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From Argentina: Trans Sexual Lessons

by Alejandra Sarda

Here in Argentina, our trans sisters (no brothers visible, yet) have taught us the following, among other things:

  • How to look gorgeous, offer a cup of tea, and be ironic after having spent the whole night at a police station, being beaten and abused by brutes.
  • How to leave the shadows of shame, self-loathing, and fear of the powers that be -- once and for all, proudly and fiercerly, hand in hand with anyone who wants to join the parade.
  • How sex/gender dichotomy is the force suffocating us all, even though some of us can "pass" as conventional. This we haven't learned by reading, but by watching sisters who died because they injected silicone right in their blood, hoping to "pass" and stop being abused.
  • Where to draw the line as a movement. If we take the middle-class, white gay man of the North as our measuring stick, our work will be done once he can marry his monogamous lover and hold legal custody of their two dogs. But if as our standard we choose that trans sister who will never, ever pass, and strongly commit to go on until she can be safe in the streets and has full access to everything this world offers... then we are very far from any coffee break.
  • How to do real grass-roots organization. In Argentina, whatever the event be -- demonstration, party, conference, you name it -- the trangendered are always the biggest group. Their leaders take the time to visit every cheap hotel, every corner where sex workers gather, and talk, talk, talk about why it's important to be seen and heard. They are never too tired, too busy, too important, to listen to still another story of pain and loss and loneliness.

When do we fail them?

We fail them when we fall prey to the illusion of normalcy: because we "pass," because we are married or too (feminine) (masculine) to be threatening even with a (female) (male) lover, because we are deeply into the closet and nothing and nobody bothers us, their concerns are not ours. After all, being bisexual is just a pastime, just a lifestyle, and we are just like everyone else. Those freaks don't belong in our sanctuary.

They can even "ruin" our small successes. In my country, many gays, lesbians and bisexuals still refuse to march in our pride parades because "too many transvestites are there; they draw too much attention from the media" (as if trans people should be held responsible for the others' choice of the closet).

Many still refuse to support our sisters -- who are all sex workers, and as they have no other choice, they can't really know if they would choose it or not -- in their struggles because "that is not discrimination based on sexual orientation; those are sex workers' problems and I have nothing to do with that. I pay my taxes." For so long, the trans community has been the chosen recipient for all those wanting to feel cowardly, "higher than thou", "normal" and "accepted" and "safe" in comparison.

And of course, our communities overlap. In my country, the trans community used to be very strict regarding sexual orientation --straight or out -- as were bisexual people -- only conventional genders allowed as options. As people start to mix and get to know each other better, and to question traditional gender affiliations too, some trans people are allowing themselves to leave the constraints of the "straight in order to be a real woman/man" dictum, while some bis are acknowledging that, for instance, their pleasure in wearing clothes they are not supposed to might mean more than "just a little dirty secret," i.e., a whole new identity for them.

How can we continue helping each other? Talking and listening. Being close. Not just at political occasions, but in our personal lives, too -- some people might march with the transgendered because it's politically correct to do so, but would never allow them to mix with their "normal" friends in their homes.

It might sound naive, but I still think the best way to help is allowing oneself to be touched, to be moved by the complex beauty of another human soul, and surrendering to it.

Let's fall in love.

Alejandra Sarda is a long-time queer rights activist and writer. Alejandra lives in Buenos Aires, and was at last report -- but hopefully not for long -- the only out bisexual in the lesbigaytrans movement in Argentina.

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