Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Carto takes on gender, #2: It's Not About You, It's About Everyone Else!

It is.

Maybe there's gender inside your head, maybe there's not. I don't know. There's probably some gender inside my head, but it matters precious little in my everyday life. What matters, hugely, is gender other people ascribe to me, you and aunt Tillie. Most people don't seem to care about identities at all - they just slop a gender on you, and if you're lucky, it sorta kinda fits, and if you're unlucky, it's a match made in hell - not only does it not fit, but other people are hell-bent on making you fit the gender.

A big part of gender lives in the perceptions of other people.

I think that's often missed in queer studies: the preferred position seems to be looking in, not out. Prominent questions being gender identities (how do you feel, on the inside?), gender presentation (how do you like to present yourself? - instead of asking myself why do I see you the way I do?), gender transgression (how/why do you transgress? - instead of why do I see the way you are as transgressing?).

The point of view is from an unknown, "neutral" observer to a queer "subject" - but the questions asked, and the answers given to them betray something else entirely: it's the observing subject that gets to ask the questions, and it's not the observing subject that questions hirself, or sees hirself as a subject, even - that bit of subjectivity is, more often than not, entirely hidden from view. It's replaced with a "subjectivity" (within very strict limits - questioning of the questioner is definitely not allowed) for the queer transgressor and a mock objectivity for the "neutral" observer. For samples, go read almost any of the big names: Butler, Foucault, Sedgwick, Halberstam - the list goes on and on. These people tell almost nothing of themselves yet proceed to dissect queer lives from a supposedly neutral standpoint of academia.

Well, I beg to differ. It seems to me gender is made by the observers. It's not entirely independent of the observations, but there's a lot of room for interpretation of observations, and this room is used by the observers to build, model and create gender - and this is the but that interests me greatly. It's also a bit that, AFAIK, hasn't been studied much. I'd call it the hermeneutics of gender (well, being the Gadamer-loving humanist I am, this is hardly a surprise). Why do we see the things the way we do is, in my opinion, the crucial question.

This point of view has also the helpful effect of removing the onus of being observed from us trans/queer/whatever people. It's not us. It's the people questioning us that really need to be questioned.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Carto takes on gender, #1

I guess I'll be writing more than one of these.

Let me start with two common words that describe parenthood. Namely, mother and father. Both are gendered. Sure, they can be queered, but I wonder how many other people get that, without, at the same time, ungendering the subject that utters the word.

I prefer mother. I don't think this is surprising at all to anyone who knows the least bit about me - I really intensely truly dislike anything masculine pushed upon me, and given the choice I tend to opt for the feminine end of the spectrum. Not always, but very very often. I am cisgender - I don't feel uneasiness with being a feminine woman: it suits me.

However, I also intensely dislike pushing things upon others. I don't think it's a good idea to attribute motives, or prescriptive roles to other people. Calling someone a "mother" (or a "woman") can be precisely that kind of attribution. I find there are at least two ways of using words; you can use them to prescribe, to say what ought, in your opinion, to be, or you can use them descriptively, to say what, in your opinion, is. But the wording is mostly similar, and the usages are very often concurrent and inseparable.

Trouble is, I approve of descriptions. I think they're useful. I think descriptions help us people connect with each other. And I do try to avoid prescribing, but end up nevertheless, because if I want words to have intersubjective meanings, they have to be limited in those meanings. A word can't mean just anything whatsoever if it's to retain meaning - if a word can mean anything it will mean nothing.

So. WRT common, gendered words, I try to limit my usage to more or less common usages. I use words like woman, and man, and I try to use them descriptively - if someone looks, acts and gives an impression of being a woman I describe her as a woman. It's a phenomenological approach. I supplement this phenomenological approach with an additional caveat - if a subject declares herself as a woman, I take her word for it as a starting point. This does mean I describe self-identified women as women even if they don't look like women are conventionally thought to look like, and it means the word "woman" is open to reinterpretation - but it also means I make judgments on what the word "woman" can mean, what it can meaningfully point to. I can, of course, be criticised for my judgments, and indeed I welcome such criticism because, obviously, I can be in the wrong. And, mutatis mutandis, I try to follow this approach for all other words, too.

This means I also prescribe some meanings: I accept that responsibility. I don't think that can be avoided, so my choice is to accept it and try to be a mensch and not fuck up too badly.

So much for words pertaining to sex and gender.

(There's three of these: this is part one, here's part 2, and here's part 3)

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Anniversaries of things past

Sometimes I wish there was a working selective amnesia pill. I'd use it to forget the past pain. Specifically, the occasions where I had to be complicit in my own oppression - I'd say it happened partly due to my ignorance of the alternatives, but mostly due to the impossibility of me doing anything to better my situation. My case in point being my wedding, some ten-plus years ago.

So I played the groom. It feels horrible to remember it. It was so wrong. I was powerless to stop it - I did want to get married (or whatever) with that woman - in fact, I'm still civvied with her - she's perfectly lovely. But I can't feel joy or gladness about that day. Remembering it fills me with dread and horror. It's kinda the pinnacle of forced masculinisation - a woman is forced to marry as a man if she wants to marry at all. She's also supposed to feel happy about this.

Well I bloody well tried. But I can't keep it up any longer, and I suppose it is a lifelong sequence of days like this that make us trans women want to kill ourselves. I'd really like to remember my wedding day (typing this makes me cry) as a happy day, but I just can't. It was a black day, a day of forced masculinisation.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Trans Studies Reader #4: Serano

Yup, there's nothing from Serano in the book. Serano's Whipping Girl was published in 2007.

But it's effect on my reading is rather thorough-going and pervasive.

Firstly, there's the terms. Cissexism, transmisogyny, misgendering - all very pertinent, all very much unavailable when Trans Studies Reader was published.

Then there's the change of attitude. And boy, is there a change! I can tell that this change of attitude has made me realise I can reclaim my past from the cissexist, misgendered, misogynist narrative as it's been told to me, and have it for my own. My life, as the female I was born, forcibly masculinised, boy- male- and man-ified by the society hell-bent on erasing my experience. Oh, the power of words!

"Trans" is an adjective. "Transsexual" is not something I have to identify with - other people can and do use words in some ways I find totally unacceptable, but before Serano I didn't have other options. I did know my experiences couldn't be described in the language I had, so I had to make do with what I had, but that's no longer the case. I can describe myself as cisgender, trans-bodied woman - it just sounds right and correct. It doesn't have the idiotic insistence on me being male - which I, most empathically, am not. It describes me and my relation to other people rather well, and it's not too difficult even for cisgender cisbodied people to understand, once they can wrap their heads around the idea that yes, we humans do misgender people, and that there's no way of knowing that until the affected people say so - and we should stop the hurtful (and stupid) misgendering from that point on, pronto.

Subversivism is another fine addition: whenever I'm seen as subversive because of I've "changed sex" I'm like, "say what?" I haven't changed my sex. I was born female, into a female body - our dear cissexist society just couldn't grok it and promptly assigned me male, and fought me tooth and nail when I wanted the mistake corrected. There's nothing inherently subversive in getting your records and body straight. There's nothing particularly antisubversive about it, either: it's neutral as far as I can see.

Anyway, back to the Transgender Studies Reader - it feels quaint, even, because of this. The language sounds a bit ancient, faintly insulting: ungendering trans women and men is such a common theme that runs through the book, as is giving precendence to birth-assigned sexes and genders - the implied headspace is pretty thoroughly cissexist, apart from certain exceptions (Jacob Hale and Donna Haraway, for example).

I feel a sea change coming. Into something rich and strange, perhaps?

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Ideals and realities, BDSM, feminism and "safe"

Well, ideals and realities never live up to each other, do they?

I've been discussing BDSM plus feminism a bit at another place (in Finnish, sorry), and I thought it might be worthwhile to write a bit about ideals, and especially about our (that is, all humans) permanent failure to actually live up to them. Fact is, we can't. Most of the time, we won't, either, and the fail that is us doesn't stop even there - we, in fact, make excuses for our failures, too.

