The burden of representation

By Penny Robo

For all the wrong reasons, certain someones have made the news recently and I can’t help but dread what’s going to be waiting for us around the corner because of them. Minorities and other marginalized people have known something for a very long time: when people are looking for a reason to dismiss us, one of us speaks for all of us.

We’re considered mouthpieces for our entire community, our words and actions reflective of our entire group. Wave after wave of white, conservative men committing mass shootings: whatever can we do about these lone wolves? One trans woman commits a crime in prison: all trans women should be locked up in men’s prisons.

This isn’t meant to diminish the actions of any one individual; an act of violence is an act of violence and utterly deplorable. I’m talking about the reactions to these actions. How one trans woman’s crime is applied as a filter to us all, yet a member of the dominant group hurting others is treated as an aberration, as a wholly separate entity where trying to draw any comparison is considered absolute fucking insanity.

I’m tired of constantly biting my tongue for fear that a mark against me will mark all who share my labels. I’m tired of how any potential misstep can be weaponized against my community. Will even just chatting about my hobbies prove to someone, somewhere, that I’m “really a man” and be tracked onto all of us? And a flirtatious remark can be held up as proof of, well, anything. And it doesn’t stop at being trans at all. 

Even my atheism, worn as a badge of honor by white intellectuals with religious families, holds an undeniable element of shame for me, as though I’m helping to erase the lingering elements of my ancestors’ culture that the American colonists hadn’t gotten to themselves.

I’m unsure where the fallout will land or how severe it’ll be, what event will be weaponized, or trotted out before the next election, or used to justify another dehumanizing law. It’s bad enough just knowing there will be one. 

About Zinnia Jones

My work focuses on insights to be found across transgender sociology, public health, psychiatry, history of medicine, cognitive science, the social processes of science, transgender feminism, and human rights, taking an analytic approach that intersects these many perspectives and is guided by the lived experiences of transgender people. I live in Orlando with my family, and work mainly in technical writing.
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