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.

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?

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


Susan Rankin, Ph.D
Research Associate, Center for the Study of Higher Education
Pennsylvania State University
University Park, PA 16802

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.


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?

Strange Expectations

I was one of those very co-operative sisters when it came to Stanford’s Program and all the follow ups.

Then came a movie called “Bladerunner”.  One of those films that made me think. Harrison Ford played the ostensible hero but I identified with the Replicants, a race created by cloning and manufacturing.

By the mid-1980s the researchers had pulled enough shit for me to start viewing them as the enemy.  Some of the stuff was so weird, the expectations so out of step with what was happening in the world that there was no way to check a box and answer their questions.

On some levels we are almost expected to disconnect the before from the after and the past shaped us even when many of the memories are unpleasent. One of the things about the movie that hit me was that Replicants emerged as adults without a childhood and their makers were attempting to implant false memories of a childhood that never existed.

I used the term Replicant in reference to how Judy Van Maasdam and those doing the follow-up were treating us. It is as though we were created and you want us to function in a stereotypical way.  It is as though we look human but aren’t quite.  She said that I was putting myself down when I said I was a Replicant in their eyes.  I told her that in the movie Replicant was the respectful term.  The slur was “skin-job” and that I had read the work of researchers who might just as well have called us “skin-jobs”.

But back to the memories.  I am writing a book and that has meant examining the aspects of what made me who I am.

I just reconnected with a friend from High School.  She was pretty, bright and kind to me.  She has made me aware that she and other kids watched out for me and were seriously pissed off with the bullies who picked on me.

Stuff like this shaped me.  Sometimes it seemed to me like we were supposed to deny our childhood and invent pasts that didn’t happen in order to please the researchers.

Sometimes and especially with many of the newer gate keepers and the language that gets used with all the gender stuff it seems as though we are expected to recite a set of incantations that would have seemed vaguely psychotic to many of us old timers.

I think I was right to call them on what was turning abusive.

God Doesn’t Make Mistakes!

Stop me if you’ve never heard that one and I’ll give you some context.

The following was on

Parents complain about disabled TV show host

There’s a really disturbing campaign of hate being directed at Cerrie Burnell, a host of the children’s television show CBeebies, who was born missing the lower section of her right arm.

“Is it just me, or does anyone else think the new woman presenter on CBeebies may scare the kids because of her disability?” wrote one adult on the CBeebies website. Other            adults claimed that their children were asking difficult questions as a result. “I didn’t want to let my children watch the filler bits on The Bedtime Hour last night because I know it would have played on my eldest daughter’s mind and possibly caused sleep problems,” said one message. The BBC received nine other complaints by phone.

When I was a little transkid we had a child in our class who was born with Cerebral Palsy.  I started having doubt about the God and mistakes thing at that point.

Those sorts of things upset parents who teach the infallability of the invisible sky daddy.

Then I learned that the Bible considered me a double abomination…  For something I was born.  And that these rules were in a couple of passages that had all sorts of weird rules that almost no one followed.

Part of the prejudice we get from religious people is voiced fairly often as:

“God doesn’t make mistakes.”  Now someone with an obvious physical manifestation sort of negates that one.

On the other hand having a less obvious birth condition allows them to psychopathologize us.

But that thing about not making mistakes.  That one created my own version of the Eppicurian Dilemma.  If God didn’t make mistakes then he must be malevolent to hand some of these things out at birth.  If he won’t cure things like transsexualism by making it go away no matter how much people pay for it to go away then god is either malevolent or impotent.


I get really sick of people excusing their bigotry using religion as a shield to hide behind.

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Harry’s Girls… Say What?

Brielle wrote: "True transsexuals or HB or WPATH, or Harry's Girls (I came up with that one) - It think there needs to be a distinction, a term that is defined by consensus and distributed to media to end all the confusion about the transgender umbrella."

I actually was one of the famous Dr. B’s patients.  In fact he wrote one of my surgery letters.

But I am not one of Harry’s girls.  Nor am I one of Dr. Laub’s girls.

