My Blog List

Monday, September 13, 2010

On becoming a woman (3)

So first apologies.
Low energy, clearing up business stuff I've been unable to do for too long, family problems, getting to know my awesome husband and getting less asexual.
And being uncertain about how and where to get going.
So this time I'll say what I want to talk about, rather than come up with the full complexities of my present model.
I want to talk about figure and ground.
I want to talk about focus and frame.
I want to talk about different paradigms of perception/cognition based on association and differentiation.
I want to talk about the division of conscious and unconscious processing that reflect those paradigms.
I want to talk about the gendered difference in the engagement of awareness in the act of cognition.
I want to talk about the grid of hormonally differentiated arousal gestalts and the construction of meaning.
I want to talk about gendered difference in the contingency relations of construct and world and the reflexive consequences for personality formation.
I want to talk about gender identity as an interdependent system of cognitive structures and strategies based on coherent perceptual paradigms, (separating the two for convenience sake).
I want to talk about using this standpoint as a watchtower upon kyriarchy.
I mean, what else should a growing girl base herself on than radical essentialist feminism ? And where else can I look for a transfeminism that allots value to trans narratives as illuminations of gender ?

And of course I want to talk about stuff like how a relativistic spatial perception alters the
expressive content of communications and gender differentiates linguistic bases.
And why I feel that Judith Butler does not necessarily do less harm by being a wise fool than Germaine Greer has done as a, in the words of the ever delightful Angela Carter, clever one.
And stuff about my awesome husband, if she'll let me.
And maybe something about shoes.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

on becoming a woman (2)

One final quick caveat. There is an easier way to do this. Unfortunately if you're reading this it's probably too late to pursue, but I'd suggest reading the Bardo Thodol and watching out for that smoky red light next time around.

The day I was born, about 2 years ago from my present 12 year old perspective, ( which is a bit better than the 10 year old one last year when I was 56 ), I can remember a couple of things clearly.
The first was, in early afternoon, looking round the room I was in and thinking mf, mf, mf. As a diagnosis I quickly discarded it, after all it had been over a decade since I'd taken any drug of an equivalent strength to mescaline, and I never have flashbacks. I think the comparison was down to being aware of a kind of sensual vibrancy, especially centered on sight, and a kind of heightened awareness of energy flows. Then I started looking at people passing by and then things got REALLY interesting. Looking back, I tend to interpret it as being made aware of the death of my male self and the start of the female journey. At the time, though, it was first of all an intuitive understanding of male/ female ways of seeing each other and a bewilderment that I'd been on the planet for so long without working it out.
NOTE This was totally atypical for me in any drug state. I don't do realisation like that at all.
In effect this was seeing a difference in the focus of consciousness between genders, something that I initially saw as relating to mutual attraction but which gradually widened to embrace the totality of world views. That night I went to sleep in the knowledge that it was rather doubtful if I was male any more on the simple intuitive ground that if that were to still be the case then I'd have been unable to see men in the way that I now could.
Initially, however, the notion that something had happened to my sense of gender took second place to the notion of brain damage. In many ways this was my greatest fear with ESLD, the possible state of 'confusion' due to ammonia compounds penetrating the blood/ brain barrier and possibly leading to coma and death in a few months. I really hadn't worked out how to confront that. So a lot of the next couple of weeks were spent trying to come to grips with what was actually happening. I went into a whole set of activities trying to map any changes in cognition through a number of tests, puzzles and interactions. Within a week or so, the idea of liver induced mental confusion was demoted to the status of an extremely unlikely possibility. Basically virtually none of the normal symptoms applied, and no-one, doctor or other, since has proffered the possibility of any other form of neural damage. On the other hand something relating to gender and hormones became far more likely. Given that I'd had a lessened,spironolactonised sexuality for a few months and favoured tops that concealed my budding gynecomastia it wasn't the most far out hypothesis.
Anyway, initially testing myself in straight recall, concussion type stuff, no change really from normal that I could find. There was some disruption and change in higher level mathematical, verbal and strategic performance.
Reading and chess were interesting. In terms of reading speed my performance was down some 50%-65%, but that was partially due to concentration. The other part I put down to pattern recognition disruption, a view I've since partially altered. Bear in mind that my reading had been such as to be able to read 3 standard paperbacks a day of some reasonable standard. It's since partially recovered.
Chess, at my best, was good club standard in the UK and is an old friend in terms of being a cognitive performance measure. A mild overall improvement together with an enhanced tendency to find tactical nuances easily, was odd. Games in general were variable in performance, though word games were generally the same or better and maths puzzles often worse, though I feel that difference more task related than to do with the nature of the material.
Sadly I lacked the foresight to have recently preceding comparable results to hand under controlled conditions, but I exercise my mind in a number of standard such ways, and feel I'm a fair observer in this regard.
In the first couple of days of the process, though, in ways that relate both to psychology and art, and more sketchily to phenomenology, I was thinking of figure and ground as being core descriptive. And these particular questions became more and more important and central to the early development of the model that I was trying to construct. If the figure focus is determined by perceptions whose structure is gender dimorphic, what does that mean for individual cognition ? To what extent are there at least two systems of consciousness that spring from two radically different modes of information processing, on a level of perceptual quanta, that we can term gender ?
This was given added significance when, in the first few weeks I became aware of a truly surprising change in the ways that I was able to surprise myself. It concerned those things one says because one knows them, and only realize during or after the saying that this was knowledge that one had adduced by some set of unconscious processes. They started to vary in kind. Most of my life such utterances would be relating to delineating a frame, an overarching pattern, but now they were far more likely to comprise a direct linear analysis.
I wasted a lot of time trying to get a Jungian thing to work, with the vague notion of anima and animus exchanging places. I suppose it does have some explanatory power, but not really within cognitive psychology, which is where I was centering myself. So I didn't want to have to deal with much psychoanalytic baggage.

