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Category Archives: Political Action

Is Trans Activism Even Useful?

transactiveYou know those crappy dreams where you are back in school? Being part of the transgender community often makes me feel exactly like that. It’s not really all that bad and way better than those dreams where you really have to pee and finally find a toilet only to wake up in a mad panic, sometimes in warm dampish pajamas. By the back in school analogy, I’m talking about college, but not where there is a big exam you didn’t know about because you blew off the last 4 classes to sleep in Lockwood library. I mean the near constant cajoling to get off your fat tuckus and get involved already.

Being part of an often misunderstood minority, there is an inevitable call to activism if you choose to become affiliated with any type of support or advocacy organization. Counter to my lifelong resistance to joining anything unless intending to destroy it from within, I found myself showing up to the local group, Spectrum, and raising my hand to volunteer a lot. This too was counter to my philosophy of personal responsibility by having other people who would probably do it better raise theirs first. It really worked out better for all of us that way. For some reason by changing or affirming or confirming my gender, I felt the need to make changes in this area as well. Out of nowhere I went decades without ever knowing who the state senator for my district was, and now I find myself arduously working to really make him hate me. Why? Why am I doing this?

From the very moment I stepped into a room where other trans people happened to be, there has been a nearly incessant call to arms. We must fight the good fight. We must force change. We must guarantee the rights and equality for ever single trans person, as well as a chicken in every pot and a sock in every shoe. I quickly agreed, castigating my old lazy ass apathetic self. The stories of grave injustice, persecution and downright craptacular treatment were too much. Batgirl wouldn’t stand by and put up with this shit, and neither would I. It wasn’t long before I realized that this was a little more than pestering curmudgeonly old Mike Ranzenhoffer with pissy emails and unrequited entreaties to call me back (you think he would pick up just once, but no). People were organizing things, making long smelly bus rides to Albany, forging deep collaborative ties with other support groups to achieve political might, and so on. People get overwhelmed when faced with something that looks more like a full time job, or even career.

It’s easy to see why the question of ‘why’ will pop up on an increasingly frequent basis. Really… why? Even if GENDA passes, it really won’t be much more difficult to fire me, decline to hire me, refuse to rent to me, or even provide inept medical care if they happen to hate the trans folk. They will just find different reasons that are legally sound and easy to back up. In fact, it seems likely that I will face more opposition on account of the perception that I’m receiving some form of special treatment through legal protection. You know how it is in this country. God forbid anyone has anything they don’t, even if they don’t need it or want it. It’s like an child stuffed to the gills getting the raw end of dividing an oddly numbered bag of M&Ms with another who is near starving. So why bother trying to tackle the impossible?

The why is actually very easy. Even if any type of legislative solution turns out to be a paper tiger at best, it is the fight for that tiger that generates awareness. It’s the action of trying that creates the real value in making change. Most people are and will remain blissfully unaware the law as it is, or what it will be, but they will hear of the efforts to make change. Resistance to our existence, aside from some notable exceptions, has far more to do with ignorance than understanding what we are and opposing us anyway. The legislation, when it passes, is unlikely to truly protect anyone. The knowledge and awareness, however, is what changes hearts and minds. This is what will put us on equal ground with everyone else. If I get a new job in the future, it won’t be because GENDA tells them they can’t immediately disqualify me, but because my being transgender will not be a factor in their hiring decision. All the legislation will do is benchmark where we stand with the population in general.

As for the overwhelming enormity of it all, after time I realized people, myself included, will do what they can. There will be super stars out there who make every event, organize rallies, and muster the troops to glorious battle. The rest of us will follow when we can, contribute when we can, make calls when we can, or even scribble our little blogs in hopes that some cisgender readers wander over and leave with an expanded perspective. I didn’t realize in college that ‘getting involved’ didn’t necessarily mean joining every club and leading a bloody coup against the student council or hiding at home doing nothing, so I hid. The trumpeters never said that just showing up, and not even every time, can also make a difference. It’s not go big or go home, but a simple entreaty not to hide there.

