Thursday, July 26, 2007

Transwars redux: You've got your mother in a whirl...

Her name was Libby, and she is no longer with us. Please pause, and think kindly of her.

She was one of my feminist mentors. The year was 1979, if memory serves, and someone had written something in one of those feminist newspapers like BIG MAMA RAG. Jill Johnston had already attacked men wearing drag in MS.

"We need to have a meeting," she announced. And so, we had a meeting. It was the first time I remember all hell breaking loose.

One of the feminists at that meeting asked the enduring question, the one I took home with me, the one I return to with regularity: Doesn't drag and transsexuals prove that being a woman is not ALL about biology?

Another woman replied: Then WHAT is it?

I had to admit, I didn't know the answer to that, and I'd still like to know the answer. How can we say something is or is not WOMAN, if we can't readily define what it is?

OF COURSE WE KNOW WHAT A WOMAN IS, another woman bellowed back.

All right, said the first, then what?

Sputtering, stuttering, screaming, pouting, teeth-gnashing, tears, oy. The meeting was a fiasco. A HUGE fiasco. It was as if we all had discovered another layer to our existence, one we didn't realize was there. We had: it was called GENDER, but we didn't yet have the word for that.

Several of us just sat there looking at each other, long after the meeting was over; the tears, fears, yelling and heart-wrenching emotion still in the air. We were pondering the echoes.

And so, there we were, smoking a joint, when Libby said: This is gonna be going on for a long, long time, you know.

Huh?

"Forever." Libby was shaking her head, slowly. And she repeated, "This could go on forever." She inhaled deeply on the joint, and said: "This might break up everything, eventually."

Huh?

Fast-forward about 30 years. What do you all think of the brilliance and prescience of my mentor?

Background threads, which inspired this one: Alas #1, Alas #2, Margins #1, Margins #2, Feministe.

Apologies to all the threads I missed. Truly, there is no end to it.

Who you gonna believe? Me or your own eyes?

56 comments:

drakyn said...

Rebel Rebel, by David Bowie?

And I hope this doesn't go on forever, I want future trans*kids to have an easier time with everything than I have. If my sister's great great grandkid turns out trans*, I'd like hir to have feminists as hir allies against transphobia (and I also hope sie is either a feminist or an ally).

Daisy said...

Drakyn, I certainly agree... but I remember when Libby said "forever"--I thought, nah, not forever, maybe 15 years.

Well, we are long past 15 years, and the issue is far more incendiary than ever, since we've got better technology now, and more FTMs than ever, too. (So FOREVER is one of those relative terms!)

I also tend to like Kate Borenstein's idea that, that instead of saying "Its a boy!" or "Its a girl!"--we'll wait for the child to decide that for themselves.

Ahh, but dream on, yes? ;)

drakyn said...

And wow, you're brave for going into that pit of vipers over at Heart's.
I won't comment there because she edits comments and I don't want to be piled-on.

And the reason why there isn't a lot of feminist analysis of transitioning is because a lot of feminists are transphobic and/or don't understand trans*ism or transitioning, so we don't accept what many feminists have written. Our discussions on medical transition tend to revolve around finding resources and not getting shat on by the medical industry.

Questioning Transgender is a horrible site full of transphobic and ignorant lies. Nothing there is respectful. Very little of it is based off of truths.
When someone has QT linked as a good website I know they aren't at all educated on trans*ism.

If you'd like, I'll talk with you about transitioning. Either in email, IBTP forum, or on livejournal.

Sorry for ranting a bit in your comments...

Daisy said...

That's fine. Heart just de-blogrolled me, which is like when the priest tells you that you need an annulment before you can take communion again.

Drakyn, the piece I like at the QT website is the one by Jenny Ruby, which I think raises the political point that internalized misogyny is always something to consider regarding FTMs. In fact, her piece really got to me.

The others, not so much.

Renegade Evolution said...

Daisy:

One of the best emotional gut reactions to the WoC/Trans/and "show us your feminist creds" rants I've ever read...by a bisexual (leaning toward lesbian) WoC with a trans roommate.

http://rosarose07.livejournal.com/1042.html

drakyn said...

Okay... I submitted a reply a while ago and it hasn't shown up. Should I re-type it or did it get caught in some sort of spam catcher?

Daisy said...

Drakyn, no spam catcher. I have no such internet know-how!

Your post as of 2:46 pm is your last visible post, so if there was another one, hope you will type it again!

I've lost too many posts to even mention, especially at Feministe!

Daisy said...

Ren, wow, some strong words there.

I just dunno how all this happened. I admit, I have been asleep at the switch, involved in my own little corner of the world, and I should have been far more aware of all these blog wars throughout Blogdonia. But as I said on Heart's blog, I didn't have fast-access until fairly recently. And you know what else? All these blogwars sound so much alike. :(

Once upon a time, radical feminism was about REVOLUTION, going-to-the-root, looking at the root-causes of violence, war, exploitation, etc. It was understood that patriarchy was like a machine, as capitalism is also. Certainly, some people do well in that machine, or find a niche within it, while some people are ground up by it. It becomes the job of the survivors to reach out a hand to the people who aren't surviving as well, or surviving at all. I don't find that a complicated concept.

