RSS Feed

Monthly Archives: March 2012

The “Wrong” Kind of Woman

A friend of mine used to date someone who is now going through transition (small world, right?), and she made a comment about her ex becoming “the wrong kind of woman”. Of course I asked her to explain. She had been on the phone with V that morning and listened to a long rambling complaint about getting a flat tire and how having to change it made her feel unfeminine. My friend, a very empowered woman who thinks nothing of bicycling across the state and camping out by herself in haunted fields, seemed just a little bit annoyed by this.

For the record, I used to think like V. There were male things and female things, and they remained mutually exclusive. My upbringing in a house with a stay at home mom who did most of the cooking and cleaning and a dad who mowed the lawn and created a cacophony of power tool noises in the basement was highly conducive to this. When the first transsexual I ever met, the one who outed me to myself before I was ready, told me she had changed the springs in her car that morning, I was pretty baffled. She was a woman now, a wig girl like me to boot, and I could not imagine having to do something that involved lots of grunting, mallets, and thick black grease. Ugh, gross! In my mind she should have been sitting daintily in the repair shop, applying hoochie red lipstick and flipping through the latest Vogue, while a wrench-head took care of this indelicate task for her. Fortunately, I have since come to my senses.

In my friend’s mind, the “wrong kind of woman” is one who bows out of a task she is clearly capable of doing, simply on account of her gender. I tend to agree. Well, except for the ‘wrong kind of woman’ part. I don’t think there is a wrong kind of woman anymore than there is a wrong kind of ice cream. … Except rum raisin. Don’t be ridiculous. Yes, I might not feel particularly feminine taking out the garbage, cleaning the gutters, or doing the annual spring dog shit clean up in the yard. I am, however, perfectly capable of doing these things, and performing these tasks doesn’t make me any less of a woman. It’s true, I’m probably not going to put on a pair of sassy strappy heels and a sequined gown to hump a ladder around the side of the house, but being a woman isn’t about always looking the idealized part.

I believe much of the problem is the confusion between nicety and ability. There are certain niceties of being female. I thoroughly enjoy being the victim of well meaning chivalry and not being asked to help move sleeper sofas, respectively based on appearance and diminished upper body strength. At the same time, I still dutifully kill spiders because my changes didn’t suddenly make me afraid of them when I never have been before. It’s great to enjoy the benefits, but dishonest to suddenly pretend it’s “not me” to repair the stuck flapper thing in the back of the toilet.

Loss of male privilege does not mean loss of male know how. Having the appearance of young men, many or most of us were taught a number of handy skills a man is expected to possess. Frankly, these things are good to know and continue to make our lives easier for ourselves and loved ones. Given the assumption that we have female brains, it’s safe to say that there is no reason in the world why little girls can’t be taught the very same skill set. I think it’s almost criminal that they are not as the denial is based purely on gender and not ability. True, many probably don’t want to learn these things, but I didn’t either. My family still likes to joke about me sitting in the basement crying because I was stuck sanding down my damnable Pinewood Derby car. I got over it, and glad I learned to do these things, and more glad that I still know how.

I Think They Think I’m Gay

“… yeah, I am a woman in a man’s body. No, wait… a lesbian in a man’s body!” I was at a going away luncheon the other day when I suddenly became aware of what the guy next to me was joking about. Sensitized to the subject, it doesn’t take much to get my attention. Yes, he was joking, but seriously. I felt a little conspicuous sitting right next to him with breast buds poking at my shirt, perfectly groomed eyebrows, and mysterious bald patches all over my beard area. I work with nearly all men, so rest assured, no one has noticed anything yet.

As many of you are aware, work is the last place I have not transitioned yet. It is, however, coming quickly. My HR department has been wonderful and even went so far as to put me in touch with someone who transitioned at one of our other offices. I really couldn’t ask for better. We still need to finish smoothing out the overall plan, but it should not be much longer now. All in all, very pleasantly surprising considering I work in an industry that well, leans a little more on the conservative side. It’s been a lesson learning not to assume I will be judged based on a person’s political or religious leanings. Not saying it will never happen, but still, it’s been a treat being proven wrong so many times.

I’m a little worried, however, about my group. When I took this position about 5 years ago, I had the opportunity to basically hand pick my team. I poached a few from other groups and hired a few more. I am very pleased with the result, and as such tend to get a little overprotective of them. That’s the problem. If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t be anxious, but I do and therefore I am. I want to expect the best, but very unsure about how they will really feel about working for a woman like me.

