notes from my rant
mission from god
from my rant yesterday,
It's easy to generalize about humans -- most men do this, most blacks do this, whatever. We reduce a generalized behavior down to labels, then stick them on.
The problem is, though, that reconstituting those labels to understand an individual is impossible.
If I tell you someone was born with a penis, what else can you tell me about them? What do they like or not like? What language do they speak? All you can tell me is that they have a penis, not that they have privilege or are a rapist, or are anything else.
Terms quantify groups, reduce them to a statistical sum. Labels allow us to categorize other people and lets us put ourselves in categories we find comfortable, distinct and separate from other people.
What terms and labels don't allow us to do is to work backwards. We may be able to determine that Sue is female by reduction, but we can't then do the reverse, knowing that if Sue is female, she must be whatever a normative woman is.
You may be able to say that "men are," but that statement can't tell you what any individual man is.
What happens when we find a reason to change the label on anyone? Does that change who they are? What would happen if a reporter dug up the fact that Bill Clinton's birth father was actually a black man, making President Clinton half black? How would that change how you think about him? Would that explain his behavior? Would that be a smear? Would that be an offense to the black community?
It wouldn't change him or his actions one bit, but it might well change the way people thought about him, because it allows your label exceptions to come into play. It may give you cause to try to work backwards, not looking at someone and determining what terms might apply, rather knowing what label someone is and then trying to reconstitute that into what they are.
Let's try an experiment. I gave you 3x5 cards and asked you to describe who you are in 10 words or less. I have those cards, and I have mixed them with other cards, so the person described may or may not be in this room. Ready? Who is the person who is "X, Y, Z?" Are they here? Can you take this label and reconstitute it so that you can tell who this is?
It's hard. You can describe physical characteristics and recall them, but the content of their character, the shape of their soul, the embodiment of their humanity? Can you determine that?
Are people their labels or are they something more?
One of the first labels we learn to put on someone is male/female, which most people describe as man/woman. (one is sex, the other gender, of course, one the shape of the reproductive organs, the other the shape of their soul). I'm not sure what that tells us other than who is a possible reproductive partner with us, but I will admit that has been an important distinction, though we have to know today that few people we meet will be reproductive partners, or even sex partners for that matter.
In lots of people's realities, when we see someone who we determine was born with a penis, the label kicks in. We know that they are "really a man," even when every choice they make screams at us that they are not really a man at all. After all, someone in coifed hair, makeup, a dress, and heels isn't making many manly choices.
We want, however, to believe the label over the human in front of us. We see what we believe we should see, rather than seeing what is in front of us.
Maya Angelou said "When someone tells you who they are, believe them the first time."
People tell us who they are in many ways, though choices of dress, words, behaviors, attitudes and more. Humans communicate their essence to you, but as Ms. Angelou knows, all too often we ignore what they say about themselves, preferring to assume who they are based on the system of labels we use.
"Once you begin to explain or excuse all events on racial grounds,
you begin to indulge in the perilous mythology of race."
James Earl Jones
In other words, if you put your own system of classification of people by skin color over the content of their character, you enter a space where that classification becomes more real than the individual humans behind it.
I know people who would scream to high heaven if you reduced them to a label, but who quickly and easily reduce others. Why? Because they hate being constrained by the pigeon holes of others, the walls between us and them, but they enjoy being able to wall off people, separate themselves.
To see a world where each is accepted as an individual is to be without excuses and walls between us and them, rather to only be accountable with personal responsibility, for our choices. We don't get to claim our choices are racial or genderal or anything else -- they are our choices.
To tear down walls which are made of dried separations, fossilized labels from which the humanity has been extracted is to open up our own humanity. It is to be exposed an individual.
So which is more important to you: individual distinctions or group distinctions?
Group distinctions are important things.
Group distinctions are very valuable for purposes of study, creating classifications and describing behavior. All the sciences use them, creating distinctions and terms.
Group distinctions are very valuable for political purposes. They define us versus them, often allowing the creation of a common enemy to create alliances, using labels for political identification. The whole basis of identity politics is category distinctions.
Group distinctions are very valuable for social purposes. They put us in context, let us see someone and give us a starting point about where and how to approach them. They give standards and references for roles -- what should act like, what women should act like, what blacks should act like and so on. These standards may be valuable, setting a good behavior, or they may be limiting and oppressive, but they do exist in group distinctions.
