Rage

The next time I have to wear a name tag, I could put “Angry Trans Guy” on there and no one would question it.

That worries me.  Not the fact that I’m angry–I’m happy about that!–but that my anger is thought of as extraordinary.  I call ’em like I see ’em.  I see oppression, and rage is the only sane response.  To refuse to be angry, to calm myself, would be to expect the worst, to expect being treated as less than human.

I often anticipate the worst, but I never expect it.  Dehumanization and lack of compassion are just not what I like to think about when I make my coffee in the morning.

I want to talk about the uses of rage.  I think because we’re in an environment that’s liberal, queers at SLC not using rage as much as we could.  We’ve decided that rage is not a useful tool for activism.  The activist culture here regards rage as a problem to be overcome rather than a tool to be used.  In reality, rage is one of the most important weapons in our arsenal.

Sometimes, it feels like rage is all I have.

Rage is a tool beyond its obvious use as a wake up call.  It is a way for the oppressed to respect the humanity of the oppressor while simultaneously doing the work of social justice.  It is a way for us to be honest with them about our feelings, our experience, what their structures are doing to our humanity.

The people who perpetuate oppression here at SLC are our peers, our colleagues, our teachers, our friends.  They are valued members of our community.

The oppressed owe the privileged nothing, of course, but friends do owe friends something.  Community members owe community members something.  We owe each other honesty and kindness.  And I believe, in that sense, we owe the privileged our rage.

Do we really have so little respect for the powers that be here at SLC that we think they can’t handle it?  I have faith in their ability to put on their big girl panties.

More importantly than what we owe the privileged, though, is what we owe ourselves.

If we don’t rage outwardly, we’ll bleed inwardly.  If we make the expression of rage a taboo in our activist communities, our rage will get poisonous inside of us.  And that, gentle reader, is how young gay trans men end up sitting in the Tweed kitchen in sweatpants and a superhero T-Shirt, growling the words “CIS PEOPLE” and writing vitriolic columns for student publications.  No one wants that.

Stephen Ira is a queer activist whose poetry and fiction have been published in 365 Tomorrows and Spot Literary Magazine. He co-chairs Sarah Lawrence’s trans identity group, Trans Action, and keeps a blog as the Super-Mattachine, queer anti-oppression avenger, at supermattachine.wordpress.com. As David Foster Wallace would say, he does things like get into a taxi and say, “The library, and step on it!” He believes there is nothing more radical than kindness.

Be first to comment