Saturday, November 2, 2013

Five Misappropriative TDOR Events

I don't want to write this as a "how-to" because there are plenty of more experienced people than me writing similar things on the Internet.  Instead, I'm going to post a little context and then a few ways people have attempted to honor Transgender Day of Remembrance that I really could have done without.

Some context, in case you're a total noob:  Transgender Day of Remembrance (or TDOR) is a yearly observance on November 20th that began in honor of a murdered trans woman of color named Rita Hester.  TDOR honors the lives of trans people who have been killed through murder or neglect the prior year due to their gender identity/expression/presentation.  Most of the people honored will be people of color, usually trans women or AMAB people presenting in a feminine manner, often sex workers, often poor, often people in other countries.

It's important to keep that context in mind when you run a TDOR event because boiling the issue down to "transgender people get murdered a lot" takes a great deal of ignorance about intersectionality.  There is a world of difference in experience between a white trans guy like myself and a trans woman of color, a huge difference in risk.  Unfortunately both the event and the amount of risk is misinterpreted, leading to TDOR event fails like the ones I've seen here.

1. My very first TDOR event was a showing of Transamerica and a drag show.

Keep in mind that for my own purposes, any transgender related event that happens around November 20th is labeled a "TDOR event" even if it has nothing to do with TDOR.  The reason I've designed it that way is because making a transgender event around that time is usually an appropriation of the date of TDOR.

My very first TDOR event was in college.  It was a showing of Transamerica and a drag show.

Now, there's nothing inherently wrong with doing either of these things.  I already mentioned recently that Transamerica has a lot of problematic elements.  Drag shows also vary as far as how offensive they are to women and trans people, and drag is a huge part of trans culture.  But on TDOR?  A solemn day of remembrance of people who have been hatefully murdered?  Absolutely not.

2. A happy fun time dance spectacular.

A couple years ago there was a group that decided that TDOR was too gloomy and decided to make it happier and fuzzier by making it a dance spectacular instead.  When some trans people who actually know a little about what they're talking about pointed out that TDOR is not a happy fun day, the organizers criticized them for being too negative.

3.  Any event that tries to create perceived equity between trans female and trans male murders.

There are people who claim trans men do not experience persecution.  And they're wrong.  But I also don't blame them for thinking that way when you have trans men trying to make it look like we share the same risk of murder as trans women, which we don't.

I have an automatic irritation with any TDOR event that tries to create a quota for trans masculine people featured to make it appear as if as many of us are murdered as trans women.  The same would be true if one did the same for white, non-poor, non-sex-worker trans women... but I have yet to actually see this.  I have, however, seen events run by trans men that focus on the trans man known as "Brandon," which happened twenty years ago.  While including him in your event would not necessarily be offensive, taking TDOR and making it about trans men is.

The main point is that if you have a TDOR event you should focus on the people most likely to be murdered and not the people most like you.

4.  Trans male top surgery fundraiser time!

It should be clear by now that I have kind of a disdain for trans men taking over TDOR.  It isn't that we shouldn't be involved, it's that too many of them do it without considering any of the above context.

This year there is at least one TDOR event that is raising money for a trans man's top surgery.  While top surgery fundraisers are totally standard and fine (no matter what Buck Angels says), using TDOR for it is wildly misappropriative.  If you're going to be raising money with a TDOR event, there are so many more relevant causes it could go to.  Find another day for your surgery fundraiser, please.

5. "Transgender Awareness Week"

A couple groups now expand TDOR to a week-long event dedicated to transgender awareness, usually with TDOR set aside on the 20th.  This is certainly an improvement on some other things, but in practice what's happening is taking an observance dedicated to the violent deaths of trans people--again, usually otherwise disadvantaged trans people--and using it to talk about more privileged trans concerns.

That doesn't mean that having a Transgender Awareness Week is a bad thing.  Far from it! You should do that!  But like the top surgery fundraisers, this is really something that should be done at a different time to avoid appropriating TDOR.