Am going through a period of intense lassitude at present, (it's a cyclic ESLD thing), so I'll pause here for a week or so.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

On becoming a woman (1)

The following is my introduction to an account of my transition. It comes with all sorts of caveats, and, hopefully, will not be an easy read. There are some difficult questions here that demand involvement.
As regards what credence can be placed on my story, I can assert that I am definitely a real person in a public place most of my time. When I've commented on significant sites I've generally given some references. For a variety of reasons relating to health issues, I don't want my name any more on the internet than I can help, but I was outed in the NYT and my trans status is fairly public, ie several thousand people directly.
As to medical diagnosis I'm still not professionally categorized, since I'm in a problematic situation re different types of care. But my physical changes are normal for ESLD and I have general doctors and counsellors that I've spoken with who all support a trans diagnosis. I don't fit elsewhere.
If I'm putting on some kind of act I must be very very good at it 24/7.
And in my present life situation, there frankly isn't much motivation to conceal.

I really don't know how well trans people can relate to the totality of this particular transition, since I seem to have had GID & dysphoria stuff happening concurrent with hormonal change and lacking much of a basis in my past life.
I never put on female clothes, except for a couple of drag parties in my youth and 1 more recent, and never had any interest in them, never had a thought that I can remember of not being male, had a fair number of straight relationships and was never particularly excited by, or intimate with, men in group sex situations.
That said, in many ways I've been 'gender lite' through most of my life, in terms of feminism and social relationships.

My rough picture is that, in terms of brain sex, I must have had some vestigial ambiguity which was never any major problem until a bucket load of hormones came along and activated it. Although such a case, with regard to my specific health issues, has so far evaded the medical literature, I can easily imagine it being an occasional phenomena covered up because it causes problems with gatekeepers. And it's always possible that it ties up with something like DES.

Let me be quite clear. I am talking about something best described as a gender change. I am talking about moving from the world of men to the world of women, with concomitant effects on gender identity. I am talking about basic perceptual and cognitive changes of an immediate character, in many ways. I am talking about a gender change, with gender identification lagging behind, that seemed to happen in a moment.
Though we're very different in many ways, I broke down crying for what seemed like hours when I read Zoe Brains account of something similarly sudden. It was the last piece that fell into place, the last time I could even fantasize about a get-out-of-trans-free card. She put it eloquently here :-

If you haven't read much of this blog before, the first post
Original post

and the second to last one

are particularly relevant.
Any good intro to cognitive psychology might also be worthwhile checking out. I'll be abstracting some stuff from gestalt psychology, as regards perceptual paradigms, bits from Kelly and Whorf,
something from Husserl, but hopefully nothing that needs to be too technical in language. And if you have expertise in contemporary studies of gender dimorphic neural structures, you're way ahead of me.
I hope the series of posts to follow will make for an interesting passage together. It is, in the end, just a personal account of a journey. But whilst it may cover some of the same ground as many others, it's been more like a voyage by air than slogging through the undergrowth. In that way, it may afford some interesting views that aren't usually touched on at all.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Tidying up - no more Mr Nice Guy

So I've had my wake along with a few friends who knew, or had heard of, my man. I think its eased me somewhat, not that the evening was emotionally involving particularly or confirming of identity, but that I shouldn't take it quite so seriously.
It ties in with the way the last few months have gone, which has been very much internal understandings rather than effort into performance. Which has led to some rather fun things with people. I probably 'pass' worse now than before my leg was broken, but I've had a few times recently with women who start with the notion that I'm a guy in drag and then they get it. And then they smile and laugh a bit and start opening up their languages and a couple of times we talk about it and its usually because I've done some things that they'd never seen a man do. Sometimes there's a performative element, gesture reinforcement of speech, say, but generally a sort of natural indication of common female experience. Which is cool, but then I guess I don't see the negative responses in front of me. Still I'm easier in myself.
Again I fail to write on sisterhood which I guess is down to the fact that it is such a strong thing and something that would need me to talk about how I've explored all my changes.
So, a year after starting this blog, that's what I'm going to do.
My favourite copy editor said I should, so I've got a professional to blame. No, she doesn't edit me, and with the exception of a couple of posts, I just write , edit, publish.
Partly that's because I'd like people to understand where I might be biased, because I do rather want this to be examined as more than some persons fantasy. Its certainly been the most important thing that's ever happened to me, and I'd like it to be seen clearly.
I'm not sure how people will relate to it, how far it's generalisable in trans terms, how far it's a feminist critique of gender, how far it could help in informing a cognitive model of humanity as gender dimorphic infovores within the noosphere ; in short WTF it is.
So,this is a general request for a degree of indulgence. It would be good to know that people out there could join with me in the spirit of this simple song as a sentiment to inform the upcoming postings.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Two pictures

