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Trans is not a word to understand

  • Posted on September 14, 2018 at 11:28 pm

I think some people try to understand what it is to be transgender by trying to understand the words. If they can construct an argument about the words, their origins and use, they have grasped how real, people like me are.

Surely, I would be happy to have made no changes to my body or life if only this social construct of gender did not exist. Yes! I could have lived happily with a male body, dressed as I wished, shaved, gone bald with age and maintained all that cut and thrust of testosterone – because no-one would have minded. I could have just ‘been myself’!

Not so, dear reader, not so.

I am not a term to be understood. Etymology and use do not come near expressing what it is to be trans. Like old shoes, words get baggy with much use and don’t fit anymore.

I was not ‘born in the wrong body’ at all, any more than someone with red hair who hates it, or someone with a disability, or someone who has simply grown too tall from hormone problems. It is not the wrong body. I am what I am. It is just that brain and body development got a bit out of kilter somewhere early on. I can’t change my innate sense of self, but I can change my body.

What about you? Are you definitely a woman, or definitely a man? Are you sure? Or is your first question prefixed by ‘physically’, or ‘biologically’? If you do, you need to read up on the many aspects of what define ‘biological’ sex. Big time.

Or do you just know? I don’t think you need a mirror in the morning, or to have a feel around just to be sure. I don’t think you need a second opinion, and if it differed or was doubtful, I don’t think you might change your mind. When did you last dig out your birth certificate just to check out that your opinion of yourself matches that of the doctor or midwife?

Even if you live a non-binary life and dislike the idea of actually ‘being’ non-binary … you know what you are not.

Do you understand what it is to know if you are male, female or neither or a bit of both?

  • Seven years ago I began to understand.
  • Six years ago I began to live in a new way.
  • Five years ago I lived alone.
  • Four years ago I had transforming surgery.
  • Someone told me: ‘this is just the beginning’
  • Three years ago I began living with someone I deeply love.
  • And since then I have understood that for all the beginnings and endings, some will never understand.

I have been told that I am not a woman. I have been told that I am a man. I have been told that I am trans, or deluded, and many other things. I have been told that I am not lesbian, that I must be gay, or that I am still a hetero man because I used to be married while registered as a man.

I have been told many times what I am, what I am not, and effectively what I am not allowed to be.

What do you think? And where did you get your ideas from?

When my children were much younger, they had a friend who was the most tomboy a child I have ever known. A little later, my son had a trans friend at school. That was it. No issue or problem. Unlike me (yeah, well!), they had gay and lesbian kids in their school, and that’s just how they were. Friends I had at university were gay, lesbian and bi. I came to know people with intersex conditions. I discovered that there are men born with micro-penis, women born without a uterus. A colleague had a hysterectomy at a very young age, and so could never experience what most women share. And friends with polycystic ovaries and hormonal imbalances. More and more women who divorce men and begin lesbian relationships.

I wonder what their many life experiences have each been like. Could I segregate them by their life experience confidently and exclusively as women and men? If I DNA tested them and mapped their chromosomes, would that help? What about their sexual attractions (or lack of)? Would that help me divide them into straight, bi, gay and lesbian? I wonder how clearly I could research and gather physical, psychological, social and mental attributes in such a way as to divide them up?

But why?

Surely their needs are different. Medically? Socially? Surely a trans person is not as really the gender they claim, as someone born with unquestionably clear genitals and chromosomes and sexuality? I mean, it is so confusing that someone born with enough of a penis but XXY, who used to appear straight male, lives as female and has a female partner and calls themselves lesbian. I mean, surgery doesn’t really change your sex does it?

You say it is only confusing because we squish people into socially constructed boxes. If only the boxes didn’t exist, we would all be happy; no conflict of definitions. Well, I place myself in society where I feel I belong. Why do you want to place me where you think I belong?

I find this kind of narrative about sex, sexuality and gender no different from nationalism. Once upon a time there was a golden age, where everyone lived and worked happily together, the sun shone equally on all, there was a roof over everyone’s head and bread on the table. Wars did not happen, no-one was cheated or downtrodden; a benevolent king was on the throne and life was … good. That must have been before others came in, invaded and spoiled it all, with different languages, different ideas.

