Essentialist!

Whenever a post-transsexual person, usually female, has the audacity to say that having a vagina is really a very different life experience than the life  she experienced prior to SRS, even living full time with hormones and all. She is scornfully hissed at by the embracers of Transgender Inc and branded as an “essentialist” or perhaps  a body fascist.

Thus our life experiences are dismissed as trivial, dismissed as divisive.  Called fascistic and on and on.

If we are really lucky the true believers in the ideology of Transgender Inc, which is really the Church of St Virginia Prince will channel Janice Raymond for us.  Janice Raymond/Virginia Prince, when it comes to hatred of post-SRS women there is little difference.

I recently read Max Wolf Valerio’s book,   The Testosterone Files: My Hormonal and Social Transformation from Female to Male. One of the things he observes about the role testosterone plays in his becoming a man is the mirror to the things I experienced on estrogen. The same sorts of things  my girlfriends of the era talked about with me when we were going through the process of changing sex.  We had mostly entered the process within a couple of years of each other and shared notes.

Along with the physical changes we talked about the emotional changes.  We  spoke about feeling more female inside as we feminized our bodies in the same way Max describes feeling more male as he physically changes.

Both Max and sisters who dare to talk honestly about how the physical aspects of changing sex separate them from former peers are terribly “politically incorrect” according to the rule book set forth by Transgender Inc.

After all that separates us from the business man with the stash of clothes in the storage locker, that he takes on road trips along with the “Tranny” porn magazines he whacks off to.

The role of post-op post-transsexual women in Transgender Inc is rather odd.  We are placed on a pedestal and told by so many they would get surgery and be “just like us” but for a thousand different reasons any one of which would sound valid had we not heard them so often from so many people.

But being an idol on a pedestal or a sex object in a magazine for closet cross dressers to jerk off to requires we act like brainless objects with out opinions and if we have opinions we should shut the fuck up least we spoil the fantasy.

The fantasy being that one can in the words of the title of one of Virginia Prince’s infamously misogynistic booklets, “Be a Woman Though Male”.  A book presented as a how to guide as though being a woman was a simple matter of tastefully matching shoes and shirtwaist dresses with gloves and hat, thus crossing the rigidly defined gender barrier that seems to exist in the minds of fundamentalists of all stripes.

We become evil separatists saying nasty things the second we say having a pussy between our legs is different than having a dick there.

We are told, “Oh no, it isn’t” by people who have only had a penis there.  Or we are told, “No one ever sees it.”  A comment I find stunningly in denial of biological basics such as peeing.  Or bathing or even self pleasuring not to mention the mechanics of having sex with another person.

Are we supposed to forget the paranoid negotiations required  of us as pre-ops when our bodies didn’t match the gender we presented as.  Post-SRS people have the advantage in this dialogue.  We were there once upon a time, transgender people whose sex does not match their gender have never experienced both.

I think the attempts on the part of Transgender Inc to erase or control the narratives of post-SRS folks is so they can claim sameness with post-sex reassignment people without having to go through surgery.  By erasing the differences a whole alphabet soup of folks who make up the ever shifting and growing lexicon of Transgender Inc can lay claim to things post-SRS people gained through years of struggle that went on before Transgender Inc came into existence.

Transgender Inc claims this long history tracing it’s origins to  Silvia Rivera and Stonewall but really only came into existence 20-25 years ago.  In so doing they ignore both the transsexual movement that grew out of the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot and the heterosexual transvestite movement which grew out of Prince and others.  The whole transvestite is degrading meme is straight Virginia Prince, if you must know.

Those of us in the early transsexual movement realized how changing our bodies separated us form those who did not.  It moved us out of the drag queen ghetto of places like the Tenderloin where those who did not change their bodies spoke of sex reassignment surgery in the exact same derisive terms many in Transgender Inc use today.

The whole ideology of gender theory has never felt right to me.  It has always seemed oppressive and cooked up.  A rat stew to poison second wave feminism, which attacked sex roles and stereotyping. It has always been suspect with me.  Like astrology or the study of the biology of unicorns.

