Young vs Middle aged Emergers

When the New York Times announced in November 1966 that Johns Hopkins was doing the operation it made the whole thing a lot more real for me than it had been when I ahd read April Ashley’s account of getting SRS in Casablanca.

Five years later I was in the Stanford program and was co-running the NTCU.  We were in SF and the majority of people we were counseling were under 30.  We mainly liked guys.  But some of us liked women.

When we went to the group at Stanford we met those coming out in middle age and while some liked men most had been involved with women and had often fathered children.

Jan Maxwell and I discussed this and we postulated that with SRS becoming widely available along with the climate of greater sexual freedom those coming out in middle age would instead all start coming out younger.

We wrongly though that the ability to get the operation was the determining factor.

10, 20, 30 years later and I’m a respected pioneer and groups will at least buy me dinner to speak/visit their group.  What do I see but the same exact mix of young emergers vs middle aged.

Now I think all the psychopathologicalization is one steaming pile of bullshit.  99.99% of it flunks the Occam’s razor test.

But being an autodidact/otaku with access to a computer starting in 1996 I started being an obnoxious bitch and probing for some answers.

I listened to what people had to say and then I asked , “Why, how come?”

Now the first answer and the most easily dismissible was, “There wasn’t any information.”

Now as an autodidact I searched every single fragment of possible information and any information that could have even the vaguest connection.

I wasn’t the only one as most WBT memoirs describe doing the exact same thing.

Then on Trans-theory I met someone who was my virtual demographic identical twin.  We were both from small towns, were the same age and lived around the corner from each other in the Haight Ashbury.

The more I dug at her and the more I pissed her off the more I started to see the role fear played.

I had formed self awareness and knowledge of being transsexual as a result of physical obviousness and getting caught dressing up.  Getting busted resulted in being labeled.

I tried to hide the stigma (Erving Goffman has a good book called “Stigma”) without much success.  But it didn’t take all that much effort to imagine that if I had not been caught, labeled and too obvious to hide it I might have given into the fear of stigmatization and done almost anything to hide it.

After all the socialization of transkids generally includes bullying, parental abuse and often medical abuse aimed at masculinizing us.

Forget the mailitary careerists.  That is building a mask so thick I’m amazed any ever are able to break out.

I wanted to become a history teacher.  I was told I would never be allowed to teach because I was too obvious.

Then in 1968 at a point when I was just about ready to come out I met a girl from Canada whose husband had run off and left her stranded in Sproul Plaza, Berkeley.  She approached me assuming I was gay and safe.  I brought her back to my collective in San Francisco and we spent about 10 days together.  We cuddled, slept together, dropped acid and made love.  I could function as a male while on acid. I really liked her.

Suppose we were together just a little longer and I made her preganant.  Abortion was illegal in 1968 and hard to obtain.  I could empathize with someone marrying under these circumstances and becoming a responsible parent as many of us would like to be.

Over the years many of my friends from those days at the NTCU have passed away.  Many of us have had a sketchy history of health care access in the US and tend to fall in the uninsured.  Although considering how health care in the US generally ranks around 40th on most indices world wide maybe our access is par for the course.

But over the years of reading memoirs and listening to friend who have come out in middle age I have heard stories of early childhood awareness that all have similar elements.

So much so that I feel I can say that the differences between those who come out young and those who come out in middle age are more a matter of what happens in the years between say 15 and 25 than they are of any primal root factor.

Are Many Gay Men Feminine/Are Many Lesbians Masculine?

Long, long ago in 1967 a couple of years before Stonewall and armed only with John Rechy’s “City of Night” as a map I went out on the road exploring first to Greenwich Village and then to San Francisco.

I looked like a sixteen year old and I attracted the chicken hawks. I had my first few sexual experiences with gay men.  everyone of them told me having sex with me was like having sex with a girl because I was a girl in bed.

I started observing the so called femininity of gay men.  It really isn’t femininity.  It is obvious gayness. Susan Sontag called it camp.  I think it is innate and “gay” not masculine or feminine and I’ve seen elements of it in the butchest of gay men and the nelliest of queenish gay men.  It is the thing that causes me to look at a number of straight right wing Christo-fascist Republicans and think, “Who does that closet case think he is fooling.”

As for the masculinity of lesbians.  In the 1940s and 1950s see “Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold” many in the lesbian community that was studied gave oral histories indicating that femmes weren’t considered real lesbians, only butches were.

Far more recently I made the comment regarding the emergence of female to male transsexualism, “There are two kinds of lesbians, women and men.”  It is a nasty quip.

