Thursday, July 26, 2007

gender breakout part 2

Some recent comments on my original gender breakout post that spurred me to some further thoughts on the subject:
Vickie writes: "It seems that we just do not have the terms yet, and there
are endless battles over what to call us. Actually there are battles going on
over all our terms."

Kaye writes: "I seem to gravitate towards the unusual .... as my wife of 35
years so frequently points out .... if it's 'uber niche' then that's where you
Thanks for your thoughtful comments! I agree - terminology is a tricky subject. One one hand having a set of terms and control over how they are used/understood is essential if we want to have any sort of movement to fight for our civil rights and gain a wider understanding in society. On the other hand terminology in the end can only be constricting - definitions always are because there will always be exceptions or else the definition is too broad to have much meaning.

People in any group will probably never totally agree on just one set of self-defining terms. Just look at the fights over terminology in any profession or academic discipline for an example of this. Certainly I get some sense of self from being "different" (or as I sometimes put it: non-conforming), but I do also feel, like everyone, a desire to be part of a community, ideally one of my own choosing.

In the end perhaps the only thing that matters is that people needn't be restricted by the terminology and labels that others apply to them (nor by the "communities" that such labels place them in) - labels are a quick and dirty but necessary means to an end - which is understanding the world around us.

The big obstacle in my view is that so many in the TG community are in the closet or have a completely understandable and burning desire to fit in or escape persecution and or shame, that they don't get out in society as proud transgendered individuals and let people know that in the end we're just like them - diverse, fallible, human.

only, like, the cutest thing EVER!

This is my niece, who had a birthday yesterday! Isn't she the cutest ever!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

gender breakout

I've been doing a lot of soul searching/thinking/reading lately in an attempt to better understand my own post-operative gender identity. Before the surgery, this was relatively easy: In my mind I was simply a pre-operative male-to-female transsexual and really didn't have the time or energy or context to think beyond the surgery or the confining nature of those labels. I think on some subconscious level I had a naïve and vague hope/desire that I might simply become a "woman" afterwards and start life as a "normal" lesbian.

The reality has been very different and I've come to the conclusion that I don't really want to be normal, and in fact I couldn't even pass for normal if I wanted to.

So I've been doing a bit of reading on alternative gender models and terminology (such as genderqueer, intergender, etc). I'm still in the process of absorbing some of this dense material and as yet have not come to any conclusion for myself except than I'm not "female" in the traditional sense, anymore than I was "male" in the traditional sense when I was born.

But the biggest breakthrough for me was realizing that I don't have to adhere to the shallow, confining nature of being male or female. Life can exist and be exhilarating and fulfilling in a social sense outside those "normal" gender expressions if you can break free somewhat from caring so much about what other people think, or how they see you. I'm still a work in progress in this respect, but I feel I'm heading in the right direction...

Friday, July 20, 2007

new all-in-one web search tool

For you multimedia info hounds out there, I came across this (relatively) new search engine, SearchMash, that displays results from web pages, wikipedia, images, blogs, and video all on the same page. It is a Google product, although not advertized as such. Very interesting and for me at least, useful...


Monday, July 16, 2007

gender bits

Some current thoughts on gender in society (and my place within those two spheres, spurred on by a reading of this article on postmodern identity and transformation).

"Binary" = consisting of two parts.
"Bit" = a unit of information equivalent to the result of a choice between two alternatives (as yes or no, on or off).

With all the modern marvels of science, technology and medicine, we still assign all the complexities of gender to the most basic forms of information possible, a 1 or a 0.

Here are a couple current mainstream gender-related definitions that I think reflect the inherent bias (even in the supposedly objective medical and psychological disciplines) against we that don't fit within the traditional binary gender roles (bold = my emphasis):

American Psychological Association Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms
  • Gender Identity: Inner conviction that one is male or female or inner sense of being masculine or feminine
  • Sex: Conceptually broad term referring to the structural, functional, or behavioral characteristics of males and females of a given species
  • Transsexualism (used for: Transgendered): The urge to belong to the opposite sex that may include surgical procedures to modify the sex organs in order to appear as the opposite sex.
Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary (linked from the National Library of Medicine site):
  • gen·der: the behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits typically associated with one sex
  • sex: either of the two major forms of individuals that occur in many species and that are distinguished respectively as male or female
  • trans·sex·u·al: a person who psychologically identifies with the opposite sex and may seek to live as a member of this sex
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language:
  • gen·der: The condition of being female or male; sex. b. Females or males considered as a group: expressions used by one gender.
  • sex: 1a. The property or quality by which organisms are classified as female or male on the basis of their reproductive organs and functions. b. Either of the two divisions, designated female and male, of this classification. 2. Females or males considered as a group. 3. The condition or character of being female or male; the physiological, functional, and psychological differences that distinguish the female and the male.
  • trans·gen·dered: Appearing as, wishing to be considered as, or having undergone surgery to become a member the opposite sex
  • trans·sex·u·al: One who wishes to be considered by society as a member of the opposite sex
Notice a pattern? It seems that the binary model of gender is basically a given in today's society, despite the long-known presence of many individuals who don't fit that model.Trying to fit all us square pegs (and this includes many who rebel against dominant gender roles or expression but don't identify as trans in any way) into a round hole, eh society?! We square pegs are deemed mistakes or have some sort of error in our functionality (whether it be physical or mental) - can that be the only reason we don't fit neatly into one of the two genders?

