23 October 2008

Trans for Obama - Volunteer Edition

For those of you who don't know, Trans for Obama is an effort to create an obvious trans presence in the presidential campaign by trans people and allies. The point is in the number of people who contribute, not the amount. I contributed $5 since I am currently not wealthy. Please contribute what you can!

Goal Thermometer

Silly me, I thought that my donation would otherwise go unnoticed. Not so! I recently got a call from the local Obama campaign HQ asking me to volunteer since they really need volunteers in these final days before the election. Not quite being up to the personal rejection involved in canvassing, I volunteered instead for the phone banks. Not thinking, I signed up for a four hour shift.

Four hours of making phone calls is a strain on any voice. It's even more a strain when you're a transwoman without voice training and trying hard to gender "woman" not "man" with your voice. While I overall scored more "ma'am" than "sir" responses, at the end it was a losing battle. I had also signed up for the next day but that didn't happen since my voice is still recovering.

As for the actual calls, it was mostly heartening. I ended up calling older voters who I was more concerned about having open racism inform their voting discussions. That wasn't true with perhaps a couple exceptions. One man said that he didn't want Obama in the White House because he it contained "National Treasures" which presumably a black man would either destroy or steal. Others showed that right-wing rhetoric worked. A woman said she wasn't voting for anyone with the middle name of Hussein (I guess I should be thankful my middle name is my mother's name?). I only got a few hangups and thankfully no one yelled at me, though I did have one man talk my ear off. But he was voting for Obama, so I let him.

As a person interested in the workings of politics as well as gender, I found it interesting that the operation was staffed by women and most of the volunteers were women. Of the men that did volunteer, they overwhelmingly chose canvassing. I'm not sure what, if anything, can be made of this, but it did seem interesting.

On a personal level, it was gratifying to be correctly gendered by everyone even if they hadn't been introduced to me. On a sad note, I lost an earring to the cause.

13 October 2008

On Being a "Deceiver"

Transphobia, like homophobia, sexism, and racism, can be found everywhere. Including internalised in me. I thought I'd gotten past my own transphobia since I started transitioning. I was wrong.

I've been involved with a semi-volunteer, occasional community thing. So, I was talking to a friend the other day about the fact that I wasn't sure I wanted to continue doing it even though they could really use me. She pointed that I was afraid of being considered a "deceiver" because I started doing this pre-transition. She's right. I don't want to deal with the discomfort of having to say, basically, "This is who I really am." The fact that I have to say that lends credence to the idea that I was deceiving them before.

I'm really wrestling with this. I believe in being true to myself, but yet I feel the shame society wants me to feel over transitioning, in stepping away from the role and identity that I'm expected to fit. At this point, I probably won't be doing the community thing just because of the fact it's a specific time thing, and it's probably too late to do it now. I admit to cowardice in dealing with it. I still have a ways to go with ridding myself of my own transphobia.

01 October 2008

Trans-Consumerism for Transsexual Women

I apologise if this post is somewhat disjointed and not fully fleshed out. I decided it was better to post what I had than to continue playing around with it and never post it.

Fall has arrived. I could really use some fall skirts and tops. I could also really use electrolysis. Welcome to the world of trans-consumerism for a femme transdyke.

I started thinking about this thanks to two recent posts Sublimefemme has made about queer, especially femme, consumerism in response to a current article in The Advocate titled "The Cost of Being Gay". Consumerism is hardly limited to queer culture in America. America relies on its cultures and communities being soaked in consumerism.

As I think Sublimefemme has covered consumerism for the queer femme rather well, I'm going to look at the consumerism facing the transwoman. One immediate point to make is that consumerism for transwomen is very much a class issue, moreso than usual consumerism because of the staggering costs involved in some choices. But, like all consumerism, none of the following choices must be chosen, but some bring comfort to me as a transwoman and some bring more correct gendering of me by others (at least, theoretically).

The cheapest consumer choices for a transwoman are beauty rituals such as shaving, tweezing, plucking, and so on. Slightly more expensive are clothes and makeup (though these can get hideously expensive, of course). All of this is in common with ciswomen and is about as accessible (with the possible exception of buying women's clothing the first time) with respect to class.

Next up the ladder is hormone therapy. This requires medical and usually psychological clearance and so is more than a bit of a step up. Then there's the cost of the hormones themselves. I can't imagine handling this part without health insurance and drug coverage which also cost. This is definitely where class starts to be a factor not only in the question of monetary resources but also in dealing with the psycho-medical establishment, since one normally needs to know how to go about getting a diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder, a reference to a physician/endocrinologist, and possibly even having to educate that person on what the appropriate course of treatment is.

Next we enter the world of what is commonly called cosmetic surgery. This includes procedures for electrolysis, facial feminisation, breast augmentation, orchiectomy, and vaginoplasty. One does not have to have any or all of these surgeries, but isn't that the point of consumerism? We don't have to have it, we're led to want it. However, these can cost tens of thousands of dollars as well as pain, time, and significant hurdles put in place by the medical industry.

