No My Bits Aren’t Your Business or Your Trans Advocacy

Recently I read the en(Gender) post,”Guest Author: Zoe Dolan, When Political Correctness Hits Below The Belt.” Helen Boyd states in an introduction to the piece:

Here’s a controversial piece from Zoe Dolan, lawyer, author, and friend, in a smart piece about why, when it cones to dating – amongst other things – talking about genital surgery is important.”

If this piece was a post strictly concerning intimacy and talking to a potential partner in frank terms about sex with a trans person, then I’d agree it was a “smart piece.” Unfortunately it does not stay within the boundaries of negotiating intimate relationships. The post opens up with:

The conversation goes like this:

Him: Do you mind if I ask you a personal question?

Me: Yes, I have a vagina. Yes, I have a clitoris, and also labia majora and labia minora. Yes, I feel sensation and I can have orgasms — both vaginal and clitoral. And yes, I self-lubricate; but who ever said no to a little coconut oil?

Him: Wow. That’s amazing. Thank you for being so open. I’ve been curious but afraid to ask.

First off, what’s the context of this hypothetical concersation? Dolan doesn’t give lay out a scenario in which the questions are asked. Is this man a potential lover that you’re on a date with? Is this question being asked by a co-worker that is “just curious?” The context matters.

Dolan continues, saying:

I’ve written before, and I maintain: my view is that there’s no shame in the human body. We all have one.

Nevertheless, a politically correct script of deflection dominates public discourse when it comes to sex change surgery. This condescension shames people into believing that questions arising out of natural curiosity are somehow overly intrusive, and that inquiring about the medical aspects of being transgender is wrong.

First of all, there’s an assertion underlying here that trans bodies are surgically created bodies. Dolan repeatedly conflates M2F transsexuality and transgenderism. Trans bodies can be surgically created, synthetically created through hormone therapy, or by winning the genetic lottery. Dolan is correct that there should be no shame in talking about the human body, but context matters because respecting a person’s body matters. Context matters because a right to personal privacy matters.

Recently I met this anonymous fella at a music show:

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He told me that he thought trans women were women and he respected them. He then asked me if I’d had “the surgery.” I’d literally known this guy for minutes. He also informed me that I needed to smile more. I’m in a long term monogamous, committed relationship. I’d given him no signs that I was interested in him in any way. In this context, this man was being disrespectful.

I don’t and haven’t ever publicly stated the state of my genitals, because I don’t believe that’s something I personally feel the need to share or that should be up for public consumption. If you ask me about the state of my genitals when I’ve not expressed an interest in you, you’ve crossed a boundary and are being disrespectful. Some similar violations of privacy and personal boundaries/space without consent are:

  • Women that are visibly pregnant being “belly touched.”
  • White people touching an African American’s hair
  • People with physical disabilities being “helped” without being asked

Dolan states:

While the privacy that others may choose deserves respect, there is fallacy in the proposition that everyone should know better than to pursue understanding of a subject to which they have yet to be exposed.

After all, I myself had no idea what sex change surgeons were capable of these days until I asked and found out. So how can I hold regular people to a higher standard and expect them to know what I, as a transgender person, once did not?

Indignation exacerbates at least four problems created by muzzling discussion of sex change surgery. First, silencing talk about the procedure undermines its medical necessity for many of us who identify as transsexual. In the United States, we are now required, like anyone else, to carry medical insurance; yet, although more and more insurers are developing policies that cover transgender genital surgery, many have historically excluded coverage for an operation they deemed “cosmetic.” Tell that to a transgender person wincing every time they have to go to the bathroom, weeping at their body in the shower or the mirror or trying to explain their sex to a potential intimate partner. 

There’s no muzzling of discussions of sex change surgeries. If one is interested, they only need a web browser to educate themselves. I hate being so repetitive, but again it’s context of the inquiry that is disrespectful. Trans people should not be asked to educate cis-gender (not transgender) people, with their own bodies as the curriculum of that education.

Sorry, I’m not your trans101 sex education doll.

