Saturday, 25 December 2010

Happy Christmas!

I'd like to say a word about incarnation, being a Christian and all. This (besides resurrection), is one of the neatest bits about Christianity to me. God became a human, was born out of a woman, was a baby, grew up, died - just like I will.

The God who knows me is no stranger. Ze incarnated into this world, and by becoming human, enabled me to become a God's daughter.

This is, now, of particular importance because I'm going through my past, hopefully finally expunging some demons of old. It's painful, and difficult to do it, but somehow it comforts me to know I'm not doing it alone. My suffering is God's suffering - Ze shares in it, and likely my suffering is part of Jesus' suffering on the cross. We're taking the sins of humans (and make no mistake, forcibly sexing and gendering other people is a sin) on our flesh and suffering because of them. It doesn't make us any better people - suffering doesn't make you better, it just hurts, maims and kills.

I know the preceding might not sound very happy to many people, but please give it some thought: I'm at my happiest when I'm present in this world, and suffering and pain are present here, now. There's a forceful happiness in knowing what you are and what's happening to you, even if it's painful and makes you suffer. See, the other option, for me, is not not suffering, but numbness. Not feeling anything, not being connected to anyone - not living, in fact. I prefer life very much to living death.

That God can, and does share in my life is a very happy occasion, and Christmas is the yearly happy reminder of that.  Happy Christmas!

Sunday, 5 December 2010

On the instability of trans and cis

Sometimes I experience myself as trans. Mostly I don't.

But the far more common experience is that other people expect me to identify, or experience myself as trans, which I might not do at that particular point of time. I have experienced myself as more or less constantly trans, but that was before transition. These days, I experience myself more or less constantly as myself, and perhaps I might say I experience myself rather often as cis.My bodily configuration matches my hormones that matches whatever it is my brain seems to want that matches what other people expect of me wrt social roles that matches whatever it is that makes me feel comfortable in my skin. You could call that experience an experience of being cis.

Well, unless you insist on bringing the ciscentric notion of sex assigned at birth. Which I don't.

My experience and other people's expectations of what I am don't always match. The weird thing is, the expectations of people who don't know about my past do, in fact, match my lived experience very very often, almost constantly. The people who know me well - perhaps I should say the single person who knows me in the Biblical sense - her experience of me matches mine pretty much always, with no exceptions I can notice.

Trans and cis are not stable. This is not to say that trans and cis aren't useful political categories, but they take us only so far, and I'd rather not lock myself up in a cage with a cis-derived label on it. "Trans" was invented by cissexual people; it's not our word in the strict sense, and while "cis" levels the playing field somewhat, the pair still doesn't derive from us and our experiences. It's still ciscentric language, meant to other us and meant to remind us of our second-class status, of the assignment slapped on us at birth.

See also Iden-bugger-tity. [ETA link]

Thursday, 2 December 2010

STP puh-lease

"That transsexuality would no longer be viewed as an organic illness, because the gender of a person, trans or not, is not biologically programmed (this is the organic or physical dimension of depathologization);" (STP Best Practices Guide (pdf), p. 17)

Umm, no. Darlings, dearies, do not pretend to speak for me. Transsexuality was very much an organic, physiological illness for me. My sex and gender seem to be biologically determined to be female. There was precisely fuck-all I could do about it, except conform to the fact that I'm deeply unhappy if I a) have to be on wrong hormones, b) have to have a wrong kind of bodily configuration and c) have to pretend to be a man which I am not, and I stopped being unhappy precisely when I a) had the right hormones, b) a suitably configured body and c) could (safely) stop the stupid pretense, and be the woman I was and am in the eyes of other people, too. That required physiological treatments, and those treatments fixed my very organic body. So yeah, it's an organic illness all right.

While I'm at this, I'd also like to point out that while it's wrong to push Western ideas on non-Western people, I've no personal objection to Western ideas and paradigms - I'm Western, and a European myself, and wouldn't want to appropriate some other culture's way of doing sex and gender for mine.

In short: STP folks, you're mistaken at some points. Stop pretending you're speaking for all people who are identified as trans by the cis majority. I may be trans in their (and maybe your) eyes, but I sure don't feel like trans any more much at all. Our needs are different, don't subsume mine under your agenda.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

The traumatic nature of being trans (on Planet Cis, that is)

The worst is not being able to trust other people much at all.

It's pretty logical, no?

Other people have managed to con you into believing you are not what you are, but something else instead. You find that out. You get mighty pissed, perhaps do a thing or two about it (like transition, maybe), and start really feeling the results. You're relatively safe from the forced assignments within your body and yourself - others may still mis- and/or ungender you, but at least you have a tendency of knowing yourself for what you are.

Here's the kick. When you realise that yes, most people have actively conned you (I'm not saying anything about consciously conning - it may well not be conscious, but the end result is still more or less the same) for, like, decades, it's not a happy moment. In fact, it may well feel like the ground opening under your feet. If other people can be so much in the wrong and so damn adamant about it and willing to spend so much time and energy defending their mistake, what else is there that they're wrong about? Suddenly, all bets are off.

