2009-09-22 02:20

New Blog Site @ Wordpress

I'm more or less officially moving to WordPress for the extra functionality. Anything in here will be access locked if I continue to post in here at all.

New blog here: http://genderbitch.wordpress.com/

Everything has been xposted there and it has interlinking back to the comments. Enjoy!
2009-09-20 10:34
Entry tags:

Intermission: The Oh Snap Threshold Has Been Breached

Oh look an Intermission Post.

It's been a rough few weeks for everyone. The #whywefight hashtag on Twitter has been of immense help to so many but it has also been a truly emotionally draining experience for those of us who wrote to it. A lot of trans folk cope with the danger and the shit that we go through by not thinking about it. By sort of sliding that stuff into the back of our minds and not really actively engaging thoughts like, "It's pretty likely that if I walk somewhere or go somewhere alone that I will be assaulted." So dredging that shit up into the light is pretty painful for us too, not just the folks who see it and realize how little has been done to help us. It's even worse for those who have to relive their experiences by dredging it up. Discussing my own lack of options for rape counseling and abuse counseling hit a lot of painful chords in me and that's part of why I took the mental health day off yesterday.

And of course, it didn't help that I was hit with some good ol' ally betrayal by Renee of Womanist Musings (I won't link to her, I am done giving any press whatsoever to her to fuck up in) who apparently thought it would be a great idea to use textbook silencing techniques on me when I criticized womanism and feminism for cissexist edges in the hashtag. She apologized (eventually) by the way, although it was only given after insulting, slurring, attacking, breaking into another trans woman's safe space, and giving an insincere bullshit apology that specifically excluded the trans women (including myself) who she slurred, attacked and silenced (this was later edited on the day of that twittered apology to include us, of course, we're still apparently "vile" and "evil", so nothing's really been solved). Apparently things got worse after I left the situation, but it's not something I can speak to since I wasn't there. I've washed my hands of the whole situation to be honest. I don't feel she is salvageable and I'm not going to waste any more time on her.

A shit week all around. IRL stuff piled on me too. Work's been harder and more stressful than ever and I've been in a bit of a crunch time lately because I'm going to part time this upcoming week. With my feet and back acting up really badly (raising fears that my days being an abled person are very numbered) I decided to take a mental health day yesterday and it helped a great deal.

It doesn't occur to a lot of people just how difficult blogging about things of personal importance (or about past trauma) can be. Bringing that stuff up is stressing at best, reliving trauma and opening yourself up for awful shit at worst. There's an "Oh Snap Threshold" for everyone I figure. That point where you go: "holy shit I need a day off." Or two. Or four. Or a week. For me, yesterday of just playing an MMO, screwing around, and basically just destressing has been most of what I needed. I also took a low key day today and just did the two weeks of laundry that had been piling up (which was pretty boring and low key). I may hate doing laundry because of the heat from the dryers, but it is really relaxing to just sit around and do nothing while a ton of mechanical white noise plays in the background. It makes me zone out. XD

And Intermission posts usually act as a good destressor because they aren't very structured. I'm free to ramble and say mostly random and personally relevant things that a lot of folk aren't gonna care about.

So, The Intermission List is:

1: Dad's still being an asshole and keeping contact closed. Which means I can't contact either of my brothers without finding a way around the info curtain.

2: I'm trying to figure out if I'm pansexual or whatnot. Experimentation and figuring stuff out will commence, eventually. XD It isn't a high priority because I'm already in a relationship right now and I've yet to meet anyone else who peaks my interest who isn't a girl, but it's something I'd like to know.

3: Name change documents are almost entirely finished, I just need to fill out the rest of the paperwork, get the money together (make sure I don't need it signed by a notary public or alternately get it signed) and then replace the birth cert copy. That's only if I don't get the paperwork back, if I do then it shouldn't be a problem. I'll talk to a friend who knows law stuff about it.

4: I bought small blue sunglasses today at a dollar store. They look absolutely hawt and match my weird as hell style. A style that continues to evolve as I delve into indie chick stuff. So far I've settled on my green faux-military jacket, shiny black shoes, weird colored knee high or thigh high socks (often mismatched XD), baggy guy's (or loose fit girl's) cargos (or very flaring girl jeans) and varying interestingly colored t-shirts (and occasionally snazzy button down shirts).

5: I need to do something about my hair. It's beautiful and all but it's too goddamn long. I need to get it cut but how short? It's a tough call because if I cut it too short it'll curl into a giant ball of ringlets on the top of my head and then poof out (a style I completely fail to pull off). But I do want to hack some off so that it's easier to take care of. Shoulder length perhaps, maybe low neck. This will be explored.

6: I'm at the tail end of the laser treatments and wow oh wow can you tell. Parts of my face are literally smooth even when I haven't shaved for a day and a half. And what little is there is thin and very very blond (almost white colored). Chances are I'll need some electrolysis but I can wait on that because the hair is easily concealed at this color and I really can't afford it right now.

7: Partner and I are looking at marriage options. They need to be married (or in the military or older than 25 or a grad student) to get freed up from the bullshit dependent status that FAFSA drops on people (whether they live with or get any support from their parents or not). It sucks because Partner's parents can't cover any schooling and I know how much Partner really wants to get back into college after having to leave for health reasons. Our finances are also pretty difficult right now. We made a joint account and such but the financial ties of legal marriage might be the best way to align things right so we can survive a little better. It bothers the both of us because we're poly and marriage as it exists now completely fucks over poly folk (and will continue to fuck over poly folk even after so called "Marriage Equality", yanno everyone excluded but gay and straight, is gained). We figure it will be a quiet thing. No ceremony, no rings, none of that shit. Our relationship is committed enough, thanks. We don't need symbols, pomp and circumstance to add to that. We're fine without it.

8: I'm planning on bringing up the idea and asking for contact infos at my support group for the specific group in my city that works to make the lives easier of TWOC (trans women of color) so that I can find someone who really needs my breastforms in donation. Let's face it, white people get a giant fucking leg up in the world. Being trans might fuck us over really badly but can you imagine just how badly one gets screwed being POC and trans? It goes beyond my capacity to imagine and makes me feel ill for them. So quite frankly, this donation is not going to go to a white girl. Sorry, no can do. I'm gonna give a TWOC a leg up with this and I goddamn wish I could donate more breastforms but I've only got the one pair. So that's that.

9: I'm still trying to figure out how safe it is to attempt to visit my old crew of people from community college. Mostly a bunch of saucy drunk assholes there were still some good apples among the sea of rotting fruit. My main worry is that some of them are misogynistic as fuck and that could spell serious problems for me. There is a distinct and very real risk that visiting that area could get me beaten within an inch of my life if I'm around the wrong people. So this is a tough decision to make. There's also the fact that a lot of these people have no fucking concept of personal space with anyone, and especially not with girls. I really don't want to be triggered in a big group. One of my more trustworthy friends has offered to act as backup and hang around and beat the shit out of anyone who causes problems. I may take him up on that offer.

Well that's the Intermission. Regularly scheduled programming will resume next week. Much love to you, readers.

~RP
2009-09-17 22:51

Cis Appropriation and Other Speshul Snowflake Deeds

I'm sure you've all read up on the silliness from some well known trans folk on cis as a term. I'm certainly sure you're aware of the whiny privileged cis folk who bitched about it (like white people crying about being called white. What the fuck, people?). I'm sure you've seen the folk who have spoken against this cis oppression enabling idiocy (including my very angry, snarky self).

Cisgender, as detailed in the posts addressing this garbage about it being a bad or useless term, is simply a means to create discourse regarding transgendered people that doesn't other the fuck out of us. Yanno, because beforehand it was trans vs. normal. Because we know how well that goes for people, right? Right.

The whole reason why we have this word is to give us a way to describe the privilege attached to folk who aren't trans without going "normal people privilege! Not-freak privilege!"

So when people attack its existence, or insist it's weaponized, I tend to find them... well... stupid. Either that or they are fighting their darnedest to escape from any responsibility of owning their privilege (for the cis folks) or fighting their darnedest for those delicious oppressor cookies, which are apparently enough to even make Kate Bornstein, Monica Helms and Autumn Sandeen sell the fuck out to the cis folk. Also I'm fairly certain that there's head patting and free coffee for selling out. I can't be sure though because I've never sold out to the oppressors before. And I plan to never do so. (If I ever do, please firmly kick me in the ass, I will need it at such a point of awfulness)

But sometimes, well, sometimes we have a Speshul Snowflake. Someone so sparkly, so darn important, someone who (thinks they) get it so absolutely and wonderfully well, that they just can't understand why their Speshulness is not included! Enter the Speshul Snowflake land of Helen Boyd.

Apparently, if you're a partner of a trans person, you know exactly what we're going through, 100%, no take backs, nu uh totally take backs, no I called it first no take backs, fine you're a jerk. Did that sentence seem silly, to you? Well it might be because the sentiment itself is unbelievably silly.

But hey, if you don't want to go to the link, just read in this here quote box:

Telling me, & other partners whose lives are profoundly impacted by the legal rights / cultural perceptions of trans people, that we are “not trans” implies that we are also not part of the trans community. I’ve been saying for years now that we are. When trans people are killed, harassed, not hired, fired due to discrimination, denied health care, etc. etc. etc., their loved ones suffer along with them. Their families, their lovers, their kids especially. We are not just “allies.” We are vested, dammit, & a part of the trans community, so when “cisgender” comes to mean, or is used to mean, “not part of the trans community,” we are once again left out in the dark.

source

I'll tell you all what, I'm going to be an idiot and give her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she doesn't understand how marginalization and privilege work. Lots of folks don't. In fact this kind of stuff tends to be mid level sociology course work, so chances are you won't have exposure to it unless you do some AP sociology classes in high school or take at the very least a basic sociology course in a community college (and actually that isn't sarcastic at all, sociology isn't required for many degrees and a lot of folk can't go to college. So really, I won't hold it against someone for not knowing, I will merely inform them) or have a background in the activist community and have dealt with the language before.

Marginalization applied to a given group is not applied to another group. Group 1 is marginalized. Group 2 is privileged. The marginalization of group 1 can have secondary effects on group 2. This is not the same as the marginalization. This is simply a ripple effect. You, as a partner, are not experiencing your partner's pain. Unless you're some kind of emotion psychic. In which case, good Aspects, hide yourself, the government is searching for people like you to create super soldiers out of!

At worst, you are experiencing the pain of seeing your partner hurt. And that sucks. Undoubtedly. You may also experience some personal backlash, say if your partner loses a job for being trans and you both have to tighten your belts. And that sucks too. But you didn't lose your job. You haven't been denied medical care for having a mixture of structures on your body. You aren't objectified by hundreds of fetish following chaser guys who care more about touching your genitals then they do about your feelings (on top of the set of het guys who fetishize all women). You won't get murdered for having a penis. You won't get beaten to within an inch of your life because you accidentally dropped your voice a little in the wrong place. You won't get exploited by manipulative people who know trans folk are vulnerable and scared and then raped and not be able to go to a single woman's shelter because you'll be turned away.

Basically, you being a partner? Doesn't fucking make you trans. It doesn't let you understand how that feels. You experience it, at best, through a proxy and a lens. And that ain't experiencing it.

Oh it gets worse. Because you see, she actually teaches about cis privilege and trans marginalization. So that benefit of the doubt I gave her? Yeah that was stupid on my part. She's trying to make an assessment and a claim built on nothing more than "I WANT A PIECE OF THE PIE TOO!" Because for some reason, apparently, a pie filled with nails, broken glass and thumbtacks that we are force fed by society looks so appealing to her.

If you read around a bit, you'll see that Helen has a very inaccurate view of how cis is used. Apparently we use it like a curse and we equate cis to being transphobic. This is categorically bullshit. You know what I use cis for? Not trans. That's it. That's what cis is. Cis is aligned together. Trans is aligned apart. So if your gender identity and sex are aligned apart then you are trans. If not than you are cis. It is not a weapon, it is a classifier, used for discourse only.

Like I said in my other post, I do not introduce hypothetical cis woman Candace as, "This is my Candace, she's a cis-woman" and no one should introduce me as, "This is RP, she's a trans woman." The word is not for common day to day use. In common day to day conversations I am a woman with no fucking qualifiers attached.. Just like any other woman, cis or trans.

To me, when a cis person criticizes the word cis it means one of two things. They either don't get the concept of privilege, othering and safe discourse (and that is normal and I work to help them figure it out in such a case) or they want to not have a word that means not trans. And that comes down to them being privileged selfish assholes who want to be seen as normal and default and have us be "those other people".

Helen comes across as a brand spanking new one though. Someone who doesn't like being told she isn't trans because omg she has a trans partner. And is maybe slightly variant in her expression. OMFG. That is some serious unique snowflake traits right there.

Now I can understand some confusion regarding cisgender vs. cissexual. Cisgender is purely gender vs. sex and cissexual is gender identity vs. sex. So Helen could very well be transgendered, if she's got some gender expression going on that isn't very mundane and is notable to get a response from cis society. Yes, if this is the case, she'll face at least some minor trans oppression. I can bet you though, that she is cissexual. That her GI and body match. That she possesses no bodily or role dysphoria related to her sexual structure or gender.

Of course if none of that applies to her, then she's cis, no matter how unique and sparkly her snowflake ice crystal edges are. And this goes for the rest of cis folk. Don't appropriate the trans realm. You only hurt us when you do that. And that makes you a shit ally.
2009-09-11 22:48
Entry tags:

How to Be An Ally

crossposted on The Transadvocate and Deeply Problematic

Privilege is a nasty thing. It steals perspective, traps us in mindsets and views that make it near impossible to comprehend what a marginalized person is going through. It is, invariably, the worst obstacle facing any ally of any marginalized group.

What I say here is probably applicable to any context of ally and oppressed but I'll stick with the trans angle, as it is what I know the best. Some of this might be lifted straight from my twitter account because I said it well there. Don't feel too offended by the recycling. XD

At its most simple, the concept of an ally is one who is in alliance with you. Alliance is in any context merely a mutually beneficial arrangement to advance common goals and interests. It means that your goals need to align with at least some of the goals of your allied members. And that the arrangement taken must benefit all parties involved. When it comes to marginalization, privilege, bigotry, -isms and alliance, things get a bit more complex. The alliance is only truly beneficial to the marginalized party if privilege is overcome long enough to achieve forward motion in social reform. Basically, lateral moves, a lack of any activity or any action that furthers, enables or ignores the marginalization of the marginalized party is not beneficial to them. Therefore it does not fit the boundaries of an alliance.

Let's say you're playing a real time strategy video game. Your base is under attack. If your ally sits back and watches your little soldiers die and your buildings burn, then that is a violation of the mutualistic nature of alliance. If your ally offers to trade some resources to your enemies, while they are attacking you, then they are in violation of the mutualistic nature of alliance. Generally a privileged person isn't being harmed by helping us. They will always have that privilege for as long as the system exists and works and will likely be spared what we go through as a result, even when supporting us. Our aims (which are basically, honor our bodily rights and respect our needs) do not in any way clash with their aims (unless their aim is to dominate, control, harm or damage us). So generally an alliance with a marginalized party is almost always beneficial to a non marginalized party (in the given context). Especially in this day and age, when we have the Liberal Reputation PointsTM game. So the thing that's the most important when it comes to alliance between marginalized and privileged parties is quite simply, does this actually benefit the marginalized party?

