You can change your DNA!

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.

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#travelingwhiletrans

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.

Fear and Loathing Outside the 7-11

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.

Generally.

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.