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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.