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I’m a member of the Human Rights Campaign, one of the biggest LGBT equality groups in the United States, and I get their email blasts that are supposed to keep us informed about how they’re spending our money, what kind of legalized discrimination they’re fighting against, and where some of the most egregious abuses are occurring.

There are a couple things, one good, one bad, one somewhat questionable thing, from the most recent email blast I want to bring up, so I’ll just dive right in.

First, the good: Rep. Richard Floyd, a Republican from Chattanooga, TN, was trying to get a law passed that would make it a misdemeanor offense (punishable with a $50 fine) to use a bathroom other than the one assigned for your birth sex. I’ve written at length about these so-called bathroom bills in the past, so I don’t want to rehash what I’ve already said. I am gratified to see, though, that unlike previous situations, the comments on the article at the Chattanooga Times Free Press are mostly sensible. The worst part of the whole thing, in fact, are Rep. Floyd’s remarks. If a teenager is dressed as a woman, and presumably trying on women’s clothing, it’s quite possible you’re dealing with someone who’s trans. Granted, there are some transgender teenagers who are perfectly happy with who they are and I think that’s awesome. In such cases, more power to them. Let’s just get out of their way. But what if that child, and I’m projecting a bit based on my own experience, is confused, full of self-loathing and needs more than a little help? Is charging that individual with a crime really the best way to handle the situation?

If said teenager is trying to use the women’s dressing room, I think the appropriate response here, and the response that seems quite lacking from most Republicans, is one of compassion. Rep Floyd, on the other hand, seems to think that “stomp[ing] a mudhole in him and then stomp[ing] him dry,” is the appropriate response. And they wonder why there’s so little support for the Religious Right/Moral Majority of my parents’ generation…

The good news, though, is that a member of the Tennessee state Senate, one Bo Watson, who had originally sponsored the bill, has done an appropriate about face and effectively tabled the measure, citing the more pressing issues that face our nation and his state as more deserving of the legislature’s time and effort. I don’t think this is the end of the situation in Tennessee, but at least it effectively neutralizes the threat.

The bad news I mentioned above is that in Oklahoma, they’re considering codifying a ban on gays and lesbians in the state’s National Guard. According to HRC, the state would be allowed to ask about the sexual orientation of service members. If there’s one thing the repeal of DADT has taught me, it’s that none of the dire predictions by the fearmongering Republicans came to pass. Having gay and lesbian service members only makes our military better and stronger– if you want to sign the petition to get this ridiculous measure tabled, you can do so through the HRC’s website, here.

The lukewarm news comes by way of Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, who recently released her remarks on how the department is improving the lives of LGBT Americans. I’ve seen and heard a lot of good things about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and think that once again, the Republicans are screaming about the falling sky on bright, sunny days. On the downside, I have a major question about the ACA, and how Secretary Sebelius thinks it improves the lives of LGBT Americans, or at least, transgender Americans (that’s what you’re here for, right? Trans issues?).

Specifically, while we might all have the opportunity to obtain health insurance, with no exclusions for prior or current illnesses, I haven’t seen anything that addresses the refusal of Medicaid, state insurance or private insurers to cover transition related care. When abortion and birth control are things that our legislators are arguing about covering with public money, I can’t see how treatment related to transition, even when medically necessary, is going to be covered. Trans people historically get thrown under the bus, our interests sacrificed in order to make gains for other groups that represent more people (does anyone remember the trans inclusive ENDA and how quickly the trans part of that got excised back in 2007?). Transition related care can and probably will still be excluded from coverage, leaving us to try and find ways to cover the exorbitant costs on our own. While the ACA is a good step forward, I think it’s a bit silly to act as though it’s doing us a lot of favors. While we may be able to obtain insurance, the most expensive aspects of our care will still be excluded from coverage and that isn’t good enough.

Since things aren’t good enough, please consider going to the HRC website and finding ways to support the cause of LGBT equality, writing to your Congress critters and asking them to support the repeal of DOMA and to support a trans-inclusive ENDA. If enough of us are interested in the cause of social justice, we can’t be ignored.

While there are pressing issues facing our country, including a bad economy, I don’t believe that fixing the economy is separate from fixing problems of inequality for the LGBT community: repealing DOMA and passing a trans-inclusive ENDA and improving healthcare for LGBT Americans are all things that help people, real people like me, like your friends and family, save money on our taxes, save money on our necessary healthcare and ensure that the jobs we have are jobs we don’t have to worry about losing because of who we are.

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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.

So. I found this. Even though it’s a few months old, some of the aftermath is still floating around on the Guardian’s website here and here. I don’t know Julie Bindel from Eve, so I’ll accept the word of others that she’s a stand up feminist. Also, I intended originally to put this as a comment on my previous post—it really started out as more of the same, and some of Julie’s writing is an antagonistic precursor to that posting of mine. I tried to show that my gender identity wasn’t only something a doctor diagnosed me with. Unlike Bindel’s portrait, transition isn’t something I undertook to escape legal discrimination, not some brutal avenue into which I was forced.

My decisions have always been my own: I called up the therapist, I decided when I was ready to start hormones, I’m deciding that surgery is something that I’m really starting to look at in a much more serious way. In fact, I’m writing my recommendation letter for my gender therapist to review and edit. It’s an interesting exercise. The point is, my identity has led me here, not some diagnostic manual with a dichotomous key. The journey feels like it’s been very roundabout, or at least not very direct, but those constant course corrections make me confident that this is exactly the right place. Not over there, or there, but here.

Ultimately, this is going to end up being a post of its own. There’s just too much going on that doesn’t fit with that previous topic. Through the course of her referenced article, it’s as though what I see of Bindel’s writing is entirely overrated. From strawman arguments to her comments about gaming the NHS for our own happiness, Bindel demonstrates what can only be described as either ignorance or a deliberate level of obtuseness when it comes to understanding transsexuals.

