Showing posts with label transgender women. Show all posts
Showing posts with label transgender women. Show all posts

Monday, September 22, 2014

You Know, He's Right!

A number of MRAs have complained that women get preferential treatment at clubs and bars that offer discounts or free admission to women. I always dismissed their resentment as frivolous at best. My knee-jerk reaction was they should be grateful for institutions like "Ladies Nights," which at least improved their odds of actually meeting "a lady" in the flesh. Then I stumbled on this interview with grad student / DJ Trevor Doughtery about why "ladies nights" are downright pernicious, and it got me thinking.

Fact is, in all my years of being an XX person-in-drag, I had never taken advantage of a "Ladies Night" special. In large part, this is because I have always recognized on a subconscious level that because I was not the kind of "lady" these promotions were designed to attract, taking advantage was a violation of the terms of an unwritten contract. I would be cheating the system. Then I fell in with a group of cross dressers who thought such promotions were a fun way to "turn the tables," so I thought, Why the hell not?

One night my SO and I met up with some other "ladies" at a local piano bar that had "Ladies Night" specials on slow Tuesdays. It was not a pleasant experience. In fact, it was the only evening I have ever felt that we, as a couple, were in real physical danger. To make a long, creepy story short, a party of "frat boy" types locked us in their cross hairs, relentlessly imploring us to join their table, and wouldn't take our polite "no's" for an answer. There was a predatory vibe that unnerved us to the point where we wound up "sneaking out" of the back of the club and high-tailing it back to our vehicle as fast as we could. 

Any woman who attends a "Ladies Night" does so at her own peril. She is placing herself in an environment where the men who are paying full covers feel that they are "entitled" to her favors. OK, to be blunt? She is whoring herself for cheap drinks (and mediocre entertainment). She is putting herself in harm's way. 

No wonder "Ladies Nights" are now banned in five states.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Transmisogyny = Misogyny Squared

"AkioFlip" is so fearful that he might be unknowingly seduced by a postoperative transsexual woman that he writes a post on Matt Forney's website practically begging transsexual women to stay away from him.  As usual, a "manosphere" post reveals more about its author's tenuous grasp of his own "masculinity" than any objective reality.  A guy like Mr. Flip is so afraid that he might be attracted to a trans woman that he puts the onus on her to announce her "trans" nature to the world like a leper ringing a bell.

The trope of the "deceptive tranny" is so embedded in our popular psyche that it is difficult to think of a movie or book that features a trans woman character that does not, to some degree, reference it.  

Even Emily Yoffe over at Slate recently addressed a question (rather horribly) about a family squabble instigated by a trans woman's "failure" to disclose her trans status in a manner deemed timely by the writer. 

Akio? Mr. Flip? envisages bands of roving trans women "on the prowl trying to have sex with heterosexual men," who feel "they have full right to violate straight men who wouldn't otherwise have sex with another man." 

Mr. Flip is so preoccupied with the statistically remote possibility he might be fooled by some mythical predatory trans woman that he actually links his readers to a photograph of a vaginoplasty.  He has, no doubt, spent many hours anxiously scrutinizing such photos for evidence of some "telling" feature that distinguishes a trans woman's vulva from any other woman's, either in appearance or function.  (Of course, if the surgery was competently performed, even a gynecologist can't tell by superficial examination, never mind a typical "manospherean", whose familiarity with female anatomy we should not presume.*

He writes that "having their penises removed, taking hormones and proclaiming, I'm a woman, is enough to become a real woman."

He seems utterly unaware that many trans women never have surgery (whether by choice or financial constraints or age/health conditions).  Some trans women don't even take hormones.  And yet they are women too --  not because they "claim" to be, but because they have been born with an unconscious, and almost certainly hardwired, gender identity that is at odds with their genitalia.

The fact that a certain percentage of the population is (and always has been) transsexual forces us cis-gendered folks to acknowledge that a person's gender identity develops to some (as yet unknown) extent independent of chromosomal configuration.  The fact that trans sexuality exists (not only in humans but other animals) certainly makes me ponder what it is, exactly, that supports my own conviction that I am, indeed, "a woman."  Sure, I can look down and see my genitals match my internal sense of self, but I know that even if I woke up tomorrow with a six inch clitoris and a full beard, I would not feel any less "female."  I have had a hysterectomy and no longer produce estrogen, but ain't I a woman?  My vagina, breasts, fat distribution and passion for bright nail polish do not define my gender, although the fact that everything "matches" makes my life easier.  Does Akio Flip's penis define his "manhood?" (Wait, better not answer that, I'm afraid what the answer might be.)

"Cis-gender" may in Matt Forney's opinion be just a politically correct way of defining "normal," but in actuality it's a very specific and invaluable term that allows us to conceptualize and discuss gender more accurately.  It's an important word because if science and human experience tell us anything, it's that gender is a lot more complicated than we realized. And that Mother Nature loves diversity, even if her children don't always.

