Posts Tagged ‘Transgender’

It’s TDoR today. Transgender Day of Remembrance. A day specifically devoted to the memories of our siblings who aren’t still here today because of the hate and bigotry of the societies they live in.

This year, we have 221 reported murders. 221 people killed. There’s been an increase. And that’s just those of us who were directly murdered. It doesn’t include those who have died in other ways from society’s hatred.

It’s frightening. It’s rage-enducing. It’s wrong.

And I know that a lot of people think that these figures represent freak incidents. People claim that there isn’t an underlying culture that fosters this degree of hatred and violence directed towards trans folks – primarily, it has to be said, people marginalised in several ways. The intersections are always the most dangerous places to walk – and continue with their casual cissexism, their casual binarism, misgendering, delegitimising, essentialism… and never stop to think that this is how a culture of hate and violence grows.

I know this Government isn’t great, and I can’t say I trust them all that much. However. Linked to in this article is a survey for trans/non-cis people to fill in to provide feedback for the Government for the publication of the Transgender Action Plan. I guess this is our chance to try to make it the least faily possible. I believe the deadline is 6th May.

TW – sexual harassment and non-consensual objectification.

Apparently it’s National Cleavage Day on Thursday. Created by Wonderbra and originating in South Africa, it is held at the end of March/beginning of April. Let’s hand over to Wikipedia for some illumation, hey? (Woman throughout this post stands for woman-identified person, and occasionally female-assigned person if said person is being taken for a woman by society at large and ‘people read as women’ is implicit in the context.)

‘According to Samantha Paterson, the brand manager for Wonderbra, the National Cleavage Day is started according to a design to solemnise women’s independence and power in all facets of life, from their careers to their relationships to their own destiny. Anita Meiring, public relations consultant for Wonderbra, explained the event. “It is a day for women to realise that their cleavage is something unique and that they should be proud of it.” Paterson explained “It gives women a chance to be beautiful and glow in the furtive, yet appreciative, glances their cleavage evokes from men”. She also explained “It gives men a legitimate reason to stare at boobs.”‘

So women’s independence and power in their careers, relationships and destiny should be celebrated with cleavage? OH YES I FORGOT IN THIS FUCKED UP SOCIETY WOMEN’S ONLY VALUE IS THEIR SEX APPEAL. Sure women can be proud of their cleavage – OR LACK OF IT – but we don’t need a capitalist, objectifying day devoted to it.

And it’s a while since I’ve done some quality debunking – actually it isn’t, but never mind – so let’s get going on those last two abominable sentences. Paterson explained “It gives women a chance to be beautiful and glow in the furtive, yet appreciative, glances their cleavage evokes from men”. IT’S CALLED HARASSMENT AND OBJECTIFICATION. Also, all women are beautiful, all the time. This is not the sole indicator of their worth. All women are also worthy, and human, all the time. AND ALL WOMEN DESERVE FREEDOM FROM SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND NON-CONSENSUAL OBJECTIFICATION. She also explained “It gives men a legitimate reason to stare at boobs.”‘ THERE IS NO LEGITIMATE REASON TO NON-CONSENSUALLY STARE AT BOOBS. AND NOT EVERY WOMAN WITH A CLEAVAGE WANTS THEIR BOOBS STARED AT. Talk about legitimating harassment! And heteronormativity! Not all men want to stare at boobs! Also, some heterosexual men are not assholes who HARASS WOMEN.

I’m also annoyed because it’s the SAME FUCKING DAY as Transgender Day of Visibility. GREAT. Because I just KNOW that any discourse will be taken up with cleavage, and there will be no thought given to non-cissexist, respectful discourse and education about trans folks anywhere in my vicinity unless I do it. Which I probably will at least to some extent, if I feel super-brave that day. Also pissed off because the people I found out about this from went off into the ‘At least it’s not Thailand – you wouldn’t know whose cleavage you were looking at!’ shpiel. Misoxeny and transhatred, woo! Fun!

If I do not want to be the ‘opposite’ gender to my assigned one, why do I want need to change aspects of my body to ones that fit our cultural norm of that particular binary gender? Hint – it’s not because I think it’ll make me less my assigned gender. Because hey, I’m not my assigned gender. There’s no grey area there, I can’t be more or less it because I am not that gender. It’s nothing to do with sex, either.

