This post is a follow-up to my previous post about cabals in activism. If you haven’t read that post, I suggest you do so before reading this one. This post is more focused on the specific notion of the "Trans Cabal".
I would like to make a clarification. The problem is not that all trans people in the UK are in a shadowy group organised in complete secrecy, plotting out what must be done. Quite the opposite, in fact.
The problem is that only some trans people in the UK are in such a group.
Okay, that’s a little facetious, but I hope it gets the point across. We’re not all in a cabal. There are a number of cabals, many of which overlap. I myself am in a cabal: it’s not a very effective cabal and we’ve been working on making it less cabal-like, but it is a cabal nonetheless. It’s difficult to balance the safety of participants with the size of a group. But that doesn’t make the phenomenon benign by any means.
It’s not my intention to cast aspersions on anybody’s motives. These groups are frequently not deliberately constructed. They just happen, by nature of the tools we use and the culture we exist in. We like to feel ownership over the projects we are involved in. But we involved in trans activism need to always keep in mind that our projects are for the good of all trans people, and thus it’s only right that all trans people should have input into those projects. This goes especially for those who are frequently cut out of such discussions.
The situation is not helped by the fact that a significant amount of activism these days is organised via Facebook. Facebook is not a good method for broadcasting your intentions in a fair and public manner. Facebook is explicitly designed as a content filter, deciding what its users should see. It’s already well-known that Facebook page posts aren’t seen by most people who "like" the page. It’s also the case that Facebook filters what posts I see based on what it thinks I want to see. And yet still I tend to receive a significant amount of information about activism via Facebook, simply because its use is so ubiquitous. I’m not saying we should all give up on Facebook (well, it might be nice?), but we do need to be aware of its limitations as a tool.
Every so often I see something that might as well be signed "anyone who’s anyone in UK trans circles". But neither I nor anyone I know gets to hear anything about it before it hits the pages of The Guardian. The message is clear. We are not anyone. We are no-one.
It sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? But that’s what this exclusion is. To be continually shut out of what is supposedly "my community" is maddening, and I mean that in a quite literal sense. It does real damage to my mental health.
And I’m white, and I’m from a middle-class background, and I do have some friends. The exclusion that must be experienced by a trans person without those advantages is, to me, simply unimaginable.
And that is the problem.