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Nov 18 2012

Being an “abomination” is pretty great

For the past few years, I’ve had the chance to hear all sorts of amusing remarks from people who seemingly have nothing better to do than work themselves into a froth over the fact that trans people exist. Even though I’ve only identified as trans for a much shorter time, these people don’t really care to recognize distinctions like that. It certainly hasn’t stopped them from telling me I’m a “freak”, or an “abomination”, or that I’ll “never be a real woman”. Misguided and irrelevant as these claims may be, it’s still worth charting out what’s going on here.

Unfortunately, there’s a reason why people often choose this particular route of attack. Some of us do feel insecure and dissatisfied about the fact that we had to become our gender rather than having it handed to us as a biological default, and about being seen by many as lesser than both men and women. We try to make the best of our situation, and we want nothing more than to go about our lives without trouble, but we’re denied that when people focus on this one aspect of who we are to deem us “freakish”.

Consider what it means to be seen as somehow being monstrous, or an abomination. What sort of things come to mind? Artificial, constructed, mangled, lacking in internal consistency, shattered and repaired, incomplete, inauthentic, and unnatural. Contrast this with being seen as organically grown, an unbroken whole, the real thing, seamless and without defect. This maps almost perfectly onto how trans people and cis people are commonly viewed.

Keep in mind how both religious fundamentalists and random internet busybodies often claim that trans people are “in conflict” with nature or “denying nature”. Of course, “natural” and “unnatural” are never pinned down to concrete criteria, because there aren’t any. But here, these words are used to describe some of the most obvious differences between the histories of cis people and trans people.

You can’t really avoid noticing how being cis is prized by nearly everyone, trans or cis, bigoted or accepting. Why? Because it means having a body into which your gender will always fit, one with all of its masculinization or feminization generated internally without supplement or assistance, and one which will always reflect who you are and allow you to be seen, unquestionably, as yourself. It’s just easier.

On the other hand, being trans means becoming who we are through a patchwork process of intentional interventions. Our lives, our identities, and our very bodies have boundaries where the past and the future did not line up. Socially, physically and legally, we don’t have the option of a single unbroken gender that’s consistent over our lifetime. We have no choice but to be something that people will often regard as monstrous.

Ultimately, this can mean being exiled to a kind of gender demilitarized zone. I’ve abandoned life as a cis man, and yet I’ll never be a cis woman. My life is never going to be as seamless and organic as that of others. And when you’re disappointed with your own body for falling short of that idealized cis standard, it’s easy to feel like it’s a disappointment to those around us as well, almost like it’s something we need to apologize for. While I can hardly begrudge other trans people for feeling that way, it really is monstrous for people to home in on that sore spot and jab at it for all it’s worth, using what’s often a source of deep and enduring hurt as a weapon against us.

Maybe there’s more to it, though. People who either don’t know or don’t care about the scientific consensus have often claimed that our bodies are normal and healthy, so being trans isn’t something that should be treated physically. But what if we could be more than just normal? Why should we settle for what’s supposed to be good enough, when we have the option to become something even better? Others may see this as choosing to reject what’s “normal”, and in doing so, relegating ourselves to being abnormal. But I don’t see this as a choice between normal and abnormal. I see it as a choice between average, and awesome.

Over the past two months, HRT has improved me in ways that I didn’t even know needed improvement. My skin isn’t rough anymore, and it’s better than it’s been in years. My libido is under my control now, instead of controlling me and intruding into my awareness when it’s not needed. My chest is visibly growing more and more every day – they actually stick out, where there used to be nothing but flat skin. And instead of either feeling totally numb or abruptly bursting into tears, I have a whole repertoire of emotions available to me now. I can be calm and content, I can cry without it overwhelming me, I can be happy and sad at once without any contradiction, and I never run out of emotions to the point of numbness anymore. These aren’t mood swings – they’re mood symphonies. This is all unbelievably cool, and I wouldn’t have known what I was missing without experiencing it firsthand. Some people might look at my patchwork self of hormone pills and mix-and-match anatomy, and call it monstrous, freakish, an abomination. You know what I call this?

Upgrades.

