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Beth 'pidge' Flanagan's blog. Open source queer.
So, I know there is some concern about me not taking my generation and prior to task quite yet. I want to address that concern before I write the next letter.
Frankly, I’ve hit a bit of a block around that letter and have realized how hard it will be to write. It’s a whole lot easier to write to people you love and aren’t *really* mad at, than it is to write to people you are still a bit angry at but still love none the less. Maybe this is a cop out, I don’t know. I want to yell at them. To hurt some of them for what they did to me and do to you. To shake my fist at them. But I can’t. Because I was there and I know that in many ways, they’re parroting what was taught to them by prior generations, acting out in ways they were taught to act. If anything, I feel a bit of pity.
Time and distance has tempered my anger towards them bit. Made me see that despite the awfulness of some of what the prior generations and my own( and some of the current generation, tbh. primary/secondary:homosexual/autogynophile:hbser. Seriously, W.T.F?) perpetuate there are still good things that happen. Awesome things. The really amazing things around transfeminist thought that are happening now didn’t happen in a vacuum. Those blocks were imperfectly laid out years ago. Fights against fucked up, out dated models about trans women were happening back then. And it wasn’t just in internet communities. A lot of that conversation and work was happening in drag communities. In street communities. In working class communities. In trans women of color communities.
Transy house. Strap-on.org (please, someone, tell me how to archive whatever ezboards turned into and I’ll buy you a pint if we ever meet). History projects. A lot of little projects, all over the world, across demographics *were* happening that changed the entire landscape from the fuckedupness of what was going on back then (and still is).
I want to tell a story here that I’ve never ever ever told publicly. About a little clinic I started. A friend of mine (a trans lady who had graduated medical school and was now in her residency) had gotten pissed off enough about how there was an entire medical establishment who essentially fed off the lack of health care options for trans women. They profited from our destitution.
So, on a farm in western Washington, we built (literally. walls and all) a clinic. That provided orchidectomies to trans women. For 500 USD. Literally enough for supplies and to cover rent back when that procedure cost about 2000 USD. We prioritized low income trans women and trans women from disadvantaged populations.
The clinic didn’t last for long. About 2 years give or take. It was never meant to be a long term sustainable project. I tell you this story, not to toot my own horn (in fact, with the exception of folks I know IRL, I’ve never actually told this story. It’s kind of one of those things that get cisfolks to sideeye you a bit), but to illustrate a point.
Undamaging a community takes time and work and none of it happens in a vacuum. It’s built on over years, either directly or by changing the way a community thinks or even by changing the climate that surrounds a community. The work people are doing now is, in part, built off the work some of my contemporaries did which in turn is built off of work some of the prior generation did. That’s not to say the people doing the work now don’t deserve credit. They do. All of it. But, the work I did around the clinic would NOT have been possible without the work the prior generation did. Without being able to have a trans woman being able to transition in medschool and keep her job.
It’s all a lot of small, scary steps that happen over years, done by people who have suffered serious trauma. It’s imperfect. Sometimes it runs off into the weeds. And sometimes it’s just a few people doing the work. And then more and more join in and it reaches critical mass.
So, I guess my point is this. We need to address our history both the good and the bad and to reconcile it with where we are now. To understand it in context. To be mad about some of what happened, but also be able to see the good things that happened, which, many times, are lost amid the anger and hurt. To be able to forgive a bit more and recognize that there is no real good and evil here. Just fucked up people doing the best they can in a fucked up situation.