Sunday, June 22, 2008

Willow Thinks Thinky Thoughts

Ami of Ami's SuperCute Rants Of Dooooom, has been having a back and forth with a bit of an arsewipe re: trans issues. That's not something I'm going into since the arsewipe in question identifies as a radical feminist which, along with the current lack of listening, tells me everything I need to know about them and their ability to absorb complex issues.

Moving away from the middle class white woman with drama, I want to talk about the first two sentences that begin her (the radfem's) main thoughts.

"I don't believe in gender as a true concept, I believe it is a social construct. I do not believe that there are any qualities which are innately 'male' or 'female', but that human beings are conditioned from birth to behave in a certain way based solely on their genitalia."

I read those sentences and I couldn't read any further. Now, given replies and posts about the spew coming from that direction, my mind was already going in one direction. But the reason I couldn't read any further is because I felt, reading those two lines, that I knew EVERYTHING this individual was basing their thoughts on.

You see I was struck with how very cisprivileged that statement is. If I'm wrong (about this or other things) and you're trans or trans allied, please do correct me. Ami in particular (who graciously looked over this post's drafts for me). I'd hate to be going down the wrong path. But that statement just smears with privilege to me. How can it not be a privilege to be able to believe that gender is purely a social construct if you yourself have no personal trials in the area?

If how you see yourself and how you feel matches up to your genitalia then how the hell can you be in any position to judge whether or not something is a social construct? How can it not be a fricking GIFT to be able to think of the whole thing as a academic excersize? As theory?

How the hell would you have any perspective at all in how social conditioning can go AGAINST something innate?

Now, I might not be able to accurately judge socialization in terms of being trans, but I know I butted up against socialization in terms of being queer. Who I was, how I walked, how I dressed, how I talked, how I sat, how I laughed it ALL was judged. And a lot of the times I was told I was being too boyish. The fear of course was that I'd turn out to be a 'mannish woman' which was another word, culturally, for DREADED LESBIAN.

Bully for my family, it happened anyway.

But I do have the personal experience of who I was, what came naturally to me, being classified as wrong and inappropriate. And no, that doesn't confirm the concept of gender as a social construct only. Because I have the experience of feeling bristled and being chastized for my innate actions and expressions of self as being wrong.

Innate actions.

Expressions of self.

And in my case they all revolved around a fear of masculinity.

There was something within me that was naturally a certain way. And I say was, because truthfully it's all screwed up now and I don't really know if who I am is who I am, or who I decided was the least conflicting way to be. Now, people can debate all they want about how the traits I expressed as a child, which my family feared, came to be labeled masculine. Go ahead, knock yourself out. The point is, those traits came from within me.

So yes, I can absolutely understand that the innate expression of self can be contrary to how society would like to label. And I can absolutely understand and believe that at some point when a child stops thinking of themselves as just THEMSELVES and starts personally, mentally, applying pronouns that the one they reach for naturally, the one that feels right, could bloodly well be the opposite to their outside parts.

Are they absorbing socialization? Who the fuck cares. Until we live in a society that actively uses only gender neutral pronouns and the qualities of physical sex are only relevant as to whether or not you'll be the one to carry a child if you so decide to have children - then human beings have two genders; male and female. At some point in their life someone realizes that THIS is them, be it male or female. This is what resonates, this is who and how they are.

And there are some incredibly courageous people who thenchoose, imagine that, they CHOOSE TO DEAL WITH THE BULLSHIT that currently comes because their inner innie doesn't match their outie, or their inner outie doesn't match their innie; bullshit that's formed by cisgendered pre-conceptions and obsessions about what gender and gender expression is - OUR BULLSHIT. There are women who choose to make sure to present themselves as women, even though they could just shut up and on the surface pass as men. They present who they are inside, even though it means publicly acknowledging the added feelings of vulnerability in a society where women are often treated as commodities. And there are men who deal with bullshit like male emotional repression and the anxieties and fears of women concerning men and issues of manhood and masculinity and the violence that comes with challenging those concepts- but they do it because can't deny who they are.

They CHOOSE to deal with us (society) and the baggage we've hung around gender identity. They decide it/figure it out, like everyone else, but then they have to CHOOSE to deal with the pressure to conform in a way most people never feel. They consciously choose every day to be true to themselves; they wake up and live their lives and present themselves physically as who they feel inside and damn to people who wish otherwise.

Please Note: I'm NOT SAYING that transpeople CHOOSE TO BE A GENDER. THEY DON'T. There is no real choice in choosing to be who you are. YOU JUST ARE. I'm saying that they have a unique opportunity to lie to themselves, to hide themselves, that's what society wants and it's incredibly easy for them to be invisible. I wouldn't even call it a closet, since to come out as trans means to tell someone you are trans vs to simply be at whatever level you're most comfortable. I am in no position what so ever to comment on coming out as trans.And I think it's an illusion to think it's more than briefly similar to coming out as Same Gender Loving. A woman just is a woman (cis or trans). A man just is a man (cis or trans). But there are some men and women who could be invisible so easily; who could ignore or walk away from the progress needed in gender equality issues and perceptions - but they don't.

