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.

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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.

That time Dr. Norman Spack was my endo, or, The “dollmaker” loves autogynephiles

I was 17 when the psych first told my parents he was ready to refer me to the endo to start hormones, but my dad threw a fit during family therapy. He called the psych a quack, made up some mental illnesses that didn’t exist which he said I had, and yelled a lot. It sucked. I really liked the psych. He was an extremely tall, gentle man, with glasses and a grey mustache. He lived with his (male) partner in a fancy brownstone in the south end of Boston (where he saw patients in his office on the ground floor), had an original Andy Warhol soup can print in the hall, and let me smoke cigarettes during our sessions. I always felt really cool sitting in the leather chair in his office, looking at all the books on his shelves and putting out my unfiltered Camels in a glass ashtray.

Anyway the so-called compromise was that I would go to college as a girl, but put off hormones for a year. Needless to say, at the end of the year I dropped out, got a job in the city, and started buying my own hormones (from the plastic surgeon Benito Risch, who didn’t require a script if he thought you looked trans). But then I got into drugs, and in one of my few acts of self preservation I ran away from my drug friends and went back home to live with my parents. This also meant going off hormones which sucked in a way it’s hard to describe.

Eventually things got straightened out and I had a succession of endos, and got back on E. I also got $5000 from a student loan refund so I got an orchiectomy. I didn’t like the idea of being dependent on the medical-industrial establishment for the rest of my life, and at the time I assumed that post-orchi I could quit hormones if I wanted to, and it wouldn’t be a big deal. At least I wouldn’t have any more of the poisonous testosterone fucking up my body! And they’d been prescribing me premarin (literally made from the pee of pregnant mares), which made my stomach hurt.

I did indeed quit taking estrogen, but actually it stunk. It wasn’t as bad as the first time I stopped, because besides it being my own choice, my testicles were gone (thank god!) and my testosterone production was a lot lower. But your body still produces hormones even without gonads, and my body was making more T than E. Over about a year I became flat as a board again, my face got leaner, and worst of all I started having hot flashes. I wasn’t sure what they were at first but I was dating a woman who was 40-something and she diagnosed it. (I was 23. I was also a vegan, a chain smoker, and an alcoholic, which I’m sure contributed to my problems haha. Though I never would have admitted it at the time.)

My primary care doctor was like “You need to get back on hormones, at least something!” (Meaning: either estrogen or testosterone.) She was worried I would get osteoperosis. But she wasn’t in touch with my previous endo, so she referred me to Dr. Spack.

Dr. Spack’s childhood gender clinic was pretty new at the time, but he also saw patients in “private practice” at a separate office out in the suburbs. I was deemed “too old” for the clinic, though I also have a feeling part of this decision was made based on my looks and my backstory. I had been hanging out in the gay community since I was 16-17, and then from 18-22 most of my friends were artsy lesbians. So, I wore pants from the thrift store that didn’t fit, knit hats in the summer, tshirts with holes and random paint stains, and smoked unfiltered cigarettes. (Though I guess that last was a holdover from teenage boyhood.) Lesbians my age definitely knew where I was coming from because they usually assumed I was one of theirs, but Spack wasn’t sure what to make of me. Not to mention, the fact I had quit hormones of my own choice after the orchi perplexed him. But at the same time, I wasn’t an easy “do your business and get out” client like most of the daddy transitioners. He couldn’t male bond with me, or objectify me! Oh, the horror.

As I came to find out, at my first appointment, the “private practice” was where he saw all his adult autogynephile patients. I didn’t know that word at the time (this is 97-98) but it was totally clear once I read about it on Anne Lawrence’s site a year later. And not only did Spack have two offices, but he had two appointment books, one for each clinic. Everything was separate: his “showpiece” (child) patients, and his money-making patients.

