Inspiration Out of Challenges: Mercedes Allen

“Anything connected with sexuality still has the unfortunate affect of automatically discrediting a person in many public venues and occupations,” laments activist and blogger Mercedes Allen. “The reason you always hear about it when a politician, teacher, and such is "openly gay," for example, is that after all these years it's still considered rare and risky to include someone who's seen outside the bounds of heteronormativity in positions of authority, instruction or places where they might become role models. So openly trans is that much further off the map. It closes a lot of doors and makes it more difficult to get your voice out there.”

Those doors aren’t going to shut on Mercedes. Her blog, Dented Blue Mercedes is a collection of powerful writings sex and gender politics, as well as many other significant topics. Based out of Southern Alberta, Mercedes doesn’t just write about advocacy, she takes the initiative to start programs to help people. Mercedes started AlbertaTrans.org, a network for trans-related communities in Alberta. She is also a founding member of Trans Equality Society of Alberta whose “mission is to be a witness to and a voice for matters concerning trans-identified Albertans.”

From the outset of our interview, Mercedes makes clear a reality that many trans people face. “Being transsexual isn't really a sexually-motivated thing. It's probably important to clarify that, since it's one of the most common misconceptions in society and one of the most common ways that people try to undermine who we are. We don't transition for sexual enjoyment, we do it to resolve the constant 24/7 conflict between who we know ourselves to be and what our bodies and society tell us we're supposed to be.” The said, she does also point out that “like anyone else, we can still be sexual beings, and I think it's unfortunate when we're so desperate to clear up that misconception that we start to become sex-negative.”

The body conflict is something that has challenged Mercedes herself significantly. She looks to a study on phantom limb syndrome as a possible explanation as to why some transpeople are sure that their body isn’t what is should be. Because of this feeling, Mercedes found that anything to do with her body was extremely uncomfortable. Doing sex work when she was younger, she was forced to deal with her body issues, and worked to find something positive.

“And I did. I came to see that there was something very powerful and beautiful, a potential for communication on a level we'll probably never fully understand. And the sex-negative taboos that our society throws up as barriers are keeping us from realizing the full potential of responsible exploration as adults.”

The writings of Patrick Califia, though she hasn’t always agreed with him, have helped Mercedes understand “why we need to question traditional absolutes, and open our minds to seeing sexuality—and sex and gender minorities—from their perspective.” She also cites Laura Agustin, Clarisse Thorn, Tobi-Hill Meyer, and Jessica Yee as people whose work impress her.

Mercedes finds that sexuality itself “has become a key inspiration to keep challenging myself as a person, to see different perspectives even if they don't always seem to make sense to me at first, and to work toward building a world where diversity is an asset rather than a source of fear and presumption. And in that, we never stop learning.”