Does community limit us?

September 26, 2010 at 8:13 am Leave a comment

In a recent article, trans porn star Buck Angel mentions how he is not very popular in the trans community for his choice to embrace his non-normative genitalia. He actively enjoys his vagina in the transpositive porn he produces and doesn’t see himself as any less of a man as a result. What I found particularly interesting was his assertion that seeing oneself as part of a community can have a limiting effect on one’s self identity:

Many of my girlfriends or sex partners wanted to penetrate me, but I was always too afraid to go there; afraid of what it would make me. Butch dykes are conditioned never to go there. That is a bad place. Of course, back in the day, there were no FTMs, so the only community I fit in was the Dyke community.

I knew I didn’t really belong there, but it was the place that made me feel the most “normal.” This is one of the reasons I dislike “community.” Once you belong to a community, they never give you the freedom to just be an individual; they always have these damn rules that screw your head up if you don’t follow them.

It made me think of my own coming out saga and how difficult I have found it to find a group where I feet at home. To this day I search for that one community that will embrace me in my entirety. But maybe that’s the wrong approach. Maybe the fault isn’t so much with the communities who do not embrace me as it is with me for expecting a single community to be capable of understanding every nook and cranny of my identity.

Identity politics can be as damaging as believing that there is A Special Someone out there who will somehow complete you. That Special Someone doesn’t exist. Relationships are built on trust and commitment and shared values but they usually come with the odd disagreement and differing interests.

Relationships change us – we feed off of one another’s energy. In a similar way, belonging to a community shapes us. But, we shape our communities too. Communities are made up of disparate individuals with a wide range of views. We may share some things in common (e.g. sexuality, gender identity, religion, class) but our diverse backgrounds are bound to influence us into holding differing views on other things.

Throwing out the concept of community just because some people in our community don’t like our choices or views is, come to think of it, a little like throwing out the baby with the bath water. A vibrant community is one that can embrace multiple viewpoints and still stand strong. But, and maybe this is what Buck Angel is getting at, we need to make sure we don’t tear each other apart before we get to the real battlefield – the world. All too often in marginalized communities, we bite into each other with such vehemence that we forget who and what we’re really fighting.

Diversity isn’t just about being politically correct, it’s about evolution. By play-fighting within our communities, we build up our strength so that when we go out there into the world, we’ll be prepared to face off against more virulent forces. We’re like young deer locking antlers with one another, establishing ourselves as leaders within our communities.


Entry filed under: Gender, Transgender. Tags: , , .

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