Having come to the conclusion that I can't post meaningfully on sisterhood without making certain things about my process clear, two pictures, fairly new ones that I try and put over.
So imagine a place where all the inhabitants speak either french or german together with an inbetween slang dialect. The germans are mostly tall, blonde, blue eyed, and wear lederhosen ; the french smaller, dark-haired and wear strings of garlic over striped tops.
You're german, but a bit atypical. You've spent more than usual time talking with the french, and your slang forms reflect that.
Then one day you wake up and everything's changed. You understand french, and your german starts to fade. In ways you don't clearly understand, french makes sense. And germans...those pointless drills, those martial endeavors, that ridiculous allergy to wearing could you ever have been locked up in all that germanness ?
And you wait for it to go away, and it doesn't.
And you know you have to be german still in some ways, so maybe you need a dual passport or something...but then you understand that you WERE german and german stuff just doesn't work anymore.
You read about born germans who could never really speak the language, but tried in various ways to speak french, thereby changing their nationality. And you read the stuff about how such germans go against the will of Wotan, and are nothing but secret garlic lovers. And you read how language is just a constructed social interface and that the roots of language, which are now part of everything you do and see, aren't really there. And you change inside, because german throats can't pronounce french. And you change outside, and try to change yourself more, because you know you can't live in a world where everyone speaks the wrong language to you.
And you start to learn to speak french, because whilst you understand it as your native tongue, speaking the forms still have to be learned. And the spirit of french gradually grows in you, altering you in ways that only a french child knows.
You know you'll always be a bit tall and blonde, but the clothes can maybe alter. And though its hard for germans to understand, really its the french and their recognition and support that are important.
And though a new passport will be useful, to go with the clothes, they're really not that important. It's the language and the way that changes you through use that's the thing, not 'identity' as in a passport, but to speak the world as it now is in the shapes that now have meaning for you.

Then there's a picture which goes somewhat further into the ground of gender. Try to imagine, as seems indeed to be the case, and is a striking perceptual change as far as I'm concerned, that women have a significantly finer discrimination as regards colour, compared to a male vision where the differentiations of shape are more foregrounded.
Confront these extremes with a jigsaw puzzle and the proto-woman might adopt strategies for initially sorting pieces by colour grouping, whilst the imaginary male might sort by lines. As time and puzzles presented, both learn the others strategies and in the end it may not be too easy for the outside observer to tell which way either is biased.What price gender then ? But for the participants and their journeys, it's totally different for each. The finished players may even have identical strategies in the end, but the foundations and building are anything but identical. There is not anything like the shared commonality that the finished articles suggest. And the lessons learned along the way, they too are separate and distinct.
My condition, and I believe the condition of most transexuals, relates to those basal layers, the heart and ground of gender rather than gender in the world.

I don't know how far these are representative purely of my own experience or not. I put them forward as that, and potentially as reasonable descriptions of processes and distinctions that might be common in certain ways to other trans people. Feedback on this specific aspect would be deeply appreciated.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Bits and bobs and slack and shame and sistren

So according to statcounter I'm getting 4-600 a month at the moment. When I see repeats I tend to think that such people are sort of serious about gender, or else that they know me. So just to hope that those in difficult countries for questioning / trans people are finding that you can extract something of value here, and all good wishes.
Apart from that, there's this nerdy collection thing, like I've got 4 balkan states, Capetown, and a general scattering outside old Europe and N.America which are all solid. And Ho Chi Minh city and Ulan Bator ; yay Charlotte, you rock, keep on checking in while you travel.

I need to organize the blog somewhat, so I'm just down to definitely ruling out converting to wordpress before excuses run out for doing so.

Am somewhat more mobile personally and hope for better in the next month or so. I don't have to use crutches whilst cooking the friday meal and overall my health doesn't seem too impaired, no visible changes at least, though pain relief is problematic. I'm not looking forward to summer that much - skin deficiencies and limits on liquid intake.

I am thinking about a wedding dress, and how many charity/thrift places I'll need to haunt. I've got the rough notion to get something that's also performance gear, after some spray paint. A veil or mask, but I'm not sure about flowers in my hair.

Before the wedding , a wake. It'll make a good farewell to a male persona, and also it's about now when I should be dead, if my initial readings had persisted.
And maybe I should now apologise to the person at the trans group in London who I met when I was still fairly confused about gender identity. When they sympathized with me about what a difficult thing it must be for me, I rather unthinkingly responded by saying that no, being told you've got 3 years to live is hard and this was simply gravy. It definitely isn't gravy, but that comparison still helps me through.

Shame. Someone asked me ( in a positive context ), whether I felt any shame about being trans. I said not, but on reflection that wasn't quite right. Maybe it's a bit like the feeling you'd get when telling an unfriendly co-owner of a car that despite the fact that in some ways you've been an unconventional driver, this particular accident had absolutely nothing to do with you. It would be true, but maybe still somewhat embarrassing.

Sisterhood. Again, someone asked about how I find it, how accepting, how open, how different. So that's what I'll post on next.

And lastly, DO NOT VIEW THIS if extreme violence, especially in a form of state/victim nature gets to you. It's no longer on You Tube - really view with care...

