“This rethinking of “normal” gender identities as cisgender life trajectory has had a profound effect on me personally. I’ve finally been able to stop comparing apples to pineapples, ie my life, my body as it compares to those of my mother, sisters, etc. I’ve been able to see that their lives are no more natural or correct than mine, and no less artificial, no less constructed or arbitrarily defined than mine. I do NOT have to adhere to a cisgender standard in order to find value in my own transgender life. That’s HUGE. This has even widened my perception of other aspects of my identity, particularly of race and ability. It has given me a much needed context to frame my “non-standard” experiences, and clearly names the oppressive subtext I’ve been drowning in all along.”—
More research for my Creating Change workshop. Jane LaPlain’s post on the word “cisgender” is a classic (yes, it can be a classic if it’s only six months old… because I said so, that’s why) and is easily the best summation of the meaning and purpose of the word I’ve read.
"But Trans Women Are Triggering!" When people use the old "trans women can’t be in women’s space because they are triggering" argument I just want to stab myself, or possibly someone else, in the eye with a rusty fork. You know the one: "we can’t have trans women in our domestic violence shelter because they look like men" or "trans women can come to our play party, we guess, but they have to keep their panties on because their genitals are evil phallic symbols of oppression which trigger us (never mind all the CAFAB butches and bois rocking out with their cocks out at all our events)." There is just so much wrong with this I can hardly even begin to unpack it— There’s the assumption that all trans women look a certain way. There’s cissexist ideals of what a woman looks like. There’s the idea that what a trans woman looks like is more important than her right to access services for women (and therefore more important than the fact that she IS a woman at all). There’s all the cissexist junk around genitals. There’s the non-consensual projecting of ‘male power’ and oppression onto somebody who is not male and is in fact oppressed by the patriarchy… on and on and on… There’s all that, and then there’s also the REALLY slimy trick of trying to frame trans exclusion as a freaking DISABILITY ACCESS ISSUE. RANT ABOUT POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER AHEAD I have PTSD. I actually get triggered. And this argument makes me want to scream: You keep saying that word ‘trigger.’ I do not think it means what you think it means. I can get triggered by ANYTHING. Some of my personal triggers include: yuppie guys with pony tails, motel rooms, tie dye (I am not freaking kidding!), certain songs, any loud or sudden noise at all, and people coming up from behind me. I have known other people with PTSD whose triggers included slightly browned bananas, balloons, and all kinds of other random things you can’t possible anticipate would trigger anyone. Basically, everyone’s trauma is different, so everyone’s triggers are different. You cannot co-opt our triggers neatly into one political position— specifically, cissexist pseudofeminism. They will not fit. Some of us may indeed be triggered by that trans woman over there, but some of us are equally likely to be triggered by that mega entitled butch over there, or by the shirt that you are wearing. And guess what? Most of us have realized that our triggers actually have nothing to do with the people and things who bring them on. Making a space "accessible" for people with PTSD by eliminating all conceivable triggers is not POSSIBLE. ANYTHING can be a trigger. This is EXTRA SPECIALLY HOLY FUCK TRUE when the space in question is a big old kinky play party with people screaming, fucking, bleeding, getting hit, tied up, held down, etc. all over the place! People with PTSD who choose to enter those spaces have probably worked through their issues enough to feel ready. In the case of a rape crises center or domestic violence shelter, the situation is even more disgusting— it privileges the hypothetical triggers of cis women over trans women’s actually safety. Always, always, cis women’s tirggers are more important than trans women’s. I hear a lot of people throwing the word "triggering" around who don’t seem to understand what it means. Being "triggered" does not mean "feeling kind of freaked out" or "being squicked" or "being reminded of something unpleasant or painful." When I say I am triggered I mean I am in a physical state of panic when the adrenaline really gets going, my heart is racing, and my reptile brain genuinely thinks I AM GOING TO DIE. Is that REALLY what you mean? Or do you actually mean people will start recoiling in transphobic disgust and fear from the trans woman quietly standing in a corner feeling uncomfortable and wishing somebody would talk to her at your (fucking awful) party? Do you mean people will feel weirded out, grossed out, and phobic? Do you mean they will feel "unsafe" because they’ve absorbed a cissexist idea of what a woman is and have been taught that trans women are dangerous perverts? Say what you mean, transphobes— and keep my fucking disability out of it.
