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Category Archives: Trans in Media

They Slushied Unique!

Unique slushiedWell, it looks like they went ahead and shitcanned Unique, the first trans character on ‘Glee’. Relax everyone, this wasn’t an anti-trans thing where they quietly shoved out Alex Newell and then leaked a story to the gossip rags about “creative differences” while publically touting that he went on to pursue new opportunities. They also shitcanned the rest of the hated new class as well: Marley, Other Puck, New Quinn, and that gangly kid. Clearly they were all memorable, but none so much as Unique.

For those of you familiar with my other posts, most of them written in my young and fiery days as a newly transitioning woman, full of vim and vigor, piss and vinegar, and vitameatavegamin, I’ve gone on and on about Glee quite a bit. I was elated when they introduced Unique, had some heartache about the way they explained the character, defended her against conservative bullies like O’Reilly, but overall kept up the gushing. That was then. Now, after the fabulous 100th episode and a lackluster gay bashing very special episode, I’m somewhat incensed and want you to join me in my misery.

A quick aside, like I never do. I’m glad Ryan Murphy tackled the still very relevant topic of gay bashing. I am. But holy shit, could the show have done a shittier job of it? While I’m 100% certain this still takes place in tolerant old NYC, and probably every day, but by a couple of good old boys in a battered old pickup? I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen a pickup truck in New York City. Assuming they aren’t there on vacation, I would think it would be remarkably easy to track down these losers. Just look for the only pickup registered to Jim Bob Jethro on Manhattan and go arrest the sonofabitch. I think it’s a safe bet that it was probably him. Aside from that, even the event itself lacked the emotional depth we had long grown used to.

Remember when the show had Karofsky, the closeted gay bully who forced Kurt to change schools, then later got bullied himself by the evil leader of the Warblers and tried to commit suicide? I just described three episodes in one sentence that made me cry. Or when Kurt’s dad had the heart attack and Kurt sang to him? Or Quinn giving up her baby? Even Grilled Cheezus had more heart and he was just a sandwich. This was my thought process while the credits rolled. Glee no longer has any heart, and without heart, the apathy grows.

OK, I’m going to stop waxing nostalgic for the evil Vocal Adrenaline, lovely guidance pamphlets like “You and Your Hag, the Zizes-Puckerman romance, and guest stars with awesome names like Brian Ryan. And the slushies. Oh, the slushies. These stories are done and told. That’s fine, turn the page and life goes on. But they still had a character they could have used to inject some life back in to the show, that in my opinion, really died with the Mighty Finn. Unique still had a story to tell and huge challenges to overcome. Given the history of the show, it really wouldn’t have been all that hard to grant her early admission to NYADA and stick her in the unrealistically spacious Manhattan loft with the drearily self-involved remaining cast.

To Ryan Murphy and the writers of Glee, I thank you for the awesome work you did, especially in the area of promoting LGBT issues to the great unwashed. I think your efforts went a long way toward bringing America to the tipping point on rights and equality and no one can ever take that away from you. At the same time, you just brought your beloved platform into ‘Saved by the Bell: The College Years’ territory, or worse yet, ‘Showgirls’, and it just breaks my heart to see it. No longer unique, no longer effervescent, like a ginger ale that sat open on the counter for a good week, please, close your eyes and have a slushie on me.

Fosters Guy

FostersRemember when not too long ago I said I was going to move on to other things and write about those here? Yeah, yeah, that’s all going to happen, but give me a minute. Jeesh! As my son used to say at 2, “Don’ pooosh me!” For the record, we never did in the literal sense and were gratified that he was able to use the phrase in the correct cultural context. We are proud and all, but wish he would have stopped once he got to the ‘F’ word and other little horrifying utterances when grandma is around. Great, now you got me all off topic.

Today I want to gush about one of my new favorite shows out there. “The Fosters”. It’s airs on ABC Family one of the nights of the week. I’m never really sure since we filter everything through Tivo and constantly surprised by the weather as a result. Don’t tell me who the Oscar winners were, not to mention who got kicked off the island in ‘Survivor’, ‘Hell’s Kitchen’, or even ‘Lost’. I love ‘The Fosters’ for a number of reasons, all of which are worth mentioning, but mainly because they recently introduced a trans character and managed to do it way better than ‘Glee’. Just in case you tend to shy away from ABC Family because you think it’s going to be all ‘Walton’s’ or worse, ‘Family’, it’s a lot more progressive than I originally assumed. Once I determined that they featured ‘Kyle XY’, the first genetically engineered super being who is clearly gay, I was willing to give them a shot.

‘The Fosters’ is about a lesbian couple, the Fosters, who have one biological child, two adopted children (who are biological brother and sister), and for whatever contrived reason I can’t remember, end up fostering a girl and boy, who are also biological brother and sister. That the fostering couple is named the Fosters is clearly intended to double justify the name of the show in a clever little unsubtle way. Now in the second season, after undergoing the appropriate amount of drama, the fostered girl ends up in a group home for wicked girls. Sorry, I forgot it’s not the 1940’s anymore, and they did replace a paddle wielding Miss Hannigan type with Rosie O’Donnell, who is arguably a teensy bit nicer.

