New People and Invisibility

August 13, 2011 3 comments

When was the last time I posted here? Well…I’m back from my unintentional hiatus and I have things to say (hopefully interesting things).

So, I’ve basically been a hermit lately, but the other day I attempted to socialize and had an experience that reminded me why I find meeting new people so uncomfortable. There was this social gathering thing at my mother’s apartment building that I went to (free food was involved) and I got to talking to some of the other tenants. None of these were people I expected to see again frequently or soon, since I’m going back to school in a couple weeks, so the whole thing was pretty low pressure.

The problem event was brief, so much so that by the time I realized I was uncomfortable the speaker was already several sentences ahead and it was too late to say anything. The people in the group I was with were discussing some movie* specifically the actors involved*. Several women in the group mentioned the attractiveness of one of the male characters; then one of them motioned to me and one other member of the group who was apparently male and stated that we might have found the female lead more interesting.

*Cowboys and Aliens, not important which is why I’ve clarified down here. Also, I’m crap with names so I don’t remember who was discussed.

This is a pretty small thing, but it was kind of alienating at the same time. This is the sort of action that is insignificant to most people, but stands out wildly to me. I feel like there’s very little I can do in these sorts of situations. I think I’ve mentioned it before, it’s very hard to correct someone without interrupting or derailing the thread of the conversation (and it never got back around to a subject where I could correct her assumption easily). This is not helped by the fact that I am pretty socially awkward, and that these situations always throw me for a loop even though they’re not really surprising. These were nice, mostly liberally minded people, they were not cracking gay jokes or being homo- or transphobic, but they still managed to make me feel like I was excluded from the conversation, albeit in a small way.

Theoretically I’m “out”, at least about my sexuality. But this really drives home how much of an active process that is. What was a casual conversation suddenly, and for a brief moment, became very high stakes for me. Even if I had been prepared to say something, I had an infinitesimal amount of time to decide how these people, whom I had just met, would react to my being queer and how to present that information. And there’s really no cure for this as far as I can see, all of the steps involved in heterosexual assumption are involuntary and people don’t like to analyze these sorts of processes. I don’t even really feel justified making a big deal about it, all of the arguments people make about assumptions being “normal” start bouncing around my head.

But the truth is it is a big deal, even tiny moments like this one. One instant of assumption moved me from cheerfully (if awkwardly) interacting with a group of people to being uncomfortable with the whole group. Do people get used to this? Because I can’t, it feels too much like being back in the closet.

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I am not diseased

There are many comparisons that get made in explaining trans people and transition to the questioning masses. The concept of having it be a disorder almost makes sense, if one is going for the “not under our control” thing, and with the justification for medical intervention. That particular one gets a lot more use by people who hate trans people, but hey. Either way, I’m not to pleased with it.

The use of trans as mental disorder is one that gets used as anti-trans rhetoric all the time, probably due to both the listing of transsexualism in the DSM and the lovely ableism that allows us to dismiss anything we don’t like as “crazy”. I’ve seen transgendered identities compared to everything from body dysmorphia to schizophrenia to anorexia (no, seriously).

When trans people (and pro-trans arguments) make the “disorder” argument it’s usually physical, because that’s what people are trying to change about themselves. There’s a movement for reclassifying transsexualism as, essentially, a birth defect, where the outward sex and brain sex are mismatched. There’s some science behind this, I’d like a nice longitudinal study myself but this direction of inquiry is relatively new. A lot of it also looks at explaining transgenderism itself, rather than looking at the development of gender identity in humans in general, which reeks of pathologization. But you can’t just straight up compare it to diseases like cancer and heart disease. Whatever the cause, transgenderism and transsexualism are usually if not always self-diagnosed conditions. We have to convince other people that our self-conceptions are legitimate, even the doctors, it’s not a diagnosis where some medical professional doles it out and you get recommended or assigned treatment. (The article I link even suggests that trans people aren’t in control of their own transition, that it’s all the doctors, and it’s written by a trans woman. I have no idea.)

As I see it, etiology is a question for the scientists, for activism and social interaction it does not matter. My body is healthy, my gender is not disordered. There’s a mismatch to be sure, but how I manage that mismatch is entirely in my control. I am not diseased, and I don’t need ham-handed justifications for my existence.

Webcomickery

June 17, 2011 1 comment

So, in a continuing theme of “it’s summer and I’m still unemployed and have nothing to do”, I’ve been reading a lot of webcomics lately. I’m not enjoying it as much as you’d think.