For starters, I don’t think I would classify GRS as a way of manipulating the system for my happiness—a lot of us view surgery as a medically necessary procedure to alleviate a very targeted depression. And yes, my penis has made me want to kill myself in the past. The thought of having to wait has made me want to kill myself. Now, I may be using an overly broad definition of health here, but I’m quite certain that wanting to kill myself is not a very healthful attitude. Bindel can complain about subsidizing that treatment with her tax dollars, and that’s certainly her right, but I think there are probably bigger and more expensive draws on the NHS than gender reassignment surgeries.

The Guardian review that Bindel cites with respect to the efficacy of surgical intervention is a problematic reference by her own admission—half the participants of the reviewed studies have disappeared. That’s hardly a refutation for the efficacy of surgery, but it’s also no wonder that she couldn’t shore up her position with anything more authoritative than an inconclusive review—all the papers I’ve read myself or heard about second hand directly contradict the point that Bindel is trying to make. Regarding the inconclusive review, it’s common for post-op trans women to just blend into society, no longer needing to out themselves once their bodies, presentations and legal documents are all congruent. Who can blame women for not standing up so that that they be included in the group of Bindel’s targets? The women she stereotypes with fuck-me shoes and bird nest hair are the trans women she clocks, not the ones around her who probably pass right under her radar. Given the option, I wouldn’t out myself to her, not based on the welcome I would expect to receive.

Bindel further reveals her own bias over surgical efficacy by talking only about the people for whom surgery wasn’t the right choice but never examines the counter-position or even admits that it might exist. I can go find people who think evolution is a crock, too, but that doesn’t make it untrue. The fact is that surgery does work for a lot of trans women, and pretending that one exception invalidates the rule is just disingenuous. I understand that she was making an argument and that the crux of her article was to state that surgery is just so much unnecessary mutilation, but it seems to me that she came up with her conclusion first and then found all the supporting evidence afterward, which feels a little too much like Creationism or Intelligent Design or just a plain old case of (Social) Science Done Backwards.

Continuing in the vein of disingenuousness, Bindel goes on to conflate terms such as transsexual and transgender—things of which she ought to know better if she’s even half the gender expert that she’s touted to be. An effeminate boy who dances ballet could very easily fall under the umbrella term transgender, just as a masculine girl who likes football might, too. Those children ought to have the freedom to participate in the activities they like most, not feel denigrated for wanting to do something that others might consider atypical, and I don’t think a lot of people would disagree with that sentiment. The reason I say Bindel is disingenuous in her treatment of this subject, that she’s writing in bad faith, is that no one would advocate forced gender reassignment for those children without additional indications. A girl who likes football is hardly a case where one ought to automatically be labeled as a transsexual.

My point is that surgery isn’t a solution that gets thrown around, no matter how many people got referred to the Gender Identity Clinic in the UK. Gender variance is definitely more acceptable (than it used to be, anyway) in society, and it doesn’t surprise me that more people might seek help or guidance to work through something that’s potentially very confusing and difficult. What Bindel doesn’t offer though, is a statistic relating to how many actual gender reassignment surgeries are performed each year. What we have is the number of people that receive treatment, but the word treatment isn’t defined for us anywhere. Is that the actual number of surgeries being performed? It’s implied to be, and assuming it, has the relative proportion of patients to surgeries gone up, down, or stayed the same? According to Bindel, 75% of people receive treatment under the NHS. More people may be receiving referrals, but if the proportion of those people being ultimately referred for surgery is consistent, that’s hardly an overdiagnosis of GID. What we also don’t see is a breakdown of new patients by age group. Are the majority of new patients young or is there a temporary upwards flux of thirty-somethings that have had enough of pretending to be cis when they’re really trans? Claiming that a diagnosis is so much bullshit requires a little more work with the statistics than Bindel provides. In that case, she’d have been better off leaving the stats out of her argument entirely, or using only the ones that actually support her position, but I’m doubtful that the stats could be massaged to do that anyway.

The reason I say that is that I know stats and I know trans people. Statistics fail to account for all kinds of mitigating factors, the bias inherent to an analysis easily leading to incorrect conclusions. For trans people, surgery is our option of last resort. We pray to be changed, we pray to be healed. We go through therapy and some of us endure decades of denial, desperate for what Jenny Boylan calls the mystery to a solution: we’re always trying to find a way to be happy in this life that feels so wrong.

It’s that point, the actual efficacy of GRS that Bindel completely fails to understand or deliberately ignores. It is *the* solution for trans people, and unless Bindel has a better alternative, something that *actually* works, I think it’s time for her to STFU on subjects she doesn’t know enough about. She might be an expert on gender and feminism, but that doesn’t make her an expert on GID; acting as though she is bears an analogous similarity to pretending that I can run the Federal Reserve just because I balanced my checkbook last month.

The one thing I might agree with Bindel on is her assessment that if men and women were really equal then there would be no such thing as GID. I don’t know if we would agree about the reasons why that would be so, but here are mine: if men and women were treated as equal, then expressions of femininity in men wouldn’t be regarded as less than, wouldn’t be stigmatized, and wouldn’t carry the repercussions that are all too common—humiliation, denigration, or violence. I’m talking about a range of feminine expression, ranging from clothes to mannerisms. If I were able to associate with women, to be accepted as one of the group without having to undergo expensive and painful medical treatments, maybe I would, and maybe that would be sufficient.

But it’s more than a little difficult for me to imagine that fantasy world. I think that’s all well and good, but what about my beard, my genitalia, my body form in general? What about the dysphoria? What about the tears? I think that in an ideal world maybe those things wouldn’t have mattered as much, but it’s impossible to say that, and I’m skeptical of a solution that claims to be able to hand-wave away all of those difficulties that don’t feel related to a societal construct. Besides, that brave new world doesn’t exist, and unless (or until) it does, we must make do with the solutions we have, however imperfect they (and our understanding of the problems) may be.

