"... So, how do you have sex?"
Inappropriate, right? Being a Brit, there are few things we are more prude-ish about than discussing our sex lives, and yet, this is a question that many people think is okay to ask trans people. Why? It's probably got something to do with society seeing trans identities as a novelty, and therefore not legitimate. As a result, trans folk are not afforded the same courtesies (ergo - privilege) as the rest of us cis het (cis-gendered, heteronormative, otherwise known as non-trans and straight) folk.
Our episode this month marked International Trans Day of Visibility on 31st March and boy (girl/non-binary) did we get some good guests for you. Within the last two years, the visibility of trans people has undeniably seen an exponential rise. Celebrities like Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox have certainly made it into the fabric of popular culture, Britain's Next Top Model is smashing stigmas by including their first trans model, Tallulah-Eve Brown, and NME even declared 2015 the year 'Trans culture went mainstream'. Maybe we have reached and surpassed the 'trans tipping point'. Yet even with all this progress, one thing has continued to trouble us: the voices of cis het people being worth their weight in gold when discussing trans identities. (See: Chimamanda Adichie, Jenni Murray, and more than a few others).
God knows we love Chimamanda Adichie. Her work has done so much to inspire a generation of young feminists, particularly women of colour (long live her monologue in Flawless), but what does she know about the trans woman experience? The same rings true for Jenni Murray (arguably a little problematic anyway), we grew up listening to Woman's Hour, and we'd be lying if we said that wasn't one of many inspirations to this podcast, but what of her lived experience qualifies her to comment on the gender identities of trans women? The Sunday Times gave her a platform to write her harmful opinions, but are they going to platform a trans person to reply? Unlikely.
Here's our point: Just because you are an activist/feminist does not give you license to be the paragon of all knowledge for all liberation groups.
So, rant aside, let's talk about the episode (which really does have a stellar line up). We invited Bex, Sabah and Romario, all trans, to tell us their story and talk about why International Trans Day of Visibility is important to them. Each of them point out how being a visible trans person is a double-edged sword. We learn that if you can be a visible trans person, as not everyone has that privilege, then you should speak up. At the same time however, being visible isn't always what it's cracked up to be. As Bex rightfully and simply points out, 'sometimes it would be easier if I was just Bex'. We also discuss allyship, and how this is something we as hosts of the podcast have wrestled with. The unanimous response? Listen. Even if that's all you do. Listen. We learned so much in this episode, and it was a privilege in and of itself to be privy to these conversations.
So we invite you to invoke the first rule of being a good ally, and listen.
Check out Raquel Willis, a trans person of colour who had some amazing insight into Chimamanda's comments.