They were my doctors not my parents.  In those days I was Jerry’s girl although in Berkeley slang of the time I was his “old lady” and he was my “old man”.

When I worked for the NTCU, ostensibly under the direction of SFPD Officer Elliott Blackstone it seriously pissed me off to be referred to as one of Elliott’s girls.  Pissed me off on a number of levels because we weren’t really trusted to run our own group.

I was a feminist and I never thought very much of the idea that women should give up their name and take some guy’s name if they married so the idea of being labeled as belonging to a Doctor I saw twice professional and several other time through the Erickson foundation seems pretty silly.

There is no such thing as a true transsexual because from my point of view transsexualism is something, a medical condition you are treated for. With me it is something Iwas treated for a long time ago and not something that is the entirety of who I am.

The only real test at present for “true transsexualism” that passes the Occam’s razor test is having had sex change surgery.

WBT/MBT are short hand ways of saying women born with and treated with SRS for transsexualism.  MBT is for those assigned female at birth who become men.

WPATH….  You don’t even want to mention Whittle/Burns WPATH or PFC on this Blog unless it is in a disparaging manner.

The first step in making a distinction is using TS & TG or Transsexual and Transgender. Correcting people who use just transgender.  Make it clear if someone tries to call you transgender that the correct term for you is transsexual.

TGUS (Transgender Until Surgery)

I’ve been on line for some 12 years now and I have a reputation as being one harsh bitch.

You wouldn’t believe some of the things I’ve been called by Monica Helms, Autumn Sandeen and others.  To hear them tell it I am an elitist bigot who hates transgenders and who has disowned  and despises the “community”.  In fact Autumn Sandeen banned me from Pam’s House Blend.  Other places I am silenced even as self-identified transgender activists berate me.

Of course they have a hard time reconciling that with my getting an award from the LA Gay and Lesbian Community Center or my being working class with a history of sex work and substance abuse issues.

I will grant you that some of the things I say seem harsh.  The truth often is.

I know because I have a 40 year history.  I’ve had many sisters I loved deeply die young so I know how hard this life is. Yet those who have bothered to dig up “Not My Child” from the short lived bisexual ‘zine “Anything That Moves” know that underneath some of the harshness I a soft hearted old woman.  The kind who rescues cats and cries for days if she has to put one down.

So that brings me to something I have noticed regarding many sisters who as pre-ops loudly proclaim they would never desert the “community”.  That is a phenomena similar to one described in the 1990s as LUG or Lesbian Until Graduation.  The one where women have a lesbian relationship in college and go straight after graduation.

So I it comes as no surprise that I often encounter sisters who turn out to be TGUS or Transgender Until Surgery.  These are sisters who as pre-ops swear they will never abandon the “community”.  Yes Siree, they are rock solid down with their transgender sisters.

Life is full of surprises.  No matter how much people think they will be exactly the same person after the operation as they were before, SRS can and often does change everything.

Having a pussy between your legs is different from having “Miss Thang” flattened and tucked between your legs all smushed up and hidden.

Like when I come home from work and change clothes in the summer and throw on a loose skirt with no panties and sigh, “Breathe free little koochie snorker.”

Maybe it starts after the healing finishes and you take a shower and realize, “Hey, this is for real now.”

Of course if things are still like they were way back when all your sister friends have had to check out your puss and ooh and awww over your new reality.

Pretty soon those support groups get boring because unless you are a counselor how many times do you want to rehash the same event.

If you have a boyfriend or girlfriend they start pressuring you to get on with your life.  Or maybe you meet someone and get involved.  Either way if you have a life it is time to get on with the living of it.

That means less and less time for the “community.”  More time for your new life.  Maybe you are still friends with some sisters who are also post-SRS and maybe you still pal around together. But soon you start hearing your TG sisters complain about how that now you have a puss you think you are better than they are. You start seeing their world as the trannie ghetto that it is and them as being in a rut.

Then one day you say to yourself, “Fuck this shit.” I have a job, friends, a partner/husband I don’t need the freaking TG drama.”

Then you encounter an old timer, some one you thought was a really harsh bitch a few short years ago and you discover you’ve started to develop the same opinionated ideas regarding the “community”.