Since the dawn of humanity, there have been certain features of our existence that were considered fundamental, unchangeable, and definitive of what it means to be human. For almost all of history, it was an unavoidable fact that those who were born a certain sex would remain that sex. Sure, living as another gender had sometimes been feasible in a social sense. But bodily? That was simply impossible – until it wasn’t. Now, that assumption has been pulled out from under us, and some people aren’t happy about that. They want us to go away. They want to be able to go on assuming that every woman they see is a cis woman, regardless of what the reality may be. They want us to deny ourselves this life-affirming treatment for the sake of some empty platitudes about “nature”.

Similar reactions have been seen in the case of hormonal birth control. Fertile cis women simply had to deal with the possibility of pregnancy resulting from unprotected coitus – until they didn’t have to anymore. Fertility is no longer mandatory. It’s optional, and it doesn’t have to be a part of our lives unless we want it to be. Many people don’t like this, either. They think it’s interfering with how the human body is “supposed” to work, by taking control of something that we have no “right” to change. But with these developments, the reality of what it means to be human has shifted. However loudly some people may object, the fact is that these new possibilities are just as much a part of life as inevitable fertility and unchangeable sex once were.

Even just a few hundred years ago, this would have been unimaginable. Now, I have the ability to choose this for myself, for no reason other than that this is what I want out of my life. I once called this “a taste of apotheosis”, and that’s exactly what it is. We stand at the frontier of transhumanism, where what was once dismissed as mere futuristic fantasy is now realized in the present via technology. I saw myself growing up into a man, and I did what I had to do to wrench my destiny away from the blind whims of biology. Some people might call this “defying nature”. But that’s not a problem – it’s exactly the point. That option was there for me when I needed it, and I’m not letting it pass by. If they really think that’s an abomination, then I’ll be their abomination. I’ll be their monster. And I’ll know that it was worth it.

41 comments

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  1. 1
    Buffy

    I’ll never get the utter lunacy with which some people react to transgender people. They think nothing of people who have nose-jobs, breast augmentation, tummy-tucks and every other manner of plastic surgery. They dye their hair, get colored contacts, wear inches of makeup and have a closet full of “the latest fashion” which includes six-inch heels and corsets so tight they can barely breath in them. But tell them you underwent procedures to make your physical body match your interior gender and they start frothing about it being “unnatural” and “fake”. WTF?

    Never stop being who you are, because for an “abomination”, you’re downright wonderful.

  2. 2
    didgen

    Some people need to look at their own lives, and try to ascertain why making someone else feel inferior is necessary to their happiness. Do whatever it takes to feel like you are the person you want to be, and rejoice in yourself.

  3. 3
    yep yep

    Yep, another example of confusing the “is” with the “ought”. There are plenty of things in nature that are pretty terrible… Like disease and hurricanes, but we all know those suck (unless you happen to think a god caused them so you think they’re ok). Your post also takes note of history and advances in technology helping us control nature. Now that we understand nature we don’t just have to resign ourselves to it, but insyead we can mold it to what we want. To think we should just force people to stay trapped in a state of chaos because its “nature’s way” seems like a very malthusian line of thinking…

  4. 4
    tangovelocity

    Wonderful post Zinnia. Thank you.

  5. 5
    Juno

    I guess that sorta answers a question I never had the nerve to ask you in those Blog TV chats. Namely, whether there was a connection between your transition and your transhumanist views.

    You’re right of course. I’m not sure how common it is amongst those of us seeking/considering transition, but I myself came into transhumanism before I realized I was trans. I now wonder whether my inability to feel comfortable in my own body had anything to do with the ease at which I fell into my belief that we can become greater than our natures. Thanks for eloquently stating the transhumanist trans case much better than I could have.

  6. 6
    Lucy

    Yes, very much yes. I hadn’t thought of these changes as “upgrades” before, I’d been thinking in terms of “bug fixes”, but thank you for putting things so positively.

    We are at the edge of a very exciting time, which will happen in spite of the adherents of age-old myths. I can’t wait!

  7. 7
    Nathanael

    Huh. This all makes perfect sense, though I’m coming from an perspective which is hostile to transhumanism.