So, not only do we fail at ideals, but we often don't even want to, and when we fail, we try to cover up our tracks, too.

I think this has a number of consequences. It means, firstly, that anything and everything we do, especially stuff that we pronounce to be strongly good, or bad, is probably somewhat suspect. We may well be right in our proclamations, but there's a distinct possibility we're just acting on our own interests, and not in a good way.

Secondly, I think it means we shouldn't be too surprised to find out that humans are fallible. That we make mistakes, sometimes honest, sometimes not - that other people eff up and then proceed to make it look like a tiny, understandable mistake when it in fact is not - is a basic fact about the way life is.

And thirdly - this fallibility is firstly and foremostly about you and me. Look in the mirror first.

I seriously think this applies to everything we do. Feminism, BDSM, Christianity, you name it, we can fuck it up.

I also think there's hope. Many ideals have the seeds of self-criticism built into them - feminism being one fine example. If you start by believing it's important to have a proper look at how gendering and sexing works, and how it benefits some and others not so much, you already have the necessary tools for having a look at your own privilege. You probably have to own up to some privilege yourself, too - and that's precisely what makes you safer to be with, from my point of view.

I feel safer with people who have had, and are having, a hard look at themselves. Sure they're bastards like everyone else, but they know they're bastards, so perhaps they are able to do something about it instead of watching themselves just do stupid, evil things and then excuse themselves with whatever (the old saw was "the Devil made me do it", but substitute Devil with an excuse of your choice). Bastards like me.

This is why I find BDSM not entirely incompatible with feminism. As long as practitioners can own up to their fuckups, take responsibility for them, make amends, recognise their own fallibility in all matters on this earth, and don't blame others for their own abuses of privilege, they're mostly safe people. Just like feminists. Or Christians. Or anyone.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Things I should've been writing about but haven't

I'm reading more of Haraway and liking it quite a bit. Do yourself a favor and read her, if you can.

I should write something about Serano. Whipping Girl is turning out to be a watershed for many trans women, myself included. It's not so much about the content - many bits of the terminology were out there before Julia took it and put it together in such an appealing way - but it's precisely the totality of it that opened my (and by the look of it, many others', too) eyes to the depth cissexist thought permeates the world around us. Some good bits about how plain ol' sexism works, too - even in progressive circles.

I should write something about spirituality. All this politics dovetails my beliefs and they influence each other. I'm probably a Marxist, too, it seems. :D

I probably should write a bit about my new hobby, but I'm not too sure if I want to because of the problems disclosure might cause me. I should write about the difficulties a trans woman faces with health care professionals and other, supposedly helpful, people.

I'm physically too tired to do most of this. I'm not ill, just exhausted, but in a good way. I'm doing sports. Which is another thing I probably should reflect on. Oh well.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Cyborgs'r'us - Haraway's Manifesto: Transgender Studies Reader, #3

This is one good bit of work: Haraway's concept of cyborg is very apt, and fitting of the trans condition in many ways, and it's hardly limited to that (I think it can be applied to cis womanhood easily, too), but as I'm not cis, I'll limit my comments to the bits that interest, fascinate and engage me, 'cos I'm so me me me, me.

Anyway: what I really liked about her piece, and what really spoke to me was her central concept of cyborg. That none of us cultural creatures are "natural" or can be clearly and cleanly differentiated from machines, or animals. That we don't exist as natural bodies, 'cos "natural" (as in opposition to unnatural, bit like "unfallen" vs. "fallen") does not exist for us, anyway. However we view it, the world is not separable from the concepts we use to map it, communicate it, think about it.

The other thing that I find real useful is the notion that there are no overarching systems of thought - no system can explain everything, and indeed, should not even attempt to do so - and that every system will distort whatever it views in some way. That systems of thought should be developed with this in mind, that there is no privileged narrative, no (absolute) ground on which to stand on, is so bang on in my mind I'm tempted to join some Haraway fan club and send her cookies.

This is the text that shows more than a modicum of understanding how science (as in physics, computer science, biology) works: that's excellent in my opinion, too - this text also isn't frightened of technology and the possibilities it offers, but seeks to subvert the aims for its own use, and embraces technology as a useful extension of our embodiments: this was written in 1984, and here we go, extending our embodiments in the cyberspace like this blog post, for example. If you think this text you're reading does not embody me, think again - who has written this? Who controls what happens with this text, here? Whose thoughts, whose formulation of them are you reading? How is this not embodiment? Where do I stop and you begin?

Then there's the "sod organic families" -bit that makes me cheer: "The cyborg does not dream of community on the model of the organic family, this time without the oedipal project." (105) The organic communities some of us are trying to find are simply stated completely unrealisable - give up: they're not to be found on some organic ground of being: we have to make them ourselves if we are to have them at all. There's no "natural" womanhood - there's only the womanhood we make, ourselves, and we should build it knowingly, accepting our real differences, building an alliance of women instead of an total, organic community, which would be an extension of the patriarchal origin anyway, a return to the primordial paradise which never existed.

I found some spiritual Christian value in Haraway's manifesto, too (113): I realised that in my theology, God/man binary does not exist - I don't do that dualism. For me, God is about incarnated God, God made flesh, God becoming human - there's no clearly defined limit, or a border, between God and human, which, incidentally, is reflected in the 5th century CE Chalcedonian Christological formula: "We confess that one and the same Christ, Lord, and only-begotten Son, is to be acknowledged in two natures without confusion, change, division, or separation. The distinction between natures was never abolished by their union, but rather the character proper to each of the two natures was preserved as they came together in one person and one hypostasis." It's a contradictory formula, and precisely that is why it's so perfect: there can be no clear border, nor no no-border between God, and human, the tension remains. A rather cyborgian view of God and human, I'd say.

I can only agree with Haraway's call for "pleasure in the confusion of boundaries and for responsibility in their construction": precisely that. Confused boundaries, esp. with regards to binaries, and responsibility in their construction are exactly what I'd prescribe to this society, and they're what I'm working towards, too: for my own small part I'm re-educating the doctors I meet on the need to draw the border between "men" and "women", between "female" and "male" in a responsible way that does not erase people and their experiences, nor endangers their access to health care. That such borders will inevitably be confusing and confused is, I think, a cause for celebration - a binary system can never hold the riot that is human sex and gender, nor should it try to: such subsuming would (and is), in my opinion, be of an extremely totalising and patriarchal in nature.

I wonder if there'll be anything better in the book? If there is, it has to be something totally gobsmacking.

with a h/t to Paula Sankelo.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Why so many people do accept one of the two socially sanctioned genders (myself included)?

I realised I hadn't given this much thought, and I'd perhaps better. After all, I went through all that bother of transitioning - why settle for something relatively simple and normative, even, when I have had all the possibilities and dislike giving in to the norms, too?

Much as it shocked me, transitioning felt right when I did it. It wasn't just another of those things you do because it's convenient, because it saves a lot of hassle (although it did do all those things, too): I hugely enjoyed, and still enjoy, the results. I know it sounds trite, but this is how I was meant to live. This is the body I really needed to have. It felt physically good. I know, words don't seem convey what I'm trying to say, but it's like getting a proper meal after being hungry for a long time, and not knowing what food is like, even. Something you never knew even existed clicks into place and you realise what a huge, previously unknown hole there had been before.

And I don't know why. I really don't. All I have is speculation and conjectures.

Silly as it sounds, after vaginoplasty I felt whole. Part of it was no doubt psychological - no-one can take me back - but I suspect that wasn't all. How does one describe a body that feels right?

And, to continue the silliness, being a woman in this society feels right. It fits. While there still are very real problems in my life, there isn't the feeling of not fitting in, of not belonging. I still keep wondering if this how cises feel all the time. If they do, let me tell you they don't know how lucky they are.

This feeling highlights, of course, the horror that was living with untreated transsexuality. More on that elsewhere on this blog, and numerous other places - no need to go there now.

