Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Transwomen of my generation, and particularly my subculture (rural Wyoming) grew up with a poisonous double standard. Among my peers, girls who were tomboys were respected. Boys who liked girl things were 'sissies,' treated with the ultimate in contempt, and subject to merciless ridicule.
I can't speak for how that double standard affected transboys, or cisgirls or boys. I never shared their experience. Yet I suspect that the girls I grew up with felt that double standard sharply.
I do know, though, that for me, it was incredibly painful. I learned very young to be deeply ashamed of who I was, and I desperately struggled to hide that person. It came out occasionally in unsuspecting ways – I still remember, early in grade school, being ridiculed for 'throwing like a girl.' I didn't know that's what I was doing; I was just throwing normally. Following my nature. I watched boys throw and learned to throw like them, and practiced for hours throwing rocks to get it right.
Adolescence was pure hell. I hear all the time from cisgendered folks that adolescence was just as bad for them, that it's hard on everyone. Sure it's hard on everyone. But I don't believe it was – is – as tough for cisgendered folks as it is for transpeople. Particularly transwomen of my age. I hid my self, even from myself; created a front to show the world – a three-dimensional cartoon of a boy – and lived in desperate loneliness. Somewhere around the age of 15 or 16 I just shut down emotionally, went into denial, and started drinking and doing drugs. I did everything I could to prove I was a man. Prove it to others, and prove it to myself. I fooled everyone else pretty easily (I had the perfect disguise), but, unable to successfully prove it to myself, I lived in an emotional vacuum – isolated, invisible and ashamed in a prison of my own making. It took 14 years to stop burying my emotions in alcohol, and another 12 years after that, in the company of an incredible and beautiful woman, before the epiphany that I was okay – that I really was a girl – a woman – and I didn't have to pretend to be somebody I'm not. I didn't have to live in pain and isolation. I started to love myself, and so didn't need to lie to get the love of others.
Twenty-six years is a long time to live in purgatory.
And I can't help but wonder how much of that is a direct result of the double standard in which I grew up. The cruel, destructive double standard that says that boys are better than girls.
It ain't true. I know. I'm a woman. And I'm a man, too. I've seen both sides. I've seen the brutal and the venal, the love and gentleness. Man and woman are two sides of the same coin, and neither is better or worse than the other. Even those of us who live on the edge of the coin – transpeople – are no better or worse.
And society will go far in reducing pain and violence for everyone when everyone is finally accepted at equal value, regardless of their gender.
Monday, April 28, 2008
A beautiful weekend – sunny, for the first time in a while, 70+ degrees. Nice. Saturday spent outside, peaceful, working the garden, mowing the lawn, enjoying life. Then off to a roller-skating party with the kids. Two hours of loud music, butt bruises, and pizza later, a headache. By bedtime, growing nauseated. Sunday, all day lying down, sleeping, vomiting, moaning.
So much I wanted to do, none of it done. A waste.
Rest. I did get rest, and I'm still resting, mostly.
A reminder from the body. We all need rest, from time to time, and the body will force it if it doesn't get enough. I knew I'd been burning the candle at both ends a bit, though I used to be worse. Not fun to do it this way, but this time isn't really wasted. Lots of sleep, stored up. And feeling better.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
I've been uncomfortable with the term 'transsexual' for quite awhile – right from the start, really. We live in a prudish society (like it or not), and it seems to me that when you say 'transsexual,' people hear 'trans-sex-ual.' They think of it as about sex, the act springs into their mind, naked bodies, the whole works. Not the kind of connection and connotation I want, since transsexualism, to me, has little to do with sex, and everything to do with identity, gender, how I relate to others, how I think, the role I want to live in society, and so forth. Sex is a part of it, of course, as it is a part of every complete human. But I want to be seen in the fullness of who I am, not in the narrow confines of the part of my life that is most personal and private.
Therefore, my new semantics campaign: I am transgendered. I am a transwoman. But most of all, I'm a transperson, and we are transpeople.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
So Clinton won in Pennsylvania, and the Clinton camp and the media are abuzz with the latest – "Clinton wins all the big states that we need to win in November. Obama just can't get that done. Therefore, only Clinton can win in the general election. Obama isn't electable!"
This is one of the most specious arguments I've ever heard. It's the equivalent of holding an apple in one hand and a baseball in the other, and saying, "This apple is sour, therefore this baseball is sour, too!" Hard to say whether this is just a deliberate attempt at obfuscation, or they really believe we are that stupid.
