Sitting amidst an eclectic bunch of people on a quiet evening in August, I realised something. In front of the people who were trans (and non-binary), my privilege accorded by being a cis gay man was astounding.
The term “queer”, which has embraced so many identities in the recent and older past, has almost always had the same image. A white gay man, slightly effeminate, but, not effeminate enough to raise questions on gender; liberal but, never a part of the violent left and most importantly, quiet enough to hide themselves.
Concealment has been a focal point of queer politics since, its very debut. Stonewall Inn was not just a queer dance club. It was a transcendental space where queerness could manifest. So, people like Marsha P. Johnson who were seen as deformities in the structure could be who they were at Stonewall.
The queer movement derives from this dichotomy of performance. On one side, queer people are to hide every part of their identity to be accepted, and the other where they perform the queer part in select spaces.
Identities are lost in conformations, and the queer fashion sense has more or less been derived from the either overwhelming flamboyance or absolute sobriety, with the difference, so to say, mirroring the queer life understructure.
One has only to glance at the comments on the pictures of poets like Alok Vaid-Menon, or of YouTubers like Riley J. Dennis, to see how the wider discourse receives their bodies. Queerness is alright, until you perform it in absolute safe spaces, and live your life in performative sobriety.
Yet, one of the charges levelled against the trans establishment is that of the high suicide rates. While the statistics point towards the same, but what commentators like the openly gay Milo Yiannopoulos willingly miss is the violence against trans bodies. Structural institutions decry the entire idea of the trans body, for their entire ideals revolve around the gender binary. There is a fiction rulebook which queer people must adhere to, to be accepted.
The idea that other’s bodies must conform to a structuralist philosophy is not a new one. The fetishisation of women has created generations of teenagers living and being forced to achieve a specific standard of beauty. For non-binary people, this becomes truer. For the establishment not only denies their present bodies, but they also deny their entire existence. This discomfort is partly created from the idea of sexual attraction and the idea of beauty.
‘Beauty’, in the charge levied by the media, is a restrictive term. It includes white flesh, with particularly suited features, which should be tailor-made to appeal to the heterosexual mind. Non-binary and trans people, who seek their pleasure despite not adhering to these norms, are ostracised by the larger structural machinery, which yields enormous power through erasure in media, and through objectification.
Let us not kid ourselves. The gender binary treats their queer cousins as they would treat dysfunctional teens. Trans bodies are seen with absolute disgust and pushed aside from the larger narrative, and when activists like Laverne Cox and Jamie Clayton come forward, they’re praised for adhering to the gender binary, for being more ‘womanly’, in this case.
Identity erasure is paramount to the cause of suppression of trans and non-binary people. It gives the space for vocalisation, which, in turn, seeks to eliminate queer discourse as an identity one and a minority one, and instead portrays it as a case of a disease.
Liberals, as the left, have a lot of work to do. We need to accept bodies as they are. Even if they do not adhere to our arbitrary standards of beauty, we need to understand the subjectivity related to the idea of beauty itself and rise beyond it. The subjugation of the entire gender spectrum to only give voice to the restrictive binary is terribly reductive.