Wednesday, May 6, 2009

TSA wants your gendar

As if going to the airport with my ID wasn't stressfull enough already . . .

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

why is calling out transphobia so effing hard?

Hey team,

Been a while. I've gone through a move, am living in a new city, and have a new job, all in the past several months since my last post. I'm a nurse now at an HIV clinic in NYC, which has been a great shift for me in a lot of different ways. But more on that later.

I was just a guest on a TV show (I'll probably post a clip or a link or something when it goes up), but, it was a little bit horrible. The show is a sex-positive sex advice show; they do a really good job of keeping things positive, being non-judgemental, etc etc. The format is that the two hosts (a married couple) sit in bed and answer questions on email, phone, and video email, and generally they're pretty good with stuff.

Except the trans. I was planted in the audience, and they staged bringing me down into the bed with them, presumably for an interview and asking questions. It could have gone really well if the guy of the couple hadn't totally flipped his shit--a couple minutes after I climbed into bed with him, he jumped out. And, for some reason, instead of being a badass and calling him on his shit (the line "This is what transphobia looks like definitely crossed my mind), I tried to play coy and e friendly and get him to come back.

Which didn't work. Of course it didn't work. It doesn't work in real life, and doesn't work on TV. Which brings me to my question--why is it so hard to name when it's going on? I have this specific visceral reaction that I have when transphobic bullshit is going on. Sometimes, I can recognize that and call it out, but this time, it took me a couple minutes to realize why the host had gotten out of bed, what he was trying to do, and how inappropriate it was. Which is hard set of emotions to handle when there's four cameras pointed your way.

Ugh. Whine whine whine. We've all experienced transphobia, whether or not we're trans. Any sort of gender bending counts--what have your experiences been? What's worked for you? Why is it so fucking hard to deal with when it's happening?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Oh, she's so pretty!

I'm usually pretty hesitant to say that gendered and racialized systems of power and domination function in the same or similar ways, but, that said, I feel like calling a transgendered person pretty or handsome is a lot like saying that Barak Obama is eloquent or well-spoken.

I mean, I always want to say, "It's obvious. Why are you so fucking surprised?"

Sunday, August 26, 2007

"Are you washing clothes for your girlfriend, too?"

"You wear pink?" was the second question out of the fifteen year-old's mouth once I told her that no, everything she'd been watching in the dryer was mine. We chatted a little bit about whether or not we like to paint our toes or our fingers more, how it was so much hotter inside than out, and by that time, my laundry was folded, and I was on my way.

Sometimes I just don't get it. Pink underwear tumbling around in the window of my dryer at the laundromat is somehow more transgressive when it's pressed up against the glass door than it is adorning my (adorable) little butt. Unfortunately, they're more visible on laundry day than any other day of the week. Maybe I should just stop wearing pants?

While this was certainly the friendliest interaction I had as the only white girl in the neighborhood laundromat, I still feel as though have to pay tribute to everything wrapped up in the questions my new friend was asking. Compulsory gender conformity. Compulsory heterosexuality. Blah blah blah. I'd like to read her question at least a little bit optimistically, though, that she was open to a broader range of masculinized identities, that it would not be so unreasonable for someone who identified as a straight boy to be the one who does the laundry. Or perhaps that I had already emasculated myself by showing off my knickers to the rest of the neighborhood, and she was trying to help me save some scrap of manhood by allowing them to be my invisible girlfriend's underpants.

But on this sleepy Sunday, my underwear is blue, though this pair did come from the women's section. Go figure.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Gender identity and gender essentialism

A large part of my job involves deconstructing and explaining trans identities for the benefit of non-trans people who are, in some capacity, working with trans folks. While I’ve figured out a way to run these workshops without feeling like I’m vivisecting myself in front of a live audience, there’s a certain tradeoff that I’ve made. While I may be more comfortable talking about trans issues in front of a group of strangers, I am certainly less truthful to my own relationship with gender, and have lowered my expectations for what attendees think at the end of the workshop. One thing that speaks to both the protective structuring of my workshops and the ways I feel my education work falls short is the heavy focus I tend to put on understanding gender identity and gender expression.

