During the darkest days of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s lesbians stepped up to provide compassionate care to dying men as nurses and doctors were afraid to go near them. Shut away in isolated rooms, these men suffered and died without the outside world knowing of their pain. They were treated as outcasts, shunned, and in death deliberately forgotten. In 2023 trans people are on the cusp of similar treatment as the right wing across the democratic world turns its pernicious eye towards them. Gay men died lonely deaths because society was whipped into repulsion, and the same is happening towards trans folk.
This is not hyperbole. This happens weekly, daily, where trans folk are murdered and then misgendered, blamed for their own deaths, and treated as an outcast group within the communities they lived in. Speak to any trans person and they will likely tell you of the societal weight on their shoulders, of the oppressive nature of what politicians call an ideology. Is it ideological to want to thrive, to live as one’s best self? There is no transsexual empire, only the villages we have built for us in the dark forest.
Society over the last two hundred years has forced gender non-conforming folk into the shadows, pre-internet into a dark forest that only saw the light of day when a trans person had their story splashed across the media. Our villages were built because we needed safety, needed a community to thrive in, not just a place of refuge. Drag shows, gay bars, countryside retreats, support meetings and other word of mouth escapes sprang up to cater for the needs of trans folk. 2023’s politicians only see the de-fanged version of drag, the maturation of trans healthcare, not the long stony road it took to get their caused by yesterday’s cruelties.
In the internet age it is much easier to find information about trans identities of all shades and hues. Multiplicatious meanings of gender and gendered identity have flowed through chatrooms, forums, and sub-reddits, each person interacting with them finding their own sense of meaning within. Our modern digital village provide bastions in the dark, where the forest attempts to encroach but is pushed back with community support. In the space of 30 years there has been an accelerated evolution of what it means to be trans precisely because of the diffuse nature of these digital communities. At the same time, those physical spaces are withering due to redevelopment, cost of living crises and physical attacks.
A village is more than simply the people within, it is the community they chose to build. It is not easy or straight forward bringing together such disparate people as trans folk. We each have our own maps of the world, ways of understanding things, modes of existence. We are not unified in anything other than our gender variance. Yet, we come together to find answers, solace, communal spirit in the dark forest.
Yet, to fight for rights requires us to step outside the safety of villages and communities. We need allies to step into the forest, voices that will speak up alongside trans folk and be with us as we push forwards. Gay liberation happened because gay men, lesbians, trans folk and cis allies pushed forwards. Trans rights need the same lockstep, as otherwise we will simply be left in the dark forest with villages.