Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Masculinity Paradigm

Our culture is a patriarchy. It has been this way for a very long time, and while women's rights have made leaps and bounds, from suffrage to the much more recent Lily Ledbetter fair pay act, equality seems closer and closer.

But the thing is, we still do have our roots in this male-dominated mindset. These roots have lead to more than just income inequality and women being unable to vote. Though those are more overt, and can be addressed directly through legislation, there is still a large issue present. Basically, what our culture considers to be masculine, is damaging, both to the men subjected to the cultural pressure, and to Gender and Sexual Minority(GSM) groups.

Now how is it that this is the case? Well, to begin, we need to examine masculinity and how it' is impacting males, because this is sort of the key to all these issues.

The traditional view of masculinity has many traits; for instance, men are expected to be stoic, emotionless. The only emotion that is acceptable to show is anger - other emotions, especially sadness - are signs of weakness. Men - "real men" - don't cry. Crying is a weak, pathetic act. It's womanly - women cry, women are weak. Men are better than that. Men are expected to be sexually ready at any turn, and to embrace any and all opportunities they get. Men are expected to be the assertive person in relationships, from the first time the guy asks her out, to their first, second, fifth time in bed together. If a man were to be passive - that's weak and emasculating, and unattractive. They need to be strong on their own, independent. They need to keep their troubles to themselves, because they can show no weakness. "Real" men want to have sex, and they want to have it often and with as many women as possible. But only women - because all the "masculine" logic falls apart if there's two men in the relationship.

The consequence here is that men are widely constrained emotionally, and physically. Men are expected to bottle up their sadness, their depression, they're expected to grin and bear situations which may require emotional support. They're required to be assertive, despite their personality or wishes to the contrary. There is a drastically limited scope of what a "masculine guy" is. And it's reinforced, both in the media, and in the social behavior of groups of guys. Teasing someone about their sexuality (for instance) in order to make them feel insecure in their own masculinity, as if that had any real bearing on how masculine they are.  Men are, consequently, emotionally chained, cornered. They're bombarded with messages about how they are to be emotionally, who they can be sexually interested in, and with how narrow the scope is, this leaves many men scrambling to reconcile the parts of them that don't fit the "masculine stereotype".  In many ways, the emotional constraints on men mirror the physical constraints on female beauty, where a limited scope is considered "acceptable".

Now that we have a grasp on masculinity, we can talk about the impact this has on GSM groups. As I mentioned before, a large portion of the masculine caricature I described earlier revolves around who it's acceptable to be attracted to. In the case of the masculine individual, the assumption is woman. The "man's man" is a womanizer. Now, bear in mind, not everyone is introspective to the levels required to understand that the social pressure is on them in this way, but it is. It's self evident from the way boys insult each other calling them "gay" or "a fag". The intent is to say "look at you, you like someone who it isn't acceptable to! You're not living up to the masculine image and are worthy of ridicule!" The insult here is an assault on the person's masculinity. Now, that's not to say that this alone is the culprit - but it sets the stage for far worse.

Because men are made to feel insecure about the possibility that they may not be 100% unequivocally into women, they will fight against that notion. Even if they may be partially bisexual, they are forced to bury that aspect of their selves because it will bring ridicule and questioning of their masculinity. This internal conflict and turmoil manifests itself in a number of ways, all damaging to GSM groups. For one, they are likely to engage in further behavior against homosexual men and transgender women. Because if they're insulting people and belittling them, then there's no way they could possibly be hypocritical and actually be that themselves, right?

  It's this repression that causes these negative reactions. It isn't simply limited to venomous insults, either. When a man finds out he's dating a transwoman, well, there's a reason for his negative reaction. Its often that he's more worried about his own image, both self and perceived. Because in his mind, no matter how cis she looks, no matter her level of femininity, some part of her is male, in his mind. This throws his own identity into turmoil. If he was dating her, he obviously liked her - but "part of her is male". But masculine men don't like guys. And what will his friends think? Even if he can come to terms with it himself, that doesn't mean his friends (I.E. those individuals on which he uses as a mirror, projecting himself and gauging their reactions to determine his own value) will accept it.

At this point, the confusion and lack of understanding (of self, of societal pressures, and of transsexual people) bubbles over and he may react violently. Again, the root cause of all of this is the culture which encourages such a narrow scope of what it is to be a man, cornering them emotionally. And what is it that a cornered animal does?

That same scope also leads to much transphobia. Because the unspoken assumption is that men are 'better' than women - stronger, faster, more aggressive (which is seen as a good thing). These traits are seen as masculine, and seen as stronger. When you read the traits, gentle, emotional, empathetic, caring - you don't get a picture of a guy, you get a picture of a girl. A guy being described as those things is seen as weak. This is why, in part, tomboys are accepted, but "sissy" boys are not. It's alright if a girl wants to "raise" her social standing by acting more boyish (so long as she remembers her place, of course!) but for a boy to want to act "like a girl", it's disgraceful.

So when you take someone who's trans, it throws a monkey wrench into that poisonous, ill-conceived logic. Because it only leaves a few options, and none of them are pleasant. Option A - The transwoman is really a guy, and she's being disgraceful and worthy of being insulted. Option B - some people are trans, and it's not up to them that they are that way, it's just how they are.

Option B is obviously the case in real life, but the problem is that to agree with that, they have to accept that masculinity is not just "the better of the two options". Because if it were, then a woman born with male body and privilege, well that would be a wonderful thing! Because obviously, men are better than women, so she shouldn't complain. And yet, she does - she wants those feminine things seen as "lower". This challenges their understanding of the world order, and thus results in poor reactions from people.

Now that's not to say women are immune to being negative towards GSM people too - but without the constraints of masculine emotional image weighing them down, they're less likely to be that way.

The key in all of these cases is that men are expected to live their life in an emotionally unsustainable way, with rules that run contrary to the reality of humanity. It is this masculinity paradigm that contributes to the continued oppression of GSM individuals. Though times are changing, and people are starting to shun the use of "gay" and "fag" as insults, I believe these underlying feelings of disgust will continue until masculinity is redefined, without so much pressure to conform to such a narrow scope, and with no pressure on who you're expected to love. Only when men are afforded emotional freedom to grow into their own persons free from the warping influence of cultural masculinity, will we see these underlying feelings towards the GSM communities subside.


(This blog thrives on user questions - if you have a question or idea that you would like to see me address, please post it in the comments section below. Comments are open to anonymous posting, so you do not need an account to post your question. If you have it - ask! I will try to write on any question asked, provided I haven't already addressed it earlier)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Time Machine Effect

Transition, as it is for most all of us, takes time. Going down the list of people you have to tell, actually telling those people of your plans, and what they mean. Beginning hormone therapy, switching mode of presentation, changing your name, both in practical use and legally. Correcting the people in your life, tirelessly, when they use the wrong pronoun, or your old name.

These processes take time. Eventually, at least in my case, I've reached a point where it's mostly behind me. My immediate family either refers to me correctly, or refuses to gender me at all. All of my friends know and I'm just Katie to them. Largely, I'm past transition in that regard. It's old news. It's just how I am and how I live. The norm, if you will.

But this leads to a very interesting thing which I'm dubbing the "Time Machine Effect". That is, when your life is going smoothly, everything is fine, then you have a family gathering of some sort to attend. Be it a family reunion, Thanksgiving, Christmas, or any other excuse to gather up members of your family whom you haven't seen in a year or better, these situations almost always seem to be the equivalent of stepping into a time machine with regards to transition.

Those who first come say such things as "Oh hi, [old name]!" to which I promptly correct them. At best, I get a scoff and a disgruntled, angry look. At worst, they smile, nod, with an infuriating air of "humoring me" - going out of their way to use my new name but putting obnoxious, special emphasis on it in as if to say "I'll use these words because you're here, and you WILL notice that I am using them, but as soon as you're out of earshot, I'll call you what I please".

Now that may seem contradictory, but there are members of my extended family who do, in fact, accept me. And for them it's just businesses as usual. "Hi Katie" - no special emphasis, nothing.

You also have members of your far-extended family who don't even recognize you. I was mistaken for my mother once at thanksgiving. Of course, you then get treated to members of your closer-yet-still-extended family who feel the need to say "Oh, that's [old name]!"

To maybe explain the effect more: I never, ever get gendered male anymore. It just doesn't happen. No conflict. "Hi I'm Katie" done and done. The aspects of how I was prior to transition appear less and less in my daily life. It creates a jarring shift when suddenly an entire group of people whom you're expected to visit and socialize with all behave like you never transitioned to begin with.

The situation is, in general, a total nightmare. I suspect that it may improve over a couple of years worth of family events, but I also consider that the downtime between events may be so long as to continue to foster their ignorance. In any case, I thought writing about this might give appropriate warning to those early in transition. Watch out for this - at the wrong time, it can really kill your self esteem.


(If you like my style of writing, and wish to see an idea or question you have elaborated upon by me, please leave it in the comments below. This blog thrives when there are questions asked, and is content starved when there are none. So please, ask away!)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Trans 101 - Presentation

Today I write this blog post as a preparation for speaking at an upcoming meeting of the local college's LGBT meeting. They asked me to speak on the topic of trans issues, and I of course accepted. So the following is, basically, my presentation for this meeting. Bear in mind - this is aimed at the lesbian, gay, and bisexual members of the club, and so much of the writing will be formatted with that in mind.

