A signal boost for a short documentary about a German trans artist:
A signal boost for a short documentary about a German trans artist:
Is it floating or is it ennui? I’m not sure right now. I’ve been under the weather consistently as of late, suffering pains of aging and misuse, and generally feeling run down and uninspired.
Uninspired. This is it. I am uninspired by life at this moment. Every project, artistic endeavor or whatever is just another thing and it’s hard for me to remain excited about any of it. It’s all just so…blah. I’m not sure why I’m doing any of it right now. I’m finishing my novel series just to finish, but it doesn’t excite me. I’m writing a play and a short story just to write a play and a short story, but neither project keeps me up at night contemplating the success of the work and what I can do to make it better. It’s all just words.
Days just roll on by and soon another round of whatever will pass and there will be highlights, but they won’t seem all that high really. I don’t want to see people anymore. I don’t care about the media I study or the news I read. It’s all just there and I have no connection to it other than disinterest.
And this seems depressing and I suppose I am somewhat depressed by it all. But I’m not even passionate about the depression. It’s simply a shrug like the pain in my elbow. It’s there and whatever. I still have to get up in the morning and make coffee and walk the dog and go to work.
And when I go to sleep at night, I imagine this amazing city where I ultimately isolate myself. I don’t like people all that much. Recent events seem to bear that out. People are disappointing. I want them to be better and they just aren’t. They have sapped my passions.
I see people who are far more passionate than I am. I tried to be passionate and it didn’t turn out well. I’m not sure why I should ever really try again because ultimately I feel doomed to some level of mediocrity. Even if I’m not mediocre, I will never life the life I really want, which is to be able to live in celebrated isolation. I suppose I admire Salinger for having done that.
I hope I find a reason to enjoy the world soon. I’m not planning on leaving it, so no worries. I just want to enjoy it and want to want to engage with it. Right now I don’t. Right now I’m just floating…
I keep reading people on the internets that say that you cannot change your DNA and this means something about anything. These people aren’t scientists, mind you. Just people looking for any reason they can to negate the existence of other people that they really have no concept or clue about. For the record, I know a lot of things about a lot of things, but I don’t know everything about everything and don’t pretend to be an expert on things that I have a vague notion about. If the subject interests me enough, I will research it. It’s a thing people do to try to understand something rather than tossing out reactionary insults to make themselves feel better about something, of which I cannot be certain. I don’t know what it means to be them and to be so highly ignorant and intolerant. It may be genetic, but I cannot say to any degree…
Speaking of genetics, back to the topic. Science! Some people who know a few terms and whatnot like to throw those terms out to make themselves seem all legitimate. These people say trans people cannot be considered their proper gender because DNA or some such thing (ignoring the incredible variance in DNA, etc…science is deeper than the shallow pool they’ve been swimming in…I could make insulting remarks about their DNA pools being somewhat shallow as well which may result in some manner of negative mutation. I could make those kinds of remarks, but I’m not going to. Not me, no.).
Anyway, I asked Google if DNA could be changed by, let’s say, a bone marrow transplant. Here’s what I found right away, from The Tech Museum of Innovation, a project “supported by the Department of Genetics, Stanford School of Medicine” in an article written by Dr. Azita Alizadeh, who works for Stanford University in their Department of Genetics, which, to me, would tend to make her more of an authority than some person on the internet who says something about the immutability of DNA. But that’s just me.
So Dr. Alizadeh says, “A bone marrow transplant turns the patient into a chimera. What I mean is that the DNA in their blood is different than the DNA in the rest of their cells.” Now this means if you get a bone marrow transplant, you now have two sets of DNA, which is something of a change. Hmmm. Let’s delve further and see if one can change their DNA otherwise…
Look at this! When I asked Google if DNA could be changed, I got a plethora of links, many referring to something called “epigenetics.” Now I won’t pretend to be a scientist (not like others on the interwebz who pretend to be scientists all the time when they talk about science as if they were scientists). Here’s a link to a story in the New York Times about epigenetics and how exercise can change a person’s DNA. Cool stuff. Over my head, mostly. But I’m not a scientist. Then again, I’m not trying to negate the existence of others by claiming that science supports their position. I only claim that science adjusts its views based on what’s observed…That’s actually Tim Minchin’s line, but I agree with Tim.
Science, like DNA, changes over time. We’re not too far off from a future where a trans person’s transition will include genetic therapy to make a Y and X or vice versa. This is just speculation on my part, but I’ve gone to genetic research centers with my son, who wants to be a genetic researcher in the future and has researched being a genetic researcher…I’ve seen the things these folks are working on and to discount what they will or will not discover and speak only in absolutes is contrary to the very basic truth of science as a field of discovery.
