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.