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.



  1. I truly appreciate your writings! I just wish more people would read them with the purpose of understanding, rather than just read the words and go on with their business. Some read only with their eyes and do not engage the brain, like hearing but not really listening.