Thursday, 2 August 2012

Carto's guide to doctors treating trans women

It can be summed up in two words: be careful, and please try to warn before you ask about really intimate stuff. Genitalia and trans, for example, being "really intimate stuff".

There's a background to this, obviously; I got a nice, yummy cystitis the other day (die e. coli, die) and had to see a doctor. My usual GP wasn't around (bless him, he needs his vacations, too), and so I took the first doctor I could get. Now, as I'm sure y'all know, cystitis means an infection is having a party in your urethra, you need to pee like mad and it stings and it's all very nasty, really. You need to see a doctor. DIY-ing is not an option, even though cranberry juice can help. You don't want any nasties in your urethra, and you definitely don't want them in your kidneys. And also, you having a trans background, it might be it's got something to do with surgeries - not very likely if it's been years and years, but it might; and the doctor sure as hell won't know, unless you 'fess up.

Trouble is, I hate explaining my background to people. It's a vile affair, and there's no way to make it comfortable to me. So. When the doctor asks me (he's very polite and affable and all) if I'm on any meds, I tell him I'm on HRT. I take a calculated emotional risk. He proceeds to ask the specific meds (I start getting uneasy at this point because I can tell where this is headed, right there, right then) - I tell, and start cursing silently to myself for telling. He then proceeds to ask me if this is because of trans. Which feels just about horrible, and I feel like I've been stripped naked against my will. I fumble on about it, get the prescription for an antibiotic (well duh, an UTI is an UTI, and my symptoms fit the description to a T).

Afterwards, I feel violated. Yes, I know, I'm sensitive, but blow me, I am. And I don't feel that's really to be faulted; I've had to explain this trans stuff against my will to a number of doctors in order to get the treatment I needed. It's one pact with the devil - yeah, you get the treatment you desperately need, but the price is that you need to play by their rules, and the rules for women brand you as trans: slightly off-the-rocker, pathetic/deceiving (take your pick, girl!) mental case. This seems to be considered as a permanent feature, even when you've gotten all the treatment you wanted and no longer fit the diagnostic criteria.

I took up this experience (it wasn't an experience from hell, but it was nasty - I'm not used to being identified as trans without my prior consent; the last time it's happened must've been, I dunno, like a decade ago. Yes, I'm one lucky, and healthy, bitch.) with him later that day, and sent him an e-mail describing my experience of the visit. He called back, explained stuff and, well, he's ok in my books now.

In retrospect, what I think he could've done differently is at least give me a warning he's going to ask me an extremely personal question. That might've given me some time and mental space to prepare myself. My rationale for this is that there's really no universal solution to asking about genital configuration; while I'm able to produce more-or-less precise information on mine, I'm pretty sure most people aren't. A question about genital configuration would simply be unintelligible to them, and asking, point blank, if you've got a penis, a vulva or something else is potentially just as invasive (or maybe even more) than asking someone about trans. I would prefer such questions, but I'm pretty sure many more people couldn't take it. And there's no way for the doctor to tell as far as I understand it.

Monday, 25 June 2012


Books I've read during my life as trans that have actually helped:


Kate Bornstein: Gender Outlaw. Yes. Aunty Kate. I didn't quite agree with her back then, and I certainly don't agree with her now, but yes, it did help. It made me see that I could shake off the coercively assigned sex/gender, that it was a possibility.

Riki Wilchins: Read My Lips. The same could be said of Riki that can be said of Kate; see above. This book was, and is, much more of the blood-and-guts -variety than Gender Outlaw; it's also better. Through it, I found out my pain wasn't unique, that I shared a lot of it with other trans women.

Riki Wilchins and Joan Nestle: Genderqueer. See above.

Julia Serano: Whipping Girl. It's no longer cutting edge, and there's plenty to criticise, but boy did it cut edge back when it was published.

Glenn Schiraldi: PTSD Workbook. Especially chapter on managing anger, plus several others.


Susan Stryker: My Words to Victor Frankenstein Above the Village of Chamounix: Performing Transgender Rage.

Donna Haraway: Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century. (Oh yeah, I'm a bit of a commie, me)

Monique Wittig. One sentence: "Lesbians are not women." It's hard to overestimate the importance of this; it opened my mind to understand that when you drop the sex/gender binary, sexes and genders and sexualities mix in new and unexpected ways. This sentence made me view sexualities through the lens of sex/gender, and sexualities do make a lot more sense to me that way.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Carto's Seal of Approval

This is not a bad article on issues trans. It is from a cis perspective, by a (presumably cis) journalist Jesse Green, and it's not perfect, but hey, you've got to start somewhere, and you could do a lot worse than this. Ignore the cringeworthy heading.

