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If you’ve spent any time reading this blog, it probably comes as little surprise to you if I say that I hate myself. The thing is, that statement is only half true– I hate that I’m trans, but I don’t actually hate myself. I believe that I deserve to be punished for being trans, but I don’t actually like it or get off on it.

Some of that mindset comes from the way I’ve felt for so much of my life– I had to be a good man or else I’d be teased, mocked and harassed. And I have been; both sides of it.

But what do I mean when I say I hate myself, or that it’s only half true? There’s a quote from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians that got itself stuck in my head: In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.

It seems to me that St. Paul was taking a person’s self-preservation instinct for granted. And so he should. I may hate myself, but if I stub my toe, do I not cradle it and let out a string of profanity? Do I not make certain to keep my hand out of a running garbage disposal? (If I were trying out for a job as a Bible translator, maybe I’d add, ‘Woe unto me, if I did not those things.) But what does self-preservation have to do with the idea of hating oneself?

Let me answer by way of an anecdote: I’m afraid of the dark. Everytime I get up at night to go pee, or anytime I have to wander around without the lights on, I actually carry a flashlight around with me. I don’t know why that is, but it is. I’m afraid there are monsters in the closet, Freddy Krueger hiding in my shower, Pennywise the Clown in the drain of the sink, calling out to me, “We all float down here…” The flashlight drives away the darkness and I can see well enough that I’m no longer afraid. But something weird has been happening since my suicide attempt– I’ve stopped carrying around the flashlight. In fact, I hope that if there are demons, devils or monsters and that if they do come out at night, they’ll slaughter me when I walk past.

The reason I bring this up is that I feel that prior to starting the working medication that I’m now on, it seems like my self preservation instincts were failing me, that instead of being afraid of something, regardless of the rationality of the fear, I should have been running and jumping the last few feet on the bed and instead found myself kneeling down and peering in the dark, convinced that the creature under my bed was going to claw my face off forthwith.

But is the self preservation instinct really what St. Paul is getting at when he says that no man hates his own flesh? I think not. If the Bible is really true, then I’m at least one exception (maybe the one that proves the rule, since I’m not, in fact, a man any longer) but I don’t think this is what he meant.

I think what we’re talking about is the notion that people are selfish. That we want those things that are best for ourselves, that we want what we cannot have, no matter how absurd it really is. As I said in my previous post, I want the miracle cure, I want to be a born girl. Wandering around in the dark, I want murder to find me instead of suicide. I want to die. But the desire underneath is that I really want to be at peace.

So why am I not at peace? Because there is something about myself that I hate, that I cannot stand. For all those people who say they love the sinner but hate the sin, I’m sorry, you’re full of shit, because I can’t even love myself when I hate that part of me. I either embrace it or I hate it enough that I will eventually destroy my own life.

In other words, there is internalized transphobia that I have to deal with. I’m afraid, hateful, of this part of myself and until I become okay with being different, with not fitting in, I will continue to hate that which does not blend in. One of the things I found out about myself as I started transitioning was that I wanted to pass, to blend in. I didn’t want people to see me and clock me as trans, I wanted them to think I was a normal cisgender girl. And I style my hair, do my makeup and dress like I expect a stereotypical woman will, I behave the way a stereotypical woman would behave, right down to liking boys, even though they’re not entirely my thing.

So how do I deal with this insistence of mine that I fit in? As I’ve already said, the time when I was androgynous and wasn’t getting read as a woman at all was very stressful. I wanted to fit in. I dealt with it through a kind of gleeful anger, a delight at smashing the status quo, at sticking myself right up in everyone’s face and saying “do you have a problem with me?”

When I realized that people were willing to fight back, I wilted. When I realized that people would discriminate against me, that they’d talk about me behind my back, I felt deflated, as though all the fight went right out of me. Whatever passing involves, for many of us, it isn’t a stealth existence. I need to be more at home with the idea of sticking it in everyone’s eye. The question is how? How do I change my whole mindset?

