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ARMI am going to do a lazy series on gender identity, not because we need another repetition of the same old arguments, but because we keep getting it wrong and that’s a lot of the reason that there are still battles around the subject. It’s “lazy” because the following pieces to this will not come on a nice schedule, most likely, and I’d hate to mislead you into thinking otherwise; you deserve better than that. After posting this, I’ll make further edits, I’m sure, so all apologies for the fluid nature of my writing. Please feel free to point out any flaws in logic or spelling.

For most of us, gender is like the air, something we breathe and move through every day without much thought paid to it. Only when it becomes oppressive or forces itself upon us or, alternately, is particularly fresh and delightful does it break through into the conscious part of our existence. We then curse and revere it in turn, but we still don’t see it except in a haze or heat-shimmer, because the nature of gender is invisible ubiquity. Our identification with it is also ephemeral to the point that some feel there is no such thing as gender identity; we just are the way we are because we’re female or male. Easy-peasy, nothing to study or think about because it just is end of article, go back to lolcats. Except, there are those people who are cropping up all the time now discussing it, what are they going on about?

US-SexingFrom the time the ultrasound peeps into mothers’ womb to betray our development, the people in our future life treat us differently depending on what they see in those grainy images. The tech will declare “it’s a boy!” or “it’s a girl!” and they’ll draw an arrow on the screen pointing to some grainy highlights with the appropriate label, and print it out for everyone to see. Do that after birth, and they’ll bust mommy and daddy for disseminating child porn. From that moment on, we are treated differently. Parents-to-be and others speak to the foetus differently — I’ve heard people call the TV-snow images “handsome” and “pretty,” which is ridiculous considering they’re barely recognisable as anything, really— and the buying of camo or lace, dolls or trucks, and pink or blue diapers by proud aunts, uncles, and grandparents, begins in earnest. The rest we know, because we’ve all lived it. Details and intensity vary, and our reactions to the gendered socialisation are unique to each of us, but the general script is the same. I will not go over the socialisation issue, here, because the point I’m laboriously getting to is that we as John and Jane Q. Public really don’t have any idea what gender actually is, yet we base every aspect of our public presentation on it, and it is a foundational part of our personal identities. “The hell you say? I know perfectly well what gender is! It’s being a man or a woman,” you say. Well, I do say. Go ahead and define gender. Write it down. Sketch it out. Humans have been wrestling with it for thousands of years – sometimes defining and sometimes defying it, and the essential structure of it still eludes us like a ninja yeti on a foggy night. We often take it for granted, and rarely give it a day off or send a nice card.

Let’s start by fleshing the concept out by disambiguation. What gender is not is sex, though in the previous paragraph I conflated the two, as we normally do. Bet you didn’t even notice, didja? In English, gender has come to mean one’s outwardly apparent physical sex. This is because the two run so closely together and there is some overlap, so the mix up is quite understandable. We’re all about simplification, and in its service and our general prudishness around anything with the word “sex” attached to it, we have failed to develop a language around gender, making all discussion immediately arduous and bound to lead to misunderstandings and ultraviolent murder. No, it really does, but that’s for later in the programme.

While we’re looking for gender, let’s familiarise ourselves with its conjoined sibling. Sex is, basically, the body’s configuration from the chromosomal level to metabolic systems and the shape and function of our bodies, including genitalia. Ooh, sexy, right? Humans and bunches of other animals and plants are sexually dimorphic  — split into male and female variants of the species — with different average body shapes and sizes, and different sex-dependent characteristics and reproductive capabilities. Males and females do a great job of generating genetic diversity in their offspring, a process that improves the chances that the species will adapt to changing conditions and survive, while also providing something to do on a Saturday night. Also, budding would be an extremely creepy way to reproduce ourselves, so thank the Divine for inventing males! Like Oded Fehr, as a totally random, example.

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????But not everyone fits into the seemingly all-natural-yet-socially-defined Male and Female boxes. No, it’s true. Some exist in the blank open spaces between and around them. Let’s think of it like the land between two forts of different nations in the olden days of genocidal competitive empire building! The forts are safe harbours of regimented life, wherein there are rules and a common culture, and sure, unpleasant things may happen, but you can be assured that there is a structure to living within its walls that is meant to keep you as well as possible (at least that’s what we’re told). Within, there is Security. Outside the forts is a scary world without protective rules and prescribed definitions and walls we’re used to. There are no borders, no rigid structure to find comfort in. Outside, it’s Unsettling. “Who are these creatures living outside the box-fort walls? What do they want?” Well, neveryoumind them right now, we’re focused on life on the inside. The cultures and ideas within are what we can call gender. See how easy that was? That’s gender! All done now. You can go home and say that you’ve found it, defined it, and had it for dinner. Except, we still don’t have a solid idea of the nature of the thing, only a nice place to look for it. Okay, come along, now.

Did you finish with your writing/sketching/interpretive dance “what I think gender is” homework, yet? You didn’t even try to do it, did you? Let’s start with this nucleus: gender is cultural, not physical. Every culture from that of our immediate family and ethnicity to national and religious groups has an input on how we should ideally be feminine women or masculine men. Mom and dad, cultural heroes, historical figures, popular culture role models, artists, movies, magazines, vloggers, anyone we come in contact with informs us how others in our culture act. Take the common qualities defined for women in the Western cultures: nurturing, passive, petty, pretty, emotional, irrational, Mercurial, child-like, sexy, manipulative, receptive, pliable. And now for the blokes: providing, active, complex, handsome, rational, stable, commanding, supportive, resolute. Most cultures also strictly forbid the mixing of the two. It’s obviously stereotypical, but culturally accurate.

We get our ideas of masculinity and femininity from these worlds we inhabit. Ladies, don’t you remember observing other women, the ways they walked and moved and spoke? Afterwards, practising all the subtle adjustments of posture, facial expression, hand movements, the way you step, sit in a chair, modifying the way you speak and the words you use? We aren’t the same between the ages of 5 and 18 because we hone our performances as women to express who we are and how we wish to be perceived by others. It’s not even always a conscious refinement, but it happens, and it continues over our lives as we discover ourselves and evolve through social circles and their conventions. Guys, I know it’s the same for you. The posturing with your friends, posing in front of the mirror, and practising the looks and the walks, trying to eliminate any semblance of weak or “girly” body language. Don’t cross your legs, take up space, look like you’re not going to take anyone’s shit.

gender-police-comic

Gender Police by Tatsuya Ishida http://www.sinfest.com

It’s not all self directed, people close to us and the greater society use positive and negative reinforcement to guide us in this journey. Those nagging voices we’ve internalised to keep ourselves in line reminding us to “Stop ____ing like a girl!” and “Keep your knees together!” and “Man up! Boys don’t cry.” and “Just smile some more. You’re so pretty when you smile.” Our pre-defined mannerisms are definitely cultural. There’s also how we dress. Clothing is extremely important to the roles we play. They are our costume, and the wrong wrapper is as disconcerting to the observer as a misplaced limb. We do not object so much to men wearing skirts in Scotland or from Polynesian cultures — as long as we don’t call them skirts — and there is no longer the backlash against women wearing pants that there was 60+ years ago. Different cultures, different rules. But the definitions of what it is to belong to one camp or the other extends to all aspects of life: music and language, work and play, and the words we use to define ourselves. All forms of expression are filtered through the lens of gender.

1024px-Kvinde-emancipationNon-conformity to the cultural definition of gender presents problems both within the person, and from the greater society that concerns itself, like that one nosey neighbour, with policing the way we all live. “Step out of line, the men come and take you away.” Internal conflict manifests as depression, anger, risk-taking, suicide, denial, and failed self-corrective measures. External conflict is visited upon the gender non-conformist as bullying and verbal abuse, loss of livelihood, loss of housing, desertion by family and friends, and physical violence including mutilation and murder. Gender, however, is not shared victimhood, in spite of how some have framed it. Identifying with other victims of gender-based violence or discrimination is one thing, to ascribe that to being a requirement to identify as a sex or gender is disturbing.