All we've learned from the primaries so far is that Hillary is more popular among registered Democrats than Barack in PA, CA, MA, TX, NY, FL, MI, and NH, and Barack is more popular than Hillary within that demographic just about everywhere else. To compare a contest isolated among registered Democrats with a contest that includes Republicans, Libertarians, Constitutionalists, Independents, Greens, Pacifics, Reformists, Socialists, Communists, and whoever else is out there and registered is ludicrous, and doesn't take into account the personality and reputation of either Hillary or Barack within that larger constituency, nor how they may fare against McCain in the fall.
A friend recently told me, "I used to think I'd vote for whoever won the primary, but seeing the negativity that Clinton's done in the PA campaign, I can't envision ever voting for her." I've heard similar sentiments from a smattering of friends, family, and acquaintances. I haven't heard anything like that about Obama. Anecdotally, I'd have to give Obama the edge on electability in November.
Personally, I believe that both Hillary and Obama can win the November election. And I sincerely hope that one of them does.
My own endorsement of Obama is based less on general-election electability than on my own sense that, as a friend recently put it, "We need new blood." I am thoroughly sick of the Culture Wars, and of negative campaigning. I had real hopes that Obama would put the negativity behind him, and he did so – until now. What a disappointment to see him attacking Clinton in the kind that she has attacked him. The challenges our nation faces – the very real crises – affect us all – a health care system that doesn't work; global climate change; Peak Oil and the ensuing energy crisis; a massive national debt and budget deficit; gross over-investment in the military, and underinvestment in civic infrastructure; the credit crisis; a middle class crippled by 28 years of Republican economic policies that favor the rich at the expense of the rest of us; a media that has completely sold out to the interests of the uber-wealthy, and marches in lock-step with Republican lobbyists; the moral (and fiscal) crises of the Iraq Occupation and torture; the ongoing refusal of Congress to enforce the law of the land against the Criminal(s)-in-Chief; and a crumbling Empire that no one is willing to let go.
I think Obama has the best chance of the three at applying the fresh thinking, and of working across the aisle to include everyone. We aren't going to solve these crises unless we stop bickering and start working together. It's a pretty sure bet we aren't going to solve them satisfactorily if we let John McCain take a stab at it, though. He'll just apply more of the stuff that got us into this mess in the first place.
It's a huge disappointment to see that the increasing bitterness and negativity of this campaign will continue, and probably increase. I hate to see us Democrats eat our own, yet again.
My congratulations to Hillary on her win in PA. Now, on to North Carolina...
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Trin recently figured out he can climb over the fence. It's not a particularly strong fence. I got it on Craig's List for free – an old six-foot cedar unit that had been replaced, and all I had to do was take the panels off the posts, bring it home, and put it onto new posts here. Some of the boards are dry-rotted where the vertical 1x6's are connected to the horizontal 2x4's. Others are split, or have big knots in them. So I didn't feel real excited about it the other day when he led a pack of neighborhood kids in a chase over the top of it. Especially since there's a lovely patch of tulips on the other side of it.
I was challenged again when Trin walked out the door this morning, expressing his intention to climb over the fence again. Having embraced the philosophy of Nonviolent Communication, I immediately expressed my reservations – and promptly became an unpopular parent. I tried to understand what he was needing in climbing over the fence, and to consider my needs, too. It didn't take long to figure out that the passage from one side to the other wasn't the issue – there's a gate on the other side of the house, and he's free to use it. So it was the process. Boards not strong = broken fence and hurt boy. Safety, economic security (don't want to pay to fix it), and beauty (don't like to look at a broken fence).
Didn't matter. Trin called me some names (including 'Dummy!'), stormed out of the house, and kicked everything in sight for a few minutes. His scowl made the storm clouds look like sunshine.
I nursed my own hurt and anger for a bit, while I finished the breakfast dishes. Then I went outside and asked him to come look at the fence with me.
"What is it you like about climbing over?" I asked.
"I like the challenge. Look, this is how I do it!" He scrambled up the fence.
"Mmm hmm." I pointed out where a nail was missing from one board, and another had rotted considerably. A third had been cut thin. I pointed out where he'd stepped on a plant in the garden.
"Oh. Yeah. Sorry." Losing interest, he ran off to play with Sam.
I got the hammer and scrounged a nail. Added it to the board that needed it. Looked over the fence and the ground around it. The first three boards next to the gate are in good shape. (The gate latch doesn't work well or from both sides, so we don't use that gate much.) There aren't any tulips on the outside, and no important plants on the inside. I called Trin back and showed him.