Now, I do think there is a pretty good chance they think I’m gay. They know I’m getting divorced, but still keep up with the ‘I love you’s’ on the phone and evade all questions. I often wear colorful stripped socks and my jeans have a rather feminine cut to them. No embroidered heart on the ass or anything, but still on the femme side of androgynous. That and how uncomfortable some of them looked when another manager was making jokes about one of our customers being “light in the loafers” and needing a good wash after shaking hands with him. Yeah, now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure they think I’m gay.

This is good news because as far as I can tell, loyalty has been phenomenal and they continue to exceed expectations in all regards. If they do think I’m gay, I don’t think they have a problem with it. In the minds of heterosexual cisgender people, gay and trans are inextricably linked, probably because of the whole LGBT thing. If that is the case, it gives me hope that maybe, just maybe, everything is going to be all right. My company contact advised that it is far better to give people the opportunity to support us, and not to do so by running to another job, would be doing them a disservice. Oh, how much I hope she’s right!

Wooly Bully

When Karofsky was busy scaring the bejeezus out of Kurt on Glee, I’ll be honest with you, I was hoping very much that someone would come along and bully the living shit out of him. Of course when it did actually happen a few weeks ago and he almost killed himself, I came very close to crying. Damn hormones, but still. Anyway, it inspired me and my ability to reach tens of readers to hitch my rusty little wagon with the peeling Rainbow Brite sticker to the juggernaut star Gaga. I’m guessing a lot of likely people who come across this have an experience or two with bullying.

As transgender people, a lot of us were a little different growing up, even if we didn’t quite understand why yet. Because of that, it was much more likely that we showed up on the drop down list of kids to pick on, and were usually not the ones perusing the list looking for victims. I’ll be honest here. I was relatively lucky in this respect as I ended up close friends with the primary bully targets in both grammar school and high school. By comparison, I appeared relatively normal. I think we can agree though, this is a huge issue for LGBT kids and it would help us greatly to understand the problem better and come up with some solutions.

Many of us here have children, and many more have actually been children at some point in the past. Armed with this experience, we know that anyone under the age of 20 is probably somewhat of an asshole with a dreadfully bad sense of humor. They can’t help it; it’s simply part of the growing up process. The human brain in the early stage is self-centered, self-serving, and not so hot in the empathy department unless it relates directly to the other two qualities. Pair this with an abysmal sense of humor and it’s a dangerous combination. Honestly, when was the last time you laughed at a joke told by a 14 year old? Kids are far more often laughed at then laughed with. This doesn’t make us love or cherish them any less, but it’s good to know what we are working with.

Now let’s take the parents. Conjure up your image of the parent of a bully and you are probably thinking of that Cobra Kai sensei from Karate Kid yelling “sweep the leg!” I like that notion too, but in most cases it’s way off. I think in the majority of cases, the parents of the bully are surprised by such a revelation because they thought they had a gem on their hands. Because of this, hardly anyone thinks to sit their little angel down and say, “hey sweetie, did you make anyone’s life a living hell today?” Parents can’t help it, they are programmed to think their kids are fucking awesome. Yes, there are a lot of exceptions out there, so my line of reason is hardly foolproof. If you have been reading for a while, you know by now that it’s a wet day in the Sahara when I make a truly airtight case. Most of the time I’ve already debunked my own theory by the end of the post.

Adults can be bullies too, and corporations with money to lose have developed ways of dealing with this; sensitivity training. The really good modules, and I mean the effective ones, are long and crushingly boring. I am a socially interested kind of girl who believes in this stuff big time, but even I can’t make it through one of those without pulling some z’s. Smart companies assume we are all potential ass grabbers and make us all go through this, but violators have to go through even more. This is a very powerful deterrent. Long seminars and web based modules are not what’s teaching people not to do clearly heinous things. The specter of having to do it again though makes even the most insolent horn dog think twice. Why can’t we do the same for tweens and teens?

We have established that kids are assholes by nature, and that on the average, we aren’t going assume we have a pre-out Karofsky on our hands until it is too late. I know there is a diminishing minority out there who think they have the answer, but face facts, the old paddling days just aren’t coming back. Move on, the age of school sponsored beating is done. It’s time to adopt something even more tried and true – mandatory sensitivity training on a quarterly basis. Not too long to be real torture – just a one day thing, but a taste of how bad it can be. For kids who violate the policy though… oh boy. Imagine it. A web based week long interactive module. One that won’t let you click to the next slide until the painfully slow voice over has completed. One with random quizzes, the kind that make you repeat the lesson over until you achieve 100%, no backsies. Poorly acted example skits using the same actors over and over again in disparate roles. Best of all, it’s not even something on Amnesty International’s radar! Grounding, suspension, expulsion and even the old timey paddle had nothing on this baby. Armed with the power to impose this kind of soul crushing experience on a tormentor, and our young LGBTs just might fare a little better.

