Archive for December, 2011

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Jenerated Anomaly: The Almost Person

29 December, 2011

I am nobody / who are you?     ~Emily Dickinson

I am not a person. I have not been a person for some time, if I ever was. I am human, but certainly not a person. I am an almost person. I am almost female and almost male, but not fully either. I am almost whole. I am almost normal. I am almost put together. I am almost capable. I am almost someone worthy of respect and dignity. I am almost these things and one might think I am, until you see me, really see me. Then you know. Almost.

What I am is a generated anomaly, or perhaps better phrased Jenerated anomaly. I was born into a twisted half world. Female with male anatomy. From the start I was only almost. I spent the majority of my life attempting to be a person by fitting in with my male role models. I did not do a good job of it, though some argue the imitation was perfect. Even if it was, it was still an imitation. I knew I was female, living “successfully” male and so I knew I was only almost. The only thing I had going for me is, according to others, I was an attractive male. “Why did you change?” people ask me. “Why be female when you are so good at being male?” Because, I was only almost male. I was only male by accident of anatomy and a dangerous over exposure to testosterone. It was all fake. I knew it and it killed me.

Now I am a “trans woman,” an almost woman. Just as I had spent three and half decades denying my female nature, I am now dealing with aspects of self brought about by too many years of too much testosterone and inappropriate socialization. My body has taken on too many male qualities for me to ever be accepted as female by people. I am almost. I look in the mirror and I feel the generated quality of my existence. I see the past scrambling to get free, to reassert, to make me hate myself again. To drag me back down into an almost nature that will kill me. It is called dysphoria. To know that my self and elements of my physicality do not, cannot align. To be condemned from birth to suffer extreme cognitive dissonance for my entire life, to the point where looking in mirrors or seeing my photo causes a painful dissonance that can leave me a trembling mass of almost-ness.

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Gender Dysphoria

17 December, 2011

Have you ever looked up the term gender dysphoria? Unless you have it, or are intimately connected to someone who does, I doubt it ever crossed your mind to look the term up. According to the medical and psychiatric community gender dysphoria is discontent with one’s biological sex and/or the gender one was assigned at birth. There are two major flaws with this statement resulting in the definition being such a large downplaying of the emotional chaos those diagnosed with the condition suffer it makes the degree holders look like they are purposefully ignoring the trauma of living with this condition.

The first flaw occurs with the definition’s use of the word discontent. Discontent is a dissatisfaction or restless unhappiness. This makes gender dysphoria sound like a wistful longing for what one would term better circumstances. The use of this word to describe the emotions associated with gender dysphoria is a belittling of the person who suffers it, it erases the magnitude of the condition. I do not experience a vague, discontented feeling with my physical self. I experience loathing, a raw, feral hatred of my physical self, from the size of my hands and feet to my hairline and jaw structure and, more loathed than anything, the penis and scrotum (bear in mind this is my experience with gender dysphoria and should not be considered a blanket assessment of all dysphoria, as with other conditions individuals can suffer dysphoria to lesser and greater degrees). Mere discontent cannot account for this intensity of emotion; it cannot explain why there are days, such as today, where my physical self is so loathsome to me that I cannot leave the house out of shame and disgust and the intense anxiety of having others see me. And I have felt this since the onset of puberty and the corresponding development of secondary sex characteristics. To call this discontent is a serious understatement.

This loathing of the physical is born out of a dissonance between the self-conception produced by the mind and the image reflected in the mirror. Our brains are hardwired to have a metal understanding of the self and produces a mental image of what the body looks like. To understand this, close your eyes and allow your mind to picture your body, that image is your self-conception. It is not a remembering of what you look like, but a mental construct of your physical appearance that enables you to function–to literally move in and interact with the world. None of us has a mental image that fully conforms to the actuality of our bodies, but the majority of people have an image that is close enough to the actual that there is no dissonance between the self-understanding and the actuality. I, and others who suffer gender dysphoria, do not have that genetic privilege. My self-conception is such that how I perceive myself to be and what is reflected back from the mirror are radically different. So radically different that I experience a type of self-perception dissonance. My mind cannot reconcile what it believes I look like with what it sees. On good days this only results in a disconnected, surreal (almost free-floating) feeling, as if the self and the body inhabit near-space but not a shared-space. On bad days this feeling is a near failure to recognize what I see as self, rather it is a complete other. This is dangerous. This is what leads so many gender dysphoric individuals to self-harm. The causing of pain and the letting of blood becomes a physical link that allows them to recognize their body as their body. Other times it results in self-punishing behaviors, either punishing the flesh for failing to conform properly or punishing the mind (alcohol, drugs, or beating oneself about the head) for failing to conceptualize properly. The emotional backlash can range from depression to mania to rage. Discontent is nowhere near an accurate description of these feelings.

