The Gendering Of Children, And Raising Trans Kids

There are a couple interesting things going on on twitter lately. There’s the hashtag #ididnotreport, where women (and men, and members of other genders) describe circumstances of rape or sexual assault that they did not report to police or authorities, and why. It’s a very, very chilling look at the intense social pressures that enable rape and sexual assault, and burden its victims with guilt and shame, and pressure them into silence.

Then there’s @NiceGuyBrianG, an apologist for rape and general non-consensual sexual acts, who has mocked and derided the #ididnotreport trend.

But beneath this, there’s been seething a subtler little trend that speaks volumes about where we still are as a culture in regards to homophobia and attitudes towards sexual variance, and the degree of violent (and frankly incomprehensible) hatred that is still openly stated towards homosexuality.

Recently, another hashtag, #ToMyUnbornChild has been trending, where people speak messages to their future children. And an alarmingly large number of these messages are along the lines of “If you’re gay, I’ll beat the shit out of you / kill you / disown you / etc.”

Yes. People are taking the opportunity to make their feelings towards their future children not as a chance to talk about offering them a better world, or treating them with love, or trying to suggest some scrap of wisdom they’ve managed to eke out of our confusing and strange world, but instead as a chance to iterate that they are so frightened, disgusted or hateful of homosexuality that they’ll threaten a child who does not yet exist, their child, with rejection, violence or death if they should end up happening to be gay.

And sadly, it should go without saying that this is not only a hypothetical put forward by some hateful twitter-users who have no idea what love for a child actually means. It is a staggeringly, heart-breakingly common story for queer people to have to choose between their families and their integrity, being able to be open about who they are. Those awful feelings of love for a child being conditional on their conformity to arbitrary cultural standards of sexuality and gender do not always go away when they finally look that child in the eyes or hold them in their arms. Far too often, they still hold that child and while thinking “I love you so much…” are still holding, somewhere in the back of their minds, “…as long as you’re straight, cis and meet my expectations.”

What this horrible little twitter trend has got me thinking about, though, is the number of e-mails (and sometimes comments) I’ve gotten with parents or would-be parents asking me for advice on how to go about dealing with the possibility (either concrete and suggested by present circumstances, or simply an abstract, as it always is) that their children may be gay or transgender. How do you assign a gender? Should you? How do you make sure your child receives the message that it’s okay to explore their gender (or later, sexual orientation)? How do you do this while not having them be bullied or alienated by other kids? How do you protect them from the gender-normative messages of society as a whole? And if they do begin presenting as transgender, how do we deal with that? What is the best strategy to take, and what will give them the best shot at happiness? How do we deal with all the people around us who will see any act of support for gender non-normativity in a child as “abuse”? Etc.

These parents, unlike the would-be practitioners of homophobic infanticide of #ToMyUnbornChild, are already getting it right. They’ve already accomplished the most important thing: putting the child’s happiness first, and thinking through and asking about how to ensure that happiness, and not letting these possibilities (or realities) compromise their love and support for their children. [Read more…]

A Transgender Manual Of Style

Hi folks!

So… I’ve been meaning to get some kind of glossary put together for a long, long, long while… but it occurred to me lately that also a lot of people have some additional trouble with knowing HOW to use trans terminology.

So I wanted to make a little go-to reference guide, which I’ll probably set up as a static page (and expand after receiving whatever input or questions come along in the comments). [Read more…]

Thinking Through The Sex Trade

I love when people say feminism is a monolithic dogma with a specific party-line that must be towed. It’s hilarious. Obviously they’ve never been around more than one feminist at a time when the subject of sex work or pornography comes up.

It’s pretty much an instant debate, really. You step in one direction and you’re slut-shaming. Step another direction and you’re genital-essentializing. Take another step and you’re sex-negative. Another and you’re supporting objectification and rape culture. Etc.

I don’t want to prop up the myth of the “hyper-sensitive” feminist and her hair-trigger temper, but it does get a bit frustrating how easily people’s positions on the matter get straw-manned, misinterpreted or used as a basis on which to make a litany of assumptions about what they think on a hundred disparate issues pertaining to sexuality and such. It’s often hard to find a chance to actually outline your position before someone has gone ahead and projected one onto you.

