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In loyalty to their kind
they cannot tolerate our minds.
In loyalty to our kind
we cannot tolerate their obstruction.
My hope in creating this collection is to spread understanding, but to get to that place requires wading through quite a bit of confusion.  I certainly don't expect that this will come easy.  If that were the case, I probably wouldn't need to assemble the pieces.  It's also getting quite personal, as I try to answer the question, "What does it mean to be transsexual?"  It has to, since I can only relate my own experience with any degree of confidence.

It also seems to be getting more detailed and will soon probably either move slowly or be posted less frequently, depending on how I decide to proceed.

This is the tenth installment in a series.
Finding Voice and Community

Shortly after I came out, I was contacted by someone from the local paper.  I was told, "We're going to fo a story about you and wanted to know if you and your wife would agree to be interviewed."  Clearly, they we're going to do the story whether or not I agreed to participate.  I talked to my wife and she agreed that it would be better to do the interview so that we might have some input into how the story would be told.  The article is regretably not online.  I spent the past two days trying to locate the "hard copy" I have somewhere, but haven't found it yet.  That's okay, I would probably cringe at it today anyway.  The point is that I chose to speak up for myself.  I've been doing that ever since.  I still do it here.  Some people recently have characterized what I have been writing about as revelling in self-pity.  I don't see it that way at all, because I have anything but pity about myself.  I am proud to be me.

Having spent those two days poring over old documents, I am struck by how much I have forgotten.  I was reminded that when I came out, it was in the midst of hate-filled rhetoric directed towards gays and lesbians, both on campus, in Conway, and in Arkansas.  I had forgotten that a major reason I had come out when I did it was because I wanted to add my voice to "our" side.  If we were going to have it out, I believed we should have it all out. 

The week before I came out, there was an editorial in the school newspaper, Echo, rebutting an anti-gay diatribe in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.  On the day I came out, there was a letter to the editor of Echo, affirming that discrimination against gays and lesbians is supported by God and should be affirmed by man

...lest His wrath be kindled against America for its escalating deviate[sic] conduct and public official approval and should destroy us also.
Two weeks after I came out, the featured news item in Echo was about harassing and obscene phone calls made to the faculty advisor and president of the Lesbian and Gay Student Alliance.  I would like to say that I believe that things have improved, but I'm not sure I would be speaking the truth.
Life is Change
How it differs from the rocks
I've seen their ways too often for my liking
New worlds to gain
My life is to survive
and be alive
for you.
I am also annoyed that most of the hard-copy documentation I have comes from the period 1996 - 2000, due to an abortive attempt to relocate to Seattle in the fall of 1995.  While I was there, I was computerless.  My documents from before that time are achived electronic files.  I'm thinking that to really access them well, I should use the NSA data-mining software.  Then I remembered that I should say something about e-space.

I had been using a computer for several years and even had a Prodigy account that I could never quite get to function properly.  My daughter and her partner suggested that it was imperative that I get an email account, which I did.  Almost none of the faculty on our campus had email in 1992.  The first thing I learned was that I sucked at using the Unix-based emali program the school as using, called Mail, but the school soon migrated to using Pegasus.  I found my medium.  I joined the Sappho list in October to learn what it meant to be a lesbian and learned in addition much about what it meant to be a woman.  It was from that list that I learned about the email list Transgen.  I became a member of that list in December, where I began learning what it was like for people to be transgendered.  Put together, what I was really learning was what it meant to be me.  I was developing my voice.  I will be investigating those archived Pegasus files when I figure out how to open them again.  I also learned how to use IRC.  It was there that I developed a sense of community.  

Although transsexual people were few and far between in my everyday world, I discovered that there was a thriving transgender community online.  That was due in no small part to the fact the our primary employment opportunities seemed to be the computer industry and academia.  Of course, the fact that the medium we were forming community in was e-space contributed heavily to that impression.  But offline studies have been done and this seems to actually be the case.  

E-space conquered the distance gaps to bring us together.  Even in our disagreements, which were legion, we were still being brought together.  What is fantastic about it is that in e-space, we were free to be our words, to be the thoughts we had and could express.  Gender was what we said it was, both personally and politically.