The second fundamental flaw in this definition is the term biological sex. They use the term as though biological sex only consisted of genitals and secondary sex characteristics. The brain, however, is a biological component running a variety of physiological processes such as our senses, thoughts, and self-conceptualization. Thus, self-concept is also part of biological sex. Those who have a physical-self and self-concept free of dissonance, may not understand the important distinction between the physical and mental components. If they are aligned, it is difficult to tell that they are not the same. But for those of us who experience dissonance between them it is clear that they are different and thus should be considered separate aspects of biological sex.

I purpose gender dysphoria’s definition be altered to a dissonance between the outer, psychical manifestation of  one’s sex and the mental self-concept of one’s sex that results in a constant mental strain as the person attempts to reconcile two, or more, contradicting perceptions of self. I would even go so far as to suggest dumping the term all together in favor of a more accurate term such as biologist and trans woman Julia Serano’s Gender Dissonance.

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Regeneration: 30 Day Trans* Challenge. Days 16 – 30.

7 December, 2011

Regeneration: 30 Day Trans* Challenge. Day 16.

16) What’s your rock anthem and why?

Before regenerating, my rock anthem was Kansas’s ‘Carry On Wayward Son.’ I saw my brother and I a lot like Dean and Sam, with both of us having elements of each in our personalities. We still have the kind of relationship that they had in the first five seasons, but it has also altered now. I wish they had a sister. 😦 Another reason this was my anthem: I felt like I was carrying on, keeping up the charade of masculinity. The peace when I was done was the day I could finally drop the act—a day I feared would never come because each passing year my life got more complicated and intertwined with others. I still love that song and feel a connection to it but it no longer seems appropriate for my anthem.

I have not settled on a new anthem, yet. Briefly I thought about making it ‘What the Hell’ by Avril Lavigne. It was the “All my life I’ve been good, but now, I’m thinking what the hell” that seemed so right for my first few weeks regenerating. But nothing else in the song fit and it is too bubble gum rock to be an anthem.

There are elements of Black Sabbath’s ‘Crazy Train’ that are fitting, but I’m not sure crazy is the self description I should go for. After all, I’m not Charlie Sheen.

Next up on the playlist of candidates is Joan Jett’s ‘Androgynous.’ My most recent discovery in the music department; I love this song and its anti gender binary theme. The two problems with it as an anthem are it is a touch too upbeat for anthemdom and I’m a trans woman not androgynous. There is also the issue of Dick and Jane demonstrating traditional gender roles at the end, as though defying the binary is fine when you are young but as you get older it is better/easier to just conform. Still, it is an awesome song!

The real contender is Bob Seger’s ‘Turn the Page.’ I have definately turned pages in my life and not just in connection with regeneration. I have moved cross-country. I was married. I work in a culutal setting radically different than the one I grew up and was educated in. It works well with the lyrics being gender neutral enough that they apply pre and post regeneration and being a writer and teacher, in regards to having to be “on” with your performances, the energy output, and the requisite creativity, is similar to being a musician. The lines, “you can feel the eyes upon you … You pretend it doesn’t bother you but you just want to explode … ‘Is that a woman or a man?’ And you always seem out numbered, you don’t dare make a stand,” capture what it is like to be an outcast, or as Auntie Kate says, an outlaw. The last verse really speaks to me when Seger says, “You smoke the day’s last cigarette, rememberin’ what she said.” Though I quit smoking before regenerating, there are times I still crave them, especially when I am reflecting back on my failed marriage and mulling over the things my wife said.

