Hey y’all, I’m Kneena. This article was written about me protesting the Rick Santorum event in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. The article is inaccurate in ways that are offensive and uncomfortable both to me, and others that were involved. I want to be sure that everyone knows I was not acting alone. I was working with twenty other people, some of them from Occupy Charleston and some of them from the Radish Collective (a group of radical queers working to destabilize Charleston). By portraying me as the “lone transgender” the media was able to diminish how scary I really am. I went into the rally with the goal to introduce the narritives of trans visibility and queers being violent into mainstream media. The press was able to erase the twenty people I went their with and portray me as a lonely, deluded freak.The first question the interviewer from buzzfeed asked me was weather I was there alone or not, and I told her I was there with twenty other people, but obviously she had already written her story.
The article stated that I was born biologically male. I wasn’t, I am female assigned at birth, and when I was 18 I learned that I am Queer Bodied ( a term that I am using to mean that I am neither male or female, but not able to get down with the term intersex). I would’ve told this to the interviewer, but she never asked. She only asked if I was trans, and I said yes.
I do not think the labeling of me as a transwoman was an accident. ( I want to take a second here to say that I respect transwomen so much, and that I am not trying to distance myself from this label. I was just not assigned male at birth) In the picture you can sort of see my beard,and I was rocking it so hard while also dressing super femme that day. The tension caused by my visible beard and my femme attire is central to my queer identity, however many people see me and label me as a “Sloppy tranny.” Images of transwomen in media are always seen as dangerous and deceptive (super hot girl who turns out to secretly be a man) or as comical ( a man in a dress!). By viewing me as a sloppy tranny I am often seen as an emasculated man (incapable of defending myself), and an unsuccessful woman. In this way the media was able to use transmisogyn to mock and invalidate my identity as a queer radical renegade which allowed readers to see me as comical figure and not as a dangerous one.
I was trying to push a narrative of queers bashing back and being violent not because I necessarily believe that violence is all around the answer. Reading about police brutality towards the occupy movement today, I was feeling indebted to those who have chosen to peacefully protest in the face of blatant violence. I felt jealous, because being non violent is not an option for me. It’s even less of an option for me now that the Huffington Post and other media outlets have outed me as a transwoman.
Living in Charleston as a visible queer trans body of color means sacrificing safety. I do not leave my house without knives, because I am physically confronted at least once a month, but sometimes twice a week. I am verbally assaulted at least once a day if not more. I have come to know violence intimately, because even if I can (and have!) escape the bigots that chase me with rocks and knives I cannot always escape the fear they surround me with. When people like Rick Santorum suggest that gays don’t have the right to exist, he is asking his followers to stamp them out.
I have become to familiar with what it means to be an object of bigotry. When people look at me I can tell that they are angry that I feel that I have the right to exist. I know that they, like me, are committing themselves to their activism. They are actively trying to drive freaks like me back into a normative existence, and if we refuse they are happy to drag us to our graves.
I yearn to take the violence doled out against me with a smile, to let myself be beaten to smithereens laughing all the way, but I know that when I do not fight back my face is not blown up across the internet. No one is paying attention. I know that when I am not ready to fight back, I will not fight back, and they will know to. And I know that if I do not fight back, that means that I will let myself be dragged into the trunk of a black van full of college bros looking to lynch a tranny, never to be seen again. If I do not fight back then I will just be another dead queer that the south chewed up and didn’t both to spit out. If I do not fight back, I will quickly become one less queer body, and my fellow renegades will be left on the front lines without me.
I told Santorum and the reporters that the longer you silence queers the harder we will bash back, and that is the truth as I see it, because we are fighting a war where we are being killed everyday. Our identities and struggles are invisible to the world that refuses to see anything but the white, gender normative, heterosexual, upper middle class.
The world needs to know and respect that the other exists: that there are queers, people of color, poor people, differently abled folx (cognitively and physically), undocumented folx, transfolx, and so much more who are entitled to the same rights. We are here, we have knives and we are coming for our rights.
I hope this has been helpful to read, it was certainly self indulgent to write. I am so thankful to all the support I have recieved from so many people!! Y’all are incredible, I assumed for sure that you would be too normative and embarressed to get down with my fight. If you want to fight the fight with me and all the other renegades, I want you to do that.
There are so many things that you can do to help:
1) Work to make the spaces around you safe. By safe I mean evaluating the actions and words in the space and consciously phasing out violent or offensive terminology. It also means holding people in the space accountable for their words. This can be hard and no fun. However, nothing makes me feel worse than being in a space I thought I was safe in and hearing any of the following: faggot, retard, rape jokes, tranny.
2) Educate yourself. We are born into bigotry, and we are socialized to be bigots. Disengaging from bigotry and oppression is hard. You have to work for it. It is never an oppressed individuals job to educate you, or let you know about their struggle. It is your job to get down with their struggle.
ok, thank you for reading. If you need any help, or you want to work with me, I am here.
My social movement communication class has me thinking more and more about violent vs nonviolent forms of protest. As activists, I feel that many of us do not like the idea of violence and harming others. However, this easier to do when you have a large group of other protestors in solidarity present with you. At protests camera phones and media keep some checks and balances on violence, but this is not the case on an individual level. When a person is singled out, self-defense is imperative. We should feel empowered to stand up for ourselves and not have to apologize or be criticized, harassed, or attacked for doing so. Kneena, this was extremely powerful to read. Thank you and we’re here fighting back with you.