More than that, group distinctions are very valuable for personal comfort. When we believe that we are not like "them," we are separate and different, we can create different rules for them and us. We can avoid seeing the scary parts of our humanity reflected in other people. We can be comfortable behind the boundaries, the walls, that group distinctions make, feeling separate from "bad" people.
Because of their personal and political utility, group distinctions are the basis of what we call privilege, standing given to someone based on group distinction. That's why privilege is a relative thing. While white, upper-class Christian, heterosexual males who live as men may have privilege in the broadest spaces in this culture, by using group distinctions, we create spaces where privilege is assigned to other categories -- women, blacks, homosexuals, and so on. This means that eroding those group categories erodes privilege, for anyone. White males have seen this -- as their category is eroded, they have to compete with others based on skills and capacity, rather than simply on group distinction, and they complain.
Group distinctions are important. But they are also flawed. After all, category distinctions are the basis of sexism, racism, anti-Semitism and any other prejudice you can name.
That's why, while I use group distinctions, I believe individual distinctions are much more important. They have to take precedence over group distinctions every time.
We know how to reduce someone into a term, a label, a grouping.
What we can't ever do, though, is to turn those terms, labels, groupings back into humanity.
We may know that most human males are bigger in size than most females, so we can create that group distinction. Yet, we cannot assume that just because an individual is male, they are bigger they than the average female.
In fact, every good study about sex differences, categorizing people by group, notes that "the difference between any two members of the same sex grouping may be larger than the difference between the average male and the average female. The average male may be 5' 10", and the average female 5' 7", but there are some males who are 5' nothing, and some females over 6".
The problem I run into as a transperson is simple. I am an exceptional person, and the group distinctions assigned to me don't fit. That doesn't stop people from using the group distinctions they keep in their head to erase my individual distinctions. I might scream with my clothes, adornment and behavior that I am not manly, but that doesn't stop people who determine I was born male to determine I am "really a man." They use the group distinctions to enforce their world.
I said that as a transperson, I am an exceptional person. That's true, but it's not quite the point. I believe that in some way, every human on earth is exceptional, has places where they are above or below or just plain different than the norm.
In an information culture, I believe honoring the exceptional distinctions of every individual over the broad group distinctions that summarize, reduce & erase us, the group distinctions that support privilege, the group distinctions that create walls between people, is the key.
A group distinction, a stereotype, is just a starting point for communicate with someone. When it comes down to a choice between keeping my comfortable stereotypes in my head, or opening up to how each individual is unique, exceptional and full of possibility, I come down on the side of individual distinctions every time.
I know, for example, that just because someone is a jock or a cheerleader, they aren't just what I assume the average jock to be. They are individual and unique, with lots of exceptional qualities hidden behind their group membership -- even if they hide those distinctions to continue being seen as a member of the group.
Being normative, meeting the norms, is always an illusion. Normative is an imitation without an original, to paraphrase Judith Butler, because nobody every had 2 1/2 kids.
When someone tells you who they are, you can believe what they tell you, or you can believe that they are what you expected them to be. You can see and discover their individual distinctions, or you can assign them to a group and let the stereotypes you keep in your head, be they good or bad, erase what they tell you.
I recently read a story in Salon called "Passing In Reverse" about a Jewish gal who worked on a magazine supporting people of color at Berkley. People assumed she was Latina, but when they discovered she was Jewish, it was a big deal. People felt betrayed, even though she never stated she was Hispanic, or ever intimated she was.
Group distinctions were projected, a normative face painted on -- even though in this case, normative meant Latina -- and when they found out her individual distinction, they wondered why they gave her standing & privilege in the group. After all, many of them believed that Jews were part of the problem.
The question again: which is more important to you: individual distinctions or group distinctions?
That's the question. And for me, the old queer, the only answer is simple.
I believe in exceptional individuals more than comfortable stereotypes, no matter how much that challenges my political, social and personal life.
I believe I have to value people's individual choices more than the color of their skin, the shape of their genitals, their ethnic heritage or any other category distinction. If someone makes positive choices, takes personal responsibility for getting better everyday, that is more important than their history or biology.
I watch people and see how their choices reflect their words, how they are open, honest and forthright, rather than being contradictory and manipulative. I watch to see how they follow though on their commitments, their statements and their responsibilities towards others.
When someone gives you the chance to do the right thing, showing themself to you as an individual, you have the chance to move beyond assumptions and expectations of category distinctions. You can stay with the records, beliefs and even prejudices which define your world, or you can accept them as a unique individual.