Was there not also a time when men were men, women were women and we all knew our place? Well that wasn’t so good for women, was it? So now we have feminism, we must protect at all costs what it means to ‘be a woman’. And that’s where the parallel golden age of gender breaks down. It was never good. The patriarchy still rules, just as first nations people all over the world constantly face erasure and victors rule the historical narrative.

Keeping transgender people out protects nothing, and only ingrains trans resentment against the gender nationalists, even those who define ‘woman’ and throw gender out as false. Let’s be clear, a feminist who is more radical and excludes trans women as not being female or women, is a trans-exclusionary radical feminist. It isn’t just a slur, it isn’t derogatory, it is a description of a formula of feminism, originating in 2008, to distinguish feminists who were, and who were not against inclusivity of trans women.

However, if we are to be a society that listens, accepts diversity and seeks unity rather than division, it is no good boxing people up. But why not do it by letting people choose their boxes, and letting them choose their own mix? That isn’t a threatening or undermining thing to do, and it’s the way the human species has ultimately made its way all along. What we haven’t done so well, is add equality. ‘If you’re going to be that, you can’t do this.’

That takes us on to rights. Rights. Trans rights. LGB rights. What are they? Principally, they are protections to ensure equal treatment of people who are disliked and discriminated against, not for what they choose to do, but for what they are, in their being, in their humanity.

But I don’t want rights. I just want equality. And that comes from understanding that it is me you need to understand, know and respect, not words and ideas you don’t like, or feel are confusing. You don’t need to get your inner construct sorted, or your philosophy of gender or sexuality. Don’t fit me to your ideas in order to understand what I say I am, because that will only make me acceptable to you in your terms.

Anything else simply puts me in a ‘reserve’ box because you don’t really want me to belong anywhere too close to you.

Trans is not a behavour.
Lesbian is not a behaviour.
I don’t need accommodating.
I am here.
I am.
Just like you; no less.

Sex and Gender; two troublesome words

  • Posted on January 24, 2016 at 2:29 pm

I read an academic article about centring gender identity this week, that was interesting, not least because it assumed a clarity about sex and about gender that in most circles doesn’t exist. And then this morning I continued reading about sex and gender in more feminist circles, on serious blogs, not TERF rants. I always try to understand because I also expect a degree of understanding. We are all human, we all deserve respect.

We all relate more easily our bad experiences than our good, and whenever someone has faced abuse, met a very male-acting trans-asserting person, or simply really opened their eyes to this patriarchal society and culture of ours, they will rightly feel defensive, and the incidents will be key to future expectation. I too feel much safer in women’s spaces, I too feel insecure where there is testoserone around. And whilst I may have been brought up and taught as a boy, I do not feel totally socialised in that way, because so much of it went against the grain. I guess I did mimic it a fair deal to get by, but it was always uncomfortable and I was ready to see the impact of it on women, socially and in the workplace.

This world suffers from patriarchal rule. I mean suffers, not just needs greater equality and fairness, but suffers. Our planet groans more because of it, and we tolerate its destructiveness. There are women who play into it, take advantage of it and imitate it. But it is what it is, and it is bad for us all. And none of this is a basis for debating the rights of humans on grounds of self-identity. Not every culture and language even has ideas of sex and gender in the way English-speaking people do. Yet we get tied up in mutually defensive, and sometimes aggressive, dialogue over sex and gender as if they were something as absolute as mass and energy.

Probably most people have never ‘met’ a trans person, because we just don’t all look, sound or behave obviously so. Which means that most antipathy towards us is based on bad experiences of an unrepresentative few people who stand out for their inauthenticity or bad behaviour.

We have several essential problems that we fail frequently to acknowledge.

The first of these is behaviour

What we expect from people sharing our society is certain forms of behaviour. Some make us uncomfortable: a homeless beggar; someone gesticulating unexpectedly through mental disturbance, brain injury or non-development; drunken loudness; crowd-generated fervour. Some behaviour is distanced, such as influential voices, or merely online trolling, down to simply abusive or ignorant comments on a news article. Discomfort easily becomes fear, and we can distance ourselves, fight back, join a group for mutual shared strength, or face it and deal with it in other ways.