Question: what is the advantage, if any, to having only one limited set of "correct" or "normal" genders (i.e., male and female) or gender expressions? Isn't it possible that the current binary model is simplistic and the result of a social construct that arose/evolved over time and was based on only a shallow survey of now outdated gender expression?

In reading a bit of Joan Roughgarden's excellent
Evolution's Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People, she documents how gender (and sexual) variance/diversity exist in many, many different species in nature (if not all species).

Perhaps unlimited gender variance (or the idea of an endless spectrum or sphere of gender expression) is "normal" and the idea of just two genders (or even the idea that we can define what is "normal" for any physical or social function within the infinitely complex structures of life) is the "mistake?" Perhaps how society interacts with gender variant people is the problem, rather than how gender-variant people choose to express themselves...

Just some food for thought...

Saturday, July 14, 2007

must watch: "Zeitgeist" online documentary

the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history.
- ORIGIN C19: from Ger. Zeitgeist, from Zeit ‘time’ + Geist ‘spirit’.
from: The Concise Oxford English Dictionary, Eleventh edition revised . Ed. Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson. Oxford University Press, 2006. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press.

I just watched an excellent, eye-opening, bone-chilling online documentary called Zeitgeist. It documents in great detail how certain oligarchic elements that control this country (for example, the Carlyle Group) have been systematically manipulating religion, war, mass media and monetary policy for many years and for their own gain and power. This has also directly resulted in many, many deaths (via war especially) and economic hardships both here and abroad.

I will try to add part 2of this video to my blog in a separate entry but links to the 3 parts of the movie are here:
  1. Zeitgeist part 1: The Greatest Story Ever Told (concerning the pagan/mythic origins of christianity)
  2. Zeitgeist part 2: All the Wold's a Stage (concerning 9-11)
  3. Zeitgeist part 3: Don't Mind the Men Behind the Curtain (concerning the Federal Reserve Bank and the conclusion)

To many of you this film may at first glance seem like the paranoid delusions of a conspiracy nut, but please watch it with an open mind and then go and check out their sources (documented in detail on the web site) and find out the truth for yourself. I especially recommend watching parts 2 and 3.

I like to consider myself fairly well-read in history and in current left-wing conspiracy theories, but some stuff I had never heard before and certainly the makers of this film bring it all together into a coherent picture that sure seems to make sense. They may not be on the money on every point, but I think it's hard to ignore the logic of the insane world-picture they paint.

Please check it out yourself and send it to everyone you know with an open mind. This information needs to be out there and discussed! And then we need to hold these fucking people accountable!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Work in progress: Trans Info Search Engine

As you might have noticed, off to the right I've added a little widget for my newly minted and still-in-progress custom search engine for trans-related information. Right now it just searches a small subset of mostly decent web sites (about 140 sites currently) that I'm aware of and that I think contain some valuable information and or discussions of trans-related issues (note: I do not index photo or dating sites - there is nothing wrong with that stuff, but it just doesn't fit the scope of this tool). It indexes M2F, F2M, crossdressing, intersex and those around and between those trans labels, although obviously, since I am ostensibly M2F myself, it's strongest in that realm.

Also, the search engine's web site is here:
Transgender Information Search Engine

Mainstream props for hipster librarians

Turns out librarians are cool after all! The New York Times recently ran an article (in the Fashion section?!) talking about the current face of librarianship and our embrace of technology and activism and other "cool" activities and interests - it's a typically shallow lifestyle article, but fun nevertheless:
A Hipper Crowd of Shushers

Monday, July 09, 2007

re-envisioning gender

A very, very crude (done in about 3 min. - obviously I am not a graphic designer!!!) rendition of my current thinking about gender and gender labels, brought on by a great post about "gender shapes" on (en)Gender (and I posted a more detailed comment on my re-thinking there).

I don't think this image will make much sense to anyone, but it's where my head is at currently and it's the best my hands can render it in under 5 minutes using microsoft paint...