PS – you can also just click the link and give Ranzenhoffer a hard time for opposing GENDA. Love ya bunches if you do. 🙂

PPS – On an unrelated topic… I just drifted back to find that my last post was ‘Freshly Pressed’ by WordPress. As a result, lots and lots of people came by and the number of people who subscribe to my posts pretty much doubled. Holy shit. It’s like going on stage to allegedly present to just a few people and having the curtain lift to a massive auditorium. Seriously, holy shit. Not going to lie; got a little touch of the old performance anxiety, so here comes the part where I babble for a few about how I know today was not my best effort, but I promise to grease up my elbows and crank out some kind of masterwork after they finally coax me out from under the bed. Why didn’t I poach a more clever picture? Really, swear I’ve done better in the past, and if you check out my grand and nearly comprehensive list of topics (dammit, I knew I should have updated that thing more often, but still it’s most of them I think), you might find something worth reading. Stop panicking Michelle. Seriously, stop it. It’s just a blog. The bar is set really low. You can do this. Just breathe.

Love to all and thank you!!!!!

Gay in the BSA? Sure. How About Trans Boys?

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Well, what do you know? The Boy Scouts are finally coming to their sense in light of intense public pressure to grudgingly accept homosexuals into their ranks. Not that they always didn’t have gay scouts, but felt that the best way to have young men build stout moral character is to make them hide their real identity or be tossed out on their keister. It does make me wonder though, will this eventually lead to the acceptance of trans scouts?

Let me qualify that a little bit. I don’t really think trans girls want to be Boy Scouts. They would much rather be Girl Scouts, and the GSA has demonstrated compassionate progressive thinking in this area and already moved ahead. I mean trans boys. Where on an ideological level, this makes absolute sense as being the right thing to do. On a purely practical level, however, there are some issues that should probably be discussed.

I’ll be honest, if I had a daughter who identified as my son, I don’t know how excited I would be to have them join the scouts. The reason is simple and really pretty sexist if you think about it. Trans boys still have girl parts. It doesn’t make them any less male, or less capable of handling themselves, or prevent them in any way whatsoever of becoming model scouts who rise to the level of  Eagle or that Order of the Arrow business I never paid much attention to. True, getting the ‘writing your name in snow’ merit badge would be a bit trickier, but I have no doubt they would find a way. It’s pure and simple that I would worry about putting someone with girl parts into a group of pre and pubescent young men.

As some of you might know, I was a scout myself. I was always challenging myself by pushing toward things that would make me more manly. For the most part though, I hated it. I usually skipped meetings unless they were a mandatory pre-camping trip pow-wow. The camping I loved, but only if my dad was along. When he wasn’t, I usually didn’t go, but on those times I did anyway, I really hated it. On camping trips, there was little to no supervision. Generally we would arrive at the camp site just after dark, and instead of setting up, everyone would run into the woods like batshit crazy wildebeests to play ‘commando’ while my dad and I set up and started a fire and the actual Scoutmaster sat on the cooler and drank beer. When my dad didn’t come, it was pretty much the same, except we would end up sleeping in half set up tents, shivering for the lack of fire. In short, no real supervision.

Outside of the campsite, there was even less. On the few hikes I took with the boys, once we were out of sight, the cigarettes and smuggled liquor came out, as well as ideas to raid and sabotage other campsites. This wasn’t exactly the ‘little altar boy’ image most people have in mind. On one occasion, one of the older boys pontificated on the terrible things that happened to “narcs” I understood was aimed in my direction. I wasn’t going to say a damn thing. I didn’t need the attention. Getting to the point, my personal experience was that boys in this age range immediately devolve to a ‘Lord of the Flies’ social structure within moments of entering the woods without an adult. If a trans boy was present, I would have been gravely concerned that it was only a matter of time before the discussion broke out that he was “really a girl”.

For the record, nothing bad ever happened to me on any of these trips. Yes, my Scoutmaster, who also ran the Northern Lights two week long canoe excursions, was brought up on pedophilia charges, but I never had cause for concern. I was uncomfortable in the all male environment to be sure, and know I would have been even more so if it were perceived I was female, and that is without a vagina. I can’t imagine having to go through that when questions eventually came up as to why I didn’t use the urinal like everyone else.

This is a tough topic for me and I’m hoping for some good feedback and would love it if any trans men could weigh in. On one hand I feel like I’m being almost anti-trans for even taking this position, but I also have concerns for individual safety when I think someone might be at risk. The line on this is blurry for me. Fortunately I have zero say in this matter anyway, and I highly doubt the BSA is going to be knocking down my door to have me make the call. Still, I would like to define my own position for the sake of it. Thoughts?

