Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Reactions to My Gender

I read a good list of negative reactions to someone's gender, and since everyone's experiences are unique, I thought I'd expand upon hir list with my personal reactions-to-reactions:

The Fundiegelical: “You may think you’re ‘happy’ by wearing the clothing of the opposite sex, but you’re living in sin and you’re going straight to hell! Jesus loves you.”
I’ve had friends and family respond this way. “Sure, you’re happy now, but will you still be in 10 years?”  I could ask you the same: will you be happy in 10 years?  Will anyone?  Happiness not guaranteed in life, but I’m not doing this for happiness alone, I’m doing this to live life more honestly.

“Stop trying to act like a man.”  Oh, well since you've said so... *eyeroll*  Telling me to stop being my gender is about as foolhardy as me telling you to stop being yours.  And even claiming I’m trying to act like a man is missing the point of how I’m not a man, I’m genderqueer.

Bonus irony points that I'm an atheist humanist.  I'm not even rebelling against some ancient superstitious text, I just don't care.  Might as well reference Mother Goose to me, for all the impact it will have on my life.

The “Enlightened” Liberal: “But gender doesn’t even matter, because deep down, we’re all the same. So why is it such a big deal what I call you?”
This is always said to me by someone who consistently presents as one single gender for their entire life: man name, man pronouns, man appearance, man social role, etc.  They almost never have their gender questioned or mistaken for a different gender, and on the rare occasion it does happen, they all get a good laugh and it doesn’t happen again.  They don’t have to live in a world where they feel out of place or disadvantaged for having an “invalid” gender, so they don’t have the experience of a life where gender validity actually is a big deal, because it never has been to them.

Attempting to reason with such people is a noble endeavor, but ultimately a pointless frustrating one, for the simple reason that they can’t personally relate to what I’m talking about.  The best approach therefore is to simply appeal to emotions by saying “do this because it matters to me; and if you care about my feelings, you’ll do your best to respect my wishes”.  A good friend will accept that as is.

The TERF: “By embracing a gender role opposite your assigned sex, you are reifying gender/privilege and thus making it that much harder for us to smash gender. I know that sounds contradictory but, if you’d been a feminist for as long as I have, you’d understand.”
Forcing someone to remain in the gender role that matches their birth-designated sex is just as bad.  As is claiming that people won’t ever want to change their bodies for their own reasons (transhumanism, anyone?).  Plus, plenty of trans people don’t even want to reinforce gender binary roles, but they have no choice in order to survive as their trans gender in a culture which hates them.  They’re as much against prescribed gender roles as you are, and are happy to buck the system along with you.

I’m willing to strike a truce with any of the radical feminists who come at me with this objection to my gender: you stop trying to force me into your gender roles, and I won’t force you into any of mine.

The Proto-TERF: “Of course I don’t have anything against trans people, but abortion/sex work/breast cancer/ovarian cancer/whatever is and has always been a women’s issue! Why do you want to take it away from women?”
Because asking you to share equals stealing.  Right…

Don’t you get it?  The more rights we all share, the safer those rights are.  If even a man has abortion rights, then especially women have them too.  If even a man has health coverage for breast cancer, than especially women are covered.  The thing about equality is that it makes the world better for everyone.

The Ungendering Fetishist: “Hey, I don’t have anything against sh*m*les! I think you’re hot! I watch sh*m*le porn all the time.”
This has never happened to me, but if you say this around me, I will school you so hard your head will be spinning for a week.  Do. Not. Use. That. Word.

The Clueless Oppression-Olympian: “Transness is just a white/abled/Western issue, so why should I care about it?”
This statement is so objectively false, it’s laughable.  Except that it stops being funny when it blatantly erases trans people of color/trans people with disabilities/trans people in non-Western cultures.

The Incrementalist: “Look, people just aren’t ready to accept trans folks yet. So instead of arguing about what pronouns to use for you, we should focus on something we can actually accomplish, like [insert other tenuously-related SJ cause here].”
Translation: “This issue makes me feel uncomfortable to the point where I’d rather not talk about it, but I don’t want to sound like I’m an intolerant person, so I’ll pretend it’s because I care too much about social justice as opposed to not enough.”  You’re not fooling anyone, bro.

Look, the thing about trans people is… we know that most people don’t accept us.  We don’t need you to validate their bigotry, we need you to help give us the support we so desperately lack, to help us carry on in this society.

The Genital-Focused: “I totally respect and support trans people, but I would never date one. Because ewww.”
This information is almost always volunteered entirely out of context, and I always wish it wasn’t.  Why?  Because it’s creepy!  Why do you need to bring your genital fetishes into discussions about my gender!  I’m not talking about my gender because I’m curious about what kind of tail you like to chase, I’m talking about it because it’s who I am.

