Being trans, in society

Trans folk share something, but we don’t know what that is, because it is distorted by the demands of wider society. How we imagine ourselves is shaped by the stories we tell and that society tells, about what is normal, masculine, feminine, acceptable, shameful. We can’t know how we would be without those ideas, and that shame. In trying to understand, I asked, is it like something else? Is it like an addiction, where if you indulge you become less able to resist? I see others’ paths, and wonder, is that path right for me?

Curtailed by the anger of others, the abuse in the street, the rejection by friends and family, or our own shame inhibiting us out of fear of those things, we don’t know how we would be if merely accepted for whatever harmless thing we did. What we do is harmless, but people feel threatened by what it symbolises.

The abuse is far more significant for me than the acceptance. Abuse re-traumatises me quickly, it takes a great deal of acceptance to heal.

I don’t know what we share, precisely, because there are differences too. Some of us are AFAB, some AMAB, and that means entirely different pressures and entirely different desires, despite the similarity of changing gender. I begin to see the attractions of masculinity when I see people who actively choose it, but it is a difficult exercise in empathy.

Of those who are AMAB, some of us are gynephile, some are androphile. The suggestion that the androphiles are true trans and the gynephiles are autogynephiliac perverts is merely silly, because that is a mere play on words: it is a claim about what “trans” means  not an observation about people; it is an attempt to achieve acceptance from wider society by distancing a particular group from some characteristic they would call unacceptable, which can never work. No straight person divided trans people into the disgusting and the normal.

Yet the law decides who will be protected, and the community decides who is acceptable. Someone who intends to change from masculine gender presentation to feminine or vice versa, life long, is protected. Someone who expresses gender differently is not. Now I hear voices saying trans folk should not need to be sterilised to achieve recognition, but when I transitioned trans folk distrusted those who did not want an operation and doubted they were “true trans”, and now I still read of people’s delight at getting an operation or frustration at delays.

There is a strong idea in law and society that there are two genders, masculine and feminine, closely mapped onto men and women. If a man does not fit “masculine” ideals that is shameful. Belief in transition, the concept of the trans woman, closely fits that. Not male is inferior, but being really female is a partial solution. I don’t believe that. There is no gendered behaviour in either sex which the other does not exhibit. Ideas of gender oppress both men and women. Transition is a partial solution for trans people in the world as it is now. Self-conceptualising as non-binary, so permitting onesself to exhibit all gender behaviours, is a better solution.

How would I be without society? I don’t know. Possibly, I can have an idea about how I would be without society’s understanding of a trans person is, from how I was before I read anything much about transvestites and transsexuals. I fantasised about being changed into a woman, physically, in my teens. But I knew then it was OK for women, not OK for men, to show particular gendered traits. If I were a woman, then it would be OK to be me.

Trans would not exist without that falsehood, that there are two genders. There are as many genders as there are human beings; or there is only one.

Given society as it is, with transition recognised in law and having a measure of acceptance, and fitting with the general understanding of what a trans person is, I would like increasing acceptance of alternative ways- we continue to assert trans women are women, and recognise various ways of being non-binary. Law would prohibit employers or service providers from treating people differently on the grounds of gender presentation or behaviour.

More lovely blogs

The joy of blogs is meeting people. Some, I just say “Hi”, a few I read and comment on for years, and think of them as friends. Here are some blogs new to me, which I really like: I have been meeting people through the “Commenting Bootcamp”. It is striking how many talented women have self-confidence far less than they deserve. Let us encourage one another!

Sussurus came and commented, so I popped over, and found this brave, challenging post: Street Art: Don’t Hate!

Prejudice exists.

This is my problem: it’s about my attitudes, instincts and actions. It’s about the attitudes, instincts and actions of those who seek my permission to represent me.

Yes. How often has someone told you how much they value diversity, and you see the shutters down behind their eyes?

Let us understand what our own [genes, or instincts] are up to, because we may then at least have the chance to upset their designs, something that no other species has ever aspired to do.

The flower pictures are beautiful too.