Saturday, July 07, 2007

the trans pipe dream

I watched a very excellent and entertaining movie/musical this week with a lead character who was trans, called 20 Centimeters. But one thing bothered me about it. While it grimly shows the hard life of the troubled, down-trodden, narcoleptic, prostitute lead, Marietta, and her resilience (as well as occasional retreat into the whimsical dreams of musical), it also ends with her getting gender reassignment surgery, and closes with a stereotypical "living happily ever after" vibe.

In and of itself, there is nothing wrong with this kind of ending, and in fact most times I, like most, prefer a happy ending. However, in my opinion, this kind of ending, mirrored in one of the most mainstream trans movies in recent years, Transamerica (another great film btw, but it has the same sort of storybook ending) can have a cumulatively negative effect upon our own community. Namely, it promotes the patently false idea that getting GRS is the end-all-be-all of our existence and that getting it will solve all our problems; resolve all our self-esteem issues; get rid of all our depression.

This point of view seems to be held by more than a fair share of sisters in the community as well for some reason. Perhaps it's like any other seemingly unattainable goal, like getting rich or becoming famous or becoming president: why dwell on any possible negative consequences when it's just a fantasy - it won't happen anyways?! I can understand that. It probably hasn't been helped by the fact that not many post-ops tell their stories beyond the immediate surgical aftermath, when the newness of our new plumbing has us still on cloud nine and we haven't yet had to return to reality. Beyond that initial post-op phase, perhaps many rightfully prefer to drift into regular life and leave their past behind. We want to blend back into society and e "normal." I can understand that, too.

But what I can't understand is why some sisters who have congratulated me afterwards think all my dreams and hopes have been met and that life has now suddenly become easy. Yes - the surgery was a huge, huge goal of mine and I feel better, more in balance for it. It was one of the best decisions in my life. But I can tell you straight up that it didn't solve any of the non-physical problems I went into it with. I still get depressed sometimes and have self-doubts and am self-conscious about my boyish figure. I still on occasion obsess about my tiny breasts and straight hips and overly large arms and excessive body hair, and extra ribs and large hands. I still have social phobia issues and eating issues and I still yell into my windshield at the cars in front of me on the road whose drivers flick their still-lit cigarette butts carelessly out the window and on and on...

The point being that anyone who goes into gender reassignment surgery thinking that once it's complete all the hurt and self-image and social-acceptance issues will magically go away is deluding themselves. But please, don't get me wrong. Surgery isn't just pain and time-consuming post-op maintenance procedures. It did have a major positive impact on my life, but not as much in the straight-forward mental and physical realms as I was thinking going in. I think the overall effect is far for intangible than that. Sort of like looking at the same detailed Dali painting twice but the second time sensing somehow that something subtle in the total ambiance of the details shown has been changed. However, you can't grasp exactly what has changed. You just know the second version is slightly less insane than the first.

I think a movie or documentary that explores the struggles of the post-op phase of transgenderism in the longer-term, if done honestly and thoughtfully, could be just as uplifting and poignant and relevant and entertaining as Transamerica or Transgeneration was. There is probably a good book or two covering this topic out there, but I don't know any titles off-hand. If you do, please post details on here!

Monday, July 02, 2007

caught in the iron claw of oligarchy

From Wikipedia*:
The "iron law of oligarchy" states that all forms of organization regardless of how democratic or autocratic they may be at the start, will eventually and inevitably develop oligarchic tendencies, thus making true democracy practically and theoretically impossible, especially in large groups and complex organizations. The relative structural fluidity in a small-scale democracy succumbs to social viscosity in a large-scale organization. According to the "iron law," democracy and large-scale organization are incompatible.

We live in an age of ubiquitous surveillance, government secrecy, indefinite detentions, deteriorating spheres of privacy and civil liberties, growing economic inequalities, government-sanctioned suppression of and violence against those who question authority as well as any minority deemed an "other," and an aggregated mass media addicted to sensationalism, celebrity and profits.

Given this, the question must be asked: even if we could somehow manage to convince a majority of our fellow citizens that it is in their best interests to reject the current divisive, short-sighted and egocentric arc our society is traversing, could such a reversal ever be realized? Would our leaders and the economic oligarchs behind them ever relinquish their grip on the massive political and economic powers and tools of public influence they have amassed over the last few decades? Would anything short of utter (and probably bloody) revolution be able to wrest control from them? And by "oligarchs," by the way, I mean the constantly evolving and un-centralized group of trans-national corporations and exclusionary interest groups who share a common interest in maintaining the economically and politically bureaucratic status quo by whatever means possible.

*For an explanation of the history behind the theory of the "iron rule of oligarchy," check out the Iron Law of Oligarchy Wikipedia entry or for those with more time on their hands, the text of Robert Michels' 1911 book that originated the theory.