I know what it’s like to feel like your voice is being marginalized by the louder, more privileged voices around you, like others are trying to speak for you and failing, and like you need to break off and form your own movement. I really do–I’ve been transsexual and heavily involved in LGB(t) rights groups. I’ve had people literally say to my face that they don’t need trans representation to honestly claim to be a trans rights group as well as a gay rights group. I’ve been in conversations about disability where my experiences as a transgender person were appropriated by a cisgender male as misguided analogies, and to have even other radicals be too blinded by their cisness to listen to me when I pointed it out. Read the rest of this entry »
I know that I tend to write about how terrible the world is. I’d even hazard a guess that might be what most trans* bloggers–especially women–tend to find themselves fixated on, and rightly so, because of the legal and social state of affairs for trans* (female) people in general, but I think it tends to cause a lot of burnout (and might be the leading cause of my own burnout), because we get so caught up in how terrible the world can be. I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the state of affairs in my own life, and some of the good things that have come about for me in the last couple months.
So, lately we’ve been seeing a lot of progress in legislatures regarding trans rights. Massachusetts has been kicking around a trans rights bill. Maryland failed to pass one, but it looks like they’re going to try again. Connecticut passed one. Since I was last regularly blogging, New York passed marriage rights–which DOES affect us, and while I have mixed feelings about assimilating into the heteronormative world at large, it’s a big deal to me that I can marry another woman someday when that comes to be the right choice (contrary to popular belief, New York did not permit this before, nor does New Jersey–and DOMA would still prevent myself and any wife I have from receiving proper benefits from marriage). All of these things are progress, they really are–again, not because I personally think assimilation is the proper way to go, in the case of marriage, but because this means we’re moving up in the world. The world’s becoming a more accepting place, and laws both reflect and ensure that. Make no mistake that marriage equality, hate crime law inclusion, housing rights, and job rights are good signs, although hate crimes laws are probably not the best thought-out idea from a legal standpoint.
However, the recent trend of rights laws being exclusive of public accomodations is unfortunate. It has far-reaching consequences that affect our housing and job rights. First of all, we are already protected from being fired for being trans, strictly speaking, by laws banning discrimation based on sex. The strategy used by employers to thrust us out is to make us use single-stall restrooms that are so far away from our working environment that they impact our job performance, and set us apart as second class citizens in a workplace. If we seek to use any other bathrooms, or if we petition for any change of our situation, we are fired for insubordination. It may seem like an avoidable situation, but it happens to all of us sooner or later. Yes, the reason we are fired has nothing to do with there not being an employment law on the books. That horrifying rate of unemployment? It’s all about public accomodations laws. For everything else, we’re already covered by the same law that covers cis women. I’m not as familiar with the causes of housing discrimination, but my understanding is that sex stereotype interpretations cover us there, too.
Now, let’s talk about public accomodations themselves. They aren’t peanuts, like the dworkin-worshippers seem to think they are. It’s not just about the right to not be embarassed, although that’s very important–how often do you go into a public bathroom? Are the trans-haters aware of just how dangerous it is for me to go into a men’s bathroom? I haven’t tried in some time, since I pass as cis 99% of the time and that should tell you the reactions I would get in a men-only space. I’ll give you a hint–if you’re cis and female, imagine what it would be like for you to walk into a men’s bathroom. If you need an imagination aid, friends of mine who chose to keep going to the men’s room while passing as cis have told me horror stories of men banging on their stall doors, demanding to speak with them, creepers hitting on them, and having to run out for fear of their lives. All to take a piss. Many of us don’t even use locker rooms pre-op, we’re so terrified of what might happen. I’m lucky enough to live in New York City, where I’m legally entitled to use the women’s bathrooms, changing rooms, and such and such. I still enter them terrified that somebody will read me who has a problem with me, and decide to take it into their own hands. May not be likely to be murder, but with 4 psychiatric diagnoses and counting (not counting transness, since it’s not a disorder), getting beaten up is something my psyche really doesn’t need right now. And yes, it happens. And it’s much worse when men enter the equation.
As I’ve mentioned before, I get the transgendernews daily digest in my email. It’s an absolutely horrible choice for my personal mental health that I have nonetheless made on two separate occasions, once many months ago, and again when the college I happily waltzed out of in May stopped delivering my email (an admittedly expected occurrence). Sure, there is the occasional bit of awesome in that digest, wonderful stories that I can’t believe were written by people I didn’t have to yell at about my rights myself. But those are the minority of stories. The very small minority.