Like my primary care doctor, Spack was worried about osteoperosis, but he wasn’t sure how to dose me because of the orchi (and the smoking), so he put me on the patch. Except it really didn’t work well, they were too weak so I had to wear two at a time, and they gave me rashes. He insisted on patch over pills because he said he was worried about my liver, but I can’t help thinking he was being overly conservative because I didn’t make any sense to him. I certainly wasn’t the beautiful doll he talks about in his disgusting TED talk! The fact that I’d already been living full time for thee years and changed all my id by the time I was 21 just seemed confusing to him.

I only remember two appointments really clearly. The most memorable was certainly my first encounter with a daddy transitioner. Anyone who’s ever taken hormones or worked at a clinic that prescribes them has seen some of the weirdos who come in. The trans providers at Boston City Hospital were always going back and forth about scheduling all the trans clients on the same day, or just mingling them in with the rest of the patients. The theory being, maybe the weirdos will weird fewer people out if they all come and go in a block. Or maybe it’s worse to concetrate them? Who knows?

Anyway I very carefully had my nose buried in a book because I sure as hell didn’t want to talk to anyone at Dr. Spack’s private clinic. And what made it even worse was that there was no receptionist – just Spack in with a patient, and me and the weirdo in the waiting room. I think she had been there when I arrived, but then she left for the evening. (It was a Saturday.) What was left of the weirdo’s hair was a wispy blond ring around the back and sides, grown out too long (think Brian Eno), and he had correspondingly light eyebrows and eyelashes. After trying to make eye contact for a few minutes he finally leaned toward me and said “You’re so pretty, when did you start hormones?” I looked at him, and his long disgusting fingers, and the slight puffiness around his lips and the softening around his eyes that made it obvious that he too was on hormones, and I didn’t even know what to say. Fucking terrifying.

I can’t really remember but I think maybe I said “I don’t want to talk about it” and turned the page. He sat back in his chair, looking unhappy. I felt super tense until Spack’s other patient came out, and he brought me in. And then I left as soon as I could. Later I worried I had acted “transphobic”, but I talked it over with my mom and she was immediately sympathetic and said “That sounds really uncomfortable. You were totally in the right.” Thanks mom! I love you!

The other appointment I remember was mundane, but supremely irritating. The secretary apparently “put me in the wrong book”, so when I showed up to Chestnut Hill they didn’t have me on the schedule. And then Spack made me wait three hours, until he’d seen all his daddy transitioners, and then couldn’t understand why I was irritated. That was the final straw for me with his bumbling bullshit. (If you watch the video, you’ll see what I mean – this man is far from a genius.)

I ended up seeing a really delightful Thai endo after that, who I only stopped seeing because he moved away. Which was tragic because then I had to see a complete fucking creep named Dr. Safer, who frankly looked a lot like that long-fingered blond daddy, except with less hair. Total pervert vibe. He was so horrible I just started ordering hormones off the internet and self-medding for a few years.

A year or so after I stopped seeing Spack, I made friends with a trans girl a few years younger than me, who had started hormones and transitioned while still in high school. It turned out that she had been seeing Spack at the Children’s Hospital clinic, ever since it first opened. It was 2000 now, and we had both been reading Anne Lawrence’s writing about autogynephilia. One day, she confided to me:

When I first read about autogynephilia, it was a relief. It exactly explained my entire experience. When I was a kid I constantly daydreamed about being a girl, and then after puberty I fantasized about it. The thought of being female has always turned me on. But I knew I couldn’t bring it up with the doctors. I just told them I’d always felt like a girl. But it feels great to know I’m not the only one like this!

Once again, it was really driven home to me what total bullshit gatekeeping was, in practice. Spack thought this girl was a “true transsexual”, because she was gender-conforming, she lived in the same suburb he did, her parents drove her to her appointments, and she repeated all the lies she’d been told to repeat by the generations of trans women before her. But based on the way I dressed, the friends I kept, and the fact that I was critical of the trans narrative and trying to live free from gender, he lumped me in with the autogynephiles. Good intuition there, buddy!

