Happy Transgender Unity Day!

These charming people are participating in a letter writing campaign today, in which they write letters and emails to their representatives insisting that they are not transgendered, but transsexuals, and that they will not put up with the colonialist tyranny of the transgendered any more! They have no truck with the (presumed to be dubious) “sociopolitical” agenda of those who would attack the hallowed gender binary. And so they are declaring March 22nd to be Transsexual Independence Day, and wish it to be known to all that from this day forth, the T is irrevocably sundered from the LGB!

Feh, I say. Feh.

If you look through their site, you’ll see it’s a pretty good example of transsexual separatists, and what is wrong with them. Separatists like to draw a lot of hard lines between them and the wider trans community, and then say that the people on the other side of the line aren’t as good as them and are oppressing them as well. They reject most modern gender theory, tend to be older, and tend to really get freaked out when lines become fuzzy or boundaries blurred.

Reading this independence declaration and the comment thread below it can provide evidence of several unsavory assumptions:

  • There are ONLY TWO GENDERS, and transsexuals happen to have the wrong one.
  • People who are really trans will naturally seek surgical correction; those who don’t see genital surgery are faking it for political reasons.
  • Transsexuals have a “correctable medical condition,” and that, by implication, there is a correct and incorrect way to be trans and those who do not seek their solution are incorrect.
  • That “correction” is necessary to go on and function as a useful member of society, and that those who don’t do it their way are, by implication, not useful.
  • That transgendered people are trying to co-opt some kind of monolithic ur-trans narrative, that we’re poisoning it and forcing the “classic” transsexuals out in the cold.

The underlaying themes of these assumptions are division, fear, and an insistence that some modes of gender are inherently more legitimate and deserving of recognition than others. Separatists, by all appearances, are retrograde thowbacks who are bitter at being left in the dust. Thankfully not all, or even most (as far as I can tell) self-identified transsexuals believe this tripe. Trans men in particular seem less likely to insist in surgery. So far as I can tell the people in my generation are quite comfortable with the transgender umbrella (which is starting to move towards an even more inclusive “trans*” label, anyhow), and see the value in cooperation, non-judgmental discourse, and allowing each of our brothers and sisters to find their own path.

And so to those of you who value unity, who seek understanding and mutual aid, who know that there are many ways to be a woman and many ways to be a man, I say that today is a day of celebration!

Happy Transgender Unity Day! This day, every year, we will celebrate our triumph over the forces of division and bitterness. Those of us who continue to seek the full surgical route will be supported and loved as they seek to find the self-comfort and relief from dysphoria we all crave; those of us who don’t will be equally loved and looked after as they chart their own course. Together, we will continue fighting for a new world, where everyone can explore gender in peace, safety, and love.

Mark your calenders. I’ll be doing a bigger event next year.

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In Which Things Do Not Go As Planned

Walking by the pool in the courtyard of the condo building I live in, I think to myself that I could just wade in, duck under and take two deep breaths. The water rushes in and takes me away. In my imagination, it’s a cool flowing sensation, gentle and kind. I purposely forget for the moment that I know that drowning hurts; my lungs have been filled with liquid before and it is excruciating. Lungs are attached to the inside of your chest by several ligaments (Sinews? I don’t know the right word) and when they become filled with fluid they get heavy, and start to yank on those connections. It’s exactly like if someone was trying to rip your lungs out. But for the moment, I don’t know that. The water is lit blue and enticing and I’m sure it’d feel great. And afterwards…release. Freedom. Calm. Step one of the plan that pops into my head is to take my cell phone out of my pocket. I don’t want to get it wet.

In other words, it hasn’t been a good day.

A Big Day

Tomorrow I have my first endocrinologist appointment. This is exciting for two reasons. First, I will finally get some solid answers on when I can start hormones and second because I have finally figured out how to spell endocrinologist without a spellchecker. I’m extremely nervous. It’s a good nervous. Opening night jitters, in a way.

I wonder if I’ll be able to get much sleep tonight.

Here’s what I think will happen tomorrow. I’ll talk to a doctor about what hormone therapy would entail. I might have to convince them that yes, I want it and need it. I might get a physical. Kinda hope they don’t feel me up, but it might happen. Then, hopefully, there will be bloodwork drawn. I don’t know how long the tests take. A day? A week? I hope no more than a week. When the blood work comes back, that’s probably when we start talking dosages.

