marjaerwin: (Default)
So first off, there seems to be some controversy over western binary gender models and various other societies’ multiple gender models.

Are societies which accept three or more genders more trans-inclusive than societies which only accept two genders? Since people have more than two genders, society needs to have more than two genders, but at the same time, I think society needs to acknowledge that being trans, or being lesbian, or both, doesn’t necessarily make someone less female. A system which third-genders all trans people and all non-cishet people isn’t exactly inclusive, is it?

Cultural relativism comes out of the realities of nineteenth and twentieth century anthropology, it’s a western cultural construct, but at the same time it’s a bulwark against western cultural imperialism. One can’t ought not just condemn kinship systems, or gender systems, or property systems because they differ from western kinship systems, and western gender systems, and western property systems. (One can if one is the British Empire, of course, and wishes to create western property systems by dispossessing the peasants and granting the land to the aristocracy, or course, and wishes to impose western gender systems by criminalizing the hijras and seizing their temples.) One ought to understand these in their social context. One ought to listen to criticisms from within each culture.

So while being third-gendered doesn’t suit me, and suggestions of being both female and male or mixed female and male feel wrong for me, I can’t speak for everyone else. It’s up to trans people from each culture to say whether they find their gender systems empowering or disempowering, and at the same time what’s empowering for one may be disempowering for another.

In western society, if we can’t pass for binary and cis, we face violence. It’s complicated. It’s not something that privileges every binary person over every non-binary person, is it?

Is it appropriate to say someone is cis when they don’t identify as cis? for example, tepfs who think cis sounds too much like cyst? at what point does it become inappropriate?

Is it appropriate to say someone benefits from cis privilege when they are trans? for example ‘passing privilege’ usually centers around passing for cis, but some people can’t do that before transition, just as some people can’t do that after.


Mar. 30th, 2012 10:10 pm
marjaerwin: (Default)
"cis, prep., with acc. on this side of, within." - Cassells

I don't usually use the word. While it's the common Latin antonym of trans, it's also been associated with the idea that all people are either cis or trans, which is reasonable, and to the idea that cis people don't experience sex and gender-related struggles, which only trans people do, which isn't true. Actually, if we listen to what they say, and read what they write, many people who aren't trans face very real struggles. Not all the same struggles, and not to the same degree as our struggles, but maybe enough to back off the word and back off those definitions which package-in misleading assumptions about people's experiences.

But it's not an insult.

It's not trans people naming other people - it's simply using the other half of the name other people put on us.

It's not some conspiracy to "cut and kill women/females/lesbians."

Some of us are "women/females/lesbians."

marjaerwin: (Default)
(As a follow-up to my comments on the 'cotton ceiling' controversy: )

One can be attracted to certain other womyn, to the exclusion of men, because of common interests, compatible personalities, and any number of mental/emotional attributes, physical attributes, or relationship patterns.

If someone is attracted to butchness, she's not likely to find it among men. If someone is attracted to the right phermones, those depend on her partner's hormone levels. If someone needs to mix friendship with romance, she needs to step outside hetero/othering norms, regardless of whether she's looking for a womon or a man.

No two lesbians need find the exact same things attractive or unattractive. One can be attracted to femmes, another to butches, another to the right sort of androgyny. One can be attracted to people who enjoy sports, another can be attracted to people who enjoy tabletop roleplaying, and another can be attracted to people who do both. One can be attracted to soft skin or a delicate touch or a certain figure. And another doesn't have to be interested in the exact same things. One can be attracted to typical Müllerian womonbits. And another doesn't have to be interested in the exact kind of bits.

A womon who loves womyn and could be attracted to either typical Müllerian womonbits or Wolffian womonbits has more than enough reason to consider herself lesbian.


Now here's the problem: patriarchy turns outiebits into a symbol of manhood. And outiebits come to symbolize everything wrong with patriarchy, and everything wrong with the man-code, not to mention penetration and everything else unattractive about men.

As trans womyn, we have to defy that association, and unlearn that association.

It wouldn't be right to put anyone else through that though.

It seems like trans lesbians are more likely than non-trans lesbians to accept another womon's outiebits and to be capable of attraction to either Wolffian womonbits or Müllerian ones. Maybe it's because we have to unlearn all those associations. Now some womyn unlearn those associations and accept other womyn's outiebits and are still quite unnattracted to Wolffian womonbits.


Some lesbians are vagitarians. Some are not.

