Max Wolf Valerio on “Gender-Queer”

The following is taken from a brief Face Book exchange I had with Max yesterday. I edited two notes together and broke it into a couple of paragraphs.

Max Valerio is the author of  The Testosterone Files: My Hormonal and Social Transformation from Female to Male

Which may be found at Amazon or Google Books

A number of years ago I went to the Forward Motion Conference in Burbank at the time I was friends with several brothers as well as academics who were going to attend the conference and I was give a discount to go due to my having played a role in the early transsexual movement.

Prior to this I had listened to some activist talk and talk about some sort of united transgender community.

Now I have never shrunk from doing movement grunt work, passing out leaflets, collecting petition signatures etc.

For several years I had been trying to increase the number of transsexual and transgender people who would march as TS/TG people in the Pride Day Parade and year after year no matter how many leaflets I handed out the same dozen or so people would show up., put on their transsexual Menace t-shirts and trudge down Santa Monica Blvd.

I was asking, “Where is the ‘community’?”

At the conference I got the answer.  There isn’t one community there are many communities and the T to Male communities have the same sorts of arguments although not as publicly as T to F people have.

This has left many post-transsexual people saying we were better off before the construction of this fictitious umbrella.  Other are asking why are we being lumped in with gay and lesbian folks when we are straight.  I don’t know about T to M gay men but a lot of T to F lesbians would be quite happy to just be part of the lesbian community and not have the transgender community claim them.

I highly recommend Max’s book, it is one of those memoirs that takes the telling of the story deeper than many of the earlier books.

From Max:

“I do agree here and watched in the 90’s, with some trepidation as the decision was made to go and bond with the LGB political agenda for solidarity and “numbers”. Really, this strategy does have its limitations and in some ways is somewhat beside the point.

While we can certainly ally ourselves with LGB people, we are not the same and our concerns are necessarily different. Because of this, we get swept under the rug and are also, pushed to “queer gender” in order to remain “queer”. Unless we are indeed LGB in orientation, “queer” is beside the point. And, these people are queer in orientation, but not in gender identity, they are usually binary.

Medically transitioned transsexuals necessarily violate the PC norm of “tearing down the binary” by our very existence. We must “believe” or understand biological sex as well, biological to one degree or another and not entirely socially constructed since we do radically alter our biological sex from birth to the one opposite our birth sex. I mean, if we really believed that “gender” was socially constructed entirely and that sex and gender were interchangeable terms (as they’ve become) WHY would we ever do this?

This is the large contradiction that Queer politics smells and why they distrust us intrinsically. And, they are right to because no amount of covering up from Bornstein is going to change the fact that she went to drastic measures to alter her biology to a female form. Her pose appears inauthentic and strikes other trans people (like myself) as mere pandering to “Gay Inc.” for acceptance and well, generous fees for public appearances. And, this stance ultimately does not suit the needs of the majority of transsexual people, who merely wish to live as men or women as the case may be and most definitely not as BOTH or worse, a “queer gender fuck” version of the sex they were born into. Some of us are not hooked into appearing “transgressive” and this is not our life project. I’ve been saying this for so long, I am worn out.
I do feel passionately about this issue and now and again I get involved but I have to admit after almost 22 years of this, I feel burned out. Well, let’s say, more accurately, 19 years since the first couple years of my transition were not that political and I think the whole “genderqueer” thing started sometime in 1990 or so. It really is a thorn in the side of so many of us transsexuals!

It often seems like more energy is spent by those trying to keep post-SRS people under the umbrella than the people who are voluntarily a part of that umbrella spend fighting to pass laws that would improve their lives.

Equally predictably every time there is a low point in the likelihood of the Transgender Movement passing any laws to their benefit they turn on post-SRS folks and  people with transsexualism (usually women) who don’t want to be part of the transgender collective mind set.