 

Regeneration: 30 Day Trans* Challenge. Day 17.

17) What’s your binding choice and why?

Tight panties and a pair of pantyhose trimmed to the length of a pair of boxer briefs. This holds everything in place when tucking and provides a smooth contoured look. Some people use medical tape. I do not because it hurts like hell removing it each night.

 

Regeneration: 30 Day Trans* Challenge. Day 18.

18) How do you feel about the trans* laws where you live?

Two words: Righteous indignation

Virginia not only rejected laws that would have protected trans* persons from discrimination and would have included us in the Human Rights Act but also makes it difficult to do things you are legally allowed to do, at times they will even deny you your rights—for example, the VA Social Security Administration refused to allow me to make my changes despite having all the proper authorizations, documents, and physician letters along with a copy of SSA policy detailing what I was legally allowed to change.

Compare this to the state I came from, Minnesota. Minnesota was THE FIRST state to pass anti-discrimination and protection laws. They did this almost twenty years ago (1993). Now consider the three laws that have been proposed in Virginia and their fate:

Virginia HB 1624
This bill was introduced January 20, 2009 and assigned to the House Education Committee. HB 1624 would provide information for the Board of Education to use in its model policy on bullying and harassment or intimidation, including a definition of bullying, harassment or intimidation that includes behavior motivated by actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Has not been ratified yet.

Virginia HB 2385
This bill was introduced January 14, 2009 and assigned to the House Committee on General Laws. The bill died when the legislature adjourned February 28, 2009. HB 2385 would have prohibited discrimination in public employment based on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and other traits.

Virginia SB 1247
This bill was introduced January 14, 2009 and assigned to the Senate Committee on General Laws and Technology. The bill was withdrawn January 28, 2009. SB 1247 was to add sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression to the categories protected under the Virginia Human Rights Act.

Why do I live here?

 

Regeneration: 30 Day Trans* Challenge. Day 19.

19) If you are religious how do your views effect being trans*? If you are not religious what about your family’s religion(s)?

This is a difficult question to answer. I have a very complicated past with religion. There was a time (forever and a day ago) when I was a bit of a religious zealot. A large part of this stemmed from my need to present as the All-American male. A big part of being a WASP is being Protestant and I did my best to play the part. I honestly think there was some belief in there also, but it was all tangled up in presentation and mysticism. I was of two minds in regards to my faith. The first was that it might somehow cure me of the cognitive dissonance between my subconscious sex and my physical sex. The second was that if I discharged my duties as a Christian man well enough I would be rewarded with the proper body in the afterlife (this ties in with the deep connection I had to “Carry On Wayward Son”). I had such a fervent belief I became a pre-seminary student and eventually received conditional acceptance to Gettysburg Lutheran Seminary in Pennsylvania.

Ultimately, I did not go due to unrelated-related issues (I warned you this was complicated). I served as an associate youth minister to a Lutheran congregation in South Dakota. There I saw example after example of religious intolerance. The youth minister, who was otherwise a good man, believed the Halucaust was God punishing Jews (like a parent an errant child) for their failure to believe in Jesus. One of the senior pastors preached intolerance and the ideology “hate the sin and the sinner.” The mass majority of the congregation was so homophobic that when I interviewed for the position I was given a fifteen minute lecture on how homosexuality was a sin involving a coffee maker and an electric pencil sharpner; the “Elder” kept slamming the electric plugs prongs into each other saying, “Look! It just don’t fit.” (He felt the need to explain this to me because my college accepted homosexual students.) After four months working at that church I left and abandoned the ministry track. I could not be part of an institution that taught people to hate and I believe Jesus would have been pretty heart sick, too.

Afterward, I tried to stay in the “fold” but I kept encountering such horrid examples of hatred and selfishness—often beyond that of non-religious folk—that I gave up on the whole ideology.

My family believes in the Christian faith and would like to see me come back to it, but they also realize I could not set foot in the majority of churches without being condemned and excluded or over-whelmed by those who would save me. A number of my friends are adherents to the Christian faith, also. When I transitioned the majority of them stopped associating with me. They would not even answer my letters or return my phone calls. A few of them are still close and non-judgmental. I do not know how they reconcile who I am to their faith nor do I ask—their personal beliefs are their business not mine.