Kiri blogs on grief, loss and healing, with the title Retro Girl and the Chemo Kid. The loss of a child to cancer is a terrible thing, and a rare experience, and she brings her experience to life, giving the reader an inkling of it; and she addresses universal themes. As she says,

What I didn’t imagine when I started was that the lessons I learned from Zoe and from loss would resonate so much with others. It’s one more unexpected gift from Zoe to the world.

In My one and only, she starts from the question “Do you have any other children?” to address her own changing feelings about having another child. The courage is beautiful, the insight powerful.

As you know, I show courage blogging too…

“Let’s encourage each other,” says your friend Megha Agrawal. Oh! Yes! She blogs on various cuisine- pizza, and palak-paneer- and crafting: “Art, food, and celebrating womanhood”. I had not seen a blog with a privacy policy before, and am interested to read of the Children Online Privacy Protection Act.

Here is Olive Ole, Norwegian living in Denmark, currently sharing her New York photos.

When venturing on to New York City with Sir Nerdalot, whose Indian name would be «NerdWhoLikesWeirdSports«, one cannot quietly let Yankee Stadium pass by. Old Mamasan did try to persuade him to let it go – as it was not even baseball season, but failed miserably. So what to do when the argument is lost? You charge up the batteries for the camera, put on good shoes, and tag along while quietly planning revenge.

Yogi’isms are definitely my thing- Oh! the Spirituality!- and I had not heard the koan, It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much.

If there are any men still here, you might like Luke, recently returned to blogging. Here he is on Viral Jesus marketing. Such a wise head, on one so young!

Giorgione, Young man with arrow

The anger of the oppressed

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Googling i rise without quotes produces this poem as the first hit, deservedly so. It is beautiful. I heard Tony read it yesterday. He could not make it boring, but there was none of the passion I would put into it. I don’t know what Tony has faced, but it seemed the white, cis-het(?) man had not felt broken [with] bowed head and lowered eyes in nights of terror and fear. I would put contempt, and rage, and passion, prowling like an animal as I said it, feeling the triumph. Tony did not include the verse on diamonds, because there was a girl of eight present- I would let her make of it what she would.

But I am not sure I should recite it. I can enjoy it, and cheer Maya Angelou on, but it is not for me.

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

I cheer her on as a fellow human being, but not as “Sister” in this case, for this is not my heritage.

A problem with free speech is that the loudest voices are those of the privileged. They have the access to print and the education to express comfortable ideas in exquisite prose. The voices which need heard are those of the excluded, pushing back against the clichés of the Kyriarchy with authentic human feeling.

So, this comment thread. I responded rudely, angrily, dismissively, and at only one point offensively, when I was triggered by a comment about a ridiculous, obvious cross-dresser at a bus stop- plunged right back into that brokenness and misery and lashing out. Seeing this, my enemy sought to trigger me again. But I laughed at him.

Beside this the hurt anger of the privileged, that what they have always believed is challenged, has no value. Waken up and show some empathy, and then repent of your claimed hurt.

A commenter railed against the ‘regressive left’ that uses such bullying techniques as banning under the banner of protecting delicate snowflakes from legitimate criticism deemed offensive under the label of tolerance and respect and sensitivity by practicing intolerance, disrespect, and insensitivity. I am not a delicate snowflake- if I were, I would have melted.

That commenter gave as an example of the Regressive Left the University of Ottawa student leaders cancelling a yoga class because it could be “cultural appropriation”. I am unsure of that one. Christianity, generally, proselytises; I have an idea that Hinduism does not. Mindfulness is a religious practice common at least to Christianity, Islam, at least its Sufi branch, Buddhism and others. Stretching exercises are widespread. Yet the privileged take what they want and dismiss the rest, and the outsider must “Integrate” to be accepted.

I rise.

Blake, Inferno, the harpies and suicides

Eccentric Freedom

The test of the freedom of a society is the freedom of its LGBT members. No one is free, if I am not.

In thinking of this, I came across the Simone de Beauvoir quote “No one is born a woman. She becomes one.” That led me to Philosophy Talk. Following Sartre, Existentialists seek to make choices in “good faith”, that is, proceeding from and expressing their authentic selves.

