Perhaps the qualitative evidence of transexualism is more than sufficient to declare it a firm part of objective reality while the quantitative evidence slowly trickled in.
Just as the actions I took after accepting “really for real” as a truism validated it, so do my actions and those of people like me validate the reality of transexualism.
Michellelianna, The Sureality of Being Trans. Really, For Real
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how different communities decide what’s true, via their own processes of “knowing”. About how these processes (more formally called “epistemologies”) vary between communities, and how they’re formed to meet the needs of that community.
About epistemologies of domination: "Because I said so." About epistemologies based on history and place: "Because it’s always been this way." About the epistemology of feminist consciousness-raising: "What we thought was personal, but found we had in common, we decided was political reality." About epistemology that refuses to be pinned down and unfolds itself through stories.
And about trans* epistemologies. What sentence sums up trans* epistemology? Obviously not just one. The Harry Benjamin “true transsexual” approach constructs truth about transsexuality in a very different way to radical transfeminism, and differently again to queer politics.
But are there common threads? What I keep coming back to is noticing that there’s a validation of each others’ realities. "It’s true for you because you say it is," perhaps. And that while “constellations of truths” arise from multiple, interrelated personal truths, there’s a strong resistance to reifying any one of those truths - raising it to the level of “pure truth”.
Obviously we have good reason for that. “Pure truth” hasn’t really worked in our favour, or the favour of many minorities, one reason being that dominant epistemology (“because I said so”) creates what it calls “pure truth” that is in fact shaped in the interest of dominants.
I wonder if the way we distribute our epistemological authority among many is a way of resisting that dominance. In a way, we remind me of Terry Pratchett’s “Wee Free Men”, saying, "Nae King! Nae quin! Nae Laird! Nae master! We willna be fooled again!"
But I also worry about the limitations of this fractured epistemology. At the same time as it gives us a way to resist outright dominance, what does it do for internalised oppression? If we distribute the authority to create truth by affirming each other’s truths, are we also creating a way for multiple articulations of individual, internalised oppression to coagulate into shared reality?
And perhaps, when we see tools like “That’s not true!” as one of Audre Lorde’s “Master’s Tools” and disarm ourselves of it, have we also compromised our ability to challenge such coagulations of oppression?
I hope not. I believe there are deep resources in trans* community. I think there are dissenting voices to every trend which threatens us. But I wonder if they’re being heard.
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