By not beating myself up, emotionally or physically, for failing to fit in. Others will take the opportunity to do that themselves. I ought not help them out, or make their assholishness any easier for them. By embracing who I am and all that entails. I’m transgender and I’m beautiful. I may not be mistaken for a cisgender girl all the time, but that doesn’t make me any less beautiful. By understanding that gender roles exist, but that they are as much a social construct as a fact of biology, we can realize that these things exist to be decimated; our fears aren’t supposed to control our lives, they deserve to be conquered.

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Throughout the process of transition, I always thought there was going to be some perfect looking finish line, complete with flags and ribbons and medals and photographers, I thought that I would know when I had finished, when I was “officially” a woman. 

What I’ve learned is that the initial idea in my head is only so much foolishness, as most pre-conceptions are.  Instead, I’m nearing the end of this part of my life (in a metaphorical sense) and I find that I have more questions and less solidity than I did when I started. 

As I’ve said before, I’ve done all I can do in the process of transition short of having surgery.  I’m not actually done with electrolysis either, but I’ve changed my name (and gender, when applicable and possible) on all sorts of things– my college degrees, bank accounts, credit reports, social security card, passport.  I had a list of all the places I had to deal with when I changed my name.  It took me almost a full year to do all of it.  But now that I’m here, where surgery is the last thing I have to do, I’m sitting with more questions:

Am I a real woman?  What does that even mean?  Am I a freak, neither fish nor fowl?  Am I happy?  Was transition the right decision?  Do I pass?  Does it matter if I pass?  To what extent does my internal identity matter?  To what extent does external validation of my gender prove that I’m right?  Am I a fraud?  Was I a fraud? 

Obviously, answering these questions in one sense is only so much preaching to the choir.  I’m going to come up with answers that support my decision to transition, even if they’re not true.  I have too much invested at this point to turn back around.  I like to think though, that if I were truly and legitimately unhappy with my gender identity as a woman, I’d de-transition.  I went this far thinking it was right, I think I’d be willing to undo all of it if that was the right course of action. 

I also think that part of the answers to the questions above are… ineffable.  The answers can’t be known.  What makes a person a woman, or a real woman, is going to be different for each woman, just as each woman is different. 

Whether I’m a freak or not is perhaps a more answerable question, but I think the question under that question is whether I’m happy.  A person can do something unexpected, or even unacceptable, and be labeled a freak, but still be happy.  In fact, LGBT people do it all the time.  How often do we come out to friends or family and have them call us perverts?  Maybe I am a freak, but at least I’m being true to myself.  And so it is with everyone who has to come out of a proverbial closet at some point.  We may be labeled in derogatory fashion but we also weigh the invective against the value of our own happiness at finally being able to be ourselves.  It’s the answer to this question that determines whether transition was the right decision for me. 

The question of passing is something I dealt with a few posts back.  I don’t really want to re-visit it, but I will sum it up– passing isn’t about fooling people.  It’s about being accepted as myself by people who see me for who I am.  In that sense, I think I pass very well. 

When examining the value of an internal identity versus external validation, I think it’s most useful to use the case study of David Reimer.  David was born male but his penis was irreparably damaged during circumcision.  The nurture-over-nature psychologists recommended transitioning David to a life as a girl, an effort his parents undertook from around the time he was 1 year old to about his 14th birthday.  Despite initial reports about the success of David’s reassignment, later stories about his life indicate that much of the optimism was ill-founded.  David transitioned back to life as a man when he was an adult.  Rather than provide an excess of exigesis on the story, I’d like to just say that it’s quite apparent that a person’s internalized identity has a huge role in their public identity, regardless of how they’re raised. 

I believe that we tend to do best when our internal identities are validated publicly; in other words, when a boy is praised as a boy by others in society.  If that boy were really a girl born in a boy’s body, she might be told that she’s acting inappropriately and it’s the conflict that creates so much discord in the girl’s identity.  That discord leads to the questions over feeling fraudlent that I asked above, the sense that one is not really a woman at the same time that one feels like she’s not really a man, either.  

As I sit with these questions, I feel, as I said in The Living Receiver, that there is something wrong with me.  That sense of wrongness was a big part of why I tried to kill myself a month ago, and what I struggle with now is how to handle it.  What do I do about it? 