"The only thing, I'm still concerned about other kids, especially if they're bigger than you. Would you just climb it when they aren't around?"
He scrambled up again, this time reaching the top before dropping onto the other side.
It took a lot of effort to first give up my own reservations, and the hurt from the names he called me; second, to figure out what needs he was meeting in climbing over the fence (in some ways, it would have been easier to just add a brace that would make it stronger, but would also make it easier to climb); and third, to take the time to ensure that he could climb the fence with a minimum of danger to himself, the fence, and the tulips.
But I saw the light in his eyes when he climbed over, looked back, and blew me a kiss.
More effort, yes. But worth it.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
The other day Sam and Kristin were talking about how difficult some things are, especially when you're a kid. (Sam had been trying to do something just beyond his developmental capabilities.)
K – "You know, Sam, there are always going to be hard things. Some things will become easier as you get older, but then you find new things that are still hard, or harder. Even for me."
S – "Yeah. Like turning off a washing machine – when you're inside it."
So true. Some things are like that. Easy to manage – when we get outside of it.
"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." Buckminster Fuller
How many models can you think of that aren't working? The Iraq Occupation? The economy? The political process? Parenting paradigms? Health care? Media?
What is working?
I like Obama. I like that he speaks of change, whereas both Hillary and McCain are old-school, Reagan-inspired, Republican-style negative campaign types. (A lot of Obama's supporters are, too, including Moveon.org, of which I am a member.) I like that Obama is trying to break out of that paradigm, with, granted, limited success.
However, I think what we really need is to start visualizing a whole new model. I like the bumper sticker on one of my neighbor's cars: "We don't want a bigger slice of the pie – we want a different pie."
Thursday, April 17, 2008
It is a sin to keep your children in ignorance of me, because I am who I am. First, you are bearing false witness - you are lying to your children. Second, you are preventing them from getting to know a truly beautiful and loving person. Third, you are judging unfairly. As Jesus put it:
"Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged ... and why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? ... Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye: and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye."
Worst of all, when you intentionally keep children ignorant of any particular group of people, whether they be blacks, or Jews, or gays, or trans, you perpetrate a culture of violence against those people. You may have no ill intentions, and may even believe that you are motivated by love, but the message you send to your children is that these people are evil or depraved - that they are people to be feared. Ignorace leads to fear, and fear leads to violence. That is when black men get dragged behind pickup trucks, and gay men get tied to a fence and pistol-whipped, and transwomen get stabbed forty times. Not because of anything they've done, but because of who they are.
Do you want that on your conscience?
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
K. - Where are you in the dictionary now, Sam?
Sam - Crocodile!
K. - Oh, you're already in the 'C's - great!
Trin - No, it's an Alligator.
K. - Well, keep going 'til you find the 'B'.
Sam - Billygoat!
Trin - No, it's an Alpaca.
Homeschooling. I feel so blessed that we are able to provide this for our children, because we're also providing it for ourselves. There's a price, of course. It's tough to make it on one income nowadays, at the tail end of 28 years of Republican economic policy, which favors the uber-wealthy at the expense of everyone else. Days like this make it worth it.
Monday, April 14, 2008
Transamerica, on the other hand, did not impress me. All the reviews I remember seeing were positive, yet I found it vaguely disturbing. There seemed to be something wrong with it, and I couldn't quite put my finger on it -- until last night. At the Queer Town Hall, among the enormous diversity of my own demographic group, I realized what it was. The main character in Transamerica is not a whole person. She's a transsexual, and that's pretty much it.
In truth, trans is only a part of our lives. In some ways it's huge, and in many ways it's not. Kind of like anyone else, really. I have a wide variety of interests - beekeeping, homebrewing, writing, camping, hunting. A transman I know is a Buddhist monk. Another is an atheist motorcycle rider. A transwoman friend is a kayaker, gardener, and archivist, and has been in a committed relationship for over 30 years. Another transwoman lives in a polyamorous relationship, is a technical writer, and has been a sex worker, while a third is a former pilot and 'Paddy' of three young boys.
One thing we do all have in common, is that we are activists. Just by showing our faces in society, we make a difference. And when you have spent a significant part of your life in a prison of society's expectations (due to the domination culture we live in), the taste of freedom is intoxicating. You want to share it.
Bottom line - if you want to see an accurate depiction of what it means to be trans, watch Normal or Boys Don't Cry. Transamerica is fluff.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
A friend was talking with Kristin about her garden the other day.
"I wish my soil wasn't so thick and compacted and hard."