"Transgender people need your help. We're a minority, even within LGBT, and we suffer a great deal of injustice in society today. We're denied medical care, ruthlessly discriminated against in housing, employment, and virtually any other way you can imagine. Even within the larger LGBT community, we're the first to have our protections removed from prospective bills and legislation, in the name of passing the protections for everyone else. The public doesn't understand us, and consequently, we're even further behind when it comes to basic rights, and simply being treated as human beings. The attempted suicide rate of transgender identifying people is 41%. That amount is positively staggering. Just shy of half of all transgender people have attempted suicide.

But there is good news, and that is that you can help. It's very simple - all you need to do is be educated on trans issues, and stand up for trans people when you see them being put down. Aka, be a trans ally.

It's easy to just say that, but what's it mean to be a trans ally? The first step is to understand some basic terms, and what they mean. This can help to clear up misconceptions when people have them, and will hopefully get you thinking a bit more on the topic.

Bear in mind, I am but a single transsexual woman, and while these are my opinions and observations, I cannot speak for all trans people all the time. Individuals are individuals, and they will likely not agree with me on every point.

To begin, lets start with one some of you probably haven't heard of - cisgender. The latin prefix cis means 'the same side', whereas trans means 'the other side'. cisgender is the antonym of transgender. This term is very important for the same reason that 'straight' is important - it's an equalizer. Prior to the term straight, straight was just "normal". Making gay what, abnormal? It's the same principle here. Many people are cisgender. Some people are transgender. But we're all people. This term, more so than any other, is one you need to learn to be a trans ally. It helps to get people thinking of trans people not as some foreign "other" but as just another sort of person.

Here's one I know most of you have never heard before - Trans misogyny. Trans misogyny is when you hold a transgender or transsexual person up to standards you wouldn't hold a cisgender person up to. For instance - I don't wear makeup much, if at all. I love video games with a passion. If a person were to say "You're not a -real- girl, you don't wear makeup and you love video games!" That is trans misogyny - I personally know cis girls who don't wear much makeup, and cis girls who regularly play and enjoy video games. They don't have their womanhood questioned over it, and neither should I.

Now onto some of the terms that get muddied together. Often I hear confusion on what these mean, and I'm going to try to clear this up for you.

Gender Dypshoria - the official diagnosis for someone who is transsexual - in a nutshell, it means you suffer depression, anxiety, and are generally unhappy as the gender commonly associated with your birth sex.

Transvestite - Trans means other side, vestite is a root for vestments, aka clothing. A transvestite is a term for a cisgender individual who crossdresses. Some people consider it offensive, and prefer just to be called a crossdresser.

Transsexual - An individual who suffers from / has suffered through gender dypshoria, Often, they seek medical or surgical intervention, therapy, and so on.

Transgender - An umbrella term encompassing most everything I've just mentioned. It's worth mentioning that many people misuse this term in some ways - to cover that briefly, transgender is an adjective. I am a transgender woman. I am a transgender person. I am not "a transgender". I am also not "transgendered" - that would imply it's something that happened to me.

Passing - For a transsexual person to pass, means they are not identified as trans - that is to say, for instance, a transsexual woman who passes, is read as a woman.

This would be a good time to make a note about passing. Passing doesn't mean "this person cannot be read as trans, at all, ever" it means "they don't get read as trans by the general, ignorant public who doesn't think about trans issues often enough to consider it". Likewise, it means even talking about these issues in public can be dangerous; it gets the people nearby thinking about it, which makes them more likely to scrutinize your friend, figuring out that they're trans. Our ability to pass is very fragile, so please bear that in mind when you're out and about with us.

While we're on the topic of terms, lets discuss some terms which are slurs. Knowing these - and more importantly, why they're so offensive - is a stepping stone to halting their use everywhere.

Tranny - This term is just not okay. It's derogatory in the same way many racial slurs are, shortening a single aspect of ourselves and using it label us. Furthermore, it's a term that is most commonly used by two groups - people shouting it as a slur, intending to demean and hurt us; and news outlets who haven't got the message that this term is not alright.

Trap - A term which gained popularity on the internet, referring to cisgender male crossdressers, and transgender women. This term is not alright because the implications are horrifically bad.

To unpack this term, at face value, the term assumes the  trans woman is "really a man" who is intending to deceive a man into gay sex. First - a trans woman is a woman, not a man. Second - the myth of deception - is a devastatingly untrue idea. There is nothing deceptive about a transsexual woman presenting as a woman. Second, if a straight male were to date a transsexual woman, he would still be straight. It's not some sort of mythical grey area - trans women are women. Third, this myth subjects us to all sorts of potential violence, because it perpetuates the idea that trans women are deceptive. Fourth - it looks at the motives of the trans woman as if she were a man. What this means is, it assumes the trans woman transitioned to 'trap' guys into sex. Because a trans woman is "really a guy" and guys only think about sex. Ergo, by this marvelously flawed logic, a trans woman is doing it for sex.

In short - 'trap' is a very, very bad term. Please don't use it.

Shemale - A term mostly used by the porn industry to refer to a male to female transsexual actress. Oftentimes used in ignorance by cisgender people who watch said porn. The reason why this is offensive should be fairly obvious - not all transsexual women do porn (Though many are forced into sex work because of rampant discrimination). Further, the name is derogatory - it pigeonholes trans women into an "other" category somewhere between the genders, which is not the case at all.

Now that we've covered most of the basic terms, we can cover etiquette - that is, how you should address or treat trans people. Let me preface this by saying - when in doubt, ask. Though most of these will apply fairly broadly, everyone is different, and some people buck trends. When in doubt, ask.

First and foremost, never, ever, ever out a person as trans. It does not matter how well you know the person you're telling, no matter how sure you are they'd be 'cool with it', it doesn't matter. Coming out as trans is an EXTREMELY PERSONAL decision that should be left up to the trans person to decide. People have all sorts of preconceived notions of what a trans person is supposed to be like, and having those stereotypes forced on us is bad. Doubly bad, is that even within accepting circles, there's an air that transsexuals aren't "really" their presented gender - even if they pass flawlessly. Giving up the information that someone is trans leads to them being treated differently. It's just not a good scenario.

More than just being treated differently, it can have other, very real consequences. If a person overhears that your friend is, lets say, a trans woman, and she has to use the restroom, she could be assaulted for simply trying to go to the restroom. Though she passes, giving up that vital information to the wrong party can result in her being barred from the restrooms, or worse, expected to to use the male toilets (which can be even more dangerous). In a worst case scenario, she may even face violence simply by virtue of being trans. Trans rights are far behind LGBT as a whole, and it makes it that much more dangerous for us to be identified as trans.

Pronouns use is one of the biggest ways you can show your support for a trans person. If a person is male to female, refer to them with feminine pronouns. It bears mentioning that this behavior should be universal - supporting them doesn't mean 'supporting them when they're within earshot". The same rules apply to their new name. Do consider, however, if they're not out, they may ask you to refrain from using them in certain scenarios (around family, etc). This is so they are not outed as trans.

Now, lets look at some questions which shouldn't be asked, or phrases which shouldn't be said. These are things commonly said or asked by cisgender people, which are really just not cool.

"What's your real name? / Whats your old name?" In the case of the former, it implies that their new name isn't real, which is very hurtful. In both cases, the answer is "none of your business". Our pasts are not something that you're entitled to information about, and many of us have bad memories of our old name, and our lives before transition. And on top of that, it's not something you should ever need to know! We've told you our names already, presumably.

"Well, you're not a REAL girl/boy, so... / "Well, you're not a GENETIC girl/boy, so...." In both of these cases, the premise is that "because you're trans, you're less of a boy/girl, or not a legitimate one at least". We're real, obviously, or we wouldn't be speaking to you. And as far as the genetics comment, it's kind of a pointless statement. Some male born people have XX chromosomes, some female born people have XY chromosomes. And odds are, you don't even know your own. Furthermore, some research has suggested that genetics may play a part in some instances of transsexuality. In either case, the only valid clam that can be made is "Well, you're not a cisgender girl/boy" which is true - but be careful how you use it. If you're using it to invalidate the opinions or experiences of the trans person, it's a mistake, and you should stop.

"So, have you had the surgery yet?" - Pretty straightforward, I don't ask you about the state of your genitals, I don't expect you should be entitled to information about mine. You don't go up to a cisgender person and ask them about their genitals, do you?

"Oh, wow, you don't LOOK trans. No, you look great, not like some people I've seen"  - The inherent implication here is that the person looks cisgender, and that therefore that makes them acceptable. It's basically admitting you're 'cool' with us because we look cisgender, I.E. if we didn't look cisgender, we wouldn't be cool with you. It's doubly insulting because trans people are somewhat rare, and in a given area, it's likely we know the person you're comparing us to, and putting down. It's an uncomfortable thing to say, so don't say it.