Mr. Flip cites Janice Raymond's notorious rad-fem screed, The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male, to support his view that transsexual women are not accepted by the lesbian community either.  In fact, this book is widely dismissed as a kind of hysterical historical curiosity and the philosophy it outlines is widely rejected by most feminists.  Of course, TERFs still exist, but they are as much dinosaurs as the new misogynists are.  Mainstream feminists are gradually but inexorably moving in the direction of embracing their trans sisters, in part due to the activism and educational efforts of transsexual women like Julia Serano and Janet Mock, and because most "mainstream" feminists are committed to inclusion, respect and tolerance for everyone.

According to Mr. Flip, "Shemales have tried to argue that our aversion for transsexualism is a by-product of our gender roles, which according to them were assigned by artificial social constructs."  How many lies can be packed into one sentence?  First off, there are many cultures that have no particular "aversion for transsexualism."  Second, I have never read any trans writer argue that all "gender roles... were assigned by artificial social constructs."

Mr. Flip claims that "anyone who requires advanced medical procedures to “realign” their entire physiological makeup isn’t in any position to deem what is or isn’t natural."  This will be news to anyone who has undergone medical treatment for any systemic condition.  It also vastly overstates the complexity of the kind of medical intervention most transsexual women require to "align" their bodies.  Transforming a penis and scrotum into a clitoris, vagina and labia requires expertise, but is surprisingly "simple" -- perhaps not surprising, after all, in view that male and female genitalia are highly parallel structures.

Mr. Flip argues that the "evolutionary reasons for the distinction between male and female remain."  Again, his assumption that all trans women elect to have surgery that sterilizes them is fallacious.  My partner has five biological grandchildren (so far).  Despite being a transsexual woman, she has certainly outperformed me in terms of reproductive success.

Mr. Flip encourages trans women to seek acceptance in the arms of "gay and bisexual men," ignoring the fact that gay men are by definition not interested in having sex with women and in fact generally evince a strong preference for "masculine" partners.  Although transsexual women sometimes emerge from the "drag queen" community, the conflation of feminine performance and feminine gender identity is an endless source of confusion and obfuscation.

Mr. Flip also implies that all transsexual women are attracted to men, which is obviously not the case.  The sexual orientation of trans women -- like women in general -- is all over the map.  Many identify as lesbians.  Some are strictly straight.  In terms of preference, a number are somewhat fluid (for lack of a better term, "bisexual").  I've met trans women who are only interested in other trans women, or who wind up partnered with trans men.  And I'm confident they are represented in the asexual community as well.

Mr. Flip claims that "most straight cisgender men... gag at the mere mention of kissing a so-called transgender woman."  If that is true, it is a measure of those men's internalized homophobia and fragile sense of their own heteronormativity.  The fact is, a lot of straight men (and lesbians) are attracted to women they know to be trans.  They're attracted to them for the same reason they are attracted to other women:  because they're beautiful, because they're feminine, because they're clever, because they're strong, authentic people who are often more self-aware and more compassionate by virtue of their own personal gender struggles.  And a lot of them are coming out of the closet too, despite efforts of people like Mr. Flip to "shame" them too.

I appreciate the trans woman in my life because, having lived the first half of her life "as a man," she can give me insights into what it is like to be socialized as a man, and yet because she explicitly identifies as a woman, she inspires me to embrace my own feminine nature. Trans people have so much to teach us cis-genders about what it means to be a Man or a Woman.

Mr. Flip concludes his post by reassuring trans women he doesn't mean them any harm, while at the same time warning them that "the average heterosexual... if he learned he had sex with one of you... would scream, become physically ill, and maybe even try to kill you."  [italics mine]

Yep, the good ole "panic defense," the one that (almost) got Gwen Araujo's murderers off the hook. Wow, blaming violence on the sexuality of victims.  Where have we heard that before?  Sorry, buddy, that shit don't fly anymore.

It's posts like this that contribute to the disproportionate risk trans women face as victims of violence.  Like most of what is posted in the "manosphere," it is hate speech, straight up, pure'n' simple, and not even thinly disguised.  

Here's a young trans woman's humorous response to a Return of Kings article, "8 Ways to Spot a Transsexual."  As for me, I have given up on trying to identify transsexuals since I find I am dead wrong at least half the time and since I have been misgendered myself more than once, a phenomenon I attribute to "trans-by-association."

* Hey, speaking of which, remember "The Thirty Types of Pussy?"

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Candy Darling, Born Too Soon?

