29 November 2010

Transphobic Feminists? It's Your Turn

I could spend all of my time responding to the transphobic nonsense that's put forth as a valid form of feminism.  But it would quickly get repetitive even as I took on a new thing from a transphobic feminist every day.  Because  there's nothing new.  So, guess what, transphobic feminists?  It's time to justify yourselves.  Not just smack on trans women with lies and half-truths and evasions as you assume the support of cis feminists but have to build your case from the ground up.  However,  you're not getting to do it here.

polerin has provided a blog post for you transphobic feminists to justify yourselves.

Have at it.  The shoe's finally on the other foot.  As it always should have been.

20 November 2010

Remembering Our Other Dead

Today is the 12th Annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, the day we remember those trans people (and those who were suspected of being trans or who were with a trans person) who have been taken from us by transphobic violence.  It is a somber day, a day when we remember that transphobia not only grinds us down every day but can ultimately kill.  I highly recommend you go to a a TDOR event in your area if one is being held.

However, I wanted to do something different for this TDOR.  I wanted to talk about the fact that the transphobic violence that kills us does not always come at the hands of another.  Sometimes it's at our own hands.  Almost half of living trans people have attempted suicide.  I am one of them.

While many factors contributed to my suicide attempt the primary one was the transphobia I had internalised over years.  The self-loathing from knowing how abject a person I was built to self-hatred and, when I lost my primary emotional support, finally to the calm assurance that the way to deal with transphobia was to kill myself. Because I had not transitioned at that time.  I knew lots of things.  I knew that I would always look like "a man in a dress", that I would never be truly accepted among lesbians (even though cis lesbians had always been very supportive of me, a rarity for a trans woman), that no one could truly love me as a woman because I had the wrong genital configuration, but most of all that I was a freak and a pervert.  Does any of that sound familiar to you?  It should as that's the transphobia that surrounds us and pervades our culture.

I was fortunate.  I changed my mind at the last moment, and, while I paid the price for my attempt in time in hospital, permanent physical damage, and likely a shortened lifespan, I consider myself lucky.  I lived and decided to transition.  Not everyone is so lucky.

Transphobia in a cis person can obviously be deadly.  The roll of names that we read every year shows just how deadly.  And those names should not be forgotten.  They should be remembered as lives lost to the hatred of trans people.  But we should also spare a thought for those whose names we likely don't know.  Because transphobia in a trans person can be just as deadly, likely even more deadly considering the number of those of us who have tried suicide and lived.  Spare a thought today for those trans people who may have never come out enough to even hint to others that they were trans.  Spare a thought for those trans people who learned the hatred of trans people so well that their response was to kill themselves because they could not live with that hatred.

Even if you have never hurt a trans person, if you have expressed transphobia you may have contributed, in however small a part, to the death of a trans person.  That is even more sombering than knowing that trans people are killed by others.  Even if you can't stop a murderer from killing us, you can help prevent the death of trans people by stomping out transphobia in yourself and others.  Please remember that beyond this day of remembrance.

ETA: I would be remiss if I did not provide trans-specific suicide prevention information.  Here are two brochures provided by the MTPC on transgender suicide.

15 October 2010

Candle Light Memorial for Stacey Blahnik

The House of Blahnik has announced there will be a candle light memorial tomorrow (Saturday, 16th October) in Philadelphia for Stacey Blahnik, found murdered in her home on the 11th.  Since, for somewhat complex reasons, I am currently in Philadelphia I will be attending.  Although I was not familiar with Stacey, we lose too many trans women, especially trans women of colour, for me to not pay my respects to her especially given her work as a trans activist.

The details of the candle light memorial are as follows:
Candle Light Memorial
Saturday, Oct. 16th
6:30pm – 9:30pm
Love Park – 15th/JFK (Phila, PA)
4 info contact Father Kiron Prodigy 267-401-5085

I hope that anyone who can make it to memorial will attend.  I hope to see you there.

29 September 2010

Rage: (Cis) Feminists Other Trans Women

This is going to be a short ragy post because, as a feminist and a trans woman I find it depressing to dwell on this subject much.  Feminism has a long, shameful history of only being for some women, the right women.  The sex-positive movement, womanism, and others owe part of their existence to the fact that feminisms, or perhaps more accurately, feminists have not lived up to any sort of ideal that feminism is the radical idea that women are people.  As a trans woman I'm definitely not people and often not a woman.

