Sunday, November 22, 2015

Guest Post: Phillipe Cunningham on Cisgender Privilege, Mansplaining & Trans Tokenizing

Was on a great panel with some brilliant trans leaders yesterday. Unfortunately, there was a lot of mansplaining during the Q&A portion with the audience. A cis gay man congratulated himself on the mic for his city having a "trans advisory committee" (that has no real power over anything) and recommended other electeds create one for their cities. I pushed back because advisory councils representing marginalized communities are often just tokenizing with no real voice. I recommended to skip the intermediary... Just recruit and appoint trans folks and folks from other marginalized communities directly onto the city's boards and commissions, duh.

He actually had the audacity to come up to me afterwards, step between Lane (my husband) and me, and push back on my pushback saying that his city's boards and commissions' application pools were already too competitive to prioritize trans/gender nonconforming people's inclusion, implying trans applicants inherently aren't as qualified or competitive. When I asked him what their advisory committee has accomplished as a body, he firmly said, "The trans flag waves 365 days out of the year," as if I was expected to fall out on the floor in awe and gratitude.

So you mean to tell me THAT feels like an actual, real-life accomplishment -a trans flag- when trans people directly affected by issues like public safety, homelessness, the school-to-prison pipeline, and lack of economic opportunities aren't considered "competitive" enough to have voice on those issues?

Even with two elected officials, one appointed official, an academic researcher, and an executive director of a nonprofit on the panel or facilitating it (all trans and gender nonconforming), we were not asked stimulating, challenging questions about how to engage trans and gender nonconforming folks in political participation and why that's important, but instead we were forced to hold space for condescending "advice" about systems, processes and cultures many of us are very knowledgeable about. Mansplaining at its finest. Even with our titles and credentials announced, people still erroneously assumed we didn't know as much as them.

PSA- Please don't waste trans/GNC people's time if you just want to be affirmed that you already have the right answers despite the folks clearly saying, "No, this is how to do it right."