There are extreme disparities between the sexes and genders, where masculinity and maleness is regarded and enforced as dominant and superior to femininity and femaleness. In all aspects of this society, it is more advantageous to be male than female, which however, is a cultural bias, not a natural one. Culture evolves, and is changing to be more egalitarian, but there is so far yet to go on that path. Gender, also, is not a patriarchal construct, though the majority of the various historical cultures that have defined it for the past 4,500 years have been. The current gender definitions are based on the misogynistic societal structures developed by those patriarchal political institutions, but the concept and practise of gender need not be tied to that, and indeed exists in matriarchal societies of the past and present.

sp30406Because of how gender is culturally adhered to one’s sex, the body image of males and females are tied up into our concept of gender, as well. Here is where we understandably get the two things confused. Girls who want to play being “womanly” (as our culture defines it) try on makeup and pad their shirts to imitate breasts, and walk about in mom’s pumps, while little boys who emulate daddy might try shaving their faces or drawing a beard on, and wear on his clothes. Conversely, when son and father ask mommy for a sandwich, they’re both playing the role of child, and only one has a good excuse for it. Pantomime is practise for being the people they hope to be, basic mimicry which is responsible for much of our learning.

So, we’ve come a long way, together, and we’ve covered a lot of familiar territory, but I don’t see where exactly is everyone wrong about this gender identity thing?” you say, and I hear you. What we haven’t explored yet is how we come to understand our own invisible gender identities, how we identify with women and men, and how we express ourselves according to those identities.

Rather than go into the history of identity theory, I’m going to throw this statement out, and you can research your hearts away: gender identity is an inherent aspect of our personal identity that is, in the vast majority of people, unchangeable at any age or by any method. Put the notepad down, I’ll repeat it later. There are notable exceptions, as there are to the binary sex model, and they are as valid in their self-definition as anyone else. Genderqueer, agender , and a host of other labels including and beyond the new offerings by Facebook are used to describe how some experience their relationship to gender. Our lack of language surrounding this is a great barrier when we talk about people for whom their gender identity does not mesh with the prescribed gender paradigm assigned to them upon the first shameless presentation of their genitals to the world. The basic term people like this is transsexual, though you’ll hear it less than the more popular (because it lacks the word sex), transgender. Both mean to move across or between something, trans being the Latin for “across, over, or beyond.” But transgender is misleading because it is an umbrella term that covers a host of different sub-groups. Most transgender people are not moving between genders as their gender identity has and does not change. For crossdressers, who are predominantly straight men that wear traditionally feminine dress and their female counterparts who are now nearly indistinguishable as a group since culturally accepted clothing choices for women are relaxed, and transvestites, whose historical definition is decidedly fetishistic in nature, their gender identity matches their body’s sex. For the sake of the children, I’m going to focus on the first group mentioned, transsexuals.

Transsexuals are the people famously “born” or “trapped in the wrong body.” Most, but not all, who survive the cultural gauntlet, go on to legally and/or physically transition within their culture to be recognised as members of whichever sex they identify as far as their conscience, cultures, financial status, and local laws permit. Lord! That’s an awkward mouthful! Why can’t we just say that they change their sex or gender, or that they became the opposite sex and call it a night? Because it’s completely inaccurate, misleading, and doesn’t foster an understanding of these people and reinforces false and damaging ideas about who they are.

One argument lobbed at this group is that you cannot change your sex, and that is both true and false, based on one’s definition, which leads to some confusion and a lot of misunderstanding. If you limit your understanding of sex to genital configuration, then, yes, it’s a relative snap to change one’s sex. There are specialists all over the world that have performed and refined the various methods of reconfiguring the nether bits into somewhat reasonable facsimiles of the OPPs. Trans women (assigned male at birth, but with a feminine gender identity) have much better results than trans men, for whom the products of phalloplasty are rudimentary and only recognisable as a penis because of anatomical location. Those also require disfiguring grafts from the thigh or forearm, which, combined with poor performance and high cost, make genital confirmation surgery unrealistic for many trans men.

Now, if you only define changing sex by switching reproductive ability or chromosomal makeup, it’s quite impossible. The past few years have seen strides in uterine transplants and test-tube vaginas, but there have been no tests on trans women as yet, and gonadal swapping is not at all a reality, so reproductively, it’s still science fiction. Especially for the guys. Again. No gene therapy can change chromosomal makeup, which kills that idea. But sex is not so easy to define, and the way it develops within our bodies is not nearly as tidy and either-or as we believe.

Men are men and women are women! Men have an x and a y chromosome, women have two x chromosomes, you can’t change that, it’s Science, predetermination, biological essentialism, and just makes sense, dammit!” Consider this case: There is a family in Egypt wherein the mother has a predominant karyotype of 46xy, that’s male for the chromosomally-defined inclined, and yet she developed normally as a female, naturally conceived and gave birth, and still has to pick up her husband’s absent-mindedly discarded socks every day. Her daughter is likewise predominantly 46xy. Well, shit! There goes that theory. “But wait!” you say. “That’s only one example in billions. Surely, it doesn’t mean anything.” That’s not all, and don’t call me Shirley. Did you catch that bit where I said “predominant karyotype?” It’s because she and her daughter have two genetic karyotypes in their bodies. People, animals and plants which have this are said to have mosaicism when the different genetic lines are caused by a mutation in the organism, or chimerism when two fertilised blastocysts or zygotes merge in utero to form one organism. This happens more often than was initially expected. A test found both 46xy and 45x cells in me, in fact.

These are two examples of a group of people who are called intersex, and remember that story about the box-forts from way back at the beginning? Intersex people are the millions who live outside the forts, between and all around. About one in every hundred children is born with some form of intersex condition (formerly known as pseudo-hermaphroditism, and more recently described as DSD — disorders of sexual development), of which there are many causes. Trippy, huh? It’s one of the most common types of birth defects, and yet gets no love from What To Expect or the Dr. Sears series of books.

Why did we switch over to intersex people? What do they have to do with transsexuals?” Valid questions, so here goes: There’s not a whole lot of research into why transsexuals are the way they are, but what there is points to it correlating to the development of the brain as a possible cause as in this example. A more exhaustive collection of studies can be found here, to peruse or ignore at your leisure. My assertion is that transsexuals would also fall under the intersex canopy because it is a physical condition that blurs and crosses the line between male- and female-bodied people. The seat of our identity is in our brains, not in our crotch, no matter from where some people may seem to derive the majority of their thoughts. So it would seem there is a correlation between the brain’s development and gender identity. But why do we identify as a gender (or both or in-between or neither), at all?!?!

When we are born, we learn through observation and as we develop our coordination further, by acting on those observations, mimicry. Via observation, we also learn to discern and connect things. We can distinguish between familiar and foreign accents and faces from just a few days old. As our understanding and self-awareness increases, we learn about family and other relational qualities. Have you ever witnessed the first time a child meets a person of a different ethnic or racial group with unfamiliar features? The child recognises something new and different. How that child reacts to new things is both personal and cultural, but they soon learn that there are different groups of people.