I’m happy to report that I’m feeling much better this week. After doing some research, talking to therapists, and soon to confirm with the endocrinologist, I’m convinced that while the depression is real, I have an aggravating condition I’ve been previously unaware of: PMS.

You see, I’m on a four week cycle for my estrogen injections: at the end of every fourth week, I inject my estrogen dose intra-muscularly. For a while now, I’ve had suspicions about the timing of these worse than normal bouts of depression. Part of my reluctance to go on anti-depressants was a desire to not muddle what I thought was the effect of the waning estrogen with the main effect of the anti-depressant.

As I believe I mentioned already, now I want to see if I can correct the PMS-type symptoms with a different dose or frequency of estrogen. If not, one of my therapists recommended the anti-depressants for only the week of PMS. While anti-depressants work best over long periods of time (I’ve been told that 3 to 4 weeks is a normal wait for the full effect), my therapist feels that even the minimal serotonin boost from the anti-depressant during PMS week only would be enough to keep me from wanting to self-harm or suicide.

For a while, I’ve been concerned that I’m not exhibiting sufficient control of suicidality. As my therapist and I discussed this in detail this past week, one thing really stuck out: Before I started transitioning, I wasn’t suicidal and I wasn’t in the habit of self-harming. I previously had those impulses under control, and what I’m dealing with currently is more a product of the HRT than anything else. That I’ve identified the root cause of the distress and have some potential solutions to make it better is a good thing and indicates that I’m really taking things seriously and working to improve my quality of life. In a sense, I am exhibiting a significantly better state of mental health: I have not suicided, and the fact that I was that depressed indicated to me that something was wrong even in spite of the painful circumstances that have often coincided with PMS week.

I also clarified one other point: my RLE start date was April 9th, 2009. It was Maundy Thursday and I went to mass dressed like a woman. It wasn’t just that I went dressed as a woman, because I’d done blouses and pants at church before. I presented as a woman. Previously, I’d been trying to hide my breasts, I’d skip jewelry on Sundays because even though that heart necklace was really cute, it wouldn’t be appropriate if I wasn’t trying to pass as Jessica. But that night, four days before Easter, I was. It was the first day that I started presenting as a woman with no exceptions, and the name change in July was just a formality.

The one year anniversary for my RLE is important because it’s one of the criteria establishing eligibility for surgery– that’s the next place for me to go, the next step for me to take, and I’m starting to get my eyes adjusted to that view. It also gets me thinking about Christine Daniels, the former sportswriter for the LA Times. There’s plenty of info online about her very public transition, de-transition and suicide. The reason I bring her up is that when I started this process back in the fall of 2007, one of the things I ran across in some of my preliminary information gathering searches was the story of Christine’s transition. That encouraged me, and I remember thinking “Go Christine!” on more than one occasion. I was deeply saddened to hear about her de-transition in 2008 and subsequent suicide in November of last year. I didn’t know her, but I was going through a PMS week at about the same time, dangerously close to suicide myself. About five days before Christine was found dead in her home, I had a razor blade about 1/8 of an inch deep in my wrist.

The thing that got me off the floor of my bathroom last year, the thing that kept the razor blade from going deeper was thinking that it wasn’t fair for me to be the one bleeding to death. It should really be all the people who couldn’t understand that calling me by my old name wasn’t just rude, it was cruel. With the fresh perspective of Christine’s suicide, a suicide I believed was at least partly due to her unhappiness at detransitioning, I wasn’t going to let anyone tell me that my RLE was anything less than a smashing success just because my parents decided to be assholes about my transition. I didn’t want them to have that kind of power over what I have left of my life.

I remember thinking that detransition and suicide wasn’t so much Christine’s fault as much as a failing of her support network. In a way, the shakiness of my last several months has been a failing of my network: I was overly reliant on people I thought ought to be supportive (such as my parents), and not as reliant as I should have been on the people who really were (such as a good number of my friends). When I look closer at that, I see that it was really my fault as the manager (if you will) of that network: I had all the wrong people in all the wrong positions.

And now as I’m working on salvaging something of the relationship I had with my parents, I understand that they’re never going to be the strong support I had hoped they would be. I initially had wild hopes of teary-eyed parents confiding in me that if I had been born a girl, they would have named me such-and-such. I am under no such illusion any more. The other day, I was having lunch with my Mum, and the topic of surgery came up. She said to me, “That’s too hard for me to hear. This (she opened her hands and gestured) is hard enough.” My parents aren’t gone, and the relationship is at least in better shape than it was, but they’re not up for what I need. As much as I want to include them in the new life that I’m creating for myself, I fear that it’s just too much for them. It feels like they’re not ready to go on and up. The things I regard with excitement and possibility, they see only with fear and dread.

Right here and right now, two of the most important people in my life aren’t really there for me anymore. I worry that if or when they’re finally (and really) ready to catch up, I’ll be too far ahead. I’ve had similar problems before, and I resent having to backtrack and pick up people that I’ve lost along the way. On one hand, I’m impatient with being the trans woman—I just want to get on and live my life already but I also realize that if I do that, then there might be some irreparable harm to important relationships. I think that’s a risk I’m not only willing to take, I think it’s a risk that I have to take.

I’m feeling hopeless. Of course I have depression. And no, I don’t take medication for it. In fact, I’m also due for an E injection next week. In the last three months, I’ve been wondering whether it’s the circumstances that have hurt so much, or if it’s just the events in question occurring at a particular point in my hormone cycle. (When I see my endocrinologist the next time I’m going to find whether I might be able to take care of some of these feeling just by adjusting the frequency of hormone injections rather than trying to combat the side effects of one medication with the main effect of another.)

