Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Don't Tell Trans People To Empathize With Bigoted Parents

Content warning that this essay contains description and discussion about anti-transgender bullying, bigotry, and misgendering as well as child abuse and suicide.  The links in this piece also often have misgendering and triggering elements.

Recently the transgender community lost another member in a high profile suicide.  I specify "high profile" because most of the members we lose in this way are likely not reported, swallowed in a massive coverup.  This time it's Leelah Alcorn, who scheduled a suicide note to be published to Tumblr shortly after she was hit and killed by a semi trailer.  This note (Edit 1/9/15: Leelah's blog was deleted from Tumblr on request of her parents, the link points to the Internet Archive's copy) points the finger at her parents detailing months of abuse, including isolation from friends and being subjected to Christian "therapists" who demeaned her further.

Today I woke from a nap to find a cis person insisting that trans people empathize with Carla and Doug Alcorn, because they are mourning a child.  I found myself fuming about it more than I usually fume about things.  Which is saying something.

Carla Wood Alcorn and Doug Alcorn are not mourning the loss of their child.  They are mourning the loss of who they wish was their child, not their living breathing child who--to be quite blunt and honest--they were directly instrumental in killing.  Parents and guardians who abuse their children to the point of suicide are not people I am willing to try empathizing with.  I will not empathize with these parents any more than I would empathize with Allen Andrade or Tom Nissen any other murderer of a trans person.

I didn't have empathy for George and JoAnn Walton after they cut Jennifer Gable's hair for her funeral and rewrote her life in her obituary after years of being a woman, including bypassing a legal name change to get her deadname on her death certificate.  I didn't have empathy for JoAnne Brandon for her constantly getting pissed when people use correct pronouns and language to refer to Brandon Teena and getting the most explicitly misgendering headstone possible to commemorate him.  I didn't have empathy for Nathan Verhelst's mother, who rejected him at birth and then misgendered him after death when he chose euthanasia.  I don't have empathy for any parent of a transgender child who continues to misgender them, insult them, ignore who they really were, and that's regardless of whether or not they had any direct hand in their childrens' deaths.

Carla and Doug, though, are legitimately directly responsible.  There is no rational way to spin what they did into anything but child abuse, no matter how much they think they're mourning now.  To reiterate, Leelah was isolated from her entire support system for five months and sent to therapists explicitly chosen to demean her. 

Empathy for these parents requires seeing it from their perspective... and seeing it "from their perspective" requires assuming that hatred of trans people is a reasonable or forgivable trait.

While Carla and Doug will not be able to hurt Leelah anymore, their actions and the actions of parents like them directly affect the trans community as a whole.  Seeing that it's totally possible--no matter how much work you've put into transition--for your relatives to entirely re-write your life after death is not a small nuisance, especially for those who know their parents do not fully accept their transitions.  It's behavior like that from parents like this that keeps people in the closet, causes people to run away, and encourages even more suicide.

I haven't read any new commentary from Carla and Doug Alcorn.  For all I know, the backlash is making them see the light as we speak and they could even become trans advocates (as unlikely as that is).

(EDIT 1/9/15: They have made statements since I wrote this, and have predictably continued to misgender their daughter and be overall ignorant transphobes. Surprise surprise.)

But quite frankly, even if the suicide and aftermath changes their minds, it's too late for me to respect it as some eye-opening event for them.  It shouldn't take the death of a person to forge respect for that person.  Trans lives are worth more than cis peoples' transformative experiences.

If forgiveness and understanding are an important part of your personal mental health arsenal, that's fine.  But don't tell trans people we need to empathize with bigots.  Those bigots do more harm to our community than you know.

Monday, December 22, 2014

A $1,000+ Transition Permission Slip

So on an unintentionally related note, today is my hormone anniversary.  I've been on testosterone now for three years.  It has been one of the best decisions I ever made for myself, but not without a lot of hoop-jumping and stress that I never should have needed to go through.


I'm going to write about something I've wanted to write about for a really long time, and then consistently decided against it in order to preserve the feelings of somebody I really shouldn't feel obligated to preserve the feelings of.  I'm not going to name names.  But I know if she reads this she'll recognize herself and probably go on a moping fit with her current transgender clients, a tactic she pulled with me early on.

I'm talking about my gender therapist.

This is basically a rant.  I am not talking about solutions (although there are some attempts in progress, like the informed consent model).  I needed to write this because it's something that's frustrated me ever since I had to go through it, and I never put the full story into words.

For some quick context:  I came out as transgender in 2003 and persistently identified with it for years before I finally went to a gender therapist.  I shouldn't have actually needed a therapist, having already lived for years in my current gender, but I couldn't find any other option that wasn't prohibitively far away or not taking new patients.  Over the phone she said that I would only need nine of the usual twelve sessions, because I'd already gone through the business of changing my legal name, coming out, and pretty much everything up until hormones.

This would turn out to be a lie.  When I say "lie," I don't mean "we went through the nine sessions and learned I needed more time to think about it."  I mean "after I'd already signed up and started going through all this shit she acted like she'd never even told me I'd need fewer sessions when I brought it up."  She also eradicated her student rate somewhere around session 10, meaning my rate nearly doubled.  To top it all off, she didn't tell me until after I got my hormone letter that if I didn't continue going to her sessions for two months after I started hormones she would contact the doctor and cut the whole thing off.

In the sessions themselves, we rarely talked about my gender identity at all.  This made perfect sense, because I was already pretty well situated in it.  Instead we talked about things like relationships and sexual orientation, which she--surprise surprise--handled very poorly.  I told her that I didn't really like identifying as "pansexual."  Rather than say "cool, your identity is your identity," she spent at least fifteen minutes trying to convince me that I should start calling myself that, including an entirely ludicrous story about how even though she was a married heterosexual woman she was "spiritually pansexual."

She was vaguely Pagan-oriented, which would have been fantastic were it not so often used as a stopping block for me.  One day she declared she was going to speak to my spirit guides, and her "messages" from them were word-for-word the exact things we'd talked about in a prior session.  If she wanted me to stop talking about something, she'd tell me I was "shapeshifting."  Even as a Pagan and spiritualist myself, these incidents eventually grated on me so much that I pretty much ignored them whenever they happened.

Every session was peddled with these weird instances of undermining my identity, undermining other peoples' identities, and pushing me to get more invasive and unnecessary psychotherapy.  In fact, when she'd told me I only needed nine sessions to begin with, she exclaimed that so many of her other clients "come in looking genderqueer," as if this alone would be perfectly acceptable grounds to keep them coming back for her $60+ and later $110+ sessions.  Throughout the entire process of tacking on more therapy, she insisted that she hated being "a gatekeeper," believing that hormones should be accessible without therapy by people seeking them.

And this all wasn't even the worst part.  The worst part was when I dipped a bit below the financial ability to pay for some sessions and I asked her if I could delay a few.  She said that this was fine, and we could just pick up where we left off when I had the money--great!--and then went on to tell me that not having enough money is a spiritual sign that maybe I'm not ready.

I didn't say anything at the time, but what the fuck?  Poverty is some sign from the Gods that I'm spiritually not ready for hormones?  And this woman is one of the most revered gender therapists in my area.  She speaks at schools and hospitals about transgender children, she has a lot of local power.  How many people believe things like this from her?

And how many therapists are exactly like her?

I have had bad luck with therapists, psychiatrists and all.  I went to one for depression several years ago who turned out to have so little experience with transgender issues that I basically had to teach her every step of the way.   My gender therapist herself was useful in getting my gender marker changed on my driver's license and giving me a letter... after going through a gauntlet of gaslighting hippie hell.  A therapist I worked with to help build a new GSA took months to recognize that it's OK for people to identify as "queer" if they want to, and it's clear from talking to trans people who have sought out her services that she doesn't understand what transition really requires.  And these are just the ones who don't work in the prison system, which leads to its own brands of fuckery and gatekeeping, brands that are much more intense due to the systematic dehumanization and punishment-over-rehabilitation attitudes we have toward prisoners.  That's a subject for a different time, though.

Why?  Largely because doctors want to cover their asses.  Because people have it in their heads that transition is something people do on a whim and will totally regret later.  Because people are convinced that transgenderism is so awful that they have to weed people out to make sure there are fewer of us.

I am sure there are people who have benefited from this therapist's services, as well as the services of many other gender specialists currently practicing.  There genuinely are people who feel they need therapy to help get them through the process, to help them discover if it's what they really want, to help them with coming out to family and at work, and so forth.

