Archive for February, 2013

February 10, 2013

Once upon a time…

trigger warning for sexual violence, physical violence, and self-harm. please consider this warning appropriate to all links in this entry. thank you!

Once upon a time, i was a miserable boy-thing from the wrong end of some assy state. I believed my life would never amount to a thing and that i would be dead in the next year.

Once upon a time, i slashed my wrists. Pretty good, actually. I went to the “mental facility” for youth that covered the whole state. It was shortly after a “medical professional” had committed some ugly and horrible violence against me. It wouldn’t be the first time i was raped, and sadly it wouldn’t be the last. He broke part of my face, which is why i’m asymmetrical.

Once upon a time, i told a therapist what was wrong with me and expected that she would humilate me, lock me away forever, or try to torture it out of me. I didn’t know where those fears came from, but i know damn well now.

Once upon a time, that therapist cocked her head sideways, looked at me, and told me there was nothing weird about that at all. And i was sure, SURE i was being tricked. And i was sure, SURE i was Making A Horrible Mistake, i was sure that i’d be locked away forever, where perverts and deviants were.

Once upon a time, she went to the psychiatrist who oversaw the place to attempt to intervene with my “family member”, my less-than-stellar mother, and explain what was wrong with Little pre-Erica. Her supervising shrink, a stern white man with an eternal frown, explained it to her that “You will have a corpse, or you accept having a daughter.”  It sounds almost ridiculous, it sounds almost preposterous. Once upon a time, i was ashamed of how this sounded. I bent the details to avoid it because it sounded so preposterous. Once upon a time, i believed i had to make my narrative sound right, which diminishes infinitely that once upon a time, that man was the first person to point at me and call me “she” and “her”.

Once upon a time, i started writing a journal. That quote above was the first words i wrote. Along with that “Dear Diary: My name is “Erica (lastname).” Shame how that didn’t work out, but maybe i am no Erica after all. Once upon a time i was…but you’ll see this is no story of once upon a time at all.

Once upon a time, i believed this to be a curse, i believed this to be something i deserved, i believed this to be a horrible flaw in my being. I believed this to be what would forever make me lesser. I believed this to make me a deviant and a pervert.

Once upon a time, i had to jump through ridiculous hoops to be able to get basic affirmation of who i was and what i was. Though the folks where i came from were understanding, the “gender therapist” who was the only option who’d see me in my area considered me something between an annoyance and a dress-up doll. He groped me more than once, pissed that i didn’t have “real breasts” and that i was doing my darndest when you’re forty inches around and flat as a board. He reminded me, constantly, of all the things i wasn’t. He used my dread pronoun “it.” He ridiculed my hair, he told me ugly girls need to know how to wear makeup, he mocked how i sat.  He had an almost prurient interest in if i liked the boys and if i had told them my HORRIBLE SECRET. See, once upon a time, you had to be heterosexual, or lying about it, to survive the Standards Of Care. It wasn’t that long ago and i wasn’t exactly in some backwater town, either.

Once upon a time, i cleared his approval. I still hate all the hoops i jumped through and the fact that i played Little Princess Doll-Thing to get his approval. Once upon a time, i thought i’d never forgive myself for lying to him so i could be a Real Transsexual. I’m getting over that, slowly.

Once upon a time, i bought the rhetoric of being a Real Transsexual. I bought that self-loathing and hurting other trans women was acceptable. I am responsible for coming up, with some assistance, with one of the ephitets that gets hurled at trans women by other trans women now and then. I’m so, so, so, so, so sorry. Once upon a time, i believed that i had to do things like that. Once upon a time, i thought my invisibility in the cisarchy made me a better person than ‘those transsexuals’. Again, so, so, so, so, so sorry. Once upon a time, i believed that the age i transitioned at gave me some moral superiority…something i obviously now know to be bullshit, it’s just a goddamn number, it just tilts the number of years i got to be the right gender in my favor, and that’s a blessing, but it doesn’t make anyone better or worse, no matter what that number is. Once upon a time, i let myself be what transfundamentalists wanted, and like every story with a hapless girl who’s someone’s pawn, i didn’t end up with Princess Charming, i ended up being an evil stepsister. Once upon a time, i saw no shame in that. Now, i see it’s nothing but shame, internalized and externalized.

Once upon a time, i spent the next two decades of my life in a never-ending chain of self-loathing, being medicated into a stupor by people who “knew better” and promised “horrible consequences” if i stopped. I made small advances and believed them to be huge victories. I went with the flow. I was what other people wanted me to be. I was Erica-by-committee.

Once upon a time, i believed that Erica-by-committee was all i could be. I believed it was all i ever deserved to be. People felt sorry for Erica-by-committee. People pitied the pathetic little ball of horrors untold and unsaid, until i got angry and lashed out or freaked out. Once upon a time, those horrors lived right under my skin, plain as day to anyone who could see, but i would never talk of them. Better to be an asshole to someone than show your weakness, right? Or so i thought, once upon a time.

