Welcome to Maoist Orange Cake. Each week one of our Divas posts a thoughtful (but not necessarily serious) essay on whatever calls forth her Voice or strikes her Fancy. We invite you to join us wherever the discussion leads.
Motto of the MOC: Sincere, yes. Serious? Never!

"I would also like to add that ‘Maoist Orange Cake is possibly the best name for a blog ever. Just my twopence." -- The Sixth Carnival of Radical Feminists, 1 October 2007


The Twelfth Carnival of Radical Feminists is up at The Burning Times blog and mentions one of our posts, Helen 'Wheels' Keller, for recommendation. Orangeists spreading our zest!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Oh Michigan, my Michigan...

Yeah, I know this is a crappy picture, but hey---it's free, and it's of some place in Michigan, which fits my criteria. (Plus, at first I thought it said "a long drive" which would fit for me; but on closer inspection says "a log drive".) Still, I'm keeping it. I'm just going to pretend those are a bunch of butch gals out there, pushing those logs around...

On our old blog of origin, there is an interesting discussion going on, highly reminiscent of one we had last year---http://dykestowatchoutfor.com/episode-495 . My opinion on the transgender issue then was that gender and sexual identity was in the mind of the beholder. That is, what one thinks and feels on the inside, constitutes one's sex, more than the body parts on the outside.

Now I'm not so sure.

What do we mean when we say "transgender" anyway? Does that mean someone who has gone "all the way"; surgery, hormones, etc? Or does it start at the beginning of the "transition"? Can a person be defined as transgender purely based on thoughts and feelings? What about "intersex" people, those born with ambiguous genitalia---are they transgender? A separate category?

And what about the children----hormones can be dangerous, surgery irreversible; should a decision about changing sex be left until adulthood? Or will it harm the child psychologically to stay in a body she/he is rejecting?

I realize I've asked a lot of questions, but right now that's what I have---questions. Are there others out there willing to discuss these things? (See what I mean?) Until then, here are some links related to the issue:

http://www.dykestowatchoutfor.com/index.php

http://www.michfest.com/

http://www.intraa.org/story/mwmffuah&print

http://www.chss.montclair.edu/~landwebj/ww/nyt_intersex.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Klinefelter's_syndrome

65 comments:

hammerwoman said...

I'm in. . .but it's a crazy afternoon at the clinic, and I'd better wait until I'm home to actually reply. . .but if ya don't mind checking out another blog, go to my blog post, "Blur the Lines: Encounter at the DMV" at my blog, Onward, at whitecranespreadsitswings.blogspot.com, you'll get a good idea of where I am on the issue!

drakyn said...

Transgender, in my experience, is both an umbrella term for all people whose gender identity doesn't match their assigned sex and an identity. Everyone has a different meaning attached to the word. Personally, for me, I prefer to use trans* when speaking generally instead of transgender as an umbrella term. There are a lot of people who identify as transmasculine, transsexual, transfemale, etc. but not transgender. I think trans* is a bit more open.
There are plenty of trans*people who aren't planning on ever taking hormones and/or surgery. They aren't any less trans* than the people who plan/have gone deep stealth (changing everything and moving away from home and never telling anyone about their past).
Some intersex people consider themselves trans*, others do not. Some intersex people have trans* experiences, especially before they know they are intersexed. Other intersex people do not consider themselves trans* and resent it when trans*people do what they feel is appropriating their experiences. Some trans*people also see some/all forms of trans* as an intersex condition.

Children should be evaluated on a case by case basis. Some children are just trying on roles, experimenting, or confused. But others will become severely depressed and/or suicidal if they are forced to go through the wrong puberty. Also, hormones do a much better job the younger you take them. If I had started T about two years ago when I was 16/17, like I had wanted, I would have grown several more inches and wouldn't have to deal with puberty again. trans*women wouldn't have to have electrolysis, voice therapy, or have facial feminization surgery.
At the very least, I'd say that any trans*child that wants to should go on hormone blockers to delay puberty until their parents/doctors believe the youth is an older teen and therefore more mature.

The transgender community on livejournal is a good place to lurk. There are a fair amount of people there and we tend to have some great posts. A few months ago, for instance, there was a post where people were discussing what "feeling like a [insert gender]" meant. I recommend lurking before posting in any livejournal community. Transgender isn't so bad, but a lot of eljay communities are filled with drama and wank.

PS: I'm a fem, queer, trans*man who just started reading DtWOF. I've never been to nor wanted to go to MWMF, but I have been wanting to go to Camp Trans.

little gator said...

wave! hello, you know who you are!


To choose just one question-absolutly one can be tg without making any physical changes. My best pal, whom I've never met in person, was born female but has always considered herself male. And might or might not be reading this.

When I asked what pronoun she preferred, she said it didn't matter, they all feel euqally wrong. right. So I call her here because her phone voice sounds female and she lives as a woman.

For various reasons, she's never changed her body or match her identity. One reason is that surgery would not give her a real penis, and she doesn;t want an artificially built one.

She considers herself a straight male but lives as a lesbian in a longterm relationship with a woman. I'm not sure of the motivation but it doesn't matter.

This is a person who is definitely tg despite living an a sty;e that matches the body she was born with.

shadocat said...

hammerwoman; read your essay "Blur the Lines:Encounter at the DMV", and found it very interesting. I know as a lesbian, things would be much easier if I could marry my partner Cyndi. We are on the "domestic partner registry" in my city, making it possible for me to get on her health insurance plan.

But guess what she found out a couple of days ago? Since I am not considered a "legal dependent" we have to pay taxes on this "benefit" whereas if we were a straight married couple, there would be no tax assessed. Not only that, we have to pay the back taxes that her employer had neglected to pay until they found this out, plus a huge penalty.

Ironic, isn't it, that had I been born male and transitioned, we could be married and it would all be completely legal---and a lot less expensive. I guess what I'm trying to say is: at least you could legally marry your partner; I'm being fined for "marrying" mine...

hammerwoman said...

Whew, home from work. Fed the dogs, goats, ferrets, me, unpacked my motorcycle (The Goddess's Imperial Starship "Onward"), made two loaves of bread that are in the oven, and I'm sitting down at the computer, feeling, like, yeah, those are lots of good questions.

The questions about trans kids are probably the most interesting, possibly because so many of us who transitioned older *wanted* to do it back then. Sometimes, listening to my "straight" MTF friends talk, "I would've been so popular, I could've been a cheerleader," gets a little tough. . . Me? I'd've been a freak in any case, but as a babydyke, I probably wouldn't have been getting beat up in the boy's bathrooms.

I say yes- let kids transition young, and like drakyn says, judge them on a case-by-case basis. I just wonder who will judge them, and by what criteria? How many therapists are qualified to diagnose or counsel gender-dysphoric children? Of course, nobody's supposed to notice that the slow-and-cautious multi-disciplinary approach, endorsed by our HBIGDA friends, allows our helping professionals to cut each other in for maximum slices of the pie. . .

Michigan. It's easy for me to be self-righteous about it now, but I'd've surely gone, just as all my dyke friends went every year. A few years back, while I was doing a seminar at the Translating Identity Conference at UVM, a dyke my age told about writing anti-trans articles for feminist mags back in the 70's ("It was the times", and serving on the organizing committee of the MWMF until the day came they marched *her* to the gates and told her never to return. It's not just you, she assured me.

Sorry this post isn't going much of anywhere. . .I've got to get to bed, surgical cases in the morning and I've got to get there early to set up. 'night!

drakyn said...

Shadowcat, but there are other states where a trans*person can't marry anyone. And do you know what could happen if Hammerwoman traveled and someone noticed the differences in the sex markers and her name/appearance?
And while their marriage may be less expensive, medical and legal transition expenses more than make up for it.

But I do think it is great that in many states, by not allowing us to change our identification they allow us to have legally recognized same-gender marriages. ^.^
Sometimes I almost want to marry a guy friend for the above reason and so we could be seen as independent on our FAFSAs. Get back to the origin of marriage; politics and economics.

drakyn said...

Hammerwoman, I don't know exactly who would evaluate trans*kids. I'd hope that therapists like mine would. Therapists who know that gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation are all separate. Therapists who will listen to the kid and who won't push the kid towards any answer. Therapists who care more about their patients than their bank account.

And I think if I had transitioned younger I would have been able to work through certain issues of mine then instead of now. I've pretty much gotten as far as I can go, regarding emotional healing and becoming at home in my body, as I can without starting T. I hope to start this summer, but I may not be able to because the only place near my house that will proscribe them requires me to see one of their therapists (they like their bank account more than me).

Maggie Jochild said...

I have a lot of answers to your questions, Shado, on different fronts -- Feminism 101, advocacy for children, Michigan as an institution which has been under siege since its inception, and the issue of dealing with the lies of conditioning. I'll present them one by one as I can articulate them. I'll start with the latter.

Years ago I read a life-changing interview by Studs Terkel with C.P. Ellis, a white man in North Carolina who had been raised in a viciously racist environment and who had, as a young man, become a leader in his local KKK chapter. Slowly, through a growing understanding of classism, Ellis began to unravel the conditioning of his childhood and reinvented his identity. Black activist Ann Atwater worked with him in this process, and he wound up an organizer in a multiracial union. Undoing this level of conditioning, which means giving up one conditioned identity in favor of another, takes time and allies and extreme discomfort. Ellis had to find a way to work with blacks who distrusted him deeply and for good reason. He had to accept their distrust and limitations, and provide his self-esteem internally. There is no short-cut through this process.

I think of his example often. I believe, absolutely, that those raised with male conditioning our culture can undo that conditioning and find another identity, either male by their definition or something else. I'm willing to help a boy or man in this process, but he has to ask it of me, not assume. He has to obtain my consent to participate in his process. He has to observe any limits I need to set at the moment. And he will never get my consent if he tries to insist that his current identity, now as female, is identical to my identity as someone raised with female conditioning. It will not ever be the same, just as C.P. Ellis will never be "black" in the way his colleagues are, no matter how much he might make an effort to do so. Constructed identities are acquired but not equally. The identities imposed on us by early conditioning have a different impact and half-life than any other.

This may be individually disheartening but it can actually be a profound strength in social change, this recognition that early conditioning carves us up into irrational categories we cannot completely leave behind. It gives us a window in alliance building. A man who renamed his own identity and chooses to share his process with other men, or help boys not be burdened with a similar conditioning, would be a powerful ally to my struggle for liberation: The kind of ally, frankly, I would most prefer.

