Setting Unattainable Imaginary Standards

The Stanford Gender Identity Clinic had a poster of the Serenity Prayer on the wall. on the wall.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

I’m an atheist and yet that prayer along with Bene Gesserit, Litany against Fear (from the Dune series ) have served me well over the many years I’ve been post-transsexual.

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.

Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

Dr. Benjamin had this overly optimistic pattern of thought regarding the mountain of problems people with transsexualism faced both before and after sex reassignment surgery, that overly optimistic and god like approach carried over to the doctors that treated us in the early years.

We were treated as though transsexualism was a self contained issue that needed only surgery to correct.  That surgery made everything better.

Part of that misconception came from treating us like specimens to be studied, as though transsexualism was some sort of exotic condition.

Except it isn’t all that rare, and wasn’t even all that rare in the early 1970s.

I spent some 18 months working in one of the first transsexual peer group counseling centers.

I got the job because people there considered me bright, compassionate, understanding and willing to work for nothing for the first six months.

I saw a lot of damaged people during those 18 months, I’ve seen a lot more since.

I actually thought the idea of the Transgender Umbrella was a good thing back in the early 1990s before it turned into a Stalinistic cult of true believers and fanatical ideologues.

I thought it was a good idea back then because I saw a lot of people who were damaged by the problems of living in a society that is brutally bigoted towards both transsexual and transgender people.

The brutality starts from the cradle, when kids show the first signs of being different, meaning likely to grow up to have one or more initials from the alphabet of the children of the queer rainbow attached to them.

When I hear straight post-transsexual sisters (and it is mostly sisters) proclaim their straightness and how none of this applies to them.  The only thing I can say about that is, “Why, that’s just so sweet. Bless your little heart.  Oh and don’t call me if your privilege suddenly evaporates.”

Forty years and I’ve learned a thing or two along the way.

I’ve learned that it hurts to keep my mouth shut when people spew bigoted bullshit towards minority groups while assuming that because I look just like them I share those bigoted points of view.

Last Presidential election I supported Obama because I am a Democrat living and working in a place where Democrats are a minority.  I am white and have stood against racism since I was a child. People assumed that I wouldn’t find their racist crap to be offensive. I  did and they were surprised when I said I didn’t like that sort of casual racism.

Transsexualism is a lonely experience. I imagine that as children most of us thought we were the only one.

The idea that we are the only one can be a warping idea.

It leaves us devoid of the experiences of others, removes any means of measuring ourselves against others.

Add in the idea that we should only learn from “real women”, even though people who were assigned female at birth go through a different set of oppressions, while growing up and have never had to deal with the process of changing sex, with its attendant joys such as being disowned by family and discriminated against by society.

There are some  judgmental transsexuals out there who think they are really special because they are the only real, pure transsexuals on the planet. I’ve actually seen a pictures of some of them and there are a whole lot of non-op transgender people who would have an easier time not getting stared at than some of the ultra judgmental folks.

Oh… Lots of these folks think they are stealth, which is rally weird since they have this huge on line presence, often trolling every where.

I was pretty much stealth for a few years in the 1970s, during the time when being transsexual in the lesbian feminist movement meant getting trashed.

So I bit my tongue and ignored bigoted comments about transsexuals just as long as I wasn’t being targeted.

And I paid a therapist to listen to me babble about how depressed I was listening to all the crap.

I was also lonely.  I needed some friends I could just talk with about the bullshit society lays on us.

So I wound up with a circle of transsexual best friends.

But I also have people I knew before I had SRS, I have a cousin I like a lot.

At times I’ve been afraid of the things I’ve had to deal with in life and the Litany against fear has helped.

But that Serenity Prayer has helped more than most things.

Changing what I can and accepting what I can’t as well as knowing the difference has been one of the most important things I ever learned.

Transsexualism is something I was born with and have dealt with as best I can.

I’m not ashamed to say that having other friends to talk with who have also had to deal with the issues that come with transsexualism helps.

It also seems as though those people who most successfully deal with having been born transsexual are those who find a balance somewhere between stealth and total outness.

Both those extremes seem to exhaust people. People who start out totally out, draw back while those who go deep stealth for a while tend to reach out to others when they are lonely and need someone to talk to.

Stealth has become far harder than it used to be.  If you had an online presence then trying to go stealth is like trying to push toothpaste back into the tube.

But stealth is limiting in other ways. It means you can’t do anything that might draw attention to yourself, including promotions at work that might bring about a background check.

Too many transsexuals are obsessive about setting imaginary rules as to dress, behavior etc.  This is kind of ironic because we violated the most basic social rule of all when we turned what most people consider an ascribed trait, sex, in to an achievable one.

Perhaps that is at the root of all this rule setting. Perhaps people think because I did this or that and this other person did other things I’m authentic and the other person isn’t even, though we both had the same sex reassigning surgery.

Most of this sound and fury just comes off as very drama queenish.

One Response to “Setting Unattainable Imaginary Standards”

  1. deena17 Says:

    Nice post Suzan. I am not an atheist. I try to find something in everyone that I can look up to and respect and that can be very challenging at times. The serenity prayer certainly helps. Harry Benjamin was a man and a pioneer. I admire much of what he accomplished and yet he himself said it was only an very tentative beginning. Perhaps what I admire most about Harry was his lack of condemnation. This is a lesson we should all learn.


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