My partner & I cynically subscribe to a mantra that while well-intentioned cis people are trying, trans+ folx are dying. While we don’t necessarily mean to sound the alarm at every given opportunity, our threshold (read: patience) for the in-cis-tent reaches its limits when it’s clear that “trying” is the fullest exertion of effort we can expect.
I am perpetually game for having engaging conversations about gender & sexuality. I am always interested in unpacking & interrupting the normativities and unwritten rules that govern our bodies. I am continually allured to navigating new discourses and usurping the unbreakable binary.
What I’m not always down for is being siphoned of all my mental and emotional energy. Though I am positioned in the field of education, my existence is not positioned as everyone else’s teachable moment. This is the treachery of being one of few, if any, of your identity in any given space. You become the mouthpiece of the masses which means you also take on the weight of the many.
In my role, I have no control over whether others interpret me as the expert or the experiment. I serve as the in-house know-how on queer and trans experiences, which means being the resident translator of the vast ways in which those experiences can manifest. Which means rejecting the one-track, please-give-me-the-definition transactional requests that steadily trickle in.
I frequently bear witness to well-intentioned people sauntering through spaces expecting others to fill their empty buckets — in some cases they’re carrying no bucket at all, and expecting others to provide them with a full one.
Again, let’s talk about my threshold and understand that my grace can only be afforded so far — and when there are those who don’t know how to locate their nearest search engine for items I know are out there, my patience is weary. My patience is salvaged when I’m approached by those who’ve done their homework and perhaps find themselves stuck, or have encountered competing/conflicting information — excellent, let’s talk!
If you’re engaging with me with your own bucket at your side, slowly filling it up with both what I have to offer and what you’ve acquired on your own, it means less labour for me, and I may even gain something for my own bucket by being able to sit back a bit and parse through the nuance with you.
But it’s important to know that I’m not always interested or prepared to talk. In addition to carrying my own buckets, filling up others’ buckets, and convincing others that I even fit in their buckets, I run the likelihood of being low on spoons. Without spoons, I have no tool or easy method of transporting anything into anyone’s buckets and I need some time, some support, or some dark Chocolate Twix & a bowl of mac n’ cheese so please do not disturb at this time.
As Cody Charles writes in 10 Common Things Well-Intentioned Allies Do That Are Actually Counterproductive, “ The oppressed are continuously asked to defend their experience, so your question may be too much in that single moment.” And I can remember plenty of times in which I’ve been asked for an over-pour when I had nothing in me to actually provide. Often, people don’t reflect that they are likely not the first one to ask, won’t be the last, and that the answer was just a click, page, or self-ponder away.
So perhaps the amended version of the mantra should be “While cis people are pleading for someone to fill their buckets, trans+ folx are kicking them.”
We’d all encounter much less clattering if we acknowledged that the notion of “trying” is a starting point, not a saving grace or a Get-Out-of-Gender-Nonsense Free card, and doesn’t erase the trying times trans+ folx face.