Monday, August 17, 2009

The Stories Never Told

I have a lot of skeletons in my closet, as the saying goes. It's not a perfect little idiom, because the things to which I refer aren't things I'm ashamed of, per se. Rather, they're things I just very rarely feel comfortable enough to talk about. So I'm going to vent a little, tell a few stories that I'm not sure I've ever told anyone else.

It's odd, but these stories--they don't weigh heavily on me. They're more like balloons, trying desperately to float up and away.

I don't NEED to tell them. They NEED to be told.


My earliest memories are clouded by a sense of wrongness. Even way back then, I knew there was something odd about me. But the first time I could put a specific descriptor to my troubles was in first grade--I think.

My first grade teacher had an assistant. She lived down the street from me about a block and a half, incidentally. Her name might have been...Meyer? Ms. Meyer? I remember sitting in class one day, after I'd finished working on an assignment, watching around me. I was a fast kid when it came to everything except reading clocks and counting change, so I did a lot of observing back then.

I remember the noise of low pumps clicking on classroom linoleum, I remember her smile, I remember her voice. But mostly I remember the thoughts: I hope when I grow up I'll be just like her. I know that's not what everyone wants from me but it's what I want.


Coming out anecdote: I remember the very day I came out to my parents: August 27th, 2005. That was a pretty typical coming out story: I took a drive with my mother, told her to pull over, I had something to tell her...the rest is very standard fare.

But my friend Chris was a different story.

He had set up an FTP server for some reason which I don't quite remember, and he wanted me to test it. So I went to upload something small but identifiable. I opted for OH.doc, which was part of a chemistry lab report on something.

I realized about thirty seconds later that I had actually upped Oh!.doc, which was all the amateur erotica I had written in the past year (What? It helps ease tension!). I decided at that point that if I was airing some of my dirty laundry I might as well do all of it (this was back when being trans was still "dirty laundry" for me). So I came out to Chris, and eventually I decided, might as well get everybody else on board, too. I ended up coming out to all of my friends because I accidentally uploaded very amateurish self-insertion erotica to my friend's FTP server. I knew I'd end up here, more or less, but I certainly took an odd (and ridiculously embarrassing) path to get here.


When I was little I used to play a game with my little sister: she'd chase me around--I'd "run" from her--and if she caught me she'd make me up "like a girl". Maybe that's why I was chubby way back then: I had a vested interest in plausible deniability for when I let her catch me. And I always let her catch me.


More stories to come as they bubble up during late-night introspection sessions!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

"Why put them in that situation?"

As I've said before, I work selling fireworks during the summer. The people who own the place are almost-family; they used to be the family of my aunt, until my aunt and uncle divorced. They like me, and my mother/father/sister because we're good at selling fireworks and we're reliable.

This past summer I worked for them in "boy mode". It will be the last time; I'm going full-time when the coming semester starts. But I was speaking to my mother a couple of weeks ago, and she suggested that I would need to get a full-time summer job next summer (fireworks is really over-time for like 3 weeks, and it pays really well). I pointed out that I would, of course, if fireworks didn't work out. She responded with something--rather, two somethings--that really irked me.

First was "Well, you know what they'll say..."

No, I really don't. I have suspicions, and strong suspicions they are--but one can find good, respectful people in unlikely places. It's profoundly disrespectful of the proprietors of these stores to presume they would be so ignorant as to reject someone like myself, someone they've much liked having as an employee in the past, for essentially erroneous reasons. They like getting as many girls as possible working, anyway--I suppose it makes old inebriated men (a significant portion of our target demographic in selling explosives) more willing to pay a ridiculous 12% sales tax (which raises issues of objectification and sexism, obviously, but I have to pick my battles sometimes).

It is, of course, safer to assume that they will react negatively, and I will prepare for such an eventuality as best I can. But I refuse to simply write someone off before I've given them a chance to show respect and sensitivity. "Innocent until proven guilty" is a philosophy I extend to everyone--fireworks merchants included.

Second was "Why put them through that?"

Through WHAT, precisely? A potential confrontation with their own bigotry? I don't just enjoy making people uncomfortable. I LIKE selling fireworks. It's hard work, but it pays well, and hours are flexible. Absolutely, I am going to force them to make that decision. If I'm not wanted they're going to have to say it. Maybe they'll do it without a second thought, and feel justified--but perhaps they will instead have to think, to decide. I've always been a boon to the bottom line. I'm a good worker. Are they willing to give that worker up for such an absurd reason? At worst, then, I've made them think, and maybe the next person who comes along will have it easier--at best I still have a great summer job. Anything I put them through is a labyrinth of their own design. I have not made a bed of bigotry--but so help me, if they have they'll lie in it.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Done with work--with bonus commentary track!

So my sort-of family owns a chain of fireworks stores, Marvin's in southern Indiana/north-western Kentucky. Now that the fireworks season has come and gone I'm (hopefully) done working for them. The pay, I'll give you, is good, but the work is beyond frustrating. I almost have a moral problem with selling explosives to the inebriated and occasionally criminally stupid ("Hey, do I really need to put artillery shells in the tube?" "Uh, well, only if you want any control in what direction they shoot off in, and are fond of having hands...") but I figure it's your responsibility to use pseudo-weapons of war...well, responsibly. Bottom line is I should be updating more often now.