Unfortunately it isn't that common that it does.

Why is this? Because many allies are terrible, awful, incompetent allies. Terrible, awful, incompetent and under the privilege induced delusion that they are actually perfectly good allies, which just makes the problem persist. Part of the problem is certainly privilege, no doubts there. Privilege is the primary obfuscating curtain when it comes to knowing what those you act as an ally for need. But an even bigger part of the problem is actually the Liberal Reputation PointsTM game itself and people's personal reputation.

Let's face it, no one wants to look like a bigot. It doesn't look good and we all firmly associate the word bigotry with being a grade A fuckstupid douchenozzle (or an equivalent horribly insulting phrase in your mind). It gets especially worse when you're in a pretty seriously marginalized group yourself and have to deal with other people being shitty allies. You would feel like complete guilty shit if you suddenly realized that you just fucked over someone in the exact same way you get fucked over regularly. It's why GLB folk and womanists respond so badly to being called on transphobia and cissexism. Because GLB folk have to contend with being betrayed by a mess of the lib community and womanists get regularly fucked over by white feminists and our resoundingly loud White Noise. So realizing that, hey, you've suddenly become a giant raging hypocrite is not a pleasant experience.

I've watched this unfold before. An ally does something not terribly beneficial or slips on something, is called on it and just completely flips out. And then a little bit later, contritely goes, "aw fuck, I'm so sorry, that was horrible of me". Some don't come to the realization of course, and they are pretty much considered dirty self deluding liars when they call themselves an ally. There's a list of things that consistantly are done that reduce the effectiveness of one's alliance to folk and then are done that worsen the blow and add insult to injury. And there are things every ally can do to reduce the impact of their fuckups and to reduce the frequency of said fuckups. Let's take a look shall we?

The Don'ts:

1: Speaking for the marginalized person:
A lot of allies think they know a whole bunch of shit about what we need and how we need it. Well, they're wrong. You can do all the research in the world and you still won't know exactly what a given trans person will need. Fuck, most of us don't know what the rest of us need half the time. So when you speak over trans folk, or Aspects forbid, tell trans folk to shut up because you know what we need, you are being a shit poor ally. When a marginalized person tells you to relay a message, relay it exactly. Ask them at any chance you can to make sure you are not distorting, embellishing or extending their requests/needs verbally. You will make mistakes obviously, but if you do these things those mistakes will be less likely and have less impact.

2: Arguing a privilege call:
Face it, you do have privilege. This is a given. If you did something and someone calls privilege on you for it, don't argue it. Because chances are, you are wrong and if you argued it, you're making it just that much harder to get through to you to someone who goes through a helluva lot of shit normally and doesn't need it from allies too. There are rare cases where people will pull a privilege call out of their asses. This does happen and I would be a moron to claim otherwise. But it is extraordinarily rare. It is also generally fairly obvious to other folk that are part of the marginalized group when someone is bullshitting a privilege call. Instead of arguing, ask how what you did was privilege induced. Ask nicely, ask politely. You have the burden as the privileged one, to operate beneficially to us. After all, life gives you a massive leg up and fucks us over. It isn't a huge deal to swallow your pride a little and politely ask what you did wrong. If the claim is bullshit, the person won't be able to describe what you did wrong in terms of privilege and other folk of that group will probably call them on it too.

But chances are, they aren't wrong and you fucked up.

3: Silencing:
This is never acceptable. Enabling others in engaging in silencing, engaging in silencing tactics yourself and not addressing others use of silencing are all unacceptable actions by an ally. Silencing tactics are fairly simple. They are methods used to quash dissent. To dismiss or disable the voices of dissent against the privilege induced majority speak. They can include trolling someone, threatening someone, making offensive jokes, using slurs, acting violent or intimidating, demanding or even criticizing anger from a marginalized person, demanding that a marginalized person change their methods for addressing privilege and a host of other things that are design to control the means of communication and discourse. Technically 1 often classifies as silencing, but as it doesn't always fit silencing, I separated them.

4: Prioritizing your reputation or being right over being a good ally:
Intellectuals hate being wrong. I know this, I'm the same way. Many folks will get defensive when called out as wrong or biased. This defensiveness is simply a defense of their reputation for accuracy or in general. But in the end, one's reputation for being right a lot is never as important as the life, well being and safety of the marginalized people that person is an ally for. When you prioritize these unimportant things over our bodies, lives, well beings and safety, you fail in being an ally. Such an action is pretty heinous because of how dehumanizing it is to be prioritized below something as emphemeral, largely unimportant and dynamic as reputation.

5: Engaging in actions known by the marginalized group to be marginalizing: This one is simple. Don't do the shit to us that we ask everyone to avoid doing to us, with your support as an ally. Seriously, this one is the one that really requires stupidity or asinine levels of apathy about us. If you're fighting other people doing something to us, DON'T DO IT TOO.


The Do's

1: Ask Questions:
Ask what's up often. You are at a loss when it comes to what we need maybe 80% of the time, if you're lucky. The more often you ask before or as you do something, the more likely you can catch yourself before you truly fuck up as an ally. When I write something about a group I am not a part of, I ask people to smack me with a correction if I'm being privileged or inaccurate. Requesting this shows good faith. You're trying and even if you make a mistake, the door is open to address it without fear of silencing. You are admitting your lack and your burden and this is always good.

2: Address things everywhere:
Even if we're not there to see you do it, fight oppression everywhere you can. Take the things we've requested of you and fight for them even when we aren't there. It shows that you actually give a shit about real change and not just about looking good for the Liberal Reputation PointsTM game. And for every person you change the mind of, that's another person who doesn't do something shitty to one of us. Real massive effects.

3: Self Analyze:
Privilege is, like I said above, nasty. It is sneaky, it is quiet, it is powerful. You will have a hard as hell time seeing past that stained glass window to the horrible shit beyond. I know I do. You have a burden due to that privilege, to do everything you can to see past it. The best way to do this (besides listening) is self analysis. Look at the things in your life that you have and compare that to the things marginalized groups have. Try to think in depth on it. Analyze and extend what we've taught you and try to find the points at which your privilege has truly given you immense advantages. And do these exercises in a way that will remind you. Publically, on paper, on a blog, in a journal, somewhere. If it's just up in your head, you may forget or not accept it. But if you read what you just wrote, it will drive it home. And nothing seems to convince privileged folk better that they have privilege than another privileged person pointing it out. Which is an element of privilege in and of itself. XD

4: Keep your priorities ordered well:
Don't play the Liberal Reputation PointsTM game. Just don't. Don't elevate your reputation or your sense of rightness. Don't elevate your hurt feelings that I spoke to you with anger above the people who are suffering because of people with your privilege. In the end, as an ally, your priority is our well being. The only thing that comes above that is your own well being (and as I said, you don't cost yourself a whole lot if anything by helping us). A few feelings being bruised cuz someone told you to fuck off is a whole lot less than being triggered by a rape joke. Know that we're more important than how you look, or how funny you think your jokes are, or whether or not you really liked that book, no matter how racist. And in the end, your first amendment rights are important but fuck are you a bad ally if you champion your right to use slurs about us in common conversation over helping us protect ourselves from being triggered and verbally abused by those same slurs.

5: Trust Us:
In the end, some of the things we say are gonna seem outlandish. Your privilege makes it tough to see the truth of the matter. It's like the matrix. You can't see past it but if you ever get that skill it is mind blowing and hard to believe. You need to learn to trust us to report our experiences and not question everything given to you. Because we get that enough from the non allies. We need you to make it easy for once.


So that is the list. Do's and Don'ts. There's more things, most likely, that I forgot or didn't add. But these are the big ones. Applicable to every single marginalized group and their allies. There are no exceptions to this list. You fail at being an ally if you are not doing these things. So if you are failing, stand up, dust off and do the right thing. Because we need you. It isn't just a pixilated base on a video game we're losing.

It's our lives.
2009-09-10 10:21
Entry tags:

"But I Was Just Joking!" Humor as a Shield

Comedy. Humor. Jokes.

These things make us laugh, giggle, chortle, and guffaw. Their implicit design is to make life easier to deal with, better and more enjoyable. Having a wide span of humor is a wonderful thing in life because it makes it possible to get some good out of even truly awful situations. It also allows people to bond together. Laughing together is good for people. Laughter itself is a very healthy thing psychologically. So its no wonder that there's an entire realm dedicated to comedy. That people out there are known as the Funny Guy, or the Funny Girl (or the Funny Androgyne in spaces that are nonbinary inclusive XD) above all other traits.

Humor is a big deal.

The function of jokes and comedy is to appeal to an audience. To make them laugh. Every comedian, every funny person, every joker and clownish type, they all direct their jokes to a given person with the intent of creating laughter. Without anyone listening, jokes are useless and hollow. And of course, not everyone has the same humor. Some people find knock knock jokes and other simple punchline styles hilarious while others find them boring and cliche. Some folks love ironic humor and dark comedy, while others find that stuff a bit depressing. Everyone has different humor needs but one can generally group people based on the similarities. Knowing what your audience likes, knowing what will make them laugh is what we call "a sense of humor".

It's actually a trait of the comedy giver, that sense of humor thing. When someone doesn't find your joke funny, they don't have a poor sense of humor, because they are your audience. You're trying to appeal to them. So their humor is the one you need a sense of.

After all comedy and humor are entertainment. The audience is right. You are wrong. Don't like it? Find a new audience. XD That's showbiz.

Humor can also be method of social commentary or a way to say harsh things that need to be said while still softening the blow. In the end though, your audience still matters. If they don't laugh, who's fault is it?

Yours.

Because really, in the end, you are entertaining them. It shouldn't be work to be entertained. One pays a little money, goes to a show, sits back and relaxes and someone else provides the service of comedy. Even the jokers who don't get paid are still working to entertain others. Various reasons of course, but for many, it arises out of enjoying being liked, causing mirth, making people happy. If you didn't do that, then you aren't very good at being a joker now are you?

I'm a funny girl. I joke around a lot and sometimes my friends tell me I'm not serious enough. That's fine, I don't need to be serious as they want me to be. But sometimes my jokes aren't funny to them. The timing is off, or the joke hits too close to home and they don't laugh. It sucks when that happens and I usually feel embarrassed. But it isn't their fault that they didn't find the joke funny. Their tastes are not really controllable, nor should they have to change their tastes to cater to me. It is me, not having a good sense of what they like, that made my joke not funny. Or me not having the skill to meet those likes, be it timing, content, type of humor, etc.

I can understand an inclination to want to blame them, but really, it's my fault. I didn't appeal to my audience.

Now that we understand how humor works when its done right, lets see how it works when it is done wrong.

People were pretty pissed about this. And that's because the humor was pretty bigoted. Humor, like anything, is influenced by privilege and bigotry. After all, jokes come from the mind and go through that filter first. Conan O'Brian's audience has trans women in it, he is on national TV after all. So when people say it wasn't funny, trans or not, that means he screwed up. They don't need a "better sense of humor", he has failed a portion of his audience with his comedy.

Because really, offense counts as not finding it funny. And like I said above, if your audience doesn't find it funny you failed as an artist. They didn't fail you, it isn't their job to laugh.

Badly done humor isn't just a neglectful exercise in privileged bullshit. It is often used as a shield too. Let's face it, no one likes to be called a bigot. No one would be proud of bigotry, privilege and what have you. In this day and age of the liberal reputation game, a lot of people play tolerant and accepting to look better. They pay lip service and have a token number of y friends (y being people from marginalized group n1, n2, n3, n4,... nx). They also tend to fuck up, being that they are still privileged and refuse to actually address that privilege (in fact, many players of the liberal reputation game refuse to acknowledge the concept of privilege at all).

Usually these fuck ups are slips or jokes. Things that they figured would be safe because, hey, they found it funny right? Well, moving past the obvious (that they failed to make their audience laugh and ergo failed at humor), it becomes abruptly clear that they're using the humor as a shield. There's this idea that humor, comedy and what have you, gives immunity to say whatever stupid, bigoted or truly insulting thing you want.

This mostly arises from insult comics, but in reality, most them aren't very funny or popular. The few that are actually tend to insult themselves more than anything, or celebrities (who us mundane folk love to hate). For instance, Sarah Silverman tends to work awfully hard to make herself look like an idiot as part of her act.

The fact is though, comedy doesn't make you immune to anything. If anything, it makes you more vulnerable to the needs of your audience. All they have to do is not laugh at you and you're the one who comes out looking like an idiot and a failure. So it strikes me as sort of stupid to say this, "But I was just joking! You shouldn't be offended, it was supposed to be funny!"

In reality, if it wasn't funny, then you failed. And if you failed to make it funny then there is absolutely no reason to assume that it wouldn't offend someone. In fact, the assumption that a joke couldn't possibly offend someone is a bit offensive and insulting in and of itself. Because it assumes that everyone has your tastes, your bigotry, your views. The assumption that everyone does, or should, have your tastes is dismissive and asinine.

But really, that's not what goes through most of these people's heads (and certainly not mine when I fuck up like this). What's going through their heads (and mine when I'm fuckstupid about this) is, "I'm being awfully clever/ironic/funny". Not, "what will these folks like? What can I do to make them laugh?"

That's the sign of a piss poor comedian. Thinking about how awesome your joke is instead of whether it will appeal. And then, the bigoted piss poor comedian, when someone is offended and does not laugh, thinks, "what's wrong with this person? I was funny! They just don't get it!"

Really, you're not funny. If you were funny, people would have laughed. It's very simple lesson that every comedian, joker, hilarious person, funny guy/girl, ironic or dark comedy peddler and jester type learns. If your audience doesn't laugh, do something different.

Which leads me to a conclusion. When a bigot couches their bigotry in a sheath of humor in order to hide it, the above thought process is not the one up there. The joke is an afterthought, because the person wants to raise a viewpoint but knows that viewpoint won't go over well. They're hoping that by putting it as a joke, it will slip by the radar or at very least, they can claim that the person just has a poor sense of humor instead of actually addressing the bigoted shit they said. It's a diversionary tactic, and a very successful one. Because then the person addresses the humor angle, when they should just say, "If I ain't laughing, then you ain't funny."

A person who actually knows how to joke, who actually learned the ropes from trial and error, they would know that the words, "oh you just can't take a joke" are the most epic bullshit one can say regarding humor. It either means that you're too much of a loser to actually do humor right and can't take rejection well at all or that you're a faker who thinks that humor will save you from those evil PC police. So in the end it comes down to this:

Either you're a bigot hiding behind "humor" or you suck at jokes.
2009-09-07 11:08

How To Abolish Gender 101: Perpendicular Force

So, today I was responding to a commenter on Alas a Blog regarding Sarah Kohen's piece on trans folk and feminism. It's a bit of a transphobic piece, like most feminist material is but that's not actually my concern here. You see, the piece is speaking out against essentialism, which I think is great. Essentialism among trans folk is dangerous for us because as of now, there is absolutely no evidence of any essentialist brain structures or anything like that. So the NI model folk tend to base their approaches on an utter lack of scientific reasoning, which in turn leads to arbitrary bullshit like, "how feminine you are", "what your self expression is". You know, the kind of things that cis women have been trying to escape for centuries. It sets us up (the bomb! Er sorry, game joke) for a huge clusterfuck of in-house sexism (something trans folk do not need, at all) but that's a post for another day.