(The comment thread is full of fail, as per usual. Avoid.)

Tuesday, 22 May 2012


(This is not a guide for the cis. For that, please use Google, DuckDuckGo or whichever tickles your fancy)

"Closet" actually works, but it doesn't work the way gay people tend to think it does. I was closeted when I pretended to be a guy. I'm out now - no longer pretending to be something I'm not.

There's something else, too. I've actively dismantled the closet as much as I've been able to. I'd burn it down to complete oblivion if I could, but as it is, other people won't let me. They refuse to completely destroy the documentation identifying me as a male, or to completely rewrite it, for example (data integrity, identifying, blah-de-blah). Every time someone wants to interrogate me about my past (it doesn't happen very often, thankfully), that someone basically wants to re-erect a closet for me and, if not push me back there entirely, still remind me about the closet other people forced me to. The one I've done my damnedest to demolish.

What I think this all boils down to is that the majority doesn't want to admit to its mistake in sexing/gendering babies. The fact is, such errors happen, and there's plenty of us living proofs. The majority just needs to get over it, and start correcting its errors. Sans hand-wringing, please.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

On becoming a mother

Well, my partner gave birth. That's about it. And I became a mother.

I didn't realise it back then, of course - being CAMAB does rob you of some things, such as the realisation that if you've got kids, you're a mom - female parents tend to be called that, regardless of whether the kids came out of their womb or someone else's.

But in the end I did realise that. I realised that other people see me as the mother of my kids, and it's ok with me. I certainly wouldn't want to be called their father; it'd be just too weird for me (it may very well be ok for you to be called a father even though you're a woman - be my guest. Just don't push it on me).

It's a right can of worms, of course; motherhood. My relationship to my mother is far from easy. She's not outwardly oppressive or anything, but she really doesn't see the kind of woman I am. I suspect she still sees me as a wee girl, a sexless child - which I most empathically am not. She just kinda ignores that. So it's not something I've wanted to imitate when raising my kids, and I hope (and feel) that I've done better by my children. They seem to be well-adjusted and decent people, and I hope it's just not my indulgent imagination. I'm quite proud of them, and I'm especially proud of the loving family we've managed to put up together, my partner, our children and I.

Happy mother's day to all of you mothers out there. And even if your own mother left a lot to be desired, hopefully you can mother yourself properly.

[ETA 18.5.2012: added clarifications]

Saturday, 17 March 2012

The last hurrah, or opt me out

It's highly likely I'll just bugger off and stop blogging about teh trans, but before I go, I'd like to say this:

Trans is a term of oppression.

This is why:
  • it hides very real differences between rather disparate groups of people. Lumping together crossdressers, trans men, trans women, genderqueers, third genders and what not makes just one unhappy bunch that has one thing in common: oppression. But even that oppression isn't the same for all concerned; the things that can be of utmost importance to some trans women (for example, vaginoplasty, or HRT) might be totally irrelevant to some other group.
  • it lets the cis very conveniently off the hook: it lets them treat us as the other, the false to their authentic selves.
  • the constant dissension between disparate groups thus forced together destabilises and undermines attempts to fight oppression.
  • it keeps us trying to find common ground in identities when there is none.
I'm not expecting much love for saying this, but I think these identity-things have to go. Identity politics does not work.

I'm proposing fighting specific problems, one at a time, until they're all solved. The solutions must be such that they don't oppress other marginalised groups. "Trans" as a concept is mostly useless for this. Access to care is not a trans-specific issue, it's a healthcare issue. Violence is not a trans issue, it's a power issue, even if it affects trans-identified (identified as trans by others - most people can't tell how you identify if you don't conform to their stereotypes) people more than usual.

I'm also bone-tired of this stuff. I need to rest from this and live my life and protect myself and my sanity. I didn't ask my life to be centred around trans, and there's not that much stopping me from decentring trans in my life. Which is what I've been doing more lately (thanks go to my wonderfully sane and caring therapist, too). So - off I go, thanks for everything, I might not return.

Oh, and I love the acronym CAMAB. It just about sums up my experience.