Aggressions

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This will be easier if we pretend that what follows is fiction.

I transfer buses on my way to work each day.  Yesterday morning I’d just gotten onto my second bus and was walking down toward the rear to find a seat when someone started talking to me.  A deep voice asked me if I was a diva.  I hadn’t even sat down yet.

I asked what he meant, and he clarified: “You’re a tranny, right?”  I asked him not to use that word, and told him that I was trans.  He then invited me to party with him.  I refused.  He insisted, I refused again.  He kept it up, and I pulled the cord and got off the bus.  We’d only gone about three blocks by this point.

When I got off the bus the man followed me.  He no longer asked if I wanted to party.  His requests were much more vulgar.  Perhaps I should say much more honest.  Frightened and angry, I told him to fuck off.  He smiled and punched me in the face.

I ran to the muni underground, grabbing my askew glasses to make sure they wouldn’t fall off.  I don’t know how far he did or did not follow.  I got on a train and made it to work in time.

If this were fiction, I would provide a moral to this story at about this point.  There’d be a reason for me to type all this out.  Perhaps I would describe how this is an extended metaphor for something, or an illustration of a greater point.  There would be a lesson to be gained from all of this.

I don’t think there’s a lesson here.  There’s certainly no news.  This is how I was treated the first time I attempted transition, and this is what I was expecting to endure when I made the decision to attempt transition again.  Instead of learning something, this has only reinforced the things that I already know: distrust of strangers, fear of cis people, expectations of violence.

I’ve been thinking about microaggressions recently.  Microaggressions are the casual, seemingly insignificant ways that people grind away at the humanity of marginalized people on a daily basis.  Offhanded comments and unconscious deprecations are common forms of microaggressions.

I have difficulty trying to determine what I should ignore and what I should be upset with.  By what standard should I measure the behavior of others?  Things like misgendering and calling me by the wrong name are so common that it is impossible for me to consider being upset about it.  I simply don’t have the energy.  What about the slurs, then?  Sexist and transphobic invective I hear directed at me almost every day, loud and vulgar musings regarding my genitals, inquiries into my HIV status, etc.  It’s just talk.  There’s so much of it.  And what could I do about it?  Write a post on the internet about it, perhaps?  Vent to my lover?  Consider violent self-defense?  I genuinely cannot afford the time and energy required to be upset at every occurrence.  How about threats?  Should I ignore promises to rape, mutilate, and murder me?  Again- it’s just talk.  Right?  More of the same.  What about attempts to assault me that don’t connect?  I’ve jumped out of the way of more than a few gropes and shoves by now.  Those have been aggravating, and have certainly gotten my adrenalin up, but do they really count as anything substantial?

At this point it feels like anything short of an actual carried-out murder attempt qualifies as a microaggression to me.

This somehow feels like it might be a problem.

So.  Yesterday I was assaulted and hit.  It was not a severe injury.  I have a small bruise high on my left cheek.  For a time I considered not telling anyone about it, thinking that this incident was not a big enough deal to merit the fuss and concern and nonsense that would come.

I feel like people don’t seem to understand the abrasive treatment that trans people endure every day.  Cis people often express that they do not understand why we are “so angry.”  They shrug in helpless confusion when talking about pronouns- who the fuck gets so upset over parts of speech, right?  They become indignant when talking about restrooms.  They struggle to hide their bored apathy when legal difficulties, housing rights, and employment nondiscrimination come up in discussion.  Listen: I want to be clear.

I want you people to stop killing us without fear of repercussion.

I want you people to stop attacking us without fear of repercussion.

I want to be able to walk down a sidewalk with a reasonable expectation of not being harassed, screamed at, or dehumanized.

I want to be able to feel safe when I go to work in the morning and come home in the evening.

This starts with cis people treating trans people like we are humans, which means treating us with at least a bare minimum of respect.  Showing the bare minimum of respect to trans people means using our correct pronouns and names, allowing us equal legal rights and protections, and allowing us equal access in communities.  This is not complex.

These desires that I have for the behavior of cis people are not new.  Nothing in this post is new.  I guess I just hope that if I repeat myself often enough someone might hear.

Death Threats

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My lover received a death threat the other day.  The threat was vicious, graphic, and specific. This was my lover’s first.  A milestone, of sorts.

