Black Looks - Including an African LGBTIQ+ Archive

African Feminism, Queer Politics, Queer Politics, Transgender

Nobody Knows My Gender

The anger is still in me. Pure rage at certain people for failing to understand diversity beyond their narrow subjective paradises at the expense of those they claim to support through their activism. I ought to have written these words after Oxford 2011. At the time I was still too raw to review myself never mind the conference. I was already certain that was a last based on the long looks post conference and that fleeting abused, “man!” an audial rape of progress. It felt as if I had inadvertently stumbled into a den of hostility. Collectively, they voiced their imposition, corrective angst without an inkling of who I was or am. Even then when I stepped forward racked with stage fright heavy with their unkind looks, questioning thoughts and horror, did he just kiss my neck, just to tell me that time was up? If those on that panel didn’t understand transgenderism what were they transmitting to the audience -tantalising transphobia? What chance would that august audience have of understanding the “ISM” let alone a notion of agency?

A trans-minority trying against all odds to vocalise experience to a cis throng that already sought to stifle my effort before a single word passed my lips. Then it came to me, nobody knows my gender. They called me only in terms they could understand. At LGBTIQ conference such people purported to encourage transpeople by choosing for their own comfort: Folk such as Sally Egbon and Parisienne something told me to expect this. After all, painful as it was they had already fobbed me off as “a tired old man” for their own activists’ amusement. Their untruthfulness became clear by the by. When I asked Sally about receiving the abusive email I was told, “oh no, he said he was travelling over from Paris and that he’d be a tired participant.” Moments later, the Parisienne, let it slip that he had spent the weekend here, in London in his partner’s arms.

A smile of realisation -a sort of my life in the bush of ghosts [1] where ordiinary day to day people transmogrified into gargoyles which leapt off their perches at me with horrifying expressions. In other words a none trans space in a cis worldview of transmisogyny. Some academics are not ready for the level of diversity at the heart of the trans-community and spearhead an ongoing backlash in the academy – for example and notedly, after Janice Raymond’s book “The Transsexual Empire”. [2]

How do runaway LGBTIQ activists and academics speak for atypical sexual/ gender variant folk and the many subtle put downs? Until such a time as this lesson is learnt perhaps BTIQ people ought to consider negotiating for respectful re-engagement in activism. What good is it when the lesbian gay is as malicious as yesteryears of chronic homophobes? Transphobes of any inclination have one thing in common with those homophobes, they are ridden in hatred. How do you work with someone a lesbian or a gay man, whom knowing of your trans-status (gender identity) persists in making the same old mistakes. When you confront they coo, “can’t you take a joke?” So I insist, where we are at present, nobody knows my gender. To know me you have to be willing to know me for me and not as any figment of your imagination. Had anything I shared even computed?

Nobody knows my gender because they’ve taken me for granted through “theirstory.” Not because of anything I have done but because of their unchecked demands: curiosities, socialisations and their carelessness born of rigidity. Diversity by its very nature is fluid; indescribable in fixation. Oxford 2011 said as much to those who cared to listen.

I recall the time a White South African called me a Kaffir. He apologized weeks later. As he headed for the front door and I for mine he said, “you are a man! Don’t think my apology means we are friends!” and he disappeared. Need he have apologized? Racism and transphobia are crimes of the same weight apologizing for doing one then doing the other cancels the apology out. After denying you did these things and succeeding in getting the police on side merely proved your hatred towards me.

Confronted by the daily rants of an obsessed White South African man who took it upon himself to incite transphobic hatred is deranged. Nothing will stop him harassing a transperson once he gets started. However, at lease he’s not an activist who ought to know better. But reason has stopped counting when mistake is supplanted by mantra. The word, “man,” lost its meaning for me since it became a stain, an abusive marker on a strange accent. I only feel the honourable men that had no part in this imposition.

The cowardice of a community that employs darkness for cover knows what they are doing is wrong but they continue doing it. Some don’t and genuinely make mistakes but many just can’t help it -it’s ingrained. What, if I may hazard a guess, would such people make of “Occupy Anywhere”? That’s anyone’s guess. At heart, for them, the very idea of any other purpose apart from selfish acquisition is pointless. So what must they do? Play at community? And they do it so well while carrying on with extra curricular vices as usual under cover of darkness, a hoody for camouflage and or paper thin walls with which to pass unseen messages. Do not mistake these operatives for the terrorised, vulnerable who hide under the burden of community induced depression, or duvet huggers, they do not compare.

From experience I have learned to pick my fights. Gender markers such as woman or man or are loosing their meanings fast, when they can be used as grounds to victmise gender or sexual minorities. This happens through no fault of mine but as a result of a cis-conditioning that holds sway in the global binary gender system. What needs to happen is a gradual movement towards a gendered space of equanimity where no one picks on another for differences or gender identity Maybe some will see beyond the tip of their noses and forge forward in a clearer understanding of each other’s uniqueness. The current exclusion of the BTIQ is dire and ignoring large numbers of persons will only worsen the situation. I have long drawn attention to giving voice solely to global homophobia at the expense of biphobia, transphobia, intersexobia and queerphobia. Perhaps a trip down the memory lane and Stonewall for old but possible ways forward that is to an inclusion as opposed to an unacknowledged exclusion of trans Agency today.

1] Raymond, Janice. Transsexual Empire, The Women’s Press, 1979.

2] Tutuola, Amos. My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, 1957. P. 112 – 122.

Mia Nikasimo (c) January 2012