Pardon my dust

2012/12/26

I’m going to re-do my blogroll and pages sometime this year. Really. I haven’t touched the pages in, like, a year.

I’d like to say I’ll write an explanation for why I’m coming back here and leaving tumblr. But unfortunately I can’t because there’s a lot of it that I don’t want to have see the light of day. If I know who you are I’ll be happy to tell you privately.


I’d like to be able to call myself a feminist

2012/11/04

I’d like to.

I really would.

But doing that would feel like a lie.

Because if I say I’m a feminist, what I’m saying is “I feel like I belong, like I’m safe, in feminist spaces”. And that, except for spaces which are specifically trans, is not true.

It’s because of a barrage of micro (and macro) aggressions conflating having a penis with receiving the material benefits of patriarchal manhood. Because so many feminists don’t care enough to know if someone they’re praising or quoting has a history of active transmisogyny and cissexism. It’s those constant microaggressions that tell me, continually, that feminism is not for me, even when feminists say otherwise. Sometimes even from feminists who say otherwise.

It’s because posts like this have to be written, among other reasons.

But, unlike some very dear friends of mine, I want to be able to call myself a feminist and not feel like I am lying, or, at best, oversimplifying.

When I first came out, I was a very staunch feminist. I don’t really want to say whether I was or wasn’t before. I believed a lot of feminist ideals, but I also believed myself to be a man, and acknowledged that a lot of feminist women believed that men shouldn’t claim feminism (which is a belief that I now hold, quite strongly. Men should not call themselves feminists). I’m staunchly opposed to sexism, but I don’t have feminism as a place to stand from which to work against it.

It wasn’t until some months, almost half a year, after I came out, facing microaggression after microaggression in feminist spaces (and, of course, having my anger at them, when expressed, invalidated behind my back), until I saw that so many feminist spaces worked like this, at best (at least, the ones created by white cis women almost always were like this at best. My friend Christine points out that this is, specifically, a white tradition). When I saw that not only was I hated in these spaces, but also that depth of analysis was hard to find (not even the ones who called thesmelves “radical” spend nearly as much time advocating radicalism as they do promoting bigotry against trans women), I left.

And so, ultimately, I gave up trying to call myself a feminist, or call what I advocate feminism. Too little depth of analysis. Too much self-centeredness. Too little critique of the cissexism and transmisogyny handed to them by society, or handed down by their foremothers.

For me to call myself a feminist would require cis women creating feminist spaces in which I can let my guard down. In which I can feel like I belong, like my status there is not tenuous, like people will have my back if conflict happens.

So far the only spaces I’ve felt that way in were spaces that defined themselves as not feminist but otherwise anti-sexist.


My Existence is Unthinkable

2012/11/02

It’s a day late for Autistics Speaking Day, but I just had an experience that reminded me just how unthinkable it is that I exist.

So. Today I was on Facebook, reading status updates, when I got an ad for a bracelet to “fight autism”. This is offensive. This is vile. This is an ad being served to me telling me that something fundamental to who I am is a thing that must be fought, because they presume that, because I talk about it:

  1. I must be an allistic parent of an Autistic child, rather than an Autistic person myself.
  2. That the only thing to do is “fight autism”. That nobody on facebook who talks about autisticness would have any other view than that “fighting autism” is a good thing and a priority.

This isn’t the first ad to remind me that anyone who uses the keywords I do (“autistic”, which I use way more than “autism”. I should talk about the theory behind this sometime, because I have one. It’s actually, in its own way, “person first”). I get ads that presume I’m a parent rather than Autistic all the time. When I care to, I block them and mark them “offensive” or “against my views”.

I have never once seen an ad on Facebook presuming that the reader was Autistic.

Ever.

Not once.

Instead I get assumed to be someone I’m not. Only. I get the assumption that my political beliefs on autisticness are the opposite of what they actually are. Only. The idea that I might be an Autistic person who does not want to be cured is entirely unthinkable.

How unthinkable it is that I exist as a trans woman is a story for another day. But I have experience in that vein, too.


