Friday, February 24, 2012

Transethnicity Claims, Piracy, Faeries & Appropriation

Maybe it doesn't seem this way to others, but I can't help but think multiple things when I hear the words 'Trans Ethnic' (I will get into Trans Abled / Trans Disabled in a moment).

The 1st thing to hit me, is how mocking this is to transgendered individuals, that their situation is seen as so damn 'science fiction', somehow, that something as mocking as 'Trans Ethnic' can be set up as part of any kind of conversation. 'So, you think you're not the gender you physically appear to be / were assigned at birth? Ha! I top you. I don't think I'm the ethnicity 'assigned' to me at birth/ that I appear as. And none of this having a damn thing to do with the modification of birth certificates so that NDN people could pass as non-native for a chance at a better life. None of this gets into black who passed as white, to try and live a better, safer life within a white supremacist state. None of this gets into trans racial/cultural adoptees and their personal conflicts of identity and how they feel vs how they're treated.

It's just identity piracy.

The second thing that hits me about 'Trans Ethnic', is the purer cultural appropriation. How the more it's stressed, someone had to come up with something that they think is unassailable. "I can't be called an appropriating ass now, cause no one knows how I really FEEL, so if I FEEL___ insert non white identity here ___ then I can claim it, and act it, and use it and la de la la'.

Cultural appropriation seems to exist, because in order to be white and in order to be USian, various peoples several decades ago decided to put aside their cultural and ethnic heritage in order to fit in. The less you showed some distinct aspect of your identity the more it supposedly meant you were leaving it behind to embrace your new Usian life.

So goodbye, traditions, language, clothing, manners, foods, songs and stories. And now here we are, a couple generations later, with a set of people who want something to belong to, but even in this day and age of (for white folk) they're not going back to research what they gave up. And I don't know if it's because the attitudes to give it up and leave it behind are still strong, if sub and unconscious. They're instead reaching towards those peoples who've fought and struggled and suffered to hold on to anything at all. And reaching towards peoples whose suffering and oppression has formed a new culture and new identity within this 'new land'. So I suppose it's not surprising so many people want to be Native American - because how much more 'belonging' to this new land could one be? Or that they want to be 'Black' which is an identity that was created on these shores (well these and other places of colonialist import of slaves).

But history and struggle, accomplishment and identity, folklore, stories and song, foods, clothing and culture are not something you can buy in a store.

It's odd, that sometimes I feel like I'm the only one who remembers the backlash by people in Ireland and Scotland; especially people of Celtic Heritage, screaming at Usians to get their grubby hands off the Celtic Harps and Celtic Knots and Gaelic language.

There was this sweep of; I'm totally Celtic! I was Celtic in a past life! I've totally got Celtic roots. And there was appropriation. There was entitlement. It wasn't - "I'm interested in Celtic History / Celtic Heritage / Irish History / Irish Heritage" and the like. It was 'I ALREADY AM and thus I will use all this stuff and don't tell me I'm doing it improperly'.

I can remember seeing Gaelic tourists watching USians in a store, oohing and ahhing over how authentic some music cd was, and I was pretty damn sure those words the tourists were saying could be translated into 'Damn Wannabes'. I remember feeling hesitant too, because I really liked harp music and certain tonalities, but I definitely didn't want to be viewed as a 'grabby/grubby hands'. So it was something that made me think to try and figure out the difference.

And thus the concept of respect and to whom a culture belongs (because it has been handed down, because it had been lived, because it marks them in some way) started forming itself in my brain. So it's now to the point it's difficult for me to remember that, well, the same people who didn't think about their appropriation then, damn well aren't the type to think about it now, or to have taught their children to think about it.

I get that it's sad to feel formless, and directionless and to recognize that something is missing, something has been lost. But the solution to that will never be to grab someone else's. If someone laughs at you because they think the sandwich you're eating is funny. The solution will never be, to throw your sandwich away, get hungrier and grab someone else's sandwich and tell them THEY HAVE TO SHARE OR THEY ARE SELFISH.

All that is, is asking for disdain, showing massive disrespect, a whole lot of entitlement, bad manners and frankly, the need for a serious ass beat down.

