What Modern Science Has Given Us

Modern Science has investigated a phenomena that has existed since before Jesus was born, in which people would not identify with the gender and body with which they were born.

In some societies they were called two spirited, and were shamans and holy people, in others they were a recognised third gender and appeared in the original creation myth. In Rome there were the Cybelle where transgendered women would have primative surgery and serve as priestesses to their Goddess….

What modern science first learned was that people who suffered from Body/Brain gender disconnect, known as Gender Identity Disorder could be helped by hormones, and then by gender conforming surgery.

Then when we started examining the brains of deceased transgendered individuals we found brain structures identical to those found in their identified gender (i.e. female for mtf).

Finally when our brain imaging technology finally caught up, we were able to example the living brains of pre-hormonal therapy transgender people and find absolute and irrefutable proof that their brains are structured like the brains of their identified gender even with no hormone therapy.

That is what modern science has taught us.

Its not all sunny and progressive in Sweden

I came across this video by sillyyetsuccinct about the policy of forcing that transgender swedes be forced to not only undergo sterilisation but also make sure that they have no chance to have genetic children if they want to get a female marker on their swedish governmental records.

We are always told about how progressive and liberal Sweden is on pretty much every issue, from gay rights to taxation. But this is an unduly cruel law, and its not an accidental one, given that it requires that any frozen eggs, sperm or embryos be destroyed as well.

I’m a transwoman, but I made the choice prior to taking hormones, to freeze some sperm, which aside from the fun of a woman having to jump through all the donation hoops, was something I felt was important to me. I know many transwomen who regretted not taking that step when they could.

At the time I felt like I should keep the options open, but now I’m very much of the mind that I want to have a family, and if they are my genetic children, all the better.

If someone had said to me, that in order to change my passport/drivers license/important documents, I would have had to destroy my genetic material, I would have had to make an impossible choice, either I could have an easier life where I didn’t need to wear a transgender badge on my sleeve OR I could have the possibility of having my own children.

Now I’m sure that out there, that there are people who would blurt out “well you want to be a freak, you shouldn’t breed” or “you shouldn’t be allowed to inflict your lifestyle on children”. but thankfully they aren’t the ones making the decisions, its supposedly liberal politicians and bureaucrats who have determined that quite literally a “sacrifice” is required to perform the voodoo of changing your gender marker.

I know I’m not swedish, and living in the UK I get a moducum of basic legal protections and rights, every single record reflects my correct gender, and I have jumped through the hoops to be able to potentially have my own genetic children.

However its (hopefully unintentional) eugenics targeted against trans-people and it should not be in any country, let alone a country that prides itself on its liberal progressive credentials.

‘Rejecting the narrative’ and ‘fundamental respect’

Consider, for a moment, the following story:

“But how did you know?”: Oh that age old question asked just one more time, and never for the last.

They sighed. A sigh so softly expressed so many times. A sigh so soft and understated that only a person accustomed to such moments would understand it. Barely visible to the casual observer, those in the know would recognise their hearts sinking as they prepared to answer the inevitable and recurring question. At least they weren’t being asked about the configuration of their genitals or their sexual preferences though. They’d been spared that indignity on this occasion. It was at least a tolerable question, and once more they found their selves giving out the very personal details of their personal childhoods.

“I always got on better with boys,” he said, “and then when puberty hit it was a nightmare. I just knew I had to do something, but I didn’t know what”.

“Oh, it was a bit like that for me to,” she interjected, “except I got on better with the girls. I used to like playing with dolls but my parents would take them from me when they caught me. My mum caught me using her makeup once. I guess I was just born this way.”

Why? Why, oh why, oh why must we go through this standard narrative again, and again and again?  Yes, I’m as guilty as anyone of this, but surely this is the sort of thing we should be telling our nearest and dearest -should there be a cause or desire for them to know- and not random strangers or acquaintances? If you actually like answering these questions and the ‘standard narrative’ applies to you, then sure, why not… but for the rest of us: Why?