Max’s original posts were regarding Autumn Sandeen’s using Pam’s House Blend to trash Ashley Love

22 Responses to “Max Wolf Valerio on “Gender-Queer””

  1. Andrea B Says:

    This comment on pams house blend is a blatant lie.

    “One cannot separate, for the protection of transsexual people in the workplace, gender identity and gender expression without providing employers a loophole for firing transsexual people early in transition.”

    In all of Europe since the PvS case a transsexual person is protected in law who is intending to, undergoing or who has underwent sex reasignment surgery.

    After that case the European courts made clear that transvestitism was not connected to transsexualism when a transvestite tried to take a court case.

    As for the attacks on Ashley Love. They are way out of line.

  2. quenyar Says:

    I agree with Andrea. What we want are not special considerations but just basic human rights. These should be guaranteed under law to all, period.

    As a genderqueer person, I suppose it is my destiny to be a thorn in somebody’s side. I object sometimes to post-op transsexuals’ queerer than thou mindset, but I am the first to admit that if I were 20 something instead of 50 something, I might have been far more drawn to the transsexual side of the house. It’s a pity there are so many so eager to exclude people on the basis of conditions they define and that others don’t necessarily buy into.

    • Suzan Says:

      Actually many post-transsexual women and men find the idea that we are gender-queer at all to be highly offensive. That is this pomo idea that there is a rigid gender binary to begin with, which is in and of itself a sort of right wing misogynistic idea.

  3. tinagrrl Says:

    Most of us do not “get more drawn to the transsexual side”. Many spend YEARS fighting the very idea we are transsexual.

    Once we are willing to admit the truth, once all the denial falls away, we tend to transition as quickly as possible. It’s not a progression from cross dresser, to transvestite, to transgender.

    The fact we may have been involved in various aspects of “genderworld” over the years, with long periods fighting against ourselves — trying to be “normal”, does not indicate any sort of progression, or “graduating” to transsexuality”.

    Those who transition young, are often so obvious they are virtually girls, or boys to begin with. In some cases, it’s easier to transition then not to. One way to describe that is, “written on the body”. In any case, they are not “drawn to” any side — they just ARE.

    I think it’s more difficult to imagine yourself transsexual if you are not than many people realize — especially if you are transgender/gender queer/etc. I do not see it as a matter of degree — you are, or you are not.

    In fact, looking at transsexuality as a matter of degree can be very dangerous. It can lead to irreversible “mistakes”.

    Now that I’m more than a few years post-op, I sometimes wonder what all the fuss was about prior to SRS. To me that’s a proof that it “worked”. All the pressures, anxieties I had prior are GONE. I’m now very comfortable with the ME that is.

    As Suzan says, “to me ‘proof’ that it ‘works’ lies in the fact I’ve never wanted to change my sex again”.

  4. quenyar Says:

    I can understand that if you have invested all the time, expense, pain and adjustment to transform yourself from your birth sex to some other sex, you’d not take kindly to a someone suggesting that your struggle was a waste of time. I don’t look at things that way. I don’t see why dissatisfaction with gender and gender roles should have any one size fits all solution. I think there should be lots of ways of dealing with gender. What works for you is great. What works for me is great. The only case where I do insist on a one size fits all approach is in the case of equality and respect.

    • Suzan Says:

      It isn’t dissatisfaction with gender or gender roles that drives people with transsexualism to get SRS. That is the Virginia Prince version. It is discomfort with the sex parts one has, even if no one else sees them or cares.

      My lover used to tell me it didn’t matter to him if I got my sex change operation or not. But it mattered to me so much I would have committed suicide had I not gotten it when Idid.

      And that right there is a big difference.

  5. quenyar Says:

    I guess I see “discomfort with the sex parts one has” as being dissatisfaction with one’s gender. There may be lots of other reasons for gender-based dissatisfaction, but I would think that hating your own body would be really near the top of the list.