But therapy as a hard and fast requirement by doctors to gain hormones or surgery, by family members to "prove" we are legitimate, to change IDs, to gain access to necessary services, this is something I really can't support anymore, if I ever really did.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Don't Donate To The Salvation Army Regardless Of Their Stance On Queers

It's about that time of year.  The red Salvation Army kettles are going up, complete with migraine-inducing bells clammering nonstop in front of retailers, beckoning people to donate their change to help the poor.  It's also the time of year when people are going to start posting and reposting articles about the Salvation Army's deplorable record when it comes to LGBT people.  This will be followed by nauseating rebuttals insisting the Salvation Army doesn't discriminate, tears from people who volunteer for them because their feelings are terribly hurt by our lack of support, and endless hearsay by people who know a guy who knows a guy whose cousin was helped by the Salvation Army once and by gum it saved her life that winter.  I'm also anticipating having to convince my college's queer group for the third year in the row not to involve themselves with the organization because regardless of personal opinions it's really fucking insulting to other queer people.

First, a quick fact, and if you think that this is arguable it's clear I already can't help you:  The Salvation Army's very belief system is by its design anti-queer.  It doesn't matter if they decided to selectively stop enforcing some of their more bigoted local policies because of the backlash they've gotten for it.  The Salvation Army is still a militant, proselytizing Christian group whose main purpose is saving souls, not saving lives.  They use the imagery of the military for the same reason other Christian groups use the imagery of the Crusades: They are proudly owning a violent, colonizing history.

This is still true even if they never again in any of their affiliates insist a trans woman be housed with cis men, a gay couple be housed separately, a Pagan or Jew should be fired, or that they should be exempt from the same laws as every other business.  Although, let's be honest here: Their track record with these things is so abysmal I'm just waiting for this year's Salvation Army scandal.

Here's the thing that we need to be talking about regardless of whether or not they ever discriminate against: It's really scary that Christian organizations have such a monopoly on necessary care and aid.  The fact that so many cities are relying on proselytizing Christian organizations--whether we're talking about charities, hospitals, even seemingly-benign gestures like using churches as voting locations--that's really scary and it's scary that so many people will not acknowledge how scary that is.  It's scary to me as a Pagan, a trans person, a queer person, basically as a person whose very existence runs counter to basically everything the Salvation Army and in fact Christianity in general stands for.

When food for the poor is delegated to Christian organizations, poor people are forced to go through Christian channels just to eat.  You can argue all damn day about how they totally don't discriminate, but you're still being forced through a toothpaste tube of Christian propaganda to get something you and your family need to survive.

When housing for the poor is delegated to Christian organizations, poor trans people are often forced to choose between the likely unsafe situation of being housed based on assigned sex, trying to stay in the closet (not a possibility for many of us), or not having shelter at all.

When healthcare is delegated to Christian organizations, people often don't get lifesaving abortion care, birth control, or transgender hormone therapy.  Many Christian hospitals and healthcare systems simply don't do these things, don't refer people for them, don't acknowledge that they are necessary.

 And most horrifyingly, it creates a setup that reinforces the idea that aid is something people need to earn and deserve, and places the definition of said earning and deserving in the hands of an oppressive majority religious institution.  The Salvation Army's guiding principles, for example, have everything to do with how Jesusy they are and how hellbound everyone else is, with not one of their core beliefs having anything to do with charity.  And that organization--that horrid, bigoted organization--is the arbiter of who is able to get the things they need just to survive.  And this looming fact is true regardless of whether or not they ever actually discriminate again.

In the United States especially, people have a ludicrous, irrational love of the Salvation Army because our mythology is already tailored to suck in this earn-and-deserve ethic.  It would be so much better, especially for oppressed people, if this responsibility was shifted to a taxpayer-funded government effort (or at least a secular effort), but instead people choose to pump thousands of dollars into literal churches instead.  And don't you dare tell me that poor people always have the choice to just go somewhere else.  Because of the Salvation Army's prevalence as a cultural icon, they're often the only reasonable place for a family to go to get food, holiday gifts, housing, or other aid.  In fact, in the city I used to work, more local charities often have no choice but to refer people to the Salvation Army when the soup kitchen lines get too long.

And that's my position on this matter.  I give zero fucks whatsoever if the Salvation Army is nicer to queer people than they used to be.  They're still a militant Christian organization, their funding bloated by people who donate for practically no reason other than nostalgia and ubiquity, that is standing as the sole arbiter of aid for a lot of people, and that's fucking horrifying.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Real Victims

I don't want to go into a huge ridiculous apology for not blogging for a while on what is not a particularly popular blog to begin with (there was an Onion article lampooning this that comes to mind) but I thought I'd mention why I haven't had the motivation to write in a while:  Long story short, I was stopped at a stop light, a person behind me was stopped at a stop light, and the person behind us did not stop at a stop light.  I suffered a neck injury that put my in physical therapy and--although it's not too serious--it's painful, I'm getting headaches from it, and I only feel like writing in small spurts.  In related news, my Twitter is quite lively.

I wanted to write about this, though, because it's bugging me.

There is a woman who lives near here who was interviewed on a Fox News affiliate proclaiming that she should have been informed by her children's school district that they were accommodating a trans girl student's transition.  She put her real name on it, which was pretty easily traceable to a lot of other information, including many easy ways to contact her.  And I'm assuming people did because the essay in question no longer has her name or in fact any of her statements on it, along with a mention that she requested her name be taken off due to what she described as "hate mail."

I got to thinking, though.  This is a person who was initially perfectly OK with her full name being attached to the bigoted opinion that she should have been informed that a transgender child was being appropriately accommodated in her children's general vicinity.  Because a trans girl is allowed to put a band uniform on over street clothes along with other girls.  Because a girl is being treated like a girl, she wants to be notified.  This mother went on record stating in a nutshell that she wishes the school district had violated a teenage girl's privacy.  This grown-ass adult who was perfectly fine with publicly misgendering and demeaning a trans girl in a public media setting now wants anonymity.

And I'm curious what must be going through her head, now.  Is she recognizing the irony of her request?  Is she able to make that connection, to understand that her treatment of this teenage girl--her attempt at public humiliation--was staggeringly immoral and mean-spirited?

Or--and I feel this is more likely, unfortunately--is she using this as an excuse to think of her privileged white Christian existence as persecuted and oppressed?  Will she shove this into the pile of alleged reasons homophobic and transphobic Christians are the real victims?

And more importantly, are other people--the ones reading the ghost of her prior involvement on this news story--going to have the cultural competency to understand that frustrated people acting out against a public bigot--even if they are assholes in the process--are not oppressors?

I remember her name.  I won't make it public, because unlike her I actually believe people should have some say over whether or not people know their business.

I don't really have some sort of inspirational theme to this essay or major statement to make.  The reality is that I'm just frustrated and sad thinking about how many people will put the feelings of a grown bigoted cis woman ahead of the safety of a teenage trans girl just being a teenage girl, and holding the knowledge that said woman probably didn't learn a damn thing from the experience.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Why I Will Not Do The Ice Bucket Challenge

The Ice Bucket Challenge has finally (unfortunately) made it to my social circles, with relatives and coworkers challenging each other.  Of course, there are varying reactions to this, with lots of people over-zealously keeping tabs on their friends' and families' involvement and others writing scathing hate pieces about how much they think the Ice Bucket Challenge sucks.

I'll be honest: I don't actually buy a great number of the reasons people have for hating it, although many of these pieces have really great points within them.  For instance, I admittedly roll my eyes when people talk about the challenge as wasting water; although technically accurate, the Ice Bucket Challenge alone will never even make a dent in water consumption that's even remotely comparable to, for instance, bottled water companies.  And the challenge very well may be a massive distraction (especially when you consider the number of politicians out there making Ice Bucket videos who repeatedly vote to cut ALS research), but the hate leveled at it really doesn't help.


Still, it's just a matter of time before somebody--despite likely knowing I have already committed to rejecting any challenge that does come my way--is going to challenge me.  Really a "no" should more than suffice, but as I know that people don't think this way I would like to explain what about the way this is set up really bugs me.  In many ways, it has to do with the way online awareness campaigns are run in general.

You probably will find it familiar if you use Facebook, especially if the friends you keep on the site are of a wide, indiscriminate variety like mine can feel like sometimes.  Among my relatives, a favorite is those fucking Jesus posts about how "90% won't post this but I'm not afraid to stand up for my belief in God" shame posts.  These make me extremely uncomfortable.  They exist as a group shaming tactic and do very little to help any sort of real cause.

Now, the Ice Bucket Challenge isn't exactly the same, and it has helped contribute to a lot of money being donated for ALS.  To call it "do-nothing activism" is unfair.  The problem with it is that it relies on the invasiveness of a non-consensual ultimatum to force conformity through shame.  To simplify, you're socially forcing somebody to play a game they might not be willing to play.