In November, it was the conjunction of my birthday, fucking up my estrogen injection, not having enough money to get the prescription refilled so I could have a do-over, and not having enough money for the mortgage payment. I think most of the stress is self-explanatory. The birthday might need some explanation. I normally like my birthday. I get free stuff from Sephora, I usually take the day off work and go shopping. I did that this past year, too. Except this year I received a card from my Mom and Dad. More properly, Joshua* received a card from his parents. After I spent the better part of a week (two weeks?) crying about it, cutting myself, and crying some more, I put the card in the shredder at work.

December was a pretty miserable month. I spent the first few weeks recovering from the most recent bout of cutting, and then Christmas Eve was excruciating. I spent most of Christmas Day in the shower, letting the water run through my hair and over my face. Long after all the hot water ran out, I was still sitting in the bottom of the bathtub, crying. The water was freezing, my toes numb. I was crying for the parents I wasn’t seeing, for the twisted parody of the holiday that I was participating in, something that tried and failed to feel like Christmas. I was crying for church, the way people treat one another, especially God’s people. It may not have seemed like a bad Christmas if you were outside looking in, but it was the worst I’ve ever had.

Since the new year, I decided I would try and work on a financial plan, something that would help me reach my goal of getting surgery before I hit 40. I figured out that if I wait four more years, I might have enough money in my 401(k) at work that I can borrow enough money out of it to pay for everything. That’s a big “if” but I need that hope. And we’re changing health insurance at work: Blue Cross. In some cases, Blue Cross is rumored to pay for GRS. I checked online, and their clinical guidelines do state that it can be medically necessary and therefore, covered. I really got my hope up, I’m sorry to say, and crashed hard when I realized that all of our policies at work will exclude coverage for GRS. The clinical guidelines are just that, guidelines. There’s no requirement for a procedure to be covered just because it’s medically necessary, and the exclusions in the policy can trump the good judgment of the three doctors I see regularly.

That whole process feels hypocritical, and it’s the thing that pisses me off about people expecting health care to get better without public options and without government interference. The situation we’re in right now is what the free market does sometimes: companies realize that with a commodity like insurance that the insurers can charge more and cover less, treatments get excluded not because they’re not medically necessary but because it’s too much hassle to cover, or not enough people take advantage of the coverage. If less than 1% of the population in the US is transgender, is it any wonder the insurance companies don’t feel a lot of pressure to cover our care? Why exactly would we expect them to correct this particular oversight on their own? Because they’re all such good people?

That certain coverage is excluded doesn’t surprise me anymore, but I realized something: whether you expect it or not, being slapped in the fact still hurts, and that’s what I’m reeling from. I’m left with a feeling of hopelessness and the sense that I deserve the misery in which I’m now mired. I alternate between that, blaming God for doing this to me in the first place, and blaming society for making things so inconvenient, so hard for me just to be myself and live my life and move on.

Placing the blame on other quarters is an easy way to absolve myself of any responsibility, but it’s not worth very much. Proving that I’m being treated unfairly doesn’t allow me to improve the quality of my insurance coverage, it doesn’t increase acceptance at work, church or with my family. It doesn’t change the fact that I have a penis and sometimes I think that I’d like to get the chef’s knife out of the butcher block and cut the fucking thing off myself**.

At my company’s benefits fair yesterday, it took our medical insurance rep half a minute to get over the word transsexual in the Blue Cross clinical guideline when I was asking about transgender coverage. I felt a little bad that he was so uncomfortable, but then realized that I didn’t exactly have the option of being uncomfortable about outing myself to him—I either had to go up and ask my question or let his employer, my insurance company, take my money and invisiblize me as a trans person at the same time.

That experience sets me to wondering what it was about me made that insurance agent so uncomfortable in the first place: some kind of transferred castration anxiety? Or is it homophobia that has trans-misogyny and oppositional sexism at its root? I start to internalize that reaction, start thinking there’s something wrong with me, something within from which I ought to recoil. That process speaks to my possible self and says I’m never going to be a real woman, that I’ll never bear my own children or wear my own white dress at a wedding. It says to not-yet-me that I can be, at best, a facsimile of real women, but I’m not even there yet. It is painful and humiliating to want something you know you can never have.

A novelist named William Styron said, In depression… faith in deliverance, in ultimate restoration is absent. The pain is unrelenting, and what makes the condition intolerable is the foreknowledge that no remedy will come– not in a day, an hour, a month, or a minute… It is hopelessness even more than pain that crushes the soul.”

That sums up how I feel right now. Last night my wife said to me, “But you have a plan, we’ll get there someday.” Though I’m sure we will, I couldn’t help but remind her that she’s not the woman with a penis in our family. Every day there are a million subtle reminders that I’m not right, that there’s something off, and every hour of it feels like a life sentence.

One of my aunts (one of the two that still talks to me) shared a quote from the book of Lamentations with me: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed. It occurs to me that I’d like it better if God stopped doing me so many favors. I realize that sounds petulant, and to an extent, it is. In a discussion of Romans 9:20-21 I’m not ashamed to admit that I’d say to God, “Why’d you have to go and fuck me up so badly?”

That good things can come from bad experiences doesn’t make suffering into a good thing. It’s still a bad experience, just one that doesn’t end completely badly. Suffering is always an unfortunate thing and it disgusts me the way that some people try to portray it as noble or Christ-like. To pretend that suffering is God’s will is inconsistent with the God that says “I will give in my house and within my walls a monument better than sons and daughters.” It’s even inconsistent with the God who said, “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Things might be difficult, but that doesn’t automatically make it God’s will.

The process of suffering does matter, or at least it should. Writing it off as God’s will just because something good might eventually happen feels like missing the point, just like all those people who suggested I wait longer to transition missed the point. How long is long enough? How much suffering is enough? Or that it’s all going to be okay just because I’ll be a girl when I’m all done? I call bullshit. The ends don’t always justify the means, and things aren’t always sunshine and roses and puppy dogs at their end.