"There is not likely to be any one coherent, purely biological/neurological explanation for our existence. The drive to research the matter is not inherently evil, mind, but the resources being dedicated to it come into question when studies of this sort appear to be to the exclusion of more directly beneficial research, like longitudinal studies on the long-term effects of hormone treatment on trans people.
"I should not need a certificate, or a study to tell people that I am who I say I am in terms of my gender. Transphobic people will not stop once an etiology is discovered. Let me make something abundantly clear:
"The search for biological explanations is perfectly fine in and of itself. It is not fine for that to act as a substitute for real moral and political discussion. This research is an academic curiosity. It must never be the fulcrum upon which our rights and dignity as human beings rest.”
This post pretty much sums up my issues with the “brain sex” studies.
(Except for the problem that brain sex theories always seem to claim that brain sex is binary, which, if proven would be meaningless as an “explanation” anyway, since the actual range of trans people’s genders include significantly more than just two options.)
I ♥ Questioning Transphobia and Quinnae Moongazer’s posts in particular!
In non-blogosphere media (that is, media filtered through an organization), there are any number on the Being T documentary (whose names I don’t know)(h/t Monica), and the deceased Marsha P Johnson (who is rarely shown speaking for herself, almost always reduced to ‘activist and murder victim’) and Sylvia Rivera. Seriously.
I make this long, long list not because it’s exhaustive (it’s not, please comment if I forgot you), but in order to make it painfully obvious that there are lots and lots of trans women of color speaking, saying and doing important shit.
And if you’re white and that’s what you think of when you hear “trans woman of color” (etc), I’ll eat my shoes. My hat, too. Hell, if you could name 5 accomplishments by trans women of color I’ll be impressed. But not because they aren’t accomplishing them. Because they’re not being reported.
Media visibility for trans women of color (scanty as it is) goes to 1)objectifying portrayals of sex workers, and 2)murder/hate crime victims. The white trans community seems to have replicated this pattern–while Becoming a Black Man1 and Still Black may have achieved some popularity, and Whipping Girl has spread like wildfire, almost all of what I see reported in transnews and on the blogosphere at large that covers TWOC is focused almost exclusively on their victimhood, and the commentary limited to that & dissection of the fetishization.
Say it with me now: trans women of color are not objects. They are not (only) victims. They are not the people you can push the pity party onto when you’re tired of dealing with it yourself and want to be seen acting to change shit. Yes, they are at vastly greater risk of violence than the rest of us trans folks–and just because you bring that up when transphobic/trans misogynistic violence is being talked about does not make you a “good ally“. Their deaths do not define their existence. Yes, many are sex workers because of economic marginalization–and this does not define their lives. They are more than points in a power struggle between multiple groups of white trans activists and cis feminists.
As Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha writes in “The Femme Shark Manifesto”:
FEMMES ARE LEADERS IN TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS/ DEFENDING OUR QUEER AND TRANS OF COLOR COMMUNITIES.
WE USED OUR STILETTOS AS WEAPONS AT STONEWALL
WE WERE THE TRANS[ ]WOMEN WHO FOUGHT BACK AT THE COMPTON CAFETERIA
WE’RE THE GIRLS WHO STARE DOWN ASSHOLES STARING AT OUR LOVERS AND FRIENDS ON THE SUBWAY….
WE REMEMBER OUR DEAD- SAKIA GUNN, GWEN ARAUJO, AND MANY OTHER QUEER AND TRANS POC WHO DIED BECAUSE OF RACIST, HOMO/TRANSPHOBIC VIOLENCE. NOT AS A POLITICAL STATEMENT BUT AS WOMEN WE LOVED IN REAL LIFE WOMEN WHO COULD’VE BEEN US OR OUR LOVES.(link) (note–this piece is about queer femmes of color, not specifically trans ones. And you should read it.)
