Imagine No Religion 2- A Recap

Okay, I’m back! With a nice little bundle of posts for the coming week.

First things first, though, as promised, I wanted to write a little recap of the Imagine No Religion 2 conference, and a few of the things that stood out to me over the course of what was, all in all, a pretty awesome weekend.

As good a time as I was having, though, my brain has a hard time turning off, as does the parts of it that get irked by certain attitudes. Given that during most of the weekend there wasn’t much opportunity to respond to any of the things that got to me, and very little time before the next thingy that required my attention began requiring my attention, I had little recourse but to just settle those thoughts in some little corner of my brain and wait for a chance to get into them. This is that chance.

So… structuring this as several little mini-posts, here’s Everything I Wanted To Say At Imagine No Religion But Didn’t Get A Chance To Rant: [Read more…]

Ace Ventura: Het Perspective

This post is part of a collaborative Crossover Event with the famed and deadly Dolphin Assassin, Monica Maldonado. We’ve both written on the same general subject today. Please head over to her blog, TransActivisty, and check out her thoughts.

In the absence of positive representation in one’s culture, when one feels invisible under its appraisal of who does or does not count or deserve acknowledgment, when one is starving for any figures through whom you can see yourself, you find them where you can. You build them out of subtle hints, possible (and often unintended) suggestions, little cracks in conventional characterization… or you recontextualize the negative representations. Turn perspectives around. While those in society’s privileged interiors have trouble understanding marginal perspectives, we understand theirs entirely. We need to. It’s a necessity to survival. But we don’t have to play along, and we certainly don’t often see things exclusively through their terms. You find your pride where you need it, even in the hatred.

And what often feeds an even more dire necessity for recontextualizing what few (typically negative) representations is the need to understand oneself, who you are, what you’re feeling. To articulate your experiences back to yourself. This is painfully true of young (in all senses of the word) trans people. Our culture doesn’t (or at least didn’t) hand us any tools for understanding what we were going through and defining it for yourselves, or understanding our needs and the options for having those needs met. But we found them anyway.

You find your identity where you need it, even in the hatred. [Read more…]

Is He Checking Me Out, Or Just Staring At The Freak? Self-Consciousness And Self-Oppression

Is my shadow showing? Am I wearing too much concealer? It’s not caking, is it? Does this top make my shoulders look broad? Oh fuck, I need to pluck the little hairs on my collarbone. Fuck fuck I shouldn’t have left the house without checking that. I’m such an idiot. My voice just dropped, didn’t it? My Adam’s apple is protruding when I swallow, isn’t it? God everyone can tell. Shit. I shouldn’t be out with another trans person. They’re all staring. I shouldn’t be ashamed of this. I’m so fucking stupid and pathetic for being ashamed of this. I just wish I looked like her. Or her. Or any of them. Anyone but me.

Hi! Welcome to the wonderful world of a trans woman’s interior dialogue!

It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise to anyone that trans women lug around a huge and cripplingly heavy amount of self-consciousness. If you find yourself surprised by this, I appreciate your extremely high opinion of us, but you should probably learn a bit more about how human beings tend to feel about things. What often seems lacking, though, is much critical engagement with this fact. It seems to just be taken as a given “well, yeah, of course” without much stepping back to think about what it might actually mean.

Common exchange-

Me: “Ugh. I totally feel shitty about [insert aspect of my body here] today!”

Well-Meaning Friend (Usually Cis): “That’s not personal, that’s just what all women feel!”

No. I know what you’re trying to do, I know you’re trying to reassure me that there’s nothing uniquely wrong with me in feeling bad or self-conscious about my body, and that’s true, such feelings aren’t even remotely unique to me or to trans women, and I also know you want to couple that reassurance to validation of my gender. That’s cool. But I don’t think it’s fair to assume that how self-consciousness operates in a trans woman is simply the same thing that cis women experience. [Read more…]

This Is Awesome

Check out Cathy Brennan’s latest attempt to insult me via her new, hilariously incompetent tumblr, radicalfeministmemes:

In the words of Michael Halila:

Watch out for the new radfem transphobe tactic of making their opponents seem both awesome and attractive. It, um.

My only quibble is I’ve technically only been kicking Y chromosome ass since 2010.

Mandated Femininity

Apologies for lateness again. I made a super last minute decision to ditch the half-finished post I was working on and write on this topic instead. Also apologies for any typos or sloppiness. This was written in one-sitting one-draft. I’ll come back in and clean it up later, but right now I just want to put it up. Enjoy!

Cultural representations of trans women are painfully rare. Cultural representations of butch, or simply less-than-femme trans women, are functionally non-existent.

While cis people like Chloe Sevigny and Germaine Greer do continue to openly denigrate the “exaggerated femininity” or “gross caricature” presentation that “so many” trans women possess, and use that to mock us as nothing more than men playing dress up, a presentation that falls short of expected feminine norms will be used to outright strip a trans woman of even the claim to a “false” womanhood. You’re not even trying, dude.

Gatekeeping structures continue to break down piece by piece in certain locales and medical communities, but in others it continues to be demanded that you meet expectations of presenting as female as the practitioner understands it, rather than as the patient herself understands it. The consequences can be an obligation to play along with imposed standards of proper feminine womanhood until such a time as all needed or desired treatments have been accessed and put behind you. Then, and only then, do they get to wear jeans and sneakers.

While in some queer or feminist trans communities, spaces and dialogues, femininity has ceased to be considered a requisite aspect of a trans woman’s expression and presentation, and the dotey housewife image of what a proper trans woman is to be lingers mostly in older generations or transsexual separatist / HBS communities, for many more individuals, often living in isolation, one of the only ways to assert one’s womanhood and have it be perceived by others is through claiming totemic representations of it through that which is most aggressively culturally coded as feminine, girly, for her.