The reality is if there is going to be any sort of community for long time post-SRS WBTs that go beyond being small circles of friends then we are going to have to build it.  In the mean time it is good to have at least a few sister friends who you can talk to and be with when the dark gloomies descend and the sense of being the only one in the world rears its ugly head as a reminder of the fear that haunted so many of our childhoods.

As an end-note:  It always feels good when a sister passes the milestone in her life’s experiences that when we meet again she apologizes for having thought I was so mean and tells me she has come to see I was right.

Aleshia Brevard’s Book

Many years ago on North Spring Street in Los Angeles there was a three story red brick industrial building.  It was near chinatwon and not far from today’s Artist’s Lofts in the former Brewery.

It was the Women’s Building and in the 1970s I took some classes there, workshops really.  I was already doing photography and I aspired to write.

One of those workshops discussed the coming out memoir.  She quipped that all coming out stories be they lesbian or gay are the same story.  This was during the transwars and I was  stealth (ah the term I hate but occasionally use).

I had noticed this tendency as I had lesbian and gay coming out stories in my library along with the WBT memoirs/autobiographies.  A class I was concurrently taking at UCLA used Joseph Campbell’s “Hero with a Thousand Faces” as one of the texts.

With WBTs there are two basic narrative paths that were established early.  They both share common childhood elements including an early awareness of difference (something one also find in L/G life stories).  They diverge as we enter adulthood.

The life paths of Jan Morris and Renee Richards represent the life arc of those who come out in mid-life.  Both had their stories published in the mid-1970s and were seen as examples of people who were privileged even as males by having positions of relatively high status.  Their education and status prior to coming out gave them a far greater platform than those of us who had come out just upon entry into adulthood.

Our stories were more reflected in Canary Conn’s book.

In the early 1980s April Ashley’s book came out.  She had been a personal hero of mine.  I had discovered a serialized version of her story in one of the tabloid newspapers in 1962 and it had confirmed who and what I was.  While the details of our stories were different the elements were the same.

Aleshia and I were among those interviewed by Susan Stryker for the film “Screaming Queens” about the 1966 riot at Compton’s Cafeteria in San Francisco’s Tenderloin.  Aleshia pre-dated the riots and I post-dated them.

I had put off picking up a copy of her book for a number of years.  Recently a good friend of mine from the days of way back when suggested I would enjoy it saying the language and situations Aleshia describes aren’t far off from our own experiences some 10 years later.

The thing I am enjoying most is that unlike many of our biographies her SRS is not the climax but really only the beginning.

I think we fool ourselves wih thinking SRS is the end of our unique stories.  I think a lot of what comes after is far more interesting.

Her experiencing of Dr. Belt’s surgery is closer to my experiencing of Dr. Laub’s surgery with the packing and stents as well as the poor levels of pain management than what I heard from sisters who have gone through their surgeries in the last 15-20 years.

It’s a good book.  Some of us are interested in the topic and stories of others.  I’m not going to argue that one should or shouldn’t be.  We need at least a few to keep our stories alive because when we don’t speak up the pathologizers hegmonically dominate the discourse.


There is a fair amount of wisdom in that little Internet abbreviation.

Your Mileage May Vary.

The only thing we all have in common is a starting point of being born with TS/HBS.  From that point forward the forces that shape us into people, adults are as varied as can be.

I grew up working class, small town, public school with Catholicism rammed down my throat.  I am pretty much left wing and anarcha-feminist as well as militantly atheist.  This is because of how I experienced life.

I was a Folkie/Hippie/SDS/Weatherman before I started living as a woman.  I was part of Weather Nation after as well as working with one of the earliest for us, by us peer to peer support groups for people in the process.

I can see why “transition” gets used.  It isn’t heavily value laden and most people have a fair amount of processing to do.  Not to mention a fair number of medical procedures to go through including the major one of SRS.

How we view this process and speak about it depends on our vocabulary that we use and the contextualizing of our individual experiences.

Some of us intellectualize the process more than others do.  We are the ones with the huge libraries on the subject who put up web sites and blogs.  Others only contact with sisters come through aliases and touching base here and there with a friend or two.