The experience was a little unnerving, but we’ve tried to shrug it off.  After all, the fact that someone sent a death threat instead of just taking steps to kill it (my lover uses “it” pronouns) gives us some indication that this person was not terribly serious about actually carrying out the detailed mutilation and murder.  At least, we have chosen to try to take that reassuring perspective.  Honestly though, someone who would kill another person simply for being trans* is not someone I would want to hold to expectations of rational behavior.

Watching this has given me a taste of what my lover must go through whenever I am sent a death threat.  I’ve gotten a few.  I stopped counting when they broke three hundred.  That was a while ago- really, I don’t keep track anymore.

“Transphobia” seems too clean a term for this.  Too clinical and sterile.  I wonder what it means for people who don’t experience it.  When you hear that word, what do you think of?  Does a brief footnote in a college course come to mind?  Or do you shudder, thinking of those “sj” assholes on sites like tumblr who’ll yell at anyone for the slightest little thing?

Transphobia is being harassed on the way to work and trying desperately to keep my demeanor and voice soft because I know exactly how much worse it will be for me if they discover I’m not cis.  It’s working full time with a manager who casually debates with his friend exactly what is wrong with me (was I dropped on my head as an infant? molested as a child?) within my earshot.  It’s coming back home across a city’s worth of leers and revulsion and hyper-vigilance against the next assault, only to find that someone has taken the time out of their day to send gruesome death threats directly to us.

Transphobia is the grinding down of our dignity and humanity by a society that wants us dead.

My lover got the death threat this last week.  This last week was also our anniversary.  We had a lovely day together, doing incredibly silly things in a merry hopscotch through the city.  On Friday, we went to the local s/m dungeon to which we both belong and spent hours doing fantastically unspeakable things to each other.  In a few months, we’re going to have our marriage ceremony in that dungeon.  People want us dead.  We’re doing our best to fill our days with vibrant play and our nights with glittered delight.

Regarding my tattoos

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I have a few tattoos.  I plan to get a few more.  With each of my tattoos, there is an obvious meaning and a more personal meaning.  For example, there is a piece clearly visible on my forearm disclosing my insulin dependent condition.  Superficially, it’s an excellent alternative to a medic-alert bracelet.  Actually, though, the main reason for having my boy give me that particular tat – a reason which I do not discuss casually- was to make it slightly less convenient for me to commit suicide.

This is the case with all of my tattoos.  “Die cis scum” is a pretty clear message.  It conveys frustration and rage.  For me, though, that is just the surface.  It has intensely personal meanings that have little to do with my anger, but instead address personal struggles and unhealthy desires.

I’ve debated a lot about making this publicly available.  I haven’t up until now because this information seemed entirely irrelevant.  It doesn’t matter what the meanings or motivations are for a display like this, right?  What matters is how others perceive it.

Also, I find it incredibly bizarre that when this phrase started getting thrown around with some frequency by angry trans* people, a few folks seemed to think that I was some kind of authority on that sentiment and intent.  I’ve seen offhanded comments I’ve made on my tumblr quoted in some pretty random and unpredictable places elsewhere.  Look: I do not speak for angry trans people.  I sometimes am an angry trans person, yes, but we’re not all alike and we all have our own things to say.

Because of the weird idea that “Die cis scum” was mine and whatever I said about it reflected on anyone else who used that phrase, up until now I have avoided talking much about anything but the most obvious, superficial meanings.  After a while I just tried to avoid talking about it at all.

So, yes, I’m still pretty unsure how good an idea it is provide a more personal context for me to wear this tattoo.  We’ll just see, I suppose.

What follows are my personal reasons for “Die cis scum”.  They are true for me.  Let me reiterate, though, that the anger and frustration of the plain message are also still very true for me.  This is not some attempt to dismiss that meaning.  I am simply offering my personal context.

I’ve mentioned before that I came out as trans once years ago.  It was in Santa Rosa, a little north of San Francisco.  It was not a good place to come out.

Bad things happened.  Do I need to go through the list?  There was quite a lot of a wide variety of violence, mostly physical assault.  There was literally more violence than I can remember.  I still carry scars on my body.  That wasn’t pleasant.

For me, what was worse than being beaten up was the constant scrutiny.  Whenever I was in public, it was certain that someone would be staring at me.  I would spend an hour in front of the mirror in the mornings before I could work up the nerve to leave the house, shaving myself bloody, applying painstakingly perfect makeup, changing my clothes over and over hopelessly trying to find some acceptable outfit.  I did this because I knew that if I presented in any way less than perfect, the constant scrutiny would find my flaw and single me out for violence and it’d be my fault for being so careless.

