A Man Has Died in Texas

A couple of weeks ago I received calls from two of my half-brothers telling me that this man had died. I have wondered often how I would feel about that moment when it came. The moment has past and I’m still wondering about what to feel. You see, I’m not sure if I’m actually allowed to feel anything about this man’s passing.

I’m sad to hear about anyone’s passing, and at the same time, I’m always a little envious. Sad because of the hole that is left in that person’s loved ones, and envious because of the great adventure that the release from this mortal coil launches. This man was my biological father, but I wasn’t one of his loved ones.

He and my mother was very young when they became parents. Too young to know better. Mom told me that she wanted a baby because all her older friends were having babies. Arlie, that was the dead man’s name, told me that they were just two stupid kids. That, my friends, was how I came to be; the product of a fit of stupid envy.

The only name I could use for this man was Arlie. It was made very clear to me that I had a father and it wasn’t Arlie. The man that I called my Dad was the man who took me in and raised me. That man will always be my father.

For whatever reason, Arlie choose to stay away from me and my brother. He and my mother separated when I was two years old and they both moved on to new spouses and lives.  Mom had two more children and Arlie had three. I guess he really didn’t want me as part of his life, and it wasn’t until I was fourteen that I made the effort to find this mystery man.

Found him I did, and this began long series of attempts to impose myself onto him and his new family’s lives. I know that I made it very difficult for all involved including Mom, Dad and everyone else around me. I was determined to find answers that either they wouldn’t or couldn’t give.

Over time we would drift in and out of contact, but it was always my efforts that would re-establish the links. Arlie divorced his second wife and after a while remarried. I don’t know about Mom’s and Arlie’s marriage, but I do know that both of the women he married after my mother were wonderfully loving people that I learned a lot from.

The last really long interaction I had with Arlie was when he allowed me to move in with him and his third wife while I returned to college. I lived with them for almost a year and a half, and they were very generous and open. After that time, we lost contact again, and over the remaining twenty years of his life I only saw them a handful of times. I was the one who reached out each time.

I do believe that in his own way he loved me, and he truly believed that staying out of my life was the best thing for me.  I don’t how much of that is true, but I do know that I’m sorry that I’ll never see him again. So, I guess I do know now how I feel about his passing. I’ll miss you, Arlie.

Goodbye, Arlie.  Godspeed.

Posted in Acceptance, Autobiographical | 1 Comment

Shared Experiences Exist

No one in this world is so unique that they don’t have some shared experience with someone else. Isn’t that kinda the point of cinemas and sport arenas?

There will always be things that people live through that others will also live through. Never in exactly the same way, but close enough.

These shared experiences help to create community and language. However, more people share these experiences than we tend to acknowledge.

Not all women experience the same experiences as other women, and trans women will experience SOME of the same experiences of all women. Sometimes, enough to have community and language with other women.

Likewise, trans men will experience SOME of the same experiences of all men. Sometimes, enough to have community and language with other men.

Posted in Acceptance, Gender Expression, Girlhood, Transition | 2 Comments

On being Gender Critical

I think everyone should be gender critical. There are so many things wrong with the way that gender is policed and enforced on every single person on the planet. Here’s a simple definition of gender:

Gender (noun): The state of being male or female (typically used with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones).

These social and cultural differences are used to keep people in there assigned place. People are both the oppressor and the oppressed when it comes to how gender is enforced on each other. No one is exempt in their role in continuing the harm of gender.

Sexist Gender Advertising in Times Square NY

Sexist Gender Advertising in Times Square NY

We buy our clothes based on how we were taught what looks good and makes us attractive to the object of our desires. There  are many, many fashion designers and clothing distributors that are complicit in making sure that you and I know what is appropriate for our gender and/or sexual expression. They want a guaranty on their profits by making sure that we stay within the narrow confines of the gender expression that our culture has proscribed for us.