I’m thinking of taking my camera and filming it. It’s amazing how concepts of privacy have changed. I don’t think someone in my position 20 years ago would be documenting their transition extensively like this. I know that seeing other people’s transitions documented online have really given me hope and encouragement, so I want to be able do that for others.

I might have more to say later tonight, when I can compose my thoughts better.

Diet and Exercise

Aw crap. I just learned that some of the health implications of hormone therapy make it a very bad idea to start HRT while continuing my current lazy lifestyle. Damn damn and damn again. I guess it’s down to the gym for me.

Tranny

Of all the vocabulary quiz problems, the thorniest have got to be the slurs. Faggot. Dyke. Tranny. It’s that last one I’ll talk about here. Tranny is an interesting slur in that a lot of people don’t seem to understand how ugly it is. It’s the slur that dare not speak its name, as it were.

A good example of this happened in August of 2009, when Conan O’Brien ran a sketch called his Tabloid Moment. It featured him in various compromising positions, and ended with him getting caught in a strip club. He wondered out loud “if there was any way this could get more embarrassing.” Then two strippers with fake mustaches started giving him a lapdance and a cheerful graphic popped up on screen flashing “TRANNIES!” Imagine that with any other slur. It wouldn’t have been aired. Try imagining it with “FAGGOTS!” accompanied by simpering limp-wristed caricatures. Now imagine it with “NIGGERS!” and blackface. All to uproarious laughter from a live studio audience. Do you think that would even make it out of the writer’s room? (And this is why I’m secretly glad that Jay Leno stabbed him in the back. It comes around, asshole. It comes around.)

So we have this word, this word that is used freely in polite company, and which is most notable in my mind for being the catchphrase that is shouted out with disgust and horror just before one of us gets murdered. I do not like this word, but I do not think it should be banned. In fact, I use it myself. I only use it in a very specific context, for a very specific purpose.

I use this word to highlight and make explicit transmisogynist assumptions and prejudices contained within the actions or statements that groups or individuals make about trans women. I intentionally say trans women here, not trans people, because the term tranny is one that is most often used to  sexualize and dehumanize trans women in particular. I won’t go so far as to say that trans men aren’t “allowed” to use it (I don’t think it’s productive to declare that certain groups of people aren’t allowed to use certain words; only that certain groups of people better be pretty fucking careful about how they use a given word.), but I will say that it seems pretty odd to me for trans men to try and claim the word by virtue of a technicality when the wider culture seems in unanimous agreement that “tranny” means trans woman, and probably prostitute as well.

An example of using the word this way: Mich Fest, the Michigan Women’s Music Festival, has an infamous “Womyn-born-womyn” admittance policy. Despite this, it is not appropriate to call them transphobic, because trans men are allowed to attend. No, the policy is specifically designed to keep trans women out. Mich Fest is afraid of being overrun by trannies.

You see how that works?

There’s another way this can be handled: the reclamation argument. Similar to how lesbians have reclaimed dyke, the argument goes, we should reclaim tranny as an intra-community term of pride; It is empowering to attempt to recast the pejoratives as endearments. I can see where this argument is coming from, but I do not agree that this is always works. That being said, if other trans women want to claim the title for their own, I wouldn’t try to stop them. I will not, however, accept the term ever being used “affectionately” towards me. I find it too ugly for that.

I don’t want to claim it. I want to capture it. I’m not interested in using it as a term of affection. I’m interested in weaponizing it.

Vocabulary Quiz

Being queer in 21st century America is like living in a vocabulary quiz. This is particularly true of those of us on the gender non-conformist side of things, because the vocab used to describe our situation is so new and fluid. I’ve encountered queer theory bloggers asserting, as if it were a commonly understood fact, that MTF and FTM are outdated and “broken” terms. This surprised the hell out of me because I didn’t get the memo and we never voted on it down at the local Hivemind Meeting. Sometime later I encountered AMAB and AFAB for the first time and when I asked what they meant I was informed in quite a snippy manner that I should refer to Google for that question. Google shrugged and said “All Mods Are Bastards?” I later found out they mean “assigned male at birth” and “assigned female at birth,” and I’m still not clear on if AMAB and AFAB are supposed to replace or compliment MTF and FTM.