I compare this to another constructed identity I carry, that of being white. This conditioning is so early and "automatic" that most white people can't see it in themselves and either deny it or feel hopeless about undoing it. I've had the good fortune to have been trusted by some people of color along the way, who have offered me their viewpoint and sometimes allowed me into their groups. It's terrifying to be one of the few white people, or perhaps the only white person, in a room full of non-white people. It should be terrifying, unless you are numb or deluded. Your conditioning has not prepared you for this, not to deal with them as equals. You can expect to be confused and uncomfortable for a very long time. There's tremendous growth available to you in allowing this discomfort, in noticing what the shit is in your head so you can root it out. People of color who are willing to be your ally in transition do not owe you anything besides basic manners. They do not owe you a place in their private groups, they do not need to listen to your difficulty and pain (however real it is), they are not required to reassure you or guide you. If someone does, out of caring, that's a gift, not a right. Keep going. Until racism is eliminated from our culture, you will never reach a place of comfort. Do your share for the next generation, find rest where you can, and focus your energies on speaking up around other white people, not on trying to change the beliefs and self-definition of people of color.

I don't know how to work effectively with people who believe that our behavioral and social constructs in our current culture -- class, race, gender, ability, religion, to name some -- are biologically determined. My world view depends on the feminist axiom "Biology is not destiny". It also depends on my awareness of vast portions of history and international reality, where everything we think we "know" in our culture about what constitutes a given race or gender or class can be disproven by an example from another place or time. If what we think is "normal" for a "type" of human does not occur regularly in some other culture, then it's not biologically hard-wired, it's acquired.

I know there are large numbers of you out there who believe just as firmly that gender, sexual orientation, etc. are determined by hormones and other chemicals, and occasionally studies seem to maybe prove some piece of it (though never, of course, done on human beings who weren't conditioned in early childhood because that control group does not exist). I don't want to argue with you about your world view; you get to have it, and to construct your politics and associations accordingly.

But you don't get to try to change my world view or association, either. And, the main reason I don't know how to work effectively with people who are essentialists, biological determinists, is because I find that belief set to be hopeless. I believe in the human potential for almost unlimited change, and that the empowering view is to disavow the fatalism of biology. It is what provides my spark. From my reading, augmented by my imagination, I believe all the boxes that people are trying so hard to find a comfortable residence in are spiritually bankrupt. I honestly believe appearances are irrelevant, and trying to cloak yourself to pass in any regard (however protective it is, and as a white trash crippled fat dyke, I do know about feeling vulnerable) is a personal choice but not the planks of a liberation platform. For instance, women who diet compulsively have my empathy and my complete understanding about the oppression they are contending with -- but I'll never agree that dieting is part of an empowerment theory for women.

I believe it my purpose in this existence to ignore the lies, as best I can, every second that I draw breath and give them not even the validation of argument, much less accommodation. That's my particular path, and I certainly follow it imperfectly but I always have the next second of life in which to correct myself. Until the seconds run out, that is.

Maggie Jochild said...

In 1977 I got a poster for the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival that had, on it, the phrase woman-born woman. I had never heard of trans anything at that point, and if I had, I would not have thought this phrase was about excluding someone. Not even men. To me, it had an instantaneous meaning of honoring my mother, our mothers, the fact that all life flows through women. The first wave of feminism was carried out by women who were almost all mothers. In the second wave, only about a third to a half of us (depending on the region) were mothers. The rest of us were boomer girls who were struggling to undo the lies given to us by our mothers without entirely dishonoring that relationship. It was tricky work, and we were, for a few years there, obsessed with it. The idea of being daughters of mothers literally permeates our poetry, our music lyrics, much of our writing, and the issue of reproductive rights and control of our own uteruses was the backbone of our politics. Even for Lesbians. Lesbian mothers' rights groups sprang up all over the country. We were women before we were "queer". (I'm still not queer, unless the alternative is only straight -- I'm a Lesbian, which is "the rage of all women condensed to the point of explosion" in my lexicon.)

Take a look at what we were publishing during the mid 70's: Mothers and Amazons by Helen Diner (1973); Our Bodies, Our Selves by the Boston Women's Health Collective (1973); So's Your Old Lady, Minneapolis Lesbian literary rag (1973); The Hand That Cradles The Rock by Rita Mae Brown (1974); Loving Women by the Nomadic Sisters (1975); The Lesbian Body by Monique Wittig (1975); The Cunt Coloring Book by Tee Corinne (1975); Big Mama Rag (began 1976); Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution by Adrienne Rich (1976); The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Dyke by Ellen Marie Bissert (1977); Woman and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her by Susan Griffin (1978); Gyn/Ecology by Mary Daly (1978); and Wanderground by Sally Geaheart (1978), just to name a few. ALL of these focused heavily on being daughters of women, on motherhood as a concept we were trying to sort out for ourselves. What did it mean to a woman of woman born?

Nothing to do with trans. Or men. Stop making it about yourselves and please stop passing on the canard that this policy originated in exclusion. It originated as a focus, as what we were all talking and thinking about.

From the beginning, we took our daughters to the Festival, and we gave them an unprecedent liberty. I took my daughter from ages 8 to 11, and I was as shocked as I've been in my life at how much it meant to her to spend four days with just girls, strong, free, smart girls who went wild when they stopped having to deal with the controlling and needy behavior of boys. It changed her utterly, after the first time. She became assertive and confident in a way she had not been, literally overnight. On the way home, I wept at the change in her, because I had not known before what she was concealing about her identity in order to fit into the world of men and boys. When she got home to her other mother, that August, her other mother called me and yelled at me about how our daughter had started "talking back". I explained to her what I'd seen. The next year, my ex went to Michigan as well, with us, and our daughter blossomed from that point on. I love boys, have helped raise them and am heavily involved now with my godson, and I know they can't help, either, the conditioning that attempts to crush their spirit. They need us, and they have my help. But that doesn't mean our daughters should have to do that work for us as girls. They deserve the space away from male conditioning as much as we do.

shadocat said...

I like the comparison between race and gender; the last 2 jobs I've had, I (a white woman) have been in the minority, and yes, it was very strange, and very difficult. Since I was raised as a good bleeding-heart liberal, I assumed these people would all accept me as just "one of the gang"---when it didn't happen, I was actually suprised. Some of my co-workers accepted and befriended me; but others never tried to get to know me, and never liked me. That was hard to take. I imagine that that may be the way a trans person feels in a non-trans community, but as you said,I cannot force anyone to accept me just because I think they should.

I would be very reluctant to let a child make such a major decison that affects the rest of their lives at such an early age. Hormones have side effects, and surgery is generally permanent.

I remember those confusing feelings I had as a teen---did i love boys, did I love girls? Both?
Maybe I would rather be a boy? It took me a LONG time to sort out my identity, and this was without hormones or surgery. Suppose I had done something along these lines when I was very young---where would I be now?

drakyn said...

Maggie Jochild, I've seen others say that the phrase women born women originally meant women born of women. But now it is used to exclude a group of women from a women's festival. That is what many believe to be wrong. If you want it to go back to its original meaning, take it up with those who changed what it meant as an excuse to exclude a group of women they see as "other".
Trans*women are also women born of women.

Maggie Jochild said...

It's not an excuse. It's a chosen focus. ANY choice means all other choices are "excluded".

The choice is to focus on those who received conditioning during those formative years as a girl. To give a chance to find out what that means, to be targeted in that particular way, without other voices trying to imprint their version on us. We believe in CONDITIONING much, much more important than looks, chemicals, or declarations of current status. Our divergence of belief is no more oppressive or "wrong" than yours is.

Someone raised owning class does not eliminate their from-birth conditioning by becoming impoverished. We may be able to swap coupons for Tuna Helper, but believe me, in personal exchanges where culture and values are being focused on, I'll see the difference immediately. And as a member of a target group, I have the right to say "I'd rather not hear your experience at the moment, I'm trying to figure out my own" -- when that is the case. When I and thousands of others are saying "This one week a year, we'd like to talk to each other."

Maggie Jochild said...

Oh, and I'd like to add a link to your list, Shado, that of ISNA, the Intersex Society of North America. Founded by Cheryl Chase (whom I met at the Queer Disability conference several years ago and, frankly, adore), it's a model of clarity on child advocacy. I remember Cheryl, Emi Kowaya and Diana Courvant having to deal with some bozo from the back of the room who wanted birth certificates to have a third box for gender -- as if any parent on the planet would put "Other" on their child's birth certificate. Emi was the one, I think, who said "Why just one more box? Where do you stop?" and then Cheryl added that the point is not the boxes, the point is thinking outside the boxes. Assign a gender, if you must, but allow the child to define their particular gender. Without medical intervention. Fight to clear that road for them and think outside the boxes of conformity OR physiology.

ISNA

Here's a clip from their website:

Our Mission:
The Intersex Society of North America (ISNA) is devoted to systemic change to end shame, secrecy, and unwanted genital surgeries for people born with an anatomy that someone decided is not standard for male or female.

We have learned from listening to individuals and families dealing with intersex that:

Intersexuality is primarily a problem of stigma and trauma, not gender.
Parents’ distress must not be treated by surgery on the child.
Professional mental health care is essential.
Honest, complete disclosure is good medicine.
All children should be assigned as boy or girl, without early surgery.

Maggie Jochild said...

INFORMED CONSENT

I'm multiply disabled. I've had asthma, often severely limiting and life-threatening, since birth. I also had two congenital conditions that did not get diagnosed or treated until I was in my 40s: polycystic ovary syndrome (which is a profound hormonal disorder) and bony deformities of both tibia.

Part of the reason why the PCOS went unnoticed as a disability by me is because I was a Lesbian who had no need for fertility, and I was fortunate enough to spend my 20s and 30s in a feminist environment where facial hair and being fat were not confused with maleness or considered negative. When the PCOS got diagnosed, my dyke GYN began trying to adjust my hormone levels. This is when I learned that they don't actually know what constitutes an exact "female" mix. It's all still experimental. We tried for a long while, because the risks of endometrial build-up in my uterus from not having periods is carcinogenic and because I began having ovarian cyst ruptures.

Along the way, I've learned that a LOT of Lesbians have PCOS -- one study I read said it's around 30%. In our day, we acknowledged that having facial hair is common for women (which it is, Lesbian or not), that the association of facial hair with masculinity or someone being "other" or less than "female" is racist as well as sexist, and that being fat was not a health risk if you were active and healthy otherwise.

I don't tinker with my hormones any more. I use therapy to deal with the shifts. I'm hoping to make it to menopause, when the cyst ruptures and cancer risk will go away, without a hysteroscopy and oophorectomy because in my case, surgery will gravely threaten my life for other reasons.

