YOLO

Maybe it’s because I didn’t complete my assigned blog posts. Maybe it’s because the final final final paper I ever turned in as an undergrad was incomplete. Maybe it’s because I haven’t smoked in weeks. Maybe it’s because I just can’t give up on my college career yet.

What I’m tryna say is: I feel like I’m supposed to be writing poetry or sleeping or dancing, but instead I’m writing another blog post for this class. 

So, check out Trans* Success. As you might recall (and since you are probably just Hilary reading at this point, I bet you do), I wrote my final paper for G450 on trans* self-representation and collectivization on Tumblr, and how support networks might be formed and publicized for trans* subjects to better navigate the medical system. This post is a sort of addendum so that I might expand on a blog I didn’t consider in my paper.

I focused on the ways new media helps trans* individuals to self-narrativize outside of institutional forces that require certain ways of being trans*, and gives subjects access to support networks otherwise unavailable. The Trans* Success blog represents an interesting intersection of the ways trans* online self-expression simultaneously works as a form of storytelling and of networking, but with a normativizing impulse symptomatic of neoliberal capitalism (BOOOOOO).

So, trans* Tumbling isn’t all genderfucking accounts-of-self-given-with-a-vengeance. Some of it bespeaks near-LGBT-PRiDE levels of consumer-capitalist-non-activism. Most of Trans* Success is dedicated to the collection of historical gender non-conforming individuals who “made it” in one way or another.

While I’m not convinced queer shame and future-fucking is our gateway to a better today, I’m not sure the uplifting idea of trans* “role models” is a worthwhile (a)historical project. A particularly annoying post is about the book Female-To-Male Transsexuals In Society by Holly Devor, which partakes on a Feinbergian dive through history to claim trans* subjects from the throes of misrecognition. Queering history is for sure cool/sometimes feels like baptizing from beyond the grave, but it also has the danger of naturalizing gender, or gender non-conformativity. For instance, TS writes about this book full of role models, “Perhaps from them, we can gain strength in the knowledge that we are, we have been, and we always will be.”

One of the sections of the site is called “Be The Difference,” which, come on. TS is subscribing to the idea that social change happens at the level of the individual, and the tactics the site encourages are philanthropic at best. “Be The Difference” is a list of links to organizations that foster FTM big brothers/sister or provide books, which is pretty cool. Some of the links are to donation funds for trans* youth in need of shelter or binders or financial support, which is pretty cool. Some of the links include “Shop with LGBT Buyer’s Guide” and “Pass ENDA now,” which is not that cool. The reliance on neoliberal logics (shop like the queerest consumer-capitalist-citizen you can and make sure to get that formal equality!) elides meaningful confrontation with the systems of oppression that distribute wealth upward and insist on gender-conforming subjects who only need protections based on a claimable, rights-deserving identity.

tl;dr Tumblr’s a big place with lots of ways to tell a story, there are lots of ways to be trans*, several of those ways involve practicing neoliberalism, neoliberalism is bad.

Take care!

 Patrick beane

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Becoming Transgender

In the Transgender subreddit on Reddit, I found this picture posted as the third post from the top for the month.  It is from about a week ago, humorously titled “Why I Hate People”:

http://i.imgur.com/8Ju3uJb.png

The picture shows a screencap of a stream of facebook comments with names whited out (we’ve all seen these before).  The focus of the picture is a poster who has a red equal-sign gay rights profile picture and some opinions on trans issues that really give truth to the idea of gay and trans rights not always being fully compatible because some people who feel they are deeply involved in the entire LGBT community are not as involved in the “T” part as they think.  This poster in particular, misunderstands a couple of major things about trans rights that sadly many people also commonly misunderstand.

One of the biggest problems with her post is her first line – “That’s a very sweet child, but no 6 year old is psychologically ready to become transgender.”  Become transgender – there is so much error in this idea, but sadly it is not too uncommon.  So often being trans* is spoken of in terms of a change which occurs within a specified amount of time, rather than being talked about as the complex thing that it is.  As Susan Stryker has talked about, it sometimes is a lifetime of change and discovery, just as many people’s journeys with other things are.  If more people could hear narratives like this, perhaps they would be able to understand being trans a little bit better.

