What the hell?
We should talk. Or perhaps not.
[Trigger warning for transphobia and allusions to transphobic violence]
In case the world doesn’t have enough autobiographical accounts of white ladies going through gender transition, forgive me for a few observations.
There’s a glut of certain narratives, but aside from that, there’s another reason I don’t often write about my transition. It’s hard to write about. In my experience, being a trans person involves a lot of pain and isolation. Seriously (not seriously) how the hell is it possible to write from a place of pain and isolation? Anyhow, let me be the first (not quite the first). Besides, it’s a happy story. A greatly abridged happy story.
I remember my early days, the days of stealthily perusing the broccoli at the Waupaca Piggly Wiggly while wearing clear nail polish. I remember that was the biggest deal ever.
I remember pumping gas after dark while wearing a skirt. My therapist and I worked together in concocting that scheme. The darkness cut down on visibility. Pumping gas involved having a car within arm’s reach, should “something” happen.
There were the long, dark drives between Madison and meetings in Brookfield, two safe havens separated by seventy miles of interstate. If it was absolutely necessary and I was up to it, I might catch a bite from a restaurant drive thru, but that was about it.
I remember clinging tightly to Becca while leaving a movie (a matinée, no less). Neither of us remembers the movie. That day wasn’t about the movie.
Things have gotten better, happier, less scary, but I still carry around a little piece of that past terror with me everywhere I go. It’s just there. I don’t dare say it’s reassuring, but it’s grounding to be able to hold on to it, taking it out of my pocket from time-to-time just to know that I’m still here. I’m still here. I’m still Kate.
All of this seems to have happened ages ago, but my sense of time is blurred. Life starts with the assertion of an identity, which in my case is a relatively recent phenomenon.
I can tell you when things started to get better, good even. On April 27, 2006, exactly five years ago today, the Dane County Circuit Court granted my request for a legal name change. Read more…
This morning I spent about an hour digging through a massive pile of medical bills looking for a letter that says I’m a chick. Normally I wouldn’t bother, but it’s from someone who matters. Anyhow, I’m sure my endocrinologist will write me a new one once I’m caught up on my account.
America! :jazz hands:
I’m not organized enough to be queer.
Gender identity enigma
Semenya is a hermaphrodite
Fair playing field
Distinct advantages against women in sports
Forced to have gender testing
The concept makes precious little sense
Strength of men
Having both male and female sex chromosomes
A transsexual Masters for aging duffers
Switching anatomy if not human atoms
Some among us recreate their very identity
Conundrum of applying broad civil rights
Privileges that she feels she is now entitled to
Even Dr. Renee Richards
Male-to-female tennis player
Mixed transgendered doubles at Wimbledon
Not created equal
The measure of a man
Remains that of a man
The measure of a woman
Female but transgendered to male
The two can’t be conjoined into one
Born and raised a female
Though never officially confirmed
A female, too, both legally and in her own mind
Core reality has been blurred
These are but a few of the words in today’s Toronto Star.
My heartfelt condolences to friends of Mary Daly, and to the women everywhere who her work touched in a positive way.
I don’t have a lot to say about Daly, but rather the reaction to it in the feminist blogosphere. Her work and its legacy is continuing source of harm to a lot of transsexual people, notably transsexual women. Daly’s brand of feminism didn’t take into account the realities of people of color, or heterosexual women, or a lot of people, really. Yet, she was an extraordinarily important figure in 20th century feminism and inspired countless women to fight for social justice.
Various bloggers (as is not uncommon, I’m crushing on Sady at Tiger Beatdown) have framed Daly’s legacy as a complicated and not entirely positive one. What’s depressingly unsurprising is the amount and nature of the acrimony I’ve seen. Some commenters attacked Melissa McEwan for, well, I’m not exactly sure what, but their point seems to be that she wasn’t being mean enough to Daly. Oh! Is anyone in the mood for transphobia? I’ve seen folks use Daly’s passing as an opening to give their opinions about what’s wrong with transsexual women (e.g., why Daly was right), tell us what to do with our bodies, imply that we don’t know how to read, rehash what they think is wrong with the term “cis.” Also, you may have never heard that Leslie Feinberg makes stuff up (I don’t get it, but I hear that a lot from folks who tend not to like trans people). And there were these trans people once who were really mean, so you know, all trans people are…. Bingo!!!!! Speaking of not racist, did you know that Audre Lorde was on the drugs?
Historiann makes a lot of really good points about the blogosphere’s limitations, although I have to disagree with what I see as her implication that transsexual women are some sort of fringe group, and that we can’t please all the people all the time, and…. Anyhow, the thread on that post contains a subset of the nasty things I mentioned above, verifying some of the issues that Historiann sees with discourse on internet.
