04 December 2009

The Transphobe Who Can Ruin Your Day

Just when I was hoping that Julie Bindel had moved on from being actively transphobic, she's appeared in an, at-best, centre-right magazine called Standpoint (What the heck is a feminist, especially a self-proclaimed radical lesbian feminist, doing cosying up with the right?) with an article entitled "The Operation That Can Ruin Your Life".  Three guesses as to what operation she's referring to and the first two don't count.  I hate being a puppet dancing to strings being pulled by Ms Bindel, but I also can't let this sort of hate pass by uncommented.  I'll mostly be snarking, so fair warning.  I'm skipping large parts of the article because a full fisk would be interminably long.  It's also worth noting that in many ways this article is sort of her "greatest hits" on trans stuff in that she's stitched together material from previous articles she's written.  She even includes the quote about trans people and Grease that she later apologised for, showing just how insincere she can be when apologising.  That said, let's get to her article.

Almost immediately one has to wonder what world Ms Bindel lives in.  Referring to last year's Stonewall awards she says that "I, along with a police escort, walked past a huge demonstration of transsexuals and their supporters, shouting 'Bindel the Bigot'."  This should concern everyone.  In that I mean it should concern everyone that a protest of about 150 people is a huge demonstration in Bindel's eyes, that she remembers a chant that was not chanted, and that she also remembers having a police escort while others don't.  Of course since she also refers to the demonstrators as a "powerful lobby" who have been "hounding [her] for "five years", the real point here is to establish that: a) trans people are possibly dangerous, b) there are a lot of trans people, c) trans people are not activists trying to assert their rights (as feminists might be described) but are like industry lobbyists, and d) trans people are personally out to get her.  Notice how this is reinforced at the end of the same paragraph: "I now find that a number of organisations are too frightened to ask me to speak at public events for fear of protests by transsexual lobbyists."  Trans people are boogeypeople that scare people away from Bindel with their lobbying, ehr, protests.

"Feminists tend to be critical of traditional gender roles because they benefit men and oppress women."  Yes, yes, we do.  I couldn't agree with you more, Ms Bindel.  Glad we could find common ground.  Of course, then she completely rips that ground away by immediately following up by saying that "[t]ranssexualism, by its nature, promotes the idea that it is 'natural' for boys to play with guns and girls to play with Barbie dolls."  By talking about the "nature" of transsexualism (as though it somehow exists independent of actual transsexual people) and what is "natural", Bindel is trying to hit us over the head with the usual "You naive fools, you don't understand it's all socially constructed!" thing.  Just in case we were unclear on that she goes further with: "The idea that gender roles are biologically determined rather than socially constructed is the antithesis of feminism."  Again, I couldn't agree with her more since I am a feminist.  Gender roles are socially constructed.  How could they not be?  Of course the problem is that as a feminist and a transsexual woman, I see a difference between gender identity, gender expression, and gender roles.  For Bindel, like other radical feminists, gender identity, if it even exists, is the result of the imposition of gender roles as is gender expression.

Now, tell us how transsexual people came to be, Julie!  "Gender dysphoria (GD) was invented in the 1950s by reactionary male psychiatrists in an era when men were men and women were doormats."  Get that?  Transsexual people did not exist prior to the invention of the psychiatric definition of gender dysphoria.  Just like lesbians did not exist prior to Krafft-Ebing's Psychopathia Sexualis in 1886.  Gender dysphoria was also invented by reactionaries making transsexualism reactionary as well and unable to be changed by transsexual people from those roots.  Just like feminism can never change from its roots as a movement only concerned with the rights of some women.  Hmm, maybe she does have a point there, after all.  It's also vital that we remember that the psychiatrists were male because this also makes transsexuality, and thus transsexual people, forever the handmaiden of patriarchy, eternally opposed to feminism.  No transsexual person can really be a feminist (I'm a sparkly pink unicorn with a false consciousness).

"[Gender dysphoria] is a term used to describe someone who feels strongly that they should belong to the opposite sex and that they were born in the wrong body."  Yes, it does describe people who think that.  Of course, it also no longer exists as a diagnosis anymore, having been replaced quite some time ago by "gender identity disorder".  But if Bindel used the current term she couldn't as easily ignore the difference between gender roles and gender identity.  Also, a number of transsexual people disagree with the whole "born in the wrong body" thing.  My body is not the wrong body, it's my body.  What other body would I have been born in?  Also, I don't believe I should belong to the "opposite sex" as this implies that there are only two sexes, that these are natural and not somehow socially constructed, and that intersex people do not exist (or exist only as "mistakes" of one of the two sexes).  I do claim that I have issues with my body, but I have a hard time being able to articulate these issues in a way that is comprehensible to cissexual people, as it can not reach them unfiltered by societal and personal prejudices.

"[Gender dysphoria] has no proven genetic or physiological basis."  And your point is?  Neither does sexual orientation or bipolar disorder (Thank you, Arwyn!).  Does this mean that lesbianism doesn't exist?  Wait, I forgot, Bindel is a political lesbian who appropriated a lesbian identity as a result of her politics.  Actually, I suspect that Bindel's point is that this means transsexuality must be a mental (read: "not real") illness with all the bad connotations that being "crazy" carries with it.

"But no oppressed group ever insisted its emotional distress was the sole basis for the establishment of a right. Indeed, transsexuals, along with those seeking IVF and cosmetic surgery, are using the NHS for the pursuit of happiness not health."  Bindel makes a complete disability fail here.  People with mood disorders?  They need to stop being treated by the NHS, because they're only pursuing happiness not health.  Women who've been emotionally abused?  Not a health issue, because they're just pursuing happiness not health.  I could go on, but I think I've made the point.  The idea that happiness is somehow independent of health  is a privileged notion, expressed by those for whom happiness is not a health issue.  Honestly, I don't think transsexual people would be all that emotionally distressed if we didn't have to deal with a world where Bindel's views are the norm.  The emotional distress arises mainly from the rejection of our autonomy, the insistence that we are bad, that we are wrong, that we are the symptom/cause of societal problems, that we are to blame for the prejudices of others.  Speaking of autonomy, I base the establishment of a right to treatment not on emotional distress but on bodily autonomy, the same basis for the right to choose whether to carry a pregnancy to term or not.  My body, my choice.  But, of course, Bindel wants to portray transsexual people as emotionally disturbed, vain, and unnatural (don't think I missed the comparison to IVF and cosmetic surgery) just the same as has been done to women seeking the vote and queer people seeking the right to live openly.