    I am coming at life from a profoundly conservative (in the most traditional dictionary sense, related to ‘conservation’) viewpoint, where I am chary to make any alterations to my fragile and easily unbalanced organism; the same motivation which calls for organic farming on the grounds that we don’t know what we’re messing with when we use techniques less than 500 years old. I’ve made many attempts to fix the various problems I’ve had, with expert advice, and most of these attempts have simply not worked right (a story many people who’ve had *any* medical interventions at *all* know).

    As such, I have an inherent suspicion towards any alterations of any sort, from ear-piercing to antidepressants. Perhaps, you could say, I know too many stories of failed upgrades, stories from other people as well as myself. I guess I don’t oppose the transhumanist views in theory, I just think they’re usually subject to gross quantities of optimism bias, a very human failing.

    I think of this quote from an earlier commentator: “Now that we understand nature we don’t just have to resign ourselves to it, but insyead we can mold it to what we want. ” Except that we *don’t* understand nature, and when we only half-understand it, and think we can mold it to what we want, we make horrifying mistakes, such as causing global warming, to take the extreme example; there are endless bodily medical examples.

    In the specific case of your life? Congratulations on *well-thought-out* upgrades which appear to be *working*. I guess that’s what I want to say; I am impressed at your ability to *figure out* what will improve your life.

    1. 7.1
      yep yep

      I disagree. While we can’t know everything (not because of any deficiency on our part, but because there is simply too much to know within the span of our short lives), we do at least know some things about nature, such as the fact that we are part of it and we can change it consciously. And yes, while there have been failures that may lead to terrible consequences, failure is a part of learning. We can’t simply view things in terms of black or white, or true or false, or right or wrong and then believe we are beholden to something just because we may fail a few times to break out of it. With each failure of attempting to shape our lives and history we have learned something new and can better view things in terms of the whole, rather than just the affirmation or negation in isolation. In my opinion, transhumanism and dialectical materialism are related in this way. Its easy to give up on something when all you’ve seen is failure, especially when we as humans are conditioned to often only notice the negative consequences in a lot of situations, whilst glossing over the positive or simply not noticing it. Failure has lead to better technology, better science, and will lead to more improvements. At one point heart disease was just seen as a result of old age and a natural way of dying, but now we know, through science and studying our failures, that its not natural and we can find ways to prevent it, some of which are working or being worked on. In light of this, what once seemed “natural”, has now taken a new form. Now that we understand the natural wasn’t in fact natural, we can begin to address the real underlying causes of heart disease. We’re not resigning ourselves to nature as a result. Furthermore, it seems that when we say something is “natural” that may just be another way of expressing the fact that we don’t actually understand it. Once we do understand something, often times we realize it wasn’t “nature’s way” at all. (Just a side note: I do think this relates to the dismantling of public education in recent times. If you keep the population ignorant of science, they won’t be able to call you out when you call something “natural” or “unnatural”.)

      1. Nathanael

        I don’t think we actually disagree, “yep yep”.

        1. Nathanael

          To be clear, I don’t think that “natural” or “unnatural” are particularly useful concepts, and I think it’s completely invalid to treat them as if they were normative concepts. Nature is freaking weird, and is full of stuff which any person with a typical human sense of morality would consider terrible.

      2. Nathanael

        “especially when we as humans are conditioned to often only notice the negative consequences in a lot of situations, whilst glossing over the positive or simply not noticing it.”

        Everything I’ve studied in psych says that in a lot of situations we notice only the positive consequences. There are a whole bunch of cognitive biases which stack, including a bias towards noticing the unfamiliar rather than the familiar and events rather than non-events, but one of the biases in the stack is optimism bias, which is shared by a majority of people.

    2. 7.2
      No Light

      I have an inherent suspicion towards any alterations of any sort, from ear-piercing to antidepressants.

      What you actually have is good luck. The good fortune not to be in dire need of surgeries, medical devices, handfuls of drugs.

      I shouldn’t have seen out my first week on Earth. Or my fifth birthday. Or any of the innumerable times I’ve had pneumonia, life-threatening allergic reactions, swelling of my brain, TBI, sepsis.