Yes Please, May We Have Another? My Take On The Guardian Kerfluffle

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A brouhaha recent broke out across the pond in jolly old England when an article in The Guardian went and got nasty. This was surprising because in all my interactions with the Brittish, I’ve never encountered outright nastiness. A good friend who emigrated from there a few years back was kind enough to post a nifty guide that explained what it actually meant when Brits toss out a seemingly innocuous phrase. It did tell me how often she had recently told me to fuck off and die, and I was delighted with the skill she employed to frequently insult me while leaving me beaming with gracious affect.

What is now being commonly referred to as the great Moore/Burchill Kerfuffle escaped me completely until my sister Becky took the time to patiently explain the whole thing. She’s over in Scotland now, so there is a good chance she was peppering the explanation with barbs calling me an ignorant twat, but it’s true, I missed the ball this story. To boil it all down for you, because chances are you already know, Julie Burchill, a RadFem type lesbian, put up a piece employing the typical RadFem Anti-Trans taskforce language. Mature stuff like demeaning name calling, attempting to reduce the trans condition to ridiculous analogies, and the usual heap of logical fallacies. Personally, I’m so glad she did this.

Suzanne Moore chose to follow this up with a bit about free speech using the same logic as an uncommonly literate KKK Grand Whizzer is likely to spew out. Again, I’m loving it. This may seem strange, but think about it for a moment. Instead of the usual tactic of riling each other up with trans hate speech over at their RadFem hub, they chose to take the national stage with it. They actually managed to delude themselves that the rancorous bile they were spewing has some kind of common appeal to the masses. I imagine Burchill typing away with a big old shit eating grin and imagining the Guardian readership nodding their heads in agreement thinking, “Grrrr! I hate those fucking trannies!” A beautifully timed miscalculation.

As expected, it got a nice big response. A big negative response, and not just from the tiny smattering of trans folks spread over the globe either. Women, men, feminists (the real kind who focus their energy on advancing and empowering women instead of giving a niche minority a hard time), straight and gay alike. It was immediately blamed of course on the juggernaut raw power of the Pink Press. Um, yeah… I explained recently how the US presidential election was about national character instead of the economy. When one of the most conservative democracies votes to maybe stop treating subsets of the citizenry like shit, it’s a good barometer that world attitudes are changing and that employing contrived caricatures is no longer the cool way to try to bully anyone.

So, to Burchill, Moore, and the rest of the anti-trans element in RadFem, please, keep it coming! I’m very happy to toss you all the rope you need, or provide a nice shiny shovel to dig and dig until the tops of your heads are no longer even bumps in the scenery. I look forward to many colorful and imaginative insults, huge gaps in logic, and of course the hallmark of great writing, tons and tons of exclamation points with a few words in all caps to drive the point home. You just have to love it when problems take care of themselves.

Updated Postion: Why Trans* Rights and The Civil Rights Movement Are Not the Same Thing

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The original post that was located here generated just a tiny bit of controversy. Now, I love controversy because it gives me the opportunity to test my convictions against dissenting opinions. In the end there can be only one of several conclusions. The first is that we find a middle ground and mutual understanding – by far my most preferable outcome. Yay! Positive sum gain! Next best is that I get to convince someone they are wrong. This hardly ever  happens, but pleasing nonetheless. Finally, the worst case scenario, I have to rethink my position because it just isn’t holding up under the scrutiny of devastating alternate logic or perspective. What we have here today ladies and gentlemen, is the latter. Ooo, I hates latters!

My original opinion was that we should stop constantly comparing the trans* civil rights struggle to that of the African-American struggle, alternatively known under the capital letter Civil Rights. My contention was that the Civil Rights movement represented the culmination of centuries of active discrimination, brutality and subhuman treatment. It was, therefore, sacrosanct and should not be diluted by constant comparisons seeking to capitalize on the emotional punch it brought to the argument. OK, none of this I think I’m wrong about by the way.

Where I finally agreed that I went astray, and oh, it took a lot of convincing, was that the trans* struggle was entirely different in nature and therefore perhaps of a different magnitude of wrong. This is where even my ex started comparing me to Uncle Tom. Even my dear twin Becky respectfully disagreed! What on earth was I failing to see here? All I wanted to do was gain my own dignity and rights without stepping on the toes of others. And there was the answer right in front of me. I was arguing as a trans apologist instead of a trans activist. In attempting to attract the flies with honey, I managed to spill it all over myself. Who wants to be covered in sticky little flies, anyway?

