Thank you to Pride Center for hosting this program.
-Kina Thorpe, PJC Educational Program Manager
On March 12th, PJC board, staff, and some facilitators participated in Pride Center’s Trans 101 program. I was excited to participate in this program not just because this is a topic that I don’t often get to talk about, but because I would get to be in a space where I, a straight, cis-gendered woman, would be pushed to acknowledge my privilege in the same way I expect the white folks in the racial justice programs I facilitate to.
As the facilitators, Taylor and Skylar, spoke to many times, this stuff is complicated. Something that struck me the most was when we were having a conversation about terminology. There are certain words that some people use to define themselves that others may not like or use; a word that some may find hurtful or offensive.
For instance, queer is the new umbrella term for people in the LGBTQ+ community that they have chosen for themselves. They reclaimed this word and took back their power, but some people do not identify with it because of its homophobic roots, and that needs to be respected. It is not up to us, people outside of the community, to decide who does and doesn’t get to use that word. Likewise, even if we don’t fully understand, we don’t get to choose how people identify. When thinking about the complexities of language and how meanings change over time, I asked the facilitators how to best navigate respecting how a person identifies without offending others and causing peripheral harm.
They told us that there is no solution that will fit every situation. In this work, like the racial justice work I do, regardless of best intentions, we will mess up. We will commit microaggressions. We will accidentally misgender people. We will do harmful things even when trying our best, but we cannot lean on out best intentions as an excuse because the harm this inflicts on those in the LGBTQ+ is real.
And here’s the thing: I don’t know everything about trans identities because there are some things that you can only fully understand by experiencing them yourself. I have never felt uneasy with the gender I was assigned at birth. I have never worried about people judging me for the way that I choose to express my gender. There were many times during the presentation where I felt confident in my knowledge around some aspects of Trans identities and many times where I didn’t. There were times where I understood points being made by the presenters and times where I struggled to understand, but I moved through the work finding solace in the fact that I don’t know everything and no one expects me to. However, people do expect me to push myself out of my comfort zone, challenge my perspective, and do better. But again, I can’t sit in my best intentions. I cannot constantly plead ignorance and expect people to pat me on my back for doing my best. When it comes to LGBTQ+ issues I, and all of the other straight and cis-gendered people at the PJC, don’t get an easy pass for doing the bare minimum.