The woman in the screencap then states a general rule which she believes should apply to everyone, “I believe no one under the age of 18 should become transgender.”  Her reasoning for this general rule is her own personal insight into the situation, which is actually sheds a lot of light onto her entire post, “I have a 6 year old that likes to pretend he’s a girl.  I am nowhere near ready to even consider it.  He’s 6!  He’s pretending.  It’s part of being a kid! . . . No way my kid is going to be a transgender while in elementary school.  I think that’s ridiculous.”  She can admit her own denial and personal issue, but she continues to project her own feelings both on her own child and on others, gaining many thumbs up and praise from fellow posters.  Saying that “no way” her child is going to be transgender in elementary school is pretty presumptuous of her.  He might already be trans* – it’s not really in her control.

Everyone has their own issues with denial, whether they are about themselves or their children, but they shouldn’t spread their misinformed opinions justified as personal experience around.  If people could work to include trans topics of conversation, maybe people could learn and understand better.  Misinformation is spreading just as accurate information is.

-Chrissy Goss

Transsexuality in Iran

Throughout this class we have covered how trans-identities inform other aspects of the self through politics, privilege, and a few other ways. One thing that we haven’t discussed is the how the matter of faith often intersects with trans-identities. This week is the first time that faith (or to be more precise, religion) has been worked into a trans-narrative.  I personally find this fascinating, as most people are under the impression that most religions are against any form of trans-expression, even though that might be entirely accurate.

In Be Like Others, we see how religion intersects with trans-identities in positive, negative, and fairly neutral ways. The documentary takes place in Iran, an Islamic state, meaning that the majority of its laws come directly from the Quran. Since there is no religious restriction on corrective surgery, the Iranian government, medical professionals, and many trans* individuals have interpreted that as the Quran being okay with medically transitioning. This has worked itself into the legal realm in Iran, where the government will pay up to half the cost of the surgery for those who need and will change their birth certificate accordingly.

While this is all well and good, there are some seriously problematic issues in this practice, primarily when regarding people who do not wish to medically transition. In Iran, if trans-folk are approved for SRS then they must undergo treatment as soon as possible. There is no other option. Trans-folk cannot opt out of surgery nor can they openly identify as genderqueer or a non-binary gender. Doing so not only opens them up for harassment, but also legal action because they might be considered a homosexual, which is illegal in Iran. In short, while the medicalization process has done some good for some trans-folk in Iran, the fact that there is a lack of choice in the transition process is extremely problematic. It is great that trans-folk will not have legal action taken against them for how they identify (unlike the rest of the Iranian LGB community), the fact that their identification is treated as a disorder that must be cursed is asinine.

A simple example of why this policy is problematic is this story. The gist of this article is that SRS are often performed haphazardly and that the mental health of trans-folk both before and after SRS seldom goes addressed. A lot of trans-folk experience a great amount of trauma do to poor treatment from their surgeons and therapists. There are many cases of sexual harassment and assault wherein therapists coerce their patients into having sex with them or their surgeons rape them because they know that it is likely that no one will listen to them.

It’s all very interesting how such a religious government can be okay with performing SRS surgeries, yet still have so many issues when dealing with these individuals. What seems like an open-minded interpretation of religious law has turned into yet another measure for the government to exercise control over it’s people. Trans-folk do not have control over their bodies, their identification, or their future in Iran – the government does.

– Kris Krumb

Transexuality in Iran: Accepted?