On the topic of acceptance coming on a string, don't ever, ever utilize a person's trans status in an argument, to insult them. Invalidating their gender in a heated argument shows more about you, and what you really think of us, than it shows about us. Also, what's it say about you, that as soon as you're mad at your trans friend, you stop respecting their gender? It says "I get to define who you are. It's by my good graces that I humor your trans status. Don't piss me off or I revoke that acceptance" Which isn't very promising. It's a disgustingly privileged way to act, and shows your true colors to every other trans person you know who you aren't mad at.

I would also like to address a few of the common arguments used to invalidate us, and why they are wrong.

Transsexuality is not "someone who's just really gay". Transsexuality is not "a drag king/queen taking it too far". Transsexuality is not "just a grown-up who takes dress-up way too seriously"

Transsexuality IS currently understood to be a neurological issue, with two possible causes (science hasn't been able to pin down which, because it is very difficult to get funding for trans research) Possible cause one: The mother, while the baby is developing in her womb, has some sort of hormonal imbalance, causing the wrong set of hormones to wash over the developing baby's brain at a crucial moment. Possible cause two: The baby is born with a genetic defect which results in faulty androgen receptors, causing improper response to the hormones they are subjected to.

Transsexuality IS beyond the person's control. A transsexual person's transition is about as much of a choice as a cancer patient taking their medicine. Transition is the cure for gender dysphoria.

And to wrap this up, a little language etiquette. Transsexual women are women. Transsexual men are men. If a transsexual woman is in a straight relationship, she's with a man. If she's with a woman, it's a lesbian relationship. If a transsexual man is in a straight relationship, he's dating a woman, etc.

To claim otherwise is to, basically, claim that the transsexual person is "really" a man or "really" a woman, which is VERY offensive, and frankly, untrue.

I hope you all enjoyed my presentation on Trans 101 - if you have any questions, please go crazy, I'll answer as many as I can."

This is the presentation I am intending on giving at the college. If anyone has anything they feel I missed, let me know in the comments section. The presentation is not until October 2nd, so there's time to revise it should pressing information be brought to my attention.

(The comments section is open to anonymous posting! This blog thrives on reader questions and prompts, so if you have an issue you'd like me to write on, please leave it in the comments!)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Trans names

A recent event in my life with a family member prompted me to write this post.

We, as transsexual/transgender people, have a lot vested in our names. Gender is tied so neatly to names, with even those few names which are technically gender neutral being pushed to the gender lines (Ashley, for instance, used to be gender neutral, but now almost exclusively refers to a girl). Because of this close tie between gender and name, it's extremely common for trans people to change their name to better suit their gender. After all, when you're trying to be inconspicuous, nothing raises a red flag more than being a girl named David, for instance. As I've said before, passing is a delicate balance for most of us, where we're protected simply because most cisgender folk do not think about trans issues often enough to spot us. Having such a red flag is a dangerous indicator which can make them consider gender issues, and "blow your cover".

So, we change our names. Now here's where it gets foggy - people don't exactly change their names often. Last names, sure, through marriage, but first names? Beyond someone requesting a nickname, it's not exactly something that happens all that often. So naturally, it's difficult for people, at first at least, to accept your new name. Their mind has ties, memories of you with your old name. You're tied to that old name with them. So, naturally, its going to be difficult, even for the most well-meaning persons.

But what of those who refuse your new name? In my family, a few people are in denial about / ignoring my transition. I've had my name legally changed, everyone else in my life calls me by my new name, except these few people. Which brings me to what caused me to write the article in the first place. Often times people are at a loss for what to say or do when someone uses their old name. Here's my simple logic behind the name change, and those who refuse to accept it:

They cannot claim it's your legal name; your legal name has been changed.
They cannot claim it's your preferred name - you wouldn't have gotten a name change if you preferred it, and further, the discussion is happening in the first place.

So what are they left with? I suppose they could claim it's your birth name, but seriously, what weight does that carry? None legally, and none with the person who found their birth name so lacking as to change it. But you know what comparison I'm left with? Do you know what kind of person hears what you want to be called, then calls you something to the contrary? It's a word from those distant school days: A bully. Just like from back in the schoolyard days, they hear what you wish to be called, they've heard your 'legal name' from the roster, but they still call you what THEY want, as if they have authority over you to make such choices.

Only you can decide what you wish to be called. Not some bully, family or not.


(Comments are open to anonymous posting! This blog thrives on questions and prompts posed by readers. When there's a drought of questions, there's a drought of writing - so if you have something you would like to see addressed, please leave it below in the comments section!)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

On Trans and Passing

Passing is one of those things that is a big deal for all trans people - but I see more confusion about it among pre-transition and early transition transsexuals than any other group. So this blog post is aimed at them, though it's also aimed at people who don't understand the importance of keeping it quiet when around their trans friends, family, and acquaintances.

To start, what is passing? Passing is the term used for a trans* person being read as a cis person. This is important because of the rampant discrimination against trans* people. Many cisgender people believe it's their right to determine our gender for us, based on criteria they decide on. And I don't mean doctors, scientists, or researchers, I mean ignorant, uneducated average joes who make up their mind that one criteria tells the truth, be it genital configuration or chromosomal makeup. If/when they determine that we're trans, they can pick a whole variety of ways to insult us, from being loud and outing us (the practice of announcing one's trans status against the wishes of the trans person) to intentionally misgendering us, as well as plain old disrespect.

Because of the above, to live a discrimination free life, and to not suffer constant insults, it is imperative that we pass. Now, there's good news and bad news about this. The good news is passing is at least a little easier than most people give it credit for. The bad news is that the trans illusion tends to be fragile for many of us.

Good news first - passing is easier than most people really think. Many, many pre transition transgirls obsess over passing - and decry pictures of transwomen because their jaw is a little to big, or their shoulders a little too wide.

Here's the thing with that - even cisgender women have wide shoulders, or are tall, or other such signals. People ignore them because the last thing on someone's mind when they're out and about in their day-to-day lives is transsexualism. We're skewed because we live it every day of our lives, but to the average joe, we're a myth, a legend, and not even on their radar.

Now the bad - most of us do have more than a few signals to our assigned-at-birth gender. This is why when pre-everything trans people are always able to 'tell' - and their perception that because they can 'tell' everyone else can.

I won't split hairs - we do have these signals - and  that makes it dangerous to get people thinking about transsexuals around us - ESPECIALLY if we're the one being asked about it/talking about it. The line of thought is no cisgender person would discuss it so seriously, so it immediately brings speculation about which 'one of us is the "tranny". They then look with that in mind, spot our signals, then our 'cover' is blown.

Now I should add, that passing isn't everything. There's something to be said for the peace of mind that comes from being comfortable in your own skin first and foremost. And even with the above, some people may never truly pass. Passing is merely an extra security level - one which does make life easier, and affords you many privileges you wouldn't have if you wore your trans status on your sleeve. The purpose of this was to get people thinking about the fragile balance of appearing as our desired gender, realizing that passing isn't as hard as people really think, and realizing that maybe chatting up your trans friend about trans issues in public might be a bit more dangerous for him or her than you give credit for.


(Comments are open to anonymous posting! If you think I failed to address a point, or if you have a question, please leave it in the comment section below! This blog thrives on reader questions, so please ask them if you have them! )

Friday, July 27, 2012

Trans Inclusion in LGBT

Anonymous asked: Random question why are trans people apart of the L.B.G.T. at all? I'm not saying it's a bad thing but the first three letters have to do with who a person is attracted to, while the T. is a body issue. Soooo whats the deal?

There's a few reasons why we're together, and the easiest way to state it to start is there's some overlap with goals, as well as perception of our separate groups by the heteronormative majority.

To begin, lets start with the obvious one, same-sex marriage. For trans people, this normally-sticky issue becomes even stickier. Some states allow you to change your gender, whereas others do not. Some states where you can change your gender, don't legally recognize it regarding marriage. Others do. These discrepancies in how it's determined by the state can and do lead to tons of problems. One of the biggest is that a single case can be judged either way, however the judge wants to lean. Does he agree with your gender change? If so, he'd annul your marriage with your wife/deem it illegal. Does he disagree with it? Then if he does, your lesbian relationship is able to be legally wed. The inverse is true involving guys. If you want to marry your boyfriend, but the state doesn't legally recognize your gender transition, too bad, no marriage, despite being a straight relationship. Since it can be ruled either way, it doesn't matter what your orientation is as a transsexual, you're likely to have someone attempt to deny the legitimacy of your relationship - and thus, we have a vested interest in marriage equality either way. Allying for the purpose of passing marriage equality is mutually beneficial, so we do.

There's more than just that though. By and large, transsexuals / transgender people are a far, far smaller minority than the gay, lesbian, bisexual portion. On our own we would have little hope of accomplishing our equality struggle. Latching onto the movement gives our actions some teeth, resulting in a give-and-take wherein we fight for LGB rights, and they fight for T rights. This gives us the benefit of their numbers regarding our issues. Of course, there's been a lot of problems with this "exchange" because often we're the first people thrown under the bus when it comes to cuts made to pass legislation. Oftentimes when trans people speak up, it's even lesbian/gay/bisexual people asking why we're even here, during these times. We're the first people to be abandoned for the sake of advancing their rights. So the exchange is, in many places, not working for trans people.