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Suicide, Leelah Alcorn, and Living Openly Trans*

I’ve kept quiet much for the last few months because I’ve been mourning a loss, the equal I can only compare losing my father at age 11. I’m not going to share the particulars of this loss because it doesn’t really matter in the context of this post, and secondly because it’s extremely personal. But emotionally I’ve been hampered a bit in just getting by day to day. I’m just trying to work out a plan for my future and try to do all the things people do when they’re mourning a huge loss. Trying to move on when you don’t really want to.

The holidays haven’t made it any easier. My circle of friends in Madison, Wisconsin is small. This is the first Christmas without my partner. I’ve just been putting my head down, going to work, and trying to make it through.

And then I read the suicide note of a trans teen, Leelah Acorn. Her parents tried Jesusing the the trans out of her to the point she killed herself. Some cis-gender (not trans*) people (especially those people that can’t bring themselves to call trans women, women but feel the need to call them “penised individuals“) have suggested that it’s irresponsible to post Leelah’s suicide note.

This is thorny territory for me personally. When I read it, it did trigger me. I’ve been pretty much staying away from social media the last few days because of her suicide. In her suicide note she said:

“I have decided I’ve had enough. I’m never going to transition successfully, even when I move out. I’m never going to be happy with the way I look or sound. I’m never going to have enough friends to satisfy me. I’m never going to have enough love to satisfy me. I’m never going to find a man who loves me. I’m never going to be happy. Either I live the rest of my life as a lonely man who wishes he were a woman or I live my life as a lonelier woman who hates herself. There’s no winning. There’s no way out. I’m sad enough already, I don’t need my life to get any worse. People say “it gets better” but that isn’t true in my case. It gets worse. Each day I get worse.

That part of her note pierced through me like a knife. I understand her pain, because I feel like I am the embodiment of the comments of her future. I’m a visibly trans woman that struggles every day. As I said to a friend after this story broke:

“I’m not clinically depressed or having suicidal ideation. I’m currently mourning a loss and been having dysphoria related issues lately. Basically I’m the person she said she didn’t want to live to be. That was a huge punch to the gut.”

and

“I’m not saying it for hugs or attention (but thanks for the love), but that it’s just hard. Especially what she said about it not getting better. If you don’t have cis-privilege, life is fucking hard being openly trans.”

But I don’t think it’s irresponsible to publish her note. I think it’s wise and compassionate to warn people with “trigger warnings”. But for someone that routinely fights for the right to exclude trans women from “female only” spaces without one shred of evidence that trans women are a threat (regardless of their genital status), I find Ditum’s words to be both disingenuous and oppressive.

Irresponsible? That would be the Philadelphia Gay News publishing a story about an underage child’s genitals. Irresponsible would be the Statesman asking a TERF who openly mocks trans women to write a piece on a trans child’s suicide.

The answer to transphobia that leads to suicide isn’t more transphobia. The answer to transphobia isn’t silence. Not talking about it isn’t going to make it go away. Trans reparative therapy isn’t going to suddenly go away on its own. It needs to be talked about and people need to know how awful and destructive it is.

She says:

“Trans lives matter. We know that transgender people are at particular risk of suicidal thoughts. So why are people endorsing and sharing material that, if it has any effect at all, is likely to be the catalyst for a trans youth to attempt suicide?”

Ditum’s pity feels a lot like the pity trans people get from Focus on the Family. She knows that trans people are at particularly at risk for suicidal thoughts, but never seems to ask why. I’m suffering every day as a visibly trans person, and it’s not because I’m mentally ill or because I’m diagnosed with any sort of depression. It’s because being visibly trans in this world IS A HARD LIFE. It’s because there are people that other us, disrespect us, and objectify us on a daily (and sometimes hourly) basis.

The answer isn’t silence, it’s education. The answer isn’t fear mongering, mis-gendering, or “gender nerd snark“, it’s treating trans people with respect and human dignity. It boils down to just letting trans people live their lives authentically without being attacked for who they are. Ditum and folks like her aren’t part of the answer, they’re part of the problem.

Nervous….

Well, I went in the Indiana Statehouse for the first time in my life. And who stepped through those doors? Marti. It’s wierd to be in a space as a female that I have never been in as a male.

