Trashed on the internet

It never feels good to get trashed on the internet. I remember the first time it happened to me, in 2003. Someone posted a video of a project I’d done onto a forum I didn’t read, and overnight it got 200+ comments making fun of me. I saved the thread to re-read later, and I still have it actually. When you put stuff out in the public eye, you’re going to get trashed eventually, especially if you have unpopular opinions and you do your best to be honest. All you can do is be humble, and remember that like Madison Hinton said, it’s not what they call you, it’s what you answer to.

Everyone involved in this conversation knows how much hate is directed towards females who are gender critical. Women who are gender-critical get written off as “bigots”/TERFs, whores, unfuckable, stupid, in-the-closet trans men, etc, in addition to a steady stream of rape and death threats. We see teenagers on tumblr do this, we see straight adult men do this, we see liberal feminists do this, and we see the most prominent trans activists do this.

If you’re a trans-critical trans women, trans activists and their supporters write you off as a TERF or a TERF sockpuppet, self-hating, transphobic, elitist, HBSer, “new trans separatist”, not actually trans, throwing other trans women under the bus, or an outright liar. I feel bad for trans women who do this, because they are obviously in a lot of pain, and often appear to be externalizing their own issues. But I also try to have compassion, because I think that modern trans theory has let them down, since the dogma of “because I say so” has left most trans women without any tools to talk about the reality of their lives.

And from the other side, some radical feminists write off gender-critical trans women as wolves in sheep’s clothing, delusional men, or “nice guys” who are just trying to open the door for their overtly woman-hating bros. Radical feminism centers females, and certainly is under no obligation to make space for or to prioritize males, no matter how we live our lives. (Third-wave, male-centric “feminism” is already doing a great job at that!) Gender-critical trans women acknowledge our debt to radical feminist language and conceptual thinking: the recognition that sex and gender are not the same, and the realization that gender is imposed upon us from the outside. As trans women, it is certainly not our place to recommend political priorities to gender-critical women with a female separatist bent. But that said, one does have to question the political wisdom of trashing trans women whose politics are mostly aligned with radical feminist positions.

Personally, I got involved in gender-critical blogging because I want to heal, and I want to figure out how to make the world a better place. People can doubt my sincerity all they want, but it doesn’t change my motivations. I don’t like the current answers about how to heal from gender, so I’m trying to figure out better answers. And one of the reasons I blog anonymously is so that I can be completely honest (to the best of my ability) about my life and my decisions. That in particular is difficult, because no one is perfect, and being open about your mistakes makes you an easy target of drive-by criticism.

Some of my opinions have changed over the last year of writing my blog; specifically, I no longer think it is justifiable to not come out to my male romantic partners. But I have been unwavering in my support of female-only space. After all, this whole blog started as a reaction to Cathy Brennan being kicked out of the NYC Dyke March for supporting female separatism via Sheila Jeffreys!

So, about about that supporting female spaces thing. I, and two trans woman friends, set up New Narratives as a trans woman-only event (broadly defined) coinciding with the post-Radfems Respond female-only event, specifically to model how things can work in the real world. Sometimes we work together, sometimes we work separately. New Narratives is not a protest like Camp Trans, but an emphatic endorsement of female-only space!

A core premise of New Narratives is “An alarmingly large number of trans women are like that – so what are we going to do about it?” For the organizers, and I assume for a number of the attendees, our consciences have called us to directly confront male violence against women born female – physical, sexual, and rhetorical – which is perpetrated by trans women. We all feel that it is time to stand up and say Not in my name. No more cotton ceiling, no more corrective rape talk, no more death threats. We are not doing this to get cookies, and we are not doing it because we “hate trans women”. We are doing it because trans activism has gone totally off the rails, and it is frankly shameful.

We also organized New Narratives because all three of us believe that current trans theory is hurting trans women, and other males who feel harmed by gender. Over the last fifteen years, trans politics has turned into a delusional echo chamber, where self-identification is believed to physically change bodies, history is irrelevant, and anyone who directly addresses reality is punished as a traitor. This mess is not a recipe for mental health, happiness, or social integration! We need real answers about how best to live our lives in the world that exists today, which are also compatible with working towards the better world we wish to create.