M.I.A, Born Free from ROMAIN-GAVRAS on Vimeo.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

It's politics...again

This is an attempt to amalgamate the last 2 posts, due to lack of originality and not yet being ready to do a piece on fashion semiotics, amongst other things.
So my politics in the 60's and 70's were not entirely untypical of the epoch. Low level volunteer stuff for anti war projects,hanging around anarchist groups, getting thrown out of school for passing out stuff on racist exam marking,( the joys of an english public school education). But when the UK counter culture essentially split into straight left politics and the weird consciousness/ community crowd, I definitely went with the latter. For many years I've tried to put some money and energy into alternative community frameworks and ventures on the margins of conventionality.
So its somewhat strange to feel myself back in a sort of life where identity is a political statement, and what I am is so much a pawn in other's games.
When it comes to something like TOTWK, I really feel that I must have slept for most of the intervening period too. It is just so hard to understand much of the campaign against the film.
I truly don't either understand or particularly sympathise with debates on whether or not the word tranny is pejorative and I don't feel that attempts to get the film withdrawn from the festival, or finding educative moments for panel discussions are particularly worthwhile.
Because it's simply a piece about drag queens with 'trannies' as a fig leaf for it's lack of originality, an exploitative piece of sleaze which Tribeca should be deeply ashamed of promoting. The Mercado / Zapata references were just utterly disgusting, and the only piece of moderate decency shown by the director has been to let it's semi-literate 'star' spectacularly fail to excuse it, rather than burden the world with his own more culpable attempts at justification. I know that by most accounts it's a bad, trivial movie, but that simply compounds Tribeca's idiocy in selecting it. I know it's non-deliberate hate speech, and maybe one should applaud the fact that no halfway socio-politically aware student film maker would make the many evident mistakes that this self opinionated clown has done. And I know that there are a number of far more serious topics for activist energy. could have been a good point to organize around. It could have been a time to make the point as forcefully as possible that we're not all freaks*, or victims, or people who generally live up to the bigoted stereotypes retailed by such as Greer, Bindel or Luna.
It wasn't.
And because such moments come along rarely, maybe we should be questioning why the comparative failure. Overwhelmingly I see these as proceeding from a lack of a reasonably unified approach with clear objectives, of too much distraction in trying to get some amorphous T agreement on issues and, frankly, of too much holding back because the director is well known in gay / drag circles. It hasn't come from the zeal, intelligence and industry of trans activists, which has been exemplary, but there is an issue of planning. Just as Luna had a year to consider, after being called on his use of 'trannies' in the projected title, so there could have been a year of working out options for how to deal with the movie. (I'm leaving out GLAAD from consideration, because that's a whole other issue than getting our own activist shit together).
I understand that my approach to activism is somewhat antique, and maybe there's a rose-tinted 'back in the day ' thing , but I do fantasize about other possible actions like, for example, the seat slitting thing that happened with ' Cruising', or the more normal emptying of appropriately red liquid. Especially as it would be only too easy to draw support from de Niro's own statements about sacrosanctity of expression, ( my art is rage, to recoin a phrase). And instead of arguing the toss about whether anyone would promote a film titled 'ni**ers with knives', a small blackface demo handing out watermelon slices and stuff asking how would afro-americans feel about being portrayed in a comedy / revenge /lynching film by a white director using all the old racial stereotypes AT A TIME WHEN LYNCHINGS WERE STILL COMMONPLACE. You don't need to be a weatherman to know about the killings of the last weeks.
Now I realise that these sort of play power street theatre things don't work as well with a minority such as the trans community. But are reasonably sympathetic media voices so hard to find that these sorts of tactics are unworkable ?
Then there's something which I really do think needs discussion for the future, namely what price would we, the trans community, see as acceptable for distributing this community slandering rubbish. Getting any substantial modification in the film itself, or expecting a principled stand by Tribeca when they can garner cheap publicity around a controversy, were always non-starters, and getting some sort of panel discussion seems totally inadequate. And frankly if the real murder references hadn't been withdrawn,( after being an effective stalking horse ?),then no price at all would have been worth it.
I simply don't know the kind of things available. I've always loved the video at the end of this post, though, and, for myself, including a trans version of that as part of every showing of TOTWK would be something of a win. I'm sure there must be loads of other possibilities, but the time to examine them is now, rather than when another such massive fail occurs again.
*I realise that the above may be seen as confrontational and unwomanly. At times, though, I find myself with something in common with Kate Bornstein, though hopefully I'm considerably more media aware. I was always a freak. And , like her, I think freaks always know that . But that's in spite of being trans, not because of it.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

A difference in timing

So you've grown your hair out, put a bit of jewelery on and you're out on one of the major shopping streets of the city. One time you're wearing a silk/cotton shirt, powder blue velvet trouser suit and green leather 4 inch heeled boots. Another time you're wearing flat canvas shoes, denim skirt and beige silk sweater. A couple of nerdy guys pass you and one calls out asking if you're a man or woman. What do you do ?
In the second case, I simply answered transi,( the ethnic style here), which at least temporarily defused any possible escalation, in a way that answering 'yes' wouldn't quite.
The first case...well I managed that once to give the approved pc response, 'Why don't you suck my cock and find out?'.
The second case was here last year, though, and the first was in London's Kings Road in about 1970.
Plus ca change, plus ca something completely different...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