Speaking of treatment, can you tell us about it, Julie?  "Treatment is brutal and the results far from perfect."  Wow, brutal.  Why exactly is it brutal?  Is it because it sometimes involves surgery?  Do they not use anaesthetic?  Or, is Julie just using inflammatory language?  I'm glad that Julie is there protecting transsexual people from the mistaken belief that we can evaluate for ourselves if surgical results are acceptable enough for us for those contemplating surgery.  But, no, surgery must be perfect.  BTW, what exactly does perfect mean and who decides what is perfect (if not Julie, since I'm sure she can't be called in for a consult for everyone considering surgery)?  We already ruled out transsexual people.  Maybe we should have a poll on the Daily Mail's website?  Also, I would say that hormone replacement therapy, which Bindel significantly fails to mention at all for transsexual women, is neither brutal nor far from perfect.  It hasn't hurt a bit and I'm fairly happy with my breasts (though not as happy as my fiancée is;  ahem).  Bindel's preoccupation with surgery is typical of cissexual fixation on "the surgery" (which usually only means surgery for trans women) as though it were the defining event in all transsexual people's existences (I'm certain she wouldn't bring up the removal of facial hair for transsexual women at all if she couldn't characterise it as painful).  She willfully ignores the fact that not all transsexual people undergo any surgery, since some never desire surgery, some decide that the results aren't acceptable for them, and some don't like the pain that any surgery involves (I was personally less-than-thrilled with the pain of recovering from my emergency appendectomy).

Since Bindel has made clear she is totally not transphobic, she'd never misgender someone, a transphobic act.  So this never appears anywhere in the article: "In other words, a pre-operative man could apply for a job in a women — only rape counselling service and, if refused on grounds of his sex, could take the employer to court on the grounds that 'he' is legally a 'she'."  Nope, that does not appear in the article at all.  Again, note the preoccupation with "the surgery".  After all, we all know that one of the requirements for counselling is that the counsellor expose her genitals to the person being counselled.  Oh, hang on, no, it's not.  And, it's not like such a trans woman would know anything about being raped because she might have been raped.  Oh, hang on again, a trans woman might well know.  So we're left with the simple transphobic assertion that trans women aren't women.  Because "woman" is socially constructed and absolutely based on the determination made about the woman's genitals at birth.  It's socially constructed on biological essentialism.  As we've already seen above, physical sex can not be socially constructed.  Pull the other one, it's got bells on.

Now we get to where Bindel clearly misrepresents a quote while failing to properly attribute it.  She introduces it with "A definition of transsexualism used by a number of transsexual rights organisations reads:"  which is then followed by a paragraph which I will reproduce in a moment.  I tracked down where the paragraph of quote came from since I'm always suspicious of direct quotes loosely attributed to unidentified organisations.  It turns out she copied it from Beyond the Binary: A Tool Kit for Gender Identity Activism in Schools which was put out in 2004 by the Gay-Straight Alliance Network, the Transgender Law Center, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (notice how only one of those is specifically a trans rights organisation and it's not exclusively for transsexual rights).  The paragraph Bindel quotes in her article comes from a section at the beginning entitled "What is Gender?".  Bindel quotes the paragraph thusly:
Students who are gender non-conforming are those whose gender expression (or outward appearance) does not follow traditional gender roles: "feminine boys," "masculine girls" and students who are androgynous, for example. It can also include students who look the way boys and girls are expected to look but participate in activities that are gender nonconforming, like a boy who does ballet. The term "transgender youth" can be used as an umbrella term for all students whose gender identity is different from the sex they were assigned at birth and/or whose gender expression is non-stereotypical.
 She then uses it to say that "According to this definition, a girl who plays football is trans-sexual."  Harharhar.  Only Bindel is being intellectually dishonest.  She doesn't quote the whole paragraph which continues on to say:
Some transgender students transition or change from one gender to another. Transition often means changing the way you dress, selecting a new name, and sometimes getting help from a doctor to change your body.
But, wait, I thought this was a definition of transsexualism?  Why would they say that some transgender students transition since that's what transsexualism involves?  It's simple.  This is not a definition of transsexualism, it's an explanation of gender non-conformity and transgender (including transsexuality).  In a nifty sleight of hand, Bindel uses the explanation of gender non-conformity as though it's explaining transsexualism.  Which lets her make her snarky little comment, which isn't even that original (WARNING: link to trans hate site).  Of course, last I checked, football (that's soccer to North American-types) is played by girls and womenWorld CupOlympics?  Is any of this ringing any bells?  Maybe Julie could catch a match at the London Olympics in 2012?  Heck even when I was a child (centuries ago) girls played to a remarkable lack of comment.  Anyway, moving on from the fact that Ms Bindel seems to be completely clueless about girls' participation in sports, there's the far more important issue that she feels that twisting, warping, misrepresenting...  Heck, let's be honest.  The far more important issue is that she lies.  This was not simply misunderstanding.  She went to some effort to twist what was said to be able to use it to imply that transsexualism causes transsexual people to mistake one thing, lack of conformance to norms of gender expressions, for another, having a gender identity that conflicts with one's body.  We have a false consciousness.  Except, of course, we don't.  But Bindel is hardly one to let reality stop her from getting her way.

Of course Julia next trots out Claudia, the same woman who she's been using as an example of how damaging transsexual treatment is since 2003.  However, the problem with using Claudia as an example of trans regret is how Claudia ended up transitioning.  I'm not going to go into it here, but looking at the article Bindel originally wrote about Claudia in the Guardian, the facts are more complex than "Here's a trans woman who regretted her surgery."  In fact, Claudia's case reminds me of the sorts of situations whereby lesbians and gay men can end up married to someone of the "opposite" sex and with children before they come out.