Autistics Speaking Day

2012/11/02

Since today is Autistics Speaking Day, I should probably at least acknowledge it. Even though I don’t really have anything to write for it that hasn’t already been said better elsewhere (Neurodivergent K is amazing, for one)

Meatspace, and mostly trans stuff in meatspace, has most of my activist energy.

I’m on a break from tumblr, for a bunch of reasons. I may remain on break longer-term. My own inability to stop doing things once I’ve started has made tumblr into more of a timesink than I really can handle, for one. My other reasons I would prefer not to discuss openly.

That means I might actually manage to update this blog weekly for more than two weeks in a row, though. As long as I can find inspiration for it.


Cisnormativity Constructed as Respectability Politics

2012/10/17

This is the big post that I’ve been taking forever to work on. It’s been consuming most of the executive function that I would be spending on writing more frequent updates. Now that it’s done let’s see if I can get into that habit.

Cisnormativity and heteronormativity were made into separate structures by cis GLB people as a strategic decision. The cis norm, as its own structure, is very much a product of the Gay Rights Movement. Prior to this separation, non-cis and non-het people (together, Gender and Sexuality Minorities, or GSM) were essentially viewed as the same bunch of sexual and gender deviants by the EuroAmerican white hegemonic culture.

The motive for this separation is fairly simple. Cis gay men, lesbians, and bisexual people created the division in order to narrow the group of people they were advocating for, and to present a more “acceptable” face to heteropatriarchy. This “acceptable” face could only be taken by the most “presentable” GSM people. Because presentability means being gender-conforming, class privileged, and white, and the split was created at a time (soon after the Stonewall Riot) when poor and working-class trans women of color such as Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P Johnson were extremely prominent, separating off trans people was an obvious path to take at the time the tactic was employed.

Further, being able to position themselves as enforcers of cisnormativity gave cis sexual minority people further upward mobility. This position as enforcers is taken when a gay Congressman removes trans protections from a rights bill, on the grounds that trans women must not have a legally acknowledged right to use the appropriate restroom. This position is taken when a lesbian “radical feminist” demands that trans women not exist, or that trans men not transition. This position gives cis sexual minority people advantages because it allows them to shift “unacceptability” off onto trans people. It allows them, specifically, to point to transitioning/ed CAMAB people (especially People of Color) and say “we’re not like them“, playing off society’s pre-existing transmisogyny and racism.

It is important, in any examination of these structures, to point out that cisnormativity and heteronormativity are not and never were freestanding social institutions, not only entwined together (which, to some extent they still are), but also that they are aspects of patriarchy. The oppression of GSM people sits on a foundation of gender-coercion and misogyny. Any analysis of this oppression, and of tactics to fight it, that neglects to consider patriarchy fails. Because of this, the anti-trans prejudices that are being played on here are often specifically against trans women. Further, this creation of a category of “fake” women is part of misogyny, as it creates a way to deny the womanhood of “unacceptable” women, an attack which is made primarily against Black women (one example is here) Read the rest of this entry »


Intermission, and facing my fears

2012/09/14

I’m thinking of picking up my posting rate on this blog to try to aim for weekly. If nothing else, that means that I’ll have activity listed for each month even if I miss one update, and giving me a deadline drives me to write. So.

I’m working on a fairly major post, anyway. I’ll aim to have it posted by the end of the month since my prereaders for it so far have all loved it.

But, moving on, I have something pretty heavy I want to confess.

I’ve got a pretty nasty fear that’s been eating me up and bringing me to tears every time I mention it to someone. So maybe I’ll be able to exorcize this demon some if I write about it and post it publicly. I can’t promise coherence and I’m probably not going to go back and edit.

Read the rest of this entry »


Missing the Point About Autisticness

2012/08/31

Or, Surprise! It’s more than just not making eye contact or small talk!

I haven’t talked much about being Autistic lately on this blog. So I figured I should.

