Posts Tagged ‘Transgendered’


Trans* DOs and DON’Ts

24 April, 2012

I am transsexual . . .

do treat me like you would anyone else.

do respect my name and my pronouns. If it is not clear what my pronouns are you may politely ask. Generally, a trans woman goes by she and a trans man by he.

if you make a mistake with pronouns, do politely apologise and then continue with the conversation.

do not ask me what my birth name was. That is private and a source of anxiety for many trans* people.

do not ask me about any surgeries I may or may not have had. That is the business of the trans* person only.

do not assume things about me. Do not assume I am straight or gay, liberal or conservative, happy or unhappy, married or single. We are all different.

do not assume a trans* person wants to teach you about trans* issues. Some trans* people find this very hard to discuss; others are comfortable answering questions. Everyone has a different comfort level.

do not touch me inappropriately. Some people think it is okay to touch trans* people’s bodies to see if things are real. If you would not touch someone else that way do not touch a trans* person that way.

do not “out” me. Do not tell some else I am trans*. The only person who has the right to reveal if someone is trans* is the trans* person. If you reveal it you could embarrasses them or even put their safety and life at risk.

do not say, “But you are really a man (or woman),” “I still see the man (or woman) in you,” or “You pass really well.” These are very insulting comments and are often used as a way to invalidate that person’s gender identity.


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.


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.


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.


Time Consumption

23 October, 2011

Just spent over an hour shaving eighty percent of my body in preparation for the week. It would be easier to hack off my limbs. It has to get better.


The Dangers of Being Trans-Friendly (a Caitlin On . . . post)

6 October, 2011

So, it is time for me to discuss a serious issue that I have had on my mind but did not have the guts to bring up. We are all aware being transgendered results in serious safety issues for transgendered persons. There is the very real possibilities of hate crime [which isn’t legally hate crime because it is not illegal to attack a person for their gender expression, we are the only unprotected group left in America], retribution in personal and professional lives, and a host of dangers born out of legal issues and the end-all-be-all, the genetic birth marker. ::spits on the ground:: These are all very real dangers. They are not, however, the ones on my mind tonight. What concerns me is the dangers faced by those who know me: classification by association, shunning for slumming, and flacking for backing.

[Cute names, right? I’m afraid I have to use the cute approach when addressing this subject because I feel overwhelmed when I considered it without a certain degree of levity. I’m not trying to downgrade the issue, I am just trying to cope with the danger my existence as self puts those around me in.]

Classification by Association

If we are honest with ourselves we can all find things about us that are not gender ideal. The regenerating individual is on the extreme end of a very real phenomena for every person. The prevalence of cosmetic plastic surgery, anti-aging muds and creams, diet and exercise fads, and heart-healthy Cheerios all point to a basic insecurity at the root of the American psyche. On our mad dash from the cradle to the grave each of us attempts to align ourself to the gender ideal. Or, as Kate Bornstein puts it, we are all attempting to reach the capstone on the gender pyramid. Advertisements, programing, publications, and a slew of other pop-culture sources inundate us and belittle us into believing we have not yet reached the gender ideal, but with just one more purchase, one more pill, one more diet, one more round of psychoanalysis, we can come just $19.95 closer.

Living in a society that labels our worth on how much we conform or fail to conform to the gender ideal has made us all paranoid about not living up to it. It took a bold step away from that gender ideal for me to see just how deeply entrenched the idea is. Something else I have seen is how desperately people look for those who do not conform as well as they do, because it allows them to feel better about their own status. The idea that there is someone lower on the rung than you means that you are not as bad off as it seems. There is always another rung down, another slot that you have been fortunate enough to exceed. When people spend their time looking for these nonconforming points in others it is only a matter of time before they are found–real or not.

This is hard enough for the transgendered and cis-gendered [trans means cross, cis means on the same side of] when they are alone, but the cis who spends time with trans-folk are taking on an extra risk that may lead others to question whether the friend is cis or just another tranny. When this classification by association happens all the dangers the trans person is exposed to are now the cis person’s dangers too. When I am out with female friends I worry that someone may see them as less of a woman because they are associating with me. When I am out with trans-friends I worry that my inability to successfully pass due to in-progress regeneration will out them and put them back in a danger zone they were “out” of.