I can be pissed at God for making me this way and say “You fucker, I hurt,” but how productive is that really?  What do I hope to accomplish by cursing God?  There’s no answer, at least there hasn’t been before.  Whatever else God is, He’s consistently quiet. 

One of the things I have realized about myself is the tendency to be “all or nothing”.  I have a series of automatic negative thoughts and I just can’t seem to get away from them.  When I worry about not being a real woman, something as simple as not having two x chromosomes per cell means that I’ll never be fully female and so then I feel like I’m not female at all.   Some of this is a problem with my mindset, but I’m not sure it’s something I can change.  It’s just a part of the way I am.  But I’m also realizing that life isn’t so clearly all or nothing in all cases. 

A woman can still be a woman, for example, if she has a hysterectomy or a mastectomy.  She can still be a  woman if she has two children or if she has none.  Womanhood, as I understand it, doesn’t exist in an all-or-none or a 5-of-the-above-traits checklist.  There really is a spectrum, and I just sit at one end of the spectrum.  I’m a *very* masculine looking woman who behaves in a *very* feminine way.  The juxtaposition can be strange sometimes, but that’s just the way it is.  Whether it meshes with the all-or-nothing tendency of my brain doesn’t matter.  Sometimes fact and truth can trump our own biased thinking. 

This forces out another of my own personal issues– I hate compromise.  Intellectually, I love compromise.  Everyone gets a piece of what they want and so everyone can maximize their own happiness.  Emotionally, I hate compromise.  I want what I want, and there’s no two ways about it.  I want a miracle cure, I want to be a girl, a born girl, and I want all those damn y-chromosomes the fuck out of me. 

The problem is that there is no miracle cure.  What I want is just impossible– there’s no way for it to happen without divine intervention.  Surgery is the treatment for transsexualism, but not the cure.  In fact, there is no cure.  I’ll always be a woman with a transsexual history.  That’s a fact.  While a cure would be wonderful, it’s also an unattainable goal.  A treatment, while less perfect, is at least do-able.  It’s something I can do to feel better, even if I don’t end up feeling perfect.  In a fallen and less than perfect world, that’s maybe not so bad.  At the least, I could say it’s par for the course. 

If there were no treatment, wouldn’t I still try and make the best out of the life I have?  I’d still be trans, and in the appropriate culture, I’d probably live as a eunuch or a berdache.  If I couldn’t do electrolysis, I’d be tearing out my beard hair by hair when it was the only option left to me.  I’d live as true to myself as I could, regardless of when or where I was born.  In other words, wouldn’t I still be Jessica? 

Milton Diamond, one of the original collaborators who exposed the Reimer case as the disaster it was, said, “We come to the game with our own inherent natures and how those things interplay (with environment) can’t be predicted.” 

What is happening is that my feminine nature is finding a stronger expression with my masculine upbringing.  The result is a femininity that is bold and powerful, or at least it tries to be.  As I said earlier, being a woman isn’t the possession of a series of traits or characteristics– most gendered behavior exists on a spectrum and there’s a lot of overlap, and that’s part of what makes transition so hard.  There’s not exactly a “finish line” where once I’ve done x, y and z, I’ll be done.  Surgery isn’t even the finish line, it’s only the point at which I know my body has been fixed as much as it can.  The real issue is how I handle all of this emotionally, how well I can really internalize this change, being a woman when I never really had the experience of being a girl.  It’s hard to know what the former is in the absence of the latter. 

The solution of course is the first step in the solution to all locked-in-a-dark-room problems: feel your way around one blind grasp at a time and see what you can see by touching it.  Determining whether I’m a real woman is composed of several elements: my gender identity and the way that identity is validated by others.  It’s also affected by the way I see gender performed by other people.

As I feel my way through, I think I’ll develop a better sense of who Jessica the woman really is.  The reason that she feels so…. elusive at the moment is that she’s essentially got the emotional development of a 13 year old and is trying to figure out her place at the same time that she’s supposed to be a thirty-something career woman who’s got her shit together.  Needless to say, this isn’t how I envisioned my transition.  This point just isn’t what I thought it would be, and the work I expected to have magically occurred along the way never happened.  Instead, I have all the silly baggage I did a few months ago and it has to get worked out by actually working it out.  That it will get worked out is now something I’m quite sure of.  Knowing it’s there is the first step towards doing something about it.  Now that I’m here though, my next thought in the dark is “what did I just grab hold of?”