[ETA]

The reason why I accept one of the socially sanctioned genders is 'cos it fits. For the lack of better words, it just fits. I guess developing a proper answer to the question in the headline requires a theory I'm not sure even exists - a theory of fitting in, of normalcy. No-one seems to examine that. I wonder why?

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

On the limits of theories, both social and biological

I quoted Nan Boyd in my last post about desperate attempts to save the foundations of sexual nationalisms. What I mean, more specifically, is that I find the attempts to save a clear-cut binary sex, or gender division rather funny: no clear binary exists, not in a biological sense (there's the pesky intersex, plus we don't exactly know how bodily sexing goes, and in order to have a clear binary, you really do have to know), and certainly not in a social sense - just go see your local genderqueers for a proof.

Moreover, there are some other fundamental problems, too: when we speak of biological sex, we are applying human-invented categories to phenomena we observe in nature, and it's pretty clear to me that the categories themselves are socially constructed, too - they're sure rooted in biology, but they're just as deeply rooted in human needs to categorise and dominate the world. There's no disentangling the social from the biological, or vice versa.

Which brings me to my point: sex and gender are interrelated in multiple ways, and we don't have a complete picture of how this happens - and it may well be we shall never have the complete picture. You see, when we're observing something outside ourselves, we have to classify it to be able to express the observations to anyone else in language - and when we do this, we're already bringing in the socially influenced apparatus of language, and, in effect, shall never have such a thing as pure, unbiased results. We can certainly try, and I'm not so pessimistic as to think we'll always be badly wrong, but I am confident we shall never get it totally right. We'll always be somewhat wrong. Strangely enough I find the thought comforting.

My second point is, social construction is on its own insufficient to explain sex or gender. If all gender really is socially, and socially only constructed, why does it fail so badly? Why does the construction make such a botched job of building two, and two only, genders and sexes? Why do people rebel against it? And on the other hand, why so many people do accept one of the two socially sanctioned genders (myself included)?

What I see, in my culture (big city, middle class, educated - I'm basically your privileged white girl except for the trans plus queerly sexual bits) is people who mostly toe the line when it comes to gender. They seem to be mostly happy with their sexed bodies, too. This is not to say they're happy with the very real inequalities between sexes and genders, but I think you'd be hard pressed to find a substantial amount of women, or men, who are intensely unhappy about there being sex/gender combinations such as "women" and "men". The unhappiness lies - or is made to lie - rather solidly in the margins: those who do not want to, or cannot live the binary in the way they want, or need to.

Thus, the (political) problem of sex and gender is manifold: part of it is just plain ol' oppression - patriarchal, cisarchal, classist, the lot. Part of it is that binary sex and gender really seem to fit a large majority of people, and thus it's rather hard to see a future development where sexes and genders would be significantly more complex, and would thus open up the possibilities more easily for those who need or want them. Thus, a wholesale queering of everyone and everything is, in my opinion, an utopia: all very nice, but it's not going to happen because there's insufficient demand, and the benefits are not tangible enough for the majority to get really excited about. Heck, there's very little tangible benefit from seriously queered gender and sex to me now, as it is.

Going back to theories, a large part of the reason why current theories on sex and gender are so insufficient in my opinion is that there's so little research into how gender and sex works for the majority. So far, almost all research into sex and gender has focused on the "non-normative", on the "abnormal" bits, and as far as I can see, majority sex and gender has largely been ignored - it has been taken for granted, as if it was a simple question: "duh, everyone knows what a woman is". As if! I'd really like to see, say, a majority feminist organisation, or our national health system, really dig into its own practices of sexing and gendering - how does it do those, who are included in practice, who are excluded, why, what are their solutions to the practical problems of sexing and gendering that happens on the margins - as far as I can tell this isn't even documented, let alone analysed. The results should be interesting (probably shocking, too, in many ways).

Monday, 14 September 2009

Transgender Studies Reader, #2: Patrick Califia gosh darn

What he writes about hormones is, like, that's what it's been like for me, too. Hormones change you in so many ways, and what they do to your thinking and to your sexuality is interesting (not to mention a huge relief, a lot of fun, and deeply satisfying to boot). For me, the direction was, obviously, different - I went from T to E. I cannot but feel a deep sympathy for Califia as he writes: "Perhaps transition will be an ironic experience for me, and I will discover that I remain the same person, having changed only my physical appearance. Now, that's a depressing thought!" (436) I thought like that, and I was right - and deeply wrong, too, as Califia himself suggests in the following passage about the effects testosterone (T) has had on him. Where he went, I have been - and I'm entirely of the opinion that if you're a man, that's the place for you, and in retrospect, I'm glad men really enjoy it - I couldn't, but no sour grapes over that: I'm not a man.

Nan Boyd's piece on the claiming of historical figures for lesbian, or transsexual visibility is good, too: a solid account of the facts, and it does seem I'm not the only one thinking "...despite anti-essentialist gestures to the contrary, contemporary sex/gender politics often document the absolutely desperate reiteration of bipolar gender as a foundation for sexual nationalism (431)." Bang on!

This is not quite the book I thought it'd be - I'll say right now I've been wrong on academic trans studies. There's a lot more to it than these literary theorists I've known about so far.

Cissupremacism



I've been searching for a word to describe the attitude of the likes of Greer, Jeffreys, Raymond, Hausman and their ilk - the word is cissupremacism.

It's the belief that the sexes and genders embodied by cis bodies are better, more valuable, more real than the sexes and genders embodied by trans bodies. I really don't understand how this is compatible with feminism, but then again, I don't need to: I'm not trying to say it is.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Transgender Studies Reader, #1

I'm reading the book by dipping in at points that interest me, and blogging about those bits - I'm not meaning to go through all of it, but might, should I feel like it.

Here goes:

Jay Prosser's essay was the first thing I read properly. Mostly rather impressive, the critique of Butler is spot on: she does seem to have this queer - straight -dichotomy, which is pretty silly considering she otherwise would seem to like to shun clear-cut divisions (265). Jay's take on the issue of queer inclusion is also spot on - I don't want to be included in genderqueer, 'cos I'm not genderqueer, as much as genderqueers might like to appropriate me. And damn straight I will raise hell if people try to subsume me under some great queer umbrella - my issues are mine, and while there certainly is room, and a need for, alliances, there's hardly any point in trying to build coalitions across such diverging needs. I don't, personally, need much more in the way of self-expression than I have now - I can live with the binary most of the time. It doesn't, of course, mean that I'd like to participate in oppression of genderqueer people: it's not right and it's got to stop. But I'm not genderqueer myself, and it's silly to try and queer me.

Prosser's essay has some interesting verbal slips going on. Jay uses the word "transsexual" as if it was a noun: "The transsexual doesn't necessarily..." (271). I find it really telling: calling people "transsexuals" instead of, say, "transsexual women" or "trans men" or "transsexual people", even, makes for an othering: there's the men, there's the women and there's the transsexuals.[1] This usage occurs in the context of speaking about transsexed bodies, and it's precisely this that's my biggest bone of contention with academic trans studies.

For all their talk about the social construction of gender, they still seem to fall back onto biological sexes as a ground of sexed being (I can live with that) - but they don't seem to read much biology to notice there's plenty about the process of sexing a body that we know precisely nothing about. There is no such thing as a clear, biological sex. There are no "naturally" sexed bodies. What there is, is an assigned sex, and assigned gender. The biological sex of the body need not (and in fact sometimes is not) congruent with the assigned sex, no matter how fine you slice it, because we do not know everything there is to know about the biological process of sexing.

Please take bodies seriously. Please take people's own descriptions of their bodily existences seriously, and do not try to force-fit them into your theories, no matter how well-meaning, nice, or nasty those theories are. Theories should follow from observations, not the other way round, even if you're in the humanities.

Prosser's analysis of the Butler's less-than-nice entanglement with Livingston, the director of the film "Paris is Burning", and the revelation of Butler's and Livingston's vested interests in portraying Venus Xtragavanza in the way they do is pretty bloody excellent - and it also makes my blood boil (275-277). How the fuck do they dare? That's such a clear-cut case of a) appropriating Latina trans woman's experience and b) an attempt at colonisation of our lives as "performative". I don't bloody perform myself. I am myself.