On a different note:

My mother once told me: "When I think of you and your sister, the thing that gives me the most pride is that you both turned out to be your own person, independent of me and your father and your grandparents and all. The greatest disappointment is that deep down, you're both damn Republicans."

I'm not really a Republican, I don't think. Certainly I'm not what we consider a Republican these days--I've grown up in Kentucky, sure, but my mother's a teacher and my father's bounced between factory worker and factory management for most of my life (which does give me some interesting views on labor unions). Deep down I WANT to be a Libertarian, but Libertarianism unfortunately rests on the assumption of equality of opportunity, something we've not quite reached (I also cannot accept the idea of "states' rights" in this day and age; the concept was a necessary evil when the US was formed, but these days we should realize that right and wrong are not bounded by which side of the Ohio you're on).

So I guess what I'm saying is, I'm working for equality of opportunity--in both a legal and a social sense--so that I can say without any misgivings that I believe in absolute personal responsibility, free markets (because only with equal opportunity can they really be free) etc. Dunno why I'm talking politics here, I guess I just feel like I sometimes don't come across clearly without a little information on where I'm coming from.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Wishful science.

I was thumbing through last semester's biology textbook yesterday and looking at the stuff on Barr bodies, which got me thinking about a comic book/series I read once called "Y: The Last Man".

So as a trans woman I have a Y chromosome (I presume, I've never checked but I have a sneaking suspicion it's there). Cis women (usually) have two X chromosomes, BUT, only one functions at a time--the other is deactivated soon after one's conception and becomes a packaged-up thing called a Barr body (actually small parts of it continue to function, but in general it is inert).

So my first thought was, would it be possible to "deactivate" my Y-chromosomes the same way? (Science project time!) But that wouldn't do anything anyway--it takes testosterone for the Y to DO anything, and with an androgen blocker going on nothing is happening anyway (though I guess it would decrease the medication I have to take). It was just an interesting thought, though, especially as the Y chromosome has relatively little information on it to begin with.

Which got me thinking about that comic book.
In it, shoddy (though entertaining) science makes every Y chromosome on Earth self-destruct (except for those of the titular last man and a couple of astronauts). The part where this happens is awfully bloody, with lots of vomiting and screaming. But that's not what would happen, unless the chromosomes literally detonated or something. 50% of the world survives on basically one X chromosome. Now I'm not sure EXACTLY what's on the Y chromosome and whether or not it's super-important, but somehow I imagine its loss would not be an immediate mass death knell. Maybe it would kill people eventually, yeah, but not EVERYONE in the thirty seconds it took in the comic.

Just biology-ranting for a second there.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Statements transphobic idiots make #1: "You should make do with what you're given, if you're REALLY interested in fighting the gender binary."

This particular attack generally comes from people with a view to deconstruct gender, i.e. socially mandate it out of existence. It's not so much an argument against transsexuality as it is against transition (with the implication that such methods can't "work" or have no effect, as if I needed a vagina or breasts to be a woman...)

Your first incorrect assumption here is that I want to fight the gender binary. On the contrary, I suspect that the "gender binary" is very much natural and I know it does not in any way offend my sensibilities. I would say that most everyone I've ever met is either a self-identified man or a self-identified woman, and that is totally cool if it works for them. As for myself, I'm a self-identified woman. No, I've no interest in fighting the gender binary. I've interest in fighting the obligations one is born with toward the gender binary. If you are born male you are obligated to be a man in the binary, while females are obligated to be women. Everyone is obligated to identify as one or the other, at least. The fact that most people DO identify within those fairly narrow ranges is wholly incidental; one should be free to identify anywhere along the masculine-feminine spectrum, or outside of it, if they feel such a label accurately describes them, regardless of birth sex or anything. It isn't acceptable to have as a goal "dismantling the identity of another person"; that is a violation of their rights to self-determination. Liberating people, on the other hand, to freely choose their identities and their expressions of them, is a profoundly noble thing.

Your second incorrect assumption is that for whatever reason transition (usually medical transition) is by nature an appeal to normativity. This often comes from people who honestly believe that being a trans woman who is "feminine" is somehow more "normative" than being a feminine man or a masculine woman, and more importantly, that being "normative" is necessarily bad. First--trust me, I know this--being trans is not suddenly conforming to gendered stereotypes, especially not in a world that stubbornly continues to conflate birth sex and everything else relating to one's gender/presentation. I still catch tons of shit for being a trans woman, and NOBODY, EVER, has said to me "Well at least you transitioned, 'cause if you'd been a feminine man, whoa, that would have been rough." My life is not suddenly simple now that people no longer usually mistake me for a man--I still have to deal with the cultural baggage that comes with my now-perceived womanhood, much of which I would reject wholesale, were that an option, in addition to all the shit shovelled on me for being trans. Second--there's nothing wrong with being typical or "normative". In many ways I am a typical woman--that doesn't mean I suddenly can't be an activist or that I'm suddenly kowtowing to "the Man". Look at it this way--there is no reason whatsoever to be ashamed of being white. Being white is not bad. Being oppressive and wielding your white privilege against people of color is bad. Likewise, I am in many ways a "typical" woman, and I'm fine with that--if I were ranting about how I'm so much better at being a woman than butch lesbians, that would be bad.

