When Otter isn’t writing transfeminist novels and running a massage clinic, she keeps herself busy writing articles and giving interviews.
Photo courtesy of Azja Kulpińska
Over the last nine months, the project of releasing Margins and Murmurations into the world has brought me closer to some kind of fame than any of the decades of political work that came before it.
I’ve given my first public book reading, on a theatre stage in Marseilles, to 150 sex workers, and 20 more readings after that. I had my first musical collaboration—in a squatted trailer park in Berlin—with non-binary duo, Body of Work. I gave my first radio interviews, in Germany and Australia. People I don’t know come to talk to me in parties to get a copy signed. People I don’t know have my book poking out of their sparkly handbags.
And it’s odd because writing a book probably isn’t the most important thing I’ve done. Don’t get me wrong, Margins is really, really good, and yes, important, but I’ve realized that a novel comes with a certain recognition that background, feminized, supportive labour never does. People whisper the word author with an awe that community-organiser, cleaner, trauma supporter, squatter-gardener, therapist, teacher just doesn’t attract. Perhaps it’s because novels are art and art is considered something very important by certain people with power. Virtually all successful authors are middle-class for a reason.
Moving between arbitrarily delineated years feels something like time travel. Everyone looking backwards and forwards. Nostalgia and prediction. Resolutions and remembrance.
I want things to change, to be better for all of us at the margins. Not in some future year, not when there’s finally enough of us to make a difference or to be noticed by the powerful. No more waiting.
The line was crossed with the first species killed off, the first person murdered for their gender, the first cage, the first police attack. The line was crossed a very long time ago.
This is the perfect moment. It’s our only moment. And it’s about time
My gender is precarity.
Not all trans women are created equal. More and more I come to see how poverty and precarity define my life experience and being poor and trans, I do not live in the same world as people who are rich and trans. We do not experience the same risks, the same expectations. And we do not have the same hopes or dreams. Yet poverty and class are still unmentionable things. The people who decide which subjects are important, which double-standards we as communities will break down, do not prioritize class-oppression. I suspect it’s because they benefit from it.
I hear the voices of rich trans and queer people every day and it exhausts me. I get it, you have power and you have the power to elevate your own voices to get more power. You have the power to break the ceiling. We all get it. There are better things you could do with that power though. Your lip service to solidarity means very little to the rest of us while we’re still trans and poor.
Don’t be tempted to oversimplify this day.
The long lists of victims are not yours to consume. They are not a spectacle. And trans people will not be reduced to our (dead) bodies.
The people in these lists are overwhelmingly young trans women of colour. Yet race, gender presentation, class, age (not to mention ability, sexuality, and historical context) are deliberately erased. All these murders were against ‘trans’ people because of ‘transphobia’. A much simpler narrative indeed.
And simple problems demand simple solutions: better policing and bigger punishments. More money to the reformist NGOs and the police. There’s certainly no need to mention racism, poverty, trans people in prison or the criminalisation of sex work.
Violence is not a snapshot, some single moment when individual transphobe meets individual trans person in a dark alley. It is systemic, it is everywhere and it works through intersections. In a society built on violence and privilege and double standards, when we ignore these experiences, certain powerful people – cis and trans – get to tell the story, to define who ‘trans’ people are and to decide who remembers what and how.
These people in these lists were not only trans. And they did not only die. Their bodies are most certainly not available for anyone’s colonisation or remembrance as a spectacle of gruesome violence.
When that happens, the dead are objectified and fetishised.
When that happens, our resistance is co-opted, stolen and misdirected to the benefit of the most privileged.
None of this is new of course. These same things have been happening for centuries. But this is a moment of opportunity and choice for trans communities in the west. We can have our resistance, our analysis, our struggle, our work be stolen for the benefit of the few. Or we can actually do something real about the violent forces that are killing the most marginalised of our communities. I think it’s time.
(Thanks to Yonah for edits <3)
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