Student CAMP: Not In Our Community
|by Kristen Minor|
|My college, being an institution of about 5000, has a queer female community that can be described as "small and insular," "frighteningly devoid of well-adjusted single geeks," and "fragmented." As of late I feel compelled to describe them as "a few level headed people surrounded by psycho hose beasts."
Since freshman year I have been close friends with Mary, who, since arriving here, has been one of the lust objects of the lesbian community at large. Speaking as single and bitter, party of one, her ability to make the estrogen scale of any room she entered go logarithmic was a great source of chagrin. To give you a frame of reference, if we could have had a Jell-O wrestling tournament for the chance to date her the event would have gone on for weeks.
Over winter break I received an email from Mary consisting of, "So, yeah, I think I'm trans."
Thus began the drama.
Mark, as he is now known, has caused a bit of an uproar within the lesbian community. I've seen transphobia before, but never from within my own specific community. I liked to think of it as a far away and nebulous thing and was promptly relived of my illusion. "But she... he, I mean... isn't one of us anymore. He's choosing to be a straight man, and I don't see why you all are insisting on including him." This last line was delivered by someone whose parents nearly disowned her for being gay and said in the tone of voice which one might ask for a cup of tea. I thought about asking this woman if she could loan me a dictionary so that I could look up irony and hypocrisy, but it unfortunately came out as, "Um... what?"
At any rate, I'm cringing a lot lately. It's difficult to watch Mark relentlessly get shafted. His girlfriend went from being supportive to announcing that she only dated real women. Many of his former teammates have had burning desires to catch up on studying or do laundry when he talks to them. He is still legally female and will have to jump through all sorts of hoops to not be as such; his parents have effectively declared that he is not their child. And there are the little things as well people referring to him as a girl after being corrected, watching the subtle changes he makes as he works on passing. The voice part seems to be the hardest thing thus far. I've been trying to help him find good trans materialnot resources about how to transition so much as biographies, fiction, and movies with good or sympathetic portrayals of trans peopleand there just isn't that much out there. Shocking, I know. (If you have any recommendations, especially for FTM stuff, email me. Almost everything I've found features hysterical transsexuals who end up getting killed off because they deserve it for being gender deviants.)
I don't know why it is that I keep thinking that the queer community should intrinsically be much more progressive, open minded, and, generally speaking, much spiffier than the world at large, but I am clearly an idiot for doing so. History tells us that groups of oppressed people do not generally band together to save themselves from the man. Be that as it may, I would like to believe that against much of the evidence that I am presented with that the T in LGBT does not stand for "those people over there" or "them." All of the things that are happening to Mark now are common occurrences when someone comes out as queer; I'm just in shock that so many queer people are doing the kicking this time around.
So the state of affairs is awful up North. Eventually this controversy over Mark will die down, especially since his tenure here is done; now and again someone might point to one of his exes and giggle about how they "dated a trannie" or talk about how it is freakish and bizarre that someone who was so damn good at being a lesbian could possibly want to be a man. I feel like that's almost as bad as calling him a girl to his face.
I don't know what I can do for Mark but stand by him while most of the people around us want to let him slip away and turn into a clichd memory. I don't know how to stop being angry at how we cast out and crucify our own.
Kristen Minor is a member of the class of 2004 at Dartmouth College, where she is too pissed off to think of something clever to put in this space. She often gets angry about gender politics and can be reached at email@example.com.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 13, No. 1, February 7, 2003.