Pumping


A few weeks ago I went along to a live recording of the Caustic Soda podcast. It was a bit of dumb thing to do, because I hadn’t yet taken my methadone, it was a Sunday, it was running until eight, and the pharmacy closes as eight. So I had a nice (read: HORRIBLE) night and subsequent morning going through all kinds of nasty withdrawals. But still, I had a great time. I love the podcast, I love gross, weird, creepy, horrible, fascinating things, I love my friends, and all of that was there in abundance.

Though watching the show live, and seeing the images as we went, certain little aspects of the humour started to creep up on me that suddenly felt very uncomfortable. With images of people like the man with the immensely swollen tongue on a screen in front of us, I couldn’t entirely shake the sense that there was a human being beneath the deformity and human stories beneath the superficial analysis we were all, collectively, making and deriving our humour and entertainment from. Where did simply fascination with particularly unique medical phenomena, simple sciencey wonder and curiosity, end and the Coney Island Freak Show begin? Having been subject to the Freak Show Audience’s gaze myself, the notion of being complicit in such a thing, and of deriving my own entertainment from participating in that gaze did not sit well with me. I couldn’t ignore it, and couldn’t simply forget what it feels like to be on the other side of that relationship.

This all got very, very explicit when suddenly the subject of “pumping” came up. Pumping is the practice whereby women (the vast majority trans) inject free cement or silicone into their buttocks, hips, thighs or breasts to achieve a curvier, more feminine appearance. It’s extremely dangerous, yes, but also an extremely nuanced issue. But suddenly, there on the same screen where previously we had seen The Demon Core- Devourer Of Souls, The Man With The Giant Tongue, Dr. Jenna’s Worm-Addled Foot, The Man With The Immensely Swollen Testicles (or did he come later?), we now had a young, black trans woman who had been “grotesquely” shaped by the practice of pumping. And I was now in a room that expected me to laugh along.

The conversation, somewhat expectantly, given the skeptic-oriented panel and audience, went in the all-too-easy direction of chastising these women for having made such a “stupid” decision about their health. For having clearly just not thought things through. For having such an absurd (by THEIR white, middle-class, heterosexual, cisgender standards) idea of beauty and thinking they’d look better doing this. Why didn’t they just see a doctor? Why not pursue standard medical care? Why on Earth would anyone do something like that to their own body? Ewww!

It’s a pretty creepy feeling when someone poses a rhetorical question, meant to only elicit a response of “I know, WTF dude?!” and actually have an answer. Or at least a general sense of the scope of the question, where it leads. A sense that answers exist.

So I walked up to the mic and attempted, as quickly, politely and non-intrusively as I possibly could, to address some of the issues they’d missed. But I was intensely nervous, and could feel the blood rushing to my face and my legs shaking uncontrollably as I waited to be spoken to. For all my moral indignation it’s still fucking TERRIFYING to actually try to stand against the vibe of a room, to stand up to an entire crowd of people who are laughing along with something and try to vocalize that it’s not really much of a joke, and their WTFs actually have answers if they’d take the time to look. There’s an immensity of social pressure there, to cave, to laugh along, to participate, to not spoil everyone else’s fun. Especially when so many of them are your friends. People you need to continue to see.

For days afterwards, I was still apologizing, in typical Canadian manner, to Joe and Toren and people who’d been in the audience, for spoiling the mood, for not being funny, for ruining the joke, etc.

Social conditioning for the win?

But there was a lot I didn’t manage to include in my stammering, terrified, nervous response. I didn’t, for instance, even remember to hint at the racial and economic dynamics involved, which are extremely important to understanding pumping given how it is an issue that primarily (very primarily) manifests amongst black, latina, and working/under-class trans women. All that and I feel like I still let down the women that were being laughed at.

I’d like to make up for it.