Kristin: "Well, that's why I've mulched this one so much." Our garden has fruit trees and fava beans blooming; asparagus, potatoes, and peas sprouting; kale, collards, chives, and swiss chard already at or near harvestable stage; garlic growing quickly.
Her friend sipped her tea. "I know, but I've got a commitment problem. I never know whether I'm going to be here next year, or not."
Kristin raised an eyebrow. "Well, what's your commitment to the earth?"
"What do you mean?"
"My dear, you don't have to do it for you. You take all your food from the earth, and give nothing back. You can do it for the earth, or for the next person to live there."
The sound of lightbulbs going on.
We have an amazingly self-centered culture. I may be wrong, but I put the fault at a mistake made long ago, written in stone in the first chapter of the Bible: Go forth, and subdue the earth, and have dominion over it; God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed… and every tree; etc. No one remembers that the first part of that commandment is "replenish the earth," and the reason no one remembers it is because the entire paradigm of our culture is in direct opposition to it.
We belong to a culture that says, "The earth belongs to us, to do with as we please."
In fact, as Chief Seattle said, we belong to the Earth. "Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself."
As a species, and as a society, I believe there is nothing more important to our survival than to make that simple paradigm shift. But when I see how the dominant religions in the world – especially, in our country, Christianity – all agree on the domination paradigm, I'm not optimistic.
Ironically, I think Chief Seattle's paradigm was exactly what Jesus was trying to get at, when he said, "Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; … Seek ye first the kingdom of God." The Earth is the kingdom of god; and we should return to Mother Nature Her dominion over us. We should take from Her gently, and nurture Her in return.
But of course, interpreted from a domination paradigm, the message is different. The kingdom is something that only happens after we die – after the Earth has been stripped, raped, and barren – and we get there by making damn sure that homosexuals can't get married.
Never mind that they go ahead and do it anyway, just without the legal and civil rights that fine, upstanding christians take for granted.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
I'm a lukewarm member of Moveon.org. There are things I like about the organization – it's been anti-war from the start, and it supports Democrats rather than Republicans. And there are things I don't like. I don't like their language, the divisive way they attack, the mindset that is so – well, so GOP vile. So I don't donate cash to them, and usually don't get involved in their political ploys.
This time, they've asked their members to publish this video on our blogs. I feel a little torn about it, on the one hand, because I don't find the language particularly connective, and I'd much rather run a positive campaign about 'us,' rather than a negative one about 'them.' Even better, would be to run a positive campaign about 'us.'
I'm publishing this video ad, ultimately, because this invasion and occupation of Iraq is just wrong. It is a national disgrace. It's worth a bit of a reminder how we got here. I don't know how to clean it up, how to regain honor – do we get out now? Try to support the people there? I don't know. But I do know this – I don't want a Republican in charge of it. This country is badly in need of a change, and McCain and Clinton are not change agents enough, and Obama likely isn't either. We need the national recognition that the Iraq occupation is wrong, and Obama and Moveon.org both recognized that long before the other two contenders.
May god have mercy on our poor nation. We're gonna need it.
Sunday, April 6, 2008
I just started reading a book by Alfie Kohn, called Unconditional Parenting. It's the second of Kohn's books I've read, and I gladly admit that the first one, Punished by Rewards, made a significant impact on my life, on Kristin's, and on our kids'. Punished by Rewards set us off on a different model of parenting, on in which we try to eliminate the use of punishments and rewards, and, ironically, the journey has been incredibly rewarding.
I read Punished by Rewards shortly after Trin was born, back in 2000. Kristin was the primary earner in those days, and the easiest (only) way I could get Trin to take a nap was to drive him around in the car until he fell asleep. Then I'd go home, park in the driveway, and read. I read a lot of good books then – it was like going to college and actually having the time to complete the assigned texts. Punished by Rewards was an eye-opener, as Alfie showed with convincing evidence, specific research, and well reasoned arguments how people, both kids and adults, act more effectively when working for intrinsic (self-generated) motivations than when working for extrinsic motivations (rewards from others). The book's ideas created a fork in the road, and Kristin and I both gladly took it.
Which is not to say that I immediately overcame 40-odd years of social and cultural conditioning in behaviorist philosophy – or 8,000 years, if you want to count all the legacy of the Hebrew patriarchal structure that permeates our culture.
Other books followed. The works of John Holt added to the philosophical underpinnings, along with Grace Llewellan and Eckhart Tolle. Then, at a La Leche League conference in 2001 or 2002, we listened to a talk by Inbal Kashtan on Non-Violent Communication, and began to learn the practical language of non-judgment, of human needs and connection.