The reason is simple. It’s because I have body dissonance.

The social dissonance, when people look at certain areas of my body and use them to label me as my assigned gender, that’s not really anything to with my body. That’s got a whole fucking lot to do with the shitty binarism and cissexism in society, but fuck-all to do with my body. And yeah, I’m working on the society thing. I aggravate everyone I know by calling them out on their shit when they say it, and then I explain my points, which it’s really not my responsibility to do. I hate the social aspect of things, but that’s not why I want need to change my body.

Social dissonance does make the body dissonance worse, because without it there wouldn’t be all the misgendering associated with the body parts. But it doesn’t cause it, and even in a vacuum I would have body dissonance. Others experience things differently; some find that social dissonance is their biggest problem, some don’t have a problem with one or the other, and so on. I can only speak for my own experience.

The body I use is not the body I love.

Body dissonance is the constant twist at the bottom of my stomach that reminds me with every movement or glance downwards that my body is wrong. It’s wrong at a fundamental level, and it hurts. Sometimes I fantasise about violently altering my body. Sometimes I find it hard to function in the wrong body. Sometimes the pain makes me feel physically sick. That’s not good. That’s why I need some safe way of making the changes.

I do not have body dissonance as badly as some people do. Mostly, I can and do function over it – and that is a privilege for which I am profoundly thankful. Mostly, it doesn’t affect the way I relate to the world because I have become very good at ignoring it. But when I have to stop ignoring it, it hurts.

So that’s why I need to change my body. Whether I can is another matter – I will probably have to pay myself, as a non-binary person who doesn’t want a binary transition path, and whether that money will ever appear is debatable. It’s nothing to do with gender/sex and that stuff. I just have body dissonance. Which is a separate thing, although slightly connected through social dissonance.

A cis guy I know told me this story to illustrate how accepting he is of gender non-conformity. It’s paraphrased, because there were a lot of interruptions from me.

Hell, I know a chick who I thought was a dude! Hung around her for years, I just thought she was a dude – dressed like a dude, acted like a dude, everything. Then one time she took her shirt off and… yeah.

My instant question – Did this person ever say they were a girl?

Well, she was [hand gestures] and – [interrupted by me. Ten minutes later, after a bit of wriggling…] She didn’t say it…

Then, my friend, how do you know? If this person truly identified as a girl, I’m not sure it’s likely you would have hung around with this person for that long without someone correcting you on pronouns, for a start. You can’t just make these assumptions based on anatomy. Sex is a broken category system anyway; we don’t know where things begin and end, we can’t generalise it to the whole population, we invented it based on a collection of symptoms, we originally used it to mean gender.

The whole story is playing into the trans/non-cis-people-as-deceivers trope. If this person is a man, my acquaintance was being profoundly disrespectful and harmful by misgendering him. If this person is non-binary, the same applies (with the added caveat that I really want to meet that person because I know no non-binary, and don’t think I know any non-cis, people in meatspace). If this person is a girl, well, that works out well for everyone because my acquaintance hasn’t been being cissexist and his friend hasn’t been misgendered – except for all the time before he ‘found out.’

So in honour of this acquaintance of mine, here’s a guide for cis (and non-cis??) binary people running into someone (name, here, of X) who doesn’t fit with their binary view of the world.

