What does it mean to build and maintain a collective movement of resistance in an era where individuality and hierarchical leadership models are heralded as the gold standard against which everything is measured? What happens when the very locations of healing, and the strategies we use to come together, are co-opted, making us question each other and feel alone among the very people we have come to rely on to see our full humanity and dignity? How do we regroup around particular salient identities while also holding open the reality that we all have various intersecting identities to which we all must attend and influence the many ways we approach ourselves, each other, and the way we make sense of the world?
These are just a few of the questions still swimming around in my head after what was a deeply emotional, tragic, and traumatic weekend for me and others. Many of us—myself included—had hoped to find solace and renewal at the 2015 ACPA Annual Convention this past week in Tampa, but instead were met with resistance, dismissal, and outright, overt micro- and macroaggressions from an Association that purports to stand for equity and justice. I am certainly not the first person to write about the hurt I and others experienced during this professional meeting, and I am sure I will not be the last. I am also not the only person to ever feel depleted from having continually run into institutional brick walls regarding diversity and equity. As Sara Ahmed wrote, "Those who do not quite inhabit the norms of the institution are often those given the task of transforming those norms.” But the costs for this positionality—emotional and otherwise—can be overwhelming, scary, risky, and utterly draining.
So then what are we to do when faced with these realities? What happens when we are so triggered, and are facing so many instances of violence and harm that we begin to break down as a people and as a collective? How do we come together (again) to build microclimates of support, love, respect, and joy?
The only thing I keep coming back to in searching for an answer to these questions is: we trust. We trust those we know, trust in those who the people we love know but we may not know, and we trust those we have known, but perhaps lost contact with to come back and be there for us when we need them most. This trust doesn’t always come easily for people, particularly those of us with marginalized identities who have learned that not trusting can often be an effective strategy to protecting our hearts, minds, and lives.
And I’ll own it—trusting people has been hard for me lately, too. There have been a number of moments in my life where I felt as though I have been left stranded, specifically by people I had placed a lot of trust and confidence in me to not do this. But I have also been surprised by some people who have met me halfway, reached back when I have reached out, or have shown themselves to be consistent lighthouses during periods of turbulence in my life. And it is these moments that continue to bring me back to trying, as hard as I can, to trust. And when I feel I cannot trust, or don’t know who or how to trust, I rely on those who my people trust. Similar to my recent post on collective love, I have begun to think about trust as a collective process, one where I can learn to rely on those who my people rely on. It’s scary, as it means I don’t really know who I am trusting at times, but then again, I sort of do…through my kin, whose trust I do not question.
In thinking about the importance of trust, and of trusting in those who you trust, I learned an important lesson from two people recently, one of whom is a dear friend, and the other who I hope will become a dear friend. My dear friend told me over breakfast recently that she was working on reaching out and trusting others; that even if she didn't feel confident trusting others, she was trying hard to do so, and was taking steps to trusting in who her close friends trusted as well. This resilience, this fortitude in the face of fear, and this beautiful vulnerability reminded me that, yes, we are all scared of trusting others…but we can still work hard to do it together. Indeed, we must work hard to trust together.
The second lesson I learned from someone who I hope will become a dear friend is the power of reaching across difference to see others as they wish to be seen. This friend reminded me that we all experience hurts, many times for various reasons. However, even when we may not be able to fully comprehend those hurts, our not comprehending should not stop us from trying to see and hear each other in all our humanity. Oftentimes, when I am hurt, I close in, I close ranks, and I insulate myself from the world. I need to work to not do this as much as I can. I need to remind myself to remain open…perhaps so open it hurts. There are people in my life I can trust, and people who I can lean on to help me figure out who to trust…but when I close in, I foreclose those possibilities. I hope to take my friend’s lead and open up, reach out, and try to see the same humanity in her that she is working to see in me.
I refuse to suggest this past week has a “silver lining,” or that there are “good lessons to be learned.” To suggest this is the case would mean that I was somehow glad for the “learning opportunity” that was the overwhelming and omnipresent experience of micro- and macroaggressions of the past week. Let me be clear: I was not, nor will I ever be, thankful for that. For me, or for others who were similarly affected. However, I do think these incidents, along with the heaviness I feel regarding Tony Robinson’s murder, the racism displayed by the SAE chapter at OU, and the problematic nature of the University’s response, provide moments where we need to take stock of how we reach out, open up, and make connections across difference to see each other in all our humanity and dignity. I am not happy these events continue to happen, nor am I happy with the backdrop of systemic oppression upon which these incidents are set. Not in the least. But I am reminded that I need to take the lead of my two friends and work hard to trust. I need to do this for me as well as for my people, as we work to continue growing a collective-based movement in which we move forward together, with open communication, and confidence that we have each other’s best intentions in mind.
I have a lot of work to do, but I know that I can do it as long as I have my people with me. I trust this. And I trust them. And I trust who they trust. Together, we can (and will) heal. Together.
This blog is a space where I engage with ideas, concepts, and research that seeks to increase life chances for trans* people.