This writer has a confession to make and I’m ashamed to make it. I hope you can read, understand, and learn from it. I’m a pariah. Of course, when it comes to the trans community it might be said that we’re all pariahs. But that’s not the kind of pariahship I’m talking about.
About a year ago I was surprised to see my picture on the website of the International Transgender Historical Society on a page of “notable transpeople.” For what was I noteworthy? Was it because I worked with San Francisco’s Transgender Civil Rights Implementation Task Force? Hardly. After all, most voting members weren’t on that list and I was only a volunteer serviceperson, barely a footnote in San Francisco history. Was it because I wrote the San Francisco Scene column in the now defunct TV Epic? Perhaps. Or perhaps it was because of my other blogging and activities for transpeople, most of which was pretty much done outside the auspices of any organization. God only knows.
To this day my inclusion has been a bit of a mystery to me, because I could cite many others greater than me who weren’t on that list. Worse yet, I had been largely disconnected to transgender organizations for over a decade. In other words, I’ve more been a part of dyscommunity instead of community. I had been blacklisted from transgender organizations on more than one occasion, sometimes for reasons never made available to me and at least once because of my association with someone other members didn’t happen to like. I’m a pariah, fragile not only by my individual fragility but also by communal fragility. Perhaps you are too. Sadly, this kind of pariahship requires some explanation as well as an explanation as to what constitutes communities in the first place.
Words often have multiple meanings. “Community” is one of them. Dictionaries typically offer several definitions, not all of which are useful or logical when referring to the “trans community.” The Oxford American Dictionary of Current English offers 2 applicable to the “trans community,” both of which offer ample reason for confusion and unequal expectations:
- A body of people having a religion, a profession, etc., in common (the immigrant community)
- Fellowship, similarity (community of intellect)2
Sometimes when asked, “Are you a member of the trans community?” I answered using both contexts, “I am and I’m not.” To put it more precisely, “I’m a member by the first definition but not by the second.” The first is a simple matter of definition, the second by fellowship based upon some sort of similarity. I can’t imagine that I’m like other people and anyone who knows me would wholeheartedly agree. If outsiders label transpeople the derogatory “freak”, I suppose I would be the “Überfreak,” one so “freaky” that even the so-called “freaks” often fail to tolerate me.
Am I whining? Not at all. After all, despite having known a lot of rejection I still love transpeople. It’s perhaps the only reason I keep writing articles for Transpire. But realizing these differences in definitions, one based upon identity and the other upon fellowship has given me pause.
Let’s apply those 2 approaches to “community” more precisely. Let’s refer to the “community” based upon what we have called “transpeople” by definition as the “alpha community” and the “community” based upon active fellowship as the “beta community.” We might infer a ratio to indicate the overall health of the trans community which I will call “mutuality”:
β/α Mutuality: the number actively engaged in the associations and activities of a group of people/the number of people in the group defined.
Consider well. The Williams Institute estimated 1.4 million transpeople in the United States in 2016.3 But that’s an estimate. We don’t have a number based upon full registration. But despite this and the fact that no registry of transpeople involved in community activities, we can intuit that our mutuality is pretty low. Worse yet, one might be tempted to say, as I have said many times, that a monolithic “trans community” doesn’t exist at all. Instead we find pockets of community here and there. But the community I have looked at while saying that represents a β- Community only, not an α- Community.
But here I’ve seen this difference to be inadequate to describe the dynamics of the α-Community in transactional analysis. Portions of the β- Community separate into somewhat distinct divisions, at times mirroring the β- Community like the equal sides of an isosceles triangle. I’ll refer to this separation as the β- Isocommunity, a mirror community within the greater α- Community formed through exclusion. The β- Community, however, does not exclude others for it to remain a community. It’s simply a community by its basic definition.
But an isocommunity must exclude. An example of an isocommunity would be certain bodies of heterosexual cross dressers such as may be represented in the Society for the Second Self (Tri-Ess). Its classic position has been to exclude transsexuals while accepting heterosexual cross dressers and their spouses, though in certain chapters, this policy appears to have been reversed in recent years.2
Worse yet, a β- Isocommunity may even oppose others in the α- Community, thereby becoming a β- Countercommunity, working for the destruction of others in the α- Community. The impending conflict results in yet another phenomenon: those who might be collectively described as those of a β- Dyscommunity, those who either willfully or involuntarily become dissociated with others in the α- Community. In terms of sets:
α- Community: A set of all with a common interest
β- Community: A set of all within a certain fellowship
β- Isocommunity: A set of all β- Community members whose fellowship excludes others in the corresponding α-Community
β- Countercommunity: A set of all β- Community members who oppose others in the α- Community.