The video play list was very interesting to me in many different respects.  First of all, I found it intriguing how transexuality is more accepted than homosexuality when in the United States it is almost the opposite.  Here, it seems that transgenderism is seen as less acceptable than homosexuality.  We were just talking in class last week how trans issues and rights are one step lower than gay rights as if it is only important after gay rights is “accomplished.”  However, in Iran it seems that as long as you are transsexual, society can account for your behavior because you are now deemed “mentally ill;” however, homosexuality is still so taboo that it can be punishable by death.  What is even more interesting is that religion is used to justify this.  Religion playing a role in government is nothing new especially when it comes to homosexuality.  However, because transpeople are not specifically written about in the Quran, it is not deemed as “sinful” as being gay.  This reminds me of the arguments against trans people in the United States.  The argument, in religious terms, is that God does not make mistakes (assuming the gender dichotomy is even the Truth with a capital T).  It just shows how different cultures can have very different viewpoints on some of the same issues using the same basis for their reasoning. 

The next thing that I found interesting is that the only way to be homosexual and not punished is through being “diagnosed” as trans and undergo sex reassignment surgery.  What I am wondering is how this is affecting the actual mental health of the homosexual population in Iran.  Is this not causing more psychological harm by forcing someone to change their gender?  In my mind, it is the same as not allowing a trans person to change their body to match themselves.  Living in a culture where sex reassignment has so much taboo, it is weird for me to see a culture where SRS is preferred over homosexuality.  Also, in the videos I felt as though they were trying to show how much freedom that trans people had in Iran because they were at the very least legal and could receive a sex change.  I think this is ridiculous.  Trans people do not have any more rights in Iran than they do here.  In the first and second video, the interviewees recited the same story that is required to jump through that medical hoop in America.  The normative trans person still had to feel that way from birth and have contemplated suicide.  It does not allow for any more fluidity in gender transition than we do here in America.  In fact, they seem to have even more hoops to jump through since it was stated that they have to also get a signed waiver from their religious leader.  I do not agree with how Iran is painted as a more tolerant place for transgendered people.  If anything, they are only more tolerant in relation to their very extreme policies for homosexuality.

Nicole Amodeo

Spade & Southern Comfort

In “What’s Wrong with Rights?” Dean Spade demonstrates how U.S. anti-discrimination and hate crime laws do little to serve the citizens they claim to protect (Normal Life, 79-93). For example: hate crime law uses the threat of incarceration to thwart acts of discrimination, yet they enable transphobia by perpetuating a system where trans prisoners are often sexually assaulted and/or abused. Spade also reveals how anti discrimination law relies on a perpetrator perspective that “creates the false impression that the previously excluded or marginalized group is now equal, that fairness has been imposed, and the legitimacy of the distribution of life chances restored” (86). Since anti-discrimination law primarily targets individuals who continue to attack out of motivated bias or hatred they overlook the daily instances of discrimination shaped by various intersecting identities (85). And since the focus of hate crimes is placed on prosecution, which occurs after the violence has already been committed, hate crimes fail to prevent said motivated bias (82).

One example of trans discrimination at the institutional level can be found in the documentary Southern Comfort (2001)This film documents a year spent in a trans community in Georgia, and more specifically with Robert Eads, a FTM dying from ovarian cancer. Eads was denied medical care from two-dozen doctors on account of his trans status. When commenting on his treatment (or lack of treatment) from the medical community, Eads concludes: “to them, I’m expendable.” To see more visit the following link (go to 1:19:20): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQ-JlnzNIp

In “Rethinking Transphobia and Power” Spade draws from Michel Foucault to provide an alternative model for interpreting power structures. Foucault challenges the assumption that power is mainly executed through deduction. When introducing the perpetrator/victim mode of power, Spade explains how Foucault views deduction as one of multiple components that works to inflict power. Spade uses this framework to demonstrate how “trans populations come into contact with administrative systems that distribute life chances and promote certain ways of life at the expense of others, all while operating under legal regimes that declare universal equality” (103-104). Since the perpetrator/victim mode operates at the individual level it keeps transphobic standards in place. The medical neglect of Robert Eads demonstrates this trans discrimination and the general favoring of cissexuality and conventional norms.