Prosser's relative ease with which ze (I've absolutely no idea how ze likes hirself to be referred to - thus, gender-neutral pronouns) talks about "the difference between sex and gender identity" (279) is also pretty cis- and perhaps queercentric: not all of us do identity at all.

Jacob Hale's piece was pretty damn good. It gave me a new respect for the work of Monique Wittig - her very pertinent question of if lesbians are women opens up multiple new ways of questioning sex and gender, and Hale's analysis of how the "natural attitude" toward gender works is simply excellent (286-290). If you're cis and read only one passage from this book, I'm pretty confident this is the bit you should read. It deconstructs the common currency of gendering thoroughly and analytically. It refers to Kessler and McKenna (in the same book) - and it's based on actual research, instead of just pontifications in a university study. Hale's attitude towards gender mirrors mine (it has to be consensual), so this is perhaps not too much of a surprise.

With Dean Spade I take some issues - especially his attitude towards people like me, who do vies transsexuality an unfortunate disease with a good treatment (hormones, surgery, lifestyle changes - all of it or any bits you like): his final statement on page 329, that I somehow undermine the threat to a dichotomous gender system which trans experience can pose is a bit rich. That I've transitioned, that I've had my body modified in ways suitable to me, that I live the life I want to live, and have rejected almost everything gendered/sexed that this society has tried to force on me - if this is not rebellion, I sure don't know what is. I just don't insist I'm something third, something different from other women - I insist I'm a woman just like all other women, and that this society simply fucks up when it forcibly assigns all people a gender, and a sex, without asking them, and without giving them an option of opting out of it altogether or changing those assigned characteristics at will. I know my experience, my lived life, has rocked the bedrock of many people, and frankly I think it rocks it all the more because I'm cisgender. Trans, sure, but cisgender. I can't be written off as a weirdo quite as easily as the majority can write off anyone visibly very variant. My relative assimilation is precisely the threat. I'm one of those cases where the forced sexing really bungled it up.

This is a common problem with theories - theoreticians would like to subsume all experience under their theory, and when something unpalatable appears, it's shoved under the rug as "wrong consciousness" or "bad politics" or some such gobbledygook. Academic theories my experiences trump not.

That's that for now - have a nice week!

[ETA notes]
[1] "transsexual" is an adjective. This is why I write "trans woman", not "transwoman". It's similar to black, white, long-haired and so on.

Friday, 11 September 2009

How ciscentric writing on trans issues makes me feel

In a word: awful.

In more words: it's like peering into the mind of an almost alien species. The way ciscentric people privilege their own view on sexes and genders is just breathtaking. They try really hard to believe they can get the sexing-at-birth -bit right, when it's bloody obvious to me they can't.

They also don't seem to recognise this. Acronyms FTM and MTF are a nice case in point: why the hell would the initial mistake be relevant in categorising people? It's like calling a divorcee a wife-to-divorcee - as if the first bit was somehow relevant to what she is today.

Cises don't want to admit they're cis - they'd much prefer "normal", for which there's the very handy counterpart "abnormal" which is reserved for riff-raff like me. Using words like "woman" to mean "cis woman" is a nice case of this.

Then there's the bit how the cis don't seem to get it's a different thing to be a girl than to like girls: the conflation of sexuality with sex/gender is pretty common, too. They're related, sure, but if you like to peer into that more closely, I think it's easy to notice it means there's a lot more genders and sexes than two - if sex/gender and sexuality are linked, it kinda means lesbians are a different sex from het women...

...and it means that the words homosexuality and heterosexuality lose their meanings, too. For how can one be homosexual if there's no opposite, or same with regards to sex/gender? We're all heterosexuals, but that means the word "heterosexual" doesn't denote anything on top of "sexual" any more. Words like "androphile" and "gynophile" and "sapphophile" would be more meaningful, perhaps. Once you mess around with the binary, you do lose a lot of words, and there are very few, if any, alternatives. I find it very telling that both "homosexuality" and "heterosexuality" are used without questioning so widely even in gender studies, where otherwise gender is seen as something more complex than either woman or man.

Oh yeah, it makes me angry as a hornet, too.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Why academic writing on trans is pretty shite, short version

Has it ever occurred to anyone academic that we just might simply be mistaken about sexes and genders every now and then when we do the initial, forced sexing? Anyone?

(have been browsing Transgender Studies Reader. It's pretty awful reading, to be honest. I'm not sure if I can manage to read it all - the mistakes and the hate reeks so badly. If I was a Roman Catholic I'd perform an exorcism on the book)

I'll write something better when I'm up to it. But yeah, it makes for pretty godawful reading.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Go see a picture of a normal woman

Yeah, that's right. There it is: Vitamin G Health & Fitness: glamour.com

I read about it in the Guardian, and what really stopped me in my tracks was her measurements. Which are the same as mine. I've never, not once in my life have imagined myself to be the same size as someone who models, let alone looks like that. Of course I don't look exactly like her, but oh shit it is a revelation to realise I'm roughly speaking the same size as that thin, pretty woman in that picture. I never thought I'd write anything like this, but thanks, Glamour, you made my day!

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Why STP2012 doesn't feel right

Yay depathologisation? Err, no.

The fine folks at STP2012 are asking for "the despathologization of the trans identities (transexual and transgender) and their retirement from the manuals of disorders (teh DSm from the American Psychiatric Association, which’s newly revised version is due in 2012, and the CIE from the World Health Organization, due in 2014)"

Umm, count me out from the ICD (CIE) bit.

I don't identify as trans-something. Other people label me as trans (fuck I hate this identity shit. See iden-bugger-tity for a further explanation).

I do think it's not necessarily pathological to be trans, but yeah, for me having a dissonant body was pathological. And damn I'm happy my body no longer feels like it has all kinds of features not requested - I'm happy, too, that my endocrine works with me instead of against me. What I was before medical treatment was pathological. I was sick.

It just wasn't a mental pathology. It was a bodily pathology. But it was a pathology, and I cannot support a flat-out depathologisation of something that very well felt totally pathological to me. Removal from the lists of mental diagnoses? Oh yes.

Removal from the list of all diagnoses? Well, no, not in my opinion, no.

I suspect this might have something to do with the different meanings of "trans": for some it's an identity, for others it's a label - and it has these several, overlapping meanings. Say, trans as pathology is something I'd define as existing until the said person with a trans pathology has that pathology cured, whatever the method. HRT, surgery, change of lifestyle - anything. Trans as an identity I don't really get, and I'm yet to come across an explanation. Trans as a descriptor, a label for people who are not cis I do get, and in that respect I'm definitely trans. I think trans has all those meanings, and while there's nothing pathological about identifying as trans or about being trans wrt cis, I'm of the opinion that there is something pathological about some trans bodies - pathological enough that the bodies need to be fixed. I hope this could be taken into account when going for political changes. Otherwise I see public funding for treatments diminishing from the very little there is now, and even less than the practically nonexistent research into trans bodies, which I think there's a desperate need of. Public funding helps the poorest, most vulnerable, and medical research into trans bodies helps the medical treatments become safer, saner and more effective, thus helping more.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Self-censorship

or, why it is so difficult to be an outspoken trans woman even within the feminist blogosphere

It's pretty obvious it is difficult to be thus, isn't it? It's not like there's hordes and hordes of us to start with, and even less who are willing to engage with the feminists (or anyone, for that matter) after our transitions are done and dealt with.

Firstly, there's the age-old issue of out/closeted, which is not the same wrt cis/trans axis as it is for people along homosexual/heterosexual -axis (which I consider to be a bit of a ruse, but I digress). Speaking from the position of a trans woman is fraught with difficulties: there's always the old transphobic tropes (for a list, see QT, under Trans 101), the endless derailing and decentring of trans concerns, but, and I think this is even more important, there's a real risk of humiliation, ostracism and violence, not only in the academia/blogosphere, but in the meatspace we live in. Woman's trans status can, and is often used to beat her into submission. "Outing" someone as trans puts the woman thus outed at risk. If you don't believe me, just dig a bit at your local newspaper archives and see for yourself how trans women are depicted. There are a number of common features: there's the degendering by the use of her old name; printing pictures of her forcibly masculinised* is pretty common, too. All that is simply crap one doesn't want to deal with, and while silence is quite a price to pay for avoiding that crap, it's pretty understandable.

