Archive for January, 2009

Enough.

January 29, 2009

20090129_enoughEnough.

It seems that every single conversation about trans issues that takes place in any online space where cis women feminists have access (not only cis women feminists – and not all cis women feminists – but the worst examples seem to originate there) ends up in yet another round of trans people being called on to justify their existence, or to jump through the same old hoops of another Trans 101 circus… The same old entitlement of cis people, the same old cis privilege leveraged as a blunt instrument of oppression with which to bludgeon us into silence.

And I say: enough.

At this precise moment I’m this close (*gestures vaguely with thumb and forefinger*) to just flattening this blog and walking away from it.

I’ve been too ambivalent for too long about my relationship with feminism, but right here, right now, it seems to me that the idea of being a trans woman and subscribing to the ideals of feminism (as presently prescribed by cis women) is an oxymoron, plain and simple.

Because I just don’t see how anyone, trans or cis, can honestly say that what passes for feminism online is anything other than fucked. Totally fucked. And I’ve had enough of it.

Enough.

To quote a good friend of mine: I’m sick of this cis feminist bullshit that says “trans people shouldn’t exist” and “we bloody should” are two equally valid opinions to hold under the wide umbrella of feminism. That is a completely untenable position, glossed over by a lack of understanding of what the word diversity truly means.

I say again: enough.

It’s hard to see how it’s possible to be both a trans woman and a feminist. But I can’t stop being transsexual – even if I could, I wouldn’t want to – so maybe it’s time to just leave this stupid, frustrating and too-often offensively oppressive online existence behind and just get on with living my life. My real life. My mundane, everyday life.

Meatspace.

At least there, the discrimination and prejudice, the harassment and oppression have faces. Those things are directed at me by real people, on the street, at work, everywhere. But at least I see the faces of my oppressors. At least they have to make snap value judgements about the real person, about me, before they direct their abundance of stupid at me…

But, enough, now.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt more strongly that the time is now, certainly for trans only spaces online – and maybe I’m even starting to edge towards a notion of a form of trans separatism too. I sure as hell don’t see anything for me here; it’s painfully clear that attempts to find a state where some kind of mutual respect, understanding, tolerance and maybe even some kind of integration between trans and cis people only ever fail.

And I’ve had enough.

There’ll likely be a blogging hiatus here for the next few days, then I may be back or I may not. Right now it just doesn’t matter any more. That’s enough.

Enough.

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Illinois Vital Records division refuses to issue correct documents

January 28, 2009

Image from Chicago Sun TimesVia the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune, I see that two trans women have filed a lawsuit challenging the Illinois Vital Records division’s refusal to change their birth certificates.

Kari Rothkopf and Tori Kirk both underwent gender reaffirmation surgery in Thailand, and because both women had their surgeries overseas (not in the United States), the Illinois Vital Records division has refused to correct their documents.

This seemingly authoritarian interpretation of the state’s Vital Records Act is now being challenged by the ACLU on behalf of the two women, on the grounds that the denials are a violation of state law.

Officials with the Illinois Department of Public Health — which encompasses the Vital Records division — say their hands are tied.

“We are following the Vital Records Act, and we are simply enforcing that,” said department spokeswoman Melaney Arnold. “The part that we are particularly looking at is the definition of physician. Physician means a person licensed to practice medicine in Illinois or any other state.”

As in, one of the United States.

[…]

Joel Ginsberg, executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, estimates that between 1,600 and 2,000 patients undergo major gender-related surgeries each year.

“Given that many if not most health plans will not reimburse for medically necessary transgender surgery procedures, many transgender people find it necessary to leave the country in order to get the services they need,” Ginsberg said. “So it’s both illogical and unfair to not allow people to change their legal documentation to reflect the reality about their bodies and their condition.”

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(Cross-posted at Questioning Transphobia)

Lambda Istanbul wins appeal against closure

January 28, 2009

Turkish flagLast November, I posted about trans rights abuses in Turkey. Zafer Üskül, head of Turkish Parliament’s Human Rights Commission said time and patience was needed for improvement on the issue. I voiced my opinion that the time is now and trans people’s patience has run out, and it’s a view I still hold to.