Some behaviours are associated with sex and gender. Some are causal: hormones create drives and emotions, for example. Some are correlated but not causal: group behaviours to belong to the in-crowd, or not to stand out. What we cannot say is: ‘women behave like this’, or ‘men behave like this’, or ‘lesbians behave like this’ – or even ‘trans men (or women) behave like this’.

Because they don’t. There are violent women, effeminate men, femme lesbians, aggressive trans women, asexual non-binary people, quiet introverted pansexuals. Everything you can assume as defining any sex, gender and sexuality, is defied by countless atypical people. Some people are kind and nice to know. Some are lazy and otherwise harmless. Some are psychopaths running global organisations, and some are lurking around a corner to do you harm.

And probably none of these behaviours is defined as being entirely due to sex or gender. Being male can derive philanthropy just as it can (though more frequently perhaps) misogyny. But for goodness’ sake, bad behaviour by some individuals describing themselves as transgender does not make being transgender a bad or threatening thing. It is the behaviour that threatens, not the underlying sex, sexuality or gender identity.

The second thing is expectation

Expectations are cultivated socially. We develop them from experience, which means we can nurture bad expectations from bad experiences. We share and cultivate these, because it feels more safe and comfortable when we have shared experiences and expectations. Then we have group thoughts from which it is harder to escape and disagree. Sometimes we must have a bad experience, develop an expectation for safety, then relocate the expectation in reality so that we can be both safe and open to new and more positive experiences.

Sometimes expectations become assertions, rules, dogmas, doctrines, even laws. And sometimes – may be a lot of the time – this is good. We come to have an agreed floorplan for constructive, safe, mutually supportive living together, and we call it culture. And sometimes that floorplan has mistakes, or cracked tiles, and slippery rugs.

We embody these expectations not just in our legal frameworks, but in other socially-cohesive ones. I am still surprised how much of my readership here pulls out the blogs on the role of religion in LGBT phobias. I have been through the experience here, from dragged-to-church, to skeptical, to thorough-going evangelical, to even more thorough university biblical analysis, to reasoned atheist non-materialist. So I know what it means to live as male, as female, as almost fundamentalist, and atheist. I think I know myself and many things from the inside, rather than hearsay. And just as I assert that there is a fundamental role in testosterone creating the world we live in, so I assert that there is a fundamental role in the religions we have created. Both T and R are imprinted on everything we do and the way we do it, and in my view, we need to be much more aware of this, of its impact, and its consequences, as well as be more wise to moving beyond both as defining our contemporary civilisations.

Without these religious-ethical expectations even our laws would be different in many ways, not least in those relating to sex and gender expectations. Countries in the world where being gay, lesbian, trans, or simply a free woman, are proscribed by law, do so on the basis of some ancient religion. The religion lays down expectations, resists reason, and fossilises attitudes. So much so, that secular cultures like this in the UK, carry an unconscious tradition rooted in christianity with attitudes and expectations, and beliefs about unethical behaviour that focus on specific things. We have a greater antipathy towards anything to do with sex and gender, than we do towards anything to do with power and connivance.

The third thing is language

Just as money began as a means and became a commodity in itself, so language did the same. We talk, write, think, using words for a substantial part of every day of our lives. We rely on words meaning something fixed in order to communicate clearly and efficiently. Languages, sadly, are not like that. They do not translate as easily as we would like, one to another. Sometimes five words in one translate as just one in another, losing vital nuance, or becoming ambiguous. Sometimes the culture behind a language does not share the concept. When one language dominates, so a concept can therefore also dominate. It’s never that my language represents an erroneous or superfluous concept, always that your language is impoverished because your culture is ignorant or less refined.

Sex and gender are conceptual, and not the same in every language, even in Europe. We neglect semantics, because we take language for granted, but worst of all, we assume that the word creates the thing, and that one use for a word makes it definitive. Learning how a word came about does not give it its contemporary meaning in use (gay and queer are two obvious relevant examples), and frequently a word becomes more important because its use becomes too burdened by conceptual disagreement. It isn’t just a heliocentric and evolutionary science that shakes society and religion, but contemporary observation of gendered roles. I recently replied to a friend who asked if there was any test for either sex or gender, with some quick thoughts about this.

