consent is a hell of a thing aint it
queenofthehebrides said: Hey there! I found your post critiquing the Vagina Monologues on google and I thought it really great! I hope you don't mind, and I'm realizing now that I probably should have asked, but I'm on the board of my college's feminist organization and we're having a meeting to discuss the problems with the play, so I included a link to your post in the all-campus email regarding the meeting. Once again, I hope that it's okay. I just wanted you to know that your wonderful writing is appreciated!
Hi! No objections here, especially because you linked back to the original post. I hope you, your organization, and your campus found it helpful. ^_^
Anonymous said: Hello, I just read your post on the Vagina Monologues. I thought the VMs were more about having vaginas, NOT about being female per se. I identify within trans* umbrella, and feel great emotional attachment to the VMs even though I present as masculine as I can pre-T. I do not believe gender is binary, and thus do not associate the VAGINA monologues with gender. Ideally there would be a trans*man monologue, too. PHYSICAL BITS spaces are different than situations about GENDER. Both r okThank you.
First, thanks for taking the time to reach out! Sorry it took me so long to respond; I didn’t even know I had an ask box until about a week ago (pro-tumblr user right here).
As far as your comments, I’m not entirely sure I agree with you. One of my main critiques of the VMs, after all, is that they heavily imply that having a vagina in any way shape or form makes you female (and conversely, the lack of one disqualifies you). I believe this notion is supported by the substance of the play, but also by the trans woman monologue which ultimately ends with the woman in question having surgery (as if that’s what makes her female) and the language used therein. It doesn’t help that the VMs are written by a cisgender, white woman. It’s not that those identities mean Eve Ensler is a bad writer, of course, but rather that she lacks the lived experience of a trans person or a person of color.
With that said, I do agree with you that gender is not a binary, and that the VMs can be a source of comfort / strength for many people. I believe I mention this in my post, but when I first saw the VMs many years ago, I actually felt empowered. After a bit more time, experience, and space to contemplate, however, I came to different conclusions.
In any case, I hope you have a great weekend. Cheers!
mylifeasaconcert said: Hello! The feminist student org I am involved w/ will be doing the vagina monologues (TVM) next year & I was curious as a nonbinary individual & also as my campus' lgbtq office coordinator how TVM is transinclusive of transwomen & found your critique, after reading it it has brought a lot of things to my attention it makes me worried for our TVM production & has me thinking about lgbtq issues that I never noticed within TVM thanks again for posting your critique even if it was a long time ago!
For sure! I’m glad it was helpful. ^_^
It’s official: I have a move-in date for my new apartment in mid-October. For the curious, I’ll be living with my girlfriend and a close mutual friend. We found the place after a fair bit of research (and far too many property tours). It’s been an interesting process, from how much the way we were treated varied between leasing offices to the realization that this is finally happening.
For a bit of perspective, I promised myself I’d move out by October of 2011 for my health and emotional safety. 2011 has obviously come and gone, but I’m still thrilled to have the lease in my hands. Granted, I remain disheartened by the lack of explicitly trans*-friendly services and housing assistance in Orange County, but my friends and community have more than picked up the slack. There’s definitely work to do, but I’m going to put off worrying about the issue at least until I get settled into the new place.
With all of that said, I don’t plan on closing shop here. Though one part of the journey has ended (e.g. finding roommates and housing), there are still many more adventures to be had. Beyond that, I find blogging to be therapeutic. I can let off steam with my writing, which is always a good thing. What’s more, it’s not as though my activism is being thrown out the window now that I have a basic need met. There are plenty of other issues to address, and frankly, many people in situations similar to what I faced a year ago.
In summary, both this blog and I are in for some big changes over the next few weeks and months. I’m incredibly excited for what the future holds, and you can rest assured that you’ll hear about it. Cheers!
This post is going to discuss a lot of the really messed up stuff I either A) deal with on a regular basis, or B) have actually thought in an unguarded, uncritical moment. As promised by the title, this post is going to be filled with, “really bad thoughts,” so … proceed with caution, I guess?Read more
It’s been a long time since I’ve really sat down and taken stock of my life. It’s been even longer since I’ve asked myself some of the big questions that percolated into my gender, my personality, and my identity as a whole. For me, self reflection isn’t a leisure activity; it’s something I consider essential to my well-being. With that in mind, what follows are some of my reflections on the last two years.Read more
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
The last two years have taught me something important. In many ways, it’s changed how I view myself, and how I view those around me. The story goes a little something like this: before I embraced my queer identity, I stood on fairly neutral ground. I didn’t feel dysphoria in the way I do now. There were signs and inklings of what I really wanted, but I didn’t completely understand them. This stands in stark contrast to how I’ve been viewing the world recently: a lens of jealousy has been coloring my experiences. Instead of appreciating the beauty of others, I’ve been much more apt to turn each, “difference,” back toward myself: “why don’t I have that trait, or this feature?” I’ve also been far less likely to see my own beauty, instead focusing on my short-comings.