My current stance is anti-religious, at least in regards to formalized religion, but I am fine with my friends who are religious. Those friendships function on a simple rule, we do not discuss it, ever. Though I am anti-religious, I do have a “spiritual” leaning. Whether this is inherent in me or the by-product of decades of sustained belief I could not say. I believe there is a divine presence in the universe and in all of creation, but what it is and how it manifests itself is beyond my scope.

 

Regeneration: 30 Day Trans* Challenge. Day 20.

20) Do you want to be a parent why or why not?

I do not think it matters if I want children or not, as the issue has already been settled.

My former regeneration wanted to be a parent. I am not entirely sure why. There is a legacy one creates by being a parent. By raising a child with values similar to your own you create a bit of hope that the darkness in the world has not won yet. Then there is the idea that there is a third, beautiful being created through a combination of you and the person you love. A unique bundle of pure potential. But I was diagnosed with a Parkinsonian condition that could very well be genetic and inheritable. Having children would have meant risking passing that on to them.

Now the point is moot. I cannot afford to have sperm frozen for later (and where would I keep it; my freezer next to the pizza?) and the longer I’m on HRT the less likely it is I could produce viable sperm (blech, that just sounds so nasty). Adoption is an option for most people but there are so many hurdles on that path for me that I would never qualify.

In the end it is not an issue of wanting or not wanting children, but a matter of capability to and that is a no.

 

Regeneration: 30 Day Trans* Challenge. Day 21.

21) What are your views on the cis-gendered community?

Bare in mind the only way to succinctly address this is to take the community as a collective unit and not as individual members. Therefore, not everything I say applies to everyone, but serves to express my thoughts on the average individual in the community. I acknowledge there are individuals who fall on either side of this demarcation, which is always the issue with lines in the sand.

On the whole the cis community simply does not get it. Having the privilege of matching subconscious and physical sexes has anesthetized them to their subconscious identification and convinced them there is only a physical sex. The way they are hard wired keeps them from recognizing the struggle the trans* community in general and the transsexual community in particular have when attempting to reconcile their sex/gender dissonance.

Though most are ignorant of this by nature there are also a larger number who embrace ignorance as an act of will. These people are being controlled by a sexual phobia akin to xenophobia only instead of fearing something non-human they are fearing those who do not fit their narrow definition of the gender binary. Thus, fearful and dogmatic would, also, be how I categorize the cis community; though, truth be told, I believe both of my assessments describe humans in general and not just cis humans.

 

Regeneration: 30 Day Trans* Challenge. Day 22.

22) Do you feel being trans* holds you back from your career choice?

Being a trans woman does not hold me back as a writer. Being a woman with primary source experience in the male world (granted a unique and incomplete experience) gives me a little bit of an edge on other writers. I have been inside the spaces reserved only for men and seen their sanctum sanctorum. The double perspective this has given me is a benefit when writing realistic characters and interactions.

In regards to being a teacher, which I do not see as being a carter choice, being a trans woman definitely holds me back. I am seen as a corrupting influence, I am a political pawn and have been used as such, and I cannot interact with other employees without there being subtle (and not so subtle) references to my status. It also makes it difficult to get supplies. I still have no computers and the year is almost half over. The reason I do not have computers? The IT guy disapproves if me; he even refuses to use the proper pronouns. Going to work there is exhausting. It is a continuous battle against ignorance and bigotry on top of battling the ignorance a bigotry every teacher is already battling.

 

Regeneration: 30 Day Trans Challenge. Day 23.

23) What stereotypes are put on trans people?

Oh, let us see:

1. Sexual Fetishist
2. Sexual Deviant
3. Sexual Predator
4. Deceiver
5. Pathetic Imitator
6. Potential Rapist
7. Pedophile
8. Pathological
9. Misogynist (because we “invade” women only spaces)
10. Sub-human/Monster

 

Regeneration: 30 Day Trans* Challenge. Day 24.

24) Who is your favorite LGBT actor/musician/director/artist etc and why?