The challenge really becomes finding that sweet spot without getting stuck in it. Labeling myself Rosa Parks because someone gave me the hairy eyeball for trying on a blouse at Sears? Not a good place. Conversely, making a walk of shame over to the men’s changing rooms with three dresses in my arms is also just as heinous. The sweet spot lies very much in that place where we are full and equal members of society and gender demographic whether some find that displeasing or not.

I began this journey operating under the assumption that by providing patient education to anyone who didn’t fully understand, we could overcome all obstacles. This of course has proven to be not true. Some fully understand and are against us anyway for a variety of reasons, while others are determined not to understand however well we explain. I’m getting away from the point.

I still hold that the struggle for trans* rights is different than the Civil Rights movement, however, I would like to caveat that by stating clearly that the nature of both struggles remains the same. Fundamentally, all efforts to bring forth equality are inherently rooted in the same context that it is recognized that a portion of the population is considered to be less than. The inequality is recognized as being incongruent to the principal that all humans are equal in deserving the same rights and liberties as those around them.

While I do still feel that it is best practice to use as examples members of the trans* community to highlight the nature of particular injustices, I also feel that using other examples to provide context is not necessarily a bad thing. As I stated above, labeling someone “the Rosa Parks of the Trans* movement” for a minor or inconsequential incident is falsely inflating the issue. Using broad generalizations, however, such as highlighting ‘separate but “equal”’  laws when discussion something as unlikely as broad adaptation of transgender bathrooms is probably applicable and helps define the inherent inequity.

To wrap this up, I will simply state that Trans* Rights and the Civil Rights Movement are different struggles in regards to the populations affected by the inequality, but of equal urgency in correcting a situation in which individuals are placed at risk or denied equal rights, protections, and access commiserate with those enjoyed by the majority of the population. There is an endless stream of examples highlighting the critical need for this to be legally addressed and corrected for beyond the need to create a shift in public perception though education.

OK, I hope the subtle differences are understood, and I’ll leave my original post immediately below for context and comparison. I hate having to retract or alter my position, but I am willing to listen and adjust when convinced, so thank you to those of you who challenged what I thought was a strong argument and prevailed. J

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Original Post:

There has been no shortage of trans civil rights as a topic in the media, and especially the craptastically named ‘blogosphere’. Invariably comparisons are made to the big daddy of them all, the Civil Rights movement of the 60’s. I’ll come clean and say I’ve done it myself because it’s nice and handy as an analogy to use that most people can readily understand. It seemed harmless at the time, but more than one person called foul, so I had to go and actually think about it for a bit. Yeah, we should stop doing that.

All struggles for civil equality hold some points of similarity. A portion of the population is operating under a different set of rules and entitlements than those who seem to see themselves as more equal. Little ‘Animal Farm’ reference there for any of you who had high school reading assignments during the Cold War. Incredibly, those empowered to make rule and entitlements into enforceable points of law just happened to be those in the ‘more equal’ category. I know, right? One would think they would purposely add more roadblocks to better prove their superior status, but no. People with more rights appear to be either very pleased to keep the status quo, or don’t feel particularly motivated to make change a high priority.

With the technological progresses in the area of communication, disempowered populations seized on the means to promote inherent equality with those in power. To date great successes have been achieved by women, African-Americans (serving as a gateway to other minorities), and now homosexuals, though none of these groups has actually yet gained full equality. At best, great advances have been made, so it’s something to be happy about as a good start. None of the above, however, are real anxious to be pulled over in rural portion of any red state, so equality remains situational at best. Then there is us. The trans*. Technically we got our start at Stonewall but were not differentiated from the gays at the time, and they kind of ran with it thereafter. Now we have Joe Biden calling our struggle the civil rights issue of the day.

You can see where it would be natural to make comparisons, but aside from the end game of equality, the nature of the struggles are inherently different. Linking them beyond the most generic top level view does a disservice to everyone. The time, nature, and backdrop of the struggles are different enough to make point by point comparisons look exaggerated and contrived. The Civil Rights Movement had Rosa Parks. The Trans* or even LGB Rights Movement don’t have “a Rosa Parks of the…”. Rosa belongs to Civil Rights, as do all the seminal events of that struggle. We have our own people and events that characterize our efforts, mutually exclusive to other movements.

I think the temptation is there because Civil Rights captured the attention of the nation, had been brewing essentially for centuries, had a horribly violent history that included slavery, lynching, beatings, murders, humiliation, and overt and advertised segregation and discrimination. African-Americans were identifiable, ghettoized, and marked as less than human. This was a very compelling struggle in which a great and evil wrong was identified and overcome.