Skipping a bit, Bindel again lays down the unalterable facts of biology for us.  "Medical science cannot turn a biological male into a biological female — it can only alter the appearance of body parts. A trans-sexual 'woman' will always be a biological male."  I could go into how even the most ardent of transphobes, Janice G Raymond, acknowledged that what defined male and female in a biological sense was a combination of chromosones, types of gonads, primary and secondary sexual characteristics, hormone levels, and so on (although she, like Germaine Greer and others ultimately fetishises chromosomes) and the fact that we've already covered the erasure of intersex people, but I'd rather just say, "So what?"  Even if we grant what she says is true, that there is some sort of absolute, non-arbitrary measure of biological sex, what does biological sex have to do with social gender?  By using the case of a trans woman rapist, Bindel implies rape is only by penis and no penis means no rape.  This erases the fact that some FAAB people rape (even though English law does not classify it as such) and shifts the blame from people to body parts.  More insultingly, it erases the fact that trans people are far more likely to be victims of rape (eg, when trans women are placed in men's prisons) than perpetrators.

Next, we move back to the "trans people are big meanies" line of argument with which Bindel started this article.  "There is a handful of radicals in the world today who have dared to challenge the diagnosis of transsexualism."  I agree.  That's why there have been so few people at things like protests of the APA's lack of reform of the diagnosis in the DSM.  But, of course, what Bindel really means by challenging the diagnosis, as she has already made clear above, is challenging the rights to autonomy of trans people.  Because if she was only challenging the diagnosis she would find that a lot of trans people would join her in doing so.  I would.  But in demanding that we submit to her ideas of what we should do with our bodies, she is not radical, nor is she challenging a diagnosis.  She then goes on with examples of what big meanies trans people are and frankly I'm bored with that sort of thing and won't address them (beyond saying that I do not endorse wishing a painful death or harm on anyone).

Now we come to the conclusion, where Julie shows her true opinion of trans people: we don't deserve to exist.  Or, as she puts it: "In a world where equality between men and women was reality, transsexualism would not exist."  To her, we're a symptom of social inequality between the sexes.  We lie when we talk about who we are not having to do with that (and, in fact, making it harder for getting people to understand who are because people assume it has to do with the fact that men are treated one way and women are treated another).  She has decided what the truth is, and we're not going to change her mind even if she has to lie to herself and others to insure that she doesn't.  Speaking of which: "Sex-change surgery is unnecessary mutilation."  She has not proven this because she can't prove this even as she can't prove trans people won't exist in a world of gender equality.  She can only assert it and ignore what trans people say about the matter, because, to her, we lack the knowledge of our own lives, our own bodies, society and so on to choose for ourselves.  We need her paternalistic concern, her protecting us from ourselves, to replace the paternalism of the current gatekeepers of psychiatrists and others.

Finally, there's this: "Using human rights laws to normalise trans-sexualism has resulted in a backward step in the feminist campaign for gender equality."  I keep seeing this assertion made by Bindel and others.  I'll be frank.  I don't see this.  When people assert this they never point to examples of how this is happening that don't involve the assumption that the advancement of trans rights is a defeat for gender equality, something I don't buy at all.  Only if one subscribes to the twisted fable of transsexuality that Bindel pretends is a reality does this make sense.  The reality where I transitioned to wear pretty dresses and make up and am demure when I stay at home and cook for a man.  The reality of a fantasy world.  Here in the real world, I wear jeans and t-shirts, no makeup, am not demure at all, am a university student, and am working on learning to cook for a woman.  Oh, yes, and I try to work towards actual gender equality.

Still, I'm sure all of this won't change Julie Bindel's views.  She lives in that elaborate constructed fantasy where there's a theory that explains why I'm trans (just like the psychiatrists have theories) and anything I have to say has no bearing on it.  Instead, I write this to point out that in pushing this malarky, Bindel argues not for a world of equality but for a world where she gets hers and others pay the price for it.  Her words also support treating trans people as incapable, incompetent, as less than others, as deserving the treatment we get.  In other words, she may not directly encourage harm to us, but she certainly gives intellectual cover to those who do.

20 November 2009

International Transgender Day of Remembrance 2009

Today marks the 11th International Transgender Day of Remembrance (aka TDOR).  Today, we remember the people who have been killed because of the hatred that exists towards transgender people.  Gwendolyn Ann Smith, who founded the Remembering Our Dead website, puts it best, I think:
The Transgender Day of Remembrance serves several purposes. It raises public awareness of hate crimes against transgendered people, an action that current media doesn’t perform. Day of Remembrance publicly mourns and honors the lives of our brothers and sisters who might otherwise be forgotten. Through the vigil, we express love and respect for our people in the face of national indifference and hatred. Day of Remembrance reminds non-transgendered people that we are their sons, daughters, parents, friends and lovers. Day of Remembrance gives our allies a chance to step forward with us and stand in vigil, memorializing those of us who’ve died by anti-transgender violence.
 I think it's very important to note that almost all of those who are killed are poorer trans women of colour.  Because we live in not just a transphobic world, but a misogynistic and racist one as well.  Oppressions do intersect.  I am likely to be protected from murder by several of the privileges I possess.  Which means that I have a responsibility to make sure that I don't make this day all about myself or the trans women most like me.

Because of the nearness of the US Thanksgiving holiday to Transgender Day of Remembrance, I will be travelling today.  Fortunately for me, the nearest observance to me will take place on Sunday in Manchester (UK, not New Hampshire) so I'll still be able to attend a remembrance.  I'll be able to stand with others and make sure that the dead are remembered and celebrated.  Nonetheless, even with the stresses of travelling, I will be keeping my thoughts on those who are no longer with us because of the hatred in this world.

I'm sorry to make this a brief blog post, but I do need to deal with the aforementioned travelling.  Anyway, do two things today.  First, check the TDOR website for an observance near you and go to it.  Second, I recommend reading the following blog posts on TDOR (not all of which are from this year) and which I will keep updating at least until I have to pack my laptop:

"the drowned and the saved" by queenemily at Questioning Transphobia
"11th International Transgender Day of Remembrance" by Helen at Bird of Paradox 
"International Transgender Day of Remembrance" by kaninchenzero at FWD/Forward
"Day of Remembrance" by goodbuytjane
"Not Forgotten." by Dori at A Truly Elegant Mess
"Transgender Day of Remembrance, and an appeal to fellow Mummy bloggers" by Ruth Moss at Look Left of the Pleaides  (Highly Recommended) (not because she's my fiancée but because it's on what cis people need to do)
"International Transgender Day of Remembrance" by Arwyn at Raising My Boychick
"TDOR 2009" by Chally at Zero at the Bone
"how to mourn" by queenemily at Questioning Transphobia (Highly Recommended)

15 November 2009

Wider Boycott for Feministing - Disability Failures

Okay, I realise y'all are going to think I'm obsessed with Feministing.  I'm not, honestly.  But, they are a major feminist site (to the extent a classmate emailed our my class one of the comment-failtastic threads on stealth trans women having sex when I was co-teaching the class lectures about transsexuality), so it's not like they can be ignored.  They provide a community and resource for feminists online, especially younger feminists in the US.  So, as a feminist, I can't ignore them.  That said, let's move on to what I'm on about this time, because it's not just a repetition of how they hurt trans people, especially trans women.