Two of the first groups they can distinguish between are men and women, and they recognise the differences well before similarities. It may come out as the child calling all men “dada” and all women “mama” for a time until they learn that mom and dad are unique members of those groups, and most children will make the connection about which groups they, themselves, “belong” to in early toddlerdom. At one point, researchers in the ‘60s and ’70s thought gender identity was not set and could be changed, but this has long since been disproven to all but a few holdovers. Psychologists have understood for the past 30 years that our gender identities are fixed, they say, by age three, but I would argue that this number is based on the age most people can understand the differences in the sexes and genders, and not that they are mutable until then. I know some lovely people who came to the realisation that their gender identity was not cisgender much later than three. Why? I cannot say, but there is some research into the proportions of white matter in certain parts of the brain that doesn’t finish developing until people are in their 20s and that is analogous to gender identity, or it might be that their identities are nonbinary as touched on above, and they hadn’t felt compelled to express it until further along in life. Really, though, it doesn’t matter the whys and wherefores. We should walk away with the knowledge that identity, while influenced by and seen through the filter of culture, can only be understood by the self. We cannot dictate personal identity, nor can it be suppressed for too long without causing psychological trauma.

Whatever the causes and ways of recognising gender identity, it seems we have an early understanding of which tribe(s) we belong to, or identify with, and that sticks with us. Then, we look at everything that defines that group, from the associated bodies to the clothing, relationships, and behaviours. Those things we adopt or reject according to individual tastes and abilities. Our own presentations are constantly undergoing an evaluation and comparison to others of our group. Fashions, “attractive” body types, slang, popular activities, subcultural association, and grooming styles are always in a state of flux, and constant monitoring keeps our presentation in alignment with current cultural norms. Gender is the roles we play and how we play them as defined by our culture.

WomenFriendsCrossedLegsAnd gender identity is an intrinsic recognition of belonging (or not) to the male and/or female camps that has a strong correlation with brain structure, which is expressed socially through shared, culturally prescribed modes of dress, movement, language, social roles, activities, values, and body presentations. I told you that I’d repeat that, and I even threw in a couple of extra. Most of the time, there is not a conflict between the assigned sex and the gender identity of the person, these persons are called cisgender, and they make up 99% of us. The question has been asked whether transsexuals would seek physical transition if society recognised them as a member of the gender without the associated sexed body. Who can say? I think body image is so tied to our ideas about gender that it is necessary for the person to make their body fit their identity as closely as possible, and both the AMA (American Medical Association) and APA (American Psychological Association), among others, agree. Any other birth defect would be surgically corrected, when possible, so why not this one?

Gender is so basic to our understanding of what it is to be human, that any transgression of the culture-specific rules is usually met with either intensely curious fascination or swift correction and punishment. “Who are these odd creatures outside the palisades, and do they mean us harm?” They are us, and no they don’t, but they may challenge what you previously accepted as normal. Humans are beings of infinite variety, in every respect. Our challenge is to recognise and accept that, then teach it to our children so that the world they live in can be full of open doors where we are welcome to dwell wherever they may, and breathe freely the air flowing about and through us all.

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So, a lot has happened since writing last. The 12 of you who read this blog probably know most of it. My daughter had surgery to remove the last of the big bits of tumour from her spinal cord. She passed through that with flying colours, and is now in dance class. My primary client for the first 6 months of 2012 took a break from my services to attend to other matters, and I squeaked by while helping another person, whom I can now call a friend, close her business and attend to another chapter in her adventurous life. I now work out of 2 studios, or at least that’s the idea, now I have to get to the getting of work to carry on there. To that end, I’m re-launching my business, Artemisian Studios, soon. More in another post about that.

On to the meat of this post: Several incidents over the past year have challenged both my daughter and I, and reinforced the necessity of raising this girl to be self-reliant and both emotionally resilient and physically capable of defending herself at the very least. She’s petite, a quality which is an advantage in clothes-shopping, but a huge disadvantage in dealing with predators and bullies, the latter two having cropped up more frequently than the former. Another challenge is that she is naturally “cautious” in her physicality. She’d march across a street without looking, but jumping off the curb is reason to pause and consider the potentially painful ramifications in their infinite entirety. She learned early that gravity is a tough mistress. Increasingly, she is afraid of creepy-crawlies, an acquired phobia (among many behaviours and ideas) from some of the other girls on the playground who react to a common centipede like I do to the cinematic human variety (shudders). I understand the desire to fit in, the adoption of social norms that are at odds with my nature for the sake of blending where difference is met with disapproval and ridicule. I get that. But secretly, though I guess not anymore, it pisses me the fuck off that other parents observe and condone these burgeoning weaknesses in their own children. I said weaknesses, because being paralysed by fear of a bug or slug or the stigma of not being afraid of them is a weakness. “Sugar and spice, and all that’s nice – that’s what little girls are made of.”

But I’m not raising a little girl; I’m raising a future woman. Most of my female identified friends were socialised to be the girlie-girls with bows in their hair, and dreaming of their dream wedding, flowing gown, the dashing man they would walk down that isle to, and their eventual 2.5 children. We’ve all spent hours listening to the dashed hopes and dreams of friends from Jr high to this day as they try to reconcile the supposedly ideal world they were sold as reality in youth from peers and society, with the often swarthier truth of bugs in the house, abuse, complex relationship issues, interpersonal power politics, conflicting desires, and the need for economic stability. Why? Because those “shoulds” of our forgotten pasts get in the way of our acceptance of the is that we eventually experience. The shoulds of girlhood (and boyhood, but I’m addressing my daughter’s development) become the foundation of our expectations as women. I want to change that for her. I want her to build upon the backs of her fore-mothers’ hard-learned truths. What’s the adage? “The smart man learns from his mistakes; the wise man learns from others’.” But we’re just repeating the same ones over and over.

“Girls will be girls” is another one of those old sayings, but this one is untrue. Girls will be women. Well, most of them. But they get the start that our patriarchal (aww, shit! I just busted the “P” word out) culture wants them to: namely, they are trained to accept their infantilisation from an early age. Please excuse my generalising, I realise this is not every girl’s experience, but there are trends and norms within groups that define the culture. So the value of a woman is still primarily revolves around youthful attractiveness, whereas intellect, athletic development, political involvement, personal ambition, and opinionated outspokenness are negative traits in girls and women while being the positive characteristics for boys and men. Those latter traits, the ones that rise from the developing mind (even the athleticism, as it a discipline) of all people are sold as undesirable and dangerous to the programmed goals of finding Mr. Right and becoming his dependent inferior. “Guys don’t like smart/strong/dominant/ugly/mannish girls.” How many times have you heard that? Have you said that? Do you still believe that? Boys are trained in that thinking, too. “She’s too much like a dude.” “What a dyke/bitch/cunt.” “You just got beat by a girl!” And this shit perpetuates itself.

Early this summer/late spring, a little boy called my dear daughter a bitch because she wouldn’t let him take something of hers, and he felt entitled to it. Now, I have heard her be imperious, strong-willed, opinionated, and controlling at times to this same child (age 5), mostly in response to his trying to take her things and tell her what to do while screaming over her protests as if to drown her out, to dominate her. I can understand her frustration and unwillingness to deal with this kid, but his older and much less grabby and abusive brother is her friend, and an advocate for her in his younger brother’s presence. But what possessed a 5 year old to call my daughter a bitch – apart from poor examples at home and in the immediate community – is his butt-hurt over not being able to control her or her things. How early this drama begins! I heard the exchange outside the front door, and I was enraged. I was enraged at the kid, his parents, and the whole of Western civilisation back to the Mycenaean invasion of Crete. What my daughter said next gave me pause and quenched my fury, somewhat. Without missing a beat, she told him “Nobody talks to me that way, and I will not accept that language!” This, from a seven year old (nearly seven). This is what I want for all our girls, for all women to feel. There’s a Roseanne quote floating around Facebook, and whatever your opinion of her is, this line is powerful: “The thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power. You just take it.” Hell to the yes, this.