There are a lot of terrible stories where the pronouns are all fucked and nobody seems to give a damn that the person they’re reporting on is a human being–stories where our narrative doesn’t exist. There are even worse stories where people write things about us, mess the pronouns, and try to act like it’s our life story–stories where our narratives are given by others. Read the rest of this entry »
A recent event has caused a bit of a stir on some of the queer activist-sphere of internetism. As it turns out, there is a trans woman in Morristown, Tennessee (the only remaining state I know of which does not permit one to even amend the sex on hir birth certificate), who has chosen to walk around topless in response to the government’s stubborn refusal to fix the letter on her driver’s license, even though the social security administration already took her orchiectomy as sufficient for the same justice to be done. She has since been arrested for doing this, and charged with indecent exposure of her breasts, which is only technically illegal if you are female…yet the state insists that she is male.
This is demonstrative of the way trans women are treated in general. We’re treated with the same sexism as cisgender women, both by entities already aware of our trans status and by those who are not. Yet, we are not given the dignity of recognition as women, and as people who suffer from patriarchal sexist oppression. After all, if we were legally the same as cis women, we would have access to the same facilities and infrastructure–which we are denied due to society’s insistence that we are “not real women.” We are, however, welcome to suffer sexist double standards such as the one cited above–we’re women as long as we’re breaking the rules that women are “supposed to follow,” yet when we seek the same treatment as other women, we are denied it any further.
It’s time for society to make up its mind. If they’re going to decide we’re men, then I will walk around topless at every possible opportunity. I will encourage trans male friends of mine to go into women’s bathrooms with signs explaining why they’re there. All of these things are freely available to a society who decides to have its cake. I’d prefer they’d eat it instead, but they can no longer do both. Fuck doing both. You can’t treat us this way.
(Credit to http://whatever.scalzi.com/2010/10/18/things-i-dont-have-to-think-about-today/ for inspiring this post and to Lori Adorable for giving me the kick in the seat to look back at this blog)
This is a list of things I have to think about that not everybody does, and is meant to show what having privilege actually means.
1. Today, I have to think about whether the guy looking at my license will tell me it’s not me because I’m not a chick.
2. Today, I have to think about whether I’m going to be attacked just for trying to take a leak with people my own gender.
3. Today, I have to think about the fact that I won’t be able to get a job unless a psychiatrist can treat me.
4. Today, I have to think about whether it’s safe to hold my girlfriend’s hand or not.
5. Today, I have to think about whether my landlord will react to me having ritalin, or to it having my old name on it, more strongly.
6. Today, I have to think about how my next sexual partner will react when I disclose the status of my meat-shape to her.
7. Today, I have to think about whether my housemate can tell I’m trans, and whether it’s going to be a big deal
8. Today, I have to think about which to choose, food or medication
9. Today, I have to think about whether my teeth will hold up long enough for me to get them fixed
10. Today, I have to think about whether my partner’s body is going to make me dysphoric.
That’s a short list–but I’m going to come back and add more later, I think. At any rate, I just needed to put something out here–time for me to come out of retirement.
(Trigger warning for discussions of genitalia, and violence against intersex infants)
It seems that no matter where you go, or who you talk to, if you’re trans, you’re going to have a lot of conversations about genitals. There’s really nothing else people seem to want to talk about more–from binary-identified “transsexual-but-not-transgenders” who just can’t help but essentialize SRS, to transphobic “radical” feminists who are obsessed with the idea of penises in women’s bathrooms, or how disgusting they seem to thing SRS is, and how they never seem to know which one they hate more, everybody is talking about our genitals. Hell, even I talk about my genitals–I’m going to do it right now!
What’s so fascinating about genitals? Well, for one, we’ve been told (not entirely correctly) that sex just wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t use our genitals. Trannybashers and transphobic feminists seem to have the notion in them that genitals determine who you are (unless you mucked with them, because then they mysteriously don’t make you a woman to them). Privilege-denying folk find genitals to make the difference between hot and not, and they can tell! They can tell, they say, if somebody’s got one sort or the other. Read the rest of this entry »
Whatever you do, please don’t buy a feeldoe. For those of you who aren’t aware, a feeldoe is a specific brand of strapless dildo, which is designed to be placed in a meat-shape on one end and used to penetrate with the other end. While strapless dildos aren’t inherently bad, the particular brand, which is touted as the original (whether it really is or not, I’m not sure and I doubt anybody would be), has demonstrated a pretty clear contempt for trans* folks.
Amongst other terrible things on their pages, and specifically on their reviews page, they have a pretty terrifying section from a post-op trans* lady (included at the end of this post). It’s not what the reviewer says that is the problem, but the obvious fail with which that shit is displayed. The fact that some postop trans* ladies continue to use strapons/strapless dildoes is one that I remember seeing jokes about as far back as Kate Bornstein’s use of a strapon being termed “nostalgic,” but it shouldn’t be used this way to invalidate.