In this regard it's similar to practical jokes.  Practical jokes are wonderful... when you consent to playing the game and the joker has a good sense of boundaries and common courtesy.  And as somebody who has worked at multiple summer camps--where pranks are a regular occurrence--I have witnessed some huge lapses in judgment in which somebody was embarrassed to the point of tears, had property physically destroyed, or was tricked into doing something against their religious or ethical beliefs, all in the name of temporary humor.

But that doesn't have anything to do with the Ice Bucket Challenge, right?  I mean, the choice is between donate money to a worthy cause or do something silly on camera.  No biggie!

The thing is, we don't know if it's a biggie or not.  Personally, there are plenty of organizations out there that are widely considered to be excellent, worthy causes that I don't want to support (or in the past was uninterested in supporting).  And my refusal to support these has led to some subtle but very painful instances of public shame.  Practically every year I've had somebody argue with me over my refusal to support the Salvation Army, lots of campaigns center around supporting deeply problematic organizations like Autism Speaks, and when I was still an animal rights activist there were multiple times when I was practically forced to contribute time or money to organizations that fund animal testing, especially in events like team fundraising competitions in my college dorms.

That said, for me the real problem is this forced ultimatum in which people are being "challenged" to support something they may or may not actually support, whether through "awareness" or through monetary aid they might not have the actual means to generate.

And no, I'm not going to go troll all your Ice Bucket videos.  I even helped somebody film one (because he wanted to and I happened to be there).  What I won't contribute to, though, is the culture of public shaming surrounding this kind of campaign.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Pagan Values Part 1: Did The Internet Kill Pagan Environmentalism?



This is first of what I assume will be at least  two (if I'm not lazy) essays relating to some stuff that was written on the subject of Pagan values.  The first--this one--is about environmental concerns.  The second will be about nudity at Pagan events.  They're both connected and will likely reference each other.

I'll be honest: I haven't really kept up with that much of what's going on in the Pagan community right now, but I did happen to catch an article on Patheos by Peg Aloi entitled "Has Pagan Environmentalism Failed? Yes, Yes, A Resounding Yes."  I should mention that I agree... with the premise in the title.  But upon reading it, I have to question the entire point of what Aloi is saying, and I'd like to explain why.  Oh, and for this essay, when I say "Paganism" I am talking about the part of the movement Aloi seems to talk about, which is the earth-based, for lack of a better word "Wiccanate" form of Paganism prevalent in the United States.  Based on some of Aloi's comments I believe this is really what the article is about.

This is what I got out of the article (and of course, I may be misrepresenting so you are welcome to read it via the link I gave above):
  • Paganism in the United States started out as a bastion of liberal values, devoted to feminism, environmentalism, the sexual revolution, and civil rights.
  • The Internet came along.
  • Shortly after, we were suddenly able to get everything we need from the Internet, including supplies and information.
  • Now nobody reads books anymore, nobody plays in dirt anymore, nobody goes to community rituals anymore, and therefore environmentalism is failing.
I reiterate, I do agree that Pagan environmentalism--and all of our politics--are in an incredibly sorry state.  I didn't come to this conclusion based on things I read from other people online, though.  I gained that perspective almost entirely from my interactions with Pagans I met or did work with offline.  But I'll get into that a bit, later.

Here's where this article falls short:  It makes the assumption that Pagans were at one point excruciatingly enlightened about the environment, and then we lost it as soon as we started connecting online.  But I don't agree that either of these things are true.  I would argue that:
  • The political environment people are reminiscing about probably wasn't as unique as people think it was.
  • The political environment today is imperfect, but it has to do with a hell of a lot more than the Internet or even individual Pagan behaviors.
  • Many of the things Aloi is talking about as being signs of environmental downfall really don't have anything to do with being environmentally friendly.
First, let's talk about this mythical understanding of the Paganism of the '60s and '70s.  The way some of these people talk, Pagans during this time were the shining star of progressivism, a safe space for all minorities and a leader in per-member environmental improvement.  And you know what?  The environmental progress made during these times was (and continues to be) pretty damn important.  Pagans during this time were involved, but let's be fair: Environmentalism or at least the appearance of environmentalism was fashionable at the time.  Paganism back then was pretty much defined as earth-centered.  So it makes sense that people who defined themselves with regard to their relationship to the Earth would actively participate in co-existing environmental movements.  Pagans before this time were not typically that gung-ho about this subject.

Paganism has changed a lot since then, with the practical definition of "Pagan" widening to include a lot of people who do not self-define as earth-based-worshipers.  This is, by the way, one sliver of the "problem."  That widening of the definition is a good thing.  It means more "oomph" in numbers!  But it also means there are more self-defined Pagans out there who are not just indifferent to environmental concerns, but actively opposed to them.

But again, that's a sliver.  It's absolutely true that Pagans have been failing environmentally.  Aloi's argument, though, seems to rest on the idea that the Internet is stifling learning, preventing people from going outside, and encouraging buying Pagan products.  There are a lot of things that really need to be said about this, though:
  1. The Internet hasn't stifled learning among Pagans, just as it hasn't stifled learning among the general population.  In many ways it's actually enhanced it.  Pagans today have the opportunity to understand more about our own history than ever before (back in the '60s and '70s and even the '80s Pagans regularly truly believed they were descendents of an unbroken Witch Cult, that people killed during the European Witch Trials were literally Witches, and lots of other incredibly false stuff).  The Internet gave us the ability to say "Wait a minute, this thing people have been taking as undeniable fact from a book published back in 1979 isn't entirely accurate."  It's given resources to Pagans who don't have the money or the appropriate home environment to buy or borrow actual books.  As somebody who did not touch an actual Pagan book until he was a Pagan for at least five years, and who subsequently has read dozens of them, I can tell you that books are overrated.  That's going to be a statement that'll probably bite me in the ass at some point, and they're certainly beneficial, but there's nothing about being a Pagan that requires actually handling a book.
  2. Playing in dirt does not make you an environmentalist.  Eco-friendliness is distinct from outdoorsiness.  We have this romantic conception of environmentalism as inherently being a deep, hands-on experience shared by people who regularly go out into the woods and commune with nature.  Aloi talks about literally going out and hugging trees.  And hey, I'm not dissing tree-hugging, but aside from any spiritual healing you may believe in (which is great but outside of the scope of this essay), its main purpose is to motivate people to care.  I assure you, though, that people can care about the environment without hugging or even touching a tree.  People can care about the environment while spending all day on a computer.  People can care about the environment while doing all their rituals indoors.  Which reminds me...
  3. The Internet has facilitated a great deal of accessibility for Pagans in remote areas or who have disabilities.  I have a deep love of in-person Pagan events, and I try to go to them regularly, but I didn't for years because of debilitating social anxiety and lack of appropriate transportation.  And it's important that I mention this, because not enough people are: In-person Pagan events are often extremely inaccessible.  People pump incense and smudge everywhere without thinking about allergies or asthma, people often pick locations for public rituals based on prettiness without regard for whether or not someone can get a wheelchair in there, food served during cakes and ale is picked without regard for food allergies, diets, or ethical preferences (My very first public ritual we all had our eyes closed as we reached into a basket that they didn't disclose the contents of: Eggs.  I was a vegan.).  The Internet is largely responsible for giving people an outlet who can't handle these issues, and has helped spread awareness of them.
  4. That all said, when Aloi says that Pagans "despite feeling more connected, are actually more fragmented than ever," she's ignoring a few problems with her reasoning.  First, the Pagan community is massive compared to how it was in the '60s and '70s.  Covens and groups were smaller, rarer, and more insular.  Remote Pagans were often solitaries and had to stick it out alone and didn't have the web to fall back on for camaraderie.  Next, the widening of the Pagan umbrella means that people who would not have identified as Pagans--or been identified as Pagans by other Pagans--are getting more recognition.
What I want to focus on, though, is something I feel Aloi gets right:  The Internet has increased the level of consumerism among Pagans, turning us into a market, and that has probably contributed a lot.  And I speak as somebody who is somewhat addicted to Pagan trinkets.  I have divination tools and spell ingredients and ritual weapons I practically never use.  People try to fill a hole left by shallow spirituality with pretty things, which both distracts from the deep environmental respect Pagans typically try to have and contributes to waste.

That's a function of overall capitalism, though.  It's not unique to the Pagan community in any way, shape, or form.  We live in a culture of buying things and then throwing them away, we live in an era of planned obsolescence and cheap goods that keep us having to go back and constantly replace things we've broken.  We live in an era of uncertainty and off-balance understandings of the interplay between health, money, and the environment.  We live in a time when corporations pay millions of dollars to convince you that something environmentally devastating is actually environmentally friendly, and average people often don't have the resources to understand the difference.

