Thoughts on “The Cotton Ceiling”

One of my Facebook friends, who reads this blog asked me today if I was going to comment on the “Cotton Ceiling Controversy”.

I’ve been pondering this issue for several days now.

I’ve been having to gather some background material.

My first observation is that this is really only controversial among the self proclaimed  “radical feminists”. Cathy Brennan and others seem really upset about our even discussing this issue.

This is one  issue  I suspect has impacted the lives of the majority of people who have been described at one time or another by a trans-prefixed word.

It isn’t the easiest of issues to talk about… When I start writing I find myself choking up… filled with sadness and anger…

Anger at not being able to trust a movement I’ve spent my life supporting.

Anger that “radical feminists” expect to be able to use people like me as workers and foot soldiers, without ever considering us their sisters. Worse yet is when they enlist us as mercenaries to do their dirty work for them in attacking transsexual and transgender people.

I think it is possible to argue ideology without attacking people who are transgender.  Hell, we have wars among transsexuals that aren’t much prettier than the wars between transsexual and transgender people.

This is a shared issue no matter your present genitalia.

Even if we are not impacted personally, we would have to be totally without empathy, to not feel the impact when others like ourselves are trashed.

In the 1970s I was lucky enough to escape being personally held up for public trashing by the “radical feminist” faction. Two of my acquaintances were not so fortunate.

I was raped and barely escaped being murdered in the summer of 1974.  I sought help and support from the rape crisis center at the Gay Community Services Center in LA.  They we no more help or support for me than the police at the Hollywood LAPD station.  A guy who was my pot dealer and a male photographer I was friends with were more supportive, one giving me a can of mace that mail carriers carried to repel dogs and the other giving me a set of nunchakus.

A few years later my girlfriend, who had become increasingly abusive towards me, punched me in the face starting a mutual knock down drag out fight that wound up leaving both of us injured.  The center for abused women at the now Gay and Lesbian Center told me they couldn’t offer me counseling after learning I was transsexual.

I went to classes at the Women’s Building but avoided making serious friendships out of fear of being trashed.

When I developed a relationship with a sister (TG) in SF who was an artist and whom I taught photography.  I didn’t share my elation with this affair with the women I was working with at The Lesbian Tide. I was afraid they would use my being TS and her being TG as a way to negate our affair.

I hid being bisexual, never saying how my relationships with certain men were far less fear laden or complex than my relationships with women.

There was a time when the only lesbian organizations that were openly accepting of transsexual women were Samois and other sexual outlaw lesbian groups.

I’ve never felt at ease going to lesbian bars, even though as a sex worker I had hundreds of encounters with men who never questioned my femaleness.

I wouldn’t have ever dared to make an advance at a lesbian bar, hell sometimes I had a hard enough time acting available.

About 15 years ago I was a volunteer at the LA Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center’s “The Village”.  I helped putting on events, setting them up taking them down.  I volunteered for it all.

Trans events, gay men’s events and lesbian events.  I was such a good volunteer that they gave me an outstanding volunteer of the year award.

Then one Sunday there was an event in a park in West Hollywood.  I was there to help with the event including the take down after the event.   When much of the work was done one of the women’s told me a bunch of them were going to a party at 4:00 and asked,   “Would you mind finishing up here and dropping the papers at the Center?”

The message was, “You are good enough to do the shit work but not quite human enough for us to socialize with.

People who have been reading my blog or other writings for any extended period have no doubt heard my take on the MWMF.  How I’d rather do dental work on myself with a Dremel tool than subject myself to going to that hate fest in the woods.

Forty years post-op/post-transsexual I’ve learned a few things along the way.

One of them is to not look for acceptance from people who hate transsexual and transgender people.

The other is that there is an alternative to the gay and lesbian world.  The alternative scenes, the art scene, the hippie scenes where we can find people, who will love us for who we are rather than abuse us for an abstraction of what we are.

My first real girlfriend was a Cuban-American sister named Stephanie.  I met her at a very sleazy Hollywood drag bar called The Speak.  She died of an overdose on Valentine’s Day 1974.

I didn’t have much of anyone to turn to about the sorrow I felt.  Sister’s who were our mutual friends didn’t understand what I felt for her.  Because I was TS and she was TG I didn’t bother seeking counseling from the lesbians at the Center.

Sometimes all the abstractions and labels get in the way.  Sometimes we have a hard time talking about something other than ideology, like attraction, love, lust are not something we are supposed to feel.

This isn’t a topic that is going to go away soon.

Not all lesbians are part of this hateful minority who call themselves “radical feminists.”  Most aren’t and yet the minority has manged to make the our participation in the lesbian community feel toxic for us no matter our surgery status.

The real shame of this situation is how many of us are in all sorts of loving relationships outside of this sphere of projected hatred.  With AFAB women, with men and often with each other.  Our significant others catch the fallout of this bigotry as well; because by challenging our right to have our bodies loved for what they are, loved without abstractions or ideology getting in the way they are also being challenged.

I’m going to do something I haven’t done before.

This topic is way too important for me to be the only one weighing in on it.

The e-mail for this Blog is: suzan.wbt@gmail.com

I’m open to reposting the blog posts of others on this topic, putting up links or considering guest posts.

Radical feminist bigots need not apply on this issue.  If you are a radical feminist and feel excluded unjustly…  Well that’s what TS/TG people spend a lifetime feeling.