Likewise, there are almost countless magazine, television and online advertising campaigns structured to make us feel inadequate until we fall in line and purchase the gender appropriate product they are selling.  The fashion magazine industry is solely created to push concepts of “sexy” and “beauty” that is harmful to all six billion people on the planet. These magazines work to make sure that gender expression is enforced with severe cost for trying to escape them.  Just ask any gender variant or transgender/transsexual person about the pain of those cost. In the end, the people who manage and work in the fashion and advertising industries are people that are also subject to the same oppressor/oppressed dynamic as those they work to reach.  This is how the cycle works.

The reason I needed to write about gender criticism is from what I’ve seen on various tweeter feeds the are using a new hashtag #gendercrit.  This new twitter hashtag is a great way to comment on the harm that gender causes.  However, the hashtag was created by those who wanted to move away from being known as trans critical.  To me, this means that they are ready to move beyond working against the rights of trans people and broaden their efforts and focus to where the real problem of gender exist.

So, when are we going after the fashion and magazine industries? The real upholders of gender. Six billion people follow the fashion industry and gets told how to express their gender and/or sex. Then how about the magazine publishers of both lad and girlie ones. Sounds like they have a large audience to educate.

Trans people are just as vulnerable to the fashion and magazine messaging as everyone else. Vogue Magazine has a total readership of over 11 million people per month. That is more than there are trans people worldwide. That is just one of dozens of fashion magazines.

Children are working in sweatshops to create gender appropriate fashions.  That is just one horrible example of the production chains that supply us with the clothing we wear. Our desire for cheap gender appropriate clothing makes us the oppressor of these children.

Those are just a few of the reasons that everyone on the planet should be gender critical and there are so many others than I can write at this time. However, those on twitter who use the #gendercrit hashtag are mainly concentrating of the evils of trans people in the women’s spaces.  So, if your sole effort in being gender critical is to work against transgender/transsexual rights then you are a liar and a transphobe.

Posted in Gender Expression, Passing, Post-Transsexual, Transphobia | Comments Off

Thoughts on Working in the Media While Trans

There is a story over on Huffington Post:

When Trans Identity Meets Media Career by Eden Lane

Here’s my humble thoughts:

Many media outlets continue to use the “Trans Panic” narrative as click-bait to draw ratings and eyeballs. If there is a trans person on the other side of the mic or writing the story then they would lose the sensationalized slant. It requires a lot of drive and talent to tell the story of humans and their actions. Ms. Lane’s history unfortunately has removed a truth sayer. I believe that this one of the worst sides of media outlets, the perceived fear of losing revenue. To exclude Ms. Lane from helping media outlets to report news and stories is really against their own interest.

I’m a woman of transsexual history who works in media engineering and I also know the cost of being open. I’ve been outed by well intentioned co-workers for “my protection” that ended with loss of credibility and eventually my job. I no longer discuss my history at work and I’m lucky enough that no one feels a need to ask.

There is nothing about being trans, gay, lesbian or bi that erases the drive and talent of those reporters like Ms. Lane. We are doing the very same job we were doing five minutes before you learned our history. I can only speculate, but I think the fear of a path that we walk is more than our co-workers wish to accept. Their inability to accept someone different than them leaves them with a smaller world.

It is easier for me because I’ll never be in front of a camera, and I feel for Ms. Lane in her struggle to continue her career. Everyone who works to bring news and hidden facts to light have a hard career path. Employers and co-workers who allow Ms. Lane’s history to cloud their value of her work are anti-journalism and short sighted.

Posted in Acceptance, Gender Expression, Passing, Transphobia | 1 Comment

Gender is Not my Identity

Gender is not my identity, neither is my work, my family nor my possessions. I believe the things I create identify me.

Famous Optical Illusion.

Famous Optical Illusion.

Who I am and what I am is an amalgamation of different experiences, biology and education.  I use those to navigate my way through this world and create lasting works that define my identity.  These works of life help me to communicate who I am to the outside world.

