transgender people are jedi.

i hate to lean too hard on a star wars reference, but i’m referencing the phantom menace here, so i promise you i’m not just nerd pandering. and i’m gonna run a little fast and loose with this metaphor, anyhow.

remember when yoda said that anakin skywalker shouldn’t be trained as a jedi because fear turns to anger, anger turns to hate, and hate turns to suffering? and it turns out that he was wayyyyyy right?

the trans experience is powerfully fear-centric. you’re bestowed with a secret that you can’t tell ANYONE because you’re afraid of what they might think and how they might behave (so i guess gender identity is midichlorians? like i said, fast and loose). the way in which we manage and overcome this fear and the resulting emotions has a profound effect on our lives.

i’ve known a lot of other trans people with a lot of pain. their jedi-ness is usually a function of how much they point their pain inward and how much they point it outward. trans people who point their pain more inward skew towards the light side of the force. they have a streak of kindness that runs through them that really can’t be extinguished. they are gracious and friendly and sweet. they work well in the system. they’re also usually the ones that are the most in pain, who have the darkest episodes and the most jarring breaks from reality.

trans people who point their pain more outwards resemble the dark side of the force. they’re bitter, they’re angry, they’re untrusting, they’re agents of chaos. they can become corrupted and cruel and start to hate the people who have oppressed them. but they’re fighters.

this is an oversimplification, of course. lest it seem like i’m trying to wedge trans people into another binary, let me say that i’ve seen both sides of the force these last few years and i struggle constantly with where to direct my pain. every condemnation of cis oppression grows from endless self-examination and second-guessing myself.

i haven’t always been super kind to trans people i’ve pegged as dark side. i’ve been dismissive in the past, which maybe came from naïve optimism. but as i’ve gone through my own struggles, as i’ve started to see the kinds of things that other trans people go through, i’ve started to reconsider the people i once wrote off. i’ve realized that trans people can only be pushed so far before they start to break. the trans people who seem nasty or impulsive or confrontational can be that way because there’s no other way for them to survive.

when a fellow trans is getting a little messy, it’s hard for me to know how much slack to cut them. sometimes trans people are straight up assholes, but often enough that’s because they’ve been pushed to that point and it’s hard to know how to be any other way.

this isn’t about good and bad or about how people should or shouldn’t behave. this is about how it’s sometimes hard to stand up for people who need standing up for. it’s hard to toe that line, especially if you’re trying to be a good cis ally. striking a balance between sympathy and honesty gets complicated fast.

we don’t have as much time, energy or emotional resources as a comparable cis person because just being trans, just working through it is draining. i have lost months of my life to coping with my gender identity, and I’ve had to come out of those months to find that life has moved on without me, that the world has cut me no slack.

if you write off a trans person for asserting transmisogyny, or for being a little bit too militant, or just being an asshole, you’re implicitly suggesting to them that they don’t fit in, that they are not doing a good enough job conforming, that they need to work on themselves – a luxury we often don’t have. when you tell a trans person that they’re wrong, that the problem is not a culture of transmisogyny but an issue with them as a person, you’re missing the point. transgender people cannot fit in as well as cisgender people because of the enormous, enormous burden of being “out” all the time, struggling with the intangible tension that defines a transgender identity. you’re asking that trans person to point that pain inward instead of addressing the pain pointed outward, and pointing that pain inward is reckless. it’s disappointingly common for the same people who try to distort our reality to accuse that reality of being distorted.

i’ve seen a lot of trans friends getting pushed around lately, and they either roll over and let themselves get steamrolled, or fight back and become an outcast. i’ve been trying to speak up for those who can’t. that’s what i want everyone to know, that we desperately need people to speak up for us, to understand the extra burden placed upon us before writing us off or pushing us away.

so, yes. we can be assholes. we can be a mess. that pain has to go somewhere. we’re not just like cis people, and treating one of us like you’d treat a cis person ignores our reality. don’t act like we’re the oppressive ones, the offensive ones, the problems. we’re treading water, we’re doing what we have to do to survive. try to understand how difficult that is before you cast judgment.