Most of these problems are not unique to Pagans.  We have absorbed them the same way everyone else has absorbed them.  It's frustrating that people continue to separate Pagan psychology from that of the rest of humanity.

It's not inherently due to not going outside enough or not hugging enough trees, and it's also not actually new.  I'll give you an example.  I went to Pagan Spirit Gathering last year.  And the environmental situation?  Fucking deplorable.  People were chucking perfectly good camping equipment in the dumpsters just to avoid packing it.  People were leaving trash on the ground.  The recycling and regular trash were so intermingled they couldn't separate them.  This year I heard of people who neglected to refill fire pits, leaving more trash, leaving more perfectly good stuff to be shipped away. This is a weeklong, entirely outdoor gathering.  Yes, people have cellphones now. 

I remember thinking of Woodstock when we got the announcement of how much trash was around.  This is iconic of the countercultural movement, the same movement we associate with environmentalism.  People at Woodstock didn't have Facebook.  But it was still pretty indistinguishable from a landfill after the festivities were complete:



The point is, the reason Pagans fail so hard at environmentalism these days is because practically everybody fails hard at environmentalism.  We aren't given proper knowledge or resources and we're barraged with advertising meant to encourage us to buy the plastic bottle with 20% less plastic rather than the refillable bottle or to ignore the massive, pressing problems in our habits--and corporate habits--while we focus on little things like avoiding aerosol cans or occasionally buying a few things organic.

Can Pagans do better?  Absolutely.  And we have the cultural mentality--the desire to do good for the planet--to want to do better.  But it really is unfair to point the blame squarely on narcissistic use of technology or lack of time spend outdoors.  There's far more to it than that.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

On the Crafting of Trans-Antagonistic Identities... and More

In my language policy (which I should probably look at because I haven't looked at it in a while) I mentioned I make a point to yield to self-identity in the vast majority of cases, even in such cases where a group is widely ridiculed or criticized.

The main exception is this: I don't accept identities that are specifically crafted to antagonize another group, something that is unfortunately incredibly common when it comes to transphobic cisgender people.  For instance, the phrase "women born women" is not a term I am willing to use in a non-critical context, because it was specifically coined by cis women being directly antagonistic to trans women (and usually accompanied by ludicrously offensive labels for trans women, like "men made women on operating tables," an actual phrase used by actual assholes).  I will not accept the phrase "autogynephile," even among trans women who identify with that term, because it was specifically constructed to demean and deny trans women's identities.  This is not something that's arguable to me.  The little comfort that the use of these labels in a positive manner grants to the cis people who created them is not in any way comparable to the environment the use of these words creates for trans people, especially trans women.

But right now there's a discussion going on on the Tumblr/Twitter rollercoaster that refers to a different set of claimed identities.  These are a bit more complicated, and I'd like to talk about them.

These are identities like "transabled," "transethnic," "transfat," "transspecies," "transracial," and a few assorted others.  These are distinct from identities people craft that are either meant to be cis-supremacist alternatives to the word "cis" or offensive terms referring to trans people.  They aren't actually related to transgenderism at all, and refer instead to people who wish to transition some marker other than gender (race, body type, etc.) or who in some way feel they sufficiently meet some other qualification that makes them "actually" a member of a different marker.

These are more complicated because there are two groups of people who maintain these claimed identities:
  1. People who actually feel that way, usually members of thriving therian, otherkin, and/or BIID communities.
  2. People who don't really feel that way, but who claim they do as an analogy to transgenderism in an attempt to make transgenderism look ridiculous.
The reason I'm writing this is largely because many of my friends and comrades are assuming that every instance of somebody using this sort of terminology is necessarily in the second category.  This is tempting, especially if the bulk of your engagement with these communities has been through members who make fucking ignorant statements about transgender people having privilege over them or constant hackneyed comparisons between transgender people and their own struggle or some other Gods-awful tripe.  I think, though, that we do need to recognize that we can point out the expansive differences between these groups and trans people without automatically invalidating all of their experiences.

For instance, there is a group of people out there known for wishing that they had some sort of disability, the classic example being people who have a functioning limb that they desperately wish was not there (this is not the only example; they're known for wanting "healthy" limbs amputated, but there are members of this community that merely wish these limbs were non-functional, among others).  This is known as Body Integrity Identity Disorder, or BIID.  And these people are very soundly ridiculed by a lot of people in social justice communities, as "wannabes" by the disabled community and appropriators by the trans community.

Some of them use the term "transabled," terminology that really bugs a lot of us for a variety of reasons.  "Transabled" discourse has a lot of problematic undertones, largely related to the implications that the people with these disabilities necessarily have different brains than abled people and that ability is fundamentally, inherently just about identity (identity has a lot to do with it, certainly, but that's something that develops due to common experience, it's not innate).

Here's the problem, though:  People with BIID are going through a very real, very painful struggle.  There aren't that many studies on it, but the one I am aware of suggested that somewhere in their development, their brains did not properly recognize some part of them.  So it works, it feels normal sensation, and they're usually able to move it at will, but it will always feel like an alien intruder in their body, causing a massive amount of stress and anxiety for them.  Since the vast majority of doctors will refuse what they would argue is a serious medical need of theirs, some resort to destroying a limb beyond repair to force a doctor to finally do it.  Is elective amputation the right solution?  We won't actually know until people start taking this condition seriously and cease acting like it's an attention play.

It's important to recognize that people with BIID are not necessarily in that community because they want the glamour and camaraderie of being a member of the disabled community.  Although such people likely exist, they exist in every community.

So we really need to do better at understanding what issues like this really mean without automatically acting like it's oppressive appropriation.  After all, there are plenty of people who willfully make ignorant arguments about trans women as if they are just men who want to appropriate womanhood.  This argument, of course, makes no sense: Within patriarchy, there is little to no benefit to transitioning male-to-female outside of individual trans women's comfort with themselves and their bodies, and that's not even to mention that there are at least some studies supporting the idea that transgenderism has a biological source.  We need to use these same forms of discretion before immediately discounting any identity.

That doesn't mean all identities are legitimate.  One of the reasons this is so frustrating is cases of so-called "transracialism," "transethnicity," "transfatness," and some cases of "transability" and so forth are deliberately constructed to be trans-antagonistic.  They're straw identities, meant as offensive analogies of trans people in an effort to "prove" how ridiculous our lives allegedly are.  Nowhere is this more obvious than in the way these straw accounts talk about and interact with trans people.  The way they function, you'd think trans people were their direct oppressors, blocking them from transition for selfish trans-y reasons.  This is, in fact, likely the source of otherkin spreading this kind of dipshittery.  It's hard to tell if people are serious or not sometimes.  But as a general rule, I don't seriously believe that a persona crafted by a person ostensibly claiming the desire to transition something other than gender while constantly acting like transgender people are their one true nemesis legitimately feel that way.  They're likely plants meant to make trans people look bad.

But what if they are serious?  Members of the therian and otherkin communities aren't necessarily appropriating from an oppressed group (animals don't have the self-concept to give a fuck if somebody identifies as one of them, and otherkin typically identify as mythological or fictional characters).  People with BIID as well as transgender people very likely have a strong need to transition to relieve legitimate anxiety.  So-called "transethnic" and "transracial" people (I have like no experience with "transfat" whatsoever) are participating in a harmful power structure with no realistic biological or psychological motivation that isn't terribly shallow.  Just look at Les Atkins, the man who decided to "live as a Native American."  He has no clear understanding of Native beliefs and practices at all (or he wouldn't dare wear a war bonnet), having gained most of his initial interest from Spaghetti Westerns.  He's not, as far as I can tell, a transphobic plant like so many of the Tumblr accounts, but is instead an example of somebody who probably legitimately thinks he feels this way.  Atkins' extreme ridiculousness doesn't actually reflect on trans people, but transphobes use characters like him as if they are analogous.

That's what we need to look out for.  It's both insensitive and harmful to automatically assume that a person's pain isn't real, but we definitely can use some discretion.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Response to "Why I'm Not Pagan"

I was reading this article entitled "Why I'm Not Pagan" on Rogue Priest.  And admittedly, it's an ancient article.  It's from like 2011.  But it's new to me, so I'll write anyway.

I don't know if the person who shared this article meant to sing its praises, criticize it, or just present it as an alternate opinion.  Personally?  I think it's a frustrating article.  It's not offensive, really.  It's just that there's a lot in it that's confusing or inaccurate, and it's really reinforcing a lot of damaging, alienating issues within the Pagan community.