This has, in my opinion, several consequences. One is that it's mighty hard to believe in yourself - in your own reasoning ability, in your own conclusions. No matter how well-founded your conclusions, you're still a human and still fallible. And since you've just had a glorious example of most of humanity failing big time, it doesn't bode well for you either, now does it?

Another is an active mistrust of others - if they managed to keep you from this central bit of information about yourself, what else are they hiding?

There's no easy answers to those. I don't know how to solve those problems - and they're my problems, too. How do you cobble together a trust broken from the very beginning? You've never had the experience of being able to trust - your very first relationships have been forced to fit into a mould that's simply wrong (I don't mean that for the cis it's completely right, but it is far less wrong as far as I can tell). There's no model of social stuff being right, only a broken model. I'm sorry this sounds so dejected, but the cissexist, cissupremacist world is a depressive place.

[Note that bodily issues don't enter into this much at all. Having a trans body is in itself relatively unproblematic - some aspects of your body might need medical attention, maybe surgery, maybe meds - and your body might not be that trans after all of those things - but that's just like having glasses, or corrective surgery, for defective vision. It's no big deal.]

Monday, 15 November 2010

It might get better, but it might not.

Dear trans girl,

It's possible it gets better. That's about as positive as I can get. Sorry about it - it is very depressing, but life sometimes is. I hope you get a bit less harassment, a little less violence, a little less un- and degendering. I really do, from the bottom of my heart. But I can't promise that. No-one can. Don't believe just anything you're said - evaluate the statements yourself. That applies to this piece, too.

I sincerely hope you will find peace. Peace with myself wasn't actually that hard to get. Peace with others... shall we say that's a war in progress? And, unfortunately, it's not yet us who are winning. People do think their way of seeing and thinking and living sex and gender trumps our experience.

Stick by the people who really are loyal to you. And to hell with the others. Really. If someone gets onto your tits, don't spend too much time with them - there's so many idiots and so little time. It's just not worth it, educating the unwilling. They just sap your energy, will to live and generally suck the joy out of your life. Sod them. But the ones who do love you - love them to bits. Never, ever let them down.

Don't be too disappointed when people close to you let you down. It's not unusual. It's incredibly sad, but I've seen it happen so many times I find it hard to be surprised at anything any more. There's no bottom to the depths of stupidity, meanness and plain ol' cis privilege.

Love your own. Help other trans girls and women. Even when they're being arses. I try to do that, too. 

Above all else: Love yourself. Get help. Be brave. Be smart. Be the girl you are.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Oi, journo, U R doing it wrong.

Even if you mean well.

Yes, it's the eternal "people who changed their sex" -trope. The latest incarnation of which surfaced in my morning newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat (1st of Nov, 2010, page D1. Sorry, can't find a copy available online, available as dead trees, or behind a paywall only). The story is about three people at different places in the trans universe - a trans woman, a trans man and a male transvestite (well, the male bit is never said aloud, it's just assumed. I suppose the writer has never heard of female transvestites). The story's stated aim is to enlighten the readers on what sex/gender roles look like, but in fact it doesn't analyze the sex/gender roles and the accompanying gender policing much at all. It just displays these three subjects in a human interest angle.

They're not treated too shabbily on the whole, but yet again, it's the framing of the story that sucks rotten eggs. The story is presented as "people who've experienced living as both a man and a woman..." (see page A3 if you've got the dead tree edition), there's the "changed their sex" -subheading (page D1: "Two people who've changed their sex and a transvestite tell what sex/gender roles look like") - in short, it's all about the voyeuristic, sensationalist cis mentality and blatant use of cissexist power to frame things.

I'm pretty sure the journalist in question means well. It isn't quite the hate-filled piece that misgenders and ungenders the trans subject constantly, but it fails nevertheless: the whole ciscentric premise that people really are of the sex/gender they're assigned at birth is just so full of fail. The story leaks at the seams: the trans woman is allowed to say she "had manhood pounded into her head" - but still the story assumes and reinforces that she actually was a boy/man (there's the stupid "biological male" -thing, too, but as that seems to be her own description of herself, I can't really comment on that), and can, therefore, tell what it was like to be a man. Not what it was like to be mistaken for a man. If she really was a man, why was the pounding necessary? And who, exactly, did the pounding? She herself, perhaps? I think not.

People assume all kinds of things about other people's sexes, genders and bodies. They assume, for example, that if someone "looks like a man", ze must be a man, and male, and assigned male at birth, too. That is simply not true. Looking like x is not the same as being x, and woman does not equal femininity does not equal female does not equal being assigned female at birth - all those bits may be related to each other, and they often are. But that's no universal rule. So it's rather stupid to assume that - and to assume that a trans man, for example, might know what it's like to be a woman.