With regard to the leg deformities, I slowly lost the ability to walk and began to live in severe pain because of damage to my left knee and ankle from the crooked tibia. Like, constant, whether I was standing or not. At 45, I went in for a left total knee replacement. The possible side effects were no doubt written on the informed consent that I signed, and I'm a geek with medical knowledge -- I watched videos of the surgery, I read obsessively about it, I did energy work and herbal prep, you name it. But the panoply of things that could go wrong were not stressed by my surgeon or anyone else in the medical arena I consulted.

It's not just that I came close to dying -- it's that I suffered an anoxic insult, a cognitive injury which wiped away access to my memories or my complete ability to communicate, for several months. I slowly came back from that nightmare. Mostly. And, what medical science offers in the way of a knee is a joke compared to what our mothers give us as knees. Even my fucked-up knee. I'm now losing the ability to walk again, as my right side goes. I'm still in constant pain, though from other arthritic sources now. I mostly don't take pain medications because I like being sharp, and there are other ways to handle pain. I will not let them replace my right knee. I'm sorry I let them do the left. Aside from the pain, the main reason I did is because of the public appearance of not being able to walk, and the stigma of being in a wheelchair.

For four years I was a member of Actual Lives, a page-to-stage writing and theater troupe for disabled adults. I learned worlds from my colleagues in this troupe, and from the director, Terry Galloway, also disabled from birth. I learned that those of us who grow up disabled have heavy conditioning that those disabled later in life do not share, no matter how long you are disabled as an adult. I learned that the real obstacles to living with a disability are not our bodies but the way others see our bodies -- the obstacles are social, not biological. (Yes, even if you can't walk -- so what if you can't walk? It's not a fucking tragedy and has nothing to do with who you are. NOTHING.) I learned that children who are born disabled with conditions that medical science has the urge to tinker with are pretty much given up to doctors for experimentation and undergo countless "procedures" and chemical invasion, only some of which have any kind of a positive impact and all of which carry side effects that are minimized by doctors and pharma. One guy I knew had 27 surgeries as a child in order to try to make him able to walk -- even though he was amazingly strong and adept in a wheelchair. He was one of the first generation to survive spina bifida, my generation, and he suffered for being a pioneer. When he got old enough to stop it, he stopped the madness, and is way more mobile than a lot of people. But furious in a way I can hardly describe.

Did he consent to those surgeries as a child? He certainly did. He wanted to be "normal". He trusted the adults who were empowered to look after him and who claimed to love him. Did love him.

I went into my knee surgery with cheerful hope. There was a delay once I was on the table, can't remember why, but I was lying there still conscious, a little chilled (they keep the rooms cold), my surgeon and his assistant dealing with the delay. On a gurney-sized table next to me, on sterile cloths, were all the instruments they were going to use on me. Orthopedic surgery is brutal. There were gleaming stainless steel bone saws, hammers, and things of cinematic torture complexity. I looked over at them, wondering what some of them were, and then I remarked with a laugh to the anesthesiologist at my head "What person in their right mind would agree to surgery if they saw the instruments in advance?" The anesthesiologist was freaked. He said "Are you withdrawing consent?" But my doctor, a bubba who knew me, broke into laughter. He came to look at me and I said "Oh, by all means, carry on, I want this." The anesthesiologist put me out, then. When I woke up, I was fighting for my life.

Let me be clear here. I've worked in the medical field for decades, and I know that doctors and nurses usually operate from a basis of deep caring, often love. They believe in helping us, and often they do. I know medical professionals I can and will trust with my survival, without question. But the notion of informed consent is a big honking lie. Our bodies, especially if we are physically different in any way, are medicalized and cease to be seen as anything but a set of diagnoses by the institutions to which we surrender ourselves. And their motive, these institutions, centers on profit. Not social change, not long-term community well-being or even individual well-being, but on profit.

So, it's complicated. I'm telling this story to share where I am coming from, not because I think my path has to be anyone else's. I made my choices and I'm taking the licks from it. As a parent, I know the crushing burden of trying to figure out what is right for the children for whom we have an overwhelming responsibility. Every parent does the best she can, and we don't get to judge her. But offering her a variety of stories, a variety of personal experiences, without pushing an agenda onto her -- that would be a gift she can choose to use or not.

hammerwoman said...

Thank you, Maggie.

Namaste!

(Not meaning any cultural appropriation, but literally, my palms are pressed together in profound salute. )

I was never angry about Michigan, nor did I particularly feel excluded, given the circumstances. I have understood the focus, and accepted it with good grace. Many, however, who went to the festival each year, and who would seem to be entitled to their viewpoints, *did* see it as exclusion, exclusion that made them feel safe and powerful. I *did* feel excluded when my oldest friend wanted me to buy in on some land, wherein she had constructed a sacred grove where I was not allowed to go. "Now Gail, that was twenty-five years ago, ya don't have to go bringing *that* up again!" I can just hear her.

Am I a woman? A man? Something different/ less/ more? It's not a question I find a lot of meaning in. "Lesbian-identified post-operative male-to-female transsexual" is, I believe, the whole label, "transdyke" for short. I live as a woman, I live as a lesbian, mostly through the ability to take part in the incredibly classist process we call "transition." Self-definition is quite expensive, and there was an inherited house I could mortgage. Many can not afford to pay the doctors and the therapists who are appointed gatekeeper, and so are not allowed that self-determination. Many die. One night, the Outright kids started to discuss separating into male and female groups. . . and I found myself unable even to speak- because I knew I wouldn't be able to facilitate any longer, and suddenly felt very unwelcome. A wonderful and gentle young transwoman across the circle saw the entreaty in my eyes and quietly mentioned that such a separation would be difficult, as we had family that would fit in neither group. "What were we thinking?!" said the group, "we love our trans members!" I mouthed a silent thank-you, and got a 'you're welcome' back. Disowned by her parents, she was working in a salon to afford electrolysis, and I'm sure, sex work to try and save money for the rest. It has been five years now since they found her OD'd, and talking about her gets no easier.

I was culturally conditioned as a white male. Much of that I can change and have changed, but I can't change that it happened. We must continue to share our stories. I have no love of male culture, but I have lived a lot of it.

BTW- every time a cop, town clerk, etc., enters your name in something hooked up to your state (and maybe soon national) database, it comes back with all the names and aliases you've ever used. You can forget stealth.

My friend Dan Wilkins, owner/operator of thenthdegree.com (and a quadriplegic), sells wonderful t-shirts. One of my favorite says, "If there is such a thing as Us and Them, it is not between black and white, old and young, disabled and non, male and female, gay and straight, catholic, protestant, buddhist, etc., etc., etc., blah, blah, blah. It is between those who get it and those who do not."

Better get some work done. . . more to say later. . .

drakyn said...

I just noticed this, but you link to Heart on Womensspace. She is very transphobic. As proof, check out her Robin Morgan post (listed in the favorite post section along the side). A trans*woman of color wrote a poem about (among other things) accepting herself as a woman and not giving into the people who hate her. This poem had a lot of monster imagery from various cultures, including the cultures she is descended from and/or is a part of.
Heart's post allows one to infer that she has plagiarized one of Robin Morgan's poems. I say allows one to infer because whenever someone disagreed with her and showed that they inferred she meant plagiarism Heart disagreed, but whenever someone agreed with her post and obviously inferred plagiarism she said nothing.
Later, in the comments of this post she (a white woman) said that the poet was colonizing and appropriating from cultures that Little Light had no claim to.
"The issue is erasure. It is also mischaracterization and misrepresentation." -Heart comment 20
Then a commenter says
"But … but … they do such a *better* job of being women than we do.

Can’t we just get over it, and pay obeisance to them for that?

We never really knew how do do feminism until *they* came along and brought us into the light, while keeping the spotlight on themselves.

Being *born* female is such a nasty, creepy slimey thing that we need to have the way shown to us by those who were not so cursed.

Copycats are better cats, seems to be the point in all of this." -Mary Sunshine 21
And Heart answers
"Mary Sunshine, I love you.

xxxooo"-22
The only comment MS had made previous to the quoted one had the same exact message.

Heart's comment #66 is too long to reproduce here, but it is also an example of what I have been saying.

"To appropriate [women's] lives and experiences, or our writings, our work, is deeply disrespectful (and some other things worth talking about for a long time) in the same way other kinds of appropriation along the lines I’ve already mentioned are deeply disrespectful." -Heart 71

"little light is an outspoken transwoman, though, a person born male. This matters. I think it is entirely possible to appreciate the poem itself — as I did, and reminded you of it when you missed it — while at the same time, while appreciating the work on its own merits, rejecting what amounts to appropriation of imagery and metaphors belonging to females– like Lilith. Like the Gorgons. Like Cybele and Baba Yaga, Hel and Ashtoreth, Lamia and Scylla, Kali and Kapo ‘ula-kina’u. To do this is to invoke and appropriate what is sacred to females." -Heart 81
(remember, Heart is white and Little Light is not)

I can't find the post where she gave the full "list" but in one of her posts she defines woman as a verb, and gives a list of things done "only to women." Such as being a man's property and/or being raped. (Because no man has ever been another's property and no man has ever been raped)

Later, on her 2/15 post on the Vancouver rape relief shelter she tags it under "male terrorism" and "war on women".

Heart also welcomes Luckynikl on her blog. Shortly before this post Luckynikl said on another post that trans*people were nutjobs and made constant references to trans*women as "Buffalo Bills."
The post was on IBTP, "Any Excuse to Degenerate Lipstick."

Heart commented in this thread (under Heart if you want to ctrl F her posts) until the end, she saw Luckynikl's comments.

(Not transphobia, but racism is just as bad) If you look at the posts in the same general time period as the Morgan post, you will see that Heart links to Chasingmoksha's post "Morphing into the Oppressors". MitO basically said that WOC were oppressing white women who have married black men by not allowing them to speak as/for POC.

Heart also links to "Questioning Transgender", a website full of transphobic fallacies and generalizations.

I really recommend reading both Little Light and Robin Morgan's poems, I think it would be obvious that Little Light didn't plagiarize at all. Little Light hadn't even read Morgan's poem until Heart posted the full version in the comments of the WS post. Heart's post also links to Little Light.

PS: In the 6th comment, Heart links to the people who linked to Little Light's poem and tells people to comment there because "It’s not going to do not to acknowledge Robin Morgan’s imagery, poem, and herstoric writings which invoke this same imagery, as though they didn’t exist."
If this isn't an accusation of some form of plagiarism, I don't know what is.

drakyn said...