Now I'm not just talking about the transphobic radscum types who take pride in their hatred for trans women.  Haters are everywhere, only their supposed justifications differ.  Radscum really say the same things as the religious fundamentalist haters.  So I dismiss them pretty easily.  Except.

Except it's amazing how most cis feminists don't actually denounce radscum.  Oh, they're happy to give lip service about how awful it is that they say these things but they're otherwise happy to accept that they really are feminists who are concerned about all women.  Or, you even get cis feminists who claim to not be transphobic and then make approving comments at radscum hate sites.  But the most annoying thing is when cis feminists don't necessarily do these things but make statements that exclude trans women as women and as feminists.  Like this lovely quote I found in a recent post by a cis feminist elsewhere:
I am always fascinated when transgendered people describe (witness!) the sexism they have encountered, and chronicle the differences in the ways they are treated after transitioning to man/woman. I don't think any better witnesses concerning the realities of sexism can be found, since they really have experienced it from both sides of the gender spectrum. 
That's pretty othering.  Trans people as witnesses to sexism.  Like we're subjects of an experiment that cis feminists are running.  Like we're not feminists but only exist to "fascinate" cis feminists.  This is the sort of reason why some trans women are saying they are no longer feminists.  Because feminism doesn't include us.  At best we're examples for feminism in its relentless theorising, our lived experience considered in the most limited way. Silly trans women!  We show how the system is broken!  Thanks for that.  Maybe feminism will liberate you when they liberate all women (ie, never).  But don't con yourself that you're a feminist who can theorise and analyse like cis feminists!

So why do I stay a feminist?  Because I do believe in the ideals.  Because I know feminists won't listen to non-feminist criticism.  Heck, they barely listen to feminist criticism.  I'm sure at some point it will be too much for me to bear any more and feminists will drive me out of feminism.  No great loss.  Same old, same old.

07 September 2010

Body of Work: On Transition and Gender Expression For All

Transition has also changed me a lot physically.  Now I'm not going into all the physical changes I've done in transition because I find cis people seem to treat it as entertainment or use it to misspeak truths about me.  I will however mention the most obvious public changes.  My chest has changed significantly which I'm getting used to although I still often glance down and think "Oh, that's right, I have cleavage."  My face has also changed, although I personally have a harder time seeing that change because I still seem to seek out what I've always seen in my face.  I also am still slowly getting "hippier" and more bum, but that is a longer-term movement of fat. My hips sway more, although I can't say why.  I am certain it's not a conscious thing, but that's about it.

I'm sure, of course, that a few readers here are going to be thinking I changed to look "pretty" or because "I like to wear frocks" or other reasons.  Which, while it would have been hurtful to hear those words not that long ago, now I just find it funny.  I never thought I would look pretty, although some people now tell me I am (and I'm willing to grant that I may be cute), so that's a non-starter.  I could have worn dresses without transitioning.  Actually, wearing dresses is something I had to be more or less convinced into wearing by cis people.  I was surprised to find that dresses actually look better on me than jeans and T-shirts.  They're also a lot cooler which is a big deal to me as my body often feels overheated.

But, here's the thing, I don't need to defend my wardrobe choices to anyone, any more than  I need to defend my grooming choices, surgical choices, HRT choices, and anything else that affects my bodily appearance.  Yes, I should be reflective about why I do things in a society that places so much emphasis on certain bodily disciplines for the two recognised genders, but ultimately I have to choose what I think will let me be safe in a violently transphobic society, what I feel comfortable with, and what I think expresses myself within the context of my culture.  For instance, I think it's very inappropriate of butch women to declare that femme women are less feminist than them, are obviously too straight-identified even when the femme woman is often some form of queer, and that femmes need to stop identifying with disempowering feminity.  Similarly, androgynous (or other non-gender-specific-expressing) women need to stop telling butch women to stop imitating men because it's showing a shame in being women, although obviously they shouldn't be too feminine.  Femmes need to not consider themselves the only "true" feminine women.  In case you're missing the subtle point, each type of gender-expressing women mentioned is defining "the proper way to be a woman" as her gender expression.  There is no One True Way.  Period.

