It was a fairly chilly Saturday in London and considering the fairly boring chit chat I was fairly content. I was at the ‘trans men’ Stonewall meeting, part of a series of meetings they are holding over the month for specific trans communities, including for non-binary identities, people of colour and students, to make sure all our voices are heard before they make a decision on the trans inclusion that newly appointed CEO Ruth Hunt is putting forward. Ruth is a fantastic character. She swears as much as I do. I definitely want to be her friend.
This is just a snapshot of my day.
As always, with a room full of trans people, the conversation rolled into healthcare and circled around Gender Identity Clinics, medical pathways, hormones, deed polls and complaints about the NHS. Yeah, I was tired of hearing it. And I did feel excluded. I had already voiced my concerns about Stonewall including the T in an earlier meeting for Trans People of Colour (TPOC), which left me feeling pretty positive, about Stonewall, and my queer brown identity in general. It’s always nice being reminded you’re not alone. Although I did know 5 out of 6 TPOC who came along. As another TPOC meeting comes and goes, they do start to resemble family reunions. It’s cute.
The meeting comes to a close at 3.30pm, and a young white trans man from Manchester approaches me. There are two other trans men there. He wants to get a logo and information for my work at Allsorts Youth Project, and a report on Trans Pride Brighton this year. I bite my tongue and give him my card and tell him how much I anticipate his e-mail. Blah blah blah.
He’s telling me about an online zine he is producing, and the funding he has for it, through university or something, but he has only six months to do it. He goes on – there’s so much he has to do, he needs more submissions – and I am about to say, ‘Hey, I write sometimes, I’d love to submit something about being a TPOC!’ It’s on the tip of my tongue. He needs to cover ‘equality and diversity’ he says, someone to write about education and schools – I’m a little disappointed but he continues saying he’d like a submission on disabilities, and I have just enough time to finish thinking, ‘what a great idea,’ when he literally sidles up to me, looks at me sheepishly, in a wink-wink-nudge-nudge kind of way and adds, and black and minority ethnic. His non-verbal hint couldn’t be any louder. My tongue turns sharp.
“…And black and minority ethnic, so if you wanted to submit something that would be great!” Such enthusiasm reflects such fucking ignorance. Even though I was about to offer him my words, my time, and my energy. Even though this is all I write about. Even though…
I keep my mouth fucking shut. And he continues rolling downhill into a conversation about fears of tokenising “minority ethnic” people, whilst the two spectators assure him that this is the right way to go about it. Because yes, that was it – he couldn’t find any trans people of colour in Manchester, he couldn’t find them. “Are they living under a rock?” His exact words. I wish I had a rock.
They all laugh. In seconds, I am reduced to the colour of my skin. My experiences as a person of colour become a commodity.
I feel like a token.
I feel like an object.
I feel like I do not matter.
I do not matter.
A person of colour does not matter.
We are ‘equality and diversity.’ We are a box to be ticked. Mark me with your desire. Check me with your objectification. I could be anyone. I only need to be darker than you. I do not need to be a writer. Really, I do not need to have a voice. I do not need my opinion, feelings or thoughts. All I need is my skin. The skin I am forced to live in. The skin I continue to survive in.
For I do not matter.