Saturday, March 10, 2018

How to Speak Trans (Who Defines Me part 2)

In the past 25 or so years, the only times I ever hear the term 'Political Correctness' / 'PC,' is when it is invoked as an epithet by those who identify with a 'right' leaning political persuasion, for the sole purpose of griping about something they view as "touchy-feely" . In fact I don't think I have ever heard a left learning person even bring it up since college (and I graduated college in 1992). PC has meant to me being aware of language use as a means of helping foster communication and understanding; being civil and polite, don't be a jerk and purposefully offend. Apologize if you accidentally offend because you really do want to learn something new, and be gracious to accept the apology when the sincere effort from the offender to learn has been made.

Even then I really detest using the terms right and left / conservative and liberal. These words as so charged with emotional baggage that every serious conversation is rendered pointless because those invoking these terms tend to think of conversations as an adversarial contest with all of the maturity of fans of a junior high football game. 

I avoid those terms (PC, right, left, conservative, liberal) all together. If there is any adversarial position it that between Inquiry and Defense. INQUIRY is the path chosen by those who have an honest desire to understand new things and expand knowledge without worry about how it might overturn what they already believe. Exemplified by Socrates, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, Darwin - researchers and Academics 

DEFENSE or Apologetics is the path of those who resist expanding knowledge; constantly work to employ any means necessary (usually by appeals to emotion) to discredit the honest research of Inquirers. Certain key words and phrases ('materialist', 'you must be a true believer', 'science is indoctrination'…) uttered by one indicate that they are a Defender and thus not serious about learning. So don't waste your time with them. 

It is not a simple matter that Defenders tend to be Right leaning and Inquirers tend to be Left, nor is it true that people are consistently Inquirers or Defenders. For everyone has these moments. Reality isn't binary, there is a full analog spectrum, and these instances of one side or another are merely samplings to indicate generalities. 

As a transgender woman and feminist, It has been my lifetime of experience which have demonstrated to me that my existence triggers automatic defensive posturing from many on both the right and the left. While many do this unintentionally, Language use often reveals the unconscious biases cis-gender (those who aren't transgender, i.e. most people) have. And while they may honestly believe they are simply inquiring, the meanings expressed in their language often comes across as callous, uncaring, with no real desire to understand the experiences of a Transgender person. [* this is very similar to the experience my wife and I had when in the early 90s we went vegetarian. Most people didn't ask why we were vegetarian, instead they began conversations defending their position as carnivores.

For example, one may innocently say something but completely miss the context in which it has been received then wonder why the transwoman flips out and goes on the attack. Of course when this happens, it never looks good for the transwoman unless in the view of cisgender people. For other transwomen, we share her experience and know what was said that demonstrated a lack of respect. 

I usually have no problem when people who do want to know do slip up in language, because yeah, I imagine for cisgender people, they have no concept of gender dysphoria (which is what I lived with for 47 years). But for other who purposefully show disrespect through language (i.e. Defenders like religious zealots and TERFs) it is just one more of their tools for abuse and defining our experience and our bodies. 

So as a public interest, I am presenting a glossary of phrases which I have heard over my lifetime and want to provide a "definition" (as well as the emotionally charged snarky responses I'd love to say, but don't) as to the message which is actually communicated. 

1) CISGENDER WOMAN - You don't have the experiences of what its like to be a real woman, growing up as a woman, (harassment, abuse, rape, fluctuating hormones, menstruation, childbirth,) 

TRANSGENDER WOMAN- This is really presumptuous. First the ciswoman is communicating that she does not respect transwomen as women, and regardless of what she might say, she still thinks of them as men. It is an indication that you cannot step outside of your own experience and understand that. With the exception of menstruation and childbirth which many cisgender women also have never experienced, all of the other issues: harassment, abuse, rape and hormones are experiences shared by transwomen.  Just know that transwomen experience violence at a much higher rate percentage wise than cisgender women   I should not have to disclose specific and multiple examples of my very own #Me Too subjection to these 3 forms of violence. 
In a 2009 report, 50 percent of people who have died as a result of hate violence toward the LGBTQ community were transgender. Seventeen percent of all victims of hate crime violence toward LGBTQ people are transgender, and 11 percent are transgender women.And fatal violence is not the only sort of violence that transgender people face either. One in two transgender people report being raped at some point in their lives, and some reports have even estimated that 66 percent of transgender individuals will face sexual assault during their lifetime. This suggests that the majority of transgender individuals are rape survivors—and rape, as you may recall, is an important matter of discussion for feminism...
The ciswoman could have simply inquired of the transwoman, "Would you mind sharing with me your experiences as a woman?"

2) CISGENDER WOMAN - Why do you want to be a woman?