Communicating with another human being is one of the most dangerous and fulfilling things we attempt.  The meager tools that we have at our disposal are crude and clumsy.  Lack of communication has led to the greatest wars, bloodshed, and destruction in human history. Also, the success of sharing concepts have created the greatest works of love and human achievement.

I state all this to try as best I can to describe why many people who don’t experience sex dysphoria have a hard time understanding our communication.  It is not a problem of the listener nor the speaker.  It is the lack of proper tools.  At best, we can only come to a point where we can trust the both sides coming from a place truthfulness and faith in the other person.

Although a trans man can certainly have a rich boyhood, he will still be at a loss trying to relate his experiences to other AFAB (Assigned Female At Birth) friends.  There is not a real frame of reference.  Many try and fail to compare the childhood of trans men and butch women, but that is not even going to come close to having shared touch points.

Similarly, the lived girlhood of trans women and non-trans women share many commonalities.  Including forced gender roles and gender policing.  The assertion of these common experiences is either not believed or completely ignored.

This leaves us with a very difficult task of trying to connect on a human level.  This frustrating and clumsy process will lead to tempers flared and feelings tweaked.  I believe the reason is the lack of communication tools to facilitate that connection.  No matter how hard we try, I believe that we will never be able to completely communicate our most inner knowledge to another human being.

What then are we left with?  How do we connect with others and share our experiences and  motivations?  What is that tool?

I believe it starts with the act of sharing the externals.  These externals are the choices, actions and expressions we do in everyday life.  These externals are then used as  common touch points with others who have similar choices, actions and expressions.  From these touch points people are able to form relationships based on these commonalities.

It can be a simple as, “I really like the doll with the blue dress I got for my birthday.  What do you think?” Or, “I like to play football, do you want to play too?”  Depending on the answers to these initial questions, a link can be created between humans.

Similar interactions with others will then form groups, cliches and classes.  Further, rightly or wrongly, as these common touch points are reconfirmed and rejected, social stereotypes will be created in the individual and “in” group thinking.  This process is part of the socialization process that every human is channeled through.  All this from externals expressing our internal thoughts and motivations.

An example of the internal expressed in the external can be seen in the selection of  playmates.  Many girls do not choose most boys as playmates not because boys are “icky,” but mainly because boys and girls do not have common internal preferences in activities.  Whether these internal preferences are forced on people, innate or a combination of both, is not the point.  The point is that the internal preferences are expressed externally as a communication tool to the outside world.

That example can be extended to areas of choice in toys, clothing and behaviors.  Again, whether these choices are forced, innate or a combination of the two, is not the point.  It is the combination of these choices that make up an individual’s identity, and part of that identity is how a given individual relates to the internal knowledge of the sex of their body.

For the majority of people, this works out great and they never need to rethink or examine most of their internal processes.  For some, however, this process hasn’t worked out so well.  This is true for small and large internalized items and the need to externalize those preferences has caused confusions for both the person trying to communicate and the people they are trying to communicate with.

As a woman with a transsexual history, the only tools that I’ve had available to me is to share my preferences in choice of toys, clothing and behaviors to others.  These attempts mostly in the pre-transition days created stress for all involved because in their experiences, I didn’t fit into the stereotype they expected for me.

These clumsy tools for expression have been used to berate myself and others for their belief that we are “reinforcing the gender binary.”  I say that this is not the case; and,  just because only the external expression can be seen by others, this doesn’t mean that it is only a fleeting preference.

Looking at others through your own externalized tool does not give you special skills into another person’s inner knowledge.  All you can really do is try to project your own explanation onto the other individual’s expressions, and many times those come up lacking.

As my final thought, when a person is expressing themselves as best they can with clumsy tools that you do not fathom, please remember that you also have the same clumsy tools at your disposal.  Trust people to know themselves and they will trust you to know yourself (Wow, that sounds very familiar).