I don't know why or how the horizontal hostility got so intense. Yes, I know the general chronology of events: Olivia records, Camp Trans, Vancouver Rape Relief... but I really don't know why this has escalated into such a nuclear-level standoff. Feminists have always disagreed, for instance about women in the military, women running for office, and so on, but in some ways, "trans" (inclusive of all trans issues) seems to have become a litmus test, unlike these other issues.

Why that?

Why not marriage, children, military, etc? That is what I am most interested in figuring out right now, and maybe if we figure out how it happened, we can undo some of it?

Just some random thoughts!

Renegade Evolution said...

Daisy:

I avoid the trans issue...well, for a few reasons...one, in a lot of feminist circles, I am persona non-gratta, I don't even call myself a feminist, and well, frankly, I am pro-trans without a doubt. There is no question and no debate on that issue with me. After hearing horror stories from trans sex workers and MTF who have been put in the General Populace of MALE prisons, there is no question WHAT SO EVER for me. None. Thus, I do not debate it.

The whole "born with a womb can make babies" thing rings hollow for me too...as there are plenty of born women who have wombs that don't work, cannot make babies...does that make them "less than women" too?

drakyn said...

Gah, so annoying, eljay used to do this all the time. >.<
OK...
Re-reading the essay, I still don't like it. There are a tonne of butch-flight articles out there and very few are respectful to trans*men. On ftm we've discussed a few different articles here and there.
We are also worried about women getting pressured into transitioning and we tend to try to speak up when we see it happening. But we blame society's ignorance of trans*ism, not trans*ism itself (as Ms. Ruby seems to do).

Her whole essay she works with the assumption that trans*men are butch, androgynous, and/or lesbians.
This part is extremely problematic and shows her bias.
"Choosing to see myself as a lesbian radical feminist instead of transgendered means I have a political commitment to critique patriarchy and society, instead of making accommodations to society by altering my identity or my body."
-Her use of the word 'choosing' shows that she sees trans*ism and/or transitioning as a choice. Trans*ism isn't a choice, and I think we can both agree to that. Transitioning is somewhat of a choice, how much of a choice is different for everyone though. Some people do choose to transition because it is easier than living androgynously or between the sexes. But there are a lot of us that feel like we have no choice; it is transition or death. Some of us need to just be seen by our loved ones as our true gender and that is the extent of their transition. But for some of us, medical transition is the only cure to our depression; the only way we can live happy, fulfilled lives.
The medical community has tried all sorts of ways to 'cure' us; electro shock, anti-depressants, talk-therapy, etc. Rarely does any of this help, or if it does help a little with the depression we are still trans*. Many trans*people have reported that they get real benefits, outside of the physical changes, to hormones. While some may be psychosomatic, many report less depression, clearer thoughts, better control of emotions, etc.
-Ruby also says with this statement that trans*men cannot be radical feminists. And that we do not critique patriarchy or society. This is false, there are a lot of trans*men out their who are feminists and/or critique patriarchy or society.
-She also says that trans*people are making accommodations to society by transitioning. As I said above, transition (medical, legal, or social) is often vital to a trans*person's well-being. Now, in some societies, such as Iran, queer people are forced to transition so that they may be in a 'straight' relationship, but in the US this isn't true. Society damns us no matter if the stereotypical trans*person transitions or not; either as a person who is trans* or a person who doesn't fit into their sex role.
And there is probably more pressure to not transition than to transition, at least in most cases.
-Transitioning isn't really altering our identity, not in they way it sounds in her essay at least. In this sense it is like coming out for queer people, we let others know what our true identity is.

While her essay isn't as blatantly offensive as most of the others on that site it is still offensive.
She paints all trans*men as just like her: butch/androgynous lesbians who rejected femininity.
She seems to think that trans*men 'reject' femaleness because that is the step we are pressured into after rejecting femininity.
Of course this is a false assumption. There are trans*men who are not masculine. There are also masculine trans*men who just happen to be masculine--they never rejected femininity, it just never fit them.

Part of the reason why many trans*people don't mind that we are required to see a therapist before medical transition is that we want to make sure that no one makes the wrong choice. We wish that all therapists were knowledgeable and supportive, that they would help us make our own choices instead of being gatekeepers. For a long time only straight butch trans*men and straight feminine trans*women were allowed to medically transition; doctors didn't see anyone else as being a true-transsexual. that is where some of the stereotypes come from. And there are still doctors who do the same today; a few months ago I remember a guy who was upset for being rejected for hormones because he likes men and he likes being vaginally penetrated.

In most trans* communities, certainly all I've seen, transitioning is seen as a personal journey that only the individual can make the right choices for. We tend to examine our choices, ask others for help, and we want other's to respect our identities. The people on the forums I'm a part of tend to believe that there is no single transition path. Everyone has to figure out which aspects are right for them.