Quixotess has posted asking people to please boycott Feministing because of their bad faith in engaging with feminists who attempted to get Feministing to stop failing on disability issues (I know, it's shocking that they fail on more than just trans issues).  This is important for me because of something I've never mentioned here: I'm a person with disabilities (PWD).  Feministing's failing on disability directly affects me, insuring that I'm doubly marginalised there.  But, even more importantly, it highlights how Feministing is unwilling to change their behaviour when the harm they are causing is pointed out to them and how they are willing to give lip service to change without actual change.  It is one thing to be unaware of one's privilege, another thing to have trouble dealing with it once one's privilege is pointed out, but it's altogether a different kettle of fish to claim you're going to work on changing your hurtful behaviour and then continue as though you never said anything.  I detest hypocrisy and Feministing, especially in the person of Courtney Martin, is swimming in hypocrisy (read Quixotess' linked post for details).

As part of the effort to let people know of Feministing's problems, I am also linking to meloukhia's open letter to Feministing, which started the attempted engagement of Feministing on disability issues in the first place, in the hope this will help raise it on the Google results page.  Unlikely, I know, but it's better than doing nothing.  It also provides a good history of the effort.

If you're not already boycotting Feministing for their trans failures, then I hope the realisation that this is neither an isolated problem nor that they are people of good intent who just have problems understanding is enough to join the boycott.

(h/t to Questioning Transphobia)

05 November 2009

Feministing Boycott? Still On For a Reason

If you look at the column on the right, you will see there's a linked badge about boycotting Feministe and Feministing.  No, I've not forgotten to take it down.  The boycott remains.  I can't say what good it is doing, but I certainly am not going to devote my energy to Feministing where the commenters make it downright hostile to trans people without fear of moderation.  Check out the transphobic comments to this post about how having sex with cis people while in stealth is not sexual assault if you don't believe me.

Hopefully tonight I will finish up what is turning into an epic post snarking Julie Bindel's latest transphobic blatherings.

11 October 2009

London trans activists call for boycott of sham demo on October 17th

I am passing on the following letter.  Please feel free to copy and repost it.
London trans activists call for boycott of sham demo on October 17th

We are a group of trans activists who wish to make known our concerns about a demo, claiming to support the depathologisation of trans people, in London on 17th of October. The facebook group for the demo can be found here:


The description of the event reads:

"Being transgendered is not a mental illness. We are simply part of the diversity of humanity. Gender Identity Disorder is therefore not a valid diagnosis. Homosexuality we removed as a mental health diagnosis diagnosis in 1987. For us to achieve true liberation and recognition we need to throw off this unjust stigma. We are not ill, just different"

A large number of people were invited by the demo organiser, a non-trans man by the name of Dennis Hambridge, and some of us were initially concerned by the rationale for the demo. In particular, we were worried that campaigning for the removal of Gender Identity Disorder as a medical diagnosis without proposing an alternative mechanism by which transsexual people would be able to access medical transition resources was premature and dangerous, especially in a climate where NHS primary care trusts need only a minimal excuse to deny funding for our hormonal and surgical procedures. We do not support the labelling of our gender identities as disordered, and realise that our relationship with the medical community is far from ideal, but do not wish to support a movement which may give the impression that we seek complete divorce from the medical community.

These concerns were put to the Facebook group by a number of trans activists. Rather than address them, Mr Hambridge entrenched his position, making claims that gender dysphoria was an artefact of society and the medical community, and that removal of any form of classification of gender dysphoria by the WHO was "non-negotiable".

In moves more reminiscent of the actions of transphobic radical feminists than supposed allies of trans people, Mr Hambridge started deleting some of the comments from those trans people who were concerned about our future access to hormones and surgery. Subsequently he banned a number of those trans people from the group, silencing them in that space.

To reiterate - Mr Hambridge, who is organising a demo which is allegedly supporting the rights of transsexual people is using his position as a group organiser to silence and shut out the voices of the very people he claims to support.

In light of Mr Hambridge's intransigence and refusal to listen to the voices of actual transsexual people, we are calling on all activists who support the concept of transsexual people having a say in our own medical care to boycott this demo. We further call on Mr Hambridge, who is not trans himself, to stop claiming to speak on our behalf when he is ignoring our protestations and silencing our voices, and to call off his demo.

Please spread this open letter widely.

I'd like to add some personal commentary on this.  As some of you know, I will be moving to the UK after I graduate university.  Thus, this issue matters quite a lot to me.  I'm already concerned about the fact that treatment in the UK is more gatekeeper-oriented than in the US because of the fact that the National Health Service (NHS) is an organised, unified health system unlike the situation in the US which is at best a mash of health systems.  Thus, I am able to get my hormone treatment through my GP here while I would most likely need to see a gender specialist in the UK (which means I might even have to be rediagnosed, with a possible interruption of treatment).  As the letter says, without a diagnosis in place, I would not be able to continue treatment at all.  I would have to see about obtaining hormones illicitly, which I would like to avoid because of concerns about quality and lack of health monitoring, not to mention the legal issues.  That's my stake in the matter.  I wish I could do more than simply repost this letter, but that's all I can do for now.  Please do as the letter asks and spread this widely, especially if you are in the UK.

Update:  I have been informed that because of the cancellation of the protest, the counter-protest has been called off as well.  Apparently, members of Dennis Hambridge's  STP facebook group received the following message:
After due reconsideration and-> most valued advice from Transpersons, Intersexual persons or those who work in conjuntion with them, in majority<-it as been agreed and/or decided to cancel the above rally for this years STP 2012 campaign.
If you reposted this letter, please pass along this information.