DO NOT DO THIS with ticked off trannies

So there's this ex-New York gay guy who helps out here, who's something of a film buff. And he comes in here today and poked some fun at the trans/GLAAD reaction to that movie. After I rather heatedly explained about the Angie Zapata thing, he backed off a bit.
But then he said something, totally joking of course, about not understanding why there wasn't a protest in, what for him was, a more traditional way. Namely slitting open part of the seats and inserting a paper giving the reason for the action.
Now I'm sure no-one would take such a suggestion seriously. After all, the cinema that shows the film has no responsibility for it. New Yorkers in general are known the world over for their general diffidence, courtesy and respect for the laws on criminal damage, and I'm sure the trans community is even more so. And the empowering message of the movie is truly an example to us all. Not only that, but its a (not serious) suggestion by a gay man for trans action, and no trans person could ever take that seriously.
And there's one final, overwhelming reason not to do this. If any one were misguided enough to take such actions they'd off trannies with knives...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The nation of T ???????????????

sometimes words are just...inadequate

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A year of comments and femininity

It would be pleasant to get more comments. At the moment I get, per post, about 6 or 7 verbal ones, a couple via other electronics, and 1 or 2 to here. From those latter, most have some more direct communication that means I don't publish, and finally there are those that get through to fertilize the blog.
Most writing so far I see as more of a self introductory thing, which isn't that much to dialogue on,but which will be moving on to gender theory material later. However any comments on impenetrability of writing style, for example, would be interesting. Its been many years since I last wrote anything much in prose.

The rest of this post is an answer to a comment received following a recent conversation, and an expansion on something of a theme for the year.
In the conversation I'd referred to the problems in dealing with residual male privilege, partly because I occupy the central role in my place and the complex authority that derives from that.
She wrote back a consideration of that point and talked of her strong feelings that femininity and authority don't conflict with each other. She wrote of her experience, as a lesbian, of femininity being denied her, both systemically by men and by a close relative with whom she talked about being feminine. Then, with the latter, the discovery that they were separated by different definitions of the feminine, and that hers was distinct in that it encompassed, along with the stereotypic female areas, competence, empowerment, authority, independence and rationality. Therefore she wouldn't say that being in authority was in any way unfeminine.
And in substance, I'd be perfectly in agreement. At the moment its still going through an evolution in that my non-male strategies aren't in some ways well enough practiced to fully utilise the potential roles, so I'm left less altered than I should wish to be. And the authority is not so much power as how I fill a position.
Actually though, it's a good heads up. I do slump back rather too much at the moment. And the confidence born of those wide open male spaces of unchanging emotional weather is now firmly 'back in the day'. I need some girl genius kick ass stuff to get me out.
So many thanks to Claire for her observations.
There is another issue here, which has caused me problems most of the last year, that's focused around the words feminine and femininity. It's simply that I find them inaccurate guides to self definition, and too easily formed into kyriarchic complicities.
So I struggle with using the butch / femme duality instead, at least in terms of the philosophical basis for my present gender identity. I think I'm naturally fairly femme, at least in so far of those areas of identity I associate myself most, and are absolutely the most fruitful for me to explore. And clothes and other preferred styles are that way inclined*.And its in that mode that I'm closest to being able to simply relax in being female. This doesn't necessarily have anything to do with some future sexual orientation, but may be influenced by the fact that well over 90% of my serious social interaction is with women. It could be something of a phase in that naturally the most interesting areas of myself to explore are those now clearly distinctive female ones, but even as a man I had relatively femme style in, say, fashion semiotics.
But style, performance, isn't really the thing. Its more in the emotional sensitivity and intensity where I feel closest to myself as a woman, in a femme vision of female. This is , for me, anything but going along with dainty femininity or passive receptivity or any category of female that depends upon the contrasting male. It's agency is not that of subject but of definition, of world, rather than actor.It does mean, however,that I'm far away from feeling able to use male authority strategies, and everytime I fall back upon such there's a pain of inauthenticity.
Growing pains, I suppose.

*At the moment I'm wearing a reasonably tight thin grey sweater, black and white bead necklace, black cotton chinese jacket with gold embroidery and long sort of goth skirt, black with bits of lace,applique and grey crinkled streaks with a bright blue leg cast. That's conservative for daytime wear. Generally I'm thinking of going more steampunk, but I've still got a major kimono habit. These sort of looks tend to work well as detargeting strategies: I look less weird as a woman if instead of just my looks, all of me is enclosed in a weird space. It's a purple thing.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A life turned sepia

