Knabbelen aan seksestereotypes

In de Nederlandse pers verschenen in een week tijd twee artikelen over de gendertweedeling zoals we die kennen. Zaterdag in de Volkskrant verscheen “Hecht niet zo aan de hokjes” van Sonja Alferink, en vandaag stond op de Joop een stuk getiteld “Mag ik een ander hokje? Deze past niet”. Als Superman zowel de nerdy journalist Clark kent is, als Redder der wereld, waarom kunnen anderen dan niet ook buiten hun voorgeschreven patronen treden? Continue reading

A talk on embodiment (LOVA 2014)

I am Vreer and I lost my gender already ages ago. Left it under some stone and have never found it back. I go by the pronouns “They”, “their” and “them”.

I guess I want to reflect a bit on this theme of embodiment, and gender. My story is not completely coherent, but neither am I anyway. It is both a reflection on a couple of questions and it is a couple of personal remarks, stories. A fragment of biography. Anyway.

In the Netherlands my body has no social significance. My body does not matter, does not count. My body must be adapted to a sexist and racist standard. Before it was the law that charged medicine to uphold a classic moral that certain identities were only legal and legitimate in certain bodies.  Now it is only medicine and social cultural norms; the law more or less took its hands off our body now. And many identities have no place anyway. Well, in a certain sense I am OK with that. I am way too cute for your binary. I can’t even think straight, let alone that I can adapt to cis standards. Best let me frolic and riot.

For me we can definitely sever the body from the biological. Or better we can ditch biologism. Biology as the description of all kind of processes that happen in bodies (human, animal or plant) and beyond definitely has its value. But as soon as it concerns things sex and gender, biology turns into ideology . As so many scientists, biologists don’t look very critical at the basis of their science. Most of them will never have heard of their eminent colleague Donna Haraway with her groundbreaking book” Simians, cyborgs and women, her later critique and analysis of bioscience “Modest_witness@Second_Millennium: Femaleman™ meets Oncomouse©”. The books that prove sex and gender diversity in all kind of species are often ignored or criticized from scientific dominant ideology.?Gender is always embodied. Not because we are born that way but because power relations inscribe gender on our bodies.

I, or we – I sometimes identify as a positive multiple (We are legion and so am I) – can definitely speak from my sexed and gendered body. My queerly gendered body that has slowly become comfortable to be while I peel off all the layers of imposed significance. I had to start with that just after finishing my second transformation, from Male to Female, or from hidden riddle-gender to Monique Wittig inspired lesbian to be. I had become an apparently cute trans* woman, but never felt comfortable with many things “woman”. Directly after breast surgery I had to wear a bra, a real one, not some kind of top. The horror. It felt I was made to conform to norms living close to the body, just for having a certain body. I have never been interested in female labelled underwear. if I considered it too frilly on others already, then surely on myself.
If I hadn’t felt the weight of expectations on me I probably immediately would have sought for something like army fatigues.

After some years and quite some torment – my love was just growing breasts and identified with mine – and binding, I decided to let go of my breasts. They didn’t fit with me anymore and I took them for a ‘false’ reason, almost as a test. They helped me in developing my womanhood, or femaleness, my femininity. That I let go of after a couple of years. I accepted my rejected masculinity. And later started working again at my femininity but then way queerer. I now associate (i never identify voluntarily anymore) as faggot, flikker, marica. Maybe I went full circle. I am a trans *man who was born in the wrong body.
Like my gender and how the world saw it, I never liked the way the world works either. Always too much wrong. Probably all of my life I proudly belonged to all kind of minorities. I love being part of all sort of minorities, but I absolutely do not like the lack of privilege it comes with, the lack of rights and possibilities.
Minorities are cool, deviant and oppressed groups have way more humour than the Ordinaries, the Others, los demás. de gewono’s. We are cool, you are dumb. You irritate us with your limited cis behaviour.  We have problems with your “cissplaining”. and we don’t need cis people to stand for us, we need you to stand with us!

(c) Carolina Ödman

Maybe I should tell you what I dream. How my ideal gender, body and sexually diverse world would look.
Non hierarchical to start with. Everybody celebrating diversity and creativity. Free love, no more (subtly) forced compliance with white, cis or straight normativity. No more wearing a pronoun sticker that tells your name and gender, nor badges with your pronoun. No list of fifty something gender or sexual options. Just a positive dotted line where you can tell what you want people to know. Being loved for being Different. And everybody learns sign language, with all the terms for our beautiful existences. Our own Deaf terms. Queer wheelies and other queer dis/abled people would be welcomed on sparkled ramps or other enabling solutions. The EU would be very colour, gender, crip, unicorn and women positive.