Trying to find legitimately trans-related comics on the web is a chore. We’re talking about a genre that thinks that the “trans” in transgender stands for “transformation.” Even in print comics it’s all body swapping and “huh I seem to have woken up with tits let me grope myself”. Sludging through all that to get to the ones that actually feature transgendered characters doesn’t produce many gems. This is kind of a personal preference thing, but it really seems to me that every single LGBT related comic follows the same pattern, and it’s not one that’s very good. Slice-of-life genre stuff about queer kids in high school (or more rarely, college/university) who do and talk about queer things all the time. I guess this is OK if you like that genre, and it can be done well, but as far as I can tell it is literally everything. Actually, LGB protagonists are featured in a number of science fiction, fantasy, and horror comics where the tropes of those particular genres drive the plot, but inevitably any comic in those genres claiming to be trans-related is just another transformation comic. Usually, and especially with transgendered characters, if a protagonist is queer, queerness eats the plot. What I would really like to see are comics with trans protagonists that are about something other than transition, ones that flesh out the characters and show that trans people care about more than just hormones. I could totally take the utter proliferation of slice-of-life high school transitions if I could actually find something else once in a while.

Speaking of hormones and transitions: pretty much every trans character in any LGBT comic is a transsexual who is transitioning or trying to transition. No non-ops, few post-ops, and few nonbinary identified people. When nonbinaries do show up, they aren’t recurring characters and are there to be mocked (or at the very least this was a poorly thought-out joke). Even comics that acknowledge that nonbinary-identified people exist fail to have anything that remotely resembles my experiences. Which wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing if the transness of it all didn’t eat the plot of every one of these comics. When you’re only talking about trans people, it helps to develop them as actual people.

I know what the obvious response to this is; I would totally be making my own webcomics if I thought I could draw worth a damn (my writing isn’t much better then mediocre either). Check back in a few years to see if I’ve learned to draw faces, and then we’ll talk.

Holding Out Hope

So, I haven’t posted in a while, you might have noticed (or not, I honestly have no idea). There hasn’t been much to talk about, and pretty much everything that will be contained in this post is preliminary.

Having moved to a new town, specifically one that is far more urban and liberal than my old one, I’ve been looking about for trans-related community groups. This doesn’t work quite so well as one would think, given that google searches on the topic tend to turn up therapists and medical-related stuff. But I finally found one. Two issues.

First, I may not be here much longer. I’ve been looking for work both here and in my old town (I own neither the place I am currently living in nor the place I would be living in back in the old town, which is why this is possible), and I have an interview at a place that is MUCH more likely to hire me than the last place I got an interview at, and I can’t be picky. If this interview goes well I should be moving back to my old town within a week. The next meeting of the group in question isn’t for another two weeks. This is kind of the same problem I had with the community group that meets near (near as in the same area code) my university, didn’t meet very often, was out of the way, and the times it did meet were oh-so conveniently scheduled for when I had breaks and/or other obligations. I can walk to this one, but just knowing that it exists does not mean I can actually attend. I may be back in redneck land before that.

Secondly, something that may not be a problem but still gives me pause, there are two groups. By the same organization. One is specifically for trans men, the other a general group. I have no experience with these groups in general, but it sort of implies a weird segregation thing, where the one I am attending is implicitly for trans women only or something like that. I mean, if the men have their own group why would they come to the general group, and therefore the general group would be not particularly general. I honestly don’t know how these things work, am I right in being skeptical about this arrangement? And of course, no matter how the groups are arranged, there is no guarantee that the local trans community is accepting of non-binary identified people.

So yeah, whether or not I find out more is based entirely on this interview later. Wish me luck or don’t. On the one hand, I REALLY need the money, and on the other I am NOT looking forward to going back to that town.

Women and Men

May 15, 2011 4 comments

I’ve been on the road a lot recently (moving, I fucking hate moving), and the car is pretty much the only place I listen to the radio. Advertisements are the bane of my existence right now. I think I’ve heard every variant of “men and women” over the past week or so. Every time I hear it I just think “Oh, well I’ll stay home then.” There’s a particular add for Planned Parenthood that runs pretty often on some of the channels over here that really makes me want to poke my eyes out, because that’s supposed to be a safe space, and I just get that twinge of “well, that’s not me”. Fuck, I was in a therapy group not too long ago where they did that, even after I had talked to the counselors in charge about my identity.