Cassandra Says said...

"Why that?

Why not marriage, children, military, etc? That is what I am most interested in figuring out right now, and maybe if we figure out how it happened, we can undo some of it?

Just some random thoughts!"

This is where I'm coming from, too. If we HAVE to have a litmus test, why not pick something more relevant? Attitudes towards rape of domestic violence would make a pretty good gauge of whether or not a person is pro-feminist, for example. But trans? I just don't get it.

I wonder if it really is the cultural feminist idea about mystical womanhood rearing its head. I've seen a lot of the same people who have issues with trans folk talking about "equality feminism" in a sneering sort of way.

And if it's any comfort, back when I was in college I really thought that we'd be over arguing about personal grooming stuff by now. That was over 10 years ago, and the argument continues.

BTW, off-topic, but I'm SO tempted to start quoting the New York Dolls at you in answer to the Bowie stuff. I shall restrain myself, however, since this isn't a music geek site.

Daisy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Daisy said...

Drakyn, I re-read the Jenny Ruby piece and I see where you are coming from, but I don't think she necessarily assumes all FTMs are butch lesbians. She is just writing from her own experience.

Don't you think the accumulative experience of a lifetime of "female=inferior" conditioning can have the overall result of causing a woman to hate herself? Why wouldn't that manifest in some people as wanting to abandon an "inferior" gender?

What do you think of the whole "butch flight" argument? I mean, there must be some truth to that, right?

BTW, off-topic, but I'm SO tempted to start quoting the New York Dolls at you in answer to the Bowie stuff. I shall restrain myself, however, since this isn't a music geek site.

Cassandra, Jerry Nolan was physically in my house, {{insert teenybopper screams}} Columbus, Ohio, Rock Against Racism tour, 1979. He was playing drums for Joy Rider and Avis Davis. Not everybody gets one of the Dolls to crash their party! I was totally thrilled, till he asked me where the closest methadone clinic was. We were all hippie potheads and had NO IDEA where to find a methadone clinic. We felt so unhip for not knowing!

He asked me my cat's name, and I told him MOTT (music geeks indeed) and he smiled real big at me. :D {{insert teenybopper screams}}

drakyn said...

I think that socialization affects trans*guys' gender expression, not our gender identity. I think that just like cis*guys, less of us are as feminine as we would otherwise be.
It is quite possible that there are some people who identify as trans* because of self-hate, but I really don't think it is nearly as common as these sorts of articles imply.

Re butch flight, similar as above. There are some butches who may have been pressured into transitioning, but I think that most realize they aren't trans*. I also think that there were a lot of trans*men who identified as butch lesbians because they felt that they fit in best there at the time. As they learned more about trans*ism, they eventually realized they're trans*guys.

Cassandra Says said...

Daisy - The really sad thing is that in 1979 I would have been 6 years old, and I would have already known exactly who Jerry Nolan was and been excited to see him. (I had a really hip Mom) I would not however have been very well equipped to give him directions to the nearest methadone clinic. You must have felt like such a poor hostess...

Mott the Hoople reference for the win! My cat is named after an old buddy who I met backstage at a Damned concert. Hey, this is like music geek poker or something.

KH said...

Hi Daisy. Way cool about Nolan. Playing with The Idols? It's funny, for some reason I've been thinking about Johnny Thunders a lot lately, who I've always had a feeling for. (I think that time around '79, post Heartbreakers, was one of the few stretches when he & Nolan weren't playing together.)

Nolan presumably would've known that in most jurisdictions the chances of a passing stranger being served at a meth clinic are pretty small, but I can't believe it would have been too hard to get dope travelling on a tour as big as Rock Against Racism. (Wasn't it in Columbus, on that RAR tour, that Elvis Costello made his notorious slur against Ray Charles?)

KH said...

Argh, I read more closely: Joy Ryder & Avis Davis, not The Idols.

Aletha said...

drakyn said...

And wow, you're brave for going into that pit of vipers over at Heart's.

Oh, what a spot on characterization that is! I am so flattered, I cannot tell you. I mean, I know I have a sharp tongue, but I would not go so far as to call myself a viper.

I find it so intriguing when people dismiss what others who disagree with their beliefs have to say as dogmatic and/or transphobic. No, you have your beliefs and opinions, allow me the courtesy of having my own.

belledame222 said...

Sure thing, Aletha. You're allowed. And so are the nice religious folk who just have the -opinion- that there is no such thing as homosexuality, not really, it's a sick and depraved lifestyle (although they love the sinner, if not the sin) and it's the ruination of civilization. Sure. They're allowed their -opinion.- And, how awful awful it is to call them -homophobic- just because they don't want to let Those People into their safe places--their churches, their Institutions, their neighborhoods, their y'know -Approval.- Because, no one -else- knows anything about what it's like to be slapped with a label that essentially says, "Avoid. Not entirely human." How Unfair it all is. Even is, I am sure as cheese is cheese, making this comparison at all (waits patiently for screams and gnashing of teeth).

belledame222 said...

p.s. when it's come down to your ideology versus the other person's entire -life?- Really not about "disagreeing with beliefs." Unless you think "I have the right to exist and thrive" is, y'know, a BELIEF, to be put on the same plane as "Your existence threatens mine; there's no room for the both of us."

belledame222 said...

per butch v transguy: Patrick Califia's piece on his own decision to transition was pretty persuasive to me. basically, he'd done anything and everything to be genderqueer and still female-bodied/identified: butch as (s)he wanted to be, the whole nine yards. Even wrote a book about transsexualism from the perspective of someone who'd seriously considered it and decided NOT to transition.

then, finally, realized, look, just not feeling right in my body; went on hormones and got the top surgery, and yep, that was it.