First, let me explain something about this that really is important:  "Paganism" as a non-offensive term is a self-identity.  First and foremost.  When deciding whether or not somebody is "Pagan," the number one deciding factor is whether or not they are OK with being called that.  And this author's reasons for not owning "Pagan" are perfectly fine.  Any non-typical Pagan will probably have experienced the frustration that comes with having people think they know what you practice and believe.  For instance, having people assume that I am a Goddess-worshiper, or adhere to a heterosexual-sex-based view of the seasons, or believe that nobody should ever ever curse--and having people interact with me as if these are self-evident facts--that's fucking annoying.  So if Jacob wants to bypass that whole muck by identifying as "polytheist" but not "Pagan," then so be it.  That's fine.  And there are plenty of other traditions and people that do the same.

Here's the problem, though:  He's using a really shitty definition of "Paganism."  Both explicit and implied.  And by using those definitions as if they themselves are self-evident, he's reinforcing that very same frustration for the rest of us.

So a few months ago I wrote on the subject of Wiccanate privilege, which is an admittedly-shitty (I didn't make it up) label for the way Wiccan beliefs and practices--and beliefs and practices mostly associated with Wiccans--are given too much preference in Pagan thought, books, festivals, and groups to the point where people erroneously define Paganism itself based on Wiccan beliefs and practices.  In it I wrote:
...a non-Wiccan Pagan who goes to a "General Pagan" event can reasonably expect that other people who attend will probably misrepresent us, define Paganism in such a way that it excludes anybody who isn't Wiccan or Wicca-inspired, lecture us about ethics that have nothing to do with our religious traditions, and insist that we shoehorn our Gods and our mythology into a Wiccan understanding.
What it looks like, from my perspective, is that Jacob and other members of his group felt out of place at Pagan events because the people at those events were running on shitty, Wiccanate definitions of Paganism.  It has nothing to do with whether or not Jacob would be "lying" if he called himself "Pagan."  He wouldn't be.  If he wanted to use that word, he would meet all of the other established criteria.  There's nothing about being Pagan that requires invoking the four directions, using the Greek elements, mixing practices between cultures, celebrating Sabbats or Esbats, expecting clergy to actually be trained, practicing Witchcraft, standing in a circle, or--and I find this one fundamentally insulting--not using traditional altar etiquette (as a Pagan who worships ancient Egyptian Gods, things like altar etiquette and purity are still important to me).

Saying "I don't identify with this term because of baggage" is enough.  Saying "I am not a Pagan" and then listing a bunch of New Age and Wiccan beliefs as evidence... no, that's not appropriate.  And it's stuff like this that reinforces the shoddy definitions of Paganism that Wiccans have crafted and continue to perpetuate.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Transgender Blog Challenge Day 30: Haiku

Today's is:
Write a haiku about being trans.

Um... OK, I'll write one about my first shot:
 
On the longest night
Sharper than a pine needle--
Finally relaxed

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Business Trip Birding

I thought I'd give a birding update because... well, I haven't been birding very often lately and I am on a business trip traveling around Mississippi for a couple weeks.  That means that there are some birds here that I won't have an opportunity to see back in Wisconsin, so of course I'm taking any opportunity I can to see them.

First new bird I got?  Northern Mockingbird, right away.  I've never seen a mockingbird of any sort before, but there's just something... mocking-bird-y about them, so despite not having really looked into it before I pretty much immediately knew what they were.



I took a walk and found some Muscovy Ducks.  These are likely domesticated and therefore inappropriate for a list, but I did take some pictures.  They also charged me, which was horrifying.  I have a feeling that, due to their location in a heavy-foot-traffic area, they thought I was going to feed them.


In fact, as I write this I think I'll add a mini-list to the end of my Life List for the domestics and domestic-wild hybrids.  Just because they're pretty neat.

I got some pictures of I believe two other birds I found around this time that are... odd.  One of them might be a European Starling, but the thing is, we have Starlings everywhere and these are just... off.  So I'll be posting them to a bird ID forum to see if they're something else.  The other might just be another Northern Mockingbird with poor lighting.


Today we drove two hours, most of which was in marshy, country area.  That said, I got a lot of "drive-by" birds.  I came up with a system for that.  When I'm driving alone, I'm prone to stopping and taking better looks, but I was unable to do that.  So instead of just assuming my drive-by IDs were right, I'd see a bird I knew was new, look it up in my guide, and then look for it again to confirm the ID.  I didn't get many pictures at all--practically none that would give me an appropriate ID--but I did see these birds:
  • Black Vulture
  • Mississippi Kite
  • Fish Crow
  • Summer Tanager
 Of which the only one I actually photographed was a Black Vulture because we were driving.  You have to admit, though, that this is an impressive picture for shooting out of a car going 70mph without actually taking time to aim:


Transgender Blog Challenge Day 29: I don't even know what this is.

Today's is a weird activity but I'll do it just because:
Write out something positive about yourself using the letters of your name. Ex. Your name is Bob so B-Beautiful O-Outstanding B-Boy

Jackson:

J - Jack-of-all-Trades
A - Anthropomorphic
C - Clairsentient
K - Knowledgeable
S - Setite
O - Optimistic
N - Nudist

Friday, July 18, 2014

Transgender Blog Challenge Day 28: Daily Boost

Today's question is not directly trans-related.  In fact, the rest of the questions aren't really that... deep.  Anyway:
What is something you have to do everyday or else you feel like your whole day is off if you don’t do it?

I had to think about this for a while and I thought "You know, there really isn't anything."  And then I realized that isn't true.  Also the reality is sexually oriented so if you have a problem with that...  turn back.

So a quick story.  Long ago--not to give any details--I wound up in a conversation with a bunch of people who read in a guy's file that he "masturbates daily."  And they were really freaked out by that, like they thought it was the most deviant possible thing because apparently they don't get out very much.  I tried to tell them "You know, this actually isn't that abnormal," but they kept insisting that masturbating once a day is excessive.

And, well, I had to roll my eyes.  I have a really difficult time even getting to sleep if I don't have an orgasm at least once a day, at night before I go to bed.  Often more than once, especially if I don't have to work.  So when I was unemployed for a long time I was probably doing it once in the morning and once at night.

This is the point where some trans-man-specific TERFs (and yes, they exist) will cry out about how testosterone has turned me into a disgusting sexual deviant, but the reality is that I've always been like this, ever since I stopped being ashamed of the idea.  When I was a kid I'd try finding ways around it, like somehow it was "OK" if I didn't use my hands.  Actually, when I was very young--maybe first grade to fourth grade--I did it multiple times a day without knowing what it even was.  So it wasn't the testosterone.

Anyway... I was going to say "use of technology" but that's really not accurate.  I have gone entire summers without the use of a cell phone or computer, and that's in recent memory.  It's still not something I prefer to let go, though.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Transgender Blog Challenge Day 27: Goals

Today's question is:
What goals do you have?

It's unclear to me whether the author intends to ask about transition related goals or life goals, so I'll write a bit about both.

My transition-related goals are... well, mostly complete except the big stuff.  I've already been through therapy to get hormones and I've been on hormones for a couple years.  I've socially transitioned.  I got my driver's license and name changed.  I'm out to my family.  I have a post-transition work history.

So most of my transition-related goals are surgical.  One thing that happens to a lot of trans people is that going on hormones emphasizes the things that hormones don't change.  So I'm a lot more dysphoric about my chest than I once was.  I'm not even close to affording surgery, but that's hopefully the next major step I'll be taking, followed by a birth certificate and social security change.

I don't know what I all want with regard to bottom surgery.  I'm pretty sure I want a hysterectomy.  Whether or not I get an oophorectomy (removal of ovaries) depends on whether or not I'll want to go off of testosterone by that point.  I do not want a vaginectomy.  I kind of like my vagina.  If I got bottom surgery, it would be limited to a clitoral release most likely.

Some non-physical transition-related goals... I want to go to some non-college queer and trans conferences.  One of the things about college conferences like MBLGTACC is that, although I love them, I'm pretty far removed from their target audience now.  It all depends on what's available to me, though.

As far as non-directly-transition-related goals, I'm working on building my career and trying to get out of my parents' house.  It's a depressing environment here that makes me feel like I'm walking on eggshells, the house itself is tearing apart at the seams and I feel like it's harming my health, and I need to just get away and have space to myself.  There's a prospective job opportunity coming up that I feel I have a good chance for, and I've already been looking into things like appropriate housing that'll take my dog and not be too expensive.

I'd also like more romance in my life, although that's largely going to involve dealing with my shyness and anxiety.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Transgender Blog Challenge Day 26: Questions

Today's question is:
Do you feel comfortable answering questions about being trans if say your teacher/friend/stranger asked you?