I don’t believe in gender identity, that there is anything static or fixed about the ways we relate to our bodies and relate our bodies to other people. That is an incredibly hard concept to relate to a group of non-trans people who are focused on understanding some sort of unified trans identity that they can put in their pocket and bring with them to work. Nor is it a particularly useful way to spend the time it takes to explain when I have, at most, an hour and a half to turn a group of clueless wannabe do-gooders into solid trans allies. And that’s why I rely so heavily on gender identity when I’m teaching.

“Gender identity,” I say, “is how we feel about ourselves on the inside,” gesturing with my hands over my sternum. “Gender expression,” I quickly follow, “is what we show to other people,” spreading my arms so as to indicate the rest of the room. The implication, then, is that people dress a certain way to reflect an essentialized internal alignment and that, because we are all such good people, we wish to respect that alignment and the way it affects our appearance. My job, then, becomes teaching people how to be respectful of this arrangement. If I wasn’t trying so hard not to laugh, I’d probably vomit.

This conversation often completely ignores the historical and social constructions of gendered systems of power that make trans identities both necessary and inherently radical. Unless we have time to delve much, much deeper into conceptualizations and constructions of gender, it crosses the line from politically untenable oversimplification into outright lie. A lie that is non-threatening, respectful and stealing almost all agency from the trans people we are skirting around discussing. Strategic, for sure, but still far from an accurate reflection of how I feel. It would almost be palatable if these words weren’t just as often repeated within trans communities.

What does it mean that we’ve so eagerly embraced and internalized such a heavily Libertarian ideology formulated to make our grotesque bodies more palatable to those who force us into the radicalized margins while ignoring what makes our identities both important and powerful? In trans-only spaces, the debate so often and so quickly descends into conversations about what makes us the way we are, be it theories of when we are subject to what hormones in vitro, or how our limbic systems are so much more sophisticated than those of people who are not trans.

And, furthermore, I resent the implication that, with closer fetal surveillance, and further medical colonization of feminized bodies, we can potentially eliminate trans people, or that an MRI could become a diagnostic tool to tell if someone is “really trans.” It is in challenging thousands of years of history that we become powerful, in denying any static marker of trans-ness routed in medical ideology that we throw entire systems of power and domination into disarray.

Yet we always seem to be deferential to the non-threatening, telling ourselves that it is akin to survival. And while stealth is certainly the most comfortable way to live, from the point of view of someone who does not ever see herself having access to the ability to pass, it seems the lifestyle most devoid of agency. It is in the confusion, the looks, the laughs, and even the threats, that I realize my transgressions are meaningful.

On a personal note, this discussion scares the hell out of me. I’m starting estradiol valerate (an intramuscular injection of estrogen) as soon as I find someone to draw my blood and write me a prescription. How does that fit into an anti-essentialist trans identity? Is that a medicalized exercise in performativity? An injection of essentialized womanhood into an attempt to perform femininity without the feminine? Am I planting the flag of medical ownership into yet another trans body, or taking care of my own emotional needs? Is there a difference between any of the things I’ve listed?

I am a confused little wombat, dear readers. Please be kind as I sit on the dissection table and explain to you the flow of blood through my own heart.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

You might not have noticed . . .

. . . because "notice" requires that there are people who read this and can notice, but--

I'm on a blogging hiatus until after I've moved and passed by nursing boards. Just a little too much stressing me out right now to justify taking the time for blogging. Other forms of masturbation, however, will certainly continue.

Things to look forward to include an attempt at post-colonial commentary on the trans couple arrested in Pakistan, and a general rant about how I'm tired of all of the internalized bullshit and self-doubt among trans folks. Tired in a good way.

Until then, tiny barking mouse-bunnies to amuse you.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Because glorifying the Third Reich is AWESOME!

A gallery of 1/6 models of various "WWII scenes."

I actually did something similar the other day. I made a 1/6 scale model of scenes from Auschwitz. First, I dumped a whole box of toothpicks on the ground. Then I set them on fire. And though the exercise was futile and offensive, it was less so than that linked above.

Nazis are FUCKING SCARY, not something to be glorified and replicated on a 1/6 scale (or in the White House).