The last part which creates a perceived link is the presence of drag queens within gay communities. My understanding of drag queens is that they are almost exclusively gay males doing drag performances as a form of entertainment or art for the sake of people to watch. However, people who are trans are either passing (and therefore invisible) or not-passing, and those who don't pass tend to make heteronormative people think "omg a drag queen" or something similar. This creates a misinformed link, or opinion that transsexuals are just "really, really gay" and "taking it too far". As such we tend to be grouped in with the gay, lesbian, bisexual group anyway.

And of course, when searching for help when coming out, the LGBT organizations exist already, and as such they draw in new trans members. As the group continues to exist, and more trans people seek these support groups, it creates a perpetual motion machine where new trans people wind up in the LGBT group, perpetuating the relationship.

So there's a few reasons, as you can see, we're still allied. Unfortunately, this alliance has cost us many, many times when legislation comes to pass, and we're told "sorry, we couldn't pass the bill with public accommodations (restroom use and changing room use) so we cut it. But good news though, gays and lesbians can't be discriminated against! woohoo!" If this continues, the trans movement will be left behind; we're not nearly a large enough group to win by brute force with votes; we absolutely require our gay and lesbian allies to help get our legislation through. Without sneaking trans rights by in a comprehensive "LGBT Rights" bill I don't forsee a "Trans public accommodations" bill passing on it's own two feet any time soon.

So there you have it - my take on why trans is grouped in with LGBT as a whole. I may have missed something, but I think I nailed most of the big reasons.


(Comments are open to anonymous posting! If you have a question, please leave it in the comment section below! This blog thrives on reader questions, so please ask them if you have them! )

Friday, July 13, 2012

Trans Invisibility

Orangeban asked: "What are your thoughts on trans* invisibility within the LGBT movement?"

Invisiblity within the trans* movement is a topic which could have any one of a few different causes (or at least a combination of them). Some of them are within our control, and others require the LGB of LGBT groups to stand up. And even though some are within our control, it winds up being a lot to ask of those trans people who can affect this.

The first reason is sheer numbers. By and large, we're not a big group. There were only a handful of us, if that, at my local LGBT group (compared to the tons and tons of LG people). The numbers game means that at any LGBT support group, we will be a minority, unless it's specifically targeted at trans* people. There are just more gay and lesbian identified men and women than there are trans women and men. So, even at the outset, we're already fighting an uphill battle.

The next issue is a beef with many of the LGBT organizations out and about. In a lot of cases, the trans related issues, discussion topics, and so on are either few and far between at best, or nonexistent at worst. This stems from problem one, that we're not nearly as large a group as the LGB, so naturally, most LGBT organizations tend to give the T events, topics, etc. proportional to their numbers within the group. Small numbers, few meetings focused on our issues. (I want to give a shout out to the Akron LGBTU group at my college - they break this trend and give trans issues a larger chunk of time).

So even within these groups, we're often pushed aside because we're a minority within the minority. This deserves a mention, because right now, we're FAR behind LGB rights in terms of social acceptance, protections, rights, and so on.  We still have U.S. Senators getting away with promoting violence towards us. The murders of trans women are in many cases not appearing in the media. CeCe McDonald's self-defense resulting in jail. We are YEARS behind LGB rights, and even despite this, many LGBT organizations fail to adequately inform and educate their memberships on trans issues. I've heard many stories of lesbian, gay, and/or bisexual people being just as ignorant of trans issues as heteronormative people. Considering that they are supposed to be our allies, it's not asking much, I think, that they be informed on our issues. Especially considering we're so far behind them. We need them to be educated, and we need their support. These are still dark times to be a trans* person, and if we can't even count on the LGB part of LGBT, then who can we count on? Are we expected to be used as a voting base for gay and lesbian rights while we get thrown under the bus to advance LGB-related legislation at the expense of trans protections? This comic comes to mind. Don't be like this, seriously. If your group is like this, please don't hesitate to bring this up to them. If they worry about losing gay and lesbian membership if trans-related information and activities are increased - ask them if those who would leave were ever really trans allies in the first place. We're years behind, and quite vulnerable, we NEED those who claim to be our allies to be educated and involved.

Okay, back to the main topic. Another reason trans people tend to be invisible, is that many trans people simply cease all action within trans/LGBT circles once they've finished transition, especially if they pass. They no longer need the emotional support group, and are capable of living a normal, fulfilling life without the need for the LGBT organization. As many LGBT groups are very lesbian/gay focused anyway, and tend to serve their interests and needs instead of those of trans people, its no surprise that many decide to just stop going to these groups. Especially since they no longer need most of the support that the few trans-related events offer.

And finally, you have the last, and probably most obvious reason for trans invisibility - "stealth". Stealth of course refers to the practice of a trans person living as a cis person, actively hiding their trans status in an attempt to avoid anti-trans related issues / enjoy cis privilege. While it's obviously understandable why many trans people choose this, it has some consequences. For one, when people think of someone who's transsexual/transgender, they're usually think of drag queens, or the stereotypical late transitioners who's trans* status is apparent. That is because these are the only trans people that they "see". You have your outliers like Jenna Talackova, and Chaz Bono, but that's only recently, and even then they're seen as the exception to the rule. This is because, explicitly, of passing/stealth. It's confirmation bias. The only trans people that 'exist' are those who don't pass. Those who do pass are rendered invisible to the public, and thus don't 'exist', becoming literally invisible. That said, it's hard to ask any of them to stand up and be loud and proud when doing so is likely to result in violent action, discrimination, and other negative consequences. Once more legal protections and rights, and more social progress has been made, it will be safer for those among us who appear cisgender to speak out for trans rights.

All of the above contributes to this. We're a minority already, but many of us pass, and in doing so, we literally become invisible. This means the number of 'visible' trans people is even smaller. It's only recently that we've had much visibility, and even with the somewhat growing acceptance, many would rather hide in stealth.


(Comments are open to anonymous posting! This blog thrives on questions and prompts by the readers. If you have a question or idea you would like me to write about, please share it in the comments section below!)

Friday, June 29, 2012

Recognizing Bigotry - Dating

I've seen this following phrase all too often: "Oh, I accept transsexual women, but I'd never date one! I'm just not attracted to them, that's all!!"

The problem with this statement is that it contradicts itself inherently. It's a bold claim to make, but I've had this discussion many times, and talked with many people, and after a few more questions, the result has always been the same. They try to dodge it by saying "What, can't I be attracted to what traits I like?!!?" avoiding the underlying problem with their assumption.  After a little digging, the result is always the same:

"Well, they were male. Once I know that, I'm not attracted. I'm just not into men"

The problem is the last statement. The statement "I'm just not into men" COMPLETELY invalidates any acceptance you've claimed. Whether or not you can put on a mask and tolerate them, whether or not you can humor their desired pronouns. That's not 'accepting them', that's humoring them. It's tolerating them.

Because it's not hard, really, to tolerate a trans person. An extra letter added or subtracted from a few pronouns, a few minor language changes.... and you're pretty well able to appear like you're a trans ally!

Except that you don't 'really' accept them. You harbor your own contradictory prejudices that, while you think you know 'the truth' of their gender, you'd rather play nice.

This is one of the purest forms of lack of acceptance in existence. Ask yourself, would you date a transsexual woman? (If lesbian/straight male)? Would you date a transsexual man? (if gay/straight female)?

Why wouldn't you, if you said no?

It's a question that's VERY telling of how much you really accept a trans person. The science still supports transsexualism, but if you cling to prejudices, even if you hide it well, you're not truly accepting of trans persons.


(P.S. Orangeban - I will get to your question - I was fired up over this one and had to write. fear not! Also, if you feel safe, drop an email in the comments section if you would like!)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Pride Event - Cleveland, Ohio

Yesterday, I was at the Cleveland Pride event. The event was pretty awesome, there was a pride parade, people generally having a great time being themselves.

The event was wonderful, and I was happy to have the opportunity to be there and to share that time with my friends as well.

The main thing I wanted to bring up is that, well, trans visibility at this event was pretty low. They had thousands of people, and a ton of tents for various things set up, but out of all of it, I saw one booth for Trans - and that booth was for the local trans support group. Out of all the pride items on sale, I had to scour the whole grounds just to find one booth which had a few trans necklaces.

This is really kind of messed up. I'm not sure what the cause is here. Is it because a majority of us would rather just appear invisible, even at pride? Is it because we've just wrote off pride as an LG event, with BT tacked on? Or is it just that there's so few of us we can only manage to secure one tent?

I'm not sure what the reason is, but I'm going to look into what costs would be incurred in running a tent myself. I figure the problem of trans representation won't get better unless someone takes the initiative. Why not me?

I make no promises - it's a pipe dream at best right now, but one I hope to follow up on. If nothing comes of it, so be it (I don't even know if individuals CAN put up tents there. This may be impossible). But I'm hoping that it can be figured out and made real. I've already got someone who would run the tent with me, and ideas about what to include if this happens.


(Incidentally, the reason my blog hasn't updated recently is a lack of questions to answer. The blog thrives off of the questions of my readers, and when nobody asks anything, production slows. That said, anonymous posting is enabled, so if you have something you would like me to write about, submit it below!)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Transgender Umbrella

Orangeban asked: "What do you think about relations between transgender people who experience a disconnect between their gender and sex, and those who do not but crossdress/are drag queens? Do you feel there are hostilities between these groups?"

