Standing on the outside looking in ~ a TDoR post

It’s been suggested to me that this would be an appropriate post to cross-post from my blog. For those unfamiliar with great Australian rock bands, the title is a Cold Chisel lyric.

Somehow I let this slip by (TD0R is Nov 20) despite the fact that I read some related posts from other bloggers. Given how much I’ve been thinking about this phenomenon (transgender or GID) this year, I wanted to acknowledge the day. This year I think that some people who are transgender have taught me one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned. And it’s going to sound ridiculously simple in my head as I type it, but here goes: We don’t need to understand something to accept it. Continue reading

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Introduction

Hi. Recently I was invited to post on TRANScend GENDER and I thought it made sense to introduce myself first. Firstly I’m a cisgender female, so my perspective is not that of a person experiencing GID or transition. This makes me a little nervous, but I hope I can still make some contribution.

There are two things I’m likely to post about. The first is gender in general: gender roles, stereotypes, fluidity of gender, etc. The second, which is perhaps the reason for my invitation in the first place, is my developing understanding of transgender issues and how this process has impacted on my life. This has been a year of transition for me…just not the kind of transition that is usually discussed here. 🙂 I have, for most of my life, been a member of the Mormon church – a church that has pretty conservative doctrines and policies when it comes to gender, gender roles, and related issues such as gender reassignment and sexual orientation. Over the last year or so, I’ve rejected many of the beliefs I once held, and I plan to resign membership in that church by the end of the year.

Several months ago I came across riftgirl’s blog and through that I have also found several other blogs written by people who are transgender. This exposure to transgender people and issues has been very helpful to me. I feel awkward and lacking in life experience because there are so many things I don’t know or have no experience with and losing my faith, which right or wrong has been a big part of my life and identity, has been easier to process in the face of so much evidence that the teachings of the Church are inadequate in dealing with real people in real situations that do not fit neatly into pre-defined boxes.

I make no claim to understand what it feels like to be transgender, but I don’t think I need to understand that completely in order to accept that GID is real, to consider the issues it creates, or to be supportive of transgender people.

MSNBC’s ‘Born in the Wrong Body: A Change of Heart’

[Update to the review: Josef has contributed to the discussion forum on the show here. Worth a read. ]

I knew that I wanted to write a post about ‘Born in the Wrong Body: A Change of Heart’ before it even aired, especially so because many of my friends told me they were reluctant or nervous about watching it for themselves. As someone who has not made a gender transition even once (let alone twice, or even three times!) I felt I could view it dispassionately and objectively.

However, after seeing it, I found myself affected in quite unexpected ways. The aspects that I expected to feel negatively about were just not there, and my overall reaction was very mixed – finding both positive and negative emotions rolling together leaving me … somewhat neutral. I have decided simply to write a synopsis of what we were shown, and leave it up to the reader to come to their own conclusions. I’m sure if this spurs you to watch the show, you can find it on YouTube, or coming up in MSNBC’s frequent re-run schedule.

I’m going to use the pronouns that (mostly) match the current gender presentation of the two people shown in the documentary. (If this offends you, I’m sorry – in a case like this, there simply is no “right way”.) Without further ado, here’s what we learn:

It was stressed up front that of all those who transition, only a very, very tiny proportion ever “go back”. In fact, I suspect the two subjects we follow were the only ones who could be identified and were willing to have their stories told. Most similar documentary programs feature three or more subjects to give a wider experience.
Continue reading

New England Transgender Pride March: Thoughts from a straight ally

I discovered this thought-provoking blog post from Jendi Reiter:

The first-ever New England Transgender Pride March took place this weekend in Northampton, and I was there with my “Episcopal Church Welcomes You” rainbow tank top and a digital camera to capture the pageantry. I was hoping to blend into the MassEquality contingent, but they were scattered around other groups this time, so I just milled around looking like I knew what I was doing, and took lots of pictures. Next thing I knew, someone had handed me a bunch of purple and white balloons, and I was marching behind the lead banner, shouting “Trans Pride Now”.