I'd even hazard a guess that he does not know what being a woman is like, as he may never have been a woman. He's been mistaken for one, but that's not even remotely the same. Being of a sex is not the same as (mistakenly) being perceived as of a sex. The subject is not the same. I am a woman. You probably perceive me as a woman. My being and your perception probably agree, but even if they didn't, your perception does not automagically trump my being, not even if you force your perception on me.

So, dear journalists, please. Listen, carefully, to the people you interview. Especially when you're basically venturing out of your everyday experience (yeah, I'm assuming the journalist plus possible subeditors in question are cis - I think that's a pretty safe assumption). Your assumptions on how unfamiliar stuff works are, more often than not, simply wrong.

(Not that I'm expecting these things to change anytime soon - after all, I'm just a lone trans woman with a blog, and a cis journo with a big newspaper on her back, compared to me, is a bit like a soldier driving a battle tank towards a girl with a rock in her hand).

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Educating people doesn't help

That's a bit of a lie, actually. Education does work, it educates. But it doesn't work in the way many (middle class) activists think it does. Education doesn't stop people from discriminating against each other. In fact, it may well make people more proficient at discriminating.

The crucial question is what you're educating people in.

If you raise people's consciousness about, say, trans women, you're doing just that, and no more. You're not fighting oppression. Your consciousness-raising may have some effects to that end, but it's in no way guaranteed, nor is it certain in any way that your consciousness-raising isn't having the exact opposite effect of making the discrimination even more acute.

This is why: giving more information on trans women (I'm using our experiences as examples because I know those the best), our bodies, our hardships and lives in general makes us even more of a target. The more we are exposed to scrutiny, the more visible we are as trans, the better chances the oppressors have of spotting us as potential targets for discrimination, and there's just so much more surface area to attack, too. The mundane things you do with your body become available for public consumption - your relationships start taking all kinds of weird colourings in the minds of the majority. Majority starts seeing things that aren't there, but that doesn't stop the majority from seeing nonexistent things as real, such as the sex you were forcibly assigned at birth, or sexualities you would never know for your own. Educating people on what is doesn't necessarily change their cognitive frameworks in the least - it might reinforce the (false) frameworks instead. It's the old "don't confuse me with the facts" -thing that leads to "but you were a man, right?" -questions, and to endless headdesking on the part of the trans woman. As if it were so simple. As if the majority got sex and gender right in the first place.

Giving people more information about oppressed minorities also doesn't call the discrimination itself into question in any serious way. The focus is on the minority's deviance from the (unquestioned) norms of the majority, not on the prejudices and asshattery of the majority. Yet it's the behaviour of the majority that is the problem - the existence of the minority and its habits, phenotypes and stuff are incidental. Exposing the oppression borne by the minority may work as an appeal to pity, but it doesn't address the actual problem much at all.

The actual problem, of course, being discrimination and other reprehensible behaviour. Raising consciousness on that might help, but stopping oppression is not about the oppressed, it's about stopping the oppressors.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Can't be arsed

Just too tired and bored with the direction trans activism is taking. I'm tired of fighting on several fronts at once, tired of trans women undercutting progress 'cos it somehow isn't ideologically perfect enough, or steps on their cis beloveds' or "allies'" toes. I'm sick and tired of being treated like some fucking special snowflake. I'm not so special. I'm sick of people who want to be treated like special snowflakes. The whole specialness strand of all things trans is a huge trap IMO. I want medical and bodily privacy, decent, respectful medical care as a matter of course, and not as an exception, and freedom from violence. I don't want exceptions. I want, as a matter of course, the same every damn cis person gets as a matter of course. Maybe more on this later, right now I'm too tired and too worried out to think straight. Or queer.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Why we probably need strictly trans-women-only spaces

Relationship abuse. That's why.

Helen G reported couple of days ago on the depressingly expected results (pdf) to research on domestic abuse against trans people. I also stumbled on a story at The Spectrum Café on crossdressers' problems, and I realised that those problems are definitely not limited to crossdressers alone: the power dynamic in a lesbian relationship, where one of the women is cis, and the other is trans, but not quite come to terms with her stuff yet, can be scarily similar.

Imagine: a trans/cis lesbian couple lives like their life was one of a cissexual, heterosexual, cisgender couple. One of the partners, however, knows that this is not strictly speaking true, but for a lack of words, courage, or just plain fear for her own safety keeps her mouth shut. She knows something is not quite right, the dynamic of the relationship isn't quite the cishet dynamic it's expected to be. The other, cis partner, is at least consciously unaware of this, or if not, wants to be unaware - there are no prizes given by the larger, sexist and cissexist society, to those who start messing about with its hallowed cishet structures, especially when such messing about goes against not only heterosexism, but cis- and plain sexism as well.