Shunning for Slumming

Slumming, according to The Oxford English Dictionary, is a term first brought into the common language in London, 1884 and referred to the members of a higher social class spending time with a lower social class or participating in lower class activities for amusement. It is typically done with a sense of superiority over the class being entered by the participants, a malicious mocking of the lower class. In this case, I am not saying that cis-folk that hangout with trans-folk are slumming. [Though there are members of the cis population, particularly among the wealthy and famous patrons of the arts, who do so.] I am suggesting that cis-friends of trans-individuals can be viewed as “going slumming” by hypersensitive activists and faux-friends of the transgendered. Those who wish to be friends with trans-folk, should be aware that not all attacks are going to come from the bigots who hate transgender-ism; there are plenty of people–cis and trans alike–who are going to take offense to the cis-friend’s acceptance of their transgendered friend. I, myself, know my friends are genuine, but it can be hard to convince others. Just something those who are my friends should be aware of.

Flacking for Backing

The moral majority, the religiously fanatical, and the bigoted asshats are the ones responsible for giving flack to cis-friends of the transgendered. They will, with luck, only try to convince or sway the cis away from the corrupting influence and  inherent “evils” of friendship with a transgendered person. However, much like whites who marched alongside of blacks in the civil rights movement, the cis-friend exposes themselves to same physical dangers that their transgender-friend is exposed to. The people who jump your transgender-friend as you walk from the theater to your car are not going to say, “Hey, that person isn’t transgendered, so we should leave her/him alone.” The whites were not exempt from brutal attacks by racists, and neither are the cis.

And let us get one thing straight. This is a civil rights movement! Regardless of what others might think, regardless of what others might wish, the call for equal rights and fair treatment of the transgendered is a civil rights movement. If a person of color is denied the right to housing because of their ancestry, it is a hate crime against their civil rights. If a homosexual is beaten because of his sexual orientation, it is a hate crime against his civil rights. If a lesbian is shot at by a drunk, off-duty police officer, it is a hate crime against her civil rights. So why is denying housing to, beating, and murdering a transgendered individual seen as somehow less important? Why is it less of crime and why does the general population tend to sympathize with the perpetrator of the crime and villainize the victim? “The murdered transsexuals were most likely hookers,” I overheard a teacher say about the transwomen shot this summer. “That cop was just doin [sic] what need [sic] to be dun [sic],” posted a commenter on a article about the cop who shot at the transwomen who refused his advances.

This is clearly a civil rights issue and it is clearly dangerous for everyone involved in it whether transgendered, family, or friend.

It is this last bit that leaves me nervous and questioning. What have I exposed my family and friends to? None of them have been attacked or molested, but they have received verbal flack, been questioned, and been rebuked and shunned for their association with me. Yes, I know they are big boys and girls and the choices they make are their own, but it still worries me and knowing that they chose to be my friend will not make me feel any less guilty when someone puts them in the hospital because they were spending time with me at the wrong moment. Sometimes I wonder if those I care about would be better off not caring about me. Perhaps not better off, but certainly safer.


Community vs Outcasts

15 June, 2011

“A community of outcasts was found living near and interacting with one another in a local Fairfax County neighborhood. When local citizens were asked to comment the most common response was, ‘I was shocked to learn their were outcasts living in my neighborhood. They seemed like such nice, normal people.’ Local authorities have refused to comment on either the current status of the outcasts or what the plan for dealing with them is; however, if it follows traditional pattern the outcasts will be dispersed and continued inter-community contact will be prevented.”

How often do you see a news story like that? But it happens all the time. It’s happening now. We just don’t talk about it. It wouldn’t be polite or good manners to discuss the issue. Sure gossip about the individuals that’s fine. Discuss them behind closed doors and in hushed whispers (“Somethin’ really ought to be done about this here outcast issue,” a local Fairfax man whispered to his wife.), but to publicly address the issues and to acknowledge their existence in the community as normal, functioning citizens and not as some local news-hyped tragedy victim or the odd degenerate?  No, no. That just won’t do.

In the last three months I have become something to gawk at for the vast majority of the public. That’s fine. I expected as much. What I didn’t expect, however, was to become taboo. It’s fine to stare and point me out but to actually talk about the issue in a productive manner or, God Forbid!, talk to me about questions, thoughts, or concerns one-on-one (as opposed to the public debate some have tried to sucker me into), well, that’s right out.

And the scary thing about this indefinite moratorium on actively engaging and trying to understand the issue is the ignorance, confusion, and doubt that it creates not just in society as a whole but, most damaging, to the outcast community itself.  They pick up on the ban and, even though it is them the ban is against, they embrace it. Society says, they say to themselves, that there is something wrong with me. I am deviant in someway and as a deviant I need to censor myself and not rock the boat. Because of this mentality the TS population is easy to control and maintain.