I'm not going to tell you what your gender expression needs to be, because I likely don't know you or anything about you.  I don't know what makes you feel comfortable.  I don't know what you find makes you attractive to the people you're trying to attract (assuming you're trying to attract anyone).  I don't know what you find properly communicates who you are to other people.  Thus, my only advice to you is consider how you express your gender and then do so in a way appropriate to you.  Be yourself.  But think about who you are.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't point out that there are likely some limits and influences on your gender expression.  Available income can be a strong determinant of the kinds of things you have available as choices.  Available time can make it difficult to be able to see what's out there that you might like.  Region can also be a factor.  For example, I noticed that in one queer pub I was in in Liverpool the butch women were the ones not wearing (so much) makeup and with their hair pulled back in bands.  Which makes a certain amount of sense as the Scouse standard for women based on what I saw on the streets of Liverpool and in conversations with a Scouser woman seems to be what I'm used to thinking of as femme.  So butch there seemed less butch than what I'm used to.  For trans women we often have to have more markers of femininity than cis women to be gendered as women.  Disability can at least sometimes result in different choices for gender expression.  Race and class can certainly be factors as well.

The point is that we are individuals.  Demands that we adhere to standards based on feminist arguments/ideals is ultimately no different than demands that we adhere to societal standards.  They are not and should not be absolutes for all of us.  At best they are things to consider, things to reflect about.  But if I see one more feminist blog post discussing shaving as a feminist issue, I'm going to barf.  Such posts inevitably end up with people expressing what choices they have made and often doing so in defensive ways.  If there's a wider discussion to be had, no one is having it.  Sure, knock yourself out on your personal blogs, but for heaven's sake we really do have other issues we should be discussing than yet again whether or not we remove hair from certain parts of our body.  Think for yourself, perhaps consider what others say, and make your own decision.

08 May 2010

Gender and Feminism Conflict?

For once I'm going to kind of agree with those whacky transphobic feminists who claim they are radical feminists when they claim that feminism isn't about gender and that feminism is about sex.  Okay, I'm not really going to agree with them, but I hope that got your attention.  The point I am going to pick up on is the conflict that feminism seems to have with gender, which the transphobes do suggest.

Before I go further, it's perhaps helpful to give a quick idea of what I mean by "gender".  Here I mean it as that which exists in the social sphere and is usually regarded as arising from physical sex and reveals itself in varying ways in the personal and social.  Gender, as it relates to feminism, is the means by which women are defined as less than men in society, the means by which sexism operates.  Feminism has pointed out how gender is a social construct and done lots of analysis to investigate the many ways in which gender operates upon men and women as well as working to try to deal with ending sexism.  Gender has proved very fruitful for feminism.

The problem arises for feminism in that many, if not most, cis feminists seem to have decided that because they have learned so much about the way in which gender affects (cis) women and (cis) men that this means that feminism is the only, or at least the best, place that gender can be dealt with.  This has resulted in cis feminists deciding that they know best how trans people should deal with the role of gender in our lives and prescribing and proscribing what we should do.  It has almost always meant that they blame trans people for enforcing and upholding societal standards of gender while showing no awareness of their complicity in those standards (Hint: If you're telling trans people how to deal with gender, you're almost inevitably enforcing gender standards.), and, most egregiously, their drafting of trans people for the "end of gender"/gender revolution/whatever (On this last point, I would at the least suggest that revolutionaries who are drafted are not going to be committed to the revolution; just saying.).  That is to say, feminism seems to flounder in gender when it tries to expound upon an understanding of gender beyond that based in cis men and cis women.

So, long post short, we see that cis feminists haven shown a limited understanding of gender.  I'm almost willing to grant them expertise on gender and cis wo/men except they have often shown a lack of understanding that gender does not affect even all cis women the same way and have a nasty habit of totalitising their gender analysis based upon a certain type of cis white women in the developed world (ie, they're universalising their own experiences).  Now I'm not going to suggest that trans people have any sort of lock on gender (That would be making the same mistake that cis feminists made.) but we certainly do have a variety of gender understandings that is not found among cis feminists.  If cis feminists bother to listen they might learn something and might even gain new insights into the way in which gender works among cis people.

