There is something very intimate about knowing your body. There are certain things you just learn over the course of time that no one else can ever know, like how much room your body takes up (no matter your size), the feeling of others eyes on you, how you navigate the world and spaces you inhabit. There is a lot of talk about how the personal is political, but I feel, the personal is also intimately political. Whenever we talk about our bodies and our lives, we open ourselves up.
When you are trans*, and you speak of your history and your body, a peculiar thing happens. You can feel them, the eyes slowly undressing you, as if trying to verify your story. The sudden scrutiny as if looking for whatever small misstep you or your body may make to ‘give you away’. When we talk about ourselves, everything becomes deeply intimate. When we dare open our mouths, our lives become a spectacle, a display, for people to examine, to probe, to dissect.
The moment we announce our trans* status, we seem to be stripped of our privacy and our consent. Everything becomes intimate. People lose their decency and we lose ours because we are expected to have none. We are expected to allow strangers to undress us with their eyes and their words, answer questions about our genitals, probe into our most intimate histories and details, all without even a dinner and a show first. We are expected to stop whatever we are doing at a moments notice and strip ourselves bare.
How does this turn the personal is political into the personal is politically intimate?
A few ways. The erasure of consent is one of them. We are expected to answer any and all questions, no matter how obscene, how intimate, how rude, and how uncalled for. We are expected to describe our most intimate parts in detail, allow these people to undress us in their minds. We are expected to allow these people to probe deep into painful parts of our pasts and psyches, without any hesitation or tone. We are expected to be living, walking displays of human diversity, whether we want it or not.
Once again, we are also stripped down. We are forced to undress, both literally and figuratively for others. Our most intimate selves exposed to explain our histories and ourselves. We are not whole people, we are not the summation of our experiences and identities, no, that is not what people want to hear or see. Genitals are often described as intimate parts, not only for their roles in sex, but in how they are to us. They cling to our bodies, hidden by not just one layer of clothing, but often two or more. These are things to be hidden, and in the case of many trans* people, something to be ashamed of. However, the moment the words pass our lips in confirmation of our trans* identities, we are expected to strip. We are expected to lay bare as people examine and probe us at our most intimate.
Our sex lives are pushed into the personal is politically intimate as well. How, why, when, and who are all too common on the tongues of the curious. Considering trans* people navigate a world where they are not only overly sexualized, but desexualized in the same breath (especially for the case of trans women), the fact that anyone would want to have sex with us is alien. Our existence seems so far outside the reach of anyone, the fact anyone would even consider us attractive is even more so. Of course, this plays highly into how cissexist and monosexist the society we live in is. We adhere so tightly and closely to binaries, that to even considering toeing the line is taboo. To even consider that our binaries are restrictive, oppressive, and even at worse, wrong, is something so blasphemous is does not often cross mouths or minds.
Even our minds are not safe. The very questions that are asked about our sex lives (how, why, and when) are applied to our most intimate psyches. However, the most pervasive question seems to be why. Why are you trans*? Why do you feel this way? Why do you think you are what you say? Why? Why? Why? We are never taken at face value. We are never simply taken for who we are. Our lifetimes of knowledge do not matter. Our lifetimes of experience do not matter. No, what matters is what certain physical parts we may or may not have plays power over us. We are considered creatures of superior mental prowess, but there are certain things that this does not matter over. We can create, destroy, define, and classify, but we cannot do these things to our own bodies. Trans* bodies and minds are not our own to own, to experience, to classify, to define, or to even exist. We are are the mercy of those who want to strip us to our most intimate.
The personal is political and it is also intimate because it is personal. The personal is politically intimate because every time we defy a question, define our bodies, refuse to be seen as objects of fascination, we are acting politically. Every time we use our bodies in the ways that we want to, against the probing eyes and tongues of others, we are acting politically. Every time we assert ourselves as wholes as opposed to parts, especially intimate parts, we are acting politically. Our very existences are political for according to the world, there are many things we should not be, but we are anyway. We are the owners, definers, and creators of our bodies. Our lifetimes create a lifetime of intimate knowledge that cannot be expressed without intimate knowledge. We are our bodies, as we create, see, and define them.