Male Privilege

“The hardest thing to adjust to will be the huge loss of male privilege.”, was the first piece of advice given to me by Sam, a trans man who happened to be seated at the same table at a wedding back last May. I was there in male mode, but didn’t hesitate coming out to him after he disclosed his journey away from ‘Samantha’. As a quick aside, I have yet to meet a trans man who didn’t exemplify everything a man should be. I agreed with him, even though I didn’t fully understand what he was talking about. Yes, I do that sometimes; pretend to know and then see if I can figure it out from context. Not my best habit, but if you have read my other posts, you know I’m not exactly little miss perfect.

That night I didn’t have the opportunity to find out due to a digestive malfunction, but I was curious enough to follow up with my spouse, who has handled this unfortunate turn of events with astounding compassion. I didn’t perceive myself has having any special “privilege” on account of my dreary secondary attributes. She was full of examples.

I could go anywhere at any time without ever having to worry that I would be raped.  This included parking far away from the door because walking back to the car caused no anxiety. Where her statements were often questioned, my identical statements to the same people were immediately validated. I could be opinionated without being denigrated. I could have a bad day without speculation about my reproductive cycle. I received virtually no criticism about my outfit or shoes. Any show of emotion was considered deep and noble, and never whiny or hysterical. The douche bag at Jiffy Lube didn’t try to sell me $500 in replacement fluids every single time I came in. No probing about my family plans in job interviews. No one assumed I’d be the one to take notes. No one raped me with their eyes because I wore something comfortable on the Stairmaster. I’m sure there were more.

I had never considered these things to be “privileges” before, or even understood them as perks. Not having them though, makes them seem like all that and more. As I began to transition and went out in public more, the message became much clearer. I have learned caution and fear. I’ve learned the value of a close parking space and it has nothing to do with laziness. Five minutes from bed to the door is no more. I know the feeling of eyes on me when none were before. And this is all before transitioning at work. I have that coming up in the next month or two, and I have the feeling I’m really going to know what it’s like then.

The reason I’m even making this point is that I’ve heard many scoff at such a notion. People who have it, cisgender males in particular, often don’t care much for the idea. If true, the holders have a moral obligation to extend the benefits to those who do not. In a world where rape is used as a tool of war there are many who like the balance of power the way it is. On the other side, there are plenty of both cis and trans women who also prefer the concept untrue under the mistaken notion that the truth is an admission that equality is impossible. I think this denial is horribly dangerous.

I’m worried my next thought is going to look like blaming the victim. It’s not. No woman, cis or trans, ever deserves or ‘has coming’ violence against her. No matter what she wears, where she goes, who she associates with, or how much she had to drink. Never, ever, ever. As long as we understand each other, I often wonder if some, or even many, instances of transphobic violence could be avoided if the victim understood it was no longer safe to go where a man would. In male mode I would not hesitate to walk past a group of rowdy lads spilling out of the bar. As Michelle, I would cross the street quickly. True, chances are nothing would happen, but let’s be honest here, Michelle’s chances of a beat down or worse are considerably higher than Michael’s.

All in all, it’s not fair and it’s not right, but it is very much a real thing. There is a reason my therapist told me, “if you can do nothing, that is what I would recommend.” Not a chance, but I know my days of midnight wandering the streets alone are gone for good. It’s all right though; whatever it costs I will pay.

The Tao of Moobs

“So, you are starting to get moobs then?” I had to confess my ignorance; I had no idea what she was talking about. “You know, moobs. Male boobs” My left eye started twitching uncontrollably as I fought to keep the indignant rage out of my voice. “No, I am not getting moobs because I am not a male. I am female and therefore getting breasts. Rush Limbaugh gets moobs. As do Krusty the Clown, Meatloaf, and Louie Anderson. I am getting breasts, like Jennifer Love Hewitt, Janeane Garofalo, or more accurately, my 11 year old cousin. How dare you besmirch my beautiful budding mammaries!”