Today I wanted to discuss some of the flawed ideas behind certain (NOT ALL) gender deconstructionalist rad fems and how they treat nonbinaries (TS or TG nonbinaries, although the terms do not yet include nonbinary TS's), non gender normative binary trans folk and non gender normative binary transsexuals (basically everyone that the Neo HBS folk want to get the fuck away from forever and ever).

This is almost straight up copy paste from my comment on the blog, with some expansion because seriously, I wrote it fucking perfectly there:

"You wanna join ‘queue, girlie’, you better get it into your heads that ‘girlie’ is not something you believe yourself to be, it’s the name of the queue you want to join for some reason and you better learn the rules and stop lecturing/hectoring us."
Queuing for Beginners
By Sarah Kohen


I pointed out that believing that you are something is a reason to want to join the queue. Which really, in the end, is the primary inconsistency that seems to crop up here. None of them actually know why they let in who they let in. The rules are entirely arbitrary and often shift. “You want to join this queue for some unknown reasons, welcome!”, “you want to join this queue because you feel like you belong here? Fuck you!”.

It’s a problem, largely because it acts to cement the roles and the gender classification itself. If everyone is fighting to keep these binary states intact, solid, rigid and the borders kept (including the so called gender deconstructionalist rad fems) then they are only succeeding in keeping gender intact.

How do they think those queues get dissolved? Do they think one day we’ll all wave a magic wand and suddenly everyone will be able to leave the cues, leave the school and go out and play in the sandbox? With the trucks and and shovels and buckets?

If people keep shifting between queues, blurring the lines, or even standing in different queues, no matter how much people yell and tell them that they are dumb, this will dilute and distort gender. Social constructs have, always, depended upon the individuals of society to uphold their rules. Sarah (within the context of this piece only) continues to stand in her queue and uphold its rules, only allowing in the quiet, the similar. Many rad fems continue to stand in their queue and uphold its rules, yelling at the ones standing in the third and fourth wavy queue that they’re fucking it all up and being stupid. Forgetting that they're standing in a queue too.

Even I’m standing in a queue. I can understand the potent need for survival and that stepping out of that queue, refusing to be classified, working on attacking gender at its basis is rough. And that's why a lot of deconstructionists still call themselves women (or men, there are men gender deconstructionists too). Well nonbinaries are in a bind. Their survival depends on breaking away from the binary, which gives them the same bad attention that a gender breaker will get. After all, the binarist paradigm treats itself as the end all be all of the gender paradigm, so even though a nonbinary is still operating within the gender paradigm, they will still be treated as though they have broken out of the paradigm.

It seems like no one sees the potential here. I see people standing in all sorts of queues. Violating social convention. Refusing to fit the norms. They are expanding out, diluting the construct, making it more difficult to create the us and them mentality, because the us and them depends on a binary. They also act as a point of interest. People see these folk, "leaving gender". They aren’t actually leaving gender, they’re just expanding it, but cis and trans folk who think in the gender paradigm often think in the binary paradigm too and tend to equate them. This is the somewhat ignorant majority one deals with. Nonbinaries act as a baby step. Something that seems like it breaks or moves outside gender.

Real quick before I continue: Nonbinaries have a vested interest in moving out of their queues (just like binary trans folk do, but nonbinaries actually have an impact on gender classification itself, unlike me and other binary trans folk). Sure it might be a third queue (unless the nonbinary is also a gender deconstuctionist, and then chances are that nonbinary is just getting some body modification and telling people to fuck off with the queues) but it still breaks those conventions and needs to happen for their survival. Now I've said before that my body is not an agenda booster. This still applies to nonbinaries. Especially with how much people like to fuck them over. The difference between the statements raised as a problem in the nonbinaries post and here is that here we are passively allowing nonbinaries to do what they need. Forcing nonbinaries to transition, to make their queues is just as wrong as stopping them or even just telling them they're stupid or bad for it (which is still a form of oppression as victims of slut shaming can attest to). Nonbinaries have this potential to further break down the system of classification that is weaponized to oppress women and built in such a way that it is directly oppressive to a lot (but not all) of trans folk. And this potential is built from what they need to survive. So, this is a mutually beneficial situation. Anyways, onward!

Nobinaries make their queues, people yell and scream, but... the fact is, those nonbinaries are happy. Others see this and follow suit in different ways. Girls start stepping out of queue more. Guys start making the line into a zig zag. People shift around as the queues become more and more distorted (including the third and fourth and fifth new queues that upset the rad fems I'm directing this to so very much). Eventually the queues get overlaps, unconscious non purposeful overlaps. People suddenly realize that, "hey I’m kinda in the girlie cue now, weird... I don’t see myself as a girl." And that prompts realizations. People start realizing that, not only are the queues arbitrary and built on silliness, but they barely exist at all anymore.

One of the important things to remember about social change that adjusts a fundamental paradigm of thought in a society is that it can not ever happen quickly. No literally, it can't. There's simply too much inertia in society, too much momentum to directly oppose a paradigm and actually successfully stop it. In many martial arts, there is a skill trained into people to find the perpendicular point of force motion and apply pressure there. Your enemy moves his hand down? Don't block it upwards because then it is strength vs. strength and if your enemy is bigger and stronger, you're fucked. Block it sideways. Suddenly, his strength is diverted. He misses you and you barely exerted at all. Your smaller strength is no longer an issue.

These rad fems are practicing strength vs. strength (and oppressing nonbinaries and certain types of binary trans folk while doing so, something no decent person can advocate without being privileged and unaware as fuck). No wonder gender deconstuctionism hasn't made a lot of leaps and bounds. No wonder the majority of cis and trans people still firmly think in the gender paradigm.

Fighting the full strength, head on, of the dominant mode of thought in society is rife with failure. Especially when your group is small (and trust me, they're called radical feminists for a reason. There's not a lot of them). However, that paradigm is directed entirely in one direction. What if you moved at an angle? The karate chop will continue to fall, obviously (and the paradigm will still exist) but its force is weakened, its movement diverted. And it leaves openings to attack from.

Nonbinaries are that sideways attack. Originally transsexuals were that sideways attack. The fact that one could shift from spot to spot was something that broke the gender rigidity paradigm. And by passively allowing binary transsexuals to get what we needed, feminists benefited (actually it's more that TS folk fought like crazy while feminists stood in the way like giant concrete bricks, but you get the idea, they still benefited in the end). Then the transgender folk came along. The ones not strictly binarist transitioning and by passively allowing them to get what they needed we all benefited (actually same applies, they fought like crazy because the TS folk and the feminists were once again giant stupid assholes. See a pattern?). Now the nonbinaries are here. Had people actually passively just allowed those that came before to just do their own thing, gender would have been weakened quickly, through weakening the rigid gender paradigm and weakening the gender expression paradigm. So now, it's up to feminists to speed up the process by getting the fuck out of the way of nonbinaries so they can break the binary paradigm.

Because frankly, each of these pillars hold up gender. These elements are all the parts of gender that give it its strength. Rigidity allowed for precise definition and othering, which meant you could easily dismiss anyone who was precisely not a man. Essentialist expression allowed for regulation and dismissal. If one did not fit the expression rules, then one was not proper and could be ignored and shuffled into the othered set, further cementing the power of the masculine. And the binary paradigm keeps the us and them mentality intact and prevents mixing through segregation of the sexes based on that paradigm. There are more pillars than that, obviously, but those ones are nasty. And leaps and bounds have been made after each of the trans revolutions, because we destabilize these tools of oppression.

So, if you just stand back, shut the fuck up about how much nonbinaries "are breaking the rules" (those arbitrary, constructed rules you seek to abolish, silly goose) and let nonbinaries make their 3 and 5 and 10 queues, you'll find that one of the most effective and dangerous pillars used to weaponize and empower gender as a classification system (and use it as a tool of oppression) will degrade and fall apart from the erosion of nonbinaries simply doing what they need to do to be happy and survive.

And that is how you abolish gender. Not by standing in line and shouting, “HEY, WE SHOULD ALL GET OUT OF THIS LINE.” Because I can guarantee you, no one is going to step out of it when you stand in the line and shout about getting out of it.

The majority is not on your side, cis included. They need to be slowly, carefully, sneakily led into it. If you’re obvious, they’ll only shut you down. Strength vs. strength folks. You don't have the "muscles" to win that fight. Go perpendicular instead.

Quiz on friday. Don’t be late.
2009-09-03 21:54

Get Your Agenda Off My Body

(As a note: This applies to womanism too, as womanism only fully expands the women's rights lens to issues of race but still leaves trans women in the dust more often than not.)

I'm sure we all have a pretty good idea of the cardinal elements of feminism. Feminism, at its most simple is a movement designed to combat the effects of sexism, misogyny and the power structure and marginalization created by the patriarchy. A social reform specialization of humanism/egalitarianism, if you will.

There are certain lacks in it that are understandable. It doesn't specifically handle a lot of men's issues (mostly because its hands are full with women's issues). It doesn't directly address things like race and disability (although some feminists try to). It doesn't directly address general trans issues (although it should be addressing transmisogyny as that's basically sexism squared.)

There's also womanism that attempts to address the racial issues that intersect on the bodies of WOC.

There are many subcategories, branch offs and connected zones of feminism. Gender deconstructionism, rad fem, essentialist feminism, etc. The ones I'm going to concentrate on right now is gender deconstructionism and rad fem (and some of this is also extendable to womanism).

There is this inclination to theorize on why trans people exist. After all, we flip a lot of apple carts just by being around. This inclination doesn't just take place in trans folk (we would naturally be curious as to our origins) but also among rad fems and gender deconstructionists. Unfortunately these attempts to figure us out usually involve a good chunk of generalization and ignorance of our experiences, mindsets, psychology and histories. But even the analysis being flawed isn't a serious issue. Where the serious issue arises is how people decide that suddenly trans bodies and trans lives come after the agenda.

I'm sure at least some of you had read over clarifications on Dworkin's viewpoint on the matter over at Daisy's locale. Her views are still pretty transphobic but for her time she was quite a bit ahead. And the things she points out in as guidelines for dealing with it are words to live by.

"every transsexual has the right to survival on his/her own terms. That means every transsexual is entitled to a sex-change operation, and it should be provided by the community as one of its functions. This is an emergency measure for an emergency condition."

Yes, certainly a product of her times, in that the wording is transsexual, surgery and binary specific (and as is abundantly clear there is a wide wide world of transgender beyond the transsexual zone, that has entirely different needs and is classified differently within the trans movement) but here, let me highlight the really important part:

"...every transsexual has the right to survival on his/her own terms."

Allow for social change and the expansion of the world comprehension to future day where the transgender community exists (and for the purposes of this post, I'm going to operate the terms normally, so TG includes TS under the umbrella envelope, as well as nonbinaries, who have enough fucking problems as it is) and you can extend this basic statement's intent to incorporate all those suffering from the misalignment that a gendered world at least contributes to badly:

"...every person in the TG umbrella has the right to survival on his/her/hir/their own terms"

It really doesn't matter what you think causes the varying types of "trans-ness". And quite obviously, even if you have a pet theory for one of the types (like why people crossdress without dysphoria or why transsexuals have dysphoria) chances are that won't yield much on the others. And for some things (like GID, which is based on symptoms and likely multicausal) even your pet theory may not describe every case. But really, it still doesn't matter what you think causes it, because in the end, any action you take must still honor our right to our own bodily domain and our self determination.

Any rights/social reform ideology, of any kind, that demands one group give up their basic self determination to what they do with their own bodies, is broken. Full stop. A social reform and rights movement can not hope to have the basic credibility it requires if it marginalizes another group based on its theories.

And when you interfere in things like transsexual surgeries and hormones, nonbinary self expression, crossdresser clothing choices (and etc) you are denying those groups their self determination. It is no different than a woman forced into being a housewife or forced into being a businesswoman. It is no different than the slut shamers demanding that you not have sex. But it goes even further than that. Even if you take no action, even if you don't interfere directly, just attacking it, demanding that I (and they) live according to your theories or views is unacceptable.

When you demand that a nonbinary just step away from gender entirely or tell a transsexual woman that her surgeries are encouraging the patriarchy and demand she stop, you are impinging on self determination. And in the end denial of choice for one's own body is against every fucking iota of what feminism and womanism stands for. Sure feminism might be specialized towards protecting women's choices and options regarding our own bodies. Sure womanism might extend that to include race. But that basic principle of bodily domain is central to feminism and womanism, to violate it on anyone else is the worst, most heinous, most disgusting form of hypocrisy. And to stand by while it happens, to not stand against it, is just as bad.

It is a hypocrisy that wears away at the very fabric of of your movement's credibility (for either movement). A hypocrisy that begs the question, "if you can't honor the bodies of others, why should anyone honor yours?" This makes you as bad as the patriarchy. This makes you as bad as the enemy you fight, because you dehumanized a group that has less power than you, all because it makes you feel like you achieved something.

This is unacceptable. This makes you a shit poor feminist if you do it or allow it to happen on your watch. Same for any womanist guilty of this. This is why many trans women do not trust you. This is why even those who do trust you are wary and careful, lest we get attacked or faced with unreasonable demands too.

The responsibility lies upon you to clean up your movement (whichever one it may be). To stop the abhorrent transphobic hypocrisy and the using of our bodies for your agenda. Every single one of you shares in that responsibility. Every single one of you bears that similar burden that every single one of men bear to fight violence against women, speak out against the rape culture and break the social cycles of oppression. And for the womanists, it's that similar burden that every single one of white folk bear to fight silencing of POC, see through the White Noise and fight the social cycles of oppression there. It's about damn time you all starting doing what you ask of, no DEMAND, men and white folk to do for you.

Get your agenda the fuck off my body.

Now.
2009-08-31 10:36

Nonbinaries: The Secret Punching Bag of Everyone

In a discussion that originally was built around Kennedy's pragmatic (but sucky) dropping of the trans community in the ENDA during the Bush era (on the post about Kennedy on Alas, A Blog), the topic eventually turned to the visibility of nonbinary folk as a part of the trans community (and shifted to the link farm post as it started to get off topic). Well, a few comments in, it became abundantly clear that one of the commenters had some serious bigotry against nonbinaries. Ampersand, always a calmer speaker than me, put it best: "And since you’re not, as far as I know, non-binary, I find it more than a little arrogant of you to lecture non-binary people on what term they ought use to describe themselves and their lives." (You can scroll up and view most of the comment line, the only stuff relevant to this entry is the nonbinary parts)

It goes beyond just that particular conversation though. A pretty firm bunch of binary TS folk are actually pretty damn bigoted against nonbinaries. I've seen it in multiple support sites and even in an IRL support group (the anti binary bs was stamped down quickly in my favorite support group, unfortunately the one who ran it so well is moving on to other things. I've already wished her luck in person but I'm gonna miss her skills in keeping that place safe and supportive). On the Site That Shall Not Be Named (because seriously, I think the owner is just crazy enough to sue me over this truth and I can't afford legal costs even though I'd win. The STSNBN First mentioned here) the section of the forum for androgynes (the most prominent of nonbinary umbrella terms) was actually shut down several times for some seriously bullshit reasons and sometimes no reason at all. Numerous people on the site regularly hassled androgynes, claiming that they were just transsexuals who were on the fence or confused, or calling them "trendy" was regularly let go by the moderators, despite the rules against hate speech.