It is not the responsibility of others to compensate you because your ancestors tossed away their heritage for what they thought was a better cause. And if you have no clue at all what your heritage is? You don't get to go SHOPPING. You also don't get to belabour the point now, when there are millions of African Diaspora due to the slave trade who will never know their tribal origins. Your ability, as a white person, to track that down will always have smoother paths than a peoples who were sold away and sold away and moved around like cattle w/ no names, no personally identifying information.

At the beginning of this, I mentioned 'science fiction'; that their situation is seen as so damn 'science fiction', somehow, that something as mocking as 'Trans Ethnic' can be set up as part of any kind of conversation.". The first time I heard about 'inner aspects' or 'not being what I appear' in a transformative setting or conversation, that wasn't about transgender identity? Had to do with people discussing their inner self as a wolf, a bear, a rain elf or a dragon. And I admit, at first I thought it was kind of cute. I thought it / saw it, as a short-hand for philosophy, perhaps a certain kind of self made spirituality - as in living one's life as... In which case an inner wolf would symbolize someone who felt comfortable in close knit settings and put a value on loyalty, cohesion, community and possibly social hiearchy if they really got into it / had thought about it.

But the more I looked it up, the more I discovered I was both right, and very, very, wrong. Very, very, very, very wrong. Perhaps I stumbled into some extremist circles, the fringe of it. But whoa. Looking at the terms 'Trans Ethnic', however, makes me feel as if minority/non dominant/colonized culture and societies are somehow as mythical and unreal as fairies, dragons, and spiritual wolves and bears - because ANYONE can decide that's who and what they are and decide to pick it up and somehow 'live by it'. And while you cannot disrespect fairies and dragons, and disrespecting wolves or bears gets you murdered and dead - disrespecting non dominant ethnicities happens, is real, is hurtful and painful and dehumanizing and devaluing.

If your inner self is a water dragon, well, whatever. That's your thing. If your inner self is black? Fuck you. There have always been assholes (particularly teenagers), dressing in certain clothes, copying certain slang, listening to certain music and claiming they were down with __insert ethnic minority here__. New age dressing it up as 'Trans Ethnicism' doesn't change the asshole badge.

* ---*

I said I'd talk about Trans Ablism / Trans Disablism, and I will. Disability has a culture, it has many in fact. Deaf culture, isn't blind culture, isn't the myriad wheelchair cultures, isn't invisible disability culture, isn't chronic illness culture, isn't ... the list goes on. Those cultures too? Came out of struggle and strife, dedication, hard work and more. They were created to sustain the myriad peoples who're involved in them. They have their dark ass times, their deprivations and horrors, their triumphs, their moments of weeping for joy and of pain. There are institutions, schools, lock aways, slurs, words, language, music, dance, art, etc, and yes they were all created - some of them only a couple hundred years old. But they? Are REAL. You don't get to go shopping for them either.

Cause this shopping people are doing, has nothing to do with learning the history of anything, it's just another type of entitlement. It's grubby grabby hands. It's trying to fill some lack and hole with someone else's inheritance. It's grabbing someone else's sandwich cause they dealt with the jeers and kept their food, and you threw yours aside.

Now, I know there are people who believe they're double amputees etc, even up to the point of wanting surgery to remove a physically healthy limb because having that limb distresses them. I doubt those are the people coming up with the idea of 'Transabled / Transdisabled'. Because when I've read on them, or seen them, they talk about being, blind, or wheelchair mobile, etc....

And frankly, if someone is willing to deal with the bullshit of living in an ablist world, with all the inconveniences, then that to me is completely different than claiming something and being able to cast it off again when it troubles or frustrates you or stops being fun.

Personally, I've always thought of those people as cyborgs**. Mostly because when you, or at least when I read a futuristic SF book, there never seems to be any blinking at someone having a bionic arm or bionic leg. Unless some prior injury is specifically mentioned, it's treated as - these individuals wanted those specific limbs and don't feel they've lost anything. So to me, that mentality has to come from somewhere, and while true, not everyone's going to be a cyborg voluntarily; And cyborgism might be just an offshoot from disability - just because two paths merge, doesn't mean they weren't once two separate paths.