All right, I didn’t actually say all that, but it would have been great if I did. I think the Germans have a word for when you think of something clever well after the moment, full of guttural consonants and twice the length of this sentence. In reality I just kind of voiced a sputtering objection having been taken completely by surprise. Imagine, the budding evidence of my flowering femininity compared to the fatty deposits of a truck driving galoot on his fourth trip up to the Ponderosa buffet. Ugh! The nerve!

I know, I’m totally overreacting here. It was a ‘no harm intended’ observation from a beloved family member who has ample recollection of yours truly with a scraggly beard. I should just be grateful she hasn’t followed through on an earlier threat to end my existence. Still, it pushed my buttons more than I would have expected.

I’m not at all a fan of the cutesy little names men come up with for breasts. ‘Sweater puppies’, ‘titties’, ‘chesticles’, and the terribly clever ‘breasteses’. It’s one thing to insult and disparage something recognized and acknowledged as genuinely female, but another to paint that same tissue with a horrid coating of maleness. The sensitivity comes from it not being enough to know my flowering is bona fide glandular tissue capable of feeding hungry infants and not schweddy blobs of fat. It’s that I need to have it recognized and known; an admittedly juvenile need for external validation. A little ridiculous, right? Of course I am just entering puberty, so maybe I’m allowed a little leeway for being emotionally high maintenance.

For the record, I’m also not overly fond of the masculinization of any of my changes. It freaks me out a little bit. After bottom surgery there is no way in hell I want to hear any references to my ‘mangina’. God help you if you call me a ‘munt’.

Male Taint

I have come to find things tainted by maleness to be very displeasing. Honestly, this isn’t so new, but I’ve been feeling it more and more as I continue on my journey. I know I’m not the only one; I’ve had this conversation with others. I think taint is the right word, because I am attempting to describe something unpleasant, so ‘imbued’ just won’t do. I am pretty sure this is about trying to disassociate myself from my former outward gender, but finding things to dislike or be disgusted by isn’t very difficult.

This has nothing to do with sex. I’ll be up front with you and probably speak more to this in another post, but at this present time I do not have an identifiable orientation. If I were forced to pick one, I’d say I still lean toward women, but I currently have no desire to be physically intimate with anyone at all. Where this goes, I don’t know. The HRT effectively killed any residual horniness, and I’m not at all comfortable with my body. So yes, I don’t find men sexually appealing at all, at least for now, but that isn’t what I’m talking about.

Some things are relatively easy to find grody that both cisgender and trans women can express a sense of repulsion about. Like urinals. Gross, right? Gleaming white porcelain that has been pissed all over, with the standard yellow puddle directly beneath. Ew. I am, by the way, horribly uncomfortable with bathroom stuff in general, so going to leave that vicinity of the conversation now. I think we can also agree on prideful flatulence, conversations about prideful flatulence, strong BO, vivid pornographic descriptions of women, and sports statistics as things girls don’t care much for, but standard male world fare.

As a trans woman, I also find male clothing distasteful, particularly having to wear it. It doesn’t just make me uncomfortable; it makes me feel dirty. I gave up wearing male socks and underwear many years ago, but for a brief revival after I got married. Once preferences came out, I kept only a single pair of boxers for days I had to go to the doctor, but tossed them over a year ago. I hated those days, having to walk around all day feeling uncomfortable. At work, even though I’m still in male mode, nearly my entire wardrobe was purchased in the women’s section, including shoes. I’m not rocking a mini and stilettos or anything, but Levi boot cuts and androgynous lace up shoes are fairly passable. The importance is that they are made for women and therefore not tainted. I never claimed not to be a little crazy.

I realized some of the ridiculousness of this when I saw an ad for women’s shoes there were made specifically for male feet. They weren’t gender neutral either, but pretty heels and even mary-janes. I could not bring myself to even consider it. They were nice, they promised a high degree of comfort, but the fact that they were made with male feet in mind was a huge problem for me. They were tainted, and just as unpalatable as the male tights I found with extra room in the crotch. Ugh, no thank you!

Within a few months I will be able to divest myself fully of anything male in regards to apparel and simply can’t wait. Once my transition is complete, and I mean *complete*, I have to wonder if my aversion will remain. Cisgender women have no aversion to things designed for men and in some cases actually prefer them without feeling even a little bit dirty for it. Being able to never link something as innocuous as an undershirt to issues like imposed identity probably helps.

