I feel numb: being trans while the terfs are tweeting

A pink 'black trans lives matter' sign is held up at a pride protest. Photo.
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On Thursday, a friend messaged me to ask how I was holding up “re the whole JK Rowling clusterfuck”. I looked at their text for a long time before I was able to reply, because even telling them how I felt utterly impossible. I didn’t know how I felt. For the last few weeks I’ve been powered by anger and frustration and a determination to change the world, but right now? Right now I just feel numb.

Content warning for racism, suicide, transphobia, murder, homophobia, and police brutality.

I’m tired. I’m tired to the point when it’s really hard to care, to the point where I can’t feel anything. I feel empty and numb – burned out by trying to keep sex blogging, be a Hashtag Girl Boss and keep on top of the news at a time when scrolling through social media is exhausting and dehumanising. I have amazing friends and a good support system in place around me, but it’s really hard to know what to tell them when they check in right now.

I don’t feel anything.

If I reach deep down inside me there is anger and sadness. If I stop to think then I am hurt and upset and scared. Those emotions feel so far away through – as though I’m fumbling towards them through thick cotton wool-like fog. I feel so empty, and that hollow apathy scares me. I slept for most of Thursday: I think my body was trying to take care of itself. I was exhausted mentally, physically, and emotionally, so my body shut down and did the thing that I haven’t been letting it do: rest.

Right now, resting feels like giving up. It feels like if I stop screaming about this then no one on my timeline will be talking about it. So instead of carrying all of this trans trauma in my head, I thought I’d write it down.

It’s Rowling confirming what trans and non-binary folks have known for a while: she’s a terf. It’s her tweets that talk about “biological sex” and equate genitals with gender. It’s the ridiculous essay that she posted on her website defending her tweets, which was disgusting and transphobic and made me shake. It’s the fact that this happened during Pride month. It’s the fact that this happened amidst the Black Lives Matter protests, when BIPOC are protesting against against white supremacist police violence. It’s that two Black trans women were killed within the space of 24-hours this week: Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells and Riah Milton.

It’s the fact that Rowling’s transphobia got more headlines than the mob attack of Iyanna Dior, a 21-year-old Black, trans woman in Minneapolis. She’s trying to justify her transphobia when Tony McDade, a Black trans man who was killed by the police and whose shooter remains unnamed, is being erased from protests and the media. We’re talking about how a rich, white, cis woman thinks that terf is a word used to silence woman – and not about how Layleen Polanco, a trans woman of colour, has been deadnamed in the press coverage around a new video revealing the conditions under which she died in New York’s Rikers Island jail last year.

It’s the fact that a shit-rag of a newspaper used the fact that we want to hold Rowling accountable for her transphobia as an excuse to publish a repugnant front page giving a voice to her abuser. It’s the fact that trans people are actually more likely to be victims of domestic violence and calling it a cis woman’s issue erases male survivors.

Do you understand why I feel numb yet?

It’s the Trump administration rolling back LGBTQIA+ rights and protections. They’ve finalised a rule that will remove nondiscrimination protections for queer and trans folks in health care, meaning that doctors, nurses and even hospital receptionists can deny trans folks life-saving help if they don’t “look the right way” for their gender. It’s the study that found that 70% of trans patients have experienced discrimination from health care providers, often being refused medically-necessary care because of the medical provider’s religious beliefs. It’s that this law makes it legal to do that, and that they’re essentially saying that trans people don’t deserve medical care. It’s this story, which I threw up after reading. It’s this story too.

It’s the fact that they announced this during Pride, in the middle of a pandemic. It’s the fact they announced this on the fourth anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting, four years after forty-nine people died and fifty-three more people were injured in a mass shooting at the gay nightclub. It’s people who don’t see that Rowling’s tweets that say sex is defined by biology are based on the same rhetoric that let’s the Trump administration wipe out health care discrimination protections for all trans people in the US, and that’s why we’re scared.

It’s Liz Truss, the UK’s Minister for Women and Equalities, saying that she’s committed to “protecting single sex spaces for women and girls” and will say more when she publishes the government’s plan for reforming the Gender Recognition Act. It’s her talking about how “proper checks and balances” are needed, which makes it sound awfully like she thinks cis people need protection from trans and non-binary folks.

It’s the list of the 878 largely transphobic articles published by the UK media over the last year, because trans people get to be headlines rather than humans. It’s the fact that people don’t understand why it’s important that Mermaids has a button on their website so trans youth can navigate away if they don’t feel safe, especially during lockdown. It’s the fact that people are tweeting “trans rights are human rights!!!” but not doing anything pro-active about the fact that our rights are being rolled back.

It’s the cissexism in the sex blogging community and the fact that my fellow sex writers are supporting people who have not apologised for their transphobic behaviour. It’s the fact that my safe place I’ve turned to again and again in the last three years doesn’t feel safe any more, because there are people who block me when I attempt to educate them on trans inclusivity. It’s being compared to a Nazi when I call out transphobia within my community, and it’s wondering whether they’re actually right and I’m a horrible bully who people are afraid of.

It’s so many trans lives that will never be remembered, it’s so many trans people who will never have justice. It’s all of it, all at once. It’s knowing that when my friends and allies stop tweeting about these things the terfs won’t, and yes I can block them but it’s hard not to internalise all of that transphobic hatred that makes me wonder if it would be easier to kill myself.

Right now, every time I blink it takes a concerted effort to open my eyes again. I know I need to take care of myself and prioritise rest so I can keep fighting, but it’s hard. I’m so tired that all I can do is cry, but the tweets keep pouring in. It feels like if I close my phone I’m letting them win, because there’s not enough people shouting about this and if I stop screaming about it then my allies won’t know that it’s happening. If I don’t keep watching then other people will ignore – not through maliciousness but through lack of awareness – how trans people’s rights are being stripped away.

I feel numb.

Right now I feel numb, but I still have a fuck-tonne of privilege compared to BIPOC – especially Black trans folks. If you’re a white cis person who is still employed right now, please consider donating to organisations that support Black trans people. Need some links? There’s the Homeless Black Trans Woman Fund that provides money for Black trans women in Atlanta who are either sex workers or homeless; The Okra Project, which is a collective that brings home-cooked and culturally specific meals to Black trans people across the US; and the Trans Women of Color Survival Fund assists with a range of financial needs for trans women of colour including food, car fare, hygiene products, clothing, and more. The Emergency Release Fund is a grassroots organisation that’s committed to keeping transgender people in NYC out of jail; For The Gworls raises money to assist with Black transgender people’s rent and gender affirming surgeries; and the Black Trans Protestors Emergency Fund was set up to supporting Black trans protestors with resources like bail and medical care. If you’re in the UK, check out Gendered Intelligence, a trans-led charity improving the lives of trans and non-binary people, and sign this open letter to Liz Truss.

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3 Comments

  1. You’ve sent me on a wave of feeling everything with this post. I am in awe of how you’ve managed to get all this down while feeling so exhausted and overwhelmed.
    Thank you for sharing x



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