I look at nature shows, we own cats, I grew up near farms, I’ve observed the sex differences and behavior (gender) differences between male and female animals.  Some differences are innate.

Some are hormonal.  Is it pure coincidence that T to M and T to F people both go through a secondary adolescence when starting hormones?

The physical changes from one sex to the other place us in the social tango with sex role/gender role expectations of people growing increasingly female or male in appearance.  The more female or male we become the more we are treated as ordinary members of the sex we are transitioning to instead of the sex we were assigned at birth.

Transgender Inc is generally sexphobic, more willing to talk about gender transformations than sex changes.

Someone responding to a comment I made recently on Pam’s House Blend said something about not liking the word “Transsexualism” because it medicalized the condition.

Great except transsexualism is a medical condition.  It is about changing sex and involves hormone shots and pills along with expensive and often painful surgeries.

And after we finish the process and feel more or less comfortable in our own skins many of us feel the process is over with and it is time to get on with our lives.  Cybele’s knife or sex change surgery removes us from our physical past and makes it”real”.

Making it real is disturbing to those who embrace Transgender Inc. Because it implies we are passing judgment on those who do not get SRS rather than finally feeling at home in our bodies and really ourselves.

We aren’t supposed to even discuss our experiences because saying how different life is after is denigrating those  who are bound up with the ideology of gender.

If thinking there is a difference between having a penis and having a vagina makes me a thought criminal and an “essentialist” then I am either forced to lie or plead guilty.  I choose honesty.

11 Responses to “Essentialist!”

  1. quenyar Says:

    For many people, identifying as Transgender is a lot like identifying as Christian or Moslem. Being transgender is their religion as well as their way of life. And being a religion, it’s gonna have its own dogma. It sucks, but it is a part of the human condition. Believing in dogma makes people irreconcilably adamant – these are the transgender true believers. I know you’re offended by their trivializing, dismissive treatment, their condescension, their air of moral superiority. I’ve got that shirt, too. But tolerance and acceptance begins with me. Yeah, they’re idiots. Yeah, they ought to be told where they can stick it… but it is important for all of us, even Transgender Inc. to all get on that bus at the end of the day. Or we’ll get nowhere real fast.

  2. Rebecca Ashling Says:

    It wasn’t until after I had SRS last year that I realised how badly somatic dysphoria had affected me. I felt a great relief, was somewhat euphoric and a lot more at home in my body. It makes a great deal of difference indeed.

  3. Andrea B Says:

    I have read the drivel by Janice Raymond and Virginia Prince. They are the exact same thing, mysogny, transphobia, vagina hating, sexual envy, bigotry and religeous extremist determinism, dressed up as trying to be post modern and liberal, when they are in fact nothing but hatred, bigotry, women hating, religeous hatred, narrowmindedness and stupidity.

  4. edith Says:

    Bernice Hausman, in her book, Changing Sex, is very critical of ‘the hegemony of “gender” as feminism’s category of analysis’. She ‘marks its(gender) emergence from the 1950’s.’ http://books.google.com/books?id=7jYcktA6RhEC&lpg=PP1&ots=pQzsMrlLug&dq=bernice%20hausman&pg=PA9#v=onepage&q&f=false She is referring to John Money’s theories on the development of gender identity, for the most part although she also traces the historical developments that led up to Money’s ascendancy. I think by the mid ’90’s there was a lot of criticism of an over reliance on gender theory in feminist discourse. Everyone points the finger at Butler. I find a lot of what Butler wrote in her critique of Lacan, language, the acceptance of notions that are pre-discursive, interesting. Her pronouncements on gender being performative had more to do with legal acts of sex assignment and perfoming marriages than it did with dramatic performance.

