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 Feministing.com:

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.

Or….

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.

YMMV

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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