Transition Reactions p15: Just being descriptive

By now, what I learned in genetics is rusty enough that new genetics papers are starting to get unreadable, but I can remember distinctly what it was like to read the scientists that had been mapping and describing the human genome. Contrary to the claims of the many antagonists to trans rights, there was–and still us, upon blowing off the dust to review–very little objectionable about the way they described human sex determination, and it is quite compatible for trans feminism. The key difference was that these geneticists weren’t flying off the rails to draw grand conclusions–they knew they were still trying to find all the puzzle pieces, never mind ready to assemble¬†the picture.

I suppose if I were to be karyotyped and have my genome mapped, I would still have no qualms with the geneticist performing this making statements like “you have a y chromosome, therefore you only have one copy of certain genes ordinarily housed on the X chromosome.” That’s a statement that is testable, something that can be¬†affirmatively proven. The problem is that so few people outside of developmental biologists and human geneticists can actually keep their conclusions conservative and in line with the evidence. I have never once had the statement “you have a y chromosome” ever actually end in a neutral statement, despite the claim from trans-antagonists that they are simply trying “to be descriptive.”

If¬†being called male were only ever a prelude to testable statements involving genetics, I would be considerably more indifferent to the designation. But it’s not. Specifically in the context of trans rights, my theoretical* y chromosome is rolled up into a paper bludgeon and continuously smacked against my head during arguments that suggest anything from a propensity to rape to invented sexual motives for transitioning.

One of the inevitably predictable “gotchas” lobbed at me is a strawman of this argument. They’ll say something like “but you could get someone pregnant” in order to support the idea that some predictions can be justifiably drawn as to the nature of my actual sex. But I have never objected to empirically supported observations like capacity to impregnate or that the¬†gametes I used to produce were¬†smaller than ova. That’s all fine. What they sail past is that my reason for bristling at the whole “you’re still male” conversation is that it is¬†never about the well supported observations on the likely natures of any given human, it’s about hitching a long-ass baggage train to those concepts.

Instead what I get is, you have a y chromosome, therefore:

  • You’re a man
  • Men¬†produce testosterone
  • Testosterone makes a person violent
  • You’re violent

If this never ending baggage train ceased to be predictably hitched onto the term “male,” I’m sure I wouldn’t read such assertions as¬†the snarl of a trans-antagonist revving their engine in preparation to run me over. If it were simply, “you’re male, so you probably produce gametes smaller than ova” or “you’re male, so you only have one copy of [gene housed on X chromosome],” I’d have nothing to write about.

But then, you know, TERFs are getting paid handsome sums to compare me to rapists, so. Bristles. Probably here to stay.

-Shiv


 

*I’ve never actually been karyotyped, so I don’t know for certain I even have one. It is quite likely I do, as I was assigned male, but I try to use the word “know” for things that have been repeatedly tested.

 

Transition Reactions p14: You need therapy

I still haven’t quite adjusted to the realization that trans rights discourse is so primitive at this stage that some of the most blatantly fucking obvious statements perpetrated in this conversation are treated as “serious points of debate.” One of these is the appallingly clueless “You need therapy,” and it’s ableist cousin “you’re just messed in the head.” It is, in my estimate, the strongest predictor of a fruitless conversation, because anyone who thinks trans folk¬†don’t¬†receive therapy hasn’t bothered to check their most basic assumptions which distort their opinion.

Join me as we run through the gamut of my healthcare process to illustrate why the assumption underlying the response “you need therapy” is an observation as asinine as “you have skin.”

Step one: I need to figure out I’m trans

In order to access any kind of gender related care, I first have to know I need it. In the absence of comprehensive vocabulary, many of us gender variant folk are really confused and disgruntled, which often compels us to seek–wait for it–therapy.¬†If we’re lucky, the therapist might lift the fog and say “you have some gender identity problems,” and either address them or refer us to someone who can, at which point our pre-existing questioning starts to gain traction.

Step two: I have to convince my general practitioner or existing therapist I’m trans

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Transition Reactions p13: Legitimate academic inquiry

In my readings on feminism in Islam and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), there has been a consistent thread across all views within this specific area: Establish what work already exists before entering the discourse, lest you look like an utter nincompoop. It’s good advice generally for anyone considering entering discourse in any area in which they have no expertise. That’s why you kinda need a bachelor’s in your area before you can become a researcher.