So, like any good blogger, I’m going to discuss Mary Daly by changing the subject to something entirely different. Germaine Greer, goddess be praised, is still with us. She’s also written some incredibly hateful things about transsexual women. I’m not talking about “back in the day”, either. As late as 2009, she’s been publicly railing against us– there’s simply no way one can talk about Greer’s transphobia as a historical phenomenon that contrasts with her recent private views. As the whole Rachel Padman outing shows, Greer hasn’t just been interested in saying mean things about trans women– she’s actually had the follow through to actively hurt specific trans women. All of this, I don’t like so much.
Speaking of which, last year I was exploring programs to involve the public in urban ecology and insect conservation. I occasionally do this sort of thing, on account of how it’s somewhat related to my job, and my Ph. D. research, and I find it interesting and worthwhile. It turns out that there’s this great group out in the UK, Buglife, that does really great things. I was impressed, and spend some time poking around their website. Eventually, Germaine Greer’s name turned up. Multiple times. On account of how she’s the president of the organization.
In my mind, Germaine Greer has done some things that are, well, I don’t like the word unforgivable, and I’m not sure if it applies here, but it’s certainly close. She’s also done (and is doing) some really laudable things. Oh! Here’s the kicker– devil Greer and angel Greer are like, totally the same person! What do you do with a person like that? I’ve often wondered what would happen if I met Greer for cookies and tea. I mean, wow… what would we talk about? Would we be able to talk? Anyhow, we’re not exactly neighbors, so that’s an unlikely scenario.
Mary Daly and Germaine Greer symbolize a much larger issue that I face as a transsexual woman– that of a world of people, including fundamentally good people (which frankly, is most of them) that say or do (or don’t do) certain things that offend me. I know plenty of people who say great things about Daly or Greer, do I cut them out of my life for siding with “the enemy”? Should I stop listening to Le Tigre on account of the band’s mention of Greer in Hot Topic? Do I owe Kathleen Hanna a letter?
This isn’t just about famous feminists or the lineup at the Michigan Women’s Music Festival. Literally every day, I find myself interacting with people, friends even, who are blinded by cissexual privilege. And yes, I am using the words literally, every, and day correctly– heads it’s salad for for dinner, tails you’ve said or done something that I’ve found deeply hurtful. Sometimes comments come out from people who don’t know that I’m trans. Other times, acquaintances know that I’m trans, but say things about trans people that they don’t intend to apply to me on account of how I’m totally not like other trans people. Every single day of my life I need to deal with people who I have a complicated relationship with– including friends and loved ones who are really, truly, awesome people, yet don’t entirely get the trans thing. Transphobia– our society is soaking in it, and I can’t simply choose to live in a alternate universe where this isn’t the case. People are complicated. Life is complicated.
Which brings me back to Mary Daly, who as C. L. Minou points out in something she posted while I was working on this, is a complicated woman. Wave-particle duality comes to mind. Discussing Daly’s life isn’t just a matter of choosing between black or white. Daly doesn’t simply present as a shade of gray. Her legacy can be both black and white. How one chooses to eulogize Daly depends on where one is coming from. While am I resolute in my conviction that it’s important to acknowledge all of the harm Daly did to my community, I also respect that this does not prevent her from being a “good person”.
Discussing complicated people is difficult. However, if I can find I way to navigate society, and if physicists can find a way to explain light, I’d like to think we can have a respectful conversation about the legacy of Mary Daly. Thank you to each and every one of you who has attempted to make that conversation a reality.
Originally posted at Duck, Duck, Gay Duck the First.
I hate you. Please go away, and take your smug cissexual “allies” with you.
I really can’t muster many words at the moment. After hearing about [TRIGGER WARNING: discussion of epic transphobia] your latest failure, I’m heading home for the afternoon for some hot tea and a soothing bath. Maybe I’ll hide under the covers for a while.
Seriously? This shit [I'm not linking to it, wade over to the original piece at your own risk] is a hazard to my mental health. I can’t be the only trans person who feels this way. I’d add that your shit is also a hazard to my physical health, given the logical consequences of having yet another public “dialogue” about such “challenging” issues.
And yes, I do struggle with mental illness, and yes, I am seeing people about it. Look, I know a substantial portion of the population hates me, views me as broken, defective, deviant, and dangerous. I know that there are plenty of folks out there who, either through privilege or active hostility, want to hurt me and my family. I know this, because it’s fucking happened. And yes, I know that plenty of supposed cissexual “allies” speak harshly about me. This shit can be hard to deal with, you know?
Surely, you know what it’s like to live on guard. You’ve had practice steeling yourself against the next, unpredictable blow in a society that most of the time barely tolerates your existance. You know it’s stressful and painful. I know this, because prior to several months ago, I regularly read many of your posts and the accompanying comment threads. Ironic is not the word I’m looking for. Cruel, perhaps.
Stop digging. I don’t want to hear you talk about fostering dialogue (on whether my identity is valid), or challenging readers (about whether bigotry is acceptable), or about how you’re not a safe space (Good for you! It must be so fun and “edgy” for you guys to not have to worry about people who aren’t you). This is all so last week for me. And every week.
Thus, I ask you to STFU already. Seriously.
