Monday, December 29, 2014

12-29-2014 Entry: Made My Appointment for HRT


Well, I’ve finally done it. I’ve finally made my appointment with the doctor to begin my Hormone Replacement Therapy. It won’t be for another month as she was booked until the end of January but on January 27th I’m going to finally begin my journey to physical womanhood.

As I write this I feel the butterflies in my abdomen doing back flips and I feel my fingers starting to quiver with anticipation. It has been such a long road to finally get to this point and now that I’m standing on the precipice I can’t help but feel really nervous. In a lot of ways this will be the point of no return for me because once I begin hormones I have no intention of stopping them. Right now, if I decided that I didn’t want to embark on this journey to becoming Emma (transwoman extraordinaire!), I could just go back to being Robert the man. I could cut my hair short again, remove my metallic purple toenail polish, forget I ever knew anything about voice feminization, throw away my makeup stash and turn away from this path forever. I could apologize, awkward as it would be, to all my friends and family that I’d been misguided in my feelings and that me being transgender was just a phase. Eventually they’d probably even forgive me, but I know I could never forgive myself.

I want any out there who are in similar shoes as me to know that I am not without doubt as I prepare for this doctor’s appointment. True, I could never forgive myself for chickening out on something I know I must do, but doubt is always nagging at the back of my mind as I consider the path ahead of me. There are so many uncertainties in the road before me, so many hidden corners and obstacles I have yet to foresee. My life may very well fall into complete disarray after I begin my HRT treatments and that thought frightens me quite a bit.

What will I look like after everything is done? Will my reflection finally become something I’m happy to see every morning? How much of an effect will the HRT have on my face and body? Will I be able to easily pass as a woman, or will I have to find solace in only partially passing? What about boobs? I know I shouldn’t expect anything too significant but how big/small will they end up being?

Setting aside vanity, what about my job? And my marriage? Everyone is always asking how my wife is taking things and I honestly don’t know how to answer that question. We don’t really talk about it because I can sense she doesn’t want to discuss it but what does that mean? Is she just having her process and shining a light on the subject only furthers the fears that she is trying to overcome? She seems mostly supportive and open about it, if not a little sad, but does her current willingness really mean she’s going to be okay with everything? Will she still love me when I no longer resemble the man she married and fell in love with? Can love truly transcend gender, or is our relationship doomed? I could never blame her for leaving, not under these circumstances, but what will I do if she does decide to go?

These are the questions I have rattling around in my mind, questions that really have no answer except for what only time can answer.

If I may be so candid, I want to say that I am terribly frightened by what I’m doing. All those years of fear and doubt are weighing down upon me right now, in this instant, and I feel as though there is nothing to save me from the crushing heaviness. Am I really going to do this? Am I really going to forsake 29 years of my life to begin something so different and new? Am I really going to transgress the gender norms and become something that most people don’t understand, some people joke about, and many people believe is a sure road to eternal damnation? Will God forgive me for what I’m about to do to myself, or is he up in heaven shaking his head in proverbial disappointment about the choice I’m about to make?

Where is comfort when emptiness and silence are my only true companions? Where will the sure footing I seek so badly be once I leap from this cliff into the dark and unknown? How will I navigate the road ahead with no one to guide me except for my patchwork confidence and fickle heart? Today my heart tells me that happiness lies on the other side of this transformation I’m embarking on, but my heart has been wrong before. Am I walking into a self-made trap, from which there can be no escape? There is no reset button, no previous save point to load and try again, once I make this choice there is no going back. Once I leap from this cliff there is no sprouting wings and flying back up. I will be left with no option but to succumb to the gravity of my decision and allow it to pull me to whatever end awaits for me.

And yet, there is a small voice, a quiet voice, echoing through my soul that whispers like a song:

 

“Do not be afraid, little one, we will ease your fall.

Our loving arms will catch you, after all.

Descend and our strength will shore you up,

Like eternal love, overflowing your cup

 

All will see the beauty you fear to show,

Emanating like the moon’s gentle glow.

They will tremble with joy and delight,

At the tranquil and luminescent sight.

 

Be strong and others may follow,

Give courage to those who’re hollow.

A light atop the hill that guides,

In you, their suffering confides.

 

Dare to make your path,

and live without fear or wrath.

Take courage and feel our love,

 emanating from high above.

 

There is great love here for you,

And respect for all you do.

Though scary your leap may be,

This jump will set you free.”

 

-Emma

Friday, December 26, 2014

12-26-2014 Entry: Q&A Should I Transition?


Some of my readers may already know this, but for those who don't I want to share that as I've begun my transition to living a life as Emma, I have decided to spend some of my spare time volunteering for a Gender therapist. Mostly this volunteering manifests in me answering emails from people who have contacted her and are seeking advice about their own gender issues. Since she is very busy being an awesome advocate and ally to the transgender cause, not to mention a therapist with a full patient list, she doesn't always have the time to answer all the emails she gets. Because of my background, education, and unique perspective regarding gender and gender transition, she has brought me on to help guide and assist the transgender/non-binary gender people she can't fully respond to.
Today I want to share a question and answer session I had with one of these people. For the sake of anonymity I will not be sharing any names, but I have received permission from the questioner to share our conversation here because I think it can serve as a great resource for any who are questioning whether or not they want to transition. So, here we go:

-Question: "I am confused about transitioning. There are times I want to, then there times I do not want to. I have a feeling my family and friends would not be very accepting of it. What should I do?"

 

-Answer: That is a difficult question that ultimately only you can answer for yourself, but I will try to offer some guidance to make the decision a bit easier, or at least more clear.

The first thing you must do, and this is the hardest part, is to set your fears aside and try to look at this from a purely logical standpoint. Our fear is a wonderful mechanism intended to keep us safe and away from harm, but sometimes fear can become the very obstacle that prevents us from finding true harmony and safety. The best way to set your fear aside is to acknowledge it, to truly feel it and experience its effects without distraction or reservation. Our minds like to keep us from actually experiencing our difficult emotions because they do not wish us to suffer, but if you are willing to truly look at your fear with the light of your full consciousness you will come to better understand it and it will lose its power over you.

So what are you afraid of? Identifying what exactly you fear better helps you understand the actions you must take. You mentioned that your friends and family might not be accepting of a decision to transition, so I'm going to assume that this is at least part of the fear you are experiencing. If we look at this analytically what exactly is it that creates the fear in that situation? My guess would be you are afraid that if you make the transition you will be estranged from the network of people you are accustomed to living and interacting with. You fear that if you make the decision to transition that they will not understand you and will ultimately choose to leave your experience. Under such circumstances you might end up alone, and being alone is very difficult for social creatures such as us humans.

Your fears are serving their purpose by trying to tell you that there is a chance that some or all of your friends and family will not accept your new identity. To this I say, "good job," to your fears, because they have done excellent work in warning you that dangers might be ahead. Now that we've accepted your fears and acknowledged that they are working as they should, we must now look at the options you have to deal with the dangers that your fear is warning you about.