Religious, and therefor, legal texts codify inequality. Fathers and mothers, friends and neighbours, and social institutions reinforce the idea of inequality in the minds of the young and old. It’s written into the DNA of our current paradigm. My strong-minded daughter is under attack every day. By her nature, she wants to fit in, and abhors confrontation. Her peers are falling into the traps set out before them like generations before, and we think it’s adorable. Her school seeks to break down that mindfuck, and I appreciate that oasis, and the great examples set by the staff, but the kids go home to their families and places of worship and after-school extra-curriculars. The change has to be on the macro scale. Social re-engineering on a massive scale, much like the digital revolution. Indeed, I was hopeful that the advent of the internet and its ability to transmit and share information would make it easier for this to happen. Maybe it is, slowly. Looking at websites designed for women, though, I see the same content as the 1886 copy of a local mid-western women’s magazine, which was written and edited exclusively by men. Family, home, cooking, entertainment, horoscopes, advice for coping in a man’s world. More reinforcement of acceptable ambitions. Young women eat this shit up, only to realise later in life that it’s all just a pink smokescreen spread to hide our disenfranchisement.

We need to think critically about our world, not mindlessly accept it as it has been presented to us. We need support our assumption of the power that is ours and not give it away to someone else. We need to provide real-life examples of great women, instead of the radically self-absorbed and shallow caricatures portrayed on TV and in music and fiction books and mirrored by their consumers. We need to create a world in which our children assume equality and respect for each-other instead of assuming it must be fought for tooth and nail. We need to pass down our proverbial Wonder Woman Underoos – the gift of wisdom from our experiences and lessons from our mothers – to the generations coming up, and start early.

So how does this change occur? Who even cares? What’s Snookie’s weight at today? I heard that Tasha blew the whole football team – what a slut. Calculus is stupid, I dropped it. I think Shane’s going to pop the question, finally! Mom is really putting on the heat for a grandchild. I’m such a terrible mother. Ooh, watch Chastity dance in the talent show just like Beyonce! We don’t discuss those topics, it’s impolite.

Dear Diary:
I want our own place. I want to be able to scream my fucking head silly with frustration and all this negative fear inside without having people on either side of me think that I’m just a raving psycho and call the men in white coats to come take me away. I want a place I can go into the woods and release this black tar that’s sticking to my heart, binding and choking it, without waking Kat through the paper-thin floors and walls. I want a place for all of our everything. I want a place of grounding, a real home, a base, bedrock, wombspace. I want my baba back. I want her to tell me everything’s going to be okay, because I tell myself it will be, but I don’t believe me because I know that I don’t know that. There’s a picture of her holding me as an infant of maybe at 7 or 8 months, in the front yard of her house. I want to remember that. All of my memories are of detachment from people, no hugs, no snuggling or nestling, no comforting. I’m sure there was some, there, but maybe that’s one of those things I can’t believe, either. I hold Kat a lot because I want her to have memories of that because maybe that’s a good memory to wrap yourself in when you’re all alone and really scared and you know your teddy bear can’t soak up any more tears and you feel naked to the world and vulnerable and raw like a newborn kitten dumped out of a moving car onto a gravel road.

Gawd, listen to me. I. Me. I. Me. It’s all about me, right? Suck it up, shut up, and move on, Melanie. Your story’s almost over and hers is just beginning, so give her a good start.

I’m glad we had this talk.

Matt Damon, you suck. I picked up the movie We Bought A Zoo from Redbox to watch tonight. It’s about a comfortably middle class white family in which the mother has died and everybody is working through their grief when dad uses his sizeable inheritance to purchase an ailing animal park on a whim. Actually, it is a mediocre bit of schmaltzy rehash. I enjoyed it like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich except for this one shard of broken glass that runs through the whole movie: mom. Healing and reconstructing a life after her loss is the theme, so she figures prominently. Normally, this would be okay. Poe would have thought the plot to be well grounded, I think.

I just can’t do death, anymore. Me. Ms. suicidal teen USA. Mary, Queen of Macabre. My art was filled with gore, torture, and themes of death. My writings mirrored that. I still prefer black to any other colour in my attire. She who even recently considered becoming a mortician. I, I can’t handle the concept of death, anymore. I’m so disappointed in myself.

It’s because of my baby. I’ve been there. I’m still there. I’m going there on the 25th of June, it looks like. The date for surgery is the 25th. They’ll attempt another resection of what is left of her tumour. My ex still has questions, so we’re going to meet with the surgeons on Wednesday next. I could come up with more questions, but those I had, have already been answered. We’ll see how it goes with my prayers.

Every time she goes under anaesthesia before the MRIs, ever since the first one, I have to put myself under with her. I swallow the panic and fear that would otherwise drown me when her eyes flutter, roll back, and she becomes unresponsive. This surgery will be different than the first; it should be shorter, less traumatic in scope, more precise. In may ways it will be the same, though. the anaesthesia room kiss before she is rolled into the operating room. She will be catheterised, rolled onto her stomach, strapped down, the IVs inserted into each hand. Long rods will be screwed into her skull through a large metal halo that will ensure she is immobilised through the procedure. Electrodes will be inserted into her major muscle groups from the waist to her calves, monitoring nerve response.

After the initial incision, her trapezius, rhomboideus major, and erector spinae muscles will be severed and retracted from the spine around the T3 to T5 or T6 vertebrae. The dorsal bit of the spine will be removed from these vertebrae in a laminectomy, the old screws will need to be removed. Once the bone and it’s ligaments are removed, revealing the dura mater – the sheath that envelops the spinal cord, it is cut through, careful to avoid vital blood vessels which are sparse in this part of the spine. scar tissue from the first surgery 2.5 years ago will have to be assessed and dealt with. Once at the spinal cord, the precise location of the tumour is re-checked and an incision is made into the centre of the vital bundle of nerves that allow for communication between the brain and all the lower part of her body. Nerves are necessarily severed, and here the damage/healing starts. The tumour differs only slightly from the surrounding healthy nerve tissue. A narrow tube that vibrates at ultrasonic frequencies is inserted where the surgeons believe the tumour is. they liquefy and the tissue is immediately evacuated through the tube. Every so often, they check for damage to the different muscle groups via the aforementioned electrodes embedded in the muscles. No or limited response and you stop sucking in that area and move on to another. Rinse and repeat until the surgeons are confident they have taken what they can, then everything is sewn and screwed up in reverse order. The electrodes are removed, as are the long rods, the intubation tube, and she is wheeled into recovery.

We won’t know what damage was done to what nerves until after she wakes up, and is coherent enough to take simple instructions to see if she can move her legs, feet, and toes. She will have 2 IV shunts to switch between morphine and saline to keep her hydrated. The morphine burns every time it enters the vein. The day after surgery, she is wheeled into the MRI to get a follow-up and see what the results of their efforts were on the tumour. After 2 days she will be slathered in plaster to make a mould for a clam-shell brace to support her spine while the newly attached ligaments, tendons, muscle and bones heal together. If hr legs are strong enough, and her brace comes in, she will have the opportunity to try to walk on the 3rd day. Barring any complications, she will have the catheter out on the 3rd or 4th day after surgery, and we will see how her bladder control is. Hopefully, she will be able to have a bowel movement, too, and that will be the end of the hospital stay. Then it’s back home to recover for a few weeks followed by any physical therapy that may be needed.

Within 2 weeks we will have the tissue results that will tell us if the tumour was still grade 1, which is benign, or if it has “upgraded” to a higher level that may require other measures, including chemotherapy or radiation treatments at the Cyclotron here in Bloomington, or if it’s a grade 4, to enjoy what time we have left together, usually 1-5 years from diagnosis.

