Thursday, January 28, 2010

Never Was A Cornflake Girl

My little corner of the internet is fairly sheltered. I follow a few bloggers, and a few bloggers follow me. Mostly we all get along. We are not all the same, but we really don't expect each other to be alike. Sometimes we disagree, but the debates generally stay civil. Even if tempers do flare, things never digress into childish bickering. Lately though, several posts on other blogs, by authors who are more widely connected, have shown me that the general transgender web community is not always this pleasant.

I refer mostly to the divide that seems to be forming between some transexuals and certain transgender activists. In this post, I have no intention of taking sides. I think this is counter productive. My point instead, is to simply ask, why can we not get along?

It seems that there are several points of contention. The one I have been hearing longest relates to some cross dressers and non-transitioning transgender people balking against a perception of a hierarchy in the trans community, with tiers based on progress in transition. I do think to some extent this hierarchy does exist, and I agree that this is wrong. I can definitely understand how it leaves some people feeling bitter.

Transition is not something for every person with any form of gender dysphoria to aspire to. It is a difficult path, with serious risks and sacrifices, both social and physical all along the way. If you are someone who needs it, you are not any more or less of a person because of where you are on that path. It is all a matter of time.

Then there are those who will never elect to walk this path. Many are transgender in the classic sense. By this I mean that they know in their heart that their mind's gender does not match their biological sex, but for their own reasons they decide not to physically transition.

With many, it is because of family reasons. They put the feelings of their loved ones first, and stay closeted to varying degrees. This does not make someone less of a woman in my eyes. I think for the most part, as women we do have a nurturing instinct, and putting the needs of someone you love ahead of your own wants, even if it means giving up something as important as your public gender identity is a huge sacrifice. My heart goes out to these girls, and their strength just amazes me.

With others, it is because of health concerns. This is not a shortcoming. Many feel the same discomfort with the male aspects of their body that I feel with mine. However, they think past that, prioritize and conclude that the physical discomfort is not worth the risks of transition. They instead make peace with their bodies. Some will elect to transition to a limited extent, and other will not undergo a physical transition at all. Some will boldly elect to live as their true mental gender without undergoing physical transition. I think weighing the options and choosing what you think you need, instead of blindly following your hearts desire takes strength. It is not right to look down on these girls. They are just on a different road.

Beyond all that, there are a plethora of other reasons not to transition. There are cross dressers, ambigender people, and many others who fall into the current definition of transgender. Some have flashes of gender dysphoria. Some feel caught between genders. Some just do not like the social constraints of gender and want to live outside of this. Some people like the thrill and challenge of dressing to pass. These people are progressive thinkers, wanting to live life on their own terms. They do not want pigeon holed, they just want to be free to be themselves. This shows independence and intelligence.

In short, there are many types of transgender people out there. Being post-op full time transexual is not the pinnacle for all trans people to aspire to. It is one of many possible paths.

Another point of contention, are non-transitioning transgender people who think their path is the only right path. I see the notion sometimes, that any of us who see ourselves as women instead of as being between gender are basically delusional. Some extend this argument to include a notion that transition as an unnecessary path best avoided by everyone. Proponents of this concept generally argue that transexual women like me are just desperate creatures, who can't see the big picture and learn to accept ourselves physically and think outside the gender binary.

My impression is that this whole idea comes from non-transitioning people who are frustrated by the perceived hierarchy laid out in the the first point of contention. I think more than anything, it is a statement made to bring post-op transexuals who seem arrogant and clique-ish down a notch.

I can also say with absolute certainty that the whole idea is wrong. I am a pre-op transexual, and transitioning is the best decision I have ever made. I do see well past the gender binary, but I feel that my place on the gender spectrum does lean very heavily to one side. Despite what my genetics and biology say, I am wired female.

For me, a lot of that extends into physical. Before I was old enough to know the differences in male and female genitalia, I already knew that what I had did not seem right. At puberty, the things my body did felt like a betrayal. I still can barely touch my adam's apple. My stomach actually tightens when I do.

I also know trans-men who experienced exactly the reverse through puberty.

My point is that if you do not need physical transition, do not assume the rest of us are misguided. Consider that maybe our issues or priorities are just different. Maybe some people have chosen transition who would have been better served by some other path, but do not assume that all of us need enlightened.

