There is an emphasis in the press, especially the English language press in North America and Western Europe, to describe a number of developments pertaining to the Transgender community as marking a ‘Transgender tipping point‘. This suggests a new and unprecedented interest in Trans-related issues, and in promoting equality and justice for Trans people. This also implies a hitherto unseen level of Trans visibility. Whether visibility is always beneficial to Trans people, especially to Transpeople of colour, has been widely argued and contested.
The increased emphasis on Transpeople and Trans-related issues has brought to the fore a sense of territoriality to many a Trans circle, with industrious individuals seeking to capitalise upon the growing media attention to Trans issues. One can notice in Trans circles, from places like Northern Ireland to South Asia – geographical spheres in which this writer often operates – that ‘privilege’ is indeed a major keyword. It is a keyword in the sense that to many on the forefront of Trans activism, or who strive to present themselves as the key frontrunners in Trans-advocacy, their own positions of privilege have been extremely crucial in clearing their paths forward. Privilege, in such contexts, is manifest in different ways. It could well be white middle class privilege, economic and social class-related privilege, and in some contexts, privilege bestowed on the basis of caste.
What are the short, medium and long-term impacts of this trend, is a question worth raising. What about Transpeople who may not have access to the confines of economic or social class-related privilege? Many Transpeople with tremendous potential, very talented in specific fields, often get sidelined and pushed to the margins of Trans-activism and Trans lobbies, simply because they are not as forward-minded as the privileged few, and most importantly, because they do not have access to social and economic privilege.
It is important for Trans/genderqueer/non-binary/nonconforming people to think about their community/ies in a more wholesome way, in an increased sense of oneness and unity. This involves questioning structures of hierarchies growing in Trans lobbies, and critically examining and engaging with the underlying currents (be they social, economic, family background-related, racial, class/caste-based) that stratify such hierarchies.
The worst case scenario for the Trans community is the creation of privilege-based hierarchies, in which the visibility of a privileged minority sidelines, and on occasion obliterates, the less privileged majority.