Next time someone tells you science supports their position, ask them for documentation. They may not know what they think they know.
So this happened…
I had my GRS back in May of 2012 (I really wanted to get it done before the world ended in December of that year…do you remember when the world ended? So cool…). I had it done in Montreal because Dr. Brassard and his staff at L’Asclepiade are amazing and wonderful folks. And Montreal is quite lovely in late May/early June. It was a reminder why I love that part of the world.
In any case, rather than fly directly into Montreal, which would have been quite convenient, I flew into Manchester, NH. One of my best friends who I had not seen in a long time lives there and he and I thought it would be fun if my spouse and I stopped in with him and his wife for a day and then road tripped up to Montreal together, driving through Vermont, which is one of my favorite places on Earth. Now I had no troubles flying into New Hampshire from Phoenix (where I lived at the time). The folks at Phoenix TSA apparently had no issues with me, even though I was somewhat nervous about traveling while trans (so nervous in fact that I got a camera ticket for rolling through a stop light a mile from the airport).
All went well to, in and from Montreal back to New Hampshire (except we all needed to pee really badly somewhere between the Canadian border and Montreal and there was the worst traffic going into the city and very little in the way of publically available accommodations). I was still in early recovery on the way back, meaning a steady oxycontin high and ice packs. The drive wasn’t a lot of fun, but I made it back to my friends’ place in tact and spent the night sleeping on their amazingly comfortable bed, much more comfortable than the recovery bed I had been sleeping in for the past week or so. The next morning, I packed up my stuff, made sure my dilators were in my carry on (couldn’t risk the airline losing those!) and my friend bid me a fond farewell at the airport.
I actually thought that now the anatomy was corrected, TSA wouldn’t be an issue and walked confidently through the full body scanner. And was promptly flagged. Promptly pulled aside for additional screening. I explained that I had just checked out of the hospital after major surgery, which was why I had medications. I didn’t want to have to explain why it was traumatic that the TSA agent was handling my dilators and swabbing them for chemicals. After a few misgenderings (even after seeing full body scan), they told me I had come back chemical positive for some kind of banned substance and would have to submit to further screenings in a private room. Meanwhile my plane was about to board. I showed them my paperwork from Dr. Brassard, that I had just checked out of the hospital and opined that it was more than likely the banned chemical residue was a result of my recent hospital stay. While the female TSA agent was kind to me as I was bawling because I hadn’t seen my children in two weeks, was in pain, and was certain I would not only miss my flight, but be added to some kind of banned list, the other TSA agents offered no such comfort and treated me most terribly. Finally, some clear headed individual decided I was good to go, but my plane was about to end boarding, so rather than send a courtesy vehicle for me to get there quickly, they ran me across the terminal (try running a week or so after major surgery, especially in the area in question, while carrying a heavyish bag and crying…it’s all kinds of crazy fun).
I was only a little injured…
But I did make it home. The thing is, pre or post or non, if you catch a TSA agent with a bug up their ass about trans, they will calmly go about fucking up any chance you had at making it through an uncomfortable situation with anything like your dignity in tact.
I generally move through the world without too much worry about being clocked or being attacked or mocked after being clocked. I do this simply because it hasn’t happened to me in the 4 years and change since I found the courage to just stop worrying and present myself as myself. Over time, I generally stopped seeing every look as somehow knowing and generally stopped ascribing malice to others where no such thing most likely existed.
There are specific times, however, where I genuinely fear that I may be subject to some measure of malicious intent on the part of others. Sometimes it is just the same cautious fear that many women have in the presence of a potentially dangerous situation. Sometimes it is specifically a fear of being attacked for being trans. It happens. It hasn’t happened to me, but it happens and I am not so pollyanna to believe that it will never happen to me. I generally don’t worry, but when given cause, I do.
Last weekend, the closing weekend of my very successful run of Richard III (I produced, directed and designed sets and lights), I had to purchase a few bottles of red wine for our lobby from the 7-11 a block away (they have a selection of wine that will do for our non-paying connoisseurs). As I approached the store, there were a number of young men sitting outside and I got a serious danger vibe combined with a serious “clocked” vibe, some snickering and not quite sotto voce commentary that may or may not have been about me, but in that moment of feeling danger, I had to assume it was and act accordingly.
I quickly entered the store, made my purchase and exited specifically to avoid the gathering outside. I’m not sure if they saw me leave as I made every effort to avoid looking in that direction. I quickly returned to the theatre and was able to breathe again, before I processed my fear and panic. I pulled my spouse aside and shared the moment with her and was able to let it go in the moment.
But the thing is, moments like that happen. My fear is real and sometimes the danger is real. While I try to avoid potential danger, I don’t live my life in avoidance of life, and therefore there is risk. I am not so naive to think otherwise.
