A Crisis of Conscience; on Furthering the Narrative of Trans-Suffering


Yesterday, while wandering through the wonders of the internet(s), I came upon an essay by Stephen Ira which was (specifics aside) a critique of media portrayals of trans people. The article gnawed at me all day and by this morning, once I was able to untangle my internal response, I realized I feared that in writing and sharing our story, I am furthering that narrative.

“This construction of the emotionally tortured transsexual does another important job: it normalizes trans suffering. Much of the emotional suffering that trans people have to deal with is a result of cissexism.  Lack of access to medical care, disrespect from family and peers, and constant media reminders that trans bodies are worthless and require frequent monitoring/destroying.  But if cis people create the impression through media that suffering is trans people’s natural state, they can erase the real cause of trans suffering: cissexism.”

I am acutely aware that I come to this with my own privilege and I struggle to walk a fine line, speaking about though not for my child and the trans people in our life. I write about doctors, psychiatric professionals and school administrators, those who who were helpful (the few) and those who weren't (the many). I write about family and friends, those who rose to the occasion with unexpected acceptance, and those who could only see her as some kind of Other, whether a soon-to-be victim of violence, a mentally unstable child or a slave to sinful things. I write about her friendships with older trans women and about the emerging generation of trans people we knew, living lives full of hope and promise.

As I wrote two years ago in a sharp-tongued memo, I do not believe that Ashlie's gender brought about her death. In this way the narrative of “The Boy Suit” is perhaps false, but the larger story, the one I wake up every day intent on pounding out piece by piece, is one that I hope addresses in some ways, the cissexism that Ashlie and those like her face.

Despite the desire to remain an ally to the trans community, the fear nags at me that perhaps I am doing more damage than good.  No defense of my work should undermine the experiences, ideas and reality of the very people I seek to support. It is a fine line and I suspect that I will continue the struggle to find myself on the right side of it.



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3 Responses to A Crisis of Conscience; on Furthering the Narrative of Trans-Suffering

  1. abby says:

    It would not matter what I wrote on this issue, someone would find reason to disagree and be unhappy with me and about my opinion, however, I have my own perspective on the world and life as I have lived it I am as entitled to it as you or anyone else is (including you) and I will not have that denied me.
    I view what you do and what you write and the honesty behind that as important for other reasons and for a particular audience.
    who? other mothers of kids like ashley/alice
    Is this about the greater good of "trans" people everywhere? or is it about the needs and issues of an individual child?
    I say SCREW the "greater good", people need to learn to focus on their families and their childs needs and issues as individuals, not automatically lump their child in with others who's personal issues may be totally unrelated.
    Don't censor yourself for anyone! write it as you see and experienced it, pen the truth as you pervcieve and let others work on and be accountable for the resposnes to the things they choose to do.
    If they do not want to be depicted a certain way, then IMO the onus is on them to consider the repocussions or THEIR actions.
    It is unrealistc to expect someone to understand and share a certian perspective on something they (can) have no personal experience with, it is unrealistic and unfair to scald them and claim they're "privileged" and imply they intend to do damage when it is more often than not unintentional ignorance that causes their response to your actions.
    How is it fair for someone to expect others to consider and understand their perspective when that someone refuses to try and consider THEIR life experiences and the limitations to THEIR possible perspective caused by those experiences?
    Don't sweat it!
    You do as much good for others as you can and that is all that matters 

  2. Abby said it all, you have every right to offer your insight, not only is it important to you, but you are giving a resource to other parents out there who are struggling with similar issues.
    Whenever I've read anything you've written it has been well put across, thoughtful, caring and beautifully written (even your sharp memo!). People will take offence at anything if they choose, but that's the operative word, they choose to take offence, you are giving none. You're sharing insight, experience and truth, the most valuable accounts in my opinion. 
    Everyone's different, and each individual experience as important as each other. 

  3. Kathryn says:

    I feel your story is about a mother's unconditional love for her unconventional daughter as the two of you fight the ignorance of the Ms. Bright Purple Muumuus of the world — while not forgetting the pure kindness of strangers such as that of the second lady in the ladies (I imagine her in something just-so, perhaps a rust or teal Bouclé jacket?).  From what I've read, you've done nothing but reaffirm our humanity and I appreciate you sharing your story.  

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