Agony Rant

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Letters From The Edge of Blogspace: Gender Identity and the Myth of Social Construction

Published December 16, 2013 by Christine

Please Note: I use the word ‘transsexual’ rather than ‘transgender’ because it is a term I am comfortable with. Also, in the context of this blog ‘gender identity’ refers only to ones internal sense of being male or female.

It takes a lot to get me annoyed. I admit I don’t suffer fools gladly, I go nuts at blatant stupidity on the roads and I hate bad customer service. But there’s one thing that really gets me seriously pissed off, and that is people who comment and pass judgement on my being transsexual without knowing all, or sometimes any, of the facts and, just lately, there has been a lot of that. I would like to try and provide some sort of education. This is an entry I’ve been meaning to write for some time.

The OED entry for “transsexual” is: noun: a person who emotionally and psychologically feels that they belong to the opposite sex. I don’t like to say “I feel like a woman”, since I don’t know what a woman feels like. I only know what I feel like. I’ve felt like this since I was a child, (as far back as I can remember. See here ). I am now going through transition which, without reiterating details elsewhere in this blog, is physically and psychologically painful. Very painful.

Contrary to what some people seem to think we do not get up one morning and think “I want to be a woman”. Its not something that suddenly comes on us out of the blue, or something that we have “picked up” from somewhere. Nor is it “just a phase” that we go through. Its something that is with us from birth. No-one can say exactly what happens in the womb, what goes wrong but, all foetus’s are initially female until the introduction of testosterone for the boys and oestrogen for the girls. Maybe we get enough testosterone to develop a male body but retain a female mind. Who knows? What I do know is that the end result is growing up with what sometimes appears to be one of the most reviled conditions in recent times. Recent studies have shown that the rate of suicide attempts for transsexuals the UK is 34% (>1 in 3, N=872) and in the US it is 41% (N=7000). These statistics are not the result of transsexualism itself, but the result of the fear, depression and anxiety caused by society’s intolerance towards it.

When we are born, the midwife or doctor looks between the baby’s legs and, if there is a penis, assigns male, or a vagina, assigns female. Unfortunately, on occasion, they unknowingly get it wrong. As I said initially, as far back as I can remember, (about the age of four, I think), I have felt wrong. At that time I didn’t have the knowledge to put it into words, but it was there. This ‘wrongness’ sat in my mind, nameless, for several years before I began to have an inkling about what it was. I had begun to learn about the physical and social differences between boys and girls and, during this learning period, the wrongness I was experiencing began to coalesce. I began to realise I was a girl. There was no getting around it. My body was wrong, that of a boy, but I was a girl nonetheless. I tried explaining it to my family, but they just laughed and told me I would grow out of it. I tried with my friends but they also laughed and started bullying me. At this time, I had several female cousins living not too far away, (practically next door, in fact), so I used to go round to see them. Eventually I plucked up the courage to tell them how I felt. They started to treat me as a girl almost immediately. It felt right for the first time. I can remember how it felt so normal to be treated as one of the girls and not a freak or a joke. Unfortunately my parents had to move and that was the last time for nearly forty years that I felt like a normal person.

What you have to remember, dear reader, is that at this time I really had no concept or knowledge of gender, of any kind of gender spectrum, nor of gender roles, presentation or identity. I didn’t even have a word for how I felt, I just knew I was a girl cursed with a boy’s body, end of. Laying in bed every night, praying that I would wake up with the right body, or hoping that if my parents saw me enough times as a girl that they would realise I was one. It never happened and, as it turned out, it was never going to.

My experience, along with the experiences of so many others, refutes the argument put forward by so many, that gender identity is socially constructed and can be changed. Gender presentation and gender roles are a product of society, almost certainly, but gender identity is innate, built in and unchangeable. I repeat:

Gender Identity is innate, built-in and unchangeable.

For those who have trouble understanding this I am afraid that there may be no hope for you, but I can come and shout it in your ear for a large sum in untraceable notes.