Not unimportant: out trans* people and out intersex people or people with an intersex status/condition would all be loved. Because that is a huge problem. We are hated. In five years we have counted more than 1,500 murdered trans* people, most of whom by the way were trans* women of colour doing sex work out of survival necessity. And I guess most of you neither have had much talk with trans* people, in a serious friendly non research related way. You all love us for research. But you never love us. Trans* people are in almost all environments radically not loved. And then there is a cotton ceiling: it hardly goes beyond the underwear. Of course I must not bear the sins of one researcher on all the others. #notallresearchers, you know. And #yesalltrans people. But my own experience appears to find collective recognition. I would actually say: try us out. Not as in taking a trial subscription, but open up to us, explicitly. Be revolutionary and love a trans*/inter* person! Confront the unknown. We have to do it every time when we engage with a cis person.

I do not want your acceptance, I want your transformation and don’t take “later” for an answer. You can help, you should help. The recruiting office is open after the discussion.

Tijd voor transitie

Goed. Vooralsnog is het bedrijfsavontuur mislukt. Op mijn manier, met mijn ervaring en met mijn gebrek aan commerciële ervaring lukt het niet. Dat ik niemand echt heb kunnen meekrijgen om meer projecten te schrijven en er misschien een gehonoreerd te krijgen, werkt ook niet mee. En dan is er een compleet gebrek aan enthousiasme van de gemeenschap (gemeenschap? Hebben we die hier dan?!) Schiet dus niet op.

Dan maar in transitie. Nummer zoveel. maar nu dan van ‘bedrijf’ naar iets anders, ik denk stichting. Uiteindelijk gewoon wel door me de activiteiten, al moet ik eerst afkicken en zien dat ik er anders mee omga. De kennis is er en we gaan ook niet echt dicht, maar we gaan verder op een andere manier, en op een lager pitje voor nu.

self love

Naast dat ik de bal bij mezelf leg, dient ie heel hard in het doel van een arme en bange transgemeenschap en een neoliberale economie die iedereen het fut tot anders-zijn probeert te ontnemen, worden geschoten. Want dat is het veld waarin ik werk. En dat dus niet werkt.

Een project dat ik intussen heb opgezet is is Principle 17, naar Yogyakarta Beginsel 17, het recht op de hoogst haalbare gezondheid. Daar moet de overheid garanties voor stellen en dat moet de medische wereld uitvoeren. En dat gebeurt totaal niet nu. Dus gaan we werken aan verbetering daar. Twee van de bestaande trans-organisaties werken al mee en we gaan zeker van ons laten horen.

Het geld moet maar van jullie allemaal komen dan, via de bijstand, want voor de arbeidsmarkt ben ik niet zo interessant schijnt het. Mocht je daar anders over denken, dan hoor ik dat graag en ben ik benieuwd naar je tip 😉

Tot dan,: het zij zo. Jammer dan. Los , en door. Voorwaarts, desnoods door de porseleinkast.

Toch wel

Ook ik heb zat twijfel gekend. Die vage, vreemde transtwijfel. Niet zozeer of het wel wat voor mij was. Meer hoe het dan zat, en dat ik alleen maar eind van mijn twintiger jaren echt iets begon te merken. Reconstructie doet mij geloven dat dat wel meevalt (of juist tegen). Ongemak krijgt door een translens plots meer cachet. Ik geloof dat ik uiteindelijk best een redelijk klassieke trans ben geweest altijd, behalve dan dat ik altijd al een Nobi (non-binaire) ben geweest.

