The Joke Is On Us. Literally.

original-girlwithglasses-by-bifidus
Original art by: bifidus

Read an article  posted by Kira, a fellow transgender blogger, about how the media and society continue to make it increasingly more difficult for the trans community – and most importantly, our very real life-threatening struggles – to be taken seriously. This immediately got me thinking about whether or not there were any instances in my own life where I allowed people to get away with the off-handed commentary or “joke”. Funny enough, this was very simple to remember.

While involved in what was never meant to be a short stint in Sales/Marketing, we were having a group training meeting before heading out to the field. The leader of said meeting was aiming to draw a similarity between memorable, legendary people, one-hit wonders, and what it meant for us to be the former instead of the latter. When the time came for shouting out famous people, everyone was getting into the game to see how many they could get on the whiteboard.

And then someone shouted “Caitlyn Jenner.”

The next few seconds were an amalgamation of chuckling and mild affirmation, but with two quick moments standing out. The first was the guy next to me off-handedly saying something along the lines of “You mean Bruce Jenner right?” The second was someone quipping about transgender thing being confusing.

That moment happened so quickly in the midst of an already chaotic shouting match that there was only enough time for me to process feeling offended. Mainly because my leader knew I was transgender, yet continued to roll with the insults disguised as lighthearted, offhanded jokes. The majority of the crew didn’t have a clue I was transgender, but the momentary attitude shift of 15 twenty-somethings in response to mass media’s poster child of the transgender narrative was extremely telling.

I find that humor is birthed from one of two places: Either loose hearsay subject knowledge, or completely educated subject knowledge. What people don’t understand is that the former is exactly how the majority cis people are erasing those in the transgender community. With every offhanded quip and “harmless joke”, people are continually being conditioned to downplay the aspects of our reality that are inherently why so many of us are being murdered, assaulted, and given the short end of the stick. The education and awareness of the “T” in LGBTQ is severely lacking; cis people are using ignorance as a scapegoat to justify making their fellow uneducated cisgender friends laugh about our struggle for acceptance & equality.

We aren’t being taken seriously. At all. Our true fight for human rights keeps getting derailed by petty non-issues like the bathroom bill, fear-mongering bullshit. Activists are forced to squander resources to debunk the baseless myth of transwomen being pedophiles while the number of hate crimes against transgender people (the majority being women of color (WOC) like myself) continues to rise. And yet, the jokes keep flying and politicians keep using us to  pushing their single-minded agendas at our expense.

Meanwhile, passive onlookers wonder why so many activists and writers like the one I linked above are so angry. This is why I continue to advocate in my own, non-violent way. Using educated knowledge to open people’s eyes to transgender matters as well as improving the human connection as a whole has become one of my life’s purposes.

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