But I do admit? I don't have a physical disability wherein I would look at someone who says they feel like me, and go 'WTF'. Many people at some point later in life will use a cane. So I'm not claiming to talk for community at all. I have no idea how those individuals are looked at by various facets in the myriad disabled/differently abled communities. I just know the medical establishment seems to want to call the people I call cyborgs (in waiting), mentally ill; Which kind of already puts them in a disability community - even if it's just how other people may view them.

In the whole group of appropriation though? It's not possible to wake up Black, or Asian or NDN or Latino, to wake up Spanish or Caribbean or Jewish or Rom or South Asian or West Asian. You could, however, conceivably wake up one morning after surgery and be missing a limb.

But considering I've also seen the term Trans Fat thrown around (and not in regard to oils) I'm not thinking the majority of individuals using these terms are planning major body modification.

What I am thinking, is that instead of drugs or booze or sex or food, or anything else to use to make their lives feel less empty, or less dull or just less - they're 'Shopping For An Oppression'. They want to feel something. They want to feel something so badly, they're willing to fight and cuss and scream and cry about being 'disrespected' while they pirate someone else's experience and make a shitty, shitty copy.

And the saddest and angriest thing to me? Is that appreciation could become allyship. They could be working towards Size Acceptance. They could be learning more about institutional racism and the history of the people they claim to feel some kinship towards, they could be learning about dehumanization, the struggle for basic civil rights, and what they can do to help. But, they're not. They're shopping for accessories; it's that mentality once again of thinking non-white peoples, non dominant and colonized societies are somehow mere dressing on a white potato.

Transgendred individuals do not go SHOPPING for a gender. I am pretty damn certain of that. I'm pretty damn certain transwomen are very, VERY aware of the history of institutionalized sexism, of rape culture, of slurs, of disrespect, of expectations of what feminity is, of lots of stuff women deal with - because they aren't shopping, they aren't picking and choosing. They ARE women. They bloody well get everything. Transmen? They bloody well get everything too and more *with the masculine side of things. It's not a performance. It's not 'art'. It's not spirituality. It's not personal philosophy. It's who someone is, it's lived experience.

* ---*

To be, or not to be.

Deal with not being, white people; currently able bodied people, thin people and the like. Deal with it. Stop thinking you get everything, because you're part of the majority and you feel lonely, or lost, or lacking. It's fucking amazing and insulting that you run everything, rule everything, are represented damn near everywhere, but suddenly OTHER PEOPLE are so much more interesting so you want a piece of them too? "Oh s/he's ___ but s/he's got such a great personality!' And now you want to TAKE IT?

You don't want to see them, or talk to them , learn from them, listen to them, promote them or respect them. You just want a piece to feel better? To feel special? Because your own damn dominance is making it impossible for you to feel special?

The hubris. Seriously. The fucking hubris.

Claiming transethnicism to me, shows me who is an egotistical maw worm; someone who will just keep taking and taking and taking and nothing will ever satisfy them; because trying to consume someone else's identity, is like eating sky pie. It's not attuned to you, it's not within your dimension. Unfortunately you don't look pathetic, you look like what you are, a self involved, privileged asshole who needs a good smack in the mouth.


An aside: Being a transgendered individual is different to being a drag actor/performer. And drag is a culture too (culture within a culture) with its own oppression and triumphs and histories.

Note: I am sure I have left out other identities that cannot be picked up like a pen on the floor - it was not meant as a slight.

ETA: *Clarified the more for transmen as being 'the masculine side of things'. Clarifying here further; transgendered individuals deal with awareness of gender essentialism, expectations on gender presentation, masculinity, femininity, what are 'appropriate' actions via society's lenses, the history of what does, could and has happened to people like them, and further things I can't quite think of in the moment but that cannot be avoided or ignored.

ETA: For transcultural adoptees w/ transracial.

ETA: ** Sat 25th Feb. A friend pointed me towards: and a short conversation later, I realized I'd focused on artificial limbs, and not the aspects of complete self/true self/physical parts owned by self.

So, my original concept is more clueless than I thought, and possibly offensive. In which case I apologise, because eeewh, offensiveness is not desirable, hurting people is never a thing I want to do, especially about sensitive areas of self .

(Although, yes, I still count the racist twitdiddles as not deserving of ME worrying about THEIR feelings. Pointing out their racism, appropriation and privilege isn't offensive, it's just painful for them to have truth in the face).