Een van de dingen die in elk geval altijd sterk speelden was dat ik de wereld dan wel enigszins begreep en er tegen ten strijde trok, maar wie dat dan was, die ten strijde trok? Eh, geen idee … Ik heb jarenlang de ervaring gehad vooral vanuit achter in mijn hoofd naar buiten te kijken als het ware. Of zoals iemand ooit mij karakteriseerde: Sint Joris die de draak tegemoet gaat, maar met inadequate wapenrusting. Ik zou zeggen dat er een harnas naar de draak ging.  Joris was achtergebleven, was überhaupt afwezig. Een groot deel van de kinderverliefdheden hadden er zeker even veel mee te maken dat ik me diep met die meisjes associeerde, als dat ik ze leuk vond als in verliefdheid en zo. Wat men wel met “hebben of zijn” vertaalt. En daarin ben ik ook eigenlijk nooit echt eenduidig geweest.  Ik val nog steeds zowel op vrouwelijke vrouwen (cis of trans) maar ook op stoerdere die ik met het  “fiets- en kampeerwezen” associeer, die kunnen bouwen, vechten. En zachte mannen, lieve vriendelijke mannen. Die blijkens een recente ontdekking heus niet alleen maar glad en vrouwelijk hoeven te zijn. Je leert altijd bij. En lichamen hoeven al helemaal niet “eenduidig” te zijn, aan de cisnorm te voldoen. Zolang de persoon in kwestie er maar niet mee zit. Alles loopt door elkaar. Panta rhei, zeg maar, alles stroomt. Maar het was natuurlijk niet alleen richting anderen merkte ik dat ik anders was.

Als jonge twintiger van mannelijke kunne had ik een vreemde en vreemd sterke interesse in feminisme. Niet zozeer dat ik het raar vond dat ik in feminisme geïnteresseerd was, dat viel wel mee. Maar meer dat er in de diepte iets begon te woelen. Dat ik later als genderig heb kunnen plaatsen. En in leven en strijd was ik altijd al geïnteresseerd. Als opgroeiende puber aan de anti-atoomstroom strijd deelnemen, naar concerten van Chileense muziekgroepen als Quilapayún, Lautaro gaan, in demo’s tegen het eerste neoliberale regime meelopen … De laatste jaren snap ik pas wat ik met flikkers en flikkerstrijd had. Vond het wel leuk en spannend en soms aantrekkelijk, maar besefte ook: het gaat niet om de seksualiteit. Misschien dat ik daarom er ook vooral over las 😉

De enige ‘fout’ in dit gebeuren is geweest dat ik me als “vrouw” ben gaan zien een tijd. Of dat in elk geval heb geprobeerd. Lesbisch paste al beter (vanuit het perspectief van WIttig, insoumise)En bij gebrek aan beter ga je daar maar achteraan dan. En langzaam wijzen flikkertheorie, genderspul als Butlers performativiteit en vooral Kate Bornsteins “Gender Outlaw” de weg naar een geheel andere wereld. Die ook nog steeds de nodig investering vergt qua bewoonbaar maken. En die ‘fout’ is uiteraard geen fout: er was nog geen andere keuze en waarschijnlijk kan ik het het beste beschouwen als de ruwe vorm, die met wat verdere beitelen, zagen en vijlen deze vreer opleverde. En ja, het is heel gewoon dat de weg naar je genderbeleving via seksualiteit gaat, zeker als je alleen  sensationele fotoboeken vindt van “transgenderisten” die sekswerk deden in Sydney of op de Reeperbahn in Hamburg. Of lijpe psychiatrische theorieën. Ideeën over wat tegenwoordig “genderqueer” heet, werden in de jaren 1990 voor het eerst gekneed en met trans* gecombineerd. maar hier te lande moesten we wachten tot de eerste transgenderfilmfestivals in Amsterdam (vanaf eind 2001) tot er een grotere vonk zou overslaan.

Maar het begon dus al veel eerder. Ook zonder expliciet pesten meed ik de gegenderde wc’s op school nogal eens en voelde ik me in gezelschap van leeftijdsgenoten vaak heel ongemakkelijk. Van de lagere school herinner ik niet zo veel, behalve dat ik slap was en vooral dol op leren. De meeste puberteits- en adolescentieproblemen waren meer dan gewoon die van een getormenteerde puber. Ik herkende me ook in niemand, had geen voorbeelden. Dus modderde voort met de moed der hoop. Ik ben op een “reis” waarin ik veel dingen van vroeger opnieuw bezie en herinterpreteer, ontdek dat ze vaak wel degelijk een link hadden met gender.

Fascinating, die reis.

Destroy the cis-tem (on the occasion of International Women’s Day 2015)

Tonight I want to talk you about the “cistem”, about the role of some  “feminists” in the cistem. And for that I need to explain a lot of other things first. Like who is trans*? And who counts as trans*?

transfeminismI will give you a bit of basics on trans* and trans* people, because usually not even most trans* people directly know everything. Maybe a bit of a comedown, but we are not all experts. Some people just want to live their life.

  • Trans people are those who change their legal gender because that other option fits better.