The truth is that it’s not as simple as a person being presented a choice between pumping and the mainstream medical options for transition via exogenous endocrine therapy, lower surgery, and various professional, in-hospital “cosmetic” surgeries like breast augmentation, voice surgery or facial feminization. It’s not like, say, electing for ear candles and homoepathy when you should be seeing your doctor. The fact of gatekeeping remains in play, and continues to push trans women out of the established medical community, continues to alienate us, continues to demand that we jump through numerous arbitrary hoops before being eligible for various treatments (hoops that may simply be unreachable for many), continues to often treat us in extremely insulting, dismissive, condescending and pathologizing ways, continues to be extremely costly, and continues to create a situation where “proper” transition is only available to people who live in certain areas, and have a certain amount of money.

Gatekeeping is so entrenched that DIYing one’s hormones, by ordering them from InHouse Pharmacy or something, is a completely accepted and common practice, including amongst educated, reasonable, rational trans people that completely understand the risks but come to the (often quite accurate) conclusion that that is the best decision for their health. It’s so common that most experienced doctors won’t even blink when you inform them what you’re already taking.

And a bit of a hush-hush secret that no one ever seems to talk about (and I myself have consistently neglected talking about) is the fact that gatekeeping standards are often much more strictly imposed on women of colour than on white trans women. That during the infancy of transsexual care, while white trans women had to play along with an absurdly complex and demanding game of telling doctors what they wanted to hear, trans women of colour wouldn’t even get the chance to tell the doctors anything.

So when you’ve set up a situation where an impossible set of roadblocks exists between a given community and accessing the treatment they desperately need, when you totally ignore those needs and don’t bother factoring such a community into the decisions and structures of the medical community, when you place philosophical, sociological and cultural concerns ahead of the needs of the patients, when you unfairly hold them to unreachable standards of “proving” their condition and need for treatment, when you make “proper medical care” a near impossibility for people who NEED that medical care, they WILL access it elsewhere.

And all the better, when it’s a world of white, professional-class, cisgender doctors setting up those barriers to treatment and saying “no”, to come across someone like yourself saying “I can help you. I’ve been there. You can trust me.”

It’s available. It’s cheap. It’s fast. It gets the job done. It’s offered by another trans woman, and likely another trans woman of colour, who has had enough confidence to have undergone it herself, someone you can trust.

Which is not to say that I think that wholly excuses the actions of those trans women selling pumping to other women, only that I can wholly understand why someone would want to pursue that option, and why their sense of who they should place their trust in might be different than what we’d expect.

And in addition to the ways that gatekeeping particularly targets and impedes WoC (women of colour), and the ways that the expense of transition particularly excludes those who are economically disadvantaged, especially in the United States and other countries that don’t cover transition-related treatment under public healthcare (if I were down there instead of up here, I don’t think transition would have been possible for me, nor would I have survived much longer. Heroin is cheaper than an HRT regimen and laser sessions), it’s important to bear in mind the intense risks of violence targeting trans WoC. This is a group at a statistically higher risk of being murdered than any other comparably broad demographic. In this context, “passing” becomes a much, much more loaded issue. Not an individual choice of politics and identity, but a necessity for survival.

What good is taking the slow road of hormones and doctors, and what good are its long-term health benefits contrasted against the risks of pumping, if you don’t stand much of a chance of surviving for more than a year, avoiding being murdered for more than a year? What’s the point of trying to make it through the long androgynous phase of early transition if being visible as such is may prevent you from ever seeing the end point? They live in a world where “pass or die” and “be beautiful or die” become extremely meaningful propositions, meaningful choices to make. Even though not every visibly gender variant WoC ends up being a victim of violence, the risk and the threat alone are sufficient to throw off such a shallow and superficial question as “why would anyone do something like that instead of seeing a doctor?”

It’s not my place to describe or articulate the experiences of trans WoC or speak for their issues or propose any solutions. It’s not even my place to say this is a “problem”. But what I can do is at least be aware of nuance and complexity in a given subject, understand and know enough to understand and know that I don’t really understand or know. To have enough humility within my ignorance of the exact experiences of these women to not point and laugh and say how “stupid” a “decision” it is to go with pumping or DIY or whatever rather than just seeing a “proper” doctor.

Just seeing a proper doctor.

“Just.”

There’s a lot of arrogance in these justs. A lot of assumptions. A lot of privilege. A lot of ignorant thinking that things like seeing a doctor or not needing to worry all that much about how you look or learning to live with your body the way it is or making it to next Christmas without getting killed are all as easy for everyone else as they are for you. Whether it’s a “just” from a group of white, straight, cisgender guys laughing at the body a scared, alienated, disenfranchised trans woman felt she needed to have and asking why she didn’t just settle for hormones, or from an HBSer saying that another trans woman is really a man because she didn’t just get a job and arrange her priorities such that she could afford SRS, or from a rad-fem asking why we don’t just accept gender as an illusory social construct and stop investing so much of ourselves into it, or from an old friend from college asking why I couldn’t just be a femme gay guy, it’s always the same: the assumption that one’s own privileges are universal. That everything is as easy for everyone. That we’re on an equal playing field.

Why can’t you just accept that other people’s experiences, needs and barriers are different than your own? Why can’t you just accept a level of humility in addressing these issues, remember that there’s almost certainly something you don’t understand going on?

Why can’t you just listen and learn?

 

Comments

  1. Anders says

    O! now you weep, and I perceive you feel
    The dint of pity; these are gracious drops.

    I’ll return when I have something more intelligent to say.

    • Anders says

      Now I come back. Whether it’s something intelligent, well you’ll have to be the judge.

      I’ve now listened to Natalie and, yeah. That took some serious ovaries on her part. I would probably have sat down and become increasingly more uncomfortable, then have a long shower when I came home and never listen to that podcast again. Which would have been a much worse solution to the conundrum.

      Natalaie, if a young transling came up to you and said “The doctor says I have to do this, and that, and this other thing and it will take forever – should I try pumping instead?” What would you say?

      Except that you can’t say because trans people are as varied as snow flakes, but apart from that…

      • says

        I’d explain the risks, advise her on how to find better doctors or informed consent clinics, provide as much information on her options as possible, and let her make her decision.

        Also: please no references to ovaries OR balls. Both are really triggering. I don’t have any ovaries, and I’d rather not be reminded of the fact.

        • Anders says

          Fuck! I’m sorry. Replace the o-word with backbone and remind me again as harshly as you wish if I forget.

          That’s probably the wise course to take. You can’t make her decisions but you can make sure they are informed decisions.

          Seems to me that the whole around pumping needs to be framed something like “Yes, these women are taking a large risk but they’re not stupid or misinformed. There are no alternatives. Think pumping is bad? Then do something to provide real alternatives.”

  2. says

    I’m sorry, could you tell me what an HBSer is? You used that acronym in another post too, and I tried to Google it and came up empty.

    Oh, and while I think of it, in that same post you referred to “TERF/WBW”. Again, I had no luck with Google.

    • A. Person says

      James,

      HBS: Harry Benjamin Syndrome. A name used by some trans women for “true transexuality”. Meant to invalid certain trans experiences.
      WBW: Womyn born womyn
      TERF: Trans-exclusionist radical feminist

  3. JP says

    Thanks for posting this, Natalie. And thanks for articulating the ambivalence I’ve been feeling towards Caustic Soda, too; like you, I find it compelling and genuinely funny most of the time, but I’ve also had more moments of wincing than I care to remember. Most recently, I was more than a little disconcerted to see they’d done a podcast on hoarding. I work with people who deal with hoarding and cluttering issues. That’s my job, as well as raising awareness and reducing stigma around the subject, and I love it. These are wonderful, intelligent, amazing people who enrich my life on a daily basis and who benefit enormously from the project with which I’m involved. On the day the podcast was posted, I was too angry and upset about it to listen to it, and I haven’t had the chance to go back and listen to it since then. I want to, because I want to hear how they actually treat it before I pass judgment, and if they treat it the way I think they probably do, I want to send them a note letting them know why it’s different than some of the other subjects they deal with. Except… I have to wonder if it is different. Like you point out, much of what they talk about deals with people, real people, and issues that are extremely complicated and all too easy to laugh at if you’re in a position of privilege. I’ve questioned my affinity for dark humour for decades, and to a certain extent I’m not willing to repudiate it utterly; those of us who live difficult lives often develop gallows humour as a coping mechanism, and in many situations it can be absolutely appropriate. But I need to be aware of what I’m laughing at, and why, and I need to question that regularly. I’ll continue to listen to Caustic Soda, and I’ll continue to enjoy it– I’ve especially liked the disease episodes, and I adore Dr Jenna Capyk as a guest host– but I’ll also listen to it critically. I think voicing these sorts of concerns can only make it a better show; I’ve noticed that even Toren, Kevin, and Joe seem a little unsettled by some of the jokes they make, and they do seem like genuinely good guys who would be willing to listen to articulate and constructive criticism.