Even if I were rich, I have issues. Let me start with my major issue: surgery. I've had emergency surgery twice in my life, and I can tell you I'm not a big fan of surgery. While I believe in bodily autonomy, my right to do to my own body what I want to improve it (if you will), I'm disturbed by the cosmetic medical industry and how it feeds off insecurities about looks and fitting in as a woman. I'm thinking here mostly about breast augmentation and facial feminisation. But one can certainly argue vaginoplasty falls into this category. In the otherwise despicable "The Transsexual Empire", Janice Raymond does an analysis of the traditional psycho-medical industry of sex-reassignment surgery (as it was then called) which is well worth reading. Unfortunately I can not currently locate my copy to quote from it.

Let me take breast augmentation as an example. It's apparently a common procedure for transwomen. I just had an argument over this procedure with a cisfriend of mine who wants breast augmentation for herself even as I think her breasts are beautiful the way they are. There's a tension between what we think of our own bodies and what society expects of our bodies. A common feminist tenet is that women's bodies are public property. I have to agree. For myself, that comes up as a question of what looks "normal" on my frame. "Normal" is not only a question of what is average but what is socially constructed as an appropriate size. And right now, apparently I have "man boobs" size. So, if it were just a question of conformity, I'd scrape up the cash and buy me some breasts. But, I do question social standards and consumerism.

So, what's a mindful gal to do? I don't know. I'd not be shy in telling you if I did. So, I encourage y'all to tell me what you think, what questions you have, and (if you're kind) critiquing my post.

17 September 2008

Sarah Palin - Tranny?

I love politics enough such that I have majored in it. But I hadn't planned on blogging about Sarah Palin because so many other people are doing it so well with opinions that match mine. However, recently a column used transphobia to attack her. I just couldn't ignore that without calling it out.

Michael Seltzman wrote at the Huffington Post a column titled "Sarah Palin Naked" which starts off just as sexist and misogynistic as it sounds. In talking about wanting to have sex with Sarah Palin, because obviously that's an appropriate thing for political discourse, he offers the following:

My wife is cool with this if I promise to "first wipe off Palin's tranny makeup." I married well.

Haha. I'm laughing so hard. A real comedian there, his wife. Transphobia is so funny. Especially when it's also expressing lookism at the same time. Because I find it hard to believe that she's complimenting Palin on her gender presentation. Instead, it's fairly clear she expressing the stereotypical view that transwomen use makeup poorly. She's calling into question Palin's womanhood.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I despise the word "tranny". It has the same history as the despicable "shemale", coming to us from the porn industry to describe a fetishistic type of porn with transwomen. Just google "tranny" and you'll find that most results, other than sites of transfolk trying to reclaim the word, point to porn images of transwomen. When not using it for porn, straight cispeople use it in the same way they use "man in a dress", to discredit people. Not that I'm happy when queer cispeople use it either, but they generally don't seem to intend insult.

So, while I'm no fan of Sarah Palin, and certainly fear what would happen if she became Vice-President, I do have to protest the use of transphobia to assault her. Want to attack her? There are plenty of ways to legitimately do so, calling her out on her political policies and actions. But, knock off the transphobia and sexism. I don't want to have to defend people I don't like.

14 September 2008

Bitchin' Phasefest 2008

So I went up to DC to catch at least some of Phasefest 2008. Actually I went to catch Bitch. I've been a fan of hers ever since I heard "Drag King Bar" by Bitch & Animal "back in the day" (as Bitch put it). I only saw some of her set during the Official Capitol Pride Women's Dance Party back in June because of some drama, so I really, really wanted to go even though I didn't have the money. Fortunately, I've never been one to let common sense enter into my decisions.

Thanks to my usual poor planning and luck (plus poor directions interpretation by a friend since we were driving and not going by Metro), I managed to not get to Phase 1 until she had already started her set. She was just as awesome as I was hoping. Even the annoyingly loud women that I got the honour of standing near couldn't take much away from that. I was thrilled when she pulled out the fiddle. However, this was marred when she then referred to a "tranny boi" she'd been interested in. I'm not a fan of that word, especially coming from cispeople no matter how much I love their music.

After her set ended (all too soon for me, and unfortunately without "Pussy Manifesto" since I missed that in her Women's Party set thanks to the afore-mentioned drama), I wandered back to the table of her stuff. I signed up for her mailing list and waited behind some women who were taking up the space in front of Bitch's stuff at the table. They were chatting with someone for forever which was irritating since I couldn't see around them to what was on the table. I was looking for the "Pussy Manifesto" sticker set Bitch had mentioned during her set.

Finally they wandered off, and I found myself face-to-face with Bitch. Ooops. See, I'm pretty shy most of the time, especially with someone I'm attracted to, or admire, or is famous, or... you get the point. So I was completely unprepared to be talking to Bitch even as she was completely prepared to be talking to another fan. I impressively managed to not stutter as I told her how long I'd been a fan. And then I kinda ran out of steam. I even forgot to mention I'd seen her on the cover of and in the September issue of Curve with Daniela Sea (who has those incredible eyes and... oh, where was I?). She was kind enough to help me decide that I should get her first album, Make This/Break This, since I haven't kept up on her more recent music thanks to lack of dough. Sadly, I couldn't also get the stickers as I didn't have enough cash thanks to poor pre-planning on my part (even worse since they're not yet for sale at her online store). I snuck off once she was kind enough to stop talking to me.