  • Trans people dress up, cross dress. Sometimes seriously, sometimes less seriously. Some identify as cross dressers, some don’t. And some don’t dress up at all.

  • Trans people are those who choose medical assistance to get their body (better) aligned with their identity. But many don’t do that, for various reasons, including lack of access to (affordable and good quality) trans health care.

  • Gender identity is the deeply felt personal conviction of being of some gender, and that is not by definition male or female.

  • Gender theory is evil, gender studies less so.

  • Gender diversity is global and of probably all times.

  • Some trans people are bitchy and others are stupid or dumb.
    Just like with cis people. But definitely more beautiful 🙂

  • More than 40% of trans* people have pondered suicide.

  • Since 2009 more than 1,700 trans* people have been murdered. In Europe Turkey and Italy are the worst. The Netherlands had two killings last year.

  • Some of our worst enemies call themselves feminists

  • We write trans* with an * to include all diversity within trans*

Terminology

We have to be careful with terminology. Careful with male and female, because these are not neutral terms. They contain many assumptions. And when you are not aware of that, you easily end up with the wrong feminists.

It seems we are all born with gender identity, probably in a rudimentary form. Actually I don’t think that is so important. We are human beings and thus endowed with rights. Also if we would not have any gender identity. Probably I am only preaching to the choir when I say that gender or gender identity is a social construction. The debates around this just change on how that works, hardly on the fact. Except that Judith Butler made clear how much sex and gender are a Siamese twin. There is no gender without sex, and sex without gender is incomprehensible.

Already in the 1970s feminism started to dismantle the patriarchal idea of a direct coupling of body and role. The famous statement that biology is not destiny. In the 1990s this was taken radically further and now again. The important contribution, that trans* has for feminism is showing ever more clearly that having a certain body is not a prerequisite for certain identities and expressions. I think that trans* nowadays makes very clear, how much patriarchy and moral conservatism hate autonomous people self determining the identity that lives in their body.

laverne

Kyriarchy

What cis and trans* feminists of any gender have in common is an elevated interest in dismantling patriarchy, or kyriarchy if you want. Only some – mostly white middle class cis women – forgot to read on since the 1970s. They still stick with the idea sex is immutable and gender is only roles.

And actually you may not be free from that either. Hopefully just because you don’t know better for never having messed with it. Maybe the easiest way is to just say what I and many other trans people expect, above all in feminist circles.

  • An easy one: we have pronouns, like you. If you don’t know for sure, ask us how we want to referred to as. Don’t assume either he/she not ze/they/xie. Better ask, than fuck up. Because of endless misgendering we are a bit sensitive about it.
  • We take the bathroom we want to take. Because it is the one indicating where people of our gender should go. Or just because it is the first toilet door on the left. Who cares.
  • Just like everyone we have a right not to be harassed wherever we go, including the right or wrong bathroom. What’s a wrong bathroom anyway. Maybe one that is defunct.
  • If I identify as a woman – however my body and especially my genitals may look – I have the right to shower with the other women. Naked. Also if I still have my native “male” genitals.
  • Nobody has the right to harass someone. For whatever reason. So support your trans sisters if they would have trouble because they don’t look not cis enough. Not being used to things, is not a reason to protest or to question someone’s identity.
  • Same applies in reverse: trans men are men and actually everyone is the gender they say they are. Same with me, whatever body parts you see or I have, they don’t define me.
  • Just that you have a womb (if you have one) doesn’t make you more a woman than someone who does not.

The biggest and I think simplest link between trans* and feminism is that trans* people are being confronted time and time again with social sexism and ingrained misunderstandings about bodies and roles and identities. Where even science starts to agree with us, not only the social sciences. There are more than two sexes, some five or nine. And there are a zillion of gender identities and expressions. Feminism states already from the beginning that biology is not destiny. Except for some people of course when you were born with a penis. Then biology is destiny. All of a sudden. And then the genitals and the gonads and chromosomes suddenly make the woman, doing away with all complexity of bodies and genders. In that sense I consider them quite silly.

And of course trans* feminism is multi-coloured and anti-racist – as all serious feminism should be. We don’t want to repeat the arrogance of 1980s mainstream white feminism that kept out women of colour and anarcha-feminists. Something improbable anyway these days: current feminism strikes me as becoming (finally)  rather inclusive of colour. Still feminism still is a complicated question, also in the students’ movement. Issues as colour, ableism and class need to be addressed everywhere all the time (Vrankrijk being not accessible to dis_abled people and non-smokers is also a feminist issue).