So I’m happy to see Amnesty International USA reporting here that Lambda Istanbul, the Turkish LGBT solidarity organisation “has won its appeal against the closure of the association”.

A local court in Istanbul had ordered the closure of the association on 29 May 2008. The original ruling followed a complaint by the Istanbul Governor’s Office that Lambda Istanbul’s objectives were against Turkish “moral values and family structure”.

The Supreme Court of Appeals rejected the local court’s decision on the grounds that reference to LGBT people in the name and the statute of the association did not constitute opposition to Turkish moral values. The Court’s judgment also recognized the right of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals to form associations.

The case will now go back to the local court in Istanbul, which is expected to uphold the Supreme Court of Appeals’ decision.

Welcoming the outcome of the appeal, Amnesty International’s researcher on Turkey Andrew Gardner said: “This is an important decision upholding the rights of freedom of association and non-discrimination.

“The judgment should send a clear message to the authorities not to interfere in the legitimate work of LGBT organisations.”

Human Rights Violations on Kenya’s TS&TG Community

January 28, 2009

Flag of KenyaSokari at Black Looks has posted a paper by Audrey Mbugua called Human Rights Violations on Kenya’s Transgender Community.

It’s a solidly-researched and impassioned piece which includes a request by the Kenyan TS&TG community to the government there to make suitable provisions in the New Constitution. I recommend reading the whole thing, but here are a couple of quotes that particularly struck me.

Because of the conflation of transgenderism and homosexuality, the common fallacies that come out when we look into the history of “transgender hate” oppression is that it’s mostly labeled as “gay hate” oppression. But, on a closer look, a vast majority of these “gay hate” crimes are actually atrocities done on Kenya’s transgender community.

Transgendered people in Kenya have always been part of the Kenyan society since time immemorial. Transgenderism and transsexualism like homosexuality are a source of great phobia in our society. Although the Kenyan Constitution does not criminalize transsexualism and transgenderism, there are both institutionalized and non-institutionalize forms of discrimination pervading in Kenya.

When we don’t raise our voice against these thoughtless acts of human degradation, we knowingly allow perpetual oppression of transgender individuals.

While you cannot force people to love you, you have the right to be treated with dignity and respect by those around you irrespective of any condition you might find yourself in.

Link: Human Rights Violations on Kenya’s Transgender Community

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(Cross-posted at Questioning Transphobia)

Meddle

January 27, 2009

I’ve been feeling a bit meh, or possibly mehhh, for the past few days, due mainly to the ebb and flow of the tides of hormones sloshing around inside. And although, in fairness, that’s mostly another story, it has some bearing on this post as I’m rediscovering the restorative powers of music as a sort of palliative for my PMS. Along with chocolate. Things that are good for what ails me…

By chance, as the storm clouds of hormones were gathering on my mental horizons last weekend, I chanced upon this tune, Meddle, by Little Boots. Feeling, as I was at the time, a little… porous… the lyrics of the chorus struck a fairly major chord with me. Then the melody lodged itself in my head and now I’ve just found what may well be one of the most compelling music vids I’ve seen for ages.

It’s a live recording of the song in a demo stylee, and is, well, pretty damn amazing, I think. Simplifiers! Singing! Stylophones! And a television that’s really a drum machine! Amazing…

So here it is, I hope you like it too:

Little Boots – Meddle (bedroom version – acoustic on piano, tenorion and stylophone oo la la)

I remember all the things she did before
I remember all the times she cried
I remember all the things you promised her
and no one heard
I remember all the times you lied

don’t meddle with her heart
or meddle with her mind
or meddle with the things that are inside
you don’t know what you’ll find
you don’t know what she hides

so don’t go messing with her heart
or messing with her mind
or messing with the things that are inside
you don’t know what you’ll find
you don’t know what she hides

she still remembers like it’s yesterday
she still remembers you so well
she still remembers all the things you swore
forever more
she still remembers but won’t tell

’cause she’s a mixed up girl in a mixed up world
and you know she don’t mean any harm
so please understand if you take her hand
you’ll get much more than you bargained for

don’t meddle with her heart
or meddle with her mind
or meddle with the things that are inside
you don’t know what you’ll find
you don’t know what she hides

so don’t go messing with her heart
or messing with her mind
or messing with the things that are inside
you don’t know what you’ll find
you don’t know what she hides…

And for comparison, here’s the single version. Unfortunately without a real vid, but I do like the stripy T-shirt, and at least it’s not one of those dire YouTubey vid things where they show you a film of the record player for hours on end…

Little Boots – Meddle [New Single 2008]

It’s music like this that makes me start to wonder if I could/should find a buyer for my beloved-but-dust-gathering Fender Splat-o-Bastard and get a synth – although I don’t know if my predecessor’s musical creativity can be restored.