I think maybe part of the problem is that most of us are so used to the idea of being gender congruent with our assigned gender and physical sex that we don't really have a bead on what it would feel like to -not- feel that way.

and, if you've been gender-incongruent your whole life, well, you're still probably not really gonna KNOW what it's like to feel any different if that's been your whole life experience. just...this is off.

and the other part of the problem is: there's so much talk about the Meaning of this and that, how things -look- and what they symbolize to whom and so forth, that I think what often goes missing is, well, how does it FEEL to live in this body. Never mind how it's -supposed- to feel. What's that experience? What would it take to feel at home?

drakyn said...

Aletha, I don't recognize your name as one of the transphobic commenters on Heart's blog. Perhaps you haven't read the comments of Lucky, Mary Sunshine, Mar Iguana, and LouisaMayAlcott(sp?)? I'm sorry, but I have no wish to be told that I am deluded, belong on the fifth floor, am a traitor, etc. I have no desire to read those sorts of things directed at me, it is bad enough when they are spoken towards others or in general.

Knowing that I am a man and that medical transition is the only option for me (other than suicide) is not a "belief".
I've read what Heart has said about trans*folk; her theories make no sense and/or are founded on false assumptions.
Her commenters spew paranoid conspiracy theories whenever the subject of trans*ism is brought up, look at comment #25 or the end of #32 on the propaganda thread. According t Rain and Lucky there is some vast conspiracy between trans*women and cis*men to destroy feminism from within.
It's rather funny actually.

And I wish had had found a better phrase. I love snakes, they are so very affectionate. (I'm actually not sarcastic, I've always found snakes to be affectionate after they get to know me)

A.W. said...

and the other part of the problem is: there's so much talk about the Meaning of this and that, how things -look- and what they symbolize to whom and so forth, that I think what often goes missing is, well, how does it FEEL to live in this body. Never mind how it's -supposed- to feel. What's that experience? What would it take to feel at home?

I don't know if the discussion of 'how does it feel' mostly gets accidentally lost (at least, from what I understand online) so much as the feeling (as it's described) is presumed not to have existed in the first place because there's not much to be had for clear frame of reference. I think the concept would be understood better if people as a whole were less inclined to cling like barnacles to the ideologies that are connected with the human body. There's got to be a workable analogy somewhere for people to grasp to make it easier.

I've seen plenty of people discuss what gender identity would feel like but it gets, more often than not, (I think) conflated with how people react to the kind of body someone inhabits instead of a liking for the body itself.

~Could someone please tell me how to pronounce sie and hir?

~This is ArrogantWorm, I've tentatively decided to stick with initials since I've managed to misspell my own nick a few times.

drakyn said...

Sie is pronounced sea and hir as here.

And I really don't think the general population has the language yet to discuss what gender identity is or feels like... I know I don't really have it and I haven't seen anything that fits imo.
I don't know, I think we'll have the language someday, but right now we are still muddling along searching for it (at least in my experience. if anyone has found the words/phrases/analogies, please link them for me).
Right now I like to describe it as similar to love--no one feels quite the same way and you aren't always sure it's there, but eventually it just feels so right.

Sabrina Star said...

Daisy,

I wanted to thank you for your astute comments over at Heart's blog. It's telling how flustered and evasive she got in response to your direct question.

I mean, first she calls transgender activism a "men's rights" movement, but then says she is "not saying who is and who is not a woman," well, the intellectual dishonesty of that conjunction kinda grates.

Daisy said...

I mean, first she calls transgender activism a "men's rights" movement, but then says she is "not saying who is and who is not a woman," well, the intellectual dishonesty of that conjunction kinda grates.

Sabrina, I know and I can't argue with that. It doesn't make any sense. How can you be upset about trans-anything if you aren't making some kind of decision about who the women are and are not? Or is it that she "hasn't said" it? I dunno.

I believe Harlan Ellison once called such an argument "trying to screw fog"--and yeah, sorry for quoting boob-grabbing patriarchs, but he had something with that phrase.

Daisy said...

KH--I am also amazed when intellectuals like yourself like rock music! Really, It always surprises me! :D

The Ray Charles incident happened on Costello's own tour, but good memory! That incident was the reason why the RAR people chose Columbus to visit, even though it wasn't a "big" city like the others, Chicago, New York, etc. At the Chicago RAR show, I stood about 6-8 feet from LENNY KAYE! {{{shriek!}}} Did not have the nerve to speak to him, though. But he was a little doll-baby in his youth! {{more teenybopper screams}}

You guys are bringing out my groupie self, you oughtta be ashamed. :P

Daisy said...