This interrupts the yearly round up posts I still want to make.
I don't know if many other trans people feel this. I don't think that in any way its a consequent of having a narrative of changing gender, as opposed to always having been a woman, more the other way around. Oddly enough, I think that, in a small way, it might be more of a general cis phenomenon.
Its a memory thing, and how we colour recollection with emotion. The way that some childhood memories bloom in brightness through the sheer intensity of the feelings we had. Other times though it goes the other way, and memories are fainter because the emotional cues aren't there. But there's also another kind of fading that comes from no longer having an emotional repertoire that encompasses childhood.
An example might be remembering the early 'Dr Who' series as a young child. I can recall the action, and the fact that I found it new and exciting...but how was I excited or why or at what particularly, that's back somewhere in the mist. I saw 'The Prisoner' in my adolescence and that's totally different. I remember relating to the allegory, to the style, to the place it attained in the culture around me and all the feelings associated with these. It happens with recalling relationships too. It used to be that whilst earlier relationships were slightly less accessible in that I grew in experience to an expanded, more complex emotional repertoire, I could recall quite clearly how I felt during them, ( 2 relationships over 10 years, a couple of dozen shorter ones and virtually no 1 night stuff ).
I still see a couple of exes and get on better with them now, as friends, than I did before. I can still recall the events,the life styles, the changes they brought on. But in general, those parts of the past have turned alien. It's nothing to do with seeing things now from a female identity. It's got quite a lot to do with things that make me female, though. I can imagine myself falling in love again, but absolutely not in any way that I've been remotely familiar. The emotional conflation, the whole exogenous thing, the iconifying...Well, I suppose they could somehow spring up anew, but judging by their comparative absence from my emotional world it's not something I'd hold my breath waiting for. Most emotions are still recognisable, but as seen through a scanner darkly, and I inhabit a very changed set of emotional processes.
I don't have much motivation to distance myself from a male past. I suppose I was never that closely identifying with my gender, but certainly far more than identifying female, a thought that never entered my head. And I did, in the main, have quite a satisfying life as a man.
There's so many new and wonderful feelings and relationships now, and I'm so much luckier than the vast majority of trans people in having had no difficult struggle for self acceptance. But there are always prices.
I remember a friend telling the story of a bass player at a party who put his hand on a hot electric plate for 30 seconds. After that it hurt, and the guy pulled his hand away, looked at it, smooth and lacking calluses, and said 'that's 15 years gone'.
And just like that, I'm newly smoothed and sensitive with a past burned off. In that first rush of change, 40 years of memories have turned sepia.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A year more with feeling

Some pictures...
I often think of my present state as comparable to a small girl looking through the furniture and the devices of a 50 something year old man, accepting and rejecting and reshaping through a t-grrrl's touch and gaze, and in the process growing into some kind of woman. In those terms I'm averaging about 11-12 years old, proud of my adult pieces of knowledge and aware of a long adolescence ahead. Socially I sometimes characterise this as my first year of learning playground lessons.
And feelings are far stronger and have a more central role in how I perceive the world. Because thats how it is when you're growing up amongst all these new hormonal influences. Thats how it is when you try and navigate through unfamiliar territory and need to rely on simple senses before cognitive understanding takes over. Thats how it is when you lose your cis status.
And those are the things you write when bullshit overcomes brains. Because I don't see those explanations as being remotely adequate.
Another picture.
Dealing with emotions as a man is like driving a car, as a woman more like riding a horse. Gaining a better understanding and control of emotions requires a different paradigm of development now as a woman. Recapitulating male adolescence doesn't work for the good reason that emotional discrimination is finer and more discrete now, and simply works better in areas where formerly I'd seek to discriminate by distanced differentiating judgements. Its more efficiently rational. The difference is, for me, that I can get far more information and understanding out of emotions as a perceptual system than I could before, because now they're operating within a partially changed sensorium in respect of mode of self reference.
Is this part of a theory involving a gender dimorphism in the act of cognition as mediated by sensoria, I hear no-one in particular ask. Yes.
Apart from that, I'm mostly feeling good.
Worries about keeping my place going through health problems, and sorting out better medical resources, a certain amount of blocking considering problems of health outlook and care relationships, and a refusal to consider yet what my ultimate operative status might be.
The more I grow to access the female world, to understand female languages and to express myself more in femme transfeminist terms, the more happy and fulfilled I can be. And it is a brave new world that hath such people in it as now surround me. Its a fairly queer one too.
A last picture.
A year ago I felt as a shipwrecked sailor on a makeshift raft, a long way out at sea from the lands of cis. Now I'm on a small but solid boat, learning control of direction by sailing through the winds and waves of emotions through gender shoals.
And lets face it. If I can throw around pictures constituted by such shopworn tropes, I must be reasonably ok.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

a year in performance...

So a year into transition and how does it go?
Although I've got pretty much an ideal situation for transition, (self-employed, extremely queer friendly neighbourhood, constant social life ), I've started with certain handicaps. After going from male to not-male in the proverbial moment, I spent around 4 months wondering whether I was brain-damaged or, giving weight to some notional male self, intergendered, androgyne or what, deciding that everything about my active identity was female spent 2 months deciding on transition, then 3 to be quite sure and then 1st january 2009 starting.
It didn't leave much time for planning.
I had a few friday parties to try wearing clothes and makeup, shaved off a 40 year old beard, and talked an awful lot to people. And I had had 9 months of conscious/unconscious learning of posture and gesture forms, simply through identification, along with some hormonal changes showing.
My relevant medication over the period, 100 spiro and maybe one soya isoflavin per day. Physically it isn't actually that remarkable that most of the bodywork is now in reasonably female condition, it's the mental/cognitive changes that seem so rare.
I remain...well homely is a word. I'm crowding 60, have no serious possibility of anything in the way of cosmetic surgery, no agenda for any sort of major relationship*, and a gently deteriorating state of health.
I spent the first 6 months strongly genderqueer trans, minimising make-up and always wearing a skirt or dress ( ok, not for electro or the islamic butchers ), which was survivable. With that confidence, I'm generally able to pass in most situations now. But I hardly ever go out, since the world more or less comes to me, and I tend to meander around a lot with voice. I'm pacing a lot of transitions around me.
Its all been very patchwork. But I believe thats helped in retaining friendships, and though there are certainly some still sceptical, the vast majority have been generally been supportive and the women I've been closest to have shown me such acceptance as I would not in my wildest dreams have felt possible. I stay very much in the company of women. Socially I've avoided any sort of trans scene, though there's a fair LGBT contingent around. Most people I talk to are around graduate level education, many nationalities, mainly white.
An increase in confidence in performance has led to joining a band, which has been interesting.**
So, I suppose now I'm at a stage where I can feel that I'm coming up to areas where I've got the task of choosing how trans I project. Thats not simply a measure of performance skills but of far greater security in my relationship to my gender.
Overall a B+
And I had my first bunch of flowers.
And I had a woman tell me welcome.