I don’t know that I would say that transition is worth it– it seems a lot of people imagine it will bring less suffering than what’s been left behind, but I don’t think that’s true. It’s more like all the problems get brought out to the surface, made visible for people to see (even if you don’t want them to), and you have to deal with all of it one by one. It may not sound that bad, but speaking from my own experience, it’s excruciating. Worth it? I don’t know. I do know that I couldn’t have kept on the way I was; it was unbearable, and trying to stick it out wasn’t going to work.

I have a way of going over these things in the dark before I sleep. I’ve had bouts of theodicy in the past several months (as you might be able to have guessed), cursed and cried at God, confident that if He truly is God then He is not hurt by my cursing, my petulance, or my blasphemy. He should understand hurt and understand that sometimes feelings must be voiced, regardless of what one says, or even whether one expects an answer (c.f Mark 15:34). I do not know, for example, why I am transgender, or why I was never cured, but I believe that God ought to be able to reach me in that questioning pain.

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* I hate talking about myself in the third person, but there are certain points where I will do it, primarily issues of timeline. After the point where I got my name changed, and people direct communication at me with the name Joshua, it feels to me like they’re trying to talk to someone other than me. In those instances only, I refer to myself in the third person.

** It’s a common misconception that the penis is amputated in GRS. It’s actually cut lengthwise and inverted, the tissue being used to create a neo-vagina. Part of the glans is used during clitoroplasty. Cutting the penis off would actually be counterproductive since the nerve endings need to be intact for clitoral sensation. It’s the only reason I still have the damned thing.

All the talk on the internet about the Prop 8 trial here in California got me thinking about intolerance. Some people talk about how LGBT people want to “re-define marriage” as though we’re interested in destroying the very institution that we want so badly to be a part of. We’re accused of being intolerant towards the religious views of other people, or as my brother calls it being intolerant of intolerance. That’s a disingenuous turn of phrase, because it tries to lump all these disparate behaviors under a single umbrella and brand them intolerant. It tries to make everyone appear intolerant because the prop 8 supporters believe we’re all intolerant of something*, so they try and paint LGBT people as being intolerant of religion.

They try to paint us as hypocrites in order to level the playing field—if everyone in the fight is a hypocrite, opposed to the rights of their opponents, then that makes LGBT people seem less like the right side of history and more like just another special interest group.

The appropriate deconstruction of the intolerance of intolerance starts with first identifying ourselves: are we hypocrites? The LGBT community is trying to resolve the dispute between moral conflict and liberty by erring on the side of LGBTs. In that sense, we are requesting to place some restrictions on religious belief and practice—that a justice of the peace could not decline to marry a homosexual couple even if it offended their conscience. But does that make us hypocrites?

To answer, I’m going to crib from a post by someone else from somewhere else (Special thanks for all involved in this quote’s chain of custody. You know who you are). Glaucus at Ars Technica recently said:

I propose the notion of higher order intolerance. First order intolerance consists of rejecting people for their attribute or traits. Second order intolerance is rejecting people based on their first-order intolerance of others. So, that line about “where the intolerant aren’t tolerated” is really a statement about 2nd order intolerance towards the 1st order intolerant.

If we look at our behavior that’s being called intolerant, it falls under Glaucus’ second order: in other words we are intolerant of certain actions, but not necessarily the beliefs that inform those actions. As evidence, let me offer up the text of any anti-discrimination law that says regardless of race, religion, creed, national origin, sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression. That law unequivocally grants the same protections to religious people that it does to gay people. If you can’t be fired for being gay, you can’t be fired for being a Christian, either.

But antidiscrimination laws don’t touch on the issues at hand in Peter Vadala’s lawsuit against Brookstone. He lost his job for expressing anti-gay sentiment on the job, which is a good bit different than losing one’s job because of being a Christian. An out and proud gay person could have just as much difficulty on the job were they outspoken and offensive enough. Indiscriminately blasting religion in front of religious co-workers should earn one as quick a trip to the HR penalty box as Vadala received for expressing anti-gay sentiment.

I am not intolerant of Vadala’s opinion. He’s entitled to it. But the line is drawn and crossed when that opinion gets expressed to a co-worker and that person feels uncomfortable or threatened or demeaned. That’s the difference: Vadala was criticizing the action of the co-worker marrying her same sex partner which looks like second order intolerance on its face. What he’s really attacking however, is the underlying relationship and attraction that might lead two women to get married in the first place, which is an attribute, and thus first order intolerance.

The fundamental difference then, between the religious right and the LGBT community seems to be a conflict between actions and beliefs, deeds and words. When the LGBT community speaks out against discriminatory actions directed at LGBT people, the religious right decries that criticism as hypocritical intolerance.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I want to expand on my brother’s refusal to accept me as his sister. When I try to tell him that his behavior towards me is intolerant, he tries to turn it around on me. At one point in a conversation last year, he said to me “What gives you the right to take away my brother and change everything I know?” The answer, aside from what I said (“Because I’m a transsexual”) is really “Because I transitioned.” It’s the action, the thing that I did, that really made me different.

My protestations affirming my gender identity or his protestations against don’t have much impact on the discussion. I transitioned, and as a result I have changed**. When I talk to my brother though, it’s what he says, in his eyes, that really matters. He may not let me in his house, but as long as he reaffirms his love for me, in his mind, that makes it all okay. My experience is drastically different than his. What I see is that he claims one thing, while his actions are saying something completely contradictory. This is a difference between us that runs very deep, it goes deeper than religion and hits at the very core of who we are as individuals***.

But religion does factor into this. The differences between us, I believe, could most easily be summed up as a conflict between faith and works. My brother places a lot of emphasis on what he says, which indicates what he believes about his faith. I place a lot of emphasis on treating people with dignity and respect, on letting my actions speak for my faith. The lines between us get crossed because I don’t understand his words without the context of consistent action: I don’t feel loved by my brother because the way he treats me is the antithesis of loving one’s neighbor regardless of what he might say, or how he might try to make it sound like he’s doing this for my own good.

