TransForming Communities

I am reminded that one of the reasons i don’t go to many transgender events because i often wind up feeling more lonely when i leave than when i arrive.

“TransForming Communities” at the LGBT Center in San Francisco


TransForming Community explores the friction at the intersection of contemporary trans and queer communities. With a burgeoning transsexual community growing in tandem with a genderqueer movement, what are the issues that arise when non-trans queers share cultural space with transpeople and genderqueers? With distinctly different needs and identities, what needs to be worked out between the transsexual and genderqueer and queer communities?

Of this year’s performers, the one whose speech/poem that got me thinking most was that of Buck Angel, a female-to-male transexual person (transman) who is proudly “a man with a pussy.” A man who states that he doesn’t like being called a “trans-advocate” because he transitioned to become “a man, not a transman” and because he gets more support for who he is and the work he does from gay men than from transgender people or any other queer people.

His profession? A porn producer. He makes gay pornography where one or more of the men is a transman. In fact, he just won a major award (as recognized in the porn industry) for his work. And despite this he is still fighting an uphill battle to get his work distributed, to find additional producers, and whatever else needs to happen to make money in the porn industry.

He said that a surprising number of men find inspiration in his work. Men who realize that they want to get surgery to replace their penises with vaginas – and who want to remain men in all aspects of their lives (yes, he did bring up the bedroom issue, but that’s a topic for another post).

Part of me applauds that. Yes, that is something to celebrate because it means that more people are recognizing something about themselves that they weren’t aware of before. And gender and sexuality gets more diverse, while more men are realizing that they don’t fit into the “normal” definitions of physical and psychological manhood. And maybe a few of these men will start identifying more with marginalized sexualities and genders and become politicized towards the left if they weren’t politicized before.

And part of me is critical that they will have their surgery, get their vaginas, and still cling to their dominant notions of masculinity outside of the bedroom. Their privileges.

My privileges. Yes i’m mindful that i have privileges since i was raised under the assumption that i would become a man. Nobody pressured me to divert my time and energy into learning to take care of men. Nobody ever discouraged me from any academic or mental pursuit because of the gender that they thought i was (and which i believed i was). And i felt safe enough to walk to and from school and from my friend’s place by myself, even at dusk (i get scared now, but still carry enough of my psychological armor, i believe, to make myself look a less inviting target even in a skirt and feminine boots).

Am i being defensive? It’s hard not to be defensive when, after coming out, some women friends i had prior to coming out became much less friendly and supportive after i came out. When significant numbers of lesbians consider me a freak and want to label me a man and relate to me as one of the enemy.

And when i still have a penis and have no intention of cutting it off.

This might may be part of why i have difficulty talking to many of the transwomen i know. Because while they take hormones and have fantasies of getting their dicks removed and surgery done on their chins, foreheads, etc., i am glad that i have a penis. As much as i want to distance myself from being seen in everyday life as a man (and passing as a woman is a necessity sometimes), i do not hate my penis. Whereas some transwomen disassociate completely from their sixth members, i relate enough to mine to still have erotic fantasies in which i’m penetrating someone. And it’s damn useful when i go hiking with my 1/2 gallon of water.

I would feel better if i felt that, coming out, i had a community to come out to. That despite facing fear and prejudice from my biological family and from straight people, i would and could find community amongst other transgender people.

What community? When many of the transwomen i know are chronically depressed? When transwomen who want surgery look at me as an oddity? When i get frustrated and tired of dealing with the racism of white transpeople? And how much of the time i spend away from transgender activities is because of their self-hatred and because of my own?

The usual colonizer mentalities continue to keep us separated. I’m not sure that there exists a transgender community where i feel genuinely welcomed. More like transgender individuals who are part of different communities.


  1. nick Said:

    To be brutally honest with you, I have always been intrigued by trans community, and yet I still have not grown comfortable to approach the matter inquisitively. I suppose it is due to the hostility that I might draw upon myself should I use the “wrong” expression; the “wrong” nuance in my parlance. This is I suppose the case with a lot of us who are keen on understanding the trans community and yet somehow feel repelled by something hostile in the ether. It can be discouraging if one is to be extremely careful at all ends; it can be awfully constrictive.

    The hostility, I reckon, is understandable. If one is constantly facing a welter of discrimination then it doesn’t take nuclear science to explain the presence of frustration.

    Well, I don’t know. I can never say that I understand; it would be unabashedly certain. But I do want to try.

  2. nick Said:

    Oh and one more thing. I myself feel lonely whenever attending “gay” events. And I feel lonelier when I’m on a “queer” event. I never do quite understand the cultural conformity; that I have to wear tights, praising Madonna/Cher/Judy Garland as an icon, and constantly make audacious remarks. Nor have I understood the implication of being “queer”; of being “otherwise”.

    I suppose I have long since stopped asking where it went wrong.

  3. jestercat Said:

    Mrrft? Hostility? You humans make things much more complicated than they need to be. Questions. Yes. More questions. Not all questions answered, but asking won’t kill you. Just as they won’t kill me (well i have many lives anyway). Mrreow.
    Saw a drag performance few weeks ago – Madonna, an evidently old Cher (using a walker), and Judy Garland all in the line-up. My guess is that they each have qualities signifying something significant to past gay culture: Madonna for her mainstreaming of camp and vogueing, Judy Garland for “somewhere over the rainbow” and her embrace of gay fans during a very homophobic period. Don’t know much about Cher.
    Though i’m not gay, i do share a fascination w/ certain divas who are popular in some gay circles: Celia Cruz, Bette Midler, Chavela Vargas, and Margaret Cho off the top of my head. Oh, and Candice Bergen for her role in Murphy Brown. But i don’t think she’s a gay icon.
    Insider/outsider. Legacy and cultural absorption. Ser extranjera/os, exiliada/os. Foreigners and exiles, ne?

  4. thanks for sharing; i will definitely look up more info on Buck Angel. hugs, isabel
    p.s. i’m glad you’ve started your blog! i look forward to reading more. 🙂

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