TERF

Some history or herstory on TERFs, the Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists. And some names. Actually the TERF story can be done away with by logic and opening up. Because it is logic fallacies and myths.

As so many things, it started more or less in the USA. In the 1970s. With a certain Janice Raymond. She wrote a book advocating for her vice, titled “The Transexual Empire : the making of the she-male”. Under the guise of scientific freedom and the freedom of press, the book itself is just semi-scientific rubbish as there has been before and has been afterwards, like Michael J. Bailey’s “The man who would be queen”. However, Raymond did not just write a book, she actively campaigned at then president Ronald Reagan for the closure of all gender clinics in academic hospitals and non-financing of trans friendly therapists, by which she actively and willingly endangered the lives of many trans people. Also her ideas directly or indirectly instigated a troupe of lesbian “avengers” on the trail of trans sound engineer Sandy Stone who worked at Olivia records, a radical lesbian record label. Stone was out and had the full support of the crew, but had to got into hiding because of the lesbian killers on her trail. If you don’t take my word for this, check the interview that Transadvocate had with Stone.

Fast forward to now: “theoretical” TERFness seems to be an Anglo-Saxon game. The biggest trans* haters live in the UK and in the US, and all are cis white middle-aged lesbians. Janice Raymond doesn’t do trans* anymore, she only does sex work-hate now. But the Big TERF is Cathy Bug Brennan, a lawyer at the Maryland bar. She is one of a bunch of active doxxers. “Doxxing” is revealing the name and whereabouts of trans women who often don’t use their daily names online. By doing this Brennan and friend Gallusmag endanger the lives of many trans women – and enjoy it. By the way, since October 28, 2014 we know who GallusMag or GenderTrender is, we have a picture of her. Her name is Linda V. Shanko.

In the UK we have Julie Bindel, Sheila Jeffreys and some others, also Germaine Greer who tried to get rid of a trans woman astronomer at Cambridge university. I know of no famous Dutch transhating feminists, but there certainly are a couple of them.

The nicest things they do or say about us is misgendering us, but they also engage in doxxing and talking us out of existence. Calling us male lesbians, men’s rights activists … they are in favour of so-called “bathroom bills” that exclude and forbid trans girls and trans women to use the women’s bathroom. Forbids them to pee actually, because you don’t go into the men’s room. They are a bunch of fanatic hating racist cis women (not all lesbians) that corner trans* women and endanger their existence because we need to stop living.

Dutch trans negative feminism is mostly cis women who are scared for trans women flagging their penises in their face, when in the bathroom or in the shower. That is what we do, it is our greatest pastime: waving our mighty tranny dicks into a cis woman’s face. Right. Complete and utter bullshit.

Cotton ceiling

An important misappropriated issue trans women are facing is the so-called “cotton ceiling”. So-called radical feminists blabber they are forced to have sex with trans women, because these are women and of course all women want to sleep with all other women. Analogous to the glass ceiling this describes the virtual isolation and lockout of trans* women where it concerns sexuality and relationships. It’s about the intersection of desirability and with transphobia and transmisogyny. The cis-academics among you all love us for research. But you never love us. Trans people are in almost all environments radically not loved.

And when, then it hardly goes beyond the underwear. Of course I must not bear the sins of a single researcher on all the others. #notallresearchers, #notallwomen, you know. And #yesalltrans people. My own experience appears to find collective recognition. So nowadays I only hang out with some of them, who happen to be my friends and quit trying to fuck my way into academia 😉

I would actually say: try us out. Not as in taking a trial subscription, but open up to us, explicitly. Be revolutionary and love a trans/inter person! Confront the unknown. We have to do it every time when we engage with a cis person. I do not want your acceptance, I want your transformation and don’t take “later” for an answer. You can help, you should help. The recruiting office is open after the discussion.

This is the text of a talk I gave on the occasion of March 8, 2015, International (Working) Women’s Day, in Casco, Utrecht.

I confess, I quit

I don’t know exactly when it was, but there was a time I got really fed up with estrogens. They became a hindrance, an obstacle. Or maybe it was the belief in them. But I am still trans. Maybe even more.