This question hits kind of close to home for me, because of my own personal experience of coming to understand myself. Originally, my only conceptualization of someone transgender was, essentially, a drag queen. I did not understand that transition was a thing that people do for themselves until I was eighteen, and it causes me to harbor some unhappyness with the lack of trans portrayal in the media. All I knew of was drag queens. If I knew of transsexualism earlier in life, could I have been treated earlier? The question will haunt me forever.

I should also specify: Typically, when I refer in this blog to someone who is 'transgender', I usually mean 'transsexual'. The reason for this is twofold: One, we don't change our sex, we change our gender (making the term transSEXual misleading) and two, it's not about sex(the action) either; which, the term, transsexual tends to make less educated people uneasy and immediately make them think its a fetish. For the remainder of this article, I'm going to use the terms with their 'typical' meanings (to keep everything distinct).

I'm of a pretty firm stance regarding this idea. People who are transsexual are, for all intents and purposes, their target gender. Their brain is wired that way, and as the brain controls personality, who you are as a person, this makes sense as the part which we trust to determine who a person is.

Given the above, you can have a female woman (Cissexual woman) or a male woman (Transsexual woman). In both cases, you're dealing with an individual who is, at the core of their being, a woman.

A crossdresser/transvestite, however, is not. They are happy with their current gender (if they had gender dysphoria, they would be trans, right?) and as such, are cisgender. So therein lies the difference. A transwoman is a woman. A crossdresser is a cisgender man (or woman) dressing as a woman (or man).

In some ways, there's harm caused by us being lumped together under the same umbrella. I'm all for people's right to express themselves however they see fit (drag shows, crossdressing, etc if that's the case) but the problem comes when lawmakers try to put transgender laws on the books, particularly regarding public accommodations such as bathrooms, changing rooms, etc.. Because these groups are under the same umbrella term (when we're really worlds apart) it creates a problem where cisgender men are able to gain access to women's spaces, if this legislation were to pass. The vagueness of the umbrella term is serving to set back transsexual rights and accommodations; and for no real purpose. Transsexuals are NOT like transvestites or crossdressers. At the core of who we are as transsexual women, we are women, and thus deserve access to these spaces. Because we're being kicked off of public protection bills on a regular basis because the term is so broad, it causes some hostility, for sure.

Another common thing I've heard (and often felt myself) is that it creates confusion among uneducated people (which transsexuals are often tasked with correcting, which gets tiresome).

Crossdressers may dress as they like on the weekends, but come Monday its wig off, suit on, and back to work as Joe Shmoe. Drag queens may do performances Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Come Monday, it's dress shirt, tie, and back to the office. But that's not what being Transsexual is. Many uninformed people's first reaction is "UGH, WHY CAN'T YOU JUST KEEP IT TO YOURSELF ON THE WEEKENDS LIKE [so and so]?!" And they miss the point that comparing a TV/CD to a TS is comparing apples to car tires.

I think that's actually where the divide comes. Transsexuals are distinctly different from all others under the transgender umbrella. That's what creates friction. I, as a transsexual woman, do NOT want to be lumped into any category of cis men, no matter what their preferences for dress, sexuality, etc are. We have different issues, different needs, and yet because we're tied to a group of people, people mind you very different from ourselves, we're being denied access to public accommodations.


(Anonymous posting is enabled - if you have a question you would like me to answer, please leave it in the comments section below!)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Trans Ally Appreciation

In my time I come across many concepts which make me think, and one in particular is relevant in this case. It tends to be that I get caught up in addressing the negative aspects of the arguments against transfolk, as do many of us. Understandably so, as people with small understanding and large mouths tend to populate the internet, and we're such a small category of people that most people lack the aforementioned understanding.

People tend to focus on the negative. If you're doing your job well, you usually get no praise, but if you make a mistake, you can bet you'll hear about it. People just assume that the good people will just continue right on being good with no reminders. But then how many people feel under appreciated because of the above?

The insulting bigots get enough focus as it is now. This article is aimed to remind us of the people in our lives who are allies. The people who make an effort to understand us, and people like us. The people who we've trusted with our deepest secrets about ourselves, and yet are willing to understand us, befriend us, accept us. The people who help us to discover ourselves, who are there for us during our awkward second puberty. The people who teach us those little things all the cisgender people learned at age twelve. To the people who stand up for us in the face of bigotry. To the people who defend our identity, not just when we're within earshot, but to anyone who would dare to challenge it in their presence.

I am fortunate, more so than most in my position, to have some of the most wonderful friends anyone could ever ask for. And I know that good friends are hard to come by; good allies are even harder. The stories like mine are few and far between compared to those of people abandoned. But I also know that many of you have at least one person who fits the above. And as hard as it is to deal with all the hate aimed at us, we have to remember to be thankful for those in our lives who have made the effort to understand us.

You don't have to make a big production over it. You don't even really need to remind them all the time. Just, once in a while, thanking them for being there for you and understanding is good. Take this as a reminder, when was the last time you thanked your ally friends for being there for you? Thank them, and be happy that they're there, because not everyone does.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Requirements for Transition

Orangeban asked: What do you think about having requirements for transition?

Well, this is kind of a hairy question that comes up often. Many people are in favor of purely personal choice, others believe in gatekeeping, others still believe in radical ideas such as sterilization. The purposes of these in some ways are good, and some are bad, but it totally depends upon what requirements there are, what the requirements prevent, and why they're there.

What I mean by this, is that the requirements for some procedures are justified. Namely, surgery. This may simply be my uninformed opinion (as I was never particularly dysphoric about my genitals) but surgery is a permanent thing. It makes sense that the person should be able to handle the repercussions of such a surgery, and this is why the real life test among others is usually required for it. 

Hormones should, In my opinion, work under the informed consent model. with slightly more restrictions for FtM (but not without reason). Once it can be established that you understand the effects of the hormones, and you're otherwise capable of making these decisions, you should be allowed to begin taking them. The reason for the slightly larger restriction for FtMs (which, I know, won't be a popular opinion to have) is that, for MtFs, hormones have a rather large period of time within which you can stop to no serious ill effect. These also suppress further effects of testosterone, which is a one way road, and needs stopped as soon as possible. Conversely, FtM's hormones induce a male puberty - this cannot be reversed, and has many effects which would, if the person was not trans, could be devastating. I'm not for gatekeeping, I'm just of the opinion that given the drastic nature of Testosterone, that the patient should be really sure that they want to take the plunge.

The main reason I'm against gatekeeping, is it can be used to arbitrarily bar people from treatment if they don't live up to their specific doctor's expectations of a transgender person. If you're a tomboyish transgirl (like moi) then a gatekeeper could decide you're not feminine enough, and therefore don't deserve hormones. The potential for abuse here is huge. And forcing a transgender person to live as their desired gender, with no hormones (which helps tremendously in passing, both facial shape and other characteristics) is cruel. It's like requiring a transgender person to walk in public with a sign that reads "I'm a tranny!" so they can be hazed for 3-6 months prior to getting hormones. It's CRUEL. And can serve as a way to simply discourage an already unhappy person by basically telling them "IT will always be like this, you'll never pass!" Which is untrue in many cases (hormones ARE magic, after all).

Legal issues regarding Identification tends to be less up for debate because of common ignorance of  cis people about trans people. People who know little of us fear that we're all sexual deviants, and therefore rapist perverts who want access to women's restrooms to peep. These concerns make it harder for people to get the gender marker change, because they want to in many places make ABSOLUTELY SURE that you can't rape anyone (hence the surgery requirement).

Of course, the laws regarding identification should have some criteria, if at the very least in compromise to the ignorant cisgender folk who don't understand, but the criteria could simply be undergoing transition. That's pretty much what it's like in Ohio, a licensed therapist who's treating you can sign the forms which allows you to officially change your gender marker on your drivers license.

My stance on requirements is pretty much based on how permanent the procedures are, and in all cases, I'm against arbitrary gatekeeping. Any requirements should be solid milestones at worst, suggestions at best. This is all assuming the person is otherwise mentally sound enough to make those sorts of decisions, which should take only a few therapist meetings to establish. (as far as I know)

"Nothing's plainer than the madness in the world today, I must conceal myself and steel myself and break away. I see condition in the matters that are black and white, so I'll construct this sound defense" Bad Religion, The Defense


(Anonymous posting is enabled! If you have a question you would like to see me answer, please leave it in the comments section below.)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

On Children and Transition Treatments

I see all to often people who are cisgender, who say such things as "children shouldn't be able to have sex changes! It's just wrong! Don't let them take pills or nothing! Wait till their old enough, then let them start whatever they want when they're old enough to understand!!!"

These types of posts are well-meaning in their intent, that is, to protect children, but the stance is incorrect. This is particular because it lacks an understanding of two key aspects: the medicine causes no long-term negative effects and is completely reversible, and the damage caused by forcing the wrong puberty on a transgender kid.

So lets go over these two points really fast. First and foremost, don't believe the news media who sensationalize it. "Kid Sex Change" makes for an attention grabbing headline which is way off base with what actually happens. No children are receiving surgeries! I repeat, no children are going under the knife. This mistake is part media being blatantly misleading to sensationalize it, part most people's lack of understanding of  how transition works.