I would be really offended if a rando on the street asked me a question about me being trans.  Typically there's no risk of that, though, because of years of hormones.  The reality is that being read as trans makes many of us feel really bad.  So if you do figure it out by seeing some of the markers of trans-ness on my body--my hand size and feet size for instance--you should really just shut up about it.  That's not to say that incidentally reading somebody as trans is inherently bad.  I'm actually really "good" at reading other trans men (which is one of the world's most useless skills by the way).  But many of us are really self-conscious about people finding out, and finding that somebody noticed can be very scary.

If somebody knows through some sort of interaction... say they recognize me from high school or some other pre-transition life period, or I've come out, or something like that, then I'm fine with answering most questions that aren't horribly invasive, the latter being gauged by how close I am.  A close friend could ask me damn near anything.  Hell, for really close friends I'm not even bothered by genital questions if there's a reason for them.  I can't think of any good reasons right now, but they might exist.

If somebody who knows is asking a question about sensitivity, then I encourage that rather than deplore it.  It gets annoying after a while if it's excessive to the point where it's disruptive, but otherwise it's fine.

I despise when people ask questions like "Is this offensive?" when their motivation is to try justifying why they can like it.  Like, I'm getting a lot of "America's Got Talent" traffic to this blog asking of Ray Jessel is offensive, and I can just tell from the wording that they're looking for that one trans voice that's going to tell them it's totally cool and hilarious and they're still good people.  That's gross.

That's not the same for everyone, of course.  Some trans people don't want you to acknowledge their transness in any way, and that's their prerogative.  I, though, am typically fine with it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Transgender Blogging Challenge Day 25: Doctor Visits

Today they just gave me a thing:  Doctor Visits.

I don't like doctor visits, but it's not entirely due to my transness.  Part of it is that when I was younger there were cases where my parents (usually my mother) would downplay any medical issue I said I had, telling me it was all in my head.  I get the impression they were mostly worried about what bills they were going to get, but it in many ways wrecked me to see my mom go to the doctor for seemingly every little thing only to have them not take me for things that really were medically significant.  The major example... I have asthma.  I suspected I had asthma for years, but instead of taking me to the doctor I was told it was "just anxiety" and that I should breathe into a paper bag.  Years of this went by, with long stints in which I had constant breathing trouble.  And I mean constant.  I didn't know what normal breathing even felt like.  Finally I went to the doctor when I was I think 21, because my boss made me go, and I was diagnosed with asthma.  Multiple times I've gone to doctors who have never met me and don't have my medical records only to have them say right away "this is obviously asthma."  But I still have a horror of going to the doctor and winding up with a major bill or being embarrassed to find that it was just anxiety (something that has never actually happened at a doctor).

Anyway, right now I go to a doctor who specializes in trans medical care who I learned about from my therapist.  I'm typically not that stressed out to go to her for that reason.  I have some friends who go to less-experienced doctors to get their hormones, and a lot of times they do things like start them on a ridiculously low dose or make them stop when there's even the slightest inkling of a problem (often based on what numbers are expected in women).  So they wind up with a slightly elevated blood count or some acne or weight gain and boom their doctor freaks the fuck out and takes them off their meds.  My doctor is much more knowledgeable than that.  I actually did have some side effects from T that suck... secondary polycythemia and higher blood pressure... and she isn't taking me off T over it.

I think that if she did want me to go off T I'd trust her judgment.  At the very least I've been on it long enough that the important irreversible effects are there.

When I do have to go to another doctor I actually rarely come out as trans, although it's reasonably obvious once I break out my prescription list.  I've had some irritating problems due to that.  One of the most notable was when I was having a work physical that wound up being public and the doctor made me take my shirt off in front of a bunch of cis men.  Luckily I was out at work, but it was supremely embarrassing.  He did apologize later.

Another time I went for what turned out to be, predictably, asthma; she made me go through a bunch of expensive tests I didn't really need because I happened to be on testosterone.  It wouldn't have been an issue for me if it weren't for the fact that these were things my regular doctor regularly tests for.

Another time I got bit at work and had to go get a tetanus shot.  Again, it was more awkwardness surrounding my prescription list.

So that's about it for doctor stuff.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Transgender Blogging Challenge Day 24: Artists

Today's question is:
Who is your favorite LGBT actor/musician/director/artist etc and why?

I don't really have a singular favorite, but I do have a few that I'll list.  It's not a very diverse list, regrettably, as I haven't delved into queer and trans music in a while.

Maddie Blaustein - I already talked about her, but she was the voice actress who played Meowth from Pokémon.

Joshua Klipp - Joshua Klipp is a trans male singer, probably most famous for his song "Little Girl" that utilizes both his pre-T and post-T voices.  Another song I love is "Rescue Me," although it's admittedly in a "so bad it's good" kind of way.


Alex Davis - Another trans male singer, has songs both pre-T and post-T so there's a huge difference in his voice between albums.  Some songs by him are "If Only You Were A Boy," "Man of the Year," and probably my favorite, "Come Back."


Ryan Cassata -  Another trans male singer.  If I remember right I only like one of his songs (if my iTunes list is to be believed) and that's the song "Soda Cans."

Kit Yan - Kit Yan is a transgender slam poet  notable for being the only person on this list I've actually seen live.  One of his notable pieces is "Open Letter to HRC."

Katastrophe/Rocco Kayiatos - Katastrophe is a trans male rapper I learned about from the song "The Life" that used to play on TV a bit.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Transgender Blog Challenge Day 23: Stereotypes

Today's question is:
What stereotypes are put on trans people?

And you know, this is such a typical question that I almost said "fuck you" and didn't answer it.  This is not a challenge, it's 101 shit that makes me want to write my own list of more in-depth stuff.  With all due respect to the author, anyway.  So I'm going to talk about a few stereotypes that aren't as typically discussed or stereotypes that exist within the trans community.  Only a few, though, because I don't really like this question much.
  1. Trans men are accepted in queer spaces while trans women are not.
    For a while it felt like every other trans woman was talking about how trans men are oh-so-accepted in queer spaces and trans women aren't.  This is a half-truth, though.  Trans men in general face fewer risks than trans women, due to things like invisibility and male privilege.  But it's important to recognize that "queer space" is not all the same.  In many cases they're talking about queer spaces dominated by women that are ridiculously obtuse about fully including lesbian and bi trans women.  Gay and bi trans men have difficulty integrating into queer men's spaces, too, considering the phallocentrism of that community.  And you know what else?  There are trans women who are in those spaces, too.  So while it's an important issue to talk about, it's just not true that trans men are universally accepted in queer spaces while trans women are not.
  2. Non-binary people are just "trying on" transgenderism and will eventually come out as binary trans folk.
    There are certainly binary trans people (including myself) who once identified as non-binary of some type, but that this is overall the case is just not true, for the same reason "bisexuals are just gays unwilling to come out" is just not true.
  3. Testosterone turns trans men gay.
    Testosterone actually made me less gay, if that makes sense.  Here's the story:  I tongue-in-cheekly identify as an ex-gay.  I identified as gay for years.  No, strike that... I was gay.  I couldn't imagine wanting to have sex with a woman.  Then, during one of my more radical streaks, I decided that my lack of attraction for women was probably sexist and that I should be more open-minded.  After that I developed attraction for women.  In some--but not all--people, sexual orientation can be changed.  The problem with the ex-gay movement isn't that they say people can change, it's that they make it into a moral obligation where they just fucking isn't one.  Anyway, I identified as bi starting maybe five or six years before testosterone, so testosterone didn't make me bi.  But it did make my sexual desire and interests much more expansive to the point where I could theoretically be turned on by god-damned near anything if I think about it hard enough.  So testosterone can contribute to changing your sexuality, but it doesn't for everyone, and it doesn't typically cause a complete flip from straight to gay, and there are many more reasons somebody's sexual orientation might change than just hormones.
    I've heard, by the way, that there's a similar phenomenon among trans women.  The explanation I've heard from some of them is that sexual orientation and gender identity and expression are probably more linked than queer theorists want to admit, and that loving men as a man and loving men as a woman (and vice versa) just don't have the same vibe.  That makes a lot of sense if you ask me.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Transgender Blogger Challenge Day 22: Careers

Today's question is:
Do you feel being trans holds you back from your career choice?

This is a somewhat complicated question for me because building my career has in some ways spanned through a "pre" and "post" period:  The "pre" being back when people viewed me as a butch woman, and the "post" being after I "passed" and people began viewing me as a man.

