Posts Tagged ‘Transmisogyny’

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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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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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Awesome Con DC is not a Safe Place for Trans Women

19 April, 2014

Awesome Con DC is not a safe space for trans women.

i had been looking forward to going to the convention for several weeks. i was excited, but also nervous. The geek/nerd community is not always the safest place for those of us considered outliers. i debated whether i should wear a cosplay and who i should go as, but the more i thought about it the more i wondered if i would be more likely to be misgendered, to be mistaken for a guy in a dress, if i was in costume than if i just went as myself. So this morning, i decided to put on a light weight skirt and an Alice in Wonderland t-shirt. i wore my hair loose, letting it hang past my shoulders and with a side swoop to soften my face. i wore a little make up, some nice nail polish, and a cute necklace from my Mum. i was sending out a very clear signal. Include in this, my not having been publicly misgendered in about a year. This was totally feasible.

Standing in line, waiting to get in, a woman approached me and said, ‘Nice costume.’ Then wandered off before i could tell her i was not in costume. my girlfriend and i talked about it and decided she must have liked my shirt and said costume by mistake because of all the people in costume. Inside, we went to artists alley. While i was standing near a booth i overheard a conversation between a man and his wife about a ‘man’ they saw and the wife said ‘that he is a she!’ i told myself, they could have been talking about anyone. Maybe a girl doing a cross-play? Though there were not many around . . . and fewer still were in costume . . . and they were looking toward me.

i started feeling overwhelmed and did not know what to do. My girlfriend took us over to Carla Speed McNeil’s table (the authoress and artist on Finder and creator of Lynn, my favourite trans character–confirmed by her). She remembered me from the last time i saw her (at SPX) and we had a nice talk about her work, what was new, and what her plans with Lynn were. i was feeling better; i thought i could take it on again. So we went to the panel “Representation is Important.” i sat down in the back row and my girlfriend set her stuff down by the wall behind me (she had her Hela cosplay with, in case she decided to change) then rubbed my neck and shoulders. The room filled up fast and soon the seat beside me, that i was saving for her, was the only one left. One of the staff members asked if this other person could sit there. My girlfriend said that was okay and i said it would be all right, too. He asked my girlfriend, “Are you sure you don’t mind?” and she said it was fine. Then he indicated me and the neck rub i was getting; he said, “Clearly he doesn’t mind.” [emphasis added] My girlfriend said, “She. She is a woman.” The staff member said, “Oh. Sorry,” and walked away.

This was too much for me and i shut down. i shut out everything. i did not hear much of the panel. i did not feel the less-than-comfortable convention seating. i did not feel my body or my presence in the room. After the panel, i told my girlfriend i wanted to go home, but i would be sad if she missed the convention just because i went home. It took a little talking, but i did convince her to stay and have fun.

All the way home i could feel people, especially men, staring at me. Whether it was on the sidewalks or on the metro they gave me that double look. The one that first says ‘oh, a woman,’ and then says ‘ew, a he-she.’ The glances that turn to glares and the people who catch their breath as you walk by. i got one smile; a sad, reassuring smile from a young lady who recognised and offered a moment of sympathy. That smile got me home.

i’m sad. i’m sad because there were panels and Q&A’s i wanted to go to. There were events i wanted to participate in. There were booths i wanted to visit and comics i wanted to pick-up. i really wanted to get a yuri manga because i just got introduced to them and i was excited to buy a couple, to see my girlfriend and i represented in a story. i didn’t get to do any of those things because i was made to feel so out-of-place. The environment and my interactions indicated to me that girls-like-me, that i, did not belong there.

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Frozen’s Elsa as Trans Woman Representation

22 January, 2014

Disclaimer: This is an expository piece on Disney’s Frozen and the connection I, a trans woman, felt with Elsa. Though much has been written about the racial representation and choices made by the Disney Company in regards to Frozen, this essay will not be addressing that topic.