It is harder for women who are oppressed by their society into second class status, and not educated, as they are expected to be wives and mothers. Laura Maguire herself escaped to college but most of the girls she grew up with repeated the pattern. This is all the more shocking as she was born around 1980.

Maguire thinks Beauvoir’s quote can be extended to the oppression of any group, such as people of colour, told constantly that they are second class. Maguire’s interpretation seems economic: can the person reach their potential as an earner. She overcame oppression in going to college, taking her PhD, and becoming a director of research at Stanford- so she overcame it because she was exceptional. Most of her female contemporaries became wives and mothers, with only secondary education. They were held back by the expectations of others, which they internalised, and perhaps by force, such as being taken out of school by parents.

Had Maguire not been a girl, her Irish society could have seen hers as worthwhile ambitions and good outcomes. That is the difference with us queers. My ambition to transition does not make economic sense, only existential sense. Even before I could bear it, I wanted to express who I am.

My decision inspires disgust in some people, and some of those would seek to prevent it.

For me, expressing my authentic self was more important than any economic progress. (I make excuses for myself, now: my current damaged and vulnerable state is the result of my upbringing and society.)

I would change that first sentence. At the moment, the test of the freedom of Western society is the freedom of its queer members, to make choices others find nonsensical or disgusting. Even when life paths of transition, or of gender neutrality, are well mapped out there will still be good faith decisions which others find incomprehensible. The measure of freedom is the level of acceptance of those decisions: do people find their diversity blessing, rather than threat?

If that’s what you want
Go ahead.

Simone de Beauvoir

“Christians” and weddings

File:Blumenschmuck.JPGBarronelle Stutzman is a florist sued for refusing a wedding floral arrangements for a gay couple. I found out about her from this eejit, saying she is a Christian martyr. Other commenters act as if this is such tyranny, the US might as well not have made its declaration of independence. A better place to read of her is here.

Why do we have anti-discrimination law? Because celebrating diversity benefits the whole population. It brings people together by reducing false reasons to dislike others, and facilitates everyone reaching our full potential. Discrimination against people because of race or sexual orientation is a bad thing. It oppresses historically marginalised groups.

What is the Christian position?

There is diversity within Christian beliefs, but if you really have your heart set on the idea that Marriage Is Between One Man And One Woman, then there is no problem. Arrange the flowers. They will be at a party, not a wedding, where you believe the whole has no real significance and what the priest or pastor does has no effect.

In that post, there was a load of balderdash about the florist “participating” in the gay wedding. Sorry, but the partners “participate”, the pastor witnesses, the guests celebrate and the florist, well, arranges flowers. This is not “participating” in a wedding.

The eejit- “Apologetics and Agape”, forsooth, he has no understanding of the word– posts a video of the florist, protesting she prays for “courage File:Brautstrauß rote und weiße Rosen.JPGand knowledge and wisdom” while rejecting the Christian course. Don’t watch it. The most sickening part, for me, was the other “Christians” egging her on with cards, money and a Bible signed by lots of people.

Honestly, I would prefer a homophobe. “Ew! I can’t be in the same room as him! He puts his penis in anuses [because Gays couldn’t possibly make love any other way].” These “Christians” provoking that poor florist make Christ into a persecutor.

What would Jesus do? Remember that Jesus ate and drank with tax collectors and sinners, so Jesus would probably go along. “I have not come for the healthy, but the sick.” At Cana, Jesus made more than 120 gallons of wine, better than the “good wine” served before. That is a stonking party.

More seriously, Jesus saidDo good to those who hate you.” Jesus gave himself as our example, not turning away from his path, and not resisting though he could have called on twelve legions of angels. St Paul agrees.

Barronelle Stutzman, however, is backed by “Alliance Defending Freedom”, an extreme-Right organisation which supported the Arizona Bill.

The law is clear. There is a very long, exhaustive definition of “Any place of public resort, accommodation, assemblage, or amusement” which includes any service which could be bought or sold. I was fascinated to read that that definitions section states “Sexual orientation” means heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, and gender expression or identity. As used in this definition, “gender expression or identity” means having or being perceived as having a gender identity, self-image, appearance, behavior, or expression, whether or not that gender identity, self-image, appearance, behavior, or expression is different from that traditionally associated with the sex assigned to that person at birth. Stutzman committed an “unfair practice”. Therefore she is liable.