Go read the whole thing! You’ll be glad you did. 🙂

Sunshine go away today

Mom’s response to my letter to my aunt:

Listen Marcus,

Don’t ever presume to know how I am feeling because you never will and never can!!!!!!!

I remain,
Your Mother

I am truly going to miss the “person I thought I knew”.

So, I wrote a long letter to mom last night but don’t think I will send it because it seems the more honest I am the more trouble it seems to cause. This is an uncomfortable place to be stuck in.

The words I heard the night I was forced to out myself to my parents still ring in my ears from time to time. They were very specific words that one doesn’t forget when they seem to be directed at you. Words like disgusting, sinful, evil, satan, ridiculous, impossible are words that can come back to haunt a person. Until I hear something dispelling those feelings what else am I to presume? This is a question that surrounds my very existence. At what point will I no longer hear the words that hurt me so much? I hear them when I am awake. They invade my dreams at night. I cannot escape them. I am a tortured soul caught between self-acceptance and self-loathing.

(sigh)

Family Ties (that bind)

My aunt sent me this e-mail/link today. The link is for a “recovered” transsexual whom I agreed to meet with almost 2 years ago as my family was struggling to accept my being transgender. They thought if this person could be saved then I could be saved as well.

http://www.leaderu.com/stonewall/pages/jerry_l.html

Here is my response to my aunt and a glimpse into what struggles I face from a family point-of-view.

While I have met with and heard Jerry’s amazing story firsthand it does not mean that he and I are on similar wave lengths. Yes, many trans people share a very similar story, but along the way there are instances where the individual story line takes a different path from what others may go through. I respect what Jerry went through & even respect that much more the fact he realized what was best for him before it, perhaps, could have been too late for him to recover. Our stories may be similar in some ways, but, it is very different in others.
 
Sure, while I was first attempting to deal with my feelings I thought that sex was the only way to express the woman in me. And for a few years I did things that I am not proud of to try and express those feelings outwardly towards men. Thankfully I managed to survive a few instances that could have turned ugly, and I now know that I was acting out in an un-healthy and, unnecessary manner. Many never get a chance to learn that lesson. Many lives get cut short because they put themselves in the dangerous position of thinking sex is the answer. I have been lucky to learn that lesson before it was too late for me. Sex doesn’t equal respect.
 
If I recall correctly before I agreed to meet with Jerry I laid out the proposition of my family needing to meet with my therapist as an equal payoff for me meeting with Jerry. Out of love for my family I agreed to meet with Jerry knowing full well you all would never offer on your own to meet with my therapist afterward. I now re-extend the offer for you all to meet with my therapist. You could do this with me there or without me there. It doesn’t matter either way. Meet with her and don’t even tell me about it if you choose. But one thing is for sure you all need to let go the idea of me and Jerry being similar to the point that I will wake up one day and feel the need to ask God for forgiveness. I did ask for forgiveness, but, it was not for being who I am. It was for being the shell of a person I used to be and for my actions while I was lost for the first 30 or so years in the vast ocean of life.
 
Until you can grasp the idea that most of my life was spent in a depression filled fog in which I was unable to express my feelings about what I was going through you will not be able to feel happy for me that I am now no longer living with that fear and depression. Depression is a powerful thing as you know and having been there I am very determined to not go back into that chasm again. I do still get down sometimes just like anybody else would but for reasons that aren’t so much about who I am but for who it is my family can’t accept. I have nephews that are told I am sick and that is why I don’t call them. I have a sister that is scared (I think) to reach out to me in fear of being rejected by the family for trying to understand my situation. I have three very beautiful cousins who are like my sisters that perhaps feel the same way. I have an aunt that tells me she serves an awesome god that loves all the creatures he creates but somehow fails to recognize that her awesome god made me this way for a reason. Unfortunately I have a mother who is stuck in the middle of watching her two oldest children fight like two kids on a playground that want the best seat on the swing set.

