31 October 2014

The Wrong Way To Go About It

None of us likes to hear ignorant, hateful comments, especially when they're directed at us--or, at least, some notion that the person making the comment has about us.  I really hope that one day we will live in a world in which we--and the trans people who are coming after us--don't have to hear such things.

At the same time I oppose, and have always opposed, censorship  and in any form. People--at least in this country--have a right to say what they please, even if it's something people don't like or is simply wrong.  If the latter is true, it's our job to point out the error in their thinking or expression; if we find something not to our liking, we should say what we find objectionable about it.  

That is the reason why I think Houston mayor Annise Parker was wrong to subpoena pastors who oppose the recent city ordinance prohibiting businesses from discriminating against transgender people.  

Now, I don't want you to think that just because I've become involved in a church, I've begun to side with all members of the clergy.  Far from it:  I still cringe when I hear of some of the pure and simple hate some of them are spewing from their pulpits, and I have to remind myself that not all ordained people do such things.  In fact, the priests at my church make great efforts to make trans people welcome and the senior pastoral associate--a very intelligent and compassionate straight woman--spends time with me and other trans members of our congregation in an effort to better understand our needs and wishes.

It is precisely because I've found her, and the other priests and the congregation of my church that I know things can be better.  And that is another reason why I think that we should--no, must--allow bigoted clergy people to express their opposition to laws designed to protect us, or simply to whatever they think we represent.  Simply demonizing, and trying to silence, them will only deepen their opposition to us because it shuts off any possibility of dialogue.  Even if they don't want to talk to us, we can't win the right to exercise the rights God and the Constitution gave us, let alone any possibility of gaining the respect of others within and outside our community, if we deny the rights and humanity of those who want to push us back into the closet.

Please understand that I am saying things that I have a difficult time accepting myself.  A part of me still wants to dismiss those "fundamentalist" pastors as barbaric and hypocritical.  (After all, how can someone preach the love of God and hatred, or simply bigotry, against human beings?)  Having said that, it almost goes without saying that I cringe at the thought of having to love such people.  But, really, there is no other choice:  No one has ever won a battle against hate by using hate.

30 October 2014

What's It Like To Be A Trans Girl?

Sometimes I'm asked "What's it like?" to be transgendered or, more specifically, a trans woman.  The best answer I can give is that I can't answer the question, but I can tell you about MY experience.

In other words, there isn't one kind of trans woman, or trans person.  Part of the reason I didn't start my transition earlier is that I didn't think I fit the profiles of trans women I carried in my mind.  I thought I was too tall, to broad-boned or deep-voiced.  Or I thought I wasn't, on the outside "feminine" or "pretty" (at least, as those terms are commonly defined) in our culture.  Plus, I have always felt more attracted to women than to men.

Some graphic artist must have been thinking what I thought.  Let us thank "Kyle"--that is the only name I could find--for this wonderful graphic:

29 October 2014

Don't Tell, Don't Transition--Not Yet, Anyway

Even after the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," transgender people who live--and want to serve--in the gender of their mind and spirit aren't allowed to be in the Armed Forces.  A trans person who begins his or her transition is supposed to be discharged, under current rules.

However, there is a widespread expectation that the ban will soon be repealed.  As a result, Captain Sage Fox, who had been an Army Reservist for fourteen years, received a call she hadn't anticipated:  a call from her commander telling her that she could continue to serve in her preferred gender.  She would even have permission to be called "ma'am" and use the female latrine.

Or so she--and her commander--thought.

A short time later, her orders were reversed.  She wasn't exactly discharged, at least as the Army defines it.  Instead, she was placed on Individual Ready Reserve, meaning that she could be called back to duty but, in the meantime, would not show up for training, draw a paycheck or have access to benefits. 

In other words, the Army was, essentially, disowning her without discharging her, leaving her in a career and legal limbo.  So, trans people are being advised not to come out because of scenarios like Captain Fox's.

Or that of someone named "Hunter", who is transitioning to male.  Even though his hair is short and testosterone has done its work on him, he still has to use a female latrine (which causes women to flee) and, when attending formal dinners at the officer's school, wear a form-fitting jacket and skirt.

The question of allowing trans people to serve as who they are is much greater than it seems:  Our estimated population of 15,000 in the Armed Services actually represents a somewhat higher percentage than in the population as a whole.  Many serve for years, or even decades (as Captain Fox did) before having their "epiphanies" that cause them to begin psychotherapy, hormones and the other aspects of a gender transition. 

The irony is that trans men and trans women are drawn to enlist for essentially the same reasons.  One, of course, is job prospects. But another is the hypermasculine culture of the military.  To a non-trans person, it makes sense in the case of female-to-male transgenders.  But male-to-females also want to be in such an environment as a way (that ultimately doesn't work) of suppressing their femaleness or, at least, accentuating maleness they may or may not have.  In other words, it's the same sort of impulse that drives some to become police officers or firefighters. (My therapist told me she's treated a number of male-to-female trans people who worked in those professions, as well as the military.)  It's also the same sort of impulse that led people like me to spend lots of time in sports and physical training--or any number of closeted or manque gay men to marry women. 

Some of us (male-to-females) are also motivated by a "desire to serve our country", in the misguided way we're taught to understand it.  Again, just like our female-to-male bretheren.  And gay men.  And lesbians.  And straight people.