I’ve made a number of posts on various International Days of Stuff over the years. International Women’s Day, Transgender Day of Remembrance, Bisexual Awareness Day, Asexual Awareness Day. It’s relatively unproblematic for me to post something about International Women’s Day, because I’m a woman. I’m talking about me and my peops. It gets more complicated when I do it for a group to which I do not belong, and I know I’ve made mistakes in the past.
Like, I reviewed a film called Soldier’s Girl for Transgender Day of Remembrance in 2011, when I was just starting out on a journey of self-education about trans issues. I had known some trans people, but not as many as I do now, and I certainly wasn’t as aware of the issues trans people face and how this interacts with their representation in film. I acknowledged my ignorance in the post, but I still made the post. I’m now aware that there’s a real problem with trans women only being played by cis men in films and TV. It’s a problem because it takes work away from trans women, because it suggests that cis men are somehow better at presenting trans women than they are themselves, because it divorces the real people of the subject matter from the audience – it renders them pure entertainment, seen only at one remove from themselves, as they are presented by cis people. It’s also part of an uneasy tradition of only presenting LGBT stories as tragedies*. Soldier’s Girl did have involvement and approval from Calpernia Adams, the real woman the film is about, but it’s still true that her role is played by a cis man: Lee Pace.
There were problems with me promoting this film as a way of participating in Transgender Day of Remembrance, and they were problems of ignorance. The ignorance that comes of privilege.
There’s also a problem with making a post that draws people to my site on a day that’s meant to be about giving attention to another part of society – a group over which I already have a bigger voice due to my privilege. Everybody does it. International Day of the X provides bloggers with a free theme guaranteed to draw eyes. But it makes me… uneasy. I know how it feels to see prominent male bloggers using feminist issues to draw people to their platforms when they’re not really best placed to comment on the issues they are discussing. I don’t want to be doing that for other people.
So, my question is this: what’s the best thing to do if you want to do something to raise awareness on an International Day for a group to which you do not belong? Would it be better to simply collect links to blog posts by people who are in that group? Is it possible to post sensitively about issues you do not directly experience?
*This trope has been dubbed by ladysaviours as ‘dead gays for the straight gaze’ and ‘queers die for the straight eye’ by powpowhammer in a critical post on Tumblr to which has also been added some valuable historical context from moon-crater. As Transgender Day of Remembrance is specifically about highlighting the disproportionate number of murders of trans people, it’s possible that it isn’t as inappropriate a choice as it might have been, but my overall point is that it’s complicated, and I’m possibly not best placed to judge what is appropriate.