2009-09-07 11:08 am

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 09:54 pm

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 am

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 08:10 pm

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 pm

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.
2009-08-17 11:04 am

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.
2009-08-10 08:47 pm

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 01:54 pm

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 10:07 am

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.