The problem, of course, is that when it comes to discourse on gender variance or civil/human rights for trans people, is that so few people follow this advice. Whether it’s so-called “gender critical” bloggers or a professional whinger like Dr. Jordan Peterson, the existing body of literature is often ignored as these imbecilic martyrs cloak themselves in “legitimate academic inquiry” to open a “debate” on a question that’s comparable to, say, “is the Earth round?” Fucking¬†Pythagoras¬†figured this out ~2,600 years ago¬†and there are people acting like they’ll¬†win a PhD by reopening this question.

You won’t. The maths are settled. Keeping an open mind doesn’t mean revisiting the fucking obvious. At least, not without reason.

My hope is that one day many of the questions seriously asked by ignorant amateurs about gender variance today are regarded with the same relevance we give to Flat Earthers. I’m sure I could get the point across to Dr. Peterson if I were to sign up for his class and then spend Every. Single. Day. for Eight. Fucking. Weeks. interrupting his lectures with “but Sigmund Freud said something else!” and then running off to the media for daily interviews whining about how oppressed I am because Dr. Peterson has better shit to do than represent the findings of a long-discredited quack with any seriousness.

Yeah, something like that. I think that’s the part that pisses me off the most: This notion that trans people haven’t thought it through, that our¬†questioning process doesn’t count, and that it’s only real or legit questioning if a cis person does it (abstractly, mind you). As if being a¬†living embodiment¬†of these questions doesn’t count.

Cis people feel entirely justified in entering the discourse without stopping to fact-check some of their basic assumptions, which is why a lot of us trans feminists tend to sound like we’re repeating ourselves.¬†And when those folks (who already disrespect the topic and feel qualified to enter it) find a posterboy to represent their explosive cocktail of ignorance and arrogance, we have a recipe for misconceptions seemingly coated in Teflon, immune to all doubt and inspection.

It can all depress a girl, and quite badly at that.¬†“That’s not what the evidence says” is my language. I’m not sure I know how to step outside of it. I think it’s one of the reasons I am reluctant to publish on other platforms. Here on FtB we are, ostensibly, concerned about what the evidence says. Y’all speak my language. We can have an actually intelligent conversation on what something means. But moving to MSM means having to throw myself at the feet of False Equivalency in service to¬†Both Sideism. It punches holes in any potential aspirations to bonafide journalism, although I still try to do primary reporting within my means.

I feel like academia has no place for me either. You’d be a bit naive to think Dr. Peterson was the only professor who harbours prejudice against trans folk. I wear it on my sleeve–quite literally, if I get that tattoo I’ve been mulling over. Closeting myself for the duration of a post-secondary education seems entirely unconscionable… and yet, I wonder if actually getting any credentials would require such an act, knowing what tenured professors can get away with.

I think the only avenue to satisfy my ambitions is to write a book. It’s a format that allows the citations this ridiculous “debate” so desperately needs. It’s long form, meaning we can unpack and dissect what those citations say and how they relate to the topic. I may lack the degree for now and for the forseeable future, but there’s no reason my work can’t stand on its own merit. I’ve already navigated the publishing industry before and have a pretty decent grip on its ebbs and flows. I feel reasonably confident in this goal.

Nonetheless, the information will be useless without consumers willing to, you know, consume it. And I think that’s one of the biggest barriers: Not simply the ignorance by itself, but this notion that one’s ignorance is somehow adequate when governing the lives of other people.

It’s not. It shouldn’t be. We ought not to let that shit slide. End of story.

-Shiv

Transition Reactions p12: Well, *I* don’t talk like that

We return to my personal experiences and so require the should-be-obvious disclaimer that I am not a spokeswoman for the entirety of trans folk.

So obviously I am preoccupied with the extent of trans-antagonism even here in Canada, where the government is finally tackling institutional discrimination by mandating nondiscrimination policies. But par for the course, a lot of people don’t understand what discrimination actually¬†is,¬†and think¬†that if something is made illegal it “stops happening,” and now that it might be illegal to discriminate against trans folk in a few more months we can all go home and stop complaining.

What this attitude overlooks are two things: structural discrimination and personal discrimination. I’ll cover structural discrimination another time but even with personal discrimination there’s a fair bit going on.

It’s been criminal to discriminate against cisgender gay people for years, yet cis gay Canadians still exhibit lower socioeconomic outcomes compared to cisgender heterosexuals (“cis het”). Now if you’re the type of person I can’t speak to politely, you blame cis gays for this. Unfortunately for you, all evidence points to cis het folk still enacting–and getting away with–homo-antagonistic discrimination.

Which creates a problem if I try to talk about homo- and trans-antagonism. This is a problem that starts with the actions of cis het people. That means it is impossible in a thorough analysis not to, at some point, examine the role of the majority in the socioeconomic outcomes of the minority.