Really speaking, this pretty much applies to LGB people as much as it does to trans people. We collectively feel the need to justify our existence by offering narratives, terminology and ideas that can be readily digested by the rest of society. We explain our histories and our existences according to the frameworks provided for us, which are inevitably designed to fit in with the pre-ordained rules of a hetero-normative society. We often seem to instinctively try to avoid standing out, and instead try to shape ourselves to fit the mold at the expense of our own unique individualities.  Not even cissexual people their selves are immune to this effect, from the schoolyard bullies, to the neighborhood yobs and interest groups hitting out at and questioning anything that poses the smallest challenge to the normative status quo, marking it as somehow different and inferior by its mere existence. For LGBT people though, there’s a difference – we tend to accept it, consciously or not, as being part and parcel of being LGBT, and it runs right the way through society.

While anti-abortionists claim that a woman’s right to do as she likes with her body is superseded by the rights of the unborn child in a similarly vitriolic battle over what choice women should have over their bodies, the argument against LGBT people is predicated differently. It is based on the idea that we, in ourselves, are disgusting and morally wrong simply for our very existences… and I ask – why? Why must we be special cases having to explain our origins? Why should we be subject to attempts to cure us? Why should we be considered as worth anything less than anybody else because of who we are in spite of the fact that we do nothing wrong, and nothing to harm anybody else? Ironically, there is even a section of the feminist community that believes in a person’s choice over their own body, and yet would deny trans people that choice – one feminist famously wanted to “mandate trans people out of existence”.  The anti-choice argument at least contains some kernel of reason (whether you agree with it or not), whereas the argument against LGBT equality does not. Such a lack of reason was seen recently in the UK, where a popular soap opera showed two men cuddling in bed and provoked outrage from some quarters, while hetero-centric casual sex, violence, threats and even rape have been deemed unworthy of complaint by the same people.

This argument that we are some kind of scourge on society, and that we’re somehow exotic or explicit material that should be kept out of the eyes of children spurs us on to justify ourselves with a whole host of purported medical, evolutionary, sociological, genetic, or psychological reasons. In doing so, we are the ones that create our own oppression. Instead of standing up to such questions, and instead of requesting the civil courtesy of the respect afforded to everyone else, we give in. In giving in and answering their questions with narratives that fit their views, we perpetuate a cycle where they feel they have the right to ask. They feel they have a right to know. A right to pry. A right that wouldn’t exist anywhere else, and thus lends itself to a sense of the normal vs the abnormal, which of course transforms itself into issues of right or wrong, above and below, inferiority and superiority. We hand them power. We give them privilege over us, and all by trying to fit into their world, rather than staking our place and our claim on our already being a part of their world, and one that’s worthy of equality and respect. I’m not going to seriously use terms like kyriarchy or patriarchy to describe top down systems of oppression. Power is seen to work like that, but only because that is the way we have organised it. If every fighter put down their weapon, we’d see an end to war – it’s unlikely to happen, but it’s true. Similarly, can you imagine a situation where every LGBT person responded with “That’s a personal question”, or “My body, my choice. I’m not hurting anybody else, so what’s the problem?” Admittedly, for some trans people it’s a choice between surgery or death – but that’s still a real choice, if an obvious decision to make (clue – death isn’t the obvious and logical solution to such a problem.)

Then, of course, there’s the other problem with the standard narratives for trans people especially – they hurt other trans people. In some ways, the formation of the narrative has been clinician led… but it’s our internalisation of the narrative that’s perpetuated it. As more and more people repeat their stories, it becomes the accepted basis on which medical services are allowed. Nobody knows what causes transsexualism any more than what results in the existence of neutrois or other gender variant people that don’t fit the narrative… but it is the narrative that grants access to medical treatment. If you don’t fit it, you don’t get it. If you’re not transsexual, then you must surely have some sort of body dysmorphia that needs talking therapy or psychiatric drugs – it’s not right, and it’s not fair. Change isn’t going to happen overnight, but it’s likewise going to be even longer coming for as long as the ‘One True Narrative’ prevails. Is it right to leave other people out in the cold like this?

For bisexual people – if same sex attraction is not a choice, and “homosexuality is OK as long as you don’t act on it” is not a reasonable view, where exactly does that leave bisexual people? While “Being gay is not a choice” is great for defending gay and lesbian people, it leaves bisexual people open to the accusation that they really do have a choice, and should choose only to sleep with members of the opposite sex.

