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Monthly Archives: February 2012

Would It Really Be So Wrong?

There are some who like to say that the ends never justify the means. I wouldn’t say never, but sometimes it’s true. If you are someone who is likely to go on a shooting spree to open up some seating for a sold out Air Supply concert, you may want to live hard and fast by this rule. For the rest of us, we usually try to do a little mental cost/ benefit analysis in our heads in the attempt to develop some contorted reasoning to do what we are inclined to in the first place. This is known as ‘ethical logic’ and is occasionally either and seldom both. Clearly I have something specific in mind.

Would it be wrong to utilize the power of our trans-ness to a positive political end, but in a sneaky underhanded manner? Now don’t get all indignant and snippy just yet; we are just talking here. “Gosh Michelle, whatever do you mean?” What I’m talking about is figuring out which candidates, local or national, have our best interests at heart, and then campaigning for the other guy. I don’t mean bumper sticker and lawn sign campaigning, I’m talking about loud, public, outlandish dress type campaigning. At public speaking events, debates, and even stationed near the polling places on election day, whooping it up to the heavens on how this guy, we really don’t like, is going to set us free on America.

Hold on, I can already hear some of you getting disgusted, but let’s talk this through for just a few more minutes. Imagine for a moment. Rick Santorum in his little sweater vest, pontificating about all the things said by JFK, MLK, but not the KKK that made him lose his baloney and Miracle Whip sandwich. Then there would be us, dolled up as Hollywood chainsaw hookers with a schoolgirl twist, shouting out, “Yay Rickie! He’s going to give us all government sponsored teaching positions in all the public schools! Yay!” Now you have Carl and Carla Conservative in the crowd thinking, “Wait a minute… I’m against diversity and inclusion! Clearly, I can’t vote for this meatball.” And the icing? Oh, Rick would be so super pissed.

You have to admit, that sounds pretty fun, right? Oh, just to see the look on his face! Alas, every which way I tried to contort this, and apply logical fallacy after logical fallacy, I just couldn’t crunch the numbers into a win. Would it be morally wrong? Ehhhh… that’s a question for philosophy majors living in their mom’s basement. It’s more of a ‘cut my nose to spite my face’ kind of thing. First off, the one who did win is going to remember that we campaigned for the other guy. Even if he was in on it, it wouldn’t be so easy to explain to the people who actually campaigned for him that he’s throwing us a bone. Second, if Rick the dick actually did win in spite of this, well, you can rest assured he knows exactly what we were trying to do, and be none too happy about it either.

The real reason this madcap caper is a non-starter is that even if we got a little play out of it, all the dignity and respect we managed to build with glacial slowness over the years would be gone. All the people who already thought of us that way would be justified in their mental image of a trans person. All the people who we won over and convinced we were regular human beings with the same needs and wants as them would now be in doubt. When the gay community adopted high camp years ago as a form of social protest, I don’t think they foresaw that even today a surprising percentage of people still think that is how “they” really are. We are still trying to live down Dr Frank, and probably don’t need more of a hassle. Still, one can daydream.

They Took Me to ‘Tootsie’

I was about 10 when my grandparents took my sister and I to the movies at the long gone Boulevard Mall Cineplex. I don’t know if Tootsie was necessarily the best choice, but old Papa was not terribly keen to sit through two hours of animated caterwauling. In any case, I absolutely loved it. Well, most of it. I wasn’t aware of what the film was supposed to be about walking in. I suppose it had been advertised on TV, probably during commercial breaks of ‘Bosom Buddies’, but I avoided that show like the plague unless I was alone, which was never. I had a little blushing problem when things hit too close to home. The nice part about the movie theater is that it is dark.

At the time Tootsie came out, “gender-bending” in the media was on a minor upswing. Prior to this time it was a rare day to even catch a Bugs Bunny episode where he wore a dress. From the moment Michael Dorsey became Dorothy Michaels, my eyes were riveted to the screen. I couldn’t imagine a character having a luckier break. I came away, however, a little bit confused.

