Tina and I went out to dinner tonight, a sort of pre-New Year’s Eve because we will not venture forth into the world of drunken drivers tomorrow night. I mentioned that it was on this night 41 years ago that I decided to come out.
I was depressed, I had been raped in jail, assaulted in the streets and arrested for causing gender confusion on the part of some pigs who rousted me outside of Maud’s in the Haight.
I was part of a cadre, a 1960s version of a black bloc. I belonged and was afraid they wouldn’t accept me. The internal contradictions came to a head and it was either commit suicide or tell them. The Golden Gate was across the Bay and singing the siren’s song.
I was stoned on something and freaked out. My best friend, Morey, a beautiful boy my age talked me down. I wanted to tell him how much I was in love with him. Instead I told him there was something about me that I was afraid to tell anyone because I was afraid they would no longer be my friends if I told them.
He assumed I was gay and I was okay with that because I wasn’t sure of how to phrase things.
I don’t dress up the telling my friends what I was in euphemistic psychobabble about transition and all that. My roots are red/black and purple. I didn’t marry a woman, my first sexual experiences were with men. It was only after becoming part of the cadre that I tried having sex with women.
If changing sex had been impossible I would have been a queen. Prior to November of 1967 and reading the Hopkins Announcement I had assumed I would be a queen.
Transition? I changed the way I wore my hair. Wore women’s hippie clothes instead of guy’s. Took hormones.
I came out. I told people. I changed sex.
I had a vocabulary that I used that is now dismissed as being derogatory towards transgenders. It was the language of transsexuals and queens, the words we used before people who pretty much enjoyed heterosexual male privilege for xyz number of years started telling us how we had to describe our lives.
I’m still pissed with having some PC folks start telling me about 15 years ago that I shouldn’t even metaphorically describe being transsexual in terms of feeling like I was a woman trapped in a male body. WTF… My life, my right to describe my internal feelings in my own words without some supercilious overly privileged IFGE type telling me that using my words to describe my life experiences is oppressive.
As far as I am concerned I like the word “trannie” or “transie”. We grew these words ourselves in the sexual outlaw bars of the Tenderloin and Hollywood Blvd. Trannie is more deserving of the mantle of umbrella term than is transgender. Like Trans* it dooesn’t have an ending that favors one group over another.
And screw transition. My life has been one long series of coming outs. Coming out atheist, coming out red, coming out gay, coming out transsexual, coming out lesbian, coming out anarchist.
The over intellectualization that accompanies so much of transgender seems like a pasteurization process aimed at making it safe for the heterosexual cross dressers who have come out as transgender, a way of dequeering translives.
One of the more bizarre acts of the powerless that has become a substitute for direct action and demanding equality even for those who are different has been the use of euphemisms and word games.
Yesterday there was omne of those columns over at Pam’s House Blend that just left me saying WTF.
Way too much of the fighting between people with transsexualism and people with transgenderism has been about those with a political agenda hegemonically colonizing and erasing the lives lived by people who had sex change operations and do not hesitate to call them sex change or sex reassignment operations.
Many of us are as guilty of the use of euphemisms as those Transgender activists with the whole bit about it not being a sex change operation but sex confirmation surgery and it not being transsexualism but rather HBS. For that matter there is a particularly bigoted set that identifies as “Classic Transsexual” coded language of the same nature as the use of “family” by the bigoted Christo-fascist right wingers.
As for me I had a sex change operation as did my friends Diane, Laurie, (all five or so Lauries among my friends), Leslie, Kim, Jan etc. Screw Glaad. We used transsexual and sex change as well as trannie or transy 40 years before this language was declared Verboten by a bunch of politically motivated people in academe and transgender activists who wish to erase the differences between transsexual and transgender lives.
There are differences. rather than my getting pissed off and screaming about those differences I am going to make the point that we know, those of you who haven’t had a sex change operation do not know. We get angry when pre-ops and non-ops tell us there isn’t because no one knows what is between our legs. Or the one about how it is only important to my sex partners.
This is a particularly Barbie or Disney type genital erasing point of view that assumes one does not pee several times a day or wash. Yeah it matters and yes it is different. One of the big aha moments is the first time you pee after decatheterization and dekinking of your urethra.
I have my own style sheet. I do not use transgender as a substitute for transsexual or transsexualism when some has had surgery or is surgery tracked. I do not use transgender as an umbrella term when using it in that manner erases the differences between people who have had their lives defined by other transprefixed words like transvestite or transsexual.
I see Transgender as Umbrella as a fiction. a political identity created by lazy people who wish to use those of us who had surgery to further the politics of those who have not.
Anti-colonial wars get fought over such matters.
By the way… To further discourse I agreed to stop calling names. I did not agree to surrender my principles. It does take two to make a fight and the systematic hegemonic erasure of the differences between transsexual and transgender is an act of unilateral aggression. It is not in the spirit of, “In spite of our having major differences let us work together for things that would benefit our different groups of constituents.”
Mostly though… Autumn, nice words and polite fictions are a piss poor substitute for an equality that recognizes differences and does not use those differences to deny rights every human should have no matter what their color or sex. The right to dress and present as one wishes is pretty implicit and shouldn’t require us to all be transgender or gender variants when gender itself is a fiction that oppresses women.
I’m looking forward to January, a time of fresh starts. Mostly though I am looking forward to the end of the holiday season with its semi-mandatory manufactured cheer.
The whole war on Christmas pile of right wing bullshit has made life harder for apathetic atheists to not become grumpy atheists.