As I see it, Option A is: do nothing (or do not transition). If you choose not to transition this will mean that you must continue to live your life as your current presented identity and gender. You will always be spoken to as and assumed to be the person you've been up to now. this will manifest as continuing to be called sir/ma'am, him/her, he/she, and guy/girl (or any variation of gender pronouns you are accustomed to hearing). People will continue to place expectations on you that they normally would for one who has been assigned your gender. They will continue to lump you into a group that is obviously less than comfortable for you. You will always have to see the same reflection in the mirror that you currently see, for better or worse. You will be forced to set any desire you have to be a different gender aside and hope that it does not continue to plague you with whatever emotional issues you are currently experiencing (confusion, depression? anger? disappointment?)

Option B: Decide to completely set your fear aside and make the leap of faith into transitioning. You will begin a new journey, one that will have uncertain consequences on your life as it is now, but may ultimately lead you to the happiest you've ever been. You will begin the lengthy process of examining every part of your identity to see which parts actually fit, and which parts are just socialized thoughts, interests, and behaviors for the gender you were assigned. You will begin to set aside the parts of you that no longer apply and will begin to further explore the parts of you that you've been too afraid to accept. There will be great rewards when you do this as you will come into greater alignment with who you really are on the inside, but sacrifices might have to be made. Parts of your life might change and parts of your life may very well cease to be. Friends may no longer be able to tolerate who you are becoming and will cease to associate with you. Family members may become angry, confused, or even judgmental about this new identity you've chosen. You will find out, once and for all, who loves you unconditionally, and who only loves you for who they think you ought to be. Those people you associate with may have to decide if they want to love you unconditionally or not, and that may take some time. They may have to see you completely on the other side (and how happy it has made you) before they will accept their own short-comings and return to your circle of friends/family.

(Option B cont'd) You will have to make the important decisions about whether or not you'd like to medically transition and to what degree you wish to pursue those medical options. You may choose to do none of them, or you may choose to do a great deal of them. It may end up costing you a good deal of money, but you will have to weigh how much money means to you compared to inner harmony with your being and the happiness of showing the world your inner beauty (the one that's been hiding beneath a mask of socialized gender expectations, perhaps?). With medical transition (HRT) your reflection will change and will probably begin to look more like what you feel on the inside. You may find greater comfort with your body and with the way other people see you. You will begin to be called by the opposite pronouns and people will begin to think of you as the opposite gender (or whatever gender you wish to present). Different expectations will be placed upon you and it may very well be that you are much more comfortable with those expectations. You may find great harmony and peace with those expectations and will truly shine as you take on your new role. As I said in the beginning, you may become the happiest you've ever been.

Option C: Simply choose to explore further before making a decision. Transitioning can be like a mountain standing high above you with cold winds and blowing snow; a mountain you feel like you could never climb on your own but you feel some desire to climb it anyway. Options B and A are between vowing to climb the whole  mountain and deciding to go home before you even try, respectively. Option C is deciding to see how far you can or want to climb without the pressure of deciding to climb the whole thing. This option manifests in the light exploration of your gender to get a better sense of whether or not transitioning is actually something you'd want to do. You can begin by examining what exactly you'd like to do or be if you paid no attention to what other people thought or had to say about it. For me this manifested in me painting my toenails a lovely shade of purple. I cannot express in words the extraordinary happiness I felt when I did that, not to mention the elation I felt every time I looked down at my purple toes. Because of the joy I felt at this initial attempt I decided to take it a bit further and started painting my fingernails too. Again I felt overwhelming joy of doing something I wanted without worrying about what anyone else would say or think. Sure I felt fear and still rarely wear my fingernail polish out in public (not until I can better "pass" as female, at least) but the happiness I felt was so much more powerful than the fear I felt. The more I explored my desires instead of giving into my fears of what others would think, the more it became clear to me that transition truly was something I wanted to do. I always knew I was a girl on the inside (from a young age) but it wasn't until I set my fears aside and felt the joy of being openly girly with myself that I knew that I'd never be truly happy until I could be a girl in body and presentation too. For you this may manifest differently, but the point is to start, little by little, to do the things you want regardless of whether or not it fits your assigned gender. Yes, you might get some strange looks or some people might tease you about it, but if you are willing to not worry about what they say or do for a little while, you may just find that you care more about your own happiness than what other people expect from you. You may also find that your friends start to just accept this new behavior because you are unafraid of their challenges to it. In time, if you continue to climb that proverbial mountain you may look back and see that you've come so far already with such joy and relief that you may as well just finish the journey to becoming this new person. Then, the decision to transition will no longer feel like a daunting task, but rather, the next logical step in the evolution of your identity. You will have faced your fears one at a time and can now embark on transition without reservation because you know that nothing would make you more happy.

Option D: this may not be an option for you at all, but in case it's been on your mind at all I want to address it. Option D is to quit, to give up, to willingly end your life. This option is tragically common among pre-transition transgender folks, and I, myself, faced it many times, so I feel compelled to explore it with you. This option is honestly the easiest option, despite how difficult it can be to make it. It takes all the pain and uncertainty away as you will no longer have to make the choice between transition and living the life you've built to now, but the cost of this decision is monumental. Everyone you know will have their hearts broken and a gaping hole will be left in the lives of those closest to you. They will feel anger, rage, regret, anguish, confusion, and the indescribable pain of loss. You will become another person who was overcome by the social pressure to conform to a gender that didn't fit and didn't feel right. Instead of possibly shining as a brave star of true inner beauty and harmony, you will become a black cloud of despair upon everyone you know. Your decision will lead to the dysfunction of many others as they try to cope with the consequences you chose not to face. I know what I'm saying might seem harsh but my best friend from high school committed suicide and it has done untold damage to me, his other friends, and most especially his family. None of us will ever be the same because of his decision, and a part of my heart will forever be missing because of his absence. It is for this reason that I chose the path of transition over suicide. I knew it was better for me to put everything in my life at risk rather than to bring the unimaginable pain to my loved ones because I was too afraid to be who I really was. For me, it truly was death or transition, and I chose transition and do not regret it for one second.