So until this conversation turns around, I am going to keep doing my activism the way that only I can. Even if that means sometimes people who I mostly agree with sometimes latch on to certain aspects of my activism to trash it all. The only thing I can do is let it go, and keep working towards what I know in my heart is right. I am the only one who can do what I’m doing, which is an important lesson I learned from GenderTrender author Gallus Mag, in a comment she recently made to a reader who was thinking of starting a blog.

To my real-life radical feminist friends and colleagues, my trans woman sisters, my trans man brothers, and all my other gender-critical siblings, I look forward to working with you all in Portland next weekend. Remember: let’s keep this political, not personal, because working together we can make significant progress on turning this conversation around, and in turn make the world a better place for all of us who are harmed by gender.

And to the haters, thanks for reading, please keep reading, and please keep telling me why you think I’m wrong. You have my best wishes.

Open letter to Beaver Hall Gallery: I’m a trans woman and I support female-only spaces

Dear Beaver Hall Gallery,

I’m very disheartened to hear today that you decided to block Radfem Rise Up from meeting at your venue. I understand that as a private venue, you get the final say on what kinds of speech you allow. However, I fear that your decision was probably swayed by trans activists who not only don’t have the best interests of women in mind, but moreover frequently behave in misogynistic ways.

Sex matters. Denying that sex matters sets the work of feminism back several hundred years, if not making it outright impossible. Women in the 19th century weren’t denied the vote because they “performed femininity” – they were denied the vote because they were female. Girls, who are the overwhelming victims of childhood sexual assault, aren’t assualted because they “identify” as girls – they are female, and so they have no choice in the matter. The practice of sex-selective abortion in India and China, which in some areas has skewed the sex ratio to 118:100 (male:female) is not a result of a fetus having a “gender” – an obviously laughable concept! It’s clearly about sex.

Trans women are not female. I live as a woman now, but I was born a male, and raised as a boy. I transitioned to living as a girl/woman at the end of high school, and now I’ve lived more than half of my life as a girl/woman. Putting up with sexism is no picnic, but I’m a lot less unhappy than I was before transition. (Passing as female has also made my life easier than when I was visibly trans, and I’m lucky to have had this experience.) However, even after taking all the hormones, and getting SRS, I’m still male. My bone structure is male. I still lived as a boy until I transitioned. I don’t have a uterus and will never get pregnant. Nothing can change these facts! I live a “stealth” existence these days, and most people assume I had a normal girlhood. When I’m weepy, I’ve had boyfriends worry that they got me pregnant. However, I can still remember my childhood, and I know my body, and I know I’ll always be different than other women.

Females need female-only space in order to unpack the bullshit of being socialized female. This isn’t feminism 101, it’s feminism 0.001 – absolute baseline! Trans women, having been socialized as males, do not face the same set of issues. Rather, we face a totally different set of issues – the oppression we faced as gender-variant boys, if we were gender non-conforming before transition, or the self-hate some trans women internalize during their years of “hiding”, among others. Neither of these things is the same as girlhood!

When trans women fight against female-only space, they are reacting against a perceived threat: that females don’t respect their “identities” as women. Radical feminism isn’t focused on feelings or identifications – it’s about the struggle of people being raped and mudered due to their sex. Moreover, being a woman isn’t an identity – it’s a socially-assigned grouping based on perceived sex. If woman was an identity, why would any female “identify” as a woman? Wouldn’t all females “identify” as men, so they could get the better jobs, and be allowed to have a say in the political system? Because-I-say-so theories of gender are in stark conflict with reality – we don’t walk down the street with our “preferred pronouns” pinned to our shirts.

If trans women want to be recognized as women, especially by females, they would do better by actually supporting females. This means, acknowledging that we were raised with male privilege, being careful to not talk over females, and avoiding appropriating words like misogyny (which really comes down to the rape and murder of females by MEN that happens every minute of every day) to mean “someone hurt my feelings.” Our lives as trans women are difficult – but it’s MEN who beat and murder us, and MEN who make the laws that harm us and MEN who run the insurance companies that deny us treatment. Let’s place the blame right where it belongs!

Trans women who stop talking over women will probably find they suddenly have a lot more female friends, and are more accepted as women. Suddenly the transphobic opinions of the small minority of radical feminists who are transphobic (rather than trans-critical) won’t seem very important. When you are actually getting validation in your life, the existence of bigots really doesn’t matter so much any more. Imagine that!

