Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Deadly Sympathy: A Rant

Mine is the shoulder that gets cried on.  Mine is the advice that is solicited.  I am the one woken up at odd hours to incoherent weeping over the telephone.  I am the one dragging my ass at work because I stayed up late helping someone help themself with their problem(s).

It might be my compassionate point of view that they desired.  It might be my bullshit goggles.  It might be my empathy.  It might be the way I trained my knee not to jerk.  It might be my sympathy.  It might be that I'm such an odd duck that I may have experienced whatever their problem is.  It might be because I'm openly trans and seem comfortable with it and with other people.  Or it might be because I care and they can sense that.

I don't do it to score points on some imaginary scorecard.  I don't do it to make me seem like a better person.  I don't do it for Heaven, Nirvana, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

I do it for the good feeling that I get.  I am gluttony.
I do it for aesthetic purposes; smiles are much more beautiful than frowns.  I am vanity.
I do it because I hate to see someone hurting and must get my revenge on the hurt.  I am wrath.
I do it because I am too lazy to pass it off on someone else.
I am sloth.
I do it because I know that the person may come to me again in the future.  I am greed.
I do it because I know that I can relate to anyone.  I am pride.
I do it because I care about them.  I am lust.

For fuck's sake, **RETURN THE FAVOR!**  At the very least, show me some open-minded sympathy in general.  I hurt, I bleed, I weep.  I'm trans and being transgender isn't just a walk in the park.  Speaking of walks in the park, try taking a walk through Central Park with tits and a dick.

I've been raped, ridiculed, bullied, tormented, denied appropriate medical care, denied employment, and oppressed in other ways.  This doesn't include the many ways I've oppressed **myself**.  Guilt, fear, low self-esteem, low self-confidence and self-worth, anxiety, depression, and dumpsters full of neurotic thoughts.  Through a lot of introspection and self-analysis, I've come to not only accept, but to love who I am.  I'm pretty damn amazing.

I can be a bitch.  There are times that I am insensitive.  I've been a grouchy asshole.  I am not perfect, but I am fucking awesome.

Trans infection

A person asking a question about trans issues may come across as awkward or tactless. If they seem to genuinely want to be educated, that is a very positive step. They don't know, so they ask. It's an awkward subject for some. Hell, admitting ignorance of any topic is awkward for some.
There's a distinct lack of education in trans issues in society. I don't fault ignorance. Blame the game. Willful ignorance is another matter entirely.
I don't foresee any massive trans education campaigns in the near future, so conquering ignorance of trans issues one person at a time is a step in the right direction.
Whether a person's question is tactless or not, "Sorry, I didn't know" IS an acceptable excuse... the first time. We're already marginalized enough, victimized enough, and otherwise misunderstood enough without driving away those who genuinely want to dispel their ignorance.
Understanding and knowledge go a long way toward banishing ignorance, fear, discrimination (intentional and inadvertent) and even hatred. It's not a perfect cure and there are counter-viruses such as fundamentalist Christianity and some RadFem hubs. Why do their work for them?
Sure, inject humor if you wish to. Don't berate the poor seekers of knowledge for their lack of knowledge. A question may be tactless, but they may be unaware that it IS tactless. Let them know that it is, and more importantly WHY it is tactless.
Impart understanding and banish ignorance and the world will be a tiny bit safer each time. The person asking the question may even go on to educate others, especially if it was a positive experience. Knowledge is viral, let's increase the vectors of infection.

My Other Mommy

(inspired by Laura Jane Grace of Against Me!)
I used to think I had a daddy everyone knew as Tom.
Then one day she came to me and taught me how I was wrong.
She wore a purple sundress and makeup on her face,
She said her name is Laura, nervous yet full of grace.
I asked about being daddy. She said, "He never was.
I've always been a girl inside but hid it because
The world out there is frightening and people are full of fear
Of what they don't understand that they don't want to see or hear."
Do I miss my daddy?
Do I wonder, "Where did he go?"
No, I've always had two mommies,
I just didn't know.
Yes, I'll always have two mommies,
And they both love me so.
"Mommy you're so strong inside to be true to yourself."
"Honey, it just hurts too much to pretend to be someone else."
"What about all the mean people who say such ugly things?"
"We'll teach them understanding and the kindness it brings."
"What if they won't listen? What if they want to fight?"
"Then we must stand up and fight for what we know is right.
"For those who want to hate, for those who want to bring us down
"Show the world how what they say makes them look like a clown."
Do I miss my daddy?
Do I wonder, "Where did he go?"
No, I've always had two mommies,
I just didn't know.
Yes, I'll always have two mommies,
And they both love me so.
I'll never miss my daddy because he didn't exist.
She was always my mommy held down by the fist
Of a society that doesn't know what it means to be like her
Or the pain and confusion that often comes with being transgender.
She lived trapped inside an idea of what they thought she should be
She finally had enough and shouted, "I will just be me!"
Do I miss my daddy?
Do I wonder, "Where did he go?"
No, I've always had two mommies,
I just didn't know.
Yes, I'll always have two mommies,
And they both love me so.
Do I miss my daddy?
Do I wonder, "Where did he go?"
No, I've always had two mommies,
I just didn't know.
Yes, I'll always have two mommies,
And they both love me so.