So, those are the options as I see them. What do you think? Has this illuminated the paths ahead of you any? Do you believe that you can continue to live your life as it currently is and still be happy? That is what you must decide, what would make you the happiest? In the end, all we have are the choices we made in life. Everyone you know will eventually pass from this earth. All the money you have will eventually be spent or be passed on after your death. Every social tie you currently have will eventually be broken either by time, distance, disagreement, or death. Nothing is forever except for the life you choose to live. That is the only thing you can take with you to your grave, your choices, experiences, and memories. Will those choices be for happiness or for fitting in to social expectations? Will those choices be the conquering of fears and the exploration of new avenues of expression and beauty, or will they be the result of not wanting to risk what you had because of fear of loss? You only live this life once, my dear friend, and you are the only one who can decide what makes you happy and whether or not you will pursue that happiness.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

12-23-2014 Entry: Candy Magazine’s lack of Anything Revolutionary




 


 

A friend of mine shared the above linked article and asked the opinions of her readers on what it said. I wrote the following response and decided that I liked it enough to share it here with my fellow gender outlaws to see what you all think of my take:

I Absolutely have to agree with the opinions in this article. I know that all press is good press when you are trying to raise awareness and bring people who’ve been marginalized for as long as we can recall to the forefront of popular culture, but this photo shoot really misses the mark in a lot of ways. I absolutely agree that many of the transwomen presented in that photo shoot are there simply because they have a certain level of traditional sex appeal and not because they are really breaking new ground or pushing the limits on our understandings of gender. If anything, I think that several of them have done little more than just uphold the status quo of the pyramid of social power by becoming (as best they can) the “true female” modality of gender expression. Instead of questioning the pyramid of social power and the flawed premises that it is based on, they’ve merely played the game the best they could and reached the pinnacle of their chosen gender, but what does that really do for others who cannot attain that same higher echelon of social power and acceptance? What about the other non-binary gender expressions that might not fit so well into the normative social expectations that these “beautiful” transwomen do? Also, why were there no transmen on there? Why were there no gender-fluid people on there? Why were there no androgynous models on there? etc. etc.

The simple answer to those questions is that this edition of Candy Magazine was merely a photo shoot illustrating how close a human born with a penis can come to matching the “true female” gender norm/expectations currently placed on humans born with vaginas, and nothing more. It is not revolutionary to be able to meet current social expectations, even if you were born into the opposite set of expectations. Being revolutionary means overthrowing the current social expectations in order to foster growth, expansion, understanding, and equality. In order to revolutionize the way we look at gender we must question our assumptions and our expectations about gender, and this photo shoot does anything but that. If anything, this photo shoot has further solidified the very expectations and assumptions we currently have about the gender binary. By presenting only high fem transwomen instead of a myriad of transgender individuals with varying levels of masculine/feminine expression (or neither), Candy magazine has essentially set an expectation that all transwomen are highly feminine (or desire to present as such). This is not only untrue, but is a dangerous assumption that undermines any non-binary person who doesn't clearly fit into either the male or female modality, not to mention completely ignores the possibility of no gender or bi-gender. By assuming that transwomen will do all they can to become as "true female" as they possibly can, Candy magazine upholds the idea that only male and female modalities exist and that if you are not one, then you must be the other, which is exactly the kind of binary thinking we are already having problems with.

Moving on to the models (subjects) themselves, I believe that Lavern Cox almost doesn’t belong on Candy’s photo shoot at all, because she doesn’t necessarily meet the current expectations of “true females” and she has even admitted as much. Don’t get me wrong, I personally think she is a beautiful, wonderful person, but I watched a speech she gave where she discussed her struggles with fitting those expectations, even after all the changes she made to her body and presentation. In that speech she discussed how she had to come to terms with knowing that she would never pass very well and how she found ways to accept herself as she was. Why then was she included among a group of hyper-sexualized transwomen who were very clearly attempting to meet the gender expectations of "true females" when she so clearly doesn't and openly accepts that about herself?

 I believe that she was included on this photo shoot simply because it could then be spun into something about the “trans-revolution” since she is at the forefront of the media right now with her activism. If anything, I almost believe that all the actual activists presented in this shoot were an afterthought to gain more publicity and to try to better legitimize the hyper-sexualization of the models. It was almost like Candy magazine was saying, “See, guys, we can still totally objectify these transwomen just the same way we objectify ‘normal’ women and we can even pat ourselves on the back for how ‘revolutionary’ we are being!!”

To me, that still screams the same privileged viewpoint of those at the top of the pyramid which marginalized transgender people to begin with. It’s still placing the same standards of impossible beauty upon transwomen that it currently does on ciswomen, and thereby sets up a situation where anyone who doesn’t fit that impossible expectation doesn’t deserve the same level of respect, dignity, and fair treatment that these models do. We see the same thing all the time with the marginalized treatment of heavy set or obese women who don’t fit the impossible standard of beauty and sexiness set by the media.

 

So, that was my initial response, but let’s take it a bit further. After reading that article and my response, what can we do to remedy the mistakes and oversights of Candy magazine’s photo shoot? Obviously we cannot stop this magazine or it’s photos from spreading around the internet (not sure I’d want that anyways, because as I said, all press is good press) but we can use it as an opportunity to further call into question the very norms that are being upheld by this photo shoot. We can encourage not only the models displayed in the magazine, but anyone who is exposed to the magazine to take a closer look at what gender really is and how it manifests in our society. We can write blog posts like this asking questions about why a greater sampling of transgender activists weren’t present on the shoot because by asking that question we can bring a deeper understanding of the nature of gender and how it is policed in our society. By calling into question why only high-fem, hyper-sexualized models (except for maybe 3 of those pictured, including Lavern) get to be highlighted as the 'trans-revolutionaries' we start to highlight the patriarchal undertones that are actually at play. When we question these undertones we make room to read between the lines, to look analytically at the assumptions being presented to us by the media.

Why is transgenderism only acceptable when it is presented in the most normative of fashions and what are the dangers of presenting it under such circumstances? What does this photo shoot say to cisgender people? What does it say to transgender people? What kind of expectations are being upheld by the fashion in which this shoot was presented, and are those expectations actually conducive to revolutionizing our concept of gender?

I have my thoughts and opinions about this, but what are yours? Do you think Candy has done transgender people like me a service, or a disservice in the way they chose to present their “revolutionaries” in this photo shoot?
-Emma

Thursday, December 18, 2014

12-18-2014 Entry: I Walk Alone


Sometimes all of this feels like it is just too much and too difficult to bear. When I wake up in the morning and look at myself in the mirror I feel disgust at the reflection I see. My heart breaks a little more each time I’m forced to see that man staring back at me, with all of his hair in the wrong places and his lack of hair in the right places. As I put on my “man clothes” that I have to wear to work I just want to crawl back into bed and go to sleep, not because I’m tired but because I can hardly stand the thought of having to play this gender role for even one more day. When I brush my hair and try out the new style that I’m hoping to one day pull off, I can’t help but notice the thinness of parts of my hair, thinness that is undoubtedly the result of male-pattern hair loss; you know, the kind that’s a result of a testosterone based hormone.

When I talk and I forget to raise my voice, the sound of the deepness of my male voice makes me cringe. When I do raise my voice to try to reach a more feminine range I can feel the discomfort of the muscles straining to achieve what I want from them, muscles that quickly grow weary after so many years of atrophy. Whenever I go to speak and I have to forcibly remember to raise my voice I feel a deep sense of discouragement that I have to keep trying so hard to sound different. Every time I stumble with my voice I have to fight the urge to beat up on myself for the failure.

I am convinced that a cisgender person can never truly understand what it is like to experience these emotions, to feel the totality of your physical being  as an alien vessel, one that is not only incorrect, but horribly wrong. Sometimes I feel so trapped, so imprisoned in this form. Sure, I can bob along, feeling the lightness of my realization that this inner me is a woman, but that realization is put into stark contrast whenever I catch a reflection of myself. How could the outside be so wrong? How could the outside reflect so poorly the person I am on the inside?