    • says

      Yeah, they are good guys. They just suffer from a bit of privilege-blindness now and then, which sort of happens to everyone. But they’re genuinely quite receptive to having it pointed out, and none of them were at all angry or defensive about what I said regarding the pumping thing, and (I think?) included it in the final version of the episode. I haven’t listened yet (mostly because I’m terrified of hearing my own voice… it was like three weeks before I could finally listened to that Godless Bitches episode I did).

      • JP says

        Fantastic. I haven’t listened to the new episode yet either, but when I do, I’ll be listening for your contribution. It makes me like the show (and the hosts) even better knowing that they’re open to constructive comments. That’s how we all learn.

        Please feel good about what you do, Natalie. Everywhere you go, you’re making a difference. Thank you for that.

      • Beth says

        Yea your contribution did get included, it’s pretty difficult to provide comprehensive criticism off the cuff and I think you did quite well even if in hindsight you didn’t quite cover all the issues you wanted to include. Also it did seem that they sort of took the criticism fairly well, they might just need a little bit to process.

      • Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

        Is it blindness?

        Or is that ableism?

        Seriously, the dismissal of things that one doesn’t see because of where one chooses to look is not the same as the inability to see. Labeling it blindness even implies that there’s nothing that can be done about it.

        Not that I don’t appreciate the OP. I have a serious difficulty with people who discuss passing without bringing up safety (or who consider passing to be taken as the gender you are rather than being taken as non-trans). I really, really appreciate that the OP brought up this vital issue. I just wish you wouldn’t use blindness in a way that associates being blind with being an oppressor – because it fucks up conversations of what it means to be blind AND what it means to be an oppressor.

        • says

          With all due respect — and this is coming from someone with mental illness and a possible ASD — I disagree with the notion that it is always or even usually ableist to use disability as a negative metaphor. Then again, I disagree strongly with the social model of disability, which claims that no disability is bad except in that society views it as such.

          You’ve probably seen this list before. While I don’t object to the use of certain words therein (e.g., “retarded”) being discouraged, the list taken as a whole strikes me as utterly deaf — yep, I said “deaf” — to how language is used in everyday life.

      • JP says

        Just listened to it, Natalie; and honestly, if you hadn’t said you were nervous about it, I would never have known. You sounded poised, articulate, and knowledgeable. Well done, you.

  4. says

    Wow. You stood up there and challenged them directly. Having been in similar positions with a less large audience, and other times when I have to sensitively ask someone to check their privilege…that was very brave, and a quick reaction time. I spend a lot of time thinking about what to say in situations like that, because I’m not that quick on my feet, though forethought may not help. But seriously, for that nervousness and that regret for not saying more, I feel you. The feeling bad for spoiling the mood, that too.

    • northstargirl says

      It may have been imperfect, Natalie, but at least you stood up and said something. Which, I’m sorry to admit, is more than I’ve done when people who don’t know my history have said some insensitive things or made jokes about trans issues. I am much better at it with friends who know, and one thanked me very sincerely for call him on an insensitive comment one time. But with those who don’t know my history I’m still trying to find the most appropriate way for me to handle those situations, and the guts to speak up. I don’t know which hurts more: their comments, or my inability to say what needs to be said.