For one, I developed the impression that attempting to look like a slightly dowdy looking ‘old lady’  (I was only 10 remember!) required an obscene amount of work. Not just eyebrow plucking and makeup, but gluing bits of foam to the face as well. I was very daunted by this and the idea of ever looking good enough to walk around in society and not have everyone know seemed hopeless. Not that passing at my age would have been even remotely difficult, but I understood by then that I was going to growing into some unpleasant changes. Of course I came to find this was pretty accurate, less the adhesion of shit to my face.

Second, I already kind of understood from glimpses of ‘Bosom Buddies’ that boys dressed as girls were supposed to be hysterical. This confirmed that notion very well. “If I am ever seen dressed like a girl, people are going to kill themselves laughing at me.” As a hypersensitive child with an overdeveloped need to please, being the butt of intense ridicule did not seem like a desirable outcome. I had enough inner conflict over my penny loafers, which I loved for being appropriate for feminine feet, but too publically gender ambiguous, even though half the boys in my class had them as well.

Finally, I absolutely hated the ending. Here she was, living a wonderful, successful life as Dorothy and she willingly (willingly!) goes back to being dumpy old Michael! Why? Why would she do that? For the life of me I could not conceive of a worse way to have ended the thing. Oh, it was so depressing. What the hell was wrong with her… him… anyway? It wouldn’t be the first time either. Every movie I ever saw thereafter where a boy successfully integrated into female society, accepted for who she is, they blow it in the end. It was sadistic film making in my book. How could they bill these films as “zany, laugh-a-minute romps” when the ending would make old Aeschylus himself, the Eeyore of Greek drama, weep bitter tears.

It wasn’t until much later that I understood the tragic-comic element of the story was that they were reduced to appearing as women in the first place. They had sunk as low as they could go and then found an even deeper basement in adopted femininity. Fumbling through ridiculous tribulations like makeup, pantyhose, walking in heels, endless girl talk, and inevitable come-on’s from the ‘wrong’ kind of man, they are broken down. As a dubious benefit to his humiliation, they learn to be better men and in the end are restored to their rightful status at the top of the food chain. OK, I know this probably wasn’t the overt intention, and my little speech would be looked at as ‘Femi-nazism’ by blowhards like Rush. I’m not completely wrong here either though, just to keep it in perspective.

Be that as it may, I prefer my version of the ending; the one that never seems to get filmed, or even appear in the director’s cut, of gems like Sorority Boys or one of the endless iterations of Freaky Friday where gender swap is used as the clever catch. It’s OK, I don’t need the media to conform to my particular preference. As long as I have directors privilege in my own life, the ending is going to be just to my liking, and that is all I really need.

The GSA is AOK!

I decided to take it easy today and pick a topic I think we can all agree on. The Girl Scouts of America totally rock. Well, the majority. What prompted this post is my sense of outrageous disbelief about what I have been seeing in the news lately. If someone were to predict even two years ago that America’s little darlings were going to be the target of the almighty wrath of right wing fury we would have laughed and laughed at their clever little joke. As it is, I’m still having a hard time believing these stories are not originating with the Onion.

In case there is anyone who doesn’t know what I’m talking about, the Girl Scouts, a venerable all-American institution devoted to inspiring empowerment, charity, good works, accomplishment, excellent manners, and waist busting cookie sales, are now under attack. The initial crime was the inclusion of a young trans girl who wished to participate in this noble tradition. Oh, how the blood began the boil! “If Jesus were here right now, why he’d turn into that Narnia lion and disembowel not only that little pansy, but all the whoring Jezebels who accepted Satan’s own bugle boy into their midst!” I don’t think that is the direct quote from anyone in particular, but it’s also not very far removed either. For anyone new to this blog, I’m not against people of faith, just the whole concept of employing their god to smite people they happen to disagree with.

Immediately a schism formed after another little girl, also a scout and presumably with great parental encouragement, denounced the GSA in general for their devilish compassionate inclusion and urged us all not to buy cookies. In short, the anti-Scout has arisen among us, dedicated to fear, intolerance, and whatever the opposite of charity is. And a cookie boycott? It would be like Ronald McDonald urging us all to go vegan. I’m pretty sure they would make him give the costume back, so not too sure what is happening here. Even if it doesn’t hurt sales, it’s pretty antithetical to the mission. The GSA is big on heart, maybe not so big on business strategy. They are probably just too nice to give her the boot and make her join the Sunflower Girls with Peter Brady.