Which also¬†means, at some point, I have to talk about you. Yes, you, even the ones who take the time to read a trans voice (I’ve recommended many, hopefully I’m not the only one). While I am grateful that you put your money where your mouth is and remember to seek out information before forming an opinion, it is still necessary to discuss how suspicion and denigration of trans folk, especially trans women, is baked into the common understandings of gender itself, and that all of us (even me) may not be able to reach into the corners of our mind to root it out.

Let’s start with an example from a fellow critic of my favourite punching bag: The Roman Catholic Church. There are no shortage of odious reasons to dislike the Catholic institution: They exploit their publicly funded organizations to proselytize to vulnerable people; they lobby for religious exemptions from secular law so they can continue endangering and abusing¬†women and queer folk;¬†they are openly and unabashedly patriarchal and put an alarming amount of effort into conditioning their congregation to accept and propagate this; they shield the perpetrators of child sexual assault; they compare gender variance to nuclear weapons;¬†they guilt-trip their congregation into financing these human rights abuses; and they make sure their church bells are obnoxiously fucking loud.

I could go on, but the point is that there are a few criticisms floating around where the most cutting criticism an atheist can muster against the Church is that its figurehead wears a “dress.” I think that reflects a very interesting system of values where all those other egregious crimes against humanity are somehow unworthy of mention. From a Humanist perspective,¬†“patriarch”¬†is¬†an insult–or at least it ought to be. You needn’t bring in a morally neutral activity such as crossdressing to suggest the Pope is worthy of condemnation. I think you can reach a little higher for better fruit than that.

So it manifests among otherwise well-meaning atheists who are generally in favour of QUILTBAG rights & affirmation yet haven’t made the connection between mocking people like Trump because of statues depicting him as fat and ostensibly intersex; and how¬†this message simultaneously denigrates fat & intersex people. As with the Pope, it’s not like there’s a shortage of reasons to really rag on Trump here.

Having written about these issues for a long time I won’t suggest we reduce our coverage trying to understand the impact of deliberate, willful trans-antagonism. I am all too happy to render individual Catholics uncomfortable when I suggest their institution advocates for my psychiatric abuse and that they are complicit in this. And the damage Catholic lobbyists have done to human rights issues is undeniable across the globe.

But supporting a community as embattled as the trans community means understanding that a broader body of accidental, unintentional bias still contributes to our difficulties, and in that respect I need myself and anyone who calls themselves a trans ally to not write ourselves off when we talk about trans-antagonism. That means when I say stuff like “cis het people do this,” don’t walk out of the room and count yourself out because you’re “one of the good ones.” It’s quite likely that you¬†have¬†and¬†will¬†do ‘this,’ even if by accident.

It’s okay, the same is true for me. I just hope we all have the patience and maturity to sit ourselves down and learn from it. What we don’t need is for you to tell us what a great ally you are, we need you to¬†show us¬†by contributing to the accountability of those advancing trans-antagonistic positions, even if unintentionally. Which includes yourself.

 

-Shiv

Transition Reactions p11: Facts don’t care about your feelings

It cannot be understated that the sheer volume of ignorance about gender variance weighs down on me. I see the same shit repeating itself over and over. It is not the ignorance that is the problem, at least not by itself–but the belief that knowledge is somehow unnecessary to form an opinion on something, which is likely the sole contributor to my blood pressure problems. That is a belief which should be nuked from orbit, because if people actually practiced it, we wouldn’t have cis people passing shitty laws about trans people based off of knee-jerk “eww cooties” reactions¬†or an entire lobby calling itself pro-“life” despite advocating for policies that¬†continually endanger women.

i pun gud

i pun gud

As today’s Transition Reactions is about facts, I will¬†not¬†be including the usual disclaimer about anecdotes and personal experience.

So let’s dismantle one of the more irritating bludgeons used against trans women: “Facts don’t care about your feelings.”

Facts exist regardless of how we feel about them–that is true, unless you’re a solipsist.¬†The problem is the people employing this deepity seldom understand the establishment of what makes a fact to begin with.

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Transition Reactions p10: Rag-rets

Standard disclaimer: This is my mostly anecdotal of my experience transitioning and should not be understood to be some kind of monolithic representation of gender variance as a whole.

Today’s topic is definitely one of the bigger areas where I set strong and clear boundaries: This is always–ALWAYS–turned into a football for TERFs and religious reactionaries to pass back and forth in a bid to justify inserting themselves between trans folk and our doctors. This conversation very definitely isn’t about you, cis folk,¬†so don’t¬†make¬†it about you.

I speak of one of the most loaded landmines in the entire discourse of gender variance, no matter the disciplinary approach: Regrets related to transitioning. If I’ve called numerous trans-antagonistic lobbies dishonest before,¬†you ain’t seen nothing yet.