And here’s the point: I don’t care one way or the other. Just in the 3 years I’ve been aware of my queerness, the vocabulary has expanded and developed and marched on. The acronym for the LGBT community has occasionally been expanded to as many as eleven (!!) letters: LGGBTTQQIAA, or some combination thereof. Recently, QUILTBAG has been half-jokingly suggested as an alternative. (Queer Undecided Intersexed Lesbian Trans* Bi Asexual Gay/Genderqueer) Probably the weirdest mutation of the vernacular that I’ve seen so far was someone who claimed to be a cisgendered person in a transsexed body, which sounds like a transexual in denial to me, but maybe there’s something I missed.

Given the constant flux and advances in theory,  it seems foolish to settle on one mode of speaking as the correct one, and to set up witch hunts for anyone who fails to follow the most bleeding edge lexicon. And yet that’s exactly what I’ve seen some people do. I think this is unreasonable. Not everyone has the time, energy, or inclination to keep up with these things. More importantly, as much as it pains my English major heart to say it, a lot of this shit doesn’t fucking matter. Take for instance “trans woman” vs. “transwoman.” The current consensus, so far as such a chimerical fancy can exist, is that the first way is the preferred way. The thinking is that trans women are just another kind of woman, not an exotic new creature, and so “trans” should be applied as an adjective, not grafted on to form a new word. I happen to agree with this, and it is my preferred form of identifying what I am in text. However, if someone else wants to use transwoman, I’m probably not going to stop a conversation dead just to lecture them. And I’m certianly not going to tell them it’s offensive. Because it’s not. The fact that one of us gets murdered every three days is offensive.

So how about we all relax, be cool, and recognize that some of us talk differently than others, and that within reasonable boundaries, that’s okay? Once we’ve gotten rid of systemic discrimination, then we can waste all our energy on stupid vocabulary quizzes.

“But how do you KNOW you’re a girl?”

This one’s always a classic. You’re talking to a cis person who’s a few clues short, and they bust out the ol’ how-do-you-know routine. Four out of five times, no matter what your answer is, they’ve got a follow up question that is stunningly obvious, but they ask it with an innocent wonder as if you hadn’t considered it before you went around telling people your chip set is wrong for your motherboard.

“Have you considered that maybe you’re just a boy who doesn’t want to be macho?”

“But you like video games, don’t you?”

“Didn’t you want to join the Army at one point?”

“Maybe you’re just gay, have you thought of that?”

The last one is my favorite, because I’m not even into boys. I consider myself an aspiring lesbian.

Of course the really frustrating part is that even after all this time I still don’t have a good answer to the main question: how do I know I’m a girl? Any answer that relies on performative cues doesn’t fly; my fondness for sexy lady boots is no more an indicator of my gender than my video gaming habit, and it would be unfair to both men and women to say otherwise.

Body dysmorphia is another possible answer, but I didn’t actually notice my dysmorphia until after I realized I was trans, and while sometimes it is positively suffocating, it’s not a problem for me every day. In fact the more open I am, the more steps I take towards transition, the less frequently I get it. (Talking about female anatomy in health class was another matter; I never get dysmorpha more severely than when I do when the discussion is about parts I don’t have, but my body insists that I should. So I avoid that subject as much as possible.) The real reason I don’t like dysmorphia as an answer is because it’s related to sex, not gender identity. I don’t think what I do or do not have in my pants should define the whole of my gender, even if I am uncomfortable with the plumbing set I got issued. So while dysmorphia is a handy checkbox to add to the list, it isn’t in itself an answer.

The answer I have come up with, as insufficient as it is, is that I just know. I’m a girl. Took me twenty two years to figure it out, but I’m a girl. I identify more with women than with men. I’m more comfortable thinking of myself as a woman than as a man. Actually, I can’t think of myself as a man without becoming deeply uncomfortable. Thinking of myself as a boy, is different; I spent most of my life as one of those, but I can’t imagine myself as a male adult.

An acquaintance of mine, who I used to count as a friend but have distanced myself from due to unrelated circumstances, when I was explaining this to me was incredulous when I gave him this answer. “You just know?” Like I was claiming that the Holy Spirit had given me winning lottery numbers or something. And yeah, I just know. Were there hints? Sure. The long, pleasant, and increasingly frequent daydreams of waking up in a girl’s body and being just a-okay with it was a hint. The fact that when I jacked off I would think of lesbians, with myself as one of them, that was another hint (one which would later cause me significant angst. Look for another post about this.).  The times when I’d see a woman on the street and be slammed with a sudden need, not to fuck her but to be her, that was a hint.

And eventually, you take the hints, and you just know.