1: A rather (trans) misogynistic article at that–it does include trans women’s voices, but only as a means to further oppress them/erase their voices and further the subtextual point ‘black men have it worse than black women’. See also my performance piece, So Shut Up.
* * *
bolding is mine, because that is what I did in my hysterical post last night. - C
Also you (my followers) should totally subscribe to all of the blogs in that list. Like right now. DOOOO EEEET.
Everyone in the world should read Little Light’s blog (even if it hasn’t been updated in forever) — “Fair” and “The Seam Of Skin & Scales” are two of my favorite anythings anywhere. Tobi’s also amazing (both as a transfeminist, and as a queer porn director).
I listen to the click of my heels on the sidewalk, feel the hem of the short tight dress and the stockings on my freshly shaved legs, smell the delicate scent of my perfume. I usually wear jeans and T-shirts, but today I’m dressing for Him [a surgeon who performs genital surgery]. On the way to His office I stop and look at my reflection in a store window. I look at the make-up. I look at the hair. No, I confess, this isn’t all for Him. Femme can be fun when you feel like it, sexy when it catches a woman’s attention, subversive when it turns back the straight gaze, powerful when it gets you what you want.
I sit in the chair in front of His desk and pretend to listen as He moves His lips. I cross and uncross my legs. I smile at Him. If He thinks I’m the girl He wants me to be, I’m sure I’ll get what I want. He tells me once more how much it will cost, and I give Him the cashiers’ check. We make a date.
"Just remember," He says with a wink, "I get to use it first."
I laugh politely before I leave. How come I feel like I just turned a trick when He’s the one who kept the money?
Yes, I know I just posted a Stryker quote the other day, and also I know that link goes to Anne Lawrence’s site (seriously, fuck Anne Lawrence).
But The Surgeon Haunts My Dreams is an amazing, gorgeous, sexy slab of prose poetry and an astonishingly frank discussion of trans women’s sexuality (from before people actually talked about that sort of thing publicly, which is to say, from more than a year ago) and you really do need to read it.
“My father got sick when I was 22… and I was poor. And my father had an ulcer, and it exploded, and, you know, all these toxins get in your blood - and basically, my father died 50 days after his ulcer. So I had a father get sick while I was poor.
My mother got sick while I was rich. I don’t really wanna get into to it, but my mother was sicker than my father, okay? And my mother’s alive. My mother’s fine, okay?
I remember going to the hospital to see my mother and wondering, was I in the right place? Like, this is a hotel! Like, it had a concierge, man! …If the average person really knew the discrepancy in the healthcare system, there’d be riots in the streets, okay? They would burn this motherfucker down.”—
Justice Sherman found that the TA did not enjoy any exemption from the non-discrimination provisions in the city ordinance, which he wrote, by their terms, clearly apply both to employers and employees who violate them. The judge rejected the argument that directing transphobic comments at a customer who requested help from a transit worker was not a denial of services.
I wanted to blog this section in particular, because I think it makes an important point that doesn’t come up often enough.
Discrimination is not just someone telling you to get out because they don’t serve transgender people (or any other oppressed group), though we often imagine it that way, and find those stories to be the most compelling because everything is spelled out and there’s no grey area. Most discrimination is less specific, and consists of simply making services, employment, housing, and education so unpleasant and/or difficult for a class of people to access that they leave of their own volition.
Transgender Equal Rights Action Day in Massachusetts is less than 36 hours away! Come tell your legislators why they need to co-sponsor the Transgender Equal Rights Bill this session!
If you’re nervous about talking to your legislators, we’ll have experienced lobbyists ready to train you and even accompany you if you need them there.
If you can’t make it, we’ll miss you, but you can (should!) still call your MA state legislators and tell them how important this legislation is. There’s detailed instructions and a handy calling script at the link.
(Pointing out that 25% of Utah residents are covered by trans-inclusive non-discrimination laws while only 12.4% of Massachusetts residents can say that is not necessarily encouraged, but it’s something interesting to think about. UTAH IS BEING MORE PROGRESSIVE THAN YOU MASSACHUSETTS. THAT’S RIGHT: UTAH.)
