Posts Tagged ‘MtF’

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Trans Women and Socialisation

12 March, 2017

Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie recently stated that trans women are not actually women because they have “male socialisation.” I find this proclamation of hers infuriating because it is a cleaned up and repackaged version of Janice Raymond’s bigotry. She may try to cover over this bigotry by saying trans women have a place in feminism and trans issues are part of feminism, but that does not negate her instance that trans women are not women and her implied relegation of trans women to a second class citizenship in feminism (and third class within society).

Adichie’s attitudes are revealed as the bigotry they are through a thoughtful consideration of trans female experience of socialisation. First, and most important, we must acknowledge there is no singular trans woman experience any more than there is a singular cis woman experience.

Second, not experiencing overt female socialisation does not mean a trans woman experienced overt male socialisation. Rather, she would internalise female socialisation, thought patterns, and mannerisms. Some of these women (for, indeed, trans women ARE women), e.g. Kristen Beck, may adapt and mimic male socialisation patterns as a survival instinct while internally identifying with female socialisation patterns, which she may easily switch to upon social transition. These female socialisation patterns might have a more exaggerated appearance, but would be genuine socialisation patterns. Other trans women may not have adapted to male socialisation mimicking. These women, e.g. Laverne Cox and Janet Mock, may have defied society’s attempt at male socialisation. Expressing their gender identity early on and being punished for their refusal to adapt to male socialisation. This creates a trans female socialisation where they are punished for failure to conform to male standards and punished for adherence to female social standards–including those cis women are rewarded by society for integrating into their identity. Further, we are now seeing trans women who begin social and physical transition at an early age, e.g. Jazz Jennings. She and girls like her, receive more traditional cis female socialisation from those who are accepting and trans female socialisation from a rejecting society.

Third, trans women who transition later in life and who mimic male social patterns do not possess typical male privilege. Instead they possess male presenting or male passing privilege. In this instance because they appear to be a cis male and mimic cis male behaviours they do receive some male privilege benifits, but these benefits create a type of cognitive dissonance for the not socially transitioned trans woman because she does not identify as male and feels like a fraud stealing what does not belong to her and living in fear of being exposed. She is either self-aware that those privileges were received due to an unfair perception of gender identity or she quickly learns this after social transition.

Regardless, each of these trans women have 

1) received, absorbed, and integrated or rejected traditional female socialisation;

2) they are more aware of male socialisation patterns than cis women because it was forced on them (which is NOT the same as adapting and internalising male socialisation);

3) they possess a unique trans female socialisation, which gives them a valuable voice when discussing female identity and intersectionality.

All of this is to say, trans women are not men; trans women are not a third gender; trans women are women.

It is, also, important to note that trans men receive the mirror opposite type of socialisation that affects them in their own unique ways. Further, male privilege that they develop post transition will always be influenced by attempts at female socialisation foisted on them and further influenced by how accepted or not their gender non-conforming behaviours were as a child.

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Poem 1612

4 January, 2017

​Injustice came and I ran.

I ran to the politicians, but they said you’ve no power here.

I ran to the courts, but they said you’ve no voice here.

I ran to my faith, but it said you’ve no redemption here.

I ran to the shelters, but they said you’ve no place here.

I ran to my blood, but its beat had stilled.

I ran to the rock and hid beneath it.

Injustice found me and used the rock to seal my grave.

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Hollywood’s Complicity in Anti-trans Violence

3 September, 2016

Content warning: discussion of trans misogyny

Mark Ruffalo’s casting of Matt Bomer as a trans woman in his soon to be released film Anything has received a lot of negative feedback from the trans community, including such stars as Jamie Clayton and Jen Richards. These criticisms are justified because, as Jen Richards points out, there is a correlation between cis men portraying trans women and spikes in violence against trans women. When we say this, we are not exaggerating. The more Hollywood is willing to foist the idea that a man in a dress is comparable to a trans woman, the greater the violence trans women face because it gives fuel to the lies told about them and creates justification in the minds of bigots and those who act with violence.