But still, it is a tune of amazing amazingness…

ETA: Whatever happened to Imogen Heap, btw?
*Clicks over to Twitter*

trans woman

January 24, 2009

in-the-kitchenI identify as a trans woman.

In this context, I use the word trans as:

  1. an adjective, and
  2. an abbreviation

1. Trans as an adjective: I do not refer to myself as a transwoman for the same reason given by Lisa Harney in her comment on Cedar’s post Put the Goddamn Space in: “transwoman” “transfeminism” “transmasculine” etc (language politics #1):

[F]or a lot of transsexual women, ‘transwoman’ is othering because we’re transitioning to female/woman, and we’re not trying to be a special exceptional kind of woman (transwoman) which is effectively a third or fourth gender, but a woman who is trans (like a woman who is black, or a woman who is lesbian), and for us, the adjective form is preferable.

2. Trans as an abbreviation: I use the word trans as an abbreviation of transsexual, and not as an abbreviation of transgender (which I use as a more generic, umbrella term for people who are gender variant or otherwise questioning their gender): I do not refer to myself as a transgender woman.

By transsexual I mean that I was medically diagnosed as having a long-lasting, extreme case of gender dysphoria. However, I am uncomfortable with the mainstream medical definition of gender dysphoria as a condition in which a person feels that they are trapped within a body of the wrong sex. I prefer the term gender dissonance for the same reason given by Julia Serano in the glossary on the web page for her book Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity:

gender dissonance
A form of cognitive dissonance experienced by trans people due to a misalignment of their subconscious and physical sexes. Gender dissonance differs somewhat from the psychiatric term “gender dysphoria,” which typically conflates this cognitive dissonance regarding one’s sex with the mental stresses that arise from societal pressure to conform to gender norms.

In addition, I prefer the use of the female pronouns she and her (see also nixwilliams’ Getting pronouns right: a guide for spoken conversation), and the formal form of address Ms.

Get it? Got it? Good!

tg_black-on_pink_100x107Proviso #1: I see my transition as an ongoing, dynamic and open-ended process. Consequently, I reserve the right to modify, alter or otherwise change my views, opinions and self-identification as I continue to refine my personal value/belief system towards the formulation of an ideology – a “politics of being trans” – that works for me.

Proviso #2: Other trans people may have other definitions, or see things differently from me. This is not a problem. At least, not for me.

For answers to further Trans 101-related questions, please refer to the links in my blogroll under the subheading Trans 101 (hey lord, don’t ask me questions)

Rothko

January 24, 2009

Black & Grey

Black & Grey
(Via portfolio.com)

Light Red Over Black

Light Red Over Black
(Via Tate Collection)

Access permitted?

January 23, 2009

Duty callsI <3 my BlackBerry – but I’m also well aware that, for example, being able to Tweet while nibbling daintily at my lunchtime sandwich in the local coffee shop is an entirely unnecessary luxury.

But for those who have access to technology – and I know that there are issues around class and privilege, etc, with that – is it not a Good Thing that world leaders can be contacted by the electorate by as many different means as possible?

Via BBC World News:

Barack Obama is to keep his BlackBerry, becoming the first US president to have access to e-mail in the White House.

[…]

“It’s just one tool among a number of tools that I’m trying to use, to break out of the bubble, to make sure that people can still reach me,” he told CNN.

“If I’m doing something stupid, somebody in Chicago can send me an e-mail and say, ‘What are you doing?'”

Although I do wonder just how much email access to the President people will really have; how much screening will be in place. If, for example, to pull a completely hypothetical and random thought out of the air – if there was an email campaign pressing for an early resolution to the trans exclusive ENDA situation, would all those emails (a) actually reach him, (b) be replied to and (c) be acted upon?