WELCOME Arrogant Worm! And everyone!

Drakyn, okay, I gotta question. Like my most brilliant thoughts, it occurred to me as I was drifting off to sleep. (j/k)

Say, someone is largely indistinguishable as male or female, as Jenny Ruby was describing being butch in her article. If you can be indistinguishable, why distinguish?

If your SELF is already masculine, why say you are a man, if most people already think you are? Is it important to "officially" do that?

I think my semi-anarchist dislike of officialdom might also be the issue here.

Years ago, I worked a job where I checked IDs, and learned lots of people are not what their ID says they are. Of course (as is probably obvious with my teenybopper posts), some of these shows were gender-bending rock bands, etc so more people like this were likely to be there in the first place, but still, I don't think I realized how common it was until then. But if people can call themselves "Carolyn" and convince me they are Carolyn and then I see on their ID that they are "Charles", well, is it the ID thing people are in fact WORRIED about? Obviously, they have "transitioned" successfully already.

Dumb questions, maybe, but I don't learn any other way.

Daisy said...

Hey, this is like music geek poker or something.

:D

belledame222 said...

I think the concept would be understood better if people as a whole were less inclined to cling like barnacles to the ideologies that are connected with the human body.

yes, that's well put.

It's also at the root of why (and yes i'm beginning to feel allergic to the phrase, because it feels inadequate," but "sex positivity." Maybe "somatic positivity" would be more appropriate, definitely including, but not limited to, the erotic response. I think it's actually really key to a genuinely democratic society that people are, how you say, in touch with themselves, and yes, that does mean physically, not just from the neck up. It doesn't -stop- there, of course; but ime it's much more difficult to have genuine empathy for others if you don't even really know how -you- feel. And without genuine empathy, there's no democracy. Which is why all the different ideologies start springing up; you need -some- kind of solid grounding to replace what's been denied. Unfortunately, if it's all externally sourced and abstract, it's disconnected, and so are you. Which is why inevitably, no matter how theoretically "yes, we are all individuals" the ideology is, sooner or later there ends up being a Fearless Leader of some sort, and yep hierarchy, albeit sometimes shrouded in murkiness because of course you're "not supposed to" be authoritarian...

Anonymous said...

Daisy, what aspect of transition are you referring to when you say "official?" Do you mean taking testosterone, undergoing surgery, requesting that people use male pronouns, taking a male name, changing documents...? All of these are usually undertaken in the service of a single goal, that is, comfort with one's life via gender transition, but their effects and motives differ. (And different transpeople have different preferences and different options.)

Piny

Anonymous said...

I find it so intriguing when people dismiss what others who disagree with their beliefs have to say as dogmatic and/or transphobic. No, you have your beliefs and opinions, allow me the courtesy of having my own.

What everyone else said. I am not going to stop calling things "sexist" because it (accurately) implies a lack of respect for certain beliefs held by certain people, or because it makes them unhappy. I'm also not going to restrain myself from using "transphobic" out of some bloodless notion of "respect" for wrongheaded ideas that hurt people when they're put in practice. Pointing to bigotry isn't the same as telling someone to eat your shorts, and I refuse to pretend otherwise.

Piny

Anonymous said...

(Sorry about the string of comments, but I'm late to the thread.)

Don't you think the accumulative experience of a lifetime of "female=inferior" conditioning can have the overall result of causing a woman to hate herself? Why wouldn't that manifest in some people as wanting to abandon an "inferior" gender?

What do you think of the whole "butch flight" argument? I mean, there must be some truth to that, right?


I can believe that there are some butch dykes and masculine women who transition for this reason, but I don't think it's all that common. For one thing, transition is difficult and extreme. For another, being a transsexual isn't quite the same from a status standpoint as being male. This would be particularly true, I think, for someone who feared being inferior. Finally, I'm not sure that butches are entirely bereft of support these days. A lot of the "butch flight" I see round here is butches taking enough testosterone to become even more visibly different and then continuing to hang out with the dykes, not butches becoming passing straight men.

But the problem with this argument--like the regretful tranny argument, and I speak from experience--is that it doesn't result in greater self-determination or less sexism. It doesn't even result in less policing of transpeople's gender expression and personal preferences, or allow them greater space to keep their histories integrated. Rather, it's used to demean their knowledge of themselves.

--Piny

belledame222 said...

Right. I mean, for me it's very simple: look, you've got your -very own- bodymind to live in and nurture as you see fit; leave other people to do the same with theirs. Otherwise, you're being invasive. Y punto.

more specifically: the whole, "where are the butches of yesterday" lament. Well, the wimmin who do that generally are either doing it for

1) sociopolitical reasons: you've left the Team!