In breaking down this connection, we should begin by addressing the dramatic increase in legislation designed to outlaw being transgender and in many cases to systematicly impede or prevent the transitions of trans women. “Bathroom bills” primarily target trans women because most people believe trans women are just perverted men. The rhetoric always revolves around preventing those psychologically ill men from gaining access to to women’s spaces where they will rape and prey on “real” women and girls. North Carolina governor McCrory and Senator Ted Cruz have openly compared transgender women to pedophiles. Liberty Counsel president Anita Staver threatened to carry a gun with her into the women’s room to protect herself from trans women. Representative Richard Floyd has threatened to physically assault trans women and James Dobson, the Christian head of Focus on the Family has encouraged the murder of trans women. Often these people blame Hollywood for propagating the acceptance of “men in dresses” and they point to films’ casting cis men to play predatory and pathetic trans women as proof of the “man in a dress” myth. They use Hollywood’s depictions as part of their justification toward legal and physical violence.

This attitude goes beyond the laws we make and impacts how we enforce existing laws, as well. Specifically how cases in which a trans woman has been assaulted or murdered are handled. In the United States legal system, people (typically straight, cis men) can and often do claim murdering trans women is not their fault because the mere thought of a trans woman existing is so horrifying to them that it produces a temporary insanity that results in a violent, destructive response to this “man in a dress.” It is called Trans Panic Defense and is based on the idea that a trans woman’s existence is such an unnatural perversion that the only psychologically sound response to the revelation is to murder them. Hollywood has often depicted this faux psychological break in its films. Whether it is shown as a serious, relatable response as in the attack on Dil in The Crying  Game (1992) or played for a cheap laugh as when Ace Ventura strips Lt. Lois Einhorn in Ace Ventura (1994) and everyone vomits. Ironically, even though Hollywood helped popularise this defense tactic, California is the only state where its use is not permissable in court.

Hollywood’s casting decisions and portrayls even impact the occurance of crimes against trans women. Straight men attack and murder trans women because they cannot reconcile their attraction to a woman of transgender background to the social perception that trans women are men. Straight men are afraid their attraction makes them gay so they respond with violence to prove their straight masculinity to themselves and others. Because of films like Soapdish (1991) where Robert Downy Jr gags after his encounter with a trans woman, Naked Gun 33 1/3: the Final Insult (1994) where Anna Nicole Smith’s striptease reveals a penis and results in a freak out by her suitors, and The Hangover Part II (2011) in which Ed Helms has sex with a transgender prostitute who is depicted as having taken advantage of his drunken state, straight men are taught to fear trans women as deciving gay men tricking straight men into gay sex. The casting of cis men as trans women reinforces this type of thinking. Mark Ruffalo’s casting of Matt Bomer, a gay, cis man, will doubly do so. In Anything the straight main character forms a taboo relationship with a transgender sex worker portrayed by a gay man. How did Ruffalo think this would be read by a primarily straight audience? Did he consider what the result of the this choice would be?

In reality, the violence that results from straight men’s fear of being duped into gay sex is not after an unexpected physical reveal moments before the sex act. In cases of assault and murder a trans woman has not “surprised” him in the bedroom. This reaction plays out in straight men (and sometimes women) who have seen a trans woman on the street and freaked out. It plays out when a straight man is attracted to a woman and their buddy mocks them for “being fooled” by a “man in a dress.” In these situations they are responding with violence against someone they often have not even talked with.

This happened in May of 2014 on an Atlanta train where two trans women were stripped and beaten. They were being harrassed by straight men, men who saw them and could not reconcile their appearance to the ideal of attractive femininity, men who saw them as gay men in dresses. The men began harassing the trans women on the station platform, demanding the women acknowledge them, reveal their “real” gender, and describe their genitals. On board the train, where the women could not get away, the men stripped them naked and beat them. They did this in front of witnesses. The witnesses did nothing to intervene. The witnesses laughed at the stripped and beaten trans women, filmed their assault, and posted it to social media. The response to this was that the trans women deserved to be attacked because they were men tricking people into believing  they were a women. When Hollywood casts men to play women (because trans women are women) they support and (intentionally or not) encourage people to view trans women as men. There is a direct correlation between the depiction, the belief, and the action.