In the home for wicked girls exists a trans man, and to my gratified amazement, he’s treated like a trans man. Not a butch girl, not a confused rebellious chick, and not a scheming meemie out to fool everyone. He says he’s a dude, dresses like one, and acts with conviction and in accordance with his gender identity. While not allowed any privacy or accommodation, the subject of pronouns comes up more than once and reinforced positively by Miss Hannigan. Sorry… Rosie. On a field trip, they even portrayed a bathroom issue where the young trans man is blocked from entering a men’s room at a zoo. The scene is poignant and the outraged humiliation one generally feels when being denied access to facilities is well portrayed.

What I think I enjoyed most about this character is that they went with a trans man for a change. I’ll be honest, as a trans woman I’m often gratified at seeing my own up on the screen, either being portrayed with heart and elegance or being butchered. I’m also very well aware that trans women have more of a ‘freak factor’ that makes more interesting TV and is probably the reason we are seeing an increasing number of iterations. It’s time our brothers got a little more time in the sun, and it pleased me to no end that they got the main issues and characterization down very well. Well true, someone in a home for wicked girls usually doesn’t have the wherewithal to sneak out and obtain a huge dose of black market injectable testosterone and OD on it, it is an ABC Family drama, so some dramatic license is expected.

I really hope they keep the character. He is the most accurate trans man I’ve seen since ‘Boys Don’t Cry’, and it’s such a boost to Tribe Trans when the media somehow goes and gets is right for a change. The show is worth watching anyway, so long as they don’t cancel it on a cliff hanger like they did with ‘Kyle XY’, which in spite of including a “girlfriend”, was shaping up to be the best gay melodrama since ‘Queer As Folk’.

Another Trans Celebrity? … Crap. Well, That’s Just Great

CelebrityMy spouse, an ardent follower of celebrity gossip, forwarded me a blind item the other day. By blind I don’t mean the person mentioned was blind, but that the name of the person is currently being withheld by the person writing the story, presumably either for liability or complete fabrication reasons. Anyway, as the story goes, the lead singer from an uber-popular band with a boatload of hits in the 90’s, who is married to a super model/ actress or actress/ model, is undergoing gender transition and making a documentary of it along the way. My immediate reaction was a little sour. Great, now I’m going to be bumped down one to being the 24,753rd most influential trans person. Just fucking wonderful. My chances of getting a Wikipedia entry just became a bit more slim. So, let’s dish about trans celebrities, as I gnaw on my bitter bone of discontent.

I think none of us has failed to notice the sudden rise in individuals of full blown, or at least quasi, celebrity status undergoing gender transition. I mean, sure, it’s not exactly unheard of, what with Alexis Arquette, Calpernia Addams, and Andrea James bouncing around since the late 90’s/ early 00’s, but in spite of some amazing talent in that mix, they weren’t exactly making headlines. Then the teens hit and it’s a full blown eruption. Chaz Bono, Laura Jane Grace, Janet Mock, Lana Wachowski, and Chelsea Manning. OK, the celebrity thing is a stretch with Chelsea, but she was still a household name before she came out after the conviction. It’s a wonderful thing, right? A massive injection of trans awareness into the public sphere; bold inoculation against full blown ignorance and demographic degradation.

Here’s the thing that makes me just a tiny bit nervous. Since 1954, I don’t think one parent ever leaned over to their child looking wide eyed up at the movie screen and said, “See those people up there child? You do whatever you can to find out what they do, and dad-gum, you do the same thing.” Famous people hold our fascination almost completely for the train-wreck factor. The tabloids make billions off of the meltdowns of young starlets and crushing indiscretions. Amanda Bynes will always trump the juicy bit that Ron Pearlman likes to make his own quilts with hand ticking on Friday nights. Nobody cares about the good stuff; just those wacky zany antics. DUIs, domestic assaults, head shavings, gender transitions… I think you see my point.

Now, I’m not saying that the general public is going to suddenly think that being transgender is just another crazy trend sweeping Hollywood. I am worried, however, that people are going to get a bit of a misrepresentation. I’m sure serious practitioners of Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism were not super excited when Madonna and other celebs jumped on board and made a very old, deep and rich quest for spiritual understanding look like a fashion trend. Not exactly the same thing, but you get my point. Suddenly years of focused study, prayer and meditation appear to be replaced with slapping on a red string bracelet and everyone is equal.

I’m not saying being transgender is not tremendously difficult for anyone; Hollywood, one-percenters (the rich ones, not the crank fueled hog rider ones), and others. The same crushing fear, emotional difficulties, and painful coming out process definitely applies. The problem is that the general audience doesn’t really see all that. Unlike movies where we get a nice montage set to ominous music when someone is struggling with a seemingly insurmountable issue, the real anguish is off stage and in the back somewhere. In spite of tearful Oprah interviews, the main perception is that so-and-so was a dude and now appears to be a chick. Good for them. Go so-and-so! You can barely tell he… I mean she… used to be a dude! It sure doesn’t hurt to have ample funds, private doctors and surgeons, and at-will time off  to manage these huge changes. I pretty much see this ship docking in the port of, “Everyone and their brother is changing genders, Michelle. Doesn’t seem to be a thing to it, so what the hell have you been crabbing about?”