02 October 2009

I'm Coming Out More

In my previous post, "I'm (Mostly Not) Coming Out", I talked about my exception to not coming out as a trans woman at university this semester.  Since then I've talked to my professor and added another exception.  So, here's a follow-up on my meeting with my professor and what the new exception is.

As a quick refresher, I'm taking a Women's Studies course entitled "Gender & Technology" which covers transsexuality as a "technology of the body".  I was concerned given feminism's problems with transphobia, problems with other students when this was covered in the Intro course I took, and the presence of Bernice Hausman, former head of Women's Studies and still an affiliate professor of the programme.  So I decided to talk to my professor about this and to consider coming out to the class when we cover transsexuality based on how that talk went.

I was nervous about meeting with my professor, but also somewhat hopeful given a statement on the syllabus about confidentiality and having an open and trusting classroom environment.  My meeting opened with my professor saying that she was primarily concerned about my comfort in the course and that she would under no circumstances out me.  Things only got better from there.  At the end of a lengthy, pleasant conversation, I left with the slides she'd prepared for the transsexuality lecture so that I could make corrections, additions, and subtractions as needed and with the agreement that we will meet again in a couple weeks to further discuss the slides and how we're going to teach the material.  Yes, I'm co-teaching the session on transsexuality.  I believe this is called a win.  Except now I need to find non-pathologising material to introduce undergraduates to transsexual technologies, preferably written by trans people.  I would be extremely grateful for leads and suggestions from any of you.

Buoyed by my success with my professor, I decided that I would participate in the monologues performance that we're having at the university as part of National Coming Out Day.  I realised that "I'm (Mostly Not) Coming Out" was a good basis for a monologue.  I've replaced the section on making an exception for my "Gender & Technology" course with a section talking about how being known as trans can be a bad thing.  I'm still working on it, but hope to finish it before it's time to perform it.  And, while it was an option to have a volunteer perform it for me, I decided I'd prefer to personally perform it.  Which makes it an ironic performance and thus appealing to my sense of humour.  Talking about not coming out on National Coming Out Day?  And, outing myself as trans by doing so?  How could I resist?

So, I'll be coming out more than I thought.  How much depends on attendance at the performance and how much attendees talk afterwards to others, I suppose.  I might be fooling myself in believing that I can be strategically out.  I'm not sure.  I do know that I think that educating cis people about trans people is important enough to do this anyway.  I'm relatively privileged and in a much safer place that many other trans people, and if I can't leverage that privilege and safety to help those who are more vulnerable, then why have them?  Yes, there's the risk of being de/misgendered by some people.  But I think it's a minor one, especially compared to the need.  Only time will tell if I'm making the right decisions and if I actually accomplish anything.

24 September 2009

I'm (Mostly Not) Coming Out

I started attending university again right after I began transitioning. Since I had not yet changed my name legally I came out to all my professors before the first class session so that they would call me by my proper name, not my legal one. I didn't explain much, just that I was transgender and to please call me Lucy. Oddly(?), no one asked me any questions except for my Intro to Women's Studies instructor which led to many long conversations in which she revised her opinion of transgender since she'd only had theory prior to then; theory which did not survive contact with an actual trans woman who refused to let others define her life with their theories. It wasn't only a one-way exchange since I was still struggling to come to terms with my transition and place in society as a trans woman.

Now I'm back in courses for a new year, having been in transition, including HRT, for two years and with my name legally changed. Hormones have reshaped my body and I've grown more comfortable with being a woman. Because the university has the right name on everyone's class rolls, there was no burning need to meeting with my professors prior to classes beginning. I figured I'd just talk to them during their regular office hours. It took me a while before I noticed that I was getting properly gendered by everyone in my classes, students and professors, even with my height and lower voice. I've met with all my professors now and passed up the opportunity to come out as a trans woman. There seems to be little point. Why should my geology professor even care? He unhesitatingly calls me "ma'am" (He's charmingly polite.) whenever I interact with him which is really all I care about.

So, I'm not coming out as transgender in my classes. With one large exception, which I'll get to in a moment. Because, honestly, cissexism means that there's a fair chance that if I do come out I will no longer be regarded and treated as a woman. Sadly, many cis (and even some trans) people regard trans people as not being "really" whatever gender they are. Polite ones may humour us by using proper pronouns and forms of address without actually accepting us. Frankly, I don't have the energy to fight against that sort of thing. I need to get good grades to get into graduate school and having to devote energy to educating someone would hinder that. Except...

Except that I'm taking a Women's Studies course this semester entitled "Gender & Technology." I'm sure everyone can see where this is going. One of the topics we will be covering is technologies of the body and the syllabus specifically mentions intersexuality, transsexuality, and cosmetic surgery. Which is perfectly reasonable. However, feminism has a bad history with regards to transsexuality (and intersexuality, for that matter) as it has spent far more time criticising and theorising about transsexuality and transsexuals than actually listening to us. Considering one of the criticisms levelled against transsexuality is that the body modifications that transsexuals often undergo are a form of self-mutilation like cosmetic surgery (which you'll notice is being discussed in this same topic), you can begin to see why I might be concerned. More to the point, even with a supportive instructor in my Intro to Women's Studies course, I had to actually yell at the other students in my class for being shitheads when this topic came up, outing myself to the class in the process. Also playing a role is the fact that Dr Bernice Hausman is a tenured professor here, affiliated with the Women's and Gender Studies Program. Some may know her as the author of the book, Changing Sex: Transsexualism, Technology, and the Idea of Gender, which has been criticised perhaps most famously by Julia Serano in Whipping Girl as well as appearing prominently as an example of what not to do in a guide for cis people writing about trans people. She headed the (then) Women's Studies Program from 2003-2005, which is coincidentally the last year she seems to have written anything about trans people (She now seems to have moved on to breastfeeding based on her CV). Her acceptance here does not lead to great confidence about this being a supportive academic environment for trans people.

So, I am going to come out to my Gender & Technology professor and inquire just what and how she intends to present transsexuality to the class. And, depending on how that goes, I'll be coming out in the class discussion as well. Because I really can't see how I'd be able to avoid it and stay true to myself and other trans people. While it is not my responsibility to educate others, I'm not going to duck doing so. I'm sure there will be those who will see me as lesser afterwards, but hopefully more will be open to learning. I'll let you know how it goes.

