I Can’t And I Won’t.


Crossposted to The Spectrum Cafe.

Ever since I started transition, ever since I even started to explore my dissonance, people have walked all over me. People have hurt me, used me, fucked me over and said horrible things about me and the other women like me.

When I started blogging, when I raised my voice approximately a year and a half ago, even more people spewed their hateful bullshit on me. And even more people spewed more subtle transmisogyny at me. Little things but they wore me down never the less.

I’ve talked about activism and some of the limitations we face IF we want to change things ourselves before. But I’m not talking about activism right now. I’m talking about survival.

Because every single time someone calls trans women drama queens or hysterical, even in jest, even to make a point, it invokes transmisogyny and it wounds us. Every time a feminist speculates about whether we should be allowed into the bathrooms of our gender it wounds us. Every time people doubt the existence of nonbinary/genderqueer people it wounds them. Every time a lesbian calls herself a lesbian when dating a trans guy who fully views himself as a man, she wounds him. Every time someone calls a trans woman a trap without express permission from her, they wound her.

Every little fucking thing that people who call themselves allies, friends, family, loved ones, whatever, every subtle transphobic, cissexist, binarist, transmisogynistic and cissupremacist these people do, it wounds one of us and sometimes all of us.

And we are asked to sit down. We are asked not to be harsh. To educate. To accept apologies, whether they’re apologetic for the actions or simply apologetic to have been caught. We’re asked to be kind. We’re asked to suck up. To appease.

Activism requires sacrifices. But we… I, can not be an activist forever. I can’t even do it most of the week. Most of the day. Most of an hour. A significant portion of the year. I can not sacrifice my dignity, my health, my well being and my safety for activism.

A lot of people in a lot of places reacted heavily to the AMO post about call outs. They believed I told them that they had to educate people. Had to be effective. Had to make change. This is wrong. When we take the torch of activism, we make change. Then we have to be effective, then we have to make sacrifices. But who says we have to take the torch of activism? And who says that even if we do, we have to take it permanently or even for long periods at a time?

No one does. Not even me.

Self care comes first. Survival comes first. And I will not sacrifice those. I understand the need for change and education. I understand the fact that without our efforts, the privileged cis majority will never ever ever not in a million years, give us the rights and social acceptance we need to be safe. But I also understand that becoming a casualty to them, catering to their ignorance, to their bullshit, to their pigheaded bigotry, is unacceptable.

It will always be unacceptable.

That is the dilemma we face. The untenable extremes are to allow cissupremacy to reign free and destroy us slowly (but survive for now) or go out in a blaze of glory as we tear it apart (destroying ourselves in the process. But it’s a false dilemma. Many of us find balance. And that’s what everyone, the cis apologists in our midst, the career Nukers, the Appeaser activists who run till they burn out, the raging radicals and various groups and blogs like ONTD_feminism, FWD, The Spectrum Cafe, Questioning Transphobia, Flip Flopping Joy, myself and many others have been having so much trouble articulating or understanding.

There are right ways to do activism (ways that work) but no one has to do activism and no one has to do it all the time. I do activism because I want to. That is the only acceptable reason. Because I want to make a difference for more trans folk than just me and only concentrating on my survival doesn’t do that. But when my survival comes up, when I am in pain or burning out, I can walk away from activism, because my survival is more important. I can take breaks. I can do things that don’t aid the cause but aid me. Because the cause is to help people like me. And if we’re all dying and being harmed for these cis fuckheads then the cause is not being upheld.

Sometimes I am not here to help the cause. Sometimes I will tell you to fuck off instead of educating you, even if you’re sincere. Sometimes I will walk away because it hurts too much and I am not your fucking vending machine.

I am human. And I hurt. And I can’t be an activist all the time for you. I can’t do it and frankly, you don’t deserve it.

I can’t.

And I fucking won’t.

22 Responses to “I Can’t And I Won’t.”

  1. 1 Samantha

    Hell yeah.
    I feel like I and many others fight so hard for things that should be basic rights, that should be so obvious, that everybody should WANT to make happen.

  2. I know I don’t say this sort of thing enough, but especially on this one I wanted to say thank you for writing this and sharing it.

  3. 3 Anna

    Kinsey, you rock the house. I love your writing.

  4. (hi,how are things working out for you?
    i have been wondering…..)

  5. 5 J

    Hell yes. I just learned this one the hard way. Thanks for spelling it out so strongly. God I needed to hear this. Every bit of reinforcement helps.

  6. Hey Javier, things have been kinda rough lately, what with being homeless and everything. But I got a friend to crash with and I might be able to get a job and financial aid soon. So we’ll see.

  7. 7 GallingGalla

    Oh, Kinsey, this is key. I have been very down on myself and thinking of myself as somehow a failure because I do little activism.

    But I’ve been fighting to survive for 51 years, and I’m exhausted. I’m severely depressed and anxious, and that is no state from which to do activism. All that happens is that I nuke people, jump down their throats, or just go *off*. That’s not activism, that’s just exploding.

    Activism is just something that I am not suited to do, I don’t have the energy, and when I do, it is something that I cannot direct or focus. I don’t do it well, *cannot* do it well, so why force myself, out of some sense of moral failure?

    So yeah, I need to get out of the “education” and “meaningful dialogue” business.

    Take care of yourself. I hope things turn around for you soon wrt a job, financial aid, and a permanent place to live.