In the 1970s I had a discussion with the other women on the “Lesbian Tide” where I was a photographer and production artist regarding an article on Butch/Femme.  This was the 1970s and many feminist women had opted to become lesbian as a political choice.  Butch/Femme were considered artifacts of a pre-liberation time.

I was a photographer, played electric guitar as well as accoustic, soldered together kits for my synthesizer, did Tae Kwon do etc.  Yet I also wore tight designer jeans and t-shirts etc.  In short I defied the Butch/Femme labeling.  During our editorial meeting we sort of decided that butch/femme existed as a comparison of one person being more butch or femme than an other.

But I’ve also observed in the years since that many lesbian identified women are more bisexual the way I am and that being feminist and competent complicates defining as butch or femme based on patriarchal ideas of femininity.

Among lesbians there are some traits that seem obvious lesbian traits in the same way gay men seem to have obvious traits and they aren’t really masculine in the same way those of F to Ms are instead they are lesbian and cause lesbians to ask the question, “Doesn’t she realize she is a dyke?”

Typical Bullshit Transgender Research Project

Anytime I see a “Transgender” Research Survey I realize that it is automatically there to support a foregone conclusion.  Actually they have taken to to getting rid of non-transgender identified transsexuals and post-transsexuals in the first question.

Take the groundbreaking survey on transgender discrimination..

This one by Justin Tanis is just too typical It claims to be :

“Comprehensive National Survey on Transgender Discrimination launched by National Center for Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force”

It is repleate with this little gem: 

“This is an absolutely critical national effort. We urge all transgender and gender non-conforming people to take the survey to help guide us in making better laws and policies that will improve the quality of life for all transgender people. We need everyone’s voice in this, everyone’s participation.” – Mara Keisling, Executive Director, National Center for Transgender Equality”

As I said WBTs who do not identifiy as either transgender or gender variant are not welcome in this so called comprehensive survey.  But of course we are the elitists for not toeing the line and wearing the transgender for life t-shirt.

Now call me masochistic if you will but I actually clicked on this survey, actually I did so in the interests of investigative journalism.

Here’s what I found:

1. Do you consider yourself to be transgender/gender non-conforming in any way?

Yes
No. If no, do NOT continue.

If you click the no box and then try to answer the questions in a manner that would be appropriate for a WBT or woman with a past medical history of transsexualism you will not be able to continue past the first page.

Maybe people should let the following two researchers know they feel hegemonically erased by this approach.

You can ask questions about this research.

Questions concerning this project should be directed to:

Justin Tanis
National Center for Transgender Equality
1325 Massachusetts Avenue, NW Suite 700
Washington, DC 20005
202-903-0112
jtanis@nctequality.org

OR

Susan Rankin, Ph.D
Research Associate, Center for the Study of Higher Education
Pennsylvania State University
University Park, PA 16802
814-863-2655
sxr2@psu.edu

The Annoying Whine

I knew it would come.  Indeed I was surprised it took so long to arrive…  I mean I started this particular blog almost three whole weeks ago.

I’m sure it is one every post-SRS woman has heard if she has any contact with those who parrot the transgender party line.

All one of us has to say is that women are adult people with vaginas and not adult people who dress or act a certain way.

Well the whine arrived yesterday and it wasn’t posted as a comment to a blog entry but to the About.  I pulled it not because of what it said but rather due to where it was posted.  If the author is reading this she can repost it to this thread

One version of the whine goes like this, “It doesn’t matter what my genitals are since no one sees them.”

Technically this is correct if one assumes that you want to be female simply for sex with another and not simply for yourself.

Tell me you are unaware while peeing, bathing or self pleasuring.

Ahh.

Genitals don’t count.

Actually genitals do count.  Most of us suffered with years of people attempting to socialize us into being masculine heterosexual adults based on our genitals.  Further once we have pussies we find all the weight of society’s expectations of females become our lot just as they are of those born female.

I’m sure this whine and others will follow and respond.

Girl Factories

Catkisser sez:  “And it’s not just the TGs, it’s those who run the “girl factories” as well. The absolute best break I got when I transitioned was going to the “wrong” therapist and being shunned by those in the local gender program. I worked and socialized with other women instead, sometimes I think that makes the difference.”

Those of us who came out in the the days before they invented GID didn’t have therapists.  At least those of us who came out young didn’t.

I wasn’t even examined by a psychiatrist when I asked for hormones.  I talked to a psychiatric social worker at San Francisco’s public health clinic, The Center for Special Problems for less than an hour and much of that was regarding other agencies and places I could go to get various forms of help for things like employment.

It seems as though today’s Girl Factories serve to indoctrinate that one needs life long psychiatric support and that one has GID.