    Butler was into gender as a performance. She used Divine as an inspiration for Gender Trouble. With Hausman one finds a loathing for what transsexualism based on the threats transsexualism posed to the permanence of her sexual identity. She was pregnant when she wrote her book on medical technology and the emergence of the transsexual narrative which she posits as the result of Money’s focus on “gender identity”. I think transsexual people are barking up the wrong tree. I think it is Hausman and company’s critique of gender and the way she equates any biological changes in transsexual people as merely as the manufactured gender constructs of the human body having little to do with ” an immutable true sex”.

    To quote you: “said something about not liking the word “Transsexualism” because it medicalized the condition.” That idea is straight out of Hausman. Hausman actually has the gall to say that throughout her pregnancy she had a morbid fear about “giving birth to a ‘hermaphrodite’. She starts her book off with the story of “Agnes”, who comes to Stoller’s clinic. I think the same story appears in Harry Benjamin’s Transsexual Phenomenon. It really proves nothing, except how out of touch clinicians like Stoller were. Lawson Wilkins had been doing work with the intersex for years by then.

    With transsexualism, I think you are dealing with a very complex subject which cannot be understood by employing a Cartesian dualism where sex and gender is concerned. I think a lot of transgender activists are doing more harm than they realize, however. The whole transgender movement is a runaway train. Many people have a huge investment in the cargo it carries. How many people have books or organizations with the word transgender in the title? Having your life wrapped up in something can make you very stubborn about letting it go.

    As far as pedestals are concerned, I think you are looking at the world out of the window where you lived in Berkeley. I know you saw people from all over who came to the storefront where you counseled people in San Francisco but things were out of reach for a lot of people. I remember when a friend of mine told me in 1979 Wendy Carlos lived one town over from me. It seemed pretty exotic. It was so out of reach. I couldn’t even afford to have my teeth fixed back then. Wendy Carlos had made a fortune in electronic music at was at the avant garde of the avante garde, in touch with such intellectuals as Vladimir Ussechevsky. She must have had all the money and access to all the people Bernice Hausman criticizes in her book.

    I don’t think feminism is the obstacle for transsexual people that Raymond, Yudkin, Eichler and Hausman were trying to turn it into. I didn’t realize that Fausto-Sterling had given Hausman so much help with her book. It is difficult to get through the scholarly distortion these people confront transsexual people people with but I think they are the one’s who switched the tracks the transgender express is riding on. I think it is most important, however, to keep an eye on WPATH and understand the motives of the Endocrine Society. What WPATH is working on has huge legal implications for transsexual people. It all goes back to Wilkins, Johns-Hopkins, Money and McHugh and why they want to portray us as crazy and unreliable.

  5. edith Says:

    Sorry for the poor editing and awkward writing in my last post which is under moderation.

  6. edith Says:

    No, Suzan, I think I figured that out. The length of the post and the links I think have something to with the way things work. I’ve had similar problems at other blogs. Thanks for the reassurance, though.

  7. Jessica MacGilvray Says:

    “In the end I created a career of my own, concentrating on my writing and lecturing, reaching larger audiences than I would had I ended up with tenure and a full teaching load. It was Virginia Woolf who said that it is terrible to be frozen out of a sacred tradition-but even more terrible to be frozen into it.”
    Michael Parenti

  8. Gabrielle Says:

    Why does the trans woman who knows nothing will change for her if she had SRS exclude the fact that for another woman things have? Why does the fact that a transexual woman for whom things have improved mean that for another woman things must necessarily improve? Why can’t we believe what each individual tells us about themselves, as they will always know themselves better than anyone else can? Why do we have to come up with some universal theory which pigeon holes all experiences?

    • Suzan Says:

      I don’t get what you are responding to. What you are saying doesn’t seem to follow from the article posted.

      SRS doesn’t automatically change ones life circumstances. I doesn’t cause one’s family to automatically embrace them if they have rejected them for being transsexual.

      It does seem to radically lower the chances of your winding up on the list of names read at The Day of Remembrance.

      On the other hand being a woman is in and of itself a handicap in a misogynistic world.

  9. quenyar Says:

    “On the other hand being a woman is in and of itself a handicap in a misogynistic world.”

    Amen.


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