A snotty tween mouthing off on YouTube isn’t really such a big deal. After the shocking failure of her pissy rant, the real puppet masters came out, infuriated that the GSA continued on doing exactly what they were founded to do, and sell cookies. Clearly the GSA had been hijacked from a merit badge motivated organization to the powerful enforcement wing of Planned Parenthood dedicated to ensuring that each and every member achieved a viable pregnancy and quickly aborted it, preferably in the third trimester. I don’t even really know how to express my feeling about such absurdities without resorting to even more absurd cliché expressions. Yeah, it’s trans people who exhibit delusional instability.

Naturally I have to give the GSA huge kudos for doing the right thing by supporting a kid who wants to be a scout and learn from the principled traditions of the GSA. I wish it happened much sooner. I was subjected to the Boy Scouts; an experience only made bearable by my father’s presence at the majority of the camp-outs. The few times I ventured on my own were not exactly comfortable. My pack was inhabited by a lot of violent little monsters who liked to issue grave threats midway through a “nature hike” when the whiskey and weed came out. And true to the stereotype, my Scoutmaster was brought up on pedophilia charges, although I have to caveat that by saying I was neither victim nor witness. Getting to the point, being ‘not a boy’ in Boy Scouts was not an enriching experience. I would have been much more comfortable with the GSA, and felt a hell of a lot safer as well.

At the last Spectrum meeting I attended, the subject about honoring the GSA as the theme for our next Pride float came up. I completely agree they should be thanked and honored, but giving the matter further thought, I’m not sure having a bunch of middle age trans women dressing in tween and teen girl uniforms will send the message we want received. Given that I imagine we can only find adult sized scout uniforms in the same sort of store that sells ball gags, and that everyone knows this, the whole honoring concept can easily be taken the wrong way. I think the better route might be to issue warm and heartfelt thanks, and support those Girl Scouts who stood to be counted for doing the right thing in the face of adversity. Nothing says thanks like picking up 7 boxes of Samoa’s.

Comment Responses to “I Hate ‘Transsexual'”

Holy potatoes! I had intended to dedicate today’s post to how the GSA is AOK in my book, but my last post on the word “transsexual” managed to bring out some *strong* feelings in the people who read it. It just wouldn’t be right in my book not to address this, so I’m going to attempt to discuss some of the commentary received on my main blog Michellelianna, my reposting on PinkEssense, personal messages, and of course Facebook. It would appear I jangled a nerve or two. If I miss anyone’s salient point, mea culpa, I’m doing this from memory.

I’m going to start with the easy stuff first. A few respondents became very indignant about being lumped into a generalized category with cross-dressers, female impersonators and such. I was disappointed to see the term “pervert” being thrown about. I absolutely do not agree with this thinking. Yes, I got annoyed when several people asked me if I could “just do this on the weekends”. My irritation was their misunderstanding of my existence, and assuredly not that people for whom this would be an acceptable solution are in any way less than. We are not all the same under the transgender umbrella, but we are equal. As a class so frequently misunderstood, feared, and attacked, I think the very least we can do is show a kindness of spirit, understanding, and inclusion. I’m willing to be proven wrong on most issues, but not this.

On to a topic even easier… I know I used the term “transgendered” and that is doesn’t officially exist anymore than “gayed”. I’ll confess right now. I make words up. All the time actually. Incredibly, I am hardly ever called on it. Here is my thinking: if I make up a word, it fits the flow of what I’m typing out, and people understand what I’m attempting to communicate, it is then a word, “official” or not. I know this irritates the hell out of purists, but chances are I’m not going to stop. I do have a degree in English and I do understand this makes my little habit nearly unforgivable, I also feel all rules are made up and therefore changeable, breakable, and somewhat illusory to boot.

