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So many things I could be writing about...but the entire week has seemed to conspire to draw me back into discussions I'd rather walk away from.  But I don't, I guess because I hope that maybe one or two people out there might learn something.  I largely come away with a feeling of disappointment, but that disappointment would be directed at myself if I didn't at least make the effort.

So I guess I'll spill it all here and try to knit together a point out of the whole.

In Feminisms the other night, there was a discussion about women choosing to have labioplasties.  The column lambasted the women who would make such a choice as being tools of the patriarchy, I guess,  or victims of it, and went on to deplore the procedure as abetting the practice of female genital mutilation.

I was astounded.  I mean, what kind of hypocrite would I have to be to speak against women choosing to have a procedure performed which I have undergone myself?

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I mean, I'm not a big personal fan of the body mods some people have like tattoos and piercings, but from the point of view of a lot of folks, I've had just about the biggest piercing of them all, so I keep my own counsel.  I don't get myself tats or piercings.

I was more astounded with the people who thought I should just butt out of the discussion because it wasn't about trans issues, seemingly holding the belief that a transwoman should steer clear of women's issues.  And I have to wonder if they believe that because they cannot fathom that transwomen are in fact women.

Didn't I mention there was disappointment here?

Maybe that might seem unfair of me, but as the one person in the conversation who has likely had a labioplasty, I sort of thought my experience might prove useful in the discussion, providing actual information to challenge any misinformation presented.  More fool me.

That's not to ignore how easily it can become a trans issue.  When folks deem a procedure like labioplasty to be genital mutilation, it is just a few short steps to outlawing sex reassignment surgery.

I recall fighting for a year or two during the 90s an international attempt to eliminate the diagnosis of gender identity disorder which provides the avenue used by transsexual people to get treatment.  My argument was that before eliminating the diagnosis because it was misused in some cases, another avenue needed to be provided for our treatment.

Moving on.

There have been several attempts at unscientific polling lately, wherein people have raised questions about how come the choices "man" and "woman" are not expanded to include transgender  or how come transgender is not included along with lesbian, gay and bisexual as a choice for sexual orientation.

The last one is easy.  Anyone?  Anyone?  Buehler?

Ferris:  Transgender is not a sexual orientation.

Ferris is correct.  Transgender is not about who we go to bed with, it's about who we go to bed as.  Transgender is about self-identification.

There is no more liberating feeling than having the freedom to name oneself.  There is no more disenfranchising action a person can take than to deny other people the freedom to name themselves.

Though it may be difficult for the larger community to change the names or pronouns they use for the trans people in their lives, there is no excuse for denying people the freedom to be who they are.  With every intentionally misstated pronoun or name, people undermine this freedom.  In the same way, with every use of a preferred pronoun, with every use of the transgender person's preferred name, we are showing that we are keeping open minds and open hearts and helping to create a louder voice for the person we love.

--TransEtiquette (even though I disagree with some of what they say there)

So why is the T then at the end of GLBT?  That's also easy, at least from the viewpoint of transsexual people:  the vast majority of us are either G, L, or B before transition or G, L, or B afterward.  Shouldn't that count for something?

How about that man/woman/transgender trichotomy?  The vast majority of transfolk I know identify as men or women.  The actual dichotomy is generally cisgender versus transgender.

Cisgender:  A gender identity formed by a match between your biological sex and your subconscious sex.
In other words, cisgender is our word for the vast majority of you...what quite a lot of people would call "normal."  Saying "non-transgender people" got very old, very fast.

Yes, there are a small number of us who do not identify as men or women.  But most of us are smart enough to figure out what you mean.

Male/female is where the real problem arises.  That's a whole 'nother kettle of fish.

Next?

Humor.  I've never met a happy transperson who didn't have a sense of humor about the whole thing (cf.  21 Things You DON'T Say to a Transexual by Riki Anne Wilchins (though I disagree with her spelling)).

DON'T #5 - "I would NEVER have guessed you were a transexual."

This phrase is usually accompanied by a look of the utmost incredulity, followed closely by a searching, penetrating, and largely sotto voce reappraisal of all the things you thought you knew about me (or perhaps only all the times we slept together). Unfortunately, this utterance assumes that your credulity, no doubt a topic of endless fascination to you, is of equal interest to me.  Since there are tens of thousands of us (perhaps in your building alone!), the fact that some of us can "pass" (a nasty concept if ever there was one) as nontransexuals only prophesies that, wedded to the entirely fragile notion that you should be capable of identifying all of us on sight, you are destined for a life of more or less unending private humiliations.

...

DON'T #19 - "You look just like a REAL woman."

How splendid, especially when you recall I'm composed almost entirely of compressed soy by-products.  And you look just like a REAL transexual.  Oh, I'm so sorry, I didn't realize that was an insult.

What is not funny is using our identity to attack other people (eg. Ann Coulter or any other woman you don't like).  And it is not funny to mention "transsexual dwarfs" when you are trying to identify a limit to how different people have to be before we can make fun of them.

Lastly?

I'm glad that some of you have finally gotten the point about the fact that it would be okay for someone to choose to be GLBT.  It's a bit disheartening that it wasn't until Jon Stewart said so that you thought it might be so.  It's a disappointment to find out that I have been talking to myself all these years.

So.  Is there a common thread?  Maybe you can help me out with that.  I'm just a college professor, terminally exhausted at the end of another semester.


Walls
Walls between Us


Is there a time
when you will listen
a place
where you will come
intent on learning
how to shed
your personal baggage
that may stand
in the way
of our rights?

How many years
must pass?
How many miles
must be traveled?
When will you
be willing?

The walls
between us
will not fall
of their own accord

--Robyn Elaine Serven
--December 12, 2008

Extended (Optional)

Originally posted to Robyn's Perch on Fri Dec 12, 2008 at 04:27 PM PST.

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