Building A Culture Instead of Letting Others Portray Us

Many years ago, about the time I got my surgery I bought a camera.  It was a fixed lens rangefinder Yashica with aperture priority, 35mm.  It was the first decent camera I owned that was capable of easy accurate focus and the sort of operation that permitted me to start doing documentary photography.

I was a documentary photographer, photographing the culture of my friends.  Yet it was hard for many to take seriously what I was doing.

When a transsexual or transgender person produces art that reflects the reality that they live many of our sisters castigate us for being “professional trannies”.

Many of our biographies even if they have our name as author are actually ghost written.  Although not all are and even those ghost written are a telling of our stories.

I have a book case full of biographies ranging from the barely literate to some that are wonderfully written by sisters and brothers who have put the effort into learning the craft of writing.

I was inspired by both Lynn Conway and Andrea James’ web sites when I put up this blog.  I try to have it reflect my thinking but I also try to vary the topics as well because there are many things that impact our lives.

I’m bothered by this film “Ticked off…”.  But rather than censoring it or putting all this energy into protesting it I would rather see our energy poured into supporting our own and their art.

We actually have sisters who are musical artists.  We probably have enough to put on a festival of our own.

We have poets…  I think half of us have the souls of poets, filling note books and thinking, “Who would possibly want to hear us read our poetry?”

Who would want to hear our music or see our art.  And if we show it and explain the impact of growing up with transsexualism or transgenderism then is it about our art or about what we grew up with?

That is the dilemma of any artist who is not part of the straight white male dominant culture.  In effect we are minority artists and our art if it has integrity is the art of our life experiences.

I have heard sisters and some brothers too speak dismissively of art produced by us that shows us or reflects our lives.  As though the only way we can be successful is if we are so integrated into the dominant culture our own birth history vanishes.

Rather than just protest I think we need to take a different approach.  I remember the Gay Liberation Front picketing “Boys in the Band”, the Daughters of Bilitis , I think, picketed “The Killing of Sister George”.  And all the other films that garnered more publicity from the protests and became must see films due to the controversy.  It just caused more people to go.

We have a highly praised documentary, “Prodigal Sons” http://prodigalsonsfilm.com/description.html playing the same festival circuit.  Perhaps we should spend at least as much effort pointing out the positive as the negative.  Holding “Prodigal Sons” up as example of something for us and by us that shows the reality of our lives.

We also need to start putting our money where our mouths are.  Buy the CDs of artists like Namoli Brennet and Baby Dee.  We could buy the documentaries and write letters to Sundance Channel, Logo, IFC and Current TV thanking them when they put on a positive show.  Or even one that amuses us because sometimes the trashy and comedic entertain us by and not the straights simply by invoking those in group jokes.

We could actually buy the books of sisters and brothers.  I realize expecting y’all to be supportive of each other instead of trashing each other is asking a lot…  But if all we do is trash talk each other why are we surprised when the dominant culture trash talks us?

Instead of just protesting the negative, even though it needs to be done, perhaps we should put the same amount of energy into supporting the positive.

I’m Getting tired of IS Hijacking Transsexualism

Face it.

The whole thing with people claiming obscure intersex conditions but insisting on hanging out on transsexual lists.  Why are you here?  Really?  Why aren’t you confining yourselves to Intersex lists?

When it comes to getting transsexualism removed from the DSM we do not need a bunch of IS people who all too often come off as disordered narcissists hijacking the debate by standing around proclaiming how special and different they are from ordinary transsexuals.  Folks who come off as neurotic if not flat out psychotic.

I’m starting to think that Intersex is another variation on “classic transsexual”.  An argument for special exceptionalism, a way of assuaging internalized transphobia.

I am looking at the world and seeing that when it comes to getting our legal rights protected the physical cause argument is a total waste of time.  A form of wanking that may feel good but does nothing to end discrimination in employment, marriage, housing etc.  The world wide patterns of  discrimination against people of color where the darker one’s skin the more vicious the discrimination shoots that one full of holes.

I also have serious doubts regarding the supposed huge numbers of infant sex reassignment surgery.  I am starting to have the feeling this may have been something done as an experiment back in the 1940-50s rather than any sort of common practice.  That the idea of this being wide spread is contradicted by the specialized nature of such surgery.  It would be expensive and would require a major medical center.  Perhaps nations with a National Health System, but there would be a major paper trail.  Here in the US where private plans are the only plans other than out of pocket, Health Insurance Programs regularly deny even life saving procedures and avoid the controversial.

But here transkids are in major conflict with the so called Intersex activists.  While intersex activists seem to be anti-childhood sex reassignment people with transsexualism and transgenderism are pushing for the rights of children to transition at a younger and younger age with their rights to a safe education in schools with non-discriminatory policies.

As some one who had my ability to seek medical assistance in changing sex put off until 21 as that was the legal age of majority back in the 1960s I know how having to delay transition damaged my access to an education.

It really doesn’t matter much if some 25% of us show various non-specified (by Benjamin) physical indications.  we aren’t special.  We aren’t unicorns forced to live in a world of ordinary horses.  We are just another transsexual and considering how we are more like one in a thousand rather than the much earlier statistics of one in one hundred thousand we are pretty common, something that surely comes as a blow to the egos of narcissists.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is somewhat common among people with transsexualism.  It grows out of being the only one as a child and can be seen in those who run around in our circles with all sorts of reasons as to why they are better than the rest of the trannies whom they often describe in a manner one can only describe as condescending.

So I cheerfully wave bye-bye to all the intersex people with rare and often contradictory bizarre conditions.  This blog isn’t about you this blog is about people with transsexualism and their rights.