  5. Kuhn says

    I can count on my hands the number of times I’ve commented on the internet. I don’t do particularly well crafting words, and I am almost never confident enough in my opinions to share them. Anyway, I just wanted to say that before your blog came around, I knew very little about transgender issues, and really about gender and sexuality as a whole. I still do not know a whole lot, hence why I am not planning on ever commenting on the substance of your posts, but I feel like each successive post dispels more and more of my ignorance. So thank you. Please don’t ever stop educating people.

    Now, if everyone will excuse me, I am going to go back to lurking, never to be heard from again. Cheers.

  6. says

    Thank you for the great information and opening of my eyes a bit more. Privilege is difficult and sometimes hard to realize when it does get in the way of an opinion. On medical issues this can be even more difficult.

  7. Ben says

    This piece raises questions for me. One, why are the taxpayers of Canada paying for Natalie’s methadone while she spends her time blogging? Shouldn’t she seek employment in order to contribute to the tax base that covers the treatment?

    Two, what is a “white” standard? I always thought that it was racist to suggest that members of a race all shared the same perspective. Maybe the methadone will cure her of the racism as well as the addiction.

    • says

      Oh! Jobs are suddenly super easy to come by for transsexual women with opioid dependencies!? Hurray!! Finally!

      Also, good to know that apparently blogging and employment are mutually exclusive things, and that it requires “all one’s time”. I’ll be sure to pass the memo over to… you know…every other Freethought Blogger.

      And thanks for letting me know I haven’t been seeking employment, and for the advice that giving up my sole reliable source of present income (this blog) for the sake of maintaining a properly miserable, non-productive appearance and fitting into social expectations for recovering addicts is obviously the most ethical thing to do.

      I’d also LOVE to hear more about your enlightened views on race! What a radical and fascinating concept, to conflate cultural standards with some kind of universal perspective! Also, very daring of you to finally speak out against the evils of all the horrible racism against white people, what with people so CRUELLY questioning and drawing attention to the social inequities we’ve benefited from.

      Asshole.

      • Vicki says

        Your money troubles are over! Three words: Inane blog comments! I make enough money posting comments calling bloggers hippies and demanding they get real jobs to get all the free government services I want. I have police, fire, everything but medical because we don’t have that here. If I can’t parent my children the government will literally send someone to my house to take them away and the government will raise them for me. Try to make that kind of cash blogging!

        The only downside is that you have to plug racism. Racism: the faster way to get to know people!

        There you go! It’s that easy. This is the first step on your journey to becoming a respectable, productive citizen. If the pharmacist gives you any trouble over the methadone, tell them I said it was okay.

    • says

      This piece raises questions for me. One, why are the taxpayers of Canada paying for Natalie’s methadone while she spends her time blogging? Shouldn’t she seek employment in order to contribute to the tax base that covers the treatment?

      Your comment raises questions for me.

      1) Do you oppose the rights of addicts to be able to receive suitable medical treatment, or would you like to kick them to the curb for the addiction being presumably self-inflicted? (And in spite of the fact that is there evidence that some people’s personality types make them more prone to addictions, as well as there being other harmful addictions besides drugs, e.g. alcohol, tobacco, gambling.)

      2) Do you believe taxpayers should help subsidise the costs of medicines which are of benefit to the entire community, or would you like to punish those on the poverty line so that they can’t receive treatments that are beyond their financial means?

      3) Do you believe that a person who is unemployed is entitled to respect and a sense of self-esteem, or do you think that someone being a recipient of any government benefit, however small, entitles YOU to subject that person to an interrogation as to how they spend every hour of every day, since receiving money like that means they are at your personal beck and call, 24×7?

      Surprise me with your answers. Or better still, fuck off.

    • Anders says

      You’d better have a fantastic job offer for Natalie to get out of this. We’re talking $5K+/month, a stimulating work environment and people especially hired to cover the ground if front of her with rosepetals. Because, my friend, you just shat in the blue cupboard.

