Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Class Issues and the Transgender Community

I've been at the task of making generalizations about the trans people I've met over the last 6 months of researching and being fairly active in trans communities in the area, and the one set of issues that comes to the surface most blantantly is class issues.

If the standard of living of normative society could be measured on a 1-10 scale, I think the whole spectrum of transfolk could fit within 1-6 and probably would cluster around 2-4. What does it mean that I was part of an organizing body whose six core members were mostly underemployed or unemployed despite having marketable skills (the group included a lawyer, a marketing executive, a web developer)? These are the leaders. They and others like them are the people in our community who have the most education and stability who are most willing and able to start families. These are our success stories. And among the people I admire most in our community, none of them have health insurance. Many of them are married to bio-women who make more money than they do (we all know that bio-women make 75% of what bio-men do). Many are part-time employees. Few own the houses they live in. Most do a little bit of a lot of things to barely make ends meet.

It's not just that the trans community are poor, but that we are one of the only downwardly mobile communities I can think of (if you ave others then please leave a comment). This means that on average trans people have less wealth than their parents. Whereas most people maintain the same level of wealth as their parents or even gain wealth (because they have access to cultural capital that helps them accrue wealth) to pass onto future generations. What does it mean that our children are less likely to go to college than we were, less likely to own a house, less likely to have access to any number of opportunities purely by virtue of their parent's gender identity/expression?

Most frustrating of all is that I don't know where I'm going to end up even within this community. I know that my life (materially and in other respects) will probably look a lot more like the trans activists I interview than like my mother's life. However, I don't know if I'll end up transitioning. I don't know if I'll ever get that male privilege. I doubt that I'll ever get straight privilege or even gender-normative-woman privilege. I guess the more I think about the future, then more I feel oppressed.

1 comment:

Dane said...