I know that trans issues are really confusing, but when trans activists like Joelle Ruby Ryan, Morgan Page, and Julia Serrano appropriate the language of social justice to advance their misogynist agendas, please don’t be fooled! Not only are they talking over females, they are also talking over transsexual women who have socially assimilated as women. Please don’t put the selfish and self-serving goals of these people over the rights of females.

Sincerely,

An anonymous transsexual who supports females

Note: originally posted here. Translated to French here.

My visit to the Radical Faeries

Recently on gendertrender, several commenters mentioned that while radical feminism has been a lifeline for many ftm detransitioners, there’s no analogous group of “radical men” who welcome mtf detrantioners back. I posted my own musings about this a week ago. In the interim, I remembered my visit to the radical faerie commune, which might be germane to this topic. So I’ll recount it here for posterity.

Many years ago, I had decided to travel across the country and seek my fortune, so one summer I quit my job and packed my bag. I visited Chloe Dzubilo in NYC, and while we were hanging out at the gay pride march I met a man who was driving to back to Tennessee the next day. “Well if you don’t have any plans, you could come back with me and hang out at the commune I live at,” he said. I was sold! Adventure!

We left early the next morning and drove the whole way in a single shot. It was noisy in his old blue pickup, because there was no ac so we had to keep the windows down. We talked a little in the morning, and then spent most of the rest of the drive silently eating a giant bad of carrots. (Like Chloe, he was really into raw food, to combat hiv.)

It was dark again by the time we got to “hippy holler”, as the locals referred to it. Hippies, gay nudists – to a redneck, what’s the difference? We were listening to a cassette a friend from NYC had given me, and I got chills as we pulled down an unmarked dirt road and her naked voice gently floated in the night air: “My life – isn’t – anything – compared to – stars – or – sound…sound…ssssoundddd….”

As it turned out, most of the faeries were away at the Rainbow Gathering that week. Of the people left, there was a large woman in a moumou with her six year old son, a “queer heterosexual” couple with a three-year old daughter who’d decided to go back to nature after a long stint in the wasteland of Detroit, my driver (who was very quiet, it seemed he reserved most of his energy for trying to beat hiv without drugs), and a rascally runaway boy in his early 20’s.

I’d been living without a car for a few years, and I rarely made it out of the city. So being in nature felt divine! I got a room to myself in a half-finished house, which had a roof but was missing several of the exterior walls. After dinner at the main cabin I would head back to my room with a candle. I had a wind-up alarm clock my grandfather had given me in my bag, and I took great pleasure in winding it and listening to it click at night. It was scary to be in the woods, but also somehow I felt really safe.

I was super pissed off at the system of gender at that point in my life – in fact I had just quit hormones (since I thought I no longer needed them, after the orchi), I had decided that not only was I finished with electrolysis, I didn’t feel like plucking my remaining facial hair either, and I stopped shaving my legs. But, I also wore dresses most days – with steel-toed men’s machine shop shoes – it was the 90’s!

I had a lot of fun that week. I ate some great organic food, I hung out with the faerie’s goats, we went to the Mufreesboro jamboree (it reminded me of how much fun I had playing simple music on acoustic guitar or mandolin with my father as a teen), I flirted with the rascal and he ignored me, and I smoked a lot of pot. Then one day I was at the creek with the moumou mom and her son and a few others, and we decided to go swimming. So I took off my clothes and jumped in the water.

The little boy got confused. “But — how come you’re a girl, but you have a little penis?” (He actually used the word little – I guess being around the gay nudists he had a point of comparison, haha.) “It’s just the way I am,” I said. That was a new one but his mom explained that I was different, and then it didn’t seem to bother him anymore. But word spread and suddenly everyone there realized I was trans. “Jeez no wonder the rascal has been ignoring me all week,” I thought, “he’s gay and he thought I was just a regular girl!”

The queer het dad heard through the grapevine on my last night at the farm, and was sad he hadn’t known earlier because he had some trans friend (or something) and thought there was a lot to talk about – or something. He was a nice guy and I took a picture of him and his daughter with my peel-apart polaroid camera (yeah, I was a hipster before it was cool). He had installed solar panels to run his computer, so that he could continue to produce his zine “off the grid.” We made plans to stay in touch but obviously that never happened.

The next day all the rest of the faeries got back, and it sucked, and I was glad to be leaving. Honestly, I’ve never gotten along with gay men as a group. The cattiness, agressiveness, open hostility towards women, judgement, classicism, insane objectification, you name it. And the faeries felt just the same to me as the gay boys I met at the gay support group as a teen. If you didn’t have a dick, you amounted to an inconvenient zero in their worldview. Ditto if you had a dick, but you weren’t hot. And if you had a penis but interacted with people more like a woman – well that was just weird.

