“I identify as____” is a lot like, “I was born in July and I’m a Leo.

Yeah… I was a hippie way back in the 1960s before many if not most of you were born. Long hair, big old Martin Dreadnaught guitar, sandals in the summer and boots in the winter. I went to demonstrations, saw all the really great bands wandered from a small town through Greenwich Village and out to the coast where I lived in the Haight Ashbury, Berkley and in LA, where I lived on Sunset Blvd near Laurel Canyon.

I had books by Sartre and de Beauvoir along with Hesse, Kerouac and Tolkien in my library. Being a hippie didn’t mean I identified as a hippie so much as it meant I lived as other hippies lived. I mean I could have stayed in the small Adirondack town I grew up in with my books, guitar, posters and records. There is a difference between identifying as and doing. I learned that from Jean Paul and the existentialists.

I didn’t need others lumping me in with a group of young people Herb Caen (SF Chronicle, columnist) dubbed “hippies” to know I was an outsider. I was born transsexual, which meant I was born different, fated by birth to be an outsider, different from the majority of people.

I became a photographer by buying cameras and taking photos, analyzing my mistakes, studying how to improve my skills and develop a way of seeing. Mostly a lot of work.

But back to being born transsexual. When I was a kid I was the only one. I didn’t have a tribe to identify with, a culture, role models. I had to be my own role model and learn about womanhood the same way girls who were assigned female at birth did. I was never part of what Susan Sryker called the “Transgender Community” in San Francisco. What I was part of was a group of my peers who were going through the Stanford Sex Reassignment Program in the early 1970s. We were mostly drawing our own maps and creating our own meaning for what we were going through.

Through actions, medical treatments, living, learning, and sex reassignment surgery I became female and a woman. Many years later I would convert to Judaism. I notice similarities and mentioned them to my friend Aaron Devor, who pointed out to me how Dr Harry Benjamin had described what is now called transition as “conversion”.

Before I started converting to Judaism I read a lot about it, researched and studied, came to the conclusion that after a lifetime of searching it felt right for me. When I started formal conversion I started wearing a Star of David, attending services, celebrating holidays. The pandemic was a roadblock which I overcame. Finally I underwent the Mikvah and blessing rituals. Now I am Jewish, a MOTT or Member of the Tribe. Not because I simply identify as Jewish but because of the commitment I made and the processes I went through. To quote from the Book of Ruth: For whither thou goest, I will go; And where thou lodgest, I will lodge; Thy people are my people, and thy G‑d, my G‑d. Where thou diest, will I die, and there be buried;. A life time commitment.

Well back in the 1970s when I and others went through the Stanford program it was to become women, not trans-women, not post-op transgender people but simply women. I attended my first Pride Day Parade in Los Angeles in 1974. I was coming to realize that I was attracted to women. I became part of the now maligned Second Wave Feminist Movement. My place was with women because I was and am now a woman. In Judaism on Shavuot, the souls of all Jews including converts are said to have stood at Sinai when G-d gave the Jewish people the Covenant.

I have friends who walked the same path as I did. Some of us still struggle for words. I’ve taken to using “post-transsexual” to describe how I feel about how I went about dealing with the problems of having been born transsexual. But the words now used by the “Trans-Community” are alien and ill fitting, like they belong to a different people.

I read so much about communities, often existing mainly on social media. But what is my community? Is it aging hippies, still wearing sandals and listening to 1960s music and musicians? Is it the Feminist Movement? I barely recognize the Feminist Movement of today, or for that matter the LGBT Movement. Some communities sound like SIGs or Special Interest Groups. Like photographers, or jazz fans, or even sports fans.

I struggle with the idea of communities that exist main via the transfer of electronic bytes of information sent via the internet. Some how that as a community feels alienating like a Kafkaesque existence in dark loneliness where one never hugs other members of their community, never dances with joy or celebrates with food and drink, merely with transmitted images of celebration.

My Temple feels like community, the camaraderie of friends and people I work with, of other old people feels like community in a real way that is missing from the virtual world where one goes into a public place and everyone is staring zombie like at their phones instead of talking with each other.

