The Fixation on Being the “First”

Last week, I collaborated with some friends to hold an event called “TransFocus: A Trans* Film Festival”. Together, we were able to hold the event independently from any party, collective or organization working in Lebanon in order to explore different spaces of activism that I have not been accustomed to work in previously.

One of the policies that we followed was limited media exposure and to some degree, we resisted any coverage from foreign and non-local media outlets. The few reporters who did reach out to us to cover the event were turned down and we talked to them on the reasons for such. We resist that our event be made representative of the Trans* community and the (non-existent) Trans* movement in Lebanon.

The event ran from November 29th till December 1st and we really enjoyed the discussions that were raised within and the new spaces that we were discovering. As we started working on documenting the event’s proceedings and the discussions, an article was published on December 2nd that covered the event (last day of the event at least) in NOW by Mr. Alberto Mucci. Unfortunately, the article was titled “Lebanon’s First Transgender Festival” even though we have made it clear on different occasions and places that we resist being represented as the “First” of anything or seen as representing anyone or any community or population.

I would like to elaborate on this point in this post. Being called the “First” presupposes that there were no previous similar event before. That is something that we do not know since there might have been one that we were not aware of (which is very likely since these events are usually done underground and away from media coverage and attention). Moreover, the purpose of using the word “First” is to “measure” the progress that a certain group or country have achieved in terms of queer activism and specifically Trans* activism.

Edit 1: A very interesting fact that @myra_m pointed my attention at is that the term “First” also presupposes that the event in question is the “true” and “original” one and all subsequent ones are imitation of that one singular event.

Our event did not progress anything in this country nor in this “Arab” world (whatever that terms includes/excludes). In fact, and as my colleague Dree put it, our event did not help or change the life of a single Trans* person in Lebanon or anywhere else and we do not (and can not) claim that it did anything of that sorts.

The only thing that we did achieve with this event is that we were able to explore existing laws and regulations that police Trans* bodies; from the available medical services to the process of identity change to the ways Trans* people navigate laws surrounding identification and “public morality” (again, whatever that means). Moreover, we were also able to explore new alliances and map out some gaps that we need to cover in the services that are provided/found in Lebanon.

If there is something that the media can help out is to share our call to share resources.