TW for transphobia, classism
A few days ago, a good friend of mine sent out an Amazon wishlist to her online friends and followers. She’s a little bit broke after moving house, and although she can afford the basics of food and rent there’s a few things she wanted that would help her to get through the winter. So she figured she’d ask if anyone could help her out. And was really, really clear that she wasn’t about to make a big deal of things or guilt anyone:
Let me level with you: I’m not in a situation of extreme need, hence why I’m not asking for donations. There’s people out there that need the money way more than I do, and I’m not going to freeze or starve this winter. But truth is, aside from food/bill/rent money, I’m kinda hella broke. My benefits haven’t come through, and I need some stuff for winter. If you feel generous enough to get me something from this Amazon wish list, I’ll be very grateful. And if you could reblog this, that’d be fantastic. Thanks!
The list had things on it like bedding, an electric blanket, a desk to work on. There might have been a thermos in there too. The kind of things that, although not absolutely essential, can make a major difference between just barely getting by and feeling at home. I gather, by the way, that people chipped in for her and she’s going to have a lovely cosy winter with the internet’s housewarming presents. Which is wonderful, ’cause she’s moved Way Up North and it’s chilly up there.
And then she got this anonymous response. By the way, I think that at this stage she’d gotten everything she needed, and this person was looking at some other, more whimsical wishlists she had lying about:
Anonymous asked: so you have money for everything you need except LUXURY items like books and you think its alright as a grown person to ask people on the net to buy you non-necessities? what a spoilt privileged person you must be to think that’s ok. probably because you spent the majority of your life as a man.
So my friend had her response to this. Which seems to me to be about right, and I’m impressed that she only told Anon to fuck off once. Admirable restraint, that. I have a few things that I’d like to unpack in more detail, though.
The Gender Thing
what a spoilt privileged person you must be to think that’s ok. probably because you spent the majority of your life as a man.
It seems that this person is under the impression that there is no difference between trans women and cis men, or between privilege and passing privilege. I’m going to assume that my readers have at least a basic knowledge of Trans 101- if you don’t, then check out this and then read the hell out of this. The difference between privilege and passing privilege, though, I’ll take a shot at explaining myself with a slightly different analogy.
Let’s say that you have two people- let’s call them Alex and Sam. Alex is straight, and Sam is queer and closeted. Sam isn’t even out to themselves. They live in a pretty homophobic place. Both of them get assumed to be straight. Even though Sam isn’t out in the slightest, the privilege Sam gets is conditional. It’s based on something that is assumed that isn’t actually true. In addition, even if Sam isn’t even out to themselves, they’ll likely on some level be internalising their community’s homophobia in a different and more damaging way than Alex does. For Alex, homophobia is something that happens to other people. For Sam, there’s probably something just a bit discomforting about the whole thing. Something isn’t quite right.
It’s easy to accept this when we talk about queerness and straightness. Being a closeted queer is something that people understand- it’s something that’s gotten into the popular dialogue. We haven’t really caught on to the similar narratives about gender, though. Probably because transness is expected to be a thing that someone Always Knows. Trans people don’t get the same social pass that queers do to actually be uncertain and questioning, and yet affected by transphobia. So where you wouldn’t generally say that a queer person “lived as straight” until they came out, this charming person seems to think it’s okay to make a similar accusation to a trans person.
Which is a long-winded way of saying that going around referring to trans women as having been men for most of their lives is Seriously Fucked Up. Oh, and it’s also a silencing tactic that transphobes have been using against trans women for decades. If a trans woman actually speaks up for herself, takes up space or defends herself, you see, she gets accused of being aggressive and masculine. It’s the oldest- and one of the meaner- tricks in the book.
The Poor People Can’t Have Nice Things Thing
Y’know what’s another mean one? Poor People Can’t Have Nice Things, Ever. People who aren’t financially well-off, you see, are expected to only spend our money on wholesome and socially-approved things. Cheap yet healthy food, for example. Preferably the kind that takes lots of time to prepare in rustic sorts of ways. Tons of misshapen veggies and a load of beans to make into vats of soup is fine. Spending the same money on a giant stack of cheapass pizzas that’ll take a tenth the work to cook and provide more calories? Not fine. Poor people don’t get to relax. When poor people relax, we call that laziness, even if they’ve been out working all day. And poor people are supposed to spend any leftover money on important, long-term goals. Saving what little money you have left is great. Buying something fun? That makes you a Scrounger, and probably someone who Doesn’t Deserve Better. You can’t be a Scrounger. You definitely don’t want to be both Lazy and a Scrounger. Then you’re nothing more than the scum of the earth.
If someone who’s poor- or even just broke- dares to ask for nice things? Well, they must be an Entitled Lazy Scrounger. The worst kind, really. Poor people, you see, don’t get to have hobbies or to relax or spend any of their time doing anything but working their asses off to become respectable middle-class people with nice big incomes. Once you become one of those, you’re allowed to eat pizza and play video games and read books all you like.
Of course! Respectably-off middle class people are expected to have fun. Not poor people. Not broke people.
Poor people are supposed to shut up and start spending their lives sacrificing so that they (or maybe their children) can be respectable middle-class people. Trans people are expected to just shut up, period. And if you dare to- politely, casually, without pressuring anyone- ask for things, you’d better believe that they’ll use who you are against you. After all, if they won’t dig in where it hurts, how else are they supposed to keep you (we/us) quiet?
- Are Poor People Criminals? (katrinamcghee.com)
- The Rainbow Gated Community (handofananke.com)
- Spoiled for Choice (handofananke.com)
- ….oh, feckit, just go read her entire blog!