Secondly, because of our rather unprivileged pasts with regards to feminism, women's studies, gender studies, queer studies and what have you (no, in case you were wondering, those fields did (and maybe do) not welcome trans girls into the fold of feminism and queer: trans girls are more often than not gendered as boys, or men, and are hardly given the same space to explore their sexes and gender the way female-assigned-at-birth -people are. Cissexism does not stop at the door to academia.

So, when I look at the queer studies I do recognise the stuff there is pretty vital to my thinking, but I also feel I'm not welcome. I feel the thinking I do is rather far from the atmosphere they're breathing, and while I do think there's value in my perspective, I find my perspective hard to communicate and possibly triggering hostile responses. I'm not always up to that hostility.

I'll write another piece on my perspectives - at least I can give them a home here.

In short, I don't believe the binary system at all. There is gender, but there's a lot more of them than two. I think lesbian woman is a different gender (and maybe sex, too) from heterosexual woman. I think femme is a different gender from butch, or from heterosexual woman. When I use words like "woman", "man", or "heterosexual", my mind has to make these somersaults to translate what I'm thinking into cis-ese. I think of sexualities in terms of attractions: what do you like? If you like snogging bearded men, you're "snogs-bearded-men-sexual" for all I know. If you're a bearded man yourself, more power to you, but it doesn't mean squat as far as your attractions are considered.

The violent game which cises play with genders makes me sick. I don't want to play, but fucking up the system totally has such a high price I cannot pay it on my own, and not playing is not an option. I play, but not willingly. I play 'cos cis men might smash my face in for not playing, for telling it like it is - that cis boys and men brutalise trans girls and women and force them (and yours truly in the past) to pretend to be boys and men. I play 'cos cis women might simply dump me for not playing. I play 'cos it seems to be the price of admission into the society of humans, and I cannot survive on my own.

But in my heart, I want to smash the cisarchy.

[ETA 21:36 EEST: * forcibly masculinised: this what the cises might call "when she was a man" Trans girls and women do not choose to be assigned and raised as boys and men - it is forced. It's not voluntary, and very often, violence is used to enforce compliance.]

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

I may come to regret this

I started commenting on Finnish blogs. While I do like to natter in my mother tongue, it's also a fact that there's just a tad over 5 million of us here in this land. And it is a very, very small number. It means everyone knows everyone else. It means, feh, that there's a bit of a mob mentality to us Finns. A small bunch of us can ruin stuff here easy: it doesn't need a huge number of slightly dodgy politicians plus businessmen to concoct the latest disgraceful episode in our interior politics: a few people giving largish sums of money to a couple of dozen politicians is enough to rot politics - there not being a larger body of politicians who wouldn't be involved: everyone is, it seems.

Anyhoo, I hope I won't regret a couple of comments here and there. I just don't trust people who are, technically at least, my people.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Pap smears, doctors, medicine - sometimes things just run smoothly

Had a pap smear today: yeah, I know, it's not absolutely necessary, but since the municipality suggested I have one on them, I thought, what the hell, might as well.

I was, of course, nervous as hell before. It's not exactly unusual for trans women to be a little wary of health care professionals, as they have rather unpalatable tendencies to misgender and otherwise belittle and denigrate us - I was prepared to be treated weirdly, but still hoped for the best. That's likely due to my dear spouse, who reminded me that it might go well, too.

Well, it did. And I explained that sorry, I haven't got a cervix, nor do I have an uterus, but yes, I do have a vagina, and it's got a skin graft at the bottom of it, so unless you mind that, go ahead and take the smear. Which the friendly nurse proceeded to do, very professionally. It nipped a bit, but nothing else. Five minutes in all.

I'm feeling hopeful.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Out and closeted

This was the second thing cis lgb individuals had a hard time understanding. Being out as trans is different to being out as a lesbian, say. Both can be dangerous, true, but they're not even remotely the same if you happen to be binarily gendered, like I am.

It's 'cos I don't feel particularly trans, and I'm not probably even remotely genderqueer in any way. My sexuality's queer, thank you very much, but my gender is woman, and my sex is female. There isn't anything special there. And being out about the history of my body is, frankly, a completely ridiculous thought. The only people who really need to know are the people I have sex with, if the said sex would involve something a trans body is not capable of, and a cis body is capable of, or if my personal history is really relevant to the things I'd be doing with my lover. It might, but it's my call - after all, I'm responsible for my life, health and all such, not anyone else.

And as to being queerly sexual? Well, it's not much good being out about that, either, 'cos I'm monogamous, and partnered with a woman, which means I'm effectively read as a lesbian, and it's not too wrong - I really do love women and all that lesbian stuff, and again - why should my queer sexuality concern other people so much 'cos I'm not gonna be doing it with them anyway? And if I am - let me tell you, I can open my mouth and say what I like.

But being out as a lesbian? I think I do that as a matter of course. The sex/gender of my partner's no secret, and the fact that we have a, erm, carnal relationship can't really be missed by anyone who's seen us together for more than a few hours. It's no big deal being out with that, 'cos it's something anyone can see - I don't have to go out of my way to explain it to anyone (ok, there are those odd people who just don't get it that two women kissing each other on the mouth is, like, homosexual, but they're beyond my help anyway) - they can just see all of it in action and that's that.

Whereas my trans past/trans body needs a whole encyclopedia of explaining that almost no-one really needs to know, and can't figure out on their own because it doesn't change things for them in any practical way unless they're having the transphobic cooties.

So. I think when well-meaning (or not) cis homosexual people want someone trans to be out about their cis/trans status, they're really wanting that trans person to be a miner's canary for transphobia. Of which the cis people themselves don't have to suffer any consequences. So it's kinda unfair, and I'm not playing along.

It's also about establishing and maintaining practical power differentials: it's about keeping us uppity trans women in our place: Lord forbid what'd happen if we were just taken to be regular people with control of our lives. If cis people aren't constantly reminded of my past they tend to slip into the realisation that I actually am a woman, which is kind of a tacit acknowledgement that all that sexing-at-birth went titsup anyway, and doesn't really work. Which destabilises cis sexes and genders quite a bit, because if sexing went wrong with me, what's stopping it from going wrong for everyone? It also puts the cis on equal footing with the trans, which might be a bit unsettling for the cis, too - no "other" to define yourself against.

Oh yeah, and if you're cis and don't like being called cis - tough titties. I didn't choose to be labelled as trans, either.

Friday, 22 May 2009

And, gasp, it's the C of E that delivers, plus some thoughts on why I'm so angry

Really. I'm a bit envious, TBH - the Church of England folks actually invite trans people in their steering groups (or some such thing). I'd never had believed it but yeah, it really seems to be true.

The less-perplexed-by-teh-trans people at the conference have asked me a few really good questions, too - they're not that hard to answer, but asking them does bring home, to me, a few points.

Firstly, we're a wee bit doomy and gloomy, us trans women. And angry as hornets. Why is that, they wonder? It's kind of obvious to me, but for the record, here it goes: I'm angry as hell 'cos I've been forcibly masculinised throughout my childhood. I've a very hard time trusting anyone, let alone trusting their good intentions. Every time I've trusted in the past, I've been let down - because I've trusted other people understand I'm a girl even though I did look a bit like a boy on the outside. I admit that my trust was misplaced, but the problem is that when those things happened, I was a minor. There was no way on this earth I could've understood my problem, or rather, the problem other people were having with me. I couldn't grasp the idea that a) I was not a boy, but a girl, contrary to everything everyone said to me, and b) I'd really better communicate this to other people ASAP and get them round to treating me like the girl I was.