Our own struggle is much different. Until very recently, the vast majority of the population wasn’t even aware we existed, and when they did, we were considered to simply be a homosexual expression. The military didn’t even know enough to ask at enlistment before DADT. While violence, pain, and humiliation does characterize our existence (there is a Transgender Day of Remembrance for a reason), I worry much more about drunken frat boys than I do population striated lynch mobs or the police in general. Again, yes, on the latter I know about all the instances, but they do remain largely the exception. I have no expectation of President Obama sending the National Guard to ensure my entry into the local Curves.

Our struggle is one much more of information than overcoming bias. In coming out I came to realize how few people even know what trans* was, even among well educated people. The biases against us, for the most part, are more based on misunderstanding and misperception than generation upon generation viewing our population as sub-human former property. It’s simply not the same, and making the comparison to take advantage of the emotional punch it brings not only disrespects that which was not ours, but gives the appearance that we are employing gross exaggeration to further our own agenda. This can hurt us in the long run. I think it’s far better we keep to the facts of our own case, press forward in educating everyone we have the opportunity to, and letting the strength and truth of our own cause speak for itself.

Special thanks to Dianne Piggot over at:                                for starting this discussion with me.

7 Thoughts on We as a People

I’m glad this election is almost over with. Yes, it’s exciting and makes for witty Jon Stewart satire and side splitting SNL sketches, and who doesn’t like that? Enough is enough already though. Between Tea Party hullabaloo and the elimination of bi-partisan cooperation, this campaign season been going on for 4 years now. Yes, I am voting for Obama. Maybe not entirely because this has been the most transgender friendly administration in history, but it sure doesn’t hurt.

This election has somehow become about the economy, even though that makes no sense to me. If anyone, president or otherwise, knew the recipe for a good economy, they would simply use it and be the hero. The truth is that the world economy is so vastly complicated that having a politician, even a well heeled business savant, say they know how to fix it is like having a corner garage mechanic boast he can fix the space shuttle. If a true blue real answer exists out there, I would hope both sides would run on the platform that yeah, we are going to do that thing, whatever the hell it is.

What I hope is at the heart of this is a decision on national character. Who do we want to be as a nation? The Republican platform touts rugged individualism, helping the few who will allegedly help the many, an overwhelmingly powerful military, and a focus on the ‘traditional’ values that allegedly made sense at one time in heterogeneous rural communities. The Democrats tout national cooperative assistance, balanced taxation, a ‘powerful enough to deter anyone’ military, and a focus on inclusive values that manage to cross ethnic, gender, and faith based lines. Look, I’m trying to be as bi-partisan as I can be, but like anyone, subject to inherent bias toward my side, even in my best attempt to be wholly objective. Nevertheless, who are we?

In spite of focus on the economy, I think the real issue is about values and what people hope to achieve with them. I can’t help but get the impression that Romney is trying to paint a picture where as President, he will have some sort of influence to wind the clock back to a fictional ‘Leave it to Beaver’ land and that somehow the immense diversity that is now America will somehow go away. That and prosperity will be restored as a mystical causal result. I feel Obama recognizes that the population also includes a plethora of minorities, immigrants, sexual orientations, and gender identities. Call me crazy, but it makes sense to me to have more faith in the guy who recognizes what is, then the guy who is selling a ‘what was’ that wasn’t.

Here are some of my takes on the whole ‘national character’ issue. Imagine, me mouthing off my opinions about things in a closed forum! Oh, the nerve I have…

1. Healthcare: Put up with government meddling or leave things in the hands of the good people who profit solely out of denying coverage or claims? For some strange reason, I’m just not comfortable leaving my fate to people who are gambling that they will be able to take more from me than they have to pay out. I’m slightly more comfortable giving this to people who want me to reelect them. Slightly.

2. Public Assistance: Yes, ideally people should be held accountable to their own decisions and fate, and let the charitable actions of those who can catch the rest. The problem is that many are kind of screwed since birth and in a hole no one could reasonably climb out of. As a wealthy nation, it seems to be the right and charitable thing to help our own, especially when the majority of them are children. Even if we can’t do it out of human kindness, it is wise to remember that people in need are not just going to disappear. Instead, they are going to do whatever they need to in order to survive. Ever notice how the highest crime rates are in nations with the least assistance? I don’t think anyone wants that.