So… yeah. I think it’s good that transgender people who live in the public limelight are demonstrating the tremendous courage it takes to embrace their true selves. They are our sisters and brothers just as all trans people are, and any one of them would be very welcome at one of my meetings; not as a celebrity, but a trans person just like the rest of us seeking community. At the same time I wish they would acknowledge and promote the fact that while their inner difficulties are the same, that it might be just a little harder if they also had to worry about becoming unemployable or unable to fund any of the treatment they need in order to feel like a complete person. They helped the world understand that transgender is a real thing, but now I would love it if they expanded the message that it is also a hard thing.

By the way, I’m very much hoping that the person referenced in the first paragraph turns out to be John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls. He’s official Buffalo NY Royalty and we sure could use him (or her?) on the team. I mean, who could pen a song like ‘Iris’ without a female spirit? Maybe he’d even play at our annual holiday party to his smallest ever audience of 8 to 11 people. I can dream, can’t I?

Trans Fatalism and Bradley Manning

FatalismWas everyone here aware that US Army soldier Bradley Manning, the person who made Wikileaks a household name (prior to this I assumed it was some sort of ‘golden showers’ thing and kept my distance) may be transgender? No one tells me anything. Seriously, we could be marked for extermination, packed into trains, and I’d think we were all just going for ice cream until someone elbowed me in the ribs and clued me in. Regardless, it came as a surprise to me. Kind of.

Here’s the part where I go off on a tangent for a spell, so feel free to skip ahead to the main point if you are one of those baffling people who reads the last page of a book first. So, before getting to my point, I want to say that this is not so good for the trans. It’s hard enough for us to regain the trust of those around us, and society in general, after skulking around for so many years as the wrong gender without significant acts of high treason, or at least the perception thereof. “First you lured me in with the pretense that you were a man, and next thing I know you’ll be priority mailing the Mrs Field’s cookie recipe to Kim Jong Un!’ Don’t laugh; with delicious gooey cookies in supply, he can keep that poor population in line for the next few decades. Seriously though, ‘trans = traitor’ is just not the kind of two and two that does us a whole lot of good.

From what I read, Bradley did what they did (giving the benefit of the doubt here pronoun-wise) out of a sense of correcting what they saw as a great wrong, and did so with a sense of fatalism. Bradley allegedly contemplated a life in prison as a result of their actions prior to taking them. Unfortunately, that sense of fatalism is something endemic to the trans population. Now that I’m getting to the main subject, let’s talk about that for a minute. To be clear though, I’m not going to directly address suicide here. Trans suicide is a very serious topic that I don’t have the right background or experience to tackle without the risk of causing harm, so I won’t do it. I consider myself very fortunate for being part of an all too small subset that never contemplated this, but believe in showing the utmost compassion and empathy for those who have.

Fatalism, however, is another story. I think that prior to full self-awareness and willingness to address the problem, many trans often have a certain sense of doom when it comes to contemplating the rest of our lives. It springs from the dawning realization that these feelings just don’t seem to be going away, no matter what actions we take to try to correct or heal ourselves. In fact, they just keep getting worse, and the world becomes a bleak and scary place with the walls closing in with almost imperceptible slowness. This fatalism is really just the expression of a loss of hope, that everything is not going to turn out OK, and that hard work and perseverance aren’t going to mean a damn thing. It’s not necessarily true, but those of you reading this who are trans might be able to understand where I’m coming from.

The real piss of it is that launching oneself into transition doesn’t always cure this sense, and many of us turn into big negative Nellies as a result. The reason is that transition doesn’t cure all of one’s problems, just one, while introducing a big hoary host of others in the process. The loss of relationships, loss of regard of peers, loss of employment, loss of anonymity, and even lost of self-esteem are common, and generally weighed against the benefits of transition in the hopes that a clear winner will be made clear and tell us what to do. It also comes with the sudden realization that the completion of transition is not life’s endgame. I’ve just come to this one myself. While October is a huge milestone in my overall existence and the capstone of my transition, I have to start planning my life for after that time. It’s a strange feeling when the final barrier comes close enough to understand there are lots and lots of them after that. No worries; I’m ready. At least that will be behind me and I’ll be a bit wiser for it.

Back to Bradley. Bradley’s sense of fatalism brought them to a place where the consequence of action probably seemed vague and meaningless; just another possible bleak future in an already bleak existence. As a result, Bradley will probably spend most of the remainder of their life in prison and I find that very sad. Whether you consider Bradley a hero of villain for doing what they did is immaterial. Bradley will likely not have the opportunity to make other difficult roads we here are more familiar with, or at least not for a long time. Because of this, and so many others like Bradley, I think we are behooved to keep in mind that being transgender is not an insurmountable problem, and that transition in and of itself only solves so much, but pushing forward is like opening oysters. It’s going to be hard, you might get cut, you might find a pearl, and at the very least, you get to eat oysters.

Finally, I want to once again reiterate, especially to anyone who stumbles on here doing some shady research. Being transgender in no way, shape, or form predisposes someone to being more likely to commit acts of high treason, or really any type of activity that can be considered unethical according to government or industry standards. Seriously, most of us are trying to shake the whole ‘deceptive’ label all together and really didn’t need this sort of thing.