The reason for that, I find, is that the question of pornography and sex work involves a number of extremely important questions held in tension and conflict. It’s a loaded issue not only in terms of a particular set of implications for women’s rights, gender, sexual rights, etc. but several, spanning different considerations that may or may not be prioritized the same way by one feminist or another.

There’s the question of bodily autonomy I talked about yesterday, and what it implies to have an abstract state telling a woman she must not use her body in a particular way. There’s the question of representation, and what this means in terms of our cultural conception of what a woman’s role (sexual or otherwise) “ought” to be. There’s the question of the degree to which our perceptions on the issue are being muddied by outdated codes of sexual morality. There’s the question of how often a woman involved in such work actually is making a true and genuine choice, versus being forced (in varying degrees) into the sex industry through socio-economic circumstances or even outright coercion. There’s the question of slut-shaming and the intense degree of stigmatization attached to sex work that is almost certainly filtering our ideas of what sex work is and means through a heavy cultural bias. There’s the ways that pornographic representation plays into issues of intersectionality, and cultural concepts not only of male sexuality and female sexuality, but also how we understand race, disability, gender variance, homosexuality, and many other concepts through a lens of sexuality, and the immense potential for exploitation and othering.

And there’s probably a whole textbook worth of other issues I just totally overlooked.

Working through those concepts to end up arriving at some kind of definitive, comprehensive position on sex work and pornography is virtually impossible. There’s just WAY too many variables and implications to take into consideration to make any kind of grand sweeping general statement. But yet, the intense degree of cultural baggage attached to the issue ends up sort of insisting on that. I keep finding myself backed into corners where I need to proclaim myself definitively pro-legalization of sex work, or against the sex trade, or in sex-positive and in favour of pornography, or totally against the sexualization of women in media. Every time I have to make such a proclamation in order to spare myself the hassle of people projecting some OTHER definitive generalized position onto me (one they disagree with), I’m, at best, telling a half-truth. I wonder how many feminists are doing the same.

Do ANY of us actually have a definitive, all-encompassing position on any of this?

When you work through the individual considerations, what you arrive at is an ever-expanding set of complications and interlocking ambiguities. In so far as I have a position, it’s based on questions, not answers. [Read more…]

On A Hypothetical “Cure” For GID

So here’s a thought experiment that pretty much every trans person ever has been subjected to a good umpteen-dozen times by “curious” cis people…

“Let’s say there was a pill you could take, or like a certain kind of brain laser, that could make you, like, identify as your assigned sex, would you do that instead of transitioning? Like, it would be way easier, right? Because then you wouldn’t have to be, like, an incomplete man/woman, you could just totally have a body you’re cool with. Right?”

No matter how many times I hear this tedious and presumptuous question, it never really gets any less insulting and infuriating to me. Might as well get my thoughts down on pap-…uh… pixels. [Read more…]

Okay But Really, This Contraception Thing Is Silly

I mean… wow…

When this whole “war on women/contraception” thing started, my initial reaction was just one of a little bit of anger and frustration and disappointment, but not really outrage or “ARGHY MUST BLOG AND KILL AND STOP THIS ARGHLKJ;k’l;!!!11!!”. The things people were saying like “the best birth control is an aspirin between the knees” and “college girls are going broke buying birth control for all the sex they’re having!” were unimaginably stupid, but it’s not like it was anything particularly new for the religious right and GOP to be sexist, sex-negative, scientifically and medically illiterate, irrational idiots.

Besides, not my problem, right? I’m not cis, I’m not fertile, I’m not interested in partners of the sex with whom I could even hypothetically conceive, and I don’t live in the United States. Also, historically, these kinds of pushbacks against women’s reproductive rights haven’t ended up managing to make it very far. It’s also at least a slightly fair fight… although hetero cis women do not have nearly the amount of wealth and political power in the USA that their hetero cis men do, they aren’t a minority, and they should have enough of a presence in the voting public to put up a decent fight and keep this horrible legislation from moving too far forward.

I figured this was just an electoral strategy designed to distract from other issues, a new appeal to the USA’s “culture war” and division of ideology  that could keep the 99% from noticing the economic biases and corruption of the Republican party and keep them focused on “family values”- and an appeal now sorely needed due to how rapidly the demonization of homosexuality is ceasing to be a viable political strategy. I figured this was something that wasn’t really meant to have any substance, and would be over pretty quickly. A week or two, tops.