The more my trans friend thought about autogynephilia, the more confused she got. She had always had long hair and dressed stereotypically feminine, but she decided to experiment. She got a short haircut, started dating another trans woman, and adopted a kind of “butch” presentation. She and her girlfriend (well, one of her girlfriends – needless to say, these people were all poly) would take turns topping each other in anal. Good for them, I guess? I mean, I’m all about questioning the narrative, but the girlfriend was certainly a male-privilege-denying trans misogynist. Ultimately, I semi-intentionally lost touch with them. Not because of the trans stuff, but because I got fed up with the endless polyamorous drama! Seriously!!

Thinking about Radical Feminism as an mtf

Backstory: I was born male but I’ve been living as a girl/woman for over half of my life now, and I’ve read a lot of radical feminist texts. In fact, the first feminist book I read was Andrea Dworkin’s Intercourse, when I was 15. So I’ve been thinking about radical feminism for even longer than I’ve been transsexual! This post is kind of long, because it takes a while to build a foundation. Please try to read the whole thing!

My understanding of radical feminism, and why transwomen are different from females

Radical feminism is based on the analysis that females as a sex class are oppressed by males as a sex class. It’s not about individuals. If you don’t believe that patriarchy exists, you might want to review statistics about violent crime world-wide. It’s overwhelmingly perpetrated by males against females. But I’ll assume you (the reader) already know this.

Since you do believe that patriarchy exists, then you have to acknowledge that on average, trans women grew up with male privilege. Trans women who were visibly gender non-conforming in childhood probably suffered oppression for being gender non-conforming. But many/most trans women live outwardly as gender conforming boys/men up until their “discovery” of their trans identity. In fact, many trans women live as men into their 30’s, working as men in male-dominated fields, marrying women and fathering children. Hint: that’s not ‘female privilege!’

Since trans women grow up with male privilege, which is a totally different way of seeing the world, it’s legitimate to differentiate between females and transwomen. Female socialization means “you’re not a full human being.” For females, that starts at birth, and continues in your adult life. Transwomen as a class don’t experience that socialization from birth. In fact, we don’t experience it until we began passing as female. After all, gender is an assigned characteristic based on perceived sex, not an identity.

Since transwomen and females are legitimately different in important ways (socialization, biology), it’s to the benefit of all women (both female and trans-) that we have spaces exclusive to our own kind. Females need somewhere to unpack the bullshit around being female socialized from birth. Transwomen need somewhere to discuss the whole of our lives, including the parts when we lived as boys/men, without fear of that discussion changing the way people perceive our gender.

So wbw is not transphobic – it’s not even about us! The least we can do as (trans) women is to support our female sisters. If we don’t support them, why should they support us?

Practical things

So, let’s consider some practical implications. I think it’s valid and important for females to have wbw spaces – in my mind, this means things like MWMF, Radfem2013, and female-only discussion groups, whether it’s a book club, a survivors of CSA group, or whatever. If a group of women invites a transwomen to join them, great. But transwomen don’t have any “right” to female space – please! That’s like complaining to the teacher in elementary school that some “mean kids” left you out, and then the teacher tells those kids they “have to be” friends with you.

Transwomen shouldn’t use women’s locker rooms (or other spaces where people get naked) unless they pass, and they’re discrete enough that no one notices if they’re preop. Sorry but penis doesn’t belong in female space, even if it’s on someone who’s perceived to be a woman. That’s just out of safe-space considerations for females who’ve been raped. Likewise, the presence of a transwoman who’s obviously male in a space where women are naked is also triggering for obvious reasons. Whether or not a non-passing transwoman has had surgery doesn’t matter in this case, unfortunately.

Bathrooms are a little more flexible, since there’s no expectation of nudity. My perspective is that the right time to switch public bathrooms is when you’re likely to cause less commotion in one than the other. But this has to be reality-based. A while ago Cathy Brennan posted an incredible story of a transwoman who was asked to leave the women’s bathroom. She described her encounter with the security guard: “When I said it had never caused a problem before, and no-one has either noticed or cared I was trans, he replied that they noticed – implying that I do not pass as a woman, which I don’t believe is correct.” Hahaha we don’t get to decide if we pass, that’s up to other people!