One of the more prevalent types of comment can be boiled down to, “why are we so focused on labels anyway?” That one is more difficult. I do have a lot of thoughts on the matter I’m going to address in a future post regarding why it is so difficult to get anything done (which to summarize, is that I think the trans community is trying to address way, way too many things at once, and currently the notion of “trans community” is an ill defined collection of individuals). For the record, I also don’t think a lot of time should be focused on labels. The intent of the post was to present a slightly humorous look at my personal peccadilloes regarding language. Should I ever have the opportunity to address Congress or even appear on ‘AM Buffalo’ for some reason, I’ll come armed with much more relevant subject matter.

Someone wrote up a long medical sounding description wherein she and I were referred to as “fian Females”. I immediately agreed as my last name is  and I identify as female, so this made perfect sense. Then she totally lost me with a description of nephritic tube formation and I wasn’t so sure. On about the fifth reading I think I understand and agree and concede that fian Female sounds a lot nicer to me than transsexual, which I still find a bit naary.

I received lots of pros and cons regarding the word transsexual itself. The main takeaway was that the ‘sex’ in ‘transsexual’ is not meant to convey libidinous preference, and also that cisgender people often take it that way anyway, making us all uncomfortable. I’ll clarify. My discomfort is not with the word, but with the way people say it that it comes out very lascivious sounding, especially when uttered by Tim Curry or Stewie from Family Guy. I understand a certain segment of the population tends to fetishize our condition, and that is one thing. I just don’t want to give the impression that I do.

I got a very clever reference to the Transgender Borg indicating the eventual assimilation of individualized pockets of trans around the planet that will one day speak with one voice, and hopefully shoot lasers at our detractors. It is certainly an interesting idea, but at the moment it resembles a bunch of cats duct taped together. If it does happen, I call dibs on being Seven of Nine, figuring I have ample time to get my buns in shape.

All in all, it seems like a pretty divisive issue. Some don’t care, some care a whole lot. Some like the standard terminology, and some make my dislike border on apathy. Others offer alternatives that while likable, will probably never go into vogue. I still don’t care for it, but on the same magnitude that I don’t care for orange clothing; it doesn’t enrage me, I’ll never buy it, but I suppose I’ll put it on if there is nothing else to wear and find a way to live with it. Until the Transgender Borg catches me unaware in her hideous pumpkin colored pants suit.

I Hate “Transsexual”

I know I already talked about allowing words to push my buttons and how I wasn’t going to go apeshit on someone for calling me a tranny. I still hold to that, but let me tell you, I still can’t get comfortable with the word transsexual. It’s stupid, right? I mean, by very definition, I am a transsexual and meet most or all of the criteria as defined in the DSM V… that says I have gender identity disorder? Shit, my copy at home is still the III-R from back in college. Nevertheless, I, Michelle, am a Transsexual. It’s true… buy why does this make me uncomfortable?

I’ve never made it a secret that my preferred term is Transgendered. I know this is an umbrella term and by co-opting it I’m pushing aside the cross-dressers, female impersonators, gender queer, third sex, intersex, no sex, two-spirit, and every other slightly different but equal group that might also prefer it as an exclusive definition. It’s not fair of me, but I still want to do it. Why, why, why? I think it really comes down to the fact that ‘transsexual’ just sounds incredibly creepy.

I don’t think there is such a thing as a good ‘creepy’. Creepy is when you shake hands with someone who uses way too much lotion. It’s like going into a corn field with disconcerting blonde children who never smile. Too creepy; I’d rather be boiled. Maybe it’s that double ‘s’ in the middle of the word. It’s very German. These are the people who turned the whimsically delightful notion of going to camp into the worst thing ever. I think if someone opened a transsexual gym, people would imagine it has whips, chains, leather and probably a gimp or two running around. I’m probably one of the people who would think that.

That half the word is ‘sexual’ doesn’t help at all. When many people hear the term, I would not be surprised if they assume it’s some sort of fetish where the person being described derives some intense orgasmic delight over the prospect of changing their gender. Those of us who are trans know there isn’t an iota of truth to that. It takes about a week on hormones before even the thought of arousal is a thing of the past. Yes, we know it, but just type it into any search engine, even wavy-gravy hip Amazon, and the vast majority of offerings are meant to titillate, to put it politely. I’m OK with being misunderstood, but not so much when it involves shallow breathing and upper lip perspiration. Ew.