On Friday last, my in-laws finalized the adoption of their daughter.  On Sunday, there was a dedication prayer at their church, and Christine and I both attended.  I should preface this post by saying that much of the ritual that evangelical churches think they’ve done away with has merely taken a different shape, that instead of a baptism (or a christening), there’s a dedication, a prayer offered by a pastor that asks God to watch over the child and give the parents the wisdom to rear their child in the knowledge and fear of the Lord.  It’s all very nice until you realize a baptism would have been just as appropriate, worked just as well, and basically that all the prayers are more or less the same. 

But I’m not interested in just picking apart the fact that evangelicals have eliminated all the symbology and ritual of the established church and replaced it with something newer and less rich; this experience has instead served as a very good reminder of why I left the evangelical fold and not been the least interested in returning. 

Evangelical worship usually begins with singing.  These aren’t the varied (and often beautiful) hymns that have been written over the millennia of the church’s existence, songs whose topics range from seasons of the year to encouragement in Christian service.  Instead, evangelical worship songs have almost exclusively focused on redemption, especially on the sacrificial death of Jesus, rarely on the glory of God, and very rarely on His commands to care for others.  It tends to give the feeling that what is worshipped isn’t so much God as some kind of bloodthirsty desire for suffering—the beautiful cross, the time Jesus spent on earth for our sins. 

The gospel according to St. John contains 21 chapters, and the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus doesn’t start until chapter 18.  Nearly 80% of the gospel has little or nothing to do with Jesus’ death, much more to do with how we ought to treat others, how we ought to love our neighbors and how we ought to treat the poor, the downtrodden and the outcast.  I’m not saying the death of Jesus is meaningless, I’m saying we ought not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. 

Rather than worshipping suffering, I think we ought to understand the tragedy, that suffering is never wonderful or beautiful, even if good can come from it.  We ought to never value suffering for the sake of suffering, or even the good it produces; we should look for good apart from suffering, ways to make everyone’s life better without requiring someone to be miserable to bring about that brave new world.    

I suppose that most evangelical Christians would think this makes me a bad Christian; Glenn Beck is most certainly having a heart attack or a stroke if he’s reading this.  I’d be accused of not respecting or adoring the sacrifice of Christ, and probably advancing the lies of our culture—that a religion as obsessed over blood as Christianity is a problem. 

There’s a reason for my belief though: when I was young, I never had trouble breaking bad habits—I wasn’t a nail biter, for example.  Even as an adult, when I started smoking, I was able to quit cold turkey.  I still have a cigarette now and then, but I don’t feel like I’m addicted—I may go months without smoking and feel no worse for the wear.  It’s not much worse, for example, than someone who’s a social drinker.  Before I really understood what it meant for me to be transgender, though, I couldn’t understand why I was essentially unable to break my ‘habit’ of crossdressing. 

I thought, however mistakenly, that God required blood in order for me to be whole and so began my first experiences with cutting.  I was 15 years old and I thought that God might understand how much I wanted to be pure based on how much I hurt myself. 

Part of why I’m writing this post is that I see so much of that young girl in the children trotted out in front of the congregation, testifying about the experiences of youth camp, what it means to be examples for Christ in their daily lives.  The tragedy of this is that these children may start thinking that they can’t be friends with someone who’s not a Christian, a belief that I had for most of the time I was in school.  Worse, they may internalize the belief that certain sins are worse than others, that some things are hard limits or deal breakers when it comes to a relationship with Christ, and they might hate themselves over it. 

Those youth camps don’t prepare young people for real life, the falsehood of the expectation that “all things are possible through Christ.”  I don’t like disagreeing with others over faith, but in my own experience, that particular doctrine is a bunch of bull.  Pastors too often don’t understand how hard it is to be something unacceptable and abominable to God and all we the broken are given is the assurance that we’re not trying hard enough, or we’re not praying the right way or that we’re not sincere enough.  I wish it were as simple as one more prayer, one more baptism, one more altar call or one more retreat, as though whatever genetic imprint that makes me trans can be washed away as easily as my sin. 

It’s no accident that the lies that are spread against the LGBT community are framed in terms of the culture war.  The church has made a business out of fighting against the LGBT community and admitting sexual orientation or gender identity as innate characteristics would be tantamount to justifying racism with the Bible.  An about face would cause the church to lose face—not just with the innocent who trust their pastors to be honest and faithful but also with the bigots who will never surrender.  Any change in the church’s position would cause the hardened to seek new pastors or congregations who don’t compromise the truth of the word of God

Instead, the church permits any propaganda, any vicious lie in order to belittle the validity of the other side.  That much is obvious in all the insensitivity that exists—racial, cultural, social.  People are mocked for being different, others are demonized.  Rather than respecting the dignity of human variety, the church views these things as satanic failings, the consequences of living in a fallen world.  As a result, the pastor makes a joke about suicide.  I believe they would view it as a double effect, not intentionally insensitive, just oblivious to the consequence of their thinking.  This is war, after all, and you can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs.

Since I got out of the hospital a few weeks ago, I’ve had a very unusual recurring feeling: I get the impression that I was supposed to have died, that I’m in some kind of tangent universe and that if things don’t resolve themselves by Halloween, the universe is going to tear itself apart (if you have no idea what I’m talking about, go watch Donnie Darko.  That’s how I feel). 

I’ve been taking all my medications which is a good thing, but the feelings I had when I tried to end my life are still there.  The aching hole is right there, right there goddammit, and the medications can only cover over the pain, like the codeine you might use if you had a broken arm or a leg: you can mask the pain, but you still aren’t going to be able to put any weight on that broken limb and you know it. 

I feel, on one hand, like I’m trying to put my proverbial weight back on that proverbial broken limb while the plaster cast is still drying.  I also feel like I have no choice.  During the times where I think that spending a few extra days in the hospital might help me out, I also remember that we can’t afford for me not to work, that we can’t afford to pay for what our insurance refuses to cover (reason #5187 for socialized medicine, no matter how much we might be scared or even how much it might suck.  Can it really be worse than Cigna?). 

Looking at Christine last night, I apologized for getting us into the dire financial straits where we now find ourselves, that I’m sorry for trying to kill myself, that I don’t know what’s wrong with me except that I hurt so much and so much of the time.

Most of my suicide attempts in the past were ways of crying out for help from the pain that I feel– an effort to hurt myself in a visible and tangible way that others might recognize and respond to.  I hoped that someone would know how to help, or at least know who to talk to.  Cutting, for all the other issues surrounding it, was something along the same lines.  I didn’t know what I needed, only that I couldn’t find the way out on my own.  

The unusual thing about this most previous suicide attempt is that it wasn’t a cry for help, that I wasn’t looking for a way out– it was the white flag of surrender, my signal that I could no longer resist the siege.  In that sense, the final and hopeless act of desperation is scary: I didn’t want to make things right, I simply wanted to remove myself from the equation.  I failed, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying.  

I don’t know if living was an accident or providence, after all, there’s no script for real life. It’s the lack of answers, the lack of understanding, the complete unknowing, the uncertainty about how to move on that makes me feel like I’m in a movie, like I was supposed to die. I’m trying to move on and I don’t know how, as though I don’t know my lines anymore.  What I do know is that this isn’t done, this isn’t behind me.

Last week, I came across a feminist blog railing against trans-activists and the colonisation of their women-only spaces. The lamentation, as I understood it, had to do with trans women going in to a lesbian or women-only space and more or less taking it over, dominating the dialogue and turning it into something oriented more towards queer or trans issues.  A good portion of what’s on the blog would qualify as transphobic, so to make matters worse, in an effort to call out some of the transphobia, a member of the trans community posted some incredibly hateful, racist/misogynist comments.  So, me being me, I jumped in with both feet.  I wrote to the blog’s admin and while there was some dialogue, I’m not sure how useful it really was.  Based on the cissexism that’s still on display, I certainly don’t think I changed any minds. 

That was a little disheartening, but I also consider that to be their problem– I can always go somewhere else to read news and participate in a discussion.  And I’m not particularly interested in being around people who are terminally uninterested in any struggle but their own.   But what I was interested in were some of the topics they brought up.  So I started thinking about their complaints, the validity of them, and how they made me feel. 

