CW: discussion of anti-trans violence
This past Friday the 8th of April, Pitt lent its spacious dining room in the O’Hara Student Center to Reverend Scott Stiegemeyer. He is a Lutheran pastor who often uses the pulpit as a means of furthering a transphobic agenda that would see prayer and crocodile-tear “compassion” take the place of life-saving hormone treatments and surgeries that allow many trans individuals to feel at home in their own skin. Even before the event, Stiegemeyer’s crusade against the “sin” of deviation from his interpretation of the Judeo-Christian creation story by making our bodies match our minds could be gleaned from his numerous writings and interviews available online.
Thus, a large contingent of the Pitt community was deeply concerned and angered that Stiegemeyer would be welcomed by the administration to speak on campus. Around 100 transgender individuals and cisgender “allies” showed up at the event, outnumbering the rest of the attendees. Still the Reverend went on with his brazen diatribe against trans bodies based on the idea that an unseen entity has the sole right to decide who is male or female, with the ecclesiastical class as God’s gender police. Early on, Stiegemeyer told an anecdote, in rather poor taste, about a child disfigured by a botched circumcision who was raised as a girl but later decided he was a man. He seemed to imply that this story reflected the experience of most trans people; that transition is something brought about by external forces of confusion, malice, or sin. Thus he concluded that we, as trans people, were “disordered”. Quickly he amended this, saying that everyone was disordered because of original sin. And in a way he is right. All of us, cisgender and transgender alike, are caught up in the cultural disorder of enforced gender norms. But the source of that disorder is not original sin. It is something the church is far more familiar with: the patriarchy.
A small contingent of trans people and their cisgender accomplices stood up in defiance, refusing to sit in silence until the “Q&A” period. We saw that this hate speech contributed to the same internal angst and suicidal tendencies the Reverend says saddens him deeply. We raised our trans flags and banner with a battle cry of “Your God Can’t Control My Body.” Immediately self-appointed “peace police” within the body of “protesters” sprang into action, demanding that we sit down and continue to take Stiegemeyer’s bullshit while our trans siblings die every day through murder and suicide. With at least five cops present at the event other than the “volunteers,” we decided to leave the space with a chant of “No Justice, No Peace, No Gender Police.” Though we didn’t stay for the Q&A session, our friends who remained inside told us that most of the questioners saw Stiegemeyer as the wolf in sheep’s clothing he was and asked some very pointed questions to expose his thinly veiled hate speech.
Those who stood up to oppose us played directly into the hands of the Reverend’s ilk. By presenting themselves as the “respectable” LGBT community, they took the side of the Reverend and the cops against those who were not willing to be silent in the face of the war against our trans bodies. They forget the war cry of ACT UP’s fight against AIDS during the 80’s and 90’s: Silence Equals Death. Only those “allies” who are not directly threatened by hate speech against trans people and the violence against us it engenders have the option to remain silent without potential deadly consequences. When our fellow queer folk call for us to be quiet, many trans people are greatly upset. Instead of joining our mutual enemies in attempting to snuff out our rage, we’d prefer you to accept our methods as equally valid to other forms of struggle so we can all take on our adversary in our own ways. We see you as potential accomplices in our liberatory project, and would much rather fight beside you than against you.
Speech that can bring bodily harm is not “free speech.” Even if Stiegemeyer has no personal malice towards trans people, his de-legitimization of gender transition is an invitation for others to engage in even harsher attacks on our experiences and our bodies. Make no mistake: we trans people are in a war for survival whether we like it or not. We are dying by the hundreds and thousands. This society wants to kill us, either physically to erase us entirely, or rhetorically to be “born again” as good law-abiding cisgender men and women within patriarchy. The only way for us to survive and thrive is to transform the social landscape by dismantling patriarchal structures and ideas in our communities. To that end, we must regard the priests of patriarchy not as partners in a “dialogue” but as an enemy force to be smashed.
Nor should we allow the self-appointed peace police to colonize the trans experience that had its birth in the insurrectionary street battles of Stonewall with demands that all us angry trans folk quiet the fuck down and assimilate into the trendy bourgeois white gay male culture. The waning of the AIDS crisis from public view and the passage of marriage equality are not grounds to retire direct action as a means of queer liberation. Far from it. That time will not come until the murder and colonization of trans and queer bodies and the heteropatriarchal artifice that enables it comes crashing down in flames.
Fuck gender cops, peace cops, all cops.
Love and rage,
An angry-as-fuck trans girl