“Filisa Vistima was a volunteer at the LRC. She kept an extensive journal, chronicling the tumult of her life. Filisa was 22 years old when she killed herself on March 6. She left a note stating her wish that her journal be published, in hopes that it may help other transgendered people experiencing some of the same things she experienced. Her friends have begun efforts to get the entire journal published. Here we offer a few excerpts.”—
She died in 1993. I ran into her diary again today when a friend linked Susan Stryker’s 1994 essay “My Words To Victor Frankenstein Above the Village of Chamounix: Performing Transgender Rage,” which references Filisa’s struggles to live.
As far as I know the short linked excerpts are all that were ever made available.
I grieve for her. Another wonderful woman gone before her time due to indifference, intolerance, and lack of empathy.
I was 14 when she died, and wouldn’t know of her existence until I was twice that age. I feel fortunate to have been born a little later, to have come out when things were a bit better. “There but for the grace of god go I.” (via galaxyforest)
Omigosh, I’d never read this before. Absolutely devastating. Thank you for sharing, hon.
Every trans voice I hear in music is a revolutionary act to me.
Every one of us I see with an instrument in hand, hear singing out and making something fucking beautiful lifts my heart and helps me realise this isnt’ an avenue that fucking closed to me when I realised who and how and what I was.
Every trans voice I find in print and in blog is a revolutionary act to me.
Everyone of us I see writing some kickarse fiction and making our lvies real, or laying down the theory and the praxis and giving no fucks for the derailment and the attacks and the bullshit of daring to be us in the world and have an opinion is an outright flag of defiance waving and daring me not to keep silent.
Every set of trans hands I see put paint to canvas, pencil to paper, stylus to tablet, hands to clay are a revolutionary act to me.
Because every act of self expression in a world that would rather we shut the fuck up, and that often does its best to make us - is revolution.
“Phallogocentric language, not its particular speaker, is the scalpel that defines our flesh. I defy that Law in my refusal to abide by its original decree of my gender. Though I cannot escape its power, I can move through its medium. Perhaps if I move furiously enough, I can deform it in my passing to leave a trace of my rage. I can embrace it with a vengeance to rename myself, declare my transsexuality, and gain access to the means of my legible reinscription. Though I may not hold the stylus myself, I can move beneath it for my own deep self-sustaining pleasures.”—
I seriously never get tired of reading this crucial piece of transfeminist history. I’m getting ready to do a transfeminism workshop at Creating Change, and half the fun is that I have an excuse to go back and reread amazing stuff like this.
Reblogged in case you haven’t seen safe2pee and need it. Back during the first year after I transitioned, when I was getting threatened and harassed everywhere I went and didn’t dare use a gendered bathroom, safe2pee pretty much saved my life.
We’re taking web innovations and applying them to a very real problem facing many in our society: harassment, violence and discrimination in public restrooms.
The goal of the project is to create a resource where people who do not feel comfortable with traditional public restrooms can find safe alternatives, and to support advocacy and research to further the cause of gender free, inclusive bathrooms. The service aims to be accessible from a variety of mediums (computer, cell phone browser, maybe even a call-in number?).
“The decade-long hysteria over a “hookup culture,” imperiling young women who have been brainwashed into binge-drinking away their ingrained biological desires for cuddling and babies, doesn’t match any reality I’ve seen or heard of beyond pseudo-concerned trend stories. There are some people who are more interested in casual sex, sometimes; some of them are women, and some of them are drunk at the time, and it’s not a death knell for a committed relationship somewhere along the way if that’s what you want. It’s not that gender inequality doesn’t inform the power dynamics of casual sex, on campus or elsewhere. It’s that it’s hard to believe these handwringers are interested, in good faith, in creating a better environment of safe, enthusiastic consent when they’re so busy ignoring the fact that women like sex too. Or judging us for it.”—The Atlantic Weeps For The Sad, Slutty Drunk Girls (via sexisnottheenemy)