2) their own erotic desires: butbutbut I'm a femme and I like -butch women!- Come back here!

or some combination thereof.

and in either case: well, excuse -me-, but how feminist is -that?-

"Put my comfort and belief system and even erotic preference over your own comfort. Even though my -own- bodily autonomy in this regard is beyond question, it is -selfish- of -you- to want the same thing for yourself, to not put -me/us- first."

No, I don't think so. Any more than I would for the mens whining about how unfeminine all the women are now that they're burning their bras and not shaving and refusing to make dinner for them and vote for their candidates. Pull up your big girl panties and deal with it.

belledame222 said...

tangentially, i used to like Harlan Ellison too, even though he is indeed a total dick. among other things, he didn't age well. but then Angry Old Man never was as endearing as Angry Young Man, I guess. and, unfortunately some people don't really evolve as they age so much as curdle. Woody Allen is another one of those, I think.

Daisy said...

Daisy, what aspect of transition are you referring to when you say "official?" Do you mean taking testosterone, undergoing surgery, requesting that people use male pronouns, taking a male name, changing documents...?

I think I mean the government: changing documents. If one is not planning marriage or drug dealing (haha, talking about jail here), not sure why changing documents is necesssary?

The transman I know best, simply segued into it. After a point, everyone just said "he" and used his initials (AJ) instead of his given name, which in fact I don't even remember. He's told me several times how he isn't going to bother with legal changes and isn't interested in doing that. (I think he gets a kick out of surprising people, too; many people refuse to believe it when he tells them.)

If you are convincing, do you really need to "request" male pronouns? That certainly isn't southern! (I am thinking about writing a blog entry titled TRANSITION THE SOUTHERN WAY, in which everyone is far too "polite" to talk about transition, so we just call people whatever they look like. :P )

But the problem with this argument--like the regretful tranny argument, and I speak from experience--is that it doesn't result in greater self-determination or less sexism. It doesn't even result in less policing of transpeople's gender expression and personal preferences, or allow them greater space to keep their histories integrated. Rather, it's used to demean their knowledge of themselves.

As always, your writing is so illuminating! Thank you for visiting here!

Please know that my concern IS self-determination, less sexism, blah blah. As I said over on Feministe, my moment of truth came when I read your piece about "nobody opting out" (absolutely true!) and then realized that I was asking more of transpeople than I ask of myself. I realized, I wear long skirts almost every day, I wear 4 earrings in each ear, my hair is down to my ass, who am I KIDDING? If I am not willing to give up my gender-specific identity markers, why would I ask this of any other person?

I am not sure why Heart thinks she doesn't also do this. I saw photos of her on the Feminist Hullabaloo thread (which I commented on) and we look and dress a great deal alike. Does she think we aren't girlie because we don't wear make-up? I honestly think many of us DO think this; not wearing make-up and being of menopausal age often takes an iron will in dealing with relatives and other well-meaning people, who seem to be constantly waving mascara wands and lip-liners in your general direction.

Okay, what is this "regretful tranny argument" you speak of?

Daisy said...

A lot of the "butch flight" I see round here is butches taking enough testosterone to become even more visibly different and then continuing to hang out with the dykes, not butches becoming passing straight men.

Do you think there is this male-type, "who's-the-baddest" thing going on with these butches? Are they competing to be the toughest? Because that is far more interesting to me than transitioning to straight men, too.

I'm not sure I understand it, though, speaking very honestly.

A.W. said...

If one is not planning marriage or drug dealing (haha, talking about jail here), not sure why changing documents is necessary?


People regularly use I.D. cards in the usa, need them from banking to buying fireworks, white-out and cold medicine and people get to study your card when it's handed over to whomever you're trying to do business with. Granted, sometimes when people look at your card they see what they expect to see, especially if they're harried cashiers, But that little marker can cause no end of trouble. I imagine so does the name on the card, especially if someone doesn't have a name that could be taken either way, like Shannon or Alex. Makes me glad my parents gave me a name with leeway.

Oh, and finding work. That's a pain in the ass when your information on your I.D doesn't match your presentation or if people can't decide a sex for you easily.

A.W. said...


If you are convincing, do you really need to "request" male pronouns?


Yes. I've lost count of the times a group of people I hadn't met before I.D'd me as a sex until someone who knew me differently due to someone else's pronoun usage towards me waltzes in and insists on a different pronoun. Some people don't seem to be able to I.D. me at all, which is another mess and a half. I went to school in this area, some of my family is here, so parts of the community do use different pronouns and since it's relatively small, conflicting information does pop up. It doesn't help that the few I've come out to don't use correct pronouns, and that for the moment I've given up on the people wrt pronouns in the area I live in. You tell them and tell them and tell them, and for the most part they're decent people, but they really, really don't listen.

belledame222 said...

Yeah, what a.w. said wrt identification. Especially lately. It's one of those things you tend to take for granted if you never had to worry about your papers not being in order. Also see: immigrants, particularly those with "suspicious" coloring or last names.

but yeah, scenario: you're driving a car, a little over the speed limit, Officer Friendly pulls you over. "May I see some I.D., ma'am." Then out comes the slip with you pictured differently...or, pictured similarly, but with the big M prominent.

or, try boarding a plane.

or...

