Trans Bodies, Trans Selves

Last night I went to an absolutely brilliant talk hosted by Wild Iris Books. Trans activist and scholar Peter Cava is a fantastic speaker with the perfect mix of instruction and emotional authenticity. Their presentation was interesting, captivating, and had no dead weight/filler/”I love the sound of my own voice.”

I was also exceptionally impressed by their diplomacy and grace. Members of the audience didn’t always agree with each other and Mx. Cava handled each scenario/conflict with such poise that afterwards I was making comments to the bookstore’s owner, Erica, that we need them in politics or even as the US’s first trans president.

Mx. Cava came to Gainesville to educate us about a new resource for trans people, namely, the book Trans Bodies, Trans Selves, and also to open up a discussion about the ways they helped their native Broward County (FL) adapt its policies and in what ways Gainesville’s trans community can help keep itself more safe from cis violence.

While in college, Mx. Cava was the spearhead of what turned into a huge movement to make FAU safer for trans students by making a map of all the gender-neutral bathrooms on campus. More recently, they served as an advisor in their home county about how to address issues of trans homelessness.

Another issue that is important to Mx. Cava is making sure trans folk have the resources and knowledge needed to be able to activate already existing laws to help them. Many of the existing anti-discrimination laws are not enforced, or are even being used against trans safety (“We can’t have a trans homeless shelter because it violates our antidiscrimination policy!” — true story from Broward) so more work is needed so that people are held accountable for violating the existing laws.

The Gainesville trans community is highly concerned about personal safety, with one person pointing out that simply existing in public was like being in a war zone. With Mx. Cava leading the discussion, they decided to work on creating a phone network so that trans people can call for a ride if they feel unsafe or at risk for attack.

After the discussion, Mx. Cava shared with me some wishes for how trans women should be written as characters by cis women like me. We should abandon the “victims and villains” dichotomy (their exact wording) and instead work on creating likeable, empowered characters.

Peter Cava’s website

About Shira

Queer Jewish feminist author
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