Disciplinary power, the following mode that Spade discusses, refers to the ways in which we are policed/ police ourselves to adhere to said conventional norms. When discussing this mode Spade touches on the invention of homosexual and heterosexual identity categories, and continues: “[t]he invention of various categories of proper and improper subjects is a key feature of disciplinary power that pervades society” (106). It is clear that Robert Eads was denied medical care on the basis of his ‘improper’ subjectivity, and likely that if he had continued life as a woman his eventual cancer would have been attended to without hesitation.

-Bianca Hasten

Medicine as Objective?

The assumed objectivity of medicine as not only a practice, science, and academy, but as a community cornerstone for health and happiness is quite troubling and a bit disconcerting. To think many cultures in North America and Western Europe engage in such practices of reliance on the medico-scientific community without much thought or protest is quite astonishing. And when I discuss “health and happiness” I mean the smallest of things: trusting your doctor to provide the correct daily regimine of vitamins, skincare, and cures for common (annoying, yet not life threatening) ailments.

Moving past this thought and into Dean Spades Resisting Medicine, Re/modeling Gender, I can’t help but find his testimony regarding dependence of trans* individuals on, not only the medico-scientific field, but the law as well to be a sad, disheartening truth and in a sense, quite absurd.

To quote:

 “Try to get your birth certificate amended to change your sex designation, and you will be asked to show evidence of the surgical procedures you have undergone to change your sex. Try to change your name to a name typically associated with the “other gender,” and in many places you will be told to resubmit your petition with evidence of the medical procedures you have completed drivers’ license sex designation changed, and again you will be required to present medical evidence. If you are trans or gender transgressive, even your ability to use a gendered bathroom without getting harassed or arrested may be dependent on your ability to produce identification of your gender, which will only indicate your new gender if you have successfully submitted medical evidence to the right authorities” (Spade, 16-17).

Spade is not only declaring here how important the medico-scientific community is in some, if not most, trans* peoples embodied realities, but how seemingly pervasive medicine tends to be in the realm of the law concerning trans* people and their desired identities.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Doctors save lives everyday (blablabla). But it’s quite hard for me to wrap my head around the idea that any one individual has the right to declare the lived experiences of a another individual as lacking the “requirements” necessary for them to embody what ever body they choose. Or to require permission to make certain decisions based on one’s own, personal, bodily property.

However, completely dismissing the medico-scientific community’s importance in the trajectory of trans* peoples lives, historically and currently, would be to completely deny the necessity of that community. Without science and medicine, some trans* people would, not only, not be able to modify their bodies in the ways they choose but would be denied a form of embodied agency.

In my eyes there is a fine, and contested line, along which the medico-scientific community is and has been straddled. On the one hand, some of their services are necessary. On the other, their pervasiveness and ability to oversimplify, overgeneralize, and overpathologize trans* people seems backwards in a society with a seemingly liberal trajectory.

-Sally Stempler

I think we can all recognize David Cauldwall’s “Psychopathia Transexualis” as a highly problematic piece. His argument is laden with contradictions, generalizations, and misgendered pronouns, and does little to provide accurate insight into the lived realities of trans experience.

Cauldwell introduces his weak argument with the broad assumption that: “one is mentally unhealthy and because of this the person desires to live as a member of the opposite sex” (The Transgender Studies Reader, 41). In order to support these kinds of sweeping generalizations Cauldwell spends most of the essay referring to one FTM, Earl. Cauldwell states: “I shall call the subject Earl. This is not her name this name, like her own, is frequently borne by members of both sexes” (41).

Cauldwell considers Earl, and presumably other transpeople, as “members of both sexes,” yet his application of feminine pronouns implies that he still sees Earl as female. Cauldwell even acknowledges how Earl “resented being referred to as ‘her and she’” (43), yet willfully continues to reference said terms.

Cauldwell recounts how: “[s]he [Earl] had been immensely happy when, in a restaurant (in male attire of terrible taste) she had been referred to, or addressed as ‘Sir’” (43).