So my plan was just to keep on doing what I do, focusing and blogging on other issues, on things that most people don’t talk about, on things where the fight isn’t remotely fair… and then go to the Winchester, have a cold pint, and wait for this whole thing to blow over.

As a general rule, my plans are stupid. [Read more…]

Secret Identities, Mutant Powers, Bright Costumes and Other Aspects of Queer Lives

I have another little bit of a confession to make, everyone. I’m not the only Natalie Reed.

In addition to the model, the contestant on So You Think You Can Dance 5, the maker of handmade jewelery, the character in the Harlequin romance “His Partner’s Wife”, the MD in San Antonio, the alleged “lesbian pedophile” in London who (according to the ever so trustworthy and queer-friendly Daily Mail) allegedly disguised herself as a 17 year-old boy at a high school in order to “groom” two teenage girls as sex partners, and the young LA mom who somehow lays priority claim to the name on twitter and Facebook, we have this wonderful badass:

That’s the second Lady Blackhawk, Natalie Reed. An American-born aeronautical engineering genius who defected to Soviet Russia due to her faith in the Marxist ideals with which she was raised, her expertise advancing the Soviet air-force’s technological edge by years, she ultimately joined the Blackhawks international freedom-fighter force when she realized that Communism had become corrupt under the rule of Stalin and his successors.

I know, she’s awesome. [Read more…]

Some Thoughts On International Women’s Day

I love and respect International Women’s Day. I do. I think it is deeply important, and deserves to be acknowledged and celebrated, as well as used as an opportunity to engage in certain kinds of thinking and dialogue we normally don’t bother with. Sadly, it does seem that the people who ignore feminism and issues of women’s rights tend to ignore IWD, and those who pay attention to the value of IWD are those who were already paying attention to feminism and women’s rights. But I still think it’s of huge importance to have a day where we specifically do everything we can to bring those issues forward, and remind people they’re there. Even just the reminder alone, even if it doesn’t lead to further discussion, is worth having this day. [Read more…]

Confessions Of A Post-Modernist

It’s true. I’m a post-modernist. We walk amongst you! OOOoooOOOooo! *spooky fingers*

Okay, but seriously…

One of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot this week is the difficulty of having a set of values, beliefs or personal identifications that don’t always comfortably intersect, and that finding a safe space for one aspect of who you are or what you believe will often leave you vulnerable to having other aspects attacked or demonized. Like feminists who dislike trans women and skeptics, trans women who dislike feminists and atheists, and atheists who dislike trans women and feminists.

Well, it’s not exactly a big secret that the skeptic community really isn’t keen on post-modernism and post-modernists, and like to treat them as a bit of a universal punching bag, to the extent that simply describing something as “pomo” is enough to theoretically discredit it. Within this community I frequently see post-modernism straw-manned as some kind of airy-headed, woo-supporting, pseudo-intellectual nonsense that is so wholly committed to radical relativism that it is completely unable to bother taking a stand on anything at all.

That’s a pretty piss-poor, and not very educated or skeptical, understanding of what post-modernism is or is about. Post-modernism was where and how I learned to think, and to do so critically. It taught me to value questioning assumptions, to understand the difference between what I want to believe and what I ought to believe, to understand how perceptions can be distorted and how the process by which we come about our beliefs and conclusions is not always as neat and tidy as it appears, and to look for the unconscious or implicit motives and biases of whomever or whatever is making a claim. In other words, it taught me skepticism. [Read more…]

Sandra Fluke now no longer a whore, but an evil supporter of trans rights!

I’ll just let you guys read this and come to your own conclusions…

Sandra Fluke, Gender Reassignment, And Health Insurance

In a funny way, I actually appreciate these idiots bringing attention to this fact. Since we already know Ms. Fluke’s detractors have no idea what they’re talking about when it comes to contraception, maybe this will help people who support Ms. Fluke, but don’t yet see the parallels between attempting to limit women’s reproduction and medical choices and the denial of trans people’s choices about their bodies, understand how these issues intersect, and why it is important to defend the right of every human being to have access to appropriate medical care and a range of options, even if it involves girly hormones and icky lady parts.