When in the beginning of the 1990s I decided to transition from somewhat male, a person assigned male at birth, but never really identifying with it and always estranged about the behaviour of the boys in school and in the streets, I first thought I would probably just be a sissy, a faggot, a queen (well, shy princess still then). As many gender and sexuality insecure youngsters I have been “experimenting” with relations. I had a sort of straight relationship with a cis woman of eight years older, and I had a sort of gay relationship with a cis gay of also some eight years older (but not the same age as my female partner 😉

A recent experience taught me more clearly that my gayness is mostly about gender expression, not so much about sexuality. And I got a beautiful scarf through it also.  Twenty odd years after transitioning away from male, I finally got the answer on thát issue. Could be worse.

When I got the nowadays much vied for Green Light for hormone replacement therapy, I was happy: it put me physically on the road I was convinced I wanted or needed to walk. I’m an easy person, when I am convinced of something, I am convinced. Not that convincing me is particularly easy, but I won’t stray much from my conviction. So when I go for the Woman trajectory, I am a faithful follower of protocol and tradition. I faithfully took my Androcur and Estradiol, whatever the effects. I cheered (silently, for I had very few peers) about budding breasts and took the discomfort of depressed feelings for granted. Though I also cursed that castrating Androcur. I believed in the transsexual ideology (by which I mean something completely different than the TERFs or the Moral Majority). I cursed its depressing effects, surely together with the emotional effect of the estrogens. It is a roller-coaster ride, being on those candies. I schooled myself in the trans and female sociological career. And am still very happy with the results.

But I quit estrogens some two years after gender affirming surgery. Because I was *way* too emotional. And I had lost track of who I felt myself to be. Who I wanted and needed to be. A less positive psychologist or endocrinologist would probably label me a regretter or a quitter. I was lucky to have an interested endocrinologist (Louis Gooren) who wanted to know my story, my reasons. And believed my answer on his question if I knew it before, if I had regrets. Which was “no”. just like when some two years later I decided to let go of my breast implants.  it had worked, had a good, positive and constructive effect on me. the combination of estrogens and later breast implants enabled me to see and feel myself to be more feminine. For the lay visitors: being male or female doesn’t come from hormones or surgery, it’s a gender identity.gentlevreer

My trans peers (90% trans women who were in some stage of their transition) were probably scared of what I did. Their doubts and insecurities about themselves and the world (mostly the world) were not served by my defiant or actually more matter-of-factly letting go of the visibly most important trans woman’s asset: good breasts. And on top of that quitting E … Also I was hanging out more with bois, trans men to be, trans guys who were not on hormones mostly because they didn’t feel really male. Somehow that rang a bell with me. And shortly after wen I joined the trans men-support group open for all [non-cis men] who were somehow exploring their masculinity) I started to jokingly identify as a “trans man born in the wrong body”. But no, I never really willingly identified as male. I guess I have been female, I surely identified as it for years (sort of, actually I identified more lesbian, after Monique Wittig).

After going off E, I have been for one or two years without any hormone supplication. I cannot advise you to follow that, it? bad for your health, you go through the nasty effects of the Change, become technically post-menopausal. It took me those effects to decide I needed something to replace the estrogens but I was not planning on returning to testosterone. I knew of something with a weak feminizing and a weak masculinizing effect. An androgynous friend of mine took that. i got it thought my endocrinologist and for some time I was happy with it. Post-surgery you need something after all. And those sweaty nights where each thought gave the effect that normally only fear has, together with loss of energy and power … I really needed to get rid of those. But after some time it wasn’t enough. The alternative was going for low dose Testosterone. Which I increased over the years to an average trans male dosage that is usually good, and sometimes too much or too little.

The one thousand euro question for many is: did I de-transition? Was I a regretter after all? Hanging out with mostly trans men … I violated the first amendment of trans women probably: letting go of femaleness. See a picture from around those days (cringe).

Fast forward to 2015. I can now say (proudly) that I have tried to be man (but ended up being a sissy), have been a woman and traveled on to being something completely different, beyond those two weird boxes the world ties to put me in. I sometimes ponder taking different forms of T, or more T. But then, I often just forget about it and observe I am not that much governed by those sex hormones. and if there is a message in all this, it might be: do what feels good, and try to find a doctor who wants you to be happy and healthy, more than following protocol. And no need for regret (although regret is part of life). Quitting can perfectly mean traveling on to hitherto unknown genders. Going where no one has gone before. Navigating the uncharted territories of trans*.