The upshot was this: I was forced to be a boy, on pain of physical violence. I sucked at it big time, but as I was unable to see an alternative, try I did. It left scars. I couldn't trust anyone. I couldn't trust anyone do right by me for decades. Please think about that for a minute. I'm all new (well, less than a quarter of my life) to this trusting business, and with a huge emotional baggage to boot. Is it such a wonder if I'm a bit leery of trusting other people; if I'm a bit apprehensive of others? Or that I'm a bit angry at what's been done to me?

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

European Forum of LGBT Christians

Yah, I'm attending. I'm not too optimistic, to be honest - I'm kind of expecting a fair bit of cluelessness on issues trans, yet I am hoping for something better. I really really want to know what's going on in churches all around the Europe wrt trans - I feel the news aren't going to be too good. From what I've heard elsewhere, Eastern Europe is not quite a paradise for anyone on the trans spectrum. In fact, it's probably deadly to be trans and out.

Oh how I hope there'll be some glimmers of hope, similar to the latest developments in DSM-V rewrite: the suggestions by Kelly Winters and Randall Ehrbar are almost too good to be true. On my first reading there is precious little what I'd change in that suggestion - I hope APA gets the hint. I'm not holding my breath, though.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Give girl a tin of pencils


Bought some colour pencils. Am happy.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Fighting back

We really need to. I can't be happy and content in a world where cis boys brutalise trans girls.

I can't stand the exotification of me and my peers, I'm not a new, empty continent for cis academics to colonise. I already have a civilisation. I already have a culture. It's mine. It has words and contexts and concepts for my life, my things - and y'know what? It's not a cis playground. Not even if cis intentions are good. It's my space, and I decide who enters, and on what conditions, and I decide, too, if they have to leave, or are invited further in.

I will not tolerate a medical establishment that's intent on exotification and othering of non-cissexual people. We're people who need medical help - we're not guinea pigs for testing the latest theories on transsexuality. We don't, actually, need much research on transsexuality - I couldn't care less why I am, or was, this way. I care a lot about my health, my hormonal balance, my overall health. Do they research that? Nah. Of course not. Are our endocrine systems routinely checked for any possible oddities? If you're lucky and know what to demand. Are our HRTs monitored carefully? Well, yes, if you're lucky and know what to demand. Does your ob/gyn know what to look for? Yes, if you're lucky and know... I think you can see the pattern here.

How do we go about changing it? To be honest, I haven't a clue. Educating only takes you so far, and it's incredibly slow, and doesn't seem to have the power to bring about the kind of sea change I want. It's too slow, and too tedious, and too damn classist if every transitioner has to explain everything to every single doctor they meet - the poorest haven't got the resources to get the same doctor time and again, nor can they choose as easily as, say, I can.

I have educated my doctors. Both my GP and my ob/gyn are well aware of my bodily differences, and my HRT is monitored and managed well. But it's not enough! It's not good enough that one middle-class, educated, white trans woman can get what she needs - it should be routine for everyone, not just me.

How the hell does one take on the whole medical establishment?

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Iden-bugger-tity

I identify as myself. I don't, on the whole, identify as something, be that a nationality, gender, sex, religion or something else.

I am a woman. I am Finnish. I am female. I am Christian. I don't prefer to be identified as any of those - it's not about my preferences, it's about who I am, almost to the point of whether I like it or not. Identifying carries the meaning of someone - that would be me - doing the identifying. But I don't do it. I just am, there's no doing in my being. They're different for me.

I cycle to work occasionally - I don't identify as a cyclist. Cycling to work doesn't define me, not for myself anyway. It may, of course, prompt other people (or even me) to see me as a cyclist, or it may not, but it's not me doing the identifying for the most part.

In fact, identifying oneself as something has this faint air of deception in my ears - the logic being that if you have to identify as something, it seems almost as if it needs extra work, and that identification doesn't really flow from you like apples from an apple tree. Identifying as something has also a bit of an effort to it - and that kind of an effort is something I leave undone with extra pleasure: can't be arsed, kthxbai.

What does this have to do with anything? Well, some people like to think I identify as something - they like to think I am doing my being. I know, it won't change me, and I don't, on the whole, mind it much - I've lost hope on most people understanding things anyway, but I do like to point out that it's kinda silly to impute motives on other people (that is, yours truly) - it's much better if you ask, and don't get defensive if you don't get the answer you were expecting. And please, pretty please don't try to shoehorn the answer you may get into some standard formula of yours - please give it a fair consideration, and don't be too quick to judge what does, and what does not, exist.

Monday, 20 April 2009

I promised myself

It's an old Nick Kamen song from the 80s, but it's very relevant today. I just turned 40.

I promised myself when I was thirty that I'd sort out my gender issues before forty, and I did. Looking back, I realised yesterday that I've fulfilled my dreams. I wanted to get rid of my persistent, gender-related pain, I wanted a home where I'd have a space to read books and do a bit of art, I wanted a relationship, I wanted to learn how to use and move my body - I wanted to become a learned, well-read woman. I am that just now.

I wonder where I should go on from here: the world is open to me - it's not like I don't have my limitations: as a mother of two I can't just go on a lark, but I'm not doing the mothering alone so I'm not absolutely bound to my children, either.

I'll likely do a bit of activism: the dealing with health issues was pretty exhausting and now that it's been over for some years I feel some strength coming back to me: I've already managed to be booked for a couple of talks on gender issues and transitioning, and, lucky me, it isn't about me me me and whatitsgotbetweenitslegs but about cissexism and all that other, actually important stuff. Like, discrimination and fighting back and reading your context so you can fight back most effectively. Exciting, really!

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Happy for now

Easter was good, I actually feel I'm doing religion once more. A bit of introspection resulted in some actions and I'm hopeful I'll find something interesting and lovable about myself sometime in the nearish future. Gosh, I'm happy to be alive for a change. Oh, and the fishing season's started, too. No fish, just standing on the riverbank waving a carbon stick and watching the spring flood, which hadn't quite subsided enough for the river to be fishable. Planning summer already, too.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

The well of darkness

The depth of darkness inside my soul opened again this evening. I'm glad. The depth I hadn't quite forgotten sprang into life, and there I was - in the dark night of the soul, waiting for my Lord. Words fail when trying to describe it.

In the deepest darkness stars shine brightest.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Persuasion

Come to the dark side, we have cookies...

Chattering red bushes and birch thickets

Reddish bushes, a bit closer now.


A thicket of birches. These birches were but wee saplings when I lived near them, and I was but a chit of a girl. I've grown into a woman, and these trees have grown, too. I wonder how long they're let grow there - how long before someone cuts them down. I hope they can put up a fight. I know I will, if someone tries to cut me down to size. For several decades, I didn't. I know better now.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Trees


Three trees in a row. They remember the house that was next to them. Forgot to take pics of the paved stones forgotten on the ground when the house was demolished. The trees likely protect the small, reddish bushes next to them...

I really like trees. Especially trees next to each other. Trees with roundish tops are a fav, too - like in that picture.

Those trees grow near the place where I came of age. Now they remind of a past, of a has-been, although the trees themselves have grown, too. They're not the same they were twenty years ago, but they're not wholly different, either. I like the way the trees seem to protect the small, reddish bushes next to them, and the tree trunks' rhythm provides a base for the perhaps quiet chattering of the bushes. Of which I've photos, too.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Food and me

I think it's safe to say I've a problematic relationship with food. I've used it to numb emotions. The risk is still there, and it seems to realise itself occasionally (I'm typing this with a bowl of jelly beans, so there).

Well, bugger me if I know why things went this way for me. It may be something that happened during my childhood, it may be something else. It's not really material to the discussion, as knowing why something has happened doesn't necessarily help you to fix it.

Anyhoo. I'd really like to give up comfort eating, at least in the sense I do it, 'cos it's not too comforting. I don't want to shove sickening amounts of candy into yours truly just because I happen to feel off. I'd really like to find a better way to defuse the feelings I have hard time coping with.