23 September 2009

Happy Celebrate Bisexuality Day!

Yes, 23 September is Celebrate Bisexuality Day. It's the day for bisexual, pansexual, those of fluid sexuality, and their friends, family, and supporters to celebrate bisexuality, bisexual history, bisexual community and culture, and bi/pansexual people themselves. While I'm not bisexual I have been very fortunate to be loved and befriended by bisexual people (For instance: Hi, Ruth! Hi, Arwyn!) both online and in my day-to-day life. Let the bisexual people you love know that you love them, accept them, and support them today.

24 August 2009

Sex work and sexuality group blog

Via Caroline at Loserdust (Original post here):

I am in the midst of setting up a group blog for sex workers and allies about, as the title of this post suggests, sex work and sexuality.

I'd like for it to be concerned mainly with the UK and Europe, though I do want to include US bloggers and issues.

I think this has a hell of a lot of potential. Blogging is a fantastic way of getting the message out to people and so often the US dominates discourse, so having a blog to really push the UK and Europe forward will be a very big thing. And I want this to work.

What I need - some folks from the UK and Europe. So, if you are a sex worker or ally from the UK / Europe and you'd like to participate in this, whether you'd like to be a regular contributer, post sporadically or just want to be in on the ride, give me a shout: shepherd[dot]cc[at]gmail[dot]com. I've already got one or two very groovy people, so you'll be in awesome company :)

08 August 2009

Kyriarchy Illustrated: A Dyke-Bashing in Liverpool

"Kyriarchy Illustrated" is an occasional series of posts where I talk about the effects of living in a kyriarchy via my personal experiences.  Find all of the posts so far by clicking on the "kyriarchy illustrated" link at the end of the post.
As a feminist I subscribe to the idea that the oppression of women is not best described by the term patriarchy, or "rule of the fathers", but by kyriarchy. As Arwyn defines it:
“[K]yriarchy” emphasizes that it is the very concept of “master” that rules us; it is the act of creating hierarchies on which we are all placed “higher” or “lower” that oppresses and damages us.
How these hierarchies of oppression intersect is different for everyone as a personal experience illustrates.

When I was in the UK last month, my fiancée (OHAI Ruth) and I went to Liverpool a couple times. The second time we went, we went sightseeing down at the docks and then headed over to visit a gay pub (instead of one of the many gay bars on the same street). As we headed to the pub, from behind us some bloke shouted, "Fucking dykes!". This was the first time I've been bashed for being a dyke and my reactions surprised me.

One of my reactions was pleasure at being correctly gendered as a woman. As a trans woman, I'm used to getting misgendered of course. And, I'm also happy when I get gendered correctly. Even so, I was shocked that even as I was irate at being bashed just for walking down the street being affectionate with the woman I love I was thankful for being affirmed as a woman. Such is the life of being trans in a cis world where one takes validation where one can get it. (A friend of mine pointed out that this happens reaction is also shown in the movie "Better Than Chocolate" where a trans woman replies "Oh thank you!" when hit with the same shout from skinheads)

A simulataneous reaction with the above was that I wanted to shout back, "Actually, only I'm a dyke. She's bi.". Because, while we may be involved in a lesbian relationship, Ruth is definitely bisexual. But, as usual, sexuality is attributed based upon one's current partner and the idea that one can be attracted to more than one gender is not even considered.

Additionally, Ruth told me when I asked her about this incident that she was just happy she wasn't being fat-bashed as she had been earlier in the evening (Yes, the assholes were out in force in Liverpool that evening). It was better for her to be attacked for her sexuality than attacked for her appearance.

So there you have it. Two people are bashed and their reactions to it differ based upon the differing oppressions they experience under kyriarchy. This is why I think any feminism that is to serve all women has to deal with the situations each woman finds herself in.

06 June 2009

Help a Trans Sister Out

My friend Voz needs some help. Quoting her entry:

As many of you know, my partner and I are losing our home and most of our belongings tomorrow to foreclosure.

Tho it pains me to do so, I am asking for donations to start our new life, and help build our new subsistence farm and eco homestead. We'll dedicate a sapling to you or something, and welcome visitors.

There is a tax penalty on the land we bought of $2700.00 that must be paid before we can build. If u can't send money, send your leftover seed packets from your garden.

If you can, send something to:
Alyssa and Crystal C.
PO Box 231
Richmond, ME 04357

Or to my PayPal, if you actually have money.

Thanks in advance

01 May 2009

Music Meme

I'd actually been avoiding the blogger meme thing, but then dear Ms Moss requested that I do them. I am unable to refuse her, so I present you with the music meme post. The following results obtained with my iPod, purchased for purely academic reasons (yeah, right).

Instructions: Go to your music player of choice and put it on shuffle. Say the following questions aloud, and press play. Use the song title as the answer to the question. NO CHEATING.

How does the world see you?

Break On Through - The Doors

Will I have a happy life?

Eine Kleine Nacktmusik - Mozart

What do my friends really think of me?

Metropolis - The Church

How can I be happy?

Finest Worksong (Mutual Drum Horn Mix) - R.E.M.

What should I do with my life?

It's a Sin - Pet Shop Boys

Will I ever have children?

The Offer - Wire

What is some good advice for me?

Waterfall '96 - Various Artists

How will I be remembered?

The Bad Touch (Eiffel65 Remix) - Bloodhound Gang

What is my signature dancing song?

Get Up and Jump - Red Hot Chili Peppers

What do I think my current theme song is?

This Ay Nicht - Mediaeval Baebes

What does everyone else think my current theme song is?

Moments in Love (ComputerBlue remix) - The Art of Noise

What song will play at my funeral?

Allison - Elvis Costello

What type of men/women do you like?

Like A Virgin - Madonna

What is my day going to be like?

The Thin Line - Queensryche

It's like they're in my head! And, no, I really do not prefer virgins, though it is kind of funny that that would come up.

BTW, you can find my dear Ms Moss' results for this here.