So what do we want to be called? If we stick with the DSM, switching it up to become GID’s would fit, unless we don’t care to sound like we fast tracked a later in life high school diploma. Given a choice, I’d just go with ‘woman’, but we are human and must classify well beyond logical reason. ‘Transgender’ you know I’m down with, but tired of being corrected or asked to qualify, bringing me back to ‘transsexual’. Something about ‘t-girl’ just pisses me off. I have no reason for this, but it does. We could make up something new. Sisters of Loki? The Untesticulated? Reidentified? I’m being facetious.

Truth be told, if I could come up with some catchy new term that would be enthusiastically adopted, I’d do it. This blog just doesn’t get enough hits. Our lives are such that unless we are unquestionably passable, we are going to have to spend a significant portion of our lives having to explain what we are supposed to be anyway. If a single word could sum it all up succinctly, it would be a wonderful thing. In the mean time I’ll stick with transgendered and the strong probability of invasive questions to follow.

Hormonapalooza (Part I)

I began hormone replacement about twenty or so weeks ago, and I have to say, there are a few things no one really warns you about. Yes, yes, I heard all the cautionary tales up front from my peers and therapist about all the gloomy catastrophic consequences and such. That I’m not seeing so much. If people at work notice I’m filling out my sweater a little more, no one is saying anything. In ‘Under the Radar’ I talked about a former co-worker who was sporting some generous B’s under their shirt and very long hair and no one thought much of it, and if they do, so what? What I’m talking about is a dark new relationship with food and my body that goes virtually ignored in guy world.

I was talking with my friend Dave on the phone and began complaining about my weight. You might not know it to look at me, but a few years back I was rocking the scales on a Homer Simpson level. I developed my own weight loss program and dropped nearly 90 lbs in a little less than a year. A somewhat modest diet and a little weekly exercise and the fat melted off my like Frosty in a boxcar. Here I am on a few months of hormones, and winter is back baby, and apparently just a little pissed. All I need do is draw breath in the same building as a 5 Guys burger and I’ve gained four pounds. Because I haven’t been on the hormones for quite long enough, it still doesn’t go to my hips and ass where it belongs, but the old gut. Nice and effective for achieving that ‘man in a dress’ image we all try so hard to strive for.

When Dave said, “ah don’t worry, you’ll take it off in no time”, I went a little hissy on him. OK, maybe not just a little bit, but he had no idea. “Look buddy, you have no idea what you are talking about OK? My whole life I’ve heard men bitching about women and their obsession with weight. Do you have any freaking idea how hard it is? Things that used to just taste pretty good are now incredibly delicious. I can be in the worst mood ever and a pint of ice cream or a few pieces of chocolate ever and I turn into little Mary Sunshine. What do you know? To you it’s just ice cream, but to me all of a sudden it’s like filled with uppers. Of course all I have to do is breath near it and I gain a hundred pounds. I used follow my plan and lost 5 pounds ever two weeks and now I’m lucky if I drop half of one eating the exact same thing. Plus I’m in a horrible shit mood the entire time! Do you have any idea what it’s like eating raw green peppers all week and losing nothing for it? Sure, you joke about women but you have no fucking idea how much work goes into it. Ass clown!”

For the record I think he was just trying to be supportive, but his male view foolishness was pushing my buttons. Men. Men with their svelte muscle building testosterone and ability to eat cheese fries all week without being consigned to some fat boy store. I will admit that used to be me before the hormone changes that ensured a small fries at McDonald’s meant a trip back to Lane Bryant for pants that could be closed. Anyway, I let it go. He’s a guy and didn’t know.

Since we are on the subject, my whole hissy fit to begin with is sooo uncharacteristic. It seems I stumbled on another effect I was not at all expecting. Suddenly it seems that during certain times the tiniest little things drive me bonkers and I just want to tell everyone off. WTF? How can I have PMS? I can’t ovulate and I can’t get a period, both mainly because I lack ovaries and a uterus that sheds it’s lining on a monthly basis (more on my feelings about this in another post). It doesn’t seem at all right that I should be getting PMS, but yet here it is happening. One would think it came with the correct internal plumbing, but apparently all it needs is the juice to drive it.

