As always I have been chewing and stirring inside myself, and a lot of things have come of it. Given the moody, weepy, or generally more emotionally sensitive and touchy-feely I get round this time of year I am sure much of the holiday seasons will be filled with this. As always money is tight, hormones are well… hormones, and life has change little to the onlooker, well unless you place my photos back to back over time. As time progresses more of who I was disappears, of course, and more of who I am becomes clear. For the better, and for the worse sometimes. I have talked about the better many times, but that isn’t the focus of this piece.
I am an atheist, a feminist (really those things go hand in hand more than you’d think), a free-thinker, a liberal social democrat/independent, a woman, and oh, yeah, the part that has been in my face the most over the last 3 years… I’m trans. In the isolation and presence of my “own devices” I have found humility, and time to refine my thoughts on many matters. I have also found plenty of time to reflect on myself, but I have also found that in this place I have a form of isolation that causes frustration. And how this frustration manifests is in the redirection of that energy to nearly militant levels of atheism and feminism, specifically of the trans variety, and especially in those ways that directly affect me. Being a trans woman like myself, I often find that my body with in the world view is othered out of existence. Even though there is more visibility now than ever in history, and even though I look “relatively cis”. And that really bothers me, more deeply than I can express it in a literary way. And I have noticed that this “frustration” is filtering into the “vehemence” I put into my ideological stances. Now, don’t get me wrong here, this doesn’t mean that the “only reason” I have a strong opinion on this issues is because I get “shit on” by the way the world treats trans* people in general.
But I know with little doubt, that people tend to “accept cissexist thinking, sometimes unquestioningly” as cis people (even queer people) far more than they are even aware of or much less admit. But the real kicker is this… As much as I want to see queer people rescue their sexuality from the clutches of the status quo, heterosexism, sexism, the patriarchy, the kyriarchy and cissexism, and learn to reflectively evaluate trans women (and all other women and people whose bodies are othered) as viable partners with or without alteration, I don’t really internally want anyone to accept me as a viable so long as I have “that” part of my body. Even knowing that the entire framework of gender in our society is entirely semantic in nature, that the most of the aversion to trans people is built into said relationship, I don’t want to be intimate with women (which I am very much attracted to) as I am now, still retaining that aspect of my body. I don’t want someone to want me for that, even more than I want that part gone. So how can I even think or speak about the way the othering, and desexualizing of trans bodies in our culture reflects in queer spaces, not just on issue relating to societal oppression, but in the way we are seen as potential partners if I don’t want to accept that myself. As I have said before, I want less to do with ‘it’ than any potential partner could.
And as further clarification, the problem with the view of trans* bodies isn’t a “lesbian issue” it’s a broader social cissexist issue. I totally, and fully accept the accounts of anyone who feels attracted not just to bodies but particular sexes of bodies, and believe that is 100% valid, but that isn’t all lesbians. Because of heterosexism though, we don’t have in-depth studies of queer sexuality out there to have greater insight like there is for heterosexuality. So as a community, we are still in infancy in the sense of tested, well-founded studies that give us self understanding as a community, which is especially true for lesbians. The biggest problem is that queer women, just like all women, are affected by the culture we live in. And like all of us, we internalize the norms of said culture, and those norms have a greater impact on us than we’ll ever admit. And to be honest, I can’t even begin to dissect myself to understand where the “internalization” begins, and the dysphoria ends in this matter. But I can say for sure, that it’s more than just a single factor. And more than anything, all cis lesbians are “apart” from society in orientation, but they share one common factor. They are cisgender. As oppression is a dynamic thing (kyriarchy), the oppressed will almost always oppress not only their own, but those other than them who are also oppressed by society. It’s a vicious and tangled web.
And so I struggle in this, because I want to be accepted, but I don’t even except that which I want to be accepted for. And it’s not that I don’t accept myself. Don’t get me wrong here. I do. I have a great degree of self-love and respect for myself. However, my sexuality doesn’t feel valid to me, down there, unless it reflects who I feel I am. For me, being a lesbian is being female in every sense of the word I can be. And I am not yet. I have talked with friends about this, and some really awesome rainbow punks out there. They know who they are (Wink, wink). And there is no “simple” solution. The issue couldn’t be more convoluted by the status of my body now, and my wish to be in a sincere, deep and intimate relationship now. And to be frank, I know that I have had partners that have not made me dysphoric about that part of my body as badly (in a bearable way). I don’t believe I have ever told her, but she is also the only partner I didn’t want to break up with in all my years of dating. Yes, I broke up with her, and indeed, I didn’t want to. She was probably the most sensitive and compassionate partner I’ve ever had, and the only one who made those parts I didn’t like bearable. We are still friends even today, and the reason I broke up with her was because of dysphoria, which at that time was relatively unchecked and the reasoning for that and depression I felt at that time in my life.