I’m currently enjoying three books: Alan Berube’s, Coming Out Under Fire – The History of Gay Men and Women in World War Two. Pam Tent’s, Midnight at the Palace, My Life as a Fabulous Cockette. Susan Jacoby’s, Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism.
They all present hidden history one does not find in standard high school or even grind History 101,102 classes.
Can’t have history that contradicts the the commercially pushed programming.
This last month several stories have intrigued me that I didn’t have time to blog about. There is a story of a four year old boy in Mesquite, who is being punished by the school for having sort of longish hair. This cute little moppet contradicts the conformist ideal simply by having slightly long hair. There are all these writers in the letters section expounding on and on about how rules are rules and if you let a four year old have long hair you are teaching him he doesn’t have to conform.
This brings me to Pam Tent’s book. I lived in Berkeley during that period after the decline of the Haight Ashbury. It was a wonderful era of non-conformity, when people were able to be free spirits, before the corporations were able to copy right and patent that rebellion to sell back to us in manufactured form something that was neither as much fun nor anywhere near as radical.
Some of us were political radicals and some of us were cultural radicals and many of us were both. The most threatening thing about us wasn’t our demonstrating in the streets even though that was the most obvious.
The most threatening thing about the counter culture was that we heeped scorn upon the plastic fantastic packaged consumerist lives. The Fugs, beat poets from the Lower East Side, the Alphabets of the East Village sang paeans to “Slum Goddess”.
We demanded free love because in the words of Emma Goldman. “How can love be anything but free?” We knew that father didn’t know best.
Transsexualism was was very DIY in those days. Queer/hip script writing doctors would give us a poke for a few dollars and a script to go up town or down for a lecherous feel.
I remember the Cockettes. I met Hibiscus at the Pentagon before his wings sprouted. He is the one in the famous photograph putting flowers in the barrel of the rifle. One sister I met at Stanford where she was getting SRS. Sylvester opened for Bowie at Winterland. Pristine Condition and the Tubes opened for the New York Dolls when they played North Beach.
A few months later I was living on Sunset and making it with lead singers, lead guitars and movie stars, although usually of the B-list. I made a point of going to bed with David Johansen. And others too…
You could live on air and the kindness of strangers in those days.
But then the economics got harder and the rents soured. Everything cost more and they convinced us all our lives would not be complete unless we had all this stuff. We worked more hours and tried to recapture the sense of freedom we once had when we were penniless but had lots of time to let our imaginations fly. The contradiction is that things do not really replace living. Pre-shrunk, pre-fab, pre-digested and packaged with a designer name and label for our consumption products do not make up for the emptiness of our lives.
Perhaps it is because I am of an age. I miss the freedom to be and not to buy.
I too caved in to becoming a wage slave and yes I like my possessions even though they possess me as much as I possess them.
Yesterday I was reading the New York Times and was reminded of what is missing. John Lennon was murdered shortly before Reagan took office and the decline of America to the place we are today accelerated. Reagan hated freedom and non-conformity. In 1969 he proclaimed (regarding People’s Park): “If it takes a blood bath, let’s get on with it.” A year before Kent State the police fired upon us, killing one and wounding many.
And so it goes. Now the battle lines include pre-school boys with hair too long, but shorter than John Lennon’s when he and Yoko first presented this ad 40 years ago.
It really makes me angry that they are trying to paint this woman as mentally disturbed for committing an act of the utmost sanity in lashing out against one of the world’s most misogynistic and oppressive institutions.
For some 1600 years the Catholic Church has spread its oppressive fiction based superstition, waged genocidal wars against all those who did and do not cave into its vile and exploitative abuses.
It has perpetuated the lie that women are evil and that their role is secondary to that of men.
It is the foundation of all Fundamentalist Christo-Fascism.
Free Susanna Maiolo
The opening sentence of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina is, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
I am half Polish American on my father’s side of the family, the drunken asshole side that dominated so much of my teenage life.
Most holidays put the dysfunctional aspects of Catholicism mixed with homophobia, misogyny and alcoholism on display. Beaten down by hard lives and hard drinking as well as the sexism of the 1950s the men would gather in the living room to watch sports, the women in the kitchen.
Unwelcome anywhere I was often given the task of minding the kids ranging in age from a year or two to ten or twelve.
As I grew older and more obvious I was the teen aged queen no one knew what to make of, subject to comment from both aunts and uncles.
My dysfunctional family wasn’t as mean as some and while my feelings were often hurt by the mean comments I was not thrown out while I was still too young to take care of myself.
Aside from my obvious girlishness I was an earnest kid, who tried hard and didn’t give up.
Part of why I was trusted with watching the children had become apparent that summer. My uncle John, a New York State Trooper and My uncle Mike, a college basketball player and several other family members were on a beach when my younger brother started to drown. I jumped up before either of my uncles could react and rescued him.
That year for Christmas my mother made me a sweater. She gave me a pattern book of virtually identical boy and girl sweaters and told me I could pick one I liked. She vetoed a couple, telling me they were too obvious and that considering the skin tight jeans I favored my wearing those would have been like my wearing a skirt to school.
Instead she made me a beautiful ski sweater. Years later I showed it to my boyfriend, Jerry and he said, “Everyone must have known that was a girl’s sweater. How did you get er to make you that?”
It was a reward for saving my brother’s life as well as reward for working so hard and taking the scholarship exams.
In spite of all the meanness no one in my dysfunctional family said anything cruel about my new sweater.
It was also how some dysfunctional families treated their teenage transkids.