Review: She’s Not There – A Life In Two Genders 10th Anniversary Edition

She's Not ThereThe first time I picked up Jennifer Finney Boylan’s autobiographical work, She’s Not There; A Life in Two Genders, I was in a pretty terrible place. I hadn’t yet dared to use ‘the T word’ to describe myself, but I was starting to get very close. I paged through it in the Barnes and Noble parking lot while an early November snow began to come down. “This is either going to be so strange that I know I’m on the wrong track, or it’s going to be way too familiar and then I’m in big trouble.” I think you can guess where it landed.

For anyone unfamiliar, She’s Not There traces the author’s life from her time as a young child up to just after her full gender transition. Within she describes the strange disconnect between her body and spirit with regard to gender and the impact this had on her life. The first half encompasses her attempts to escape her innate feminine identity, while the second outlines her personal transition from a male life to a female one. While she spends time on the mechanics of transition, she frames the stages in the context of her personal life, her family and friends, and the overall impact to an existence that continues to progress independent of the changes she is making. The new edition includes an update to inform the reader what she has been doing for the past 10 years and the long term effect of her transition. Also included are afterwards by her closest friend, the novelist Richard Russo, and her spouse Deidre who appears as ‘Grace’ in the novel.

The first read, two and a half years ago, was fantastic for me. Someone was finally speaking my language, and in a way that was very easy to understand, even though the lingo was all very new to my experience. Funny, engaging, poignant, and a little heartbreaking; I identified strongly with every word right up to the point where she decided to go back to the therapy that culminated with, “That evening just before sundown, Grace was in tears, her heart broken in two.” It hit me hard; my own worst fear about this whole identity question business by far. Beyond my personal experience, the remainder for me became a “What to Expect When You Are Expecting to Transition” manual; a little peek into the future about what might be in store.

The 10th Anniversary edition came out and found me moved on considerably from that shaky, frightened male sitting in his car. Now a great deal of the book was very identifiable to my personal experience as I rocket toward my surgery date, and I was able to read it much differently. My original intention was to just read the updates, but after browsing the first chapter, I found myself pulled in again, now certain that I had probably missed much in spite of my highlighting and note taking from 30 months prior. I’m very glad that happened.

No longer hungry for basic knowledge about transgender life, I was able to appreciate how much of the work was devoted to impact her transition had on everyone around her. Most transition stories have a sense of very selfish self indulgence about them that is inherent to the process. She manages to transcend this and is cognizant how the people in her circle and periphery are affected on a very personal and emotional level while holding true to the very real necessity of taking action before the situation becomes unmanageable. This perspective gives readers unfamiliar with transition as well as those who may be embroiled within it a global view of the process.

This is clearly not a work that is intended to be a ‘how to’ for transgender people and the people in their lives. While it gives sufficient detail to impart clear understanding, it remains a biographical account. From my point of view, this makes it a much richer read as the story is character driven narrative within the broader context of fairly unusual circumstances. Much like the TV series Lost, the questions of why are far less important than what happens to the people we come to identify with.

The last chapter update, and the sole reason I originally intended to pick this up to begin with, would have made this worthwhile on a standalone basis. It can’t be easy to pick up where one left off in a work a decade prior, but she makes it seem effortless. I won’t share the details and spoil the ending (for the most part), but I feel it well conveyed the personal evolution she experienced after a full decade plus of female life. There were a few powerful moments that brought tears to my eyes as she revisited her childhood home, the Coffin House, but overall the message was one of hope for those with the tenacity to proceed in a generous and conscientious manner. I loved the last line, cleverly tied to a moment in her childhood, that simply reads, “He’s not there”.

I will stick with my original recommendation that this is an excellent read for anyone at all interested in gender transition, and for those who may not, but enjoy a well woven autobiography. Although not always true of most autobiographical accounts, the story alone is so well told that it would stand as a work of fiction and remain equally as compelling. I’m very looking forward to reading and reviewing her follow on work on the subject titled Stuck In the Middle With You that tackles the very difficult subject of parenting while undergoing transition and after.

My original review is here.

Michelle Begs to Differ: Trans Female Competative Advantage

DisagreeWhile most of the commentary has been very agreeable so far, we do have one amongst us who tends to take the dissenting opinion. This is good because fairly few discussions really need to any new thought when everyone just sits around agreeing with each other all day. I mean what fun is that? Based on the content provided by this person, who remains nameless and allegedly no one I know, my guess is that they fall in line with the RadFem philosophy. As this person, to date, is the only one of that bent who has chosen to comment and presumably read my posts, I thought it would be fair to address a few of their recent points found here. By the way, my guess is that this person is female, but without knowing for sure, I’m keeping it gender neutral.

In my post about Fallon Fox, they made a statement about transgender being a “self-diagnosed disorder” that I thought would be a good place to start. The tone suggested that this is synonymous with “contrived bullshit”. First, this is not exactly true. Transsexuals (I’m leaving cross-dressers out of this for the moment) generally experience a variety of symptoms leading them to seek professional care usually in the psychiatric, psychological, or medical arenas, if not all three. Under the World Professional Standards of Transgender Health (WPATH), the symptoms are evaluated, alternative causes are explored, systematically ruled out if appropriate, and a diagnosis or professional opinion is given. Treatment is recommended, including pharmacological care (hormones), and most patients respond positively.