And, of course, trans women’s gender presentations are consistently scrutinized under a microscope by a cissexist gaze that constantly seeks to place us where they want us, somewhere as non-threatening as possible, and held to hopelessly strict standards of what is proper or “correct” for a woman to wear or do that would never, ever be applied to a cis woman. Not without being met with ridicule.

Tell me the last time you ever saw the validity of a cis woman’s gender called into question on the basis of dressing too casually or imperfectly feminine.

Where I’m going with this is that feminist and trans-feminist movements aside, and even leaving general cultural progress out of it, femininity and femme presentations continue to be aggressively mandated to trans women. We have an intensely narrow range of behaviours and presentations that are available to us that even have a chance of being read within the wider culture as valid. Granted, under many circumstances, that range narrows into non-existence through the catch-22 of overlapping “too feminine”/”improperly feminine” and “not feminine enough” criticisms, but as a general rule? The trans woman that is to be acceptable, palatable, comprehensible, and representable to cis perceptions and standards must be femme. Full stop. [Read more…]

Contrast And Compare

On Thursday night I got to sit at a table at The Elysian on Capitol Hill with four of the coolest, smartest, most badass trans people I know. Collectively, the five of us made for a pretty impressive little crew to roll deep into the unnerving Seattle late-night land of roving packs of drunken grues. I sat there, and knew enough about the assembled people to know that really (really) every single one of us had survived some horrific, fucked-up things in our lives. Things that absolutely can, and have, killed others. And yet, it dawned on me that all of us, on some level, were thinking “Compared to them? I had it easy”. I knew that at least a few such comparisons had been directly, explicitly drawn as such at some point in time, with that consequential feeling of invalidation of one’s own suffering. Like some kind of weird tragicomic inversion of the Monty Python “You had a shoebox? PURE LUXURY!” sketch. [Read more…]

Lazy Sunday: How Low


Hi, everyone!

I’m back from my little trip south of the border, and feeling much, much better. It’s funny how little it can take sometimes to make so much of a difference. Just a little of the right care in just the right places is often all it takes.

Well, the lead singer of Against Me, now going by the name Laura Grace, has now joined Mina Caputo amongst those with either the courage or brazen recklessness to transition in the public eye (not to imply that either really had much of a choice, mind). She’s announced her transition through Rolling Stone magazine. Keep an eye open for the HILARIOUS assumption that readers need to be informed that no, Laura is NOT the very first transgender musician ever.

I can’t help but feel things like this are pieces of a larger cultural shift. That they hint at something immense, and immensely beautiful. Would this have been possible even five years ago? Why now?

Let’s make the most of this now, everyone.

Anyway, I find the whole thing enjoyably recontextualizes a lot of her past work. For instance, this stark meditation on the mechanical repetitions of addiction, and the meaninglessness of statements of “I’m going to change things!” when you’re not yet able to address what really needs to be addressed. Something I understand entirely too well:

Elsewhere… [Read more…]

Protect Traditional Marriage!

By now, you’ve probably seen a certain political cartoon. It comes in several variants, but the basic premise is always the same. Basically, it juxtaposes a straight person’s adamance in “protecting” his or her marriage from same-sex marriage with obliviousness or willful laziness in regard to those more realistic and immediate threats of their own making, such as adultery, drinking, abusiveness, emotional distance, poor sexual intimacy or compatibility, getting married far too soon or too young, or just the overall rate of divorce amongst straight couples. One version contrasts the “threat” of same-sex marriage against the supposed threat presented by quickie celebrity marriages, such as those of our sacrificial pop culture whipping girls like Kim Kardashian or Britney Spears.

Funny how they’re always mocked for this, but not their husbands. Slut-shaming writ large.

You may have also seen a witty political outreach campaign asserting the message “same-sex marriage does not threaten our marriage” alongside images of happy, committed, loving straight couples. Stephanie and Ben Zvan contributed a particularly adorable image in this series.

The message being conveyed in these cartoons, jokes, and campaigns is that it’s simply absurd and silly for anyone to believe that allowing men to marry men, or women to marry women, poses any kind of threat to a straight person’s marriage, especially when held in contrast to the much more direct threats that are born of their own flaws and vices. This is often followed, in the easy, self-congratulatory tone of the mainstream Whole Foods and NPR liberal, that we’re smart enough to recognize this. We’re much less clueless than those homophobic right-wingers who rally together under the banner of “protecting” the institution or “sanctity” of marriage. We’re smart enough to recognize an actual threat to our marriage, and thus we won’t mistakenly invest our energies in the wrong places and will consequently have much happier, and ultimately more successful, unions. They’re just taking their own miseries out on a vulnerable minority because they can’t accept responsibility for themselves. We’re better than that.

This is to make a fundamental misunderstanding in what is meant by threat.

Honestly, not once have I ever seen an organization like NOM (National Organization for Marriage), or supporters of DOMA (Defense Of Marriage Act), or even your everyday, ground-level homophobe ever once advance the opinion that same-sex marriage is a threat to their marriage in the direct sense of potentially contributing to a divorce. The idea that this is the argument being advanced by opponents of same-sex marriage is a ridiculous, groundless, and dangerous straw-man, that leads us away from where the actual ideological battle is taking place. The idea that would substantiate a campaign like “same-sex marriage does not threaten our marriage” would be that this is meant as an informative, educational tactic, designed to help spread the message that heterosexual couples have nothing to fear from same-sex unions threatening their own, with the image of healthy, “normal” straight couples accompanying the message to help drive it home. But it’s trying to address a belief that no one actually holds, and is thereby wasted effort. Misdirected energy.

No one needs convincing that same-sex marriage won’t lead to a divorce because as a general thing, no one is actually worried about that. [Read more…]