      Even my “minor” renal problems, neurological issues, visual impairment, spinal damage etc. need “unnatural” assistance, but I’m glad of it.

      Without hardcore opiates, neuroleptics and antispasmodics I’d just be lying here screaming, twisted like a pretzel, and suicidal. Without inhaled bronchodilators I’d be blue, breathless, then dead.

      Without the brain surgery I’d have stroked out, aged 21.

      And finally, without my kick-arse wheels I’d be stuck in one spot forever.

      Medicine, surgeries, surgical implants and devices, body modifications and so on, can mean the difference between life and death. But people who say “I don’t trust medicine” or “I don’t do4 sick” are not only deluding themselves into believing that’s some sort of conscious decision, but also ignoring the vast privilege they’ve been given.

      1. alexanderjohannesen

        Yes, indeed. Most species on this planet – some 97% – throughout evolution have died out, and that’s just the species. What about the billions of permutations from each extinct specie that wasn’t advantageous to reproduction or to growing and staying alive, all those born with some disadvantage to them? Evolution is so full of death, often horrible unnecessary death, and we, the human specie, are in a seriously privileged position of being able to break free from what naturally would kill us. It is nothing short of the triumph of the intellect, and often a dichotomy broken free from the natural spiral of death; intelligence trumps hunting abilities.

        I much prefer a society built by and from Stephen Hawkins to Vladimir Putin. The human specie has long since redefined what it meant to be fit for evolution, so why are people so afraid to embrace the technology that comes from it? Because *they* – the people who have the least need for it – don’t understand it.

        Nature + technology = Nature. The concept of “natural” is bogus and deeply anthropomorphically flawed.

      2. Nathanael

        No, I don’t, No Light. You’re just wrong. Don’t make false assumptions about what I’ve been in dire need of.

    3. 7.3
      Strewth

      Nathaniel, thank you for being the bedrock, the hearthkeeper. I am firmly of the opinion that we need both trailblazers to find new roads, AND the steady hands who keep the home fires burning for when the trailblazers reach their limits and stagger home. If we were all living on the frontier, nothing would be refined, nothing would be maintained. Trailblazers find new things. People like you take the best of the new and make it easy, and safe, and common. As part of life as breathing.

      So thank you, too.

  8. 8
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    You go Zinnia! Well written. Cheers.

  9. 9
  10. 10
    Tsu Dho Nimh

    Upgrades.

    ROFLMAO!

  11. 11
    puckmalamud

    What an awesome way of thinking about it. Thanks, Zinnia.

  12. 12
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    “defying nature”

    Yeah, this is perfectly OK when it has to do with anything other than some people’s bodies for certain things. Other than that, it’s all about dominion over the Earth. Don’t tell me I can’t remove a mountain to fire coal power plants or take reptile dysfunction pills or have hair loss treatments or an organ transplant or pave the fuck over every square inch of land. Yeah, defy this, assholes.

    Too bad people who have locked themselves into boxes can’t get over themselves and realize that there are huge spectra/scatterplots of gender and sexuality. Then maybe they wouldn’t be so stupid about people who identify as strongly homosexual or strongly opposite the gender they were assigned. And maybe they’d be happier and have more fun, too.

    1. 12.1
      No Light

      Exactly!

      Clothes, shoes, haircuts – unnatural.

      Cars, internet, ovens – unnatural.

      Wheelchairs, prostheses, hearing aids – unnatural.

      Transplants, chemo, coronary artery bypass – unnatural.

      So yeah, fuck anyone using the “It’s not natural” argument, especially if they add “because Gawd”.

      1. F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

        Yeah, it’s a completely crap argument. Hilariously seen on TV or the internet, it’s moar super-highlighted hypocrisy.

        1. No Light

          I know, right? I once had the most fantastic argument about how “Liberals” engaging in “unnatural” behaviour like same-sex relationships, elective abortion, race-mixing (this was 2010, not 1930) and feminism, were “Delaying the return of Moshiach”. Gevalt!

          Not only was this argument conducted online, but it was with a woman whose last three children were courtesy of IVF (thanks to some interesting rabbinic loopholes), who was wearing a $6000 wig, and was preparing to cover her entire kitchen with aluminium foil in preparation for Passover.