This is my tranny mission statement, as said by anthopologist Anne Bolin: "In cultures which are rigidly bi-polar, rituals of gender transgression remind us of our continuous common humanity."
channel the dead
speak with aliens
do energy work
choose a modality
for quantum healing
a medium method
around a tarot
council of elders
sounds of the soul
at war for
maybe like all times
we have lots of people
on a mission from god.
so many ladders
to give your life to.
so few destinations
found at the top.
how do you become
a crackpot for your path
when so many paths
seem to skirt the fires
seem to avoid the healing
rather than to engage it?
It's so much more fun
to pack a big bag
full of spiritualesque goodies
go naked into the forest
and face the beast
that is yourself.
that's why people fall in love with paths
and not with destinations
losing critical thinking
about where they are going.
It's easier to follow footsteps
than to find your own way
through the thicket
of your own fears.
I have a calling
but if I want people to honor my calling
do I have to honor their newage calling?
we aren't a generation
known for our discipline
facing unpleasant truths
and overcoming them.
we are a generation
known for our escapism
finding an easy way
to cruise to pleasure
Maybe transpeople tend
to be so self-centered that we heroize people
who were just fighting to do what they needed/wanted to do for themselves,
against the odds rather than people who worked harder to make the world a better place.
Dr. Jake Hale, Philosophy, CSU Northridge (FTM), 17 October 1999
define themselves as normative
striking out against others
they see as not normative
even when external observers
see little difference between the two.
crossdressing is normal, but gays are bad.
transsexualism is normal, but crossdressers are bad.
drag is normal, but transsexualism is bad.
indvidualism is normal, but assimilation is bad
passing is normal, but standing out is bad
heart space is normal, but critical thought is bad.
feminist separatism is normal, but men-only spaces are bad.
and so on
and so on
and so on...
I want to be a woman.
Hell, I want to be a 20 something babe,
so beautiful that she has her own show on the WB
But that's not gonna happen.
So the challenge I have is being the best I can be.
I'm not a man in a dress
I'm a woman born male and raised as a man,.
But I don't think everyone is going to see
no matter how much I want them to.
What they do see is simple
said to me many times
and I rankled:
"I don't see you as a man or a woman
I see you as Callan."
That's the only place my peace lies
in my individual expression
not in fitting into a nice normative role
that seems attractive
I believe in gender roles
they are required for society
and if I believe in them
shouldn't I follow them?
Maybe the question I need to ask myself is:
"What Would Callan Do?"
Oprah and Rosie
they have enormous
I was a big baby
are just big
larger than life
In order to
command the attention of an forum
stay vibrant on the page when words are dried to print
one must be big
to start with.
that when seen close up
who have swallowed their own
Americans love big containers
served on a big plate
in a big land.
They love big
at a distance
buckets of coleslaw
barrels of coke
buffets of abundance
Up close, though
big is challenging.
People like to listen to Howard Stern
but who thinks
they could live with him?
too big for the room
too bold for the room
too bright for the room
too nuanced for the room
So, in her new book "Crossings," Dierdre McCloskey has a list of how she is different now she is a woman:
Deirdre's List of Differences
--She catches falling objects quicker.
--She is more easily startled by loud noises or sudden movements.
--She sweats less.
--She sleeps more and she sleeps better.
--She stutters less. Or so people tell her.
--She loses weight less easily.
--She chooses clothing with an eye, imagining outfits from her closet or the store rack, and can judge instantly when trying them on whether they work.
--Her color memory and color vocabulary are a little better.
--She works at remembering what people wear.
--She remembers neighborhoods better, without effort, and in driving she starts to navigate by landmark and feel rather than by direction and map.
--She likes cooking.
--She listens intently to stories people tell of their lives, and craves detail.
--She is willing to listen to painful stories of sickness and personal catastrophe.
--She is more alert to relational details in stories: Ah, I see, she's his cousin by marriage. She finds herself remembering the family trees, the ex-boyfriends, the big events.
--She has gotten no more skillful at telling stories.
--She is worse at telling jokes.
--She is less single-minded.
--She is therefore less one-tasked.
--She is less impatient.
--She drives more slowly and less aggressively.
--She can't remain angry for long.
--She feels duty bound to wash the dishes.
--She loves, just loves, the little favors of womankind, getting a card for someone, making meatloaf for Charles up the street, helping someone through a day of his life.
People treat her more kindly. A woman is less threatening and gets smiled at more.
--On the other hand, she is treated more casually. Clerks and bureaucrats do not expect trouble from a woman. They are not on guard.
