Sunday, March 30, 2008

Trans Day of Resistance Speeches : Chris Tuttle

Here are the transcripts of some the speeches from Tuesday' s event at uvic. The first speech was by Dana Waldman (still awaiting copy for that). Brodie Metcalfe spoke about legal stuff in a very well researched speech on the gay panic defence (also don't have copy for that). Then Chris Tuttle read her speech;

When I started to question my gender, I realized there really wasn’t a way to stay in the closet and still be happy. Every change that I wanted to make to my life that deviated from the heteronormitive male standard came not with empowerment and confidence, but with embarrassment and ridicule. I had to defend my gender the moment I started questioning it, just to save my sanity. I didn’t identify as gay, at least not how I saw the word then, but the word suddenly floated around with my name. So I came out as trans, earlier than I probably should have, because if I was going to have to defend myself, it might as well be for what I really am, not what people think I might be.
At this point I still wasn’t on hormones, hadn’t had time to grow out my hair, and had almost no clothes to wear. In short, I didn’t pass. Not passing meant I had to defend myself against practically everyone I saw or met for the first time. I’ve never been in as many staring wars with bewildered or hostile strangers as when I didn’t pass.
Worse than stares and sneers were the conflicts, being bullied out of lines, having tea thrown at me, being yelled at or “prayed for”.
The worst of all were the silences. So many people I knew stopped talking to me, barely acknowledged my presence. Every time this happened I couldn’t help feeling like they didn’t want to be seen associating with a tranny. It still hurts. These people aren’t strangers, they’re people that know me and had, up until I came out, decided I was worth talking to. The silence of the people who watched while someone ridiculed or intimidated me was like cold suffocation.
Slowly though, I got into the medical system and got a diagnosis and a prescription. My wardrobe rounded out along with my hips. Now, a little over a year after coming out, I’m finally starting to feel comfortable in and with my body. If I’m not perfectly happy with how I look, well who is?
Being comfortable with myself means that when someone first sees me, that little visual processor in people’s brain often yelps “girl” instead of “boy”, or “trans” first, before I even say hi. Of course, this is part of what I’ve been waiting for all my life. My gender is not just about how I see myself, but also about how others see me.
I’ll never pass all the time, and there is always that risk of an unprovoked attack, but to some extent starting to pass is pulling me out of the realm of constant physical danger from strangers. Sadly, I’ve been seeing new ways in which people can be hurtful.
I don’t feel like I should have to tell someone that I’m trans when we first meet if they don’t realize it. I consider myself pretty open about my gender, but sometimes I feel like talking about my privates is too much intimate personal information to bring up casually. I want to be treated like a woman. I am a woman, and in a culture that is still so rooted in gender binary, the best way to make sure people get their pronouns right is to make a first impression as at least potentially female.
It’s not that I don’t want people to know all aspects of who I am; it’s not that I’m trying to hide anything. I just don’t want to talk about it right away with everybody I meet. Otherwise I start to feel like the only way I’m defined in the world is through my gender, or my deviance from it. And as important, as critical as my gender identity is to my life, there is more to me than just that.
Even more recently in my transition, I’ve started to realize that I don’t need or want to pass as “male” or “female”. My gender identity lies somewhere in between. After fighting so hard for the freedom to express my gender identity, I don’t want to have to fit into another gender presentation that doesn’t fit just to be safe. I don’t want to be defined by my birthgender even after I depart from it by being labled a MTF or a transwoman. I’m trans*, queer, and genderqueer, and I prefer female pronouns, that’s specific enough.

How I’d like to be treated:
I don’t mind being stared at, but when or if I meet your gaze, I’d like to see, not a look of disgust or horror or bemusement, but a smile.
I’d like people who find themselves attracted to me to realize that it’s O.K. It doesn’t take away from your manliness, or your queerness. It doesn’t make a straight person queer, or a queer person straight to date me, or to sleep with me.
I’d like for people to know that I’m not going to sleep with you before making sure you know what’s going on.
If I come out to you, I’d like you to think for a minute or two before you say anything. A lot of unintentional pain can stem from saying something you don’t actually mean.
I’d like people to know that if I do talk to you about my past and my gender, it usually means I think I can trust you. Please don’t betray that trust. It’s up to you to figure out what that means.
I want people (by people I mean friends, acquaintances, class and workmates, not complete and total strangers) to feel comfortable talking to me about my gender if they want to, but to be respectful of some of the more private details. I’d also like people to remember that not everyone within earshot is educated about gender. Quieter voices are nice sometimes.
.If you knew me before I transitioned, then I know you don’t have an obligation to me to not spread rumors, or to outright tell people things that might not be common knowledge. But I’d like you to remember that many little hurts can be devastating. And the amplified effect of still living where I grew up means there is a large potential for the little hurts that come from people talking behind my back. Besides, just because you know my past, doesn’t mean you understand how I identify now.
I’d like for my gender presentation to not matter so personally to strangers around me who only have to interact with me in the small, superficial ways throughout the day.
Thank you - by Chris Tuttle.

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