          Fertility treatments, Indian hair wigs and the amazingness that is foil, are surely pretty modern. Not to mention her secret BlackBerr! Talk about cognitive dissonance.

          1. davidhart

            If that’s all it takes to indefinitely stave off the apocalypse, or whatever the Judaistic equivalent is, then let the abominations continue:-)

  13. 13
    gordonmacginitie

    A new website, MATTER, https://www.readmatter.com/,
    has an article, “Do No Harm”.
    Reading it very much improved my acceptance of Transsexuals.

    1. 13.1
      ImRike

      Thanks for that link.
      Reading about problems like that really lets me appreciate my own life with all its ups AND downs!
      Zinnia – good luck and even as a cis woman, I love your blog very much. Thank you for letting us follow you on your route!

  14. 14
    Christine Martins

    I think you should acknowledge yr own privilege in being a cute, young, palatable trans girl who is coupled — and in doing so also acknowledge being an abomination might not look so great in the absence of those things?

  15. 15
    Fortuna Veritas

    You’re kinda forgetting that it’s the blind whims of biology that made you transgender and gave you the desire to change your body in this manner.

  16. 16
    Kaguya

    It always happens with me that I really want to say something in a public post but can never think about how to make it worth reading…not generic “That’s cool” stuff, even if those are my general thoughts.

    I guess I could start by announcing that I am also a transhumanist with a pretty desperate need for those upgrades you are getting, and many others.

    And I also want to say that I am very happy that it is going so well for you, but are you sure the emotional effects are due to the hormones?

    I already find myself crying very easily (school was not fun), though I might be an exception.

  17. 17
    Rachael

    Even though technically I’m not an atheist, I still find that most people’s opinions which paint us in the negative comes right back to how religious they may be. It appears that the more religious, the more (and I’ll use your words Zinnia) of an abomination we are and the more genuine the fear they have of us!!!
    This phenomena is even more curious to me when I personally know a trans woman who does Bible Study at her local church with total acceptance from her pupils and the church itself. It therefore makes me wonder where their bigotry really comes from, although I am definitely leaning towards pointing the finger at their upbringing and how bigoted their parents may be and therefore apparently passing this bigotry down their lineage, so to speak.
    Of course the free thinkers will break away from their parents attitude and just plain bad thought processes and accept us for who we really are – human beings – just like them.

    Great article Zinnia.

  18. 18
    StraightGrandmother

    Zinna I want to tell you something but I want to make sure that you know I intend it as a compliment. I never would have guessed you were (past tense) a man. I have seen some of your videos on various subjects and I always thought, “Wow is that woman ever smart”.

    Please read this next part with the good intentions I am sending with it. As part of your upgrades you might consider a more contemporary hairstyle maybe?

    I hope this information makes you happy :)

  19. 19
    StraightGrandmother

    I forgot to add this. I was very confused when you were saying about how HRC made your skin smoother. I couldn’t figure out how the Human Rights Campaign could make your skin smooth.

    1. 19.1
      marcmielke

      I was surprised you mentioned your treatments improving your skin. My first thought upon seeing your profile pic was that your skin was amazing!

  20. 20
    Goback Tosleep

    Great post, Zinnia.

    The people who are anti-trans, calling anyone other than a “real man” or a “real woman” an abomination conveniently miss the little fact that about , 1:2000 are noted as having some “ambiguity” at birth – where they are not physically completely either gender. It’s more common than cystic fibrosis. Then add to that a sizable number of people who don’t end up with the hormones that they “should” have, and there are a lot of people in various “gray areas” in between male and female.

    There is a contraversy about “normalizing” these infants by medically or surgically altering them into one of the two sexes, and raising them that way. This doesn’t work,as Dr.John Money found out. It doesn’t work for some people who never had a physical ambiguity either. There’s all sorts of gray areas. Add to that that “all men” and “all women” are more and less attracted to various things “masculine” and “feminine”.