We need to stop clinging to the standard narrative – and many of us are unknowingly guilty of that, as we tend as a species to frame things in the language we are surrounded with. We need to stop giving away our power and subverting ourselves. We need to stop internalizing the narratives, and instead to proudly state the truth of our own individual existences. To live that truth. To love that truth, and to be that truth. We need to stop policing others for questioning the standard narrative and expressing opinions which stand against it. We need to stop crying “transphobia”, “homophobia”, “hetero-centricism” and “cissexism” at the slightest opportunity, stop tarring and we need to start living by example. Sure – there is transphobia, homophobia, hetero-centricism and cissexism in the world and it’s wrong, but overuse of the terms devalues them, and just makes us look irrationally angry and combative… all the while, of course, focussing our attention on why certain people think we are wrong rather than on why we are just as worthy and awesome as anybody else. It’s perhaps telling that I myself am wondering if I’m going to lose friends and contacts over this article – I don’t profess it to be gospel truth, but I do feel it raises a few interesting points and questions.

I’m going to tell you that truth now. It’s actually a very simple one, as most truths are – we are people of diverse backgrounds and experiences just as all human beings are, but in one thing you are just the same as anybody else…

… You are beautiful, and your existence is no less valid or rightful than anybody elses. You have a right to be yourself. You don’t need a cure. You don’t need a reason. You don’t need to explain yourself to all and sundry. You don’t need to justify your basic existence. Why you are the way you are doesn’t matter. What matters, is that you are who you are, and you exist – and you are beautiful for it. At the end of the day, we’re all just people, and we should be people. Live.

No-one should have to fight for the right to exist in public

Why does society seem so intent on forcing minority groups to have to fight for the right merely to exist in public? And why, when said minorities ask for the same rights as everyone else, are they shouted at and told that they are asking for special rights?

People with disabilities ask for accessible buildings, and are told that it is too expensive, too difficult, and there aren’t that many PWD anyway and why are they asking for “special treatment”?

Trans people ask that they be able to walk down the street without fear of harassment, and that they can use a public toilet without fear of being assaulted, banned from a casino for life (good news is that that has been overturned – scroll right to the bottom) or  denied access at a Gay Pride Rally. Despite every new story I have heard of involving trans people (usually trans women, although I am sure there are many incidents involving trans men) as the victim of prejudice or assault, the toilet issue is still framed as “protecting” cis women and children from trans women, with one of three reasons given: 1.) The cis women would feel uncomfortable 2.) The trans women would assault the cis women 3.) Cis men would pretend to be trans women in order to assault women and/or children.

I’m going to attempt to unpack these.

The cis women would feel uncomfortable. Well there are people who would be uncomfortable with anyone of a non-White ethnicity using the toilets. Or people who look and dress differently to them. There is a clever website which shows the amount of prejudice against the traveling/Roma/gypsy community by taking every headline with the word “Gypsy” in and replacing it with “Jew”. The results are startling. If all the websites taking this stance were to have “trans women” replaced with “black women” this would be shown as the unacceptable prejudice that it is. Just because some theoretical person may be offended by the existence of a person belonging to a minority in a public space, we should not automatically ban the minority from that public space.

The trans women would assault the cis women. A quick Google search yields 5 pages of stories about trans women being assaulted. I can’t find even one story about the reverse. Nobody else can either. This is a complete fallacy. Why are people even continuing to bring this one up with no evidence?

Cis men would pretend to be trans women in order to assault women and/or children. There are no special locks, magical detectors, or scientific thingummybobs currently in use, nor are there ever likely to be, to stop anyone going into any toilet. Hypothetical Male Rapist can just walk into a toilet; Dressing up and pretending to be a trans woman is just too over-complicated, not to mention that said person would feel much of the same shaming that trans women face, except more so for not actually being trans, and would be highly unlikely to consider it. Rape is generally about power, and it’s hard to think of much that might be more dis-empowering to Mr H. M. Rapist.

In my opinion, the first reason is sheer prejudice and the second two are absurd logical fallacies built on what-ifs that are so unlikely to happen that we can safely say that the probability approaches zero.

Everyone should have the right to be in public spaces without any fears of what might happen, without exception.

‘Curing’ LGBT people? There’s an app for that.

Apple have in the past supported LGBT rights. In fact they donated to the Prop 8 cause in favour of equality. However, all may not be as it seems just from that one act.