You would expect this mostly from the fallacy and paranoia driven vehement hate machine of the Neo HBS separatists but it's not just them doing this. In fact some of the Neo HBS separatists have actually done better than the rest of the TS community and taken a live and let live, just separately, approach with nonbinaries, which is hella better than attacking their very existence. I don't know whether some binary TS folk see nonbinaries as a threat to their own identity or if it's just the "omg difference" bullshit that sits at the center of every instance of bigotry in every case. Or if it's even an attempt to garner more safety by getting cookies from the cis oppression factory by kicking "those freaks" to the curb (which tends to be the Modus Operandi of the Neo HBSers). I do know that a lot of the arguments come down to the concept that we "have two sexes" and ergo can't have more than two identities. We already know that split between male and female and the exclusion of other variations in body structure is pretty much cissexist bullshit and a massive, even dangerous, oversimplification of bodily development. So right from the beginning, that argument is rife with failure. But there are also arguments that have their basis in the hypothesis that something about the brain creates the identity and the dysphoria. The Neo HBSers go with some kind of neurological intersexed (NI) model (which tends to just impinge on IS folk, but another story for another time) and others, like myself, attribute a bodily integrity instincts (BII) model which isn't essentialist and doesn't colonize IS folk. The previous theory's essentialist aspects are what makes them feel threatened by transitioning nonbinaries with dysphoria (essentially a nonbinary transsexual, although currently the terminology fails to reflect this) because it apparently challenges the concept of a "female/male brain". Well actually it doesn't, one only has to add more sexes onto the essentialist theory to accommodate nonbinaries. But that's not a great solution due to the flaws in essentialist theory to begin with.

And the latter theory is often coupled with a complete lack of realization that hey, if there's bodily instincts that reflect body structure (or fail to reflect it and create dysphoria in cases of BIID and some instances of GID) then they could reflect multiple types of body structure, even those outside of the male/female dichotomy. Which goes back to the brokenness of male/female binarism as already linked in the oversimplification mention above. So really, pretty much all of the theories (social model, NI model, BII model, psychological model, etc) are nonbinary inclusive, they just require people to get the fuck over their binarism and their binary privilege.

That's right, there's binary privilege. It's the privilege of having the very concept of one's identity and one's designation as far as gender goes accepted, unchallenged and validated by society. Binary trans folk, like myself, might get challenged on the basis of our bodies or transphobia, but the word woman and the word man and their connected pronouns are not themselves challenged and attacked. Unlike nonbinaries, who have to defend on two fronts. Specifically whether their pronoun is applicable and whether their identity exists at all.

Binary privilege (or bin privilege as I call it sometimes) is something I have and it is something my partner does not have. I've made some stupid statements about nonbinaries before to my partner, who was understandably upset, so like any form of privilege, it can affect (and often does affect) everyone within its zone whether you empathize with or care for a nonbinary. Including binary trans folks too who you would think would know better.

It's just absolutely enraging when bin trans people use the exact same fucking broken logic that is used against us to attack and marginalize nonbinaries. Hypocritical bullshit like that boggles the mind.

The conversation linked at the beginning was a bit of a first, though. I had yet to meet someone who used the misconstrued rad fem rhetoric to attack just nonbinaries and not transsexuals or individuals of transsexual history (when the twisted rhetoric is easily applied to binary transition and often is by rad fem transphobes). The sheer level of mind boggling hypocrisy and lack of awareness as to how inconsistent that was sort of blew me away. But it does give me an opportunity to address the rad fem twisting arguments as applied to nonbinaries and binary folk.

In the end, no matter how hard we fight, gender will not be stripped from society and removed as a force of harm any time soon. Which means that the people suffering need to do something in the meantime to survive. Marginalized women need to operate feminist discourse (even though it uses gendered language), transsexuals (binary or nonbinary) need to transition in some way to reduce the dysphoria and non TS transgender folk (binary or nonbinary) need to assert their identities and safeguard their self expression. All of this is done in the meantime. None of this means people aren't fighting the gender system. Any rad fem or person using rad fem rhetoric who tries to justify preventing these mid term survival methods is a fucking idiot transphobe and is also setting up cis women to be harmed (or alternately is inconsistent about the argument, since it can be applied to feminist discourse's language itself, fuck even the word feminism itself.)

So in the end, I've addressed trans binarism, rad fem transphobic bullshit used to skewer nonbinaries, and how the hypotheses of gender dysphoria don't exclude nonbinaries if you aren't a binarist asshole.

Because really, I think it's time we started taking note. Nonbinaries should not be our punching bags.
2009-08-28 20:10

The "R" Word: "Made of Glass" and "Broken Goods" *trigger warning*

The "R" Word Series on Rape is a series of posts wherein individuals (not just me) describe their situations, challenging common views on healing and victim mentalities and challenging common conventions among society at large on rape.

These posts may be immensely triggering. I would advise to read with caution.

