Posts tagged ‘POC’

April 10, 2012

A few notes on getting PoC to participate in a movement (specifically the trans* one)

I participated in a very special episode of #transchat (on twitter) a few weeks ago. The topic of this very special episode? Trans POC Experiences & Priorities. From what I understand, a few trans chatters had noticed that there was a distinct lack of PoC involvement in this bi-weekly event.

While I’m not sure that this occurred to them… but this lack of engagement is extra strange since it takes place on Twitter. A majority of the participants are in the USA. This is important because, according to these stats, 19% of Latin@ internet users and 25% of Black internet users are using Twitter. Compared with 9% of white people. Very, very interesting, no? Given this very significant ratio of PoC Twitter users versus white users, you’d think that #transchat would not be a predominantly white space.

Not so much. And so. At the point I entered people were wondering where all the PoC were and if anyone had invited us. I only stumbled onto the conversation by accident myself, since a few people I follow were participating and tweeting about it. So. From what I gather a few TPoC were contacted but not much more outreach than that occurred.

The topic, noted above, was too broad. The topic was changed to (until the conversation was hopelessly derailed by privilege denying white people) the barriers for TPoC involvement with #transchat. Here are some of the comments I made bundled into a handy how-to list for engaging PoC. I think this advice can be generalized beyond just the trans community.

1. Engage us where we are. Why is it that I always see these white communities expecting PoC to come to them? Why are are we always, always expected to engage white people in their spaces and according to their agendas?

Because if you think that we aren’t doing anything for our communities you would be wrong. Very wrong. So wrong in fact that you should really, really rethink your approach to activism or life. Whatever.

2. Do not, I repeat, do not simply expect that a few tweets, callouts, press releases, whatever, will encourage us to come to you. Because one thing that many, many activist groups/communities appear to forget is that we don’t actually need targeted advertisement.

If you think that any of us PoC are unaware of what white people are doing (activists or not) you are failing to understand that one of the key white privileges is visibility. We know what you are doing. We know what is going down and what is happening. If we are not showing up, it is more likely that we have made a decision not to participate, rather than being unaware that an amazing opportunity to educate white people is awaiting us.
As I said during #transchat: you may not see us, but we see you.

3. Treat us like human beings. We aren’t your personal tutors, we aren’t your token, we aren’t scary, and we aren’t monsters.

One person kept asking me: “How do I approach PoC? How do I stand in solidarity with you?” My only answer was: treat us like we are human. How hard is this? You want to engage PoC? Try approaching and saying, ‘Hi!’. This isn’t complex mathematics or particle physics.

We are human beings. Treat us as such and you’ll get far. And asking for some sort of programmatic way to approach all PoC is a failure to recognize our individuality and our humanity. There can be no magic formula. We are individuals.

Some might mistrust you. Some might trust you. Some might wish to educate. Some might not. Some might hate you. Some might love you. Some might be friendly. Some might be cold.

The list goes on. But you will never know which reaction you’ll get until you take the plunge. Until you check your privilege and approach with humility and an ear prepared to listen, you will never know us, see us, or build a community with us.

October 19, 2011

Designated values and privilege

I’ve had occasion to criticize the cis/trans distinction. One of the commentators mentioned asked me if they should not identity as trans because their family didn’t reject them. It has take me a while to work through how I really should have responded to that comment.

Originally, I said that simply subsuming myself under the trans label totally erased my identity, not only as a POC but also the privilege my particular non-binary identity allowed me to experience. It was me wanting to *own* my privilege that prompted me to want to call out the inherent imperialism of including non-Western identities under the trans label. It was me wanting to credit and recognize both my family as well as my culture for allowing me to grow up *without* the pain of gender confusion.

Anyway, it was also out of a belief that while my gender expression is outside of the Western binary it may actually re-enforce the binary in the Philippines. When you look over the four categories of gender, you immediately realize that while it may be a little more fine-grained than the West, it still ultimately supports the supremacy of the binary identity.

The four categories are man, woman, bakla, tomboy*. This is also usually considered to be the proper order of importance. And the way that these four categories still manage to create a binary is via the mechanisms that allow for a multi-valued logic. There are logical systems that admit of more than ‘true’ and ‘false.’ The system may recognize ‘neither true nor false’ and ‘both true and false’ as valid truth values. However, in order to interpret these systems some of the values become designated and some are un-designated. See how above the layer of diversity there is a dominant layer creating another binary?

Of course, being an undesignated truth value doesn’t carry the exact same implications as being ‘false’ (or women in the case of either the Philippines or the West). In the above construction, the designated values are man and bakla, while un-designated are woman and tomboy. See? Gender diversity does not imply that a society will magically become an un-patriarchy.

This is why taking cultural variation for gender is important. One cannot claim that gender is socially constructed without recognizing that there are non-White societies. I find that the people who repeatedly say this always assume whiteness as default and filter everything through that white gaze.

It leaves no space for me to recognize that I received designated privilege while my Ate caught a lot of shit from my Tatay for performing femininity. Tatay never policed my gender and allowed me to as femme as a I wanted (which when I was cross-dressing in high school, was pretty damn femme). Whereas, when it came to Ate? She received the full brunt of rape culture’s victim blaming and was constantly policed by Tatay.

This highlights another problem with the appropriation of non-white gender variance by the trans movement. Ultimately, they are pointing to the other and exoticising it. It is another variation on the theme of ‘Noble Savage.’

* This reflects a personal understanding of the situation. I will say that, when I was in the Philippines, I never saw any Tomboys. They were invisible, whereas I saw Bakla in every town I visited (even some really small ones) — of course, I also saw men and women everywhere.