Don't let your schooling interfere with your education.
~ Pete Seeger

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Dysphoria

For the last few days I've been feeling some pretty intense body dysphoria. I look at my skinny hips and tiny butt and I hate them, because they don't fit my clothes and they look so ugly. I look at my genitals, and I hate them, because they prevent the intimacy I so desire. I look at my massive chest and wide shoulders, and I hate them, because they are so unfeminine.

But then last night I dreamed that I was confined in a wheelchair. It was very vivid. I rolled down a curb cutout, and because I wasn't used to the chair I lost control and fell off into the street, and I was helpless to get back into the chair. It was so real that when I awoke, it took me a moment to remember that I really can use my legs.

And I thought, maybe this body isn't so bad.

It could be a lot worse.

On the other hand, maybe the dream reflects the reality that, in a sense, I am disabled – even though my arms and legs move like water.


Some people believe that our bodies reflect who we are; that we are our bodies. This is so not true. Ask any transperson. Ask Steven Hawking. Ask Helen Keller (okay, she's dead; so channel her through a medium). The soul, the person, that spark of life that resides behind the eyes or in the heart, that animates the body and moves it from place to place, is independent of and separate from the body, and if your body reflects who you really are, that is just luck. My body is no part of me. It doesn't even belong to me. It's somebody else's, and I don't know how I ended up in it. It's just the vessel that carries me from place to place, in which I am trapped.

11 comments:

anne said...

Hey girlie-girl,

I keep telling you that we ALL feel this way. Every time a guy wonders why I'm not a short brunette and makes me hate the way I look, I feel that way. Now I hate getting old. I've always thought that if people looked like their souls, the world would be a very different place. Luckily, we can see a bit of soul shine through.

I won't tell you to like the way you are, but certainly, being focused on it only breeds unhappiness. Believe me, I know. I spent most of my childhood wanting to be a blonde princess. When I first experimented with make-up my mother's response was "don't bother, no makeup will cover up your flaws."

But I got over it. Go with what's inside, girl. You'll never look like what you want to, unless we all get uploaded. You'd hate being a barbie doll, too. Imagine not being able to open a jar or reach the cupboards. Imagine having every guy on the planet leering at your chest, completely oblivious to anything you said. Imagine that anything you did, people would say, "oh, you got that job because he wanted to sleep with you." All your efforts snapped away.

We are stuck with what we are. Your burden is the gender clash between your body and your brain. You don't need to ask someone disabled how they feel, just ask someone ugly. Go up to a fat person and ask if they like their body--they'll laugh at you.

I like SEDA, I don't care what she looks like, girl!

But I did want to see more about Ellyn and Lark....

hugs,
me

Fannie said...

"My body is no part of me. It doesn't even belong to me. It's somebody else's, and I don't know how I ended up in it. It's just the vessel that carries me from place to place, in which I am trapped."

Although I am not trans, this resonates with me as well. Spiritually, I have always felt that even though we have bodies, we are not our bodies.

Thank you for an honest, touching post.

John Howard said...

Do you want to be able to conceive with a man, to have biological children with a man? Not necessarily carry and gestate the baby in your body, but just provide the DNA and maybe have a surrogate carry it. Your partner is a woman, though, so presumably not, because if you wanted to have children with her, you could do it with your own genes. But if you were partnered with a man, would you?

Transgenderism as a political movement as well as a personal way of life. The wiki entry on it is about the political movement, and merges in Postgenderism, an offshoot of Transhumanism. It says More recently, transgenderism is increasingly being used as a synonym for the term "postgenderism". The term Postgenderism was coined by George Dvorsky, a prominent Transhumanist.

Presumably your body still has a eyes, so you can still read these comments I've been leaving, and a brain to think about what I am saying and fingers to type a reply, so please stop ignoring me and use your body to respond to my points.

You might be on my side, like many thoughtful lgbt people, and agree that equal protections are the goal, not transhumanism. Don't let the Transhumanists use you as their pawns.

John Howard said...

Anne, I just noticed you said "You'll never look like what you want to, unless we all get uploaded."

Are you a Transhumanist, or have you heard of it? Mind-uploading is a goal of many Transhumanists too, though not all, some think it is folly. (The only thing all Transhumanists have in common, as far as I can tell, is that they're all pro-genetic engineering and oppose a ban on it.)

aj said...

YES

trapped

inside

maybe both interpretations of your dream are correct

thanks for posting this and leaving me with much to think about

Seda said...

Anne,
I think you're telling me to get over it. and you're right. We all have our body issues, and no one's perfect. On the flip side, I don't know any transperson who hasn't seriously considered suicide, and I've read some evidence that up to 20% of us actually try to carry it through. Some days, of course, are better than others. Sometimes I'm fine with it. Lately, not so much.

Thanks, Fannie, and you're welcome! I think a lot of people feel that body/self separation.

AJ,
I'm glad you're back, dear!

John,
Good grief.

If I could conceive with a man, and bear a child in my body, sure, I would love that. I can't. That's just the reality of it. I already have two really cool, wonderful kids, conceived naturally, and that will do just fine. You can see their photos on my Thanksgiving day post.

