Twenty first century starts with a well spread new technology: the internet. Huge amounts of content being created and uploaded every second and still the same old story being told.
I was requested to write this particular article in English although English is not my first language and I still struggle to express myself fully. I feel a lack of tools which won’t prevent me from jumping to this train of the new lingua franca of our times.
Let’s try out, why not? Everything for the scope rate, right? But, who does this scope includes? I’m certain about my family and friends from my home village not understanding a word of what I’m writing. And still they’ll support me in their own way as they’ve always done.
Nor my current community from the village in Tarragona that I recently –had to– migrated to. My aqua-gymnastic ladies with who I share rheums and breakfast every morning, my Catalan classmates or my pinya partners.
I deliver training courses funded by European Union for a living and we keep falling to communicate in English although it’s the native language of none of us. This fact got me thinking for a while and gets my feeling recently. I am feeling privilege and powerless, glad and angry.
Privilegie and glad because being fluent in English and Spanish gives me access to a big part of the information (all academic, artistic and personal storytelling) being published. Powerless and angry because with my competence to understand and communicate in English comes not only the language itself, but all the cultural background and current context of native English speakers.
For my queer community in Europe, and trans community in particular, this is both a gift and a burden. It is a gift because the linguistic resources in our native languages to express variants of gender identity and expression are very limited. Thus, we are able to find tools to name ourselves and our gender experiences. Plus, by communicating in English, we also have access to a wider range of trans folks which enlarger the possibility to connect with people who went or are going through similar life events and inspires a sense of community.
But (here comes the but), as I said, it is also a burden. Embracing identity words that belongs to a foreign language is, somehow, an illusion. I see my peers adopting reclaimed slurs in English such as “butch”, “fag”, “dyke” or the well known “queer” without having gone through the emotional and social process that reclaiming a slur comes with. In my local context, I see little to none emotional payback in individuals who dare to identify as “dyke” or “tomboy”. But I can see it in their eyes how it hits right straight to trauma when I suggest to use the Spanish equivalent “marimacho” instead.
So, in a nutshell, adopting linguistic tools to name our identities in English prevent us from empower and reclaim our own languages, cultures and personal backgrounds.
The wider sense of community I mentioned has also (at least) one but. During this past month of March, some events happened in United States threatening queer people and its(/our) culture. Such as banning drag shows, educational curriculum cuts and bills denying access for trans* people to gender affirming healthcare. There was even a school shooting perpetrated by a trans individual at some point.
I found out about all this through some content creators I follow in social media, who recently switched the type of content they were posting to express their fear, vulnerability, sadness and concern. Which I totally understand and support.
But my alerts clicked when I saw my European social media queer friends not only reposting about these events, but also sharing the feeling of being threatened. The funny (not funny) part of it, was when this content was coming from people living in countries where don’t even exist political or legislative protection for LGB people, nor talking about trans* experiences.
This same month, something similar happened within the borders of my own country, Spain. Spain is divided in seventeen territories that we call comunidades autónomas” plus two autonomous cities. Each one own some legislative and administrative power such as the management of social and healthcare systems.
You most probably have heard about Madrid as a city, but it is also a comunidad autónoma. Well, past March, right aligned parties carried our an attempt to derogate the law that protects LGTB people within the Madrid territory. Activist all around the country mobilized to prevent this from happening, answering to the call created by entitled Madrid activists.
I personally come from the comunidad autónoma called Castilla y León. I had to see the few activists from there dedicating their time, emotional and physical labour to Madrid’s issue when we don’t even have a law to protect in our territory to start with. And still, again, my trans peers in Castilla y León felt threatened by this derogation attempt.
It seems like an unspoken power dynamic in relation to territory and language is operating. Not only regarding “who has the power to name things” or “who has their suffering listened to” but who and how is affected from this suffering.
I’ve read some authors pointing out this power dynamic related to racism, which is undeniable true. But, for example, native English speakers black marimachos have their own identity label, “studs”. So further than that I haven’t seen this being mentioned operating on LGTB ““globalized”” community.
And still, here I am, reclaiming my truth in the language that belongs to the current power from a territory (physical and symbolic) which is never listened to. But there is this one thing I will never allow to be stollen from me, not again, my own voice to name my own truth.
And with this being said I’d like to leave you with a bunch of questions and it’s up to you to answer them as food for thoughts, healing journey, identity search or just something I once read on the internet.
How are you naming your identity? Do you feel comfortable and accurate with those terms? In which language do you feel safer naming your identity? Are the terminology that you use to identify yourself understood by your local context? Do you feel safer to name yourself in an online English speaking forum or with your local peers? And finally, when you look at the mirror, which is this word stuck in your throat that is not letting you scream?