Anyway. The trans woman finds out a name, or several names, for the situation she's in. She finds out that she might actually be a woman, and that her coercively assigned manhood is a... lie. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what the possible consequences of acting out on such information can be. Amicable divorce (if they've already gotten married) is kinda nice outcome - if they have children together, the trans woman faces a very real prospect of losing her family altogether, and a substantial chunk of her income, too. Which also tends to plummet when one transitions - that's no rocket science, either.

So, what's the trans woman to do? "I'll give the family a shot but if it goes titsup, it will, and no can do - I'll likely transition anyway, and those two are not strictly connected" was my choice, but I now realise that this is not at all a common choice. The common choice is, I think, trying to negotiate your way into transitioning with the family. Asking for permission, if you like - in order to minimise the collateral damage.

What scenarios that leads to? There's at least two I can think of, and I've seen both happen many times.

The first is the "come out, get a divorce" -scenario. Once the trans woman speaks about the need to transition, the family implodes and that's that - if she's lucky, she can see her children and isn't destitute afterwards. If things go bad, she's not only cut off from her family, but totally broke, too.

The second, however, is ominous. The trans woman brings up that she really isn't a man, or somesuch stuff - the exact details don't matter. She asks for support. The cis woman, on her part, is shocked, or perhaps flat out disbelieves the seriousness of what's said. Once the situation develops a bit, and it becomes increasingly clear that trans woman's, well, womanhood, isn't going away, transitioning becomes a war of attrition on part of the cis woman partner. The trans spouse is kept from transitioning by controlling her, controlling her body, controlling her access to medical resources, controlling her visibility as a woman (either by threatening with forced outing or threatening with divorce if she does come out at circles not approved of by the cis spouse) and, of course controlling her access to other trans women. This can be subtle - painting other trans women as irresponsible, selfish failures who definitely are not worth associating with and then painting the trans woman partner as someone who's so much more responsible and rational - or it can be a lot more blatant, as in not letting the trans woman partner go to support group meetings, transcentric events, trans-women-only message boards, seeing a doctor to talk about her medical needs or even plain violence.

That the aforementioned is totally fucked hardly needs an explanation. What it does do, however, is introduce a cis-made split into trans women's lives - we're cut off from each other. Women early in their transitions don't get the role models of real, live trans women going on about their lives, working, living, loving and fighting on the planet cis, but get only the bits that suit their cis spouses - and somehow I think that the societally instilled sexism, transphobia and cissexism do affect the choice of such bits.

Because of all of the above, I'd like to have something. I'd like to have a trans-women-only space.  Where it wouldn't matter squat where you are in your transition, wouldn't matter where exactly you want to go, but if you wouldn't mind people identifying you as a trans woman, you'd be welcome. You'd be welcome to a space not controlled by cis people. Where what you say will not be scrutinised by the cis. Where questioning cissexist notions is welcome, and common. No cis women bossing around and telling us what we can do, say or be. No need for apologies, or for policing cis-instated norms on behalf of the cis. Where said policing can be dismissed for what it is: controlling. Controlling the way we speak, act, live and love. I want to get rid of that controlling so I can speak with my sisters face to face and expose the coercion and abuse for what it is.

Yeah, I know, won't be easy, but it's worth a shot, dontcha think?

Monday, 30 August 2010

Let's all bury our heads in the sand? The fuck I will.

This is a post on my brief foray into a local forum for trans feminine spectrum people and their significant others, but the issues are not limited to that forum - I've experienced similar stuff elsewhere, too. This is an outline of why I increasingly opt out of that stuff.

Here's what I like:
  • people across transfeminine spectrum co-operating on common and not-so-common issues.
  • being able to talk about difficult issues.
  • trans-centricity.
  • some common decency.
Somehow, more often than not, I've ran into problems wrt all of the above.

The relations between transvestites and trans women seem to be tense. My take on that is that there's plenty of phobia on both sides: transvestites perhaps fearing us trans women are seen as somehow contagious, that we infect transvestite men with the virus of transsexuality and then turn them into women. It's not entirely unreasonable, though - the common joke about the difference between a transvestite and a trans woman being five years is not entirely a joke. Some trans women do approach transition from that position, and it's a perfectly valid angle. I understand this might cause some concern amongst transvestites and especially their cis spouses, as hormones, surgery and legal sex change aren't exactly seen as a favourable outcome of coming out of the closet as a transvestite. Trouble is, it happens, and it won't go away just by refusing to talk about it, or beating around the bush and trying to give the impression it doesn't happen, like, ever. The motivation might be pacifying the cis spouses, but that pacification is based on a rather limited edition of the truth, and I'm pretty sure the cis spouses will find out, sooner or later, and then you'll be deep in doo-doo.