Eventually the summer ended and I went back home, after a stop in the never-never land of SF which I will post about soon. (Working title: I won’t grow up!) But anyway, when I got home I ended up moving in with the only punk guy who ever went to the gay youth group. He was super into Race Traitor magazine, and later grew dreadlocks and became a radical faerie himself. But his idea of gender transgression (and the faerie’s idea, as far as I could tell) was to be 100% unequivocally a man in terms of how they related to the world, while occasionally wearing glitter nail polish or a women’s vest, and proclaim themself a gender rebel.

As someone actually alienated from the gender system, as in not fitting into it whether or not I tried, It made me think that their smug, self-congratulatory “rebelliousness” was really just a mask for a deep-seated, entirely fundamental dis-ease with actual gender fluidity. Just like my roommate’s subscription to Race Traitor, decision to live in a black neighborhood, and childlike fascination with the band Crass was not an indication that he was thinking critically, but that he was truly and 100% a product of the white, liberal suburbs.

Sad to say, but the radical faeries were certainly not the radical men the GT commenters have been talking about!

Note: originally posted here.

The sad truth about what feminism has become

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Remember the 80’s, when women were allowed to wear ankle-length skirts with boots and baggy sweaters, and you didn’t have to “empower yourself” by dressing sexxay in order for anyone to take you seriously? If you were born in the 90’s (or God forbid the 2000’s), obviously not. But try to imagine this prior time!

The 80’s were far from perfect, but feminists were still able to state the (obvious) truth that objectifying women as fuck dolls or brainless assemblages of body parts (which is the same as a fuck doll) was anti-feminist. I mean, really!

I was watching tv over Christmas and there were these really gross ads for Adult Swim. In the first, a magician is standing next to a woman’s sexxay legs, in high heels and stockings, while the rest of her body from the waist up is sitting on a floating platter. Then in the follow-up ad, the upper body is sitting in one chair in the waiting room, and her legs are sitting in a different chair.

“Why is this making me so upset?” I thought. And then I thought “Because haven’t men been making jokes that the only ‘good’ part of a woman is the bottom half for centuries? And when they say ‘good’, we all know what that means.” But in case you don’t, it means a fuckhole with no “blowhole” so she can’t even “squawk” back.

Benjamin Franklin made this joke in point #5 of his advice on choosing a “mistress”. Magicians (men) sawed their “assistants” (women) in half on stage for a hundred years, starting in the late 1800’s. In 1978, Hustler went a step further and just ground the “useless” part of the woman up. The Hustler cover was so over the top that men kind of got it, and maybe even chilled out for a little bit in the 80’s!

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And yet here we are, in the post-sexism 20-teens, and a woman who claims to be a feminist and ally to some of the most disadvantaged women (prostitutes) publishes a book which replicates this horribly, deeply misogynistic trope right on its cover! Seriously, there is no “critique” in that cover image – it’s simply recapitulation of the kind of brazenly sexist bullshit that the feminists of the 70’s and 80’s would never have silently ignored. Or, they would have called it out: check out this amazing post Are Women Human? featuring words by Catherine MacKinnon and advertisements from genderads.com.

I’m writing this as a trans woman, who has lived half her life as a girl/woman. I never want to overstep my bounds when talking about feminism due to the whole male socialization thing, but I think I get a say about this one since I’m usually perceived to be female, and I face a lot of the same body pressure and objectification that other women do. So while in general I try to tread lightly in critiquing the activism of other women, I just have to speak truth to power here.

It’s infinitely depressing that in today’s climate of penis-centric feminism, intentionally demeaning other women by reducing them to fuckholes to be sold to men has been transformed into a “feminist” act. This is very much the definition of a patriarchal reversal, and it goes to show that some of the most effective MRA’s are actually females who consider themselves “feminist”.

I weep for girls growing up today. “Choice is the language of the powerless.” But it doesn’t have to be this way!

Note: originally posted here.

Getting Clear

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Getting Clear: Body Work for Women, Anne Kent Rush, The Bookworks/Random House 1973.

In my first encounter with this book, I found it at a thrift store in Cambridge MA around 1998. It looked old and kind of cool so I picked it up for 50 cents. I don’t think I even paid attention enough to realize what it was about that day.