A couple months back, about halfway between now and when I first came out to my mother (who has been nothing but supportive since I came out), she took me shopping for clothes, and brought along a friend of hers, H. She said, recently, that H thought that, on seeing me being comfortable being out, that I no longer seemed Autistic. This is emphatically not true. It speaks more of the shallowness of her knowledge of what it is to be Autistic than to whether or not I am that my ability and enthusiasm for small talk, my smiles, and eye contact are all of it.

The traits of Autistic people that get the most attention in the broader society are the ones coded as most socially unacceptable.  None of these are actually understood by people who don’t experience them, even the ones positioned as experts. Overt stimming is simply seen as an undesired behavior without addressing why. Meltdowns from sensory overload are mistaken for tantrums. Our social behavior, recognized persistently as an absence of allistic social behavior rather than a specifically Autistic behavior, is the most recognized, and also not understood.

To me, my more socially-oriented traits are best understood as a subset of sensory traits. In group conversations when I am not actively included, my being slightly slower than allistic people to process things can leads me to being shut out from contributing because I never have a response in a gap in the conversation, for instance. Small talk is a learned skill, and just because I’m (in the right circumstances) socially comfortable does not mean that I’m not autistic.

And the other cognitive parts are still there. My executive  function is only barely recovered from when I burned myself out. My memory and ability to hyperfocus on things are still there. Just about all that’s changed is that I can socially pass better than I could before, because I’m no longer adding on the burden of pretending to be a man.

I’m still recovering from burnout, I’m still unemployed because of burnout, and it’s hugely invalidating, and a dramatic misunderstanding of what it is to be Autistic, to say that just because I get read a certain way, that I don’t fit the stereotype, that I might not be.


Changing Cissexist Language About Bodies

2012/08/31

This is something of a polishing-up of a response to an ask post on my tumblr from months ago. Nonetheless, it merited being brought here.

The question was about how to talk about biological/anatomical differences that are sex/gender-correlated without being cissexist in talking about them. The answer to that delves back into the idea of Saying What You Mean. With that, I’ll just present my old writing here, with commentary:

Let’s start at the beginning. We don’t have categories of “male” and “female” that we’re trying to make less cissexist; instead we’re going to look at where these categories come from. For background, read these two Less Wrong articles:Disguised Queries and Neural Categories. Maybe take the next one in the series, too. I’ll wait here while you do.

Ok. Done? So, let’s wipe away the categories of male and female. Instead we have people with a wide range of traits. Many of these traits are on a one-dimensional spectrum (for that trait alone), and have a bimodal distribution where the ends are favored greatly over the middle. This is actually just like the example in Disguised Queries, except that we aren’t trying to sort people, people can be hurt, and oppressive structures exist for people, but not presumably for the things in Disguised Queries.

Again, I want to emphasize that although the distribution is bimodal, there are still people who are part of neither peak in the distribution. Sometimes lots of people, and sometimes in several distinct groups (there is not always a single “the middle”). Sex and gender are not a line, or even a plane. They’re an n-space, and “male” and “female” aren’t the only important points to it.

Moving forward an article to Neural Categories: Cissexism sets up a network of the second type (with many input/output nodes all connected to a central node); sex or gender is put in the center, while other traits (facial hair, face shape, body shape, voice pitch, height, and less obviously visible traits like genital configuration, gamete type, chromosomes etc.) are placed around the edges.

Often people put a connection between genital configuration (or even original genital configuration if they’re really cissexist) and sex strong enough to drown out all the others.

Being anti-cissexist would mean using a network of the first type (nodes being connected, with no central hub). Sex and gender are open to self-definitions, and those self-definitions are input nodes, which, like everything else, have correlations and connections. But, also, remember that these correlations aren’t 100% even for cis people, and that trans people may have body parts that don’t match the textbook model even before beginning to physically transition.

