on the stock market. Who's doing this to our staff, and why? In this current, deregulated climate, stock market crashes are becoming the norm. What's happening to our university staff is further evidence of the race to the bottom, of those at the top squeezing higher profits in every conceivable way because the thing that matters most is profits, not people. Ethically, that's putting greed above compassion. Is this really the best agenda that humanity can come up with?

This brings me back to Zizek, and his anti-capitalist agenda (which, I guess, I share) and his view of identity politics (which I don't). Such is Zizek's dislike of and frustration with capitalism and how it continues to be embraced in democratic elections that he needs to find some scapegoats. These include the communities of LGBT, feminism, and black, minority and ethnic (BME) for dividing what should be a united front against our right-wing economic culture.

But in portraying LGBT/feminist/BME identities as de facto left wing, Zizek is guilty of essentializing. Let's stick with trans: Caitlyn Jenner, the Kardashian TV star, voted for Donald Trump. Punk songwriter Laura Jane Grace, on the other hand, uses her autobiography to emphasize her anti-neoliberal values, as does journalist and apparent socialist Juliet Jacques. The idea that trans people aren't able to balance trans activism with intersectionality is not only misinformed, but patronizing. Those trans people who don't like capitalism, will and do vote against it. It's nonsensical to believe we're too distracted by our trans lifestyles (whatever that means) to focus on the bigger, intersecting picture. In fact given that Zizek views trans issues (including the poverty, violence and mental health issues that many trans people suffer due to societal reaction) as peripheral, is it not Zizek who seems unable to look at the bigger picture, the Universal Cause? If trans or feminist or BME issues are simply lifestyle issues, doesn't this suggest that Zizek's cause is purely that of the white heterosexual male? With the added assumption that his needs are everyone's needs, his Cause is everyone's; and that everything outside of that is just fluff.

To say that identity politics is the province of minorities shows a lack of self-awareness. All politics is identity politics; what's important is acknowledging this, and seeing how our causes intersect, so that we can solve our problems together.

In the meantime, here I sit, watching the snow and ice outside, knowing there are homeless people out there suffering, and that tomorrow the staff will resume their strike. How do I respond? Do I shrug off all the bitterness and grudges that have consumed me - not because of being trans, but because of the limitations of my character? Frozen as the ice I go, hopeful and uncaring.
Please, I don't want to dance
Anamorphosis
 

Comments

No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment
Guest
Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Captcha Image

My Latest Posts

June 15, 2018

Anxiety Dreams and the Cisgender Label

Anxiety Dreams and the Cisgender Label I know it's bad form to talk about one's dreams but I'd like to start this post by talking about how I woke up in darkness last night, after an evolving, unpleasant, anxiety dream about being trans. In the first half of the dream, people saw me in a nice apartment, and wanted to take it for themselves because ...
June 09, 2018

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Darker and more disturbing than any Jurassic Park film before, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is an epic, popcorn movie that channels our pessimistic current zeitgeist, leaving me to leave the cinema with a feeling of unease. I watched this film and thought of the way the real world is going, with a feeling of dread. ...
June 03, 2018

The Breadwinner

  The Breadwinner Afghanistan. The Taliban. A youthful female protagonist, gender-bending for the sake of her family's survival. The Breadwinner is a hypnotic, enchanting animation that has, at its core, the tensest of dynamics, sometimes re-calibrated with kaleidoscopic colours and emotions. Mixing brutal realities with recurring fa...
June 03, 2018

On loving a film that others hate

  On loving a film that others hate Instead of going to the cinema yesterday, I stayed in with my flatmate to watch a film I really like, High Fidelity (2000). How to describe the 'oh shit' moment when you realize a film you recommended is going down really badly with the other person? Following the ending, my flatmate spoke of it as if emergi...
May 30, 2018

Star Wars Spirituality

  Star Wars Spirituality I'm sitting on a plane as it's rising; it hits the clouds, breaking through, and the tension in my shoulders gives way to the smile across my face. Sunshine glistening against my window, with fields of cloud below me as far as I can see. I sit back, waiting to sip at the plastic see-through cup of blood-red wine. A hun...
May 27, 2018

Excluded by Julia Serano

in Books

Excluded by Julia Serano When she poetry-slams , the conviction and the eloquence Julia Serano possesses as a writer is there for all to see. Her style of fierce, funny, thoughtful insights is also present in Excluded (2013), arguably Serano's transgender manifesto, with a particular focus on issues of trans exclusion and commun...
May 27, 2018

Solo: A Star Wars Story

  Solo: A Star Wars Story Growing up as a Star Wars fanatic, my favourite character was Han, the reluctant Star Wars hero who grounded the original trilogy with a cynical humanity. Luke and Leia were just too perpetually honourable to have arcs: only Han, you felt, might genuinely have contemplated a descent into the Dark Side. Such darkness i...
May 20, 2018

Transgender Art: Metanoia

Transgender Art: Metanoia Transgender art comes around rarely, I've found, or perhaps I just haven't felt touched by it before. One of the most famous trans artists, Del LaGrace Volcano , is the kind I don't feel drawn to, images of the artist all gurning and grotesque, seeming to depend on shock and incongruity. Their work for me prompts thes...
May 20, 2018

London: Digital Identities Conference

  London: Digital Identities Conference 18.05.18 Presenting at a conference on deprived sleep is like wandering Peruvian forests on Ayahuasca The last few days have seen me emerging from hypnotic tortures of sleep deprivation, of days blurring into nights blurring into dawns and hotel breakfasts. Train journeys taking me to speak at a conferen...