To close out Pride month, I wanted to talk a little bit about this essay by Quince Mountain about a thing Laverne Cox said. What she said was:
Loving trans people is a revolutionary act.
And this bugged Quince Mountain, who is trans, and who thinks he is pretty lovable, and that trans people are, too, in general, no more or no less than anyone else. He writes:
But what does it mean, that loving me is a revolutionary act? Is it so difficult for someone to love me? Does my transness make me so untouchable that I can only hope for the mercy — and the favor — that someone might bestow upon me with their warmth? Is my self-esteem so far diminished that I can believe that someone’s love for me must be a special category of love, that it’s somehow more difficult, more important, more intentional, than other kinds of love?
So what does it mean, to love a trans person? Trans people are no more or less lovable than non trans people. They are not, by dint of being trans, any more brave, or thoughtful about gender, or feminist, or even interesting. That is, there isn’t much about transness that confers awesome amounts of lovability. There’s also nothing about transness that diminishes a person’s lovability, either.
But does it take a tremendous act of courage to love a trans person? No.
Does transness provide special challenges to how you might love a person? Yes.
Does the existing discrimination against trans people make it difficult for people who love trans people to say so? Yes. But he asks, specifically:
(And that, somehow, I would want, and not be exhausted by, this fraught and special love?)
Which is where the conundrums of partners begin. I get that he doesn’t want anyone doing him any favors by loving him or by feeling obliged to love him. Fair enough. But at the same time, partners are often in a pretty limited space: we’re not supposed to love trans people despite their transness (because that would be transphobic), or because of it (because that’s fetishizing), then how can I articulate my love for my wife? Because I can not possibly argue that her transness is irrelevant to our relationship or my feelings for her; I suspect I would love this same person if she weren’t trans, but it’s also unlikely I would have dated the woman she is now because femmes are not who I date, generally speaking.
But even if those who go through transition with a partner are a special case – grandfather clause required – then what about someone who loves someone trans long after transition? When they’re at peace with their transness? Cox has often pointed out she doesn’t “pass” – is that different from loving a trans person who does? I would imagine it would be. There would be far more stress on a couple if one person was routinely at risk of discrimination, just as there would be if one half of a couple were disabled or black – that is, no matter the cause for discrimination.
So yeah, Quince says it’s my problem, not his, or my wife’s, or any other trans person’s. I think he’s right. I don’t think I deserve a special medal for not being a transphobic jerk and I certainly don’t think it makes me some kind of uber Feminist, either. But are there days when it feels like it takes a revolutionary amount of courage? There sure the hell are, just as I expect there are days when being trans requires that much, too.
But no more, and no less.