So to that deeply unwise boy-thing which slashed their wrists once upon a time on this, the 10th of February,  i wish i could go back and tell you that Erica-by-committee is not something to be, i wish i could figure out how to have screamed without using a scissors, i wish i could i wish i could. I wish i hadn’t been such an angry, afraid mess because of how other trans women treated me.  I wish i had stopped running from myself and stopped the dread psychmed cocktail sooner. I wish, i wish, i wish. We wish because it’s raging against something we can’t change, but we wish because it distracts us from what we actually *do* need to change. Once upon a time, i needed a committee, i needed other people to tell me who i was. Once upon a time, i wasn’t even a person, i was just a massive pile of self-defense that lashed out at good people and let toxic, awful people into my life, further alienating the good people. It’s a shame, but that too is once upon a time.  I mean, the upshot to all this is that i did kill that miserable little boy-thing. I got to be all the things i got to be since then, both good and bad, both beautiful and horrible.

But once upon a time is just once upon a time. It’s a term from fairy stories to teach little boys to be tough and to lull little girls into complacency. Our lives must be so much more than once upon a time. I must be so much more than once upon a time. Because once upon a time is how you live in the past, how you give dominion and control to others, how you never take responsibility for your own life.   Because when you live in ‘once upon a time’, your time is never now.

Besides, i want to make my own Happily Erica After on my own terms…er, i mean…Happily Ever After. I hope you’ll make your own, too…and maybe give Princess Charming my number?

February 6, 2013

disability and the trans woman: we belong in “the community” too

The “trans community” is highly dependent on access to the commons for inclusion. Like it or not, the internet really doesn’t do much in terms of bringing us together because invariably trying to step from the internet into reality leads to “who the hell are you?” unless you’re one of the 5-7 “community leaders” who are more critical and central voices. For the record, i am fine not being a particularly critical or central voice, nor do i have any desire to be “more important” or anything like that. At the same time, however, the internet does let voices traditionally silenced in and excluded by the “trans community” speak, as it’s access to a different commons.


February 2, 2013

we deserve better: on learning to love each other as trans women

i don’t always get along with my whole family. my brother is headstrong, my little sister is foolish. my siblings by choice, well…we’re siblings. i don’t always know how to fix my little sister-by-choice’s wounds as much as i want to help, and sometimes i flat out piss off my big sister-by-choice. i don’t always get on with my grandmother, who is still inwardly disappointed that i am not Erica the Proper Pioneer Girl ready to inherit their farm and a Wenger bonnet or two, but she covers it so well. but what unites us is love, because after all we’re family. at the end of the day, we love each other, even if sometimes we bloody well dislike each other.

similarly, as much as i am constantly tearing my hair out about how to deal with stressing the need for pan-African unity and solutions that work for all of us, at the end of the day, we are able to get to similar places on the page about what we need. Africans in the US are a really diverse bunch…some people came here 10 years ago, some folks (like me) had forebears who came here stuffed into ships. obviously, the US is a better place to be Black than some will have you think if you consider that i know people clamoring to come here from relatively peaceful places like Botswana and Mozambique…it’s not perfect, but i still kind of foolishly believe in the idea that this is a place the huddled masses can come, or even the not-so-huddled masses, as much as that’s been screwed up since 2001, especially for racial miniorities. we have learned, whether fresh off the DC-10 or if we’ve been here since slavery, how to get along to further our goals. is it perfect? no. do we disagree? absolutely. but when we deal with the Caucasian-kyriarchical structure we live on, we know how to speak with one voice for what we need. we know how to talk about what affects our neighborhoods, what we want to make our children’s lives better, and what we desire from a government which systemically tries to fail us.

in fact, this works in the disability rights movement, another movement that i’m part of. it works in the Latin@ and Native/First Nations rights/respect movements, which i see as an outsider that i support. it used to work in the gay rights movement up to a point, but the HRC and the monomaniacal obsession with making marriage available to same-gender couples ended up slowly destroying queer unity…and i say this as a supporter of universal marriage, by the by. the idea of advancing queer rights generally fell by the wayside and now we have a fractured and damaged queer rights movement where a small number of rich cis white gay men (and a few token lesbians) are all the HRC really cares about. now, in the vacuum of the HRC’s departure from leadership on queer rights, many state queer rights organizations, like Basic Rights Oregon and Equality Florida, have taken leadership positions in advocating for all queers, including trans people. is it a perfect alliance? lord, no. but when the cis queers have our back, our outcomes turn out much better.