From my side of the pond, I can say being lumped with transvestites isn't always that hot, either. Transvestism is still often seen as something provisionary and elective, which I've come to understand is not the case; a transvestite probably can't choose if he wants to dress in woman's clothes no more than I can choose if I'm a woman or not. Yet that seems to be something that's trotted out by a disgruntled relative/friend/spouse when the issue of not being entirely of the sex assigned to you at birth comes up. It's the "why can't you just stop" -trope. And transvestites, seemingly, can stop, at least for some time - and stopping being a woman, for a trans woman, is about as possible as for an unsupported stone at height to not drop in standard gravity. I suspect it's the same for anyone who's somehow trans; you can't get the cause of trans out of you, you just have to live with it somehow, either eliminating the most of the underlying stuff (I'd call this transition), or finding some other ways to live with it. Trans doesn't seem go away. It's wishful thinking to think that you, or your friend/lover/child/whomever, can just repress it indefinitely.

I think there's a lot of common ground for male transvestites and trans women - it's not like the oppression is totally different: we're tarred with the same brush, and general public still isn't too keen on our differences. But the fear of the other just seems too great, and the investment in the tolerance given by the cis keeps many of us in their places, too, and makes them side with the oppressor, trying to silence people speaking out.

Talking about oppression and pejorative language seems to be a really hot button. I really don't understand why it provokes such intense feelings, but it does. Commenting that "tranny" is generally offensive can be met with loud claims that it isn't for the claimant. That may very well be the case, but it doesn't do squat about the general case. Tranny's no compliment, it's a slur, and no amount of "but it isn't for me" changes that on a universal basis - perhaps a more universal reclaiming might do that, but I'm pretty sure its time isn't quite yet. I am perplexed, however, why anyone trans would claim its unoffensiveness loudly in a discussion supposedly about the word's general, offensive usage (and why you really shouldn't use it about anyone specific, either, unless you're pretty damn sure it's accepted). Internalised cissexism? I never thought I'd run into anything that would bring up that particular concept in my mind, but I have, now. As if we weren't worthy of decent treatment. And, more importantly, as if we weren't oppressed and discriminated against, and as if that wasn't a bad thing. Puh-leeze. Stopping speaking about oppression doesn't make it go away.

I love transcentricity. I love the places that are for us, by us. There's the whole wide ciscentric world out there for the cis people - I really love the spaces where I can breathe freely, without anyone cis breathing on my neck with privilege, watching that I stay on my cis-allotted place. Or even if there are cis people around, it's still not about them. Of course some cis people will try to make it about them - I can understand that, and while they have my sympathy, it's not a demand that should be indulged in. Plenty of ciscentric spaces around, hardly any transcentric. Transcentricity is rather hard to come by, however.

And finally, common decency and not getting all riled up when it isn't about you in particular is very nice indeed. It also seems to be rather rare. I suspect this is a common phenomenon when discussing emotional subjects - it becomes mighty hard to separate the issues from the person. Yet, it's pretty hard to discuss anything worthwhile and important if you can't speak your mind on subjects that provoke emotions, so I think this is something we all just have to learn to live with. Strong emotions will be provoked, we have to learn how to behave like adults do, and not fly into a fit of rage if someone dares to disagree with us. If their case is bad, it probably isn't too hard to show why that's so, and while the disagreement probably won't go away, it's still possible to discuss the issues instead throwing a fit each time someone says something controversial.

The warning signs I should have heeded

  • spouses-only board on an otherwise at least nominally transcentric board. This is always, always a big warning sign. It means the cis spouses' concerns are favoured. It also means the people running the forum mean it's ok for things to be this way (see for an explanation as to why this is a bad idea).
  • abusive language is tolerated. I wasn't aware of this, but noticed it almost immediately.
  • moderation is not only ad hoc, but also invisible - completely deleted messages and threads are a prime example. Moderation needs to be open and visible. (for a simple introduction to the subject, see This isn't quite as easy to notice, but once you hit it, you do notice it.
Silly me, didn't listen to myself.

[ETA warning signs]

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Carto's special theory of trans

This is mostly a note to myself, and written perhaps more to clarify my thoughts to myself than for anything else.

Trans consists of actually being something of some other sex, or gender, than the sex, or gender, assigned to you at birth, or later, by others.

That's about it, really!

Trans is thus a problem of other people - the core of the problem being the forced assignment of sex and gender, and the (misplaced) faith of the majority in the correctness of the communal assignment.

Trans becomes a problem for the trans person hirself only if other people make it a problem.

This can happen by ungendering, misgendering, physical violence, denial of necessary facilities, denial of medical care - this is not an exhaustive list.

The problem is not trans. It's the oppression.

(the headline is a nod to Einstein, in case you wondered).

[ETA to clarify the second sentence]

Friday, 11 June 2010

On relatives, and their tediousness wrt transition

This cropped up in a discussion with a friend - you know who you are.

One of the major reasons why transitioning is such a shitty business is the people who are, in principle, close to you. The logic behind this statement goes like this: when people view themselves as close to a transitioning individual, more often than not they are not close to the individual hirself at all, but to the rôle this individual has played in order to survive without too much harassment. And there lies the rub.