It was that social pressure that cracked me.  Not the attacks and the murder attempts and the black eyes and the blood soaking my thankfully black shirt and the cops denying aid because “Do you always look like that?”  All of that was just the icing on the cake for me.  When I de-transitioned, it was because I could not deal with the stares any more.

That was a while ago.  I’m different now.  Matured a bit, perhaps.  I like to think that I have a better perspective on personal boundaries and what things I ought and ought not to give a fuck about.  That said, it’s not like I am a different person.  That was my experience: I have gone through with pretending to be cis, and it was fucking miserable, and it almost killed me- just as surely as the front grille of a swerving pickup.

The thought that I might do that again terrifies me.

So.  That’s one of my personal motivations for my tattoo.  I know that I am trans, despite the self-doubt, despite my painfully surreal and alienating agender identity.  “Die cis scum” functions as insurance against some very possible moment of desperate fear, in which I would gladly cut away my satisfaction and my truth and my life for some fleeting and hopeless dream of being accepted by strangers once more.

There is another close personal meaning for me in my tattoo.  I am pretty open about the fact that I am an addict.  What that means for me is that I am fascinated with destruction, both for others and for myself.  In my natural state I fixate on the various and plentiful means of destruction- of things, of relationships, of people.  I work hard to not be in that state as much as possible.

Self-destruction can mean many things for me.  It includes substance abuse, emotional abuse, and self-harm behaviors.  One of the self-destructive behaviors that I fixate on most frequently is based on my trans status.

When I get into the familiar headspace of fuck it let’s burn the goddamn world who gives a shit anyway we’re all going to die, one of the things that I find really appealing is the idea of going to a bar and picking up a rough drunk cis het guy for casual sex without disclosing.

My tattoo is pretty prominent.  I’ll admit that chances are it’s not a fail-safe against this plan, but it certainly makes this time-to-die fantasy of mine significantly more awkward.  And when I am in that certain state of mind, every little bit of dissuasion against acting out my addiction helps.

My tattoo is a passive counter to these deep personal fears of mine.  Just by existing on my body, it helps me to avoid making terrible, suicidal choices.

Having written all that, I’m still not sure how relevant this is to anything.  Is it worthwhile to pay any attention to the internal significance of an external show of hostility?  Honestly, I doubt it.  I understand that all of the above does nothing to alleviate any pain and confusion “Die cis scum” might evoke in others.  I suppose I just wanted to let people know that I wear it because it helps to keep me alive.

Dysphoria and sexual orientation

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First uploaded October 9, 2012

I was fourteen.  I was standing naked in front of a mirror.

I hated being in that body.  Just looking at it filled me with disgust.

It was a male body.  So I had been told.  So I tried to believe.  This naked body in the mirror that everyone thought was male was absolutely hideous.

Since I was so utterly repelled by my body, I concluded that I must not like men.  Since this naked body was, you know, supposed to be male.  If I liked men, I thought, I should like this body.  Seeing as how I could barely stand to look at it, the reasoning naturally followed that I must not like men.

I must not like men, despite the way I looked at other men.  I must not like men, despite what I did with other men, and what I wanted to do with other men.  All of those desires and experiences were mere aberrations of behavior, nothing but anomalies.

I certainly had quite a few aberrations.

My internalized queerphobia combined with my gender dysphoria (and my religious upbringing) to keep me in denial through most of my cock-sucking, ass-fingering, boy-humping teenage years.  I wonder sometimes how much sooner I might have come out as queer if I had been cis.

nonsense politics

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First uploaded October 1, 2012

On page 111-112 of Janice Raymond’s “The Transsexual Empire”, the short story “The Woman’s Restaurant” which was published in Penthouse is quoted at length and used as evidence for Raymond’s assertion that people come out as trans simply to invade women’s spaces.

What a fascinating tactic.  Just imagine the possibilities for radical political analysis using, say, literotica.com as a data set.

“The Transsexual Empire” is ridiculous and surreal, which I support, but also malicious, ignorant, and intensely bigoted, all of which is much less admirable.  Sadly, it’s also still influential in certain circles.  I can only hope the people who support its message take the time to read it at some point.