When straight, cis actor Jared Leto was seen in Dallas Buyers Club (2013) as a trans woman, there was a spike in violence against trans women like what occurred in Atlanta. When straight, cis actor Eddie Redmayne was seen in The Danish Girl (2015) as a trans woman, there was a spike in violence against trans women; 2015 turned out to be the deadliest year on record for American trans women. Now, when gay, cis actor Matt Bomer is about to be seen as a trans woman in Anything, we steel ourselves for another spike in violence against trans women. Through its casting decisions, Hollywood is complicit in this violence. Through its casting decisions, Hollywood has blood on its hands. But the actors, directors, producers, and casting agents who make these decisions care more about the money to be made than the lives to be lost. It is profitable and brave to cast a man as a woman of transgender background in a way that it is not profitable or brave to cast a man as woman of cis background.

On a personal level, I am afraid of the fallout these decisions have. I am teaching at a school where I am stealth, I have not divulged my transgender status to anyone and the adults and children there read me as a cis woman. What happens to me if someone begins to question that? What happens to me if someone begins to wonder if I am not a cis woman? Based on the lived experiences of others trans women and based on my own experiences, what happens is violence. At the very least it will be verbal violence but at the most the violence is unfathomable. Before I was living authenticly, I was afraid of what would happen to me if others found out who I was. Once I transitioned, I was afraid of what would happen to me (and afraid of those things that did happen to me) because it was obvious who I was. Now that I live quietly stealth, I am afraid of what will happen to me should anyone discover or even suspect my past.

To live as a trans woman in America pre, mid, or post transition is to live in fear. Watching Hollywood reinforce the idea that trans women are disturbed men in dresses heightens that fear. This is why we callout casting decisions that reinforce bigotry and violence. This is why we need our cis friends and allies to take casting decisions seriously and to callout the poor choices being made. It is literally a matter of safety for us.

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Shape Up! Because we Are Tired of Dying

12 August, 2016

​Erykah Tijerina was the 18th transgender person known to be murdered in the United States. It happened IN HER HOME. It happened in Texas. You know, one of the key states leading the charge against transgender rights; one of the key states suing the federal government for stating transgender students should not be discriminated against. One of the states with a Republican majority. You know, the Republican party; the party whose oficial platform calls for the repeal of the very few LGBT rights enacted, is rife with transphobic statements, supports discrimination against transgender students, and OPENLY SANCTIONS the dangerous and debunked practice of conversion therapy.

Oh, and, Democrats, do not get to full of yourselves.  Erykah Tijerina’s murder happened mere days after one of your media demagogues, Bill Maher, stated on national television that transgender rights are a “college pet peeve” side-issue that should be dropped because it makes people too uncomfortable and is too much of a distraction to talk about in an election year. He then went on to compare being transgender to smoking marajuana–you know, a mere lifestyle choice,–butcher the vocabulary used to discuss transgender lives and issues, and make fun of trans women for how ridiculous they look. Maher’s rhetoric is as much to blame for Erykah Tijerina’s murder as the Republican rhetoric, but his attitude is worse. Why? Because he, and other big ego Democrats, are hypocrites. At least the Republicans are honest about their irrational hatred and bigotry.

Both sides are killing my family. Both sides are killing me. SHAPE THE FUCK UP!