Transitioning requires that that rôle, that act has to be stopped. But, because the close ones are usually heavily invested in that rôle, stopping the act is not necessarily seen as stopping a lie, but is seen as a betrayal instead. The person transitioning, of course, betrays no-one by transitioning, but stops betrayals instead, and this might be the reason why transition is so hard for the near and dear to accept. If they accept the transition for what it is, they also tacitly admit to fooling themselves and their apparently near and dear transitioner, often for decades. They also admit to having policed sex and gender, often in quite backhanded and devious ways - transition brings out all this for everyone to see. It's probably not too easy for the cis people around.

The natural reaction seems to be to blame the transitioner for being manipulative, difficult, intransigent and deceptive. In reality, the transitioner is anything but: a transition is probably the ultimate statement for stopping manipulation and deception.

Another common thread in trying to hold onto the lie is emotional blackmail, and not letting go even when it's perfectly clear that the transitioner wants to have nothing with hir relatives unless they accept the reality of transition. "We do this because we love you" might hold water if transitions were a whim, a passing madness, but as far as I can tell, transitioning is neither - we don't do this stuff just to piss you guys off, y'know.

Eliot put it nicely: "human kind Cannot bear very much reality." (Four Quartets, Burnt Norton, 42-43)

Unfortunately I, and my fellow trans people have to live with this.

[ETA] This trouble with reality seems to undergird a common journalistic trope of trotting out person's trans past, no matter if it's relevant to the discussion or not. It's just so damn impossible for the cis to get that they do make mistakes when gendering other people, it seems.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Shiny hobbies go on

Oh well, I end up writing about my new hobby anyway. Now I managed to scare myself almost shitless a couple of days ago, while at the same time I got one of the biggest mental rushes of my life, too. So yeah, it was interesting - and I'm gonna repeat it, too. I like doing difficult, scary things even more than I thought I would. This is very interesting.

The most interesting bit was I didn't get scared of the physical danger (there was some, but honestly, not a lot) - I got scared of myself! I have realised I'm a bit on the braver side of things, but I hadn't realised just how much: it seems I'll push myself gladly as far as I can go. I was pretty happy to find that out, but what I was, and am, the happiest about is that I had the sense to call it off, too, at the moment I realised I wasn't going to go any further, but was stalled, and wasn't going to learn anything new any more.

So yeah, I like being me a lot. Hope you like being yourself a lot, too!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

On the difficulty of trusting other people

During all of my years, it's became abundantly clear to me that I have a problem with trusting other people not to do me in at the earliest opportunity. It's pretty clear to me why: when you've been taught by the whole society, by everyone you know and love, that you are something, and you then, on your own, find out and realise that they all were wrong, it's pretty hard to trust anyone much afterwards.

It goes deeper than that. I had this trust problem already as a child. I don't think it's completely outlandish to think that this was due to a persistent cognitive dissonance between what other people expected me to be, and what I actually was. I couldn't fulfill the expectations made of me, and it wasn't a question of being somewhat imperfect. I just failed at sex and gender. I recall clearly wondering what was wrong with me, why couldn't I figure out the way boys are supposed to behave (it wasn't for the lack of models, or for a missing father, or any that creepy ex-gay -shit - I've had an unbroken home from the day I was born, with both mom and dad and all that stuff), and infinitely sad because I couldn't fit in, no matter what I did. I knew I was different, I just couldn't put my finger on the exact reasons why.

But when I did figure it out: after the first rush of relief came almost uncontrollable anger, and fear. These guys had conned me all my life! And not only that, but some of them were crazy enough to police my behaviour with violence (cheers and beers, my classmates from comprehensive - hope we'll never meet) - as if not conforming to the sex assigned to you at birth was such a huge crime against them.

I also started wondering at a few things. I was pretty damn visibly non-conforming during my teen years. Why wasn't I referred to anyone? Was it because I was otherwise a well-behaved girl, who did not cause much trouble? Or was it because they knew there was nothing they could do - or because they didn't dare to, or because they thought I was beyond their "help" anyway - help in this last case meaning forcing sex and gender conformance (it was rather obvious I wasn't going to conform that way).

What it boiled down to was that no-one helped. I was left to my own devices, and that's the way I've been going on ever since. Going back to trusting people comes very very slowly, and so far I've managed to trust just a dozen or so people (you know who you are and I love you to bits). And it's the hardest thing for me to do, it's harder than transitioning and all that.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Sod identity politics

It just sucks hard. It seems to lead into these endless discussions on definitions. It seems to lead into endless attempts at policing of borders. Where it doesn't seem to lead is practical problems being solved.

I'd really like to have an explanation of how the hell identity politics is supposed to solve anything at all: we supposedly enlightened people can all respect each others identities (or lack thereof) as much as we please, but how the heck is that going to change the ways of the big bad cissexist world? I mean, does anyone really think we can get respectful (or at least semi-decent) treatment just by claiming identities for ourselves? I'm not at all sure how an identity leads to better treatment by the majority.

