Mutual Aid (Part 2): Trust Black People

In Mutual Aid (Part 1): A Message of Love, I (a white person) started a conversation about mutual aid by reflecting on Enzi Tanner’s work in the Twin Cities. Today, I (a white person) want to write more broadly about mutual aid as a white member of transgender communities–while also acknowledging that most of what I know about this topic comes from listening to Black and Brown trans and queer organizers.

(Read The Race Game to understand why I’m talking so much about whiteness.)

Informal Mutual Aid 

In the conversation with my white suburban friend (mentioned yesterday), I, a white person, shared a little about what I have been doing based in pre-existing relationships that I have.

To my mind, it makes good sense to start by giving funds to Black folk who I (a white person) already know who may be struggling. We (especially white folks) don’t need to wait for someone asking for help. We (especially white folks) do not need to announce what we are doing on social media. We can just be generous and ask our friends to use the funds however they think it will be helpful. 

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Mutual Aid (Part 1): A Message of Love

The Twin Cities have seen a string of highly-publicized incidents of police violence against Black men prior to the recent George Floyd incident (2020), including with Jamar Clark in 2015 and Philando Castile in 2016. Black transgender man, Tony McDade, was shot dead by police in Tallahassee, FL a few days after George Floyd was killed. A recent assault against a transgender woman of color named Iyanna Dior in the Twin Cities shook that community further.

These incidents (and others) have led to a number of national movements: to support Black lives, to address police violence, and to acknowledge the particular burden on Black transgender people. Last week, Transfaith posted a statement, Hearing Our Kin: George Floyd, Tony McDade, and our Black Transgender Siblings, which was a follow up to Hearing Our Kin: Trayvon Martin and Our Black and Brown Transgender Siblings, which was written in 2013.

This week, I (a white person) am writing inspired by the work of one of our former board members, who has been a part of Black transgender organizing in the Twin Cities for many years. Enzi Tanner is a Black transgender Jew, who is currently involved in a mutual aid project focused on supporting Black transgender people in his area. He is also one of the voices quoted in our 2013 article.

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Grown-Ass White Folk

Alternate title: Growing Up — Well-Meaning White Folk and the American Dream

As I write this, we are in another cycle of processing white people behaving horribly. This time it is a white woman in NYC Central Park invoking police violence and actual police violence in Minneapolis. But it could be a Black man jogging, a Black woman studying, the police in Indianapolis, or any other city. These incidents are no longer going unnoticed, under-reported–at least not in some social media networks.

However, it is not just acts of violence against Black folk, Indigenous folk, and other People of Color that show us where we are as a white supremacist society trying to become the ideal that Black civil rights leaders, in particular, have been pushing us towards.

White folk responding to incidents of anti-Black violence also shed a light on our so-called progress.

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“Nonprocreative Males,” Eunuch Scholars, and the OtherWise Christian series

Since OtherWise Christian 3: What Shall Prevent Me? has an open call for reflections on the well known story in Acts 8, I’ve realized that it may save me some time if I publicly clarify some background material that may be relevant for authors.

To be blunt, if you are talking from your lived experience, it won’t matter so much what scholarship you have standing behind you. But if you want to press a scholarly point, it is important that you be close to up to date on recent developments asserted by this editor.

1 – OtherWise Christian 3 will be the third book in the OtherWise Christian series. While reading the first two books is not essential to being considered for the third, being remotely familiar with the foundations of the series can be useful in building relationship with the editor.

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OC2: What is “OtherWise-gendered”?

I began formally using the term “OtherWise-gendered” in OtherWise Christian: A Guidebook for Transgender Liberation (now available in hard cover!). However, framing an anthology around the term “OtherWise” is a different play. Rather than take up space up front unpacking the term, I created an Appendix that talked about it. It is excerpted here:

Appendix A

By Mx Chris Paige

Excerpt from OtherWise Christian 2: Stories of Resistance, edited by Mx Chris Paige

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Beyond “Coming Out”

“Coming Out” is a word that has prominence in and around lesbian and gay communities as a way of describing the disclosure of information about one’s not-heterosexual orientation. There is a common narrative about “coming out” stories that include personal wrestling and eventual disclosure to family or friends.

The dominance of this narrative form is in itself a problem. Just as people of color often embrace “same-gender-loving” as an alternate way of describing their sexual identity or experience, David Johns offers “inviting in” as an alternate framework for the narrative around disclosure. He provides a variety of reasons in this video from The Root (2020):

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Gender as a Spectrum… or a Koosh Ball?

There is an article going around talking about how people are increasingly understanding gender as a spectrum. Of course, that’s an improvement from thinking of gender as two and only two mutually exclusive options.

Still, it’s like popular thought moving from one-dimensional thinking to two-dimensional thinking when there are other people busy exploring the time-space continuum and quantum physics (at least four-dimensions!). In other words as a culture, we are finally buying into “Newtonian” gender when “Quantum” gender is already in our midst.

Gender is not just one spectrum. It is not an orchestrated migration from one end of congruent “more masculine” traits towards “androgyny” and on to “more feminine” traits. Such a framework is still going to lead to mis-gendering and pathlogizing people. A proper framework for gender would eliminate “gender non-conforming” as a category altogether–by affirming that none of us are expected to comply with the way someone else constructs gender in their mind.

I prefer to think of gender as a Koosh Ball because there are so many aspects to gender.

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Gender Diversity: Nadleehi and Dilbaa

The traditional culture of the Diné (commonly called the Navajo) has four genders. Although nadleehi and dilbaa are commonly used as examples in articles explaining two spirit expressions, they are specific to Diné culture.

I have been suspicious of how Diné gender identities are often described online and I had the opportunity to sort it out with Nick Manchester as we were preparing his article for OtherWise Christian 2: Stories of Resistance:

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Transgendered

In chapter 11 of OtherWise Christian: A Guidebook for Transgender Liberation, I use “transgendered” as an example of the way the meanings of words can change over time.

When I started exploring my gender identity in 1998, we were saying “transgendered” (among other things), but somewhere around 2006 “best practices” evolved and that particular word went out of style.

I reference some reflections by Julia Serano on related topics. She gives meaningful treatments on a number of fronts, which I recommend:

In particular, I reference that first article and the dynamics around “word-sabotage” and “word-elimination” campaigns that Serano brings up.

I agree with Serano that dismissing another person’s word choice out of hand is problematic, even as I respect efforts to develop coherent “best practices.”

My treatment in OtherWise Christian is necessarily abbreviated because these nuances are only relevant insofar as I am wrestling with the nature of language used for gender diversity over time (e.g. eunuchs). Serano’s book Outspoken includes much of this materal and may be worth your time if these topics around modern language intrigue you.

The bottom line is that word meanings change over time. A word that is perfectly acceptable at one point may be anathema at another. This is true even before we get to dynamics like colonization that may demonize certain aspects of a culture as a way of discrediting the opposition.

Understanding these historical shifts are important when we look at contributions from the “transgender spring” and books like Omnigender or Trans-Gendered, which use language that was appropriate at the time, but which might be dismissed out of hand today.

As I was pulling together yesterday’s post and this (unedited) interview footage with Kate Bornstein and Leslie Feinberg from an In the Life episode (1996), which touches on the development of language and the role of the internet in transgender organizing.

Compiled by Mx. Chris Paige on September 25, 2019.

Note: This blog is intended to be an on-going work in progress. Please contact us if you have corrections or are able to contribute further context or reflections.