What actually happens is they give these kids puberty blockers. These are harmless pills which do one thing: delay puberty. They don't prevent it forever; all one has to do to undergo a natural puberty is cease taking the puberty blockers. The purpose of this is to give the child time to mature. It allows the child to reach the age of 16-18, where they can then make the decision for themselves. If they decide they're not transgender, they can stop taking the blockers and undergo a natural - if a bit late - puberty. However, if they are, they need only to begin taking hormones for their identified gender, and they will undergo a puberty in line with their identified gender.

To reiterate: This is a risk-free endeavor. If your child decides that they're not trans, they can simply cease the blockers and undergo a normal puberty. If they're transgender, then you saved them untold stress, anxiety, depression, and made them considerably more likely to blend in as a typical cisgender person.

This is a huge deal. When people think of a transsexual person, the first thoughts that enter most people's minds are blatantly male, men-in-dresses, over-the-top makeup. This tends to be the immediate thing that I've seen come to people's minds. The reason for this is that those people were unable to receive hormonal treatment at an age where it would make the most difference. Most of the characteristics that people ascribe to transsexuals are caused by puberty and continued exposure to their birth hormones. By preventing them from going through the wrong puberty, they will likely never have to worry about 'passing' as their identified gender. To any onlookers, they will appear to be cisgender.

There's an added benefit: Puberty is awkward enough when you're going through the right puberty. When you're going through the wrong puberty, as a transgender person, it's considerably worse. It feels like your body is betraying you, developing in a way contrary to whats right for you. It's like you're a prisoner in your body as it warps and contorts into something foreign, something distinctly NOT you. This causes all sorts of additional psychological trauma, and leaves them with irreversible marks of puberty which will plague them for life.

So what it boils down to is this: You can allow your transgender child to take a puberty blocker, with no risks, no long-term negative side effects, to allow them to make the choice for themselves when they're old enough. Or, you could force them to undergo the wrong puberty, literally scar them for life (their bodies will never look perfectly cisgender) and cause them tons of undue mental stress, depression, anxiety, and so on.

So there you have it. A basic overview on children transition treatments as I understand them.

Quote of the Day: "Is it any wonder, people pass you by, your plea for understanding, is heard as desperate lies, so nobody listens" Bad Religion, Nobody Listens


(If you have a topic you'd like me to address, or a question you'd like me to answer, please leave it in the comments. I'm always in need of topics to write about! Anonymous posting is enabled, so you shouldn't even need an account to leave a question!)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

How I Changed my Gender Presentation

A friend of mine asked me if I would write a post about what changes I made when I came out as trans to change my gender presentation.

In my case, it's best to preface with the fact that I was VERY secretive about being transgender - only two people in my whole life knew, and I was very, very careful not to let any signals slip. I was bottled up tight, and I was miserable as a result of living so protected and secretive. Regardless, this had me going through appropriate therapy long before I ever told anyone I was transgender. I began taking my hormones in secret, otherwise living as I was before. This was still, relatively speaking, much later than when I first discovered I was trans. I came to understand that I was transgender when I was 18, and began taking hormones by age 22. It was fall semester, age 23 by the time I was telling people that I was transitioning. It wasn't until just before my 24th birthday that I started to present as a woman on a day-to-day basis.

But hormones were not my only preparations. Ever since I'd been driving myself to college, roughly age 20, I'd sing along to whatever music was on the radio - but in my higher-register, girl voice. I sucked at first, but 5 days a week, 40 minutes worth of driving to and from school, I improved, slowly. This meant I had roughly four years of voice training under my belt before I ever told anyone I was trans -and this all happened in the safe secrecy of my car.

Further, I'd been growing my hair out for years - since the beginning of senior year in high school, in fact - but I kept it relatively unstyled. It was just simply tied back, no special treatment besides trimming split ends, that was it. But this was my plan; to let it grow out so that when I came out, I could get a stylish haircut. This would act as a rather large, signal change. Sure I could have gotten it styled prior to coming out - but that would have limited what I could change when I did come out. Even though I would have loved to had my hair trimmed into my current style, I held off. If I could save it, it would act as a rather prominent visual cue that I was serious. Otherwise, it was just "same old me, but now I wanna be called a girl". So I had banked on this, letting my hair grow really long, so that it could be styled when I finally came out.

So fast forward back to when I came out. I explained to people that I was transgender, and as an initial step, I had my hair styled, just as planned. I went from 'middle of my back long' to 'shoulder-blade length with bangs'. Which for a lot of people signaled to the new me, presenting as a girl. So, the plan worked. I slowly began integrating my new voice into daily use; and of course I had a year of HRT under my belt before I tried presenting any differently.

Another easy change I made was the decision to go get my ears pierced. Just some simple titanium studs, but it was another step along the road that I wanted to take.

 Eventually, I realized I couldn't just tie my hair back anymore, because of the layers, I needed some clips to keep it all tied back. This ended up being kind of my signature look, as I noticed that people read me as female more with them in. Is it because of the clips themselves? Or, is it just because my face wasn't being hidden? Perhaps because it showed my ears being pierced? I'm not sure which was the biggest factor, or if it's an all-of-the-above case.

I had very little money at the time, so I did not initially switch my clothes over. However, it didn't seem to matter, as far as passing was concerned. As long as I was 'trying', I was being read as a girl.

(This is where I kind of want to point out that I am, and feel, very, VERY lucky for this. I can't attribute this success in transition to anything but scoring many numbers in the genetic lottery right. I didn't need to change much, despite being 6ft tall, despite having broad shoulders, I pass without makeup, and without particularly feminine clothes. I can't pretend this would work for everyone, and I'm aware that I'm one of the lucky ones. )

None of this stopped me from getting a better wardrobe as soon as it was financially feasible; I switched to slightly baggy, v-neck shirts, in a variety of colors. Not much yet, but it's a start. I also wore more jewelry, a necklace here, a bracelet there. Just a few touches where I could

I still have to get Laser hair removal yet. I would like to learn how to use makeup proficiently, if only to use it for more formal events. I would like to extend my wardrobe to include more variety - but I can't complain too much. I'm accepted by my friends as a girl. I pass, in almost every conceivable social situation. That's enough for me, for now.


(If you have any questions you would like me to blog about, please leave them in the comments section below, I will address them in some way shape or form as soon as I can. Anonymous posting is enabled, so you don't even need an account. If you have a question, ask away!)

Friday, May 25, 2012

Being Transgender is All Encompassing

(Preface: When I use the term "Transgender" I specifically am referring to Transsexuals. I dislike the term Transsexual, and what is implied by the term, as it is woefully inaccurate(there is no sexual motivation; moreover we don't change our sex, we change our gender). I understand the common use is to use it as an umbrella term, however, when I use it, I mean what is typically called 'Transsexual".)

I was recently talking with a trans friend, who's going to a wedding shortly. Her mother asked her "So, are you going to wear a suit? or...."

This was indicative of a lack of understanding of trans issues, and it's one I wish to tackle head-on. All too commonly, people remain ignorant of how all-encompassing being transgender is. People often latch on to superficial ideas while missing the core issues present.

The core of being transgender is personal identity. It is who we are, fundamentally. It is not what we wear, who we date, or how we act. It is our personal identity. We seek not to 'wear women's clothes' or 'act feminine'. We seek to be ourselves, whether that means wearing a flower print skirt and matching top, or if it means a tank top and skinny jeans. We seek to be recognized as our gender, not our sex.

We want to be ourselves.

When we say we're transgender, or say, we're transitioning to female for instance... that doesn't mean "We like guys" nor does it mean "We want to wear flowery skirts" nor does it mean "we want to act feminine". We want to have the freedom to better express who we are.

 This is all encompassing.

It is not a single aspect of our life, nor is it an issue we will hide. The comment that spurned on this article is indicative of a person who falsely believes being transgender is about crossdressing in private. That is the definition of someone who is a transvestite, but not someone who is Transgender.
Being transgender means that your gender is in conflict with your physical sex. It is not the kind of thing that is solved by crossdressing on the weekends, away from the eyes of the public.

It is about, fundamentally, the freedom to be ourselves, and being ourselves involves crossing gender barriers.

Being ourselves doesn't mean "being ourselves when it's convenient for you". It means, in everything we do, being who we are unashamed, and living our lives in a way that will make us happy and bring us fulfillment. It means being able to live without fear of discrimination for simply being who we are.


(Regarding the question about the divide between MtF and FtM, I do not see such a divide, nor have I ever experienced such a thing. I've encountered three trans men in my life, all of them were well-spoken, and we got along fantastically. I would write this for you, but it would all be assumptions, and they fly in the face of my personal experience, so I chose to not write on this)

If you have any questions you would like me to answer, please submit them in the comments section below. I am always hurting for prompts, and any questions posted will be considered as possible topics for posts. At the very least, if I cannot answer your question, I will provide a reason why I can't or won't address it properly. Anonymous posting is enabled, so you don't even need to sign up to comment with your question!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Gender Safe Space

Ying asked:
"I have another son who I seems to break gender rules sometimes. Just little things like choosing flip flops with pastel stripes and glittery straps. Do you have advice on how to make a safe space where a child who might be questioning feels free to explore and be themselves?"

