Love in a Threadbare, Tired World

My Twitter feed has been brutal tonight! One of my dear sisters is being evicted from her home by a transphobic landlord. People are hurting and anxious. People can’t sleep.

…and another of my dear sisters is at war with everyone.

Being a person without cis-priviledge is hard. At many times, it can feel like the entire world is in on some fantastically elaborate plan to harm us. What I regret so deeply is that many of us get so used to the fight, that we know no other way.

Such was the case tonight, when an ally was coming to the community to be affirmed for her work on Trans* Awareness Week as part of her college’s LGBTQIA+ alliance. When someone performs an act of service, there is a sort of implied exchange. This ally was wanting to be thanked in return for her work. Gratitude is a very reasonable exchange, and many of us were happy to give it.

But, surely as I sit here, there seems to always be someone who wants a fight. So, my dear sister brought her fight to the doorstep of our ally. She took exception to the ally’s choice of the word “nifty” to describe the work she was doing. My dear sister did not believe that word should be included anywhere in a conversation which also addressed transphobia and violence.

To be clear, in no possible interpretation was the ally saying that violence was nifty. But my dear sister, presumably so deeply entrenched in fighting with every person and every institution, in public and in private, each day and each night scolded and bullied the poor ally in such a way as to bring shame on us all.

In this world, there are those who need to be thanked for their help and solidarity…

There are those needing gentle and kind corrections of their misconceptions…

And, yes, there are those who deserve the full weight of our refusal to back down.

As a marginalized group, we must pay close attention to which person we are addressing at any given time. Know your history, my loves. While progress is moving more swiftly than at any other time, we remain in the Booker T. Washington part of our fight. We must not prove ourselves to be as our detractors portray us. We must use our lives to embody the best in our community.

It is an unfair burden, to be sure. But when you open your mouth to speak, do so knowing that you hold the power to make life better or worse for every other person like you. Speak of love for the oppressed. Speak not of hate for the oppressor. Unleash the deep humanity of forgiveness, in all its transformative power. See in your oppressor the potential for compassion.

…and yes, if they fail to provide such compassion, demand it!

Demand it until the last vile drop of this sickening hatred and fear is driven from our good world.

Care for yourselves, care for one another, and make love your weapon of choice.

 

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The MRM vs. Transwomen ***TW***

***TW: mis-gendering, strong trans*-bashing, transphobic violence***

In the primer, I shared what I felt was a useful summary excerpt from a very good article by Jaclyn Friedman. I also found some interesting reading on attempts to ‘rebrand’ the Men’s Rights Movement, in light of the negative publicity generated by… well, by speaking. Here is some of what I read: http://community.feministing.com/2013/02/25/mras-attempt-rebranding-as-mens-human-rights-activists/

But, what I just couldn’t pry myself away from was a post in “The Spearhead.” (seen as one of the “moderate” and “respectable” MRM drivel-spiggots)

I thought it was especially appropriate, given that I have been talking about transgender motherhood, I wanted to share a little gem with you from this past Mother’s Day. After I let the author, W.F Price have the floor, I will be back with some thoughts.
Here is the article, presented unaltered, with extremely strong trigger warnings:

__________________________________________________________

A NY Times Mother’s Day Op-ed: Trannies are Equal Moms

by W.F. Price on May 12, 2013

When you see some kinds of articles, you start to understand why it was prescient women like Phyllis Schlafly who killed the Equal Rights Amendment. Men were pretty much in favor. I mean, what’s not to like about it? Under legal gender equality women would have to share all the crap that falls primarily on men’s shoulders. However, it should be pointed out that feminists, with a few notable exceptions, never supported it either. The version they supported included something known as the “Hayden Rider,” which preserved all female privileges and exemptions while granting women all of men’s privileges, i.e. the status quo.

But a brave, valiant minority is challenging female supremacy. Not patriarchal drones or supporters of male privilege, but men who reject everything about masculinity. Men who reject it so much that they chop off their genitalia and take female hormones in order to eradicate everything male about them.

One of these stalwart, self-mutilating individuals – a “former” male who goes by the name Jennifer Finley Boylan – has declared that he’s every bit the mother as any woman. Sure, he had children as a male, but that doesn’t mean he can’t now call himself “mom,” and demand they do the same. However, it isn’t only his kids who must call him “mother,” but all of us. If we don’t accept that he’s a mother, we’re bigots. Why? Because he has shared the defining maternal experience, which he puts down as “suffering.”

ONE day, toward the end of my transition from father to mother, I came home to find my 6-year-old son looking thoughtful. “Are you all right?” I asked.

“Yes,” Sean said quietly. He was playing with Thomas the Tank Engine. His favorite engine was No. 5, red James. That had also been my name, back before it became Jenny.

“What are you thinking?”

“It’s just it used to be you and me and Zach, the three boys on one side,” he said, “and Mommy and Lucy-dog on the other.”

“I know,” I said, feeling my heart clench.

“Now it’s Zach and me on one side, and you and Mommy and Lucy-dog over there.”