    I was for 40 years largely indifferent to my body. I didn’t like it, nor did I hate it, when it worked. My body was like an AMC Rambler or Ford Falcon – just a means of transit from January to December. If I dreamed of something else, then what I dreamed of wasn’t human. If I were suicidal at times, I blamed it on other things, like the stupid things I did. I never dreamed I was a captive of my birth hormones, trapped in a genderjacket like a record with a skip, endlessly repeating the same sequence of self-destructive behaviors.

    • Suzan Says:

      I don’t consider gender a synonym for sex even if they have certain elements in common.

      I need to write this as a post but here’s the short version> Prior to coming out I was a physically feminine person. I got addressed as Miss fairly often, friend flat out told me that I looked like a girl. At the same time I was in the equivalent of today’s Black Bloc cadres.

      Just telling people and starting hormones, getting rid of the head band caused the people I was around to start treating me like a woman.

      I was part of Weatherman. I continued to be part of our red/black groups.

      Changing my body changed how I was treated and started the shift from studied secondary socialization to direct socialization.

      Your description of what you feel/felt is quite different from what I felt.

      I don’t think either of us is lying or that either of us is wrong

  6. quenyar Says:

    I esteem your different experience from my own. It would never even occur to me that you might be lying. There is also no room in my cosmology for your being wrong. I can be wrong and frequently am. I assume you feel the same way about yourself. In my view, anyone who could honestly call you their friend would be profoundly fortunate. Thank you for the opportunity to play in your sandbox.

  7. Marja Erwin Says:

    I am angry at transgenderism and queer theory. It delayed my transition by 8 years, maybe more.

    At about twelve, one of the other kids at school was always mocking trans people – not making much distinction – and equating transsexualism with cross-dressing. Ugh.

    When I encountered transgender activists they also equated transsexualism with cross-dressing, and insisted that people transition for gender. When I was twenty, I saw Kate Bornstein give a talk full of that bull.

    Of course, gender’s what hurt my tomboy friends, and forced me and them apart; gender is painful, and it is misogynistic.

    At twenty-eight, I finally started transitioning so my body would fit. Not everyone needs to have the same reasons, but it’s offensive to assume that I would transition for something as oppressive as gender.

  8. Marja Erwin Says:

    P.S. That came out wrong. I’m not at all against cross-dressing. I just don’t relate to feminine clothing and don’t feel right in it. I didn’t get rid of my boy-clothes so, to the extent that they fit, I sometimes use them, and that could be considered cross-dressing.

    • Suzan Says:

      Are they your clothes? How are they any different from my flannel shirt over funky t-shirt, jeans and sneakers I wear around the house.

      Cross dressing seems to attach a specific gendering power to clothes which is why I think it sometimes gets called fetishistic. OTOH that could be the particular clothes some clothes are made to be erotic like what one wears to go out on a date.

  9. quenyar Says:

    @Marja Erwin – All the experts are always wrong. That’s one of those perennial surprises like, it always takes longer.

    I have always been against any form or type of clothing that I was expected or required to wear. Coco Chanel once said, “Nobody likes clothes that make you look like you are a member of a performing bear act.” She was a classy person.

  10. javier Says:

    a comment of mine on the phb thread:
    ‘one more thing… ‘
    -“Those People Identifiy As Transgender By Choice
    They chose to say they are part of some transgender community. Outside of dictatorships and cults people
    can do that.
    They can also choose not to be part of the Transgender Community and the transgender community does not have the right to claim them.”

    she’s right.
    she has the right to be respected as a woman.
    it’s not right to decide to “redesignate” her.
    if everyone wants respect they have to give it.
    she is part of the glb as a lesbian woman.
    no bs.everyone here needs to respect each other.
    and NO WAY am i backing down from that.
    that is also basic civil rights philosophy.