Needless to say, this approach isn’t healthy. Like the years before I really understood my gender, the best case scenario is neutrality. The problem, however, is that the worst case is severe body dysphoria and a profound feeling of dissatisfaction. I’m not saying I would, “go back,” or that I made a poor choice. I’ve gained far too much from this experience, and the thought of returning to my previous state of ignorance causes me to become physically ill. With that said, I won’t (and really, can’t) maintain my current state of affairs much longer. It’s like a mental prison: the fear that nothing will change has been far more paralyzing to me than almost anything else I’ve been through. Plus:
It’s easy to hate.
As emotionally taxing as hate / loathing can be, it’s been much easier for me to say, “when’s it going to be my turn?” than it has for me to say, “things aren’t perfect, but I’m working toward something better.” Instead of feeling profound joy for the trans and queer people around me who have had success in having their identities respected in the world at large, I’m often left with a splash of bitterness and a heaping helping of dysphoria. Expecting other people’s path to be my own has only reinforced some of the negativity that has surrounded my own identity (e.g. the “my turn,” mentality). It seems obvious in hindsight that such thinking won’t lead anywhere good (not to mention the erasure of sorts to the struggles of the people I’m comparing myself to), but sometimes it’s just too easy to occupy a state approaching happiness than one steeped in sadness / dysphoria / pain / etc. Frankly, I’m tired of this cycle of disappointment, and I need things to change.
This is where the serenity prayer comes in. I think it’ll play a key role in turning the tide on these emotions. At it’s heart, the prayer is about self-love and acceptance, both of which I need in my life. I know the path won’t be easy, but it has to be better than the slump I’ve found myself in as of late. Of course, I’m still scared. I’m scared this won’t help. I’m scared I won’t get where I need to go. I’m scared I won’t get the support from where it’s been really lacking as of late (notably, from my bio family). Despite those fears, however, it must be done. It will be done. This is my resolve face.
TL/DR: I think this, “prayer,” is going to be very important with regards to my development as a person.
Something’s really been bothering me as of late, and I need to get it off my chest. I think the “Dear Cis People,” tumblr said it best, so without further adieu:
It’s not just pronouns, though. Far too often, the discomfort I experience in society at large boils down to a simple assumption: that the gender binary is infallible. Such assumptions have been directed at me more times than I can recount; people in my vicinity make a snap judgement about my gender, and then proceed to treat me in a way they feel is, “appropriate.” Granted, I’m only using appropriate in the loosest sense of the word - I didn’t have to be rebuked with regards to my gender all that much to realize what people are capable of. For me, it’s run the gambit from misogyny to trans-misogyny, to slurs and more. Of course, all of this is to say nothing of the constant ignorance, open stares, and regular disrespect that far too often seems to go hand in hand with being trans*. With all of that in mind, something happened to me recently that was particularly demonstrative (if also surreal), and I think it helps illustrate how the gender binary can make a difficult situation worse.
My current job allows me a fair amount of freedom. As long as I meet or exceed my management’s expectations, I can more or less do whatever I want. That being said, my job also requires me to work with the general public. Ninety-nine percent of the time, this limits my presentation, and keeps me from being my true, authentic self. I press on in spite of my discomfort, however, because like most people in a capitalist society, I need money to live. Things reached a new level of awful, however, when I was harassed on the job. A manager from a different company I had to work with had a lot of nasty things to say to my face, and was confrontational in a way I’ve rarely seen. It was a jarring experience, to be sure, but it got even weirder from there.
Instead of trying to finish my work, I ended up in my car. It felt much safer than sticking around (though, interestingly, the person that harassed me was actually parked right next to me…). I called my management to inform them of the situation, and they were unquestionably on my side. They even went as far as saying I did everything right (e.g. by exiting the scene, etc). My heart sank soon after they arrived, though., because the misgendering began the moment my boss’s boss was on scene. I’m out to my employer. They know about my status and what pronouns to use, and generally speaking, take a “hands-off,” approach (which works for me). My direct boss even gets my pronouns right about 60% of the time. That said, seeing them flip-flop, and then ultimately settle on the wrong pronouns was like a slap in the face after what I had been through, and I really didn’t have the energy to correct them (I had spent the hour before their arrival crying). It was especially telling to see how everyone else’s gender seemed fixed and obvious, but mine was in a state of flux (despite my own feelings / understanding of myself).