On 18th February 2015, therefore, the county superior court granted summary judgment against Barronelle Stutzman. Her pleadings had not been legally relevant.

Trans welcoming

Here is a woman Bartolome_Montalvo_Bodegon_de_caza_%28liebres%29.jpgwho feels persecuted. She isn’t. Here is one, far friendlier and more rational, who got her head bitten off.

Joelle shares with approval an article claiming that Christians suffer hate, merely by being Christian. I sympathise. She perhaps imagines a 1950s America where Christianity was seen as a Good Thing, and Christian Values very close to American Values. But now, a man need merely state that as an Evangelical he finds all gay sex sinful, to unleash a torrent of HATE. The writer is shocked when a man says that and others call him an ignorant bigot: and from this, exaggerating wildly, he imagines a “sweeping intolerance of Christianity”.

It must be hard if you see yourself as one of the Good People because of this identity you have claimed, to state things which you believe fit with that identity and be called an ignorant bigot. The trick is to find why you are called a bigot. Some people feel Christianity is a ridiculous superstition, which should be expunged for the good of humanity, but most people can live and let live. Christians try to live well, and that is a good thing.

I don’t hate the person. I certainly don’t hate the Christianity, I am Christian myself. However the view that all gay sex is sinful is morally equivalent to, say, the view that black people should have separate services and not use white people’s services. I abominate that view. It is neither Biblical nor Christian. I can’t entirely bracket it out when I consider the person.

Think Banned Thoughts (great title) wants to know why someone on a feminist site who said trans people were welcome there got her head bitten off by a woman with a trans history. She feels it is because that woman thought her trans-ness was entirely in the past.

Well, not quite. On a feminist site, women are welcome. I am a woman. Therefore I am welcome. Simple deductive reasoning. If you single me out, you raise a question about me. It seems that some might doubt I should be welcome. You can see that I might find the statement “We accept all people- even people like Clare!” a bit off.

I am aware of “radfems” who hate trans women, and seek to exclude us, but they are a tiny minority.

We are moving towards a world where acceptance will be instant and unconscious, where no-one need say, “male or female, straight or gay, all are welcome”. Unfortunately we are not there yet. So at the moment, people still need to say, “We’re all human, straight or gay”- either to convince others, or to convince themselves.

It is slightly better if you say, “Trans women and cis women are welcome here”- two subsets of the main set Women. And- TBT is right: she genuinely does not know this, tries to be an ally, and is seeking answers- we should cut her some slack.

Still lives, today, because I suddenly thought, I have not been sharing still lives. And I learned that Nature morte is French for “still life”- I would not have thought it.

Us and Them have conflicting loyalties to My Kind, and to truth.

Lone Pakistani Liberal hates the phrase “Not our culture” for tolerance of gay people. I hope that there have been strains in Islam, and in the culture of the peoples of Pakistan and the Muslims who went there on Partition, which have been more tolerant of gay people. I am on thin ice here, criticising resentment of the former colonial power and the influence of the US, which made 95 drone strikes in Pakistan in 2011, killing 482 people. I am one of the oppressor class. And yet I think a rigid condemnation of gender non-conformity is cross-cultural, involving conservatives in the US as well as in Muslim countries, and finding cultural ways of tolerating diversity is also cross-cultural, from the medicalised path of Genital Reconstruction Surgery to hijra, feminelli, berdache etc.

Fuck it. Objecting to a behaviour or opinion because outsiders do it, and therefore we could not possibly do it except in slavish imitation, is slavish rebellion. Do something because it is Right, not because foreigners condemn it. Says the oppressor. You see the difficulty.

Start me off questions bisexual women who are in monogamous opposite sex relationships Speaking Out for LGBT. If she prefers to have relationships with women, is that internalised biphobia? If a bi woman who has been faithfully married for twenty years speaks for the LGBT community, does a trans woman feel represented or not? Should that bi woman call herself an ally?