Arlene Lev seems to be among the worst of these.

The other product of these factories is the indoctrination in the transgender/gender mantra.

I went 24/7 right after the end of the People’s Park up-rising in Berkeley.  I was in a collective at the time that and was affiliated with SDS.  Just about the time I went 24/7 SDS split and Weaterman emerged.  I was part of the Weatherman faction.

My biggest conflicts with the Transsexual Counseling Unit in SF was that they were so pre-feminist in their straight expectations and I was so militantly left.

I agree whole heartedly with Cat Kisser on the part of forming yourself among women and not among the transgenders.

Even when we had the peer to peer group in SF it was like the clothing line FUBU’s name For Us, By Us.  Instead of becoming addicted to an ideology about 10 of us became friends.  There are only two of us left but I still really value her friendship.

I read, oh do I read on a number of topics but for the purposes of this I’ve read large numbers of works either about transsexualism or biographies of those of us who have coped with having had and been treated for transsexualism.  I just finished Aleshia Brevard’s book.  Very interesting, the difference of ten years and the Sixties happening inbetween our dealing with our transsexualism.

Understanding our stories in the framework of something other than the psychiatric idieology or the transgender ideology is important.

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Not My Child

I wrote a short version of this for a mailing list in 1998.

I was asked to turn it into an article which appeared Issue #19 of “Anything That Moves”

Disowning and Other Abuses of Transchildren


“You are not my child.”
“Get out you goddamned freak.”
“Get out and don’t ever come back.”
“Go live with the rest of the fucking queers.”

As a public service announcement of a few years ago said, words can hurt as badly as a fist, and cut as deeply as a knife.

There is a platitude that says that parents always love their children. It is not always true. LGBT/T children are regularly disowned – and the streets of the big cities are filled with these children. These kids don’t just “all of a sudden” get kicked out for no reason. They are the children who were caught dressing up at young ages, and had their love and emotional support withdrawn. They are the children of “religious” families who get kicked out because “God hates queers.” They are the children who have been abused by psychology, institutionalized with Gender Identity Disorder in institutions that try to make the boys act masculine and the girls act feminine… at least until they max out the psychiatric insurance.

All too often, kids who have been disowned and kicked out of their homes are told that they should strive to tame their parents’ wrath: “Send books. Keep the channels open. Try harder to make your parents understand. After all, they are your parents, and deep down they love you.”

You wouldn’t tell an abused spouse to keep trying to mend the relationship with her/his abuser. Don’t tell a disowned child to keep trying. Better advice would be to seek out the support and counseling needed to heal.

I know I probably sound cold beyond words, but some families are really toxic. One girl I knew moved here from Mexico with her family when she was three. After her parents became legal citizens, they legalized her brothers and sisters. Because she was a gender queer, they wouldn’t legalize her. They kicked her out instead. Another of my friends’ family read Kaddish [a Jewish funeral service] over her and declared her dead.

Gender psychologists classify transsexuals as “primary” or “secondary” depending on whether they came out (or were forced out) early in life, or later in adulthood, respectively. One of the main differences between these two groups is that Primary TSs are far more likely to have been thrown out of their houses and disowned for being obvious gender queers. Activist Riki Ann Wilchins calls this transparency – the inability to pass as “gender normal.” Gender queer kids never really enjoy the luxury of coming out. Many biological “boys,” unable to mask and hide their femininity, are out from day one, marked and labeled “sissies.” Hiding their gender differences and being able to come out in adolescence or adulthood are luxuries denied.

Sissy. Tomboy. Roll the two words around in your head and ponder the weight of both those words; contemplate the discordance of the two images. Tomboys are cute. They play “boy” games, run around in “boy” clothes, and are generally considered okay. They are not stigmatized – at least, not until they hit puberty.

On the other hand, little boys who play with dolls and wear “girl” clothes are immediately stigmatized. Sissies are beaten and harassed at school. If they are discovered dressing up and learning to perform the gender of their identity at home, parental love is withdrawn. I was hit with the reality of what I was one day when I was 11, when my parents caught me wearing my mother’s clothes. In an instant, I went from being a sissy to being a queer. In that instant, my life was turned upside down. A wall of ice descended, and I immediately felt the loss of my parents’ love. I realized I was no longer their child.

A few years ago, a woman who had thrown her gay son out because his queerness was against her religion publicly repented and wrote a really weepy book after her son did a half-gainer off an overpass in front of a semi truck. I don’t feel her pain. She was an asshole for disowning her son. Both she and her son would have been better off if she had found another church.