More flippantly I also wonder if his spam filters will keep out all the ‘remortgage your penis’ junk mail…

(Cross-posted at Questioning Transphobia)

What are you doing?

January 22, 2009

what are you doing?You know you’ve become addicted to Twitter when you start writing blog posts of less than 140 characters – and they still look too long! ^_^

Cis people impose draconian restrictions on trans woman’s access rights to her child

January 22, 2009

Spanish flagI posted last November about the potential threat of revocation of Nancy Beatie’s parental rights.

In an interview with ABC News, it emerged that “if the validity of their marriage were challenged, experts say, Nancy Beatie’s parental rights could be in jeopardy”.

But, by way of proof (not that it’s needed) that Planet Cis is completely even-handed in its discrimination against parents in relationships where at least one partner is trans and there are children involved, this story brings into sharp relief the force that the state is able to bring to bear against trans parents, apparently at will, not to say somewhat randomly.

The report flags up the problems faced by a Spanish trans woman, Alexia Pardo, whose ex-wife – a cis woman – is stopping Ms Pardo from seeing her son.

Via Typically Spanish:

A Spanish transsexual says she will take her fight to spend more time with her son to the court in Strasbourg. It comes after, for the first time ever, the Spanish Constitutional Court has thrown out her appeal, despite earlier accepting it for hearing.

Álex Pardo, from Lugo, and now known as Alexia, is being stopped from seeing her son by her ex wife, who blocked access when she heard that the then Álex was undergoing hormonal treatment, claiming that the child’s father’s sex change could upset his psychological balance. Alexia says that is rubbish and that she and her son get on fabulously.

For starters, I wonder if it’s really the child’s ‘psychological balance’ that cis society is concerned about. I wonder if we’re actually talking in some sort of code and what we’re really referring to is the psychological balance of Ms Pardo’s ex-partner?

Then there are the terms used in the report. Surprisingly, although the journalist – for once – seems to have understood the importance of using the correct pronouns when speaking of trans people, there’s still an underlying process of misgendering and dehumanisation at work:

  • “A Spanish transsexual…” – A Spanish transsexual what? I understand ‘transsexual’ to be an adjective, not a noun. Does the report talk about Ms Pardo’s ex-partner as ‘a cis’? No, it doesn’t.
  • “Álex Pardo, from Lugo, and now known as Alexia…” – And what possible relevance does Ms Pardo’s pre-transition name have here? None at all.
  • The use of gendered terms like ‘ex-wife’ and ‘father’. Why not just say ‘ex-partner’ and ‘parent’?

But onwards…

In 2005 the Provincial Court in Lugo ordered that the father could spend just two hours every 15 days with the child, provided psychologists and both parents were present. The verdict however noted that the child was aware of the situation, and had no problem that his father was now a woman, and he had a good relationship with her.

Alexia PardoTwo hours every 15 days? On condition that psychologists and Ms Pardo’s ex-partner are also present? To me, that only sends out one message, and it sends it loud and clear: Ms Pardo’s very existence is considered to be such a threat to her child that her presence will only be tolerated under an almost microscopic level of supervision and scrutiny – which will, of course, be carried out by a cis woman and members of the medical profession.

What, no handcuffs and leg-irons? No armed guards? How about a full strip-search beforehand? Full biohazard suits all round, maybe?

Because, as everybody knows – especially highly qualified and trained expert medical specialists like psychologists – transsexuality is contagious and by implication downright dangerous to cis people.

So, can anyone explain to me how this breathtaking display of cis paranoia by the court will protect the child’s ‘psychological balance’? Is there any pre-existing evidence at all that such alarmingly heavy-handed treatment of one of the child’s parents – in front of the child, too – won’t actually cause the psychological harm to the child that it claims it seeks to prevent?

Rampant institutionalised transphobia? Not much…

ETA: I also begin to wonder if it sets a precedent for any parent (trans or cis) to block another’s access to their child on the grounds that the other’s medical condition may disturb the child’s ‘psychological balance’. Given that this case is, presumably, being heard under EU legislation, the potential implications are very worrying. In addition, where does it leave sex discrimination legislation?