There really are no words for the despair I’m feeling about all of this. It’s the kind of despair that drives a person to choose self-inflicted death over having to bear its weight even one more day. I can completely understand why so many people who are like me (pre/early transition transgender) do attempt suicide rather than bear the crushing enormity of this affliction.

And that is what it is, an affliction. It is both a gift and an affliction, one that is thrust upon a person without any choice or “lifestyle” decision, despite what the small-minded and fearful would like to think. To be born the wrong sex, or to have a gender expression that does not conform to everything you are raised to believe about who you should be is just unbelievably difficult. So difficult that I’m finding even this in-depth description a hollow reflection of what I’m actually feeling or experiencing. How can I ever express the emotion I feel? How can I ever express the isolation I’m experiencing?

I feel a bit like the impossible girl, Clara Oswald, when she’s stuck in the Dalek body and doesn’t have the capacity to fully deal with the horror of her physical reality (yes, I just went all “Doctor Who” on you). I am Emma, listening to music and baking souffl├ęs in complete bliss inside of my little mental bubble, unable to comprehend the tragedy that’s occurred to my physical form.

So what is there to do? What am I supposed to do with this situation I find myself in; a situation that so few ever have to experience? What are my choices, really? As I see it, there are only two options, and it is very important for everyone to understand this because I am not alone in these options. I believe the vast majority of transgender people come to this exact cross-roads in their life and are forced to choose between these two options.

Option A: Give up. Give up the struggle of trying to fit into a gender role that is not only alien and wrong, but oppressive and detrimental to my well being. Give up trying to pretend that life will ever make sense or that any happiness will ever be achieved. Give up and just end it all. Proverbially throw in the towel on life and exit stage left via the route of your choice (blade, drugs, gun, awesome last ride in your car right over a cliff, etc.), or…

Option B: Find a way to make the outside match the inside enough to feel like there is some reason to go on. Embark on one of the most difficult journeys an individual can take into the deep, dark, unknown of gender transition. See a doctor, start hormones, become a freak of nature in the eyes of the majority as you slowly and painfully change into something that resembles the sex you desire. Unlearn everything you’ve been taught about how you should act and who you should be, and face the stark realization that identity is a deep ocean of confusion and fear. Learn ways to strengthen your defenses against the misunderstanding and hatred you might have to face by transgressing the “rules” about gender. Put everything you have in your life at risk in the hopes that what comes out on the other end will be something you can find happiness with, a happiness you might have to experience in solitude because the people you love and hold dear may just abandon you.

Those are my choices: give up or do the hardest, riskiest thing I’ve ever done. And that is where I am today, feeling the enormity of the road ahead of me.
-Emma

 

I walk a lonely road
The only one that I have ever known
Don't know where it goes
But it's home to me and I walk alone

I walk this empty street
On the Boulevard of Broken Dreams
Where the city sleeps
And I'm the only one and I walk alone

I walk alone
I walk alone
I walk alone
I walk a...

My shadow's the only one that walks beside me
My shallow heart's the only thing that's beating
Sometimes I wish someone out there will find me
'Til then I walk alone

Ah-ah, ah-ah, ah-ah, aaah-ah,
Ah-ah, ah-ah, ah-ah

I'm walking down the line
That divides me somewhere in my mind
On the border line
Of the edge and where I walk alone

Read between the lines
Of what's fucked up and everything's alright
Check my vital signs
To know I'm still alive and I walk alone

I walk alone
I walk alone
I walk alone”

-Green Day, Boulevard of Broken Dreams


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

12-16-2014 Entry: Success With the Hair!


Oh my, I am just on cloud 9 this morning and I cannot wait to share what I’m so excited about. I know it’s horribly silly but I think I’ve finally found the solution to my tragic hair situation!!! EEEeee!!! 

Yesterday I was browsing through some google images of short women’s haircuts and saw a few that I thought I might be able to pull off under the right circumstances but I thought I couldn’t be sure of that until my hair gets longer than it currently is (even though it’s longer than it has ever been before). This belief was furthered last night when I tried to style my dry at-the-end-of-the-day hair into one of the cuts I liked and found I couldn’t get anywhere near what I was going for. Despite this setback, not to mention my wife coming into the bathroom unexpectedly, catching me in the act of my tragic hair styling attempt, I decided to try it again this morning after taking a shower. Much to my elation and excitement I was able to style my hair like the picture I’d seen and as I looked at my reflection I just couldn’t help but smile with an amount of joy that cannot be put into words. For the first time ever my hair looked feminine!

I can’t stop smiling, even now, several hours later at the memory of that reflection. I mean, my hair definitely needs several more inches before I can really pull the style off but even my shorter hair revealed the potentials I have! I know this probably sounds completely absurd to some, but it just made me so happy, so happy that I could cry… even now as I’m writing this I can feel my eyes watering from the happiness I feel.

I think it means so much to me because every time I look in the mirror and see this male reflection staring back at me, I feel a bit disappointed and afraid; afraid that I’ll never be able to look anything like a female at the end of my transition. I think that is a pretty common fear among transgender individuals, which is why I felt it important to share this here today. It is the small victories, the small changes in the direction you want to go that can sometimes be the most fulfilling, so cherish every little piece of progress you can find. Because of this morning’s styling efforts, I am now much more confident that I’ll one day look the way I want, so it’s important to always be looking for the positive aspects whenever you can.

So, in case you are wondering what this hairstyle looks like here is the picture I was using as an example. Her hair is much longer than mine (probably a good 6 inches or more) but the way hers is falling is a lot like the way mine falls:

1.   https://encrypted-tbn1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSSM6u-PpLjZzSFpz-r2ku1Mjd3glbr6zj0yF48apbErqe9l_-d

Monday, December 15, 2014

12-15-2014 Entry: Mongols, Genderization, and Power Imbalances


Happy Monday everyone!! Isn’t it just wonderful to crawl out from your weekend hole of joy, relaxation, and peace to rejoin the world as a barely functional, tired, bitter, under-compensated, worker-slave? Don’t you just love getting up and going to work for that pitifully small amount of money allocated to you by people who supposedly provide work that’s worth more money (here’s $100 for me, here is $1 for you. $100 for me, $1 for you….)? Isn’t it great to barely make ends meet, but always have just a little more you need before you can experience that coveted “comfortable” lifestyle??

Okay, sorry, my happy Monday train sort of got rerouted to bitter-town but what can one expect from me on a Monday morning? Obviously I am still bitter that my wife is “sick” at home while I’m slaving away for the man. I’m sure she feels just dreadful in her pajama pants, snuggled up in bed, reading her book in the peaceful quiet of an empty apartment building.