Some of our friends have been on the receiving end of a miracle or two, a couple never got theirs. We’ve been blessed with one, already, and I am forever grateful for it. But there is that horrid dread that supersedes worry, hiding at the edges of my psyche. My ex has it, too. We all have it. But it can’t be shown leniency, it must be held back. There’s no time for that when the dishes and clothes and homework have to be done, tickle wars have to be waged, and every giggle, laugh, word and deed must be cherished. I want to hug her into me, to protect her, keep her safe from the world outside, but it’s the trouble within that confounds me. I’m powerless. I can’t kiss this better. All I know to do is to pray, love, laugh, and cry. Tonight, Matt Damon made me cry and fear. I may never forgive him for that.

Problems with ‘publicans

It’s only May, and I’m already so sick of the politicians and my country’s devolution, that I want to bury my head in the sand and forget the whole business. But that is something I cannot do, because half of the electorate endorse policies that are antithetical to my existence. This is where I talk to the “conservatives” and those so far-right in their ideologies as to be regressionist in their ambition. Um, this means you Republicans.

Those of you who claim the mantle of conservative, including those in my family, read well this rambling bit, because one of your duties as a citizen is to be of an informed electorate. Please tell me you get that, because it is one of the principles this nation was founded on, and your party of choice is so very fond of waving around the Constitution and Declaration of Independence and referring to it while directly opposing in rhetoric and policy those very shrines of our society’s founding principles. Please read those documents, including all the amendments to the constitution, because those are the basis for the rule of law here, and are to be applied to all citizens, period.

It is an embarrassment that we have a hard time coming to terms with the equality of our people. Former slaves and women had to fight to gain recognition of their humanity and equality. Who did they have to wrest that recognition from, and why? Why are we still locked in struggles against the elevation of all of our citizenry? We are all created equal in value if not ability and form. Anything else is an oppressive mentality, and that oppression is the very thing that is tearing us down. The desire to control, invalidate, and suppress people based on whatever differences that the traditional power-hoarders feel threatened by is the root of all these disruptive “movements” throughout our history. And by assuming that these people who seek to keep a majority of the country from full participation are justified and correct, is akin to serving the abuser who uses the same tactics to dehumanise their co-dependent victim.

As a survivor, but no longer victim, of both parental and spousal abusers, no desire is left in me to be the victim of my country’s leaders’ inhumane treatment. The politicisation of my body, whether it be because I am an intersex/transsexual or a woman is indefensible except by the tenets of some religion. Rather the religious basis is thrown up as support for personal prejudices. Enslavement and dehumanisation of women and slaves had the same books thrown up in defence of their oppression as is now happening in the opposition of equality for GLBT people from marriage rights to the right to use appropriate public facilities to discrimination in hiring and housing. It’s nothing new, it’s the same argument, the same props, the same vitriol and propaganda, and the same injustice as it has always been, only with another group to focus on.

I’m going to preface this next section by saying that I know a good number of Christians who try to live the words of Jesus and live in Love. But they are not as loud as nor as organised as the people who through fear, live in hate, and attempt to impose their beliefs by denying the rights they enjoy from others.

So let me address Christianity’s role in the oppression narrative. In it’s inception, the Jewish sect suffered persecution as all emergent social groups do. a culture of persecution persists to this day in the popular evangelical groups, and this underlying perpetual victimisation as perceived as coming from Satan (“the adversary”) surfaces as fear of the eternal “Other.” Any threat to the understandings of followers, however shallow or mistaken those understandings or blind beliefs are, constitute an attack upon their reality by the great Adversary, the antithesis of God. The Other is thereby literally “demonised,” and as such, it cannot be reasoned away. It is evil, destructive, unnatural, corruptive, insidious, unholy, and thus deserves extermination. This took the form of the Crusades, the Inquisition, the continuing Witch Hunts (Europe to America and Africa, the genocide of the Americas, the enslavement of non-white people and the white poor, women’s chattel status, lynching in the 19th and 20th centuries, and the aforementioned denial of the full humanity of non-whites and women that persists today. The persecuted became the persecutor, or, rather the destructive cultures adopted Christianity and used it as a tool of oppression. Christianity, itself is not a problem, outside it’s hyper-misogynistic foundations, it’s the anti-social sociopaths who use its book as fictional “basis” for their personal, self-serving agendas.

As Christians, one is required to follow the words of the Christ, after all, He’s kind of the main character in the story. So, conservative, Christian Americans out there who rail against openly available healthcare, “entitlements” for the poor, homosexuality, transgender people, the freedom of a woman to make decisions about her own body, and we’ll throw in slavery because it never ended.

What exactly does Jesus say about the poor?

And what of the sick? He healed them without reservation,

About women Jesus mentioned nothing about their equality or inequality explicitly (nor anything about abortion), but treated them as individuals, no different than the men he met, ultimately proclaiming in Galatians (3:28): “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”

About slavery? Matthew (20:26-28) “If you want to be great, you must be the servant of all the others. And if you want to be first, you must be the slave of the rest. The Son of Man did not come to be a slave master, but a slave who will give his life to rescue many people.” or, more succinctly: Mark (10:44) “Whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else.” “But wait, that’s spiritual and metaphorical slavery,” you say. Yes it is.

And what about the GLBTI folk out there? Matthew (19:12-13): “Jesus replied, ‘Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it’. Born that way is the thing, here. There is some speculation as to who these passages cove, or if they mean much at all, but for most people around the world, outside of the modern Western world, the births of intersexed people and animals (sometimes mistakenly called hermaphrodites), and as our understanding of just what influences who and what we are expands, we find that there are physical and genetic differences in those attracted to the same sex as compared to those who are heterosexually oriented, so this passage would also seem to apply to those who didn’t follow the “normal” social path of pairing up with a member of the opposite sex and having babies.

Oh, what did Jesus say about marriage? Well, in no uncertain terms, his problems were with divorce, and he absolutely ruled out remarriage after after one. Read it: Mark (10:2-12) And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to put her away.” But Jesus said to them, “For your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

So what is my point? that those who wield the Bible and spout biblically inspired claptrap as the foundations for restrictive and punitive laws for any segment of the population are your anti-Christs, your false prophets, and they are preying on your ignorance on the matters to get you to support their denial of the equality this country is supposed to guarantee for every citizen regardless of religion or any other ideological or physical reason. “But Leviticus and Deuteronomy?” you shout, “surely those condemn homosexuality and cross-dressing.” How about this, go back and read those books of the Torah, Mosaic laws governing how the ancient Hebrews were to live. Now, after you’ve done that, enumerate how many of those commandments you break every day. Now shut up about it, because you’ve probably violated five within the past week without even having to try. “But Jesus died for our sins, thus negating some of those.” Yeah, which ones, specifically? Are you insinuating that Jesus died so that you can eat bacon and shrimp while wearing a cotton/poly blend top? I smell bull, here, and it’s not coming from your altar-fire.

But what about Judaism and Islam? They condemn the same stuff in their books, right? After all, the Old Testament is the Torah, and Islam recognises the Pentateuch (five books of Moses) as the word of God, too. Yes, true, and I’ve read translations of both the TaNaKH and the Qur’an, and they describe in bloody detail how not cool they are with women, foreigners, and homosexuals. Here is a difference, though. In the United States, despite the spurious evidence ejaculated by white supremacy groups, the direct influence exerted by these faiths’ traditional laws on the modern political arena is minimal.

It seems that I would be attacking straight, white, cis-gendered, Christian men, here, wouldn’t it? While it is true that those are characteristics shared by the majority of the people who deny equality for the rest, they are not required. Fear of losing privilege and the resultant need for absolute control of those you feel threatened by through institutionalised denial of their equality is the only criteria entry into that club.