  1. Don’t get angry. Seriously. X is not trying to fuck with you. X is most likely looking like X does because X likes it. It’s quite simple, really.
  2. Don’t knaw at it. There is no reason why you should be assuming anyone‘s gender at first sight, whether they fit into your idea of the binary or not. X is no different.
  3. Don’t worry. It doesn’t matter. Honestly. In most situations, gender is totally irrelevent. If you don’t know X, gender may well be made clear during introductions and if not it’s not that important. If you get a pronoun wrong, apologise, remember the preferred one, and move on. If you do know X, chances are you’ve either been told or are in a position to ask.
  4. Don’t ask unnecessarily. Sometimes you seriously don’t need to know. Situations like these are when you’ve seen X on the other side of the road, going the other way. Or are passing X in the shop. If you’re never likely to have to talk to or about X, there’s no need to ask. However, if you are going to be more closely acquainted with X, by all means ask, but…
  5. Don’t be too loud about it. Asking is always the best, if you’re not told, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to walk up to someone and say, ‘What gender are you?’ at the top of your voice. You take X aside and say in a quiet voice, ‘Excuse me, I apologise if this is intrusive; would you be comfortable telling me what your gender/pronoun is, since I’d rather not get it wrong and make a dangerous mistake,’ or something along those lines. Do so in a non-threatening way – don’t stand between X and a way out of the conversation if X desires it. If X turns out to be cis and binary and takes offense, don’t put yourself in danger. There are some cis binary folks who can be quite aggressive when their privilege is called into question. Leave the situation, find a friend, stress that you were trying to be considerate, stand close to authority figures.
  6. Don’t mess up. Once you know X’s gender/s/non-gender/s and pronouns, remember them. If you slip, apologise and move on. Respect X’s self-knowledge. If X has chosen not to tell you, respect that as well.
  7. Don’t comment on genitalia. Ever. Unless you’re dating with an eye to a sexual relationship, and even then you should wait for X to be comfortable talking about X’s genitalia.
  8. Don’t ridicule, Other or police X’s self-expression. See the first point.

I have probably missed many things out, but it covers quite a few of the gross breaches of human decency I’ve come across myself. I’ve seen a lot of these tropes happen, mainly to myself, and read about all of them happening to other people. Ignoring these basic points leads to a lot of really shitty situations, including my acquaintance’s little story above.

At least I’m pretty sure he’s not seeing me as binary… I just wish he’d learn that I’m not an isolated case and that he needs to apply the principles he uses to deal with me respectfully to others.

Trigger warning for homophobia, transphobia, erasure and discussion of suicide.

Browsing through the BBC News site, the four main Welsh party leaders have made videos for the launch of Stonewall Cymru’s YouTube channel It Gets Better… Today. The aim of this campaign, inspired by America’s It Gets Better project, is to tell lesbian, gay and bisexual teenagers that they ‘don’t have to wait for their lives to improve – they can be great now,’ (from Stonewall Cymru) and that ‘they don’t have to wait for life to improve as bullying is being tackled’ (from the BBC).

If it really is a start of a concerted push against homophobia from politicians and media figures, then that’s obviously a good thing. As far as I can gather, one major failing of the It Gets Better campaign is that there’s little or no concrete action going on, and it’s based on the foundation of ‘hold on, then later on things will get better.’ This one seems to counteract that by saying, no, you shouldn’t have to wait. Which is good, although empty if there’s no action taken. And by the way, action doesn’t mean posters; my old school had the SOME PEOPLE ARE GAY : GET OVER IT posters up everywhere and I still experienced quite a bit of homophobia, despite not even being out to myself as any kind of queer, and I still wouldn’t have been comfortable speaking to teachers about it.

BUT. I addressed the positives first because that’s my normal essay style. (do you agree ‘yes because… NO NO FUCKING NO because THIS, GODDAMN IT, THIS!!!’)

BUT. What about transphobia? Stonewall has always ignored or denigrated the non-cis population. They have given awards to transphobes. Sometimes they have claimed to represent the T in LGBT, but they’ve generally done more harm than good. Again, non-cis people are being thrown under the bus, being ignored and erased utterly. In the UK, it was found in ‘the UK’s largest survey of trans people (N = 872)’ (http://www.nmhdu.org.uk/our-work/mhep/gender/transgender/) that 34% of adult trans people have attempted suicide. According to the LBGT Excellence Centre Wales, ‘the national suicide rate for Trans People is estimated at 3 in 100,000, 31% of this group. It is estimated that 1 in 7 of diagnosed Trans People attempt suicide at least once during their life. It is estimated that the main causes of “Trans Suicide” are harassment , denial of treatment, and absence of support. It is also estimated that 1 in 200 transsexuals commit suicide within 5 yrs of having Gender Reassignment surgery, as a result of depression brought on by harassment / bullying.’

So yeah, transphobia and transphobic bullying totally aren’t worth campaigning against, because, like, no-one gets affected by it…

Dear top politicians; you don’t just have a responsibility towards non-heterosexual people in your country. You have a responsibility towards non-cis people in your country as well. We’re hurting. We’re dying. We’re bleeding. Stonewall is not our friend, and by endorsing them you are signalling that you are not our friends either. And we need you. Damn but we need you. Don’t abandon yet another population. Begin to take a stand against the kyriarchy – all the kyriarchy – in our society. Then maybe faith in you will return. From someone who exists, despite everyone’s protestations to the contrary.