This is something I’ve written about previously– I and many others in the larger trans community regard womyn-born-womyn policies (such as the Michigan Women’s Music Festival) as discrimination against one marginalized class in order to protect a second.  While I understand where the MWMF gets the idea for their policy of trans woman exclusion, I think it’s poorly executed, primarily because trans women are being held up as members of the patriarchy, a travesty that requires some outcry from the trans voices that also regard themselves as feminists. 

In some cases, trans exclusion might seem like a sensible idea– if a trans woman is leading a group for survivors of rape and incest then I think it’s a fair expectation that some cis women might be uncomfortable with that.  I’m not saying that’s rational, but I do think it’s understandable.  Most of the irrationality, in my experience, is born from ignorance but a discussion group about rape and incest may not be the best environment for enlightening someone about trans issues. 

If we change the concept a little bit, if we’re talking about a trans woman being part of a women’s support group, I think there’s less room to accomodate ignorance.  This may look like something of a strawman argument, but there are women out there who would look to exclude a trans person from all women-only spaces.  That a cis woman may not appreciate the presence of a trans woman is dehumanizing– especially when we’re talking about a survivor’s group for victims of rape and incest.  It’s not like the trans woman wants to crash for coffee and snacks.  I think the former example of trans-exclusion (with the woman leading the group) is sensible but this latter example is more an attempt to rationalize away someone’s suffering, someone’s womanhood.  Blocking anyone’s effort to connect with others that have experienced some similar trauma is an attempt to dehumanize them, and that’s plain wrong.  Whether a person is cis or trans makes no difference– they still deserve to be treated like a woman. 

As you may have gathered through hints, I think the notion of women-only spaces, places to freely discuss those issues that most concern women, is a fine idea.  I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with men, but sometimes I feel another woman is the only person who’s really going to understand what I’m going through.  I used to be a man, but now that I live as a woman, I get treated like one and I need a woman to talk to about that because she’s going to understand that it’s not all sunshine and roses, either. 

I might have doors opened for me when I walk into a restaurant, but I also get treated like a vacuous buffoon regarding anything technical and any indication that I might actually know something usually involves some man acting like I don’t know enough and that he has to pick apart nearly every statement I make in order to instruct me out of my ignorance.  This kind of  thing has probably happened to pretty much every woman at some point in her life.  Even though this has only started happening to me quite recently, it already bugs the shit out of me– as though just because I grew breasts my brain shriveled up. 

Now, not all men get that they’re being sexist unless we point out the difference in their behaviors regarding how they treat men versus women.  If I point out how I used to get treated as a man and contrast it against how I get treated as a woman, I think they might get it.  But sometimes, FSM help me, I just don’t feel up to fighting that fight.  So, the reason I might argue in favor of women-only spaces is that we can talk about or discuss any subject and expect that the other women will have similar feelings and experiences; there is no risk of being marginalized or told that we’re being too sensitive.  I like talking to people that can really relate to where I’m at, not someone for whom sympathy is a thought exercise. In other words and as I was trying to say above, a place where all women can be treated like women.

While I may not have a complete understanding of what it’s like to be a born woman, I do think, however, that I have a small understanding of what women experience.  Believe me, trans people understand oppression.  I understand what it was like to be raised in a fundamentalist church and how much that affected my ability to cope with being trans.  I can only guess at how much it affected the girls who were raised in the same environment, but I know that it had a strongly negative impact on Christine’s ideas about how she should behave in our marriage, about how to deal with her husband’s transition, about her own value and worth as a human being– after all, I had a lot of the same problems, except in reverse.  Imagine being a woman and trying to live up to all the standards that are placed on men– I thought getting married and behaving like a proper man would cure me of being trans.  I devalued myself, my feelings and experiences, my body.  So while I can’t understand or relate to everything that born women have dealt with, while I can only guess at how difficult their lives really are, I think I have an idea. 