~RP

The "R" Word Series: "Made of Glass" and "Broken Goods"

~~~Trigger Warning~~~
This post deals with rape and describes a situation of rape.


Important Note: Parts of this post came from another entry I wrote a while ago in a different place. If you make the connection between that place and this place do not out me by mentioning it here. I have made some minor grammar and sentence structure corrections and I have cut out parts that might endanger me or my privacy or the privacy of others. The identities of the people written about in this post are not to be revealed. That goes for everyone. Even the perpetrator written about here. I'm looking to write this to move on, to share what I went through, not to strike out at the person who victimized me.

It occurs to me that I can't remember if I explicitly said yes or not. People tell me that a drunken yes given to an abusive partner who has coerced you before isn't much in terms of consent, but that does sort of blur the lines as to whether it was rape or just an incredibly fucked up way of treating someone sexually.

I know I didn't want it. That is for sure. I know I curled into a ball and cried and that was what stopped my ex from having sex with me. I'm also absolutely sure that curling into a ball was about all I could manage with how drunk and out of it I was, otherwise I probably would have pushed my ex away or flailed a bit. I know my ex had "good intentions", to help me with a sexual issue. But it was also one I never planned on testing and certainly never wanted to test with my ex-partner. Somehow, I don't think getting me drunk and fucking me until I cry really meshes with "good intentions."

Although my ex did start crying after I recovered my composure a little, repeating over and over that they had raped me and that they didn't deserve life or something (I was still really drunk and sort of in that haze that mental trauma causes, so I don't recall exacts). Maybe it was just a stupid mistake on my ex's part. Or does intent really matter here? The damage was still done to me. And was I really so abused that I didn't recognize what had happened? Didn't see red flags? Ugh.

I dunno. I can handle talking about it a bit more. [...] But maybe not. I don't really want everyone to know what happened to me.

Society has this really fucked up view on people who have been sexually abused, sexually assaulted or raped. Or really abused in any way or form. They see people like that as damaged goods or a victim that has to be protected and can't protect themselves. One leads to a massive lowering in self worth and the other leads to learned helplessness. Neither one is acceptable to me. I refuse to let this rule me and make me into the victimized woman stereotype.

Yeah, I may have an anxiety attack when I see a lookalike of my ex, but I can protect myself, reduce chances and learn how to fight off an assailant while learning how to handle those I trust if they turn out to be untrustworthy in that horrible way. I owe it to myself to learn these things and do them and to avoid learned helplessness. My poor judgment in letting my ex give me that many drinks or even drinking them doesn't justify what my ex did. But it is a lesson to learn from. I know not to get drunk about people who are sexually interested in me or to have a sober protector/babysitter in place for when I am drunk. I didn't deserve what happened because I failed to get those protections in place with my ex. It wasn't my fault that my ex chose to do what they did. But not having those protections was a mistake and if I learn from it I can protect myself better in the future.

The other one really bothers me a lot. I am not damaged goods. I am not somehow of less worth because I was emotionally and psychologically abused. I am not of somehow of less worth because my ex sexually assaulted or abused me or possibly even raped me (depending on what this incident counts as). It may have given me some trauma related problems but I am still a beautiful, loving, intelligent sexual being who is capable of loving another intimately and being loved intimately in return.

Handling me like I'm made of broken china because of what happened is not acceptable. I will give my boundaries and I will share what hurts and what doesn't. Honor those boundaries and then work as normal for everything else. Avoiding the topic around me or being super protective of me isn't acceptable. The more I'm handled as though I'm damaged, the less capable I'll think I am and the more helpless and worthless I'll feel. I lost my sense of control from that relationship, and I'm trying to regain it. People shouldn't interfere by robbing me of it again in their good intentions.

[My partner] has been amazing in both respects. Giving me suggestions for self protection, not being afraid to take risks with me sexually but knowing and avoiding the boundaries that I've set. I'm lucky to have [my partner], I really am. I'm not seen as a victimized person nor as damaged goods. I'm a woman who was hurt. Hurt badly yes, but I'll heal. And I am strong. I am resolute.

I refuse to be broken.


I've recovered in some ways. This was the third out of a set of writings in which I try to come to grips with what happened to me. The first was completely self blaming, denial filled and loaded with self loathing. The second writing had a lot of excuses for my ex partner and in that I had a hard time even using the word rape.

You can see that even in this third writing, I have a hard time with it. Lines like, "that does sort of blur the lines as to whether it was rape or just an incredibly fucked up way of treating someone sexually" are very telling on the state of my self blame.

In reality, it doesn't blur the lines at all. A coerced yes is not consent and it will never be consent. This is a very clear precept in how we understand the concepts of consent, sexual trauma, unwanted contact and the violence of even rapes that don't involve beatings or physical injury. Marcella from abyss2hope goes in great detail on why even just pushing a girl (or a guy) with intimidation, persistent harassment, or mind altering substances until they "give it up" is unacceptable.

The fact was, my ex got me very very very drunk. And then my ex (who had gotten very drunk too) started sexual contact, engaging in a particular sex act that was (and still is) very triggering for me due to my dysphoria. And my ex only stopped when I pulled myself into as tight of a ball as I possibly could and started crying.

I can't say if the attitudes and mental problems that created the abusive behavior in my ex (and eventually led to my ex raping me) are still present. It is possible that my ex is completely rehabilitated, feels awful about what happened in the past and is just trying to live out a regular life. Hence, my mention above. This is for closure and healing. And so my ex's privacy must be protected as well. This is partly in my interest as well. I am utterly paralyzed by fear of that particular person deciding to come after me and so protecting my ex's privacy helps protect me from retribution.

However there are some really important things mentioned there too, things that I'm happy I realized back then. For instance, society's attitude on victims of rape is all kinds of fucked up.

I'm not just talking about rape apologists, the doubters ("are you sure you were raped?", "but is such a wonderful person!") people who exclude groups from being able to be raped (the idiots who claim men can't be raped, or that sex workers can't be raped, etc, more reading on Harriet's Fugitivus blog post, it's far down in the post) and the predatory Wooers or practitioners of Nice Guyism (Marcella handled that perfectly in the link above).

I'm talking about the people who agree rape is bad for all people, unacceptable and don't practice predatory techniques to get sex but have the "damaged goods" and "poor broken victim" attitudes. (I'll handle nice guyism in another post.)

The fact is, when you shy away from someone who has been raped as though there's this stain on them, that fucking hurts. That hurts a lot and only contributes intensely to the shame that I feel in general for what happened and self loathing that comes out of it. I've thankfully only met a few people who wouldn't enter into a relationship or have sex with someone who was raped and really, they had their excuses but none of them held water.

"I'm afraid of hurting her" - She won't break if you touch her, asshole. Why don't you ask her for her boundaries and what to do if you accidentally go past one. And then if you accidentally go over one, it'll be rare and you'll know what to do to help her.

"She'll never fully trust me" - It isn't about you. No one fully, completely trusts another person. We all have at least some level of secrecy and doubt. The fact is, a lack of trust built from trauma can be overcome, if you're willing to put a little work into earning that trust. And considering how women are treated on a regular basis you would have to do that kind of work anyways, no matter what girl you were with.

And the poor broken victim attitude is debilitating. These are the folks that refuse to let me define my own boundaries based on what I need, but overshoot them based on what they think I need. I am not made of glass. There seems to be this attitude in society that people who have been raped, sexually assaulted and/or abused are going to fall into a million pieces at a moment's notice. This constant pity, this treating with kid gloves, it sucks. And it often leads to people forgetting what I actually need and breaking my boundaries in ways that they've gone out of their way to avoid (and poorly). Because they aren't willing to listen to my boundaries and my triggers (and instead think they know better) they often overstep those boundaries and end up hurting me from an unexpected angle. What sucks about this is they use it as further excuse to pity and bubble wrap me more.

In the end, I will recover. Slowly, carefully, painfully, this wound will heal into a scar. The throat closing anxiety I feel when I even see something written by my ex or a lookalike will lower as time passes. The fear I feel that my ex will find me will fade. The flashbacks will become less common, less intense and terrifying.

And writing these things is part of that process. By putting this out there yet again, I can confront my past and my wounds and continue to heal.

I went from someone who thought she would never be raped (who felt dismayed and amazed that so many people she knew had been), to someone who stayed in denial for a long while about being raped and abused, to someone who fell apart and put herself back together again (always with the help of my family and friends) to someone who now can look on what happened to her and learn things about society and herself in the process. And maybe help some other folks who have gone through that kind of trauma too.

I'll say it again: I refuse to be broken.
2009-08-26 12:29

Bros before Hos: A Post Ted Kennedy Story

Ever heard the name Mary Jo Kopechne? No? What about the second run of the GLBT ENDA? No for that too?

Well then boys and girls and all those who break out of the binary, I've got some stories to tell you. Let's start with Mary Jo Kopechne. She was a teacher and speechwriter/secretary for several politicians, including Robert Kennedy. She was also part of the fondly remembered Boiler Room Girls, a tough set of ladies who played a vital (even central) role in gaining campaign intel, crunching numbers and advising for Robert's campaign.

She was a politically saavy, smart, demure woman. Someone you could really admire. She was also tough. Even with how much it hurt her when Robert Kennedy was assassinated, she still jumped back into politics. (further reading on her)

Well, she's dead now. Due to an "incident" (because it's always fun to reduce the impact of something by calling it an "incident") called the "Chappaquiddick Incident". It started at a party reunion for the Boiler Room Girls. Lots of folks were there, including Ted Kennedy. We won't know the details of the "incident" as well as we could because in the end, all there is are statements from Kennedy and some peripheral witnesses.

According to good ol' Ted, she requested a ride back to her hotel. Instead of getting his chauffeur to drive them, Kennedy decided to drive her himself, because the driver was having a good time and he apparently didn't want to trouble him. Some things right off the bat that make this story a little bit iffy: Kopechne did not bring her purse or her hotel key with her. Kopechne did not tell anyone else at the party she was leaving with Kennedy. Suspicious? A bit, yes.

It gets worse.

The car was allegedly spotted by Chris Look, a deputy sherrif. He spotted the car going down a private road and worried they were lost. He got up to it as the car was backing towards him, called out to see if they needed help and was immediately left in the car's dust. That's right, Kennedy allegedly sped away from a police officer. Well golly. More suspicious things.

And, driving down an unpaved dirt road at about 20 miles per hour (according to his own statements) and reached a bridge that wasn't angled perfectly with the road. He applied his brakes just before the hitting the bridge and then went right over it. The car hit the water and sank. And he swam up alone, leaving Kopechne there to drown. He claimed that he called her name a few times when he reached shore and tried to swim down to her, but there's no witnesses to confirm this, so we'll really never know (especially now that he's dead).

He also passed by 4 houses he could have stopped and phoned help from on his way to the original site of the party (which also had a phone). One of these houses was barely 150 yards from the bridge and the owner distinctly remembered leaving a light on before she went to sleep. Whereas Kennedy claimed to have seen no lights on his way. Oh and he didn't use the phone at the party's cottage

Troubled yet?

He apparently didn't tell the other women there, only two guys he knew (including the party's host). Why not get a large group of people to dive in and check or get the authorities? Oh and he gave his two buddies the impression he would notify the authorities when he got back to Edgartown. Well he didn't. Even after his buddies came by to argue with him about it. And the car was found by some people and that was how this "incident" was reported. The worst part? One of the people (a diver) sent to check the car concluded that Kopechne was in an air bubble in the car and could have been rescued had there been a call 5 or 6 minutes in (allowing time to get there for him), like say from that house 150 yards away, she could have been rescued alive. (further reading on that)

Funny how no one seems to give a shit about her now, even on feminist blogs with how suspicious this "incident" is, in all their attempts to honor Kennedy and his death. As Daisy (who wrote on this topic too) mentioned to me on twitter, "bros before hos right?"

Bros before hos, indeed.

Oh, well shit, I almost forgot about the GLBT ENDA that he was sponsoring. Oh wait, I'm sorry, did I say GLBT? You'll have to forgive me, because I temporarily thought he'd put human rights over political maneuvering. As it turns out (if you followed the link, you'll already know) that the ENDA is a GLB ENDA. Yep. No T in there. Because you see, trans folk are too politically risky for a bit shot to help. We got dropped by the HRC and then we got dropped by Kennedy.

No wonder most of the feminist blogs praising his name are written by cis women. Gosh, I love being an invisible minority. Good times.

But hey, Bros before Hos, right guys? Of course, he also fucked over the bros of the trans community and all the gender neutral, gender awesome, gender varying folk too. So really, it goes far beyond Bros before Hos.

But hey, have fun with the selective memory/hearing thing. Don't give a shit about the how much the Chappaquiddick "Incident" looks like a Chappaquiddick Negligent Homicide Cover-up or even, quite possibly, a Chappaquiddick Murder. Continue talking about how this guy was a champion of the underdog while ignoring that he kicked the trans underdogs to the curb.

Have fun. "Bros before Hos" and all that jazz.
2009-08-23 19:27

Every Week, Something New And Awful (updated)

Update: A friend of mine mentioned sexual violence and dehumanization targeting queer men and trans men by straight cis women, so I'll wait till she comments in greater detail before I make any major edits.

Something new and shitty happens every week to further drive home the point that male privilege, sexism and the rape culture is alive and well and that we have a lot of work ahead of us to fight those things.

Relatively recently someone called my phone, most likely a straight cis guy, and asked me if I could masturbate for him. I hung up and he called several more times (presumably, I didn't actually pick up the phone). The fact that some pissant asshole thinks he has a right to call a random girl and sexually harass her over her phone, without any indication that she wanted to be sexual with him, is pretty fucking disgusting.

And this attitude is part of what fuels the rape culture. This idea that women can be subjected to unwanted sexual attention and that it isn't an issue stems from the overriding ideology that we don't own our own bodies, that instead, our bodies are up for grabs from whomever is willing to make the grab. Someone tried to make the grab using the phone and when I hung up, they didn't honor that very obvious and very explicit rejection, further cementing the impression that they don't view me as the owner of my own body. It's scary, it's creepy and it left me feeling really fucking unsafe. It's a huge disregard for bodily domain, something only really taken seriously when it's violated on people who have power and privilege in society. The more -isms descend on your head, the less likely a violation of your bodily domain, your space and you, will be cared about. Women are still pretty damn far down that pyramid.

These attitudes are why women are raped so damn much, by men. Obviously, men are raped by men and women two and there are thousands of combinations of perpetrator and victim when you look at the nonbinaries, but none of the numbers really come close to the sheer ridiculous amounts of rapes that cisgendered straight men perpetrate against woman of all types and stripes (including trans women, IS women, lesbian women, black women, white women etc). There are racial, transphobic and homophobic elements that come into play too that can get minorities targeted more heavily, but I can't go into that as well as this (beyond the trans and maybe lesbian side of it) because my privilege makes it hard to speak on racial elements in this when I'm speaking from my own experiences. So if any people of color are reading right now, please do add some perspective on how race factors into the rape culture. If you're willing, I can even add in some edits with mentions of what you say.

So, these ridiculous numbers? They're a fucking problem. And this is from someone who, before transition, did not see this attitude of dehumanization women face as so widespread. So I am giving you the solid mention of someone who has experienced this shift, if the numbers aren't enough to make it clear.

Something is very wrong in Western Society. So yes, we still need feminism and womanism.
2009-08-21 21:14

Male/Female: Broken Language?

In case you didn't know (and you probably do) I am a MtF transsexual (by official definitions). By less official (my own) definitions I am a badass awesome genderfuckery factory who was born with a certain body and figured out that oh shit, that body fucking hurts me and that's not normal to feel that way (I assumed everyone did at first XD) and then proceeded to change it to a body that didn't hurt. And I default myself sociologically to this category called "girl" because it's just easier with breasts, curves, reduced body hair and (soon to be) a vagina to go by that title.

But enough about my atypical nature among the trans realm. Let's talk about that MtF section.

Male To (2, t, ->) Female. What does that mean? Well presumably, it means that I started out male (or still am male) and I transformed to (or I'm currently transforming to, or I'd like to transform to) female. But wait, what does that mean?

Here's where the water gets muddy.

According to science (specifically biology) female and male are terminology used to represent two sections of the variance present in a sexually dimorphic species. This, at the very most, is really just an expression that there is a certain type of human that generates sperm and a certain type of human that generates ovum and somehow the sperm and the ovum get together, either in one of the types or outside them both (like in many fish). According to the most basic application of this scientific language, the only parts of us that are male or female are the testis and penis and ovaries, uterus and vagina complex. And this language only treats one as relevantly male or female if these organs are all present and fully functional. So at its most basic application the description of sexually dimorphic characteristics loses all relevance to anyone without all of the relevant organs for one side or the other (hacked out uterus? No longer relevantly female, etc etc)

The reason why this isn't (scientifically) applicable past that point is that there isn't all that much evidence for sexual dimorphism beyond... well pretty much just those traits. The sheer level of variation between individuals actually outweighs any variation between the sexes. Not only this, but the closest you can get with "secondary sexual traits" (which is why science calls developed breasts on females, flat chests on males, body hair levels, body shape, facial hair etc) is a statistically slightly higher incidence of these traits in one sex or another. What is this dependent on? Estrogen and Testosterone (and a lower amount of effects from peripheral sex hormones like Progesterone). Why are these hormones (who are so intimately tied in our minds with female and male) resulting in different body types, shapes and looks? Well because they aren't guaranteed to be in the same levels in every "female" and "male" person. The variation is actually pretty high. There are averages but they aren't an epic majority and since responses to hormones (insensitivity vs. oversensitivity in receptors, please smack me if I get too biology science terminology heavy. XD) also differ between people, irregardless of sex. Sooooo, even averaged hormone levels won't react exactly the same between female people and male people.