Now, that club is predominantly represented by the Republican platform of strict social conservatism. Fiscal responsibility is obviously not either of the main parties’ actual goal, despite the rhetoric, so I will not address it. Far from the ideas represented in the Constitution, Republican efforts have been centred on repression, denial of rights, discrimination, and oppression. So-called “right to work” laws and their public servant kin that strip rights to collective bargaining lower wages and allow for a slackening of requirements of safe working environments as well as take away health care options for millions. Bullying laws support hostile conditions in schools by protecting the free-speech of bullies and stifling the same rights for the victims. Money is stripped from school budgets, inaccurate and simplistic assessment methods are mandated for inflexible and arbitrary performance requirements while the same people who took the funding and instituted the indefensible expectations proclaim the schools to be failing the children. Women are demonised for being sexual, rape and incest is defended, and the right to the sanctity of a woman’s own body is being stripped away. Transgender access to appropriate bathrooms is coming under fire. Homosexual people and couples are denied equality in marriage and adoption options in most states. People of colour still face institutionalised discrimination, and modern voting access restriction laws disenfranchise them and the poor and the aged. The poor in this country, roughly half of us, suffer from the deregulation, outsourcing, and flight of jobs supported by the policies pushed by Republicans. And who can claim to be all about Christian “values,” and deny access to health care to a quarter of the population? Arrogant, self-serving, sanctimonious, sociopathic, control freaks, that’s who. And you, you help them.

Democrats are not without blame, by any stretch, but they are less anti-Constitutional values, at least on the surface, than the Republicans. I would argue that their platform positions are also more in tune with the teachings of the very One that the Republican “base” purportedly believes in. Like my parents, I aspire to the designation of “independent” when it comes to politics and voting. I would have no problem supporting a Republican for office if that person embodied any of the traditional values of that party. Unfortunately, the party of Lincoln is now the party of Fallwell, limited government is a joke except to those crushed under the regulation of everyday life, and fiscal responsibility no longer applies when there are wars to wage against drugs, terror, and women. Ignorance and hate wrapped in the Shroud of Turin appear to be the values of the modern Republican party. If I’m wrong, somebody please show me how.

P.S.:
“… with Liberty and Justice for All.” (The “under God” was not originally in there. Revisionists!)

A girl at Bloomington North high school committed suicide on Tuesday. Her mom said that she was being bullied, the principal said that he found no evidence of it. I’d just like to say this about that last bit with the principal.

*ahem*

FUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOU!!!

There. As an administrator, you have a pulse on the trends at the school, you may even have a rapport with some of the students. Boffo for you. But here’s something that you and the teachers, and the parents are usually not privy to: anything said in the halls, bathrooms, lunch lines, locker rooms, busses, and class rooms. You are ignorant of the realities that swirl and collide before you every day, or you had better be, because if you actually know what is being said and done within the walls of your institution, you are complicit in the activities that are ruining lives. So, please, Principal Henderson, STFU before you say something else stupid. Shut up and listen. Listen to the kids, the talk in the halls when you’re not noticed, the niggling cruelties between each-other that eat like acid through the developing identities of your students. All of you, just listen, then, put a stop to it.

Kids will be kids, but they will be the kids they are guided into being. By ignoring or dismissing one act of bullying, you are condoning it. Nip that shit in the bud. Anyone seeing that, call it out for what it is – psychological and/or physical abuse.

I applaud Dynasty Young’s mom who tried official channels to curb the torment her son faced at Arsenal Tech high school in Indianapolis. She could get no help from the school, so she gave her embattled child a stun gun. Not a taser, mind you, which shoots out barbs, but a handheld device that produces a high-voltage but low apm shock that temporarily incapacitates someone. So Dynasty took this device (some call it a weapon) to school and one day gets enircled and threatened with a good sound beating, oh, forgot this, because he’s “flamboyantly gay.” So in a moment when he is fearing for his safety, he pulls out the stun gun, holds it in the air, not at anyone< and presses the button which makes an impressive spark and snapping sound. His attackers back off, and Dynasty goes to class, only to be apprehended by school police and suspended. He had an expulsion hearing where he was kicked out of school, and his tormentors, who had threatened him regularly and even followed him home, throwing rocks and bottles at him, are still at school. Some people get hung up on the defensive weapon being taken to school, but this child was fighting for his life. His grades fell from As and Bs to Fs, he was physically attacked, stoned no less, and repeatedly targetted at school, and the principal (sensing a pattern here) when asked about stopping the bullying, chose to blame Dynasty for being too flamboyant. Victim blaming. Nothing better to build up the student's spirits.

But, Melanie, why are you so emotional about this? Well, funny you should ask. You see, I was suicidal for about 8 years of my life, much of it due to hiding my intersex/transsexual nature, but largely because of the abuse I received every day at school for six years. From 7th grade through graduation, I was tormented and harassed and faced down an older kid with a switchblade whose intent it was to save me the bother of suicide. There were petitions, weekly questionnaires, a daily chart of what I wore, songs, pranks, daily verbal abuse, false accusations, attempts to get me in trouble, and graffiti in my honour. Those who were my friends had to be the best characters in the world to be associated with a pariah like me. It would have been easy for me to believe that I was the only one to be bullied, but I saw it everywhere around me. Rumours, whole concocted mythologies about some people, name-calling and small assaults when the teachers' backs were turned. Two kids at the high school reportedly had HIV, but a hundred were accused of being them. Even I participated on a counter-attack on a group that had hurt a friend of mine.

Screw love, Pat, school is a battlefield. I survived, not everyone does. Years of therapy, alcoholism, drug abuse, ruined relationships, eating disorders, and the smattering of suicides are the casualties of this war. Even nearing my 40s, I know peers who are still trying to recover from the emotional damage they took in high school. This is not something new, it's just coming into the light with the interconnectedness of our world, we know within hours of another child lost to inattention and callous reactions. But still, reaction is the norm, and its effects are only local. Someone has to die before the problem is recognised and discussions about bullying begin. We're not a very proactive species, as a whole, and American culture is quite cold to those who suffer emotionally, two very horrific realities.

My daughter has some physical problems that she will have to live with perhaps all her (hopefully) long life. They are already a source of shame for her in first grade, and I worry about how she will react to kids that may latch onto that and poke fun at her for it. Bullying even goes on in her school, though teachers and administrators are quick to respond when it is brought to their attention. Yet even in this very conscious environment, children find time and opportunity to bully. It may be as ubiquitous as book bags, but so too was tuberculosis, and look what we've been able to do with that. For starters, I am teaching that everybody deserves respect from the start, and that she should accept nothing less in return. I do add that once respect is lost, on one side or the other, it may never be regained.

That's one concept I find missing from many people I meet these days. Respect seems to have been retired sometime in the 60s from the general culture. Oh, everyone may demand it, but it is rarely given, and when it is, it is usually in short measure. Like sex-ed, I think that the burden has to fall on schools to teach it to the kids, because like sex-ed, the parents alone are not always sufficiently versed in the subject enough to adequately instruct their children.

I'm tired, the clothes are dry, and I'm ending this here. I've taken to rambling, but I do want to hear a discussion about this instead of a bunch of "it gets better" stuff. Obviously, the message isn't reaching enough kids.

Stress is teh suk. Between the anxiety I feel now every time my baby goes for a weekend with my ex, said daughter’s health issues and impending surgery, money, hormone/transition problems (see money), diabetes, neuropathy, slipped discs, scleroderma, weight, lack of health insurance, wearing the mantle of Marketing Chair for the school fundraiser, and needing to touch up my roots, I’m a wreck. Not that I can’t handle it, but I get flustered easily. Somehow, I cannot sleep at night anymore. I’m not taking advantage of this gift of wakefulness, the house is great one week, the next it could be mistaken for a ring straight out of Mr. Dante’s Inferno. I’m behind in just about everything, and artistically frustrated to boot.