Here's what I want. It's mostly just issues from the top of my head, in no particular order.
  • Decent access to hormones and surgery. It need not be completely at-will, 'cos I realise there's the taxpayer interest. It does have to be on public money, though - the poorest are already so hard up there's absolutely no need to have them pay their way.
  • Legal sex needs to be changeable at will to anything. Redoing those papers is not expensive, it's not hard and not allowing people to choose their legal sex doesn't serve any valid purpose I can understand. I realise this might be a far way off. You want to be a "yes" legally? Be my guest. I might want to, too.
  • We seriously need a gender-neutral marriage that's not limited to two spouses alone. I realise some poly people won't want this, but the option should be there, 'cos I just don't get why the civil institution of marriage should be limited for hetero couples alone. Who cares if five people of same, or different sexes marry each other? I sure don't. But I sure want them to be able to get all the benefits that hetero couples do at the moment. I want them to be able to be each others' next of kin, to be able to be legal parents to their children. This could, of course, be arranged in numerous other ways, too, but in that case I'd go for a dissolution of all marriages - I don't want a two-tier system of 1) heteros and 2) the riff-raff.
  • Respectful and clueful medical care. Access isn't the only problem, the big other problem is that doctors know precisely fuck-all about trans bodies - it's guinea-pig style -medicine all the way as far as my experiences go. They don't know since no-one's doing research on how we actually manage our bodies, hormones and stuff (of course I won't volunteer all of this information to doctors, 'cos more often than not it's used just to oppress us: a "well"-meaning doctor comes in a white jacket and tells me I'm doing it wrong- and promptly tries to make me do stuff their way by holding scripts, despite me having had this body for decades and having managed its trans aspects quite successfully for many, many years).
Do I need an identity to get those things? Nah, I think not. They're not issues of identity, and solving them doesn't require any identity-talk at all. They can be solved head on.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

New, shiny hobbies bring out the past anew

Namely, sports. I'm not going to go into specifics here, 'cos I'm not sure it'd be safe for me to. I enjoy my new hobby hugely, it's very physical, very intense, very technical and demanding, it's what I wanted as a kid and it definitely is what I want now.

I'm reclaiming my past. I'm doing the stuff I wanted to do when I was a kid. It feels very, very good. It's also painful as hell.

Pursuing your dreams late is very complicated. On one hand, you get this immense kick from doing stuff you dreamed of doing. On the other, the kick makes you realise just how much stuff you've missed out on. It's at times so painful you find it hard to breathe, yet you know this is the way forward. It brings out the little girl you were, the things that were denied to her, what you could have been had you not been forcibly masculinised. What I could have been.

On some imaginative level it's like watering a live plant that's been dry for decades. It's all very well and good, but imagine how it's for the plant - it gets new water for its cells, they expand and start growing, but the stress on the supporting cell structures is probably rather hard. Yet should the plant stop drinking?

Hell no. I'll rather take the pain and the growth than die a slow death by drought. If my joy comes with pain, I'll take the pain unflinchingly with a laugh. It's not like us Christians aren't used to laughing at death and horror (1 Cor 15:54-55).

Friday, 12 February 2010


I disclose my cis/trans -status when applicable. I decide when it is applicable. Not anyone else.

That's about it, really.

That's why I will be right pissed at you if you decide for me. I feel inclined to explain myself a bit. Here goes:
  1. If I'm doing something trans-unrelated (that is, +90% of my time), it's not only irrelevant, but it also tends to be a major distraction to whatever I'm enjoying at the moment. Well, it's not such a distraction to me, but since good many other (mostly cis) people stop dead in their tracks when trans is mentioned, there's good sense for me in not saying anything about my cis/trans -status. Unless, of course, I want to discuss it endlessly and run in infinite loops around their prospective prejudices, instead of the enjoyable activity of my choice. It's really, really hard to get why I prefer not to disclose, isn't it? ;-)
  2. If I'm doing something trans-related, it might be relevant. But unless everyone else puts their cis/trans status on the table, oh, just forget about it. Sure we can discuss my sex and gender, but you go first. There is one exception, however:
  3. Which is, when I decide that I want to discuss my experiences of growing up as a trans girl, living the trans woman's life - trans being relevant and something I want to discuss and feel comfortable discussing. This does not happen that often, except maybe in this blog. I've been known to discuss this sometimes.
Just like Cedar wrote, I don't feel educating people is the way to stop cissexist oppression. The way to stop oppression is for oppressors to stop their oppressive actions, and perhaps apologise, too, and make amends. Doesn't have that much to do with education. Doesn't, indeed, have too much to do with me. Oppression isn't that difficult to spot. In fact, whenever you feel a sudden urge to police other people's actions without being able to pinpoint concrete examples (as in not hypothetical, but something that has actually happened) of bad consequences of said actions, there's a fair chance you're about to oppress someone. One doesn't need education to stop this, just chilling out a bit, taking a deep breath and seeing that nothing awful will happen even if you don't engage in said oppression is probably enough.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Ever have a doctor misgender you?