    • zooey says

      I am positively gob-smacked that someone just tried to call ‘reverse-racism’ on a blog such as this, and think they could get away with it.

    • northstargirl says

      And Ben, your comment also raises a question: Which one of you is trying to make the best of having been dealt a bad hand and is working hard to improve their life, and which one is so smug in their self-righteous, know-it-all certainty they’re unable to realize it’s made them into an utterly repulsive human being?

    • jamessweet says

      I’m wondering why Ben is wasting his time commenting on a blog when he could be out there building highways and putting out fires.

  8. says

    Once again, great post! :D

    It’s quite absurd how prevalent DIYing is in the community, especially considering how most medical professionals who are experience with trans related medicine are completely aware of the situation. And yet nothing changes. If I hadn’t started spiro of my own accord, I wouldn’t have been able to get my therapist to cut down her wait for full HRT by a month (which was still too long to wait, so again, I did it myself). If I had waited for her, and then for an endocrinologists appointment, and then for blood tests and a second appointment (I was told not to expect a prescription on the first visit, since that would be for introductions and arranging tests; but then, she didn’t know I has been on hormones for two weeks at the point she wrote the letter), after all that I would most likely have been on HRT for at most a month now, instead of 5.5. And this was only gatekeeping-lite, since I was only supposed to be waiting 3 months for my letter. AND my therapist is trans herself… I can’t quite imagine what might have happened if I’d gone to the cis psychiatrist my cis GP recommended…

    And all this is minor in difficulty. I’ve been quite lucky compared to some of the horror stories people report on a painfully frequent basis. So yeah, just going to the doctor isn’t always the best option, or sometimes even an option at all.

    Oh, and the HBSer thing. It still irks me that I had no response that could cut as deeply when I was told the very thing you used as an example, last week. I know far better than to take that kind of stupidity seriously, and yet… I still felt guilt that if I’d arranged my life, pre-transition, better, I’d be in the financial position to afford SRS. And, even more horrible, I feel, a nagging sense of obligation to resort to extremely drastic measures to raise the necessary funds… all despite my better judgement… And all because someone assumed that things are easy.

  9. says

    You know, Natalie, I must say that it’s really just incredibly damned impressive that you actually spoke up about this. Even with nervousness and politeness and non-intrusiveness and apologizing, actually being willing to disagree in a crowd that was (or might have been, anyways) entirely against you… wow. That just strikes me as remarkably brave. I’ll guarantee you that out of everyone listening, there was atleast someone who was relieved to hear you call out that privilege, and someone who actually thought about what you were saying and changed their perspectives. And honestly, that’s just what I’d guarantee. I’d be willing to bet you that there were loads of someone like that.

    I can think of so few people who would be willing to go completely against the grain like that just to say what’s right, and even fewer (read: next to none) who would even be able to think of something to say, nervous and stammered or not. You really should be incredibly proud of yourself.

  10. Louis says

    You got up there and did the right thing. I really respect that. I also know I might not have had the guts to do it if I was in that position.

    This is something that society as a whole desperately needs to understand. We like to criticize people who make bad choices, but we often don’t look at why they might have made those choices. Everyone makes the choices that they think are best and they have their reasons; what a caring humanist society must do is make sure people are in a space where they can make good choices. We have a long way to go there, and the crucial first step is for some awesome person like you to start the right dialogue.

  11. katie says

    I love the premise of Caustic Soda, and I enjoy the guys and their banter a lot. But sometimes…well..it just feels so testosteroney. So very stiflingly male.

    It’s a breath of fresh air when Dr. Capyk comes on.

  12. Emburii says

    Another congratulation on your pile from me, Natalie.

    For what it’s worth, JP, the hoarding episode is very much on how bad it is for the people (and emphasis on the people) suffering with the issue, it’s not their usual impersonal pointing and laughing. They actually spend a lot of time talking about how, for instance, reality TV shows are using these people and their problems and how they’re really not sure this is okay. There’s a lot of empathy in the episode.

