I’ve been hearing a lot in the last few weeks about how 2015 was the year that trans gained mainstream acceptance and that this development was all thanks to Caitlyn Jenner, Laverne Cox and that Amazon show that fails to understand the trans experience in any way. No matter who I speak to, I am told that I must hero worship Jenner and Cox for creating a world in which I can walk down the street with a slightly lower chance of being violently attacked, but I’m not going to fake enthusiasm to people I don’t like any more, because this year I will be demanding a better standard of hero.
Let’s ignore Jenner’s homophobia and support for the Republicans for a second. I’m even willing to ignore her belief that the hardest thing about being a woman is deciding what to wear. Pointing out that Caitlyn Jenner sucks is so 2015. In 2016, we must demand better heroes because we cannot leave a world where we are told we are not to be valued because of the journey towards our true genders, only to enter a world where we are only valued because of the journey towards our true genders.
Liberations movements over the last 25 years have seemed to have been incapable of naming the problem. Instead of trying to undo power structures that have lead to our oppression we have begged to those structures, appealing to our basic human dignity, but appealing to basic human dignity is rather fruitless in a world that offers none. So if we really want to make progress in 2016, we need to name the problem.
And that problem, is capitalism.
Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not one of those Stalinist “no war but the class war” types who believes all discrimination will dissolve after the elimination of capitalism, as if there’s never been racism on a picket line or sexual assault in a socialist organisation. No, the dissolution of capitalism will not dissolve discrimination based on arbitrary traits, but discrimination based on arbitrary traits will never be dissolved whilst capitalism remains intact.
Capitalism is an economic system which requires constant expansion. It expands geographically across the globe forming sweat shops and slave trades, but it also expands in a different way. The market creeps in to new areas, everything becomes a product. We don’t just go to market to buy bread, we go to buy a place to call home, we go to buy experiences, we go to buy water, and then we go to buy ourselves.
If there is one thing that our neoliberal capitalism sells better than anything else, it’s fairy tales. You too can get married, have children, wax your legs, throw up in Thailand, and have a really clean vagina as long as you buy this soap. We don’t get to really think about what we want, because these fairy tales are powered by the weight of societal expectation.
You are not following the plan. You are not living properly. You are not buying into the dream.
Try telling someone you don’t want children, and watch what happens in their eyes when they say “fair enough”. Try telling someone you want to live with your friends for the rest of your life and see how they begin to pity you. Try telling someone you have two girlfriends, or a girlfriend and a boyfriend, or a girlfriend, a boyfriend and a partner of a different gender and watch them stare at you in disgust. You are not following the plan. You are not living properly. You are not buying into the dream.
That is capitalist expansion, but even capitalism at its most liberal can’t contain all our dreams, because some of our dreams are too specific to be marketable.
Capitalist dreams have expanded to include gays and lesbians; so long as they want to get married, include people of different races; so long as they want domination, even people of different religions; as long as they want some sick Nike shoes. That is capitalist expansion, but even capitalism at its most liberal can’t contain all our dreams, because some of our dreams are too specific to be marketable. When people say 2015 was the year trans people began to gain mainstream acceptance, they mean 2015 was the year capitalists learned how to sell trans people dreams.
I waited 20 years of my life longing to be something different. I spent 20 years dreaming of someone I could be. 2015 was the year capitalism tried to sell me the dream of being Caitlyn Jenner posing half naked on a magazine or Laverne Cox dressing hair and being sassy, but those are not my dreams.
And, this year, I am not buying.