In the New York Times on Sunday, a feminist writer worried that we trans women stake our “…claim to dignity as transgender people by trampling on [hers] as a woman.” She is worried that trans women and some men are redefining women by putting them “into tidy boxes, to reduce us to hoary stereotypes.” She goes on to discuss what are apparently the essential differences between women and men thusly:
Their truth is not my truth. Their female identities are not my female identity. They haven’t traveled through the world as women and been shaped by all that this entails. They haven’t suffered through business meetings with men talking to their breasts or woken up after sex terrified they’d forgotten to take their birth control pills the day before. They haven’t had to cope with the onset of their periods in the middle of a crowded subway, the humiliation of discovering that their male work partners’ checks were far larger than theirs, or the fear of being too weak to ward off rapists.
Oh. Okay, so her stereotypes are somehow less hoary (meaning ‘old and trite’ and not ‘grey and white’)? So while being a woman in the world, to this writer, should not be reduced to definitions regarding “our brains, our hearts, our bodies, even our moods,” it should be reduced to definitions regarding workplace struggles (regarding our bodies), sexual worries (still bodies), menstruation (bodies again), and the potential dangers of being raped (bodies bodies bodies).
So just to be clear, while I have not had to deal with the birth control thing nor menstruation issues, I have dealt with men talking to my breasts (made worse by my height, which places them at eye level or above for most), being thought less of at work (pay only an issue in that the teaching profession is traditionally a career chosen by women and, thus devalued and underpaid as a whole when the salaries of similarly educated professionals are taken into account). Most trans women, having given up their male lives, travel through the world as women, experience the world as women, fear rape as other women do – perhaps more (6’2″ women get raped as well and trans women are often murdered after the rape if they are discovered to be trans).
She takes great pains to state that she supports trans women, but doesn’t want us to be defined as women because our apparent “disregard for the fact that being a woman means having accrued certain experiences, endured certain indignities and relished certain courtesies in a culture that reacted to you as one.”
Now I have been living as a woman full time since 2011. I have accrued 4 years of experiences, indignities and courtesies. Is that enough for me to be a woman now? Can we add the additional indignities of being a trans woman to my score sheet? How many years does one need in the game to earn the title? She says, “the very definition of female is a social construct that has subordinated us.” But she has defined it and I find her definitions to be equally guilty of subordination of the female experience.
Worse, she breaks out the tired argument that being trans, suffering being trans, can be compared to a white person who thinks they were born black. She does this because she does not accept structural differences in the brains of males and females, even those these things are documented. She tries to make an argument that if cab drivers and musicians have aspects of their brain structure enhanced by lived experience, it is proof of nurture over nature. Having no experience with dysphoria, she simply negates it.
What she really wants to do in this article is make an argument that only cis women can be called women and that trans women should refrain because we don’t have the right kind of experiences. She brings up a few other points about her dissatisfaction with trans activists whilst ignoring that many of the arguments being made are being made by and for trans men or gender queer folks. It’s easy to leave them out of these kinds of articles. They are inconvenient to feminists such as this author, just as they are to to those making bathroom arguments.
What this is really a response to is Caitlyn Jenner’s pretty cover photo and the false argument that trans women reinforce gender stereotypes regarding expected appearance and behavior. It fails to acknowledge that for trans women, if we wish to blend in and not be clocked, attacked, or mocked, we have to pay extra attention to gender indicators such as hair, clothes, make-up. Yesterday at my theatre, a trans person came to see the play who, to me, was not making an attempt to blend and I had that little judgey voice in the back of my head criticizing that I had to quiet. It’s not my place to judge. Just because I want to exist in the world a certain way or be treated a certain way, it doesn’t make my truth or experience the essential one, just as this writer’s experience with birth control panic does not make her experience essential.
The fact is, she does not know what kinds of pressure are on Caitlyn Jenner to appear as she does or embrace very femme stereotypes. She does not live in that spotlight of judgement. Nor do I (thankfully!). It’s also easy to blame Jenner and trans woman in general for reinforcing femme stereotypes, but I notice that at no time at all does she take any cis woman to task for doing the exact same thing. There are many more cis women on magazine covers and in photo spreads who talk about and present aspects of being very femme that are often unattainable to anyone. While I am sure this author has aimed her feminist gaze at these women as well, in this article, she is presenting an indictment of trans women as being in league with Men to subordinate women. It is entirely unfair and does not even begin to take into account our lived experience as women and how we are at best a sub-class of women, treated far worse and subordinated to a much greater degree. She and her fellow feminists that she speaks of can shake their hoary heads (meaning ‘grey and white’ and not ‘old and trite’ – I assume she does not dye the grey from her head to satisfy the societal expectation of women to remain youthful in appearance for as long as possible) at Jenner’s remarks about nail polish, but they do not get the metaphor that being able to wear it until it chips away is a signifier for not having to hide being a woman anymore, not having to constantly put the male costume back on.