Bits and Bytes
(Click on image for full size version)

There is no sound but the clickety-clack of fingers on the keyboard
There are no sights but the electronically formed letters on the screen
But there are people in my computer
Riding the crest of the technological future
And I have joined them

We have stripped ourselves down to the thoughts we express
Mind meeting mind with no distractions
The carefully chosen phrase can be undone
By the carelessly tossed word
A misplaced comma may cost a friendship

We become our vocabulary and our usage of it
Our emotions are expressed only through punctuation
Yet we bare our souls to each other
And form relationships deeper than those in the real world
Because we must always trust each other

Finland, Australia, South Africa and Canada
Maine, Virginia, New Hampshire and Kansas
Baltimore, Cleveland, San Francisco and Boston
I have trod on your virtual streets today
And visited with some of your most caring inhabitants

We embrace each other thought to thought
And love each other's wisdom
We share our joys and pain
And support each other through our sorrows and triumphs
This is life in e-space

--Robyn Elaine Serven
--June, 1993

After two months on the Sappho list, it occurred to me that I had left one closet only to take up residence in another.  I came out about being pre-operatively transsexual.  This apparently had not been done before.  There had been and were transsexual members of Sappho, but almost nobody admitted to being transsexual and those who did were post-op.  I suspected that anyone could have figured it out since it was on Sappho where my daughter's partner had inquired about resources for me before I joined and I made no secret about being her partner's parent when I joined.  Be that as it may, I came out there and found some attack, but also some amazing support.  When Sappho spun off Older Wiser Lesbians (OWLS) for lesbians over 40 in June of 1993, I was extremely pleased to be one of the founding members.  OWLS is the only email list I have stayed a part of.  Even when I offline in the fall of 1995, my friends from OWLS were the people who were helping me try to relocate.

Since that time I have regularly added and subtracted email connections as my interests changed or my need to discuss different issues grew or waned.  At various times I have been a member of tg-spirit, tslesbian, tsmenace, trans-theory, trans-academic, tgs-pflag (where I was a co-moderator), pflag-talk, and glb-math.  I've probably left some out.  Some of them probably don't exist anymore.  But they were where I built community, not just for me, but for everyone.  

I'm all about building community.  And teaching people how to do that for themselves of course, because I am also all about being a teacher.

Coming to Daily Kos is just a continuation of that effort.

One thing I have realized is that I have come to a place where proceeding chronologically, even linearly, is no longer an option.  Not only do I doubt my ability to align events in order, I'm not sure that putting them in order is appropriate.  Learning how to be is done one piece at a time, whenever and however the pieces arrive.  It is also the case that my life took on a different texture...or scheme, if you will.  My life was operating on so many different levels, not unlike the channels I work with in my multi-media programs.  Investigating the channels separately rather than the frames of time that cut across the channels makes more sense to me.

Originally posted to Robyn's Perch on Mon Jul 10, 2006 at 03:21 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I decided to write this... (15+ / 0-)

    ...becuse it was time to add a layer of context.  It may seem to be straying, but for many transsexual people, finding others like ourselves is of huge importance.  This was my path to do so.

    Questions and answers, remember, are always my favorite part. :-)

    Teacher's Lounge opens each Saturday, sometime between 10am and 12 noon EST

    by rserven on Mon Jul 10, 2006 at 03:21:47 PM PDT

    •  Your series on being transgendered (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      comes across as very honest but more shy and withdrawn than one might expect even for a math teacher.  Many transgendered people seem to be bold, assertive and creative. While I expect the public image is of deviance, perversion and failure to meet expectations, you have done something worthy of bragging rights, why hold that exultation in?

      That leaves my mind warped.

      Live Free or Die (-8.88 -9.49) IMPEACH THEN TRY FOR WAR CRIMES

      by rktect on Mon Jul 10, 2006 at 06:14:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I am writing this in prose... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        rktect, Thestral

        ...not creating my art or writing a poem.  ;-)

        I've not fully figured this part out yet, but it seems to be that when I stuffed myself behind a wall in my mind, I stuffed a large part of my creative consciousness there as well.  I could still write prose, but my writing had always tended towards the non-personal (eg. in college comp class, I didn't write about me hitchhiking across the country, but rather wrote about how to hitchhike).  My writing was mostly mathematics.  I'm damn good at writing mathematics. :-)

        When I came out, I began to write poetry.  I've written 130 or so poems.  I post them at C&J.  When I started going blind, I revived my art talent.  I'm quite proud of that, too.

        To some extent the separate processes represent the separate parts of my life.  I don't claim to be fully-integrated yet.  I spent 44 years the old way and have only been me for 14 years.  I'm still working on it.

        I like to think the integrated me is more the person who responds to the comments, without doing the rewriting that I do when I write an essay.

        Teacher's Lounge opens each Saturday, sometime between 10am and 12 noon EST

        by rserven on Mon Jul 10, 2006 at 06:37:42 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Good answer (0+ / 0-)

          Like you I have an interest in geometric forms and mathematics, but I'm not very good at formal proofs.

