Everybody Wanna be Trans, but Don’t Nobody Wanna be Trans
By guest writer, Aaryn Lang. This article was originally posted on Aaryn’s facebook page.
Over the weekend my friends and I played around with the new gender-bending Snapchat filters. I found it hilarious, mainly because Snapchat’s beautifying and feminizing filters always lighten the skin and generally lean toward a more white appearance, but that’s a different story. Even with the laughs there was a tiny ache in my soul about how simple it all was knowing it will never be so simple(or free)for most of us to achieve our ideal expression in this lifetime. I also noticed that many other people found enjoyment in the filter as well, particularly cis people.
I’ve seen quite a bit of feedback from members of queer and trans community expressing displeasure over the larger society’s continued cognitive dissonance when it comes to gender variance within themselves and others, and I just want to remind everyone that most cis people are huge cowards in the realm of gender. What many see as a mockery, I see as gender play that has been marked safe by the masses. As trans folks, we often feel a righteous ownership on gender expression but it’s simply not ours alone. We are the lucky ones, though the state may not make it easier or safe for us. Most trans folks can tell you stories about the ways that our genders were policed as children and how that contributed to stress, trauma, confusion, and fear about who we truly are.
So I wonder, what happens to the folks who do not transition or identify as trans? What happens to those who have aligned with their prescribed gender presentation with no fuss, maybe just silent desires to paint their nails, wear long hair, or god forbid... send pictures of themselves in pantyhose to my DM’s?
Over the years I’ve seen many men in particular don wigs and terrible makeup in an effort to mock womanhood but I often feel there is a hidden layer to that performance: the joy of gender exploration. What do we say for those that need their exploration protected by the guarantee that it’s a mere joke? Gender terrorism touches us all, and I would love for moments like these to turn into opportunities for discussion and transformation instead of us taking ownership on an experience that doesn’t only belong to us.
I’m saying this at the risk of sounding like I am defending cis people, I am not. This filter and these shenanigans do perpetuate the dangerous idea that transness is simply a game of dress up and make-believe. In so many ways cis people are comforted by the mockery because it affirms the belief that we don’t exist, and that their scary gender desires do not either.
I’m a visible trans person because I want to push back against the violent system that is the gender binary. To me, cis people playing with gender expression (with a bit of knowledge and guidance) actually is a step in the direction of the world I would like to live in. I want little children and adults to show up how they feel best in this world without having to forfeit my own life or safety. I believe we can hold these tensions in an effort to better understand the impact of this short-sighted system on all of us, with the mission of making it all fucking suck much less. A girl can only dream...
Aaryn Lang (Brooklyn, NY) is an artist, activist, and media host who self describes their work as using “unwavering honesty and humor to affirm the plight of black trans people everywhere.” Aaryn hosted the second and third seasons of New York Emmy-Nominated PBS show First Person, an interview-style series highlighting LGBT stories through intimate portraits of everyday life. You can follow Aaryn @AarynnLang on Instagram and @AarynLang on Twitter.