Fighting

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First uploaded September 29, 2012

Every time I see that post that’s been going around tumblr- you know, the one that talks about how to throw a punch, how to end a fight quickly- I kind of make a little bit of a face and scroll past.

It’s a good thought.  It’s a fuck of a lot better than telling someone, for example, to simply avoid getting into fights.  No.  That’s not helpful.  The fact is that if one is visibly something other than white, cis, male, able, etc, the fight will come to you and you will have to deal with it.  Preparing for that is the rational thing to do.

But in my experience knowing how to hold my fist or whatever was not what I needed to know.  Personally, my big thing was to learn to stop worrying about whether or not I’d just lost a tooth whenever I got hit in the face, or especially the jaw.  I would always stop and try to feel my mouth and check that everything was still there, and then just get hit again even worse.  After a few incidents I made a real effort to come to terms with the fact that even if I did get a tooth knocked loose, checking to make sure right at that moment wasn’t going to help anything, and I should really just pay attention to the person beating the crap out of me.

And I guess it could be that everyone has a difficulty of some sort or another, and you can’t really know for certain until you’re in the thick of it, in which case it may be too fucking late.

I feel like I have some sort of militant-type reputation here because, I guess, there is the whole dcs tattoo thing, but I think it also has to do with the fact that I am someone who is capable of being physically intimidating, in addition to my particular attitude towards pain and, frankly, some unpleasant behaviors and attitudes I engaged in before I got sober but which have a tendency to echo in my actions to this day.  These sorts of aggro attitudes are given a lot of space and respect and I’m afraid that may lead to people harboring unreasonable expectations.

So here’s what I want to tell you all.  The past few times where I have been assaulted, I have not stood my ground or whatever.  I didn’t roll my hand into a perfect fist and strike back.  I fucking ran.  I turned and ran until I couldn’t run anymore, and only then did I turn to check if I was being followed.  And yes, there are times when running away isn’t an option, and in that situation absolutely do whatever it takes.  But the goal here is to end the fight as quickly as possible.  Sometimes that means trying to stop your assailant, but more often than not breaking away and running is seriously the best option.

Beating up your oppressor and bashing back and all of that is grand if it’s possible but I just want to remind people that the most important thing is to stay alive.

Agender

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First uploaded September 20, 2012

I think that the identity of agender is similar to the identity of queer, in that there are a wide range of meanings depending on who is using the label at what point in their lives.  I thought I’d take a moment to describe what agender means to me and why I use it to describe myself, but I want to make it clear that I am really not trying to define the term for everyone or speak for anyone else who may use this identity for themselves.

I often introduce people to my idea of what it means to be agender by making the obvious parallel with atheism.  Atheism is not a belief in no god, but instead a lack of belief.  Likewise, agender is not a belief in no gender, but simply a lack of gender.  I do not think that gender is unimportant or nonexistent.  I just do not feel comfortable with any gender identity for myself.  I feel very comfortable with not having a gender identity.

Having the traits of being agender all my life actually made my transition more difficult.  While I quite clearly did not identify as the gender that I was assigned, I did not identify as the other commonly acknowledged gender, either.  In my teenage research into trans* topics and in correspondence with “real” trans people, this was always seen as a major issue.  Identifying as the gender you are was seen at the time (the late ‘90s) as the most important requirement for being trans.

It took me an agonizingly long time to come to the startling realization that being trans did not have to mean fitting into the monolithic stereotypes perpetuated by so many aspects of our culture- from mainstream news media and Hollywood sensationalism to the queer and trans communities themselves.  There is no rubric for being trans.  There is no graded test.  There Is no required formula for what to do and how to proceed and which options to take once you become honest with yourself about your relationship with your gender and your body.

(Of course, the sad truth is that many organizations that provide services feel differently.  I was initially afraid that I would have to lie through my teeth to fit some Harry Benjamin Standards of Care protocol.  I was fortunate enough to find a clinic which would offer care without prejudice, but I realize that many of us do not have that privilege.)

I am agender.  The way I look each day is a little like Schrödinger’s presentation: from day to day I have no idea how I will look until I go through my clothes and perhaps try on a few things and, you know, collapse the possibilities into the actual.  As far as I am able to tell, I am read most often by strangers as a woman, and frequently as a woman with a trans history.  (The fact that I do not identify as female does not shelter me from misogyny and sexism.)