Case in point: A young woman named Caster Semenya is currently getting put through "gender testing" (basically a scientific joke of arbitrary bullshit). Now there's a lot of awful crap at play here, like the delegitimization of common structure and looks among POC (people of color) in the face of the looks and structure of European women. I'm not going to go too deeply into that, because I, as a very white person with all the privilege my exceedingly pale skin and European features affords, am woefully inadequate in the perspective necessary to speak on issues POC face. A bit more on the more POC orientated perspective on this can be spotted at Womanist Musings where Monica (a trans woman of color, if I remember right) from TransGriot guest posted on the topic. The fact is, this gender testing is only being pulled out of the asses of the folks in the sports realm because she doesn't fit certain averages and not only that but averages of a given culture! They are using cultural averages (European) as a basis for sex in general! It doesn't get more arbitrary and stupid than that. The whole sports thing really shows just how troublesome these lines drawn in the sand are, because of how much of an effect training can have on both men and women in aligning their abilities. Sure they still sex segregate the athletes but more and more we see how unnecessary that is with all of the badass women athletes out there.

And then you have the Intersexed folk (here's where I give my IS cousins free reign to smack me around for my Not IS privilege if I am invoking it here) who have mixtures of many of these traits, less of some traits or may have a set of traits (xx chromosomes vs. fully average "male" structure) that just take the male/female terminology and beat it over the head with a half brick. They're also surprisingly common. Even more interesting here is how difficult it was for the ISNA to come to those numbers because and I am quoting this here: "To answer this question in an uncontroversial way, you’d have to first get everyone to agree on what counts as intersex —and also to agree on what should count as strictly male or strictly female. That’s hard to do." (source is the previous hyperlink to those numbers)

And that's because it is hard. All of those traits above are so wonky that it's hard to say whether one should factor them into sex or not and whether they end up just being entirely arbitrary ("penis must be this long to qualify, any shorter and its a clitoris" OH FUCK THEY DIDN'T SPECIFY WHAT YOU DO IF ITS ON THE DOT!). No I'm serious, quite a few doctors make the call on whether someone is intersex and then make the call on whether that IS person ought to be hack and slashed into a girl by how long hir penis or penis esque organ is.

Seems a bit... problematic, doesn't it? Well as it turns out, it is, especially for people who are on the edges of this somewhat troublesome and broken binary.

I can't speak for the IS community (to my knowledge I am not intersexed in any way, I was born more or less fitting the average view of what a male should be, beyond maybe a very small, slim, bigger hipped skeletal structure than expected, much to my luck, dysphoria-wise XD.) but it seems that there's a lot of rage at this nonconsensual arbitrary "homg you're a girl/boy now!" bullshit from the medical field. Can't really blame them, honestly, especially considering that used to result in nonconsensual surgery. You think circumcision is bad? It's a small fry in an ocean of big fish fuck ups with people's bodies when they're too young to stop it when it comes to the IS folk.

So what does this mean about sex? More specifically, what does this mean about sexual dimorphism in a species wherein the word dimorphic largely fails painfully to actually describe the morphic nature of that species' members? I can't really say. Mostly, it raises a lot of really unpleasant questions about whether or not male and female as a terminology dichotomy is even functional in the scientific field for humans, much less in the social realm for humans.

And as we use technology to bypass biological breeding constraints, things typically considered to break one out of the flow of evolution for the species are suddenly unimportant (being gay/lesbian, being a transitioning transsexual, having nonfunctional downstairs materials, getting your uterus removed, etcetera etcetera). Considering that the sexual dimorphism thing is based, at its lowest, most simple application, on a species' capacity to share DNA in generating offspring (instead of just cloning through binary fission) through a set of traits that allow that mixture (in this case, having different variants of mating tools and gametes or mating cells to do that combination) you really have to wonder how well that describes a species that is now mixing DNA using test-tubes, freezers, best friends/paid surrogates and even sperm generated from bone marrow (an oh shit moment if I ever saw one) and by the way, XY chromosomes don't play a role in the actual generation of sperm cells, just in determining whether they'll be a Y in those cells instead of just a bunch of X's. That means that XX chromosome containing marrow can make sperm (if only X type sperm).

Suddenly the sexually dimorphic model doesn't seem all that useful scientifically anymore. But hey it gets worse. You see, science didn't just stick to a "sperm maker", "ovum maker" model. It set guidelines for labeling one as male or female based on the secondary traits we talked about above. This is a problem. With all the evidence suggesting that these traits can't adequately be described using a binary box set instead of a multiple body containing spectrum of variation, why did science take on the female/male binary as a labeling system using the base sexual dimorphism from old school times as a basis?

Well as it turns out, scientists are people and even the wonders of peer review can't really overcome privilege and -ism's (racism, cissexism, sexism, etc) when a huge chunk of those peers are white guys of reasonable affluence (science school is expensive, it's why I'm possibly in over 100,000 USD of debt x_x). So peer review couldn't really catch the deeply ingrained social views about a binary sex system based on bodily traits. And it still fails to catch it with the IS folk and the medical community (who still like to fuck up in their basic regard for the self determination of IS folk on a regular basis).

So what does this all mean on top of the lack of evidence for secondary sexual traits being adequate line traits? Does it mean that the male/female sexual dimorphic system is broken language? Influenced by ciscentric and sexist thinking? Based on a false binary between traits that exist more on a spectrum and are tempered by the higher amount of variation between individuals then between sexes?

Yes. Yes it does.

All of this combined shows that male/female and sex terminology for the human species in general is subject to some serious, probably fatal problems in its applicability and functionality. Especially in the social realm but really even scientifically.

Some might be a little confused with this assessment after my post on "Identity vs. Objective Reality." There's a reason why I put the two updates at the top. That post was just about the unfortunate trend in the TG and GLB community to use terminology as though it was self referential (stripping it of any real meaning). To be honest, self referential definitions (provided we had the power to change these terms, right now) are a bad solution to this, as I said in that entry, despite the broken nature of these terms. These words will lose their meaning or worse yet, will be completely at the mercy of cultural shift (because of the lack of a concrete definition) and we will always be fucked by cultural shift. So really, this entry and that entry do not contradict. I just wasn't terribly clear in the earlier one that this wasn't a defense of the terms in a conceptual sense (hence the updates and the arguments in the comments XD) and I figure this entry will clear that up beautifully.

So, we've established that male/female is broken terminology, based on flawed arbitrary rules and a concept that isn't terribly applicable to a species that changes its breeding methods using technology. The question then becomes... what the hell do we do about it?

That I don't have an answer to.

We could refine male/female into male<---------->female (i.e. turn a binary into a spectrum) and basically treat male and female as the bodily extremes and anything outside of those extremes as spectrum positions. This one is tough though. We'd be fighting against cultural connotation, the sort of ephemeral meaning attached to a word despite its definition in science or academia, and a lot of people in the mid zones of the spectrum would be mistreated as a result. Not to mention the truly hypocritical cisgendered freak outs at not being considered female or male anymore. OH NOES, YOU MIGHT BE DENIED YOUR GENDER MARKER, IT ISN'T LIKE YOU DO THAT TO TRANS PEOPLE EVERY FUCKING DAY, RIGHT? RIGHT? ...crap. And the roughest part of this is the arbitrary nature of even a spectrum, which settles into "what is the middle?" Where is the exactly middle section? What is considered an equal number of male and female traits? In the end that would be just as arbitrary as the dividing line between male and female now.

We could get rid of the terms male and female completely and stop basing anything on sex at all, but instead just take into account body type. Breast possessing. Non breast possessing. Curvy. Not curvy. Penis holding. Not penis holding. So on and so forth. This one hits problems in that some of the body stuff is arbitrary too. We can get past that by shifting some of the definitions or creating bodily spectrums, or even dropping some of the bodily descriptions and adding qualifiers (large breasts, small breasts, flat breasts, flat entirely undeveloped breasts). Another issue would be the supreme level of social resistance to this. Largely born from cissexism but to a certain extent there's a good chunk of trans based identity wrapped up in the words female and male. Getting rid of them entirely takes away a self identifier word and that will not go down well with the community. The only ones that would seem to be fully supportive of eliminating the bodily descriptor terms would be the nonbinary folks and the gender deconstructionalists. So we would have our work cut out for us.

We could also make two boxes into two hundred. No I'm serious, that is an option, however unpalatable it might be. It runs into the same identity issues the previous does but it is the easiest to implement because male and female stick around, you just add a bunch more boxes for all the variation. It really is already being done by the nonbinary TG/TS community (words like neutrois/agendered and androgyne are showing up this way). So this one is the easiest to achieve but still arbitrary as fuck and prone to many of the same problems as the original terminology.

And finally,

We could take the terms male and female and downshift them in functionality to just describing the only truly dimorphic traits we have, sperm making and ovum making. This one is rough for the cis and trans identity reasons and it's largely a temporary solution because that making sperm from marrow practice may become common, and then, the whole system is screwed because sperm can now be made from anyone. (I wouldn't be surprised if similar things can be done for ovum too eventually).

None of the solutions are awesome. Some of them work really well but would be more than our community alone could implement and would require decades of cultural detox to make the new system functional. Others are easy to achieve but have serious epic flaws or won't last long as a solution.

I don't have the answers. But I can tell you this: There is a problem. We are now aware of it. And that is a big part of finding a solution. You're all welcome to comment on the problem itself (whether you think I'm exaggerating or mistaken and why) and on the solutions or even suggest other solutions I didn't think of.
2009-08-17 11:04

For the Uninformed: Privilege, Perspective and The Little Things That Jab

I also guest posted this one on Deeply Problematic. Much thanks to RMJ for letting me rant in her space. XD

I thought I was going to wait on this one till tomorrow, but then I read through one of the most clear, beautifully written posts I have ever seen on how even caring, completely loving, well intentioned men act towards women in general at Shakesville by Melissa (Please read here: "The Terrible Bargain We Have Regretfully Struck"). After that, I realized that this post can't wait.

I truly suggest that if you have ever heard the word privilege and didn't understand it or was offended by it, you read that blog post. I truly suggest that if you feel that feminists or trans folk or any marginalized group are angry, oversensitive or dislike you because you are white, cisgendered or a man or whatever, you read that post.

Like all For The Uninformed posts, these words are built for an audience that does not have the experiences I do. For the cisgendered folk. For the guys out there. For people without a background in the science and theory that these rights and acceptance movements are built on. As always I will do my best to make those experiences comprehensible and explain the terms I am used to that you may not be.

Imagine, if you will, that you are denied things for something inherent to you. Something not only not really changeable but something you don't want to change. It isn't just big things, like housing or jobs or access to certain rights. It's little things too. Respect for your needs, not hearing words used for or related to you used as insults, and like in Melissa's post, not having the very unhelpful "those people are so and so, but not you, you're different" when you know that the so and so claim is bullshit. But responding as such will just get you slid back into the group thought to be so and so.

There are, literally, thousands and thousands of small little attacks, jabs and pokes built into our very language against women, trans folk, gay people, black folk, hispanic folk, the Rroma and countless other groups that do not possess a majority and do not possess power. Imagine if every time you spoke to people who cared for you, family, friends, even lovers, these subtle jabs showed up. Not on purpose. Not maliciously. They are just there. A joke about a stereotype that hits you hard because that stereotype has been used as reason to beat you up. A half joking/half serious claim about "those people" when those loved ones forget that you are one of "those people".

For me (on the trans side of it), it's the people making the jokes about those "ugly trannies" and then saying, "oh but not you." Yes me. That's been used against me before. It's the guys who knew me before transition and still call me "bro" and then when I complain they say, "bro is a gender neutral term, I use it for girls too" when actually, they've never once used it for girls. It's the people asking really personal questions, questions they would never ask anyone else, about my genitals, about how I have sex. It's the people who speculate on things like that when I'm around, forgetting that hey, maybe I don't like to hear about that kind of thing.

For me (on the woman side of it), it's the people using the word "rape" as a word for crushing someone in a video game or getting trounced on a test. "Man, that test totally raped me". As a person who was fed drinks by someone I trusted and then sexually assaulted by them, hearing something like that is intensely painful. But the moment I bring it up I get the arguments, the perspective lacking arguments about how it's just a word and he didn't mean it that way. It's the guys that joke about how all girls are so shallow or so pissy and then wonder why I get irritated. It's the guys that stare at my tits, eyes glazed over, listening to not a word I'm saying. Yeah, I'm attracted to girls too. I don't do that. I have self control.

These things add up. One or two of them alone? I could see how that wouldn't be a problem. And from your perspective, there's only been one joke, one stare, one problematic stereotype exploiting comment. Nothing to worry about right? Except that it isn't one comment. It isn't one joke. It is one out of thousands a day, embedded in regular language, seen as completely normal. Why is it normal for rape jokes to be funny? Why is it normal for stereotypes to be slung around about women? Or trans folk?

That's where perspective comes in. See, a lot of people get huffy with me (or other folks who say, wtf? to this kind of behavior) because they're only aware of their one comment. They don't put up with this constant stream, this wearing away of patience, defense and sanity. The erosion of self esteem, safety, and control that is created by this is awful. And you don't experience it. So you don't have perspective. You don't know why we get upset because you aren't exposed to what is upsetting us. But what really upsets me (and many others I can see) is the fact that you just don't trust us (the people you love, care about, claim to trust, want to help and/or are close with) to comprehend our own experiences and know what we need. Because you don't listen. You don't hear. You don't believe that we are hurt for a valid reason. Or at the very least, you assume your hurt is exactly the same, of the same intensity. But, it isn't. If you aren't being subjected to thousands of things in language alone every day eroding your sense of safety and control over your life, attacking your self esteem, from people you trust, then you aren't hurting the same as us. And you don't have the perspective to say that we're wrong. And when you dismiss our complaints, or requests to not make a certain joke, or call me "bro", it shows your lack of trust, your dismissal. And that's even worse.

There's a concept used to describe being in a position in which one is not exposed to or is protected from things like this. It is based on the English word describing the possession of an advantage not afforded to others. Privilege. This concept describes this complete lack of constant attack, an acceptance of one's form, structure, an actions as fine, as default, as unchallenged. It can be a component of bigotry, but it is not bigotry in and of itself. Privilege is a sparing from this constant challenging of one's existence and place in society, a sparing of the challenging of one's validity. One may have privilege in one area but lack it in another. Unfortunately this doesn't mean that a person will be able to see past their privilege in the former area just because they comprehend it in the latter. Because privilege is invisible and it is a component of a self propagating system.

Those are who not prejudiced or bigoted still defend their privilege because a lack of perspective that is so immense that those who respond to marginalization seem unreasonable, even hateful and bigoted towards them. When Melissa above says she doesn't trust men, many men would think to themselves, "but that's so bigoted! There are lots of trustworthy men!" and that would arise from their privilege of not having to be subjected to the awfulness that she is every day by people who profess to love her and care for her.

If the people you love constantly attacked who you were, without even realizing they were hurting you and were surprised or disbelieving when you said they were hurting you, would you be surprised if you stopped trusting them? And if all of those people were of a particular group, would you be surprised if you took a cautious wary tact with them from now on?

When I say that I'm wary of cisgendered guys, it may seem bigoted to a guy, but that guy lacks the perspective of hearing all sorts of awful jokes targeted directly at his group. Or of having his very existence challenged by the very language used in day to day talk. "Oh yeah, she's a trans woman. Oh I know, she looks so normal too! You'd never have guessed!"

What if that was this instead, "Oh yeah, he's white. Oh I know, he acts so normal too! You'd never have guessed!" And what if that was every day? Among thousands of other little comments that cut you from your friends. Said by people you cared for, valued the opinions of? Even a supposedly innocuous sentence like that paints me as a freak, an aberration, something to joke and express surprise over.

Another component of the self propagation of privilege is the fact that it is built into culture. You see it on television. You see it in the news. Children are taught it, if not by parents then by peers. Even the people who have kept themselves as separate as possible from the troublesome views espoused within a bigoted power system are still swimming in a sea of cultural connotations and impressions. They still use the language, with the bigoted words built in, and still operate under certain assumptions without realizing it. We all do. This is why ALL apparent white people are privileged. Why ALL apparent cisgendered people are privileged. Because these social elements are ubiquitous. They are everywhere in mass quantities. So if you are perceived as white by society, you are spared every inch of the things people of other races are exposed to by society and are denied that perspective. I have this problem too. I'm white. There are little references, jokes and things I say and do that are a part of that privilege. I guess the difference here is when that instinct comes up in my head to go, "oh come on" to a person of color who tells me to check my privilege, I push that reflex aside and go, "okay, gimme a sec to look over this and try to comprehend where I'm losing perspective"

One of the best ways to get a firm handle on privilege as a concept is to talk to someone who has shifted from privileged to unprivileged in a given area. It won't necessarily help you see past your specific privilege but it will make it easier overall to attempt to assess and comprehend privilege when you speak to the marginalized people who lack the privilege you have.

I am mtf trans (obviously from the blog title XD). I was born male bodied and I transitioned to female bodied. Unlike a lot of trans folk (who viewed things through the lens of their identities as a different gender and therefore wouldn't have had problems with how they were treated for the same reasons as others would) my identity hasn't really played a huge role in the lens I apply my own experiences. This was mostly because I came to the realization about why I hated the male structure I had very late in the game (I actually assumed it was normal to hate having a penis XD) So I consider myself formerly a guy who figured out that he needed a female body (due to dysphoria) and therefore was better off as a girl (identity and sociologically wise) for practicality sake. This is atypical, so don't expect all trans folk to have the perspective I do on gender.

Which means I experienced male privilege as male privilege (instead of being transformed into transphobia by the lens of identity) and I experienced the loss of male privilege (as I myself transformed from hormones and whatnot.)

It was a shock, I will tell you. As a person perceived as a guy by society, I was not constantly challenged, stereotyped, joked about and pushed down. There were some small things. Depictions of guys in tv were sometimes irritating. Occasionally there were jokes about the dumb guy stereotype. And there were constraints on self expression for guys that were a bit irritating. But even if I violated those rules, I usually could tell opposition to piss off or criticize my criticizers right back and everyone thought that was an utterly natural thing for me to fight the silly claims from people, even if they didn't agree.

