Static on the radio

February 7, 2010

Potential triggers: In this post I talk about certain issues arising from our being misgendered following a serious accident or death. I realise that some readers may find the topic disturbing and would respectfully suggest that anyone who feels these subjects could be triggering to them, to please not read this post.

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little light’s recent post at Questioning Transphobia, “is a dream a lie if it don’t come true / or is it something worse” (password protected) was a powerful illustration of a problem faced by too many of us; that of the validity and authenticity of our identities as perceived by too many cis people. It is too often the case that we are considered to be, to paraphrase Queen Emily, “‘really’ a man/woman/whatever gender we were assigned at birth” (via QT).

In her post, little light recounted how a friend, in hospital after a serious road traffic accident, whose family took her off her transitioning medical regimen and instructed caregivers to call her by her old name, because “it would just be too confusing to explain”. It is one of the worst examples of the arrogant assumption of cis people that they are better qualified than we are to make decisions about our identities. It demonstrates the dangers of “good intentions” being used by cis people as a euphemismistic excuse for attacking us with one of the most devastating, and potentially fatal, tools of cis oppression available to them: misgendering.

The point of little light’s post was to share her realisation that this could just as easily happen to any of us, and to urge us to prepare for, and protect ourselves against, such attacks being launched against us at a time in our lives when we may be at our most vulnerable. For various reasons, I’ve been thinking about it a lot, and wholeheartedly agree with her suggestion to:

Figure out what your wishes are about your care, write them down, and share them with people you trust, and then make them official, because you cannot know what will happen tomorrow.

I find myself wondering how the hostile action of identity erasure – by cis people I might have to rely on to support me – would play out in the event of not only my being unable to indicate my wish to refuse all or some forms of medical treatment, but also in the event of my death.

From my limited research so far, it seems that if I am somehow left unable to indicate my wish to refuse all or some forms of medical treatment – and I include enforced detransitioning in that – then I need to have in place a so-called living will. Whereas, in the event of my death, however that happens, then a will would seem to be the most appropriate place to set out my wishes for my desired treatment of my remains.

Whilst it wouldn’t be too difficult to prepare these documents – guidance notes and freely downloadable templates are to be found online via Google or other search engines – there are further considerations. And, frankly, they’re really starting to bother me.

What if the people you trust – and they may be friends rather than family – are not people you actually see very often? For example, my employer required me to provide contact details for two next-of-kin to be contacted in the event of my death at work; the names I selected were two good friends, but neither lives nearby. Suppose they couldn’t be reached, or couldn’t get my documents to the powers-that-be in a timely manner? What if, in their absence, a member (or members) of my estranged family were contacted instead? There’s no doubt in my mind that my ex-family would grab with both hands the opportunity to rewrite my history in their image.

And – if I was incapacitated rather than dead – what if the medical people should decide that there were “health reasons” for, say, stopping my estrogen therapy, or removing my breast implants? Would they be required to obtain a specialist’s opinion or would they “treat” first and ask questions later?

After-death aspects are equally disquieting. Again, who would ensure that those responsible for disposing of my remains actually did so in accordance with my wishes? That, for example, I wouldn’t be given a religious or faith-based ceremony and that I wasn’t misgendered in the relevant documentation (death certificates, etc)?

These are questions I now want to find definitive answers to. I want to know that, no matter how much transphobic misgendering and refusal to respect my identity I endure in my present existence, I do at least have some say in the way these issues are treated in hospital and, eventually, at the morgue. If any reader should have any links or other pointers to further sources of (UK-specific) information, I’d be really grateful if you’d leave a note in the comments.