    Transphobic Tropes #4 – “My Theories Are More Important Than Your Experience”(from QT)
    http://www.questioningtranspho
    __________________________________________
    you know,
    most people feel comfortable being seen as either women, men, or androgenous/gq/bigender.most people don’t like TG anymore.it’s all over the web.it is TOO non descript and general.it is too degendering.
    i put this up at TSC:
    http://www.thespectrumcafe.com/?p=1832
    “and so i hit the language barrier-NOW what do i call myself/my demographic/my peers-ok, touching the third rail now-i hate “transman”(trans man etc etc)
    i’m not real fond of transguy (trans guy)
    hell, i’m not REAL fond of TRANS.(grabbing third rail)and i hate Transgender….”
    i sent it to a transsexual woman (and a liberal) whio said:
    *Hi J That’s a good post – thanks for sending the link.
    The language that gets used about TS/TG women & men is really problematic, mainly – I think – because most of it originates from the medical profession. So we’re automatically pathologised and stigmatised right out of the box…”*
    susan,
    you would be very welcome to post at tsc.it is NOT a tg space.it’s an inclusive space.everyone respects each others id’s.if you wanted to talk about these ideas there, that would be more then welcome.antonia(though differing in her politics on this then you,i have seen)is fine with that.if you want a woman’s voice as a binary woman,you would be very welcome to argue this there.as would ANYONE who can respect the differances of non ts people, actually….
    you have my email.i think it is past time for a frank respectful discussion on this.here is yet another blogger with similar ideas:
    http://transmeditations.wordpress.com/2011/01/11/are-we-on-the-verge-of-a-transgender-civil-war/
    “I would like to throw a firebomb out there: is it time to dispense with the term “transgender” ?”
    (sorry my comment is so long tho)
    js

    • Suzan Says:

      I’m not really into debating the issue.
      As far as I am concerned there is nothing to debate except the right of people who are post-SRS to not be included in the Transgender umbrella.

      I’m not into the name calling or singling out particular people I consider highly disturbed or misogynistic in their arguments.

      They have shown that again and again over the last 15 on line. What is the point of fighting with them.

      People are struggling to deal with economic chaos, the end of peak oil, global warming and the rise of a corporate fascist police state. Do you really think I have nothing other to write about than trans-wars?

  11. javier Says:

    well i tried.
    i will be fighting this “battle” myself.
    why go on phb and comment then?
    i don’t really dig it either.
    “Do you really think I have nothing other to write about than trans-wars?”
    i don’t know do you?
    best of luck.
    (so calls to “arms”from ts women are rhetorical i guess)
    well, mine are serious discussions.
    goodnight and good luck!

    • Suzan Says:

      I am casual internet friends with both Ashley and Autumn.

      I wrote Autumn privately about how she was acting like a cyber-bully. She didn’t respond so I publicly took her to task.

      I played a little but it is the boring same old, same old story.

  12. Marja Erwin Says:

    Suzan,

    Why should it be conditional on access to surgery? A lot of us, for economic reasons, medical, or some combination, can’t get surgery. I also think the emphasis on surgery keeps us focused on one thing which is still wrong instead of all the things which are finally right.

  13. Suzan Says:

    Surgery really does matter.

    There is a line one crosses over and to pretend there isn’t is sort of like believing in Santa Claus and unicorns.

    I know economic hardships and other barriers make getting SRS hard or even impossible for some who want it.

    But damn It’s sort of like how I wish I could have afforded to finish getting my college degree, I can compensate by being an autodidact but I still don’t have a degree.

    However I might have been able to have that degree had I not put so much time and money in to having a sex change operation that gave me a vagina between my legs instead of a penis.

  14. tinagrrl Says:

    “(so calls to “arms”from ts women are rhetorical i guess)
    well, mine are serious discussions.”

    WTF? Why must we have “frank discussions” AGAIN? How many times, over how many YEARS must we defend our right to just BE?

    This is totally amazing. Time after time, post-SRS women must defend their legitimacy to Gay Men, Lesbians, Transgender folks, Straight Folks, etc., etc., etc.