I have always adored Candy Darling, one of Andy Warhol's "superstars" of the sixties.  While she was enjoying her 15 minutes of fame, I was in middle school, too young to see her movies, but I recall her face on the movie posters and in the Vogue spreads, and thought she was the absolute pinnacle of feminine glamor.  I don't think I realized she was transsexual at the time;  I don't think I knew what a transsexual was back then.
What really impresses me now is how a chronically broke, homeless transsexual (back in the days when cross-dressing was a crime), who slept on couches and subsisted on party leftovers and speed, could always look so... perfect?  What also really impresses me now is what a dry wit she had.  She is the funniest (and best) element of any of those old Warhol movies, especially Women in Revolt, which was meant to be satire of the burgeoning women's liberation movement (but which doesn't seem so satirical to me now).
Candy Darling was born and raised a beautiful "boy" on Long Island, and she turned herself into Kim Novak.  In fact, she outdid Kim Novak.  She was the inspiration for two Lou Reed songs, and her iconic death bed photo (she died of lymphoma, age 29) has adorned many a wall and record cover.

Candy Darling on Her Deathbed
That wasn't just role playing: She really was dying.

A documentary about her life, Beautiful Darling, made by her best friend Jeremiah Newton in 2010, is now available on DVD.  Obviously a labor of love, it left me with a lot of unanswered questions, and a hunger to know (and see) more.  Sadly, it is likely to be the last word on the unfulfilled promise of her brief life.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

International Women's Day

It's International Women's Day.  I love how this "doodle" includes a brief shot of beautiful and outspoken Janet Mock, a (trans) woman activist who has become a prominent voice for transgender rights recently.  This reminds me I need to buy her new book.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Welcome Oh Warrior Princess!

Anyway...  That these issues are being raised for scrutiny and debate is a positive step, I suppose, even if it feels like kicking over a rock.  Exposing the depth and breadth of misogyny is the first step in eradicating it.  

Twenty years ago I accompanied my ex and his children to Disneyland, and I hated almost every single minute of it.  (To be fair to Walt and his "imagineers," my misery had less to do with the park and more to do with the relationship.)  At one point, sobbing bitterly on a bench under the entrance banner that read "The Happiest Place on Earth," I looked up to see a small throng of Japanese tourists taking my picture.  So at least the opportunity for an ironic picture was not lost.

Anxious to escape the heat and glare, I agreed to ride through "Pirates of the Caribbean" with eight year old Suzanne.  "This is my favorite ride," Suzanne confided.  "Except for this part..."  she added sotto voce, as we bobbed into a tableau of drunk, lusty brigands seizing a struggling young maid with lecherous intent (ignoring the fat, blowsy blonde who was clearly disappointed not to be raped herself).

Suzanne closed her eyes tightly until we had passed through this scene.  "I wish that part wasn't there," she reiterated.  "Otherwise, it would be the perfect ride."  I had to agree, but it took a child to remind me of what I had always known, yet had somehow learned not to see:  Sexual assault isn't funny and it isn't fun.   It's scary and degrading, and even a small girl knows that it could really happen to her if she is careless (or merely unlucky).

Rape culture means that there is no direction in which a little girl can gaze without being reminded of the vulnerability her sex imposes, not even on a kiddie ride.  

Clearly, a number of people besides Suzanne and me didn't like watching animatronic pirates violating animatronic wenches, and these people weren't just humorless feminists, either: plenty of disgruntled dads complained too.  Under considerable consumer pressure -- and much to the chagrin of certain guys-who-just-don't-get-it -- Disneyland and Disneyworld removed the "sexual slavery" element from the attraction a few years ago. So now Suzanne can take her own daughter on "the best ride ever," and neither will have to squeeze her eyes shut for any of it...

This week I've been following with dismay the abuse Twittered upon Lindy West following her televised debate with comedian Jim Norton.  To be fair, Norton is not egging his fans on.  He seems genuinely concerned about the issues that were raised -- even if he's not willing to concede (yet) that misogyny is bad for comedy.  What is clear in his twitters is that he doesn't want to be a Bad Guy, but he doesn't want to be seen as "backing down" either.  To which I would echo Ms. West in asking him, On which side of history to you wish to stand?

How anyone could deny the existence of "rape culture" in the wake of the comments left by scores of anonymous white doods... is beyond me.  I mean really fellas:  You deny "rape culture" exists by claiming some women are too ugly to rape?  You disagree with someone, so you describe in some detail how you'd like to impale her on a spit?  You don't want women to think you're rapists, so you conjure up images of the most grotesque and sadistic fantasy? 
Yet sometimes the anger and hate really overwhelm me.  After all, there are real men behind those threatening pseudonymous comments, and chances are that some of them are moving through the same public spaces as I am.  That's damn scary if you think about it.  (Which is, of course, exactly how they want women to feel.)   So when I read today that Kristin Beck, a former Navy Seal, has come out as a trans woman, I was, well, thrilled.  I for one welcome some real warrior princesses on "Team Femme!"