Let's all get something straight, I am not a trans activist. I am not a trans feminist. And I certainly do not speak for the entirety of the trans community. So stop saying I do, okay?
I am a feminist, but I am not some new-fangled separate identity which allows others to divorce my views from a wider feminist framework. I just happen to be a feminist who is transgender. As for being an activist, well... I don't know about that either. I'm not particularly physically active in the sense of protest, or canvassing, or polling. I'm a writer (and a school teacher, but mostly a writer, as far as the internet is concerned). My job is to write opinions from a trans woman's perspective. A trans woman. ONE.
When transgender people issue opinions, we are met with certain labels just for speaking our minds. Trans activist (or transactivist as it is said in some circles) is used to marginalise our views from the supposed mainstream of our own minority groups. We're the "rabble-rousers," the "troublemakers." We're making people dislike our community and not want to help us or support us. We're making "allies" "uncomfortable" because we have opinions about our treatment, and so we need to be separated like chaff from the "nice trans people" wheat. That's what these labels do, and it's silencing.
Yes, it is silencing and dismissive. We're all aware of the issues with tone policing concerning marginalised groups, but there is another issue in and idea which constantly crops up in comments sections and Twitter feeds and Facebook: that we, as a representative of a minority, must be speaking for our entire minority community. To paraphrase NinjaCate, this is bullshit and needs to stop.
And while I also identify as a lesbian, I am even less able to speak for the entire lesbian community. Or the sexual minorities community in Japan, of which I try to be aware and in which I try to be active. And speaking for all LGBT people everywhere (or at least within a North America/Western context)? That's so far beyond the pale, I don't even begin to comprehend how anyone could possibly come to that conclusion. Of course I can't, so why am I expected to defend myself from accusations that I do? I do not.
I know what some readers are thinking. They're thinking, "wait, if you can't speak for everybody in your minority group, why do you expect me to listen to you on lived experiences you claim within that minority group?" Great question, and it comes back to issues of privilege and the dynamic of power vis a vis hegemony and systemic oppression. My views are one set of views among a great many people within my minority groups, and when you are not a member of those minority groups, you have a responsibility to listen to as many opinions from those minority groups as possible. You have a responsibility to sit down, be quiet, and listen to the discourse amongst those within the minority groups. It's our discussion to have and our consensus to reach. We're not all going to agree right from the get-go. Your interjections that we do not all agree are not welcome, and they certainly are not helpful.
This is why the response, "I have a minority friend, and she/he/they think(s) you're wrong" doesn't cut it. If you take any one opinion from a member of a minority group and try to make it be the end all, be all of the opinions represented in that minority group, you're doing it wrong.
Stop doing it wrong.