    That said, like Katie, I’ve gotten a stiflingly male feeling from them and occasionally their humor in terms of how they discuss women makes me uneasy. They may be okay with having their privilege called out, but I really wish they’d set up circumstances where they can be reminded more easily. Instead we got a lot of slobbering over things like DC Adventures from Green Ronin complete with them having one of the people from the company on the show…what they neglected to mention or even realize is how utterly sexist that particular book was, with almost all the female characters having levels in appearance but only, like, one of the men having any. It reinforced the idea that women are there to be looked at, men are there to do. And Green Ronin lets the posters on their forum be pretty abusive if you dare bring up something like that, as compared to companies like Privateer Press that shut down a thread and actually apologized to me for how misogynistic the discussion had gotten from me calmly stating a reasoned opinion (apparently discussing sexism was ‘ruining someone’s hobby’.) The Caustic Soda folks are decent people, I just wish they had a little more sensitivity sometimes.

  13. Kim says

    i was watching an episode of Dr Phil the other day and they were talking about pumping. They didn’t call it pumping though. He was speaking to 2 women who had had it go horribly wrong. They both said they would never have done it if they knew what was being injected into them, and the woman who did it (a trans woman who had had the procedure herself) was evil and preying on vulnerable women.

    At no point was it mentioned that pumping was a thing. They spoke in a shocked way that someone would inject cement. Not shocking because it was common, more like it was a shocking aberration. No real mention that maybe the woman doing the procedure was just trying to help desperate women, and she just botched it.

    So yeah, my point is, until i read this post of yours I was totally mislead n this topic. It would have been a good opportuity for them to explore why women are driven to do this to themselves, but instead they just focussed on how awful the procedure itself is, without even looking at how often it goes wrong.

    One positive thing i noticed is that at first the cis guest was calling the woman who did the procedure ‘he’ in a way that was obviously malicious and a show of anger. But Dr Phil consistently and pointedly used she and the cis woman started using she too.

    • Anders says

      I’ll repeat what I said on Twitter.

      Plato said that the oligarchy is born when the state bars individuals from political participation on a wealth basis. I think we can reasonably add social capital to that basis.

      (Of course, I don’t agree with most of what Plato says, but he was a very clever man and made many good observations. For his analysis on what causes changes in government I think it would be fair to call him the father of sociology.)

  14. Karyn says

    This is partially a response to the Hoarding episode, but it leads me into a response on the whole concept of being a ‘privileged’ person. I suggested they do the hoarding episode and did quite a bit of the research on it, so if you have complaints about how it came off, you can yell at me.

    I’m starting to get the feeling that what some people perceive as a comment of privilege is actually a misstated search for information. On the subject of hoarding, I am interested in the subject because it’s so unlike who I am. I don’t understand how these people live in filth and can’t discard trash. The television shows do a horrible job at showing you the person behind the hoarding, and instead just point and laugh. I thought the book “Stuff” did a much better job of presenting the people and helping me empathize with the person struggling with the disorder. Now when I see a house that’s piled to the brim, I see the person in that house far differently that just “Ew, what a slob.” I see a person that is generally very sensitive and giving, with a great passion for the world around them. It’s certainly a much kinder and more helpful perspective.

    There are many times when you see someone with a deformity, or a severe mental disability, or who just lives a different lifestyle than you. You are intrigued, you want to know more about them, but you don’t know how to find out more about them. So anything that comes out of your mouth just sounds like “WTF?” Yes, I would very much like to know how the guy with the swollen face lives his life, to understand what he has to deal with to day. But you can’t just walk up to him and ask. Natalie, if I walked up to you on the street and asked “I see you are transgender, so how has that affected your life?” would you be offended? I seriously have no idea. It seems like an awfully personal question to ask a complete stranger. On the one hand, you are curious, but on the other hand, you aren’t allowed to ask questions. One the one hand, you want to be a sensitive towards that person, but you don’t know anything about what that person is going through, and you aren’t allowed to seek answers, or just can’t find answers. So it just comes out as “WTF” – point and stare.