For the sake of comparison, there are many conditions for which fluid or culture testing, various scans, genetic tests, or exploratory surgery cannot detect and rely on diagnosis by a professional asking the right questions. An excellent example is fibromyalgia. The point is that lack of a current litmus test in no way renders a condition non-existent. Sufficient evidence exists that the WPATH treatment of transsexuals is so successful in alleviating the negative symptoms that many insurance companies are starting to cover this. For-profit entities are hardly known for funneling any money away from shareholder returns without a solid basis of evidence.

Furthermore, I would add that the treatment is sufficiently difficult, if not heinous at times, and hard to obtain that the willingness of individuals to undergo the full regimen must still be less than the debilitating nature of the symptoms. Even the most motivated psychotic or fetishist (both alternative conditions that must be ruled out to proceed) would be hard pressed to complete all stages. All in all, the statement of ‘self-diagnosed’ as ‘bullshit’ simply doesn’t fly in this case.

I also found the statement “trying to beat the hell out of someone who was born female” to be over reactionary. I don’t really understand the motivation of fighting professionals, but it is very clear that anyone who gets in one of these rings does so with an expectation of either beating someone or being beaten. I understood the statement as a condemnation of men employing physical violence against women. The natural reaction, when framing it this way, is “how horribly wrong!”. I think we all agree that violence against women is a real and persistent problem worldwide. This, however, isn’t it. This is not a domestic or other criminally violent situation, but a contest between two athletes, so the only question is whether one has an unfair competitive advantage over the other.

Speaking of which, the statement “Fox has an advantage over most women who were born female” doesn’t have much basis to back it up. Her height (5’6”) and weight (135) are well within the female norm. Her skeletal form contains no inherent advantage and is subject to the same bone density issues experienced by other women her age. The issue of unfair competitive advantage has been thoroughly studied by the medical community and the vast majority of evidence is indicative of there not being one.

Reading through the details, my overall impression is that this person philosophically disagrees with the concept of a non-segregable gender binary. One should be once and forever categorized as only male or only female at birth and that transitional forms of either are fabrications. Here is the thing though; this model, perpetuated in so many societies to essentially make things simple and easy from a religious or bureaucratic point of view, has consistently failed to establish conformity. The model is flawed, and no matter what reasoning, logical or emotional that is used to shore it up, a portion of the population does not reflect the gender marker on their original birth certificate. We exist. We understand many organizations and individuals disagree that this ought to be, but it changes nothing.  We will not cease to be, go away, change our minds, or ever stop in our relentless pursuit of equality.

The Fallon Fox Fallacy

MMA: Strikeforce-Tate vs KedzieI know this constitutes serious self abuse already (not the Biblical kind where some bearded old patriarch wacked off into a fire), but I just had to scroll down to the comments section when I saw another CNN article about Fallon Fox. In case you aren’t aware, Ms Fox is a highly trained female fighter in the MMA who recently came out as a post-operative MTF transsexual. The legally mandated amount of hoopla around this revelation was achieved in typical media soap-opera fashion.
To ensure the story didn’t peter out with people saying, “Well, looks like another one of them managed to make good.”, someone decided to webcast a particularly cantankerous  UFC fighter, Matt Mitrione, giving the usual misinformed bigoted diatribe. Good catch, I did make it sound like this was all orchestrated. You can’t tell me this loudmouth boob was quiet as a church mouse on the subject before he found himself in front of a camera and exploded out of nowhere. In any case, it was a good opportunity for the UFC management to make it clear they are not copacetic with this kind of personal attack and suspended him. So, cool points to the UFC, which is not something I thought I would ever find myself saying.

Let’s get to the reactionary comments, shall we? In general, lots of misinformation, ranting, and declaring of Mitrione a true American hero of free speech right up there with old Tom Payne. I was actually gratified to see that for the most part, members of the trans community declined to get down in the mud and wrestle with the pigs on this. People who are taking the time to let their opinion be known on an online forum, yet cannot take the 3 minutes to do a quick search and see if their little factoids have any merit whatsoever are generally not worth listening to. On top of that, many of them made sure to highlight their pedigree by craftily inserting single words in all caps. “You are so stooped its because MR Fox is a MALE MAN!!!” Well, everyone knows that seeing a word in all caps will assuredly sway people on the fence into their camp, and better yet, draw some of the opposition who are tired of well reasoned, lower case arguments.

The primary point of view, and one also held by Mr Mitrione, is that trans women have a significant male advantage when it comes to physical competition. I so wish that anyone who made such an argument had the opportunity spend 6 months going through hormone replacement therapy. Every bit of natural male strength and endurance enjoyed previously, without even having to do anything, just evaporates like a little wisp of smoke. Speaking subjectively, I’d also add that it can be considered a significant disadvantage to experience a big drop in base level ability rather than start there from the beginning.

All medical studies on fully transitioned trans women indicate a comparative level of strength and endurance with a female of the same age and fitness demographic. A lack of androgen levels the playing field quite well. As a runner, I experienced this first hand. In 2010 and 2011 I ramped up from 2 mile season initial runs to 5 miles within 4 weeks, and ended the season doing 8 and 9 mile runs. In 2012 and this year, whole different story. Last year I ran more miles than any other year, yet at the end I only managed one 5.5 mile run without stopping. Big, big difference.