* But TOTALLY NOT INCLUDING the person that I fb married today. The wedding will probably take place soon locally, next to the templar's vaults and hopefully presided over by a qualified reverend of the church of the sub genius. I shall wear white.
** I'm only putting this in to demonstrate complete honesty. I play theremin in an art sex noise band that does some local bars, art openings etc. Its that thing with a metal rod and a red ball on the end that you can wave your hands around and make Dr Who type noises. My own bid for musical immortality involves playing it with a vicious little guitar amp, metal style. The precise technique I build up to, I call bump and grind. I believe I know what you might be thinking. I wear a medium length skirt. And a mask.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

transfeminist, trans feminist, gender 1, 2, more than 2

This is a makeshift post, because I've got all sorts of problems with a broken leg and medication at present. Maybe, I'll firm it up later, but in the meantime....
I was reading the excellent CLMinou and made the following comments on a post of hers.
Thinking about one relatively small point that I find reasonably important. Is there a difference for you between identifying as trans feminist or as transfeminist ?
Trans feminist for me is a trans identifying person who identifies as a feminist.
Transfeminist is by contrast someone who's feminism is centred to a significant degree on the trans experience.
Personally I'll identify as primarily a transfeminist in that my conceptualisation of gender identity through my experience has led me to a position rather distinct from most feminisms vis-a-vis gender essentialism, the nature of gender identity, etc.
I think this does make a difference in how one approaches the broad church of feminism. As a trans feminist issues of trans inclusion are paramount. As a transfeminist I'm obviously still majorly concerned with these, but equally I'm concerned that mainstream feminist theory should relate to my transfeminism in a mutually respectful and productive way.
Because she indicated she'd think about an answer, I tried to expand it into a post, but one I'd see now as necessary to preface with a brief statement as to my personal beliefs around the gender binary, as follows.
I totally and utterly support the gender binary in so far as I have known two gender states, centres of perception giving rise to stable functioning relationships vis a vis emotional and cognitive states. I believe these to correspond generally to male and female gender systems. There may be others. The number of ways gender can be learned, performed, read, erased, elected, selected, named and shamed ,roled and enroled, may be infinite but there appear to be far,far fewer 'genders' where stable functions between the elements of normal consciousness coexist.
So if I was to encounter one person who comes to the local cafes in summer and presents female apart from a well-trimmed bushy moustache, I'd have no difficulty identifying them as a woman, should they so wish. On the other hand, a sex goddess with typical male emotional make up, and I'd have to be concerned about how that person constituted their mental health.
So to the substance of the post, and a personal statement of what transfeminism, a set of places within feminism centering on the trans experience, constitutes for me...

From one of the more ridiculous rad fem sites, the following comment:-'Just what contributions do transwomen ever make to the feminist movement ? They could be making significant contributions by telling women how to overthrow male supremacy, how it works from the inside, but they don't'.
What makes this particularly frustrating, for me as a transfeminist, is not the sheer illiteracy, nor even the peculiarly kyriarchic blame shift and shame, but the fact that that is exactly what we do. That we do tell other women exactly that. When other women read me with knowing eyes, then its wonderful to know that I am telling, consciously or not, something I come to know well, in the deep grammar of gender the possibilities of its own subversion. And when they don't its horrid. A year into transition, and I feel like I can still do a metaphorical pigtail tug. There's such sadness if my narrative is taken as that of the changeling child returned from under the hill, grown old and sick on faery wine of privilege. And instead of the hearth space of refugee, if I'm marked by distancing eyes as spy not sister. And if my speech is heard as seelie babble, rather than offering up the few keys I have to help the great commensality of women gain access to the ways of men.
I'm only too happy to be part of any feminism that doesn't see gender as necessitating social roles, but one which denies gender entirely negates both my narrative and my value as a bearer of information. Because where else could any meaningful analysis of kyriarchy be locate itself than in the deep structure of humans, in the fragmented contracts of gender that comprise the recalcitrant sub-stratas of agreements with which we make sense of the world ? If we try to confront the problems of male violence, if its not possible to construe the gender contours that make different teaching techniques more or less effective through gendered mediation of learning, how is good strategy to be made ? How can we construct our own meta linguistic paradigms if we fail to take account of male gendered language and, for example, its typical necessitating of agency ? In showing what I can be as a woman without a girlhood, without so many of the forces which normally shape a woman's being having impinged on mine, if I can't be fully the woman that I'd love to be, then at least I can be a different light for our common identity, a strange, encumbered, halt Godiva, stripped to bare gender.
I was recently posting on a thread that mentioned transexuality and paleoanthropology. I put forward the notion that I still see as quite attractive as an idea, that there could be a genuine evolutionary role for transgenderism. Skill sets in primates tend often to be gender specific, because of adherence to gendered behaviour norms. Occasionally seeing whether this specificity is warranted by allowing for transgender communication of sex specific knowledge and skills to the opposite gender, would thus be a positive evolutionary function.With a gender power balance so overwhelmingly tilted, I'd see the role of the contemporary transfeminist as a very vital one within that context.
Hopefully it goes without saying that this isn't to be construed as an attempt to set up some separate feminist system or a trans only area. It just seems that this is one set of areas wherein transfeminists can be most productive within the general movement , and where we can and do show with our lives the weaponry and organization of the enemy, his dispositions and their distances, until kyriarchy falls...