    Natalie, the way you handled the situation was excellent, and it needs to happen more. You do a great job of informing people how their actions can hurt people and give them a place to ask questions for the many of us that have never been exposed to that world. I think one thing that someone generally seen as marginalized should understand is than many of us privileged people are stumbling through understanding like a hippo on ice skates. No human can be 100% empathetic at birth to the millions of different plights people go through on this planet, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t willing to listen. Sometimes you just have to point out when we’re acting like insensitive assholes, because sometimes we just don’t even know what question to ask. I had no idea that injecting cement into your butt had anything to do with the transgender community. I never would have thought to seek you out to help me understand why someone would do this to themselves. That’s how far away from the issue I am.

    PS. Television sucks. It’s all point and laugh and no empathy. What drama they present in the form of emotion doesn’t even come close to the reality of the situation.

    • says

      I can’t speak for Natalie, but if you asked me “I see you are transgender, so how has that affected your life?”, yeah, I would probably be offended. I mean, let’s see, you’re just walking up to me on the street, a complete stranger, seemingly believing yourself entitled to information about how I live my life. Not only that, you’ve just made abundantly clear to me how poorly I pass as my identified gender, since you “see” that I’m trans. It’s useful to know, I suppose, but I don’t really need random cis people letting me know out of the blue. Honestly, I understand where you’re coming from, you are curious, you feel sensitive to my (or whoever’s difficulties), you have empathy, but I think you would be better served getting your information from somewhere like the internet, where there is ample information, and numerous blogs where people talk about how being trans effects their lives. The difference between a blog and you coming up on the street is that we are talking about ourselves on our terms. No one (well, almost no one) wants to be a curiosity.

      • Karyn says

        Thank you for your reply, Miri.

        So I decided to do a google search for ‘cement injection’ in response to “you have empathy, but I think you would be better served getting your information from somewhere like the internet.” I wanted to see how far I could get in my ability to be informed on the details of the people in this story in order to gain sympathy. Knowing what I know now (and by that I mean by listening to Natalie’s comments), I’m disturbed. Many of the news articles tack on the ‘transgender ‘doctor” label as if the ‘transgender’ part has nothing to do with the situation. From my perspective, it just seems like they are being insensitive pricks, like when they say ‘The atheist, Richard Dawkins’ in a news article in an attempt to attack a perceived negative aspect about a person. In addition, the news articles treat the whole case as if the person who was seeking the treatment was just trying to look more attractive and didn’t want to pay for a real cosmetic surgeon. In other words, none of the searching I do on ‘cement injections’ brings me anything that can help me empathize with why someone would do this to themselves, and there are no websites in the first three pages that could bring me to that level of understanding. One website even referred to the doctor as a male. The internet, unfortunately, is just as much media as the television, and wading through the bullshit can be extremely difficult. Most of what I found was just as demeaning to the victim for her seeking of this treatment as they were to the person giving the treatment.

        • says

          Yeah, I would expect that for something as specific as pumping you would be more likely to get that kind of awful coverage. When I suggested the internet, I was meaning more in terms of your example question about being trans. But, in any event, the rest of my advice still stands. Blogs by trans people are going to give you (most of the time, which is why you should never use a single source :D) a better coverage of these issues. Especially ones like Natalie’s, where she is very in depth in her explorations of the issues, and questions and discussion are encouraged.

    • Anders says

      It’s generally considered impolite to ask strangers deeply personal questions on the street. I can’t really think of… do you go up to people of color and ask them questions? Randomly, out of the blue?

      • Anders says

        I would like to say, however, that being cisgender has dramatically affected my life and made it much easier in many respects. It may even have saved my life on some occasions.

  15. Eric says

    Hey Natalie,

    I was part of the Caustic Soda live show crowd, and I wanted you to know that I totally appreciated and admired the way you stood up. Your comments on the subject were enlightening and despite your nervousness, I thought you came off as very well-spoken.

    For me, Caustic Soda is all about the guys making stupid jokes, then the expert stepping in to say, “Well, actually…” and educating them. Far from ruining the fun, I thought you played the part of the expert perfectly.

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