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Transition Reactions p9: Liar liar

Content Notice: Transmisogyny and the “deceptive trans” trope, invocation of t-word slur, detailed description of the murders of trans women.

Standard disclaimer: My Transition Reactions series is a mostly anecdotal recount of fucked up ways people respond my gender variance.

Guys, wanna hear a joke?

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Transition Reactions p8: You made those words up

No contest: The most asinine, frustratingly incomplete train of thought I have ever encountered is when someone responds to trans feminist lingo by saying something so unfathomably thick like “You just made those words up.”

Far be it from ayoudontsay clever “gotcha,” this argument literally wakes babies up in the middle of the night and starts a chorus of endless howling. Locusts drop from the sky, lightning carves out scenes of terror into the country side, crops world wide wilt and decay, paintings bleed, mirrors crack.¬†It is an argument so broken in every conceivable sense that the Earth itself splits open to swallow you whole.

“You just made those words up.”

NO SHIT, SHERLOCK. JESUS CHRIST.

I don’t dispute that the word “transgender” is made up. That’s because it was made up,¬†just like every other word in the entirety of all language ever.¬†If you’re going to start becoming “language critical,” then do us all a favour and stop speaking, because every word of this sentence was, at one point, made up. Spare me your brain-cell killing argument and fuck off.

Words do not form spontaneously out of physical phenomenon. They’re not written into the code of reality itself. It’s not a crop you can harvest. They occur because a bunch of carbon-based lifeforms came together needed to start collaborating on how to communicate “food over there.” And after a few million years, those same carbon based lifeforms started being able to construct more and more sophisticated thoughts from their collaborations, all of which were built on words that were “made up” and all of which were inspired by the need to tell someone else about something.

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Transition Reactions p7: Feeling unsafe vs. Being unsafe

Content Notice: Abuse and violence of all stripes.

Context

I haven’t had a great year, so far. I left an abusive relationship in which I was sexually assaulted, and my vindication (snark) was to lose my chosen family because I spoke out about it. I had all the sting of family rejection–plus a generous helping of self blame.¬†After all, I¬†chose¬†them. I don’t even have the excuse that they¬†were thrust upon me by circumstance. I trusted them, and was rewarded with cold shoulders, victim-blaming, “taking no side”ism, etc. I had trusted friends tell me they believed my story and then… nothing. My abuser was still welcome at every venue we shared. “No drama” became the watchword. Shouting me down was the response any time murmurs of coming forward surfaced. That’s what my reputation became: dramatic, a ticking time bomb. Unreliable. Untrustworthy. Don’t play with¬†her,¬†she’ll malign you over a silly mistake (a “silly mistake” that has landed me in trauma counselling). Soon the rumours make a round trip through all the lovely cogs of rape culture and I get the freeze for “spreading rumours.”

Trying to grapple with that and the fallout of leaving an abusive relationship, including the PTSD?

Yeah. 2016–worst year of my life. And it’s not even over.

During all that I lost gainful employment, just as the economy started to really tank. What was painful about that was that it was a work place where I could be openly trans. I swore off the private sector after routinely being told to endure abuses from my coworkers. My boss basically said it was on me to go back in the closet if I wanted the workplace harassment to stop. Government employers actually did something about it, when it happened. And non-profit? I’ve never had a problem with a bigoted coworker. After all you don’t get far working for crisis resources by being an insensitive asshole. Emotional intelligence is a prerequisite.

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Transition Reactions p6: Compliments & Microaggression

Over on Death to Squirrels, Iris discussed the complex interaction that leads supposed “compliments” to become problems, even though the issuer of the compliment means well. This prompted me to think about another context in which a similar argument can be made about the types of compliments I’ve received as a trans woman that have made me superbly uncomfortable.

Usual disclaimer: This series represents my experience of gender variance and does not represent a monolithic commentary on the trans community as a whole.

Roughly 330 days out of the year, I choose to express my gender in a deliberately calculated way such that I cause¬†the look¬†in cis people. They tilt their heads and squint their eyes and the question I know they’re asking is “is that a boy or a girl?” I derive no shortage of sadistic glee of making people question their normative conceptions of sexuality–but being deliberately androgynous has the bonus of generally filtering out queerphobes and self-selecting my flirtatious interactions with other queer people.

I also do this because I just plain like being androgynous. Most of the time, I feel very confident expressing androgynously. I don’t really need to justify it more than that, and I shouldn’t have to. I’m not hurting anyone and it brings me joy.

Enter the uncomfortable compliment.

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