A letter to the president, still unanswered.

Dear Mr. President,
Many transgender people were disheartened by not being included in your inaugural address when gay and lesbian people were. I count myself among them.
Inclusion and visibility of transgender people are major issues. We're arguably the smallest minority in the US. People just plain don't know or understand us. We're targeted for rape, violence and murder. Ignorance often leads to fear and violence. Visibility, inclusion and education would go a long way to alleviating these issues.
While gay and lesbian activists push for marriage equality, we're still struggling to be able to use the bathroom in peace. We aren't allowed our basic rights. We're discriminated against, assaulted, murdered and raped more than any other minority.
I ask nothing for myself, but could you take the time to respond to an 11 year old transgender girl named Sadie Croft? She just wants to be able to live a normal life, to be seen as a person. Her fears and dreams were expressed in an essay that can be found here:…
(sent to the POTUS via )

Charlene Brown, Transgender Activist: A Short Bio.

Charlene grew up in a small town in the midwest.  She never wanted for much of anything.  She never worried when her next meal would come, never had to scramble to find somewhere to sleep and had no fears about walking her dog no matter the time of day or night.

Having so many things handed to her, Charlene came to expect everything to be handed to her.  Using the tried and true trans method, she would just wish for it to happen and get incredibly depressed when her wishes weren't granted.  

"Why is everybody always pickin' on me?" was a frequent complaint.  She felt she was beset by negative comments from everyone around her and often victimized.  Because nobody should have to deal with such terrible circumstances, she knew it was the fault of others.  

Her best friend was Cathy van Pelt.  Cathy was a very smart budding feminist and always did her best to help Charlene with her problems.  When Charlene first came out as a girl, Cathy took her in hand and guided her in the proper way women should behave.  

The first major step that Cathy helped Charlene through was GRS.  "A woman cannot have a penis, so you should have yours cut off."  Charlene did so obediently and also granted her strange request:  to give Cathy one of the testicles that was removed.

"If you want to be a real woman, you must be able to kick the ball," Cathy would encourage, "If you can kick it, you will be given equal opportunities, protections, treatment, and quality of life with respect to circumstances." She would hold the ball near the ground and pull it away just as Charlene was about to kick it.  "Better luck next time!" Cathy would say.  She new that Charlene wasn't ready yet to be a real woman.

To illustrate the level of dedication Cathy gave to molding young Charlene into a model woman, here's a small anecdote:  

At school, both Cathy and Charlene had to use the restroom at the same time.  Charlene was following Cathy into the girl's room when Cathy turned around and ordered, "Stop!  You don't belong in here.  Use the boy's room."

"But I'm a girl.  I had the surgery just like you said I needed to," Charlene whined.

"That doesn't matter.  You used to have a penis and penis equals rape.  There is no way you can ever use the woman's room."

"But Pig-Pen just went into the boy's room and he's been giving me creepy looks and telling me all of the things he wants to do to me.  A few days ago he grabbed my butt.  I'm scared," Charlene sniveled.

"It's not like you can get pregnant.  A real woman's reproductive rights are sacred.  Nothing should ever compromise or threaten to compromise that.  Rape is a terrible, debilitating thing," Cathy logically instructed.

"Yes, you're probably right.  I'm sorry I'm such an idiot.  Thank you for helping me," Charlene replied with proper gratitude.

Charlene also had a little sister named Sally who worried about her all of the time.  Sally had very misguided views on what it took to be female.  She would often tell her big sister to take control of her own life, to be her own woman, not someone else's idea of what a woman is.  Charlene's convictions were strong enough to resist this temptation as she would answer, "Always blaming me for everything!"

As time passed and technology improved, Charlene found that there were many other girls like her out in the world.  The most useful tool was the internet and social networking sites.  Charlene would send requests of friendship to any transgender girl she happened across in her world-wide web wanderings.  When she found girls who posted ill-conceived and -considered notions like her sister Sally had, Charlene would comment on them and try to teach them the right and true way to be a woman.

These fetishistic 'girls' often replied that it doesn't take a vagina to be a woman, it's what's in your brain. Charlene showed the depth of Cathy's teaching by telling these 'girls' how wrong they were, how stupid it is to believe something like that.  The 'girls' would resist being properly educated and ask for further explanation as to why it was so wrong to believe as they did.  "Only babies would believe something so stupid," Charlene would then get angry and block such a wrong-headed imbecile who could never be saved.