Unfuck this shit and the horse it rode in on. Don’t buy a feeldoe. If you do buy a feeldoe, send a letter of regret to the creator that you wish you hadn’t bought it because of her transfail.
This has been a pubic service announcement.
Just how real does a feeldoe® feel?
We don’t alter or editorialize the comments ya’ll send, but we need to clarify this one:
Jamie was born male and surgically became female.
Yes, he had his “outie” turned into an “innie”, for real. Then, for an extra twist of fate, “she” fell in love with another woman:
“If I had met my lover before the surgery I might not have done it.
The feeldoe is like having my own penis back. How ironic!”
-Jamie Marie – Baltimore, MD (yes, formerly James and father of 2.)
For those women on top who wonder if Feeldoe®
really “feel” the same as “a penis feels” for a man…
there, you have it ~ a True Expert’s Testimony!
(Trigger warning for transmisogynistic rhetoric, discussions of sexual violence, and abuse of survivor language and responses thereto)
(Point of note–this is written merely as a thought exercise, and it is important to be extremely careful when discussing the cotton ceiling, survivor issues, and the abuse of survivor issues to reinforce the cotton ceiling. The cotton ceiling is something we need to navigate gingerly, and this post is not meant to be taken as a literal, go-out-and-call-out-rape-survivors-for-no-reason-right-now suggestion. It is merely attempting to raise the issue, mention some thoughts on what we can do about it, and leave as an exercise to the reader how they’re going to navigate the issue without being a huge douchecanoe.)
Lately, trans men and some CAFAB queers have started to take pledges against transmisogyny. They’re pledging to be an ally to us and call out these actions where they see them. While this is a lovely gesture I appreciate, I find myself doubting the usefulness of this. It’s nice that I’ve started to see CAFAB-centered spaces talking about transmisogyny, and trans*radical spaces that are naturally also dominated by CAFAB queers, talking about transmisogyny. Unfortunately, I find that these spaces are still overwhelmingly tolerant of transmisogyny, because no matter how many times it’s called out, nobody suffers repercussions from their actions. Nobody finds that there are consequences to flaunting their privilege. Maybe because we still don’t have the guts to flush these actions out as the oppression they are.
In transmisogynistic diatribes, the greatest threat to accountability I see is when people appropriate the word “trigger”–designed to refer to the situations that cause posttraumatic stress flashbacks, or gender dysphoria spikes–to describe their reaction to “penises.” I have PTSD, and I think it’s important to remark that even reading the word “rape” can, if I do not distance myself from a situation, or expend countless spoons to force my brain elsewhere, completely prevent me from functional interactions or thought processes for hours, and leave me exhausted for hours more. That’s what a trigger looks like. When something causes me to question my value because I’m trans–as simple as somebody reading me once, slipping my pronoun once, or hearing the sound of my own voice–that can actually leave me feeling terrible and constantly self-doubting for days or weeks at a time. That’s what a trigger looks like.
Despite the fact that this will likely trigger me, I’m going to go into a little something here. I was sexually assaulted by two middle-aged cisgender women. Their transgression was that they continued to hit me in ways I had told them I couldn’t handle. They didn’t listen to safewords, they didn’t ask me what I wanted, and they stripped me of my privacy and held me in a house for three days. As a result, being touched on my butt can trigger me. Being trapped in any way can trigger me. The bathroom door needs to be closed, locked, and checked before I feel safe. Vaginas do not trigger me. If I, a trans lesbian, had developed a triggering aversion to vaginas, I would be expected and obligated to work around that trigger, and eventually, to have experiences to associate with that which were not triggering. If I refused to date cisgender women, and still called myself a lesbian, because vaginas are triggering to me, then my orientation would be questioned, my legitimacy as a woman-identified person would be questioned. I probably personally would force myself to work through that, because I do want to be able to date cisgender women. Straight cis female rape survivors work through an inability to even be near men, every single day.
Yet, because a woman with a “penis” is unusual, because I am not the cultural default even among supposedly anti-cultural-default lesbians, the personal response to supposedly being triggered by “penises” isn’t to lament it, as would be consistent behavior and thought patterns if these women were truly allies (or indeed, the way that most people react to having triggers at all). Nobody ever seems to request “trigger warning for penises” in thread headers. Question–if these triggers truly are debilitating and preventing otherwise good allies from being able to associate sexually with trans women, wouldn’t we hear from women who wished they didn’t have these triggers? Who found these triggers to be a negative impact on their lives? Who had tried having sex with a trans woman who didn’t use her “penis” but still found it triggering? Why don’t we ever hear anything about these triggers except that the people who have them aren’t transmisogynistic, they just have triggers about “penises”? Why don’t we ever hear stories of people who are triggered by vulvae, or having these triggers in relation to men as well? Every person who claims these triggers never seems to be triggered by men, despite the fact that their triggers are attributed to men–perhaps raising the issue of the “trans woman as predator” myth and how that negative stereotype is being used to dismiss our sexual relevance.