TRANSGENDER WOMAN - Why do you? It isn't a question of why. I have always known I am a woman. I imagine ciswomen have always known they are women.  Could it be that because for a variety of reasons I lived for 47 years closeted, and pretending to be a guy, that they think of me as a guy and that I must have experienced and thought of things from the vantage point of a guy, and I see something of an escape?

3) CISGENDER WOMAN - Transwomen just want to fool men into having sex with them. So they dress as women and wear make-up 

TRANSGENDER WOMAN - So then why do other women dress as women and wear make-up? According to the Cis-woman's assertion, wearing make-up must mean that all women want to disguise themselves so they can fool men and have sex with them. Couldn't it be that some of us chose to wear make-up and dress as women because we want to, that it helps us feel good about ourselves? There is more to being a woman that clothing, accessories and make-up.
But do you know what kind of violence and ostracism transwomen face when they are confident in themselves and go out in public? Then we get blamed for the unwanted attention, harassment and violence because of the way we chose to dress? We are not responsible for other behavior or other people, and we should not have to hide and deny reality in order to have relative safety in public. 

4) CISGENDER WOMAN - Transwomen are mocking the experiences of Real women. They are just guys who want to play dress up. 

TRANSGENDER WOMAN - While there may be some guys, for instance drag performers, who like to play dress up. I am a woman. I dress how I want. Most days I wear something practical like jeans and a t-shirt, and I don't usually wear make-up. When going out however, I do like to dress nicely. I am also really self conscious about my appearance, because I know to most people that I look like a guy, and talk like a guy. And I myself having lived 47 years with gender dysphoria still get those moments of stress about my appearance when it looks so "male." It really sucks and has been a lifetime of disturbance, stress, anxiety, depression 
This is another example of cisgender women thinking of transwomen as guys. That "guys" have a shallow  / superficial idea of what being a woman is (such as wearing stereotypical female clothing is all we think being a woman is.) Heck no! I am a woman. I may have pretended to be a guy for 47 years, but I don't actually know what its like to be a guy -- I only know how to be me. I am confident and strong, and those are human virtues not gendered traits. 

5) CISGENDER WOMAN - Locker-rooms and Restrooms should be only for Women born with a vagina. My daughter would be uncomfortable, if not traumatized if she shared a locker room with a transgirl who had a penis. 

TRANSGENDER WOMAN - You think your daughter might be traumatized? Try being the girl who has to deal with the trauma of having that appendage growing from her own body and then thrust into a dangerous environment with boys who also have appendages who engage in lewd and violent acts and have their own callous and sexist language and ways of thinking. In short, while a transgirl / transwoman might have a penis, they aren't boys / men. 

6) CISGENDER WOMAN - Because so many transgender people have been coming out in recent years. Its just another PC fad that’s being shoved down our throats. 

TRANSGENDER WOMAN - There are just as many transgender people there have always been. Its just that we have decided it relatively safe to reveal ourselves, liberated from fear. Remember the people who have been forced / oppressed are transgender women and men. We are the ones who have been forced not to reveal ourselves because cisgender people usually dealt with transwomen by killing us, finding some excuse to have us institutionalized, lobotomized, ripped from our families and other such horrors. And now we still get killed and people in power do what they can to obstruct our lives rather than learn about us. 

7) CISGENDER WOMAN - Biology / DNA shows that one is born either male or female. Therefore there is no such thing a transwoman. 

TRANSGENDER WOMAN - Vague recollections from your high school biology class does not translate into expertise in biology. Experts know that humans are much more varied than the simplified biology you were taught. Researchers not just in biology but also in cognitive science understand the rare variety yet equally valid humans transwomen are. 

8) CISGENDER WOMAN - Well if it’s a brain difference, then transwomen are nuts and need to have their brains fixed. 

TRANSGENDER WOMAN - Jumping from 'brain difference' to 'nuts' is a huge leap. Brain difference merely shows that there is a difference - there is no indication that transwomen are nuts except for your own judgment that there must be something wrong with transwomen. Because their bodies don't match their brains. Believe me, I have gone through cognitive behavior therapy and tried all sorts of things, medications, so that I could live pretending to be cisgender. It sucks and causes a hell of a lot more stress than being truthful, confident, and out. 

9) CISGENDER MAN - I grew up not feeling comfortable around men and preferred to hang out around women,  but I always knew I am a man. 

TRANSGENDER WOMAN - Then you are a cisgender man. Your aren't a transgender woman. We might share these experiences, but it suggests to me that you might be trying to find a "cause" for me being transgender, that you can relate to. In my case there is no cause, I just have always known I am a woman. 

10) CISGENDER MAN - When I was a boy, I liked playing dress up  / make-up and playing with dolls. I didn't really care for sports, trucks and tools. But I always knew I was a boy.

