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.