Posts Tagged ‘FtF’
From the article “Follow up re: “I date women and trans men” by JOS:
”Cisnormativity, essentialism, & socialization “I’m also baffled by the assumption that trans women were all successfully socialized as normative dudes. Obviously, there is no universal trans experience. In my experience, the socialization failed at every turn. Because I was never a man – that was sort of how my body was understood by default (even the shape of my body got policed) because our culture’s understanding of bodies is cisnormative. But I’ve always been a girl who got forcibly put into the boy box. I tried really hard to fit for 22 years, and I failed miserably. My failure was policed with verbal, emotional, and physical violence.”
My personal thoughts on this run parallel to JOS’s. I don’t understand the argument that all trans women were socialised male. I can’t say that there weren’t trans women who were (there are as many ways of being trans* as there are trans* people), but I know my own socialisation was more female than male. Though society wanted to put me in a box with others assigned male at birth, I did not take to that socialisation. The fact my uncles not only allowed but also encouraged my cousins to inform them when I was acting in a non-cis male manner and approved of beating me when I failed to act appropriately male is proof that the male socialisation did not adhere to me. The beatings I took from my “peers” at school for my failure to perform masculinity and the teachers who turned a blind eye to this abuse is further proof that male socialisation was not successful in me.
This lack of male socialisation, however, does not imply full female socialisation. As someone assigned male at birth I was excluded from female society and socialisation. As a result, the female socialisation I received was what I could learn through observation or through the media. Thus, my socialisation taught me to be meek, submissive, and always put everyone else’s (especially men’s) needs before my own (how else could I go thirty years hiding who I am, if not to keep everyone else happy?). I was not, however, a recipient of a female socialisation that taught me how to protect myself, believe in myself, or embrace my femininity as part of who I was. My feminity was never acknowledged as natural, real, or beautiful.
So, I ended up with a hodge-podge socialisation that told me it was my place to be submissive and pleasing and that others (particularly men) had the right to physically and emotionally abuse me when I failed to meet their standards of acceptability. A socialisation that taught me I was disgusting, corrupted, and of no value. These are the messages I internalised and these are the messages I need to incorporate or move beyond as I develop from a frightened girl who has normalised her abuse into a woman who can move through the world with poise and confidence. Does this sound like male socialisation to you?
One of the most vexing questions for trans* and cis Christians is how God views trans* individuals. Both inclusionists and fundamentalists turn to the Bible for support, however, the passages that support inclusion are rarely addressed in sermons or in the media. Below you will find the passages that argue for inclusion and the interpretations that support inclusion not just by trans* individuals or local churches but also by entire denominations.
So God created humanity in God’s own image, in the image of God, God created humanity; male and female God created them. — Genesis 1:27
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus. — Galatians 3:28
Let not the eunuch say, ‘Behold, I am a dry tree.’ For thus says YAHWEH: ‘To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which shall not be cut off.’ — Isaiah 56:3-5
For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it. — Matthew 19:21
Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this scripture [Isaiah 56:3-5] he told him the good news of Jesus. And as they went along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, ‘See, here is water! What is to prevent my being baptized?’ And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. — Acts 8:35-38
A Note on Language:
When the various books of the Bible were written across the cultural and temporal timespan they cover, there was not a word for transsexual or transgender. The word eunuch, however, included three categories, only one of which was what we understand as a modern day eunuch. The other categories included under this umbrella-term were men who chose celibacy and birth-assigned males who dressed and lived as women (in other words, trans* individuals).
A Note on Formatting:
Anything directly quoted will appear in italics and any commentary from me will be in plain-face.
Site Reference 1 (Presbyterian, Reformed):
This Biblical commentary on Isaiah 56:4, Matthew 19:21, and Acts 8:35-38 (along with other passages) specifically addresses the idea of trans* individuals in a context of Christianity and explains why the Presbyterian, Reformed church feels their inclusion by the Church is part of God’s plan.