4 Responses to ““I identify as____” is a lot like, “I was born in July and I’m a Leo.”

  1. Kat Says:

    Sue, pir paths crossed many times. We both lived in San Francisco ad both were hippies. Both were transsexual and both left tge city to attend srjc. I went to Sonoma State university. I think we passed each other in life often.

  2. TranssexExperienceNotTransgenderIdentity Says:

    Yes, thank you!

    I’m in my late 40s. I would be humiliated if the average person knew I was transsexual for many reasons, but one is definitely the way the cultural meaning of “trans”–and its current identitifarians–have first claimed us under their ludicrous “umbrella”, and then put forth a notion of what a ” trans identifying person” does that is the very opposite of me and any others who have walked this painful path of wrong head-to-toe embodiment, with particular hatred and disgust towards certain bodily parts, behaviors, and interactions.

    I am intersex as well and believe that my biological situation interacts with this.

    The ridiculous identity shit as well as the “you don’t need dysphoria” BS and the repulsive obsession with “sex positivity” has resulted in a situation where any mainstream post about “trans” in the last almost two decades is just as likely to make me feel enraged and dysphoric as a right wing one that spouts fire and brimstone.

    The current ass-backwards “trans” rhetoric (and its carefully-chosen, decidedly not men or women with transsex experiences, “gender”-fixated media spokespeople) has screeched any potential advances in surgery (to make our bodies function like those of our target sex) to a dead halt, and done its best to make all of us look like lunatics. I want all of these nutcases carrying signs like “eight inches of pure lesbian strength and womanhood for your c!nt”, ” non-binary asexual AFAB lesbian without tiddies!” and “proud pregnant man” to “identify” themselves to another dimension. They’ve given me an added reason to fear that I’d ever meet anyone who knew me from “before”, and to stay the hell away from anything that’s not a mixed environment (male and female, straight and not) for fear of being clocked by some idiot and asked if i’m ” trans” or if I was “assigned differently at birth”.

    • Suzan Says:

      Last time I was in the Bay Area was 1987. After I moved back to LA. I left Cali in 2002 to be with Tina and we have been together ever since. Legally married over 6 years now. I’ve been sober now for the last 21 years.
      I started fighting Transgender hegemony way back in the 1990s, first on usenet then mailing lists and finally blogging. I don’t consider myself “queer” or “Transgender”. Hell surgery was so long ago the closet I feel to any such labels is post-transsexual.
      I live in Texas, Dallas to be specific. I converted to Judaism. We have 3 cats and a funky little house. I’m friends with people most of my Cali friends would find appalling which is okay because I’m sometimes puzzled with how I can be friends with them.

      Mostly by not fighting with them. Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one.

      As for the whole identity thing. I identify as Jewish. I was looking for fulfillment of spiritual needs in my old age and found Reform Judaism where I was welcomed as a whole person. The ritual aspects are comforting in old age and trying times. But becoming Jewish involved study and assimilation plus rituals after which I I became Jewish, recognized as a Member of the Tribe, symbolically stood at Sinai with all Jews past and present. I didn’t just wake up one morning and declare myself a Jew. A lot of thought and study went into it.

      It seems like trans is the same way only now people seem to treat it like cos-play where they can just declare and identity without thought or action, sans content or context.

      In the words of the Grateful Dead, “What a long strange Trip it’s been.”

      • Kat Says:

        It’s good to hear from you, Suzan. So many of us passed away, most way too young. The AIDS/ HIV virus scared me away from life in the city. Once I went up to Santa Rosa, my life changed becoming more straight. This was more a reaction to AIDS than any desire on my part to live a normal life. Being normal always seemed boring to me. After graduating from Sonoma state university, I move up to Chico to become a counselor and did not finish, instead, I moved to Texas and moved into a straight female mindset, which was fun and new to me the first few years. I eventually got married.
        I never thought too much about post millennial thought about gender and sexuality. I read what you said about it and agree, if you were born a male and you’re more like a female, then SRS makes you post transsexual to the few who know your past. Other than that you are just another female person with nothing special unless you attain some special recognition.
        I’ve known many Jewish friends in LA and always seen it as a plus over being Christian. I’ve never been religious and in many ways admire those who are, other than those who use it as a passive voice of ultimate authority to condemn me. I been around many conservative people, even so, do not understand them beyond their self interests about wealth.
        So glad to hear from you again, Sue!

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