Something I think that cis women tend to forget is that life can be difficult for a person who eschews typical gender roles, for a male-bodied individual that decides not only to shun stereotypically masculine behavior but chooses to actually live as a woman full time.  This is not something that most men would do.  In fact, the anatomical and physiological changes that result from transition are things that most men would find quite dystonic with their identities.  That trans women will transition willingly and gladly says something about the inefficacy and inaccuracy of gender-determinist ideas.  And there are born women feminists that make our lives harder by actually siding with the hegemonic patriarchy without realizing it. 

Gender determinism props up the patriarchy’s application of gender: no woman can become a man, no woman can be a man.  If such a thing were possible, if we erased the ideas of determinism and complentarian bukkake, if women could really do things as well as a man, then there would be nothing special about being a man, or being born a man, which in all honesty, just between you and me, there isn’t.  But, if we really erased the distinction between the sexes, some men think that means everyone will be treated like a second class citizen– in other words, they fear losing their status.** 

For men who live as women, who identify as women, they give up their elevated status of their own free will during the process of transition.  This threatens the supremacy of masculinity in a way that no born woman can– if a person, especially a person who was born male, can be happy and fulfilled as a woman then all the notions about masculine supremacy mean nothing and all the gender determinist attitudes that prop up that masculine supremacy come crashing down. The loss of privilege for cisgender people (or at least cisgender males) at that point becomes a certainty, not the specter of some unknown fear.   Those problems of cissexual assumption, trans-facsimilation, ungendering– all of them fall apart when gender determinism isn’t a sturdy foundation. 

Part of the reason for the persistence of the determinist attitudes is that too many cis people don’t understand the need for some trans people to transition.  They don’t understand the need because they (all too often) lack the capacity to empathize with someone who feels the wrong in their life so keenly.  It’s always been incredibly hard, in my experience, to explain something as dystonic as gender dysphoria to a cisgender person.  It really hits at the core of who that person is, and I think a lot of cis people just can’t relate.  As a result, I don’t believe that cis people have any business judging a trans person on their transition– I don’t care how good looking I was as a guy; I’d rather be an ugly woman instead.  I don’t care how nice cis people are to each other, I care about how horribly they treat trans people– the way they talk about how pretty she used  to be, how much of a jerk she is now that she’s on testosterone.  The misgendering is deliberate because that’s how cis people talk about us: in news articles, on television, on blogs, even in private communication. 

That lack of respect is what really bothers me and it seems to exist in both the cis and trans camps.  Trans people will attack the cis people for being transphobic (and sometimes make deplorable comments in the process); the cis people fight back by misgendering us and calling us frauds and perverts.  Cis people can appeal to their demographic; trans people don’t have an audience to play to.  The best we can do is hope that marginalized groups will recognize mistreatment in whatever shape it comes and help us to fight against it.  That the LGBT fight for equal rights appropriates a lot of the rhetoric of the civil rights movement for African Americans is no coincidence– mistreatment is mistreatment and the tools to fight it are not unique to battles over race.*** 

So, while it may be hard, unimaginably hard, to be a woman, and harder still to be a woman of color, life is hard.  Just because you perceive that my life is easier than yours, that doesn’t make it easy.  I think it’s worth reminding people to not be so naive as to assume that it’s the same thing.

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* I would ask that you not bother posting anything on the blog in defense of trans people, regardless of how repugnant you may find the comments– as I see it, if they aren’t interested in any form of actual exchange then they can have exactly what they want.  It’s a mindset that is as irrational as the people who insist that Obama’s still a Muslim.  That their position isn’t exactly one that a person can be reasoned out of leads me to believe that further communication at this point would do more harm than good, hence the request just to leave them be. 

** It’s worth saying that I don’t think that civil rights are a zero sum game, as I think has been proven over and over.  Simply because you stop treating people like they’re sub-human doesn’t mean that everyone gets treated badly; it’s supposed to mean that everyone gets treated with respect.  Sometimes people are really bad at understanding that distinction.

*** It’s also worth noting that the side of those fighting against equal rights have appropriated a lot of the language and behavior that was used by the segregationists– 50 years ago, they were arguing that interracial marriage would dissolve the very fabric of society by destroying the institution of marriage.  The rhetoric isn’t much changed except for the substitution of the phrase ‘same-sex’ for ‘interracial’.