There isn’t a right way or a wrong way.

Take Kate Bornstein.  We’ve met on a couple of occasions and I like her a lot.  I admire her creativity and her ability to tell of her own experiencing of dealing with TS/HBS based on her own life  experiences.  The problem comes when people read her telling of her story and life experiences and try to universalize Kate’s point of view into some sort of universal list of rules and directives that everyone who has the same birth condition MUST FOLLOW.

Some WBTs are as capable of Stalinistically dictating rules to be obeyed as some of the transgender activists are.  Different rules mind you but equally confining and equally demanding of contriteness on the part of those who choose to march to the beat of a different drummer.   Some of the rules generated by some who live deep stealth sound as rigidly adhering to stereotypical roles for women as the ones followed by some of the religious cults.  They may work for that individual and not for others.

I’m no more fond of that brand of judgmentality  than I am of the version pushed by transgender activists.

There is no right way or wrong way.  There are though life paths that are much more high risk than others that verge on the wildly self destructive.

That is true for everyone.

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“Transition” Terminology

Evangelina made a comment about “transgenders transition”.

I really don’t think transgenders particularly came up with this term.  Rather I think it came form those dear caring multitude of post 1960s psych professionals in search of clients to pay them so they too don’t have to work the sales floor in a big box.

I also tend to think that as a term it is probably more applicable to those who try and hide who they are behind masks until it becomes unbearable in mid life.  then it becomes pretty much like any other mid-life change of course.

When transkids like I was get into a position where they can control what happens to them and they obtain medical care that helps them make the change then it is probably less a transition than growing up.

But the psychobabbling post moderning of our culture to the point where everyone has a paathology that can hopefully be billed to an insurance carrier even calls going from high school into college a transition fraught with risks.

Same for graduation from college and entering the job market.

I’ve come to look at psychobabble particularly about us as more aimed at both pathologizing us and making us into life long clients of psych professionals than anything else.

I used to say I “came out” because that was the language we used in 1969.  Mostly that meant telling my friends, getting medical treatment and starting to deal with living as a woman prior to getting SRS and becoming a woman.

It wasn’t some major change, more an act of becoming.

But I’ve been around a long time and have helped many different sisters over the years and for some there is a far greater disconnect between who they were before coming out and after they “transitioned” so maybe for them it is appropriate although it still seems psych. profession generated.

I Found it at the Movies

I just watched the Academy Awards with my life partner.

Because we rarely go to movies at theaters anymore, although we did go to see “Milk” we have yet to see several of the films.  We are spoiled by having a huge DLP television, a good sound system and DVD player.

It makes it easier than coming home from work and trying to pull together the energy to go to the movies.

But I digress. The famous film critic Pauline Kael wrote a book titled “I Lost it at the Movies”.

When I was a feminine little transkid I was both a bookworm and an avid movie goer. Movies filled in many gaps in my socialization.  They fed  my imagination.

There is a difference between the male gaze when it is directed towards women and the female gaze.  It is a difference between objectification and lust for vs. identification and envy of.

I dealt with thinking my feelings were strange until I heard other women saying the same sort of things in consciousness raising groups.  Then I started to realize that women learn/become women through other women whom they admire.

This isn’t mimicry.  Nor is it an impersonation but it is rather a way of seeing how other women handle a situation and then adopting similar coping strategies.

Now film is an artificial enviroment, at once a dramatization of real life and an idealization or the human performers but nonetheless while coping with the alienation of being a transkid one takes ones nurturing where one can.

I learned femininity from some of the grandest actresses of 1950s cinema.  I adapted the lessons and integrated the elements into  who I am.  I found it at the movies because learning femininity was taboo in my daily life where people regularly beat me up for being a sissy.

So tonight when I listened to different actress speak of the women who were nominated for best actress in terms of respect and awe I was touched because it felt good to hear women speak of each other in that way.

I thought it was a very pro woman thing to do.

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Some Numbers

Way back when I was in High School.. .  I think it was 1964 and I was already becoming a radical leftie when my mother sat me down for one of those mother transkid/daughter talks.