3. Marriage: Seriously, why is this still an issue? It’s not the government’s purview to define any particular faiths version of marriage as the national standard. Less that, without the religious component it’s a contract between two adults, the success or failure of which rests solely on them, so the idea of needing government defense on this seems silly. Why anyone gets snippy about anyone else’s contract is beyond me. If a particular religion doesn’t agree with two people of the same gender getting married, why can’t they just not participate and leave it at that?

4. Foreign Relations: I’m somewhat convinced we’ll never really know what is going on behind the scenes, except when someone royally fucks up and it gets into the papers. At the heart of it though, and in the interest of our economy, a huge chunk of our effort should really be attempting to create conditions favorable for the rest of the world to buy from us instead of spending billions to enforce Pax Americana. I know we like calling the shots and all, but return on investment should really be considered.

5. Immigration: Nothing new here. The anti-immigration folks like to speak in righteous indignation about the overwhelming costs of people coming here illegally and taking from them. I find it interesting that everyone I ask knows exactly what they paid for their car, house, groceries, or a sweater at Sears, but none of them know in dollars how much of their tax money actually goes to this, or even what they actually paid in taxes last year. The former items they know, because they care. If they don’t know, it’s hard to conceptualize that they really care. Then it goes to the principle of the thing, which I see as a fancy way of whining that someone else is getting something they don’t think is deserved. It seems petty. Anti-immigration seems like a good way to spend a ton of money vilifying people who want to come and clean our toilets because America is awesome. Unemployment bites, but chances are you didn’t lose your job as a chemical engineer to a guy who snuck across the border.

6. Women’s Issues: Horrendous misconceptions about both rape and women’s health issues come way, way too often from the GOP side of things. As a woman, I’m not at all comfortable with all the rhetoric indicating rape is ever something the victim is remotely responsible for, nor the notion that there can be a sunny side to it. No and no. It’s all backed by the just world hypothesis; something the world is hell bent on proving wrong and has done so very effectively. I’m also not comfortable having old men making decisions on women’s health issues. The issues need to be decided (if such can ever really be done) solely by people with skin in the game. Yes, I’m purposefully not taking this further because I don’t want this blog to erupt into another unwinnable fight on something that comes down to belief when life begins.

7. The Environment: Yes, drilling the living shit out of the land and sea, and removing EPA control probably would result in a short term economic gain. It seems odd to me, however, that the party so concerned with passing debt down to future generations is OK with them living on Planet Craptastic. This is exactly, by the way, what the Soviets did. In the corporate world, the immediate quarterly financial results, seconded by the annual results, are really all that matters, so of course they are highly in favor of anything that gives them that bump. With all the backtalk about environmentalist conspiracy, doesn’t it make more sense that people who make tremendous financial gains by floating a ‘climate change is a myth’ have a lot more reason, not to mention means, to conspire?

To sum it all up, the economy is going to go up and down and all over the place seemingly by magic no matter who is in office, even though the guy there will take credit for the good and blame the bad on the last guy. In terms of national character, my impression is that Obama better represents forward thinking, a generous and gregarious kindness of spirit, and dedication to equality, open minded attitudes and fair play. Romney waxes more toward a certain rigidity and seems to be favored by those who come across as somewhat mean in spirit and fearful that an unfair receipt of assistance by some will denigrate their own standard of well being. That’s just my impression.

Finally, for the record, in spite of the endless fear mongering by both sides, I find it difficult to understand how some can be sucked into the in-group mentality that believes the other side is dedicated to the destruction of America, their personal religion, or really anything else. I truly do think that both sides really want the best possible outcome for most, but have different ideas of what that looks like and how to get there.

That’s all, now please go vote.

Reparative Therapy…. Seriously…

California Gov Jerry Brown just signed a bill banning the heinous practice of reparative therapy for children. In case you are scratching your head as to why I care, reparative therapy (also known as conversion therapy) is psychological treatment developed under the notion that gay people are psychologically fixable by engaging them in an intensive process of convincing them they are not in fact, gay. In layman’s terms, brainwashing. For those of us in the transgender set, it is pretty concerning that such a therapy exists to begin with, especially since those who subscribe to such a fallacy are highly likely to throw us into that grand pile of humans allegedly in need of repair.