- We see this new inclusion and celebration in the unfolding of Salvation History in Acts. Before the marvelous stories of the enfolding of the Samaritans and of the Gentiles into the Church we have the wonderful little story of the Ethiopian Eunuch. It is interesting that when he meets Philip, the Eunuch, most likely a Jew who probably knew that Deuteronomy excluded him from the covenant, was reading the prophet Isaiah, which envisions the inclusion of eunuchs. Unlike Peter, who needed a vision from heaven to cross the boundary of including Gentiles, Philip needed no prodding to know that the Spirit was calling him to include eunuchs in the Kingdom of God. Philip proclaims the Good News, the eunuch believes and is received into the family of faith immediately by Baptism. Thus the first boundary that was broken down in our Baptism in Christ was not one of religious differences or race, but one of unusual gender conditions.
- Sin, of course, does enter the story and it wrecks havoc with this mutual enjoyment. But the story of our redemption is a story of returning us to our original blessings. The goal of the Christian life is not for us to feel alienated from our True Selves, from one another, from all creation, and from God, but instead to be restored to a state of connection and the original sense of “rightness”. Transsexuals, in seeing that the relationship between their persons and their bodies is incongruent and in seeking to create a congruency where one didn’t exist before, are in a real sense fulfilling the mandate of Genesis is [sic – *in] a way that people without Gender Issues are not capable of doing. Transssexuals are people who are able to continue the task of creation and to take up the task of subduing the earth to make it fruitful within their own bodies. In a real sense, then, Transsexuals have a direct and powerful connection to the creation as creatures made in the image of God, for this connection is within their own beings!
- If God calls us to be farmers, shop-keepers, house-wives, lawyers, craftsmen, pastors, laborers, or whatever, God expects us to find fulfillment in that calling. If something stands in the way of that inner fulfillment and satisfaction, it stands in the way of our ability to serve God and God’s world well in our calling. A sense of Vocation would drive us to remove whatever barriers make it difficult for us to fulfill our calling. If Gender Dysphoria keeps one from being who they truly are and fitting into the reality around them, then it keeps them from serving God to the best of their ability. Vocation then demands that the individual do whatever they can to change this Gender Dysphoria. We now know that the body’s gender can be changed to fit the mind’s gender, but the opposite cannot be done. [emphasis added]
- So these two Reformed doctrines, Creation and Vocation, not only support people with unusual gender conditions having a freedom within the Church to change their outward gender, but in a sense they teach us that such folk are actually engaged in a sacred and holy task when they undertake such a difficult passage. Rather than attempt to see this passage as something shameful and guilty, we must see it as children of God taking seriously God’s creation of them as creatures who are made in the image of God being therefore co-creators with God and see it as children of God taking seriously God’s calling of them to ruthlessly remove any hindrances to their being whom God desires them to be so they may serve God to their fullest.
Site Reference 2 (Transsexual Road Map > Spirtuality):
Written by trans women for trans women, this section of the Road Map explains how trans* individuals have an accepted place within Christianity.
- See the section Passages from Scripture for a commentary on Deuteronomy 22:5. Read it in its entirety as it is too logical, contextual, and supportable to paraphrase.
- Isaiah 56:4-5
In contradiction to the rules against eunuchs in Deuteronomy stands this passage from Isaiah:
“For thus says the Lord: to the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths [sic], who choose the things that please me and hold fast to my covenant, I will give, in my house and within my walls, a monument better than sons and daughters, I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.”
“Shall not be cut off??” Who says the Bible doesn’t have much humor! That’s a pretty bad pun! This passage is especially useful for transsexuals, since it appears in the Old Testament along with the Deuteronomy passage.
- Matthew 19:12
This passage has Jesus speaking directly about eunuchs:
For there are some eunuchs, who were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, who were made eunuchs by men: and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.
Many interpretations of this passage have arisen. Some believe it is a discussion of voluntary celibacy, but the fact that Christ mentions people born that way indicates to me a birth condition. Some have also interpreted this to mean gays, which doesn’t seem out of the question. However, I think the most literal interpretation would include intersexed (born that way) and transsexual persons (made that way). Regardless of interpretation, the main point is that anyone able to receive the Kingdom of Heaven may do so.