By the time I was in high school I had been busted so many times for so many transkid infractions that I was getting treated like a girl when it came to matters involving having boys around me.

Any how it was about that time that Betty Friedan’s book “The Feminine Mystique” became a huge best seller.  My mother bought the paperback as soon as it came out because it was about her and many if not most of the mothers of baby boomers like me.  As soon as she finished it she gave it to me and told me to read it.  After I read it she told me that it reflected the real lives of women far more than the romantic ideal I had absorbed some what second hand.

I heard her.  We were working class people our lives were hard but I was part of a generation raised to believe we could do anything.

Besides I was going to run off to Greenwich Village or Paris, some where and live an artistic life of poverty chic complete with lots of black clothes, short skirts.  I was going to be cool.

Further being an obvious transkid pretty much sucked and it was easy to see that even if women were second class citizens they still had it better than we did.

But there was something else.  Even before I was conscious of it, a sort of pre-feminism.  There was a movie character, a surfer girl named Gidget.  The novel by her father was better than the movie.  It was girls can do things like surf that are stereotypically thought of as guy things.

By 1964 movements for justice and equality were all over the place.  I remember us saying “Come the Revolution.”

Any way here’s some numbers.  These come from the March 2009 edition of “In These Times”

59 Number of cents women made to each dollar men made in 1963 when President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act

78 Number of cents women made to each dollar men made 2009 when President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

4,000 Number of dollars that a family income would increase by if women were paid the same as men of similar education, age, union status and geographical region.

0 Number of states in which women have achieved economic parity with men.

SRS removed all the transsexual baggage and excuses as well as handing me a whole new reality.  Simone de Beauvoir has that famous quote about one is  not being born a woman but one becomes one.  After SRS all the expectations, discrimination and cultural baggage that is the burden of people with vaginas between their legs instead of penises becomes a reality.  If you cut loose of the excuse of transgender then you have only the shared reality that is common to all women

Outside of a Small Circle of Friends

I first visited the Transsexual Counseling Center of San Francisco when it was still on Mission and Third in San Francisco.  That was in 1969.  At that point it was being run by those who founded it.

A couple of years later I went back because I needed to speak with Elliott Blackstone about some legal matters.  The original folks were gone.

The Center was now run by Jan Maxwell.  I became friends with her.  I started working at the Center with her and we got a grant to move it to the Tenderloin.

It became the National Transsexual Counseling Unit and I worked there for a year during which time I got my sex change operation.

My interst in running the center whose main objective was assisting others through the process waned.  In part because once SRS is a done deal continuing to deal with folks who are in the same frantic position can start feeling like a rut.

At the same time I made a number of friends who I continued to be friends with.  Most are dead now.  Hard lives and poor medical coverage if any shortens life.  But I occassionally added some other post-op sisters to my circle of friends.  These are people I talk to on the phone at least once a month.

We tend to feel we are still having to cope with some things but at the same time surgery talk can be very boring and most of us are so out of touch..

Community..  Maybe we are someones idea of a community but it feels more like a small circle of friends.

Even helping some one through the process of getting SRS presumes there is an end to the process.

Transgender seems stuck in a rut of forever.  More of interest to those who are in that position than those of us who are past it.

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Some of us like men

One of the things that struck me as a tad different between my life experiences of the 60s and 70s vs the on line transgender world was how everyone considered themselves lesbians.  Even part time cross dressers in heterosexually privileged married lives. I found that one to be a sort of flaunting of heterosexual privilege given how same sex marriage is only possible in two states at this point.

Now in the name of openness and accuracy I am life partnered with a sister who is also WBT so I am not casting stones or aspersions regarding same sex attraction among WBTs.

Some times I feel like I’m one of the few sisters on line who has had seriously lustful relationships with men that have caused me to wander around well satisfied and so in love singing the Laura Nyro song, The Confession.

My first serious relationship was with a man.  Over my lifetime I’ve had relationships with both men and women.

Where are the WBTs on the Internet who are in relationships with men?

Or even those like myself who will even own up to being bisexual in orientation?