    It’s a good thing that god doesn’t make mistakes, and just decides some infants are “abominations”. (sarcasm note there)

  21. 21
    Raymond

    Like many things ‘taught’ to me as a kid, much of the bigotry just didn’t ‘take.’Hidden bias notwithstanding, racism, Xenophobia tendencies, homophobia or homosexual hatreds, the idea that if one is African-American one’s IQ is higher only because your ancestry has a Caucasian influence, or that the darker your skin is the more genetically inferior you are, with a lower IQ included, but then I was in 2 orphanages run by religious groups and therefore at that time in SC(50s&60s)black kids were not intermingled(I understand that changed shortly after I left in the late 60s). I guess I’m lucky as the overt bigotry given me, just didn’t take in my particular brain. I am unsure at what time I became aware of ‘transgender’folks with their associated complications surrounding body image, gender Identification, but I do know those whom I knew personally were no abomination, except to those for whom it was a big deal, weird or whatever way it was unacceptable to some folks, that, too, didn’t take with me. Not that I’m a model human being to be held in high esteem due to having lesser problems and being more accepting of others but still, I am one of those who will fight injustice in whatever forms it shows itself, and if history is a teacher it is not always safe to be that way, but I have accepted that as a condition of being a member of the human race…I know yak, yak, yak, but I just really want to say that the idea of natural versus unnatural is bogus, based on one aspect of what humans have learned, that we are near and far sighted visually, and glasses ‘corrects’ nature’s…I don’t want to say screw up, but the fact that as the human environment has changed(we are not living on grasslands or in trees, anymore, but in concrete and steel cities, where artifical lighting is what we see more of today)so has human eyes changed. I am a Vegan, and my life is built around that as a sentient human being who has that choice of not eating animals to survive. We have many choices today that even 400 years ago we didn’t have or was not even conceivable then, which gives what is termed ‘natural’ a somewhat different connotation.
    Sorry for the longwindedness, but we as people have only each other and as human beings we come in a varied assortment, and though I hate to single this group out, the LGBT community is no less human than any other and humans just need to love each other more and accept folks for their strengths, flaws, and weaknesses, as we are, as long as we’re not going around murdering others with an axe, then love and acceptance is all we have to give each other, and without those, life would not be as much fun anyway.
    Oh, and Zinnia, you are indeed a wonderful ‘abomination’ and I love what you have to say on so many topics, and good luck with the ‘upgrades.’

  22. 22
    daenyx

    As a bioengineer, the word ‘natural’ (or more specifically, its negation, ‘unnatural’) is one of the most offensive words to me in the English language. I hear it a lot, because I do some genetic engineering and like to talk about it because it’s AWESOME, and I hate it so much because to me it’s the most potent denial of the value of science – progress – innovation – the fucking human mind – that anyone can make. Doublethink/compartmentalization lets my religious colleagues venerate a deity without displaying that spectacular level of irrationality. To decry something as unnatural is to simultaneously ignore everything humans do to make their environments and lives more pleasant, and scorn the very idea that we can and should aspire to continue to improve them.

  23. 23
    Psychopomp Gecko

    To to quote Lord Vetinari of Discworld when someone complained of something being unnatural: “Yes, and I suppose you eat your meat raw and sleep in a tree?”

  24. 24
    mimi

    “Some of us do feel insecure and dissatisfied about the fact that we had to become our gender rather than having it handed to us as a biological default”

    Become your sex. Your gender was already female for quite some time, if not always. I generally don’t listen to haters, for as we know, those who scorn are abominations(Proverbs)!

  25. 25
    Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

    Keep abominatin’, Zinnia.

  26. 26
    mariel141

    For what it’s worth, there are also people out there who will not see you as a patchwork abomination. We see you as a person just like us, doing the best you can with what you’ve got and pursuing what makes you feel happy and whole like anyone else. And there’s more of us every day.

    *hugs*

    Happy Thanksgiving

  27. 27
    scyllacat

    I love your attitude. You made me remember to be grateful for things like my cis-gender that I do NOT have to struggle with and also proud and grateful for success in the things that I DO struggle with. Making ourselves is a huge project. Please accept my full-throated approbation and applause.

  1. 28
    Around FtB | Pharyngula

    [...] Zinnia Jones is an ABOMINATION! [...]

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