Unlike homosexuality, which in many ways is far easier, the issue isn’t about who you sleep with, it’s about who you are. It’s more than preferences, and quip-quotes, it’s their entire esense, their being, their existence being banned from conversation. They are “The Almost People” from Doctor Who. They almost count as humans, they have the emotions, the intelligence, the ability to form friendships and bonds. But they lack the most important part: social acceptance. The vast majority of people are uncomfortable with the idea of gender let alone the bending and sometimes out right stretching-the-reality-of-it-beyond-the-pale that the TS individuals are considered to be doing.  So the public clings to their little fetishes and trinkets and prays that the plague passes them over all the while pretending it doesn’t exist and, by God, if you as a TS person want to fit in to society and be accepted you’ll pretend it doesn’t exist either, which means, either look like what you say you are or don’t go out. Yes, there are exceptions to this. I am privileged to know a number of people who are accepting of me as me, which is one of the reasons I cannot simply shut-up and blend in. In many ways I have it easier than so many, which obligates me to do what I can to help those who don’t have such privilege. But my being willing to be public runs us into the second issue regarding the unspoken ban on the TS community.

This ban also means under no circumstances should one ever attempt to disseminate information in a public forum to other TS individuals that would make their transition easier. No guides, no handbooks, no “So You Wanna a Be a T-Girl” informational brochures. It is an outright ban on information.

This cultural ban invalidates the TS’s right to exist and on their ability to form community. It’s like what the Assyrians did to the people they conquered—keep them separate and isolated and you never have to worry about them standing up for themselves, demanding fair treatment, or lobbying for equal rights. And with the denial of community comes the need to experiment in order to learn what being TS means and how to be TS. This is how so many TS individuals get themselves into trouble.  You see, this is more than just a gender issue.  It is also a social and political issue. The majority of TS individuals are poor and under-educated. (These stats could be impacted by the fact that most middle class and wealthy individuals who are TS also have the resources and education to go undetected and transition in total stealth mode, something I have thus far and for personal reasons refused to do.) With these two social stigmas already working against them, when you add the socially crippling stigma of TS they are playing a game rigged in the House’s favor.  Double zero, folks, House takes all; no winners. The experimentation leads to needing funds to buy hormone treatment and to purchase clothes, binding bandages, padding, falsies, surgery, name changes, license changes, gender marker changes. And those who have already run this gauntlet have nothing to say, because if they offered advice, if they tried to help in anything but a one-on-one private meeting behind closed doors, they would out themselves and all the anguishing work they put in for the last decade or more to pass and survive in a hostile climate would be shot to shit. So the uninitiated trying to survive become sex-addicts, call-“girls,” prostitutes (the sex industry is both lucrative and a source of make-up and presentation tricks), victims of violence, suicide stats, murder victims, or they do irreparable damage to their body while trying to figure things out on their own.

So when there are laws up for vote about allowing a more inclusive society, please consider where I and a number of other nice, normal Americans are at and what we need to survive in a healthy way that encourages maturation and not self-destruction. Consider your role in creating a tolerant society. Consider the quote from a banner given to me by a most prodigious math teacher, no one can do everything, but everyone can do something. Give us the opportunity not just to be who we are, but also to be who we are in community. Allow us to discuss with each other and anyone who honestly wants to know the issues tied into our lives and the lives of those we love. I’m not asking for TS appreciation week. I just want the same freedom to associate with and learn from others like myself in a public community without retaliation, instead of in a room in some conference center behind closed doors just in case someone walking by doesn’t like who the strangers in the room are.


Caitlin on Confusion

4 June, 2011

Confusion. A word grafted to TS individuality and the transition process tighter and more conspicuous than Zaphod Beeblebrox‘s third arm. A myriad of questions assail the flailing mind trying to grasp the anomalous figure whose mere presence demands not just some form of acknowledgement but also a shifting of a decades old perceptual set associated with them. Their core, fundamental nature causes the world’s perceptions to derail worse than the DC Metro Red line.  How do I address him . . . her? Will our friendship change? Is she considered homosexual and will she hit on me? How do I reconcile this with my ethics/religion/morals? What is gender? What bathroom does she use? Is this legal? Can she board an airplane? How do I define MY gender? Am I normal? Fear, admiration, disgust, ambivalence, jealousy, are all common emotions that rush into the synaptic gap cleared by the confusion. These are all understandable questions and concerns. People are just learning about the transition. It seems sudden to them and they are going to have knee jerk reactions. The person transitioning needs to remember this and appropriately amend how they interact with spouses, family, friends, and co-workers. They have  been thinking about and coming to terms with these issues most of their lives and to everyone else, who were unaware of the problem, this is a bizarre whim or mid-life crisis.