Yeah, I’m going to skip the social science history lesson here since Wikipedia covered it pretty well. Before I do my usual jag left into topics with not much more than a whimsical relationship to this, I will say a few things simply because I like to rant. I simply can’t believe such a “therapeutic technique” managed to persist! None of the science supports it, great harm can and has come of it, and again, the methodology is nothing more than attempted brainwashing. As per my usual schtick, I hold the faith based only crowd responsible for this, as the only plausible explanation for this still existing is that if you believe the bible trumps scientific observation, and the bible says homosexuality is not part of the natural order of things, it must therefore be either a choice or psychological defect. I still fail to grasp the notion of a deity directly inspiring or personally writing a holy text, then filling all of creation with profoundly inherent contradictions just to fuck with us a little bit.

This did raise a personal question. Actually I’ve been asked it before, but never talked about it here. If a therapy or cure were developed to make us not transgendered, would we do it? This is a tough one, right? I’m not saying if it could have prevented it in the first place – I think that most of us will agree would have been nice. If I was simply born female, I may have put my energy into doing something productive instead of utilizing an increasing logrhythmic proportion of my potential to attempt not being trans, then burning up the rest in dealing with transition when that didn’t work. Or I might have ended up raped and left for dead somewhere, but we’ll never really know either way unless I decide to jump from a bridge and get a glimpse of alternate reality from some buttinsky angel.

What about right now though? What if I could bring back ‘Michael’ as the real deal and not a shell of responses and habits aimed at perpetuating and passing the identity? Sure I’ve made some changes that can’t really be undone, but I was never that keen to grow a beard anyway. My marriage would be saved, my son would have a daddy instead of a maddy, I wouldn’t worry so much about losing my job, I could go into dark and scary places without worrying about jack shit, no more wardrobe worries, no more hormonal cycles, no more taking 2 hours to get ready in the morning, no more weird looks (well, I got those anyway, but for different reasons), and so on. I could be just a normal married, middle age dad clawing his way up the corporate ladder. But I also wouldn’t be me.

I have no idea how much my trans-ness really makes up the sum of my being. I’m plenty of things that have nothing to do with my gender identity. Everyone can make a big old list of personal attributes, good and bad, that make up what they consider to be themselves. On paper they seem separate and distinct; building blocks that when put together somehow resemble a person. Reality is nothing like that of course. We are a lot more like cake. OK, a really complicated cake with so many hundreds of ingredients that Julia Child herself would start flinging F-bombs and shooting her signature Colt 45 in the air if she had to make, but still. Take any one thing out and it’s going to fuck up the rest of it because everything is so hopelessly intertwined as to be inextricable. Even if so, it would end up being a soufflé or beef bourgeon without just that one little pinch of zazz.

Without my trans, I’m not really me. Plus, we have no idea what it’s really keeping in check as well. Without that core portion of my identity, I might be a real asshole. Sure, ‘Michael’ wasn’t, but ‘Michael’ was just a drab looking me going through the motions of being male. Turned into a real boy, ‘Michael’ just might be a real piece of work. The kind of guy who speeds through puddles to splash the poor schnooks at the bus stop, or asks you to come help him move his really heavy stuff and then feigns a back problem. Yeah, I don’t know that, but I really can’t be super sure either. I do know myself now after 40 years of not, so the idea of jumping over to something new sounds like more of a gamble than I really like to take.

The true frightening idea about this is that you can’t really change something so inherently intrinsic to a person.  My brain is female, and for so long was locked down, shackled in the basement of my subconscious. Staved, beaten down, and existence denied. When you are your own jailer, you know just the right torture to inflict to break your own will. I’m free though now, and no longer capable of being complicit in my own imprisonment. Maybe reparative therapy could chain me back, kicking and screaming, and sink me back in the deep end, but not for long. I learned too much the first time. I’m sure it’s no different for anyone else, and why I applaud Mr. Brown.

The Case of Michelle Kosilek… Is This Good?

In 1990, Michelle Kosilek was convicted for murdering her wife. At the time of the murder, Michelle was still going by Robert and was sent to an all male prison where she currently remains incarcerated. On Sept 4th of this year, a Massachusetts judge ruled that Michelle is entitled to receive genital reassignment surgery under her 8th Amendment rights  as the only course of treatment for her diagnosis of gender identity disorder, which the CNN article identified as a ‘mental illness’. I don’t say this much in print, but fuck. I sincerely do not know how to feel about this.