As for right now?  Not really.  The only time it affects me is when I have to deal with a background check that is actually seen by somebody making hiring decisions, and rarely has it actually posed a problem.  Documentation is a bigger problem than transphobia.  And that makes sense:  I am a relatively privileged individual.  I'm white, I'm educated, I'm male, people don't really read me as queer, I don't have a particularly non-standard gender presentation.

When I was going to school for Information Technology, though, then it was a bit of a problem... before hormones.  I'm reasonably good at figuring things out myself, and my teachers were more than willing to help me out, but in my classes I was surrounded by dipshit cis male libertarian capitalist pieces of shit.  When I wasn't on hormones and people read me as a butch woman (despite already having male documents and a male name), it was a regular occurrence that cis men would cut me off or wouldn't allow me space to speak, and since I didn't speak they assumed I didn't know computers very well.  And I know what any dipshit cis dudebro reading this probably will say:  "Well you just weren't assertive enough."

But after hormones, it just "magically" stopped happening.  People let me talk, they didn't cut me off, and people suddenly trusted my understanding more.  It was surreal and it was really gross.  And I'm certainly not the only trans man who has had that experience.  A great number of feminist-minded trans men got that way specifically because we recognized the huge differential of privilege that came with people suddenly seeing us as men.

This is the sort of experience that informs my perceptions when people try making the case that masculine women have privilege compared to other women, as well as people who desperately try to maintain that trans men as individuals have always had male privilege throughout our whole lives.  There are some respects where this might change the way we behave; for instance, during high school I deliberately changed a lot of behavior because people called it "feminine," and having a masculine-sounding name is likely to help a woman land an interview.  But it really isn't as simple as "masculine privilege."

In a nutshell, most of the issues career-wise I've experienced from being trans were due to misogyny, not necessarily transphobia.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Transgender Blog Challenge Day 21: Cisgender People

Today's question is "What are your views on the cisgender community?"

I think this is a really weird question.  I don't consider what cis people have to be a "community" in the sense that oppressed peoples have "community."  When I say "trans community" I am specifically referring to a "community" that has a shared sense of belonging in that community.  And yes, I am aware that that's arguable, with people bickering and excluding and doing all sorts of shit to compromise whether or not it can really be called a "community," but discourse-wise I'm comfortable with it at least as a symbol of a shared oppression.

The issue with cis people as "a community" is that cis people by and large do not have recognition that trans people exist in any great quantity and as such would not consider "I am not transgender" to be a fundamental part of their identities.  Those that do are typically raging anti-trans bigots who spend a lot of their short time on this earth concerning themselves with disenfranchising people who aren't doing anything to harm them (Ragingly bigoted members of practically any oppressor group will also do this, too.  White people don't typically think of themselves as a "white community" unless they're raging racists, men don't think of themselves as a "male community" unless they're MRAs, etc.).  Cis people do not have a common bond of cis-ness.  They are not "a community."

But anyway, that's an aside based on language.  How I feel about cis people is more properly answerable.

And the answer is this:  Cis people annoy me and stress me out the vast majority of the time with their utter density.  Even unusually well-read and dear-to-me cis people are prone to saying and doing things that really bother me.  Often in such cases I have a difficult time saying something, especially with cis people who are significantly better than other cis people at trans issues.

It's really difficult for me to hang with a lot of cis people, especially straight cis people, for long periods of time.  Even people very close to me, like close friends and relatives, I've learned are probably going to repeatedly and intensely disappoint me.  I already pointed out in my essay on Ray Jessel that when that deplorable scene popped up I basically had to sit there and try to tune out my relatives who thought it was the funniest fucking thing in the world, knowing that if I say anything they're just going to get angry and defensive and accuse me of being "too easily offended" despite regularly just sitting and ignoring repeated transphobic comments to avoid hearing cis people whine.

And that's one of the things that really gourds me:  The cis-person whine.  Trying to talk to cis people about trans issues is one of the most infuriating things just because cis people have the tendency to whine about it rather than take it to heart.  Either they're whining about transphobia they think is concentrated in those other cis people or--more likely--they're whining about being called out or whining about being told some shitty thing they like is transphobic and whine whine whine whine.  That's the only way I can describe it.  Cis people whine a lot.  They whine about being called cis.  They whine about having to accommodate trans people like they accommodate cis people.

It's not that trans people don't also make mistakes, but it certainly feels a lot different when it's coming from somebody who is going through at least some semblance of what you are.  So for instance, there are some trans people out there who have a history of saying seriously dip-shitty things, or who pander to cis concerns and cis-oriented organizations that continually burn me, but it bothers me less than a cis person who does the same.  Why?  Because a trans person who uses language that might be problematic to refer to theirself, or who enjoys media I consider seriously transphobic*, or who otherwise picks a way of advocating that I would not is at least in a position to really weigh those risks and benefits for themselves.  A trans person who says "I'm going to support a trans-exclusive piece of legislation helping queer people because it's a stepping stone" is just plain not the same as a cis person who does the same.



* -- This does not count, for instance, trans men who defend transmisogynistic media and other levels of oppression and privilege.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Transgender Blog Challenge Day 20: Parenthood

Today's question is:
"Do you want to be a parent, why or why not?"

And the answer is "absolutely not ever."

There have only been a few instances in my life that I've ever flirted with the idea of having children.  one of them was for a week when I was a caretaker for this absolutely adorable child at a summer camp.  I don't remember the rest of them, actually.  The rest of my life I've been either somewhat ambivalent or rampantly against it, but I didn't want to say anything because my relatives would be upset.

It's well-known, now.  And they are upset.  And it's really frustrating.

My father wanted me to freeze my eggs, which is an expensive endeavor for something I don't actually want.  My aunt recently started making comments about me becoming a father, and when I protested she insisted she meant adopting, which I equally do not want.  My grandma, not to be outdone, decided to say I "needed" to have "at least one" biological child.

My co-workers--people who don't even really fucking know me--have also made comments.  One woman, when I said I didn't want kids, said "You're young, you have time to change your mind."  This was a woman who was actively trying to have kids at 23... she is five years younger than me.  All I could think was "Yeah, I do have time to change my mind.  You won't."  Many of them have brought up things like the ever-so-heterosexist-as-well-as-presumptive "You'll never find a woman who will go for that!"  And when I say that I've been sterilized--and I frame it as a personal choice--they start telling me how sorry they are for my loss.  It's ridiculous and disgusting.

But that doesn't answer why I don't want kids.  And there are lots of reasons for that.

First and foremost?  I don't get anything out of kids.  I like kids.  Don't get me wrong.  I find rampantly-anti-child childfree people to be disgusting and annoying.  I worked with kids for many years.  I enjoy being an uncle.  But long-term exposure is deleterious to my health.  I just don't get anything out of constant contact with kids to rationalize the way they make me feel long-term.  Even now, my niece has been staying at my house a lot because it's summer and she's out of school... I love her to death, but it gets really annoying having to listen to her constant Minecraft bullshit (she loves trying to get people to listen to insufferable YouTube videos featuring crappy Minecraft parodies) or having her come knocking on my door to ask about petty things.

I don't have the patience for things to get broken on me all the time.  I know that when I was a child I broke a lot of my parents' things, and as I grew older my cousins broke a lot of my things, and these are memories that haunt me.  My brother has wound up with practically every expensive thing he owns smashed by his step-daughter.  I know I can't handle that sort of thing gracefully.

And that's actually a part of a more pressing issue... I have a very strict idea of how kids should be raised.  I believe kids deserve respect and autonomy.  I remember things like the one time I was ever spanked, knowing it was because my dad was frustrated and not because we deserved it or wouldn't have stopped misbehaving if he'd just asked us, having him gloat about it even as we are adults as if this was a central part of our character, and I think "Would I wind up so frustrated--knowing already that kids are frustrating for me anyway--that I'd turn my back on my principles?"  People keep telling me "you'd be one of the good ones, though!"  That might be true, but it also might not be true.  And it might help if I overall wanted kids, but I simply don't.



There are lots of others, but those are the main ones.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Transgender Blog Challenge Day 19: Religion

Today's question is a great one.  It's:
If you're religious, how do your views effect being trans? If you're not religious what about your family's religions?

I can almost see the people become immediately offended by my answer here.  Ah well.  So be it.  First, I should mention something about myself that should be obvious if you follow me long enough:  I have a special distaste for Christian exceptionalism and supremacy.  One of the main points of this essay I wrote last year is that Christianity is not special or inherently more important than any other religion, its values are not universal, and so forth.  I have a very strong and persistent belief that Christianity in my country is an oppressor faith.  I want God and I especially want Jesus booted the fuck out of my schools, my government, and my job.  A lot of even liberal Christians are intimidated by this.  If this is you, please recognize that a lot of the things you take as for-granted religious liberties (such as the right to wear religious symbols to work or the ability to talk about your church or a religious retreat or a Bible passage you like without suffering from repercussions from it) truly are things that are not granted to all faiths.  When it all boils down to it, I've experienced more direct shit over being Pagan than I have for being trans or queer.