In short it seems to me that on both sides of this debate, there are people who think their path is the only path, who want to look down on everyone else. Lets please all keep in mind that many cis-gender people who feel justified in judging all of us. We all know how frustrating that discrimination is, and how upsetting it is to have close minded people assume to know our own thoughts and needs better than we do ourselves. So does it makes sense for factions in our own little community to divide into two schools of thought and make a little microcosm of societal prejudice? I don't think it does.


Jamiegottagun said...

That was great. I wish I could have written that. But I'm not as nice a person as you, so my stuff always comes out harder edged, and often even bitter. Sometimes even mean.

But, like I think you were saying, "I'm just working with what I've got."

Lori D said...

This was fantastic and you said a lot of how I feel way better than I could present on my own post. Would you be willing to allow me to crosspost this to my own blog? It deserves to be reposted in my opinion!

ms.shandy said...

@Jamie We don't agree on everything obviously, but I do think you are a strong willed and intelligent woman. It means a lot to me that you liked this post. Your stuff is always the most fiercly original thinking I read on transgender stuff anywhere, and even when I don't agree, you always manage to make me think. I can't say that about every blog. Hope my comments on your last blog can be seen in the right spirit. No anger here, I just happen to hold a different opinion on most of the points. Awesome read though. Especially the documents part. I'll be thinking about that for months....

@Lori Its really quite an honor that you would want to crosspost this. And you are completely welcome to! So flattered! =)

ms.shandy said...

I meant to mention in the comments right away, that the title is a reference to Tori Amos' song, "Cornflake Girl." If anyone is not familiar with it, it deals with betrayal, factions and cliqu-eish, divisive behavior in a really powerful way I think. Most everyone will probably understand that right away, but just in case. If you haven't heard it, check it out. :)

Tina Jenson said...

Well put honey...this certainly speaks volumes of what we should focus on. Honestly, I read about this divide too but have never experienced it on a personal level. I do talk to a lot of folks out there...maybe I'm just lucky.

Jenny said...

The Tori Amos reference didn't escape me.

Thanks for this post. It needed to be said, and you've done it very well. Right path vs the wrong path? Hell no! Your right path vs. My right path!

chrissie said...

Wise words, honey..... ..



Leslie Ann said...

Thanks for this, Shan. You have removed the sting I was feeling having read some other things earlier. I feel very lucky that geography has placed me close to you, rather than certain knuckleheads. You are a treasure.

Lori D said...

What Leslie said!

caroline said...

You've posted exactly what I've been thinking for the last month, you have said it a lot better than I would have done, thanks.

Caroline XXX

Rebecca said...

What a wonderful post. I whole-heartedly agree with what you so eloquently wrote. Everyone is unique, as is the path that is right for them.


Jerica said...

Great post girl. I agree, can't we all just get along? I've been criticized a lot for not staying with my wife and being a people in the trans community. I expect that from people outside of it but people inside??? What gives? hehe

Two Auntees said...

I found your post from Lori's blog and felt a need say a few things.

First great thoughts! We shouldn't be fighting among ourselves, there are too many other battles to face. Someone once said that there are a 'thousand genders', and we all are right and should be comfortable where ever we find ourselves on the gender line.

We shouldn't criticize others for their choice of path. I have come to think that even the label of 'pre-op' is to defining for some. As someone who chooses to be woman without having GRS, I am just fine being just a woman as I am. I have had some medical procedures after I started HRT, but only because I developed breast cancer and had to deal with all complication associated with the cancer.

I am doing fine and have been able to get reconstruction surgery through my health plan.

Sarah, the other Auntee

Stace said...

There seems to be a lot on the web about factions and in fighting at the moment. Seems odd (understatement) to have so much fighting going on when so many of us are looking for a modicum of support and kinship.

A very eloquently written piece. Thanks for alowing Lori to cross post (and thanks to Lori for cross posting) otherwise I would never have found it.


NickyB (aka the CFG) said...

the Tori Amos reference didn't escape me either...saw her liAve years ago...great post! xxx

Anonymous said...

What a great post.
Thanks for sharing.