Three thoughts on assimilation

I believe we should critique assimilation, and recognise that the pressure to assimilate comes from dominant culture.

I believe we should not judge other oppressed individuals for assimilating, nor blame others for their own oppression.

I believe that having a choice as to whether or not one will assimilate is a privilege.

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Jasper’s speech for Transgender Day of Remembrance

[content note: transphobia; violence; suicide]

I want to talk about remembrance.

I’ve heard it said that we shouldn’t have such a day as today, that we should focus on celebrating how far we’ve come instead of remembering how much we’ve lost. And perhaps we should have a day of celebration as well, but we have lost so much. For the majority of trans* people, there is not much to celebrate and there is very much to mourn.

It is our lot to remember because others will not, because authorities will not, because we are still estranged from dominant culture. Social power structures dictate what kind of lives are to be considered worth grieving, and Transgender Day of Remembrance was founded to mourn some of those lives which do not fit into that framework.

And I want to talk about loss.

When people are killed because they are like you, you carry them with you. We have built universes under our skin. Our lives and losses are not reflected elsewhere in this culture. Our history is, for the most part, a silent one. We are the only ones who will preserve it. Storytelling is integral to activism and we need these stories to be told and heard.

But this is not really about us. This is about the dead. This is our day of the dead. This is for their stories.

Not all those who have died because of transphobia identified as transgender: some of them had other words; some of them had no words; some of them were not transgender at all but were killed for not conforming to social gender norms.

This is a list of the dead. We do not have all their names. And there are many names that are not on this list.

There is no list that includes the names of all those whose deaths were not reported; of those who went missing; of those who were not reported missing; of those who died because of transphobic doctors; of those who died because they could not access shelters; of those who were imprisoned for being trans*; of those who were imprisoned because they were HIV positive; of those who died of AIDS; of those who committed suicide because of transphobia; of those who survived suicide attempts; of those who survived assault.

This is to remember not only those who are invisible to the rest of society but also those who have been made invisible to us.

[This is the list of the reported murdered trans* people who died between 15 November 2011 — 14 November 2012 (pdf), which was read immediately after this speech.]