That said, we as transwomen need to stop pretending that it “never happens” that trans women use bathrooms and locker rooms for “improper purposes”. We need to call these people out! If we don’t do the difficult work of policing the boundaries of our community by calling Colleen Francis a male sex predator, or calling out Reed Barrow aka sissytgkristal or whatever, then trans gets redefined as “sexually predatory males.”

Likewise, we need to call out the anti-lesbian rape apologists, like Morgan Paige, Julia Serrano, Savanah Garmond aka leftytgirl, etc. We also need to call out trans women who advocate physical violence against females – that would be Monica Roberts, Kinsey Hope/genderbitch, Anthony Casebaer, Char the butcher, etc.

You may have noticed a pattern, which is that all of these people have been profiled on pretendbians. (Except genderbitch, who definitely should be.) So, I actually don’t support pretendbians being taken down, until these people change their behavior! Maybe it’s not the place of a non-trans-identified lesbian to do the callouts, but since the trans community has failed, I’m glad someone is doing it.

How this effected me personally

I personally experienced male privilege growing up, because my interests in technical fields (which translates to high-paying career in adulthood) were encouraged. Nobody said “You like math, you should be a teacher!”, they said “You like math, you should be a scientist!” That’s a pay difference of about $70k btw. It’s kind of the definition of patriarchal bullshit in elementary school education!

I also personally experienced a lot of prejudice because in middle and high school, I was gender non-conforming. This came in the form of verbal and physical harassment, both by students and by teachers and school administrators. It really messed up my self-worth, and unfortunately I still haven’t recovered 100% from that.

Despite the occasional physical abuse I experienced, my physiology allowed me a much greater sense of physical safety than many of my female friends in general – I was taller, I had broader shoulders, I had more upper body strength, and I wasn’t worried about getting raped, since I didn’t have a vagina. I also had the first 13 years of my life when I wasn’t as obviously gender non-conforming, where I had felt sure of the physical integrity of my body. In contrast, I had a number of female friends who were sexually abused as children. CSA is much more common among females, btw! It’s related to that patriarchy thing.

So, the privilege and the oppression didn’t just “cancel each other out” – rather, they intersected in some complicated ways, which for obvious reasons is the definition of intersectionality!

My first introduction to gay and lesbian theory was to radical feminism, thank god! I later got swept up in queer theory, but I had to discard it eventually since it failed to explain the world I live in. 99% of the people in the world base their definitions of man and woman on physical sex, and secondarily on conformance with sex roles. Trans theory assumes that a tiny fraction of the population gets to make up new definitions which have nothing to do with anything, and everyone else is wrong! That analysis left me really depressed, because it’s so in conflict with the real world, so I discarded it.

Recently I’ve taken up radical feminist analysis again. It’s challenging to me but ultimately feels a lot more liberatory. I am a male who lives as a woman. I’m never going to not be male. By accepting that fact, it can’t hurt me any more. That doesn’t mean I’m going to be out all the time. It doesn’t mean I’m going to stop hanging out with women and “go back to my roots” by joining a men’s movement group (lol). But it means that maybe I have some hope of finding peace in my life.

I don’t know “why” I’m trans. At this point, it happened a lot time ago, and it’s kind of a done deal. Were my motivations “correct”? I don’t know. I definitely said some sexist bullshit when I was a teenager and thinking about transitioning! All I know now is that I’m happier at this point in my life than I’ve ever been, so I probably made the right decisions.

I’m very selective about who I talk about being trans with irl, because I know how the rumor mill works, and I know how people will change their behavior towards me when they find out I’m transsexual. The only way to cut that bullshit out that I have found, was to not talk about being transsexual irl. I also cut a lot of people out of my life, over the many years after I transitioned.

That means life is kind of lonely sometimes, but thank god I have tumblr, other internet communities, a few irl trans friends who I intentionally sought out, and a few special female friends who I can talk about it with.