Part of why I had sex reassignment surgery was so I would be female and able to make love as a female whether that meant letting a man enter my pussy or to stick my own fingers in my pussy or to be female in a relationship with another woman.

Why is it taboo to own up to being sexual and to admit to liking being penetrated in the act of sex.

There is something neutered about making everything about gender.   It is as though we are appealing to those who want us to be asexual rather than experiencing female sexuality.

Hole or Pole?

When they sexed me at birth in the same way they pretty much sex the majority of babies they decided I was male based on my having a very small penis.  Even though I had non descended testes there was enough for them to say I was male.  If I had a vagina they would have classified me as female.

As I grew up I came to see myself as being transsexual or having transsexualism.

I was one of that 25% or so of  Dr. Benjamin’s patients that he described as having physical variation that made me physically more feminine than masculine  i.e. I would have given him an erection if he were still capable of achieving one.  Mostly that is a way of saying I was a transkid who couldn’t walk down the street without being attacked for looking more like a girl than a boy.

That didn’t make me a woman, a female or a girl.  It made me a transkid.  A teen queen that the older queens called, “Princess” and said it wasn’t a matter of if I became a girl I would be one of the cutest ones in the ghetto but rather when I decided to do it.

It was my acting that made me first a girl and much later a woman.  Having little knots in my boobs didn’t make me female, adding hormones and the process of development shifted the secondary sexual characteristics from androgynous to feminine.

Those of us in San Francisco circa 1972 knew the difference between those of us who got the operation and those who didn’t.  Aleshia Brevard knew the difference in 1960.

There were differences in our approaches to life.  Often times the queens had a lot more money than we had.  At least to spend because we had to save 4-5000 dollars at a time when most of us were lucky to get straight jobs that paid the two dollar an hour.  Both of our groups did sex work.  We scrimped and saved, the queens bought expensive clothes.

We talked about becoming real and our lives after SRS.  The queens were afraid they wouldn’t have orgasms as intense as those those they had with their penis.

When transgenders think they are being original with their “inverted penis” slur they should be aware they are using the same slur the drag queens used against us 40-50 years ago.

The same slur the coiner of the term transgender used against those of us who got SRS 40-50 years ago.

When I got my operation it made me female using the same criteria as I was initially sexed by.  Pull down the panties and see what’s there.  It was the bigots including the CDs, drag queens, TVs and later transgenders who were first in line with the same sort of hate speech I hear from the religious reich as to why I wasn’t really female.

The only new twist is the post-moderning of woman away from adult female to meaning someone with a whole arsenal of word games.

Now I call people by their chosen name and address them as members of the sex they appear to be, but I’m also a woman and a feminist and that means I put the interests of women first.

We don’t need to be defined as women based on our mode of dress and social role. Woman as adult female serves me and the majority of women just fine.

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Gender Blah, Blah, Blah

I started hormones and all just about 40 years ago.  People’s Park in May caused me to put off going full time for about a month.  At that point  my boobs were pretty obvious and  couldn’t pull off androgynous baby butch anymore.

It just so happened that Women’s Liberation was hitting Berkeley big time.

And for the next dozen or so years “sex roles” not “gender roles” were a major topic for many serious consciousness raising sessions.

Yesterday I wrote of contradictions.  Here’s one I was what sisters called a “Natural Beauty Wonder” and yet I cared more for militant left wing and feminist politics than I did for glamor at a time when many of my equally beautiful sisters couldn’t fathom my blase attitude towards expensive glamorous clothes and expensive jewelry.

I considered them hung up not in gender but stereotypical sex role behavior.

Mostly before I hit the Stanford Clinic if I though of gender it was in terms of Latin, French and Spanish nouns having masculine or feminine genders.

When I wrote a paper for a feminist psych class I called the sense of self as male or female “core gender identity” but now I think I sould have chosen “core sex identity” instead.

I find placing so much importance upon gender tends to reinforce stereotypical sex roles for men and women and I consider that rather reactionary.

I know too many gay men who are feminine and still men, too many butch dykes who are still women not to see through “gender”.