This is a tricky question, but not because of your intentions or efforts, but because of the systematic barriers in society related to gender. Beginning with a lack of gender enforcement is a good way to start, but it will only go so far. For instance, it's really not hard to let a child choose for themselves which toys they want to play with, you simply give them whatever toys you have for them, and let them decide. Don't favor toy trucks or dolls, but maybe include both, see which the child takes a liking to. But it's never that simple.

From the moment of their birth, they're bound to be bombarded with gendered expectations, either of looks "You've got your fathers strong eyes! you're gonna be a football star, aren't ya champ!" or "Oh my, look at her darling hair and how it curls, she's gonna be gorgeous just like her mother!" Even the toys thing might be tricky, considering the second a relative knows the child's gender, the toy and clothes purchases will be gendered. Blue and Pink bibs, pacifiers, teddy bears, blankets, toy trucks or dolls... There's little way to prevent it, even if you start early.

But the above assumes starting from birth, and I'm assuming Ying is more interested in the here and now. It's fairly easy if you avoid a few pitfalls. For instance, parents will nudge their child towards certain, gender appropriate choices. "No, Timmy, you don't want the fairy princess costume. if you go out like THAT, everyone will think you're a little girl! No, come look at the power rangers costumes, yeah! Look, it has a helmet and everything!" I've seen and in some cases been the target of such nudges (when I was younger, of course). So, starting out, you let the child be the boss of what toy they want, what costume they want, etc.

To be honest, the real problem isn't going to be anything you can directly solve. It's not that difficult on an individual level to consciously omit gender 'nudges' and let the child make their own decisions. The problem is not your efforts, but the efforts of society. When your child goes off to schooling, they're bound to be bombarded with gendered expectations. While you've remained 'pure' in your attempts to let your child be themselves, other parents with far more conservative outlooks have raised their kids to be positively unaccepting of gender variance. Where you said "If you like the princess costume, go ahead" to Timmy, the other parents told Billy "No, that's a girls costume. You're not a girl." And left it at that, with a stern NO making it clear that this is NOT ACCEPTABLE, not one bit.

And all thinks considered, there's a lot more parents who think like Billy's parents than not. This means when your kid reaches school, socialization, etc, there's going to be peer pressure and taunting: "You're a boy, why do you play with dolls? Are you a girl? Look at Timmy the girl! Hi, I'm Timmy, I'm a pretty princess!" No matter how hard you try, other parent's socialization of their kids is going to play into your child's expectations. It's the nature of socialization. And that's not counting the many times in school where gender is rigidly split. Restroom trips, at least when I was a child, there was two lines, a boy's line and a girls line. The teacher often split people into class groups based on gender as well.

Here's another exercise. Look at any child's toy commercial, say, hotwheels, or maybe barbie. In the hotwheels commercial, it's always one to three boys, enthusiastically cheering on their little toy cars as they rush around the track. In the barbie commercial, it's one to three girls combing the barbie's hair, maybe walking it around a dollhouse, maybe showing that particular doll's special thing off (be it color changing hair, etc.) In both cases, the toys are gendered ONE WAY and ONE WAY ONLY. Hotwheels are boy toys. Boys play with hotwheels. Barbies are girl toys. Girls play with barbies.

These influences make creating such a safe space impossible. There's a terrible ammount of negative reinforcement here. Even if the boy really wanted the fairy princess wand and wings, give him a few years in school and you'll find him picking up the hotwheels, even if he's the only one there. Because god forbid anyone found out he was into *gasp* girly toys! It would be the end of their social life as they knew it! This danger makes even considering the 'girl' toy risky, because making a move for it betrays your intent, and that intent is, according to all forms of socialization, WRONG. Even if their inner dialog is like "But the wings are so sparkly!" they're gonna bite their tongue and say "I want the hotwheels."

All this socialization creates this atmosphere of taboo around the 'opposite' gender's toys. They're not for you. You don't want anyone to know you play with them. You'd rather play with the 'safe' toys even if you enjoy them less, to save from the potential embarrassment.

Of course, this extends on through middle school and into adulthood, except around middle school people start to call into question sexuality, adding another layer of guilt onto the pile. Now, if you indulge in the pink notebook, people will think you're gay! And, of course, it's absolutely not okay to be gay, either! Everyone else uses it as an insult, everyone says it when they don't like something, it's bad to be gay!

I'm afraid at the end of the day, I can't give you a truly viable 'safe space' for your kid. Society has a really pervasive stranglehold on gendered socialization, and while you can make it clear that your kid should play with what they want, and that you won't judge them, what flies at home with their parents won't fly with the kids at school, or their teachers. And even if you give them a perfectly isolated place to do as they please, they're gonna be bound by social taboos taught by their peers. It's an issue much bigger than any one parent can really tackle for long, short homeschooling their kid and blocking all forms of media, which anyone would agree is... a bit extreme.

So that's my thoughts on making a gender safe space, in a nutshell, it's not really possible. There's too many influences in society that make it a pipe dream. Though if you think there's something I missed that could make it possible, please, add it to the comments section below.

Quote of the day: "Everyone's been tryin' to change me, while I've been closing in on a dream. I tried to rearrange me, and ended farther outside the stream." Downplay, Edge of the Universe


(As I always do, I'm asking for YOUR questions or concerns about issues regarding all things Trans*. I'm almost always hurting for topics, and your questions help me tremendously. Anonymous posting IS enabled, you should not need to register to participate. Ask and there's a very good chance it will be the topic for my next post! Thanks!)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Response to: The Unawareness of Cissexism

Michellelianna of Transgender Talk discussed the idea of Cissexism, and how using that term, or calling people out on it, is counter-intuitive due to widespread ignorance of both the term cis, and ignorance of cis privilege. She also poses that most people don't want to be insulting, so we should be careful when addressing people on this topic. 


 Now, let me preface by saying I read her articles all the time (pretty much whenever I'm aware there's a new one) but there are some points with which I *strongly* disagree, and I would like to pose my counterargument, with all respect to her.


 Now, to begin, widespread ignorance of the term cis is not a reason to not educate people on what the term means. To accept "trans" and "not trans" as the modes of existence, we're othering ourselves. The word cisgender exists to promote equality "I may be trans, you may be cis, but we're both women". Not using this term, creates the atmosphere of "Well, I'M a woman, you're a 'trans woman'. I'm real, you're not."  The term exists to bring everyone down to an equal level. And to be honest, I 'identify as trans' about as much as cis people 'identify as cis' - I'm a woman. I was born with male anatomy. That makes me trans by definition, and I know this. But it's a byproduct of me identifying as female.


 Also, when the gay rights movement really kicked off, tell me how many heterosexual women and men 'identified as straight'? That word existed to bring the privileged, unaware majority back on equal footing, much the same way cisgender does. We need to be propagating this word, and educating people about it, because the language itself impacts how we're seen. It's much easier to say, and have people agree, that "Well the trans prefix means you aren't a woman like me. I'm a woman woman, no qualifiers!" than it is to say "Well cis women are real, but trans women aren't". If the word 'cisgender' becomes as common as 'straight', we're winning


 It also makes them question the circumstance of their gender. "But I don't identify as cis! It's not real!" then after they consider that we don't, necessarily, inherently identify as trans either, and that it's a circumstance of our birth, it helps them to understand us a bit better as well. 


 Onto privilege: I don't think it's necessarily a great idea to wave someone's privilege back in their face, under most circumstances. However, I've met more than one cisgender person (sometimes even close friends!) who assume that because their intent is good, that they can't be cissexist. The key here is discretion. You shouldn't sling it as an insult, but use it as a gentle reminder. "Hey, you know, that was a pretty privileged thing to say. You probably didn't realize it, but it was very cissexist" The key is letting them know you appreciate their intent was to NOT be that way. In this way, you can make them aware of their privilege, that the way in which they exercise their privilege was not really okay, and to, basically, check themselves. Just because they're ignorant of their privilege doesn't give them a free ticket to be a privileged ass. And if they ask "wtf is cis" explain it. I've said it before, I'll say it again: if 'cisgender' becomes as common in language as the word 'straight', then we're winning. So yeah, mostly agree with her here, except that I think I advocate being a bit more active with this than she does.


 One more point I agree with is that, if a person is determined to be a bigoted asshole, nothing you can say will make them change their minds. But defending yourself from them is not intended to do that. The people you're reaching out to are the onlookers who might be swayed. So again, discretion. If it's you and the bigot, and they have no other relevance to you, then yeah, it's not worth it. Steel your heart, and realize they're a lost cause. But if it's a public affair, with casual onlookers, use your superior grasp on trans issues and rights to call them out. Not for the sake of the bigot, but for the sake of those onlookers who might be swayed.


 So yeah. That's my thoughts on cissexism. Again, props to Michellelianna, no disrespect, I read her stuff a lot, I just happen to disagree with some of her points.