To me it's somewhat akin to being bi-racial in an era of Jim Crow laws and choosing not to pass; knowing that someone could take your life for looking at the wrong person, for not being timid or grateful enough, or for 'fooling' them into thinking you were one of them when you're not. It's choosing not to pass knowing in the current climate it's legal to kill you if they so decide to (Lynchings were on the books, people). But instead they are choosing to be themselves despite a fuck ass stupid contingent that'd rather point fingers and weep long showy crocodile tears than work towards making this earth a better place.

So with all that said. Is there a transgendered super hero out there in a current and active comic? Is there someone using this analogy of courage to deal with aliens, magic and crazy techno villians?

And if there isn't - why not? Because someone needs to physically show, panel by panel exactly why statements like 'I believe gender is a purely social concept' is but so much privilege and an excuse to try and deny individuals their identities.

[ My thanks to Ami for reading through the drafts AND for her suggestion of Miss Martian, a character with a unique history and struggle to discover herself because she was 'born into a culture where she was seen as an aberration and taught to deny who she is'

I'd also like to note some of my own frustration in tidying up those drafts as I came to realize how important words are when discussing trans issues. Being unaware of the emotional weight of some words that are used to disparage transindividuls, I made some mistakes in word choice and some might still be here.]


  1. I like your thinky thoughts :) Ty again for writing this :D

    It is amazing to me how so often the actual experiences and voices and feelings of transppl are ignored or dismissed by cisppl as they discuss the "issue" of transsexuality and transgenderism and how everything is purely gender construction (or conversely that everything is purely biological destiny) amongst themselves as if it's just some academic exercise, some theory when there are ACTUAL PPL DEALING WITH IT RIGHT NOW trying to speak! >:O

    And I hate when ppl explain to us WHY we transition, or push us to justify WHY, as if we could rly explain it to somebody who is cisgendered in a way that they'd GET our feelings... I mean, that's like a gay person being able to explain to a straight person why they like somebody of the same sex. >:\

    And all the speculation then about how we must be transitioning cuz we're "butch women" or "effeminate men" or something and the whole condescending attitude of "we know you better than you know yourselves", or worse that b/c our existence and experiences violates their theory on gender construction (or biological destiny), therefore WE are the crazy ones and must be dismissed, ignored, or "fixed" somehow! D:

    Also Miss Martian is awesome! :D


    And so are you! :D

  2. Ami:

    It's odd isn't it how Transexuality is 'theory' and they get to decide. And 'racism' is something that doesn't exist anymore, it too is now theory, but when it does pop its head up, they get to decide.

    I don't think you're wrong in thinking that there's anger and resentment that transexuals are disproving theories they've decided are the answer to everything because their theories promote their agenda.

    Something just popped into my mind because I've been having more of this conversation online with a friend. I found myself thinking that one's introductions to things really do set a tone for how you will view things in the future.

    My introduction to non mainstream gender expression came in the form of two women. Most likely they were prostitutes or at least that's what my mother led me to imply.

    They were the two most beautiful women I'd ever seen. One was white, with blonde hair in braids with beads and long legs and this great smile. She smiled at children and it made me smile back at her. The other was very very dark skinned with her hair in braids toom abd she made me think of The Queen of Sheba. They both wore make-up and beautiful clothes, short but suited to the weather. I saw them around town.

    One day I saw the dark skinned one, comforting the white one, everyone else was ignoring them. The white one was hurt, her face was bruised. I couldn't believe anyone would hurt someone that beautiful - so I told my mom.

    That's when my mom told me they were really men and that other men didn't like them dressing up as women. And they were jametes (loose) and she didn't want me going near them.

    To this day I have no idea if they were transexuals or transvestites. My opinion was formed that no matter what my mother said, anyone who could look that beautiful didn't deserve to be hit just because someone didn't like it.

    I was a child obviously and I thought if they were men who decided they were going to be a princess every day and they could pull it off then by golly they were princesses. It also ticked me off that people shunned them, wouldn't sell them food, would tug their kids and husbands out of the way. Even if all these two were doing was sitting down on a bench.

    My introduction to them was me seeing them as people first and wondering what all the fuss was about. And nothing anyone else ever said could change my mind about that fact, that they were people with feelings and shouldn't be hit or hurt.

    Not every child is going to be as self determining as I was. They'll see people being shunned and they won't question why, they'll just do it. And they'll buy into what their parents do and should they one day decide to question it - there will be more riding on them thinking of themselves as open minded than redacting that first introduction that looked at a human being and saw something else; something OTHER.

    And other is as much non white as gay as trans as not from our country as not from our religion. Other is 'Not One Of Us'.

    The worse thing my mother ever did, for her, was encourage me to ask why. But it was the best thing for me.