I believe this situation beautifully spells out one of my frustrations with the gender binary. It’s that in good times, my gender is in flux. It’s that in bad times, my gender is still in flux. It’s that my body, an entity who’s physical appearance I have little to no control over, has much more to do with how I’m treated than my performance, what I have to say, or who I know I am. It’s that the clothes I wear and the way I look is essential, while my words and feelings are almost invisible. It’s that everyone else in the situation seems to get “a pass;” as long as they are assumed to be cisgender, they get one set of pronouns and that’s it. It’s not that I was explicitly mistreated by my bosses; it’s that in addressing my gender that way, they’ve unwittingly given me yet another problem to worry about above and beyond the harassment. It’s that now I have to wonder how my bosses really see me, and whether any future push-back has to do with gender. It’s that, like it or not, I’m going to carry all of this with me for the foreseeable future.
In the end, what does this all mean? Well, this incident is just another piece of proof that enforcing rigid gender norms can make a difficult situation even worse, and that even those with the best of intentions can cause heartache. I also see this as a time of reflection. Though I doubt anyone else who was there that day will reflect on the gender politics of the situation, I certainly will. (Perhaps their distance from this, in and of itself, is a sort of privilege?) It’s a time for me to brace myself, and to try and sufficiently heal what I’ve been through (both around gender and the harassment itself). Writing about it has helped, though I recognize that I still have more work to do. If nothing else, I am curious to see how this situation will resolve. It’s not just whether or not the harasser will face ramifications; it’s how my management will handle the situation (and really, treat me) going forward. At this point, all I can say is, “we’ll see;” here’s to hoping it turns out well.
It’s been almost 2 months since I last checked in; let’s fix that.
I think that’s about enough for now. I’m not going to be hired for any job I don’t apply for, so…
GPOY: That moment when you come out to your boss (via email), and you have NO IDEA how they’re going to take it. I really hope I’m not shooting myself in the foot with this (even if it is technically illegal to fire someone over their gender identity in this state).
TW: transphobic language
Dear A**holes, Trolls, and Self-Styled Provocateurs,
Greetings and salutations! I hope this message meets you in good health and good spirits. If you have a moment, I’d like to ask you a few questions. After all, a little self-reflection is healthy now and again, right? Here’s some more good news: no one needs to know the answers but you. Consider it a clarity-building exercise, ya? Who knows? Maybe this post will elucidate some of your interactions with the world at large. It’s worth a try, right? One last thing: if you don’t self-identify as a troll or a**hole, this post isn’t for you. Feel free to read it, enjoy it, and share it with friends, but know that you’re not who I’m talking to.
The first question I’d like to ask you is: why do you do what you do? Personally, I’ve never been able to wrap my head around it. It could be that I’m biased; in all of my years on this earth, most of the, “a**holes,” I’ve met have treated me poorly. What’s more, almost all of the a**holes I’ve met have ended up in one of two situations: either they end up shifting a group’s dialogue towards their own brand of, “a**hole,” or, much more rarely, they end up ostracized. Of course, friends, your experience may be different. You might have people who love and care for you, despite your dubious moniker. Heck, you might even have people who regularly agree with you. Society at large may very well take your side on a consistent basis. None of that, unfortunately, means that you’re not hurting people, or that you don’t have the potential to cause harm.
Y’all probably know this, but the world isn’t the nicest place. (A) There are many reasons for this, including my identities and the way the world often chooses to interact with me. That said, y’all aren’t helping. To use one example among many, I only have so much energy in a given day; this is energy I want to spend on positive things. When I encounter one of y’all, however, I have to spend energy figuring out how to get away. Failing that, I have to spend energy on diffusing the situation, if there is no clear way out. When everything is said and done, I have to spend even more energy decompressing from what you’ve said to me. Said expenditure is only compounded if I’ve tried to respond in some way. What I’m really saying in all of this is: when you’re an a**hole to someone, it can really hurt. Is this something you’ve considered?
