Unfortunately, the problem with fragility isn’t isolated to race. When it comes down to it, fragility is a privilege problem. It is one reaction you have in response to being called out for your privilege, and it’s a form of violence. It minimizes your responsibility to be educated about your privilege, and it continues our oppression to your benefit.
I’m a genderqueer writer and activist, and I often discuss issues that affect the LGBTQIA+ community. While I love the work I do, I am not required to educate you. Yes, I love to educate people about these issues. Yes, I’m going to continue to do it. However, that does not mean that you should expect me, or any other trans person, to educate you about our issues, especially when we don’t have a close relationship.
Here are some reasons you should stop it with the cis fragility:
I Get It. You Don’t “Hate” Me.
It seems that people think if they inject “I love you,” “I respect you,” “I care about you,” or “I’ll always support you, even if I don’t agree with you,” then they’re off the hook. Newsflash: It doesn’t make what you said any less transphobic and hateful. Really, all you did was show me that you have a very narrow and conditional definition of love and respect.
That’s something you should take some time to examine, away from the people it harms.
Because quite frankly, we don’t have the bandwidth to put up with it anymore. You’re not the only person in our lives who is being transphobic, and you’re not the only one who has a problem with cis fragility. It’s a systemic problem, which is why we need allies to help get rid of it.
So yes, I know that you don’t actively hate me, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t communicating hatred or dehumanizing me. Putting the responsibility for your ignorance on my shoulders is manipulation.
When you say that you love me, etc., along with your transphobic remark, that’s also a form of manipulation. What you’re communicating is this: “I acknowledged that I took an interest in your life. Now I can say whatever I want and you can’t call me on it, because then I won’t care anymore.” Ummmm… NO. That’s manipulation and emotional abuse. Check yourself.
Before, I was willing to work with people. I knew that people just weren’t aware of what transgender meant. At this point though, there’s really no excuse. Ever since Caitlyn Jenner’s public transition, Laverne Cox gracing the cover of Time Magazine, and all of the problems with Republicans making us out to be predators, transgender issues have been all over American media outlets.
It’s hard for me to believe that you just didn’t hear the word transgender in 2015. That was your Trans 101, your chance to take responsibility for learning about a concept you hadn’t heard of before by typing the word “transgender” into Google to figure out what it means. If you didn’t, then you actively decided that learning about us wasn’t important to you.
If that’s the case, then it explains why you’re making this about you.
This Isn’t About You
Sometimes people tell me, “I feel like I have to walk on eggshells around you,” or “You always find something wrong with what I’m saying.” It’s true that I try to point out when people say something racist, misogynistic, transphobic, ableist, or some other form of oppression, but I let a lot of things go. So if you feel like me, or another trans/queer person is always on your case for saying something transphobic or otherwise problematic, then you’re the one doing something wrong, not us.
Stop centering a conversation about being transgender on yourself. It doesn’t matter if you’re having a hard time not being transphobic. If you’re behavior is harmful and problematic, it needs to stop. End of story. It’s a pretty horrible thing to say “I’m having a hard time not saying something hateful.” I get that you didn’t realize it was hateful, but now you do. So seriously, stop.
Also, enough with the “I’m not perfect, and neither are you” argument. Yeah, obviously. I have a ton of flaws. I can’t say that one of them is being mindless about my privilege though. While transphobia affects me, it affects trans people of color even more. That’s why I have so much to point out.
Even though I might be making you uncomfortable by challenging you to think more critically about how your behaviors and language affects others, trans people – trans women of color most often – are being killed in the streets simply for existing.
LIFE > COMFORT.
That’s why this isn’t about you. Your happiness, your well-being, and your life aren’t at stake for being cis. However, my life is, as well as the lives of other trans/queer people because cis people aren’t using their privilege to tear down the systems that contribute to the hatred and violence we experience.
It Takes Work
Changing society isn’t easy. Making the world a more accepting place, a place where marginalized people can live without worrying about getting killed for being themselves, takes a lot of work.
I like to think that people have the best intentions. I like to think that people, especially people who know me personally, are my allies. In fact, a lot of people claim that they’re allies, or even that they’re feminists. That’s what upsets me so much. These same people are the ones who won’t check their privilege or admit their transphobia.
Look, I get it. It’s hard! It might be difficult for you to understand, and it might not come easy, but you have to realize that it’s even harder for trans/non-binary people. We are constantly unlearning the transphobia and homophobia that we’ve internalized by being raised in this society, and we’re dealing with transphobia in everything from the media, to our relationships, to existing in public.
I’m not sure why people think that being an ally is like making a status update on Facebook. It’s not. Just like you have to go to medical school to be a doctor (I know, extreme example), you have to unlearn oppressive ideologies and actively change how you interact with the world to become an ally.
Being an ally is a constant, conscious effort. It means having to do a lot of self-reflection. It means putting empathy into practice on a daily basis. It means educating yourself with the vast amount of resources that you can find on the internet about allyship. Above all, it means continuously learning, listening, and growing.
Growth is hard, but it’s necessary; not just for trans/non-binary people, but for cis people as well. When we grow out of the oppression that society teaches us, we tear down ideologies that hurt us as well. When it comes to cis people, that means you are more free to express your gender, explore your sexuality, and be true to yourself without conforming to the unrealistic ideals society places on all of us.
Please, stop it with the cis fragility. I recognize that it’s hard, but our community is being targeted by hatred and violence every second of every day. We need our allies to stop making trans problems about them. We need our allies to start taking responsibility for their actions, and to listen to us. Really, we just need our allies to be allies.