Okay, sarcasm aside (hopefully you could tell I was trying to be humorously sarcastic and not just a whiney baby; if not, go back and read it again with your newfound insight) I suppose I’d better start blogging about something interesting, right? So what is interesting… hmmm…

Well, over the weekend I got to embark on a few new journeys in the television realm thanks to Netflix and my mother’s borrowed amazon prime login info. The first of these adventures was with the show Marco Polo which just launched on Netflix (a Netflix original series). I found this show to be quite entertaining and interesting, although this might just be because I have a strange fascination with anything Chinese, Japanese, Korean, or (evidently) Mongolian as well as a limited familiarity with Marco Polo himself. It also helps that the production value of the show was quite high with its beautiful HD cameras catching the breathtaking scenery, Chinese/Mongolian architecture, and brilliant costume design; not to mention, of course, all the gorgeous naked people having sex! (definitely not a children’s show, btw). As for historical accuracy, I cannot say how close the show is to the actual life of Marco Polo but from what little I could learn from Wikipedia’s biography of Marco Polo, it seems somewhat on key so far (I could be wrong, though).

I suppose the things that caught my interest in this show were the socioeconomic and political undertones displayed in its representation of China/Mongolia in the 13th century, particularly with regard to gender (I know, you are terribly surprised I’d tie it back to gender, aren’t you?). I’m sure it will come as little surprise that the culture depicted in the show (accurate or not) was one of supreme patriarchy where penis = all the power and vagina = basically worthless with the exception of how it can make the penis happy. The women of the show are forced into roles of either queens/princesses (who have little to no actual power, or are used as political currency, respectively), concubines/prostitutes (who are sold to local whorehouses or kept in harems, because if you are going to have one concubine, you might as well have 60 of them living in a permanent orgy house, right?), or peasants (with absolutely no say or power). Needless to say, the show depicts a society that is highly gendered with dominate, masculine males matriculating to the top. The only access to influence or power for the females is through physical beauty and desirability (sexiness) and I don’t mean that figuratively. One of the female characters is specifically used by her brother for political gain and influence (he pretty much pimps her out… because you know, that’s what brothers are for right?) because she shows a knack for sensuality and desirability; something that is displayed early on in a sex scene where she assumes the role of a dominatrix over a local Chinese governor/politician. In this role she gets to exercise power over the men she has been gifted to by her brother, but as with all sexual power, it has its limits. She might be the dominating one in the bedroom, but once she returns to the political sphere she is moved around against her wishes by her brother (he even forces her to leave her daughter behind, the thing she loves the most, in order to fulfill one of his desires for political influence. Why? Because he has a penis, so why not?)

So, what can we learn from this show? Obviously the show is about a male historical figure and is depicting a time where patriarchy was the status quo, so it’s not too surprising that it fails the Bechdel test (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bechdel_test) as none of the female characters talk to one another about anything besides men (unless you count a mother talking to her very young daughter, which I don’t). In fact, I’m not sure I’ve seen any of the women talk to each other at all, with the exception of the brief mother-to-very-young-daughter conversation. But setting the Bechdel test aside, I think we can learn an important lesson about gender and the pyramid of social power as it manifests in a patriarchal society, and that’s that as a society becomes increasingly gendered (closer to a true binary) it will also become increasingly unbalanced in its distribution of power between those genders.

Maybe on the surface that doesn’t seem all that revolutionary of an idea, but let’s dig into this thought some. Nowhere in human history (at least that I’m aware of) did any truly gendered (binary) society ever distribute power evenly across both genders. Almost all highly gendered societies distributed the power primarily to the males, but even in the very rare instances where the opposite was true, there was still an imbalance. If we take the “amazon women” idea as a serious scenario we find that the observation still holds true that the highly gendered society was inherently imbalance in its distribution of power and resources because under such circumstances there is still a favored and disfavored gender (women over men).

So if we continue with this train of thought and start looking at what implications such an idea or hypothesis has we begin to see something that truly is revolutionary. If the imbalance of power peaks in a perfectly gendered society then does it stand to reason that the imbalance of power will approach zero (perfect equality) the less gendered a society becomes? Were I a researching social scientist with some grant money and graduate students to help me I would try to conduct a social experiment under specifically androgynous circumstances to see how the balance of power was distributed. I’d hypothesize that we would find that power would be determined on factors completely separate from one’s sex or gender and we’d find that that distribution was ultimately more equal.

Obviously sex and gender are not the same thing, but the act of genderization is almost inherently an act of mental categorization based on sex, so in the social context for the above experiment it would be nearly impossible to separate the two. The experiment would fail almost immediately if the biological sex of any of the participants was known by another because the socialized genderization process would come into play, intended or not, and would affect the interactions. The knowing participant would automatically begin to think of and treat the sexed individual based on socialization of gender. Were the sexed individual a female, and the knowing individual a male, the knowing individual would automatically begin to interact with the female under such circumstances and would, ultimately, alter his perception of her personality to more readily conform to his assumptions of what “female” means. He might begin to describe her using more traditionally feminine terms than he might if he did not know her sex (and thereby her assumed gender) and would possibly start to treat her as man might a women (assuming he held a traditional “male” gender) by altering his interactions with her (holding the door for her, telling her she looked nice, trying to protect her in aggressive situations, ect.).

Unfortunately I am not a social scientist conducting research, but that doesn’t mean I (and we) can’t begin to test this hypothesis out under less controlled circumstances. Just because the government, a company, or some private interest group doesn’t want to throw money at me to see if what I’m suggesting has any merit, doesn’t mean that the research isn’t important or that it won’t have a large impact on the world. If enough of us started deliberately treating one another outside of the context of gender and started raising our children outside of the context of gender, then eventually our little social experiment could become a social phenomenon.

So how do we do that? How do we start to look at and treat one another outside of the context of gender (and sex)? Well, the first step is to start to recognize when gender rears its head in our thoughts and perceptions of others. Start to notice when you meet someone or talk to someone the almost automatic categorization your brain does of placing them in one gender or another. Start to recognize how your interactions with a perceived male or perceived female differ from one another. Did you do something or say something you would never do or say if they were the other gender? If so, why did you do it, and why wouldn’t you with the other gender? If you come to find that what you did or said was a propagation of the imbalance of power based on the gender binary then try to critically think of ways you could approach the situation differently in the future.

When you interact with another try to notice if they treat you through the lens of gender, and how that manifests. Did their genderization of you empower or disempower you? If it disempowered you what could you do differently next time to limit that disempowerment? If what they did was empower you, try to notice if their action was gender based or fell outside the realm of gender; in other words, did they treat you like a man/woman, or did they treat you like a human?

When you interact with another, try to notice what things you do that might signal your gender to the other person. Did you choose to act in that way, or was it more of an automatic response? (a good example for me is holding the door open for women, it’s an almost automatic response) If it was an automatic response can you find the root cause of the response? Was it something you were socialized to do because of your assumed gender? If it was socialized, what purpose does it serve (does it empower you or disempower you?) and do you really want to keep doing it?