Maggie Jochild, what makes you think trans*women don't receive conditioning as to what a woman/girl should be?

Because this is about conditioning, a trans*woman who has been raised since a small child as a girl would in fact be allowed into "women born women" space. There are a few trans*people who are being raised as their gender identity from a young age, sometimes as young as seven or eight. (Though obviously they are not given surgery/hormones at this age)

hammerwoman said...

Drakyn, I don't know where you live, but around here, most of the transfolk I know get their drugs prescribed by their family doctors. My doc is pretty comfortable with it- I've referred a few friends to her- she talks to the therapist, writes the scripts, orders the tests. It ain't rocket science.

My therapist is actually wonderful- I haven't seen her as a client in about six years now, actually. I fought her through my transition because The Rules put her in charge of my life, even though she had no doubts about me, starting from the day I sat down in one of her graduate classes (before I knew she was a gender therapist). She has a number of very young gender clients, yes, some as young as seven, who are living full-time as the boys or girls they know themselves to be. She helped me transition holistically, i.e., to move all the parts of my life along together, and not, as is the temptation, to focus on the purely physical. It surely helps that she's a marvelous dyke with a gray brush cut and a raucous laugh. . .and like me, a Phys. Ed. major from New Jersey. Our sessions together were LOUD.

This actually seems to be apropos of nothing on this thread. . . sorry, just mumbling on incoherently- BTW- how obnoxious to I have to get to be sent to a rural commune for re-education? A commune sounds lovely- I'm tired of doing all the work around this farm by myself!

Maggie Jochild said...

Re your objection to linking:

First of all, the label of transphobic has a multitude of meanings out there, and the only rubric that seems to cover them all is "any comment that disagrees with the statement of someone who identifies as trans". Phobia means a hatred and kneejerk avoidance of something. Women trying to discuss this issue who express a difference of opinion need to stop being smeared with that accusation. It's power as a perjorative is waning because of blatant overuse. I'd rather you avoid using it and instead explain what you mean. In this case, you seemed to mean that the moderator's question of whether a poem which looked uncomfortably similar to a major theoretical work of art by a founding feminist might have been plagiarism (conscious or unconscious because of ignorance) was transphobic because the person who wrote the poem was transgendered. And because she said "I love you" to someone who expressed sarcasm about the current battle over who gets to define woman. As one of the moderators here, these might not be actions that I would do but I don't consider them "phobic" or hateful.

When we link to a site, we are not stating every single comment by anyone who visits that site is recommended by us. Many, many of the comments at Dykes to Watch Out For are things I personally disagree with, object to, and have found oppressive according to my worldview. The basic values of a site are what count the most. A few of the links made by Shadocat in her post above contain statements that are erroneous (to my mind) or woman-hating. But I think it behooves us to trust women to think for themselves and sort it out, and the overall intent of each link was positive and open.

The censorship of the open discussion about the conflict between some integral values put forth by some trangender individuals and some integral values put forth by some lesbian-feminist individuals will not be enacted on this thread. Not as long as there is no name-calling or personal attacks. Stick to the discussion of values, share your own personal experiences as they relate to the values, and you'll be welcome.

That's my position. There are several others on the Web Diva team, and they are welcome to jump in here and tell me where they think I am wrong. Eloquently and with firm kindness, as is their wont.

shadocat said...

Of course trans women receive conditioning as to what a female should be; however, that conditoning begins when they are in a male body, in a world where males have more privilege wherever they go. So while yes, they are conditioned, it is not equal to the experience of those who are born female, and are still female today.

Notice that I did not say you, or any other transwoman was not my "equal"---just that our experiences are different. I'm sure you would not appreciate it if I said," I know how you feel". Because I don't. I can feel for you. I can empathize. But I'll never know your experience.

Gotta go---more thoughts on this later!

Maggie Jochild said...

Absolutely, drakyn. Everyone who grows up with sexism learns the content of both male and female conditioning. But those who are target for sexism (girls and women) learn it very differently. It the female role, which is often defined as whatever males aren't claiming for themselves, is imposed on us at the moment of birth and, according to the different psychological texts I read, has shaped our core identity by the time we are three, five, or eight, take your pick.

I assume a few things. I assume that everyone growing up with lies about the nature of human beings (which gender roles are, much like though not identical to racial roles, class roles, etc.) resists those lies to the point where their own survival is at stake. They resist believing it is true about themselves, and they resist believing it is true about those on the non-target end of the scale. This resistance is key to the work of alliance-building. My belief that boys and men are fighting their own battle means we have vast common ground. But not identical ground.

I have been very close to men who meet with other men, males only, to work on issues of their sexist conditioning. I absolutely support their right to separate out by gender to do this kind of sharing and exploration, even as I think the gender construct is bogus. You don't get from A to B by ignoring or "deciding away" what was forced on you when your brain was first developing. And yes, at those gatherings, some shit does occur: Some men rehearse woman-hating and other ick. But I trust them to be reaching toward a goal that includes my own goals.

I myself have led gatherings of white women to work on racism, and have been righteously questioned by the women of color who know me about why it is "white women only". But once they hear the plan, they're all for it. A few years ago, another white lesbian poet and I (Jen Margulies) had a reading at BookWoman here where our performance centered on eliminating racism, especially as it is tangled up with gender and class. We ended with a Q&A and personal sharing. Sharon Bridgforth, a nationally-reknowned African-American writer and mentor to us both, attended but made it clear that when it came time for the Q&A, we were to announce it clearly so all the women of color could leave. They didn't want to hear our process. The impact of racist conditioning on white people, who are non-target, is substantially different from the impact on them as the target group, and they KNOW what that stuff looks like -- they grow up with it. They did leave, without making a fuss, and the white women who remained got to share things they never would have said otherwise. Things that were deeply painful for even me to hear. But growthful to get out in the open and reveal as lies.

This American myth of "We're all just exactly the same" and "You can be whoever you want to be, presto-chango" derives, I believe, from being descended from immigrants who fled here for survival but, in so going, had to steal the survival resources of other peoples (land and labor). We create and sustain the myth because we believe noticing the differences will be too hard to bear, or, the liberal among us, that noticing the differences and experiencing the pain of them is somehow reinforcing the lie.

To learn more about how to start understanding the target/nontarget model of effective alliance building and social change, I recommend the woman who mentored me, Ricky Sherover-Marcuse. Read her writings at
Unlearning Racism

While I'm recommending URLs, here's another good for some basics:
Feminism 101.

This site defines sexism as "A form of institutional discrimination; the economic exploitation and social domination of members of one sex by the other, specifically of women by men." It uses bell hooks' definition of feminism, "The struggle to end sexist oppression." And it answers the question of "What's the difference between sex and gender?" as "Sex is the biological attributes of a person. When you look in the mirror, its the biological things that you see that make you male or female. Gender is a socially constructed category. Gender is what society says makes a male or a female who they are...be it the way you dress, the way you talk, the way you walk, etc. Your sex may be female, but your chosen gender may be male and vice versa."

Maggie Jochild said...

Hammerwoman, I very much appreciate your sharing where you are coming from. And I, too, long for a rural commune with re-education. Well, the truth is, I moved to one at age 21 and it was one of the best years of my life. Voluntary, of course, which does make a difference.

Your name reminds me: When I was first beginning treatment for PCOS, my GYN's last name was Hammer. At my first biopsy surgery, which was in fact the first surgery of my life, I was terrified but trying not to show it because she was this impressive dyke, blah blah blah. Anyhow, as I lay back on the table, I grabbed her arm with icy fingers and blurted out "Hammer, don't hurt me!" The entire surgical staff lost it.

liza cowan said...

Hammerwoman. I swear we've met. If not, you've got a clone.

In Burlington, at UVM at a Trans Identity Conference, a few years ago.

Look at my website and tell me.

drakyn said...

Sorry for not responding sooner, I had to chaperone my little sister and her boyfriend. My 'duty' as her older brother.
Actually, as I said in my first comment, I am not a trans*woman I am a man who is transgendered. I assure you, I know what it is like to have been assigned "girl" and to be raised under that assumption. ^.~
Hammerwoman, I know about being no-ho and/or non-op, but I've known almost since I first claimed the label trans-anything those roads weren't for me. And I didn't start hormones when I wanted to because I am sometimes very paranoid about my parents. I had seen various stories online and from fiends where people under 18 had been taken to camps to be "made straight/cis*". There was one gay kid on myspace who actually posted the rules of the camp he went to in Tennessee, Love in Action. I didn't know him previously, but there was a lot of traffic online regarding him that summer and I think that the camp was investigated for child abuse because of the online action. (If you are curious, he made his myspace private after posting an entry that could be read either as he had "changed" or that he was pretending to do so until he was independent. Various people in different places online have said that they still speak with him and that he is biding his time until he can be open again).
I only started looking for doctors since this summer and my GP was uncomfortable and everyone else wants me to see 'their' therapist.

And I'm glad that Camp Trans doesn't last too long. I've been hiking in the woods for two weeks before, and I'm sorry--but any more than a week without my internet and my music is just far too much. Although my going is entirely dependent on if I can get a ride there. MI has no jobs, so I have no car. And since it has no jobs, I plan to move to NYC where I don't need a car.

And sorry for breaking my comments up how I do. I'm used to livejournal where the comments go in threads. -.-;;

drakyn said...

Sorry, I guess I wasn't as clear as I meant to be. brought attention to Heart's views on trans*people and certain aspects of race relations as more of a for your information in case you hadn't read her blog during those posts or hadn't read those specific posts. Not to say that you have to de-link her.

And by transphobia I meant a few different things I suppose. Based on her words on her posts, comments on other blogs, a few comments I read of hers the last time I was masochistic enough to go to the MWMF boards, and from what bloggers who have known her for much longer than me have said--one can see that she:
-rarely listens to how trans*people define ourselves and instead acts as though we are using her definitions for these words.
-has very little respect for trans*people.
-she has supported discussions painting trans*people as deliberate agents of the patriarchy to destroy feminism.
-she has also supported people with far more vocal and obviously trans*-hating opinions when those same basic words would never have gone through her moderation if they were about any other oppressed group.

If you look at the two possible comments Heart could have been responding at and her previous and recent comments, it would be obvious that Mary Sunshine was not expressing sarcasm about the debate, but rather about the lives and truth of trans*women. Her first comment, number 4, states "Wow. Yeah, Heart.

Talk about cultural appropriation.