06 April 2009

It's Always About the Cis Women

Not all women's issues affect all women equally, or even, sometimes, at all. Issues can vary by class, race, sexuality, and so on. But feminism has recognised that just because an issue may only affect a small number of women it nonetheless is a feminist issue because it is a women's issue. Feminism also has recognised that it is important to foreground the women for whom it is an issue and let them lead in dealing with the issue. Feminism has not always succeeded in this. Womanism came directly out of the failure of second-wave feminism to engage with its own racism, in refusing to see issues for women of colour as women's issues. But, things have gotten better now that we're in the third wave, right? Not so much for trans women. Two recent discussions at major feminist blogs demonstrate this.

In the first case, we go to Feministing where Miriam posted a letter from Focus on the Family (FotF) which scaremongers about "men in the women's room" when anti-discrimination laws are passed. Cis women comments there started out the comments already falling for the meme. When allies, other trans women, and myself actually arrived and tried to bring the conversation back to reality, we were effectively ignored. The conversation continued to be about the dangers of having men in the same restroom as (cis) women and girls, how uncomfortable it would be to have men there, and how trans women were OK there as long as they didn't look too much like men. [Note: Comments have now been completely scrubbed at Feministing such that you will find none of what I talk about.]

Next, came Feministe with "By Any Other Name" which Cara wrote in response to an article by a cis man about what he learned from a trans woman student. The comments started out actually engaging the article and what Cara had said about it. However, the discussion then turned into a conversation about birth control methods which was neither in the OP nor a trans women's issue at all seeing as how we can't get pregnant. Voz and Galling Galla complained about it which finally led to Cara stepping in to say she would moderate heavier for derailing. However, prior to Cara's statement, one commenter actually had the gall to say "Not all discussions that crop up will be concerns to all women. Isn’t that bound to happen?". In a thread that specifically addresses an article about a trans woman, we're expected to see the discussion turning to exclusively cis-concerns as something that's bound to happen?

But maybe the Feministe commenter is right. Any discussion that crops up about trans issues is bound to not include the concerns of trans folk. It is always about the cis women. With a few (wonderful) exceptions, it seems as though cis women can't be bothered to consider any experience outside their own. At least not the cis women found at major online feminist sites. Way to include all women.

25 March 2009

Bil Browning Appropriates Virginia Tech

Update: For those who want a far better explanation of this than what I provide, start at voz's post on LiveJournal.

I really wasn't planning on getting involved into what is turning into a full-on blog war beyond commenting on other people's posts. First, I assume people who read me have no clue what I'm talking about so some background. lyssa, a trans woman of colour, made a comment at The Bilerico Project expressing her rage at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) for what she sees as their contributing role to the loss of trans lives. It involved violent imagery. So, rather than just deleting the comment and chastising lyssa via email, Bil Browning, the owner of The Bilerico Project, decides to make an example of the comment and makes a post about it. He says this is not acceptable on his blog (fair enough as it is his blog) and how he would gladly turn over her info to the police for making a death threat. It's that latter bit that's the problem as the police are not the friends of trans women of colour. Anyway, you can see all of that, including lyssa's apology via a screenshot of Bil's post here.

So, in various places around LiveJournal and at Questioning Transphobia, there has been discussion about just how screwed up it is to threaten to call the police for something that is hyperbolic and how much danger that would place a trans woman of colour in. OK, fine. But, what about Virginia Tech? For that we have to turn to Twitter.

From the Bilerico (Bil Browning's) Twitter feed:

12:13 PM Mar 21st from TweetDeck in reply to soofriends
@soofriends And those fantasies get people killed. Think Virginia Tech. He put it all on the internet first

12:11 PM Mar 21st from TweetDeck in reply to soofriends
@soofriends I didn’t threaten her. I said if police come calling over death threats, I would cooperate. Wouldn’t you? Trans or not?

12:10 PM Mar 21st from TweetDeck in reply to soofriends
@soofriends Think how many times you hear about killers “I never would have thought…” You just never know.

Whoa! "Think Virginia Tech" Look, I don't have to think Virginia Tech. I was here at Virginia Tech for 16 April 2007 when 32 fellow students and faculty were killed. That was real. That was the action of an homicidally unstable individual. Not a justifiable expression of rage at an organisation that has over and over again betrayed trans people.

Thanks for reopening an unhealed wound, Bil! I still have my peace cranes from those that were sent in the thousands from other schools as an expression of solidarity for our grief. I still remember the signed cards, the huge signed sheets, the makeshift memorial now made permanent. I'm crying now just thinking about it. Is that what you wanted, Bil? And, I'm not the worst off by far. I've watched people break down repeatedly in tears for months afterwards because their friend was one of those killed. I remember the first anniversary of that horrid day being incredibly difficult for many of us. Oh, and did I mention we're coming up on the second anniversary really soon? We're still struggling with dealing. Great timing there, Bil!

So, Bil, from the bottom of this Hokie trans woman's heart, FOAD.

20 March 2009

Trans "Theory" Reply Form Letter

Shamelessly stolen from a post at the Transgender community on LiveJournal (with permission)

Instructions: Simply copy and tick the appropriate places to reply to Yet Another Cis (or Even Trans) Person Explaining Why Trans People Are the Way We Are

Your post advocates a:

( ) body dysmorphic
( ) brain structural
( ) nurture-based
( ) nature-based
( ) fetishistic
( ) product of abuse or parenting
( ) patriarchal coercion
( ) confused male-male homosexuality
( ) ulterior patriarchal motivational

theory of transsexualism. Your theory will not work. Here is why it won't work. (One or more of the following may apply to your particular idea, and it may have other flaws.)

( ) Not all transsexual or transgender people are the same
( ) Not all transgender people identify the same way
( ) There's no firm scientific evidence yet
( ) Not all transgender people were brought up the same way
( ) Diagnostic criteria is not written with a view to trans experience
( ) Biased scientific studies
( ) Not all transgender people were abused as children
( ) Blinding ideology
( ) Not all transsexual or transgender people want surgery

Specifically, your theory fails to account for:

( ) Applying the same ideas to non-trans people breaks the theory
( ) Independent thought and intelligence of trans people
( ) Ideology of people who want to erase trans people
( ) The complex nature of the human mind
( ) The day-to-day security of trans women
( ) Your definitions don't match reality
( ) The fact that lesbian trans women exist
( ) The fact that trans men exist
( ) Feminist trans women
( ) Trans voices and experiences
( ) Discrimination against trans people

and the following philosophical objections may also apply:

( ) An etiology of trans people shouldn't be necessary to ensure trans rights
( ) Biological reductionism sucks
( ) Rigidity of gender sucks
( ) Why should anyone care so much about what's in others' pants?
( ) What are your real motivations for interest in our etiology?

