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.