Bumped back up to the top for more discussion
It seems like a good time to do another installment of Stuff Bil Doesn't Know Enough About™. This week's question is in direct reference to two other blog posts inspired by my post admitting I have questions about feminist and transgender issues and encouraging others to add their own questions so we could have a community dialogue.
Over at Questioning Transphobia, Lisa brought up the inherent privilege in my request for answers. The comments section on her post are very interesting even though some of them really take me to task. On Father Tony's discussion a commenter took a different tone that I want to highlight. Question below and comment additions after the jump.
Why must trans people primarily bear the burden for educating cis people? Why do some cis people not do some of their own education to learn about the issues before the questions begin?
Why is the education itself necessary to justify equal civil rights protections?
Keep in mind that everyone participating in the discussion is writing from their own experiences. Please be patient and civil in your comments. Let's learn from each other!
To help expand a little further on Lisa's question, I've clipped some of the comments from her thread that really stood out to me. These are not complete comments. Check out her post to get the full flavor of the discussion.
Kristin says: It is not the job of trans people to hold our hands and teach us Trans 101. I think that's the issue here. When a cis person enters a discussion and demands to be educated by a trans person, that's an act of entitlement that comes from privilege.
That you seem to believe that your questions are so benign and well-meaning suggests to me that you really *might* do well to do some research before stomping into ongoing conversations that various communities are having.
Allie says: Bil, I think you're not quite understanding why trans people feel that placing the burden of education on us is wrong. We're not asking for special recognition, special rights, etc., but to be treated like human beings and to have society recognize our rights just as they would any cis person. Whether you've intended to or not, the position you've taken relegates us to second-class or inhuman status, and then requires us to prove to you why we deserve to be on the same footing as you. You say it's our fault that you're not educated enough to consider us equals, and that it's also our fault that people don't respect our rights.
Jo says: A hierarchy is established and promoted (generally by the person seeking education, though not always explicitly) in which there are the "good queers/transfolk/women/poc/etc" (ie the ones who try to educate), and the "bad queers/transfolk/women/poc/etc" (ie the ones who make this big fuss about PROCESS) who stand in the way of REAL, VALUABLE education.
That's something that I think is often overlooked and obscured, but is REALLY important. And it's important for those of us who are cast in the role of "good queer/woman/transperson/poc/etc" to remember as well, having been that person over and over again, because it's super shitty if someone can (even unknowingly or unintentionally) manipulate systems of oppressions to use our voices to silence our own.
Meanwhile, over at Father Tony's pad, one of the commenters took umbrage at the tone of our and Lisa's discussion and the backlash that my request for more information sparked.
The reaction you are getting especially at the blog cited above is an avalanche of hatred and mockery of your "innocence" which is being seen as the dilettantism of your gay male power and privilege. They deride you as having been off having your privileged gay lives of male separatism wherein your sex, parties, money, consumerism, silliness, etc. prevented you from any interest in the developments of oppression politics, New Gender Theory, transactivism, 3rd wave feminism, etc. As many blog posters said, this ignorance alone disqualifies you from any input into Queer discourse, politics, community activity or especially trans anything. Sit on your white gay male thrones of privilege and shut the fuck up. That is the message that is being sent to you. Why can you not hear it? I don't understand why you are hitting your head against a brick wall that is not going to welcome your advances; indeed mocks and spits on them?
So what are your thoughts, Projectors? Is it better to ask for the information I lack and ask the community under discussion to provide more education to me and other allies? Or should we educate ourselves? Is it demeaning to ask identity groups for help in understanding their issues, or, as I posit, is the knowledge-sharing an integral part of achieving the community's agenda?
Personally, while I can see that it's a place of privilege to ask for information from a minority group, I don't see any other possible alternative that's 1/10th as effective. No one can advocate on behalf of a minority group if they aren't versed in the issues and nothing provides nearly the amount of education as a personalized back-and-forth. Like it or not, Congress members aren't going to take the time to sit around and read books or blogs about the issue; it's going to take lobbying by informed individuals - often advocates outside of the specified minority. It's in the community's best interests to provide as much education as possible.
The floor is yours.