On the other hand, a disordered relationship with food is just the thing for a hip, with it, girl to have. I mean don't we all? And what's the choice? How would one resolve anger, fear and dissociation? Talking cures are slow, and they cost an arm, a leg and then some. Plus they might be just a waste of money should the care provider freak out. Which they do, unfortunately.

Self-care is something I really suck at - other people may not notice 'cos I compensate by dressing nicely, having my hair just so and all that jazz: and the compensation's very nice in itself, too. Dressing nicely is, properly speaking, part of self-care. But I have a nagging feeling there's more to self-care than just hitting the gym and dance classes regularly. It's probably bodily self-care I've taken my first shots at, but it does seem it has to be extended to my feelings and probably some other things, too. 'cos stuffing my face with sugar is oh-so-very familiar way of numbing out difficult stuff, and I'm sick and tired of numbing out - I want to be free of that crap, or at the very least be able to recognise my triggers so I'll know what to look out for.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

The way the world is isn't the way the world has to be

This is partially in response to Little Light's post Taking Steps: fair, or maybe her post was a trigger, in many senses of the word, to write this.

I of course agree completely with her. My girlhood was basically a horror. The world is a cissexist cesspool. Masculinity is more or less beaten into children who are considered to be boys.

Being loved or seeing oneself as lovable isn't too easy after all that. I embrace the idea intellectually, although even that was rather a struggle. But my emotions betray me every now and then. There's inside me this black hole, punched by the schoolyard bullies and teachers and pornographers and cissexist lesbians and cissexist trans-fetishists and tabloid journalists and, well, practically every cissexist there is, that whispers its evil message that I'm not supposed to exist as a human being at all. That I'm supposed to be a living sex doll for the fetishists. That I'm supposed to help patriarchy stand tall. That I'm supposed to be an object of sensationalist publicity, all well-meaning, of course. That I'm supposed to be a perverted man.

Anything but admitting the fact of cissexist forced masculinisation. Anything but admitting that cissexist society guards masculinity with violence. Anything but admitting that cissexist society doesn't want to consider all of its members as fully human.

My words cannot carry my rage. There aren't words powerful enough to hit back with sufficient force. There's a reason why so many trans women joke about bringing about a complete annihilation of all life. It's not completely a joke. The rage behind it is very real. There's a reason, too, why so many trans women see sex work as the only alternative*. How the hell are you expected to make ends meet if no-one will see you as anything else but a hypersexualised doll or a sick pervert?

Christianity taught me an important lesson. It taught me that I'm loved by God no matter what shit the world may pile on me. That I'm lovable. That God loves me and I don't have to give a flying fuck about what other people think of me. My rage, and my feeling lovable go hand in hand. If I'm worth loving (and I bloody well am, and so are you), I'm worthy, and I should be treated like the human being I am, like the woman I am, and that past shit should be named for what it is - forced masculinisation.


*I did, too. Didn't actually do it but yeah, considered it seriously. FWIW, sex work is ok in my books - forced sex work definitely is not

Monday, 16 March 2009

The local church: procrastinators'r'us

Our local branch of the church militant has been in titters about homosexuality. This is no big news, it's common knowledge Christianity's track record as regards homosexuality is patchy at best, and downright horrible at worst. I'm not writing this because my church has problems with homosexuality.

However, what I find interesting is that the church which I'm a member of cannot decide what to do about it. The background is that we've had civil partnerships, a.k.a. gay marriage for seven years now. It isn't going anywhere. Some gay couples occasionally ask for church's blessing. Some priests bless. No big deal. However, our dear bishops do make it a big deal. They instated this big honking working group to decide what to do about blessing them homos. It's been working for all those years. Their work ends now. And the result is... wait for it... no result!!! None whatsoever! More working groups. More talk is needed. We cannot decide.

I'm sorry folks, but if you can't decide relatively simple stuff like this in, what, seven friggin' years, you've basically proved yourselves to be hopeless losers at leadership & decision-making. This is not such a complicated mess they make this to be. Some priests bless. Some don't. Some of the gainsayers are pretty vehement about it. The Bible doesn't say squat (sorry folks, the "classical proof-texts" on gay stuff just aren't very relevant by the same process that texts proscribing pork (OT), or greed (NT), aren't, and they don't apply to our society anyway. So there you go, nyah nyah), the tradition is rabidly homophobic but we, the body of Christ, aren't quite as boneheaded - so could you guys please make a decision? Any decision? Yeah, thought not. You'd rather pander to the prejudiced folks by not condoning anything and you really wouldn't like to be seen as bigots. Yet bishops, in practice, do allow priests to bless same-sex couples, but refuse to admit it as an admittance of same-sex blessings.

Hello, you can't have it both ways! You look like the ridiculous, indecisive wussies you are!

Monday, 9 March 2009

It's not all doom and gloom

Yup - I'm happy, opening up to others as regards my inner life, more in touch with my anxieties (it's not a bad thing)'n'everything. Sex keeps getting better and better, too, probably due to me being more in touch with myself.

I'm not exactly the girl I thought I was.

Or I am. It depends. It depends on which period of my life one takes as a reference. If one takes my early-to-mid twenties as a reference point, I'm not really the girl I thought I was. For starters, I didn't want to think of myself as a girl. The thought was way too scary. Yeah, it intruded every now and then, but I pushed it back.

If, however, one takes me as a child as the reference point, yeah, I think I can see the similarities. I'm the introspective, shy, sensitive girl I was back then. I cry easily. I like to play, probably in all senses of the word. I'm lighthearted at times - although one might prefer scatterbrained, too: while I'm very much together in one sense, I'm not quite the polished, untouchable package I tended to think I was - or at the very least, the package I projected myself to be for others.

I still project quite a lot: I probably seem a lot larger and a lot louder than I actually am - it's rather scary to allow myself to be the size I actually am, to allow my borders and limits much closer to my skin. On the other hand, me distancing myself from other people led to too limited a life, other people being too far even for my comfort. This doesn't mean, of course, that I'll be allowing every comer up close and personal, but this hopefully means I can let my nearest real close, and my spouse to my skin.

Because that's what I want. I want another person up close and personal. I want skin on skin. Come to think of it, I probably haven't had skin on skin -like intimacy ever, not knowingly, at least. The times I've approached it, I've had to distance myself from it for fear of disintegrating - disintegrating the projection, that is. I think I am ready now, and if I'm not, perhaps my fear won't make me run away any more. Perhaps I'm brave enough to face myself for real.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Just say it: Not in my name

Us trans women tend to disturb cis people when we start to speak out our experiences of forced masculinisation, and especially the anger and rage it produced. People don't like angry women.

Tell you what. I utterly don't care if you cis guys don't like it. It still happened. It's still real. I'm still angry at the injustices done to me and my sisters. I'm not gonna take it lying down.

It doesn't mean I'm gonna start a war, so to speak, with planet cis - while revenge would probably be sweet for a short while, I don't think acting out my anger would indeed help me, or make me happy in the long term. Which is what I want: I like being happy.

I cannot be happy if I have to carry injustices hidden inside me. I've got to bring them out into the open, and while I recognise that this is not fun for the planet cis, it can't be helped. It still has to come out into the open. That female anger and rage is shunned is a regrettable situation, but it doesn't change the necessity of speaking out against forced masculinisation of trans girls, and telling about the rage and anger it begets.

My case being myself, of course: I was forcibly masculinised throughout my childhood. It happened mostly through my peers. My parents were sort of indifferent to my apparent gender variance: I just wasn't the kind of girl to play with trucks or to admire excavators. My "peers" weren't indifferent, though. The boys I was to be socialised with were rather hard on me being different (i.e. being rather a girly girl): I was shunned at first, then ridiculed, then beaten. My feelings today towards those people are of quite an unpublishable sort - on a bad day, given omnipotence, I'd make them suffer eternally. It wouldn't do good to me in the long run, but, boy, is the urge potent.

So, dear cises (not that there are many of you reading this blog, but whatever: I'm still writing this mostly just to myself): tormenting your peers as kids makes the tormented angry kinda permanently. Do not do it. Every time you do, you make permanent enemies.