Since I have moved to Columbus I have accomplished things I only used to dream of doing. I enrolled in college (this time because I wanted to) and made the honor roll 2 terms in a row. I have been accepted into a program being sponsored by the United Way of Central Ohio that is training me, as a member of the GLBT community, in what it will take to one day be in a position to help those less fortunate than I am. I have found a job where I can be my self and not feel the fear of being rejected by co-workers because I may be different in the eyes of the customers I interact with on a daily basis. I am only one person, but, I am a face of the Ohio Historical Society. Everyday and at every special event OHS puts on I am trusted to be in a place, not where I can’t be seen, but, rather, in a place out front like any other trusted employee should be: greeting the public. Since December of 2007 I have been on the board of Trans Ohio. My duties have involved speaking at OSU and a few other places to show that I am just a person dealing with many of the issues facing everyone in today’s world. The minor difference being that I happen to be transgender, or, at least, minor in my mind, anyways.

For all I have put my family though I am truly sorry, but I refuse to accept all the responsibility for what has happened since I came out to my family. Why, you ask do I not accept all of it? The reason for that is due to the fact that from the day that I came out I have been told how wrought with sin I am. I’ve been told there is no possible way that I would be welcomed back into your homes if this is the path I am taking. I have been, basically, put in exile in (your) hopes of being saved from my destiny.

I understand you miss me, Aunt Lisa. I miss you too. We used to be so close. You are one of the reasons for the kind of person I am today and believe it or not there are still people who think I am a good, caring, understanding person who is always willing to listen to others in order to try and help them work out a problem they may be going through. I always wanted to tell you sooner than I did, and there is a reason I told you first. You were one that I trusted to understand what it was I was going through, and ultimately you are one that I hope can stand by my side as my Aunt, as a supporter, and as some one that loves me for who I am today. Not the person you thought I used to be. The values that I was taught by those closest to me while growing up remain with me to this day. For that I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Just because I now live as the female I should have always been doesn’t make me any less of a person in my own eyes. In fact, the self respect I have gained by taking control of my autonomy tells me there is potential for great things in my future. Agreeing to disagree is a cop-out on all of our parts. Doing that does nothing to address the real issues at hand. I can no longer pretend to be Marcus for the sake of being semi-welcomed back into everyone’s lives. How would you have felt if I rejected you after confessing to me your eating disorder you struggled with years ago? I realized how difficult it must have been to tell me, and for you trusting me with that piece of you I felt that much closer to you. I felt that much more love for you. I didn’t get angry for you not telling me sooner. I chose to try and understand that side of you, and to love you as you were at that moment.

I’ll never stop loving my family, ever. But until we can all come to terms with me being transgender, until everyone stops feeling sorry for themselves and for me, and that I am so helplessly lost we may forever be stuck at the impasse of what it truly means to love some one unconditionally. Diversity, Love, Family, those words have more powerful a meaning when we actually take the time to comprehend what those words enable us to understand.

Sincerely,

Karen M. Patrick

 

TS driving instructor ‘knocked down’ by pupils husband!

Living in Britain I am proud of how tolerant we have become as a nation. I always thought that we were fully open to new ideas and different ways of life, after all for one thing we are a truly multi-racial nation, built up of communities from all over what was the British Empire. But this recent story about a Driving Instructor in Yorkshire, close to where I live does make me wonder:
http://www.mailonsunday.co.uk/news/article-1020767/Muslim-man-threatens-sue-driving-school-sending-transsexual-instructor-teach-wife.html?ITO=1490

Emma, the transsexual driving instructor
Driving Instructor, Emma Sherdley, is in the middle of treatment to change gender and has the legal paperwork to prove it. But one client claimed he had been shortchanged when he booked a female instructor to teach his wife how to drive. He phoned the Laugh ‘n’ Pass driving school threatening to sue after Miss Sherdley, 42, turned up for the lesson. “You have sent me a man. Send me a proper female. How dare you send a man with a deep voice,’ he told Joanne Dixon, who runs the school in West Yorkshire. The man, a Muslim from the Meadowhall district of Sheffield who has not been named, claimed the company deliberately sent a man disguised as a woman.

I understand it is against the strict laws of Islam for a man unrelated to a woman to spend time in a confined space with her, but as Emma is now legally a woman should this be any different from two women in a car together? Is this simply a case of yet another religion ‘clutching at straws’ to discredit transsexuality? Or using fundamentalism to turn back time by a thousand years?