My identity is not just my gender.  My identity is everything that makes up who I am, who I’ve been and who I will be.

 

Posted in Acceptance, Gender Expression, Girlhood, Transphobia | 1 Comment

So were you born in a boys body?

This was a question I received the other day, and here is my answer.

I was born a baby. However, since you phrase the way you do, I can only guess that you expect a simple binary answer. Unfortunately, the world doesn’t always give you simple binary YES/NO or BOY/GIRL answers. The questioner’s world doesn’t seem to allow outliners in their binary.

I was born to a teenage mother who was married to a man in the armed forces, and I was a product of the military medical complex. She was given many a pill to help her carry me to term. My mother refuses to talk about those times and my real father (I was raised by my mother’s third husband) was away when I was born.

He, my real father, has told me that something wasn’t quite normal about my birth, and my Grand-mother (who was there) wanted to tell him about something that happened and what procedures were performed. She died and never told him.

Years later, when I was eleven, three surgeries were performed without my consent. I’ve written about them here

The doctors assigned me as a male baby, but I never developed any secondary male characteristics. At least until I was given testosterone shots at 19.

My chromosomes have been testing several times by many different doctors who would never tell me the results. My final chromosome test was requested by me and I know those results. I do not have any evidence of intersexual characteristics, nor do I claim any.

I can tell you that having been assign male at birth and been subjected to the socialization that many would claim I had never stuck. After a while of my step-father trying to beat the boy into me, he gave up and turned his back on me.

The State of Texas has issued me a corrected birth certificate as an amendment to the original.

So, to finally answer your narrow minded binary question. No, I was not born a boy.

Posted in Autobiographical, Girlhood, Transphobia | Comments Off

The Memorial of an Abuser

I’m on the flight home from a quick trip home that happened to include the memorial for my cousin who forced me to perform sexual acts on him when I was in my early teens.  I never talked about these things with my family because he was one of the golden boys who worked for my father.  Although he never told me to keep quiet, it hadn’t crossed my mind to tell anyone because I was a nobody.  I describe one of the actual acts as best I can remember it in a different place.  I’d like to write about his death and funeral here and now.

He was in his late fifties; he and his wife were out for a late-night boat outing.  The news reports say that he had been drinking which I understand was a common thing for him.  At some point he fell into the water and never resurfaced.  His body was found later not far from the shore.

I had already planned a trip to Texas for a couple of reasons, but my brother messaged me to tell me about the accident.  He linked me to the news reports and told me that he was going to be cremated.  It turned out that the memorial service was going to be on one of the days I would be in Texas, so it was up to me if I wanted to attend.

This cousin and I were never close after those years, and it wasn’t like I avoided him.  I was ostracized from my family, and he was just another person that stayed away.  Decades later, as my immediate family and I slowly reconnected, there wasn’t any reason to be in the same place as him.  I believed this was good for me.

I decided in the end to attend the service, if only to gain some closure and see a few of the outer family.  I had hoped to heal this pain, but I’m not sure if it’ll ever really completely dissipate.  They say, “Time heals all wounds.”  I don’t know.

Both sides of my family have had to work hard to get ahead.  Many of us worked paycheck to paycheck just to pay the meager bills and feed the kids.  A couple of us were lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time to turn our talents into a comfortable living, but we are the exception.  Because of this, my cousin’s service was hosted by his employer.

He had been working with this small Dallas business for the past several years.  It was a different ice company than the one my father built.  This company was started by one of my father’s ex-employees as competition, and there wasn’t a whole lot of love lost between the two.  My cousin could no longer work for my family’s company anymore, so he went to work for them.