  8. @Galla:

    Thankies. I hope so too. And honestly, you can still speak out even if not to do activism. If only just to make your life be known.

  9. This is brilliant. Thank you very much for writing it. (and thank you for mentioning non-binary/genderqueer people.)

  10. Sometimes I am not here to help the cause. Sometimes I will tell you to fuck off instead of educating you, even if you’re sincere. Sometimes I will walk away because it hurts too much and I am not your fucking vending machine.

    I am human. And I hurt. And I can’t be an activist all the time for you. I can’t do it and frankly, you don’t deserve it.

    I always feel like if you talk about social issues and marginalization that affects you that you’re automatically in Activist Mode. You must always be at attention to educate and appease. If you don’t you’re a bad POC/trans person/queer person/disabled person, etc who isn’t properly fighting for The Cause. But the problem is that there’s a lot of personal stuff mixed in, regardless of what mode you’re in. You gotta recognize it and deal with it before anything else. I’ve stepped into shit because I was just so fucking mad and tired of it. It meant that I wasn’t in a place to properly handle it and use the right strategies, I was talking when I should have walked away.

    I’ve avoided most of the discussion about callouts because folks are getting back into that activism/movement/social justice rhetoric when those models are far too limited to talk about all the things going on here. But that’s not all, there’s personal shit here. Having the cissexist reality of “radical love” rhetoric come crashing down on me as I was starting to develop my trans consciousness and identity (and dealing with mental illness) means that I’m permanently allergic to any discussion that might raise the spectre of those two words. It literally triggers a serious depression spike after an irrational flow of anger, though I’ve been working through it, and the spikes are getting shorter. Activist rhetoric can’t give me the tools to deal with it. Yet it’s very much a part of why I’d respond a certain way in a discussion which affects other people’s experience.

  11. (email me if you want to)

  12. Activist burn-out is a common phenomenon. I’ve had to take long breaks between periods of work, when I no longer have the energy, drive, enthusiasm, and start to get frustrated with so many groups that grow and become bureaucracies in their own way.

    Stepping back for a while is a good idea. And doing some work in a totally (or somewhat) different area is also good, to keep your mind a bit more flexible and to encounter more variety.

    Also, activism is not limited to being the “face” of (the/any) movement. I’m not at all interested in lobbying, or a whole lot of things that require trying to persuade or educate. I’m rather incompetent at those things, so I find other ways to do things. Sometimes, being in a support role just works better.

  13. 13 Sunset

    Second what dollygangers said. The biggest challenges are not when I’m up and out trying to educate people. The challenge is when I just want to sit down with a few friends and whine a bit and get some hugs, and someone cuts in with some victimblaming/homophobic/transphobic/mysogynistic/whatever bullshit. And I can either shut up and swallow my own pain, ignore them and likely get shouted down, or try to argue when I just wanted some comfort.

    There’s no escape some days.

  14. 14 Eddie Blake

    Oh god, I think your period just got all over my computer. You need to grow a pair… wait, scratch that as I think that metaphor loses a bit of its meaning here. People are mean to you? For the choices you make? Holy shit, alert the presses. If you’re going to get all whiny and emo every time someone says something “insensitive”, you better just take your ass out of society right now. Go live as a hermit or a monk or jump off a bridge, I don’t really care, but obviously human interaction is not something you are generally capable of handling.

  15. You have to do what you have to FOR YOU. *hugs* you are a wonderful, beautiful woman, and I send you nothing but love.

  16. @Savannah: <3 Thank you kindly. I definitely put self care first.

    @Eddie: you really gotta try reading the actual post once in a while before you open your shit stained mouth. This post didn't have anything to do with "insensitivity" or "meanness" and everything to do with the fact that some days, I just don't give a shit about educating even sincere people, much less asshats like you, cuz it ain't my fucking job, etc. And people can shut the fuck up about it and stop expecting me to be little miss teacher.

    You might wanna take your own bridge jumping advice, cuz knowing what the fuck is going on is an important part of that human interaction thing you hold so dear, and you quite clearly can't be arsed to try that.

  17. “People are mean to you? For the choices you make?”

    Last I checked being trans was not a choice. Oh there’s choices about transitioning, but there’s no choice to just, you know, start being the gender everyone else seems to want us to be. And some days, we just want everyone to shut up so we can just, you know, go out to dinner and have fun without worrying about shit.

  18. 18 Eirwyn

    (Formerly DW)

    I really, really needed to read this right now. I’ve been dealing with self-harm and depression lately, and it feels like I never have the energy or strength to sit down and calmly explain to people why rape is bad and yes, oppression does, in fact, exist. I find myself in the same situation as GallingGalla, being exhausted and having a tendency to just nuke at people (and then block/ignore them, if it’s the internet). Maybe I should just leave off activism altogether until I’ve had a few years to become more stable.

  19. @Eirwyn:

    You gotta do what’s best for you. I know I’ve lowered my efforts to help myself too.

  20. 20 Mabel

    Non binary is not a choice, blindness is not a choice. F*** the bigots, gotta live in your own world sometimes and tune out which natural selection should have taken care of. We all go through our ups and downs, and the farther out you get the rougher it can be. I am to much of a coward to go that far, got to much on the line so I just push it as much as I can, keeps them wondering which can be fun actually. The older I get the more I believe in the phrase “You can’t fix stupid”

  1. 1 I don’t think… « Anger is Justified.
  2. 2 Gender Across Borders » Blog Archive » Global Feminist Link Love: September 6-12

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