Classifying someone as male because of how they, dress, act or their career tends to support male supremacy since those jobs in life tend to carry more authority and pay better than the roles designated as being the spheres of women.

I don’t base my being a woman on gender or adherence to either gender or sex roles.  I base it on being an adult female albeit one with an atypical medical history.

Perhaps it is because I went rather seamlessly from transkid to the process of changing sex and surgery and have spent the last 37 years of my life as female that I don’t get the whole thing about “gender”.

“Gender Identity Disorder” wasn’t invented when I got SRS, hell “Gender Dysphoria” didn’t come along until I was a couple of years post-SRS.

My peers joke about passing the doctor’s hard on test. Meaning all the rest of the screening was moot if we gave the Doctor an erection.

I read some of the stuff today and it seems as though there are thousands of pages of blah, blah, blah trying to rationalize something we got across with a wiggle in our walk and a giggle in our talk.

I’m reading Aleshia Brevard’s Biography, “The Woman I was not Born to Be”.  She got her SRS 10 years before I did yet much of her language for describing what she felt and her process is closer to my life experiences and reality than what I hear from non-op transgenders of today.

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Zoe Brain made a comment that is worthy of greater discussion:  (Edited to make more general)

“The problem is that by writing in this blog, you “out” yourself as a woman with an unusual medical past. You become one of those “Activists” to some degree.

The real problem is though that so many have it worse. How can I *not* help? And how can I retain my privacy when I *do* help?”

When I was part of Students for a Democratic Society/Weather Nation we spent a fair amount of time discussing “contradictions” and working to resolve them within ourselves.

We would first discover the contradiction.  As an example feeling resentful regarding being swept up by “transgender” ideology.

Part of WBT is ownership of self.  Autonomy.  This means telling those who use “transgender as umbrella” that we find this an unacceptable act of colonization, a form of imperialism that makes it difficult if not impossible to function as a coalition of equal in working upon issues that may well affect both our groups.

Mind you that what set me as well as my partners and others off on the path to WBT was refusal on the umbrellaists  to use “transsexual and transgender”.

We did not feel we were transgender because  our sense of self was different from that described as part of what defined transgender.  Our attempt at reconciling those differences by saying transsexual and transgender were angrily rebuffed.  We were told to shut up and when we continued to state our case many forums silenced us.  Others defamed us.

I faced a chioce I could shut up and let the bullies win or I could continue to speak out even if that meant being open within a sub-culture.

I’m a life long activist with many causes so I do not have much of a problem speaking up regarding what I see as injustices.  I think this is part of personal courage that come out and start the process of becoming female in 1969 rather than living behind a mask until middle age. Granted this in and of itself represents the resolving of a number of contradictions and is the result of not one major act but many, many small acts of courage.

For me, but not necessarily others.  I am a person in history.  Not the big history of presidents and kings but the small history as described by Howard Zinn and Studs Turkel.  I was part of the early history.  Treated by Dr. Benjamin and was one of the first few “Transsexual Activists”.  Historian Susan Stryker impressed this fact upon me.

The simple act of giving an oral history placed me within this context.

I started attending events and I’ve had an on line presence within various mailing lists for over 12 years.  I discovered that we are a sub-culture and one can attend an event or conference and walk outside of that conference and not have the larger culture see you as a member of that sub-culture.  Granted this works better for some than for others.

Much depends on what you personally want, what you find important.  I’m writing a memoir that places my coping with transsexualism within the frame work of other history that also caused me to be part of Weather, aiding deserters, the NTCU, the lesbian movement and a feminist.

I believe it is important for us to tell our individual stories.  You may not feel that way. Your life path may well be different.

Life experiences vary.  A decade ago on the net we used YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary) when describing this.

I take stands.  Taking stands is not required unless you want to.

If it is any comfort I too have had to struggle with the contradictions of wanting to be just ordinary and knowing that like the Act-Up slogan “Silence = Death”, even if it is the small death of having my own life experiences dismissed and surrendering my self to the control of others.

I personally believe standing up for what you believe in is one of those existential acts of courage that defines us as individuals.


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