He doesn’t understand me because I emphasize what I do, how I want to be treated, and how I might treat him, while completely disagreeing with and rejecting his words, beliefs, and faith interpretation. To him, that feels like I’m being intolerant of his beliefs when what I’m really expressing is intolerance for his actions. He is free to believe whatever he wants about me, but not to treat me in a way that is void of dignity and respect for my identity.

He thinks that I’m being unfair, that I’m lumping him in with a bunch of people that he’s not necessarily similar to and he’s right about that, at least to the extent that I categorize him based on his actions. The reason I do that is because the things that he says and does are hurtful to me, and are similar to other hurtful experiences I’ve had. I am emotionally distancing myself from a relationship that doesn’t have any affirmative value because divorcing myself from that hurt is better for me at this point.

I’ve tried to explain this to him, and tried to get him to understand. I talk about how we go around in circles, but the truth is that we’ve done no such thing. I’ve gone around in circles with others and I’ve seen how so much of that is just so much wasted time and logical fallacies and differences in Bible interpretation. As the kids say, “You can’t reason someone out of a position that they didn’t reason themselves into in the first place.” With my brother,we’ve discussed how he views my transition, that he thinks transition is the wrong decision and at this point, I can’t talk to him anymore.

The problem with naysayers like my brother is that they don’t have alternative treatments to offer, they don’t have any special insight into my condition, and the truth is that they just don’t know what it’s like to have a cure in reach and have people tell you that it’s a morally compromised decision to take hold of it. Before the description was removed from the title, Gender Identity Disorder used to be referred to as Gender Dysphoria, literally a depression caused by one’s gender. This isn’t some bullshit that trans people make up so we can mutilate ourselves. Those feelings and the depression are real, and when things are at their worst, the finger waggers aren’t the ones that deal with the pieces that we break into. As far as I’m concerned, trying to make people do what you want and absenting yourself the rest of the time isn’t an attempt to do the right thing or help someone avoid a grievous mistake. It’s an attempt to be a watchman, except there’s none of the action you might expect. In this case, the watchman blows the trumpet to cover his own ass and then, rather than helping people get to shelter, or rallying the army, he runs and hides, his duty having been fulfilled. While I might respect that the watchman at least stands by the conviction to speak the truth, I don’t respect the further actions that are informed by those beliefs. In other words, I don’t believe our obligation to others ends once we have sounded the alarm.

To people that fancy themselves modern day prophets I reply that it’s not my place to be the punching bag for other people or their religious beliefs. Transition was a hard thing, and more stressful than I would have liked. But I made it, my job is still here, my wife is still here, my home is still here. But it hurt me. I’ve been hurt. And now I feel like I want some peace. If people don’t want to accept me as I am, then I don’t want to go through the emotional wringer for them. That they may be unaware that they’re being rude doesn’t absolve them of their guilt. The things they say hurt and I’m not interested in being hurt anymore, for any reason.

Late last year, I asked Christine to talk to my parents. I’d had enough of them, I didn’t want to deal with the pain, and I’d have given anything for it to stop, even if it meant never seeing them again. The day she called, Christine phoned me, crying. It took several minutes for both of us to calm down enough for her message to come out cleanly—my parents were acting completely different.

They were apologetic, sorrowful and desirous to make amends with us. I was flummoxed. Over the last few weeks, I’ve seen them a few times, and while I’m not certain that this represents a certain change on their part, they are treating me like a human being again. I’m not certain how they really feel about my transition, but they’ve said that they realize that they have no place to judge my actions. It’s short of a statement of full and complete acceptance, but it’s a lot better than the position we were in for most of last year. Assuming that the visceral reaction, the internal belief of my parents hasn’t changed, then we’re agreeing to disagree. If I am a sinner, then they are succeeding at loving me while hating my sin and that makes them one of the best examples of Christianity that I’ve seen in a long time.

I think if you want people to be tolerant of your views, then you have to be tolerant of theirs. That’s something that the religious right fails to do, something that only a very few people are able to get right. That is where second order intolerance comes in: when the majority fail to get it right, the minority appeal to the courts to overturn the tyranny. That’s not disrespectful of the beliefs of people who think that being gay is a sin, it’s an attempt to re-establish the dignity and worth of every human being, regardless of race, creed, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, and gender identity, to exhibit a little second order intolerance. In short, by challenging the constitutionality of Prop 8, we are decrying the way we are treated, not what other people believe. While the supporters of Prop 8 are defending their first order intolerant actions by claiming to have friendships with gay people, they’re working to disenfranchise those same friends****. That’s intolerant and duplicitous, not being in the right.

Being intolerant of intolerance is a mature understanding that there are some restrictions to liberty when living in a society. We work for the greater good and respect the dignity of all people, whether they’re like us or not. First order intolerance is the insistence of having it our way, which isn’t always possible.

The petulant thing for Prop 8 supporters to do would be to insist on upholding Prop 8 and then to work on getting similar bans passed in other states. The mature thing is to realize that they can just not get a gay marriage while leaving others free to live their lives as they see fit.

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* The supporters of Prop 8 believe that there are more people who are intolerant towards bestiality, polygamy and inbreeding than people who are intolerant merely of gay marriage. If the pro 8 side can convince people there’s a slippery slope link between gay marriage and these socially unacceptable relationships, it’s possible to rally a lot more people to the pro 8 cause. I’m not sure how effective these tactics actually were at getting out the Yes on 8 vote, but the fact that these things even come up during a campaign seems like nothing more than a smear attempt.