I think that ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ are words given to poorly defined concepts. The initial concept of sex derived from observations about the means of reproduction and was simplistic and basic. It divided those who gave birth from those who did not. Thus many creatures tend to carry natural roles (though sometimes opposite like seahorses) where one stays safe with babies while the other gets food. As societies developed in sophistication, so the roles became formal expectations. Put basically, sex ensured survival and required no nuance.

Roles, however, confer different privileges and empowerments. Hunters also defend and acquire territory, and adopt authority as a result. Thus begins patriarchy. Within this, unfairness, coercion and advantage are noted, and as society becomes more complex, equality rears its head. Society and culture develop as philosophies, which in turn are questioned. Ultimately, sex as a division is no longer satisfactory. Female is not necessarily mother, male not defender/aggressor, but husbander, in agriculture for example.

The words and ideas for this alternative layer to sex are different in different cultures and languages. Thus it is a construct centred around sense of place in culture or society. It is regulated by norms which are informed by established notions of what sex currently means. The words don’t help us in any way. They are misused to discriminate and advantage, perpetuating, for example, patriarchy.

Sex as a concept still tries to distinguish biological capabilities, while gender tries to counter this absolutism and explain how people are dislocated from it. Sex tries to maintain traditional rules, gender to create new ones. Both superimpose contemporary ideas on the simple origin of species perpetuation. What we lose in this is that we are all the same species, developed socially sufficiently to live equally rather than divisively such that child-carrying doesn’t define social place, nor physical strength and drive.

There is no scientific test for gender because there can be no simple definition. Feeling trans has two components: being socially mislabelled and misplaced, and feeling that the child-bearing or physically powerful aspect given by the body doesn’t agree with the inner awareness of how the mind feels that should be. There is no scientific test for sex because it can be indeterminate.

What is important is that it should not be so important to find a definition let alone enforce it, for either sex or gender. Both exist only so long as we keep words for them. My argument is that we are dealing in semantics rather than tangible realities.

I think sex and gender aren’t just ‘physiology versus social construct’, but are two troublesome words in need of care. Talking spectrums isn’t necessarily the let-out we need either. I still find tomatoes in the vegetables section of my supermarket. Fruit and veg aren’t a spectrum, but some are badly misrepresented by what we have become accustomed to. But we like them all the same.

Summary

Behaviour, expectation and language all bias us in all manner of ways towards and away from others. Much of the time it is unconscious bias, but we too easily define our ideas about other people in our own terms, reinforce each other’s biases, and end up disrespecting individuals and thrusting them into unsafe places. It may be a trans woman with no refuge, a trans boy being bullied, a feminine feminist being excluded, or a butch dyke being shoved out of a public women’s lavatory. Or all too often, a trans person being pushed by expectations, to suicide.

We must be careful what we assume from our experiences, or what we have read, or been taught or cultivated into. In protecting our own ideas, however precious they are to us, and however many others share them, we may be making the world a less safe place for someone else. Whether you are a trans blogger, a feminist essayist, a frequent article-commenter, or just sharing on Facebook and tweeting, we must recognise that we are all just using language as a proxy to relate our beliefs and best understanding, biased by our experiences.

Identity III: the language of things

  • Posted on October 4, 2015 at 7:41 pm

I have gone back to school. Last week I was in college for adult language learning, my first German class. I jumped in mid-way, because I have some ability, a small vocabulary and not enough for much meaningful conversation. And so I tend to work out different ways of saying things, using the words I do know. It must sound very odd. I also find that in German, the words for transgender, transvestite and transsexual are not used or available in the same way as in English. Maybe as I learn, joining online German trans groups could help me understand better. The trans people will be very much like me, but with a language and vocabulary to express and describe themselves, somewhat different. Language is a big barrier to clear self-description across language boundaries.