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Trans Girl with a Lesson Plan II

13 May, 2016
Have you ever wondered what it is like to be a trans woman trying to teach in a public high school? If so, read on and learn about my day.
     It started before I got in the building. The principal meet me outside and said that (we’ll call him) “K’s” guardian “isn’t going to let his grade stand. They’re gonna fight this.” I told him, “K has missed 29 days of school and was tardy 42 times on the days he was present. HIs grade is a 48% and he needs a 73% to pass.” The principal said, “I know, and I’ve got you 100%, but they’re gonna fight it.” So, a lovely opening to my day, but that’s not all that will happen.
     Because the seniors are no longer required to come to school, I have been substituting for other teachers. I start the day off with a teacher’s credit recovery class. I’m not in there for thirty seconds when the first of the kids comes in. He takes one look at me and says, “Oh, hell no. I’m not sittin’ in no room with an it.” They walked out and the three students behind him followed suit. In the end, I had one student in the classroom.
     Halfway through this first period, I get called down to the guidance office to talk to a student about his grades. Oh, surprise, it’s K. I explained to him exactly what I told the principal and tell him the choices he made during the school year have lead him to a point of no return. There is no recovery for fourth quarter. He will have to do summer school. Then I’m sent to sub another class.
     Twenty-minutes later I get called in to meet with a different student and his mother. When the mother enters the room she looks at me, winces, and averts her eyes. I’ve seen this before, you can’t be a trans woman and not recoginise this look. She is so disturbed or offended by what she sees when she looks at me that she cannot bring herself to look at me. My HR person had the same reaction when I came out at work; after that he never looked directly at me again. So, we all stand up to shake mom’s hand. I offer my hand and she will not shake it. I’m standing there like a dope with my hand out, as everyone looks at us feeling awkward, but not near as awkward as I felt or even awkward enough to justify not saying something about this situation. She slowly take a deep breath, holds it, loosely places her hand in mine for about two seconds, then wipes it off on her jeans while expelling her held breath so she doesn’t catch whatever disease I have. She avoids looking at me the whole time, even when I was speaking to her directly. Oh, and it is my fault her whole family is coming to see her son not graduate.
     Then it’s K again. We have to call his mom to talk about his grade. It’s a conference call with the principal and vice principal included. Mom doesn’t acknowledge my presence except to ask what work I will give him so he can graduate. I explain everything all over again. She refuses to acknowledge what I have said. I explain about the summer school program. She says, “I hope you won’t be teaching it.” That’s all I get out of her the whole meeting.
     Then it’s back to my room for thirty minutes. Five of which are taken up by K emailing me pleading me to give him some work that will raise his 48 to a 73. The next twenty-five are taken up by a student who was part of the group I sponsored. He spent his time trying to guilt trip, whine, threaten, and cry his way out of the 60% he earned. Mind you, he’s still graduating because he earned 90+ over the required percentage for the year. When that fails he tells me, “I’m disappointed in you You think that you fight for equality but you don’t. If you can’t see I’m a good kid and deserve a better grade then you don’t stand for equality.” I told him the conversation was over and he had to leave. He sat there arguing for ten minutes, refusing to leave the room, despite my asking and telling him to leave no less than seven times. He finally left when I went to page security to the room. He left saying, “I’m gonna pray for you because you need it. God bless you and thank you for the service you rendered.” I locked my door so he couldn’t come back.
     Then I dealt with another email from K. This one tells me he will be homeless if I don’t change his grade and I will have personally ruined his future.
     Now it is fourth period. I have had no lunch and no planning (which is supposed to be third period.) Instead, I go to a science classroom to sub for a ninth grade teacher. It is acknowledged by the administrator that this is a very poorly behaved class. He used the words “out of control,” Why he thought I was a good fit for that is beyond me. It takes ten minutes to get them out of the hall and seated. I have to shut and lock the door because there is a different group of ninth graders in the hall mocking the “man in the dress.” They begin banging on the door. The students ignore me, ignore the instructions, ignore the school rules, and ingnore everything except their phones. Well, all except one student, who we will call “H.” H gets on his FaceTime and begins telling a student at another school that some “he-she is supposed to be watching us.” H then tries to let the students from the hallway into the classroom. I stand in front of the door and block him. He says, “Hey, SIR, I wanna let them in.” I stand there and say nothing. He goes to sit back down saying “He looked like he wants to knock my ass.” I call for the administrator; when he arrives he takes over the class and tells me to write the boy up. I do, but I also realise that nothing will actually be done about it.
     Then it’s back to my room. I answer one more email from K who tells me I should have been telling him everyday that he was failing because the failed papers, failed tests, failed grades in the system, and the failed grades on his progress report weren’t enough to for him to know that he was failing.
     The phone rings. It’s the credit recovery teacher letting me know I’ll be teaching the seniors who failed . . . starting Monday . . . for the next month.
     I turn off the lights, curl into my desk chair, and hide in the dark for the next fifty minutes. Hoping no one else will call or knock before I can leave for the day.
That is what it is like to be a trans woman teaching in the public education system.
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Caitlín