If you have children try to analyze the things you are teaching your kids both through your words and actions. Genderization can be a very subtle process and most often is the result of perceived rights and wrongs based on social queues that are usually unspoken, so this might take some extra work to realize how you are impressing gender on your children. The obvious avenues of genderization are toys, outfits and entertainment, so as you shop for your children for Christmas try to analyze how gendered the toys you buy are and what other options may exist that transcend gender. As you continue to provide clothing to your children as they grow up try to take into consideration the kinds of clothes your children want to wear as opposed to just shopping in the boys or girls section. If you are really brave, and I encourage you to be brave, why not buy some clothes traditionally worn by the other gender/sex and allow your child to wear them. If they are young enough, you can even sit back and be amazed at how much other people struggle with trying to place a gender on your children for you. You can also be amazed at how people react when/if they find out the sex doesn’t match the clothing-gender. As for entertainment, I know it is very easy to let kids just watch television but try to pay closer attention to the programming they consume and what, if any, genderization is occurring in that programming. Is your daughter only watching shows with princesses, pink, and ponies? Then try to get her to watch something geared more towards boys and see if she likes it. If she does like it, I encourage you to foster that interest and explain to her that it doesn’t matter if the show is intended for boys or girls, everyone gets to choose what they like and what they want. The same goes if you have a boy. The earlier you begin this dual-genderization of toys, clothes, and entertainment, the better because it will have a greater affect on their life. With any luck, if enough parents do this and we have a whole generation of children growing up having experienced both sides of the gender binary, we will eventually have entertainment programmers who understand the benefits of producing more androgynous or bi-gendered entertainment. I wish that existed now, but since it doesn't (for the most part) the only way to move in that direction is to transcend the current gender boundaries being set for us and our children. Why should Mattel, Disney, Nickelodeon and other conglomerations get to dictate our children's genders when it should be our children's job to do that on their own?

If you find that other parents you interact with insist on gendering everything about their child’s life I strongly encourage you to question them on their decisions. Chances are they never even considered the ramifications of gendering their children. Ask them why they believe it’s good for boys to be boys and girls to be girls (and smile knowingly at their befuddled responses). Really try to encourage them to critically think about what that does and how that affects their children’s lives as they grow up. Especially if they have girls, try to remind them of the consequences of the binary gender system and how it negatively impacts their daughter’s chances of gaining social power or access to resources. Again, they are unlikely to have ever considered the dangers of upholding the status quo because, like so many gender-based actions, it is an automatic socialized response.


Please do not confuse my message here. Expressing a gender is not wrong and anyone who CHOOSES to have a gender expression should be allowed to do so. What IS wrong is the imbalance of power that’s created by a socialized gender system that favors one gender (sex) over another by assuming a strict binary polarization, and the only way out of that socialized system is to start breaking the rules. What I’m suggesting is that you make your gender instead of allowing gender to make you. Pick and choose. Do you have a vagina but want to be the one who holds the door open for (insert sex/gender of choice)? Do you have a penis but want to talk about your feelings and your desire to be loved for who you are? Then do it! Forget what the gender police say about that being something only “real” men or “real” women do. Let them stick with their boring old ways of doing things, that just gives you more room to find out for yourself what gender really means to you; because in the end, you are only going to have one thing, the life you lived. Will that life be filled with adventure and the pushing of boundaries to find out who you really are, or will it be just another automatic existence firmly within the stratified system of mutually accepted beliefs?

I know which one I’m choosing, the life of a gender outlaw. Will you come with me?

-Emma

 

p.s. I do note that I originally said there were two television adventures and I fully intend to blog at another time about the second show I started watching which is entitled Transparent. I just figure that show deserves a post all on its own as I delve further into it, so stay tuned my lovelies. =)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

12-11-2014 Entry: The Depressing Reality of the Choices We are Forced to Make


Most of my posts lately have been more of a social commentary than of my personal journey into the unknown world of Emma the transwoman, but today I feel inclined to bring things back to home a little. There is something about Gender Dysphoria and the transition journey that isn’t well understood among many who never have to question their identities like transgender folks do. The aspect I am referring to is the depression that frequently accompanies the transition process, especially in the early parts before full transition is made.

Key among the many causes to this gender dysphoric depression is self-doubt and social concerns, which can manifest in any number of ways depending on the person experiencing it. For me, at least today, this depression is manifesting in concerns about how my coworkers will handle my decision to transition, and in particular, I’m highly concerned about my co-workers from different countries. I happen to work in a law office that has a rather large diversity of ethnic backgrounds, including Japanese, Chinese, Russian, and Korean employees. The main concern on my part is the language barriers that separate us and finding myself unsure that I will ever be able to fully articulate to these coworkers what it means to be transgender.

Most of our Chinese and Japanese employees only have a semi-functional handle on the English (American) language and as such, we hardly ever have the occasion to really socialize or interact with one another. I cannot blame them for being shy, because if I were to head to Spain to work I think I’d find my Spanish skills rather insufficient to really be sociable and would probably find myself being overly shy as well. There is nothing quite as uncomfortable as not speaking the same language or only knowing a very limited amount of the language. So what am I to do when the time comes for these employees to start questioning what’s happening with me?

My American coworkers at least have the advantage of completely understanding my words and explanations, even if they will likely never fully understand what it’s like to be transgender, but what about the Japanese lawyer who barely speaks English? How am I ever going to adequately explain to him something that’s already so difficult to articulate to begin with? And what about the culture differences? Traditionally speaking (forgive the generalization about to come, this is merely a perception that may be inaccurate) the Japanese and Chinese cultures are both very patriarchal. In China, male children are favored over female children (so much so that some of them are abandoned shortly after birth). In japan, for a female to disobey her father (or husband?) would be to dishonor him, and honor means a great deal to the Japanese. Under such cultural influences, how will a male-to-female be perceived? Will there be more phobia than my American coworkers? Will there be any understanding at all? I’m really unfamiliar with how transgender people are viewed in either of those cultures, and because of that unknown, I find myself filled with doubts again.

And that is the nature of the beast called gender dysphoria and the depression that comes with it. One day I can be the top of the world, shunning gender boundaries left and right, spinning my gender outlaw issued silver revolver of justice, and then the next I’m feeling a crushing amount of worry, anxiety, and fear about what my future holds.

During my session yesterday with my darling therapist Melanie, we discussed the journey of the hero (by Joseph Campbell) and it was surprising how similar the journey of the hero is to making the transition. Which means, You guessed it, I’m the hero! BumBahdahdum!! /epic cape flapping in the wind as I look over the city I protect. Okay maybe I’m not really a hero (/sad trombone), but the idea of the discussion was to compare the metaphorical journey of the hero with the journey of the gender transition and I found it quite compelling; especially the part in the beginning where the hero struggles with even embarking on the journey at all. At this stage the hero is still trying to decide if they really want to take the call to adventure or if it would just be easier to go back, and I have found myself doing exactly this during my bouts of depression. I find myself becoming overwhelmed at the enormity of the journey ahead and start to wonder if it wouldn’t just be easier to stay Robert the supposedly-cisgender male and pretend like none of this happened. I find myself being plagued by fear and insecurity as I continue to let go of this identity I’ve held onto for as long as I’ve been alive, much in the same way a child fears letting go of their security blanket.