One can be a lesbian without being a vagitarian. One can be a trans ally and be a vagitarian. Okay?

I'm not seeing anyone shaming womyn for being trans allies and vagitarians. I have seen a lot of womyn shaming other womyn for being lesbians without being vagitarians, and claiming lesbians aren't really lesbians if they are involved with trans womyn.
marjaerwin: (Default)
As a lesbian womon, I am tired of the pressure to make myself romantically and bodily available to men. In straight circles, other womyn have insisted that every womon is really heterosexual and I'm in denial. In queer circles, some womyn and some men have insisted that everyone is really pansexual and I'm in denial. I think it's important to have people and communities which respect our lesbian identities.

As a trans womon, I am tired of the messages that tell us that our bodies are wrong, no matter where we are on the healing process, or that our identities are wrong. I am tired of the messages that tell our sisters that if they are attracted to trans womyn, they aren't really lesbian, and I am tired of the messages that tell us that if we're attracted to non-trans womyn we're intruders and if we're attracted to other trans womyn we're fetishists. Or 'pretendbians.'

You know what? I don't think anyone should feel pressure to sleep with trans womyn, or to never sleep with trans womyn. I do think it's important to recognize the body-policing and body-devaluing and work against them. And I really think it's past time to stop devaluing each other's identities and stop saying someone isn't lesbian because she is, or isn't, attracted to certain womyn's bodies.

Anyway, there's a brief anti-inclusion mention of the controversy here:

And this is also relevant, although I think sexualization and desexualization are both major problems:
marjaerwin: (Default)
Suzan wrote another essay arguing that surgery is one of the things that makes her female and one of the things that distinguishes transsexual people from transgender people:

Suzan's post touched on sexuality, and one of her readers added this:

Two pre-ops together is either Kai-Kai or two gay guys. A pre-op and a post-op is het sex, and two post-ops equals two lesbians.

I respect a lot of Suzan's writing, and a lot of her blog, but I don't understand her emphasis on surgery. It doesn't take surgery to make someone, anyone, a womon. It can take surgery to get excess testosterone out of one's system, and it can take surgery to match one's body to one's body-map, but I thought any trans womon was already a womon from the day she was born.

Now, speaking for myself, I am attracted to womyn, and I'm not attracted to men. I am most attracted to butch womyn, and sometimes andro womyn too. But, so far, I think I could be equally attracted to either a womon's innie-bits or her outie-bits, as long as I'm attracted to her mind and all the rest of her.
marjaerwin: (Default)
Since the 1970s, the term "born womyn" has been used to exclude trans womyn, or to include other womyn and sometimes certain men, on the grounds of biology, socialization and originality. However, if we consider this more closely, I think it is clear that the term should include trans womyn on all three grounds.

1. Biology. There are biological differences between most trans womyn and most cis or otherwise non-trans womyn. However, they are not universal differences.

Some have described menstruation and fertility as important differences between cis and trans womyn. However, many cis womyn have never menstruated, and some trans womyn have had müllerian tissue and/or unexplained bleeding.

Others have noted certain differences in the limbic system of womyn and men. Trans womyn seem to have structures similar to cis womyn, such as the size of the BSTc, and different from cis men.

In my opinion, brain differences seem more important than reproductive differences. There are some problems with the brain-structure studies. The sample sizes are small, and its unclear how the few known differences may relate to gender identity/subconscious sex. There is some controversy about whether these studies have adequately ruled out any effects due to hormone replacement therapy. There is also evidence from the David Reimer case as well as the accounts of many trans womyn that subconscious sex can emerge extremely early and can resist socialization. I am skeptical of the alternative hypothesis that gender socialization shapes subconscious sex in the first months of life, and that subconscious sex is locked in after that.

2. Socialization. Both groups receive most of the same messages from our society, and both groups generally interpret these as messages about themselves. Of course, most cis or otherwise non-trans womyn are raised as girls, and most trans womyn are raised as boys.

There are certain obvious exceptions. The distinction between cis and trans socialization collapses for those who transitioned in childhood. It weakens for people whose parents and friends respected gender-atypical interests. Although most tomboys grew up with parents who pressured them to act in more conventionally feminine ways, a few grew up with parents who respected them and treated their daughter the same as they would have treated their son. One can reasonably say that those womyn had boyhoods. The distinction widens during puberty, as people's bodies differentiate. The vast majority of trans womyn who cannot transition before/during puberty go into severe depression during puberty. If you end up excluding someone because they survived hell, you should rethink your standards for inclusion.

