Whitney M. Fishburn decided she had some things to say about transgender identity and transgender politics, and while as another cisgender person I’m going to tread lightly here, one paragraph seems especially of note.
And that is really why I was thinking so much about transgenders: are they showing us something else “trans”, namely, transcendence? Are they the leading edge of a new way to be human? Could they possibly be the bridge, or at least a bridge to a world where humans live peacefully with artificial intelligence? After all, so many transgenders, especially transvestites who have elevated the art form to drag, are expert at artifice, emphasis on “art”, the root that is common to both “artifice” and “artificial”. Drag queens know now to transform themselves in ways that at first seem utterly impossible.
There are at least three ways in which my response to this was, “Yikes.” I waited until someone confirmed that as an appropriate response before getting into it here.
My own understanding is that transgender is an adjective, not a noun. In fact, even a cursory glance at Twitter mostly shows it being used as a noun by transphobes. This is worth a mention because Fishburn literally opens by referring to one Jack Drescher, MD, stating that in gender discussions “language is important”.
I’ve no idea if any transgender people use the term as a noun for or amongst themselves, but I’d think even if so it would be good form for us cisgender folk to stick with using it as an adjective.
Worse, if not worst, is that Fishburn somehow thought that “transgenders … are expert at artifice” was a thing to be thought, written down, and published. This idea that transgender people are tied to fakery—rather than literally to its opposite (authenticity)—is misguided and dangerous.
It ties, in fact, into the third grimace: Fishburn’s suggestion that transgender people are a “bridge” to transhumanism and (I guess?) the singularity. While any broadening of understanding and acceptance is a kind of transcendece of narrow ways of thinking and being, to reduce transgender people to a “bridge” is to turn them into an object in someone else’s story rather than what they are: the subject of their own.
That’s a remarkable betrayal not just of transgender people but of Fishburn’s own newly-trademarked idea of creating a “hive immunity to anxiety and depression” through story. The first rule surely must be that we allow other people to tell their own stories, not distort them for our own purposes.
You don’t treat anxiety and depression, or fight stigmatization, by telling stories out of turn, getting other people’s stories wrong, or, perhaps worse yet, turning other people’s stories—if not the people themselves—(in)to your own devices.