“I’m sorry, Sean,” I said. My voice was barely a whisper. “I’m so sorry.”

“It’s O.K.,” said Sean. “The boys are just outnumbered.”

I have been a dad for 6 years, a mom for 12, and for a time in between I was both, or neither, like some parental version of the schnoodle or the cockapoo.

[…]

People have pointed out to me that, despite calling myself a mother, I didn’t give birth to my sons. They’re right, of course. But there is a lot more to parenting than birthing, just as there is a lot more to a novel than its opening sentence. After this long journey from an opposite-sex couple to a same-sex one, my wife and I can say it’s what comes after that counts.

I understand the reluctance many people have to play down the importance of gender, or for that matter, biology, in parenting; a world in which male and female are not fixed poles but points in a spectrum is a world that feels unstable, unreal. And yet to accept the wondrous scope of gender is to affirm the potential of life, in all its messy beauty. Motherhood and fatherhood are not binaries. And that, I’d argue, is a good thing.

Only a small percentage of American households now consist of married couples with children in which only the father works. The biggest outliers in our culture are not same-sex couples, or transgender people, or adoptive parents, or single fathers, but the so-called traditional American families themselves.

What does it even mean, at this hour, to call anybody traditional? Surely it is not the ways in which we conform that define us, but the manner in which we each seek our own perilous truth.

Pure self-indulgence of the most disgusting variety, and highlighted on Mother’s Day. I’d like to say it’s sacrilegious, but sadly it is appropriate. I understand why some of the most selfish, depraved men among us would want to relinquish their masculinity. In our society, women are free to pursue their heart’s desire without fear of sanction. Judging women for putting their own needs first is condemned in every mainstream outlet, from Dr. Phil to The Atlantic.

Some men are bound to be envious of this. Some of them go so far as to try to try to become a woman. And what kind of woman do they emulate? The worst parody of one. Gaudy, self-righteous, exhibitionist, attention-seeking, demanding, selfish and all too willing to place their burdens on others.

And in this great society we have built, it is they who stand at the pulpit and speak to the masses.

USA! USA! USA!

______________________________________________________________

Let’s all just take a minute. Let your arms fall loosely at your sides. Draw a good, full breath, hold it a moment, and let it escape slowly from your mouth.

Okay. Are we good? Let me establish what I think are some parameters.
First off, I will never be able to educate Mr. Price.
Second, Many of you could probably write at least as good a response as what I am about to.

I am talking to those in the middle. The people who read that post and thought, “I can see both sides of this.” If you said that, I am talking to you.

I began this by writing a character assassination. It was disturbingly easy to find materials. But I don’t want to have to shoot every messenger who pollutes the world with this kind of hate. Thus, I deleted it.

I’d much prefer to appeal to your humanity.

Let’s start by establishing that Jennifer Finley Boylan is a person. She has feelings. She has a family, who also have feelings. One predictable outcome of Mr. Price’s insidious hate speech is that these people’s feelings would be hurt… profoundly. Who is helped by that?

Then we go out one layer to find people like me. People desperately trying to carve out a place in this world when the endless shouting of the W.F. Price’s of the world trying to take those places away… People like the ones who made this:

Go out another layer still, and find those who haven’t yet learned enough about transgender people to know what to think about us. Gosh! If it means male perverts in girls’ bathrooms, I’d better make sure those trans-whatchamacallits stay the hell away from my kids.

Which is just great!

In fact, why don’t we just round up all the transgender people and put them into internment camps, like Todd Kincannon, the former executive director of the South Carolina Republican Party suggested.

Oh, and remember that scary pervert in the girls’ bathroom that everyone is so scared of? Here she is:  Seriously. This is SIX YEAR OLD Coy Mathis. THIS GIRL, and others just like her are what people are loosing their shit over.

And, even if this was an adult transwoman like myself, we don’t have any intentions of causing trouble in bathrooms. We are far too busy being afraid for our own safety

Chrissy Lee Polis, 22, was viciously beaten by two teenage girls after allegedly trying to use the women’s restroom at the McDonald’s restaurant.

This may all seem like fun and games to you, Mr. Price, but I am paying for the real-life consequences of the hate that you invoke.

Too many of my sisters have paid a far greater toll…

In 2012, 256 transgender people were murdered because they dared to exist.

Nibbling Fine Chocolate While Taking a Bubble Bath and Having and Orgasm

That’s about where I am in my life at this moment.

…But wait, I thought you told us today’s post was going to be about the intersection of womanhood, motherhood, and birth.

Yup! That’s what it’s about.

In order to get from the questionnaire responses to my current euphoria, I have to establish the context a bit.

I have had to fight very hard to claim my womanhood. Given my transgender history, I will likely always have to fight to claim my womanhood. Contemplate, if you will, the insanity of having to do that in perpetuity.

I spent the first thirty years of my life attempting to cobble together a passable male identity by affixing ill-fitting scrap metal bits of the caricatures of men to myself.