In late October 1998 the Georgian County Day School threw out “Alex” McLendon for adopting a female gender identity. A newspaper photograph showed her wearing jeans, sports shoes, and a long-sleeved striped T-shirt; the accompanying caption said Alex was dressed as a female. Basically, the clothes were neutral; they took on the perceived gender of their wearer. Now, Alex will be home-schooled because she identifies as female. She has already encountered the first reduction of her civil rights. Unfortunately, the chances are high that Alex will continue to encounter such reductions in her rights for the rest of her life.

In the highly accurate movie Ma Vie en Rose, a young transsexual child’s family is hounded from their house, her father from his job.

Gender queers are the most visible and least protected element of the BGLT community. They are the most likely to have suffered abuse, and to have emotional problems as a result of that abuse.

The persecution is real.

The very laws aimed at preventing the abuse of children in the labor market work against runaways and throwaway minors. To work as a minor legally, you usually need a work permit signed by your parents. If you don’t have a high school diploma, obtaining even minimum wage positions becomes highly difficult.

I know about these things.

I have lived some of them. I have been a sex worker. I was a drug addict – speed, coke, and pills. I have seen friends OD and die. I have seen a friend murdered because she was working the streets.

My Mexican friend ended up working the streets. She got busted, tested positive for HIV, and was deported to Mexico, where she had no one.

Sex work is, and has long been, a major source of income for throwaway kids. Aside from often being one of the only options available, it is also a powerful lure — to be paid for being desirable, to feel wanted and attractive when all their lives they’ve been told they are worthless. It’s sort of an antithesis to being told, “No one will ever love you or want you. Not a woman. Not a man. Not even a queer man or woman.”

Despite this fact of life, the trans community almost never mentions this disowned sector of itself. Support groups, journals (and more recently, the Internet) have been a major resource for communication within the TS/TG community, but within these forums, class differences often become apparent. Far too often, the poverty experienced by many transsexual women as a result of the stigma attached to their very being goes unacknowledged.

To judge the trans community by these forums, groups, and by the journals’ targeted readerships, the majority of MTF transsexuals appear to be middle-aged, currently or formerly married to women, and overwhelmingly attracted only to women. The idea of attraction to men is usually tacked on almost as an afterthought, applied to all except post-ops.

The transsexual community seems itself perpetually split between those who are protecting what security they have managed to accumulate, and those too busy just trying to get any at all — a divide which falls along predictable age and class lines. Where their money comes from is a question which largely goes unasked. The answers, when located in the back pages of urban papers, parts of Los Angeles’ Santa Monica Boulevard, San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, and parts elsewhere, are not different – they are a part of the trans community, and deserve a voice too.

What can we as a larger queer community do? LGBT/T continuation schools are a good start. Teen shelters that are open to runaway/throwaway transchildren would be great. Employment counseling and job placement would help. Sex workers need the same legal protections as non-sex workers, and the same right of dignity in profession. And for all transsexual and transgendered people, inclusion in civil rights legislation such as Employment Non-Discrimination Act, on a national level and in statewide initiatives which protect employment rights, would be wonderful.

Trans childhoods don’t have to be tragic. Having loving parents makes a difference. One child in San Diego was very fortunate — when she went to her mother and said, “Mom, I need to be a girl,” her mother acted supportively, and even helped her get surgery as a teenager1. But for every child fortunate enough to have a mother like that, at least five others are out hooking on Santa Monica Boulevard.

The persecution is real.

“Just Evelyn,” Mom, I Want to Be a Girl. 1998 Walter Trook Pub. Imperial Beach, CA. Lib. of Congress CC#; 98-84-72 ISBN: 0-9663272-09.

Suzan  is a baby boomer who came out as herself in the months before Stonewall, 1969. An openly sex-positive bisexual transwoman, she became politically active in the anti-Vietnam War movement, and then in the trans/gay/lesbian/women’s movements. She has now been post-op over half her life, yet remains in her words, “many things and still emerging.”

Joanne’s Observation

“Its neutering in another sense too. Because it denies what we can become. Containing us forever in the “you’re still what you were” world. Most HBS born leave that world behind.”

This is one reason I always call it either a “sex change operation” or “sex reassignment surgery”.  That is what it does and I have little tolerance for mincing words about what it does.

Gender seems like a word game that denies the reality of what the operation does.

If we are ever going to get past psychopathologizing we have to both cut the bullshit and reclaim the power of our own thinking about the matter.

Sometimes it seems like we are pandering or weaseling around about stuff because we are afraid some one will say harsh words to us.

BTW Joanne we should mutually put up links and are you running Google Analytics on your Blog?

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