          In my case I find things like Mesopotamian standards of measure an obscure interest its difficult to talk to people about because most people just have no frame of reference.

          I can tell people that because of a rather interesting approach to systems of proportion, I think Egyptian architects invented things the Greeks later took credit for such as the Greek Orders, but in most conversations I have to fall back on "how bout those Red Sox?.

          Even  before the Egyptians, standards of measure correspond well to a standard being based on the calculation of the earths circumference but how could such a thing be established so long before the Greeks came along.

          For a while I corresponded with a science fiction writer who was coming from the same place mathematically, meaning that the numbers agreed, except he was obsessed with his own idea which didn't work for me because it was at variance with common sense being based on the use of bronze age pendulums.

          Ok Egyptian standards of measure existed, but surely they were just rough measures and could hardly be used for surveying...

          The Egyptians improved upon the sundial with a “merkhet,” the oldest known astronomical tool. It was developed around 600 B.C. and uses a string with a weight on the end to accurately measure a straight vertical line (much like a carpenter uses a plumb bob today). A pair of merkhets were used to establish a North-South line by lining them up with the Pole Star. This allowed for the measurement of nighttime hours as it measured when certain stars crossed a marked meridian on the sundial.

          Strangly  enough, when it comes to Greek standards of measure they seem to be coming from the same place also

          The Greek root stadios means to have standing. Stadions are used to measure the sides of fields.

          In the time of Herodotus the standard Attic stadion used for distance measure is 600 pous of 308.4 mm egual to 185 m. so that 600 stadia egual one degree and are combined at 8 to a mia chilioi or thousand which measures the boustredon or path of yoked oxen as a distance of a thousand orguia, taken as one orguia wide which defines an aroura or thousand of land and at 10 agros or chains equal to one nauticle mile of 1850 m.

          Several centuries later Marinus and Ptolemy used 500 stadia to a degree but their stadi were composed of 600 remen of 370 mm and measured 222 m so the measurement of the degree was the same.

          The same is also true for Eratosthenes who used 700 stadia of 157.5 m or 300 Egyptian royal cubits to a degree, and for Aristotle, Poseidonus and Archimedes whose stadia likewise measured the same degree.

          The 1771 Encyclopædia Britannica mentions a measure named acæna which was a rod ten (greek) feet long used in measuring land.

          So finally I came to the conclusion that although all this stuff gets passed along from millenia to milenia and from culture to culture, most people are certain that things like there being 75 Roman miles to a degree are simple bizarre, some sort of myth or coincidence, and not really related to any mathematical system that could have evolved as a standard of measure before the Roman standard of measure
          and would certainly have nothing to do with either Egyptian or English measures and as far as they are concerned no such thing exists.

          Live Free or Die (-8.88 -9.49) IMPEACH THEN TRY FOR WAR CRIMES

          by rktect on Mon Jul 10, 2006 at 08:44:13 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  the context is good (4+ / 0-)

    this series has been really helpful for me, as i've known so little about any of this.

    tvb's diary reminded me that some years ago, i'd read and been horrified about doctors mutilating babies' (and small children's) genitals, and advising they be raised a particular gender.

    and i have no way to really relate except on a basic level of sick feelings about what we do to one another --- our refusal to offer even minimal kindness because of our own ignorance and fear, and sometimes because we've been taught to hate certain "types" of people.

    it's such a trivial example, but  several days ago, i was complaining to a friend that some other friends were trying to get me to move to the city i grew up in. and the only way i could explain why the thought of doing so just horrified me was by using the example of my garden.

    i've gardened for years. and my gardens are always kind of insane. for two years running, i've had a sunflower growing out of a planter on my front porch --- last year, it got about ten feet high, and this year looks to be the same.

    and my whole garden is like that. there are crazy things coming up out of nowhere, insane clashing colors --- there is nothing, iow, "better homes and gardens" about my gardens. they're nuts. but i love them and that's how they've always been.

    and here, people love my gardens. everyone honks and waves and smiles, people i've never seen in my life stop to ask me what that insane seven foot plant with octopus legs and crazy orange spikes is, what all the gourds everywhere are, etc.

    but in the city i'm getting pressured to move to, people would laugh, yes --- then they would "adopt" me, thinking i had "potential" and trying to "teach" me how to "garden properly."

    it was horrible. and they did it with everything.

    so on this very low, basic level, i can understand. and in terms of the horrible things we do to one another, i can understand.

    but i'm still so ignorant and so glad for these diaries so maybe i can understand a little bit more.

