Reasons to be angry: Part 1

Anger. It’s a good tactic, a shit strategy. Huh?

Over the last week, I’ve listened to and read a lot of argument about the views of the non-trans world. Us trannies, it seems, do tend to get a bit heated about some things, quick to flare, vicious in our reprisals and, so it is said, losing friends and allies along the way.

One friend even owned to that: she’d flared at a cis poster on a sensitive topic. Flared and subsequently apologized, embarrassed because the poster had genuinely been seeking information. Yes. I can see this very well and there are times when I myself feel more than a twinge of impatience with the trans community.

We do tend toward burning our bridges before we’ve got to the other side (and then, only hopping, having long since shot ourselves in one or both feet on the approach).

We need to be more measured, more tolerant in our dialogue. We should not be no platforming people – not even the much over-demonised Bindel and Hakeem. We need to be listening, not imposing.

Maybe, though, not always.

Part of this post springs from a discussion I had with a fairly sensible poster over the last couple of days. They pointed out all the flaws we have, much as I have enumerated them above: they said, with some validity, that we don’t always make the most of our case because of this. We give ourselves a reputation that may be deserved – but is not representative of what we can be at our best.

Reasons to be angry

Fair points, all. But two problems with that. I’ve worked with marginalized groups, off and on, throughout my (political) life. Such groups, whether we are talking gay or homeless or immigrant or any other are put upon, exploited and vilified. They have good reason to be angry. Very good reason indeed. And whilst it might be “sensible” to look to each of those groups, in turn, to follow the example set by Nelson Mandela and, make reconciliation the first and over-riding concern, that is beyond what is ordinary and human.

It’s a bit like asking a rape victim, in the examination suite, to sit back and consider the finer points of case law as it applies to her case.

I well remember my first encounter, as nice middle-class teenage kid, with the living conditions of those living in inner city Birmingham in the early ‘70’s. As a political person, I did what I could to help kick the Council into action: to make things better. As a human being, going into cramped flats built for four, housing sixteen…meeting unwell children, smelling the damp dripping down the walls, I felt sick. I felt angry on behalf of those forced to live in such circumstances.

If I felt that way, how much more right did the people living in those places to feel angry?

Being trans is not easy. All the same, my guess is that it is many, many times easier today than it was five, ten years ago. Those who came through the “system” and survived society as it was: they have my respect and also some shadow of understanding.

They have much to be angry about: and telling them just to “grow up” and stop it: to get with the intellectual debate; that is disrespectful.

A place for anger

Still, though, there is the question of whether it is a good idea to display such emotion. Which takes us back to the beginning. As tactic, yes.

We are entitled to be angry and if, at this point in the history of trans development, our anger finally starts to act as deterrent to those who think they can walk all over trans debate and impose their categorization from outside, then it serves a purpose.

Early days, a movement, a minority, a people often needs anger both to help it stick together and to mark it out from the rest. We are who we are, what we are. We stand by one another. Don’t touch.

That’s valid. Its valuable.

But its not a strategy. In the end, every group needs to buld bridges out to the rest of the world. There is a time – which for the trans community I believe is possibly now – when anger serves a purpose. In time, though – and that time may be coming soon, anger will cease to be useful and when that happens, we need to be ready to debate, discuss, dialogue in a civilized and moderate fashion.

Or else autonomy will rapidly turn to ostracism – and the only ones we will have to blame will be ourselves.



About janefae

On my way from here to there
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2 Responses to Reasons to be angry: Part 1

  1. The missing factor in your argument Jane is that, before the anger came the civilised approach.

    As Press for Change our fundamental principle as activists was to make friends, to debate our opponents rationally, to educate patiently, and to use the law as a scalpel when necessary. As a result we changed the legal backdrop to trans people’s lives. Never has so small a campaign, with so little money and resources, changed so much law in so little time.

    Regrettably, though the law changed our detractors haven’t. If anything they have become less reasonable … more inclined to ignore facts, more inclined to dirty tricks.

    The trans people we have emancipated through legal change are entitled to have expectations of better treatment. The laws we made say they can expect it. And, when you give people their dignity, their self esteem, you mandate them to be able to see the wrongness of continued attempts to oppress them and to be angry.

    So I don’t begrudge the fact that a generation of trans people is taking no prisoners. The debates have been had. To expect this generation to have those debates all over again for the convenience of detractors who are late to the party is in itself a form of imposition by cis-privilege. Where were they when my generation of thinkers and talkers holding the doors open for debate?

    The decisions have now been made. Trans people have a right to respectful treatment and I’m glad that they won’t tolerate those of privilege who want to re-run it all again in the hope of a better outcome.

    My message to the detractors is this: You lost. Get over it.

  2. bobette says:

    Personally, i hate that word, ‘trannies’…

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