Transphobia is rampant. Possibly more than homophobia, although the two are so closely intertwined in most of the cis, straight bullies in schools that it’s very hard to tell which you’re dealing with. I’ve experienced both. As far as homophobia went, there was lip service towards its wrongness. There was lip service towards the wrongness of many other types of kyriarchy. Transphobia… anything to do with being trans… never mentioned. Ever. Except by the kids who saw someone different, and went on the homophobic and transphobic warpath.

*    *    *

On a side note, I think I, as a non-binary person, got explicitly included in a lesson the other day. In history, the guy that takes it said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, and anyone who isn’t a lady or a gentleman is welcome to participate too.’ He probably didn’t mean it the way I took it; he was probably being sarcastic, or facetious. But it gave me a warm little thrill inside and I really want to send him an email thanking him, but I daren’t because I’m scared of coming out to my teachers. It feels pathetic that I’m thrilled by these tiny, tiny, tiny things…

Seriously, though, unless he’s saying it to every class, what were the chances of him saying it in the presence of a non-binary student?

The idea of (cis) male entitlement to have (perceived) female bodies on display for them is a concept well-established. It’s a form of entitlement that leads to a lot of sexual harassment and assault, and is damaging for those read as female as their appearance and choices are policed by assholes who really believe that shit, who really believe the people they read as female have an obligation to present themselves in a way appealing to them.

There’re many forms of this entitlement, in which a privileged group feels entitled to police the appearance of marginalised groups because the marginalised groups ‘should’ be presenting themselves for the privileged ones. It happens along any line of oppression when the difference is visible in some way; race, ability, size… and gender.

Cissexist (cis) people often seem to think that non-cis people’s genders and expression of such are there to be judged by them. They set themselves up as the standard for their gender, and then think that every time a non-cis person so much as moves, they’re presenting their gender for inspection. These expectations for the behaviour and presentation of non-cis people are almost always founded on really narrow, binary, binarist gender roles – because what’s cissexism without an unhealthy dose of sexism?- and expectations. Because of course, every cis woman wears makeup and shaves and has long hair. Is the sarcasm-detector overloading yet?

And every little thing becomes a gendered performance – an idea that implies artifice. An idea that implies a false facade of gender over the ‘reality’ – which is always, in the eyes of cissexists, the person’s assigned sex, thus degendering non-cis people even further. The way the person does anything becomes gendered. No thought to ‘x sits like that because x finds it comfortable’, no, it’s got to be ‘x sits like that because x is trying to be a y, and so x must sit like the cis y people.’ The person becomes reduced to their ‘attempts’ to ‘be’ their true gender, despite the fact that they are already their true gender. And then the cissexists look at the person and say, no, you’re DOIN IT RONG. No matter what, UR DOIN IT RONG and the person’s body, appearance, choices become topics of conversation, to be ripped apart by all and sundry.

That’s just for binary people. For non-binary folks, every little action is used to prove that we’re actually binary – because everything is gendered one way or another, in our highly binary society. And they expect us to provide them with a perfect blend of gendered traits, or they say, no, you’re actually binary and you’re in denial, LOOK, you did THIS, that’s so BINARY. Then once they’ve misgendered us, they’ll attack us like they attack binary folks, by saying we don’t measure up.

Well, you know what, cissexists? We don’t exist to be looked at and judged by anyone, let alone you. We exist to live our own lives, to make our own purpose, to do our own thing. To look our own way. You are not the supreme authority on our genders/non-genders, and when we appear a certain way, we’re mostly doing it because we want to. Not because we want your approval. Not because we want your attention.

And while you’re at it, if you feel entitled to police, to judge anyone’s appearance because of your own privileged sense of entitlement – JUST STOP. You’re being an insensitive, bigoted, kyriarchal shitbomb. It doesn’t matter what oppression/s your sense of that entitlement stems from – it’s all unacceptable. We’re all human beings, with selfhood and a right to our own personal autonomy. And remember – if you’re judging others, they will judge you. If you tell me I’m not myself, I’ll tell you that you’re an insensitive, bigoted, kyriarchal shitbomb. And I’ll have a lot more grounds for that judgement.