Trans people of color are finding that they have an extremely different relationship to gender transition than white people. London Dexter Ward, an LAPD cop who transitioned in 2004, sums it up this way: a white person who transitions to a male body “just became a man.” By contrast, he says, “I became a Black man. I became the enemy.”
As you would expect, because I’m white and female, my own experience with intersectionality is far more benign, and yet it also speaks to the experiences in this article.
Over the last few years, without having lost one of my 275 or so pounds, in some contexts I’ve stopped being fat … because my hair has gotten gray enough to make me look old. I notice this most on public transit–people who five years ago would have glared at me for seeking out a seat (because I was fat) now get up for me (because I’m old). People who would have really minded sitting next to me, even though the BART seats are plenty big enough for two people my size not to touch each others’ hips (because I was fat) now sit down blithely next to me (because I’m old). People who showed clear disdain for me if I was using the escalator instead of the stairs, or holding on to a railing (because I was fat) now show sympathy and patience (because I’m old). In those contexts, age trumps fat, and being old replaces being fat.
In the doctor’s office, however, I’m still fat. In a cafe or restaurant where all the chairs have arms, I’m fat. On an airplane, I’m still more fat than old, though that one might be changing.
If a black woman transitions to being male, she stays black and becomes male. In some contexts, I’ve stayed fat and also become old, but in others I’ve ceased to be fat, because I’m old. I’m just starting to think about other examples of intersectionality and how they work; watch this space for more pondering.