Although Cauldwell would probably assume that it is typical for trans individuals to strive for this type of misgendering, the following tumblr demonstrates how every reaction to being misgendered varies from case to case:

 http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/misgender

The notion that transpeople instinctively celebrate this type of public misgendering is challenged in Dean Spade’s “Resisting Medicine, Re/Modeling Gender.” Spade recounts: “I’m supposed to be wholly joyous when I get called ‘sir’ or ‘boy.’ How could I ever have such an uncomplicated relationship to that moment?” (Spade, 22). Spade raises what should be an apparent question, and recognizes how in reality there is no universal trans reaction to being misgendered.

-Bianca Hasten

Issues With Medicalization and the Trans-Narrative

The medicalization of trans- identities is a problem and that’s putting it lightly. In order for a trans-person or someone who is gender variant to receive medical treatment, one has to undergo the ordeal of having to validate their identity to everyone else in order to “make sure” that this is what the person really wants. While this may be well intentioned, this is actually very harmful to many people. Not only is it harmful to those who do not identify within the binary gendered system or do not have the stereotypical “I’ve always felt this way” narrative, it is harmful for those who do have those experiences.

What the medical community has decided is that an identity is a medical disorder. While that has changed with the advent of DSM-V with the removal of GID (gender identity disorder), this still hasn’t changed the medical practices. Since the medical practices still haven’t changed, being transgender is still, for all intents and purposes, considered a disorder. Not only is this inaccurate (because how someone identifies should never be considered a disorder), it is damaging to those who have had to be inflicted with this label. Sure, a trans-person might not think that there’s anything wrong with how they identify, but the fact that is that they have to agree to labeled with a disorder in order to better express their identity.

As stated in Spade’s essay, one has to have some sort of medical intervention in order to have any legal documents changed that would change your name or your gender maker. This is problematic in that not everyone who wants to legally change their name or their gender marker wants to medically transition. Putting that aside, even if one wants to medically transition one has to constantly talk about their experience as a trans-person. One might not even be a trans-person, but if they want medical treatment they better act like one otherwise they aren’t going to be getting any help. This means that a person who does not follow the “typical trans-narrative” has to either ignore integral parts of their identity or flat out lie in order to receive treatment. And most of the time the people they lying to are the people they’re supposed to be the most honest with – their doctors and their therapists.  Trans-people and gender variant people should not have to mold their identities in order to better fit a predetermined narrative and the medical community should not ask them to do so.

This blog discusses how the trans-narrative hurts on a more personal level. One quote in particular struck me -“it hurts me that THE NARRATIVE is so pervasive, not just because it hurts me in itself, but because it hurts me to know i am hurting others by not even remotely fitting it.” The fact that this person feels bad for being who they are is very sad to me. As someone who felt the need to work the trans-narrative into my own personal narrative in order to transition, I think that something really needs to change within the medical community. People are people and they shouldn’t be made to feel bad for experiencing life in their own unique way. The medical community needs to acknowledge this and change how they give treatment to trans-people and gender variant individuals. 

– Kris Krumb

In a constant state of transition

Reading the personal accounts of Green and Califa in addition to Serano’s definition of trans-misogyny allows us to consider a wide variety of trans* experience and embodiment.  The narrative heard over and other of a pre-transition, debilitating lifestyle, a transitioning period (including hormones, surgical procedures, and/or the practice of gendered social habits), and, lastly, living the rest of one’s life in the seemingly “correct” body, forces onlookers to see trans* embodiment as a temporary point in life.  In this way, a person inhabits one type of body, transitions, and inhabits another body.  With this, the common expectation is drawn that trans* experience includes is the erasure of one’s “previous” being.  This not only creates a horrific reality for those unable to “pass” and fully function in society as either male or female due to economic status, bodily limitations, and surgical willingness, but also creates a nearly impossible way of life for those seeking the trans* category as a life-long process and identification.