I tend to avoid gendered spaces as much as possible.  I remember where the gender-neutral public restrooms are in the neighborhoods I spend a lot of time in.  I avoid events geared towards certain genders.  Sadly, this cuts me out of the vast majority of queer events, which are usually “men only” or “women only” or “women & trans only”- and what the fuck does that even mean?  I feel profoundly uncomfortable about being in a space where I will have to defend or justify my presence based on my gender, because the fact is that I don’t have a gender identity at all.  A large part of the reason that the SF Citadel is so important to me is the fact that it is not inherently a gendered space.  There are a few events there geared toward specific genders, which I do not attend, but the default Open Events are just that- open to everyone.  The trans* specific party is focused on people who have a trans* history and our friends, period.  No grouping or exclusion based on assigned gender or current gender identity.  For me it is fucking amazing to be able to be in a place like that without having to constantly lie about basic, foundational aspects of my self to avoid being kicked out.

This feels to me like a longish, navel-gazing bit of self-indulgent introspection taking up space on the internet (where space is at such a premium, har-har).  I’ve been told, though, that when people open up about their experiences and perspectives, often that is not taking up space but instead creating new space.  A lack of agender or even non-binary role models in my adolescence is what kept me from pursuing active transition for a decade longer than necessary.  I hope that more voices and visibility will help prevent that kind of needless struggle for others in the future.

genetically… ?

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First uploaded September 16, 2012

If you know me or have read my blog for a while, you may know that I have a condition.  I see an endocrinologist for my condition, and I take as medication a synthetic copy of a natural human chemical that I do not naturally produce very well.

Without taking injections of insulin, as a type 1 diabetic I would be dead.  Without modern medical science and my artificial enzymes, I would be dead.  Interestingly enough, people do not refer to me as “genetically dead.”  People do not refer to themselves as “genetically alive” in opposition to me or others with a life-threatening condition which requires medicine to treat.

The parallel which seems clear to me is the bizarre phenomenon of people referring to trans* folks as “genetically…” whatever gender they’re not, and referring to cis people as “genetically…” whatever gender they are.  There is no difference to me between this practice and the concept of someone referring to a type 1 diabetic as “genetically dead.”  I’m not fucking dead.  I’m not fucking cis.  Do not use this language.

Sexual Orientations

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First uploaded August 26, 2012

My sexuality is sadomasochistic.  This is important to me.

Gender-based sexual attraction is incredibly prevalent in our culture.  The myth goes: you are of a certain gender, and you are sexually attracted to a certain gender or set of genders, and you have sex with people who fall into the proper gender category for you and that’s all there is to it.  That’s sexual orientation.

I tried to fit this mold.  I tried to have sex with people based on things like their gender or their appearance or their taste in music and clothing or (yes) how good they looked in their Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence getup, and each time was a disaster.  In my last long-term vanilla relationship, for example, I would do my best to please my partner, then fake an orgasm and head home and feel inhuman and cry and wonder why I was so worthless and false and wrong.

The problem was that I was dating people who were not into kink.  I was dating people with whom I was not sexually compatible, regardless of their gender.

I am a sadomasochist.  I am sexually interested in people who are, specifically, unequivocally sadomasochistic.  Can you throw a singletail?  Needle top?  Run an interrogation scene?  Take a metal paddle to the fronts of your thighs?  That’s the sort of thing I look for in potential lovers.  Gender is wonderful if it’s your cup of tea, and I will help you celebrate it if you are into that sort of thing, but it’s not really on my checklist.

Overwhelming

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First published May 13, 2012

There’s no peace.

I think about being killed.  I think that’s reasonable for me to do.  My daily commute takes me through 16th and Mission, an intersection known for transmisogynist violence.  All I see in the news are reports of murder of trans women of color.  It is fucking overwhelming.

It does not give me peace to dwell on the fact that if I were killed, I’d most likely get the Matthew Shepard treatment.  I’m white, after all.  People very likely would pay attention.  Maybe the cops would pretend to give a shit.  Maybe my murderer (or someone the cops said was my murderer) would be found.  Maybe there’d be talk among politicians about writing new laws.

I am so fucking disgusted.

Right now I’m functioning on anger because I can’t go to sleep and get up and get on the bus and go to work and pay rent and eat if I am sobbing so hard I cannot breathe.

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