i’ve spoken about my unpleasant and painful journey to self-acceptance far too much. i’ve talked about the fact that regrettably i used to be a transfundamentalist, and honestly i feel such great shame and horror in talking about it that it troubles me to go down this trail again. transfundamentalism destroys your ability to ever cooperate with other trans people, especially other trans women, and it wrecked at least a couple of friendships where i behaved like an asshole and where i wish i could have a second chance that i’m never going to get. it’s a destructive force because it’s inherently designed to get us to hurt each other because we’re supposed to. i feel like a horrible person that i went along with this shit, but i really believed this was going to be the price of my freedom. i wish there were any way i could apologize to the people who my bullshit hurt, but perhaps unsurprisingly they’re not willing to accept apologies. i am nevertheless very sorry, because my conscience will never be clean regardless of if those apologies are accepted or not. transfundamentalism is inherently destructive and practicing it makes you a hurtful person. like most things that make you an asshole, though, transfundamentalism is a choice.  just like people choose to be racist or choose to be homophobic, it’s a choice in every respect to be a patriarchy-enforcing transfundamentalist.

see, tranfundamentalism serves a false master: the idea that you are better than *those people* based on a few narrow criteria. what those criteria are seem to randomly change, whether it be physical beauty, genital surgery, facial surgery, social class, or one of literally scores of other things that can be used to proclaim some trans people “real” and some trans people “fake.” at first, when pronounced insufficient by other trans women because i’m not pretty, because i’m disabled, and because i’m not femme, i took this as an affront. but that’s the thing, folks: it’s not an affront to you, you’re just the person on the wrong end of the rifle here. everything transfundamentalism enforces is a false meritocracy based on adhering to certain things that don’t even necessarily have anything to do with cisnormativity but have everything to do with trying to enforce a preordained idea of how you’re supposed to behave. i have talked way too much about growing up Mormon, but the things i was expected to adhere to as a Mormon girl are remarkably similar to the rigamarole expected of trans women. dress in a specific manner. act in a specific way. do not cross authority or there will be consequences. sexuality is dirty at best and forbidden at worst. in fact, the hoops you’re expected to jump through are a veritable “Krabat’s deal” where you can’t really actually complete the contract without sacrificing people to unknown forces, “for the good of the rest of us.”

it’s time to stop. we don’t all have to get along. i’m still not gonna be besty friends with Autumn Sandeen or her “pal” Just Jennifer. i am fully and completely aware that in a world that glorifies the idea of “good and bad” in minorities that we all slip up…heck, as much as i am pretty much the stereotypical Angry Black Chick about many things, sometimes i inadvertently fail to have the back of other Black folk, often about really tiny things, but they add up. i know we can’t all get along, and i’m fine with that. but what i’m not fine with is the idea that toxic hatred of each other and the veneration of these false meritocracies are actually us destroying ourselves and each other all alike. when someone mocks the idea of informed consent access to healthcare for trans people out of their own fear that their legitimacy will be challenged, they’re doing two things: they’re actually eroding their own legitimacy by suggesting that a doctor deserves such thrall over us, but they’re also damaging other trans people out of some level of fear. the idea that some trans peoples’ deaths, generally those of trans women of color, are “acceptable losses” is part of what weakens us. the idea that there are some places trans women don’t belong, or we only belong with some conditions, hurts us all. it reinforces the idea that we aren’t good enough unless we meet arbitrary criteria, and it encourages the very conditional privilege that is a tightening garrote around all our necks when we believe we have to hurt other trans women to save ourselves.

we have pushed each other in front of the bus far more effectively than the HRC, Dan Savage, or Barney Frank. we have constantly begged for our humanity for too long, or accepted the Faustian bargain that some trans women are more equal than others. we are constantly bargaining with these kyriarchical structures which keep their boot on our throat, and that’s a fact of life. but what we need to do is achieve some amount of unity, regardless of how pretty you are or you aren’t, regardless of if you’re out at work/school or not, regardless of how big your hands are and regardless of what your eyefolds look like…we have to start to work together. we have to stop accepting the idea that we deserve to be consolation prizes because of who we are and begin to accept that backstabbing and hating really isn’t getting us anywhere and the fact that we’re expected to be complicit in hurting each other is hurting us all. you don’t have to be my friend, you don’t have to be anyone’s friend, but you do need to stand up, throw your shoulders back, and stop believing that living on your knees is getting you anywhere. because, trust me, i can tell you from experience that being that person who just backstabs and hates is an awful life once you accept that there’s something better than that. i’m tired of asking permission to exist, and i shall live on my knees no more. we need to learn to love and support each other, at least writ large, even the folks we can’t stand, if we’re going to grow stronger together.

transfundamentalism is hate; this is love. they’re both imperfect, they both have limits, and love won’t solve everything. i choose love, and i hope you will, too.