β- Dyscommunity: A set of individuals of the α-Community disconnected to either the β-Community or the β-Isocommunity
As relates to the trans community, this list is too general. We all know and understand that different version of “transgender” exist in the trans community, often to the point of internal fragmentation in ways going beyond β- Communities. The trans community is really a conglomeration of communities, isocommunities, and yes, even countercommunities. This conglomeration makes what we call “the trans community” a γ- Community. As a result, the list expands to the following:
γ- Community: A set of α- Communities with an overriding common interest
δ- Community: A set of β- Communities with expanded fellowship
δ1– Isocommunity: A set of all γ- Community members whose fellowship excludes others in the corresponding γ- Community (as in certain elitist organizations for purposes of marketing the ruling person)
δ2– Isocommunity: A set of all γ- Community members whose fellowship excludes members of select α-Communities (as in the aforementioned example embodied by the classical Tri-Ess)
δ1– Countercommunity: A set of all γ- Community members who oppose the corresponding γ-Community
δ2– Countercommunity: A set of all γ- Community members who oppose members of select α-Communities
δ- Dyscommunity: A set of individuals of the δ- Community disconnected to either the γ-Community or the δ- Isocommunity(ies)
It’s easy to intuit that the more we encounter isocommunity and dyscommunity, the lower the mutuality would be. We can also intuit that the higher in the alphabet we go, the less mutuality can be expected unless other factors come into play. An example where it does occurs in various Evangelical cults. Such a cult typically constitutes a ζ4-Isocommunity; namely set of all ζ-Community members whose fellowship excludes members of select α- Communities and γ- Communities. It’s a self imposed exclusion in the name of sanctification and as such tends to be prone to schism.
But a lot more can potentially happen:
- Any isocommunity may declare itself a separate community.
- No isocommunity can become a countercommunity without countering its own integrity.
We should also consider the actions of a separated group of people who may declare themselves a separate and distinct community. Should they be defined as a community or an isocommunity?
The issue comes down to who excludes whom. An isocommunity separates themselves from others. What about those who are excluded, blacklisted, or otherwise expelled? These begin in dyscommunity, not isocommunity. Dyscommunity may occur in groups. It may also occur with individuals. When an individual falls into a relationship of dyscommunity, that person is a pariah to the community from which he, she, or eir has been ostracized. That may or may not have followed a formal resignation or deletion from a formal membership. Ostracism more often happens informally than as a matter of a judicial action of discipline.
That’s where I’ve found myself more than once. You may have found yourself there too.
Of course, one’s understanding this relationship doesn’t mean that person has found a solution. One might expect communities to fragment and die after some period of time. In fact overcoming opposition from an isocommunity requires a dynamic that transcends any concept of community, and when made active, will work to heal communities irrespective of levels of fellowship. Consider this diagram:
|RELATIONSHIPS||The Givers||The Takers|
Many relationships will always be defined by give and take. But in communities, the give and take aspects must be subjugated to something higher and more altruistic if those communities will sustain themselves at all. Most organizations easily fall into the relationship by which the executives rule from the top down. What usually happens is that they pretty much become the only active members. That’s the mark of an organization on the ropes.
What needs to happen can only take place on the individual level by which each decides to contribute as a citizen. The real leaders that emerge may or may not be elected to executive posts.
Executive posts become necessary, especially where organizations gain the status of non-profit corporations. But organizations go through cycles beginning with individual efforts, later becoming movements, then machines, and ending as crumbling monuments. The first couple of stages are remarkable, seemingly magickal at times, appealing to conscience and a desire for the greater good. But the relationship too often changes as the effort of one becomes organized as a movement. It’s a cycle that might parallel the progression observed by Plato in The Republic:
Timocracy: Built upon honor- an abstract foundation- transcendental good – Leadership/citizenship – all contribute for the good of all
Aristocracy: Built upon the advantages of wealth – a tangible foundation – monetary good – Rulership/subjectship – directed contribution from the ruler upon the subject for the good of the elite
Democracy: Built upon the consensus of a proletariat – an abstract foundation – common good – Leadership/citizenship – directed contribution from the citizens upon the leader for the good of the proletariat
Tyranny: Built upon the base desires of ambition including lust – a tangible foundation – restrictive good – Rulership-Subjectship – contribution directed by the ruler for the good of the elite only5
Plato’s solution consisted of renewal through philosophic thought that elevates consciousness such as was expressed in the Allegory of the Cave. The one fit to lead has become aware of noumenal reality and can find relevance to wisdom in things like music and poetry as elevating disciplines. Basically it’s the stuff some of your teachers and professors tried to teach you with hope that you could carry them to the benefit of all people.