Trigger Warnings: Transphobia, Internalised Transphobia, Transmisogyny, Abuse

Spoiler Warning: Frozen

In Disney’s Frozen, a film loosely based off Hans Christian Andersen’s short story “The Snow Queen,” Elsa conceals what she believes to be a terrible and dangerous truth about herself. She understands, at an early age, that she is different from others, but in the exuberance and open-heartedness of youth, that difference is neutral, lending her neither a special place nor a villainous one. That changes while she is playing with her younger sister Anna when she accidentally hits her sister with a magic ice shard that threatens her life. With the help of a rock troll Anna is spared, but Elsa is told that her powers are dangerous and expressing them will put others, most especially her sister, in jeopardy. She is taught to conceal her powers and stuff her emotions, which can trigger them, down so deep she becomes numb to them. “Conceal; don’t feel” is her mantra and she becomes a girl numbed by cold isolation and closed doors. The Disney Wiki describes Elsa as “traumatized” by these early experiences and states “Elsa forcibly spent the rest of her life distanced from the kingdom, including Anna, trying to keep her powers from growing out of control and harming those she cares about.” And this fear, according to director Jennifer Lee, is what drives Elsa.[1]

Having grown up as a trans girl in hiding, I found myself relating to Elsa’s story. I have always understood myself to be female. Like Elsa, I did not think of who I was as different or unusual, until outside events forced me to confront how the rest of the world saw me. In the early eighties I sat with other girls my age on a ratty, beige, shag carpet stained mud brown by the tromp of little feet shod in velcro Stride Rites, Winnie-the-Pooh rain galoshes, faux-leather Mary Janes, and pointy-toed cowboy boots. The teacher readied us for lunch by dividing us into two lines, each to march on opposite sides of the hallway, one of girls and one of boys. I lined up with the other girls. The teacher stood in front of the closed door and frowned at the class. “I won’t open the door until everyone is where they belong,” she said. She waited. It took a minute before I felt the eleven pairs of kindergarten eyes staring at me as though I were the village idiot. The teacher walked between the two lines, straddling that divide between little girl and little boy that only adults dared to stand above and stopped in front of me. “You are in the wrong line.” Panic welled up from my four year-old chest into my throat, where it squeezed my voice box shut. It was my first experience with a crippling anxiety that would numb my body and lead to the concealment of my feelings and who I was. Several decades later, I would learn terms like gender anxiety and gender dysphoria, but growing up I could only describe it as being frozen inside myself.

A few years later, I sat on the edge of the flower garden that ran along the side of my grandparent’s stuccoed duplex. The bruises where my cousin and a neighbour kid had beaten me up already appearing as dark splotches on my arms and chest. The beating was a punishment for having caught me playing house with the girls who lived down the street; I was the mother. These young teenage boys who considered themselves strapping examples of manhood stood over me scowling and said my kid brother would be really “fucked up” if I didn’t learn to behave like a boy and not a girl and my father would hate me for being a sissy. The lesson was clear. Conceal who you are so you don’t hurt your family; don’t feel anything or you will expose yourself and hurt the ones you love. It was a hot a summer day and my white t-shirt was plastered to my bruised and aching chest by sweat, but it could have been winter because I was ice inside. Like Elsa, I was numb to everything except the anxiety and fear of what would happen to my family if I didn’t hide who I was. “Conceal; don’t feel” was my mantra.

For Elsa, the conflict between who she is and who others believe her to be comes to a head at her coronation and she has what trans activist and gender theorist Kate Bornstein calls a splatter moment,[2] when two or more identities come in conflict and the result is a terrific splatter. The stress of keeping her powers secret begins to crack and seep through the image of calm, component queen that she is portraying. She begins to freeze the scepter and globus cruciger at the cathedral. At the coronation ball a confrontation with her sister results in such intense anxiety and fear that shards of ice rise from the ballroom floor and cut her off from everyone. Her secret is out and Elsa has to deal with the consequences of a world that knows who she truly is. The conflict drives Elsa to flea Arrendale and sets off a winter storm that freezes the town and harbour. Splatter.

