Confusing Communities

By Penny Robo

Penny RoboHumans aren’t a uniform creature. We experience vastly different things. We’re fueled by those experiences and it’s no matter whether all those differences in our upbringing and everyday lives are brought about by individual circumstance or society at large, those differences are still there, affecting our outlook and morality, how we communicate verbally or express ourselves visually, what we believe to be important or even what we believe exists.

These differences shape us as individuals, but the similarities create our communities.

Though the list of characteristics we create for ourselves (personality, hobbies, etc.) may seem the overriding factors in who we’d likely to be close to, having similar experiences can be more influential on our personal and social relationships than the aspects we consciously assign ourselves as our defining traits. I’m more likely to find a kindred spirit in a poor trans woman of color than a rich white cis man, even if he and I both love model kits, Prince, and sculpting. Society treats different people differently, creating vastly disproportionate opportunities, access to resources, and standards to achieve success between the different, overlapping groups it’s created. These shared hardships forge bonds between us that create the communities we’re all a part of.

It is a difficult task to create a community that is not based in how we’ve been categorized by society; unless you’re in a bohemian commune, dropping thousands on sneakers, or own a yacht, the communities that grow instead from shared occupations, interests, or lifestyles are often a means of mutual protection. Whether that’s being gay, being a sex worker, or working an assembly line, there are forces at play that wouldn’t hesitate to harm or take advantage of you.

And this is something we all know and reinforce in our lives even if the individual components aren’t familiar to us, the same way we can string together a coherent sentence without having ever heard the word participle before. We know in our gut that certain groups have come together for the most basic purpose of ensuring protecting themselves from others.

And that’s why certain communities aren’t taken seriously: you don’t need protection from anyone or anything. Nobody gives a shit about the “gamer community” or the “young republican community” because we all implicitly know that not a shred of your personal suffering comes being a part of that. And that’s also how you manage any meager traction at all, by ensuring that these concepts remain implicit instead of explicit. Because open and obvious context for the existence of the communities you compare yourselves to and attempt to conflate yourselves with would lay bare the basis for why you think there should be a White History Month, and it sure as hell isn’t in the name of equality. If people were honest about why these communities for vulnerable people exist in the first place, the cries from your newly-branded group of straight cis dudes that hate brown people and women would get as much respect as the local yacht club complaining about an increased docking fee.

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About Zinnia Jones

My work focuses on insights to be found across transgender healthcare, public health, psychiatry, and history of medicine, integrating these many perspectives and guided by the lived experiences of trans people. I live in Orlando with my family, and work mainly in technical writing.
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