A few of the more persistent commenters took it a step further and attempted to argue that her original male skeletal frame was still intact. This is true; it is. When looking at strict averages, male skeletal frames are taller, broader shouldered and contain longer reaches than female skeletal frames. While the averages are distinctly different, the degree of overlap between the two groups is not. The vast majority of the population, male and female, falls well into the overlap portion. It’s very difficult not to. While Ms Fox has a frame larger than that of an average woman, it remains within that of the total female population, as do many of the other female MMA or UFC fighters (honestly, I’m not clear on what the difference is), some of whom may have larger frames than Fallon.

I think it’s fairly clear that if Fallon’s base strength and endurance are comparable to that of demographically similar females, and her ability to train, ramp up and increase her abilities falls along the same curve as well, she is quite fairly categorized correctly. In regards to frame size, she is well within the expected variance to the mean in the female population. Even so, it doesn’t appear that the MMA or UFC categorizes and segregates players based on this. Nor most sports, or we would expect to have football and basketball leagues split up into interplaying divisions based on height and bulk.

Sufficed to say, I’m calling bullshit on this line of reasoning. It’s a trumped up and unsound method to justify trans discrimination where there is no credible reason for there being any. While I’ve never exactly been a fighting fan, I’ll be rooting for Fallon all the way.

Badly Reasoned: Why The CO Transgirl Should Not Be Segregated

Coy

Yes, I’m still on the damn bathroom issue. Apparently, I just need to get it out of my system before I get back to my usual level of humor, that pun excluded of course. Go ahead, groan, now let’s move on people. In my last post I referred to the trans girl, Coy, in Colorado who had been using the girl’s room, but then banned and asked to use separate but unequal facilities in a compassionate attempt to make her feel like a mutant freak. Apparently 6 is the right age to really drill home how much she should be crying bitter tears for the affront of being born different. Now, I actually heard a great deal of what sounded like well considered rational by the opposition. Let’s take a moment to dissect that, shall we?

The most prevalent point of contention is that no one wants their daughters exposed to the sight of a male penis in the bathroom. I’ll be honest; this gave me pause as well for a moment before I could gather my thoughts. My first thought was that unless she took to peeing in the sink for some reason, are exposed genitals really a common site in any bathroom? Having grown up in bathrooms that contain urinals, I have to say that this was not a common thing at all. In fact, even looking could earn the naturally curious quite a beating. Boy culture is vehemently opposed to this. I’m not sure if this really carried over to the locker room because I generally changed huddled in a corner and got out, but still. Does the same apply to girl culture?

The answer I got was not so much. Girl culture, which I was unfortunately not raised in, is less prudish about bodies and the implications of letting other girls see them in female segregated spaces. So there is a chance that girls in the same bathroom as Coy may at some point see what she has down there. I can feel the indignant outrage from here. Let’s think about that for just a second though.

Generally speaking, people who have a difference they may have some feelings of shame around generally don’t go flaunting it. I think many or most children by school age already have an understanding that boys and girls are different down there and that Coy and other trans children know they don’t have the typical parts. Even without parental guidance and instruction not to do this, the general childhood impetus to not advertise what is going to mark them as different and possibly made fun of is most likely going to stop her from doing so.

Let’s go back for a moment to the general knowledge that boys and girls of school age understand there is a difference between boys and girls. Through childhood curiosity, siblings, cousins, friends, and daycare, most opposite gender children have seen each other without pants on at some time or another. We don’t like this thought because the idea borders on the uncomfortably sexual, although at this age, it certainly is not. The point being, chances are that if one or more of the girls managed to spy a trans girl’s penis, it likely would not be a first time thing for them.

Now I’ll vector off to the left and point out that approximately 1% of the population is born with an intersex condition. This may or may not include genitalia that are not markedly male or female. Sometimes this is corrected at birth and sometimes not. The point is that there is no debate concerning intersex condition children using the restroom of the gender they have been assigned, even if their genitalia can’t immediately back that up. The reason this is never mentioned is because both now and in the past, the prevailing notion has always been that whatever someone has in their pants is their business alone. That being the case, the only reason I feel there is outrage over Coy and other trans children is that trans is a big news item right now.

This is by no means the first time in history that trans children and even children who were not trans were raised in a gender other than that they were assigned at birth. The difference is that now the general public has some idea of what transgender is, or the very least has an uninformed opinion about it. Twenty years ago, assuming Coy’s parents were as progressive as they are now, she could have been raised female and no one but her doctor would have really known the difference publically.

The final issue I’ll address is the one forward thinking people like to bring up. So what happens when Coy hits puberty? Well, there are several things that can happen. There is always the chance that Coy ends up feeling more comfortable as a boy, because this does occasionally happen with children initially identified as trans. If that happens, problem solved but for her socialization into male culture, which I imagine will be very hard. If she maintains her gender is female, the common practice has been to begin hormone blocking treatments which would prevent her from experiencing male puberty. Between both this and the socialization in girl culture, it is extremely unlikely that she will suddenly become a manifest threat to the other girls. Even if she is gay, it is highly doubtful that she would act any different than any other young lesbian, a demographic not known for committing assaults in the girls room.

The overall problem I see here is that the Victorian remnants of prudishness have managed to persist in a manner that allows us to project our notions of sexuality on to children who simply don’t have this yet. I agree, however, that female segregated spaces are important and should be kept as safe as possible. Little Coy is not the risk. She’s just a girl born in a way she clearly doesn’t care for, who wants to feel as normal and as accepted by her peers as possible. Her being welcome in the bathroom should be based on the same standards as any child; good behavior is the expectation. Disallowing her with the understanding that she meets that criteria is simply wrong.