But a few months later I flipped through it absent-mindedly, and then mentioned it to my therapist. “Oh yes, that’s a great one”, she said, “it’s helped a lot of women. Especially women who suffered sexual abuse, but really all women. You should try to read it.”

Like a lot of transsexuals, I was at war with my body. I’d been on hormones, got an orchi, off hormones, feeling miserable & hot flashes, back on, plus a lot of electrolysis at various points, which is really uncomfortable. Not to mention all the insulting hurts. (You know how people are.)

So one night I was home alone, and out of booze so I couldn’t just get drunk until it was late enough to go to bed. I started to read a few pages of Getting Clear, and I came to the exercise “Tuning In”.

“Ok I’ll try it!” I thought. I wasn’t going to get naked, but I took off my shoes, and lay down on the couch. My right arm was a little scrunched against the back but at least it was a long couch and I could stretch my legs all the way. I closed my eyes and took a few breaths.

I felt a little jumpy and it was hard to lay still. “Focus your attention inside your body” I thought. So I tried. But all I could feel was pain. Like a million knives inside my body, slicing me apart from every angle. I felt it in my stomach. I felt it in my arms. I felt it in my chest. I felt it in my legs.

I swung bolt upright in shock: “I’m physically in pain!”

As crazy as it sounds, this was a revelation to me. I hadn’t been able to figure out what was wrong for the life of me. It was March, and over the previous winter I’d gotten so drunk I fell ill and missed a week of work. Not once, but twice! Both times, I could remember the exact moment I got sick, while I was at the bar. “God I’m so drunk, and I’m so tired,” I thought. “And suddenly my throat has a horrible tickle. I should just go home. But fuck it!” And then, both times, I ordered another drink.

They were mad at me at my job, which probably goes without saying. Besides all the sickness, I’d spent a few weeks focused on trans activism after my friend got murdered, which really wasn’t my job description. I was playing in a band but I’d been missing a lot of practices, and getting in arguments when I showed up. They were mad at me too. I was an alcoholic, and I was dating an alcoholic.

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Slowly it all started to make sense. “When I walk down the street, but I feel so terrible and I can’t stop thinking about falling into a pit and getting impaled by rough wooden stakes, it’s because my body is physically in pain!”

“When I have somewhere to be, and I’m on my way there, but then I duck into the thrift store to look at used records ‘just for a second’, and then next thing I know it’s three hours later and I missed whatever I needed to do, it’s because my body is physically in pain!”

“When I think I’m going to run out of weed and I start to panic I won’t be able to sleep so then I buy two bottles of wine on my way home, one for today and one for tomorrow, but then drink them both, it’s because my body is physically in pain!”

This insight was a shock to me. For three or four years, as my life got more and more dysfunctional and my horizons kept shrinking, I had just assumed that my brain was broken. I was “chemically depressed” (like my mom kept insisting), or just a loser, or weak, or too scared.

I was scared. I was scared for very good reasons! I still remembered in great detail the lessons I’d learned in high school: if you take care of yourself and put time into your appearance, you become a target and you will be punished. But if you don’t shower for a month and wear the same dirty jeans every day, that’s fine!

Or the one about “Really the problem is you’re acting gay, but since I can’t articulate that I’m going to institutionally punish you for ‘being a rebel’ even though you’re in all the honors classes, you don’t talk back to teachers, and you don’t do drugs. Not that I can say this, but you’re an easy target.”

Or the one about the townies driving the white Lincoln. Or the one about the skinheads at that Fugazi show. (I mean, really? Wasn’t that supposed to be a progressive band?)

Or later on, the trouble I had intentionally sought out on my own: that month snorting heroin during a heat wave while everyone in New York had diarrhea when the city water went bad, or that weird day I had a terrible headache until I spent four hours smoking crack with some random dude who’d just got out of prison in the alley behind a building, or that weird night at the sex club when the Bridge & Tunnel guy with the heavy Italian accent and the cheap suit wouldn’t stop following me around until finally I got irritated and gave him a handjob with the hand where I wore three big rings hoping that would put him off, but it still didn’t, or that time it was my birthday so I went to a bar by myself and sat in the corner drinking scotch by myself but while I was riding my bike home my pants got caught in the chain (it was a fixed gear) and I sprained my ankle, but I had a job interview the next morning and I limped in still drunk and they sent me home after ten minutes?