According to Julia Serano, trans* women are particularly vulnerable to social ridicule and misogynistic behavior.  This is not something that Green and Califa discuss in their accounts to maleness, but they do point out the issue of androgyny the discomfort that genderqueer individuals bring when moving through social spaces.  That is to say, whether one seeks masculine or feminine recognition, they are forced to decide between passing fully as a male or fully as a female in order to avoid social injustices and constant misgendering.  As Green and Califa both attest, they have a unique and specialized understanding of life that comes having experienced several different forms of being.  However, in each phase of their lives, Green and Califa have been trans* beings and this allows for yet another unique position.  So why is there such a force to renounce one’s trans*ness and adopt a fully male or female mode of living?  The reality of disappearing into a world of “maleness” or “femaleness” rather than a world of trans*ness is that important issues like trans-misogyny fall away with the erasure of life previous to and during transition.

Tranarchism, a term I am sure many of you are familiar with, is a term used to describe the radical sociopolitical movement that calls for gender anarchy.  One of several sites promoting current trans* topics of controversy and, specifically, trans-feminine matters is Tranarchism.com/.  Though highly controversial due to its main contributor, Asher Bauer, the blog has become a popular resource for news, opinion, and upcoming events.  With popular posts like “Not Your Mom’s Trans 101” and “Anarchy 101,” with site offers unusual perspective for those seeking to learn more about the tranarchism movement and what it means to abandon one’s conflicting, yet powerful, identities.

-Elizabeth Nash

Trans* Enough

“One of Stone’s goals in critiquing previous representations of transsexualism was to encourage new forms of self-expression capable of revealing the deep and powerful ways we all construct a sense of self in reference to our particular form of embodiment” -Susan Stryker and Stephen Whittle

Sandy Stone’s essay, The Empire Strikes Back: A Posttranssexual Manifesto, functions as an exceptionally effective rebuttal to Janice Raymond’s The Transsexual Empire in that, rather than attempt to disavow Raymond’s arguments on her own terms (which we’ve discussed in class as being inescapably problematic), Stone lays out a new framework for future theory, thought, and commentary on studies pertaining to, about, and by trans* individuals.

I find manifestos to be unusually complex. By definition, manifestos speak on the intentions and politics of a specific group of individuals and are written by one or a sum of those individuals themselves. They’re inherently exclusive by nature. In its disruption and reimagining of trans* norms, Stone’s Manifesto, however, allows not only for broader definitions and variations of trans* embodiment, but is laden with theory applicable to ample forms of gender defiance and of personalized sex/gender/sexuality configurations.

In her Manifesto, Stone first lays a framework for reconfiguration, stating, “[i]n the case of the transsexual, the varieties of performative gender, seen against a culturally intelligible gendered body which is itself a medically constituted textual violence, generate new and unpredictable dissonances which implicate entire spectra of desire” (Stone, 231). In other words, the spectrum of dissonances and disruptions trans* people create in their embodiments has the potential to produce new discourses regarding what it means to be trans*.

This theoretical framework of Stone’s drew my thoughts away from her incomparably concise Manifesto and unto a movement of sorts, contemporaneously permeating social media outlets YouTube and Tumblr among others. “Trans* Enough,” combats the believed abstractions that all trans* individuals feel as thought they were born in “the wrong body,” that they wish to transition completely (top surgery, bottom surgery, hormone therapy etc…), and that there is a specific way to be trans* as dictated by not only popular culture and medicine, but the trans* community itself. These ideals coincide with Stone’s demand for “a deeper analytical language for transsexual theory,” one with “ambiguities and polyvocalities” ( Stone, 231). Stone’s voice seems to be infused into the Tumblr posts and YouTube videos that proudly claim trans* identity as something that does not necessarily need to be “readable” or easily defined.

Image

As someone who does not identify as trans*, I still feel completely drawn to Stone’s theories of “ambiguities and polyvocalities,” as well as her stance on “passing” as denying mixture and variation (Stone, 231). With so many outlets (political, cultural and otherwise), dictating what it means to iterate identity (gay, straight, trans*, queer, cis) the “right way,” embracing “mixing” and blurring as a sort of rebellion seems to be (for me, anyway) the more revolutionary thing to do. While Stone’s Manifesto speaks to and of trans* people first and foremost, I find it speaks to all individuals who embrace variation and non-normative representations of identity.

Sally Stempler