TRANSGENDER WOMAN - Then you are a cisgender man. You aren't a woman. There is nothing inherently female about dresses or dolls. Thats just a custom of our western society that associates those things with women and girls. For the same reason, liking tools, trucks, and sports isn't a male thing. Knowing oneself is the key here. You know yourself to be male. Take you out of this society and raise you in another society, you will still know yourself to be male.  I know I am female and at its core it has nothing to do with whether I like dolls or trucks.

11) CISGENDER MAN - Can't you stay closeted until your kids are grown? Don't you think you might be traumatizing them by switching genders.

TRANSGENDER WOMAN - This too is presumptuous in that they seem to have an idea about what our family life is like. Furthermore how is me being out and open and honest with my children going to negatively impact them?  The truth is, I still like all of the things and do all of the same activities with my kids I do as a myself as I did when I was pretending to be a guy. And my love for them remains true. So what kind of benefit will my kids get from me lying to them?

There are many more questions and statements along these lines. I am certain someone will still find more and present them to me because they might have something they think will allow them to continue to think of me as a man. Just remember, a person cannot learn anything new who is always defending their position. 

Finally when a transwoman needs to vent about the abuse and violence she faces from zealots and TERFs, don't immediately discount her venting by appealing to the humanity of TERFs. The message communicated is an extreme lack of respect and empathy for the violent reality transwomen face, and it is really hard to find humanity in ones abuser. So the time is not to forgive the abuser. 

The message is akin to one who has been abused by neo-Nazis, having neo-Nazis build a database on your friends with comments about doing violence against, then having your friends killed. And while one is venting about the evils of neo-Nazis, to come back and say "Nazis are people too!" 

That is all. 

With much Love, 

previous post: Who Defines My Experience

Seek to Understand ~ Assume Positive Intent
(K.L.S. 1970-2017)

Friday, March 2, 2018

Who Defines My Experience

Early yesterday morning I stumbled across a website which amounted to a database of trans women. To say that the dehumanizing tone set by the creators of the website disturbed me greatly would be an gross understatement. It is one thing to demonstrate a lack of empathy and understanding in the moment, for that can be forgiven once an effort has been made to apologize and then learn. But in entry after entry, the creators and subscribers to this website purposefully go out of their way to discount the experience of these women. They constantly refer to the women listed in their database as men and make false assumptions regarding the experiences of trans women. Often they do not acknowledge the reality trans women as woman also face and have experienced with regard to harassment, rape, and other forms of violence. It does not stop there. The creators of this website, who are themselves women, encourage hatred and acts of violence of against other women. It is a hit-list which names trans women and where we can be found. 

Furthermore a number of the targets on this hit list are women I know and have known personally. 

The creators of this website are commonly known as TERFs (Trans-Exclusionary/Elimination Radical Feminists). Their position and actions meet the criteria for what counts as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. This is a list which includes the various sects of the KKK, Alliance Defending Freedom, Family Research Council, etc. Unfortunately the SPLC does not currently list them and their most notable website, "Gender Identity Watch" as such. 

As a woman and a feminist and a target, I am under no obligation to respect their hatred. Rather it is my duty to call them out on their bigotry. 

This is the mood I revealed yesterday morning when made a comparison of the unlearned, arrogant, and hurtful rhetoric of TERFs. I think I have demonstrated a remarkable show of strength and resiliency, not just since the death of my beloved wife and best friend Krista Lynn Sandstrom, who just in case you all forgot, I continue to Love and miss every day, but throughout my whole life. Now as I continue to raise our children with our shared values of inquiry and empathy, do you honestly think that I am not hyper sensitive to their safety and my own mortality? While it is never good to live in fear, there is still an underlying worry that if violence is committed toward me, I could end up facing more violence, being turned away from women's crisis centers, or lumped in with men in the care of government officials, and then my biggest worry is that my children would be thrown into some foster care where their intelligence, empathy, inquiry, and Love is not respected and they are forced to adhere to a moral code framed in the metaphysics of Bronze Age folklore. Fortunately I have already safeguarded to ensure that outcome will never happen. 

I imagine that because it has only been in recent years that trans women and trans men have felt relatively safe to start revealing our true identities, and the legitimate scientific and experiential research on our lives have made it possible for more young trans and gender non-conforming people to grow and develop in the open without the stigma previous generations such as mine had, that the concept of being Transgender comes off more as a cultural "fad" rather than for what it really is, that in every generation a certain number of human beings are in fact transgender. 

The reality though is that transgender humans will always remain a rarity among populations. Most people will never encounter and trans woman and thus are likely to maintain abstract notions and false assumptions as they will have no personal experience. 

The awareness of what it means to be transgender was not available when I when I was growing up. So I feel for my parents when they read my revelations about what I have experienced. Their true loving desire wishing they would have known or that I would have felt open to tell them. I know my parents well enough that had I been born 40 years late in 2010, they would have had the knowledge and expertise, not only as professional educators, but as good, loving human beings to help me grow into the woman I am. 

