Until we acknowledge the racist and colonial roots of transphobia, Trans Day of Visibility will remain a Western scam

Naavikaran: We need to talk about racist, colonial roots of transphobia

Naavikaran is an all-round goddess in the form of a multi-gender trans woman, badass entrepreneur, community educator, organiser, writer and choreographer from India, based in Meanjin (Brisbane). Their work aims to create platforms for storytelling that is accessible and safe for identities of various intersections and communities.

At a recent art exhibition, I was surrounded by many people that I know and care for. It was incredible seeing folk from different parts of my life – the arts, social work, failed Grindr relationships – all gathered for a common occasion. This sense of community-immersion was quite heart-warming for a hot second, before the stunning realisation hit me that I felt extremely alone.

Isolation isn’t an unusual experience to me. I have experienced feeling disconnected to various parts of my life quite significantly. But I am also starting to realise how I simply struggle to connect with people on a personal level, mostly because I don’t know what to tell them about my life.

My challenges around being coloured, having a complex immigration status, being unapologetically transgender and experiencing intricately poor mental health puts me on a very dangerous and often inaccessible intersection.

There is very little honesty that I can bring into conversations without addressing the many debilitating systems that govern my daily life and its consequences. And because my experiences with these systems are so daily, they’re often at the forefront of my mind.

Like, I would love to converse about fashion and astrology with the rest of the queers, but I am suffering, quite intensely and daily, and honestly responding to “how are you?” is exhausting.

I made a conscious decision last year that I am done begging for space and validity within inclusion and diversity quotas. I decided that I am no longer going justify the humanity of marginalised folk to be seen as relevant or even worthy enough for the sake of opportunities and space.

There’s no point petitioning for a place at the table, when, really, we eat differently.

The cost of this, however, has meant pursuing an extremely lonely and displacing path.

We are not ready to acknowledge that many community settings, workplaces and systems within Western contexts are still extremely colonised. I have walked into so many white spaces and have been rejected for my brownness, often quite violently. I have navigated into people-of-colour spaces and felt the inescapable judgement for my queeriosities.

I am often at events where the majority of people of colour in the space are either performing or serving the white patrons in the club. I see white queers appropriating and co-opting Black culture, which, besides being extremely racist, has also now resulted in queer non-Black people of colour taking on similar behaviours.

We aren’t ready to recognise the assimilationist tools of white supremacy that not only pressure people of colour to perform in certain ways in order to deserve any ounce of community, belonging, respect and visibility, but also forces us to colonise each other for the same. And the cost of not conforming to these norms is more isolation and displacement.

I have had to bend in so many ways to be palatable to so many different groups and communities that I ultimately feel like an entirely rejected platter of poorly understood food.

I find it so interesting, too, that more and more transgender folk are being regarded with this faux sense of “royalty”. I get told that I am a Goddess and that my beauty is heavenly and undeserving. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Please, shower me with poetry.

But really, these comments also easily perpetuate the stigma of queerness being performative. That we queer people of colour show up to events and spaces looking thrift-shop rich because we enjoy the attention and glamour.

I would rather people sit with their discomfort with femininity and transness than skip over it entirely and compare me to a distant notion of God. I would rather be deeply understood for the multiplicity of my trauma, intersections, work and aspirations as a part of my humanity than be compared to fiction.

I want to be seen for my beauty and be loved for it, instead of being put on some unreachable pedestal for your own comfort.

Trans Day of Visibility is as much of a scam as anything else that the Western corporate and capitalistic world spews as a way to show that it cares about marginalised folk. We are not ready to acknowledge the racist and patriarchal roots of transphobia. We are not ready to acknowledge colonisation, both past and ongoing. And therefore, we are neither prepared for the visibility of trans people nor have capacity to appropriately acknowledge the levels of complexities that trans people across the world experience.

And even if we do, that visibility is useless without action.

What matters to me right now is that we live in an extremely shitty world that is rampantly killing us.

I realised a long time ago that carving any space into the mainstream world for someone like me, who is so far into the “other” as a non-cis, non-heterosexual, non-white, non-healthy person, comes at a cost. I am not interested in making space for myself any more in a world that is built to incessantly erase me.

It puts me at a terribly lonely position but, at least, at the end of the long list of things we’re not ready for is the hope that more than anything, we’re having these conversations.

We’re returning to our ways of storytelling. We’re creating room to imagine. We’re letting our children run wild to be everything they have ever wanted to be. We are returning, we’re remembering.

And right now, that is enough.