Seriously, I was a piece of trash. I had thrown myself out. I decided I wanted to live like a tree, just observing my environment but not reacting to it or controlling it, so I wore the same outfit every day for two years and spent my time drunk. When I got evicted from my loft, I couldn’t separate the broken children’s toys and torn scraps of paper I’d inadvertently picked up from the artifacts I held closest to my heart. My friends showed up to help me move, thinking I’d be packed and ready to go, and the floor was covered in a uniform six inches of debris. Talk about a feeling of shame.

But actually I wasn’t a piece of trash! I had been a person at one point before. I would be a person again. But with all the bullshit I had internalized, my body was physically in pain! It wasn’t that I was mentally defective. My mind had stored all the hurt in my organs, my limbs, and my skin.

I never opened up Getting Clear again, because that was as much as i could handle at that point, and the next time I moved I gave it back to the thrift store. But it was a watershed moment for me.

After that day, when I had anxiety, it didn’t make me depressed on its own. I reminded myself that my body was physically in pain. When you’re in pain like that, it’s normal to have anxiety and depression. I forgave my mind for its problems. And in forgiving my mind’s failures, anxiety, neediness, drunkenness, hatefulness, my body started to let go of the pain it had stored.

This was a really slow process and it took a long time. But that’s how it started.

So why am I telling this story now? I hadn’t thought about Getting Clear for many years. But recently I went to a hot springs with a friend. Floating in the pool, I got stuck in an important solipsism – floating allows the body to release tension, but also to release mental tension – this was a space for healing – but what did I need to heal from this time? Was it really just that the small of my back has been sore for months? Shouldn’t I just stop running, or take a break from riding horses, or get a new mattress?

My war with with my body is so much more subtle now. I exercise every day! I wear yoga pants to the grocery store! I walked around in public naked and didn’t have a panic attack! I eat fresh vegetables and meat every day! I often drink too much wine, though I stop before I get sick.

But I still have a lot of hurt. I have hurt from sex I had that I really shouldn’t have had. I have mental hurt and physical nerve damage from the srs. I have hurt and anxiety from my failure to find love. I still have hurt from childhood bath time – did that count as sexual abuse, since it was on my genitals, but wasn’t erotically motivated?

When I got back from the hot springs, I got on the internet and ordered a new copy of Getting Clear. I just got it in the mail today. It smells like the incense the woman who used to own it burned. Kind of earthy and hippy and a little awkward, like the drawing in Tuning In.

I’m really glad this book has come back to me again, I think I can get a little further this time.

Victim in Pain

Why am I the one going insane? Why am I the one to blame?

That line from Victim in Pain by Agnostic Front has always stuck with me. It was a very apt description of my situation towards the end of high school: I was the one to blame for the bullying by classmates and teachers, because my behavior was out of line. Even my parents took this stance. There was no discussion of disciplining the students harassing me, but there were plenty of “interventions” to try to get me to man up. These interventions had actually been going on since I was a little boy, so it was magical thinking to believe it would suddenly be different, but that’s how people think.

Ironically, during this same period of time I was involved in the only all-male community which I ever intentionally sought out, which was the hardcore music scene. This was during the transition from “hardcore punk” (think Circle Jerks) which was actually pretty much indistinguishable from punk, to “hardcore” as its own genre – for any 90’s readers I have, all those bands you love on Bridge 9 are just trying to sounds like Blood for Blood, who themselves were just trying to sound like early Wrecking Crew, Sick of it All, and Youth of Today, but were late to the party.

There was a particularly exciting period of about a year when all the hardcore dance moves that later became codified were still being developed – windmills, picking up pennies, spin kicks etc. There was a group of men from Connecticut in particular, who would go to shows in both Boston and New York, who did a lot to spread the new dance style around one summer. Exciting times!

As I mentioned in a recent post, the skinheads got fed up with me at a certain point and made it clear I was no longer welcome. As far as beatdowns go, this one barely even qualified, but it was terrifying nonetheless. I had just started to hear about FSU, a supposedly anti-Nazi hardcore gang, which went on to such levels of thugishness they achieved national infamy. FSU was definitely the main driver for why I dropped out of the hardcore scene.