Monday, February 8, 2010


Just got statcounter and find I have people reading through this.
Thank you, people.
Would be more effusive if more people would leave more comments.
Bank details and possibly even interesting sexual fantasies* might get an even better reaction.
But thanks anyway.
Lots more to come after the next status report, but first a word to a true anon.
Thanks a lot for writing, its genuinely touching that you feel you can trust me, but I don't think I'd be the best person to advise. I know nothing of who you are, your story and wasn't referencing you. Sadly its only too easy to get suspicious of the net trans universe; my last counsellor told me she never believed a word on the web. I'd think of trying to get advice from a straight LGBT person ; they could probably refer you to someone trustworthy, and they're very unlikely to be tied to anything problematic. If hugs help, all the hugs in the world for you.

*Interesting means to be rather imaginative and deeply not involving me in any way. And to enclose a copyright release.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Anonymous Fame

So I’ve just been outed again.
One of the consequences of what I do, is that I have these odd sorts of fame.
There are the city magazine type articles.
There is being a small cultural community centre of reasonably high culture, and getting appropriate publicity. Both of these are less personal, more service reviews.
Odd interviews.
But then there’s also anonymous fame.
My place is scattered through a couple of dozen tv and film scenes.
I’m somewhere in at least half a dozen novels in some sort of character.
And word gets passed around about my place / me.
And I suppose I find this type of fame the more interesting frame to contemplate the complexities of identity.
So, again, I have a very mixed feeling about this particular way of being identified, ( the first time it went from anger at having my name and trans status out there, to rueful acknowledgement that at least not everyone gets outed in such an authoritative news source as that one ).
This time it’s by way of a story.
It’s in a similarly authoritative news media, but only mentions my place by name.
And it’s not entirely accurate.
The place has rarely been that sloppy, I never wear high heels, and if I was in evening dress then it must have been shortly before a Friday evening thing.
But it’s actually a good story, and by an sf author.
And it touches something of the spirit of the place.
And maybe, maybe, from the right angle, I can look a little like Patricia Highsmith.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A late Mary Daly post

Mary Daly,
transphobic,racist, / perceptive, original, feminist thinker,
Rot / in peace

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Bilerico...the law of the jungle

I love my elephant.
Its big and its warm and it wards and it helps and I like to feed it buns and…
Well every t-grrrl needs her elephant.
I think of maybe the largest part of the body and its heart as gay, the exploration of masculinities.
Not much smaller is built up of the lesbian quest for female authenticities.
Then there’s that animating bi circulation, the intersex agony of tusks and the t in the deepest marrow of the bones and the surface of the skin.
And there’s the trunk, queerest of all traits.
In and through our intersecting lives, the elephant lives, breathes and moves.
Oh best beloved it is GOOD to be an elephant’s child.
When the world tells me that maybe I belong in a circus, I know I have an elephant that will trumpet it’s strength against all the jungle.
When the world sets me at nothing, there is my loving elephant to snuggle with.
When I am lost to pride in myself, I can still be surpassingly proud of my elephant.

Now sometimes people join us as elephants children and sometimes they leave, and
such are valid choices in so far as they are made with a knowledge of the elephant.
Sometimes people will talk of making the elephant seem larger or smaller or a different metaphorical shape: and so long as this acknowledges our intersectionality through the medium of the elephant, it’s a debate we can all take part in.
I call my elephant ‘gender’, but believe that it has as many names as it has children, and it is a joy to learn the million names of it.

And then there are those who don’t really believe in the elephant - who talk of the old jungle of gayrillas and leslions, of t-grrrls and bibexes, and the better ease of survival there.
But I think of the elephant, and I’m not convinced.
I think of wastepaper baskets and billiard balls, of trophies and stuffing, of determined poachers and I am not convinced.
And I think of our queer intertwined lives and do not want to feel them ripped apart.

So when the elephant is attacked this way, I do not want to share the attacker’s vision and defend a part of the elephant. I do not want to talk abstruse elephant anatomy. I want instead to show and learn of the coming outs, the outings, the confusion and the questionings and the closets and all of the myriad ways that bind us together as elephant’s children: in the place of that attack, to share our interwoven lives.
Because how can I love my elephant without wanting to know all the ways my elephant is seen and understood and experienced? Because only in that loving sharing can my elephant truly live.