9.08.2013

The Fragility of Alliances

One of the things I didn't mention in my last post about NWT Pride was the one controversial episode that leaves me with more questions than answers. Once again the man-in-a-dress scenario got me asking questions and left me with a bitter taste in my mouth.

 photo: Meagan Wohlberg, Northern Journal
Pride organizers were insistent on creating a safe space for everyone. as well as being a safe place for queers of all orientations and genders it was also meant to be a space free of sexism, racism and all the other negative "ism"s.

I was torn about whether or not to call attention to the two cis men in dresses as they seemed to be getting a lot of attention from the media folks and every person with a camera. I find it difficult to determine whether cis gendered men in dresses qualifies as an allegiance even if thier intentions are pure and good hearted. I am still not convinced that this is the best way to be an ally mostly because it is the socialized reaction to them that is offensive and oppressive.

I spoke to another transgendered person at the festival to see if what I was feeling was just an over-reaction to what was probably supposed to be entirely non-confrontational. This other person felt as strongly as I did that this wasn't really cool. Granted the boys were there trying to make a point: that men should be able to wear dresses in public if they want and not be ridiculed, and I have to admit that for the most part they did a pretty good job educating people when they were confronted. Most of their spectators (and I use this word specifically) were taunting them to get "girly" for photo ops. While the boys may have been trying to teach, the people in the beer garden appeared to be mostly interested in getting a picture with "the dudes in the dresses". Is it appropriate for cis men to wear dresses to a pride event? I tried to imagine how I might feel if I was a transwoman at that event and saw these two guys. Mostly I was angry and disgusted.

99.99% of the time you see a man wearing a dress it is supposed to be a joke. But what is funny about trying to live your life authentically? I am not arguing that a man can't wear a dress, what I am saying is that the act of doing so it makes it much more difficult for transwomen to be taken seriously as WOMEN. How can these guys even begin to understand the struggles a trans person goes through? By making themselves visible as cis men in dresses do they make transwomen more any less vulnerable to violence or ridicule?

It is a sad state at the present moment transwomen are too often beaten, raped and killed simply because they are trying to live their lives as their true gender. We all read heartbreaking news every week that involves violence against transwomen. And yes these guys may very well be allies and feminists and hopeful that they can educate and support and teach people about trans culture, or gender, or cross-dressing for that matter. But is it the best way to be an ally? Is being a cis man and wearing a dress to Pride the best way to be an ally to transwomen?

Ladies? What do you say? I would really like to hear your opinion.

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