This week was gender rights week at Queer Awareness Month, and there has been much discussion about everything from crossdressing to DADT. At a workshop on general trans topics, an interesting debate was sparked about how the trans community should present to the nation at large. On one hand, some argued that if the general voting public sees a palatable image of the community, they will be more likely to grant us our rights in a hurry. On the other hand, others argued, doing that puts the burden on the oppressed people, rather than the oppressors. It was a very fruitful debate, and it got me thinking about the different layers of presentation that the LGBTQQIA (and many more) community must navigate.
LGBTQ people must often decide how we are going to present. Will we wear symbols of the queer community? Will we flag? Will we present as butches, bois, femmes, bears, etc.? Will we try to “pass” as one gender or another, crossdress, go in drag? Will we try to keep our queerness on the DL for one reason or another? This is the personal, day-to-day level, and I think the best we can do here is to let everybody choose their choice about it.
But then there is the outer layer, of what the queer community looks like in general. What do we want politicians, voters, tv-watchers to see? All of us have an opinion, but virtually none of us have much control over the reality. Sometimes, our frustration over that lack of control comes out in gender-policing and other types of criticism of each other’s presentation. This is the way I see personal and political presentation intersecting.
Whatever your ideas about what ‘queer’ or ‘trans’ or any identity should look like, I urge you to be kind to and avoid policing the behavior of yourself and others. We’re all trying to present a good face, and even if we don’t agree on what that is, I’m sure we all want to practice the tolerance that we preach.