I have one more question for y’all, but it’s a bit more esoteric. Do you realize the impact your attitudes and word choice can have? I’m not talking about interpersonal interactions here; I’m talking about reinforcing some of the harmful, hurtful, and oppressive views society puts forth. Let me be as explicit as possible: more often than not, when I see someone self-identify as an a**hole, it’s used as a cover for some form of oppressive behavior. I’ve had people tell me that their use and defense of the word tranny is okay because, “it’s just a joke,” and, “that’s just how they are.” I’ve read far too many attempts to justify racist diatribes that boil down to little more than, “I’m just trolling!” I’ve heard some of the most blatantly sexist rants of my life that gleefully ended with, “but I’m just an as**hole, so what do I know?” as if that suddenly made it okay.
In the end: even if you don’t mean it, just giving hateful and harmful speech a voice helps to justify and perpetuate it. What’s more, it’s really hard (if not impossible) for outside observers to tell what’s just a joke, and what your real opinions are (apologies in advance for the article’s heavy sarcasm).
With all of that said, I appreciate you taking the time to read this. Maybe one day we’ll even come to an understanding of sorts. Until then, I hope you understand where I’m coming from a little better, and that we’ll all be able to move toward a future that’s a little less hostile, a little less abrasive, and a little safer for everyone. Cheers.
Anonymous said: ♥
Not actually a question, but thanks. I hope you have a good week!
TW: Discussions of cissexism, biological essentialism, interactions with healthcare providers, etc.
This story started innocently enough: I met a cool girl, and we eventually started dating. As we spent more time together and realized how compatible we were, we decided to take things to the next level. We’re now girlfriends, and are doing swimmingly. That being said, I have a rule about any new (sexual) relationship I enter: no penetrative sex without an STD panel. For me, it’s not an issue of trust; it’s an issue of personal and emotional safety. I can neither prepare for nor work around what I’m not made aware of, and it’s almost impossible for me to enjoy sex if I feel even mildly unsafe. With that in mind, I sent my first email: to my endocrinologist.
While this may seem like an odd choice, I actually have a better relationship with my endocrinologist than I do with my general practitioner (GP). Aside from the simple fact that I see my endocrinologist more often, he’s also given me a lot less trouble with regards to being non-binary (e.g. filling out government paperwork when other doctors wouldn’t, etc). I sent him a hopeful email, asking for the standard STD panel, but he emailed me back asking what a, “standard panel,” constituted. I then gave him a few different tests (HIV, gonorrhea, etc), and once again asked to have my tests processed. His response was, “I can’t find the coding (e.g. what allows the patient to go into a lab and have their samples taken); I’m going to forward this to your GP.”
I was less than thrilled about this development, but ultimately, I didn’t object because my desire to take the test was more influential than my very, very low BS tolerance. The problem was compounded by the fact that my girlfriend had already received the results to her STD test from a free, local clinic. Mercifully, my general practitioner ordered the tests without fanfare. I was worried that I’d have to deal with triggering discussion about my body or slut shaming; those fears were unfounded. I went in for testing a day or two later. Then, I waited. Two weeks rolled by without an email notification of the results (I’ve gotten an email for virtually every other test I’ve taken with this insurance company); fed up with waiting, I decided to go to the same free clinic my girlfriend went to weeks earlier. That’s when things got rather awkward.
My girlfriend recommended this particular clinic because it met two important criteria: they work for free, and they work fast. Most other clinics either A) don’t test for a broad spectrum of STDs (e.g. are HIV-only), B) don’t provide the results as quickly, or C) aren’t free. I was able to find the clinic without issue, and was pleasantly surprised by the number of services they provided, including mother / child care, an immunizations clinic, and an STD-specific clinic. I was feeling cautiously optimistic about the entire experience, until I received my first intake form. After blowing through the usual privacy / release forms, I came on a question I was loathe to answer: “what is your gender?”
The answers were: male, female, intersex, transexual (MtF), and transsexual (FtM). I froze for a moment: none of the options really applied to me. I eventually settled on female, but only because I wanted to move on. To make matters worse, a different form asked, “what’s your gender?” I was relieved by the fact that I could write in my own answer, but confused and irritated by the fact that the very next question was, “what was your gender assigned at birth?” There were only three choices: male, female, and intersex. Honestly, I just crossed out gender and wrote sex, and then didn’t bother to answer. After all that was said and done, I turned in my paperwork and waited.
Eventually, I was called in to talk with a counselor. We talked a little bit about my (decidedly short) sexual history, including my sexual partners. This was all done under a seemingly reasonable pretense: “it’ll help us determine what tests you should take.” I filled out yet more paperwork, and was sent back out into the waiting room in short order. To be completely honest, nothing really stuck with me about this interaction except the fact that the counselor kept saying, “transgenders,” rather than, “transgender people.” I tried to correct her with little success; if nothing else, my experience with the counselor raised my hackles for what was to come next: speaking with a provider.