Many people back this up with bullshit like "I don't really agree with any cosmetic surgery, though, so I'm not transphobic. You just shouldn't be ashamed of your body, because it's what's inside that counts." I want you to picket the burn victims' unit in your local hospital with signs that say "No skin transplants for burn victims; BE PROUD OF YOUR BODY". Now, I don't think a burn victim ought to be compelled to get skin grafts. But if they want them then they should be available. Skin grafts generally serve no physiological purpose--your skin WORKS, scarred though it may be. Skin grafts are a psychological/social thing done for the comfort of the individual--just like transition. I'm the same person now, mid-transition, as I was before I started, and I will be the same person when I'm "done" (though perhaps happier, when I no longer catch hell over the information on my driver's license). Transition is making me happier, nothing else, because I can finally say I love every part of my body, and it all feels right (or is getting there). You don't have to like it, but here's the thing--to refuse to actually support my right to alter my body as I am comfortable doing is simply giving ammunition to those who WOULD out-and-out stop me. I don't ask that you change the way you FEEL, merely the way you ACT. If you are really committed to personal freedoms you have a duty to BEHAVE in a supportive manner, which includes not saying stupid shit like "Cosmetic surgery is perpetuating a dangerous materialist streak in our culture." Instead realize that people who undergo cosmetic procedures (whether they be surgical or hormonal, in any case) MAY indeed do it to conform to someone else's beauty standards--but some of us do it for ourselves, and in the end--neither you nore anyone else should get a say in what I do with my body.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Outing people: good or bad?

'Outrage': Kirby Dick kicks open Washington's closet door

Is it ever okay to out someone?

The obvious response is: No, never. We as people have individual rights to privacy that extend to everyone; just because you're a politician and have accepted that de facto your life is not as private as it once was does not mean that the de facto situation takes on any sort of de jure facet. You SHOULD expect the same level of privacy that everyone else gets and you SHOULD receive it. Unfortunately you probably won't expect or receive it, but that doesn't mean such deprivatizing of private matters is acceptable.

The more honest one: It's complicated.

You should never out someone for the sake of outing them (in order to, for example, discredit them or shame them). In an ideal world, like I said, everyone has their right to privacy. However, consider this: In court, a witness's own criminal record is inadmissible information, UNLESS THE CONVICTION IS SPECIFICALLY RELATED TO DISHONESTY (i.e. fraud, perjury, etc.). So you can't bring up a criminal record unless it calls into question the value of the individual's testimony.

If someone's history is seriously relevant to the debate then maybe it is admissible, even if it's related to something usually private (like sexuality or a criminal record). Maybe. I still think it's a douche move--there are legit ways to attack anti-gay legislation that don't amount to ad hominem attacks against politicians, after all--but I suppose if the debate devolves into mudslinging and you don't feel mature enough to rise above it, it's fair ammunition.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

We couldn't get ONE person out of two dozen? REALLY?

You've probably heard about the "bathroom bill" that came up for a vote (and was shot down) in the New Hampshire senate this past week. I honestly can't help but take this personally. It would be one thing if the bill just lost--a vote split almost 50-50 (or 11-13 as the case may be, whatever) would at least be a sign of progress. I'd be absolutely ecstatic if 50% of the members of any group were defending me and my gender identity.

But the fact is, it was shot down unanimously. Twenty-four reasonable, intelligent people ALL voted that as long as I'm in New Hampshire, my rights to housing, job security, and safe urination were all essentially nil, because I was born with a penis.

This wasn't even a radical proposition: the law would have only affected housing, job security, etc. because the toilet issue which made such a stir was resolved already. Laws already prevent discrimination based on sex, and the men's room/ladies' room dichotomy smacks of separate-but-equal to me; essentially sex-specific restrooms are already enforced by courtesy, not law.

People stated that they were worried about predators using this statute to legally prowl in women's restrooms. In the hundred-or-so locales with similar laws that has never been reported to be a problem. People say they want to protect their daughters, their wives--then lobby about an important (and real) issue like the rape kits that go untested for years or clearing the wage gap. Don't take an opportunity like this to point out how you think I'm sub-human--I know you think that. And now I know your legislative body thinks that, too.

I'm not sure what you can do about this as an individual. I even understand if you're not up-in-arms about it--I'm not from New Hampshire and it took me a while to get well and truly pissed about this, too. But here's something small: any time you hear someone call this the "bathroom bill" correct them and inform that (a) I can already use any bathroom I want and (b) this decision had the more significant effect of essentially letting me know that I couldn't necessarily rent an apartment (which would have a bathroom in it and solve this whole problem).