    No more. Not again. I do not have to defend ANYTHING, in any forum — be it “respectful” or not.

    We have said (many, many times) that we support the quest for equal rights of ALL PEOPLE. We have specifically stated we support total equality for TG folks — as an issue of human rights. In the USA as a right of CIYIZENSHIP.

    In the past, we asked for folks to say something as simple as “transgender and transsexual”. That simple REQUEST (not a demand) caused a firestorm. It would not have required any explanations, any “walking back” of “transgender as umbrella” for most in the communities involved.

    We were told we were being “transsexual separatists”, etc., etc., etc.

    At the same time — we were told our support for TG rights was a lie. We were “elitists” — and, if we denied being a part of the fabled “transgender umbrella”, it was impossible for us to support LGB or TG rights.

    It was insanity.

    Our stand for TG rights also meant some transsexual folks found us “unacceptable”.

    Right now, as far as I am concerned (I speak ONLY for myself), a POX on ALL your houses — militant transgenders, militant transsexuals, anti-trans-lesbians, anti-trans-gay-guys, anti-lgb or t/t straight folks, anti-SRS-folks, etc., etc., etc.

    On of the nice things about being post-op is that we can melt into the background (more or less). Being any kind of activist when your are over 70 (as I am) is a choice — limited by physical, emotional, and financial realities.

    I, for one, have had enough of this never-ending clash, this never ending series of disagreements, fought and refought with every new generation — it’s reinventing the wheel AGAIN.

    Enough.

    Will anyone EVER remember the past? Will we ever be able to just allow other folks to BE? Must people defend themselves, their legitimacy, over and over? To who? Why?

    Must post-SRS/WBT/post-op women always have to answer to EVERY other group — even if we do not question your “right” to be? Does any of it make sense.?

    Other folks have the nerve to question our narrative. They claim we are all liars. We are told by folks who are not us, who have no real experience with us, or BEING us, what, who, and why WE are. They do not believe us, but tell us what we must BE to be believed, to be “APPROVED”.

    What kind of insane crap is that?

    Now, once again, a “call for respectful dialogue” — you are kidding, right?

  15. quenyar Says:

    @tinagrrl Ever think you’re trapped in a Dylan song?

    I feel like I’m at the 40th reunion of some club I belonged to before I can really remember. Weathermen, SNCC, SDS, … we’ve got some pretty weighty alumnae here. We should be making soup and smiling at how riled the young folks are getting. Not only can’t we seem to remember, but we keep falling into the same traps… or how about a Mason Williams song?

    Sometimes I get the feeling I’ve passed this way one time in life before
    Like the rerun of some movie I’ve seen a thousand Saturdays ago
    I know exactly what your gonna say before it happens in each scene
    And I find myself rehearsing for that blackout situation
    Where the punchline reaches out and punches me
    I always play the same part; the good guy gets the girl, I wind up dead.
    Who rides into the sunset when the credits start to roll and flash upon the
    screen inside my head
    The show is done, the lights go up, I throw my empty popcorn box away
    Go back to unreality on rubber legs, I walk into the day
    Life is never logical, the faces change, the lines all stay the same
    I know the cues where I came in, the exits but I can’t recall your name
    So save your breath, don’t tell me how it all comes out, somehow I think I know
    I’ve heard that tear stained monologue you do there by the door before you go.
    What makes me take you by the hand and stand around in line one time again
    Just to see the same old madness.. well, I ask you ain’t this the place where I came in?

  16. tinagrrl Says:

    It all gets very tired after a while. One point that many folks seem to neglect is that we do not have to be “activists”.

    We do not have to go around for another go round.

    I did not get involved, in any way, in the Autumn / Ashley mess.

    Nor will I. See, I have nothing new to add. No great “insights”. I just have my highly imperfect life — one filled with many joys, and many, many regrets.

    It’s up to many younger folks to try (again) to work this out. That’s not a complaint — it’s reality.


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