So, while I enjoyed going I'm less-than-thrilled at making such a poor impression for Bitch. Alright, I'm mortified. Especially since I don't think I pass at all, thus making it more likely she'll remember me. Not to mention I was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt and hadn't done my makeup. Bleh. Ah, well, when next we meet I'll be prepared. Gushy fan attack!

The next night, thanks to again less-than-spectacular planning and execution (I got my hair cut and dyed, which I hadn't planned on, and then took forever getting dressed and doing my makeup), I arrived late again. Just as my friend and I were about to open the door what sounded like a screaming orgasm came from within. Unsure what to expect, we went in and found that it was Pandora Scooter who apparently has an affinity for screaming in her poems which she showed again later in epic dyke me: the least raving mess (repeatedly screaming dyke in a lesbian bar gets a good crowd reaction in case you were wondering). She was cool, and I'm sorry I didn't get to hear her whole set. After her was Shunda K of Yo! Majesty who I didn't get into. The beats were OK but just not my thing. She was also the last set of the night, so not much later my friend and I headed back to the Metro.

Sadly, my friend had a family emergency so I wasn't able to go to any of Saturday which sucked since that was when the lap-dancing and harness panels were as well as Alix Olson and Athens Boys Choir, both of whom I wanted to hear. Not to mention wanting to see the DC Kings! I have this thing for drag kings. Well, maybe next year.

Transgender Discrimination Survey from NCTE

In case anyone has missed it, the National Center for Transgender Equality, along with Pennsylvania State University, is doing a survey on discrimination experiences for transgender people. It's not a hard survey to fill out, so please go here and do so if you're transgender.

01 September 2008

Transdyke to Watch Out For

(with apologies to Alison Bechdel)

I hear you thinking "What the heck is a transdyke? And, why should I watch out for one?" Fear not, gentle reader, I will answer these questions for you only to probably replace them with many more.

Transdyke refers to a transgender lesbian. Some people find this term offensive. I, however, use it to label myself because I'm transgender and I'm a dyke. If you don't know what transgender means, go to wikipedia or something to find out since that's too long to go into here. As for dyke, I use it for its reclaimed meaning of a strong lesbian since I tend to be strongly opinionated and sometimes even self-assured.

So, basically, I'm saying you should watch out for me. Why? Because I'm sure sooner or later to offend you. At least, if I haven't then I've probably not written well or else you haven't understood what I'm actually saying. Let me start off with the offending by fully labelling myself.

I'm a woman. I'm a transgender woman. I'm a dyke. Other lesbians accept me as a lesbian. I'm queer. I'm a feminist. I am some sort of post modern (pomo)/radical feminist. I am a sex positive feminist meaning I don't find erotica/pornography, sex work/prostitution, BDSM, butch-femme, sex acts or sex toys to be anti-feminist. I like erotica/pornography. I like lesbian erotica/pornography. BDSM is fun. Butches are hot. Femmes are hot. OK, women in general are hot. I have sexual kinks. I'm pro-LGBTQ. I think LGBTQ issues are feminist issues. I think transgender issues are feminist issues. I think that political lesbianism is a theft of lesbian identity and culture. I'm an anti-capitalist socialist more or less. I'm a university student. I'm studying to be an academic. I'm an activist in both feminist and LGBTQ issues. I'm accepted as a woman and a feminist by my university feminist group. I benefited from male privelege for most of my life. I'm a transsexual woman. I only started transitioning a year ago. I'm an agnostic pagan who grew up Christian. My good Christian mother loves me, her transgender daughter. I'm mentally ill. "Gender dysphoria" does not make me mentally ill. I am neither young nor beautiful. I'm overweight/fat. Becoming a femme transdyke does not mean I'm reifying the gender binary. Transmen are men. Asexual, bisexual, genderqueer, pansexual, polysexual, and all sorts of other gender and sexual identities exist and are valid.

That's not everything, but it's a good start for offending people I'm sure. However, I'm not trying to offend just to offend. I'm trying to speak and stop the erasure of my reality, my identity, my very being. So, I hope that you'll stick around even if I've already offended you or even if I've not yet managed it.

Guitar Heroin(e)

I'd planned for my first blog post to actually give a background of who I am, what I think, and why the heck anyone should read my blog. And then a friend and I played Guitar Hero III last night and into the early morning. I'm really not a big fan of video games and yet I find it incredibly addicting. It was nice to have women as well as men guitarists shown playing, although if you're watching the pretty video you're not really playing the game well. I also embarrassed myself somewhat as I found myself rocking out while playing so I must have been having fun.

However, I was less than thrilled with the fact that you almost always have the same dude singing. Why? Because out of the 70-some songs in the game exactly three were sung by women. Uh, hello? That's just ridiculous, especially when you've included songs from 1966 or so on to now. Sure, rock may be dominated by men, but not to this extent. Geez!

So props for the women guitarists since women strum just as hard, but lack of hard-rocking women singers ticks me off since I like singing when I'm playing.