Reina Gossett is a visionary and her work deserves prestige and compensation.As a writer and an organizer, I get a warm flush a few times a month when I get a shout out on social media from my many peers and colleagues in queer feminist POC networks. The last one that gave me real pause was the incomparable make-up artist Umber Ghauri of Brown Beauty Standards who let the world know that I did one of my usual backstage hook-ups for a great campaign celebrating trans women’s beauty for the End Violence Against Women campaign. Reina Gossett is a historical researcher, writer, filmmaker and activist who has been receiving the antithesis of the aforementioned warm treatment that comes from community solidarity and compassionate collaboration. She’s been done real dirty in the furore which has surrounded the Netflix documentary film “The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson”. If you are unfamiliar with what I am talking about, Gossett accused David France, the director, of capitalizing on her years of research and ideas for the film. I spoke with David France, just to get a measure of the man. I was not interested in the pernickety back and forth of accusations, allegations, defensiveness and labored partial truth seeking. The expansion of digital media has enlarged the court of public opinion exponentially to an extent that would boggle the minds of television watchers. In this era where many are concerned about the not-that-new phenomenon of 'fake news', the thoroughness of journalistic endeavor hasn't been diluted across the board. It seems that David France believes that because he had "trans and gender non-conforming people from the very top of our production to the bottom of our production” that it could exempt him from criticism of his cisgender white gaze and perhaps even invalidate Reina’s claims that her labor was exploited.
“That moment is indicative to a lot of the street harassment that I have had to endure, and that street harassment started, first because these men found me attractive, because I’m a woman. And then they realized that I was trans and it became something else.” - Laverne CoxWhenever transgender women are discussed in cisgender male circles, the topic always seems to focus on sex. The message being conveyed is that transgender women engage in a form of trickery to coerce unassuming cishet men into sleeping with us. But if you look deeper, you will find that the facts do not line up. In reality, it is not trans women who are looking to trick or even have sex with men, but men themselves, and their insecurities for being attracted to us. I am a transgender woman who is often awarded the advantage of being cis-passing and also being conventionally pretty. I am the type of transgender woman, cishet men use as the poster child for trans women who “trick” them. When I am out in public, I catch the attention of men more than I actually care for — and I never disclose. It is not up to me to disclose when I am the one being approached, when my personal space is the one that is being encroached upon. Despite what cisgender societal expectations may be, trans women are not obligated to wear their trans status like a scarlet letter for a man’s own sexual comfort. And despite what men may think, women — whether cis or trans — do not exist to make them comfortable. Often, it is not even safe to disclose in these situations anyway.