Again With The Trans Bathroom Issue

Bathroom

It’s as much about what you see as where I can pee. Well, and a lot more, but one thing at a time. I know we have talked about “The Bathroom Issue” before, but it’s high time we revisit this fun little topic once again. Very recently we had the trans girl in Colorado who was granted separate but unequal accommodations after being kicked out of the girls room. Apparently it’s never too early to make someone feel like shit about how they were born. In case you can’t tell, I’m kind of in a mood. Even more recently it’s the always compassionate lawmakers in Arizona who mistakenly think our reality can be easily legislated out of existence just like that.

What continuously annoys me about this is the prevalent notion that where we are going to go to the bathroom is predicated on what the local statute happens to be. This is simply not the case. If we identify as women, we are going to use the ladies room if appropriately presenting as such, and same goes for the trans men in using the men’s room. This is regardless of whatever the law of the land happens to be. While I would greatly prefer not to be harassed because I just had to order the venti frappachino, I would even greatly more prefer not to be physically assaulted. That being the case, let’s just drop the notion that this is about where we are allowed to go.

The issue really comes down to how much of an effort and how many tax dollars does the local community want to sink into giving us a hard time over this. In Arizona it’s apparently quite a bit, but I’m sure by now they have achieved a downright utopian society complete with cowed citizens nervously carrying around long form birth certificates and looking over their shoulders for jolly old Sheriff Joe and his pink undie squad.  Look, out of 50 states, one was bound to long for a quasi-fascist system dedicated to preventing those pesky brown people and “weird” folks from getting out of line and doing things they vaguely disapprove of that have little to no effect on their existence. After all, conservative philosophy is all about personal freedom, right?

Even with harsh laws in place to prohibit the dangerous trans folk from quietly entering a lockable stall to do their business, people are still going to go where they feel safest. Personally, I’d rather take that chance than enter any restroom that features urinals. Unless they start installing armed guards at every door, I still think my chances of peeing and getting the fuck out unscathed are way, way better in the ladies room. I think we should take a moment to look at why people feel the need to sink valuable tax dollars into a cause that may on its best day achieve a level of efficiency comparable to the war on drugs. To keep it real, I’ll even skip over Mr Krackpot Kavanagh’s pithy little “because he thinks [trans] are weird” reasoning.

I have attempted and failed to locate a scientifically conducted national poll that gauges the feeling of cisgender women regarding sharing the bathroom with transgender women. Nor have I found one regarding their feeling about the fact that at some point in their life, they probably have whether they knew it or not. Now my personal experience, which I cannot extrapolate to a national level, is that the vast majority simply don’t care so long as proper bathroom etiquette is followed. The number of reported breaches of etiquette is so tiny as to not only be statistically insignificant, but would be thrown out as extreme outliers in any scientifically conducted studies. Getting to the point, the argument that there will be a sudden influx of peeping, spied penises, or outright assault is baseless. Remember, we are already in there with you, so the best a harsh law could do is keep a statistical zero incidence rate right there at nothing.

On the far pole from conservatives who worry of impropriety, we have the RadFems who do exactly the same, worry of impropriety, but for much more esoteric reasons for the most part. Aside from arguments eerily reminiscent of those of who oppose gay marriage (acknowledging trans womanhood somehow diminishes or takes away from their womanhood), we get a lot of fox in the henhouse paranoia. To look at this fairly, no one in the ladies room is real thrilled with the idea of someone who identifies as male coming in, especially if he’s doing so with bad intentions in mind. This does actually happen, though rarely. In any case, it is farfetched to believe that cross-dressing rapists or peeping toms are making their decisions to take this approach based on transgender access. If they are already mentally committed to perpetrating one of the most heinous crimes known to humankind, it seems very unlikely that they are being held at bay only by local statute enforcement of trans bathroom prohibitions. If the threat of 20 years in prison for committing a crime while wearing a costume that renders them highly identifiable immediately after, the threat of a municipal citation is hardly going to give them pause for thought.

Finally we come to the really sticky issue that has us all perplexed. While it’s been well established that transsexual women, with very, very few exceptions, behave no differently (or better, because we don’t need the attention) in female segregated spaces, the question inevitably comes up, what about the cross-dressers? And by cross-dresser I mean a person who identifies as male, but wears, at least on occasion, female attire. This is thorny because cis and trans women aren’t that terribly comfortable having a self identified man in the bathroom with us, even if they are behaving well. The pointy end is that there is no easy way to tell the difference. In fact, I’ve noticed that many CDs look much better than I do on a day to day difference because they tend to put a lot more time into their look, and if matched up in a ‘which is which’ guessing game, I’m not so certain I’d be picked as the woman on looks alone.

Unfortunately, there is no pleasing answer to this. We could request that the world governing body of cross-dressers signs a pledge to steer clear of the ladies room when in public, but there isn’t one; just a lot of individuals running around and a bunch of local clubs and support groups. We could go the Arizona route and hire an army of German accented potty police who say, “Ve need to see your papers!” in an adorable fashion. Dare I say panty checks anyone? Or we can take the reasonable course of action as good citizens and report bad behavior as we witness it.