Anonymous said...

I think I mean the government: changing documents. If one is not planning marriage or drug dealing (haha, talking about jail here), not sure why changing documents is necesssary?'

What Arrogant Worm and Belle said: I don't know about you, but I produce my identification regularly, and I tend to experience problems when it doesn't look like it belongs to me. The more convincing you are, the harder it is to produce pre-transition papers: if you aren't outed as transsexual, people simply don't believe they're yours.

Little Light wrote a post about the issue at her blog:

http://takingsteps.blogspot.com/2007/07/search-and-seizure.html

Your friend is entitled to order his life however he pleases. And there are people who retain their original ID for some time or indefinitely, and people who never become passing transpeople in other ways. But for most transsexuals, it's just the next logistical step in transition. It doesn't make any more sense to keep the wrong gender on your ID than it would to keep the wrong name or height.

Piny

Anonymous said...

If you are convincing, do you really need to "request" male pronouns? That certainly isn't southern! (I am thinking about writing a blog entry titled TRANSITION THE SOUTHERN WAY, in which everyone is far too "polite" to talk about transition, so we just call people whatever they look like. :P )

Heh. I think that one crossed the Mason-Dixon line.

Well...yes and no. Generally speaking, you'll have people in your post-transition life--say, your immediate family--who know your assigned sex and people in your life--say, your coworkers--who don't. While you're transitioning, you'll need to explain to the first group of people that you're a man and not a woman and could they please use male pronouns and your new name. There will also be a period during which you're ambiguous--see LL's post for some description of that--and you'll have to tell people to slot you into male rater than female. And if you are ever out/ed as transsexual, no matter how well you pass, you will probably have to let some people know that it's not appropriate to treat you as though you were "really" a woman underneath.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure why Heart thinks she doesn't also do this. I saw photos of her on the Feminist Hullabaloo thread (which I commented on) and we look and dress a great deal alike. Does she think we aren't girlie because we don't wear make-up? I honestly think many of us DO think this; not wearing make-up and being of menopausal age often takes an iron will in dealing with relatives and other well-meaning people, who seem to be constantly waving mascara wands and lip-liners in your general direction.

Thanks. I'm glad I can be helpful.

I think it's just a double standard: she's a real woman. Plus, she believes that if she sees these as sins under patriarchy, then she gets...indulgence. I don't know.

I dunno how I feel about femininity these days; feminism doesn't have much conceptual space for it as anything other than a concession to patriarchy, but I'm not so sure.

The "regretful tranny" argument crops up in pretty much any discussion of transpeople: it's the rather nebulous anxiety that some transsexuals will regret transitioning. (I get to be sort of the scapegoat for all these fears right now, and it's neither pleasant nor conducive to perspective.) There usually isn't much reference to the percentage of transsexuals who do regret transitioning, which is very low, or the reasons _why_ some transsexuals might not be happy post-transition (e.g. hatred), or any real thinking on how to prevent this (e.g. actual support in transition). It's usually used to cast doubt on the gender identity of transsexuals as a class.

Anonymous said...

(Sorry--those last two were me)

Do you think there is this male-type, "who's-the-baddest" thing going on with these butches? Are they competing to be the toughest? Because that is far more interesting to me than transitioning to straight men, too.

I'm not sure I understand it, though, speaking very honestly.


Well, no, not really. I think that masculine/butch people--including men, butch dykes, and transmasculine people--often exhibit masculine cues, and that machismo can be one of them. I don't think that testosterone is really part of this, so much. I think they're just using their bodies to reflect their identities--it's similar to what transmen do, but they're looking towards a different sense of self.

Piny

A.W. said...

The "regretful tranny" argument crops up in pretty much any discussion of transpeople: it's the rather nebulous anxiety that some transsexuals will regret transitioning. (I get to be sort of the scapegoat for all these fears right now, and it's neither pleasant nor conducive to perspective.)


I'm sorry to hear that.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to hear that.

Honestly, most people are supportive--and a lot of this is stuff I've been able to leave behind as I've simply...become a girl again. That'll continue to happen; eventually, all of this will be a part of my history.

It's mostly irritating rather than hurtful these days. I really would like to find some good way to talk about re-transitioning, and this doesn't seem to be it.

Daisy said...

Piny, I think your ability to explain these things to lil ole me better than anyone else so far, is due to your status as a "back and forth person." (and you are free to use my wonderful nomenclature there, if you want!)

Most of us are so deep into one side or the other, we can't see the whole picture. (Insert David Carradine/Kung Fu voice here): This is your task, now, as you go forth, my child.

Seriously, Piny you are so good at it! It's a dirty job, but... :)

And yes, I really hadn't thought deeply about the ID stuff much, which is undoubtedly my own privilege.

Daisy said...

Plus, she believes that if she sees these as sins under patriarchy, then she gets...indulgence. I don't know.