Is my identity limited by language, given that language follows concept? I can’t find words for a concept that does not yet exist. I can invent them, as new concepts arise, and this happens all the time. Language in turn creates an environment of meaning. It doesn’t describe facts, it expresses interpretation. Snow is snow, but in the Scots language there are 421 words for it. The reason? To give more meaning to the experience so it can be shared more accurately. It is still crystalline water, white, pretty, and blocks roads. I am not Scottish, so I wouldn’t understand many of the words, and would be unable to communicate the state of the day’s snow clearly. If I was belligerently English I could insist that snow was snow and that was enough: stop confusing things!

I find the same with gender language. Male/man/boy, female/woman/girl are like snow. Sometimes I speak with another (cis) woman I know, and we arrive at me saying: ‘but I wasn’t born a boy!’ Their response reveals a lack of vocabulary. Of course I was born a boy and I changed. But changed what? Sex or gender, neither or both? All I know is that I was born with male reproductive physiology and a female sense of self, reflected in my behaviour and sense of belonging. The difficulty of naming ‘what’ I was/am then becomes a difficulty of accepting my authentic identity. I changed a physical part of myself, but I didn’t change myself. I need not even have done that, had I been happy to continue as I was. So what do we call a man with a vagina or a woman with a penis? We can refuse the identity, block it out, and insist that man and woman are defined by external genitalia, stay blind to intersex conditions and variety, and continue with the difficulties. In this way we steal anyone’s identity and agency for no better reason than that our words have failed to keep pace with concepts. And a large proportion of people and cultures and governments and ministries indeed are stuck right here.

Language divides everything

Look at the surface of a river, watch the spray, get in close to the spray, the surface of a droplet, the evaporation of water molecules from it, zoom right in on the molecules and see the subatomic particles in their statistical clouds among those of the atoms and molecules of various gases comprising the air, work out where the oxygen atoms or ions really belong, zoom out and see the moist air currents, as part of the gaseous mass through which you are looking at the water and tell me: where does the ‘river’ become the ‘air’, or the air the river? Perhaps the air without the river wouldn’t be the same, and the river in a vacuum would simply have evaporated away. By all means swim in the river, breathe the air, paddle your kayak, or photograph or paint it – but be careful that your idea of identity isn’t a definition of reality that you insist on imposing on others, instead of observing with a readiness for surprise.

When does she become he? As I was thinking about my arguments on identity, this article came up, and it plays the same mind game as the river. Testosterone and oestrogen, cholesterol and progesterone are similar molecules, but make significant changes to our bodies, especially before birth and consequently again at puberty. We may or may not be chromosomaly sensitive to them, or produce the ‘right’ quantities. There is no way of telling gender by looking at any one of us, any more than you can decide where the river and the air meet or divide. With such complexity, why do we confer identity on people, for the convenience of our language? The article says very well what I was going to write, so I won’t repeat it, other than to encourage you to read it. Like the river picture above, it simply picks apart each characteristic that gets used to define male or female, and shows it to be insufficient through variety. The conclusion is that the organ that best defines gender is the brain.

Brain, or mind?

The implication for the anatomists might still be that instead of examining a baby’s genitals, we routinely scan its brain. Surely the brain structures give a better hint, if the argument is right? Maybe; maybe not. Suppose you scan the infant brain, and compare the result (probably ambiguous for many or most) with chromosomes from various and several parts of the body (in case of mosaicism) for Xs and Ys, and add an SRY gene test for androgen insensitivity? Would that help? The consequence could be babies with penises being declared ‘probably female’, those with vaginas ‘probably male’, a lot of question marks, and perhaps still a majority being quite conclusive. But for what purpose?

The elusive element remains the mind. The mind we still think of as being centred in the brain, and this may be right or wrong, but however mechanistically we think of mind-as-consequence, we are a long way from scanning a brain to find the mind. Thoughts and intentions, yes, but the origins of these, no. Is sense of identity a brain thing or a mind thing, or, as the river and air, not clearly divisible and dependent on both, and on culture, society, philosophy, and therefore ultimately, available language?

Identity, definition, what you are as distinct from where you are, may not be a thing, a word, but you still know what you are you in the midst of whatever everything else is (including that you are neither, or not solely, male nor female).