Let’s start easy. I’m really not super thrilled with the negative publicity here. This is no CeCe McDonald where we have a clear case of a trans woman attempting to defend herself from attack, accidentally kills the big bag of douche in the process of him attacking her, and gets railroaded by a prosecution of the ilk I suspect implies that children “seduce” pedophiles. CeCe is a rallying point for trans rights. Michelle K though, not so much. As supportive of the trans sisterhood is, I’m not expecting to see her face on any ‘Free Michelle’ placards come the next Pride season. Still though, this is transgender news, and I have to ask if any good can come of it.

OK, I’m a positive kind of gal, so let’s look at the good first. That a judge, even at the state level, was able to recognize that transgender people exist and should be entitled to treatment is a good thing. Far too many still think it’s some kind of lifestyle choice, wherein folks, out of nowhere, wake up one day and ask themselves, “what can I do to make everything a 1000 times harder than it has to be?” Whoever you are, life is already hard enough, and this being a choice is like a mountain climber intentionally breaking a leg right before attempting Everest. One would assume their reasoning is pretty damn compelling, right? Any validation we get from the man is a good thing, so let’s take that at least.

That this is being recognized in the prison system is also a good thing. Let’s be clear, the whole concept of going to prison is a lot scarier for trans folks for the most part. The chance of sexual assault is 17 times greater. Those are really bad odds for something that is universally accepted as being one of the scariest prospects ever. Due to many of the ambiguities of the transition process, it seems pretty dangerous wherever you are sent. I suppose a trans woman would be more comfortable in a woman’s prison, and certainly not at all in a men’s one. Trans men are probably also better off in a woman’s prison, because even fully transitioned, they are likely to be way too popular in the men’s wing. However you slice it, it’s going to be bad. In case you are trans and a little slow on the uptake this morning, for the love of Pete, don’t so anything that can get you sent to prison unless you are hankering for a super bad time.

Should we feel bad for Michelle in general, apart from the judge’s decision? Ugh. I’ll share my thought process. She killed someone and is subject to the same repercussions everyone else not a celebrity or less rich than Mr Burns is. Being trans, however, does open her to being subject to a whole lot more. If you are even thinking of arguing that she’s doing this as a pastime or to get sympathy, please remember that not many people in a situation with hardened criminals zealously pursue a path that marks them as weak and easily victimized by the violent horney men. Yes murder is heinous, and (assuming she is for sure guilty) she deserves to be locked up. She doesn’t deserve much worse though than everyone else in the same boat. Our penal system has limitations based on the Bill of Rights, or we’d still be using iron Maiden to torture people. Yes, I did leave out the ‘the’ on purpose. Incarceration for conviction is justice, but incarceration of a woman in a men’s prison is going way too far.

Now for the real nest of worms. Should she be entitled to GRS while in prison and at the taxpayers’ expense? Let’s look at a couple points of view, although I’ll let you know right now, I’m not even considering arguing anything teabaggeresque. Let’s say no, this is outrageous. There are hundreds or more transgender people who meet every qualification for surgery, yet lack the ability to pay the cost. Why should a prisoner receive better treatment than law abiding citizens? Now let’s say this is a blessing in disguise. Isn’t this a prime example that can be used to build the case that all insurance carriers should cover GRS? If it is deemed a medical necessity by the state in the case of a prisoner, what basis then does an insurer have to lay claim that this is a unnecessary or cosmetic procedure? Can’t helping one who may not deserve it be considered a good thing if it helps many down the line?

To me is seems that the real risk is backlash. The cost to the taxpayers is well under a cent per, so all things considered, it’s not such a big deal. Humans, however, tend to become infuriated easily if they think they are paying for something they consider undeserved. The US population is punitive in nature, and as such, much more likely to argue that this is frivolous because it’s a prisoner, even if in normal circumstances they would be unlikely to care. Look at what we are doing to immigrants right now. Millions deported who are willing to work hard and live the family values so many pin to their sleeves simply because some of them may receive some form of public assistance. Far better that everyone suffer than one “freeloader” makes out. Such is the zeitgeist of our times. Ugh.

So the real verdict here is… beyond my experience and wisdom. I can see both sides here with no clear and compelling “gotcha” that plants the flag of righteousness on either side of the issue. Sure, I’ll pontificate from time to time if I think I have a good point, but hopefully not foolish enough to think I know everything. I think this is a great subject for debate and would love to see some inputs. In the mean time, be glad you are free.

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