Post sociological and HRT transition. What was an occasional flow of jokes, jabs and attacks became a torrent. I was bombarded. Television was filled with all sorts of stereotypes, attacks, mockeries of women. Pressure to conform was harsher and more persistent (instead of just guys calling me a fag for having long hair and wearing toe socks it was now everyone calling me a weird dyke or telling me that I need to femme out more for wearing guys cargos and t-shirts with a faux military jacket). And my attempts to dispute that pressure, my responses at all really (even the nice ones) were now regarded as me being a bitch, a harpy, a "feminazi" or being unreasonable. Whereas before, people disagreed and discussed with me, now, they simply dismiss it completely.

I was shown, completely (and perhaps embarrassingly) how little perspective I had on what society does to women. And that is why I understand how insidious privilege is. It is silent, it is crafty, it sneaks up on you, latches on and makes it impossible to even question it without seeming nuts. And there's the problem. We aren't nuts.

This shit is real.
2009-08-15 15:43

The HBS Controversy and the Fun of Fallacious Reasoning (And For The Uninformed: GID)

For those that remember the last post about people finding cisgendered offensive based on some of the most fallacious and stupid reasoning applicable, don't forget, trans people are just as capable of fallacious silliness.

When in comes to fallacious arguments and pseudoscience, no one does it better than the Harry Benjamin Syndrome proponents. To give you a reasonably good idea of what they're claiming would require me to suspend about 90% of my biology knowledge, beat my head against my desk until it became numb and try very hard not to make the wtf face that my friends are so very familiar with nowadays.

I will do my best for you. But first, there may be uninformed cisgendered people here. Cisgendered people who (provided they haven't ran off from being so offended by the word cis) may want to know what Gender Identity Disorder (which is certainly not HBS) entails first. A point of comparison if you will. It's blindingly simple to describe so it isn't necessary to make an entire For The Uninformed post for it (but to be helpful, I will put a tag for GID and a For The Uniformed tag on this post).

For the Uninformed Mini Section: Gender Identity Disorder

Put simply Gender Identity Disorder (or GID for short) is a mental disorder wherein one exhibits a persistent (meaning it doesn't go away) urge to exhibit traits of a different sex. These traits may be the somewhat ethereal and short lived cultural elements assigned to a given sex. Or these traits may be a simple self conceptualization and involvement with the social group of a given sex. Or these traits may be the actual physical bodily structures that arise from the developmental path of a given sex (not necessarily all of them either). Or all three. GID doesn't specify, so it covers an epic shit ton (technical word) of symptoms.

GID is often characterized by dysphoria, which causes this urge and is persistent in and of itself. This dysphoria has triggers and normally the triggers are traits of one's birth sex. It's often described as a feeling of foreignness or wrongness to one's body parts and/or social and cultural roles and expectations and/or sociological group and conceptual description as assigned at birth.

Okay, maybe not so simple. My fault for being a biologist and loving technical terms. To make it a little bit less sciencetastic: Your body's sexed traits (penis, breasts, vagina etc) and/or your grouping in society (guys, chicks or androgynes), and/or your social/cultural roles and expected expressions (how society expects you to behave) causes you to hurt a lot and makes you want to change one or more of those things.

Ending of For the Uniformed Mini Section!

Transsexuality is more of a phenomenon then a disorder, it's the phenomenon in which individuals with the conditions described by GID (or other folk with different issues) seek out, attain or finish a process known as transition. This transition can be physical or it can be social or it can be both.

So what does this have to do with HBS? After all, HBS's website claims that it is an intersexual condition wherein the mind is the only section that possesses the traits of another sex (whereas more commonly intersexed folk may have genitalia and physical structures that do not strictly follow a male or a female development path alone). That doesn't sound much like GID right?

Well actually, "HBS sufferers" (you will find out why I used quotes shortly) experience dysphoria, often seek out physical and social transition and are pretty much entirely medically and conceptually described by the phrases "GID" and "transsexuality". In fact, the HBS people like to claim that HBS is "true transsexuality". Well shit. So that makes things a lot more interesting now, doesn't it?

First problem: HBS claiming "true transsexualism" (as a medical version of the word transsexuality, which is a fabrication in and of itself, as transsexualism is essentially the exact same damn thing) is a No True Scotsman Fallacy. In case you abhor hyperlinks, a no true scotsman fallacy is based around circular reasoning wherein the actual data or definition of a concept is ignored and counterexamples are dismissed as not being true so and so.

So if I were to say, "all MtF transsexuals like high heels," and then someone else were to dispute that by saying, "I don't like high heels and I'm an MtF transsexual" and I responded with, "you're not a true transsexual, therefore your example doesn't do anything" it would be circular fallacious reasoning based on misuse or complete ignorance of a definition.

Transsexual's definition does not specify a brain intersexed condition. It doesn't even really specify dysphoria or GID. So to make claims about "true transsexuality" or worse yet to attempt to pretend that transsexualism is a medical term replacing a political term, when those claims involve things that have nothing to do with its definition (while simultaneously dismissing all counter examples as not real transsexuals) is the textbook example of No True Scotsman.

And that is exactly what HBS proponents do.

Wait, it gets worse.

GID is established in the medical community for America and written into the DSM (diagnostic statistical manual, the book used to diagnose and keep track of the disorders that the psychological sciences know of). It has essential equivalents in the ICD (what the World Health Organization uses for the same purposes as the DSM). It's backed by the psychological field and biological field's research and the methodology of treatment has been tested and is detailed in the standards of care put forward by WPATH an organization of medical doctors, psychiatrists and other biology and psychology related scientists. It's also accepted by the American Medical Association (which is usually a good sign for its scientific authenticity)

What does HBS have establishing it? Well... nothing actually. It's a theory presented by a layman (an admittedly latently sexist word for non-scientist) named Charlotte Goiar and expanded on by more laymen, all of whom are transsexual and personally invested in HBS being taken as reality by the medical field. This theory is based on a flawed study that tested the brains of dead transsexuals who had already undergone hormone replacement therapy against the brains of dead cisgendered folk of the same birth sex who underwent no HRT. A study done in the 1990's I might add.

The reason why this is flawed? Because exposure to estrogen or testosterone changes the brain, as established in this study published in 2006. Oh and the fun part? They based this study on a group of people with GID and a group of people without it, took brain tests using MRIs and whatnot and then exposed the people with GID to hormone replacement therapy. Which not only tests to see whether HRT changes the brain but also establishes what a pre HRT transsexual's brain looks like.

The information revealed is pretty damning. The transsexual individuals had brains identical to cisgendered people of the same birth sex. After HRT, the transsexual individuals had brains nearly identical to cisgendered people of the same sex as their target sex. So this idea that trans people have intersexed brains? Completely and utterly unscientific. To the point where you can arguably state that the evidence used to back up the hypothesis has been scientifically disproven.

As a note: This is not to say that there couldn't be elements of the brain's structure that we can't detect with current methods that are sex specific and could contribute to or actually inflict GID on someone if they were mismatched with the external birth sex. But the only study used to back up the idea of "intersexed minds" has been disproven so HBS has been relegated back to layman unbacked hypothesis. Any attempt to claim that it is scientific, empirically proven or backed by research is at best shoddy pseudoscience and at worst outright willfully ignorant lying

So the whole HBS thing? Fallacy and a lack of scientific backing. Good times. As Laura from Laura's Playground has cautioned one should not take the HBS proponent's standards of care seriously, nor should one take what they say seriously. The fact that they continue to peddle this abhorrent pseudoscientific garbage as scientific and medical fact is a pretty good indicator of either willful ignorance or outright self inflicted delusion. Not a great bunch to be taking advice from.

There are a few people though (especially because of the note above) that would ask, "well isn't it possible that they're still sort of right? That there might be an intersexed brain condition or something causing GID?"

Perhaps. But something that is important to remember is that anyone who claims that they know the single cause of GID is either full of shit or doesn't understand how the disorder is named and defined.

You see, when I went over GID above, you'll notice that it is (basically) a name assigned to a collection of symptoms. The name doesn't yield a whole lot of idea about what might cause these symptoms and if you look around, you'll find that there's not a lot of ideas on what any causes might be. Considering the sheer numbers of substantially different experiences of dysphoria, transition and whatnot had by various trans people who still meet the definition for transsexual and meet the diagnosis of GID one would be hard pressed to make a viable argument that GID had one single unifying cause.

Like most disorders named after a collection of symptoms (like Multiple Personality Disorder was before it became DID) you really don't know if there's multiple causes. Whereas a disorder that is named including a causative agent (Dissociative Identity Disorder, same effects as MPD, but caused by dissociation fragmenting one's identity and self conceptualization into multiple individuals) can definitely be shown to have a single cause.

So to sum it up GID does not contain a cause mention, nor do scientists really know the cause(s). And people with GID have had really radically different experiences. What does this say, logically? That it is highly likely that GID is multicausal. This means that there could be an intersex brain condition version of GID (maybe called Neurological Intersexuality Disorder if it exists, is discovered and split off). This means that there could be a sociologically and psychologically induced dysphoria version of GID (after all, there's a few folks out there for whom the body is not the issue but the way society treats them is). This means that there could be a self conceptualization version of GID, unrelated to society (which would probably still be called GID if others are split off, honestly). This means, overall, that there could actually be quite a few different types of GID caused by different things (going beyond even what I listed above).

All of these versions (with the exception of hypothetical ones that defy what we do know about the brain, body and GID) are possible because nothing about what we know of GID suggests that any single cause is responsible for every case of it. So when people start talking about "true GID" or "real GID" or "the real cause of GID" they are, for lack of a better way to say it, full of shit.

Always good to keep that in mind for medical trans discussions.
2009-08-13 11:29

The word "cisgendered" makes privileged folk cry, apparently.

Welcome to clusterfuck city. In order to give you folks a little bit of background here, there was a bit of an incident involving Pam's House Blend and a wonderful concept known as privilege enabling (or as I like to call it "oppression collaboration". More poetic that way.)

There was some fine commentary on how asinine it is to let people dodge their privilege and continue othering trans folk on QT and a really brilliant analogy for the kind of nasty power cis people (I refuse to stop using that term. Outright. Refuse.) have over trans folk at Femmessay (which I commented on in thanks)

I won't go too deep into the details (that's what the links to the wonderful blogs are for, with the exception of Pam's little coffee shop of privilege) but the basics are as follows:

A gay cis male decided that the word cis is offensive to cis folk and compared it to several common trans slurs. And then discourse on the topic (and by "discourse" I mean any attempts by trans folk and allies to address this pretty clearly privileged bullshit) was silenced. Gotta love enablers, right? Nothing makes it easier to stomp on the heads of trans folk than someone discouraging the critique of privileged behavior and encouraging the use of othering and cissexist separation of terminology like trans vs. normal.

I may have expressed some things on this blog that folks have found privileged, but I've never once silenced the discourse on it. I address those comments because privilege is a serious goddamn problem. So if you're in the position of being accused of using it or speaking from a privileged perspective, it is always a good idea to keep that discourse open in case you are actually privileged and didn't realize it.

I'll do a relatively mild analysis of cis as a word here and why that is epic and privileged bullshit on the commenter's part to act that way. I may follow up with a slightly less enraged "For The Uninformed" post after this one rehashing the description of cisgender as a term and discussing privilege in general (I'll throw in some other important descriptors too). They're closely intertwined because cisgender is a word used to articulate the differences (including privilege) between those who are or are not trans without othering the fuck out of us trans folk.

Oh look, just that sentence alone summarizes it doesn't it? You see, a marginalized group and their allies have to be able to create discourse on not just their marginalization but the privilege of the majority/empowered group(s) that either oppress them or benefit from the oppression of them (usually both).

One of the key important cardinal needs of that discourse is to avoid phrasing, word structure and tone that is in and of itself a component of that marginalization or the privilege of the oppressing/majority/empowered group(s). I know, I'm getting verbose and science-y.

To make it basic: if the words we use to talk about our problems, our oppression and another's (i.e. cis folk) privilege are oppressing to us then we are just defeating our own efforts. Language has an effect on things. It's why slurs actually do have power and marginalizing language can actually train marginalized people to submit to their oppression.

The single most best example (and most relevant to the term cis) is the othering of trans people. Before cisgender came into play as a term the way that trans folk and cis folk were referred to was as such:

Transwoman
Woman
Transman
Man
(nonbinaries weren't really mentioned back then and they still get screwed now. Oppression is like a layer cake made of fail.)

After the word cis came into play (and we cut the qualifier from the gendered word itself):

Trans woman
Cis woman
Trans man
Cis man
Agendered/neutrois
Androgyne
(unfortunately, as you can see, nonbinaries are still othered quite a bit. Not a lot of great solutions have been come up with there)

Notice the difference? The above (old school version) made trans folk out to be an abnormality, an adjusted man or an adjusted woman. Cis folk were assumed to be the natural state because the phrase applied to them was the overall phrase for man or woman (if anyone has more knowledge of nonbinary terminology back then and now, please comment. This description is incomplete without nonbinaries). By applying the word cis to cisgendered people's descriptors when discussing a comparison of trans and cis folk (and just applying the actual gender word itself to the people it applies to, whether cis or trans) we succeeded in reducing the othering effect of the terminology we use for discourse on trans oppression and cis privilege. It also, as you can see, offered up a term that can be used to describe that privilege that cis folk have. I mean fuck, what did we even call it before then? "Normal privilege"? "Non-Trans privilege"? That's terrible for discourse and othering as hell.

So the phrase has a defined, specific purpose that is only relevant in certain contexts (much like trans ought to be). I'm not going to walk around and call cis folk, cis woman or cis man when I introduce them to people. "This is Candice, she's a cis woman." Just like no one should introduce me like "This is R.P., she's a trans woman." Although in Candice's case, she won't get beaten, killed, raped, denied jobs or etc etc etc for being revealed as a cis woman. But quite honestly there's no reason to apply the word in a day to day basis. Only for trans related discourse.

So now we know why it's around. What if someone finds it offensive? What if it makes a "privileged person cry" as I so cheekily put into my title? Well, let me put this as nicely as I can:

Get the fuck over it.

As described by the very nice lady at Femmessay, there is a huge worlds' of difference between having your feelings hurt by a phrase that doesn't sound nice or seems unfun being applied to you and being subjected to a level of oppression that defies description. Many of us aren't even fucking allowed to piss in a bathroom that is safe for us. Yeah, I'm sure privileged tears are so awful in comparison to that.

It's like us white folk saying it's offensive to be called privileged. Oh boo fucking hoo, folks. Or calling affirmative action "reverse racist" (the most godawfully stupid phrase in the universe, by the way). Here's a more prickly barb for the commenter himself: It's like straight people saying that the word straight is offensive, because "omg I'm normal, not straight". Yeah. I went there. Because its the same exact thing.

There are straight folk who have done that. Who have said, to my face and others faces, that the word straight is offensive and why is it necessary for gay people to apply a word to them? Well because its awfully hard to have a discourse about gay rights and straight privilege if the word gay is compared to the word "normal, assumed, expected, standard state of affairs". Welcome to being othered. Your hypocrisy, commenter on Pam's house blend, has been noted.

So there's the comparison. The fact is, the only thing, the exact only thing the word cisgendered can do applied to a cisgendered person is make some hurt feelings. Just like the word straight applied to a straight person. Guess what the word trans can do? Some helluva worse things than cis can do, that's for sure. Not only can it hurt our feelings, it can act as a reminder of past oppression or be accompanied by beatings, rape, murder, denial of service, denial of use of bathrooms, denial of medical care, denial of children, denial of bodily domain and self autonomy, denial of a home and loss of family, friends and loved ones.

And you know what? If cis is removed from discourse and we just use the word trans, the othering will make it all worse. So wow, folks, I'm really choked up about how hurt you are with the word cisgendered and all, but really, you're just going to have to get the fuck over it.

Be a little more mindful of your privilege, offended cis folk. As for Pam and Co.? I used to go to that site pretty often (I wasn't a member yet) but I will gladly avoid your privileged bullshit (and privilege enabling) site from now on. For the transfolks working there, I hope the pat on the head and the hair ruffling from the oppressors was worth alienating the rest of us.

Must have been a damn good hair ruffle.
2009-08-10 20:47

AH HA. Niche obtained.

I finally found my niche. Angry trans girl. After all, I am pretty fucking pissed off when I write in here.

I'm not always pissed off though, it's just that blogging reminds me of all the stupid awful shit people do to trans women, among ten billion other marginalized minorities... arrrrgh fuck I want to BREAK THINGS NOW! ...oh, there it is. Angry again. See?

The fact is, I'm done letting people push me around with the word bitch. I'm going to wear it as a flag. A flag that says, "fuck you, misogyny. Fuck you, transphobia. Fuck you, homophobia. Fuck you, society. You calling me a bitch won't stop me now. It's my fucking word now."

And really, my posts had always had a slightly antagonistic nature to them. Privilege is stagnant. It's easy to just do nothing when you aren't directly affected by marginalization and bigotry. To sink into the mud and just shrug at the rest of us. So don't be surprised when you get the firm kick to the head to wake you the fuck up. And frankly, I won't be surprised if I get a few firm kicks myself, because I have various kinds of privilege myself. White privilege, abled privilege, etc. If I need to be drop kicked, I expect it to be done. No mercy, folks. Because I sure as hell won't give it. XD

So, new look and feel, new name for the blog and embracing the angry bitch in me. Overall a very very good beginning to August.

~RP
2009-08-07 13:54

An old essay on abortion and bodily domain

Back in early 2006 (approximately) I was a member of a internet discussion forum called GaiaOnline under the username TheFiresOfStupid. This was before my transition to female and really pre realization of my need for transition. I actually am still around on that site, under Recursive Paradox (which was previously PoeticVengeance after I made the online transition to woman, a few months before actually committing to the IRL transition path XD). I wrote an essay on something that I had decided to refer to as bodily domain. Specifically the Ethical Basis for Bodily Domain as an extension of the principle of bodily integrity brought up in the important court case McFall vs. Shrimp (This link should bring you straight to the part of the book that mentions it. If not, simply search in the side bar on google books for McFall v Shrimp).

The essay is still entirely relevant if perhaps a little... harsh in its treatment of the anti abortion folk (I was a very angry, very bitter person back then, hurrah for dysphoria). The original essay, with the only change being the formatting (because I can't retain bbcode here), has been brought to this blog for the express purpose of retaining its material. Not just because I'm a little egotistical and want to claim that I coined the phrase bodily domain back in 2006 as used for this ethical principle (it certainly has spread a bit, if you check google) XD but also because I don't know how long that thread will last and this essay raises the important concerns of the pro choice side in an ethical analysis.