And I note that neither of these two blogs have you on their “feminist” blogrolls …

While they’re at it, why don’t they just write, “Not a man, but *better* than a woman. Hear me roar!”

That’s the whole point, isn’t it?"
And her comment 89 is very telling. here is just the first part of it, "For the record, I was just really offended to see little light’s page where (s)he (?) has thrown up all kinds of ancient female Goddess imagery and obviously done a makeover of Robin Morgan’s poem to try to present him/her/its self as a born-female."
Little Light has always been openly a transwoman of color. Comments above this that MS had responded to referred to Little Light with female pronouns and referred to her as a woman. There was no honest reason why at this point in the conversation anyone who had read more than Heart's original post could have referred to LL as he. Personally, I see no honest reason other than a specific person's personal pronoun preference to refer to anyone, ever as an 'it.'
And remember, this so-called cultural appropriation is of Goddesses LL's ancestors served. I also know that LL serves at least one of the Goddesses she mentioned in the poem (I think she serves Kapo 'ula-kina'u or Cybele, but it has been awhile and I don't remember if I remember Them because LL serves one or because They were the ones I had to google). Moreover, some of the Goddesses LL referred to tended to have priestesses who were male-assigned, but became or were women. So I really don't see how she could be misappropriating these Goddesses.
And really, looking at the two poems side by side, the only real similarities are that both use monster imagery, both are by feminist women and noticeably so, and both are in somewhat similar styles. But, it is a style I think is somewhat popular and have seen amongst a lot of people that definitely haven't read Morgan's poem.
Morgan never mentions any specific monsters from myths, she talks about hives and poisons, but no Kapo 'ula-kina'u, Cybele, "the under-the-earth", or "she begat monsters".
From my interpretation of both poems, Morgan's seems nearly defeated and actually refers to being burned out in a few lines. She talks about going mad together, and about slowly dying.
LL's poem is reclaiming monster, reclaiming with pride all that monsters have ever accomplished--ever survived through. LL's poem is about fighting back and not giving in or giving ground. About loving your beautiful body despite what others, the ones who want your suicide, say.
I really recommend both poems. LL's is here: http://takingsteps.blogspot.com/2007/01/seam-of-skin-and-scales.html
and Morgan's is in full in comment 42 here: http://womensspace.wordpress.com/2007/01/17/i-am-a-monster-and-i-am-proud-robin-morgan/
(Can you tell that I adore the seam of skin and scales? I have since I first read it, before the controversy, when it was recced by other bloggers I read. I even quote a section and link to the post on my eljay profile)

drakyn said...

"You don't get from A to B by ignoring or "deciding away" what was forced on you when your brain was first developing."
Except that I never said that trans*women are able to just shake off conditioning. Feminists (and expatriates) that I have read and respect realize that a lot/some social conditioning can be very difficult and sometimes impossible to change.
Also, in my experience, some trans*people tend to grow up ignoring the world around them. Others see themselves from the very beginning as their gender identity and try to fit the roles for their gender and not their sex. I've heard a lot of stores of people who expected for many years that their bodies would "fix" themselves. I know that when I was small I thought that I would eventually grow a penis and grow up to be a man. Ludo from the movie [My Life in Pink] (the title is actually in french and I don't know the french spellings) also is like that. Except that he thinks the stork accidentally dropped his other X and the Y fell down the chimney instead.

Another thing, there are things that can differentiate between peoples' childhoods other than assigned sex. I know that my childhood was far closer to my cis*boyfriend Jon's childhood than his was to our cis*male friend Devon's childhood. And random trans*woman N's, white upper middle class, childhood was probably a lot more similar to random non-trans/cis* woman X's, white upper middle class, childhood than X's childhood is to, say, my friend K's childhood. K was raised by her grandma because her single mom couldn't afford to take care of her full time and K still struggles to make ends meet.
I guess what I am trying to say, is that oftentimes there can be as much variation in a group as that which separates that group from another. The whole entirety of the festival doesn't seem to be only about being raised as an assigned female and the issues that can cause. So it seems more useful to just have the workshops and/or discussion groups for these topics be assigned-female only rather than the whole festival. And since I've also seen people worried about penises triggering abuse victims, maybe only certain areas/showers are allowed to have exposed genitalia that is commonly recognized as penises (A lot of trans*people, myself included see or try to see various parts of ourselves differently than what these parts would commonly be seen as, the previous language is o respect this view).


And Shadowcat, your second paragraph reminds me that a lot of people don't seem to like how some trans*people say they "feel like a [gender identity]", I'm not sure if you were referring to this, but here are my thoughts on this phrase:
Months ago there was a post on the eljay transgender community about this very topic. Most everyone seemed to mean that some intrinsic part of them wanted to be recognized as a girl/male/woman/etc. Some of us said that if we were entered into the Matrix we would be our gender identity and not our assigned sex.
Only one person mentioned being [gender expression/role] in his definition. After several (somewhat angry/annoyed/etc.) people asked for clarification, he explained that he meant that his masculine tendencies had been what clued him into questioning his gender identity and not his reason for identifying as male.
I don't know if you comment was directed at this common phrase, but nevertheless it reminded me of this conversation. ^.^;;

Maggie Jochild, I actually do read quite a few blogs that discuss sexism, racism, classism, intersections, etc.
During the blogwar that Heart's accusations sparked, there were some really awesome posts about trans*people. One I remember, but I can't remember where it was, was trans*people, WOC, poor/working class women, and (I think also) disabled women discussing the similarities and differences in how society and feminism have treated them (for instance, the Lavender Menace, the books The Transsexual Empire and The Empire Strikes Back, and the history of some white feminists saying that sexism is the root of all oppression were discussed). Recently there was a post about a new Iranian bill that has some seriously deadly repercussions for people who make porn in Iran, although certain people high-jacked the conversation into how perfect the Swedish model is and how no woman could possible want to do porn/certain "perverted" acts. -.-
I've been reading feminist/anti-racism/etc. forums and blogs for at least four years now. Its just that I'm better at editing other people's writing than I am at writing myself. So I've only started commenting more than "word" or "ditto" fairly recently. I tend to think people will infer what I think I am implying and sometimes I forget that I don't inform the entire 'collective unconscious'. ^.^;;

PS: I have to say that I disagree with that definition of gender. Gender makes far more sense to me when it is separated into different parts: identity, roles, and expression are the three most common imo. Gender identity is what a person identifies as (though what exactly this means is different for everyone), gender/sex roles are what society says your sex/gender should be/act like, and gender expression is how masculine/feminine/etc. you act.
If gender means, "what society says makes a male or a female who they are...be it the way you dress, the way you talk, the way you walk, etc." than what about us fem trans*guys or the butch trans*women? ^.^

hammerwoman said...

Liza honey, when they start cloning, they won't be looking for freaks and queers! That was me, for sure. I don't get up to Burlington very often, but I think I oughta. . .

Jana C.H. said...

Great stuff, Maggie. I keep thinking I should jump into this discussion, then I read on and discover you’re already saying things better than I could. Instead I’ll go with some tangential thoughts:

Before the sociologists, amateur and professional, got their mitts on the term, gender was most often a matter of grammar. Anyone who’s had to learn another Indo-European language has had to tangle with grammatical gender. A ring in German is as round and hollow and symbolically yonic as it is in English, but “der ring” is masculine. That’s just the way it is.

To a true word nerd like me, to speak of “female gender” is absurd. Words have gender; people have sex. The sexes are male and female; the genders are masculine, feminine, and neuter. Note that these are adjectives: male-like and female-like. Thus the sociologists have it right after all: gender is about words. It’s about ideas. It’s about what goes on in our heads. I hardly need say that doesn’t make it unimportant, or unreal, or not, at times, a matter of life and death. But I’d better say it anyway, before I dis someone’s gender identity (but not necessarily his/her/its sex).

More lexical pedantry: Phobia means fear, not hatred, from the Greek phobos. It is often used loosely to mean hatred based on fear, but the principal meaning remains fear, not hate. The Greek word for hate is misos, as in the word misogyny. Rather than creating a new barbarism by cobbling together “trans” (Latin) and “misos” (Greek), I’ve dragged out my second-hand, century-old Cassell’s Latin Dictionary and come up with “transodium”—hatred of transsexuals. Or maybe it’s a new radioactive element. Or maybe it’s both. Don’t ask me; I don’t actually know Latin.

Jana C.H.
Seattle
Saith WSG: To everybody’s prejudice I know a thing or two; I can tell a woman’s [sex] is half a minute, and I do!

shadocat said...

draykin; when I said I can't say "I know how you feel", I was referring to your emotional state; as in the pain you've suffered, for example. I didn't mean the feelings you had that led you to transiton. However, now that I think of it, I can only guess at that too. The only way I could come close is to transition myself. I wasn't trying to "dis" the choices anyone makes in that regard.

I do appreciate the debate we're having on this blog, though. It's great when we can all talk about these important issues like grownups, and learn from each other!

shadocat said...

One thing I think we can agree on---I'm not much for "the great outdoors" either. I've always said my idea of "roughing it", was a motel with no cable.

drakyn said...

Oh, don't worry, I hadn't thought you were dissing me, its just that your words reminded me about that phrase and then I remembered various conversations about it. ^.^

Jana, not only does language evolve (especially when the old definitions didn't say what was wanted), but words can have different meanings in different contexts.
For instance, when I am talking about the fae and myths I mean something very different than when I say I'm fae.

Jana C.H. said...

Well, Shado, I’ve been a city girl for decades now, but I was born and raised with the Olympic National Park (http://www.nps.gov/olym) in my backyard, and when I get into a forest—a real forest, not just “edge”—my whole body goes YESSSSS! It’s not escaping the city that’s so difficult; it’s the suburbs!

I’m taking vacation in a couple of weeks. About half of it will be Hell Week for “Princess Ida”, but I think I’ll get out of the city for at least a day. No more than that, I fear; I can no longer camp in the back of my car since my hatchback died. Ah, for the days when Hurricane Ridge was twenty minutes away. http://www.nps.gov/archive/olym/cams/hurricane/hurricaneridgecam.htm The link is to a live webcam; if the scene is fogged-in or dark, the photo above shows the same view.

By the way, the officials of the Olympic ™ Games are absolutely paranoid about the Olympic Mountains, Olympic Peninsula, and Olympic National Park. Nobody else in the universe is allowed to us the word Olympic unless it “refers to the naturally mountains or geographical region of the same name.” Any businesses using the name are required to keep their operations, sales and marketing to “the State of Washington West of the Cascade Mountain Range.” (http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/connelly/319534_joel13.html?source=rss) I wonder if they have any idea how many Mount Olympuses there once were in the area surrounding the Aegean, and how many cities of Olympia.