What she can never understand or experience is what it is to have to fight for her right to be accepted as a woman.
For the record, I’m an atheistic humanist who holds that science will someday work everything out, including the “spirit world,” which may or may not be the result of quantum entanglements and residual energy (my current unproven/untested theory of choice). I’m not a Bright. But I get them.They make a lot more sense to me than theists.
And also for the record, I generally have no issue with theists. When they pray for me or mine, I thank them. It is a positive thought action and I’d rather the world be full of positive thought actions than negative ones.
Where I do have issues is this:
I am supposed to accept that their beliefs are as valid as my reality. I do not accept the Bible as anything other than a collection of words written by a lot of different people for a lot of different reasons, many of them synchronically political, and finally compiled by a collection of clerics to reinforce their primacy in a regressive society. Anytime anyone tells me that they believe it is infallible or the literal “Word of God,” I know who I am dealing with and act accordingly. More often than not, to disengage from conversations about religion, which are dodgy at best and mostly belligerent because even Atheists fight over what it means to not believe in a deity (see the Brights).
I am supposed to accept that they can believe I am some sort of science project or my existence as a woman in negated because their deity is infallible and made men men and women women (and we won’t ask these folks to think too long on intersex people or any other non-binary, non-image-of-deity way in which people are born). I am supposed to accept their beliefs about me and other Trans folk because they are allowed to believe what they believe and I am supposed to smile and continue to have them in my life in any manner when their belief is a fundamental denial of who I am based on nothing more than their intractable position that someone who read an old book told them the old book said something that they should believe.
Sorry. You don’t get to be in my life. I accept that you have beliefs, but I don’t have to accept you in my life.
I accept that people have superstitions and need the comfort of religion. And I love many folks who are believers in deities and it may seem like I am being a judgemental ass or that I feel that I am superior having achieved a deity-free enlightenment (for the record: I am a judgemental ass and do feel that I am superior, but not because of my lack of deity-dependencies…just because I’m particularly awesome), but I can love them and have them in my life because they do not use their beliefs as an excuse to negate my pain and what I have had to do to live as authentically as I can. I also don’t talk about religion with them. It not my job to convert people to humanistic atheism (although if you are interested, message me and I will share the good word) and as long as it is not their job to try to make me believe in whatever they do, I can enjoy their company and friendship. It’s what I love about humanity at its best.
Now let’s speak for a moment about science projects.
Is my current state of being the product of scientific advances in medicine and body modification?
You know someone who has had chemo and then a tumor removed?
Cataracts replaced by IOLs?
The point being that medicine is the product of scientific advances that often require body modification to achieve the desired effects of a longer, healthier, happier life.
There’s a silly meme about a rapper bringing solar power to poor folks in Africa being more newsworthy than the very public transition of a formerly feted Olympian and reality show star whose primary occupation for the last decade has been to be the subject of media attention. In that meme, Jenner is referred to as a “science project” and people were offended. I was also offended, but more because a friend of mine shared the meme (he has since taken it down). The point was that there are more important things to focus on in the world than Caitlyn’s clothing choices and hair style. We should instead focus on famous people are acting more in the service of others.
Yeah. Okay. But seriously. We live in a tabloid world that revels in distractions…where people are killed because of paparazzi and those who invited paparazzi into their lives in their quest for the benefits of fame trying to escape from those people who make a living helping the famous make theirs (don’t try to make a living from fame if you’re not willing to accept that fame comes with camera-wielding lampreys who make their living from you).
I wish we lived in a world where people were more concerned with what is actually happening than what the media is doing to distract them from what is actually happening. If the media circus bothers you… If the inconsequential lives of the famous (although to be perfectly fair, for Trans folk, the coming out of a major personality is a big deal for the non-famous among us because it brings us that much further in from the fringe and more likely to be accepted without worrying about troubling legislation…baby steps). I’d rather people focus on the very terrible lives of most Trans people, especially those without privilege…heck, the pretty awful lives of most people without privilege, Trans or Cis.
If you’re truly upset that Caitlyn Jenner is pulling pop media focus from another famous person who, in an action apparently out of character for famous people, did something altruistic, then you are spending too much time looking at pop media. And, yeah, it shows up on your FB feed, but so do adds for cars or shoes or whatever else it was you were looking at and accidentally moused over a tracking pixel. You can take the click-bait or ignore it. You live in this social media world. To paraphrase Rush:
You can choose a ready guide in some commercial voice.
If you choose not to engage, you still have made a choice.
Choose free will.