For most people their gender identity matches their physical sex, for others, transsexuals like myself, it doesn’t. Where the majority of people grow into gender roles and have gender presentations that match their gender identities, transsexuals do not. We are forced into gender roles and presentation that fit our physical sex only and are labelled misfits, deviant or abnormal when we try to correct our physical problem. This is where the depression, fear and high suicide rates come in. This is where the education is needed. Society’s disdain for us is caused by its collective fear of the unknown. Once the unknown becomes known then there is no need for fear. In this day and age there is no excuse for ignorance. There is no excuse for hatred and oppression. Parody is also a way of dealing with fear of the unknown. There is no need for this, (television and film makers please take note here). The knowledge is freely available, and if there is some doubt then please ask. None of us will bite heads off because someone asked a sensible question, but we do get annoyed at stupid questions.

I only hope that this goes some way to dispelling the misinformation about transsexuality and reducing the fear and ignorance surrounding it.

As for me? Well, I’m just a woman trying to make life a little easier for herself. If anyone has a problem with that well, come up and see me.

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Letters From The Edge of Blogspace: Love, Hate and Violence….

Published December 13, 2013 by Christine

Over the last few years my eyes have been opened, wide. I knew, being transsexual that, when I transitioned, there would be prejudice and a certain amount of hate possibly levelled at me, but I hadn’t reckoned with the absolute levels of hate and violence against trans people as a group, and the sources of it.

It seems that, having spent much of my life in a drunken stupor (see here), I had missed out on a huge chunk of what was going on. I was so, so naive. To me, church was a place you went to talk to an implausible being who was probably too busy anyway, a christian was someone who did this, turf was sheets of grass used to make a lawn, right-wing was something to do with politics and prejudice and discrimination happened to other people. How things have changed. How I’ve grown up. I’ve had to. Transition is not an easy journey.

There have been the changes socially. I get treated as a woman. Doors opened for me (nice), people talk to me more, especially other women, shopping is a much more fun experience, even silly things like male drivers letting me out at junctions. There are some not-so-nice changes, (I’m not complaining, just commenting), mainly things I took for granted pre-transition, such as being treated like I don’t know anything in DIY shops, (having a pink toolkit recommended to me!), and car shops, but the best is computer shops where thirty years in the business gives me a chance to have fun.

But then there’s the hate and the violence. The sheer immensity of it is staggering.

It appears that much of the hate for us is Right-Wing (largely) Christian led, mainly in the US, but there is a large component here in the UK. They run around, selectively quoting the Bible to justify their hatred and intolerance, pointing at us and calling us abominations, freaks, and worse. Then they say they can cure us, with love and God’s grace but, when that doesn’t work, its back to inciting violence and hatred.

Then there are the TERFs, (TransExclusionary Radical Feminists), feminists that want people like me dead, who would look upon a trans suicide as a victory, who see us as nothing but men in dresses raping women. Feminists like Cathy Brennan, Janice Raymond and Victoria Brownworth to name but a few. I have read some of the TERF websites and Twitter postings with a kind of horrified fascination that this sort of thing could actually exist.

But the worst hate of all is the fear and hate generated by ignorance. The fear that some people have of the unknown. This is the hate that kills, the hate that destroys lives. This is the hate that is fed upon and encouraged by the Right and Christian Right and TERFs, the hate and fear that is turned into violence and murder. The hatred that causes the 44% level of suicides of trans people and makes stepping out the front door a nervous journey into unknown familiarity for many more. The hatred that has killed more than two hundred trans people in the last year for no better reason than who they were, and has given rise to an annual Day of Remembrance.

The hatred and fear is real, visceral. The only weapons we have are law and education. Knowing a thing removes the fear of that thing. We can only show that we are people trying to get on with our lives. We only shout and make a fuss when we are treated less than any other, when we are pushed to the back of the bus. Otherwise we want to live without fear of being killed simply because we are truly ourselves.

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