--She assumes a less confident mask for dealings with salespeople and auto mechanics.
--She has stopped paying attention to guy thingssuch as cars and sports and war stories.
--She is uninterested in sports and finds the sports pages pointless.
--She no longer thinks of social life as strict exchange.
--She dotes on every child she meets.
--She reads women novelists, for years only women novelists.
--She takes the woman's side.
--She is religious.
--She is neater, her cleaning lady notes, and Deirdre herself notices her determination to make the bed as soon as she gets out of it.
--She has more friends.
--She looks on men as sexually interesting and emotionally stupid.
--She thinks less about sex.
--She cares about love.
--She gets as much pleasure from loving as from being loved.
--She cares about relationships and devotes sustained thought to them.
("Deirdre's List of Differences" is adapted from Chapter 45, "Differences")
Now, since I haven't read the book, I can't know to what she attributes these differences. Are some just from aging & maturing, or from dropping pretense & defense, having little to do with gender?
I do know that many trannies would attribute these differences to "hormones" -- the myth that chemicals control everything, and any male who has been castrated and/or put on an oestrogen regime would do this. This doesn't explain why men who are hormonally changed, often for treating prostate problems, don't make these changes, don't act like women.
I believe that these differences are about performance, about performing a gender role. Women are the people who make the choices of women, while females are people with female bodies. Gender is a system of communication though which we represent who see ourselves to be and the role we are trained and willing to play in relationship.
Often, being femaled with chemicals frees transgendered people to make the choices of a woman, choices they see as dangerous if they are seen as male. Other things can free them though -- in an article in Oui magazine in the 1980s, David Dalton went to feminization classes and noted that he started to become neater, making his bed immediately afterwards, for example. Our choices retrain us, and things like clothes help enforce those choices with their pressures. Feedback loop, anyone?
In this case, Ms. McCloskey chose to be a woman, and has worked towards that end, rather than many transsexuals who choose to be "themselves" and not embrace being socialized as a woman, seeing that socializatzion as oppressive.
The question for me is the same: How do I feel safe making the choices of a woman? It's a question Kate struggles with -- she is terrfied people will feel betrayed if they see her as a woman born female, discover she is male and then feel betrayed and lied to.
The choices most trannys (born male) have discovered is
lets read these choices
There are two reasons people are uncomfortable with trannies
1) We represent a role they don't want children to follow.
They want to think if we aren't visible, their kids will be like them
2) We challenge their hard won normativity
--We mock the price they paid to be normatively gendered.
--We mock their gender role and the sacrifices they made so we become an object that focuses their pain & rage
-- We may fool them or their kids into queer acts that violate their gender (be that gay or straight)
-- We are a mirror that triggers fears they may be revealed as not as normative as they pretend to be
if these guys are
so beyond social control
they would wear a dress in public
they could do anything
anything nasty and evil.
Most people haven't thought through these reasons, though
They simply know that trannys make them
and while most don't want to change us
they want us to be invisible
so they never feel challenged
to face their own squeamishness
that comes when the solid ground of gender separation
quakes with individual truth.
Depression is the inability to
construct a future
How do I construct a future
when the choice is
dammed if I do
dammed if I don't?
"Come on, Come on!
Make a choice!"
says the devil pushing me
to choose one of those doors
(a la Gary Larsen)
Stuck in the birth canal
because this time
birth is a conscious process
and I know the costs.
my mother, 75 years old
said to me yesterday
"I can't meet people.
I am afraid of going where people are.
And when I meet them, they find me boring
long winded and unfocused
so I have to do all the work of relationship
so I feel abandoned
like I was by my narcissistic mother
like I abandoned my children emotionally
when they didn't make me happy.
"I just want someone
to make me happy
but I'm too old to change
even though my mother lived 25 years
past where I am now."
I understand her plaints
because she wrote them into my programming
because nobody is my mommy
understanding and taking care of me
in a wonderful way.
I look at her
"you have to change
you have to keep trying
you have to find the space where you can give
you have to build relationships
you have to move beyond your fear
you have to accept the love people give you
even if you still feel the lack of love from mommy."
I know all these things
because I had to learn all these things
at least in concept
because doing them
as a tranny
as my mother's child
is still hard.
And what I do for my parents
(adultified early as I was
drama of the gifted child)
is to encourage and empower
to focus on successes & achievements
trying to get them to try again.
my sister called
telling of her first solo kayak outing
from getting the boat in the car by herself
to driving it home.