But those who are adjusting to the TS individual’s news should hold firmly in their mind the understanding that they are not the only confused ones. The process is at least as confusing for the TS individual. Yes, they have been aware of the issue longer, they have been aware that they are not as they ought be, their animus and their bodies are at odds and they have valiantly worked with, around, or through these feelings.  But the actual transition? That’s as new, unsettling, and confusing for the TS as it is for their companions. As much as we say we are still the same person, that we aren’t changing who we are, just what we look like, that’s at best a half truth. A person cannot pump their bodies full of hormones and hormone blockers to produce physical changes and not expect the mental landscape to, also, undergo significant terraforming. Certain elements of who we are will not change. Those are the core components that determine aspects of our true character (who we are when the chips are down and we react on instinct): inherited traits and genetic memory and, to an extent, certain experience-shaped qualities.

The hormones and blockers shape the body into something new, something opposite yet complimentary to what came before and it does the same to our minds and personalities. Though it is true personality is, primarily, a composite of intangible experiences that create a partially tangible emotional response, the experiences and responses are physically recorded as grooves and lines tracing eccentric footpaths and goat trails through the cognizant sphere that is our gray matter that, when interacted with by new electrical impulses, respond in a familiar and comforting way.  Then enter the hormones and the a body reshaping itself and those grooves getting stretched, pulled, and contorted, the standard pattern altered, and the responses exaggerated into distorted versions of the old emotions, versions diminished to the point where there is barely a flinch, or new memories crisscrossing and consuming in the old. Re-groove the record and change the songs; the beat is different can you dance to it? Do you still possess the coördination dancing requires? Do you even like music?

This is one of the reasons I so relate to The Doctor and his process of regeneration. Each time the doctor regenerates his physical form changes, but along with the changes in the physical there is an accompanying shift in personality. Oh, well, the basic morality and inner Doctor-ness doesn’t change, but likes, dislikes, sense of humour, sense of purpose, approachability, and priorities are all subject to the rules of chance and physiological psychology. There is an epic scene in The Doctor Who episode “The Eleventh Hour” in which The Doctor is trying a wide variety of  foods in an attempt to figure out what he still likes that starts with an apple and ends with cod-fish sticks dipped in custard [clip]. At this stage in my journey, my regeneration, I relate to what the doctor is going through. A mild example: I loved the taste of Shake ‘n Bake chicken and Amanda decided to dust of the neglected shaking and baking skills for one last round before we separated. I took one bite and grimaced. Is it the same recipe? I asked. It was. Did you follow it the same? She did. Did you use more than usual? She did not. Why? Because it tastes awful. The spices were overpowering and failed to meld on palate in any form that was recognizable as the tasty Shake ‘n Bake of yesteryear. I no longer like Shake ‘n Bake; now, however, I enjoy kettle corn, which before I couldn’t stand.

And it’s not just food. Preferences in style, which before was more classic-casual have become far more bohemian or hipster. I am less reserved and more free-spirited. I am more casual and far less angry.  I also have a diminishing attraction to women with a mild, and blossoming, attraction to men. How fitting is it that The Doctor is also my first true male crushee. (Does that make the person crushing the crusher? No, I think perhaps each party is a crushee and the crusher is the emotion itself.) The emotions ebb and flow with more regularity than the tide. Some days I know exactly who I am and others I am an unrecognizable image doing and thinking things that are foreign to me. I occasionally find myself thinking, Oh, so that’s the kind of person I am and I say that now or I’ll never say that again. It’s exploration. It’s frightening. It’s exhilarating. It’s brilliant. It’s a strange regeneration. Most of all, it’s terribly confusing.