    •  Hi, cookiebear... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cookiebear, Albatross

      ...'not fitting in' is really what everything is about, the thread that ties together all of us who haven't been able to fit for one reason or another.  One thing I always try to remember is that we will never know that people actually do "fit in" and how they do so if we don't make the effort to learn about them.

      I'm pleased that you have come by to do some of that. :-)

      Teacher's Lounge opens each Saturday, sometime between 10am and 12 noon EST

      by rserven on Mon Jul 10, 2006 at 04:46:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yep, it's pretty much like the garden thing (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cookiebear, Thestral, rserven

       I'm pretty lucky, b/c I live in a very open minded place (Oakland, CA) and I'm young.  My friends are cool and accept me for who I am, and I don't hang out with that many transpeople, so it's espcially great to have friends that don't even trip off the fact that I'm a boy that was born a girl.
       But I arrived for my dreaded (and enjoyed) bi-yearly visit with my parents.  My mom usually has a problem with my appearence, and will fixate on one aspect each trip.  I think it's b/c I'm now doing T, where I wasn't before that she has chosen to freak out that I have to shave my legs in order to go to the beach with her.  This is so wierd to me,  my dad is like "OMG.  Stop." but she won't.  So we have been battling since my arrival yesterday.
       I almost gave in this morning, just to get her to stop.  But my entire life that I lived with them was about compromising myself and pretending to be something I wasn't.  The hardest part of deciding to transition was knowing that I will probably, at some point, be cut off by  my parents, b/c my mom can't handle it.  
        Eventually you just can't do it anymore, b/c the pain of faking your identity becomes too much.
        I really like these weekly installments RSevern.  Keep up the good work.  The best part of them for me, was knowing that I wan't the only transperson on DKos...

      •  By my count... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cookiebear, Thestral

        ...only to submit a little to my OCD, mind you :) ...there are at least 5 transwomen and 3 transmen here, plus several other transgendered people who have contacted me one way or another (not naming any names, of course).  Considering that most of us are not out about it, my guess is that the actual number is between 20 and 30.

        I don't have any experience with interacting with parents after transitioning to share.  My own were long deceased and my in-laws were immediately cut off from me.  But I did work with a lot of PFLAG parents.  Have you tried getting in touch with your local chapter?

        One of the things that some of the parents shared is that the process can be hard on them.  The slowness of the changes to us seems like breakneck speed to them.  Several told me that they too withheld acceptance for much too long, but eventually realized that their child is their child...and that the children get to live their own lives, not the ones that the parents had planned for them.

        When my daughter came out, my wife was devastated because my daughter would not be producing any grandchildren for her.  That's a hard nut to crack.  My ex-wife is just now trying to mend those fences.


        Teacher's Lounge opens each Saturday, sometime between 10am and 12 noon EST

        by rserven on Mon Jul 10, 2006 at 05:09:30 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Finding others like yourself (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cookiebear, rserven

    is one of the great things about the internet.

    One saying I love is

    Relax.  Even if your 1 in a million, that means there are 1,000 people in China just like you

    and VERY few traits are that rare.

    Republicans worry about our souls and their bellies. Democrats worry about their souls and our bellies

    by plf515 on Mon Jul 10, 2006 at 05:30:22 PM PDT

    •  The internet also enables us to connect... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cookiebear, Thestral

      ...with the people who are almost next door.  I remember when communities had places where people gathered and got to know each other.  Now the people I talk with most in my local community are the cashiers at the supermarket.  People seem now to be too busy or too guarded...maybe even too respond to a "Good morning" or a "Hello".  But when I was in Arkansas, I met people in my local area over the Internet.  

      I met my first post-transition date on the Internet.  :-)


      Teacher's Lounge opens each Saturday, sometime between 10am and 12 noon EST

      by rserven on Mon Jul 10, 2006 at 05:45:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  One estimate is that (0+ / 0-)

      1 in 2500 people born male in the US is a post-op MtF: Lynn Conway's Numbers

      If there are 1/4 million dkos members, that makes it about 50 post-op MtF [ 50 = (250,000/2)/2500 ].

      I, personally, think Dr. Conway's numbers are a bit high, but 1 in 5000 is almost certainly too low.


      •  I'd not seen Conway's figures... (0+ / 0-)

        ...but did a calculation myself once using a different approach and came up with an estimate (I tried to err on the side of underestimation) of 150,000 transsexual people in the US, which is within Conway's range.

        Teacher's Lounge opens each Saturday, sometime between 10am and 12 noon EST

        by rserven on Mon Jul 10, 2006 at 10:23:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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