Does this stuff ever stop? Can there be a week or two without BS? Why am I asking you? One woman I know was bitten on her cheek by her dog and the developed a matching hive on the other, just for balance, like her immune system is OCD or something. How can you beat that shit? Another friend’s daughter had two epileptic seizures in short succession, with resultant injuries requiring trips to the hospital and stitches. Really, what have I to complain about? Everyone, including the more affluent of my acquaintances, is broke. I’m not the only one with problems, and yet I am so narcissistic that I believe everyone needs to hear of my woes. Maybe you do, just to know that someone else has to deal with their shit. Let’s continue. American culture is a festering bog of ignorance and apathy drowned in sex and drugs. My drug: Cherry Coke Zero, or at least two of the bottles I had, showed elevated levels of radioactivity according to my Geiger counter. No, not like the artist, H.R. Giger, why would I have a machine that counted those, and why would Cherry Coke Zero contain H.R. Giger? You ask weird questions.

I’m reading more news, which just serves to make me weep, piss me off, and then I just go back to the weeping because I can’t do a thing about the crap I read about. I’m an idealist, dammit! I need to believe in the ability to make this world a better place, but I can’t. Not in the face of all this greed and oppression with not a thing to my name and a daughter to raise. And speaking of, how exactly can I foster her own idealism and keep a hope in her for a good life when she’s already faced all she has in her nearly 7 years. I want her to be tough, yet able to laugh. I want her to assert herself and be thoughtful and giving. I don’t want her to take any shit, and I want her to be able to back herself up in that, if need be. And I want her to be a little girl who dances in the dandelions and makes faerie houses and is a vampire queen and witch queen and is a hampire which is a vampire hamster (though not all at the same time, mom! duh). She wants to be a singer, artist, rock star (somehow separate from singer), mother, puppy, Goddess, vet, gymnast, photographer, jewelry designer, farmer, fed, and in my lap all in about 2 hours (see earlier bit about the ring of hell my house becomes). How do I facilitate all of those things together? Hell, I have a hard enough time making something that she’ll eat for dinner. Gah! Oh, and I am a terrible playmate. I never really got into that whole play thing, before, and I was hoping that I would be challenged to do that with her, but my inner fuddy-duddy is too powerful.

I’m feeling a tad overwhelmed and despite several people telling me that I’m doing a great job, I’m not so sure I won’t screw the whole thing up and Kat will become a teenage mom/serial killer/hedge fund broker/Kardashian wannabe/Appalachian snake handling Wall Mart shopper because all she will eat is mild Slim-Jims, macaroni and cheese, Taco Bell, chicken and potatoes in their various guises, burgers from the Trojan Horse, a nice salad with Italian dressing only, corn, ice cream, and eggs sunny side up with toast, but only the yolk she can sop up with the toast, at least on days she hasn’t decided to be vegan. Oh, and candy. If it falls outside of this list or has any flavour or if it comes in a soup, deal’s off. I used to hold my breath to show displeasure with parental authority until I passed out, she will not eat for a day to protest my choice of food options or lack of planning around her dietary choices.

How the fuck do you people with multiple kids and partners do it? Am I missing something? Well, in the mean time, as I’m figuring out how to do that supermom transformation, I’m going to tiptoe around the 12 science experiments, art projects, a huge freaking radial arm saw, and costume change piles to the staircase 8 feet away to attempt a toss and turn before the alarm signals another solar period of juggling badgers.

Tranny Trolling

While I’m working on other projects, I’m going to share a story this morning. So, occasionally, I troll the craigslist forums looking for troglodytic brilliance only created by its regular denizens. I love me some “rants and raves” for the sheer butt-hurtedness of those who cannot accept some mundane thing like Pedestrians or wish to offer suggestions for better Restroom Conduct. Thanks, people! Also, I’ve come to look at ads posted by mens who are seeking the company of women of a similar stripe as myself. Only rarely is there any long-term relationship sought, which is fine, but the language used by posters seeking more immediate and decidedly temporary contact is telling of the lack of understanding that plagues many interactions between men and women.

I’ve come to notice that men and women seem to have a very limited understanding of each-other, often supported by (and/or influenced by) the prevailing culture. In general, women still have the fairy-tale dreams of prince charming and royal weddings and finding a man who knows how to navigate her like a riverboat captain on the Mississippi. Men, on the other hand have an understanding that these things are expected of them, but find little by way of training in these fields. Porn apparently has a huge influence on some men’s idea about how sex is supposed to work, which is just sad.

Personal confession: human sexuality fascinates me. The degree to which it permeates our culture is at once understandable considering its biological and psychological importance and surprising in its myriad expressions and outlets. Porn is one of those things that I don’t understand very well, yet, though it is all around us. It is a form of entertainment, a way to develop and fulfil fantasies (vicariously), and in some ways an instructional guide. I know men who have primarily had porn as their basis for understanding adult relations between the sexes. These relationships are not surprisingly shallow and contain an undercurrent of misogyny and inappropriate sexuality, as most porn that I have seen demonstrates. Now this is all based on personal observation, and so is anecdotal and skewed given my history, and the socioeconomic strata I have/do occupy. Also, this is a blog, and not a peer-reviewed journal, so I can say whatever comes to mind. Yay for me!

Being a transwoman, I am interested in how trans people are represented in media and how that is expressed in society. Scanning the posts listed under “m4t” in the craigslist personal ads (meaning man for trans, there is no w4t, interestingly enough), one is struck by the language used to call out for a hook-up: “tranny,” “ladyboy,” “sissy bottom,” “shemale,” and the like are in the titles. Type any of those things into google, and you get a LOT of porn links. Much like straight porn, tranny porn typically paints women as sex-crazed nymphos who either deceive straight men or dominate them forcing their ambiguity and maleness on guys who lose all inhibitions after a few feeble protests. To be fair, there are examples of men seeking the affections of a transwoman, specifically. But the titles and language of the porn and on associated websites use negative epithets like those previously mentioned, and others more specific to trans people in other countries and cultures. These terms also show up in popular media from online forums to magazines and TV. Jerry Springer comes to mind for his exploitation of our “otherness” on his sensationalistic and loosely scripted talkshow. More recently, popular shows like Jersey Shore have let the “t-word” slip. Last year, Susan Sarandon and RuPaul among many others spoke up for the use of the word “tranny” because they saw no harm in it. Drag queens and the GLBT community do use the word with some impunity much as the “n-word” is used in the African American community. The trouble is, that these words are also used by the people who do us harm, and I would argue that the porn industry is doing us harm, likewise.

So here is the point of my rant: the seeking of sex on craigslist is what it is, but those looking for a good time with transwomen are fairly obviously influenced by misleading and mischaracterisation of the object of their desire, and therefore, ill-prepared for such an interaction. To be sure this also happens with men seeking women for some no strings attached gymnastics in general. But just as trawling for women is not likely to get any responses if the words: bitch, ho, tramp, slut, and all those other little pet names are used in a plea, using derogatory language associated with transwomen will likewise produce few answers.

So, I offered my own, very informative and helpful ad, which didn’t last 12 hours before being flagged “inappropriate” in a section that openly solicits “some one who wants to be fucked.” Maybe I was too snarky. Maybe it was because I was not offering my glory holes up for their personal pleasure. Maybe it was a weinie-shrinker for guys looking to bring their unrealistic fantasies to fruition. I’ll post it here for your judgement.

This ad is aimed at all of you trannychasers and bisexual men out here cruising for a: “ladyboy,” “shemale,” “tranny,” or whatever word you use to describe a transgender woman, crossdresser, or transvestite.