The provider in question was a nurse practitioner. She was probably in her 50s or so, with a caring, if somewhat forceful demeanor. She asked me fairly routine questions at first: “when was your last menstrual cycle,” and then moved on to more targeted questions, “when was the last time you had penetrative intercourse in the vagina?” I may have told a white lie or two, but I did so for my own emotional safety. Things got really surreal, however, when the provider A) gave me an explanation about how to use tampons (given my lack of vaginal penetration), and B) wanted to do a pelvic exam (wherein I would lay on my back and she would check for genital warts and the like). She even recommended a pap smear for me, as, “all women over 21 should have one.” In the end, I passed on the pelvic exam (even the idea of being on my back in stirrups sort of ruined it for me), but I couldn’t look past some of the things she said.
According to this nurse, having sex with a trans woman is considered: “MSM,” or men having sex with men. If you give a pre-op trans woman oral? Congrats, you get a throat swab. If she penetrates you anally, you’re getting an HIV test, pronto. While I can appreciate the fact that trans women are an “at-risk,” group, I was floored by the fact that, to this clinic, a trans woman is the equivalent of a cis, presumably gay or bi male. It really didn’t help that the provider kept saying, “transgenders,” much like the counselor; she said it no less than 6 times after she found out that piece of my sexual history. When I spoke up to point out how othering the term is, I was literally told, “it’s all part of the lingo.” Once all that was laid out on the table, I really couldn’t get out of the room fast enough. Providing a urine sample (read: having a few minutes to myself) helped me calm my nerves; I ended up back in the waiting room, ready to (finally) get my tests done.
Waiting for the tech to draw my blood felt like the longest wait, but it might have just been my apprehension. My time eventually came, however. Unsurprisingly, the banter the tech and I shared was the least awful of the visit. Thankfully, we didn’t talk about anything difficult or polarizing, and she never gave me the side-eye (unlike many of the other patients in the waiting room). I was sent on my merry way, and told to return for my results in a week, or any time thereafter. As I walked out, I couldn’t help but reflect on the fact that my gender and sex were never questioned. I was, presumably, seen solely as a cis female. This had me wondering, though: what if I had put a different answer on some of the forms? What if I had been more open about my gender non-conforming status?
When I got home, I immediately started reaching out to some of my closest trans friends. Most of them had never gone to the clinic; the one that had received less than optimal treatment. She was, in essence, treated like a cis male. For example, even though she marked the, “transsexual (MtF)” option on the intake form, her medical record card simply says, “male.” Her provider was also much more forceful about the, “visual inspection,” portion of the test. I think its worth noting that when we go out in public together, I get misgendered more often than she does. This tells me that a large part of the reason she received poor treatment was because she outted herself. This raises an extremely important question: why should trans women have to choose between their emotional safety and their desire for competent, compassionate care?
This should go without saying, but trans women aren’t cis men. For example, while trans women and gay men might share some risk factors (e.g. a statistically higher probability of having an STD), they certainly don’t share every risk factor. Their experiences are different. The forms of oppression they experience are different (even if there is some overlap). Hell, even their bodies are (often) different. Lumping trans women and cis men in the same group does a disservice to both. It leaves less room for both groups to access said services, and it prevents trans women from receiving care tailored to their needs.
I was especially trouble by this in light of the fact that the clinic’s counselor took pains to point out to me how, “transgenders are at risk.” Why then, would they potentially force so many out of the system through emotional violence? Moreover, why would they force the ones that do stick around into an inadequate one? Perhaps the MSM label is a route to additional funding. If that’s the case, a new label can’t come fast enough. Ultimately, trans friendly doctors need to move from a rarity to the reality. Better services need to be provided. Trans people should no longer be reduced to their genitals.
This is what transphobia looks like, and it needs to change.
For better or for worse, the test results from my current healthcare provider had actually arrived two days prior; I didn’t find out until after the fact. All of this has shown me how lucky I am to have coverage; without it I would be in a much more difficult situation. The privilege has allowed me time to educate my doctors, and to either A) ensure they know how to respect me or B) me to find someone new. Not everyone has that luxury. In the end, if what’s above isn’t strong enough evidence why US medical institutions need more trans* and queer-specific training, I don’t know is.
With all of that being said, I am still planning on going back to the clinic for my results. I want to find out what my ongoing experience with the counselors will be like (apparently, they’re a real “treat”). After all, it’s one thing to administer the tests; it’s quite another to report the results. We’ll see … in about a week.