And if you're of the sort who didn't do it but just looked away: don't look away. I know it's difficult to step in and stop it, but if you don't even say anything, you really are complicit in the torment. A simple "not in my name" is a start. Silence in the face of an injustice kills. It corrupts your heart.

You might want to notice that the above doesn't have any references to trans women's bodies. That's because they're not the problem. Injustice and violence perpetrated by cis people on trans girls and women is.

(yeah, this is about me me me and not about all the other problems regarding cis, trans and violence: it may be applicable to an extent, but I can't pretend to speak for others, and I'm not a good enough theoretician. Not yet, anyway).

Friday, 27 February 2009

Not all of you

This is the obligatory statement to all of my cis friends. You really are cool. I really like you. The rants about stupid cises are not about you. Please try to remember that. Being cis does not equal being cissexist or stupid.

This crap has bugged me a long time, and it has hurt me deeply. It still makes me cry involuntarily. It still makes me lose sleep. It needs to be brought out into the open. I have to do it.

Friday, 20 February 2009

The stress of not being cis

It's not stressful because of the oddities in my biochemistry. It's not because of surgery. It's not, even, because of the disturbing memories. It's because cises won't let it lie.

It's because they keep on picking the scab and the new skin that's forming underneath, because they reopen the wounds I've been trying to close all my life. It feels like cises are deliberately trying to bleed me to death and stop me from trying to stop the bleeding.

The logic goes like this. I hurt because my biochemistry and some bits of my body and some legal details are simply all wrong for a girl. I have them fixed, am happy as a clam. But cis people won't let it lie there. They want to talk about it. They want, specifically, talk about the mistake they made in misgendering me as a boy, and keep on talking about it, and probably feel cuddly'n'everything about having given me the chance to transition, but they won't admit they've made a mistake in gendering me as a boy. It doesn't matter if all the evidence points in that direction, it doesn't matter that the sex hierarchy doesn't work in many other cases, either, it's like if the facts don't agree with the sex hierarchy, so much worse for the facts.

In short, I feel like I'm treated as a deluded loonie who's given what she insists on having because she'd be way too much trouble otherwise.

The cises don't want to forget. It's all so fascinating from their point of view. And many, too many of them really do think the problem is me, and my mind, and not my body and their minds, even though it's precisely my body, and their minds, that've been fixed. Except they actively resist the fixing, 'cause they can't see anything much wrong in assuming that gendering and sexing is as simple as A, B, C. I, and many other people, are, of course, living proof of that not being the case.

I can't help being the living proof. And I don't find it acceptable that I'd have to accommodate to cis majoritys' prejudices and phobias, I don't want to play along. Playing along has too high a price. Playing along would mean I'd have to give an account of myself to any passers-by who feels like questioning. Playing along means accepting people having my personal life and intimate details of my body as coffee-table talk. It seems rather, um, unfair to me that I'd be required to give in to that whereas none of the cises has to. They have a right to privacy. I should, too.

Lack of privacy is the main stressor for me. My past feels like a huge millstone that I can put away whenever cises don't know I'm not cis. But some cises who do know seem to need to tell other cises, as sort of a warning that I'm not cis. And I can tell it, from the looks of the cises who scrutinise my looks, my voice, my mannerisms - it's like being on display for the cises. It makes me even more self-conscious than I already am. Cises run around and find the damn stone and hoist it around my neck again and again. I'm not asked, of course.

It's not like I have a solution. I don't. But somehow I'm gonna get this stress out of my system, and I won't take just accepting it as an answer - cises don't have a right to treat me like this. They don't treat other cises this way, either.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Why I don't feel safe around white cis women (queer or not)

It came to me again - a wonderful, nice, utterly charming incident involving myself, and a cis woman who's apparently using me as a badge of her, oh I don't know, tolerance, love or something. And of course she just had to let me know she's doing that. Guess I should've felt touched or something. I don't. I find it highly offensive. In fact, I'm livid with rage.

What the fuck is it with you cises? I am not your toy. I am not something to be paraded to other people. I have had a weird, very unforgiving disease, and you cunts (that's right, cunts) are trying to drag me back to it just so you can feel warm and fuzzy and superior to your peers (and I'm certainly not a peer in those circles, oh noes) and bask in the glow of your self-admiration (tolerance and love, you call it).

I hate you. I hate you from the bottom of my heart. If you rilly rilly must do that self-important grandstanding, please stay out of my sight. I don't want to see. I don't want to know. I've had my share of that cissexist shit several times already. Better yet, stop it.

Oh, the white part. I'm white, too. Yet I just happen to feel safer with people of colour. Why is that, I wonder? Maybe it is because people of colour are oppressed in this country. They likely don't have fair chances. And I can symphatise with that - I don't know what it's like, but I can symphatise, because it's not like I'm given a fair chance, either.

On to the women part: men, for all their faults, still seem to give me a fairer deal, mostly. Somehow all the men I've dealt with in my life have recognised my need for privacy. They actually seem to get that no, I don't want to discuss my bodily history with just anyone. Perhaps they're just inhibited, but I like the results of those inhibitions. Some women just don't get it. I don't know why, but so far it's been women who've done the I-just-need-to-blab -routine. Perhaps they don't realise just how traumatising it is to be misgendered for like a couple of decades at least, and to have that brought up every now and then. If you had been raped, would you like it to be brought up again and again, just because someone else feels like talking about it?

I can't forget. I'm simply not able to do so. I wish I could. I wish I could just forget all the violence, all the taunts, all the ostracism. Every reminder of my past is a reminder of the violence I was made to suffer at the hands of cissexual boys & girls. No, I'm not glad cos' I can't forget. I'll never be, and you know what? I don't fucking have to. It makes me angry, and I think for a very good reason. Who wouldn't be angry?

I don't mind talking about my past when it's me calling the shots. But it really has to be me.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Makeup or face paint?

I bought a blush yesterday - it was a fancy Clarins thingy that likely cost a tad too much to be a totally sensible purchase, but I can live with Clarins, and I do like pretty stuff. Which then prompted me to think a bit about my face paint. Or makeup.

You see, I do art, too. Regular, watercolour painting. It's just a hobby, but I like it, have done it for years. Nothing spectacular about it. If I mention that I paint for a hobby, people want to see piccies and usually respond admiringly enough, thank you very much.

I also make up my face. Practically every day. I think it started as a desperate exercise to look at least a tiny bit the way I wanted to look like, but I like the way I look in the mirror today in any case, makeup or no. Yet I still like to make up my face. It's my everyday art. I brush most of the stuff into place, just like I do with other paints and mediums. Enjoyable, nothing much to it.

The culture I live in, however, treats makeup and other paints differently. Art stores do not sell face paints, even though they sell watercolour pans, tubes, oils, acrylics, pastel sticks, you name it, they've got it. Makeup is sold in cosmetics shops, department stores - it's definitely not just face paint. And, living in this culture, it can't really be just face paint when I use it, either. No matter how neutral its use is for me - it isn't that much about me, but about others.

On the other hand, one could argue that face art doesn't differ from other art that much as it does play with meanings, just like any art. It's just that the meanings given to face painting in my Western, white culture are somehow culturally separated from other forms of painting.

First of all, face painting is a decidedly feminine pursuit. The only masculine applications of it that I know of are military camouflage sticks, used probably to hide amongst trees and foliage with guns: a relatively rare pursuit. Makeup on feminine people, on the other hand, is not rare: it's common.

Why, then, all this explaining when I just bought a blush? Well, I did feel a tad guilty about it, even though I hardly feel guilty about buying a couple of full pans of watercolour paint - which, incidentally, costs just as much as that blush did. So why, then, would I feel weird about buying face paint? There's no rational reason to feel like that. Unless I buy into the silly notion that feminine stuff is frivolous and not really worthy of serious attention and care. Which I don't, in principle, but in practice it seems I do. Silly me. My face paint is just as important (or unimportant, depends on the day I guess) as my other paints.

(I should write more on this, but can't be arsed right now - I'll get back to it later)