I was nervous as hell at first because it was a press conference and I have mild social anxiety anyhow. As soon as we got into the room where the press conference was to be held and that all washed away. Chris Douglas, a local gay Republican, got up and really pegged a knot in the Indiana Senate’s ass. I’ve never seen him so hot under the collar. It was a great performance to the media.

I came home and slept… then coded the website some….then slept…zzzzzzzzzz and my alarm doesn’t go off….zzzzzzz wake up and what time is it? 9:05pm. FUCK my bus comes in …15 minutes!!! So I hall balls ..change clothes and run out the door. I had to run to make the bus, if that tells you how close I was to missing the bus. Sooooooooooooo, I made it to the bus…and got to work OK.

*SMELL ALERT* while I took a shower this AM, I feel icky. Damn running for the bus! Damn warm coat!

Transgender Day of Rememberance

Remembering
by Marti Abernathey

As I was working on today’s annual Transgender Day of Remembrance I was fretting about the candles, the slides, the names, the equipment,  all the things that go into making a day like this happen. I was relaying this anxiety to a friend of mine. He said “well this day isn’t about the candles or the slides, but about remembering.

Today is a day to remember those that have fallen due to some senseless act of violence. They are not just names on a card, on a website or on a sheet of paper. You may have never known a person on this listing of our dead, but you have felt loss before. Every person here today has lost someone, a father, a mother, a partner, a child, or a friend.

Today I ask you to think of the loss of someone important to you. These names on the list were living, breathing vibrant human beings before they were so violently taken from our world. These victims were just like your loved ones, they were just like you. They had dreams, hopes, and desires. Each one of these names was more than just a name; they were a heart, a mind, and a soul.

Maya Angelou once said that “We allow our ignorance to prevail upon us and make us think we can survive alone, alone in patches, alone in groups, alone in races, even alone in genders.” The commonality of each person on this list was that they dared live their truth. But they were more than transgendered. Each person on this list was a loved one; a loved one that will never return home, a loved one that will never have another Christmas or another birthday celebration.

As you leave here today think about your loved ones, then remember what this day is about. It’s about loss; it’s about unnecessary violence against our fallen brothers and sisters. It’s about never forgetting why they died.

John F. Kennedy once said “We are confronted primarily with a moral issue, whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated.”

Today we remember our dead, but tomorrow we must set out a path to end this. Leave here today with a rekindled source of activism. Make it your passion. If you see an article in the newspaper refer to a transgender person with incorrect pronouns, correct them. If laws are unjust, work to change them. In whatever it is that you do, work with all your heart and soul to make sure that this list doesn’t get any longer.

With that I’ll leave you with Native American prayer:

O Great Spirit of our Ancestors, I raise my pipe to you.
To your messengers the four winds,
and to Mother Earth who provides for your children.
Give us the wisdom to teach our children to love, to respect,
and to be kind to each other so that they may grow with peace in mind.
Let us learn to share all the good things you provide for us on this Earth.

My weekend

Sorry for not posting of late. I read a couple days back, but I can’t read back far enough to get caught up. If you have had something major happen, post a link to the url and I will make sure to read.

The reason I haven’t posted is because of something you may have read about on this LJ. The gubernatorial race here is very tight and the Republican candidate agreed to meet with the GLBT community to discuss his position. You can read about the drama here. This drama caused me to have to stay home on Saturday and write.

Sunday I had a meeting with INTRAA and then after the meeting we played poker. I suck at Poker. I had a great time though, and am really happy that I am finding people that I connect with. Lori, Evan, Rhys, really make me feel accepted and normal. Many people talk about finding a place they feel comfortable in, a community. I feel this way with the trans community in Indy.

Monday I spent working all day and when I got home I continued to dialog with Christian about the Democrat fiasco.

Tuesday, I actually got to attend the meeting with the Republican candidate for Governor. It was really a bold step for him to meet with us and at least explain where he stands on things. I may vote for him, I am still very undecided. I think my vote sways on if he supports amending the civil rights law of indiana to include gender identity and sexual orientation.