[The image features an illustration of the author, an androgynous white person, holding up a sign that reads: “Trans rights NOW.” Surrounding the author are other indistinct and faceless people, ignoring the author as he protests. The text above the author reads, “BE LESS AGGRESSIVE! BE KINDER! PEOPLE WOULD LISTEN IF…”]
I have been told that if I were just kinder, if I were less aggressive, if I were less loud, if I were gentler, people would finally respect me.
If I weren’t so impatient, they tell me, transgender and non-binary people would find the acceptance that they are looking for. Slowly but surely, from the mere power of our kindness, people would come around.
It is true – at times, I am impatient.
But to ask me to be patient in face of oppression, invisibilization, and violence is laughable. To ask me to swallow my emotions, not to buckle under this weight, to behave and wait for my dignity to be handed to me, is so terribly naïve.
Systemic oppression and hatred have never been dismantled by playing nice, by saying “please” and “thank you,” by remaining in the margins and hoping they’ll notice you there.
Smiling doesn’t change the reality that transgender and non-binary people disproportionately carry a burden of homicide, homelessness, suicide, and street harassment.
Smiling won’t change the leering I get on the bus, the clenched teeth and the pressed brow, lip curling with disgust, as if to say, “You do not belong here. You do not belong anywhere.”
Smiling won’t change the man who burns holes into my chest, staring intensely, searching for the faintest indication that I have breasts, as my body is a spectacle to unravel, and not a mere part of a breathing, whole human.
Smiling won’t change the woman who says to me, “I don’t care what you say. No matter what you do, you will always be a woman.”
Smiling won’t change the man who comments on my article and says, “Miss Finch, do you pretend to be a man because you think you’ll get more readers that way? Miss Finch, why do you lie?”
Smiling won’t change the man at the restaurant, who glares at my non-binary partner and me, undressing us with his eyes, not once looking away until we leave because we are afraid of what will happen if we stay.
Smiling won’t change the transphobic “feminist” on Twitter who threatens to post my birth name and my address because she doesn’t like what I have to say.
Smiling won’t change the woman, visibly uncomfortable in the middle of a tutoring session, who interrupts me to ask, “What were you born as?” As if that’s relevant to what I’m teaching (writing), as if she can’t go forward without confirming what my genitals look like.
It’s true – I am impatient. I am worn down. I am tired.
It’s every “miss” and “ma’am” at the cash register, it’s every “hello ladies” when I sit at a restaurant with my partner, it’s every “but you were so much prettier before.”
It’s existing in a world that does not recognize you exist.
It’s when there’s a burning, beautiful truth in your heart that says who you are with perfect clarity, and all you want is to live that truth. And every day with passion, with determination, with courage, you pursue that truth in spite of a world that seeks to extinguish that fire.
A truth that, even when you are crying out, people will still refuse to see it.
I am loud because so few can hear me.
They’ll say you are a criminal, an imposter, a liar, an abomination; they’ll say you are less than human, an oddity, a freak, a mistake.
And they’ll tell you in the same breath that if you were more patient, they might listen.
They accuse you of lacking empathy because you were bitter, because you had the nerve to say, “I’m sorry I fucking exist.”
Well, empathy is a two-way street, and while I try my best to nurture the love inside me, I get tired.
I get tired, and then I get reprimanded for being tired.
Every day I contend with people who won’t listen, people who spit at me on the streets, people who would rather me be dead than be myself, people who can imagine so perfectly what my skull would look like split open because they’ve dreamt it.
But you should be loving, Sam. Be kinder, Sam. Be patient.
As if my humanity is something I’m supposed to earn if I’m nice enough, if I’m kind enough, if I play the game, instead of something that is inherent, something that I possess by virtue of being alive.
I’m impatient, it’s true.
But this impatience is a reminder that I am fully, totally, perfectly human. And this impatience stems from a pain that so few can understand. It’s the fissure that splits through me because I’ve carried that weight for too long, because the wound has been reopened too many times.
My impatience is a testimony. It speaks to this struggle that I’ve lived from the moment I confessed in front of that mirror years ago, “Oh my god, I am not a woman,” and muttered, under my breath, “I’m trans, and I’d give anything not to be.”
Until you’ve lived my struggle, no, don’t you dare tell me how to feel and how to act, as if this burden is my own fault, as if I asked for this.
I never asked for this.
Asking me not to be impatient is asking me not to be human.
And that’s exactly what the oppressor wants.