How do I describe the feeling of not knowing who you are? Identity is something easily taken for granted; something people often put very little thought into. They act, they behave, they misbehave, they do everything they do for good or ill out of some intrinsic sense of self. People rarely sit down and question why they did what they just did. It doesn’t occur to them to explore why they chose to walk to the pharmacy instead of taking the bus; they don’t wonder why they are hungry for steak one night and chicken a different; and they don’t analyze why they prefer the color green over the color yellow. “I put on a green shirt and walked to the pharmacist to use the ATM so I could pay for my steak dinner,” is what the average person will tell you. They accept these opinions as mere statements of fact or, to bastardize Popeye, they are what they are and that’s all that they are. There’s no need to question it because it doesn’t feel off to them. I don’t have that same sense of “this is because it is” and I may never have had it. Well, I can’t say “never” because before induction into the cult of gender I didn’t feel anxiety acting on one thought pattern over another. Since that moment, however, I have spent my energy crafting a persona to present to others so I appear “squared away” and “normal.” I had to analyze everything for its value in keeping up the masculine disguise and I had to have reasons, real or fabricated, for anything I did that was not masculine. Now I find I have spent so much time creating and maintaining an image that I can no longer just say, I like steak better than chicken. Instead, I am questioning whether I would have prefered a salad but because I don’t want to become a stereotype I chose the most anti-stereotype meal on the menu. The constant, low-level anxiety this produces is a high-pitched whine of mental feedback created by ideas echoing off and spiraling around one another in an infinite loop as I try to determine if any given choice is part of a projected image, a true image, or an accidental image. Still, as neurotic and stressful as that sounds, it’s better than it was before I began treatment. At least I am now free to act first and ponder the meaning of the action in retrospect and at leisure. Before, the meaning and its short and long-term effects weighed against the danger of being “made” and considered a liar or, worse, a manipulator. Before, each action examined and the value of its self-expression determined greater than the inherent risk of discovery and the shame (not to mention danger) of having the mental disguise fall, exposing myself as a fraud and a freak.

Really, all I am trying to say is, I understand the confusion and anxiety my transition causes people because I am in the thick of it, too, but we push past it and accept things as they are, and Bob’s our uncle.


Switching Teams: The Ending

9 May, 2011

Today was the last full day of my biological, birth hormone levels. In some ways this is my last day as a member of Gender M. It’s funny, but this transition has a lot of last days built into it. The last day I thought of myself as part of Gender M; the last days others consider me part of Gender M; the last day so-so and so-so talked to me; et cetera. It’s a slow process with lots of little steps. For example, a month from now I will be spending my last day legally A with marker M and the following day I’ll be legally Caitlin with the marker F.

And there’s the B-side. Each of these last days is the gate to a first day. Tomorrow will be my first day as part of Gender F, hormonally, which according to some is the part that matters most. It will be the first day of playing for the other team and swinging hard for those fences to show I’m every bit as feminine and female as my birth-born teammates.

I’ve noticed this team mentality in how friendships have been playing out. I had always had a few more female than male friends, a sixty/forty split, but now the balance is heavily skewed toward the female at eighty/twenty. Part of that is I have lost a number of friends, but the unique observation about this is which friends I have lost and which have stayed. Those figures typically have a definite gender and religious slant to them. Most of the ones who fall away are male and Christian.

My mind spins and plays out like line unspooling from a fishing reel after Babe Winckelmann has cast for the deep, shadowy, pools. How can you walk away from a friendship years or decades in the making? The attitude is beyond me. As part of Gender M, I was miserable, short-tempered, and wasting away. As a member of Gender F, I am happy, confident, and healthy. Empirical evidence alone is enough to convince any skeptic of the transition’s worth, not to mention the emotional and social evidence. But not only do a number of males, Christians, and conservatives deny the evidence, but they deny me. Now I’m not saying you should be listening for cocks to crow thrice, but to walk away from something you’ve spent so much energy building strikes me as an over reaction. Either they are unable to reconcile mistaken/outdated/ill-founded beliefs with the veritas before them or they have something about themselves they wish to change or express and, too fearful to do so, they hide from what reminds them of their own ability/inability to do something about it. And thus I have found myself with half the number of friends I once had.

The truly fascinating people are those who vehemently believe I am wrong for what I am doing but stick beside me to offer support. I am at a loss to describe the rich and noble character these people posses. The untainted hearts when merged with their pure beliefs and their longing for what is best for their friend must leave them with an internal dissonance that is at times unbearable, a great rending feedback enough to make the pores in your ear lobes bleed. Toward these people (such as Manders, Josher, GNome, Ro-bear, and Suzette) I tip my heart and pour out my empathy, love, and admiration. For, like myself, they do not care what team I play on, and they posses the strength of character to move past, around, or beyond their inner judge and accept their friend for who she is.