Now with Spanish translation, ahora en Español en http://www.vreer.net/i-quit-a-k-a-lo-confieso-renuncio/

 

RIP Leelah Alcorn

De dood van Leelah Alcorn uit Ohio gaat nu een lopend vuurtje door de sociale media heen. Het wordt gedeeld en vertaald, in the Nederlands, in het Frans.

Leelah was een 17-jarig transmeisje in Ohio (VS), dat de dood heeft gezocht drie jaar nadat ze had ontdekt dat ze trans was. Daarvoor had ze geen woorden voor haar gevoel. Haar ouders zijn poep-gristelijk en stuurden haar naar gristelijke therapeuten die het haar uit het hoofd moesten praten. Die houding van haar ouders en de wereld om haar heen heeft haar de dood in gedreven. Daar was ze zich zelf ook erg bewust van. Ook van het feit dat niet haar identiteit het problem was, maar het gebrek aan erkenning, de transfobe reacties van de wereld. Ze besluit haar laatste blogpost met “Fix society. Please”. Continue reading

The Right to Life for Trans* Persons, and Why Normal is Boring

Vreer Verkerke

Guest post on darafhoffmanfox.com

I have been asked by Dara Hoffman-Fox to write a piece for her site as a genderqueer gender educator and human rights advocate for the rights of trans* and inter* people. And I gladly comply with her request.

[Before I continue, a short orthographic notice: I write “trans*” and “inter*” without meaning to refer to a footnote, but the asterisk implies the vastness of trans and inter(sex/gender) identities and expressions.]

Dara’s eyes fell on this part of the vision page on my professional website:

We aim to break through (apart?) stereotypes around gender, gender identities and gender expressions. This goes for both trans people and non-trans people. The cisgendered (i.e. non-trans) are also entitled to be free from stereotypes about their way of life. We do this through gender education.

This Thursday trans* people and friends, partners, allies all over the world will pay attention to Transgender Day of Remembrance. This day started 16 years ago in a reaction to the murder of Rita Hester from Allston, MA.

As still is the case in the United States (10 killings this year), and in Brazil (the country with again the highest count of trans* murders with 113 this year) most victims of murders are black trans* women of African-African heritage, which makes this, apart from a gender issue, also a race and class issue.

Transgender Europe’s Trans Murder Monitoring project counted 226 killings worldwide this year only. Since the start of the project in 2008 we have counted 1,612 murders against trans* people. The Americas are the most dangerous place to live for trans people, surely for trans* people of color. This year 176 killings, with high proportions for tiny countries as Honduras (10 people). But also the Netherlands knows a trans related killing this year.

For trans* people, nowhere is really safe.

The Western societies we live in and its influence sphere have a political and economic system that systematically favors white (middle and upper class) heterosexual cisgender men. All cis men in the end. But also cis women. Think of the incident in the Baltimore McDonald’s where a trans woman was heavily attacked by a group of cis girls.

Women, cis or trans or intersex suffer under this patriarchal system. We trans* and gender-non conforming people are the first ones cis male anger is taken out at. That is criminal and against all human rights, amongst which the most basic one: The right to life. The system creates specific forms of masculinity and femininity and thinks trans* people have no place in that.

There are, however, possibilities to make life for trans* people easier. On the legal front slowly we are getting to possibilities for gender recognition without the need for medical intervention. And several health clinics over the States provide services to trans* people without the need of a pathologizing mental health diagnosis of “Gender Identity Disorder” (DSM-IV and ICD-10) or “Gender Dysphoria” (DSM-5). Health centers like of Callen-Lorde in New York City, or Howard Brown in Chicago, or Tom Waddell in San Francisco.

As trans* people we are very often frowned upon and people have absolutely no clue about us, our lives, our joys and our issues. Helped by crazy sensational TV programs or impertinent questions by many other talk show hosts we are the gender weirdos. Living la vida loca. Prejudice and lack of knowledge. If we could, we would for sure. Even for well off trans people life isn’t ideal.

And as a non-binary trans person (a “Nobi,” as I call it) I have more and more trouble in understanding all those normatively gendered people. Personally I have lost my gender ages ago and I am not really inclined in finding it again. I am a happy multiple/multi-gender.

On good days I can be fascinated by how the “normal” people do. Gender stereotypes – the way most “men” or “women” behave – are fascinating. If you’re not confronted by them. If the normatively gendered people don’t bother you for going to the wrong bathroom or looking too male for a woman, being too much a sissy for a “Real Man.”

