Monday, December 4, 2017

The Feminist Warrior, part 3

In my previous post, I revealed that I have always been a transwoman. That I have always known since my first memories I am female.  I have always dreamed with a female identity. My memory, my experience is long, but with each generation the collective memory of society is very short.  In February 2018, I will turn 48 years old (even though I tell everyone I'm 88 years old -- Wow she looks good for her age! ;)- Yes I was born in 1970. While there is a difference with each generation, as a Gen Xer, the last generation of humans to grow up to adulthood without Cable/Satellite TV, Internet, Cell phones (my first was purchased when I turned 37). Whose college experience meant that there were few computers on campus housed at the Library. Most students wrote terms papers on typewriters and word processors (or by hand). Getting information meant looking through the annual reference books of peer reviewed journals, and once you found a possible article that might help you, it would still take 3 weeks to arrive. Needless to say, there is a significant difference in the access to information and wide range of perspectives between those of us over 40 years old with those under.
So growing up trans in rural northeastern Iowa - when then there wasn't really even a word to describe the experience. There was not any fair access to studies or real life experiences of transwomen.. It was really disparaged as a form of mental illness and lumped in with people who identified as gay. When in fact it is a very different matter altogether.  Nonetheless, any information that trickled down in the 1980s was usually negative. Often objectifying transwomen in some awful pornographic male fantasy.  In the movies we were depicted as mentally unsound cannibalistic serial killers. I STILL refuse to see "Silence of the Lambs" (a lot of that has to do actually with my disdain for any depiction of dehumanizing other beings for movie entertainment.). Then the talk shows devolved into stupid emotionally challenged Jerry Springer guests.  None of these offered any real help. And this was amid the already negative reports of HIV.
There were some bright lights…at least in spirit. Marlo Thomas "Free to Be You and Me"  - I am so glad my wife and I found this for our kids.  While one might assume that the story of William's Doll might be the one which spoke to me -- not in the least. Wiliam's Doll was a story about a boy who likes dolls. I never thought of myself as a boy, and I don't like dolls.  For me, the story of Atalanta was MY story.  A woman who took the reigns of her life and succeeded to be who she wanted to be.  That is me!
With a backdrop of negative social prejudice and With no Internet, no means of communication, to find REAL people we all grew up isolated, every once in a while testing the waters with friends, not sure if it would be safe to open up or be forever hated.  There was rejection by society at large, rejection by our communities of Faith and then rejection by those whom we felt could identify with the pain of our marginalized experience.
Those under 40 just do not seem to be aware of just how far society has come in understanding trans issues.  In 1990, I was 20 years old, I was already in the beginning stages of planning my transition.  But at that time Most people had no clue there was a distinction between someone who was gay and someone who was trans.  In fact the one openly gay person I knew expressed that trans women were freaks.  And much of the gay community tried to drive a wedge between our needs for human rights as theirs. Keep in mind it really was not until about the year 2000, that Lesbian and Gay friends began to feel they could open up and be public.
But since I am not attracted to men, I had always thought of myself as a feminist.  Even then, I would read articles in Ms. Magazine, the experiences resonating with mine. Then my horrified discovery that they too, many feminists from the previous generation ALSO rejected me, my experience, my heart.  Despite our mutual goal, they judged us by our bodies. Never mind our brains (esp in light of what we know now) the dominant prejudice they expressed is that that trans women aren't real women.  they are just men who want to impose a stereotypical male fantasy of what they think "women" are.  I am glad that in recent years my heroine, Gloria Steinem has softened her views and understanding. And I was thrilled to meet her a few years back when she spoke at Augsburg University - even though I did not disclose to her that I am trans.  I just bragged about my wife to her.
Then in 2003 the year of our 10th wedding anniversary, my wife and I decided to start a family of our own.  It worked with our careers to keep hers growing as the primary wage earner.  I would then be the at-home caregiver and continue adjunct teaching.  Difficulties arose after our first born in 2004 in trying to find a community so that our children could socialize and grow with other toddlers, and I could get some adult interaction. Turns out, I was barred from the Mom's groups (which were everywhere) because I was viewed as a male.(don't get me wrong, I do understand that if I am perceived male, that can make it difficult for breast feeding mothers who don't know me, and I would never want to be the cause of engorgement and pain and then a starving baby on top of that!) There was ONE  Dad's-at-home group in the entire Twin Cities area. So it was hard to meet regularly. Then when we did meet, most of the guys spent time talking about doing events at sports bars, or events and trying to rescue their fragile sense of masculinity-- it was just sickening and pathetic to hear. I still don't understand that need guys feel that drives them to try and impress other guys, especially in locker rooms....So my wife (also barred from Mom's groups because she was a working mother) and I just found solace in each other and devoted time to loving our children.]
It never helped that as transwomen, were always the scapegoat and butt of jokes and ratings booster.  And really, "Locker room talk" is so much more abusive and worse than anything you have heard in the media in the past few years--especially with regard to talk of dehumanizing transwomen!  So no! there was not much of a safe place in the greater community in this age before the Internet, digital media and the pocket computers we call cell phones! And then to be further dehumanized and ostracized by those in whom you hoped could find allies. It was a very lonely time.
Really, it was not until about 2012 that awareness and care began to shift.  Yes, I was prepared to come out and live publicly as early as 1991, but as I said earlier. I fell in love. And True Love trumps any personal need.  -- Though I do not often agree with Caitlin Jenner, her revelation was indeed a breakthrough. She publicly shared a pain, an experience which only a few of us in this world truly and viscerally understand.
Transwomen are not a unified bunch, we aren't stereotypical. The perspective I provide is my own. We are unique human beings with loves, lives and perspectives. In my experience though, we share uncommon strength, resilience, and fortitude and capacity for love that I have not seen matched by anyone else on this planet.
With Much Love,

Xenia Sandstrom-McGuire (December 1, 2017)

Part 1: Awakening the Warrior:

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