Furthermore, this is what I think about you:

( ) Sorry dude, but I don't think it would work.
( ) This is a stupid idea, and you're a stupid person for suggesting it.
( ) Nice try, assh0le! I'm going to find out where you live and burn your house down!

06 March 2009

Trans Men Assaulted Outside DC Club

I visit a friend of mine in DC pretty regularly and participate in the lesbian club scene when I'm there, so I was disturbed to hear about lesbians assaulting trans men who were attending a lesbian night at Fab Lounge. My friend reminds me that this sort of thing is rare, but as a trans person I do feel vulnerable (even though I'm an awfully big girl).

(h/t Questioning Transphobia)

From the Washington Blade:

Two female-to-male transgender patrons at the Dupont Circle gay bar Fab Lounge told police they were verbally harassed and assaulted by two female customers who denounced one of the men as androgynous.

The D.C. Police Department’s Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit was assisting Second District detectives in investigating last week’s incident to determine whether it should be classified as an anti-transgender hate crime, said acting Lt. Brett Parson, who oversees the unit.

Second District police officers responding to the scene did not designate the incident as a hate crime at the time they prepared their report of the assault, Parson said.

Mitch Graffeo, 40, of Alexandria, Va., said the incident began when he and a friend were getting ready to leave Fab Lounge shortly before 3 a.m. on Feb. 28 at the conclusion of the club’s weekly lesbian night. As his friend walked over to a sofa to retrieve his coat, a female customer began “groping” his friend, Graffeo said.

The 29-year-old friend, also from Alexandria, spoke to the Blade on the condition that he was identified only by his first name, Jaime.

Graffeo said Jaime, who is about 5 feet 4 inches tall and has a slender build, recently began a female-to-male gender transition process and has a youthful, boyish appearance. Graffeo noted he transitioned more than 10 years ago and his gender is readily recognized as that of a male.

“They said, ‘What the fuck are you? Are you a girl or a boy?’” Graffeo recalled one of the women saying to Jaime inside the club.

Graffeo said another woman, along with a man who was with them, joined the first woman in shouting insults aimed at Jaime’s appearance after Jaime asked the first woman to leave him alone.

Jaime told the Blade as many as three women in the bar ran their hands over his chest as they taunted him over his appearance, saying they wanted to find out if he was male or female.

He and Graffeo then left the Fab Lounge, which is located in a second-floor space at 1805 Connecticut Ave., N.W., in an effort to avoid a confrontation with the women, the two men said.

“When we were about 20 feet from the club’s entrance, one of the lesbians came up from behind and put [Jaime] in a headlock and again began to question his gender,” Graffeo said.

Jaime said that as the woman released him from her grip, another woman punched him repeatedly in the head and body, inflicting injuries that included a concussion, doctors told him later.

As the alleged assault unfolded on the sidewalk near the corner of Connecticut and Florida avenues, Graffeo said he asked the women to leave Jaime alone and announced he was calling the police on his cell phone. At that time, the woman who had held Jaime in a headlock “grabbed my phone out of my hands and hit me in the neck and head a few times,” Graffeo said.

Minutes later, Graffeo said, the male friend who had accompanied the women inside the club arrived in a car, which he stopped on Connecticut Avenue in front of the Royal Palace nightclub, which operates below Fab Lounge. He said the two women entered the car, which turned onto Florida Avenue and drove eastbound, Graffeo said.

He said police arrived minutes later after Jaime used his own cell phone to call 911. Graffeo noted that the woman who grabbed his phone never returned it, and the phone has been reported as stolen.

The two trans men said that officers who responded to the scene did not immediately indicate whether they attempted to locate or identify the attackers through a license plate number of the car the alleged attackers drove from the scene. The men said they saw the car license number and provided it to police.

Parson told the Blade that “all leads have been followed up on to include the license plate information provided in the report.”

Graffeo said Jaime declined an offer by D.C. police to call for an ambulance. Instead, he said, he drove Jaime to a hospital in Alexandria, which is closer to where Jaime lives.

Jaime told the Blade he was treated and released from the hospital after doctors administered a CT-scan and other medical tests. He said doctors told him he had a concussion and a whiplash injury to his neck. He also noted that he has numerous bruises on his body, face and head.

Parson said Second District police officers listed the incident in their report as an assault and theft. He said the officers did not initially classify the incident as a hate crime.

Graffeo and Jaime said they attempted to explain to the officers that Jaime was singled out because of his appearance and gender expression.

“I don’t know if they fully understood the situation,” Graffeo told the Blade. Graffeo said his reasons for talking with the Blade about the incident were twofold.

“I want to make our community aware that this hate crime occurred,” he said in an e-mail. “Moreover, I want to emphasize that this crime happened in a gay bar and that the offenders were from the LGBT community itself.”

Jaime said in a telephone interview that he was likewise “shocked that anything like this would happen here — that somebody from our own LGBT community would want to hurt somebody else from that same community.”

Parson said Second District police are investigating the incident with assistance from the GLLU.

“If we determine that the assault was wholly or partially motivated by bias toward their gender identity or expression, we could reclassify it as a hate crime,” he said.

Washington’s hate crimes law calls for stricter penalties for hate-related crimes where victims are targeted because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.

Graffeo described the woman who assaulted him and took his cell phone as black, about 5 feet 4 inches tall, and weighing about 140 pounds. He said the woman sported hair with long braids and wore a black baseball cap, black jacket and blue jeans with designs on the pockets.

He and Jaime said they did not get a good look at the woman who repeatedly punched Jaime because Graffeo was distracted by the assault against him and Jaime’s vision was obstructed as he was struck.

Both men said the attack against Jamie took place in front of the entrance of the Royal Palace in clear view of a Royal Palace security worker. Graffeo said an employee of Fab Lounge also came out to the sidewalk where the assault occurred and appeared to have watched as one of the two women who committed the assault entered the car of the male friend.

Representatives of Fab Lounge and Royal Palace did not immediately respond to requests for comment.