It does matter to me. The further you get from my own personal queer experience, the less willing I am to understand and accept differences from my position. I will question your motives and criticise your expression. A trans woman can use the word “tranny”, though possibly shouldn’t- an outsider never should. And when MacShreach distinguishes the terms transsex and transgender, I criticise. There is no point in making a rigid distinction between concepts if there is no rigid distinction between the people. Do not define me by what I do. I did not become a different person when I stopped self-identifying as transvestite. But Conflict Girl’s daughter distinguishing them is different, it is part of her path of self-discovery and I do not criticise.

I was an ally recently, not in a queer context. Someone complained of being told that “accuracy in spelling is accuracy in thinking”. I spell easily. So I stated that some people have difficulty spelling, but spelling is a gift not linked to other measures of intelligence.

There are positive and loving ways of putting things and demeaning ways of putting things, and the outsider has to be careful. If a trans activist says trans people have no interest in equal marriage, that is a valid point of view. If a gay cis man says we have not, I object to him speaking for me. Do not conscript me for your cause.

Sex and gender

File:Aachen, Hans von - Emperador Matthias (1612).jpgSex is physical, gender is cultural.

I presented male, and now express myself female. So I am “Transgender”, as this is to do with my way of presenting myself to the World, and expressing myself to myself. But- the word “transgender” implies that sex does not come into it. In previous usage, there was a distinction between “transsexuals” who had the operation, and “transgenderists” who did not.

I had male sex organs. Arguably my sex was male. Yet I revolt against that idea: it is so deep, so ingrained, so natural that I am female that I think of my sex as female, too, throughout my life. Something in my brain, something in my genes, something. So I do not like the word “transsexual”- crossing between the sexes- because I feel I have always been female.

One advantage of “Transsexual” as an identity is (Irony ALERT!!) that if the bigot looks at me, I can whine, “I’m not like those weirdos over there. I’m transsexual! I’ve had the operation and everything! Transvestites are perverts, but I have a medical condition!” However, justifying myself to a bigot is a mug’s game. It is impossible. And- I do not want to be accepted because I have gone down a certain path. I want to be accepted because I am human, and I want that extended to everyone.

So, we use the word “Trans”. It is inclusive.

—————————– culture: the kilt, though skirt-like, is a man’s garment, and trousers are a woman’s garment. But the cultural issue is deeper than that: the kilt, with deep pleats in a heavy fabric, swings in a masculine way. It is not feminine.

So, culturally, I can go so far. I can accept that men wear something which partially resembles a skirt, but I want it to be masculine. Men in something feminine is transgressive. Women’s trousers are cut differently, in different colours and fabrics. The Restoration gentleman, in bright-coloured velvet and lace with a long curly wig still wore trousers, while the ladies wore long skirts. I can accept the different cultural expression of masculinity as long as there is a distinction.

Oh, right. That is conservative. Not radical at all. I need the distinction. I am uncomfortable without it.

Then I can accept others if it is explained to me. The concept of Neutrois, for example, someone identifies as neither man nor woman. Oh, OK. This person is neutrois. I can probably restrain myself from policing the person’s apparent gender expression, but I will certainly notice it. This person is Genderqueer. I learn, slowly. Remember this is a trans woman writing- I have a reaction, then a moment’s thought while I apply my Diversity understanding, and I may need to consciously apply that Diversity understanding repeatedly.

And- not just as a matter of gender- I am not good with people new to me. I need to spend time with people before I am comfortable with them.

Part of my noticing, part of my staring, is considering- is this a possibility for me? If people stare at women hand in hand, it might be bigoted condemnation, or fearful admiration- But that’s not allowed –is it?

Spiral don’t need to have the knife gun or pill-bottle in your hands to phone the Samaritans. Though you can phone for a listening ear, I did not; because I did not know whether to give a male or female name.

Having believed in autogynephilia– the idea that I could have been an ordinary husband and father if I had had a little more self-control, but because I wanked to fantasies of myself as I woman I decided to become one- I saw my sexuality as diseased, and I suppressed it. Now, emerging from my denial that I was a sexual being at all, I find quite how passive I am, and how ashamed I am of that.