Also, this is really creepy when applied to children. I've heard people say they refuse to respect the gender identity of children unless same children have gotten "the operation".  Think about it: you're obsessing over the genitals of little children instead of respecting their humanity. *shudder*

The Broad-Stroke Painter: “I once met a trans person who was selfish/mean/creepy/bad in general, so you’re all like that and I won’t respect any of you.”
"I once met a trans person who I decided was acceptable, so I’ll accept you."  Gee, thanks?

Similarly, I had a woman derail a convo on trans rights with how her abusive ex-husband turned out to be a trans woman. Because the ex was abusive, she deserved the right to misgender her ex in front of other trans people, ignoring how much it mattered to us that she not rub that act of social violence in our faces.  Life is already difficult for most of us, without being constantly reminded of how a single resentful cisgender person could strip us of our humanity on a whim.

The Inveterate Essentialist: “But… you can’t be a woman, because you have a PENIS! And chromosomes! And… a PENIS!”
AKA, the “science is real, yo!” objection.  Yes, science is real.  I live a science-based life.  But the human interpretation of scientific data is fluid and fallible.  I’m not going to be all like “well since I’m genderqueer, I no longer have XX chromosomes”, because that would be anti-science, as would claiming that XX chromosomes aren’t a primary player in determining whether I can grow a fetus in my uterus.  But your interpretation that XX chromosomes or a uterus are exclusively what defines my gender is limited and outdated.  After all, Pluto used to be a planet, and now it's not.

The What-About-Teh-Cis Whiner: “I know my refusal to call you ‘she’ hurts you, but you have to understand that your demand to call you ‘she’ hurts me, too. What about my feelings?”
This one is difficult to handle with friends, precisely because they’re friends.  I do care about their feelings - my heart isn't made of ice.  But I have to take care of my own mental health first, and that means not trying to push myself back into a box where I don’t belong.  I’m willing to consult with friends as to what would make things easier for them, but always with the understanding that it is an entirely reasonable request to have my gender respected in the same way I respect their genders.

The Pig-Headed “Skeptic”: “Do you have actual evidence that you’re really a woman? No, of course you don’t, because it’s impossible by definition. No, shut up; I’m right and you’re wrong, PERIOD.”
Yes, I’ve had someone say this to me!  Many people, in fact.  ”But what’s the actual definition of 'genderqueer'?  Or even of 'man' or 'woman'?  You don’t have one?  That means they don’t exist, so shut up!”

This is always said to me by someone who consistently presents as one single gender for their entire life: woman name, woman pronouns, woman appearance, woman social role, etc. They almost never have their gender questioned or mistaken for a different gender, and on the rare occasion it does happen, they all get a good laugh and it doesn’t happen again.

But somehow when it comes to my identity, gender itself conveniently stops being “real”.

The “Free Speech” Whiner: “Don’t you think that, in the spirit of free and open discussion, you should listen to my side of things instead of just dismissing it out of hand as ‘bigotry’?”
Sure! As soon as I’m had my fill of my own discussion about how fun it is to abuse puppies.  Oh wait, that’s tasteless, heartless, cruel, not fit for public discussion?  Exactly.

The Devil’s Advocate: “I’m not saying prejudice is right, but, to be fair, it is a little weird for someone to present as a woman and yet have a penis.”
Again, the thing about trans people is… we know that most people don’t accept us. We don’t need you to validate their bigotry, we need you to help give us the support we so desperately lack, to help us carry on in this society.

The Self-Proclaimed “Ally”: “How dare you say I’ve been cissexist? Don’t you know how very supportive I’ve been of you and your causes? Why aren’t you grateful?”
Hmm… where have I heard this attitude before?  Oh yeah...
Seriously, if it's that easy to lose you as an ally, you weren't really prepared to stick up for my rights in the first place.

The “Edgy” Comedian: “Look, it was a joke. I’m sorry you’re too unsophisticated to understand why it’s funny; I guess I’m just too edgy for you. Maybe one day, when you grow up a little, you’ll stop trying to censor humor.”
I’m sorry you’re too unsophisticated to understand why it’s not funny; I guess I’m just too real for you. Maybe one day, when you grow up a little, you’ll stop trying to make the world a safer place for bigots.

(Hint to cis people: don’t do any of these things.)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

├ŹslendingaApp: Icelanders' anti-incest app.

It's 2013, right? Surely people in Iceland have sex for fun way more than they have sex for babies. Why do they need an anti-incest app[content note: classism in comments] 

Some have suggested that Iceland is so culturally closed off from the rest of the world that they risk becoming a nation of "inbreds". I disagree. I don't think they can. It would have to be a small handful of people over multiple generations (think the Pharaohs of Egypt, or certain noble houses of England). I'll leave it to the actual geneticists to settle this one, though.

I do think it's worth exploring why people are concerned about things like bumping cousins outside of the context of reproduction, though. Or to phrase it another way: why do we instantly think of babies when we think of "incest"?