** It’s weird when people say that transition doesn’t change who you are. If I wasn’t going to change at all, then why on earth am I going to all this trouble, spending all this money, using up all this time, jumping through all these hoops just to be the same person? It’s inconceivable. It’s not a case of Jekyll and Hyde as much as it is a metamorphosis. Like any chrysalitic organism, there are some traits that remain consistent between the pre- and post- metamorphic forms. If you look at those two photos, there are drastic differences but there’s also something weirdly similar about them, too. At least, I always tend to think so. And I think it’s kind of the same thing with anyone who undergoes a drastic life change: they’re going to be wildly different than what you remember but you will still be able see underlying parts of the person that you knew. I hope that at least the Dr. Who fans that are reading this will have a clear understanding of my clumsy words.

*** As a transsexual, I experience my gender in an action-oriented way: I perform various gender roles, not necessarily expecting my proclamation of being female to be sufficient to convince people of the fact that I’m a woman. That’s something I was trying to get at on my “About” page—if I wanted people to really see me as a woman, I had to transition. It was the action, not the words, that would make it real for all of us. And it has. Being female is different than feeling female or wanting to be female.

**** When I hear members of the religious right say that they have gay friends, I feel like replying, “No you don’t. No one treats their friends like that.”

Continuing with my previous post regarding Amanda Simpson, the following bit was on David Letterman’s show a few nights ago:

So why am I posting that video, why am I embedding it, talking about it and asking you to watch it? Why is the trans community up in arms? Why did the HRC write a complaint letter? Or why did I?? Part of the answer has to do with the idea the joke promotes: that our birth sex is more important than our sex of identity (Amanda Simpson used to be a dude?), that living our lives as we see ourselves is disingenuous and deceptive.

To explain by way of example, let me bring up Angie Zapata’s murderer, Allen Andrade. Andrade used a trans panic defense in his murder trial saying that he lost control when he found out that Angie was born male. He became enraged, and in the heat of passion, he killed her. Actually, he beat her to death with a fire extinguisher. More correctly, he beat her until she was unconscious, and he thought she was dead. Then, as Andrade was clearing out of the apartment, he realized Angie was still breathing. So he picked up the fire extinguisher, and beat her *again* until she was dead. The facts weren’t even contested during Andrade’s trial. His entire defense consisted of I thought it was a girl, and it turned out to be a guy.

What David Letterman used as fodder for a joke is the defense of murderers, as though a person’s gender identity is sufficient reason not only to laugh at them but also to kill them. Letterman’s joke casually devalues the trans identity, implies that Amanda Simpson is deceptive, and makes the case that transitioning, her actual gender identity, everything she’s been through, has no impact at all on the fact that she used to be a dude and how we might presently view her as a woman. From Letterman’s show, viewers see trans people being devalued in mass media outlets and the jokes and pejoratives get repeated at work and in public (and directed at real people, including me). I don’t have a problem with David Letterman exactly; I have a problem with the whole mindset that thinks a joke like that is okay.

The internet comments, the rude jokes on TV, the way trans people are (mis)treated in real life are all signals to us that our identities don’t matter as much and aren’t as inherently valuable or important as the identities of cisgender people. When was the last time someone got made fun of for being a stereotypically masculine male? I’m not talking about behavior, like Governor Schwarzenegger calling the Democratic lawmakers a bunch of girly men or President Clinton not being able to keep it in his pants. I’m talking about just making fun of someone for *existing*. That’s what’s happening with Amanda Simpson: it’s not her behavior that’s being turned into a spectacle, it’s her.

Repeating the trans pejoratives, laughing at trans people and further encouraging that behavior isn’t much different than saying Dr. George Tiller deserved to be murdered so that we could protect the lives of innocent babies. While there are people who think he did deserve to die, it’s the casual devaluing of Tiller’s life that ought to give all of us pause. The attitude is what led to his murder just like the casual devaluing of trans people leads to killers like Allen Andrade saying that, “It’s not like I went up to a school teacher and shot her in the head, or killed a straight law-abiding citizen.” In Tiller’s murder, just like Angie Zapata’s, the perpetrators didn’t even think they were going to be punished. It’s not a question of whether what they did is right or wrong, whether Tiller or Angie deserved it, it’s a question of whether they thought anyone would even care because their victims were made invisible by casual and degrading comments.

Which brings me away from David Letterman and to a larger issue of the expectations and assumptions of cis people regarding the existence (and erasure) of trans people. Unless we don’t pass and can be easily clocked as trans men and women, it’s assumed that we’re all automatically cissexual (Julia Serano calls this cissexual assumption), which is hardly the trans person’s fault. The corollary is that we ought to share the truth about our transsexual histories with anyone who needs to know (especially sexual partners). The problem with that expectation is that all the weight and burden rests on the trans person, and no one places any concern over the unfair (and often incorrect) expectation of cissexual assumption. I hope that I can explain why it’s unfair and that the absolutes aren’t quite so simple as they’re made out to be.

The appropriate compromise between honesty and being unnecessarily open with strangers (or at least people you don’t know very well) is hard to nail down because the point of no return is different for each person. Every person has their own unique answer to this question, and while it may be blatantly obvious to them, the real answer to the question when am I supposed to disclose my history as a transsexual? is when it’s appropriate for the other person to know, and that’s going to vary by person, relationship and circumstance.

Now, some people don’t care what genitals a person has at all. Some people only want individuals with genitals of a certain kind, and some people will kill you if they find out you’ve got the wrong ones, think you’ve delayed too long in telling them, or tricked, duped or deceived them in some way.

It’s not always easy to tell where a stranger might fall in that spectrum, and there are people I’ve met, considered cute enough to flirt with, but not safe enough to tell about my history as a trans woman. Were I younger and unmarried, I suppose I may have have been interested in going home with some of those people, but when am I supposed to bring up the issue of full disclosure? Is it inconceivable that things could go too far without ever being sure I really trust the person enough to confide in them? How is it remotely fair to hang the responsibility for all of that on the trans person, and then blame them when things go wrong?

