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“Become the opposite sex and finally be at peace”

So I was poking around on e-bay looking for a little trans pride flag button to go with my Die Cis Scum jacket, now on the way in the mailsies (thanks Dallilama!) and happened to stumble across an enormous number of items being sold under the pretense of having the magic power to change their wearer (or caster?) into the “opposite sex”, or simply into a woman. And not just one or two little items. “Metaphysical” is one of the most densely populated categories for the search term “transgender”. [Read more...]

The Null HypotheCis

“You’re right, Cliff. You can’t prove who you are. None of us can. If we try to prove we exist, we’re just suckers. And if we ask other people to tell us we’re real, we’ve lost everything.

Cliff… listen to me. All you can do- all any of us can do- is make a decision. You’ve got to say, from all the way down, ‘This is who I am. I’m Cliff Steele and I’m a human being'”

-Kate “Coagula” Godwin, Doom Patrol #74, by Rachel Pollack

When you spend enough time hanging around trans folk, and talking together, sharing, reminiscing, telling stories, kvetching about all the irritating things the grues do, articulating your experiences and listening to theirs and finding those pangs of recognition that assure you (at last!) that it isn’t / wasn’t something unique to your own little mismatched brain, you begin to recognize commonalities. Recurrent themes. Motifs. Certain stories that get retold again and again across our lives, varying the genres and settings and principal protagonists but not the arc.

Amongst these are the stories of denial. The methods we used for convincing ourselves we can’t possibly really be trans, we simply must be making a mistake. They echo the concepts that thread through cis society and are used as a means of invalidating us. “It’s probably just a kink, a sex thing”, “it’s just a phase… if I just settle down with a woman, maybe have some kids, and learn how to be a good man, it will go away”, “doesn’t everybody, on some level, sort of want to be the opposite sex?”, “I should just learn to live with being a feminine man”, “I just need to man-up, be more masculine, that will make it go away”, “maybe I’m just a self-hating gay man?”, “maybe I can just cross-dress on weekends? That will be good enough”, “It’s just my asberger’s”, “just my OCD”, “just my depression”, “just my lack of confidence”, “just my hatred of my identity”, “just…”.

And deepening this denial is the assumption that in order to accept the possibility of being trans, we have to prove it to ourselves. This, again, eerily echoes the external invalidations, demands and expectations placed upon us, as in the gatekeeping model. “But how do I know I’m trans? What if I’m wrong? What if I’m making a mistake? What if I regret it?” [Read more...]

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. [Read more...]

Pass / Fail

Oh, passability. You most intensely problematic, yet utterly inescapable, of trans concepts. What a rascal you are! I think it’s time we had a little chat…

Passability is an issue that cuts pretty close to the bone for most trans folk. It’s immensely complicated, tied in to a dozen or so different larger issues, connects very deeply and intimately to intensely personal things like one’s body image and dysphoria and sense of validity in one’s identified gender, it’s hopelessly tangled up in privilege and risk and oppression and the day-to-day facts of our lives, and it breeds endless jealousy, disgust, resentment, alienation, and internalized transphobia, hierarchies and conflict in our own community. Can’t buy into it, because that elevates cisnormativity as what we “ought” aspire towards, measures our validity, beauty, worth and identity by cis standards, and positions being a good little tranny as being all about being as cis-like as possible. And you can’t really reject it either, because it’s deeply connected to what most of us are working towards, which is a body and social / cultural / interpersonal identity that are in accordance with our sense of self, our gender identity. You certainly can’t seem to ignore it, despite how many voices within the trans community want to just scrap the word entirely, because it’s completely impossible to talk about things like cis privilege, cissexism, transphobia, gender-based discrimination, our experiences, our lives, our fears, our beauty, our daily hassles and so forth without talking about passing.

It’s a great big mess, really. Can’t live with it, can’t live without it.

Since it’s not going anywhere, we might as well learn to talk about it and deal with it, right? [Read more...]

Cis Is Not A Slur, Grues.

I guess, at the very least, interacting with the transphobes can provide a bit of amusement every now and then. Most of the arguments and positions are just the plain old exasperating kind of ridiculous, but every once in a while, you come across ones that are haha ridiculous.

Like “Grr! Stop calling me cis! That’s a slur! Grr!”