Elsa terrified of who she is.[3]

Elsa’s powers manifest.[4]

This is the coming out moment; where who you are and who you are pretending to be can no longer exist in the same space and everything is forced to the surface. I had two major splatter moments and, like Elsa, what set them off was a reality I could no longer suppress. The need to be who I was grew inside me, just as Elsa’s powers grew stronger over time. It seeped out of me in moments when the dysphoria was too intense to handle. Little things like putting on one of my mother’s dresses or some of her makeup when no one was home. Like young Elsa accidentally freezing her window sill, my reactions after these “slips” were fear of and disgust with myself. The older I got the stronger my need to be myself became, until it took tremendous effort and isolation to keep it contained, but it still leaked out until I was caught by my wife and family and who I was created a wall between us and the resulting storm that shook my family and friends. Most of them reacted like the Duke of Weselton did to Elsa, they referred to me as a “monster” and demanded that my transition be “put to an end.”

Elsa isolates herself in the mountains and sings “Let It Go,” which deeply resonated with my coming out process. As she widens the distance between herself and Arrendale she says, “The wind is howling like the swirling storm inside. Couldn’t keep it in, heaven knows I tried. Don’t let them in. Don’t let them see. Be the good girl you always have to be.” This is what it feels like to deny and burry who you are. I knew I had to do it but it was so difficult to wear the costume of the perfect little boy, the perfect man, that everyone needed me to be; to keep them outside and not knowing who I was truly was. It created an intense sense of loss and isolation and when the secret was finally out I was scared and relieved that I could finally let it all go. Elsa sings, “Don’t let them know. Well know they know! Let it go! Let it go! Can’t hold it back anymore!” She and I both recognise the freedom that our splatter has given us but also the price that this freedom bares. She continues “Let it go! Let it go! Turn away and slam the door! I don’t care what they’re going to say. Let the storm rage on. The cold never bothered me anyway.” She sees the cost of being herself as complete isolation. As character design supervisor Bill Schwab said, “She’s finally free–even if she is all alone.”[5] But then, she has always been alone, so if the cost of freedom is isolation, it is a cost she can bare. The line “The cold never bothered me anyway” is perhaps more accurately captured by the French translation of the song, “le froid est pour moi la prix de la liberté” which means “the cold is for me the price of liberty.”[6] She’s willing to pay the price of isolation for her liberty. And as I watched friends and family fall away, I realised they never knew who I was to begin with and that even while they were around I was intensely alone. The isolation that my transition created was an acceptable price because unlike my isolation before, I was now free to be myself.

For a time Elsa believes she is a monster. The idea is reinforced in her by the news she has cursed Arrendale with a winter storm and injuring her sister with her powers. She sinks deeper into isolation and into depression (her physical environment, created by her powers becomes darker and heavy with ice shards). Then Hans and soldiers from Arrendale attack the palace with the intention of killing Elsa. She is forced to defend her herself proving, in the words of Hans, that she is the monster they think she is. This is the insanity of her situation. She is attacked in her home and defending herself, fighting back against those who would kill her, but she is seen as a monster and her attackers as innocent and justified in their reactions.

Elsa’s environment darkens with her depression.[7]

Provoked by Hans and the soldiers, Elas defends herself.[8]

This is what happens to trans women across the world. This is what happened to CeCe McDonald. This is what happened to me. I have been assaulted and keep a bat by my door in case the people who did it come back; I have had my home vandalised, with the word “TRANNY” scrawled across my door; I have been verbally harassed and stalked on the street, in stores, and at my place of employment; I have been sent death threats. All because of the storm of discomfort just seeing me creates within them. I have filed reports with police and human resources and building security and every time I am told there is nothing they can do and, more egregiously, that being who I am, I bring it on myself.

Elsa moves through the pain and loss in her life and her story has a happy ending, part of which is achieved by her realisation that love is the emotion that allows her to control and use her powers. She moves past her fears and finds a way to incorporate her powers into who she is; they are a part of her but they do not define her. My story, I hope, is far from over, but like Elsa, I have learned that love and compassion for those around me opens the doors for my own happiness. I am not always happy nor am I always the person I aspire to be, but the love that being myself has allowed me to find has opened the door to happiness. It has allowed me to develop friendships I could never have had before and it has opened me to receive the love of a woman who I have been blessed with the chance of sharing my life with.

