What Does Trans Community Mean To Trans People?
We asked people what trans community looks like after the glitter of Mardi Gras has settled.
Another year, and another Mardi Gras come and gone. Whether attending gigs and talks or dancing all night, marching or managing to avoid it, it’s hard to exist in the wider LGBTQA+ community in March without feeling the hyperbolic homo-pop aura it exudes.
I feel like I can’t avoid getting caught up in the bubble every year, even as the pandemic saw us skipping staples like Fair Day or the unending dance floors that pop up for a brief moment, christening the end of Summer.
Once the dust and glitter settle (if the latter ever really washes out), I know I can feel an impulse to withdraw again, especially from intra-community spaces — ones where we can meet and listen and party all together, celebrating our many glorious diversities. Taking this time is really important, especially in a mid-COVID world, but so is staying connected with each other not just when we’re the flavour of the month with banks and big gay, but every month and day throughout the year.
As we stare down the rest of the year, and this new way of meeting and being in the world — cautious, and yet hopeful — I wanted to talk about how we find these connections and let them grow and endure. I know from my own life experience that trans community can be so affirming, so uplifting, so beautiful, and I wanted to hear how this fit into other people’s relational lexicon. There’s no better source of community wisdom than people themselves, so I’ve spent some time this past month asking community directly: what are the ways you find each other, and make community, the rest of the year?
The answer is everywhere!
The Internet Is Good
“Honestly it’s all been the internet. Wouldn’t really have a community without it” responded one of the people I interviewed, which was a common sentiment.
Whether through Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, or other sites — as one person said “oddly enough some of my closest friends I’ve met on dating apps as well when dating didn’t work for us” — especially in light of the past strange year, making community where it’s possible to meet is a common theme.
Community is also rarely just being in the same space with nothing to do — we meet because we share not only identities, but interests, hobbies, work, and pleasure. One person told me “I’ve found activism helps. I got involved in a march against gendered violence in Aus and spoke up for trans inclusion. That felt pretty damn euphoric and affirming,” which was another strong current through the responses.
“I first connected with others via uni queer collectives and volunteering in community orgs” another person told me, continuing “which led to forming advocacy oriented groups/projects that in turn connected me to many more folk across the country,” with many others concurring, naming the many groups that made them feel like they were a part of something, like Trans Pride Australia, Pride in Protest, clothing swaps, gaming events, Discords and Facebook groups of friends, or specifically for trans mascs or trans femmes.
A Community Can Be Two People
Sometimes it’s about that big picture — organising, protest, partying — but it can also be about what happens between two people.
A friendship or relationship, a flirtation, or a life-long confidante, these connections are radical in the way that they say we can not only take up space, but are allowed love and joy even outside of the eyes of the public. I was told the joy of “[being] able to just openly talk about and make jokes about our experiences/bodies/feelings,” a joy I feel so purely, as well as the joy of “good, queer affirming sex as the person I was, with people like me.”
There is so much room here for our care of each other to be so affirming too, as one person told me “my housemate (a trans man) did my make-up last year during lockdown and it was really nice for both of us, he could engage with the fun of make-up without dysphoria and instead see me be really euphoric about how pretty I looked.”
There is a strong sense of relief and comfort in being understood too — there are many spaces where trans people are welcomed, but to truly be heard and embraced can feel rare. As one person responded, “I don’t have to worry about explaining my gender, explaining pronouns, and I don’t get invasive questions about my transition and body… having a bro I can vibe with and talk with about it is so cool.”
I’ve felt this throughout my own gender exploration too, that feeling of being around a group of trans women and shooting the shit, knowing that while we’re not all the same, we do have a common language that doesn’t require explanation. As one person replied “just being in a room, or at a table in a restaurant, or part of an online space, where everyone is trans has a feeling of comfort to it that I don’t get anywhere else” — however we end up together, there is euphoria in making room for one another.
“Just chatting about how we all got here and having such unique stories and paths that all got us to such an interesting place, the fact I can offer an explanation nothing like any of my peers and not have them so much doubt it being genuine for a second is pretty damn cool.”
Celebrating Our Differences
We celebrate our differences, as well as what defines our similarity too.
One person responded “just chatting about how we all got here and having such unique stories and paths that all got us to such an interesting place, the fact I can offer an explanation nothing like any of my peers and not have them so much doubt it being genuine for a second is pretty damn cool.”
More than anything, the overwhelming response I got from people was that there is so much joy in just being around other trans people. The trans personal is so often made out to be political when it doesn’t have to be — we’re just hanging out, yarning, loving one another. It may be radical, but it’s also so normal.
As a wise friend told me “it’s not just gender euphoria Liz, it’s gender comfort — not having to have a guard up, not having to explain or self justify what it is to be trans, to be with other folk who just know.”
As I collect these stories and experiences here, I realise I’m already running out of room, so expansive is how we find joy and community together, however I want to speak now directly to all the people who replied by saying they hadn’t found community yet, or are struggling to figure out how they want to be trans in the world at all, and to tell you: you will figure it out.
I have no hesitation in saying so. You will find your people, you will find your joy, it’s not a matter of if but when. When we take a moment to focus on the euphoria of trans community, I can’t help but see that it flows over every chance it gets — you will find the place that feels right, and I can’t wait to meet you there.
Liz Duck-Chong is a freelance writer, health researcher, filmmaker and peer worker, whose essays and non-fiction have been published widely. You can find her online at @lizduckchong.
Gender Euphoria will be published monthly. If you come across any positive or beautiful trans news we can feature in this column, Liz would love to hear about it and her DMs are open.