While it is entirely possible that these triggers might exist in some of these women, and while a few people having these triggers would not be suspicious and would be unproblematic, when I find that every privilege-denying cis lesbian in a discussion has triggers about “penises,” that’s a problem. For starters, this shouldn’t even matter, because not every trans woman will use or even show her genitals sexually (you’d be surprised how a good tuck will manage this), and many of those who will, are externally indistinguishable from cis women. And also that every sentence that started with “well, I’m an ally to trans women, but…” also seems to end with “and I have triggers about ‘penises.’” Both of these statements are fine in a vacuum. But there’s a very conspicuous lack of other things associated with PTSD in the way we talk about these triggers.
It seems that, suspiciously, these supposed allies are ignorant of trans women’s sexual practices, never seem to lament these triggers (despite the fact that many PTSD sufferers, myself included, lament ALL of their triggers), never seem to be triggered by trans men, and never seem to mention these triggers except in conversations about transmisogyny. I can’t help but insist that, if people are going to appropriate survivor language and deny their privilege at the same time, at least they be more creative about it, and do their research. Sorry, but penises isn’t a sufficient trigger to completely write trans women out of your sex lives. Postops and the fact that you can fucking tuck it back take care of that. Figure out a better one, for god’s sake. Unfortunately, this only the most grievous of many ways that transmisogyny is allowed to exist without repercussion in queer spaces.
To come full circle–I don’t think the support of trans men is going to be enough for us. The end result of my ruminations on this post are this–I’m taking a radical stance on this blog. If an end is to come to transmisogyny, then we will need to change our everyday actions so that we effect change in our environment with them. If you are a trans* woman, then whenever somebody appropriates survivor language to discount you, then point out that this is common and, while you respect that person, you find that many others do this in an obviously appropriative manner. Without directly accusing that person (and even by being positive), you pose a question to them–Are you being candid here, or are you bullshitting, and if you’re bullshitting, are you going to own your privilege and accept that you have issues to work through? If you’re a CAFAB queer, then before you sexually engage with somebody, ask them–would they be doing this if you were trans? If the answer is no, consider politely ending the situation, possibly adding that your genital shape shouldn’t be the basis for it. And for everybody–if you expect to claim ally status, you probably shouldn’t pull this shit yourself. If you do, sorry, but, with allies like that, who needs enemies?
I was asked to review “The Genderfellator” by its director, Tobi Hill-Meyer, a couple months ago. As you’re probably aware, this kind of fell during my hiatus, but I did get a chance to watch it and I did form an opinion about it. I will start by saying, I had some fairly high expectations of this film and its director, having been a huge fan of Tobi’s previous work and having interviewed Tobi for Squirm, my college’s sex-positive magazine. I suppose this might be a pretty big bar to clear.
“The Genderfellator” is a porn parody of an anti-trans movie called “The Gendercator,” in which trans people and the religious right work together to force butches to transition to men. Obviously, the need for a parody is there, and I think Tobi parodized the concept quite well–I’m still trying to stiffen my stomach enough to see the original, but I really liked the themes of anti-essentialism central to the plot, and the way in which whatever “dialogue” that the previous film created, has most certainly been stiffly answered by this film. The plot centers around a rip van winkle trans man who ends up smashing the “androdyke” tyrrany and re-legalizing the expression of illegal genders, and includes trans and cis folks of various genders and trans/cis statuses in this project.
It is, of course, empty to only acknowledge a pornographic film for its plot elements, since of course that’s not really why you’d be watching it, is it? Unfortunately, my only major critique of this film has to do with this aspect–for a movie that’s all about lesbians, I find it kind of startling to note that this film has no lesbian sex scenes in it. All of the sex scenes involve one trans man and either a woman or somebody with a lesbian-spectrum gender identity (i.e. I would count femme in this, as well as trans woman and androdyke, but not “trans man”). The sex scenes themselves are wonderfully well-directed, well-filmed, and involve a wide range of bodily interactions, my only critique is that all of these interactions take place between a queer woman and a trans man.
So, while I didn’t really get off to this film (I’m kind of a huge raging homo and, as such, only really like porn about two ladies or two dudes), you might, if you’re into sex that involves transmen or folks with bodies of similar shape to transmen (obviously, I can’t ask all the characters what their gender identities are, so I’m going based on how I read the film). If you like dialogues about lesbian-trans relations, you’ll like the plot of this film, but if you’re looking for some feminist woman-on-woman, I’d suggest the film’s predecessor, “Doing it Ourselves,” instead.