7 April, 2016
On Monday, 1 August, 1977 a baby girl named Caitlín was born to two loving parents. They were told to raise her as a boy. No one understood that she was a girl. Her parents did a good job of raising her and gave her many moments of joy, but that joy was interspersed among gorges of self-hate, fear, and confusion about why God or the Universe would make people think she was a boy. Life was always stressful and there was a weight of pain and responsibility for other people’s happiness and welfare always dragging her below the surface.
Eventually, this all became too much. Her health declined and she came very close to her body just shutting down on her. She decided to save herself and become herself. Her parents still loved her, but she lost almost everything in the process. Much of her family, nearly every friend, her wife, her economic security, her safety leaving the house, and she was ex-communicated from her church. Her job was openly hostile and they put her in as many horrible situations as they could because they could not fire her. She almost broke.
Piece by piece, over many years, she began to rebuild her life. She deepened the few remaining friendship she had, she built new friendships, she eventually found someone who could love her for who she was. Work, however, continued to be a place of violence and abuse that whittled away at her heart, though she developed a few friendships that could provide her with safety when she most needed it. The administration, many staff, many students, and even parents were actively against her and continue to be so. They do their best to hurt her and they are trying to get her removed. Her greatest fear is that they will eventually succeed or that they will finally break her.
I am Caitlín and this is my life.
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Privelege is Also the Privelege to Leave

30 March, 2016

I had another nightmare last night in which the tide of public opinion and policy had so turned against transgender people that I was forced to flee the country to seek refuge, but there was nowhere I could go.

This is something that people who are the “right” gender, the “right” religion, the “right” colour, the “right” orientation, and the “right” ethnicity don’t really understand. If the election or a policy doesn’t go the way they would like, they are not in true immediate danger and, as long as they hold a current, valid passport, they have places they can go. But where would I go? Other countries are also dangerous for me. They pass laws against me, they make it difficult to impossible to get the medical services I need, they have high rates of violence and discriminination against transgender people.

Part of what has made me safe here is the years I have had to build a life and a history that others do not immediately question. Part of what makes me safe here is Whitman-Walker, one of the few transgender health care clinics in the world. Part of what makes me safe here is the relative anonymity allowed to me as someone born and raised in this country.

If I were forced to flee the country, and it would be the result of being forced, I would have to abandon everything that has provided me with a measure of safety. Where could I go? Where could others like and unlike me, who do not fit into the white, cis, heterosexual, Christian mold go? We would be forced to abandon the safety nets that have taken years, decades, to build and to start over as minoritised people without the bits of safety and community that we worked so hard to make for ourselves.

Part of being privileged in America is having the privilege to pack up and leave when things do not go your way. For those of us who struggle and fight for basic human rights like the freedom to worship, the freedom to not be profiled, the freedom to secure basic documentation with ease, the freedom to use public restrooms without violence and threats of arrest, we don’t have that privilege. We cannot just say, “Well it’s time to become an ex-pat” and walk away. For better or worse, we are stuck here and, if priveleged people with a voice and relative power to influence policy and attitudes who can leave chose to leave, then it will be worse for those of us left behind.