Following the removal of an application by the Manhattan Declaration a few months ago which said quite clearly that same sex couples are ‘sexually immoral’, originally given a 4+ rating by Apple implying it to be entirely family friendly with no objectionable content… an app that was only removed following a campaign and petition against it… Apple have done it again.

Yes, our ‘good friends’ at Exodus International have introduced an application to an app store near you, intended to deliver a dangerous message to tech savvy young adults: ‘You can be “freed from homosexuality” and have your sexual orientation “cured” if you’re LGBT.’ Yes, this is the same Exodus International that promotes the universally condemned snake oil of “ex-gay therapy”, which has been described as causing catastrophic damage to the mental health of it’s victims by the American Psychological Association, American Medical Association, and the American Counseling Association.

Worse yet, Apple have, again, given this app a 4+ rating, once more branding the app as entirely inoffensive and harmless, even though the group tells gay kids that their sexual orientation is “immoral,” “satanic”, and in need of a cure, which we all know to be the very kind of insulting and frankly degrading and oppressive bigotry that  contributes to depression, anxiety, isolation, and even suicide.

There is a petition to remove the app from Apple’s app store, though at this point, we have to consider motives here. Yes, they donated against Prop 8, but while a significant amount of money, $100,000 dollars is really a drop in the ocean to Apple – hell, they’re getting good PR just because I’m mentioning it now. On the other hand, not only do Apple make a big deal of banning any app from their store that could possibly be objectionable to anyone in the majority of their userbase, they seem to not only have allowed these bigoted anti-gay applications, but also rated them as being entirely inoffensive, and only removed the last one due to the petition and widespread outcry over it. This one looks likely to follow suit (unless of course Apple really wants to be seen to be anti-LGBT). The fact is, Apple is a company founded on it’s image… it’s why it has the rules it has. Someone at Apple clearly feels that declaring these apps as inoffensive and even allowing them in the first place is not only acceptable, but perfectly OK with the company image.

The choice between Android, Research In Motion and Apple just got political. No… further than that, it just got moral. This, from Apple, is not acceptable, and if LGBT people do not show them how such actions will hurt, in the app store sales, the phone store sales, the music store sales… etc … who will?

Please sign the petition, and please consider sending your own message to Apple… but please don’t ignore what you’re paying to support in buying into it at the moment.

Who has the power?

argumentAs a trans person, trans issues are where I personally find most traction – though I’m also queer, and lesbian. For me personally, however, it’s being trans that has the greatest bearing on how I’m treated sometimes, because for those who see it and are inclined to be awkward, this wholly inconsequential fact of my existence overrides all others and they make it an issue. Once upon a time it would embarrass me – these days, not so much so. While this article is primarily trans related, it could equally find some traction with other people who identify with the LGBTQIA grouping.

After reading what turned out to be quite possibly the best ‘Trans 101’ I have ever read, I decided to look at what else the author of the piece had written, I soon stumbled on this; The Trans Power Manifesto. I could ramble on forever about what Asher Bauer says in this article, but I encourage you to read it for yourselves. Instead, all I need say here is that it starts;

Hello trans people. It’s a fucked up world, isn’t it? We’ve all got plenty of problems. As trans people, we suffer from poverty, violence, lack of employment, lack of education, bigotry, contempt, and constant hostile scrutiny in public. We are desperate, and we have nowhere to turn.

… and ends;

A small reality check– as good as this all sounds, I realize, of course, that there are situations in which retaliation is simply not safe, when it could lose you a job, a home, or even your life. Recognizing that we are all outgunned most of the time is another part of trans power, because trans power means never minimizing what is happening to us all, all the time. We have to find ways to network and organize and give each other support. It is hard when we have so few resources, but we do have one resource in abundance, and that is our rage. I think that anger could be our strength, our emergency reserve, our five-hour energy shot. But it will never help us if we keep turning it on ourselves instead of allowing our attackers to feel it.

Does this make sense? Am I crazy? Am I overreacting? Or is this story your story, this truth, your truth?

Is “trans power” the name of your anger today?