Hands down, Kate Bornstein. She is the original gender outlaw and her work revolutionized not just the perception of trans* people but a culture’s understanding of gender, privilege, and power. Without the activism and writing she did there would not have been as many gains made in the ability of American transsexuals to claim who they are with pride. She is also a very humble and down to earth person who lives, breathes, and eats experience, joy, and wisdom.

Julia Serano is a close second. Her work in the philosophy of biology has been ground breaking for transfeminism and trans* rights.

 

Regeneration: 30 Day Trans* Challenge. Day 25.

25) Doctor visits?

I have been waiting for that madman with a magic blue box for sometime. Oh, you mean the medical doctor. 😉

When I go to the doctor it is typically a female doctor who also specializes in trans woman needs. She prescribes my hormones and serves as my general physician. A lot of trans women do not have the same fortune and I am grateful to Whitman Walker Health Clinic for making that possible.

However, I am forced to occasionally see other doctors because I also have early onset Parkinson’s, which is currently in a remission or some kind of dormant state. (it is a long and complicated story that I may tell you someday, or may not, you never know). It was difficult to come out to those doctors because I purposefully hid my intention to transition from them until I had my name changed and was living full-time. This was probably not the wisest choice, but I did not want to risk them trying to stop me. They have both taken it in stride. With one being openly curious about the process and the other acting as though I had always been Ms. instead of Mr.

On the rare occasion I will end up seeing an urgent care doctor. It is true that doctor’s spend more time looking at your chart than you, because twice I have been asked when my last menstruation was and it was my response of never and their shocked concern which got them to really notice me.

The medical community is like everyone else. Some are interested, some are not, and most are so wrapped up in their own world they do not have time to notice.

 

Regeneration: 30 Day Trans* Challenge. Day 26.

26) Do you feel comfortable answering questions about being trans* if, say, a student/friend/stranger asked you?

The answer to that all depends on how the question is asked and the intent behind the question. If the intent is to pry for information or to belittle me, I will not answer the question. If the asker is genuine and polite, I am happy to answer their question. The only way we can combat the oppressive stereotypes and gain a foothold in acceptance is through educating the public, hitting them with the truth wherever and whenever we can.

That being said, there are certain questions I will not answer. Such as what my birth name was, which surgeries I have had or not had, and the state of my genitals. All of these things are of an exceptionally personal nature and no one else’s damned business.

 

Regeneration: 30 Day Trans* Challenge. Day 27.

27) What goals do you have?

To not be clocked every time I step outside my flat.

To be accepted.

To make a difference in people’s lives and to matter more than anything else to just one person.

To not feel an overwhelming depression and a horrid self doubt and dysphoria.

To get a different job. One that does not make me feel insignificant and useless.

To be able to function in the world.

To be with my family.

To not have to shave my face.

To get my book and poem published.

To not be alone.

 

Regeneration: 30 Day Trans* Challenge. Day 28.

28) What is something you have to do everyday or else you feel like your whole day is off if you don’t do it?

Well, at the present time, I would have to say shave. I might be able to go a day and a half without shaving but I do not like risking be caught out longer. It is a safety issue. I was going to electrolysis but I do not have the money for a session right now, so I have only completed three out of three hundred hours. Exactly one percent.

Besides shave, I do not have anything in particular I have to do, other than eat, sleep, and swallow pills. Perhaps, that is something I need to work on. Maybe, I would feel less depressed if there was something I had to do every day. The only thing that comes close is writing. I do not have to do it every day, but definitely every few days. Writing is how I stay sane. Without my writing, I think I would, quite literally, fade away.

 

Regeneration: 30 Day Trans* Challenge. Day 29.

29) Write out something positive about yourself using the letters of your name. Ex. Your name is Bob so B-Beautiful O-Outstanding B-Boy.

I am a

R – rare
I – intellectual
V – vivacious
E – eclectic
R – rebel

Tomorrow will be the last day of the challenge. I find it hard to believe a month has gone by! 🙆

 

Regeneration: 30 Day Trans* Challenge. Day 30.

30) Write a haiku about being trans*.

I, Dysphoria.
Always female, never male.
Regeneration.