Class Privilege and Sex Reassignment Surgery

When I got my SRS in 1972 America enjoyed far greater prosperity and economic equality than it does now. Today inequality and poverty are the result of some 40 years of Ayn Randian neo-lib/neo-con corporate fascism aimed at putting all the wealth in the hands of 0ne percent and screw everyone else.

We were a bunch of poor kids and the mix was far more multi-racial than it is now.  Unlike today, we weren’t for the most part salaried people with high status jobs granted to us as a result of male privilege.

My friends and I were gender trash.  Many of us were throwaway kids, disowned and on our own.  Too “other” to do anything besides pass as female.  If we had legitimate jobs they paid working class women’s pay of $2.00-3.50 per hour.  A lucky few got jobs with the phone companies as operators, others learned data entry.

It was possible to live cheap in those days, a studio apartment for 75 dollars or so in one of the ghettos.  Shared apartments of maybe two or three bedrooms for around 200-300 dollars.

Thrift store clothes and hippie home cooking.

We somehow managed to save the money or get student loans.  I got a loan from the Berkeley Co-op, a local market chain with a credit union and left wing politics.  It wasn’t much but it was enough to pay for my SRS even though I was still paying off the loan some five years later.

Fast forward to a point not to many years ago when I was being really snarky and pointed out how one could get SRS in Thailand for about the cost of a used VW Golf.

I had gotten too used to middle class comfort even though only a few years prior when I had been drinking I wold have been either homeless or down on the Nickel (LA’s Skid Row located at 5th and Main) with my sister friends who had tried to self medicate away the pain.  I had forgotten how hard it was simply to survive without the support structures cis-sexual/normborns take for granted.

I deceived myself into thinking that because luck had saved me along with falling in love with some one who gave me the support I needed to rise above the desperate poverty I had been living in, that everyone could do the same.

I knew in my heart that I was lucky and that most are not, but privilege plays strange mind tricks on people.  They suddenly cope with having privilege while so many others do not by convincing themselves that they deserve it and that others deserve the misfortune that falls upon them.

The greatest lie of all is “Social Darwinism”, the idea that the privileged are more deserving or that they work harder.

Over five years or so I worked very hard, read, studied and engaged in self-criticism to get back to the humanity and caring I had before the ultra right wing forces of Reagan and crew destroyed America.

A few years back I read Barbara Ehrenreich‘s book, Nickel and Dimed, about not getting by on the poverty level jobs so many American’s hold.  I was reading Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky too along with Naomi Klein. I was getting back to my left wing anarchist working class roots.

I could see the working class getting fucked harder and harder by the rich.  Part time hell with uncertain hours making it hard to hold two jobs.  People with two and three jobs, no health insurance with pay day loans ripping off the poor and credit card companies ripping off those one step up.  Usurious interest rates.  No more government student loans, those low interest loans replaced by “private” banks raping the poor even more.

I work with people doing retail sales who have degrees and yet work for poverty wages as those are the only positions open.

Then several years back we let a sister stay at our house while she went to E2000.  She was an executive with a major US company.  She complained about the cost of her divorce and yet she went to the finest of surgeons.  20,000 here, 50,000 on her face with Dr. O.  I found her to be oh so entitled, oh so privileged and oh so blissfully unaware of her privilege.

When I went on line a dozen plus years back I wondered where all the young sisters were.  Of course it had taken me a year of scrimping and saving, buying components at computer swap meets as well as knowing how to build a computer for me to get on-line in the first place.

Everyone seemed so middle aged and white.  So much higher up the socio-economic scale than I was.

Yet I was a volunteer at Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center as well as involved with the local chapter of the Transsexual Menace and so I knew that Transkids hadn’t suddenly all vanished.  Hell the sex ads in the free papers were full of young people with transsexualism hustling to get by in an age of AIDS, addiction and violence.

Because I am old with a somewhat iffy grasp on middle class most sisters in my circle of friends came out after 40 and after establishing careers based on male privilege.  While they lose male privilege they often retain class privilege.  Many Fortune 500 companies have non-discrimination clauses and even changing jobs after SRS isn’t necessarily an elevator ride on the downwardly mobile express.

But privilege hardens one to the suffering of those who do not enjoy that privilege.  Transsexual to Male people have been given a pass on the bottom surgery based on cost.  I’ve been called a transgender sympathizer because I look at poverty class sisters who are 24/7/365 with electrolysis, hormones, breast implants and perhaps even some facial surgery (although perhaps not from the famous Dr. O.) and I am willing to cut them some slack.

On some level the surgery that was supposed to make us whole is treated like owning a Birkin, a status symbol to be held as validation of a realness not readily accessible to those lacking the same class privilege.

It is too bad so many with class privilege have so little class as to feel it is okay to flaunt their good fortune, to feel it is alright to rub it in that they have their pussies when those at the bottom are lucky to be able to afford a place to live and see SRS as but a dream.

One Response to “Class Privilege and Sex Reassignment Surgery”

  1. Gina Says:

    Thank you for your article,
    Is very common for us to put emphasis on identity politics than on politics of necessity. In my opinion both have to be hand in hand.
    I have tried to bring it to my groups, on lines forums, people I talk too. But there is some resistance from some just to even consider the issue, that is a sign that more of this has to be done.
    We need to put this on the table more often.



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