We've fought long and hard for sex and even marriage itself to be recognized as something for more than reproduction. We had to do this to validate same-sex relationships, even though (gasp!) no babies will result*. We had to do this to validate birth control for teens, unmarried women, and really anyone at all. Masturbation even used to be called "onanism" because of a Bible story about a guy who would rather jerk it than impregnate someone.

But suggest that a person might want to have a one-night stand with their cuz, and ZOMG INCEST! and they make an entire fucking app for it?

Unless it turns out that the majority of children in Iceland are born within the context of casual cousin-sex gone amok... maybe I could see the need for caution.

*which erases trans experiences, but I digress

Monday, April 8, 2013

Community Support and the Realities of Trans Suicide

Just read a kind letter from someone checking up on me, making sure I'm okay, since I haven't been online all that much recently. I am - life is good! But I want to thank each and every one of you who has ever reached out to another person with care and concern. It may not seem like a very significant thing to do, but each kind word adds up. Part of my personal growth as a humanist has involved considering how my actions exist in context of the lives of those around me.

I recently attended a safe space discussion on the impact of suicide on a local community. One of the principles I like to borrow from UU philosophy is the respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. Human beings are not islands. We have neither the right to demand of others nor often the luxury to demand of ourselves to operate in isolation.

Every act of compassion is a radical act of humanism in a society that glorifies hyper-individuality. Similarly, admitting one's own interdependence on those around us is not an admission of personal weakness or failure, but a radical act of self-care. The commitment I see in those around me to affirming these principles in their actions is something that warms my little humanist heart.

I've been sharing my thoughts with various communities, because I feel it's important to periodically recognize the goodness I see in those around me. One thing I want to add in here is that the sad fact of being a gender minority is the presence of suicidal ideation. Or to put it another way, I don't know a trans person who didn't have suicidal thoughts as a part of their personal story. Statistically, 41% of us have attempted suicide, and we all have found ourselves in situations where outside support seems thin or nonexistent.

I want to reaffirm to all of you that needing support is normal and healthy. That suicidal thoughts in the absence of support, in a society that hates us, are neither unusual nor a personal moral failing. The world would be a much dimmer place if a single one of your lights were to be snuffed out, because I see you, and you all are amazing people. I hope that as we stumble through life together, we can continue to create a culture of compassion that allows us each to be fully and unapologetically human.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Musings: Explaining Away the Trans

Hopefully this is at all inspiring to someone out there. But it probably is the opposite of help for someone else, so do feel free to completely ignore anything I have to say.

There are all sorts of hypotheses to explain away trans existence. "What if genderqueer people are just compensating for hating all gender roles!" "What if trans men are reacting to internalized misogyny?" "What if trans women are fetishizing women's bodies!" ...SO? No really, who gives a flying fuck if this or any other reason explains trans existence? If we truly believe that all genders are equally valid and deserve equal rights, we don't get to police why anyone would want to be a gender. It's OKAY to want to be a woman for any reason at all. It's OKAY to want to be genderqueer for any reason at all. It's OKAY to want to be a man for any reason at all. Unless we think there's something wrong with being a woman, or being genderqueer, or being a man, or being any flipping gender or none at all.

I've seen trans men turn around and be the biggest shitheads I've ever met, rolling in male privilege. And that still has nothing to do with that they're legitimately a man, because it's the Patriarchy that's fucked up, not being a man that's fucked up. I've seen trans lesbians be absolutely in love with their bodies and getting to experience female sexuality on themselves and with other people and do sex work flaunting their hot sexy selves. And that still has nothing to do with that they're legitimately a woman, because it's the Patriarchy that's fucked up, not thriving within one's womanly sexuality. And guess how few shits I give if some genderqueer or agender people think they're special snowflakes that just want everyone to give them shiny star stickers for showing up.

Cuz you know what? After we smash the Kyriarchy, being gender-unique won't be rare or outstanding at all. It will be part of the richness of humanity. And it already is - we already are legitimate people, and we already are getting a voice, and we already are seeing a world in which gender roles are being stretched ever wider every day. And if someone doesn't get that? If someone ever thinks that we're going away or can be explained away? We've already outgrown them.

The single greatest inspirational quote for me (and I hate inspirational quotes most of the time) is when Kate Bornstein said the secret to her living a genderfree life is that "you look for where gender is, and then you go someplace else." And I didn't realize the impact it had at the time, this being several years ago. At first I was like How, Mama Bornstein, how could I ever accomplish such a thing? And I can't, not 100%, not perfectly.

But after a while, I realized that I'm not aiming for perfection - I don't want perfection, because I don't want to live a life without gender, I want to live a life with all the genders. I look forward to each and every moment when I get to live as woman, man, gender-confusing, androgynous, gender-fucking, nerdy, genderqueer me at any time and every time and no time. Obviously it still sucks when someone tells me I "have" to be any one of those things! But when I get to be? Phenomenal.

Because this is my life. I have 50 more years of this ahead of me (based on my grandparents' longevity). I don't have a choice - I have to make peace with myself and my approach to life, or I don't get to live.