And that’s the rub that few people every really talk about or hear about, the letting go of the identity. Transitioning is much more than just becoming a different sex or finally getting to display the appropriate gender expression. Transitioning is also the letting go of everything you’ve ever known about yourself. In order to fully transition (especially for one who is already an adult) a person must completely deconstruct every aspect of their identity to figure out who they even are anymore. They have to do what I’m doing as I examine each and every aspect of myself to determine if what I’m finding is something I want to keep or is something that’s just a socialized coping mechanism I’ve been dragging around with me for 29 years.

Let’s look at this in a metaphorical sense. Imagine you’ve been promised a gift that is priceless, like perhaps a Genie in a bottle who will grant you three wishes (and he’s a nice Genie who won’t turn every wish into something awful), but the only way you can receive this gift is to destroy all of your possessions except for the ten most valuable and important possessions that you own; the possessions that really make you the person you are (no money, sorry). Additionally, when you are making your decisions about what you keep and what you allow to be destroyed, every person you know and interact with (including acquaintances, friends, family, co-workers, and familiar strangers like your neighbors) will be standing around you, watching and commenting on what you pick and don’t pick. Oh, and you cannot pick your home itself or your vehicles that you travel around in, those too must be destroyed. You can keep the property that your home is on, but you’ll be forced to rebuild it afterwards. (if you live in an apartment or condo, just pretend you have a house). Lastly, you cannot wish for any of the things that are destroyed to be replaced by the genie; once they are gone, they are gone forever, AND you cannot use your wishes to give something to anyone else, they must be completely selfish wishes.

 So what do you pick? How do you choose? How much do you allow the surrounding people to influence your decisions? Who’s opinion do you value the most? Who’s do you value the least? What happens if something you choose not to save means a great deal to someone close to you (maybe it was a gift they gave you), do you sacrifice one of your ten possessions to save their feelings, or do you sacrifice their feelings with the hope that they will forgive you one day? Do you even take the wishes at all, or do you live your life always wondering what would have happened if you had made that deal? If you do take the wishes how do you cope with the loss of all of your other possessions? Will the priceless three wishes be enough to compensate for all that you’ve lost?

What if, in addition to losing all of your possessions, you had to also pick 10 people who’d remain in your life but everyone you didn’t pick would stop being your friend or would disown and hate you completely? Would you still be able to make the decision to take the three priceless, yet selfish-based wishes? If so, who would you pick? Would you choose friends over family, or family over friends? What if one of the people you picked insisted that you kept a possession you didn’t value enough to save? Would you choose them and the possession over losing them to keep something you actually wanted?

To me, and many like me, these are exactly the kinds of questions we have to deal with when we make the decision to transition. The three priceless wishes are the end result of our transition where we finally get to be who we want to be (being true to yourself really is priceless). The possessions we choose to keep are parts of our identity that we feel really make us who we are, while the parts that are destroyed are the aspects that we have to sacrifice to become who we really want to be; they are the gender aspects that we’ve been socialized into, which could very well be seen as very important to people like our parents, friends, or spouses/partners. The people surrounding us who get to comment on our decisions are the people we interact with as our assigned gender, the ones who will possibly be hurt or angry at our decisions on what to keep and what to leave behind. They include our acquaintances, friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, and even the cashiers at Chipotle who know us by name and face because we have a shameless Chipotle addiction… mmmm Chiptole…… do I want Chipotle for lunch??.... er… what? What was I saying? Oh, right, the metaphor.

The house and car that we cannot save are our appearances and bodies, because in order to transition we must completely rebuild our physical selves (assuming we are opting for medical transition). We cannot replace all of our possessions afterwards because they no longer apply to the new identity we are taking on. Emma can’t be the guy with a goatee anymore. Emma can’t claim to be a hetero-sexual white educated male anymore, and therefore can’t claim to have that same social power (as dictated by the rules of the pyramid of social power) as one. Emma can’t expect to be compensated higher than her female coworkers simply because of her perceived gender (not that it was ever right to begin with). The people we have to choose to keep in our lives are the ones who will support us, and sadly we really can’t choose who does that and who doesn’t. Sometimes we have to choose between our transitions (the identity possessions) and keeping very close friends and family members in our lives, which might mean things like choosing not to have SRS because your spouse doesn’t want you to have different naughty bits, or choosing to lose your parents or family because their religious beliefs don’t accept what you are.
Lastly the wishes are completely selfish because transitioning is a very selfish, ego-centered process and it has to be that way. It’s your possessions (identity aspects) that you have to live and die with, so you have to be very self-centered in your decisions. Your choices will affect the people around you, yes, but in the end they are not their choices to make. All you can do is decide if what is important to them is also important to you, and that decision may just end the relationship altogether.

And this is why I felt depressed at the beginning of this post, and why I’ll continue to struggle with my decision to transition, because sacrifices must be made. If we lived in a world where the gender-binary wasn’t so oppressive, people like me wouldn’t be forced to make such difficult and often permanent choices about who we are, who we get to keep in our lives, and how we are going to cope with the inevitable losses of friends and loved ones.
It is exactly this reason that we need to raise awareness of transgender people and why I'm authoring this blog at all. I want to pull back the curtain on what it means to be transgender so that understanding and empathy can ensue. Maybe if enough people discover what's lurking in the deep dark unknown of the transgender mind, they might realize that there is nothing to worry about because we are just humans. Humans with worries, fears, hopes, and dreams, just like everyone else.

-Emma

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

12-9-2014 Entry: The Gender Boundaries and Evolution


So this past weekend I had what I can only describe as uncomfortable experiences in hyper-masculinity. Let me explain. On Friday my wife and I were invited to a dinner party for one of her Architecture firm’s clients in order to celebrate the completion of a project for a local hunting club (I’ll omit the official name for anonymity’s sake). The person throwing this party was the head of that hunting club and is a man who prides himself on his hunting accolades. He even has a couple (not just one, but multiple) hunting shows on television, countless hunting awards and honors, as well as a massive collection of dead animal trophies littering every wall and corner of his 5 million dollar mansion.

Needless to say, this man is sitting on the pinnacle of the pyramid of social power. He’s white, rich, fertile (has kids), married, educated, and undeniably “manly” in his interactions with others. He was so manly, in fact, that the secondary objective to this party was for him and his appropriately feminized wife to march us around their giant house to observe all the things he has killed (as a Buddhist and a vegetarian, you can probably guess how excited I was for this “dead things” tour; yes that’s what Mr. Manly-pants called it too, with an ear-to-ear grin I might add).

After parading us through his mausoleum of once beautiful and majestic creatures (buffalos, moose, ducks, antelope, impalas, etc.) we were treated to a dinner of recently murdered pheasant (yes, he served us an animal he’d slain just days earlier, can you feel his manliness just pouring through your screen right now? Are you as painfully aware of his big throbbing manhood as he wanted us to be?), during which my wife and I were forced to entertain the company of many other privileged guests. When I say privileged I don’t mean that it was their honor to be there, I mean that they too were romping around at the peak of the pyramid of social power. We were surrounded by lawyers, engineers, self-made millionaire businessmen, contractors and architects, all of whom were white, educated, fertile, and appropriately gendered. We listened to banter about the women birthing multiple additional children because their manly husbands demanded more babies to solidify the survival of their virile genetics (okay, I’m paraphrasing with a biased tone, but are you not entertained?). We listened as the men joked about their hard work and their love of killing defenseless animals while the women stayed at home to tend to the children (no need to work or have dreams/aspirations of their own with all that manliness bringing home the bacon, right?). I was even lucky enough to have to join the men as they flocked around the big screen TV to watch some professional hockey (beers in hand and all). Not that I have issue with hockey, I love hockey.