I certainly understand this way of thinking. And I used to work my ass off for indulgences, so I know whereof I speak! :P

Thing is, we all do it. As you wrote, gender is a constant in everyone's lives. There is not one righteous! etc.

My prejudice has so far been about FTMs (since I feel, as Belle said above, that we are on a TEAM, and you must not desert the TEAM! :P) rather than MTFs, which I think might be the opposite of Heart's crew. I have never liked "male behavior", no matter who is doing it; including children, including MY children, so I think I am being pretty fair here! I am now trying to reframe that to cut the FTMs more of a break, yet not fall into Heart's formulation that they are really women (or not, or something, since she isn't saying "who the women are"... well, you know what I mean), which I don't believe for a second either.

So, the whole thing to me, is that we are now trying to think in new ways and in new categories. Traditional radical feminism has not been sufficient to cover all of these bases, so we need to regroup, reconsider, etc.

I have mentioned bell hooks' sympathies to transgendered people, however she has not (to my knowledge) written in depth about any trans issues, probably because she doesn't want to open the whole can of worms, or because she is as unsure of where she is going as some of the rest of us are... I hope at some point she is fearless enough to tackle the issue! She has tackled SO MUCH already, though, it seems almost unfair to ask. But right now, as always, she is the feminist theorist I would trust to be holistic and fair on the subject.

Trinity said...

"I also think that there were a lot of trans*men who identified as butch lesbians because they felt that they fit in best there at the time. As they learned more about trans*ism, they eventually realized they're trans*guys."

I'm no expert, but that's the impression I get too. That in the past, the way to perform being (excuse the awkward wording) a "female guy" was to take on a butch identity. As... the culture changed? it became more of a real option for many of these people to more fully transition.

belledame222 said...

wrt your mentor: that is, btw, a great pic.

Erin said...

hoookay, I realize this is a few days old, but my 2 pence. I am about to get at least one part of my legal documentation done (yay for name change) so that I can change my name at work. Right now my email and other company internal communication/documentation is all under my male name, which confuses the heck out of any new people that come into my department, outing me instantly.

Another thing to realize is that transpeople put so much effort into appearance out of fear. Every time that I get read (or even THINK I've been read) I shrivel up a little bit waiting for the other shoe to drop. So far I've been lucky, and the one or two times I've been careless and been read haven't been too bad. Because of this fear, anyone finding out before I am ready for them too creates an uncomfortable situation in which either people are either forced to bury the questions they want to ask, or I am forced to give trans 101.

I love spreading understanding, but there is a time and place, and it is an extremely emotional thing every time, in sometimes very surprising ways.

I'm new to feminist thought, come to this discussion from an anti-authoritarian background, and am a geek in any number of ways, so forgive the computer analogy which may be completely off base.

Heart and the strict "social constructionists" that I've read over in the margins seem to be accessing birth sex directly as a marker for common behaviors/gender roles. This works as an overview for a large section of the populace, and I suppose it's a comforting idea to believe that people who were raised female all will have a similar subset of signifigant experiences, and *this* is what it denotes to be female - So THERE. It's like the old method of computer drivers accessing hardware directly. They were fast, efficient, fragile, and completely unable to cope with interference from other things.

Personally I think the abstraction of "gender roles" is slightly better but still deeply flawed. Gender roles at least realize that someone can be in a role that is divergent from the birth sex. It still is a very static viewpoint, where huge chunks of behaviors are grouped together as a "role" regardless of how core the behavior is to how the role is perceived.

Now this is where I might be way off base and I hope I don't offend people. I see the attachment to "birth sex as gender role" as harmful because it forces a reaction in which someone who violates a gender role is automatically viewed with suspicion and hostility because of the associated role.

Trans people are a direct violation of this viewpoint. The common reactions to which seems to be absolute disbelief in the sincerity of the person and any of their actions, or a re-evaluation of the premise around which someone views the world.

You tell me which is easier.

(sorry if I rambled.. I'm about to fall asleep on my keyboard)

Daisy said...

Thanks for commenting Erin! Welcome!

Nicole said...

Why can't people just accept that all the others are different and finally get along?
Guess that's not in the human genetics, mh?
So long and we still can't accept what a few hundreds of years ago was normal.
:(

barnze said...

Cheers for dropping in but it's more a man thing so i suggest you drop out again!

DaisyDeadhead said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DaisyDeadhead said...

Sorry, I thought you were an intelligent person who had reasons for what you do, didn't realize you were just some third grader with a computer. Certainly, I can't be blamed for an honest mistake.

Not to worry, I will not be back to your third grader blog. However, you might take your offensive shit off of BLOGMAD, where the rest of us aren't subjected to it, and won't have to interact with a wittle boy who has just discovered dirty words and farts. Run along please, and leave blogging to adults. No wonder you refer to "telling your mam" in your blog title (how cute!). Do you have to wait until she gives you permission after school to use the computer?

And stay off here, this is for adult conversation, not showing pictures of fat disabled women and calling them "twats." Got it, fuckface? Thanks.