The problem is that they think they’re being inclusive. They’re trying, but missing the mark for a tiny percentage of us. They don’t want to specifically exclude me (often, they don’t even know that people like me exist, which is its own problem), but that’s what they end up doing. It’s always the little things. I think I could handle someone coming up and screaming in my face, just so I could have something that’s obvious to other people to deal with, but that’s not what oppression looks like most of the time anyway. People treating me like an alien is one thing, but treating me normal and still making me feel like an alien is depressing as hell. This stuff is so ingrained in our society, sometimes I don’t think I’ll ever be able to escape it.

Pronouns again: Neutral vs. Indefinite

April 23, 2011 3 comments

So, I’m seeing a lot of people around the blagosphere using “ze” as a neutral, indeterminate pronoun for when the gender of some distant or hypothetical person is unknown, unspecified, or unimportant. Can’t say I’m a huge fan. Let me explain what I mean:

“Ze” (declension ze-zem-zeir-zemself) is my preferred pronoun. For those I am actually out to, this is the pronoun I ask them to use with me. This is my “he” or “she” equivalent, one that refers to me as a person. The difference between this and the usage described above is exactly the title of this entry, a difference between gender-neutral and indefinite pronouns.

A gender-neutral pronoun is just what it says, any pronoun that does not specifically refer to the gender of the referent. More specifically, in my case, they can be pronouns that specify that the referent does not identify within the gender identities assumed for “he” and “she”. On the other hand, and indefinite pronoun is one that does not refer to anyone in particular. A good example in English is “one”, when we use “one” as a pronoun we mean anyone, but no one in particular. “You” is used in similar circumstances. Indefinite pronouns are also used when there is a specific person involved (although the person might be hypothetical), but whomever you’re talking to or the situation does not require any specific information about this person; “The doctor called” “what did they say?” In this handy example, the second speaker may not know the doctor in question and there really is no important information to be communicated about this person except that they are a doctor.

But where I see “ze” being used is with hypothetical people. Talking about an unspecified person from a certain group or performing a certain activity, an example from one of the articles I was reading this evening that sparked this post: “…you’ve got someone who won’t safeword when ze probably should.” The author here isn’t referring to a gender-neutral or non-binary identified person engaged in kink activities, this is just some hypothetical, unspecified individual being brought up for illustration purposes. This is where an indefinite pronoun would work great, a nice singular “they” or something, but instead a gender-neutral one is utilized.

I understand where this comes from, people are trying to avoid the generic “he” that assumes that any unspecified person is automatically male. But using “ze” actually produces the opposite effect for me that generic “he” does with men: when I see my preferred pronoun being used in a sense of “hypothetical, unspecified person”, the fact that it is so rare to see this pronoun used produces a sensation that “ze” is a nonperson pronoun like “one” because this is the only place I see it outside my own little self-created world of usage (I honestly only know of a small handful of people who use my pronoun actively, even among the people I informed about it). I view “ze” as being on par with “he” and “she”, and I dislike that it gets used in situations where people are actively avoiding using the gendered terms, I actually see “ze” as being just as gendered as the binary words.

I’ve mentioned singular “they” up above, and I know some people get squicky about using it and prefer to use singular ungendered terms, but singular “they” is an actual indefinite pronoun used for just the purpose that “ze” is being used for. It’s been in use for centuries, and it was made for this purpose, use it. It’s OK, I’m a linguist, I know what I’m doing here. If a grammarian gets on your case about “they” being plural, just tell them a linguist told you it was OK. It really is the proper word to be using here, instead of appropriating my identity into a generic. Please?

Pink toenails I don’t care

April 19, 2011 1 comment

Obligatory post about the recent pink toenails boy ad thing, I guess. I keep seeing it come up, and honestly I’m having trouble caring too much. Neocons are reacting with the expected “OMG boy plus pink nooooo” that makes them look idiotic and non-credible. I mean, are we really supposed to believe that so many people care so much about what one mother put on her son’s toes once? I don’t know if I’m jaded or just overstressed from school because every time I see someone freaking out about it I just go “oh, the nobrains are talking again, I’ll just sneak away quietly”. I just don’t see how that level of true stupidity even needs to be addressed beyond “seriously? check your priorities”.

It also irks me a little that every single non-idiotic article starts out by saying that the child will probably not be transgender. While this is true, it seems to be a bit of a “calm down it’s not that bad maybe” line rather than a “get over it” line. Especially since it’s pretty much ubiquitous. I mean, what if the kid did grow up to be transgedered, would that immediately validate all of the media hype and cis-panic? I know that this is nitpicky, but it get’s old after the fifth article in my search for things I actually care about.

So, can this story die already?