I applauded her
clapping my hands while I was on the phone
proud of pride
in an achievement
that is simple for others
that was a challenge for her.
they don't know how to do this
to not stay on the negative
to nurture solutions
not be weighted by problems
so when I see them
I feel the energy
sapped out of me
a black mirror
an energy hole
not the gifts of a friend
who reminds you of possibilities
sharing courage and power
when you slow down.
on my tv show
I told some runners
I liked bicycles
"bah!" they said
"On bicycles you can rest
use inertia to get though hard bits.
Runners are real
we have to face every obstacle
and push though."
Do I learn to be a runner
solitary and individual
or am I on a bicycle
who become more of a load
than sharing the challenge?
are on the bicycle
Maybe some, though
have to be runners
cut off from others
making their own journey
and not carrying people with them.
Where do we rest
and how do we
not let that rest
sap all our inertia?
Depression is the inability to
construct a future
to construct a future
takes not being stopped
or at least
being able to self-start
and move into stuff
where energy pays
not the myth of syphius
the stone that always must be pushed
i'm not sure i get the point
of being a guy-in-a-dress
(and every transperson born male
knows they are a hairs-breath of being a guy-in-a-dress
in any moment they are exposed
no matter how femaled and woman
you can have lots of fun
being a guy-in-a-dress.
after all, I should know.
I identified that way for about eight years
even using my given boys name
just changing my clothes.
costume, costume, costume
play and fun
on-stage or off
crossdressers and drag queens
cocky under a mini-skirt.
really a guy
dressing up and playing
swagger and bravado
fun fun fun.
i don't identify as a transsexual
trying to transsex my body
but many transsexuals have said
I seem more like a transsexual
than many self-identified transsexuals.
i do identify as transgender
making new choices
regendering my mind
by moving beyond old patterns
but what does that mean
to the young black man
behind the cash register
"I'll help you next, sir"
to my woman painted face?
The word ma'am would choke in his mouth
he can't be fooled
he can't be lead astray
The drill is the same
the only thing you can be
is a guy-in-a-dress
and don't you forget it.
(how would he feel
if I called him "boy?")
Any wonder why
long-term stealth transsexuals
scream bloody hell at any notion
that draws a line between them
and people who claim to be
in a heartbeat
their years and their efforts can be swept away
because of a bit of birth
and they can be sir again
to a smug teenage face
who claims a victory for his shallow view
of the truth.
I really do love my clothes
my new tights are wonderful
and painting my face
is an ephemeral work of my art
but as much as the phrase
I want to be a drag queen
runs though my head
guy-in-a-dress playing clown
my secret dream
my lost dream
my hardest dream
is simply to be a woman
so I can make the choices of a woman
and never worry about being exposed
even when a lover gets me naked.
I can be a a drag queen,
a big bold queer guy-in-a-dress,
but if that was enough
I would have been happy
this is the great dividing line of
(or "just-a-girl" for transpeople born female)
some cling to guy-in-a-dress
some reject guy-in-a-dress
some ignore guy-in-adress
some attack guy-in-a-dress
and after all
it asks the question
can the expectations laid on history
and on biology
ever be transcended
or is there no hope.
the word crossdressing
should be removed from vocabulary
replaced with transgender.
to crossdress is to focus on clothing
to somehow link clothing with sex
and make sex determinate.
crossdressers, of course
they cling to being men
who just wear cross-clothes
about the objects
and not what they mean.
(which is that the wearer isn't really manly).
crossdressers say "I am a normal guy,
in a dress."
drag queens say "I am a normal gay guy, in a dress."
transpeople say "Guys who wear dresses aren't normative."
transsexuals say "I am a normal female
woman, who was born with a penis."
transpeople say "Women born with penises aren't normative."
wearing clothes culturally assigned to the gender which isn't connected with your birth genitals.
it's much harder for women to crossdress,
they have a much larger wardrobe
though they can temporarility transsex themselves
with strapping breasts and packing a dildo
like drags and crossdressers temporarily transsex themselves
with tucked penis and breast forms.
guy-in-a-dress is the cleft
and people whose reality says
humans should be separated by penile status
keep that division alive.
Dr Russell Reid is an English based psychiatrist who sees four new transsexual patients every week.
"This cross-dressing is not a hobby they do on a Saturday night," he said. "It's not the same as the gay boys who cross dress and the drag queens that's a game, they're parody women."
"Transsexualism is a much more profound, deep-seated identity disorder."
There is the big gap: between guys-in-dresses and real whatevers. . .