N. B.: Hate is a strong word, and I’m not entirely sure that it’s the correct word for what I’m feeling. I need time to process. Lest anyone Bilerico apologists take this as evidence of my hateful, unbalanced nature, permit me to remind you that I’m not the one passing off hate speech as part of a “debate”.
Originally posted at Duck, Duck, Gay Duck the First.
As pretty much every person in the United States has noted, there are problems with the health care legislation under consideration in Congress. The bills assume women are aquaria, and that people who don’t have insurance are lazy jerks who need to be punished (and here I am, thinking that being denied a basic human right is punishment enough). Minor issues.
Originally posted at Duck, Duck, Gay Duck the First.
Here’s some background and personal thoughts to accompany my recently posted letter to Morehouse administrators.
As some folks are already aware, Morehouse College recently announced a new “Appropriate Attire Policy.” According to CNN, the policy prohibits several things, including “the wearing of “women’s clothes, makeup, high heels, and purses” by members of the all-male student body. In public comments about the policy, Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. William Bynum implied that “about five” students were particularly problematic, in that their wearing feminine attire and “gay lifestyle” did not fit the college’s vision of Morehouse men. This latest incident does not come out of the blue. As Reverend Irene Monroe writes, there has long been tension within the Morehouse community about the possibility of gay or bisexual Morehouse students.
I have seen a few blogs carry this story, as well as CNN. I haven’t yet seen anything in The Chronicle of Higher Education, perhaps because there isn’t anyone in their offices who has the vision to see this as one of the top 10-20 stories in higher education on any given day. Hopefully this will change. The Morehouse gay students’ group, Morehouse Safe Space, hasn’t spoken out against this policy—reports are that they largely supported the new dress code. As a white woman, life-long northerner, and a transsexual woman who constantly has to fight for her right to be included in women’s spaces (and not relegated to men’s ones), I’ve had to overcome my worries about having my voice dismissed on this issue. However, more people need to speak out. Read more…
It finally came this week. My family and I had just returned from a free (unless you count the jewelry we pawned for gas money) weekend vacation with queer family. Waiting in the mailbox, was a sweet taste of heterosexual privilege, in check form, no less. It was a lovely, and totally expected gesture.
Me and my newly hetero lover debated how to spend the money. Vibrators? Glitter? As subversive (although I understand the my straight, er, fellow straight friends also use such things) and fun as those ideas are, we decided to use the money to deal with the latest disconnect notice from the utility company. Indeed, our inability to pay our bills and provide for our daughter was the impetus. We simply couldn’t afford to be lesbians anymore.
At this point, I probably should explain things. My family has health insurance through my employer. In addition to my daughter and me, my family includes my partner, who is, er, was, a lesbian. While the State of New York extends health insurance benefits to the domestic partners of its employees, federal regulations make the accounting a bit bizarre.
Health insurance is really important and essential (although not essential enough that everyone automatically gets it), that employees’ contributions to health insurance premiums are tax-free. Usually. If you’re the domestic partner of an employee, your sweetie pays for your health insurance premiums after income tax is taken out of hir check. Also, any employer contribution to your health insurance premiums counts as income, because your health insurance is a bonus. This whole set up is to protect the children. Or something.
If you turn your domestic partnership into a federally approved (heterosexual) marriage, a few things happen. You pay fewer taxes to the federal government (due to differences in withholding, it’s not yet clear to me what this means in my case, but my bi-weekly take home pay appears to have risen by a three digit amount). You get to file taxes jointly, which has its benefits. If you’ve already overpaid the taxes on your new spouse’s insurance benefits, your employer might end up sending you a check in the mail, like mine did:
There are all kinds of benefits to marriage, which plenty of other folks have cataloged. These include deeply personal rights, like hospital visitation, as well as any variety of financial benefits (including the costs of not having to pay a lawyer to secure some of the benefits that go along with marriage).
One assumes that straight couples regularly turn their domestic partnerships into marriage. In our case, I happen to be transsexual, which by the very bizarre logic of the federal government makes my lesbian relationship hetero (more on this later). Of course, the big point is that most gay and lesbian couples can’t just choose to receive these benefits for their relationship. That, and I got a check in the mail for not being a homo.
One of the many reasons I don’t like talking about the fact that my sweetie and I are married is that I’ve seen random people use transsexual people’s relationships as punching bags far too often (regularly, even). I don’t want to have to defend my lesbianism, nor my partner’s, to accusations based on what other people thought about me at my birth. We don’t identify as a married heterosexual couple—we never have, for that matter. Read more…
[Trigger Warning: Transphobia and violence]
As many people are aware, this morning the jury reached a verdict in the trial of Dwight DeLee for the murder of Lateisha Green. That verdict was that DeLee was guilty of first-degree manslaughter as a hate crime, and of criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree. I am relieved that the trial ended, and I hope that this verdict brings some small degree of closure to Green’s friends and family, who have suffered tremendously in the months since Lateisha’s murder. I’m pleased to see that they have taken some solace in the ruling.