I'm over fifty which means I don't really understand how Patreon works, I'm sure there are many people over fifty who do and many under who don't but I'm just being upfront and admitting to being technologically redundant in case I should disappoint with any lack of tech savvy posts. I can write and I adore film as a medium to get words and thoughts out there but I am already bamboozled by the emails from Patreon telling me how I can link my thoughts to the world at large. I definitely think this is going to be a slow affair.
You could ask why I have opened this account if I am, quite frankly, terrified of getting the technical stuff wrong, I have gone to bed the last couple of nights and asked myself exactly that question.
Juno why, why are you doing this, why are you committing yourself to yet another method of getting stuff out there when there are a whole plethora of magazines with digital space to fill, and there are a bewildering number of online magazines, zines, blogs, comics etc ready to print my words but often only on or around the special set days in which they open their hallowed doors to marginalised groups and ask them to fill the space with 'authenticity and personal experience. Essentially we are asked to perform on high days and holidays and respond to accusations of not being real in between.
I am asked to contribute to cis-led pieces about say, trans women and HIV or trans women and violence but I am asked to contribute for free whilst the cis person gets paid. They build a career with intent and I become a 'voice'.
A few years ago I used to say to them, why not get me to write the piece and I was inevitably told there is no additional budget for follow on pieces, or that I could write for say, The Huff Blog - free content populated by marginalised voices. Recently if someone with a platform says something derogatory about trans lives then I am asked to write a response piece for which I am usually paid - I make a precarious living from writing those type of pieces, but if I suggest writing a piece that moves beyond the 'victim responds trope' then the budget evaporates and rather than strong trans voices the space is kept empty until someone with privilege says something outrageous again, or worse until there is another 'trans first' story which salaciously fills the gap - trans pregnant man, first ever trans bus driver, nurse, space person.
This matters, not because of money or because of my career, although both matter and should matter widely because we are all entitled to work at earning aspiration and financial security. If you look, historically and contemporarily, at the employment conditions for the trans community it is often characterised by poor employment chances, promotion and often long periods of unemployment, odd then that so many ask us to appear for free on special days in order to shore up their diversity credentials. We love the trans community we just don't pay them. We love cradling the authentic trans voice (on certain days) but we're not really interested in having them write a regular piece about trans politics, philosophy, sexuality or desire, we are though interested in not paying you for your most trying and revealing transition stories. Tell all, go on give us the details.
I have this Patreon account because that has to stop, I am leaping into a zone of discomfort because that methodology and accepted structure of giving us a voice is actually enforcing a system in which we are declared 'hard to reach'. We are only asked to be visible, to defend ourselves or to tell our stories on our community days, or on days when we are being attacked. That system means that for the other 360 odd days of the year we, I pitch pieces about real issues, HIV and the staggering rates of infection worldwide for trans women, or pieces about how my vagina isn't cis but is still worth exploring, pieces about trans people finding each other erotic and beautiful, pieces about how if you wrongly record us then systemic change cannot happen, all these pieces turned down because of two main reasons:
1) No budget for additional 'small interest' pieces, i.e. although we seem interested we are merely ticking the important day boxes
2) There are too many trans pieces/books/films out this month - sometimes that means one piece and one book release per year.
We are a small community but we are incredibly diverse so despite our being seen as 'small interest' that only holds up if we are continually asked to write about the same things - essentially toilets and rates of murder and suicide. If you allow us as a community to say, have a regular input then we become fully rounded and fully embedded. We are no longer just walking genital-dilemmas but we are people, we are you, we are fully paid monthly columnists and programmers.
The 'too much trans content' stuff is really hard to fight within the current -'respond only' structure. If every time Germaine G or Jenni M accuse us of not being real or a single parent complains about a potential toilet issue you flood your pages with 'free trans content' then of course it seems for a day or two that trans content is everywhere and flooding the market. If you only celebrate one or two days of our existence (Transgender Days of Visibility and Remembrance) then of course on and around those days it seems that we are crowding the airwaves and column inches but then we disappear back into the ether, like the Borrowers under the floor we go until you lift up the wonky floorboard that allows us some light. That structure works for you and for a very few of us, but even the very few cannot build careers beyond the trans content, which then ironically works against us because we are seen as too 'career specific'.
If you happen to sit at the intersection of 'trans' and 'HIV' you experience this in an almost suffocating manner. I know I do. I am asked to speak about incredibly important issues on just a few select days - the ones above (TDOV & TDOR), World Aids Day and possibly Get Tested Day. Every other day I read cis narratives about how we as a community (in all of our possible diversities) are hard to reach. The narrative goes like this,
'Trans people are more at risk from HIV infection because they are marginalised and effectively exist within social constructs that are beyond most people's everyday'.
The irony, the fucking irony of that narrative when we are dragged out just for 'victim response comment' and then told we are taking over the asylum every other day. Its institutionalised Transphobia which is creating the risk in which you expect us to languish. You control our access into and onto the wider established platforms by allowing a 'one in and one out' policy. We have our singular trans member of staff and they blog for us on 'them days', we are demonstrating our commitment to the trans community by publishing an article on the day of visibility about trans models. We are reduced, by you, to being unpaid 'symbols' that are used to further your coffers and not ours.
Even within the 'supportive-ally community' we are still far too often asked to only comment about trans issues and never more widely, in the HIV community I am asked to comment about trans risk but never about transmission out in the wider community. Effectively we are asked to gaze inwards and then to create a defensive wall which ends up in the rather pointless circular debate of 'yes we are, no you're not' which engulfs most of the space in which we are given voice.
When people define us as being 'hard to reach' but are happy for us to support their 'tick box endeavours' by expecting our authenticity to come for free then it seems clear to me that we, that I, must start to develop new 'self-built' structures that support and enable the trans community to exist beyond trans, that allows us to engage across the whole myriad of platforms afforded to everyone else. It's a strange world if we are almost at our limit of trans information be that by books, online content or characters within mainstream programming. A couple of years ago every outlet wanted their single trans player, it was diversity at its worst, it gave us no footings to pass on to the next generations or to luxuriate in ourselves.
And we, the trans community, need to play our part here and perhaps stop feeding into an ever decreasing narrative that could leave us in the toilets talking about the toilets whilst others hammer at the door trying to force us to leave. We are worth so much more than that, but like other social movements before us we may have to develop and build our own structures, think cliniQ, think Gendered Intelligence, think the Museum of Transology, in order to gain the platform-width that true equality necessitates.