What does this have to do with transsexuality? Not a dang thing! The MOC loves discursiveness.

Jana C.H.
Seattle
Saith Teddy Roosevelt: The beauty and charm of the wilderness are his for the asking, for the edges of the wilderness lie close beside the beaten roads of the present travel.

Jana C.H. said...

Drakyn-- My discussion of language was descriptive, not prescriptive. Only word nerds fret about such matters, and we do it because it fills us with sensual ecstacy. We post it on the web so that other nerds can share the bliss, and non-nerds can get a pale glimpse of paradise.

JcH

drakyn said...

Sorry Jana, it is just that I have seen people argue that x minority group can't use g word in k way, because it has always meant h.
I also like language a lot, I hope to take a linguistics class (so far, it hasn't fit into my schedule). And you should see how annoyed my boyfriend gets when I correct his grammar. Or how annoyed I get by the wrong form of to/your/their. ^.^

I've read various discussions about the problems with ___phobia words, and I prefer to use words like heterosexism rather than homophobia, but as of now there isn't a word like this for trans*people. I've seen cisgenderism put forward, but there are problems with the word cisgender. I've also never seen cisgenderism used outside of theoretical discussions on language.
Similarly, I haven't seen many words in place of cisgender and/or cissexual that I felt comfortable with. I saw one discussion that suggested words like hitherslight and witherslight (not sure of the spelling) in place of trans* and cis*. Again, this was just a theoretical discussion. Enough of my everyday vocabulary has to be explained to people without adding words that have to be explained to people more knowledgeable on trans* issues! ^.^
So I continue to use cis* and transphobic. In my defense of transphobic, most of the time I see people bring up the argument of trans*people calling people who disagree with them transphobic, it is a diversion to their trans*-hating words (Not in this argument, but in others I have witnessed).

Jana C.H. said...

I’m something of a conservative about language. You can claim that the word “dog” means “bovine animal with horns and udder” because the word “cow” insults fat women, but when you yell in astonishment, “There’s a DOG walking down the street!” no one’s going to look up except you and your pals in the Bovine Liberation Front. If the BLF can persuade enough people to accept the new definition, then heads will start turning and dictionaries will follow, but it doesn’t happen simply on one group’s say-so, even if they are the group in question. You know this, of course, which is why you’re hanging around the internets defining terms. The evolution of language requires conservatives like me as well as radicals like you. You keep pulling and I'll keep dragging and we'll both get somewhere sooner or later.

The comment about “phobia” was directed at Maggie; she’s the one who defined it in terms of hate rather than fear. She’s used to my nit-picking, and I trust her not to take it personally. “Homophobia” is so well-established as meaning “hate/fear of homosexuals” that “transphobia” is obviously the way to go, but one doesn’t get a chance every day to ruminate on Greek and Latin roots.

Jana C.H.
Seattle
Saith JcH: To write like a bureaucrat, academic, or educator, never use a word of one syllable when you can employ two or utilize three.

shadocat said...

Back to nature, for a moment; the reason I seem to have a "camping phobia",is because although I really do love nature, nature doesn't seem to love ME. As soon as I'm out of the city confines, every plant I encounter brings on an extreme allergic reaction, and every living creature wants to bite or poop on me. I love the birds and the flowers, and the trees--- just in tiny little increments.

Maggie Jochild said...

Ya got me, Jana. I stand corrected. Well, since I cannot stand easily, I sit corrected. Phobia is indeed fear, not hatred, and it's a crucial distinction. One of the things I ask people who are devout is if they describe themselves as g*d-loving or g*d-fearing. If they use the latter term, I perceive them as a danger to us all. Behavior arising from fear is not rational.

Which brings up another interesting thought I don't think I've had. When talking about sexism, I've often mentally substituted the descriptor "woman-hating" instead of sexist. If it seems to fit equally well, it's more likely to be accurate. If it doesn't, I need to take another look. But now I think I'll use "woman-fearing" instead, because, in fact, most so-called hatred actually is fear.

Just to throw a toaster in the bathwater: I don't believe in homophobia, either. I mean, I believe the behavior we label as such definitely exists. But I think what goes on out there, in the primal toddler world of naming, is everyone's deciding is it male or female? Male = good, female = not as good or bad. Behaving like a male = good. Behaving like a female = not as good (if it is demonstrably a female doing it) or bad (if it is not clearly a female). So, when gender is ambiguous; when a man allow another male to "treat him like a female"; or when a female dares "behave like male", well, the fear kicks in and Something Must Be Done. But it's all sexism. It all flows from the initial gender division and the silly, silly idea that masculine and feminine have intrinsic meaning, beyond the symbolic.

To make another analogy, light and dark have intrinsic meaning. But the application of those to behavior, to human character, and thence to racial categories moved symbolism into a binary. But the binary of light and dark has no useful meaning when it comes to human beings -- we're all shades of grey, and trying to fit into either light or dark is dehumanizing. I see no future in my future for masculine and feminine. I'd rather use precision of language. "Strong", for example, is not the opposite of "flexible". "Empathetic" is not the opposite of "decisive."

Jana, is there a grammatical reason for this obsession with binaries and perceived opposites? This is a Greek habit we've inherited?

A few years ago, a friend told me that Sesame Street had stopped using the visual game my daughter grew up on, where four things are shown on the screen and the song goes "One of these things is not like the others; one of these things is not the same". They had realized this encouraged either/or thinking instead of noticing subtle differences and coming up with more than one alternative category.

There was an article in yesterday's Yahoo news feed that a study just completed showed toddlers by the age of two can instantly recognize "gender-appropriate" or "inappropriate" behavior, and their attention is drawn to the latter. Depressing. And reminds me of that old Charlie Murphy song, which my godson adores: "The minute you're born, grown-ups look where you pee / To try and tell you what you've got to be / Girls pink and quiet, boys noisy and blue / It seems like a dumb way to choose what to do / It's only a wee-wee, so what's the big deal / It's only a wee-wee, so what's all the fuss / It's only a wee-wee and everyone's got one / There's better things to discuss."

Maggie Jochild said...

Shado, have you been to Pam Isherwood's website and gone through all the photos where she conquered her arachnophobia? It's worth taking a gander at -- excuse me, taking a goose at. But not right before you go to bed.

aunt soozie said...

Wow...you all are inspirational.
And I'm gonna post my thoughts here soon...about the whole MWMF thing. They're not totally soup yet but this seems the place to start my brew.
Everyone has had such interesting things to say...and speaking of camping...that was an area I was able to find my people with when we discussed mwmf on that other blog.
I worked as a camp counselor at girl scout camp for six years...nine weeks I believe it was...one week of staff training and then eight with kids...every summer for six years. I never adjusted to sleeping in those OPEN platform tents. They didn't bother with screening or zippers...just canvas hanging there with a few ties in case it got really windy during a thunder storm. Every bit of wildlife that wanted in, got in.
My tent mates over the years could tell you some fun stories of my night terrors...checking the inside of my sleeping bag with my flashnight everynight before I got in it...dreaming that a big ol'spider (and no maggie, I ain't going over there to see how she conquered her phobia...what the hell is wrong with that woman!!) anyway, dreaming there was a big ol' spider walking on my pillow and waking up and slamming my tent mate on her head with my pillow as I vigorously shook out the imaginary beast. Oh, they had fun times with me. there was the occasional..."are you sleeping?"
"did you hear that?"
"there's someting in our tent"
"no really, I'm sure this time, there's something in here with us?"
"do you smell that? it's a skunk. that smells so strong, it must be right under our tent, or maybe it's in here, did you bring any food in here?"
and that usual answer...
"susan, go to sleep"
Good thing I'm so adorable and charming or I never would have lived through it.
Alright, so now you know how I feel about camping but soon I'll say how I feel about separatism.
Until then...I leave you to get some well needed rest, in my nice indoor bed...with my cat, who eats bugs for me...what a good girl she is...
Love,
Auntie
and Hammerwoman, you crack me up...yeah, you're right, they won't be looking up any o'our fucked up dna when they decide to start that human cloning...not a chance...though it wouldn't be a bad idea...
and drakyn...
you are a baby aren't you?
You were 16/17 two years ago?
shit my friend, you sure can hold your own for such a youngster, you go!

drakyn said...

Aunt Soozie, I'm nineteen, but closer to twenty, but sometimes I forget I'm not still eighteen. ^.^;;
And I remember those platform tents! I actually really liked them though. The only reasons I wouldn't want to sleep without a tent are wet ground and rain; those tents solved both issues. ^.^
I actually went hiking with ropes and tarps for our tents.
But I also have no animal-based fears. I would like a pet spider, snake, scorpion, etc.
And I will also admit that I was the kid who chased people around while holding "scary" animals (real or fake). ^.^;;

aunt soozie said...

yeah drakyn...camping with tarps and ropes...not to judge you or anything but...uhm, that just ain't right!
(just KIDDING!) nobody has to yell at me for that. those I don't think we have any yellers here.
I know some kids who grew up in parts of California where they would just sleep under the stars at camp because it never rained!! How cool is that?

Maggie Jochild said...

Ah, canvas tents! When I was a teenager and persuaded my high school history teacher to leave her husband for me (another story), we would go camping for time away from community scrutiny, borrowing a massive canvas tent with just ties. Slept on cots, also canvas. Thus, at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma, I woke up to the strong smell of skunk and the sensation of an upheld brushy tail traveling the underside of the cot beneath my spine. We lay there in terrified silence because my/our daughter, then three, always cried when she woke up. Finally our visitor left.

It was on another camping trip, same place and tenters, when my new lover snapped (she was a city type) and attacked a massive buffalo who had come to the metal trash can next to our tent to eat discarded watermelon rind. She took a wooden end-piece from a cot and began whacking the buffalo on its back, big clouds of dust and fur floating in the air, as she screamed at it to leave. The man in the next-door site took photos while the rest of his family hid in the car, waiting for the crazy lady to be trampled. The buffalo looked at her in disbelief, then sighed and ambled on.

Has this thread become too intense?

Aunt Soozie said...

Maggie,
Can you start a new thread where we can continue this conversation?
On my MAC it is a hassle to scroll up and down and it's getting unwieldy..but, maybe you meant content wise... :)
I was a bit intrigued by the first line of your last entry...my goodness!

hammerwoman said...

Oooohhh noooooo. . . I guess somebody hadda do it!