I guess my being different makes me great for educating people on gender diversity. I see all those weird gender expressions by the majority of people and can explain our “weirdness” to the normal people. Because gender stereotypes are nasty things everybody suffers from. Even – and mostly – for those enforcing them. Because they miss out a whole lot of opportunities for more (gender) freedom. Sometimes I feel so sorry for them. Not sure they care, but still.

Cis and trans* women know quite well what it is to live under gender stereotypes. Cis women are to marry and take care of the kids. Sexual and reproductive autonomy is not accepted. Of course there are lovely cis men (even straight ones!). Only, in the morals of power, women’s autonomy is heavily fought over. Abortion clinic after clinic is forced to close, because the idea that a woman has a choice over her pregnancy is anathema.

Many times trans* people will have to comply to a similar moral scrutiny and only if you are “really” a woman and thus willing to sacrifice your fertility then you are allowed to change the gender marker on your birth certificate and their ID papers.

So yes, surely trans* people actively suffer under gender stereotypes and we shouldn’t. The situation is partially better with you in the USA, partially way worse. Not that The Netherlands or Western-Europe for that part is even remotely near trans* heaven. Trans* utopia is nowhere, not even in Argentina with its great legislation.

I feel a bit sorry for complaining so much, instead of immediately bringing you the Gleeful Gender Gospel. There is so much trouble and it so strongly interconnected, that I have to pay attention to it.

But as I say, the non-standard life, being gender non-conforming can be great. And the good news to the cis people over here is: you don’t have to become trans*. Usually I really advocate for people to become trans, to really change their gender identity and gender expression from the one belonging to the gender they have been assigned a birth to something completely different. It can be a great time. Like the book Dick For a Day in which the (female) authors fantasize what they would do if they had one.

But you don’t have to. Secretly we are pretty happy to be exceptional, to be “living la gender loca,” so to say.

In my workshops I dissect the working of gender norms, how they are very productive in enabling only certain gender roles and identities and how others are then violently or friendly.

Dear cis people, open up, be straight but not narrow. Really, being a soft open-minded man who understands his own feelings and that of others, who can deal with emotions in a sensible way, is more an asset to a better world and to better relationships than you may think.

You have got nothing to lose but your gender chains.

People (sensible people at least) will love you. Prissy peers may not, they may try to keep you inside the snake pit, but that has to do with your leaving the group, breaking group discipline or doing what they don’t dare to do. The problem with group culture often is that it only works with group discipline. Find yourself a best friend, of whatever gender, to support you.

You don’t have to become trans* to change your gender. Look at the Gender Identity Map from the Impact Project. There are so many possibilities for gender identity and expressions…No need to stick with what you learned in school or from your peers.

There is life out there. Don’t despair.

My biggest complaint around standard gender expressions and people living them is that it is so utterly boring. Who the hell wants to be a healthy, organic whole when you can be a brilliant, injured fragment, after all. This whole investment in wholeness, the whole expectation of living neatly in boxes (even round ones) so doesn’t comply with my jumpiness. I consider it so unhealthy.

Yes, I can associate healthiness etc. in a positive sense. Of course. But not default lives. Default lives are – on the political level – bad and dangerous. They are responsible for the zillions of trans related killings. Fitting in is unhealthy. But falling out may be dangerous.

The forces of normality are strong, the need to find your own way is bigger.

So here’s to the crazy ones, with their shiny gender and their sparkling identities. May we live long and prosper. With lovely, friendly cis people who love us dearly and don’t invest so much in being “normal.”

Author Bio

VreerFrom the perspective that there are more than two sexes and more than two genders, that being trans or gender-non conforming is diversity instead of an aberration, Vreer Verkerke of Vreerwerk does gender education and human rights education with students, sex educators, lawyers, politicians in The Netherlands and beyond.

Toen een paar weken geleden Australië wijselijk besloot een optie voor  “gender niet vastgesteld” in de bevolkingsregistratie op te nemen, en die niet intersekse te noemen (want dat is wat heel anders), ben ik gevraagd voor Trouw. Ik vind het wel een leuk idee om een X te hebben in m’n papieren in plaats van een M of een V. Als er dan toch iets moet staan. En dan moet iedereen vrijelijk kunnen kiezen.

Afijn, hier de tekst. Geschreven door Bas Maliepaard en gefotografeerd door Jörgen Caris. Het is allemaal niet precies correct, maar het ging om de geest van wat ik heb gezegd en mijn woorden komen er aardig uit.

hp_scanDS_1452115483254

droom-foto