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).