Anyway this is a blog about trans issues and politics, not music. But I was thinking about this last night at yoga class. I like my teacher’s playlist, though none of the music is anything I would listen to myself. It’s kind of world music-influenced electronica, always with female vocals, that is simultaneously catchy, soothing, fun, and ignorable. On the other hand, except for when I go on Diane Cluck or Cocteau Twins binges, I pretty much only listen to angry music by men! If there’s no screaming, it’s immediately off my cd player!

Over the summer I left yoga one night and headed to the Whole Foods down town. I’d been listening to the same Christian metalcore cd all summer, and that day was no exception. I had my windows down and the music up super loud. It always makes me self conscious, because I look like a grown woman, but I listen to the same music as 15 year old boys. I need it loud enough that I feel the music on my skin. I live in a really privileged area, where everyone is happy and easygoing or pretends to be, so I always worry about sticking out. I thought “What the hell is wrong with me?”

And then I remembered: I’m in pain. My body is physically in pain. The yoga and the floating and the letting go and the forgiving have been helping, but I still have so much trauma stored in my body, I’m still in pain. That’s why I only ever want to listen to the pained screaming of men who feel unjustly wronged.

That particular cd has some spoken word interludes where the singer is reciting a poem that another man wrote. It’s about the pain he internalized when his uncle molested him as a boy, and his mother knew about it but was busy smoking crack so she blamed him. It’s a really brave thing to include, within that genre of music. (Though, interestingly the pits at this band’s live shows are on the extreme side of violent – perhaps God absolves them for their punching?)

The part of Christianity that offers forgiveness and salvation to an imperfect person living in an imperfect world is really appealing to me, for obvious reasons. I’m very fallible, I made more terrible decisions than I can count, and frankly it’s a miracle that I was never seriously beaten up or raped, or overdosed on anything. I certainly put myself in the position for all those things to happen many times – like I wrote before, I had thrown myself away.

So what precipitates this outpouring today is the really tragic story about Nancy/Nathan Verhelst that GallusMag posted a few days ago. Basically, Verhelst suffered some extreme mental abuse from her mother as a girl, decided to transition, including both top surgery and phallo, and then felt even worse about their situation post-transition and requested to be euthenized.

As Redressalert said, it’s “iatrogenic suicide”. That is, the suicide was caused by the treatment. People keep arguing about whether or not Verhelst was “actually trans”. That is the wrong argument. Verhelst was obviously trans, by the only definition of trans which is consistent and makes sense: they were taking cross-sex hormones, had srs, and were presenting themself as the opposite sex.

The right discussion to have here, is how did Verhelst’s situation get to that point? How did the trans healthcare providers fail so miserably in predicting the potential benefits and drawbacks of that course of treatment? How could the therapist with clear conscience sign off on Verhelst’s death sentence? What other options did they explore?

But realistically, what resources are available for people who become trans, and then realize they’ve made a mistake? Not a lot!

It breaks my heart to think about Verhelst. I would have accepted this person, no matter what they wanted to do! Why wasn’t I aware of their existence, so that I could reach out? Our lives as trans people aren’t easy. I’m so fucking sick of the sugar-coating, and all the cheerleading by males with sexual fetishes who are getting bigger boners than ever now that they’re taking hormones.

Dear Nancy, I know you can’t read this, and I know our situations are completely different, but I’m also a victim in pain. I hope and pray you’re in a better place now, but I wish you could have found it here on earth, with the small group of us who seem to understand just how difficult and fraught this trans thing really is. Sending you my love.

Really learning a lot from this exchange on gendertrender between Gallus, Moira and 23xx

Gallusmag said:

I would never ever refer to a female transitioner as male or with male pronouns, even knowing that it “hurts her feelings”. Because even if it hurts her feelings I think it is really important to “hold the door open”. I don’t mean giving women a bunch of shit for transitioning. But holding the line that says “I accept you as a sister”. Women I know who have detransitioned know that I am someone they can talk to who supports them as a fellow “gender nonconforming” woman: and that I always have.

(Rest of it in comments here.) This is the same feeling I get from reading dirt’s blog as well. dirt and Gallus both care very deeply about female transitioners. And the female detransitioners I know have really appreciated having that door held open for them.

And then I think, who is doing this on the mtf side? How would it happen? But the picture is completely different.