The next issue is more subtle. This whole society treats being a girl/womon as a shameful condition and wanting to be a girl/womon as a shameful desire. I think that these are parallel but not identical. I think that these messages converge if and when someone learns to take pride in herself as a womon and/or chooses to transition, because these experiences unite the desire with the condition. If anything, it means overcoming an additional layer of misogyny to get from being a womon to proudly being one.

3. Originality. This is probably the hardest to define. I would say it is a matter of self-determination and the assertion of a womonhood in relation to womyn, and not in relation to men, which is an ongoing expression of one womon's authenticity and the whole community's integrity, and which does not depend on men, does not depend on the medical establishment, and does not rely on anyone but womyn to define who is a womon and what it is to be a womon.

And we can't have originality as communities unless we have it as individuals too. Self-discovery and re-discovery are part of originality. Many smaller transitions are part of originality: girl to womon, nonsexual to lesbian, and so on. As communities, I don't think we can define people out [of their gender] and still respect originality; I do think we can try to discern who is genuinely discovering themselves, who is trying to and can use some advice, and who is not.
marjaerwin: (Default)
But radical queer politics is getting increasing misogynistic. I would point to Bash Back!, Pink & Black Attack, etc.

I managed to avoid the fiasco at Camp Trans, but those events, and the subsequent debates, seem to bring the crisis into stark relief. Ultimately it is about womyn's independence and womyn's spaces. Ultimately it is about whether we are to exist as ourselves, or to be morally mandated into androgyny by our supposed allies.

We are not less-than because we are womyn. We do not need men to be whole. We are womyn and we are whole as womyn. We do not need to integrate "masculine" and "feminine" aspects into ourselves or our relationships. Subversivism runs on the same premises as heterosexism when it pushes the idea that womonhood is incomplete. We are not assimilationists because we live our lives instead of playing the androgynous-chauvinist roles you assign to us. We do not want to destroy Fest. We would rather see it thrive and embrace the sisters it has excluded so long.
marjaerwin: (Default)
It's interesting to contrast the politics of hormones and surgery, for trans womyn.

Hormones are relatively cheap. Surgery is far more expensive. A few hundred dollars a year isn't cheap, but the main limits on access to hormones are medical-institutional. Surgery is far more expensive. In America, the main limits on access to surgery are class-based; it may be more complicated elsewhere. Surgery is risky. Any surgery has its risks and genital reconstruction surgery is no exception. Hormones are safe. Assuming an individual is in good health, and her hormone schedules reflect her medical needs, having hormones is safer than not having hormones.

Hormones are effective, too. Most womyn, cis or trans, are happier with typical female hormone levels.

Yet there's this emphasis on surgery in the medical literature, pro-trans lit, anti-trans lit, and the popular media. The medical systems holds up transition for people who are undecided about surgery or are deciding against it. The legal system often denies rights to people who have not had surgery or cannot afford surgery.

Many trans advocates and pro-trans advocates run from people who haven't had surgery or don't want surgery. There are "women-born-trans" who declare they were not "women" until they had surgery. But there are many trans womyn who were womyn from birth who are transitioning to become themselves, with or without surgery.

Many trans advocates and pro-trans advocates build surgery into this critical moment when someone suddenly becomes "reel." This can make it harder for trans people to recognize already being *real.* This portrays having the right hormones, the right body-feelings, etc. as the prologue of something greater.

Maybe for some it is something greater.

Maybe for others it is a let-down.

I remember my parents teaching me that the only important difference between girls and boys is that girls have an innie and boys have an outie. Throw in the culture-wide emphasis on heterosexual intercourse, and it can be hard for people to quite learn that some womyn have tab a, and it doesn't necessarily go into slot b.

This gets me angry. Not at my parents. I love my parents and thank them.

But at the trans advocates who turn their backs on non-op and can't-op sisters. At the medical and legal empires which pressure people into surgery instead of letting people decide what's right for themselves as individuals. The range of cultural, medical, and legal pressures seem almost custom-built to focus the desire for completion, including gender congruence, on the idea of the "right" parts, and into a desire for surgery.

At the same time, the emphasis in surgery diverts people's attention from the effects of hormones. It scares some people. It makes the hurdles to transition seem infinitely higher than they are. It convinces other people that transition is purely or primarily cosmetic. If these people are trying to be good male allies, they may try to avoid entangling themselves in cosmetics and beauty standards, and they may not admit their own feelings and needs.


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