- Mark 9:43-47
[For those who feel the “body augmenting” of transsexuals goes against the idea of your body as “God’s temple” (I Corinthians 5:19).]
This passage has Jesus speaking directly about altering one’s body:
If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell.
Many interpretations of this passage have arisen as well. While it is rarely taken as a literal exhortation, it does seem to say that your bodily form does not matter, and that altering it will not exclude you from entering heaven.
Site Reference 3 (Episcopal):
This site is a recounting of the Episcopal church’s choice to allow trans* individuals to participate in church life and to also allow their ordination.
- [T]he House of Deputies—one of the two Houses in The Episcopal Church’s bicameral system of governance – passed resolutions D019 and D002. D019 garuntees trans* individuals access to the life and governance of the church – so, for instance, it clarifies that transgender people can be Eucharistic ministers, vestry members, retreat attendees or leaders, etc and D002 allows trans* individuals to serve as ordained leaders in the church.
- A Deputy from Alabama (yes, that’s right, Ala-Bible-belt-bama) quoted Isaiah 56:4-5 and said: These were a people that formerly had not been allowed access to the assembly. They had been a people cut off—unwelcome because of what we might refer to as their gender identity and expression—but now they were welcomed. We must name what God has named.
Site Reference 4 (A Sermon for Transgender Day of Remembrance):
I’ll leave you with this quote from a sermon delivered by Shay, a trans man who is also a pastor. It is taken from the the sermon he gave on his seminary’s first TDoR service during which he addressed Isaiah 56:3-5. I think this sums it all up:
Some scholars have said that the eunuch is the closest biblical example we have to modern transpeople [sic]. Whatever the case, eunuchs were outcasts from society. They were denied a place in the holy assembly. They were looked down upon and despised. And yet here God is saying that they will be given a name that is better than sons and daughters. Friends, this is good news to transgender and gender non-conforming people. We know what it means to have names chosen for us that don’t fit, or to be called names that are hurtful. We also know what it means to choose names for ourselves that represent all of who we are. And we honor one another by using those chosen names even when others refuse to.
But to have an everlasting name; one that will not be cut off; this is hope for those of us who feel like outcasts. This monument is hope to those who have been killed and to those who worry they will be forgotten. This passage brings me great comfort: to know that I am a beloved son of God and that God gives me an everlasting name, even if my family rejects me, even if the church doesn’t want me, there is a place for me in God’s eyes. This isn’t just some cheap hope. I don’t offer it as a placebo, to say that we should stop fighting for our place at the table, our place in society and the church. Instead I offer it as a raft in the ocean for when the fight gets too hard. I offer it in response to the fearful hallelujah. I offer it because it’s the best I have to offer. We are beloved children of the Universe and no one can take that away from us. We are beloved children. We are beloved.
I’m standing in the hallway outside my classroom. It’s 7:30 AM and the students are wandering zombies aimlessly shuffling about before first period. Boys are punching one another in their simulated battles for dominance, their “just playin” fights that too often lead to actual fights. Girls are complaining about the people in their lives who are “doin too much.” Couples are clinging to one another—a girl draped across her boyfriend’s arm and shoulder, hallway princesses holding hands, “sweet” boys playing grab-ass with anything that moves. There is no personal space and unwanted attention is chastised with a sharp “Boiii!” or “Whatcha doin, son?” I separate anyone who is getting overly friendly but mostly keep to a policy of non-interference. There is a culture of invasiveness among these children and it’s hierarchy is governed by rules and social patterns that are as foreign to me as deconstructionist literature is to them. I smile. The framework recommends smiling; be in the hallways, greet them with a smile, make them feel welcome and they’ll develop the right attitude toward learning. I don’t believe this, but I don’t have anything better to offer so I go with it. It’s become a habit. I smile all the time now. It has become an ingrained response similar to Dr. Hibbert‘s laugh; it spreads across my face regardless of how appropriate or inappropriate the situation.