(The questions on my last article: I have them. I wanted to respond to this article in a timely manner, and I'll get to them in the following blog posts. However, if you have questions or ideas you would like me to weigh in on, please leave them in the comments section)


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Being a Transgirl Gamer

Hello, readers! Today, since nobody presented me with a particular question, and since I've been busy slaying demons in Sanctuary (Diablo III, for those who haven't heard) I'm going to speak on why I got into games, and how it's been an important part of my life. I know this is a rather jarring switch from the usual trans-issues topic to something a bit more personal, but more than a few of the transwomen I've met have been into gaming, so maybe it's a bit more universal than I give it credit for. Nevertheless, if you have a question you'd like me to write about, submit it at the end. This little change is 40% because of Diablo, 60% because of not having a better question. Anyways, onto the post.

I never really fit in, as has been the story for most people who I've spoken to who're trans. I never really understood how or why I was different, but I just was. I liked fantasy stories, I liked science fiction, and was never really into girl stuff. I played with legos and K'nex growing up. So placing myself as trans took a lot longer for me, and a lot of self reflection, and as a result, it wasn't until highschool that I really understood myself well enough to state "I am transsexual".

So that left a very confused me growing up. I never fit in, I was constantly made fun of, and I didn't relate to guys very well. This lead to all manner of teasing and in some cases, getting beat up. When your life is grim, escapist hobbies(like video games) tend to, in my experience, really give you a way to literally escape all the bad around you. You're no longer "that chatty nerd that everyone picks on", instead you're a hero, saving the land or the stars from all manner of evil.

Of course, gaming itself, and immersing yourself in a fantasy land, has limits to what it can do for you. Even I can admit, I played far, far too many video games. But then what was I to do? I had no friends, anyone who considered befriending me was insulted and teased by the others until they left. I didn't relate to the boys, and I was the super-uncool nerdy 'guy' to the girls. So I gamed. and I gamed and I swapped cartridges, and gamed some more.

And an interesting thing happened. After really immersing myself in a ton of games, I noticed that I was able to hold a conversation with some guys. I had a thing I could relate to them with! I didn't speak guy very well, but I spoke game fluently. And through that, I managed to make a few, albeit shallow, friendships.

This was still a step up for me, however. I wasn't eating alone at lunch, and I was now had people to talk to. For a while, this was good enough. Better than the alternative of loneliness, ay any rate. But it was still shallow. If the topic switched from games to anything else, I was a fish out of water. If I spoke up, I was clearly not with the group opinion. And in most cases, I simply wasn't interested in the topics they went on about. It became apparent somewhat fast that gaming, although it had given me a way to connect with guys, wasn't solving my issue. My friendships were all based on games and games alone, and we had no other real communication or understanding besides those. And it grated on me.

Bearing in mind, at this point I still was too ignorant of my own self to realize I was going against the grain by trying to hang out with guys. I didn't even know I was trans yet, so I persisted. Over time, I'd gotten into all manner of games, ranging from Pokemon (both the card game and the gameboy game), Halo, Magic the Gathering, and others. I was able to keep up a fairly good conversation on the basis of games alone. Having a breadth of games I was into gave me numerous 'topics' to choose from. But it was all still superficial, limited to only games, and nothing more.

An unrelated incident on an online forum some years later, just before I was to graduate high school, made me aware of transitioning, and the process by which it was handled, and that, yes, people actually do this. Not people who go to shady bars, getting off on being dressed like, and performing as, women on stage. In my mind, that's what "trans" was; bad makeup and a 5'o clock shadow, hairy legs and a dress. I had no better idea until I saw this person. This kicked off the journey known as my transition, and set me on the path toward college with some better understanding of myself.

I still relied on my old standby - games - to make friends, but I relied less on that than I used to. The crowd I was in was super open and accepting of everyone, which made the moment when I did come out less scary than it could have been. I quickly developed friendships with some of the girls who'd been around our group, and in short order I was one of the group. And for the first time, the friendship wasn't a shallow, superficial 'friendship' based on a single common interest, but rather a mutual talking, laughing, chatting, understanding friendship. Something new to me, and something I'd sorely lacked.

 At the end of the day, I'm still a gamer. I still look forward to new releases, I still burn midnight oil playing the newest online [insert genre]. But understanding how I came to enjoy games, and why, and how it helped shape who I am, allows me to embrace that part of who I am, rather than be ashamed that I still enjoy them.

And, in case you're wondering, yes, I can thrash you at Halo :)


(If you have a question you would like me to address, please leave it in the comments. Anonymous posting is enabled, you don't even need an account!)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Why Relating Trans* to Otherkin is a Poor Analogy at Best

Orangeban asked: "Here's something I was thinking about today, what do you think about people from the Otherkin communities comparing their experiences of dysphoria with their own species to the experiences of trans* people?"

 First off, I have to admit, I've never looked into clinical/psychological information regarding otherkin. However, that's also because I've never once heard anyone really relate the two except by people trying to equate trans and otherkin, and by doing so basically arguing via slippery slope "If we accept YOU, then where does it end?"

This is actually why I took this topic, more than anything else. When I was first defending my transsexuality, I had many people compare me to otherkin and it stumped me at first. I'm now far better educated, and I hope that those who read this can use this knowledge to defend against this poor analogy.

This analogy is so incorrect, that it's insulting. First and foremost, lets begin with the biology issue. Humans, before we're born, all start out as female. The chromosomes we have in our DNA cause us to differentiate into Male and Female. This results in many structures being similar, because, essentially, we're cast from the same blank slate. Intersex people have the issue where they didn't really differentiate into one neat category properly.

(Please note that I'm speaking of PHYSICAL sex. This is in no way targeted at people who identify as gender neutral or gender-queer. In both of those cases, we're talking about gender. This topic is physical sex)

Additionally, there's studies that have found that the MtF transsexual brain has portions which are partially feminized. So what we have here is a case where the brain is not differentiated properly into a 'sex'. I'll go ahead assert that transsexuality is a neurological incarnation of intersexuality. In fact, those who write the DSM guidelines for treatment pretty well agree, but kept it on the books so insurance providers couldn't weasel out of covering us. (even though they do anyway)

So, now, how does this relate to Otherkin? Well, it's fairly obvious now: When we're developing in the womb, gendered bits of us develop one way, the other, or indeterminate. Nowhere in that gendered scale is there a chance to develop 'like a dragon' 'like an angel 'like a faerie'. Though it's entirely possible that someone may feel in their heart of hearts they're a werewolf, there is no part of their brain that is 'partially werewolfized'. It simply can't happen. The species involved in otherkin do not even exist, much less exist in human biology.

So first and foremost, they have no biological imperative telling them that something is wrong. But that extends further out into society. I know a great many transgender people who really, really hated the expectations thrust upon them by society. This is because society, and culture, are HEAVILY gendered things. Girls generally hang out with girls, boys with boys. Girls are expected to look pretty, submissive, and thin. Boys are expected to be big, strong, tough and assertive. Even the clothes we wear are scrutinized, each 'team' has their own 'uniform' As such, even just going out into society when you're trans is an intensely alienating and upsetting event.

On the topic of society, we also have the rampant discrimination that transgender people face. Our medical needs are denied because we're trans. If we're found out to be trans, some medical insurance places raise our premiums, without covering our medicines. We're denied housing, we're denied jobs, we're denied a place in society. Even the topic of marriage manages to screw us; some jurisdictions essentially rule that getting your gender changed means nothing; and they deny you rights relating to your opposite gender spouse on that basis. Others rule that it does matter, and you thus can't marry someone of your same gender. With all the rampant contradictory statements running around here, we manage to be denied marriage, identity, chance at family, chance at happiness.

And that's nothing to speak of the violence faced by transgender people. It seems you can't look up a trans news feed without seeing another notification of a transgender person murdered for being themselves, then see the police and the media ignore it like it never happened. All of this? THIS is persecution. THIS is what transsexual people find staring back at them when they read their news. THIS is why we have the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

I never see stories of people being brutally murdered because they're otherkin.
I never see stories of people being denied basic human rights because they're otherkin
I never see stories about otherkin being denied healthcare
I never see stories about how stressful it is for otherkin to interact in society with "non-otherkin"
I never hear about how otherkin cannot have children due to their medical regimen. 

I think they have every right to do what they do. They should be able to meet up, have their communities, think what they want about their 'spiritual past', do whatever it is they do. What they should NOT do is try to compare their spiritual quirk, and how people 'don't get them' with people suffering from a physical incongruity between their gender and sex. There is a definite physical difference between someone who's trans and someone who's not trans. I have yet to see even one study showing how someone's brain is "Pixified", or something similar, and until I do, I'll continue to call this comparison out for the poor analogy it really is.

[Edit]: In light of some discussion that has cropped up related to this article, I want to make clear that my scorn is mostly with cisgender people who use this argument, ignoring the differences. The only otherkin I have any similar scorn for are ones who persistently, insistently say that we're the same, in the face of all the discrimination we face. Regardless, it's not my place to say someone cannot practice a spiritual / religious thing, but it IS my place to call out comparing it to trans, with it's scientifically understood basis.

Quote of the day: "Be who you are, and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind" Dr. Seuss


(I just wanted to remind you guys that questions can be submitted by ANYONE, and that they help me tremendously by giving me a prompt to work with. Even if you don't have an account, comment submission is open to anonymous posting. Currently the number of views is fairly high (thank you, faithful readers!) but the comments are very low by comparison. If you have any question you'd like me to look at, please leave it in the comments.)