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3am – I’m awakened by a sweet summer rain…
Distant howling of a passing southbound coal train
Was I dreaming or was there someone just lying here beside me in this bed?
Am I hearing things?
Or in the next room, did a long forgotten music box just start playing?
And I know – it’s a sin putting words in the mouths of the dead
And I know – it’s a crime to weave your wishes into what they said
And I know – only fools venture where the spirits tread
‘Cause I know – every word, every sound bouncing round my head
Is just static on the radio, static on the radio…
Everything I think I know is just static on the radio

Midnight rendezvous with a pretty girl, wearing a torn and tear-stained gown
Like a ghost ship she appeared from nowhere on a lonely highway and flagged me down
I gave her a lift downtown to the Greyhound station
And in the flicker of the neon lights, she kissed me goodbye
And in the mirror of her eyes I saw my own reflection
And I know – the blind will sometimes lead the blind
And I know – through shadow lands and troubled times
And I know – forsaking love, we seek the signs
And I know – of truths forever hid behind
The static on the radio, static on the radio…
Everything I think I know is just static on the radio

Now there’s a church house about a stone’s throw down from this place where I been staying
It’s Sunday morning, and I’m sittin’ in my truck listening to my neighbor sing
Ten years ago I might have joined in
But don’t time change those inclined to think less of what is written than what’s wrote between the lines?
‘Cause I know – dreams are for those who are asleep in bed
And I know – it’s a sin putting words in the mouths of the dead
‘Cause I know – for all my ruminations I can’t change a thing
Still I hope – there’s others out there that are listening
To the static on the radio, static on the radio…
Everything I think I know is just static on the radio
Ain’t praying for miracles, I’m just down on my knees
Listening for the song behind everything I think I know
Everything I think I know is just static on the radio
Everything I think I know is just static on the radio…

8 Responses to “Static on the radio”

  1. William Says:

    This Department of Health Document explains how trans people are treated once dead in the UK. It includes extensive advice to medical professionals about how to work out the probable gender identity of a trans person and specifically tells professionals to ignore the family’s wishes for name/pronoun/appropriate dress if this is clearly different from how the trans person was living their life. http://www.gires.org.uk/assets/DOH-Assets/pdf/doh-bereavement.pdf

  2. Youngsook Says:

    Hi Helen.
    Check the bereavement guide for transsexual people published by the Department of Health. If you have lived full time in an acquire gender, you have a legal right to be bereaved in that way you wish. But as we know, laws often cannot exceed the prejudice and transphobic attitudes. The guide includes a few examples and one of them is the conflictual case between a family member and a closed friend over the funeral process that would remark practical issues you are concerned I guess. Also the case of Janice as we know. She was buried against her will and all her friends were discouraged to attend in her funeral. Transphobia goes beyond the grave…

    Xx.

  3. little light Says:

    I’m sorry to clarify, Helen, that “Melissa” did not in fact ever awaken, and is at this time deceased.

    Best of luck with your process.

  4. Helen G Says:

    little light: Thank you for the clarification. I have amended my post accordingly.

    Youngsook and William: Thank you both for the information. I have downloaded the linked documents and am in the process of reading them.

  5. Diz Says:

    Thank you for this reminder. As the mother in law of a F to M young man, I’m very much learning my way around this. Please, as well as making your wishes known, which may be pretty obvious, please let your family and friends know what your RIGHTS are, too, so we can fight for them if necessary.
    May I suggest something like a MedicAlert bracelet and something in your wallet to inform medical personnel of your needs.

  6. Helen G Says:

    Diz: Thank you for stopping by, and for your comments. Your SiL is fortunate to have such caring and thoughtful family members to discuss these things with.

    For reference, the MedicAlert UK site can be found at http://www.medicalert.org.uk and I’ll certainly be contacting them to find out more about what sort of information can be included in their products.

  7. Diz Says:

    Oh I wish that were so! We didn’t get on because at first I was treating ‘her’ like the daughter in law she seemed to be. He seems to be having difficulty accepting that we accept him, but I’m trying not to give up. Hopefully he’ll be more comfortable with us eventually.

  8. Helen G Says:

    *nods*
    These things take time…
    I hope all concerned will become more comfortable with each other, but it’s never easy.
    love and hugs to you all
    Helen
    x


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