The real message here is that there many more effects of hormones than you often read about. For the record I’m OK with this. Surprising yes, but it doesn’t feel at all wrong either. It’s as if there were dry stream beds running through my brain that I understood where there on a very esoteric level, but now that they are filled and flowing, things seem much more right than they used to be. Sure, there turned out to be a lot of life under the rocks I was unaware of, but even though it surprises me, I know it is supposed to be there and always was. I have no doubt further changes are coming and I welcome them. It’s not easy going through puberty again, but I also wouldn’t trade it for anything. Far better now than never.

Shiny Artifacts of the Past

“Everybody knows you can make a man a woman; just a shiny artifact of the past”, is how I thought the line went in Leonard Cohen’s classic “Everybody Knows”. My ears zeroed in on that for reasons that are pretty clear. Those really aren’t the lyrics by the way. I don’t get songs right, ever. Anyway, it’s close enough for my purposes as a lead in for what I want to talk about today. If you are good and read the whole post, I’ll share what the real words to the song are, and won’t you be disappointed!

A great many of the other trans people I’ve talked to have a very ambivalent relationship with their own pasts. This shouldn’t be surprising. Who really wants to spend a lot of time wool gathering over an extended tract of time where they walked around all clueless about their own core identity? Many of us, self included, feel just a little like giant foolish assholes about it. It doesn’t help that we are constantly reminded of enormous decisions we made based solely on an incomplete truth, or that those who knew us by a different name like to go back and grill us about whether we were intentionally lying, deceiving them, and how come we weren’t being a lot more obvious to maybe clue them in. “But I knew you, and you never showed any signs!” Wanting to retreat and say, “Ugh. Let’s pretend the past 30 or 40 years never happened, OK?”, is perfectly natural. Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible.

Back in the day when we were perceived as diseased perverse monsters, it was far more common for someone transgendered to nip out for a pack of smokes and disappear to another coast, the past left well behind. Nowadays we have it a thousand times better and usually transition with at least part or even most of our support network intact. The majority of these people knew you as the original name on your birth certificate and have ample pleasant memories of times spent with you when you looked a bit different. They like or love you for all those times spent and have stuck around because of that, and not because you can do an interesting trick with your deformed pinky finger. It goes much deeper. Consequentially, they are never going to see that person as being someone different who didn’t really exist, even if you really preferred they would.

Our pasts may seem like artifacts of a different life, a different person, but we have to remember that viewing it that way can be an unkindness to ourselves and our loved ones. I try to keep that in mind, even when it’s hard. My partner/ spouse likes to keep pictures on the mantle, including several from our wedding day and a gigantic print of me in the Air Force. I don’t look like that anymore, but the slices of time the pictures represent really happened and that is what I really looked like during them. Maybe I was unable to be truthful with myself at those times, but still really was me. I was in those moments, and happy in them too. Well, for the most part. The Air Force picture fails to capture the presence of an infuriated drill sergeant screaming in my ear just millimeters outside the frame of the shot. I can look at them, and old albums as well, and think “good times, good times”, because they were.

The point is that we all took a long and winding road to arrive where we are, right at this moment. None of us sprang fully formed from sea foam like Aphrodite (or let’s face it, look like her either). Our present was built brick by brick by the artifacts of our past. All the things we did right, all the things we did wrong, and in all the ways we interacted with others; good, bad or indifferent. Maybe our names were different as well as our faces, but our histories are irrevocable, no matter what we looked like or how we presented ourselves. Unless you feel you turned into a real shithead, honoring the steps that brought you to today is not at all wrong, and probably a good thing to do.

It is, however, perfectly all right to be mortally embarrassed by it. It’s where our best stories come from.

As promised, the correct words are, “Everybody knows that the naked man and woman; Are just shining artifact of the past”. Wasn’t’ that worth waiting for? I still like mine better though.

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