Be careful. You might not be right!

So be very careful not to limit another person’s identity by your own language limitations. And if I say I was born a girl, fight the instinct to say: ‘but you did have a …’.

Something I wrote quite a while ago says it nicely in far fewer words:

Writes, rights, rites

  • Posted on October 13, 2014 at 9:49 pm

Yesterday I got round to a browser tab I’d been saving for a week or so. It felt like it needed time, and I’m glad. It was a survey by Loughborough University on the revised ICD-11 diagnostic criteria, very thorough and thought-provoking, and took two hours. It was all about the terms and words used to treat gender dysphoria (in current nomenclature), and whether ‘gender incongruence’ is better or worse. And about whether a clinical diagnosis is relevant, necessary, and if it should be classed as psychological. All this, divided by under-12 children, adolescents 12-15, and adults.

Writes

I had by this time also expressed another niggle on Facebook about gender recognition (the Act, Panel, and Certificate), because last Friday the Gender Recognition Panel met with my papers in hand, to decide whether I met the criteria of being a woman. I shall know in the next few weeks. I’ve written previously about the indignity of this, not least because my gender is of no consequence to anyone else but me, let alone a subject to be policed by people with no experience of gender dissonance, dysphoria or incongruence. And at my expense. I have also signed up for another survey, on my experience of the impact of the Gender Recognition Act. It has all been on my mind recently, since the Act contains unfairness, injustice, verbosity and bureaucracy.

It also came at a time that a news story has been circulating in print and on UK morning TV, about someone detransitioning. The media coverage has been bad, in terms of sensationalism, gross inaccuracy, misleading information, and undermining the 99 per cent successful outcomes of gender treatment. Here, a man (who still says on TV ‘I am a woman’) says it has been too difficult (after 10 years) to live as a woman. Their treatment has been testosterone-blockers and oestrogen, coupled with breast augmentation (reported – I guess wildly exaggerated – as FF). Their treatment was described as costing £10,000 (‘of taxpayers’ money’), which is the standard figure quoted for genital reconstruction surgery, despite this surgery never having taken place. Media preference for inventing a good story aside, this person had a choice, and still does. There is nothing disgraceful or sensational about that. This, to me is just a marker of being gender queer, not gender dysphoric in the more common binary sense. It’s a bit like a prominent lesbian writer who has recently said that she chose to be lesbian. That to me is a clear marker of being bisexual. Where there is choice, even where there is preference, there are people who fall outside the binary view. Surprise, surprise! The binary is an invention of a simplistic world that does not encompass the breadth of human experience.

The point, however, is that all this writing (yes, like this blog) is but one viewpoint, given an appearance of authority by the media. The detransitioner urged massively more psychological screening at gender clinics, which might drive more to suicide than it would save. Let’s hear more from those whose lives are saved than the tiny minority who feel the need to blame someone else for their decision.

Rights

And so, on several fronts, there is this big issue: who decides on another person’s gender, on which criteria, and what should be the rite of passage from their former opinion (at birth: this is a boy/girl) to their revised opinion (we formally accept that we were mistaken at birth)?

To say that it matters to anyone but the individual, is like saying there is a rule whereby a flower may not be described as purple, only as either dark red or blue. If the flower is happy to be regarded as one or the other by the observer’s definition, well and good. But if the flower is purple and regards itself on the blue end rather than red, or steadfastly says it is purple, why should it matter? Gender queer and bisexual exist, and we know what we are in ourselves anyway. Yes, really.

More than that, why is it in anyone’s gift to say that I am not a woman, female? All that exists of male in me is a skeleton that has a form directed by a small chemical during growth (testosterone), and a prostate (because the risk of removal is not worth it). I have yet to see a reason, based on equality of rights. The only arguments derive from male primacy in our culture, and that is not a right, it is a wrong.

The arguments people have tried on me against this view are all about deceit and disguise for the purposes of intrusion. Trans* people do not do this. Gender dysphoria is not a behaviour.

And so back to the business of diagnosis, terms and criteria.