Ok, I might as well admit up front that the question is somewhat rhetorical for trans women, at least. I've been misgendered so many times in epicrises it's not funny any more - it's just stupid. I have been able to have it corrected a number of times, and I think misgendering no longer occurs in my medical papers, but I've to admit I haven't checked for a while.

Think about it for a while, though.

Some trans women get referred to as "genetic men" in their medical records. Not only is it false (the whole term is so full of fail you just need to take my word for it if you can't think yourself through it), but it is also intensely demeaning - it's like the dear doctor's trying to drag you down to gender hell again.

In general, we're supposed to trust our doctors. Trans women, on the whole, don't. It's pretty damn clear why, innit? No respect or trust for us, no respect or trust comes back.

It isn't rocket science. Trans women are referred to as women. Trans women are given trans woman -specific medications (i.e. none of that stupid menopause-level HRT - most of us are definitely not in our menopausal age). Trans women are listened to. Our needs and wishes are to be respected. No stupid patronising. And if our doctor visits are not about our trans-related medical needs, leave the trans bit alone. It's just not relevant.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Carto goes gender (and grows iden-titties), #3

This is partially a response to a discussion on active and passive identities, but this is where I was headed anyway: why I prefer, and rather strongly at that, no identity actively whatsoever.

Firstly, on a philosophical level, I don't think identities are very real, or anything you should attach yourself to. I consider my identity to be rather ephemeral and passing, and I can't pin it down anywhere. To me, the question "what do you identify as?" is a bit meaningless: what would it change even if I did identify, say, as a woman? It might be a means to an end for me, sure, if I felt like I wasn't a woman already - a means to map out possible ways of being. But I can do that in other ways, too. If I feel like putting on culturally coded stuff, be that behaviour, looks, anything, I already can, resources permitting. If I want to behave in a genderqueer way, there's nothing stopping me. The question of what am I, what do I identify as is, as far as I can tell, irrelevant to me, and if forced, I'll just say I identify as myself.

This approach has its caveats. Firstly, there's the question of resources, and safety. I can very well say I can do whatever I want, but the fact is that if I haven't the resources needed - say, social networks for going out and partying the night away - I, in fact, can't. So the freedom isn't quite as expansive as it could be, if given infinite resources. Secondly, there's the question of me doing stuff that provokes reactions from other people: I, for example, cannot fuck around with gender in just any way if I want to live unharassed. The two are not mutually compatible in practice.

Secondly, what people in linked posts call passive identities tend to trump any active identity any time you're dealing with potentially stressful situations with people not entirely respectful of you. What you're being passed as tends to overrun whatever identity you claim whenever it'd be really important for you to be recognised as, passed as what you are (or identify as, in identity-speak). Whenever there's a disagreement, the majority vote seems to hold the sway. Now I don't think this is right, or an agreeable situation, but I think this is the way it is, here and now. For examples, have a look at stories on trans women in your local newspapers. Are they misgendered? Sensationalised? In my corner of the world, those two things are almost a rule. When the local newspaper (Helsingin Sanomat, 24th of Jan, page C1 in case you're interested) did a whole page piece on Jin Xing (she's coming to dance in Finland), what did they write about? That's right - it was her transition that got the attention - dancing was mentioned in passing ("the best dancer in the world"), and the writer didn't connect the two in any meaningful way I could decipher. Why bring her trans status up at all, then?*

Thirdly, I'm not that hopeful on humanity. I really don't think we can stop other people clinging to their silly ideas about how everything in the world is easy to chop into discrete sets of stuff: men, women, girls, boys, sick, healthy. It might be possible to change it if there was the good will plus willingness to understand and the humility to accept we're colossally wrong every now and then, but I don't think that exists. We're not always good, we're certainly not humble every one of us and the willingness to understand people different from you is seriously lacking. So I don't think the respect for other people's self-declared identities is going to be the be-all, end-all solution to the problems of segregation, violence, oppression and discrimination.

I guess I'm less interested in frameworks, and more interested in solving practical problems, mine included. Like getting journalists (Wikipedia's another repeat offender) to stop shitting on trans women because we've transitioned every time one of us manages to do something wonderful and amazing and noteworthy - anything at all. Not everything we do can be derived from our transitions.

Writing the last sentence felt like talking down to someone particularly thick - I really think cissexuals should be able to get that bit on their own.

*yes, a trick question. Of course it's important to put the uppity trans woman in her place as a circus freak. God forbid they'd just write about her dancing when there's this unspeakable act of daring to raise against the gender forcibly assigned to her at birth. It's the modern-day equivalent of blasphemy.