It may seem odd that a children’s movie about two princesses loosely based on a short story written nearly 170 years ago should speak so intimately to my heart and experiences. And that the deuteragonist of this animation should unintentionally serve as a positive form of trans representation demonstrating how stories can be told that reflect the lived realities of minoritised groups should put poorly written, intentionally representative films such as TransAmerica and Dallas Buyers Club to shame. Trans lives are not difficult to represent and give honour to, you just have to understand that people are people and we all have the same fears and aspirations.

UPDATE: for further reading on this, check out Aoife’s piece discussing the association of trans experience with Elsa’s and look at the Japanese translation of “Let It Go.”  Elsa and Trans Iconography: The Snow Queen’s Gloves Come Off

[1] “Elsa the Snow Queen – Disney Wiki.” 2012. 22 Jan. 2014 <http://disney.wikia.com/wiki/Elsa_the_Snow_Queen>

[2] Bornstein, Kate. My Gender Workbook: How to Become a Real Man, a Real Woman, the Real You, or Something Else Entirely. Routledge. 1998. <http://books.google.com/books/about/My_Gender_Workbook.html?id=NjH32xMTu7kC>

[3] http://static4.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20140112132348/disney/images/c/c5/Young_Elsa_afraid.png

[4] http://static2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20131029223116/disney/images/f/f6/Fullscreen_capture_10282013_71432_PM.bmp.jpg

[5] “Elsa the Snow Queen – Disney Wiki.” 2012. 22 Jan. 2014 <http://disney.wikia.com/wiki/Elsa_the_Snow_Queen>

[6] “Let it Go – Disney Wiki – Wikia.com.” 2013. 22 Jan. 2014 <http://disney.wikia.com/wiki/Let_it_Go>

[7] http://static1.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20131004094510/disney/images/2/2d/Movie_Screenshots_47.jpg

[8] http://static4.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20131222033739/disney/images/8/8a/Elsa%2C_Frozen.png.jpg

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The SRS Question (a Caitlin On … post)

1 September, 2012

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.

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Getting There is the Battle

6 June, 2012

Getting There is the Battle
by: River Eller

::getting ready to go to work. hating the prep time::

Shaving entails feet, legs, hands, arms, chest, under arms, shoulders, face, and neck; it is a tremendous pain in the tucked region and generally takes an hour and a half. I did most of it the night before so it only took twenty minutes this morning. It saves time to do it in stages, but that means everyday there is a different area that needs shaving and, every now and then (read: last night) shooting stars, planets, blue moons, and horseshoes align and I have to do it all at once. The exceptions to the stagger-shave rule are my face and neck, that’s everyday. I am still figuring out how much pressure to apply to each area, so I cut myself, a lot. I cut myself twice last night, once on a toe and once behind the knee.

After a scalding shower (it needs to be scalding to burn away my dysphoria), I towel dry my hair and shave my face. I also brush my teeth. I do this all by the glow of the nightlight. It is enough light to see by while being dark enough I won’t glimpse body parts I cannot handle seeing.

::a quick blast with the blow comb. hating my forehead; cursing mentally—and a little under my breath—fiddling with my hair::

I stare into the mirror. A brush in one hand and volumising spray in the other. I always flip my bangs to one side then the other then straight down. I brush them back to add lift …

::seeing my forehead again; struggling against the tears::

… and then back down. It wants to part to the right and leave the thinning spots distressingly noticeable. I brush it toward the left side. Better.

::still noticeable and oh goddess! that forehead::

I let the sides and back of my not-straight-not-curly-and-still-to-short hair flop down as it pleases. At least it is chin length now, which means fewer days in a wig.