I don't get your obsession with DNA and genetic engineering and so forth. I don't know any transhumanists, whatever they are. I'm a transperson. Very different. I'll take the operation, but I'm not into genetic engineering of humans at all. period. I have huge misgivings about doing that with plants. Some things are better left alone.

Like me.

John Howard said...

Good, because there are same-sex couples all over the country who don't care about same-sex conception either. They, like you, need equal protections, not the right to conceive together that Transhumanists want them to win for them.

When Barack Obama is negotiating for a repeal of DOMA and getting equal protections to same-sex couples, remember that you don't want to demand equal rights for same-sex couples so that they can conceive with their own genes like a man and a woman can, and please support making conception rights the distinction between marriage and civil unions that will allow us to resolve the issue asap, and forever.

anne said...

Hi girl,

No, not to get over it, I was a bit glib there, because none of us get over it, but we should be able to accept everyone for what they are inside and not how they look. I think all basic suicide issues might be ones of acceptance (after basic neuro-chemical imbalances). I've know a lot of suicides, some of them gay, some just weird, some of them pretty normal seeming, but anything that is a serious disconnect is going to alienate a person.

I think even realizing that you were actually a woman is such a huge step that you're being too hard on yourself to then so into a self-blame spiral again. It's so hard to come to the self inside sometimes.

BUT, we live in a very rich society. Those of us born in the wrong time can meet others who feel the same way. Those of us who are gay or trans or born in the wrong body (for whatever reason) can meet those who feel the same way. How would you feel if you were the only trans person on the planet? Way worse. But you know this and value deeply the community of people you've encountered.

I happen to like you because you're a misfit, because I am and I feel that we have a connection there. Although I of course wish that I could give you the body you want, I identify with your brokenness, as much as it has, well, broken you. I'm not saying that I like you better for being unhappy, oh no, but for understanding what it can mean to be desperately out of whack with the society in which we live.

Since we can't afford to live how we would wish, we should celebrate what we have. Let your deep friendships support you and turn you from the sadness that you experience every day. We care for YOU, Seda, not your body. Bask in the warmth of realizing that some people see your soul shining in there.

But that was the only way I was able to not kill myself, was to let the good things be larger than the bad things. It's not perfect, but neither is the despair of being a misfit.

To John Howard:

I was into transhumanism in 1972, before it was called that. My husband is the one who has invented EEG controlled devices as a first attempt to migrate "out of the box." My entire live has been dedicated to the evolution of humanity. I've written over 30 books on the theme, "the shape is not the soul." I was long involved with Extropians in the Bay Area and my best friends are inventing AI machines that operate on intuition, not logic. Long history there.

take care, Seda! You're a girlie girl in my eyes.

anne

John Howard said...

Oh, and thanks for responding, sorry to leave so many comments to prod you. I'll leave you alone here now, but hopefully you'll take into account what I've brought up when you are sparring at Opine, and maybe we'll talk there. Take care.

Terri said...

Hi Seda,

This blog reminded me of a book referred to by Marshall in his books, it's Dan Greenburg's How to Make Yourself Miserable.

I've certainly picked my body apart through the years, but now I'm in my fourth decade with it and I've learned to take comfort in its familiarity. I think of all the places it has taken me and the great heights and lows its hormones have put me through. I see it now more for its intricate web of impulses and chemicals which can either torture or amuse me. I also think of the gallons of tears we've shared as we endured years of abuse and shame, my soul aching and my body responding to that call. My body carried self inflicted scars as witness to my inner aching and healing. And as my body begins its natural decay my mind is turning towards compassion and gratitude for the time I've spent bound within its confines. It no longer feels like a prison to me. I feel its impermanence with each pain and ache. I even have to hold my cell phone at a distance to read the numbers : ). I know that I will leave this old coat one day to donne a new one which may be better or worse - but I hope that in that next life I will not be so hard on it, or myself. It is after all just a bit of Mother Earth enlivened by the Universal Spark.

Hugs.

Seda said...

John,
It sounds like you're reaching out to my side, wanting to support us, yet also truly concerned about genetic manipulation, and you don't want to support us if it costs you your integrity. Is that right?

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.
~Helen Keller

Reading List for Information about Transpeople

  • Becoming a Visible Man, by Jamison Green
  • Conundrum, by Jan Morris
  • Gender Outlaw, by Kate Bornstein
  • My Husband Betty, by Helen Boyd
  • Right Side Out, by Annah Moore
  • She's Not There, by Jennifer Boylan
  • The Riddle of Gender, by Deborah Rudacille
  • Trans Liberation, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transgender Emergence, by Arlene Istar Lev
  • Transgender Warriors, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transition and Beyond, by Reid Vanderburgh
  • True Selves, by Mildred Brown
  • What Becomes You, by Aaron Link Raz and Hilda Raz
  • Whipping Girl, by Julia Serano
I have come into this world to see this:
the sword drop from men's hands even at the height
of their arc of anger
because we have finally realized there is just one flesh to wound
and it is His - the Christ's, our
Beloved's.
~Hafiz