The fact is that there are circumstances where it’s not safe to out yourself, even if you’re going home with someone, or among people that you might consider your friends. I’d say that the circumstances surrounding Gwen Araujo’s murder are proof enough of that. Gwen’s murder was a classic trans panic scenario, and while she may not have been killed by the defendants had she been more open about her gender identity from the beginning, I don’t think it’s unfair to assume, based on the reaction of the defendants, that Gwen wouldn’t have been safe had she been open with any of them.

Do we blame Gwen, the boys who killed her, or the society that perpetuates the gender roles, stereotypes and homophobia such that it is nearly impossible for people to be open about who they are?

Maybe you can guess my answer: the assistant DA on Gwen’s murder case said, “Gwen being transgender was not a provocative act. I would not further ignore the reality that Gwen made some decisions in her relation with these defendants that were impossible to defend. I don’t think most jurors are going to think it’s OK to engage someone in sexual activity knowing they assume you have one sexual anatomy when you don’t.”

Before you agree with the ADA’s statement, let me point out the problems with it, problems that don’t start and end with him. There are a lot of people that hold those views, after all. And I’m not trying to say that the concept is wrong as much as I’m trying to say that it’s unfair.

On one hand we say, there’s nothing wrong with being transgender, but on the other, it’s just not okay if you hide it from people with whom you’re being sexually intimate. We blame the trans person for not correcting the assumption, and act as though the subsequent overreaction is understandable, if not condonable. The subtext is that we believe more people would reject a pre-operative transsexual than would be interested in taking her home, that no one will find her attractive without a vagina. So rather than maintaining her sexual agency, the trans woman becomes dependant on finding a person that won’t reject her out of a homophobic reaction towards her genitalia. A person who is unaware of a transsexual’s history might feel as though their sexual agency has been co-opted against their wishes, which is not something I’m advocating. But perhaps there’s a solution to the problem in sharing the responsibility for communication between both individuals rather than placing all the weight on a single person.

From the perspective of a trans person, it’s humiliating to know that your attractiveness is reduced to what exists between your legs, to be rejected because the other person thinks you’re a freak. When the trans person has to disclose her past, she risks not only humiliation but violence. She bears all the risk in the coming out process, and has no easy way out of potentially awkward situations.

The potential partner of the trans woman, on the other hand, is free to accept or reject her and bears no immediate repercussions for the decision.* The entire process is too one-sided, and as long as it is, trans people are going to be reluctant about coming out to people they don’t know that well.

Which brings us back where we started: at some point in a relationship, a trans person is supposed to disclose her history. In that scenario, all the weight for honesty falls on the trans people, with only the faintest glimmer of lip service given to the problem of cissexual assumption.

The reason I’m talking about this, and not writing a condemnatory screed against David Letterman is because I think Letterman is a barometer of the problem, not the source. The joke bothers me so much because the underlying attitude is so prevalent. Am I, as a trans woman, supposed to walk around with a big “T” on my chest, supposed to just tell every stranger that I think might be interested in me that I’m trans? Is it my problem, my fault, that everyone assumes my genitalia are of a particular form? Why does the burden of honesty, the negation of my expectations of privacy start the instant that a stranger displays even the slightest interest in me? Am I supposed to start every conversation with some variant of the following disclaimer: Hi, I’m Jessica, and since I’m transgender, I don’t want you to freak out and kill me if you find me attractive and then decide you’re not okay with the fact that I still have a penis?

Trans people are devalued to the point, objectified to the point, of being reduced to our genitalia, to the surgical procedures that we’ve undergone, to the discrepancies between our birth sex and our sex of identity. It happens every time a total stranger asks me whether I’ve gotten “the surgery” (they usually wink when they say this, like it’s a code word that they’re very pleased with themselves for having learned), or whether I still have a penis. My all time favorite invasive question is when people ask how my wife and I have sex.

So what do I think is the way forward? I had to go back and dig up a quote that Autumn Sandeen at Pam’s House Blend uses on a fairly regular basis—I’ve had it rattling around in my head and had to share it:

“[T]he job of the gay community is not to deal with extremists who would castigate us or put us on an island and drop an H-bomb on us. The fact of the matter is that there is a small percentage of people in America who understand the true nature of the homosexual community. There is another small percentage who will never understand us. Our job is not to get those people who dislike us to love us. Nor was our aim in the civil rights movement to get prejudiced white people to love us. Our aim was to try to create the kind of America, legislatively, morally, and psychologically, such that even though some whites continued to hate us, they could not openly manifest that hate. That’s our job today: to control the extent to which people can publicly manifest antigay sentiment.”
~Bayard Rustin; From Montgomery to Stonewall (1986)

The reason to fight back, to stick up for ourselves, to write blog posts explaining why Letterman’s joke is tasteless, to explain that trans people aren’t deluded perverts, to write letters to CBS, or at the very least, to use their online complaint form is to make people aware that expressing bigotry (under the guise of humor or otherwise) isn’t acceptable. We’re human beings and we deserve to be treated with the dignity and respect that every human being deserves.

We aren’t deluded, deranged, mutilated degenerates, and if I scream loud enough, maybe someone will get it. Maybe enough people will get it that I won’t need to say things like this anymore– that’s the point of Rustin’s quote: at some point we want the environment to be so inhospitable to bigotry that trans and gay people aren’t going to be devalued in such a casual way.

We’re not trying to be loved, adored or revered. We’re trying to make our place in the world safer. So rather than expecting all trans people to disclose the status of their genitals, we should be asking why we even assume everyone cares what genitals a person has. Maybe the people that care are the ones that should ask. If that feels like an extreme measure to you, then you’ll get an idea of what it’s like for a trans person to have to disclose something so intimate about themselves. Or maybe cissexual assumption just shouldn’t be the default position any more.

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* At least not in the I’m going to kill you, faggot sense. What they bear in a long term relationship is much more complicated, and that’s not something I’m comfortable writing about because I simply can’t speak to it. I’d recommend books by Helen Boyd, either My Husband Betty or She’s Not the Man I Married.