Let me leave you with a couple of early quotes from Unconditional Parenting:
"At least in part, then, conditional parenting is based on the deeply cynical belief that accepting kids for who they are just frees them to be bad because, well, that's who they are."
"… the choice between conditional and unconditional parenting is a choice between radically different views of human nature."
"Compulsory apologies mostly train children to say things they don't mean – that is, to lie."
"Unconditional parenting assumes that behaviors are just the outward expression of feelings and thoughts, needs and intentions. In a nutshell, it's the child who engages in a behavior, not just the behavior itself, that matters."
For explanation on any unfamiliar terms – well, read the book.
Saturday, April 5, 2008
Friday, April 4, 2008
Let me explain.
Eternity is frequently viewed as time extending out infinitely. This view is ubiquitous in religious dogma, where the fear of suffering in hellfire and damnation is harnessed as a means of social manipulation and control. Or, to remove the evaluation from that statement, eternity simply means the future, or the past, extending forever in either direction. It has nothing to do with the present, or, as Eckhart Tolle puts it, “the Now.”
As a practical matter, though, placing eternity into the past and future renders it meaningless. How can any human relate to infinite time? The earth is what, five billion years old? And in five or ten billion more, it won’t exist. Who can comprehend it?
Bringing eternity back to the present – the only practical way to look at it – makes it useful and incredibly meaningful. Think about it. What time do we actually have? Only right now. That is all we will ever have. Two minutes from now is the future – it doesn’t exist and never will, as a human experience. Two minutes ago is past, and can only be experienced in memory. We live, we breathe, we die, now. And now is all we have. Now and eternity are synonyms.
What does that mean for the words of Jesus, or other Bible figures?
It means a lot. It means that heaven and hell are not future events, but present experiences. It offers us an escape from fear, a path of love, a way to live in the present and embrace completely our lives right now. It is incredibly empowering.
Eternity is the point at which we live our lives. If one's life is hell now, it is hell for eternity, because it is one's experience in the only time that exists. It’s a good sign that we ought to do something to fix it.
And we can; every moment we have the choice of changing something within our lives to meet those needs that are currently unmet.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
It's often considered in our culture, that hate is the opposite of love. I've thought about it quite a bit, and I disagree. I believe that fear is the opposite of love.
I've come to this conclusion through the culmination of a variety of sources. First, I was a practicing Christian Scientist for a number of years. The works of Mary Baker Eddy, such as "Science and Health, with key to the Scriptures," helped me realize that fear interfered with the healing power of love. I experienced some significant Christian Science healings during that period, and those that came easiest and quickest came when I managed to completely dispel fear. Second, the works of Eckhart Tolle and Thom Hartmann (Thom's spiritual writings, not his political stuff). Mahatma Gandhi, and his ahimsa revolution. Learning about quantum physics, both in college and later reading, and the movie "What the [Bleep] Do We Know?" And last, the works of Marshall Rosenberg and learning the rudiments of Non-Violent Communication.
NVC is wonderful. It abandons that language of evaluation and judgment we are taught with the baby's milk of the Bible, and goes straight to connection – self-connection, connection with others – through deciphering the feelings and needs behind our actions. There is a distinction between primary feelings, and secondary feelings. In tracking backwards from the most intense of emotions, we break down the elements of that, to basic emotions, and the universal human need(s) met or unmet in inspiring the emotion. In doing this, we see that hate is a secondary emotion. It is always born in the wake of one or a combination of three primary emotions – fear, frustration, or grief.
Love is a primary emotion (check out the instant reaction to seeing your baby, all purple and slimy, for the first time), and it is also a universal human need. But if hate is a combination of three other primary emotions, which is the opposite of love?
I believe it is fear. Fear most interferes with the power and experience of love, and is least experienced in combination with it. Fear takes many forms, from mild anxiety to 'fight or flight' intensity. It is frequently used as a political tool, to convince people to surrender their autonomy to some public figure, to justify attacks on innocent people (such as gays or Jews), or to justify military action against neighbors (Iraq). It weakens the knees.
But love, ultimately, conquers fear. The military officers who ruled India laughed at Gandhi when he said he would defeat them without firing a bullet – but it was they who were defeated.
And Non-Violent Communication breaks down the paradigm of judgment, and gives us tools to analyze the fear that is frequently promoted in our media and by our politicians, and so determine the needs unmet and more constructive, effective ways of meeting them.
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