The bathroom issue really isn’t so much an issue as a societal decision to either acknowledge our existence and where we already taking care of a private natural function, or if political action and tax dollars should be spent to ineffectually dissuade trans people from peeing where they are going to anyway. What really remains to be seen is if the recent changing tides in LGB civil rights are being extended in the T direction yet or not. Either way, we aren’t going anywhere.

And yes, I hardly touched on little Coy Mathis, the bathroom banned trans girl from Colorado, but she deserves her own post, so look for that in 3 days time.

Trans as “Personal Truth”? Thanks For the Screw Over, Glee

Ryder vs Unique

“No you’re not, you’re a guy” Oh, the words we so love to hear, especially when someone’s gaze at the same time is focused 30 degrees below our chin. Because I managed to go several months now without mentioning ‘Glee’, the writers responded to the doubtless flagging viewership and decided to shove something in there guaranteed to inspire me to write about. Well, probably not, but I’m glad they brought it up anyway as this horribly cold March is leaving me grasping at straws to come up with good topics every three days. For that I thank them.

In case your regular viewing has strayed from quality programming and you spend the time watching shows about people who make duck calls, use coupons, or toss out precociously loveable zingers from double wide trailers, I’ll catch you up. Last week on ‘Glee’ we got to witness a confrontation between Unique, the mega star in the making trans girl, and Ryder, one of the new characters who is catching on as fast as ‘Saved By The Bell, the New Class’. I doubt even Screech could bring out his best. In this episode, Ryder takes the position that Unique is “really a guy” in spite of being told point blank that she is a “proud black woman” and refuses to back down. For the record, the rest of the characters, except for Sue Sylvester, have no trouble understanding Unique for who she is. I was super glad they decided to tackle this. At first.

As usual, I’m going to tangent off to the left for a moment, if for no other reason than to avoid making this a sketchy re-write of the Wikipedia recap of the same. This point hits home for most, if not all, trans people because it speaks to one of our greatest challenges. No matter how we educate those around us, and no matter how we appear, attempting to overcome that lingering mindset that we are “really a…” is both heartbreaking and infuriating. Even those who claim to understand, who want to understand, and may have stood solidly by us the entire time often have trouble wrapping their heads around this.

Very recently, this happened to me yet again. I was explaining to a co-worker, who has been incredible in every respect to my transition, how I had decided to dorm for college because I like to be in total control of my own personal space. This was a little more pressing before I was out, and I’ve since calmed down about it. He replied off the cuff that, “of course you would, like any guy.” My hackles went up immediately. Uh, guy? He attempted to backpedal quickly. “Well, I mean you were a guy at the time.” No, not even then, in spite of appearances. He finally attempted to rectify by comparing me to his daughter who was the same way.

I know there was no deliberate attempt to hurt my feelings. I know he isn’t transphobic, or expressed even the slightest bit of resistance to my change in appearance. What it did though was give me insight into an internal mental space that hadn’t quite made the change over quite yet. Granted, he did know me for a little over ten years as ‘Mike’, but it’s now been 8 months since I have appeared as ‘Mike’ anywhere, much less here at work. I have to wonder how many others still think of me internally as ‘dude’? I clearly have a lot more work ahead of me on a front I fooled myself in thinking was won early on and now a distant memory.

Getting back to ‘Glee’. Well, as glad as I am that they broached the subject and brought it into the mainstream consciousness, I think they flubbed it in the end. After attempting to resolve the issue in the worst possible venue, a sing off, understanding is pushed to Ryder via groupthink. The message? Unique has a different personal truth than Ryder. OK, not what I was hoping to see here. True, in Gleeland a musical mash up usually is enough to win a campaign for hearts and minds, especially when perfectly timed, choreographed, and with shifting changes of venue and wardrobe that may or may not supposed to be really happening. Let’s put that aside and go with the whole ‘personal truth’ thing.

Personal truth is a great concept for disparate opinions that cannot be independently verified. It’s a good compromise along the lines of ‘my orange juice tastes better than yours’ when you have one person calling Jesus the one and only, and another party proclaiming that Buddha is where it’s at. In these cases ‘personal truth’ is a good fallback position to avoid another ‘Taste’s great! Less filling!’ campaign that resorts in untold death, destruction, and still no clear answer like the Great Bud Light War of latter 20th century.

The inherent danger of taking this position is that it all becomes very subjective. Sure you feel you are female, but I feel you are not, and therefore my opinion is equally valid. In most cases of this type, however, both truths are not at all equally valid. If I contend an antibiotic will improve a bacterial infection, and you hold that going to a faith healer is equally valid, I’m reasonably sure the numbers are going to weigh heavily in my favor, no matter what your personal truth is. If the question of trans is handled in the manner of a personal truth, the results are going to be compared to the faith healer by anyone who wants to express doubt for whatever reason.

I would have been much happier if Glee addressed this by pointing to the validation provided by the medical, psychological, and psychiatric communities and the specific reasoning as to why this is nearly universally recognized by scientific bodies as reality. Instead, millions of viewers were left with a very milk toast namby-pamby kind of reasoning that anyone looking to doubt our existence is all too happy to jump on. So glad they brought it up, but really wishing they would have put some more thought into it.

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