Consider these 3 passages from The Republic:
“Then a man becomes tyrannical in the precise sense of the term when either his nature or his way of life or both of them together make him drunk, filled with erotic desire, and mad.’
“I think that someone in whom the tyrant of erotic love dwells and in whom it directs everything next goes in for feasts, revelries, luxuries, girlfriends, and all that sort of thing.’
“And when everything is gone, won’t the violent crowd of desires that has nested within him inevitably shout in protest? And driven by the stings of the other desires and especially by erotic love itself (which leads to all of them as its bodyguard) won’t he become frenzied and look to see who possesses anything that he could take, by either deceit of force?”6
We need to be brutally honest concerning the trans community, pertaining to all levels: α, β, γ, and δ. While there does exist a valid assertion that gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation are each deserving of respect and freedom from use as criteria for discrimination, there also exists an ugly truth: that for too many under the trans umbrella it really is all about securing titillating sex for themselves. This doesn’t automatically condemn sex workers, the norm of which is that they would prefer a different occupation if given opportunity and often feel less sexual than those appetites foisted upon them by their clients. Indeed, sex workers also deserve our respect and care and often need it more than anyone else.
We need also to recognize that even the tyrant can be awakened to good as much as can the democrat or the aristocrat. Institutions with constitutions and bylaws constantly need to watch for who the next leader should be, and recycle the process through a new, awakened timocrat.
But if this state of mind that puts eroticism above all qualifies for what makes a tyrannical human, we can expect that such will also seek to control organizations as tyrants and often will not hesitate to destroy others to gain and maintain it. This is the ultimate relationship of the taker: one who seeks rulership over subjects, satisfied that they never become true citizens, and eager to rule by decree if possible. It fuels many of the isocommunities out there and turns some into countercommunities. It also dispossesses its members, building dyscommunity, making pariahs.
It also represents the ultimate impetus for refusal to listen to opponents.
Why do we need to listen to opponents? Simply this: in any conflict, everyone believes they’re in the right whether they are or not. Most often everyone has embraced some degree of right and wrong. If we think we don’t, we become arrogant people indeed. Most of us know not a few cases in which transpeople display immense arrogance. One cannot embrace such arrogance and be a citizen, let alone a true leader.
Because the very idea of community as concerns transpeople is to band together to look for ways to enable understanding: understanding of one another, understanding of society at large, even the aforementioned ζ4– Isocommunities if possible. It’s an arena by which we seek to awaken to truth from doublespeak and various typed of propaganda enforced by the dictates of such isocommunities and countercommunities through the popular force of their societies and unmitigated dogma.
Understanding also means outreach and education for a community’s pariahs. The bitterness of dyscommunity can deepen isolation and many pariahs can become active citizens sooner than any group may think. For pariahs like me, it also means reaching out one more time, with hope that one can do some good to help a beautiful people heal.
- (n.a.) Notable Transpeople (n.d.) Web: International Transgender Historical Society: http://transgendersociety.yolasite.com/notable-trans-men-and-women.php . Retrieved June 4, 2017.
- Abate, Frank R., Editor in Chief. The Oxford Dictionary of American English (1999) Oxford University Press, ISBN: 0-19-513374-9, p. 155.
- Flores, Andrew R.; Herman, Jody L.,; Gatem Gary J.; and Brown, Taylor N. T. How Many Adults Identify As Transgender In the United States? (June 2016) Web: The Williams Insitute: https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/How-Many-Adults-Identify-as-Transgender-in-the-United-States.pdf . p. 3. Retrieved June 4, 2017.
- Girschick, Lori B. Transgender Voices: Beyond Women and Men (2008) University Press of New England, Lebanon NH. ISBN-13: 978-1-58465-645-6 , p. 93.
- Republic, Books VIII and IX.
- Republic 573 c-e, as translated in Cooper, John M., Editor and Hutchinson, D.S., Associate Editor. Plato: Complete Works (1997) Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., Indianapolis. ISBN-13: 978-0-87220-349-5, p. 1182.