::smiling at my reflection then frowning because I forgot to do my make-up before my hair; chastising myself; making myself feel bad because I deserve it, they tell me I deserve it.::

My foundation is powder. I tried the liquid but it clumps to the stubble as the five o’clock shadow comes in. Powder is lighter and can be re-applied quickly without a caked on look. I can do this because I am blonde and my shadow is almost non-existent.

::thanking the goddess I am blonde::

I apply some blush and, because I was feeling dysphoric yesterday, I decide to femme it up with eye liner (brown), eye shadow (green), and mascara (Lushes Lashes). I use just a hint of eye liner in my eyebrows to make them a touch more visible. Then the whole thing is sprayed with De-Slick, a mattifying spray.

::redoing my hair; feeling bitchy because it doesn’t look as good as the first time; still hating my forehead::

My outfit is cute; they always are. They need to be because jeans and a t-shirt get me clocked. (child: Mommy, why is that boy wearing make-up?) Today it is a dark, denim-like-blue, cotton skirt from Old Navy and a green and white, floral peasant top from Macy’s. I adjust my tuck to prevent accidental bulging.

::I thought it was supposed to shrivel from lack of use; it’s been a year, why is it still so huge? sighs::

I rub baby-boy Mulder, my black cat, on the head. “Be a good boy,” I tell him. “Or girl,” I add, “which ever you feel you are.”

::heading out; locking the door behind me::

Traffic is light, which is good because I left ten minutes late and have to speed to make-up the time. I push the car to seventy and hope that the people doing eighty are the ones who get pulled over. The posted limit is forty-five, but everyone does sixty. Well, everyone except the dump trucks, they do thirty and scatter themselves across all three lanes creating a string of weaving, merging vehicles at inconsistent speeds. I hate speeding or doing anything I could get pulled over for; I don’t want to deal with bigoted police officers. (cop: Sir, your license says female. Please, step out of the car, sir.)

::parking; rushing into the building::

I’m still late. Teachers are supposed to be there at seven; it is five after. On the way into the building, the wind blows my hair to shit. There are students gathered near the door and they see my bald patch. Some snigger, others turn away in disgust, and one grabs his friend’s backpack and pretends to vomit into it. Mr. Veep, the vice principal (read: bigoted asshat) is standing in the doorway, watching.

I smile. “Good morning, Mr. Veep!”

He looks away and down and mumbles a sorta “Good morn-nnmph …”

The office is crowded. It’s always crowded in the morning. Teachers, subs, administration, support staff, students, and parents. Today a group of parents take up half the lobby space. The men are big, I mean, BIG boys. The lightest of the three must weigh in at 225 pounds and his wife isn’t far behind him. The other men aren’t starving, either. Of the other two women, one looks like she could skip meals, plural, everyday for a few weeks and not suffer. The other is so skeletal I’m convinced the big’uns have been eating her meals.

“pardon me” I squeak. I keep my head down and avoid eye contact.

::willing them not to notice::

I slip between them and head to the counter and the staff sign-in sheet. Just three quick strokes, ‘CMS’, and I’m out of the office and into the hallway and sixty-one moderate steps later its the relative safety of a parent free room. dontnoticemedontnoticemedontnoticeme—

“The fuck is that?” the biggest big’un asks. His voice is as large as his stomach and resoundingly deep.

“Oh! That’s MISTER Song,” the skeletal one says. “He teaches literature.”

Big’un grunts. “I always figured boy teachers were fags. Doin’ women’s work.”

“Thank Jay-zus it don’t teach our kids,” says Mrs. Big’un.

Ms. Möbius, our smashing, sweetheart secretary, overhears them—they’re so loud neighbouring schools could hear them—and she says in a firm voice, “Good morning, Ms. Song. My but don’t you look nice today.”

“Thank you, Ms. Möbius. Have a great day!” thankyouthankyouthankyou!

“You do the same, now, dear.”

She’s a blessing, that Ms. Möbius. She also does a damn fine job subbing on those rare occasions I need to call in dysphoric sick.

::out of the office … sixty-one steps … shut the door::

Safe.