I’m sure the message is clear just from those two paragraphs. Inspired by the article, a few weeks later I found the opportunity to put its sentiment into practice. At a local shop I visit regularly, there’s often a young guy and an older guy serving behind the counter. The young guy never fails to gender me correctly, and treats me with decency, courtesy and a very friendly manner every time. The older guy is a different story. On this occasion, when I went into the shop I was greeted in the usual manner by the younger guy – a non-patronising, friendly “hello dear”, such is his way. I held a conversation with them both and all went well, until of course I tried to pay the older guy for my purchases. “That’ll be £21.68, Sir.” This was deliberate. Very deliberate.

“Actually, that’s Madam”, I responded… I wasn’t going to stand for it. I was somewhat taken aback when he confidently responded.

“I’m just old fashioned”, he said.

Old fashioned? since when is such blatant impoliteness and bad manners old fashioned in the traditional well mannered days of yesteryear? Old fashioned is having manners, not feigning ignorance and pretending it’s polite! Needless to say, I wasn’t going to let it drop there…

“There’s nothing old fashioned about it!”, I replied, wielding the debit cart I intended to use to pay, which clearly displayed my name and correct title of ‘Miss’. “It’s just as well that my bank aren’t ‘old fashioned’ too isn’t it, lest I not be able to pay you owing to a card in the wrong legal name and title!”

He didn’t respond to that. At all. In fact, much as he probably brushed it off, it showed him up for the sort of person his behaviour suggested. A further incident will result in my telling him of my intent to contact his employer, or failing that, to contact his employers franchise to tell them just how the staff treat long time paying customers!

I felt satisfied. I felt good about myself. What I didn’t feel was a hint of embarrassment or upset. What overcame me rather than negative feelings about myself was indignation at the man’s behaviour. I was angry, I was rightly angry, and I damned well showed him as much, taking him down a peg in the process. Of course, having the moral high ground, and feeling no discomfort, I continued to engage him in idle conversation about the weather before leaving, showing just who the better person was!

The moral of this story? Well, even when you think you’re done with it, it just keeps coming, doesn’t it? The thing is, you actually don’t have to care! Yes, it can hurt, and yes, it can strike out at you…. and yes, it can make out lives far harder than they need to be… but we don’t need to lie down and take it. We don’t need to rise above and transcend it.

Those that would criticise us as being aggressive towards those who wrong us can be damned right, but it doesn’t make us any less women or men…. it makes us people. REAL people, with self esteem, and with the knowledge that its US who have the moral high ground. It’s US who have the courage to be ourselves and to stand up for what’s right. as real people, it’s both our responsibility and right to react to those who wrong us as any other human being would and let them know about it in no uncertain terms. It’s not worth putting your life at risk for (for example, LGBTQIA or not, it isn’t a good idea to front up to a guy with a gun in his hands!), but from day to day, and from place to place, stand up for yourself, your pride, your self esteem, your moral high ground and your right to be yourself, because you can, and you deserve it! Be angry when someone pointlessly and/or deliberately offends you – because it’s natural, and because you have the right!

God doesn’t make mistakes? What about George W Bush?

I’m not a fan of George W Bush, I consider him a war criminal and guilty of many crimes against the American people however this has nothing to do with his failings as a president.

One of the biggest claims for opposition of trans issues by the christian right, is that God doesn’t make mistakes. If God makes you physically male, and neurologically female, or physically female, and neurologically male, then that was not a mistake and you should just accept it.

Are you freaking kidding me, what about George W Bush, who was born with a clear deficit, known as A-L-C-O-H-L-I-S-M, a condition that means he has to avoid alcohol to avoid irrational uncontrolled self destructive abilities, and thats a minor situation.

What about someone who was born with a hole in their heart, wasn’t that God’s perfect work? or someone born without fully functional lungs. Surely God would be offended by correcting his perfect handy-work.

There isn’t a real debate going on here, a real debate has valid arguments on both sides. However on the one side you have a body of medical and psychological evidence showing that gender identity disorder is a real medical problem with a viable practical cure involving therapy, hormonal treatment and surgery. On the other side you have people who want to deny that and hide themselves behind religion not for a good reason, but simply because the idea of trans people scares them and makes them feel uncomfortable.

So next time some ignorant bigot says to you, you are violating God’s design, ask them whether God’s perfect design included George W Bush’s alcoholism…