While living my entire life with the stress of being closeted, I decided that when I came out in December I would post about my experiences as a trans woman in order to provide cis-gendered people someone whom they personally know. And I do expect that before cis-gendered people comment, offer thoughts or advice to pertaining to my experience, that they first read what I have already posted because I do not have time to hand hold and guide each and every individual personally. I refer again to my coming out statement in which I stated: 

"As I have been living every single moment of my life being trans, I can assure you that there is nothing you can possibly think of, suggest or offer that I have not long ago already contemplated and tried." 

Along with this comment I should add when people jump in without regard to my experience, and assert that I will never know what its like to a woman because I wasn’t born with a vagina, never experienced menstruation first hand, or given birth, or have experience harassment, violence, rape etc. Is presumptuous, arrogant and demonstrates no desire to understand my experience. 

The message that is being communicated to me is, "I don't care about you, I don't want to understand your unique experience as a woman, because I still regard you as a man because of my "essentialist view" of the penis (despite the fact the biology of gender and sex is much more varied than that) and therefore you have never been harassed, raped, beaten, you've never contemplated the differences between your body and those of women who have experienced child birth and menstruation, probably don't know how to instinctively care for children and definitely likely to struggle in raising a teenage girl, and because I view you as a guy, you should have no problem toughing it out in a locker room full of guys or hanging out in men's groups while being barred from women exclusive environments." 

If people really did care about my experience, they would read what I have already posted before assuming such unloving BS, which not only reinforces their belief that I am a man, but seems to view me as a threat and therefore they feel they can superimpose their fears and dictate my experience, and my personal identity. 

A loving question, could be, "Would you mind sharing with me your experience as a woman?" Though think about it, How often have you ever begun a conversation with, "You don't know what its like to be raped." People have started conversations with me and other trans women that way. They could at least start with, "Have you ever been raped." And then they could follow it up with, "How many times.", "Would you mind sharing with me your experience." 

Doesn't that sound a bit ridiculous, and for a woman doesn't that sound uncaring, brutal, and intrusive? If not, then why not make that your standard greeting with everyone. 

Let me add a very generalized scenario: 

There are two girls, age 3 years old. They both know they are girls, never any question about it. 

1) The first girl is acknowledged by her family, by friends, and by society that she is in fact a girl, she grows up socializing as a girl; when going through puberty, she has friends, a mother, aunt etc. who are there to answer questions about her changing body and provide support, and she grows to adulthood knowing all this time she is a woman with no discord between her mind, her body, and what her friends, family, and society at large tell her. 

2) The other girl, who knows just as certain as the first girl that she is indeed female, is told be her friends, family, society that she is not a girl, that she is a boy. She tries to express that she is a girl, and is met with rejection, and violence, she continues to grow alone, figuring out how to adopt male mannerisms and speech, even though she does not know why she has to do this when other girls do not. But she knows if she slips she will once again be beaten-up. So she continues to play the game. She goes through puberty alone, hating how her body is morphing into an ogre even though she received compliments from others on "What a handsome man you are." She learns to put her feelings and her experiences on the back burner and acquiesce to the feelings of others, as she not only wants to safeguard herself from violence and rape, but she has learned that others feel uncomfortable around her when she does reveal her true self, which is now coming through the shell of this ogre. And so she does not want to hurt their feelings and comfort. Then when she finds there are a few people like her in the world, the negative public perception portrays her experience as a sociopath, a serial killer, a sex crazed rapist. -- Who has time to think about sex?!?! To help her not make waves and make others in society feel uncomfortable, she musters up the courage to remain closeted and talk to her physician--first of all trying to find a female physician because there is no way in hell she is willing to let a man touch her, let alone judge her thoughts -- seeks psychological treatment options, even conversion therapy (which thankfully we now know is BS) and anti-depressants to help her tough it out and fake her way through life as a man.  Now she has emerged from her shell. She is grown past the point of hormone intervention to be as effective, nonetheless hormones and being out are certainly preferable and she is still a woman making her way in the world. 

If you cannot empathize with this experience. Then you will never understand what it is to be Transgender and you will probably forever still insist on defining me with your own limited, arrogant ignorance. Therefore I do not require you in my nor my children's life. 

We are fortunate that I have an number of close friends who do see my soul, the woman I really am. Thankfully there are many. One in particular is the guardian of my children, trustee of my estate should anything bad ever happen to me. Her strength, resiliency, friendship and love for Krista, me and our children make her first in our family and our hearts. 

Today, I am heading for Iowa City, to spend time with a woman I truly love. I love her for who she is, her outlook, her interests, her wise mind. It is an added bonus that after a 25 year absence in each others lives, having had no contact since college, that she sees me, knows me, and regards me as the woman I have always been.