It needs to be emphasized that the person’s actual sex and gender identities are the most important ones, socially. They are the ones that tell you what pronouns and what gender words to use for the person. They are not minor facets; they color every aspect of the person’s existence. A mostly-closeted trans woman, and a cis man, for instance, are going to have dramatically different experiences and relations to even the same aspects of society, even the same treatment. Likewise for nonbinary people (and nonbinariness is not a monolith. Two nonbinary people of different genders may relate to the gendered aspects of the same situation in as different ways as a cis person and a closeted trans person of the same assignment)

Also, it’s important to note that psychological traits and behaviors are a part of this too. Gender identity is itself psychological. Behaviors, like feminine/masculine mannerisms, a preference for “women’s”/”men’s” clothes, hairstyle, and so on, culturally contingent as they are (they might be better taken as tendencies to recognize oneself in and learn behavior from men or women), are also a part of this. Excluding mental/psychological things from your definition of sex is Cartesian bullshit (not to say that anything about actual mental ability that people claim is correlated with sex, whether to empathize or to do math, isn’t fraught with sexism and evopsych).

Again: Statements about mental ability, statements about ability to empathize, or ability to do math, or whatever, that hinge on gender are more connected to sexist stereotypes and socialization than accurate neurological and psychological correlations.

So, the best way to talk about it is to figure out what specifically you mean, and say that. “A/n sperm/ovum-producing reproductive system” might be a better term for that part of the appropriate genitalia (or better yet, a small/large gamete-producing reproductive system), instead of referring to a male (or female) reproductive system. “A body with typical response to high testosterone levels” is better than “a male body” when talking about, say, body hair.


A Rant

2012/07/31

As of this writing, my Trans Health as it Should Be post on tumblr has 279 notes. Most of them have been positive, but one point from it has been, shall I say, rather controversial.

This point has been that women’s primary care clinics, when welcoming trans people, should welcome trans women before welcoming trans men. That when only able to add one group of trans people’s hormone replacements to the services the clinic offers, that estrogen-based HRT be prioritized above testosterone-based.

I am angered. I am irate. I am filled with righteous fury.

Because, not only are trans men (these criticisms generally come from trans men, with one cis man pulling the standard cis bullshit. They’re also pretty much always from people as white as I am. This is white men’s bullshit) continuing to demand that women’s space be open to them, in a way that all too often lets it claim to be trans-inclusive (or worse, “Women and Trans”) while actively excluding trans women and other non-cis DMAB people who need those services, they are also, again, demanding that trans women be last in line for any practical resource. Even places set to provide medical care to women are being asked to provide medical care no woman needs before they provide medical care to trans women.

Of course the idea that it is unjust to put trans women and others with our same needs last in line for every single thing in existence becomes controversial when we point out that we’re behind people who don’t even belong in that line.

Of course trans men think they deserve more access to primary care services directed to women than we do. Because those services are awesome.

It’s these clinics that are often leaders in adopting informed consent standards for providing hormone treatments, after all. And the post never even said that trans men, as men, should be excluded. It said that trans women, as women, should have priority access to resources set aside for women over trans men. The kind of respectful care that these clinics provide should be standard for everyone, especially for trans people, with our unique medical needs and relationship to the medical establishment. Right now, though, the access standard is that women’s resources are bending over backwards to include trans men, often to the exclusion of trans women.

The status quo is that, when these great resources exist, they are granted to men before women even when their mission was to serve women at their creation.

When I personally reread that post, I felt I fell into the Appeaser mode too much in it. But even that is not enough. Because no amount of stating that trans men deserve to have access to respectful care for all of their medical needs, both those they share with others of their anatomy and transition-related things, will appease them from saying that anywhere should put women first.

I could wear the letters off the keys on my keyboard (the E has already gone before I started writing this. It can be done!) advocating for trans men’s access to hormones on informed consent. I even derailed this rant to put a paragraph in stating that. But it will not be enough. It will never be enough. Nothing will ever be enough, because I am directly saying that trans women should ever not be last in line for any. single. thing.

Because trans women are always last in line.


Apologies

2012/07/31

I thought I had a post mostly-written earlier this month that I was going to finish for this month’s minimum of one post, but I lost it. I’ll try to have a thing or two copied over from Tumblr by the end of tonight.