But mostly, I don't want to lose my old work, especially since its a lot more concise and direct than I am now. I'm getting verbose and flighty as I age. XD

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Ethical Basis for Bodily Domain and the Rights to Bodily Integrity
:


What is Bodily Domain?

Bodily Domain is the medically defined area of your body, a territory of sorts, owned and controlled specifically by you and ONLY by you.

It is your skin and the all the area within your skin, it includes your organs, your bones and your blood and the spaces in between.

You are the sole determiner of what happens to those organs, that blood, and even the space within the area of your Bodily Domain.

That is your right to Bodily Integrity, which is also referred to as Bodily Domain.


The Basics

There are three basic categories that describe essentially every interaction that can be done between your Body and other things.

Intrusion, Occupation and Removal.

They are given negative names mainly because they are the self defensible rights within the Bodily Domain, Bodily Integrity, and Bodily Autonomy trio.

Self defensible means they are only negative if you yourself consider them negative, because if you consent to something, there is nothing to defend against.


Bodily Domain is a Consent Based Ethical Construct

BD is based on consent. Something is not a violation of your BD if you consent to its occurance.

However, this consent must be explicit. You must specifically state that you want this to happen to you. It is also based on current consent. A person can not hold you to a past contract made if your view changes and you no longer consent to something.

Otherwise I could be having sex and then if I suddenly wanted to stop for whatever reason and my partner continued against my consent, it would not be considered rape. This would be unacceptable to society from a logical standpoint.


The Three Interactions With Your Domain.

1)Intrusion:

Intrusion is any entry into your Bodily Domain that is negatively viewed from your perspective.

This makes it a violation of your Bodily Domain rights, normally referred to as Bodily Integrity.

It covers everything from rape, to delivery of injury (bullets, knives) injection of poisons, diseases, even non harmful or beneficial substances can be seen as a violation if consent is not given.

2)Removal

Removal refers to the taking of anything from your body. It can cover your own organs and blood, or even artificial or foreign material in your body, like prosthetics or substances that you wish to keep within you.

It is also a violation of your Bodily Domain rights.

It covers everything from organ theft, to blood stealing, to nutrient leeching.

3)Occupation

Occupation refers to any continuous presence of material or presence of living things within your Bodily Domain that is unconsented to. And therefore a violation.

It covers everything from parasites, unwanted implants and pregnancies.


But What About Clashes of Rights?

These are all things that no human being should be subjected to unless they themselves are causing a violation of the same set of ethical principles.

So Bodily Domain should only be violated if doing so will protect your own or the BD of others from being violated by ending a current violation in progress.

If you are violating someone's BD, your own becomes forfeit if they decide to defend themselves from your actions, and their defense violates your BD.

Let's make this nice and explicit for the more dense folks out there.

You can only violate the BD of another if and only if doing so is the only viable way to end a violation of your Bodily Domain by them that is currently in progress.


Conclusion: Why Bodily Domain Supports The Right to Abort

An unwanted fetus is violating a woman's BD.

There is no way around this.

The fetus has no call to do so as the woman has done nothing to violate the BD of the fetus, and even if the woman had done something to violate its BD (Like drinking alcohol while pregnant), there is no concievable way that remaining inside the woman's body would do anything to end that current violation.

Hence a fetus has no right to violate the woman's BD.

But the woman does have a right to do so to the fetus in response to its violation of her, especially since that is currently the only way to end its Occupation of her BD and Removal of her resources.

To not allow a woman to defend her BD rights violates a set of ethical principles that protect us from having our organs taken for others' use, to avoid being raped, to avoid being enslaved, to avoid having our bodies used as tools for the benefit of others.

To do so would strip the usefulness of society to the individual in terms of promoting survival and comfort.

It would make remaining within society less beneficial then leaving it, and to lose these ethical principles would degrade our society in many deterimental ways.

Therefore attempts to remove the right to abort from a woman is not only misogynistic, anti-woman's rights, and ethically unsupportable from a viewpoint that values human rights to their own body, it is also a self destructive view that endangers all of us.


Edited 10-08-2006: Added title partitions and made certain parts a little more concise then before. Corrected minor spelling errors. --Fires

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2009-08-06 12:09
Entry tags:

Look and Feel - updated

I'm still working out the look and feel of this, whether I'll port to wordpress or something and what kind of naming scheme I want here. It doesn't help that this particular blog style keeps fucking breaking on me.

Things may get a little interesting, view wise, so hopefully I don't get people too lost with this jostling around, renaming, counter renaming and changing the look of the page. Suggestions on what works better, whether dreamwidth is a good fit and such would be appreciated.

R.P.

Update: Right now I'm stuck between Wordpress and Blogger. I already have a good idea which posts I'd like to port and I know I'll keep my dreamwidth and essentially just crosspost things. Unfortunately, I don't know how to port the comments over, so those will be stuck back here.
2009-08-06 10:07

The Reality of Gender

There seems to be some serious misunderstandings going on about gender as a concept. It happens in the feminist community, it happens in the genderqueer community and the trans community and really, it happens everywhere. Some of these misunderstandings and misconceptions are simply an attempt to describe something that we don't really have good terms for, using the phrase "gender" with a qualifier attached (identity, brain, natural, social, etc). Some of these issues and mistakes are a little more political, built from strawmen fallacies and willful ignorance to back up an agenda which, amusingly enough, isn't actually threatened by any of the current facts out there about gender.

Let's hit the "brain sex" fiasco first, shall we? After reading about a bit of a kurfluffle involving a cissexual genderqueer activist and a transsexual activist documented at QT: (Linky: Critiquing Genderqueer Transsexualphobia), as well as commenting, it occurred to me that more ought to be said on the topic beyond what I can fit into a reasonably sized comment. The brain sex argument, in its more reasonable form, isn't really a brain sex argument at all. It's more a bodily integrity instincts argument. Now there are other cases involving bodily integrity instincts, namely, BIID or bodily integrity identity disorder. This disorder does not involve secondary sexual characteristics but instead involves your limbs. Folk with this disorder want a limb removed (sometimes multiple limbs) because they feel foreign and wrong. Much like how many of the dysphoric transsexuals (including myself) want our bodies changed because the birth sex characteristics feel foreign and wrong. Notice a parallel? I did. Bodily instincts are not a sexed trait but it stands to reason that they would also apply to sexed traits. So it stands to reason that if your bodily instincts are miswired, your birth sex traits (some or all of them) will seem off and wrong and another sex's traits will seem like they fit. I say another sex (not the "opposite sex") because this theory includes nonbinaries. After all, biology does tend to result in multiple variations on one set of changes, especially in the brain. And there are nonbinaries that transition (agendered/neutrois folk getting nullification surgeries, certain variants of androgynes getting mixed traits to their needs) and clearly are subject to their own dysphoria. If you want to learn more about nonbinaries from them particularly WhatIsGender's forum is a good place to ask (you'll have to register, but its free and they don't spam you)

So to claim that the bodily instincts theory (misnamed by many as the brain sex theory and subject to toxic misunderstandings between it and the utter bullshit of HBS) is binarist is patently untrue and a misconception.

One thing that muddies the waters here is how psychological identity flows. For a lot of folks, when your body's sexed traits seem wrong to you for seemingly no reason and you discover that the bodily traits of a different sex seem right, that's going to have an impact on your self image and self conceptualization. For an individual who has less knowledge of feminist and gender theory, biology and less self awareness regarding psychology, I can see how someone might say, "well my brain must be a female or a male or a mixed or a whatever brain". It would seem like the only way to articulate those feelings. Unfortunately, certain people take this as the official concept instead of the scientific explanations and the actual theory itself.

As a note I'm one of those people who sees GID (a disorder classified by its collection of symptoms, not its cause) as having a high likelihood of being multi-causal. The bodily instincts theory is a theory of one of those possible causes, but its presentation does not mean it is the only cause. I'm sure there are instances of GID where social pressure and mistreatment have caused similar symptoms, among other causes and issues.

And now, on to the "GENDUR ISN'T REEL" idiocy. I'm not going to be gentle. It is idiocy. Completely inexcusable idiocy too. Because you see something that is socially constructed still exists. Social constructs are still real. They may not have basis in biology, and it's fine to say that. They may not be inherent to all individuals of a given sex structure, and it's not only fine but important to say that. But to confuse something being socially derived with not existing at all is a level of ignorance about reality itself that really defies description. And of course, the people that use this idiotic argument to try to delegitimize transsexuals, well, I can't respect people like that. Let's be entirely clear. It is a strawman argument based at best on layman misconceptions and mislabeling of a certain phenomenon that really ought to not be called gender identity in the first place. It is based on a completely ridiculous misrepresentation of the meaning of the word "real". And it is used to delegitimize and attack transsexuals on behalf of a political agenda, that (in reality) is not at odds with transsexuals at all.

So not only is it fallacious bullshit that's used to hurt people who need help to deal with our distress, it's completely unnecessary fallacious bullshit that's used to hurt people who need help to deal with our distress. I'm all for cutting as much of the gender role enforcement and assumptions that gendered behavior is inherent to a given sex, biological or needs to be labeled as such out of society. I'm all for going in and revamping out culture so that "gender expression" starts being labeled self expression and the pressures to conform due to your sex (birth or attained) are removed. I'm all for slashing and burning the patriarchy. And I am fucking tired of being misrepresented by a bunch of paranoid assholes who think that by existing, I threaten the cause. Yes, there's a little bit of rage here, but the rage is carefully meted out with educated knowledge.
2009-07-21 20:36

Identity vs. Objective Reality - Updated (2)

(Well, you've all waited long enough and finally had an evening free to write. I've decided to come from the "questioning" angle on this because offense is usually incurred when you start making claims about how things ought to be. So instead, I'll ask why the current system works the way it does and how we expect to deal with the problems caused by it.)

Update 2: After a lot of discussion I came to agreement with the idea that if someone's well being is at stake, concerns about communication and definition are completely secondary to that. So in the end, if you're faced with situations where communicating clearly or applying the definition is going to hurt you, then don't do so. In no way should linguistics come above the lives of people

Update - Fun times. I guess I wasn't clear enough in how I put this across (which sucks because I spent days agonizing over how to put it.) To make it unnecessary to wade through the sea of comments generated by a simple misunderstanding I'm going to put up a point of clarification right here at the top.

I am not in any way or form saying that male or female should retain their same definitions. Just because I dislike the self referential definition doesn't mean that the current state of affairs is perfect, great or even acceptable. What would be a good solution that takes identity into account is a redefining like this:

Female: one who either possesses (and is content with) or wishes to attain (for whatever reason) or self conceptualizes more closely with the bodily structure commonly created by the XX triggered developmental path.

And there you go. A simple and easy way to create a definition of the word that is not self referential and doesn't nonsensically destroy its own capacity to communicate any meaning. While still protecting us from cissexist abuses of the biological classification system from which female and male originally came. I hope this makes it abundantly clear that I'm not a linguistic purist trying to enforce the current definitions of male and female as perfect while also making it clear that self referential definitions are not necessary to safeguard ourselves.


I think we're all pretty aware of the nastiness of identity politics and elitist hierarchies built into the sub communities of GLBT. Especially how they're used to elevate some and detriment others in an attempt to break associations that some might consider damning to them (when in reality the hate is going to spill on us all, whether we look "normal" or not). And of course, identity crises are pretty awful in and of themselves. Even when not induced by attacks by a bunch of community shredding jackals, they can still shatter self image and leave a person feeling completely lost. There are also situations wherein one using a given label, despite its base conceptual accuracy, is woefully impractical. A good example would be an individual who is well aware of their bisexuality but is attracted to so few women (and so rarely) that mentioning that bisexuality is at best irrelevant and at worst seriously misleading to interested women.

All three of these things are really good reasons to put some protections into place for people's identities and to allow some leeway in self description. Support groups (good ones anyways) tend to frown very fiercely on questioning someone's identity, pronouns, self image and etcetera. Outsiders are usually regarded as a bad judge of what someone's identity is and the common wisdom that a person knows oneself best is usually expected to be followed. None of these things are a problem. It is certainly positive to prevent the identity attack infighting that is so very endemic in the trans community (but is also a problem in the gay, lesbian and bi community as well, most noteably directed very nastily at bisexual folk). It is also benign and ultimately positive to allow simplification of the social interactions that depend on labels, because I know that (were I in the situation mentioned above) I wouldn't want people I'm not attracted to trying to get in my pants just because I'm attracted to one or maybe two members of that particular sex.

This all being said, I have to say I'm a bit confused by what seems like serious overcompensation in response to these problems.

You see, all of the responses above are perfectly reasonable. They still account for objective reality, they just prevent infighting, personal attacks and social complication. None of them outright contradict reality or counsel one that it is fine for them to do so. They might let a few people through who don't have a firm grasp of reality, but that's ultimately not a serious problem for an individual in the GLBT community. It isn't like in the pagan community where misusing words and allowing identity to contradict reality actually decontextualizes and delegitimizes cultures and tends to come from entitlement and ethnocentrism.

But when the self image a person has contradicts reality, that still is a problem. At the very least for them.

So we hit the actual issue. There is a trend in the GLBT community wherein individuals may take on any term describing themselves, even if they do not even remotely resemble the objective definition of said label. This is... troubling. For one, it makes communication unbelievably confusing and it also creates a level of social complication out of that confusion that kills any simplification excuse immediately. You aren't simplifying things if you're a single bisexual individual but you call yourself heterosexual and then get upset when lesbians don't show interest in you.

The basis behind this is what bothers me the most. I get the impression (and have been outright told by some people) that the terms lesbian, bisexual, gay, homosexual, heterosexual, straight, woman, man, male, and female quite simply all mean "one who identifies as x" wherein x is the term that we are defining. Example: bisexual is one who identifies as bisexual. Not everyone uses this basis, this is just the most common one I confront.

Why is this troubling? After all, this does mean no one can question another person's identity anymore. There's no identity crisis because if you feel like you aren't a lesbian then you aren't. If you feel like you are, then you are. Sure it makes things complex socially, but since when has social life ever been simple?

Well the reason is because the definition "one who identifies as x" (wherein x is the term being defined) is a self referential definition that yields absolutely no more information than every single other one of the words. The whole reason why I can summate the preferred definitions of those words into just one line with a variable for the term is because the definition is virtually the same among each of the words.

Now, if the only thing you feel like communicating to someone is that you personally feel like you are "term x" and absolutely nothing else, this works just fine for you. But if you actually feel like communicating your sexual attractions to someone, or whom you are more likely to date, or your body structure, or the social group you are a part of or really any other information than your own self image, then you've just utterly destroyed the usefulness of those words. And the worst part is, you've already expressed that you think you are term x if you apply term x to yourself. The definition is utterly redundant. If you say, "I am term x" then we already know that you see yourself as x. We don't need the word to mean, "one who thinks one is term x".

When I tell someone I'm a lesbian, I'm telling them that I am interested in female folk. There's a certain amount of leeway as lesbian can be stretched between principally dating a given group (women or female folk) and just being attracted to that same given group. The split between woman and female also arises from the complication that trans folk throw into the mix. I'm not trying to tell people that I think I'm a lesbian. I've already expressed this just by the context of the self application of that word. So it just strikes me as sort of... well... silly.

Of course, trans folk have trouble with this too. I can get pre op, pre hormones folk using the words woman or man because those words stretch to fit the sociological groups too. It works just fine. But when we start using the term female (or male) for ourselves when our bodies are still physically our birth sex, that's when things start failing to meet with reality. This is especially a bad idea for trans folk (at least those who require physical transition) because we need to be able to articulate to our health providers and doctors that we require a physical transition. If I were to call myself female before hormones and surgery, how am I supposed to tell the doctor that I need a female body?

Me: "Sorry doc, I'm already female but I need boobs and a vagina."

Doc: "Wait... what? o_O"

I get that the terminology is especially painful for us trans folk. I have dysphoria triggers from the word male simply because it is a firm reminder of the genitals I have. But you don't have to use painful terms either. There is nothing saying we have to apply labels in a social setting. You don't have to say that you're male or female or think about it at all. The situation certainly doesn't require something so drastic as to strip virtually all meaning from the words male/female. (Note that this applies to nonbinary as well, but usually with the medical condition word; intersexed.)

It has honestly reached the point where I've literally had to avoid the terminology in certain situations just to avoid the debates that come from GLBT folk on just my word choice. Instead of discussing my sexuality as lesbian, I've had to talk instead in terms of being a male to female transsexual who is physically attracted to the female form because I've had people who thought lesbian meant one who identifies as a lesbian and told me I automatically was one, even if I was into guys. (There's someone here who might think this is directed at her, but really hun, you were very respectful and reasonable when you brought it up. You even asked permission first, so please don't think this particular example is directed at you. I've had these conversations with a lot of people and you were the absolute best about your view.)

I don't know about anyone else, but I see it as a problem when a word loses its meaning almost completely. I also don't see the point of using labels if all their meaning is already expressed by you applying the word to yourself in conversation. That's my view on it.

I wouldn't mind alternate explanations, clarifications and corrections if I have the wrong impression about this. It's very possible I've misunderstood the justifications or even misunderstood the attitudes on identity labels. I will mind getting a shitstorm of asinine screaming at me for "attacking identities" though. Let's be mature people. That's pretty much all I'm asking here.