I had a disappointment, and it overwhelmed me. First I felt upset, then I went into a vicious spiral. I want this ridiculous, ludicrous thing, because of the way my sexuality is, which I cannot have, that makes me miserable, and my misery prevents me functioning. Frightened of my own misery, my fear magnified it; it became proof of my uselessness and unchanging impossible weakness. For some time before weeping I was numb.

Even now, there is an ideal relationship in our culture-, of course. The man should earn more money. The woman should look after the house, though this is no longer a full time job. There are other ways of being, or we would not have words for them- a woman might “wear the trousers” in a relationship. Rod Liddle called Simon Schama a “male lesbian”, relating to women but not in a properly hetero way. Among gays and lesbians there are the terms butch and femme, top and bottom.

I want a woman who “wears the trousers”. After my long period of denial, I realise how utterly ashamed I am of this. I found myself wondering whether this was why I imagined I was transsexual: it was less shameful to be passive if one was female. That is deluded. Do I want to go back to male clothes or a male name? No. Horrible idea. And pretending to be female for ten years would be unbearable, except that I am female.

I have been wiped out and weeping today (Thursday)- and I have worked this out. The shame is the problem. I am so fearful of my desire and my misery that it overwhelms me. And- I was disappointed. It is natural to have the emotional reaction of unhappiness at a disappointment. And that unhappiness passes. I need not fear it, the fear makes it a far greater problem than it would be.

I am glad not to be so deep in denial. This is progress. My shame lessens. My sexuality is within the normal bounds of human diversity, and diversity is a good thing: we have a cliché for that as well. It is “all part of life’s rich tapestry”.

If I despise and hate myself and fear my own reactions, then every reaction I have brings me to a juddering halt. If I can come to accept myself the outside world does not become any easier, but it does get less overwhelming.

Volunteering the volunteer centre in Zhuzhkov, which opens today. What do I want from volunteering? I want to be affirmed. I want to be patted on the head. I want a nice, quiet place where people are pleasant and I can do something not too demanding, which makes me feel I have done something useful, and I want that to be recognised and valued.

There is a new volunteer at the volunteer centre, and she sits in. Am I working now? What is my work history? What hobbies? Do I drive? That is the killer, really. I can use buses. What would I like to do? I tick a lot of boxes on that list, and she suggests reading with children. I would spend two hours a week with a child, listening to them read, and helping them read. I would have two mornings in Nupton learning the technique. I am pleased to see that it is important to involve the child in decision making. They want a commitment of a year. Well, had I volunteered a year ago I could have committed that, though I did not know it at the time.

Headway is near. I have seen it by the library, and did not know what it did. It works with people with acquired brain injuries, giving support and rehabilitation. That could be interesting. “Like Oliver Sacks?” She does not understand the reference. I am more cultured than she is, obviously. That does not entitle me to anything, but is pleasant.

She gives me the Diversity form, telling me that she is to ask these personal questions, and she has decided always to give the form rather than to ask the questions, and I may tick “do not want to say” for all of them if I wish. Actually I like the diversity form, it acknowledges and takes an interest in diversity, and that is a good thing. The use of it will improve. I particularly like this one. It does not ask my sex, but my gender identity, M or F. Then it asks whether or not my gender identity is the same as that assigned at birth. I noticed my arcane weirdness was being asked about, stared hard at the question and when I realised quite how respectfully it was phrased felt delight.

Do they keep records of potential volunteers? No. They did at one point when the Children’s Centres said they would be seeking volunteers for play supervision, but do not now. So she will not keep my details on file beyond the fact that I came, and she suggested something. And she does not know my skills or abilities, or much about me at all, anyway. Apart from my gender identity.

To the supermarket, where I meet Terry. I have at last started the book he leant me months ago about attaining Cosmic Consciousness and Spiritual Enlightenment through hypnosis. It gives scripts for a reader to guide another into a trance state and an Encounter with God experience. Ronald Havens says that these Peak experiences are valuable, and quickly attainable without any long religious practice, though he does not believe in God. Would he read the scripts to me? He will think about it. Havens suggests the reader records them herself. So I have dug out my voice recorder. Terry has not actually tried this. Mmm. I notice my resistance: it helps you accept the World as it is, apparently. Fuck. Do I have to?