As you probably drew from that, most of the people I was with did trigger my dysphoria. It wasn’t their fault really. They didn’t do anything any cis man wouldn’t want them to do. But I am not cis, nor am I a man. Pretending to be a normal man doesn’t make one a man.
I remember episodes of disgust, but most of the time it was just general dissatisfaction much like some homosexual people recall about times when they tried to be heterosexual. Sexual intimacy just wasn’t a thing I looked forward too because of those feelings at best, and disgusted and upset at worst. Now, mind you I am demisexual, but in these cases, I am talking about intimacy with people who met my requirements. I will not rehash on the time that wasn’t the case. I did notice one thing though. The sexual encounters I enjoyed more had less penis involved, and a lot more other things. The enjoyment was inversely proportional to the amount of use of “that” I participated in. And quite frankly, it was better with those “improvisations” than it was at anything else, with the one exception mentioned above. I learned good foreplay, and more than anything, because I often lack the same kind of enjoyment from it, I learned to give my partner what they needed, and to enjoy their pleasure in a way I think many others fail, or just don’t understand. They fail because they are part of a culture that tends to and more often they are (knowing and unknowingly) upholders of a status quo that benefits men to the disadvantage of women. As such, the men whose minds have been “warped” by that, tend to also be terrible, self-centered, and inconsiderate lovers. Men who don’t see women as complete, whole and autonomous beings with their own wishes, dreams and desires, who see them as “utilitarian” to their needs will most likely always be terrible, cold and insensitive lovers.
Likewise, women who internalize that kind of treatment, can as a result be cold and distant in sexual relationships, and not warm and receptive (likely a defense mechanism). There are so many ways in which the traditional, sexist and patriarchal dynamic ruins sex for women, and makes many people inept or just unsuitable partners on so many levels. In fact, on some levels, our society trivializes sexuality, and abuses sex, and treats it in a way that deprives it of genuine and pure meaning in the way it can be experienced. Maybe I sound a bit idealistic, but this is how I feel. Men, you may not know this, but when it comes to sex… You got it easy. And you may be thinking, but didn’t you used to be one… Um, so yeah… I’ll explain this to you again… I am not, have not, and will not ever be one of them. Not to say that there is anything intrinsically wrong with men, or that all men are bad lovers, but the ones that do as I ascribed under sexism tend to be, and the women who are with them are forced to live with the inferior options our cultural mentality provides. I was not cis (nor was I ever), I never experienced an ‘advantage’ in the regards of sex, in as far as heteronormativity is concerned. That goes hand in hand with how I recall stating that “the rewards of heteronormativity, for me being assigned male at birth, were insufficient to offset the pain that gender dysphoria caused me”. If it had been I might have never transitioned, but that is neither here, nor there. In fact, it’s entirely moot, as it’s speculation on a non-starter (I.E. a factor that doesn’t and couldn’t exist in the first place, not for me).
But, I know that I am lucky. Lucky to be here to talk about it, especially today (Transgender Day of Remembrance). I know that I don’t even have it the worst, and that on other levels I have little to complain about. Lucky to have the time and space to speak my mind, and privileged in at least some ways recognized by my society and in ways that some will listen to me, albeit, disadvantaged in others. And I know… Perhaps the better word is hope. I hope it gets better. Going long periods without a certain kind of meaningful human touch is quite… problematic for me. When I am in the rough of it my body and heart aches something miserable, and I really don’t like it. Who would?… How could you even? More than anything, I feel that I am at least fit, and worthy enough of consideration, when that time should arise. I am not perfect, perhaps not even ideal some of the time, much less so for all people. But I really do, on some level believe, and know that a time will come for me. But damn it all if I don’t wish it would stop taking its damned time getting here. Perhaps on some levels I have a way to go before I am fully ready. But the one thing life has taught me is this… Life doesn’t always wait until we are ready.
So the best bet is just to be as alert and adaptable as possible, and that is all you can do. Be the best you that you can be. Be as aware of your own faults as possible along the way. And more than anything, just keep your eyes open. You never know until you’ve looked, tested, or inquired. The only thing in this world that is guaranteed is change, and I have a pretty good feeling about the future. I only have that because I am being true to who I am. As with the rest, it’ll come in its own time. But just a message to fate, pretending for a moment it’s an animate sentient thing, “Would you mind helping me out, just a bit?” (Disclaimer: I don’t really believe in fate, just saying for posterity’s sake). Hope all of my readers are well, and as always commentary is welcome.
- An Open Letter to Roseanne Barr, From a Feminist Sister (feministire.wordpress.com)
- ‘My womanhood is valid’: transgender activist Janet Mock calls for change (telegraph.co.uk)
- reader question: pansexual attraction (rainbowgenderpunk.wordpress.com)
- Rethinking Sexism: How Trans Women Challenge Feminism (musingsonlifelawandgender.typepad.com)
- Want to be a guest blogger? (thefword.org.uk)