I observed, in completing the survey comments, that the only task of a psychiatrist in the whole process of confirming that someone’s gender is not indicated accurately by their genitals, is to eliminate psychological indicators for anything else. The psychiatrist who finds nothing permits the diagnosis of a physiological problem. The dissonance (or incongruence, if you prefer) does not originate in the mind, but in physiological events that stimulated development of primary sexual characteristics at odds with the sense of self.

Once more: gender dysphoria is not a behaviour, and that is why I also baulk at the use of the term ‘transsexualism’ in the definitions of gender dysphoria. This is not about rights to do anything, it is about the right to be authentic.

When it comes to rights (maybe Rights) society has to recognise the way things really are, decide how to act on this, and ensure that treatment is fair and applied. The problem with the Gender Recognition Act, is that the importance of being ‘a man’ or ‘a woman’ has been over-emphasised. You must decide! And show such decisiveness that everyone knows unmistakeably what you are and why! Dear Ms God: Why? Can people not just ask each other and leave it at that?

Rites

Since we are all assigned a gender descriptor at birth (again, I can’t quite understand the necessity for this, unless we are destined to be treated differently) the first rite of gender is naming. After that we all have the right to write the name we want, and to have this changed officially and easily.

Over our first decade, we can experience a variety of feelings about whether we ‘feel like’ a boy or a girl. It isn’t just about toys or clothes, but where we belong. Being a tomboy, or a girly boy defines nothing either. But in ourselves we have feelings about where we do and do not belong, and sooner or later these settle.

Puberty isn’t exactly a rite of passage in Western Europe, but menstruation or a breaking voice are part of ‘becoming’ a man or a woman, and ambiguous, or non-happening aspects of puberty are troubling to parents and worrying to children. But for the trans* child, this is a rite of passage that terrifies. Who holds the rights now? Parents? Clinicians? Or the child themselves?

The problem with rites, formal or otherwise, is that they fix things that then have to be undone. The greatest favour an adult can do for a trans* child is to listen, believe and stop the clock. Delayed puberty is the least harmful outcome. So why do we so often hear an outcry about children being manipulated, with misunderstandings about treatment methods? Yes, we need proper diagnostic pathways and expert professionals, the right terminology for the most transparent description, and we need it not to sound trivial (I think ‘incongruence’ is), so that treatment is taken seriously.

The final rite we face in the UK, is the appeal under the Gender Recognition Act, to the Gender Recognition Panel, for a Gender Recognition Certificate. This enables a new, revised, correct, birth certificate to be created. Having had almost zero professional support for the past few years, my paperwork is presented as a testimony to endurance. I have no right, without scrutiny, to formally identify in my true gender. I can call myself what I like, write what I like, but officially, until I can prove and explain what I have done clinically and why, or what I have not done clinically and why (even though what I have done clinically, or not, does not affect the outcome of my application), I am still officially a man.

Tell me, as I write, is this rite right?

Summary

We still desperately need good writing, by diverse trans* people, to explain the reality of gender dysphoria, however we variously describe it. We need our rights to own our own gender without interference, suspicion and policing by people who have not lived this. And we might even benefit by better rites of passage than exhaustive documentation of how we have survived transition with very little support or help, in an expensive plea to reverse that birth certificate bestowed on us with so little thought or necessity, so long before.

And if you read the stories in the media about those of us who transition young, or old, or unwisely, or cheaply, or expensively – please remember that each of us is every bit as human and a person as you. We are not separate, or other, with fewer rights, or to be viewed as deceitful or fraudulent, or psychologically disordered.

No; just imagine that you are the one instead, who has to prove their case for their own sense of self, and buy a certificate to say they really are what they say they are. Right?

Steam radio and my tranny experience

  • Posted on May 4, 2013 at 9:14 pm
valve radio

I alluded in a previous blog (Risk of shock) to the joys of valve radios, amplifiers and similar. Not quite the kind that you toasted marshmallows on, and I remember ‘acorn valves’, which were the first step in miniaturisation. They were easy. If they glowed, they were probably working, and if the wax capacitors around them were mere blobs, something had gone wrong. Of course in those days they took time to warm up: no instant sound. A bit like my digital TV and radio really … I remember it well But I also remember buying my first, small white…