As long as the serious discussions can be leavened a bit with low humor, I think we're still okay!

drakyn said...

Has anyone here ever read transe-generation.com? Its a cute comic about the lighter sides of being trans*. Like the worst gift to give a trans*woman is a Dickies purse.

little gator said...

Maggie-could you find me that ex who wasn't afraid to attack a buffalo? we have a woodchuck eating our garden, and it's way too bold, seeming to have no fear of humans.

We smokebombed the tunnel we could find, but the garden-eater has its tunnel in an impassable thicket of bittersweet and wild roses.

We're trying assorted repellants. Dehydrated coyote urine, human urine, dog hair, dog droppings and hot pepper have all been suggested.

It's worse than raccoons, who go for sweet corn. Woodchucks eat almost anything.

shadocat said...

gatoe, I'm afraid you're going to have to cage-trap him, and release him faaaaaar away (preferably in another state). Either that, or get a pit bull....

Maggie Jochild said...

Gator, how exactly do you locate a dehydrated coyote? At a watering hole?

The ex in question is no longer available, I'm afraid. On a later camping trip, she became so enraged at the all-night boombox partying of a nearby gathering of drunken redneck teenaged boys that she drove our VW bug through the middle of them, seriously trying to run them down. We were chased for an hour by pick-up trucks bent on revenge until finally she listened to me, shrieking from the back seat with our terrified daughter, and drove to the parking lot of a Highway Patrol office. This shook off our followers. She now is a school therapist in North Texas. (I'm not kidding.)

What eats woodchucks? Maybe you could get a pet wolverine...

Ginjoint said...

Um, hi everyone. Is it O.K. if I post here, or would you rather keep things private? I'll understand if you do.

Ginjoint said...

Fuck, Jochild, I have missed your wit.

Maggie Jochild said...

GINJOINT! Same back atcha! So glad to see you here -- you always make me laugh so hard I leak.

Of course, we are open to all who have orange cake capacity. (Going off on tangents, no meanness, chubby or chub-loving, etc.)

And -- Fuck Jochild? A new goal for 2007, methinks.

Ginjoint said...

Thank Goddess for the welcome. I'll hop on over to Daughter of Michigan...

little gator said...

How to get a dehydrated coyote:

Get a roadrunner to lure it into falling of a cliff into a dry riverbed, so it raises a puff of dust when it lands.

We no longer feel gilty abotu gassing it. The next day both entries had been re-dug.

I'd put out poison but I'm afraid the neighbor's cat might eat it. The poison that is, he's welcome ot eat the woodchuck.

Meanwhile, all this digging and brush-hacking in the woodsy part of my yard has left me with bug bites all over. The ones in my butt crack are especially itchy.

Anonymous said...

I came over here from the link on the Alison Bechdel site. I'd never say this there, but I am dying to say it somewhere. I never have before.

To wit:

If FTMs are men, why are they still hanging around women's community? Draining the energy of lesbians and women's spaces? If they are men, then adios, goodbye. Go be a man then. Unfortunately, I feel many are strutting around women's space, demanding you call them HE, enthusiastically bragging to SF GATE about "how nice it is to be taken seriously and assumed to be capable at last!" and how thrilled they are to be called "SIR"... oh please. Go blend in with the guys please, and preen to your masculine-fratboy heart's content. Norah Vincent is calling. BYE!!!!

For people who are supposedly "men"--FTMs appear to be mostly ex-lesbians and take up with lesbians and hang with lesbian community. I find this infuriating. They are totally accepted, but with a wink. I think FTMs are STILL regarded as women (not by me), but everyone pretends otherwise. If they were really men, we'd see them on football and basketball teams, hunting, doing all that guy shit they worship, WITH OTHER MEN. Instead, they are all over MWMF and insisting WOMEN (!!) honor their new masculine identities. Sorry, I honor NO masculine identity, ever, period. Masculinity is the enemy--and if you identify that way, you are DELIBERATELY choosing to identify with the oppressors of the WORLD. As a feminst, why should I think some MAN, however he got that way, is worthy of respect simply "as a man"? Fuck that!

OTOH, MTFs have divested themselves of male privilege and often seek to politically align themselves with us. We should welcome them. Instead, in lesbian communities, the FTMs are fetishized as cuties, and the MTFs are treated like shit, in my observation. WTF????

Anyway, that's how I feel. Thank you for the opportunity to say so at last.

Maggie Jochild said...

Welcome, Anonymous. If you're gonna stick around for future comments, we encourage you to pick a moniker (anything at all) so we can distinguish you from other Anonymous posters and you can perchance develop a recognizable persona among us.

I'm glad you found a place to say something you've not felt comfortable saying elsewhere. You are likely to get answers to some of the questions you posed, and for those who answer as well as you, let's keep it as calm as possible -- however deeply this strikes at our sense of identity and community, as it clearly does.

Anonymous, you raise the question that you've observed Lesbians treating FtM folks as if they are still women and MtF folks as if they are not women. You asked "WTF?" Do you have an answer for the question? An idea of why this might be occurring? Something that doesn't rely in the notion that people are just fucked up, but instead digs into the confusion and fear of disconnect that might be a unifying factor for us all -- even if we disagree about the conclusion to be drawn from it.

shadocat said...

Hey, Anonymous,

Thanks for stopping by! If you do change your handle, I recommend steering clear of "A Nonny Mouse"; I got into a bit of a mess with that one once...

I don't know why FtM's are still hanging around the women's community; maybe that's where all their friends still are. Or maybe it's because straight guys are just not accepting of people who fall under the "lavender umbrella".

Don't get me wrong; I've also been involved in social organizations where lesbians seem to climb all over themselves just to get the attention of whatever males are there, be they FtM's or plain ole gay men. Why, I can only speculate. Maybe it's some latent hetero sexism, or the remnants of all the indoctrination we receive in a society of male privilege. Or maybe they're just f'd up.I guess there's a lot of us that still have a long way to go...

little gator said...

I had a gerbil named Nonny Mouse. The other gerbil was Notevena Mouse. I called them Noony and Notty.

liza said...

way back at the beginning of this thread hammerwoman writes about meeting dyke at the translating identities conference. Hey! that was me.

I never served on the organizing committee. There never was a committee, even though it was called the "we want the music collective" that was, as humpty dumpty would say, just the name, not a descriptor. It was two women who owned it, one remaining.

Anyway, I did crafts there , and on a couple of occaisons, lent them money. then they had nerve to tell me that I was never to darken their doorstep again. Having nothing to do with trans issues, but still.


And yes, I did write an anti trans article in the 70's. I can't believe thirty years has passed since then.

Anyhoo. Seeing you at that conference was great because I learned a lot and more than that, i saw how comfortable you were in your body. You just looked happy and relaxed and, as I think I told you at the time, gorgeous and dykey.

funny how sometimes people's paths cross in the oddest ways.

Heart said...

Wimmin, I have really enjoyed this thread! I had no idea this discussion was taking place and wish I'd have read it while it was happening. :)

I wanted to let you all know that the Gendercator will be showing in Milwaukee this Sunday, info is here:

http://womensspace.wordpress.com/2007/07/27/gendercator-playing-in-milwaukee-july-29/

Rock on, womyn, and I see you live in Seattle, Jana! I work there every day, but live in Gig Harbor.

:)

Heart

Maggie Jochild said...

Hey, Heart, nice to hear from you. If you're the same Heart I've seen on other threads, I've really enjoyed your perspective and eloquence time and time again.

I am GLAD to hear Gendercator is going to be seen. I definitely prefer the chance to make my own mind up about art, instead of having women censored for even daring to ask certain questions. Alas, I live in Texas -- but if you hear of future showings, will you please post them at this site, on any thread that's current? We live all over the country, so one of us might get a chance to view it.

Keep the faith. And join in whenever you have something to say.

Heart said...

Thanks, Maggie Jochild! Now that I've actually "discovered" you, I'll be reading you regularly.

And yeah, I'm the "Heart" you've read around. Thanks for the kind welcome!

Heart

shadocat said...

Heart,welcome to our blog! I'm a big fan, so I'm very honored you stopped by.

Daisy said...

Maggie: Nothing to do with trans. Or men.

What about the FTMs--do you include them as "men"? Aren't they permitted into festival?

Maggie Jochild said...

Daisy, the quote of mine you reference was me talking about the origins of the concept "woman born woman" and the related "of woman born". So I'm not sure how your question pertains. But I'll answer it: As I understand the policy, Michigan is set up culturally to be by and about women who currently identify as woman and who received female conditioning from birth. That limits attendance to a specific kind of woman. Just as "working-class woman" would limit attendance to a particular kind of woman -- depending on the guidelines, it could mean a woman who was born and raised working class, or it could mean a woman who was now working class but not by birth, or it could mean a woman who had at one point in her life been working class, no matter how she had been born or identified currently. It's up to the FUBU crowd to self-define.

Michigan requests self-monitoring of these identities. The phrase "panty check" is a made-up notion used for inflammatory purposes. If you don't respect this request, the consequences will mostly fall in the realm of feeling "out of place" at the Festival, which you will most assuredly be.

The debate between essentialism vs. constructionism is what really separates the theories at play here. Do you believe your personality/identity is overwhelmingly shaped by cultural definitions imposed on you based on your perceived gender (race, class, sexuality, weight, etc.), or do you believe there is some inherent biological reality to your body that has shaped the majority of your identity? If you believe in "construction" of gender, rather than that our Western definition of "male" and "female" is somehow imprinted on our genes, then conditioning becomes the classroom where you learned all the lies that limit you (and everyone else) from full expression. And, logically, the ONLY means you have for undoing conditioning is to (a) recognize how it was laid in place and (b) undo it emotionally and psychologically. If it is a psychological construct that is irrelevant to appearance, then altering appearance is not only pointless but, in fact, tends to reinforce the lie. Just as, to follow the notion of another thread, dying your hair red won't make you share the experience of someone who was red-haired from birth or dying your hair black if you born red-haired won't "erase" all the messages you grew up with.

The idea that your physical appearance has ANY meaningful connection to your "content of character" is the great fallacy of the patriarchy. Trying to fit into their schematic is dehumanizing.

Of course, we all do it. We're all in drag. That's part of the reason why I personally don't find drag shows particularly inspirational -- so what else is new? Every lesbian-feminist I knew in my 20s felt like she was in drag whenever she dressed as a "woman" was supposed to dress. The sense of being "other" was what we claimed as Lesbians. For us, it was a profoundly radical step to insist we were women, as well (although a distinct category of woman). Lesbians were not considered real "women" at that time. Because we had to define ourselves, we desperately needed places to gather that were, in some way, deliberately outside male definitions of womanhood, in hopes of sussing out and tracing the conditioning that had made us women. A conditioning that we had not chosen, which was imposed on us by others at the moment of birth, and which bore no rational relationship to biology: internal, external or manipulated.