While I’m monitoring the hallway, a boy who looks eighteen but is probably fifteen or sixteen stops in front of me. He stares at me and I can almost hear the grinding of his mind’s nefarious machinery. His cocked head and aggressive posture reveals the sinister twist to his thoughts. I smile and brace myself for what is coming.
“Have you, ma’am,” he emphasises the word and let’s it hang in the air a moment, a lot of the students do it as a way of feigning politeness while letting me know they don’t believe what they are saying, “had it, you know?”
Yes. I do know. With his eyes resting on my crotch only the village idiot would miss his meaning, but I smile and play dumb. “I don’t know.”
“Oh, come on, son. You know.”
I stand there cloaked in my smile, my Supergirl cape.
“Have you had it cut off?”
My jaw tightens and I can feel my teeth grinding into one another, but gods be damned if I don’t hold that smile in place. He smiles, too. A wide, moon-faced grin that says he holds power over me and it amuses him to use it.
The eleventh grade administrator stalks down the hallway bellowing, “Let’s go! Clear the hall!”
I stopped telling administration about these incidents because I know they won’t do anything about them. It’s just kids being kids, they say, don’t let it get to you. The boy knows I won’t say anything. So we both stand there, smiling at each other, until the administrator has shuffled farther down, as much a hallway zombie as the students. Then the boy walks off in the opposite direction.
I could answer the boy with a simple yes … or no … or even that’s none of your business. But that isn’t why he is asking the question. It isn’t why anyone asks the question. And it’s a question I am asked on a fairly regular basis. Not always with such blunt rudeness, but always from the same place of entitlement. Whether it is have you had it cut off, did you have the surgery, did SRS hurt, how much does a vagina cost, does it work, or do you still have a dick the SRS question always comes from the asker’s belief that, as a trans woman, the status of my genitals should be public knowledge. And it isn’t just boys or even kids that ask these questions. For those of us who lack “passing privilege” (a problematic term for which there is not a suitable alternative) and those of us open about our trans* status, it is often one of the first questions we are asked by friends, acquaintances, and people introduced to us. And there are only two reasons for asking it: the asker is trying to invalidate our identity or the asker is sexualising us.
When it comes to gender identity, asking the SRS question is always an attempt to invalidate trans* identity. If an asker intended to validate my identity they would look at my presentation, the social cues I give off or, and this is a radical concept, they would just accept my stated identity. After all, that is exactly what we do for everyone we assume to be cis gender. Further, for me to ask invasive questions about the status of a cis gender person’s genitals would be considered adequate grounds for a sexual harassment suit. We don’t ask women presumed to be cis gender if they have a tilted uterus, or men presumed to be cis gender if both their testicles have descended, as our way of validating their identity because it would be insulting. Thus, the need to ask a trans* person if they have had surgery can only come from a place of insult and disregard, because we understand such “curiosity” to be inappropriate in other situations.
Further, the nature of the question prevents the person being asked from replying in a way that will not result in an invalidating of her identity. [Note: I will use her as example because it is my experience and it is a more common experience for trans women than it is for trans men; as our society makes penises the standard, even cis women are defined by our culture as human beings who do not have a penis versus human beings who have a vagina] If she answers that she has not had SRS, her gender identity is immediately forfeit because, in the game of male, female, neuter, the presence of a penis trumps everything. If she responds that she has undergone SRS, her identity is not validated but becomes the subject of further inquiry and comment. Does it work? How much did it cost? It’s not like you can have babies with it. Do you have phantom penis syndrome? Well, it doesn’t work like a real vagina. Each of these follow-ups is a directed attack with the goal of invalidating her identity. Nor can she decide not to answer the question because her silence becomes an admission that she has not had SRS.
The SRS question is also a sexualising of the trans woman. It takes her out of humanity and reduces her to her parts. The only time a person needs to know if the other person has a vagina or a penis is if there is a mutual decision to have sex. To ask her, do you have a penis, is to tell her that she is good for only one thing: being a receptacle for a penis. Not only is this transmisogynistic, it is also an example of heteronormative bias, traditional sexism, and oppositional sexism. It reveals more about the asker’s biases and motivations than it does about trans* identity.