That’s some weak sh!t, probably coming from watching too much porn. Here’s a hint for you: transwomen (and transmen) are people, not fleshlights, cum-dumpsters, or inflatable toys. We are real, and not all of us come from Brazil and have huge silicone-injected booties, and live only to give you a hard time *ahem*.

If you’re looking for a sex worker to help you with a fantasy, be a little more clear on that. Due to the staggering rates of unemployment and few legal protections from discrimination in the workplace (except in Bloomington proper and Indy), there are transwomen who work in the sex trades to make ends meet and for the medical costs of transition. They would probably love to help you out, as long as you are respectful and generous.

If you are honestly looking for a long-term relationship with someone who is navigating transition, get a f^cking clue, please. By putting into the body of your ad any of the aforementioned words, you are showing your ignorance of your target audience. So, heregoes:

Transwomen are women. For whatever biological reason, here we are with female-wired brains and male bodies that many are seeking to fit our identities. This is true for the group known as transsexuals. Intersex people are also born in-between sexes, but this term refers to those with other physical conditions and could be chromosomal, developmental, or metabolic in nature. It is possible to be both intersex and transgender, it’s not twice the fun, however.
Crossdressers and transvestites are different groups, they are men who dress in traditionally female clothes for various reasons of their own. I cannot speak of their experience because it is not my own. Gay men are men, if you want a gay man, you are probably bisexual or gay, and can stop reading this now and just go to the M4M section. Still here? Good, let’s proceed…

Calling us by the epithets we most often hear before someone is going to attack or belittle us doesn’t make transwomen get all hot and bothered for you, just like calling us b!tch or ho or stupid or garbage would be a huge turn off. Who knew? All those porn movies would suggest otherwise. I would posit that a person who uses such language is too immature to enter into a relationship with anyone, let alone a member of a marginalised and often victimised subset of the population. But maybe all of you are scary creepers who just want to pick on a vulnerable population.

It’s 2012, do your homework before it’s too late! There is this thing out there called Google, it’s big, and can be really misleading, but after some time spent navigating it, you will come to realise that Google is a modern day Library of Alexandria. Pretty cool. Now, once you’ve found it, type in “transgender,” and don’t go to the photo section, that way be monsters. Then, look for anything that looks boring (like this) and may lead you to form new appreciation for people. That’s what you’re looking for. Read. Lots of these sites have pictures, too.

Really, guys, I know you’ve fallen to cruising CraigsList for some action, but you still need game if you want to succeed here, otherwise it’s back to the booths in the “bookstore” for ya. Get off of 4chan and redtube and hottrannies4u or whatever and join the real world. Your hands will thank you for the rest, and you might actually learn to form fulfilling relationships with some decent people.

BTW, as an added bonus for sticking with this so long, I just want you to know that most transsexual women who are on hormone therapy have a MUCH reduced sex drive, and probably are unable to get or maintain an erection. Also, blocking the testosterone usually means that there is little to no ejaculate should you be suave enough to elicit an orgasm in her. You will not be bathing in trannybatter, most likely.

I did get a couple of “right on”s from men before it was taken down, and I was also solicited for two rim-jobs, oral sex, and a right good fucking. I’m so flattered! And people ask why I am not into dating or hooking-up. This is the festering, weed-choked pool from which to select a frog, and interested women haven’t been much better. Meh, I have a child, and I do not want her to be exposed to that kind of person and I’m not interested in that kind of relationship.

I accept you.

This does not mean that I necessarily love you, like you, want to engage in conversation with you, desire to meet you, will listen to you, agree with you, will fight for you, or want your company. I accept you for who you are. I will take your self-definition as you relate it for the truth. When that changes, as it does for everyone to varying degrees over their lives, I will still accept you.

That does not mean that I will not judge or even pre-judge you based on how you live, or that I will not scrutinise your self-definitions, or wonder why you have made the choices you have, nor does it mean that I will share your opinions, join your cause, or advocate for you. Accepting you does not exempt me from pitting my skills and energies against your chosen causes. I simply accept you.

What “acceptance” means to me is that I perceive a common humanity between us, and that I desire for you that which I desire for myself. For us, I desire: respect for our liberty and freedom, fairness and courtesy in all transactions, the ability to eat safe foods and drink clean water and enjoy adequate housing, the conditions to feel safe alone and in groups and crowds and throngs, the free pursuance of personal beliefs and independent thought, the right to be healthy, to be free to express ourselves honestly, freedom to defend ourselves and others, freedom to love consensually, to be able to live authentically, and mutual acceptance.

Acceptance is not tolerance. I tolerate those beliefs you express and deeds that you display which are in opposition to my own, so long as they do no harm to me or mine. I tolerate a certain amount of discomfort or annoyance you may cause. I tolerate such impositions because of my acceptance of you; however, whereas my acceptance is unconditional and unwavering, my tolerance is provisional and often of short duration.

How great of me to be so magnanimous? How egotistical for me to relate it? Yep, but I’m being honest. Mere tolerance for people is not good enough; we must accept their humanity to be human. We must seek our commonalities as a basis from which to found relationships as allies or adversaries. Anything less dooms our endeavours to failure. So, fighting for tolerance is not a lofty personal goal, it is not enough to be tolerated, we must be accepted as being as wonderfully fallible as everyone else and save tolerance for our words, actions, and associations.

WalMart. Fuck WalMart. Fuck up WalMart.

A friend posted a little link on Facebook to a movement to ask WalMart to not sell GMO sweetcorn products. That got me thinking of another angle to this problem (and if you don’t think that GMO foodstuffs are dangerous, google the word “Monsanto,” my spellcheck even automatically capitalises the name). Why are we asking them to do anything as if it works?

So, what is it going to take for people to wake up and stop supporting this cultural nemesis’ legitimacy? WalMart no longer even tries to market itself as a place to buy products made in the US as it did 20 years ago. It no longer has really inexpensive products, but they are really cheap. Their products are produced in countries that the majority of their customers cannot find on a map, under poor working conditions by impoverished people, some children, for little pay, only to be stocked and sold by people denied anything resembling a living wage (and forget benefits) in this country.

Are we so inured to the human cost of throwaway consumerism in a globalised economy that we can feel okay when we support them? Do we really need all that cheap plastic shit around our homes, anyway? There was a time when things that were poorly made with cheap materials were looked on with disgust. Quality was sought after, and could be found readily, if at a somewhat higher price ,or investment rather. We were taught to consider and be responsible for the consequences of our actions. I remember something about that; it was still within my short lifetime. So what happened to us, that we would even exalt a company that poisons us with contaminated food, insults us with inferior products, mistreats its employees, and degrades local economies?

It would not be legal or morally right of me to suggest that throngs of people go into their local WalMart on, say, May 1st at 9am EST, load up a cart, basket, or their arms with a bunch of the most expensive junk they can, and walk out the doors en masse. That’s just wrong. It’s theft. It’s really dumb because they have security cameras. Definitely do not do that. You may get arrested, and I am not condoning illegal behaviour despite my chequered past. For entertainment purposes only.

But, hypothetically, if a few thousand people did just that, it would serve as a poetic indictment of how that vile corporation has stolen the livelihoods of thousands of small business owners and employees from one coast to the next and corrupted the values of a nation.

Something you can do legally, is to just stop shopping there. Consider cultivating the power of the word “no” for both your kids and yourself. Educate yourself about from where and whom your possessions come. Look for products that you really need that are durably made, preferably domestically, or are used. Learn to fix things properly or find the right people to repair them (shameless plug omitted) instead of throwing everything away. Be more aware of craftsmanship’s value. Pass things on to others if you have no need of it. Kids’ clothes are a good place to start. Donate or recycle plastic items. Eliminate cheap toys as future gifts from or to your household. You needn’t be rich to appreciate or own items of quality, you simply need to develop your powers of discernment and refined taste.