for the millionth time: not. a. woman.

cherry: issue #006

Featured image by Olademiji Odunsi on Unsplash

This is a small offering before I roll out all the content I had originally planned on for Cherry: Issue #006. I did not have the spoons1 to make it happen in March.

My March reflection getting sent out in April perfectly encapsulates how I've felt over the past month. Delayed. Sluggish. Straight-up beaten-down. March 31 was Trans Day of Visibility. As a non-binary person who is constantly screaming about their gender identity from the rooftops, I've felt more invisible than ever, lately. Digital passersby, colleagues, and loved ones alike don’t just boldly misgender me — they confidently invalidate me. And I’m not just talking about a pronoun slip-up here or there.

I'm talking about the audacity to call me a woman, to tell me my uterus and vagina make this truth infallible, to address me with a "ma'am" or “sis” or "girl.” I'm talking about the rapid development of cisgender folks’ interest in grammar — even though everyone already uses the singular "they" anyway and gender-neutral pronouns are totally correct grammar.

The consistent “they/them” in my social media display name is been treated like decoration. The trans flag in my bio read as an aesthetic. My straightforward disclosure that I am, in fact, transgender isn't read... at all.

At the beginning of Women's History Month/Womxn’s History Month, I made a huge graphic reading "NOT A WOMAN" to ward off social media coordinators eyeing me for their March campaigns. While this gesture blessedly empowered my non-binary AFAB friends, I played myself by thinking that the post would be read and understood by the oppressors. Nevertheless, cis women persisted.

The fever pitch of my anger came when my essay for Health Magazine on what it's like to have a period as a trans person dropped. The publication tenderly shared my story on the @healthmagazine Instagram account and the timing prompted some spirited Insta users sassily to comment that the post must have been an April Fool's joke. Ooh, got 'em. For real though, shout out to the transphobes for making my social media engagement pop and giving me that good-good SEO value. Am I right?

I AM NON-BINARY, 25/8. I AM TRANS THROUGH AND THROUGH. CHECK YOUR IGNORANCE AT THE DOOR AND CUT ME A CHECK.

A week before @healthmagazine’s post, the anti-trans hate on my period story had already trickled in — pun fully intended. Salty cis people tagged me in their Instagram Story and addressed a strongly-worded email to me. Yes, an email! At first, I was perversely giddy. Since adopting they/them pronouns "full-time," my skin has been forced to steel itself against the way cis folks really don't be caring. It be your own friends. It be your own blood family. Now I had strangers in the mix acting a fool. I almost welcomed the disdain and disgust.

Because you know you've made it as a journalist when people are shading TF out of you. You know you've made it as an LGBTQ+ public figure when you're getting bombarded with hate.

Photo by Billie on Unsplash

At some point, I stopped deflecting with prickly wit long enough to interrogate my feelings. What came to the surface wasn’t sadness or hurt. Instead, I realized I was silently writhing with anger and indignation. I'm exhausted of living in a country where people are so apathetic, self-absorbed, or both that common courtesy is treated like a chore. Re: anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers. Re: the sh*theads who let that 65-year-old woman get beat up on her way to church.

Especially after the Atlanta massage parlor shootings, when we're all supposed to be coming together, holding space for Asian folks' pain, and being extra-vigilant for violent acts of racism. Rest in peace, Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, Young Yue, Delaina Ashley Yaun, Xiaojie Tan, and Daoyou Feng.2

My breakthrough came, however, when my editor for the period story delivered a simple but uber-necessary reminder to me as I got comfy in the hot seat: "They’re mad that you’re confident in your skin and thriving."

Photo by Akarsh Gurudeva on Unsplash

If you’re cisgender, you may think this is the part of the narrative where you can pump your fist in the air, tell me I'm "100% that bitch," and keep it pushing. Sorry not sorry to disappoint you. I mean, yes, I've been thriving lately. The sun has shyly started making her prolonged appearances. I've been listening to lots of 70s stoner rock, 80s metal, disco, and 60s yé-yé. I am practicing my walk in chunky-heeled, patent-leather heels à la Dominique Jackson for Thierry Mugler SS21.

I’m thanking all the good people in my life —sometimes cis, but mostly trans — for the genuine reminder that my mental health is solid enough to make like Marsha P. Johnson and pay transphobes no mind.

“THEY’RE MAD THAT YOU’RE CONFIDENT IN YOUR SKIN AND THRIVING.”

But ultimately, this is the part where I ask you, cis folks, to step up to the MF plate. Be better. Hold your partner accountable. Needle your parents, work on your grandparents, and challenge your co-workers. Check your homeboys’ casual transphobia. 3 Call out dated, off-color jokes in your group chat.

Feel like that’s too hard or too scary4? Let’s start here: Stop centering your cisgender feelings about trans people and using your cisgender feelings as a compass to determine whether you should care about trans issues. Care about the trans people who aren't your favorite musicians, comedians, thespians, and models. No, being famous doesn’t protect you from violent transphobia.

But as we speak, queer rural, Southern youth are being smothered by oppressive, cis-centric Christianity and colonial ideas of gender, without a modicum of support from their communities. This lack of institutional support can literally kill queer kids.5

Photo by Amanda Souza on Unsplash

On March 30, an Arkansas bill barring minors from gender-affirming health care passed. It's just one of more than 80 anti-trans bills introduced in 2021. We're starting the fourth month of 2021 and we've already surpassed the total number of anti-trans bills introduced in 2020. Yes, even amid a global health crisis and the disintegration of our democracy, anti-trans lawmakers are finding a way.

Cis folks, take heed of the ways you are causing destruction and pain for trans and non-binary people. That harm doesn’t just come dunking on your cis friends by saying they look like a trans woman or making trans man uncomfortable as he uses the bathroom. Sometimes, your harm just looks like apathy and selfishness.

I, Caroline Colvin, will be pretty OK. By the grace of an excellent chosen family, access to fresh produce and oatmilk matcha, my favorite pro-Black mental health podcasts, and my psych meds, I'll be OK. I promise. But there are thousands of trans people, especially children, who will not be so lucky. ✧

Donate to the Trevor Project, which provides free crisis services 24/7 to LGBTQ+ youth at-risk for suicide.

Donate to GLSEN, an organization dedicated to creating LGBTQ-inclusive K-12 schools for all.

Donate to the Transgender Law Center, the largest national trans-led advocacy organization, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, the National Center for Transgender Equality, as well as the Marsha P. Johnson Institute.

Donate to the Trans Women of Color Collective, an organization actively dismantling the cisgender gaze, colonization, anti-Blackness, imperialism and transphobia.

And here are even more actionable steps you can take to help trans youth.

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1

If you’re unfamiliar with the term “spoons” in regard to energy, here are few explainers on the spoon theory, first developed by the chronically ill community. What Is Spoon Theory - Healthline

2

I’d like to bring attention to Stop AAPI Hate. Along with the thorough anti-Asian hate crimes report they released prior to the shootings, the organization has guidance on how to diffuse escalating situations as a target or bystander to a hate crime — both in English, but also available in a host of Asian languages.

3

As Indya Moore said, y’all need to love trans people in the light. Anywho, I know Jack Harlow would never treat me like this. And if you see my reply to this tweet, no you didn’t. 🤍

4

If it feels too hard or scary for you, I actually don’t care. The average life expectancy for a trans woman is 35 years old. I’m turning 25 this year and I really hope I don’t just have 10 years of my life left.

5

TRIGGER WARNING: SUICIDE • In a national study by The Trevor Project, 40% of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt — with 92% of respondents reporting having attempted suicide before they turned 25.