Before I wind this up, I can admit there are exceptions. True, I’m horribly adverse to wearing the clothes, fixing cars (I hate getting dirty), or discussing sports, but there is one male space that doesn’t seem to be leaving me. Hardware stores. Not just the big boxes either like Home Depot, but the local Hector’s where the guy behind the counter actually knows what all the shit they sell is for and how to use it. I never see other women in there just perusing around, looking for ideas on how to monkey with something around the house, but that is what I’m there doing. It’s been a while since I’ve been, and one of the last places I’m still nervous about going dressed. We shall see, but it may well be that this time the male taint will reject me for a change. It’s a small price to pay.

Unable to Master Third Gender Pronouns

It’s sad, because I actually know people who prefer them, but I just can’t get the hang of third gender pronouns. When I read them, I get confused, and when I attempt to use them, invariably I manage to get them wrong. I mean it should be easy – it’s just a few extra words added to my vocabulary that by now must include dozens of words incorporated into my lingo since I began to speak. I think this is worth discussing, because I can’t be the only one.

Let me begin by getting all indignant if for no other reason than to preserve my trans cred. When I go and get all critical of things my sisters and brothers leap to embrace, some of them get a little prickly about it. Using gender neutral words that remove personhood status like “it” is never, ever OK. Seriously, never cool, even in jest. Even I have limits. I’m also never going to tout the idea of gender binary as being correct. I identify as female, but that is simply how I feel and think we should acknowledge and respect those who don’t feel like either male or female. Some cisgender people probably consider me to be neither male or female but something else, and it’s not something I take offense at. I think they are stupid, but I don’t perceive it as being called less than, even though we all know that is exactly what they mean.

I said all that so people don’t get all pissy and call me a cissexist when I say the third gender pronouns irritate me. To clarify further, it’s not the idea of them I hate, it’s the ones that got picked, the non-standardization, and the way they throw me when I encounter them in writing. Words like “zhe”, “hiz”, “zem”, “zim” and the like make me lost my train of thought as I momentarily struggle to remember what they specifically mean. Hearing them does the same, and when I try to work them in to accommodate someone’s preference, I become tongue tied and sound even more foolish than I usually do. They aren’t pretty words, nor are they in any way intuitive. I think they are supposed to be, but it didn’t seem to turn out that way.

It also doesn’t help that there are a multitude of varieties that cropped up over the past hundred years. It seems as though each time someone came up with this bright idea, they reinvented the wheel and didn’t bother to look up what had been done before. As people tend to latch on to the first thing they see, we have a proliferation of everything from the old Spivak pronouns, to over a dozen ways to say he or she: eir, hus, thons, vis, xyr, zir, zes, hir, zher, yos, and shklir. Holy shit. Every one of these has the standard variety of tenses and quantity to effectively add another order of complexity. Plus, most of them sound a lot alike. Granted, the ‘z’ based pronouns seem to be in vogue at the moment, but I would put good money on the fact that that something even ‘cooler’ will come along.

The other thing that bugs me about them is that much like Esperanto, they represent a good idea that has almost no chance of catching on. As we age it gets progressively more difficult to learn another language, or even incorporate foreign sounding words into a long set vocabulary. Perk your ears up in a Chinese restaurant sometime and I guarantee you will hear ‘General Tso’s chicken’ mispronounced in a dozen different ways. I love it, but have a great deal of doubt that I have ever pronounced it correctly even once. I think if we don’t learn it by the third grade, it will forever float on the surface of our set language paradigm to be plucked and misused when something tells us the situation calls for it. Then everyone feels awkward and uncomfortable; mutual assurance of uncertainty of correct usage.

“Well then Michelle, doesn’t it seem obvious that we should be lobbying hard to have the correct usage taught in schools? Hmm?” Yes, yes, that’s a nice smug answer that will never, ever happen in  our lifetimes. First of all, we represent well under 1% of the population, and are still battling for acknowledgement that we even exist. We can win that battle and convince the world we do, or at least a slim majority, and that we deserve equal rights and treatment. This is no easy fight, even though it requires the great unwashed to do virtually nothing. Now go ahead and try to talk them into what they will perceive as inconveniencing themselves by having to learn something new. It represents changing something they have “always” done, and we all know how popular that idea is. It’s a nice thought, but we would be better served to keep our eye on achievable goals.

To sum it all up, yes, using third gender pronouns is more correct then the standard binary. That true standardization has yet to be achieved is problematic. That they are difficult to adopt even by many trans people is even more so. Having them adopted and used correctly by the cisgender world is next to impossible. Plus, I find them inelegant and aesthetically displeasing. (I know, that doesn’t really count, but this is my blog where I’m free to mouth off with abandon.) I just think our energy can be better spent elsewhere.

%d bloggers like this: