This whole Andrea James/Calpernia Addams affair has got me thinking about a lot of things… Right now I’d like to talk about one of them: How us “olds” need to check ourselves when it comes to criticizing younger trans folks.
To me, James’ and Addams’ attacks upon Parker Malloy aren’t just disgusting because they attempt to invalidate the identities of queer trans women (like me), they’re also repugnant because they reek of an older generation who can’t be bothered to try to understand younger people.
More than anything, Addams/James screeds come off as them screaming “Get Off My Lawn!” to any trans women who didn’t transition or identify exactly as they do. I’m 39. I’m getting older. I HATE the idea of turning into what Addams and James have become.
I’ll give you an example: I have a hard time wrapping my head around non-binary/agender/genderqueer identities. My visceral reaction is “Huh. Why would someone want to do THAT?” But here’s the thing: Instead of taking that gut reaction and concluding that those identities are invalid (bc they are different from my own), I tap the brakes and ask myself: “Do I just feel this way because it’s something that’s new and unfamiliar to me?” And the answer is… Yup. Older folks should ask themselves that question EVERY DAMN TIME they are tempted to whinge about “these kids today.”
So even when I don’t entirely “get it,” I try to stay open minded and receptive to new information and arguments. People like Calpernia Addams and Andrea James should go forth and do likewise…
This! Exactly this!
I transitioned in the mid/late 90s, just a few years after Calpernia did. I’m 33 now, and very aware that I’m not entirely part of the cool, hip new Millenial trans population. Hell, back when I transitioned you had to stoke the boiler to get your computer on the internet, and hormones arrived by passenger pigeon.
So before I re-entered the community after years of being stealth, I took a few weeks to fucking read, and learn about the experiences of people transitioning now. And yes, there were things I didn’t understand at first, I gave these people the benefit of the doubt that they understood their own lives as well as I understood mine.
Rants like Calpernia’s and especially Andrea’s reflect the kind of attitude I transitioned amongst, and why I had so much self-loathing and difficulty coming to terms with being a lesbian in addition to being trans. Both of these women have done great things for the community (I wouldn’t have even understood where to start with transition without Andrea’s TS Roadmap website), but the philosophies they’re pushing the last few weeks—of deferral to the gay male community and of queer trans people being less real—are poisonous. It’s not that hard to listen to others within your own community, even if you don’t understand them at first.
I transitioned in 1987 but the past several years has been the first time there’s been a trans community I can connect with and trans people I can really relate to. Whatever my generation is like, it seems to me I have a lot more in common with younger trans women than I do with those like Calpernia Addams and Andrea James. I think they represent more than just an older generation, though. I think they also represent a certain degree of class privilege as well as other privileges that mitigate the worst that some of us deal with routinely.
And I mean, I am not saying nothing bad has ever happened to them. We first heard of Calpernia when her boyfriend Barry Winchell was murdered by his fellow soldiers. But it is striking that these two women cannot relate to the struggles described by Parker Molloy and others, or the way they choose to engage said struggles.
I also transitioned amidst attitudes similar to theirs, and it was a toxic and sometimes downright abusive experience.