tl;dr By saying someone “happens to be” trans, it suggests that transness is a convenient accident and diminishes the importance of transness in a person’s identity.
There is nothing I hate more (ok, there probably is) than when a news article or a person mentions someone who does something else and “happens to be trans”.
As if transness is some kind of happy accident that has very little bearing on someone’s identity.
And, I mean, maybe that’s true for some trans people, but something about how obsessed cis people are with this specific turn of phrase worries me.
It also goes on with these statements of “XYZ may be trans, but they’re also so many other things….”
Which, I mean, great, people are complicated, multifaceted beings, and I understand how quickly society likes to simplify people, but the danger of these statements is that it says “look at all the parts of XYZ that aren’t trans! Ignore the trans bit! That’s not important!”
Transness is an integral part of me. It’s not a happy accident, or a funny “happens to be” coincidence that I dance and am trans. It is impossible to understand the rest of me and the layers of my personality without recognizing and prioritising my transness because (shocker) that has a huge effect on how I perceive and interact with the world.
It’s time to stop talking about people who “happen to be” trans. Instead, let’s discuss people who have major success because they are trans. Let’s discuss the way a trans identity will fuel and influence someone’s career, whether they choose it or not.
And, especially if we’re talking dance, a world particularly hostile to trans identities, we have to recognize that I’m a trans dancer despite transphobia and cissexism. I am not a dancer who happens to be trans or a trans person who happens to be a dancer, those two parts of me are inseparable. And every moment we spend separating the different bits of me apart, as if I can be turned into a catalogued list of attributes, is an excuse to not look at what it really means to be a trans dancer. And it’s a great way to get brownie points for polite, respectable diversity without actually taking responsibility for how dance, and society, disadvantages trans people.
No, there is absolutely no accident in my being a trans dancer. It is a very specific, conscious decision and challenge to the transphobia and cissexism in the spaces I enter because of who I am. No one gets to forget about or minimize the importance of my transness.