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Tribe Trans: Live Together or Die Alone

Live together or die aloneNo, today’s post is not about ‘Lost’, though I freely admit that I still miss that show and unlike most, I loved the series finale. Look, you knew I was weird before you set out to read this. Recent events, however, brought me back to thinking about the first season when Jack (played by Charlie from ‘Party of 5’) said to Charlie (formerly a hobbit or something – see, this is why people found the show confusing) that the castaways had to decide whether to live together or die alone. What is bothering me is that the trans community, at least here in Buffalo, seems to be leaning toward the latter. I think this is a problem. By the way, thanks all for bearing with me in my absence – the event that inspired this post helped me procrastinate writing, but I’m back now.

On the second Friday of every month, we all come together to meet, share our experiences, ask each other questions, and bask in an environment where the inner drive and resultant anguish and triumphs are assumed and understood. I think the reason people are willing to give up a Friday evening (other than the fact that the ABC TGIF lineup bites since ‘Perfect Strangers’ was cancelled) is to enjoy the company of others who get us. People who we don’t have to explain much to. People for whom the primary self-identifying factor of gender isn’t a thing. With these people we seek common goals in self-protection and betterment to put us on equal footing with an expensive and socially debilitating gender issue. These understandings, paired with shared obstacles when it comes to employment, housing, medical care, and socialization, are fundamental enough to our collective well being to classify us as a tribe.

A tribe, as I see it, is a collective that takes care of its own. Like a family, we are not individuals who necessarily have anything in common but this one characteristic Like blood, it is fundamental enough to supersede all the other little quirks and rivalries that bring internal strife. We don’t have to be friends, or even like each other, but in choosing to come together in community, we show our colors in unity instead of taking the lonesome road that many others choose instead. What does it mean though to come together as a tribe? How are we supposed to behave toward each other? What does being part of this tribe really do for us? I’m beginning to think very few are even aware. Let’s talk about that.

The Bedouin, one of the few remaining tribal cultures, have a saying. “I against my brothers; my brothers and I against our cousins; I and my cousins against the tribe; the tribe against all.” It sounds pretty harsh, especially since it’s pretty exclusively masculine, but sets up an order of precedence in priority. Looking at it that way, it’s kind of a no brainer. Take care of yourself, those closest to you, and then your tribe. They are your refuge against the whole rest of the world. Whereas ‘Tribe Trans’ isn’t really looking to make a move against the other tribes out there, we have come together under the assumption that no matter what, this is where they have to take you. Much like the old definition of ‘home’ before it became untrue for so many in the Trans community.

Are we doing this? Are those of us who chose to become part of a recognized tribe making the effort to make this home for ourselves and our sisters and brothers? Are we truly here to support each other and give help and encouragement when the needs of a member arise, all the while knowing it will be us eventually? It makes sense, right? After all, if we are not here for that, why be part of a tribe at all? If we don’t come out for community, support, and advancement of the tribe, why are we even trying? After all, there is nothing else to be gained. No power, no fame, no wealth or status. If support and compassion are also absent, isn’t maybe better to stay home and see if Balki Bartokomous has returned to the Friday night lineup?

No one says we have to get along or even like each other. Individual disputes are inevitable; after all, we are still just people. If, however, the tribe fails to come together to support one of its own in need, then it really is no tribe. It is the compassion we show to each other that builds our strength. It’s our focus on our own in need that builds the tribe that can provide hope and encouragement to each one of us when our need comes. And it will. The great truth about being trans is that you will doubt your ability to go on, and probably more than once. Given the choices, I’d rather live together.

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