Queer Words: 3 Trans Voices You Need to Hear
Queer Words is our regular installment of literature, comics and poetry, as read by our Bee Musawah. In this edition, Bee is pondering how to be a better trans ally.
With this year marking the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, it’s important to remember the role of trans folk in our movement. Trans women of colour were amongst the first to fight back at Stonewall. Yet in the years since, the trans community have often been sidelined (and still are) by cis LGB+ people, despite being pioneers for LGBTQ+ rights even way before Stonewall.
Here we are in 2019 and trans people are still fighting for their lives. In the USA alone, at least 11 trans women of colour have been murdered so far this year. In the UK, it was reported that transgender hate crime is up by 81%. Meanwhile, the tone and reporting of our media plus the actions of our big businesses (see the companies who have cut ties with trans activists Munroe Bergdorf for example) have given voice and normalised transphobic rhetoric.
With Pride in Liverpool and the anniversary of Stonewall, these are moments to feel happy for being who you are - especially if you’ve just recently come out - to celebrate and be grateful for being out and proud when so many people still can’t be. But it’s worth remembering that there is space for celebrations while also acknowledging the hostility directed at a section of our community. We should be better allies to our trans siblings.
In this month’s Queer Reads we’re focusing on trans and gender non-confirming voices. If you’ve never read any before, now’s the time. If your familiar with these voices, pass this post along to someone who is working to improve their allyship and feel free to recommend something new. To be better allies, we need to start by educating ourselves.
(Beacon Press, 1998)
Until hir death in 2014, Leslie Feinberg was a prominent activist within the transgender community and zee left behind a huge legacy. This book is a collection of Feinberg’s speeches focusing on the trans liberation movement connecting it with the experience of struggling to live a decent life, being poor and the transphobia and homophobia within the medical establishments.
Published in 1999 with speeches dating prior to that, you might be wondering why I am recommending such a dated book when you can search for new releases. The answer my friend, is that so much of what Feinberg talks about; demanding rights and respect in all spaces and calling for social change, is what the trans community and grassroot organisations today are still striving towards and calling out for!
Feinberg gives space in between each essay for trans voices within the community as well. At just 147 pages this book is accessible and packs a punch.
Super Late Bloomer: My Early Days in Transition
(Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2018)
Super Late Bloomer is a compilation of personal comics documenting Julia Kaye’s transition. With mostly just three panels per page, Julia depicts her ups and downs and doesn’t hold back.
She addresses the moments of joy such as whenever she looks at the mirror and she loves the reflection staring back at her and the moments of frustration such as when transitioning is not going as fast as she wants it to.
Even though some of these pages deal with topics such as gender dysmorphia, transphobia, insecurity or struggling with self-love, Kaye manages to portray everything in a way that educates you through empathy and makes you giddy when things are working out in her favor. The way these comics are illustrated is very simple yet emotive: prepare to feel all the feels!
Trans/Portraits: Voices from Transgender Communities
Jackson Wright Shultz
(University Press of New England, 2015)
Sometimes we confuse education with academia and textbooks, rather this collection shows how much can be learned through the simple act of sharing. Trans/ Portraits is a collection featuring stories and personal narratives of 34 trans and gender-non-conforming individuals from different communities, ethnicities, age groups and socio-economic backgrounds.
In each chapter, stories are opened and shared; from transitioning, to identities, being in a friendly or hostile work environment, moving to different cities, the intergenerational dialogue within the community, becoming activists, being stealth and so much more.
This was fascinating to read and a learning experience. Jackson Shultz provides an informative glossary for general and medical terms used within the trans community and a lot of resources for those who might need it. It touched me more than I thought it would and it is certainly one of my favourite reads this year.