Charlene's strength, critical thinking skills and character make her a role model to all right-thinking transgender women everywhere.  If you wish to succeed in this world as a transgender woman, you should emulate this soon-to-be woman (when Cathy deems that she's earned it).

Hey, white folk! Getting picked on =/= current and historical institutionalized discrimination and oppression

Growing up, I was picked on for a number of things:  a mole near my nose, my hair color and length, my weight, my skin coloration and my last name being the most notable.  "Moleface!"  "Carrot Top!"  "Fatso!"  "Powder!"  "No jewels!"  I'm an emotional and empathetic person and hadn't yet developed any armor to this, so I was frequently brought to tears.  Even though I was often made miserable by this, I never once thought to compare what I was going through to the current and historical institutionalized discrimination and oppression that black people and other POC face.

I have enough empathy to know that I could never understand what it's like to grow up with that much disprivilege. I was never assumed to be a criminal, lazy, stupid, shiftless or even subhuman just because of the color of my skin. Police officers didn't harass me or my family.  I had no problems getting a loan for my first car.  I could go anywhere and participate in any activity in my town without people becoming suspicious of me or following me.  I never had other white people police my behavior, presentation, choice of music or anything else because it wasn't 'white enough.'  The 'flesh' colored crayon in the Crayola 48-pack was pretty close to my skin tone, too.

Go back to the first paragraph and reread those epithets.   Back now?  Good!  Don't they seem incredibly juvenile and almost amusing?  I mean, come on!  "Carrot Top?"  My hair was strawberry blonde, not red.  None of the words used to pick on me have the historical weight and sheer hatred tied up in the N-word.  

If I were to research my ancestry, I doubt I could ever find one person in my family tree who was ever owned by another.  No, that's too sugar-coated.  I could never find one person in my family tree who was ever a slave.  My race was never dehumanized and othered to the point where considering them property was nothing to write home about.  

"But that was a long time ago, just let it go," one might say.  Sure, so was Jesus.  Now shut up about him.  Speaking of Christ, religious people have never once used bible verses to 'prove' that I or others of my race are less-than-human.  Do you get it yet?

"But what about reverse-racism?" one might ask.  What, does it really hurt to be called a 'cracker' or a 'honkey?' Seriously?  Black people have no power over you institutionally.  They can't limit your opportunities.  You've got the white privilige power armor and these almost humorous epithets slide off like orange sauce off a duck's back.

You may get picked on because of your weight, height, hair color, or any other trait or feature, but it is not equivalent to the racism that black people and other POC face and have faced for centuries.  I certainly can't understand what it must be like so I have no idea how any other white person could.  

You really ought to check your privilege about now.  No, let's go even deeper.  Don't just check your privilege. Check what privilege itself means in this context.  Understand the concept.  Imagine what life might be like if many of the things you take for granted weren't true.  Imagine that you would have to work much harder in society to achieve the same results you get now.  It isn't all Escalades and booty-shaking.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A happy message

I received this message a short time ago from a schoolmate I had recently come back into contact with, edited to remove any identifying markers (posted with permission):

"Nika - I wanted to share a story with you that I think you might appreciate. I am the leader for my daughter's girl scout troop and there is a little girl in her grade who I knew might be interested in joining. Her parents are friends with my close friend and I knew this little girl was struggling to make friends and that she wasn't a stereotypically girly girl. I've seen her at school wearing suspenders and she wore a suit and tie to their third grade program.

"Last night was her first visit to a troop meeting and we were reciting the Girl Scout Promise and Law. The closing line of the Law is "and be a sister to every girl scout." This child was standing right next to me and looked up at me and said, "But I'm a brother." I didn't know anything about her other than what I've written so far, but I looked at her for a moment and then said, "You can be a brother if you want to." Normally, I would have thought she was being silly and redirected her with a joke and gentle nudge toward appropriateness but something told me this wasn't silliness.

"I visited with my close friend about this and learned that this child has been telling her parents she's a boy for about 2 years. I have no idea where this path will lead. I have no idea ... if this is a phase that we'll look back on and laugh at her childhood quirkiness. What I do know is that I will love that child and nurture that child as long as she is in my troop and even after that. She or he can be a brother in our girl scout troop if she wants to.

"While I can't profess to fully understand what it is to be a transgender person, I know that I can love people and that I'm good at that. I'm not sure what your belief system is and if you don't share mine, I apologize....but I truly feel that something big that I call God placed that child in my troop. What are the chances that little girl who identifies her self as a boy in a small town ... filled with Baptists and fundamental Christians would end up in [a] liberal [person's] girl scout troop?

"It sounds like your journey to yourself has been difficult and continues to be difficult in many ways. I want you to know that your story, in part, helped me to intuitively know how to respond to this child. And I wanted to thank you for your openness and your bravery."


It's a very positive step in the right direction! We talked some more about this and clarified a few things (with some gentle education on my part: 'transgender' and pronouns), but this person definitely made my evening much brighter.