07 May 2010

Body of Work: Introduction

In reading what people, especially cis people, have written about trans people, especially transsexual people, I've been struck by the role the body is both front and centre and yet ignored, invisibilised, or erased.  I mostly mean the trans body, but also the cis body.  To me embodiment (by which I mean "being with a body") is an important part of trans, and cis, life and experience.  So I'll soon be starting an indefinite series of posts about bodies, particularly my body (because I'm the one I know best).  I suspect I might repeat what other people have said, but I'll see if I can't also be somewhat original and definitely personal when talking about my body.  I hope it'll be useful to people besides me.

12 March 2010

Kyriarchy Illustrated - A Border Crossing

"Kyriarchy Illustrated" is an occasional series of posts where I talk about the effects of living in a kyriarchy via my personal experiences.  See the first post in the series "A Dyke-Bashing in Liverpool" and find all of the posts so far by clicking on the "kyriarchy illustrated" link at the end of the post.

One of the more annoying things about being discriminated against is you can't always be absolutely sure you are being discriminated against let along be able to prove it to anyone else.  For one thing, you're really most familiar with how people treat you and not so much other people, which makes it hard to compare treatment.  For another thing, most people, contrary to the beliefs of many, don't call you names or otherwise make it very obvious when they are discriminating against you.  They may even think they're being perfectly fair (eg, the US justice system and the racist treatment of convicted murderers).  But, perhaps most importantly, many of us have not been told how to identify and deal with discrimination when it happens (eg, in the US, the focus is almost exclusively on not discriminating, not on dealing with discrimination when it inevitably occurs).

Thus, I had grown somewhat complacent crossing international borders as a trans woman.  Yes, with my name, my appearance, and my sex/gender marker on official documents I was playing a trans version of "One of These Things Is Not Like the Other" from Sesame Street, but the routine of them all being considered as congruent by either inattentive or polite officials lulled me into a sense of normalcy.  So, it wasn't until after I left my encounter with an immigrations official who found something wrong with every answer that I gave and flipped furiously through my passport, minutely examining every stamp within it before stamping my passport with a final insinuation that I was wholly unaware of immigration law (Au contraire!), that I reflected on just what had gone wrong with the encounter.  Playing the encounter back in my head from the start, I realised that it was pretty much right at the time that the immigrations official would have found the answer to that Sesame Street song.  This is why filling out forms and showing ID tend to be very stressful, even dangerous, for trans people.  Because I'm sure that official could have refused me entry had zie chosen to do so.  Sure, it might have been reversed at some point on appeal, but it might not have been and would have been even more stressful and humiliating plus possibly earning me a black mark as a "troublemaker".  Instead, I left the encounter angry and feeling humiliated, knowing that the official acted within hir remit but in a way not in keeping with treating me as I treated hir.

Of course I can't prove any of what I relate above.  Unless the official noted something in the record of my crossing, it's merely my word against hirs and besides I'm in the country so what am I complaining about anyway?  But that's what I think the nature of a lot of discrimination in a kyriarchy is about, the kind that you can't prove happened but yet others like you talk about as happening to them and identify it as discrimation as well.  The patronising attitude, the assumption that you are stupid or ignorant, the seeming to pick you out to be belittled. Those don't strike me as uncommon experiences for those who have experienced discrimination.  The sort of discrimination I experienced is not the kind the law can touch, not the kind the law can remedy all by itself, not even the kind HR policies can eradicate.  Which I think it's why it's the most pernicious form.

So, I'm left angry, upset, and yet with nothing to officially complain about and no way to assure that it won't happen again and with a good chance of being faced with the same official in the future (in case you wondered why I have given no distinguishing characteristics).  This is what I get for daring to cross borders having dared to crossed a social border.

[Perhaps the most annoying thing about relating this is going to be the people who decide that I'm showing some sort of "male privilege" at thinking I don't deserve to be discriminated against (which is pretty hypocritical when they're arguing against discrimination against themselves and others they see as like them), that I'm engaging in the "Oppression Olympics" (except I'm not directly comparing my discrimination to anyone else's, let alone suggesting it's worse), sweep it aside as some sort of general problem that occurs to the "gender non-normative" (except my gender is pretty normative and my gender presentation/expression is much like my peers or, perhaps worse, my mother.  ;)  Hi, Mom!), or otherwise excuse this away.  But then I'm not really writing for those people, and I suppose I shouldn't let other people's hypocrisy, lies, and deliberate misunderstandings bother me.  But I like teaching so it really irritates me to have people refuse to learn when all they have to do is listen or read.]