The radical acceptance of feminist sisterhood is unique to female culture. I have personally benefited from it a lot in my life, both from the decades-long friendships I’ve had, the shared concerns and in-depth discussions, and now (ironically) in having a space to actually articulate what it means to be male but live as a woman, with a few very close friends. To put it simply, it’s a collective power which we all share and cultivate in each other. Thanks sisters, I really love you and I would never have become the person I am without you! ❤ ❤

But what about the brothers that I’ve never felt like I had?  When I was in the psych hospital at 17, and the (male) therapist was trying to get me to read the Robert Bly/men’s movement books, was he reaching out to me in “brotherhood”? I guess, but it wasn’t a brotherhood of radical acceptance. Really, his motivation was the same as the skinheads who didn’t want me at their hardcore shows any more: “You need to man the fuck up,  bro.” He was just a little more “polite” about it.

And it was the same motivation as my sixth grade English teacher who got me to lift weights for a few months. (Well, maybe he had some pervy motivations about that as well, though he never touched me and I don’t remember noticing any inappropriate stares from him.) I was skinny and effeminate but I still had “potential” to be a “regular guy.” Of course, that didn’t keep me from getting sent to the principle the next year for “acting out” (wearing shorts, having long hair, painting my nails, etc.) Fuck.

But what is the “shared” experience of brotherhood or “radical” male acceptance, as it exists today? (For example – on reddit.) Sharing the feeling of power over. “Well dude you may be weird/gay/kinky/a tranny but we’re both better than women/black people/jews/fat people/stupid people/faggots/etc. Cheers bro!” Ugh.

I’m so glad that Joel Nowak is doing his mtf detransition blog. That’s a resource that we’ve needed for a really long time. Most of the male detransitioners I’ve met in my life were straight crossdressers who took hormones for a few years, then decided to quit because it was killing their boners. I’m not trying to play No True Scotsman – that’s who they were before they became “transwomen”, and they continued to crossdress part time after “detransitioning.” So, not really people I could relate to.

Joel doesn’t seem hung up on re-establishing his masculinity, it seems more to me that he just wants to be a whole person. And there’s thankfully no talk of clothes! He still seems to believe in the ideas of “transmisogyny” and true transsexuals, but he does seem to genuinely care about other males who are or have been trans. It’s an awesome start! And the tactics he uses don’t need to be the same as Gallus and dirt, because obviously his audience is quite different. His blog is a lot less angry and judgmental than the author of m2f2m and transgendersurvivor. And it’s way more sensible than sexchangeregret, whose author seems a little off his rocker. (Like, how many masturbatory books does he need to publish about his crossdressing? Seriously!)

What would radical acceptance in a male community look like, in a postive way? Is it something I could ever want? I work in a virtually all-male environment. Yesterday I gave a presentation to a room full (standing room only) of 40 men and one woman. The woman and I have never spoken, and she ignored me when I tried to say hi when I came in. Working with all men felt lonely at first, and it still does, but you get used to it after a while – every women who stays in STEM has to, eventually.

But the only reason I’m comfortable in that situation now is because I’m different. Like Auntyorthodoxy has said, sometimes the reason you’re trans is not that you “know you’re really a woman”, but that you know you don’t want to be a man.

I hate to flog this yet again, but the last thing I would want in a male community is the DGR male radfem contingent telling me I’m not a woman. Yeah bro, I know I’m not female. I also live as a woman, and my living this way is not directly harming any females. That’s not true of all trans women, but it’s true of me! Deal with it. And after you’ve dealt with it, let’s try to think about a way forward that’s not just you rigidly parroting things that don’t apply to you.

And to be honest, I’m suspicious of trans-critical males on principle: because where is the harm to males as a class within trans politics? I don’t see it. Of the trans-critical men I’ve known irl, they all had an axe to grind. Either they felt like their own transition was a failure, or they were a wannabe transitioner, or they were a homophobic and misogynist crossdresser, or they were a straight up homophobic heterosexual bro. Honestly, a lot of trans-critical males are even worse than trans males! And that’s saying a lot!

I do think trans politics is harmful to many of the small group of males who spend time identifying as trans. There was a thread about transition frustration on trueselves last year that was heartbreaking. An mtf who’d been on hormones for a year and a half was complaining that they didn’t pass, it felt like a waste of time, and they didn’t know what to do. But the only “support” was the same old bs that caused the problem in the first place – “Hang in there! You’ll get there! Who cares, now you’re your true self! You can be happy! Cis people are stupid! Blah blah blah.”

Q: Why couldn’t they have gotten some more honest input up front?

A: Because honest input is “transphobic”.

Total laugh or cry time.  😥

note: slightly edited from original post here.