So everything was fine and well, right? I mean, because of my male appearance I was accepted without question at this party. Sure, there might have been some initial questions about what I do for a living, but once I mentioned that I worked at a law firm and it came out that I was also a published author, any doubt about my validity in this social setting was erased. But here are the questions that I found the most interesting. What if I’d come to that party as Emma instead of Robert? What if I’d shown up in a dress, with makeup and nail polish on? Do you think that I would have been accepted so easily? Do you think that I would have been welcomed and shuffled together with the men as “one of the boys” without question or complaint?

And what about my wife? Do you think that my wife would have been accepted so easily? Would they have treated her differently if she showed up with her transwoman wife instead of her white, educated, seemingly manly-enough husband?

If, by some stretch of the imagination, they did accept me for the transwoman that I am, where would they have expected me to go? Would I have been invited into the group of women? Or would the men have been comfortable enough to let me socialize with them? Would me having or not having a penis (pre or post op SRS) make any difference in their mind? And what about my wife? Would the women still accept her so easily if they knew she was married to a transwoman? Would they chat her up assuming nothing was wrong or different about her life?

Obviously these are all hypothetical questions to which there can be no sure answer but I believe that considering them is an excellent exercise in revealing where we think the gender boundary exists in social settings like this. I personally believe that I would not have even been invited to the party had I been openly transgender. Sure, my wife’s boss (white, educated, married, fertile, business owner, wife stays at home with the kids) might have still invited her to avoid any obvious discrimination, but I have my doubts that the invitation would have extended to me too. If, for some I was still invited I believe that I would have been treated with both ignorance and unacceptance. I have my doubts that they would have been so rude as to openly call me out and say that my “lifestyle” (I have no doubts they’d use that term) was unacceptable in their home, but I would have been the butt of their jokes after leaving. They would have felt awkward, unsure, confused, and possibly angry at my appearance. The entire party would have been a completely different experience and that’s the point that needs to be understood and explored.

Why, if I was the same exact person, would I be treated so differently (hypothetically) just because my gender and sex don’t match? What is it about the social pyramid of power game that causes the whole thing to break down into chaos when someone isn’t abiding by the most basic of the rules? Isn’t such a system a flawed one if something so simple, so arbitrary, so innocuous could bring the whole thing crashing down? Isn’t the system built on a flawed premise if even questioning that premise (sex-to-gender absolutism) is an act of anarchy or treason?

A perceived man wearing women’s clothing would have been seen as weird, strange, out-there, wrong, or even immoral in this situation, but does anyone even know why that is? So many just accept that it’s weird, strange or wrong, but they almost never question why they think that way. A person killing another is wrong for obvious reasons because it’s a deprivation of life against another’s will. The stealing of an item that does not belong to you is wrong for obvious reasons, because you are depriving another of their property or possession. But an individual with a penis wears an article of clothing normally associated with the opposite sex and the same reaction is aroused, as if a crime has been committed? Am I the only one who sees this as madness? Where is the harm in a dress covering up a penis instead of a vagina? Why is it wrong to deprive another person of their life, but it’s not wrong to deprive that person of their identity? You are allowed to live, but gosh-darnit you better live the way we tell you too, otherwise we’re going to have some problems.

Perhaps it’s time we started questioning the assumptions we make about reality if those assumptions are leading to the deprivation of identity, and that’s what I’m here to do. I’m here to question those assumptions, not because I have all the answers, but because they are the questions we need to start considering as a society if we ever hope to live in a more inclusive world. Why is gender so important to social power? Have a true, socially accepted gender and you are automatically accepted and granted some amount of power (more if you are white, educated, and fertile). Move beyond, bend, or break from those socially accepted genders and your power evaporates into thin air… why?

Is it possible that the gender binary is left over clutter from earlier stages in human evolution? Is it possible that gender was a result of a need to accumulate and divide resources for the purpose of propagating the species? If you observe primates and their social structure, it becomes apparent how gender (note that I didn’t say sex) plays a role in their survival. They have a very real and overwhelming need to allocate resources to the strongest of their species for the greatest chance of continued genetic survival, and typically the best candidates for that “strongest” position are the very masculine males and the competitively attractive, fertile females.

 

Let that really sink in for a moment…. Is it sinking in? Here, I’ll say it again. The primates who are at the top of their respective social pyramid of power are the large, hyper-masculine, dominate males, and the most competitively attractive and fertile females. Is that ringing any bells? Is there a twitch in the back of your mind that’s saying, “Hmmm… this sounds kind of familiar,” because there should be.

 

Still not registering? Then let’s make one tiny word substitution and see if it makes sense. The humans who are at the top of their respective social pyramid of power are the large, hyper-masculine, dominate males, and the most competitively attractive and fertile females. Now, definitely let the ramifications of that substitution sink in because we are starting to get to the core of our issue here. The gender binary system we see in human society is, in my opinion, left over clutter from our early days in evolution, which means that the transcendence of gender by people like me and many others is indicative of an evolutionary change in our species.

As humans we have escaped the food chain and have managed to surpass the limitations of resources (mostly), which means we are no longer subject to the process of natural selection. Natural selection dictates that the strongest of a species is the most likely to survive, so competition for resources (and breeding) is highly aggressive with the masculine males and fertile females getting the lion’s share (top of the pyramid) and lesser males/females getting smaller portions. You can see this evident in our society today as the majority of those with the greatest quantity of resources or influence are the dominate males and aggressively attractive (sexy) females.

Maybe you are thinking that I’m making a stretch so let’s simply it a bit. Think about High School for a moment. Who were the most popular people in High School? Weren’t they almost always the hyper-masculine, dominate guys (jocks/bad boys) and the aggressively attractive females (cheerleaders/mean-girls)? Did you ever question that? I’m guessing that you probably didn’t and that’s because we are still operating on an old evolutionary blueprint that no longer applies to our world.

Gender is no longer necessary for the propagation of the species because we aren’t competing for resources the same way we used to. You can still have children and continue the species regardless of your gender or where you stack up in the social pyramid, so why are we still using that system? My guess is habit, but thankfully those habits are changing. More and more people are recognizing that gender shouldn’t be tied to social empowerment or disempowerment. More and more we are seeing compassion win over competition, but we have a long way to go.

So today’s homework, boys, girls, androgyns, bigenders, and nongenders is to observe the world around you to see where old-school, primate-esque, natural selection-driven social mechanisms are still in place and to evaluate, objectively if possible, if there is still any good reason to continue those mechanisms. The only way to evolve is to do things differently, to break the habits of our fore-apes and set new trends.

-Emma