The church was in a strip mall off of a main street in southeast Dallas in an area that is run down and not a safe place.  The walls were made of cheap stained panelling and the carpets were worn from years of traffic.  There was a center aisle that separated several rows of old cushioned pews with even older hymnals on the back.  At the end of the room was a slightly raised stage with a wooden altar in front of the pulpit.  A couple of prayer benches on either side of the altar where folk could come and give their life to the deity of the day.  Behind the pulpit was the choir section with an electric drum set, guitar amplifiers and seats for the singers.  At the very end of the room was a curtained area that everyone knew hid the baptismal pool.

I didn’t go to the service alone.  My partner was with me.  I had told her some but not all about my cousin, and I was glad to have her with me.

We entered the church and was immediately greeted by a woman I did not know and was  challenged with, “Who are you?!” I introduced us to her.  “I remember you, wow!  I’m the first wife.  You’ve really changed.  It’s good to see you.”  She was turning red the way people do when they realize that it is me.  “Go sign the book and grab a program.  The service will start soon.”

We did as instructed and looked into the main part of the room.  I saw my Mom and Dad and sat down behind them.  Loud pops and clicks were coming out the speaker system as the church staff was still setting up the audio system.  More people came and sat around us.  We sat quietly.

The attendees broke into two groups; those that worked with my cousin and those of us who were family.  My cousin’s brother slowly entered the room and came to sit in the same pew as my partner and me.  He was bleary eyed either from drink or grief, I don’t know.

The Service started with a christian country song from the crackling speakers.  I laughed to myself because even though I hadn’t known him for decades, I knew that he was in no way religious.  So, I could tell that this was going to be a farce.

As the music died down, the pastor approached the pulpit and begin to talk about my cousin.  He told about his loving family, his close friends and his love for his boat, the boat that took him out on the lake where he drowned.  As he finished, he told us that my cousin’s boss would like to come and say a few words.

An awkward moment began as his boss stood up from his pew.  The sound system began playing another crackling country spiritual.  He made it as far as the front pew and sat down to wait for the music to end.

My cousin’s boss completed his trip to the stand and began to tell story after story of his dealings with his employee.  He admitted to only telling the ones that were funny and uplifting.  I began my own journey into my memories of this loving cousin.

As more of my cousin’s co-workers and immediate family rose to tell their memories, I tried to think of times when he was kind, loving or even funny around me.  I came up empty, nothing but pain.

I’m sure that my cousin never once thought that what he and his friends were ever mean, hurtful or abusive.  They were just boys being boys, and this was the way male bonding worked.  I didn’t need male bonding, if that was the case.

My mind filled again with those memories.  I remembered the beatings, the name calling and pranks.  My mind finally landed on the sexual stuff.  I began to cry softly.  I had thought I had worked through those emotions.  I guess we never do.

The service continued with more people approaching the pulpit to tell these stories of my cousin’s love for them and his kindness.  My mind remembered him helping to bury me in ice.  I relived the beatings and the “rough-housing.”  In the end, all I could see in my mind was his penis staring back at me in the dark.

Finally, the pastor returned to the stage to wrap things up.  He preached that although my cousin never professed to know Jesus, that he had to have known Him because he knew how to love.  Because love can only come from God and to give love is to know God.  No wonder I have an issue with the idea of a loving God.

The service ended in a typical Texas redneck way, with BBQ.  The company that my cousin worked for was providing the BBQ in the next room, but my family had already decided to go to our own late lunch at my Dad’s favorite place.

As people rose to leave, I noticed that there were many people attending that I had not seen since I transitioned.  It was great to see them even if I wouldn’t be able to talk to them.  My parents were wonderful.  Anytime anyone asked them who I was, they responded with the proper name and pronouns.  They do surprise me at times.

I’ve now had a few days after the funeral to reflect on my feelings and I have come to a few conclusions.  I’m sad that he died, and especially the horrific way it happened.  I do wish that there would have been someway, somehow that I could have confronted him on his actions.

I know that it was always up to me to seek him out and restart the relationship.  I just never believed that it would be possible.  Now, I know that it never will.

Posted in Autobiographical, Girlhood, Post-Transsexual | 1 Comment