I wish it were physiologically possible to roll my eyes as hard as this demands, but sadly I’ll have to settle for less. Right now, I am a profoundly nonplussed emoticon trapped in a human face.

First of all, let’s just clarify the etymology here, because most of these people seem to have never taken an organic chemistry class (and brace yourselves for yet another hilariously bad argument that yes, people really do make): [Read more...]

More Than Bodies

There’s a lot that’s frustrating about the way the discourse on transgenderism and transsexuality is framed in our deeply cisnormative culture. So much that it sometimes feels impossible to ever really get through it. I often feel neck deep in this, all these little problems, misconceptions, ways of structuring the conversation, unsubstantiated and unexamined assumptions, foundations of positioning not-quite-so-unbiased perspectives as “objective”, “neutral”, “common sense”, the “natural” jump-off point for chatting about who and what and why we are and mean.

And I can’t possibly cover it all. Lord knows I’ve been trying, but I can’t. There’s just too much to unpack. Is GID really a disorder? A disorder of what? Before / after pictures. “Real” names. “Passing” (and what, “failing”?). Detransitions. Regret. Gatekeeping. Autonomy. The endless questions. The questions as the assertion of the power dynamic. The Other. The self-consciousness. Self-consciousness as an extension of oppression. Morphological privileges. “Male” bodies and “female” bodies, cells, tissues (bullshit).”Fascinating”. “Disgusting”. “Special”. “Unnatural”. Is biology destiny? Is neurobiology destiny? Is destiny biology? Born this way! Social constructs! Stochastic gendering! “Objective” genders? “Biological realities”? “Appropriation”? “Invasion”? “Comfort levels”? “Labels”? “Buying into stereotypes”? Self-definition. Erasure. Ridicule. Violence. One in twelve. One in eight. One in five, one in five. 44%, 96%, 0.3%. Who is feminism “for”? Second wave, third wave, fourth wave. Bois and grrls. Please Select Sex: M/F. Is being trans an identity, a condition, a burden, a blessing? Cissexism, cisnormativity, cissupremacy. “But, like, how do you know?” Our “responsibilities”! Our sexualities! Our sexual responsibilities! Our “faith” in gender. Our “rebellion” from gender. Our “sins” and “arrogance” and “delusion” and “self-hatred” and whatever you need to think to not think about us. Our marking as “trans”, ever transitional, ever in movement, across, never at home. Exiles.

Almost every day I pick something (or two things) from the list, and do my best to work through it, get to its bones, figure out what’s going on there and what it suggests and what could be suggested instead. But every now and then… what and who am I doing this for? Why? [Read more...]

But Seriously, Prostitution Is Not Sex Slavery

As I mentioned a couple days ago, Taslima Nasreen has now joined Freethought Blogs, and I (and the rest of us) are well and truly honoured and excited to have her. I really do have an immense amount of respect for her.

But yesterday she wrote a post that I find I absolutely can’t leave unexamined. As much as Taslima may be a hero of mine, I can’t allow that to excuse what I consider to be deeply problematic (and potentially destructive) statements. One of the great beauties and strengths of atheism and skepticism is that we have no popes or saints. Our heroes are at all time available to be questioned, and their assertions always available to be critiqued. And sometimes those assertions demand such critiques. This is one of them. [Read more...]

An Open Letter To Stephen Ira

Dear Stephen,

So I wanted to write you about some of the things we’d been tweeting about in regards to the relationship between atheism and privilege and stuff, and found that a lot of things I was thinking were important to say were… well… things I felt were really important to say, and I started thinking it might be worth doing this as an open letter instead, for the sake of getting my thoughts out there into the larger discussion.

I would like to make it clear that the reason I’m writing this, and addressing it to you, is not because I regard you as any kind of adversary, or intellectually “inferior” to me, or in need of “conversion” to my beliefs, or anything nasty or hostile like that. It’s actually very much the opposite. I’m writing you because I respect you, and respect your intelligence, and very much enjoy having you as an e-friend, and am proud to have you as a brother and comrade in our trans-feminism movement. Honestly. Unlike people like Be Scofield or Amy Dentata, with whom my exchanges felt frustrating and pointless, and where debate didn’t seem to be in good faith, I feel like with you we can at least be open to listening to one another and doing our best to understand one another’s positions. [Read more...]