The argument is often made that when the asker is genuinely interested in having sex with her that the asker is owed an answer. But this argument assumes it is only their interest in having sex that matters. It is narcissistic to reason that because the asker wants to have sex that she, our trans woman, is obliged to be the asker’s sexual object. If she desires a sexual relationship then full disclosure is necessary, however, if she has no interest in sexual relations with the asker, she is under no obligation to answer the question. In the case of the latter to ask her if she has a penis is as inappropriate as asking if she is wearing underwear or if she is menstruating. Society recognises the other two as inappropriate questions and should recognise the first as one, also.
The status of my genitals is no one’s business but my own. If and how I decide to reveal this information is at my discretion. The persistence of the SRS question reveals more about the asker’s personality, their invalidation of my identity, and their tendency to view others as objects for sexual gratification, than it does about who I am and what my journey has been like.
- Lies about transgender people (and how to spot a rubbish journalist) (blogs.independent.co.uk)
- 8 Questions to Avoid Asking Trans* People (cisprivilegecheck.wordpress.com)
- What is Cisprivilege? (cisprivilegecheck.wordpress.com)
The alarm went off at six in the morning and I continued to lie there for a few minutes, smiling pleasantly to myself and the black cat, Spooky-Mulder, curled against my side. This was a rare treat for both of us, as my Friday morning alarm is typically set for five. Today, I was not going to work. I would still teach and still interact with students, but none of them would be my students.
I began my transition a year a ago; well just a smidgen, as A.A. Milne would say, over a year ago. And in my transition, my regeneration, I still feel closer to the residents of the 100 Aker Wood than I do a mature and knowledge adult. My world is still centred around the joy and anguish of discovery. Everything is still new, sensations, expectations, introspections, and socialisations. Like the little girl I was and wasn’t, I am in constant awe of a world that is not what it seems and hides a myriad of pleasant and unpleasant surprises. Like all children, I am primarily hedonistic. With so much that is new it is impossible not to be. Yet, on an increasing basis I find myself being pulled from my life as a child of the Wood and into the role of the expert. Like Hawkeye Pierce, I find myself having to answer the question ‘who are you?’ with ‘I am the pro from Dover.’
That is why I got to sleep an extra hour; I am being called upon as the pro, again. In the last eight months I have been on a panel discussing the experience of being part of the Gender and Sexuality Minorities (GSM) community in the field of education, spoken to high school Gay-Staight Alliance (GSA) groups, unofficially found myself a mentor to two young lesbians, and been asked to be the sponsor for a teenage survivors of sexual assault support group. This time I am speaking to a class of Washington, DC high schoolers on the topic of trans and homophobia. ‘I am the pro from Dover.’
I was a tad nervous going in, but nothing compared to the first few times I did this and certainly nothing compared to the nerves of ‘coming out’ to family and friends. It was more the general social anxiety I feel when interacting with any person or group where I am the primary focus and I need to watch for social cues I feel disconnected from. I would feel more at home in the Ancient Library of Alexandria or the TARDIS than I do in professional situations or groups larger than three. I’m just not a socialite. So how did I get in the position I am now? How did I become ‘the pro from Dover’?
I question this. Surely, there are more qualified people with a greater breadth and depth of experience and knowledge than I. There are local trans women whose transition began longer ago, who have experienced more discrimination, who could speak with greater authority. It’s not that I have not experienced these things for I have been the victim of discrimination, bigotry fueled assault, transmisogyny, and phobias, but I do not feel my voice is worthy of being heard, that my experiences are in any way defining or particularly unique. So how did a person of novels and papers get to be the pro from Dover? The only answer I have found is it is my status as a child of the Wood that makes me a desirable speaker. I always enjoy myself and bring my marvelling at life to the conversation. Having the opportunity to express what I have experienced, getting the chance to share thoughts and opinions, spreading the sense of wonder and delight I take from the world, and helping others see the familiar in new and inspiring ways is a source of great joy. And maybe that’s what is required. Maybe it is the embracing of, the relishing in the world and its treasures that makes one ‘the pro from Dover,’ or from anywhere else!