I believe, absolutely and as an article of deep faith, that human beings can undo any lie we've created as a culture. I believe in the ability to transform ourselves, individually and as a species. But I also believe, completely, that a necessary first step is self-knowledge: You have to know what was imprinted upon you before you can sort through the crap and decide what truths you want to retain.

This is hard, hard work. As a woman, as a white person, as someone born and raised poor/working class, as someone raised christian, as someone born disabled, as a child who grew into adulthood, as a Southerner, as an American, as a Lesbian -- I carry many identities, some of them target for oppression, some of them nontarget. But all of these identities are defined by the larger culture, and where I am target, those definitions carry profound oppression that usually limits my ability to survive to some extent. I cannot undo that oppression by "passing" or simply defining myself. The institutions continue on unabated when I take a purely personal approach to self-definition. I must travel to the source, not just in myself but also the dominant culture, and question every so-called given.

One of the means of doing this is by gathering with others who have been raised with the same lies to hold our conditioning up to a lens and deconstruct it as members of the target group.

I don't see a way to effectively do this with members of the nontarget group among us. I've tried. I believe in alliance-building, I believe in crossing boundaries. I believe communication will set us free. But to know your "self" means separating it, somehow, from the lies you were raised with. And those who were not raised with the same lies will not embody them the same way.

Everybody is raised with sexism, the belief that there is one good or "real" gender (male) and all other genders are "less-than" or "not-male". But psychologically, when you are a newborn and in those first two years, whether you are hearing you are the "right" gender or the "other" gender plays a fundamental role in self-definition. Even if, especially if, you are rejecting that definition.

One of the things I'm witnessing these days is that the basic recognition that gender is bogus, that every single child on the planet experiences dissonance and that internal voice of "but that's not who I am" when s/he is told how her gender role must be expressed -- that rejection is now being labeled as a trans identity. Whereas in my day, we simply recognized it as being female and male. No child on earth, when presented with gender roles, says "Wow, that fits me perfectly". To separate out our natural potential for unity as trans and non-trans (or cis) seems to me just as stupid as what we did in our day, which was to separate it into Lesbian and non-Lesbian. Yes, if you grow up to be a Lesbian your day-to-day experience will be different from that of straight women -- but the basic "inappropriateness" of what is defined as female will be familiar to all women who were raised as girls. The label of "other" belongs to everybody -- that's the inherent oppression of gender roles. The brutality of not "fitting" what body you were born into falls on everybody.

In the disabled community, we recognize that feeling like a "freak" is part of being human; being publicly identified as "freak" is something visibly disabled people cannot avoid, that's the only difference. So to claim a special category of freakness because we cannot "pass" is not conducive to reaching the hearts and minds of temporarily able-bodied folks who are equally terrified of the label. Yes, we need to meet together as crips to sort out the oppression -- and, in our circles, we recognize the inherent difference between those who were raised disabled vs. those who became disabled as older children or adults. Making that distinction is critical to being able to understand how the conditioning was visited on us, and it is not viewed as oppressive to those who came to disability later in life. It just "is" different.

Which doesn't necessarily translate to the divide in the women's community over definitions of womanhood, I'm not being obtuse. There are some disabled people who believe that being born a crip gives you a more profound crip identity than if you are disabled later in life. I tend to think they're right. But if they/we began to claim a moral superiority as a result of birthright disability, then I'd object. Just as I would object to anyone who tried to say that becoming disabled later in life meant your experience and definition as disabled as EXACTLY THE SAME as someone who was born disabled. Bullshit.

Recent biological studies are indicating that not only does conditioning alter the genetic expression of certain animals in their lifetimes, but (shockingly) conditioning can permanently alter the gene itself, so all future generations have the same expression. If this translates to human, it has profound implications for social policy, for insuring that every human being has access to adequate nutrition, healthcare, education, and freedom, as well as the potential for undoing the eviscerating effects of constructed roles such as race, class and gender.

And, I might add, it means that arguing over language and expression becomes just as important as considering the vitamin content of bread. At some point, the notion of allowing others to call us a gendered term will be understood to be complicit with hate speech.

This is often too abstract to grasp. I'll refer you all now to a website which has a posting of "Privilege Lists", a way of reading through the areas where you are target or nontarget for oppression and, hopefully, coming to understand the detailed implications of conditioning, not just your current identity expression. I don't think the term "privilege" moves people forward in the way I'd most like, because trying to induce guilt or fear is counterproductive -- which is why I use target and nontarget instead of victim and oppressor. You begin with decoding your own conditioning, but when it comes time to change, it's not about you changing personally, it's about systems of oppression, not individuals.

The list of lists can be found at A List of Privilege Lists

And, since this reply is already extremely long, I will close by reproducing here their "Male Privilege Checklist", created by Barry Deutsch in unabashed imitation of an article by Peggy McIntosh. Anything on this list which states "As a child" (as well as several other qualifiers) refers to conditioning that was shoved down your throat before you had the intellectual, emotional or material resources to successfully deflect the lies. And if you were target (i.e., labeled as female), how it hit your psyche will be fundamentally different than if you were nontarget. We can find the common ground and meet there, but first we have to retrace our steps from the beginning and claim the entire route. Truth demands nothing less.

The Male Privilege Check List

1. My odds of being hired for a job, when competing against female applicants, are probably skewed in my favor. The more prestigious the job, the larger the odds are skewed.
2. I can be confident that my co-workers won’t think I got my job because of my sex - even though that might be true.
3. If I am never promoted, it’s not because of my sex.
4. If I fail in my job or career, I can feel sure this won’t be seen as a black mark against my entire sex’s capabilities.
5. I am far less likely to face sexual harassment at work than my female co-workers are.
6. If I do the same task as a woman, and if the measurement is at all subjective, chances are people will think I did a better job.
7. If I’m a teen or adult, and if I can stay out of prison, my odds of being raped are relatively low.
8. On average, I am taught to fear walking alone after dark in average public spaces much less than my female counterparts are.
9. If I choose not to have children, my masculinity will not be called into question.
10. If I have children but do not provide primary care for them, my masculinity will not be called into question.
11. If I have children and provide primary care for them, I’ll be praised for extraordinary parenting if I’m even marginally competent.
12. If I have children and a career, no one will think I’m selfish for not staying at home.
13. If I seek political office, my relationship with my children, or who I hire to take care of them, will probably not be scrutinized by the press.
14. My elected representatives are mostly people of my own sex. The more prestigious and powerful the elected position, the more this is true.
15. When I ask to see “the person in charge,” odds are I will face a person of my own sex. The higher-up in the organization the person is, the surer I can be.
16. As a child, chances are I was encouraged to be more active and outgoing than my sisters.
17. As a child, I could choose from an almost infinite variety of children’s media featuring positive, active, non-stereotyped heroes of my own sex. I never had to look for it; male protagonists were (and are) the default.
18. As a child, chances are I got more teacher attention than girls who raised their hands just as often.
19. If my day, week or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether or not it has sexist overtones.
20. I can turn on the television or glance at the front page of the newspaper and see people of my own sex widely represented, every day, without exception.
21. If I’m careless with my financial affairs it won’t be attributed to my sex.
22. If I’m careless with my driving it won’t be attributed to my sex.
23. I can speak in public to a large group without putting my sex on trial.
24. Even if I sleep with a lot of women, there is no chance that I will be seriously labeled a “slut,” nor is there any male counterpart to “slut-bashing.”
25. I do not have to worry about the message my wardrobe sends about my sexual availability or my gender conformity.
26. My clothing is typically less expensive and better-constructed than women’s clothing for the same social status. While I have fewer options, my clothes will probably fit better than a woman’s without tailoring.
27. The grooming regimen expected of me is relatively cheap and consumes little time.
28. If I buy a new car, chances are I’ll be offered a better price than a woman buying the same car.
29. If I’m not conventionally attractive, the disadvantages are relatively small and easy to ignore.
30. I can be loud with no fear of being called a shrew. I can be aggressive with no fear of being called a bitch.
31. I can ask for legal protection from violence that happens mostly to men without being seen as a selfish special interest, since that kind of violence is called “crime” and is a general social concern. (Violence that happens mostly to women is usually called “domestic violence” or “acquaintance rape,” and is seen as a special interest issue.)
32. I can be confident that the ordinary language of day-to-day existence will always include my sex. “All men are created equal,” mailman, chairman, freshman, he.
33. My ability to make important decisions and my capability in general will never be questioned depending on what time of the month it is.
34. I will never be expected to change my name upon marriage or questioned if I don’t change my name.
35. The decision to hire me will never be based on assumptions about whether or not I might choose to have a family sometime soon.
36. Every major religion in the world is led primarily by people of my own sex. Even God, in most major religions, is pictured as male.
37. Most major religions argue that I should be the head of my household, while my wife and children should be subservient to me.
38. If I have a wife or live-in girlfriend, chances are we’ll divide up household chores so that she does most of the labor, and in particular the most repetitive and unrewarding tasks.
39. If I have children with a wife or girlfriend, chances are she’ll do most of the childrearing, and in particular the most dirty, repetitive and unrewarding parts of childrearing.
40. If I have children with a wife or girlfriend, and it turns out that one of us needs to make career sacrifices to raise the kids, chances are we’ll both assume the career sacrificed should be hers.
41. Magazines, billboards, television, movies, pornography, and virtually all of media is filled with images of scantily-clad women intended to appeal to me sexually. Such images of men exist, but are rarer.
42. In general, I am under much less pressure to be thin than my female counterparts are. If I am fat, I probably suffer fewer social and economic consequences for being fat than fat women do.
43. If I am heterosexual, it’s incredibly unlikely that I’ll ever be beaten up by a spouse or lover.
44. Complete strangers generally do not walk up to me on the street and tell me to “smile.”
45. On average, I am not interrupted by women as often as women are interrupted by men.
46. I have the privilege of being unaware of my male privilege.

liza said...

Daisy, I have no idea if ftms are allowed at Michigan but if I were in charge (which I'm not, even remotely) I'd say no. Either they are men or they are not. If they are, why would they go to a women only festival except as voyeurs.

I believe the fest is for women who were born women. Not men who were born women. If they don't allow mtfs why on earth should they allow ftms?