But anyway, my family members vary in religiosity.  My father is agnostic (I suspect more on the atheist side but I'm not sure), but raised Lutheran.  My mother is a devout Catholic.  My brothers and I were raised Catholic, although I converted to Paganism in my early teens.  I'm not entirely sure about my brothers' current religious alignments.  One of them has "Deism" on his Facebook profile.  We don't really clash with it, though.

My family is reasonably religiously tolerant, at least for people who have next to no actual religious understanding. They're the kind of people who it's seemingly impossible to convince that Christianity has no business in the aforementioned schools and government even though they don't think they want other religions impeded.  So when I came out to them as trans, religion didn't factor into it a lot.

It didn't, anyway, until my mom's dipshit Christian co-workers learned about it and started going all ignorant-Bible-blaster on her.  Rather than just say "this is not the sort of conversation we should be having at work," my mom decided to start asking me about this shit.  And my mom isn't able to believe that I'm not actually a Christian anymore (despite all evidence), so she cloaked it in language like "Well, I don't believe you're going to hell, but what if..."

In the end I actually wound up giving her a passage from the Apocrypha, which are books of the Bible that were taken out because they either weren't contemporary or they were weird or had political things the church didn't like.  One of the weirder passages is in the book the Gospel of Thomas, passage 114, in which Simon Peter gets all super-misogyny on Mary Magdalene, saying she shouldn't be allowed with them because woman germs or something.  It goes like this:
114. Simon Peter said to them, "Make Mary leave us, for females don't deserve life." Jesus said, "Look, I will guide her to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every female who makes herself male will enter the kingdom of Heaven."
Which I presented to her.

She hasn't really brought it up since, although (hopefully after I'm out of the house) we'll wind up having to really come clean about the fact that, no, I'm not a Christian and have no interest in being one.

As far as my own faith, I'm a solitary Eclectic Pagan, so on a personal level it's not a problem for me.  I'm devoted to the God Set, who is (based on the people worshiping him and his prominence in Kemetic circles) very fond of trans men.  And as a trans man, I don't really get that much flack for it in the Pagan community at large (there are a select few Pagan TERFs and cis-only men's mysteries assholes who specifically target trans men, but most of them are targeting trans women).

What I do get flack for is my practice, which is unashamedly queer-based.  That's not as much a trans thing as it is an internal problem with Wiccan beliefs being taken at face value as if they're "general Pagan" beliefs.  Which, by the way, they fucking aren't.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Transgender Blog Challenge Day 18: Local Laws

Today's question is "How do you feel about the trans laws where you live?"

And the answer is "in many respects they're pretty damn shitty."

So first off, I live in Wisconsin.  There are some advantages to that in a trans context.  If you're in a gender reassignment program you are entitled to go to the DMV with a carry letter from a therapist asking to get your name and gender marker changed on your license even if neither has actually been legally changed through a court decision.  You don't need hormones or surgery for this, although unfortunately a lot of DMVs aren't aware of that (mine treated me very coldly about it until they found the legislation requiring them to do it).  The premise is that you probably will be getting on hormones sometime in the future, although to be honest I doubt that they'd make you change it if you never do.

However, changing your birth certificate does require a court decision, and I believe it says "AMENDED" on it, so it looks weird to onlookers.

As far as really local laws, I live around Fond du Lac, which recently became a very unsafe-feeling place for me and a lot of other trans people who live there or near there (and for anybody in Fond du Lac reading this... there are lots of us).  A well-meaning councilman introduced legislation protecting people in housing on the basis of gender identity.  It created a shitstorm of bigoted assholes handing out bathroom-panic fliers.  I emailed the representatives, and the only respectful response I got was from the guy who wrote the legislation (I can tell the others were trying to be respectful, but they abso-fucking-lutely weren't. One of them made a comment about me "using the bathroom of the opposite sex."  Shitbag.)

Of course, the only one who voted in favor of it was the guy who wrote the legislation, with the rest of them going on their merry-bigoted-way.

Anyway, I'm often pretty shielded by this sort of thing, being a hormonally-transitioned trans man and not, for instance, a non-binary person, a poorly-passing trans man, or a trans woman, which would make things a lot more difficult.  And it's certainly better than living places that want me to have fucking surgery before I can even get an accurate driver license.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Transgender Blogging Challenge Day 17: I'm changing this question tbh.

Alright, I need to get this off my chest first of all:  It really bugs me that this was just labeled a "transgender blogging challenge" and then suddenly there's a question that's mostly oriented toward trans men and trans masculine people.  So while the original question was "What’s your binding choice and why?" I'm going to change it to:
What are some of your choices of trans-related garments and items?
Which includes binding but also other stuff.

Anyway, my choice of binder is an Underworks Tri-Top Chest Binder.  These are around $30 each and only compress the top.  I used to wear the Underworks 997 (I think that's this one, they've changed some things around), which also compresses the belly a bit.  I'm less self-conscious about that now and so I only do the chest.  I always get them in black.  I don't understand why people get them in white because they stain very easily and are hard to get clean.


Currently I have two newer ones.  I always break them in before I wear them regularly... and how I do that really goes against the instructions because it's technically destroying them a bit.  I wash them with hot water a few times and throw them in the dryer.  Then I wear them for short periods of time before they finally get comfortable and I can wear them to, say, work.

I first tried binding when I was maybe 14.  With duct tape.  Don't do it.  Don't do ACE bandages, either.

My very first real binder as a trans man was actually a girdle bottom that I flipped upside down and cut a hole in the crotch of.  It worked... OK.  An Underworks binder was the first thing I ever bought with a debit card, as an aside.

Right now a binder is the only serious trans garment or item I use regularly.  I own a few packers and some STPs.  Honestly?  I only use STPs when camping or I know there'll be gross bathrooms now.  I don't have the same hangups about pissing sitting down that I did early on.  Meh.  They're really not worth the trouble of lugging around, especially since the only ones I can actually get to work are ones like the Freshette, which are huge and bulky.  I own a Mr. Fenis but I have yet to actually get it to work.

I don't pack anymore, either, like I just said.  With some pants it looks weird if you aren't packing... like there's some concave pit there (which I guess there is).

So, yeah.  That's about it.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Transgender Blog Challenge Day 16: My Rock Anthem

Today's question is:
What is your rock anthem?

My "rock anthem" is actually really easy... it's "I Am" by Godsmack.  It really doesn't have anything to do with me being trans, though, it has to do with the journey I went through to re-discover my God and the church I've since left.

Godsmack has the distinction of being the first band I actually legitimately purchased a CD from.  This song was actually on that first CD, but I didn't really pay much attention to it.  It wasn't until years later when a friend of mine let me put a bunch of his music on my iPod that I grew to like the song.  And it wasn't until I'd fully converted to Kemetic Orthodoxy that it became sealed in my head as "Me and Set's Song."  Because it really feels like that's what it is, from all the pokey little quirky references that seem to be about that journey.

I don't really feel the desire to go through and write a full run-down of what all about this song is significant, as most people who read it will not understand that significance anyway.  But yeah, that would be the answer to the question.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Transgender Blog Challenge Day 15: Trans Identity

Today's question is:
How have you embraced your trans identity?

I'm less likely to seriously "embrace" my trans identity after many years of being trans.  I'm mostly ambivalent to it.  It's not that I'm not proud of the things I've accomplished, and I also enjoy meeting other trans people, helping other trans people, educating, and so forth, but it's not as central to my identity as it would have been four or five years ago.  Being queer is central to my identity, but as I feel like I've mentioned before I tend to make a very firm distinction between me being queer (sexual orientation, non-monogamy, kink) and me being trans (which doesn't feel very queer at all to me).  It's not something I enforce--if you consider transness to be inherently queer, I'd disagree but not consider it particularly offensive--but in my own worldview that's just not how it is.

Actual things I do include occasional education efforts (I used to do this a lot but not in a long time as there are many other trans people to take my place in that now), I help newer trans people when I know them in person (I tend not to mentor people I meet online anymore for a lot of complicated reasons, but that's not to say I never would), and I try when it's safe to remain visible.  For instance, when I go to Pride events I always wear something that marks me as trans, whether it's a button or a shirt or a ribbon or something, because testosterone has rendered me so invisible in those spaces.  I am also playing around with another blog that details specifically trans male issues with a diet/health focus. I don't know if I'll stick to it, though.