I thought men were angry, so I was angry. I thought men were controlling, so I was controlling. I thought men were all sorts of awful things, so I was those things too. I presented a version of masculinity which was very much like nails glued to the outside of a cupcake. There was no substance to back up any of the behaviors I was emulating.

Nobody bought it, and, as a result, I was bullied (Very old posts about that here: https://serialnonconformist.wordpress.com/2011/07/08/myself-laid-bare-originally-posted-nov-23-2010/ and here: https://serialnonconformist.wordpress.com/2011/07/08/it-gets-better-originally-posted-oct-19-2010/ Take them for what they are, my thoughts from a very long three years ago.)

In the years after divorcing my first wife, I began to feel safer about letting the nails fall off, and exposing the cupcake reality. When I decided that I had to and could transition, I tore the remaining nails off right then and there.

This did not, however, leave a fully-formed adult woman standing there. I had to be a girl first, then an adolescent, then a young adult. This is an often repeated, if not universal part of early transition. A person transitioning has to go back and live an abridged version of what their life might have been like if they’d been assigned their true gender at birth.

I definitely feel fully formed now, but in any life, there are holes in a person’s understanding of the world. In my case, those holes are patched over with the mythos of womanhood that I retained from my years worshiping women from the outside. Part of that mythos held that pregnancy and birth are the quintessential aspects of womanhood. Before you judge me too harshly, consider how pervasive the ‘magical motherhood’ narrative is in our culture.

The other thing to keep in mind is that, in some ways I am a thirty-three year old woman, and in other ways I am only a three year old woman. In this case, I hadn’t had time to learn that ‘magical motherhood’ was not a narrative which was broadly subscribed to.

…which brings me to why today is glorious!

I have been able to accept so very many things about myself, and assert that my realness is not inferior to my cisgender sisters. Pregnancy was a hold-out, though.

I know straight, cisgender women who have struggled, and had to choose non-gestational motherhood. I also know other non-gestational lesbian mothers. Each of these people ache over it to some degree. But, at no point do any of them have to defend their right to be seen as female.

I was needing to be told that, with all that’s different about me, my abilities and limitations did not make me an outsider. That was what this project gave me!

Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart.

I got to feel like Babykiddo’s mom today.

I doubt that I have to tell you what that’s worth.

I feel REAL

I love you all so very much!

MWAH!

 

 

 

Women Discuss Motherhood (part 3 of 5)

In researching for tomorrow’s post, I asked some friends to share their thoughts on the nature of womanhood, motherhood, and birth. The answers were so interesting, I thought I would share them with you

Here are the responses, offered in random order, anonymously, and without comment…

Q: What are the differences in how you think it might feel to be a gestational vs. non-gestational mother. (The mother of a child you did vs. did not carry.)

A: I’m not sure. I’d like to think that, being an open-minded person, it wouldn’t matter either way. But part of me wants my own child. I’m really not sure since this is an option I’ve debated heavily.

A: It is hard to say. I have noticed some adoptive parents I know that seem to by trying to prove themselves over and over. Maybe has a gestational mother, I don’t feel like I have to because…well …there’s the proof.

A: Again, for me it would not be weird to have someone else carry, and maybe even to play a role in the child’s future for having been “incubator.” I would not personally feel like less of a Mom. I do not look forward to pregnancy at all. I dislike the idea so much that I am very open-minded about the alternatives. Too bad I can’t say the same for my peers.

A: I guess I kind of hit on this one above. I think it takes longer to connect with that baby, but not much! A mother is a mother! I do wonder if the lack of sleep/ loss of social life etc. is harder for non-gestational mothers. Pregnancy really does set you up pretty well for all of that.

A: I don’t think there is a difference –well – that’s not really true. In my case — when you don’t know if you will be able to keep a child – the connection grows stronger and stronger over time – there’s a bit of you that you have to hold in reserve….but from what I understand there are many women who don’t bond immediately to their birth children — and build the connection over time — so perhaps my experience isn’t so different.

A:This is a good question. I haven’t pondered it much, really. I would like to say there would be no difference, but I honestly cannot say for sure.

A: How can I possibly speculate? I remember thinking, at some point during labor, I just wanted the baby out and I didn’t care how. It was so tough, I actually worried I might resent him after he was born. Of course I felt no such thing. In retrospect, I feel like pregnancy was such a short time of his life. Just a blink of an eye, a blip on the radar. There is so much more to look forward to and explore with him, that being his gestational mom couldn’t make any significant difference in the long run, in terms of closeness and bonding.

A: I am not sure. Considering adoption to me was important, choosing to be a parent, choosing the lifetime of responsibility. Having one of my own from my own body, was simliar, a choice, a lifelong contract to take care of them.

A: Although having children in your life is always a blessing, I would place a different weight on children that I birth, in comparison with children that I inherited, adopted, or planned with a partner/surrogate who was the “birth mother”. I would love a child that I didn’t birth as my own, but I don’t think I would be able to escape the pride that may come from knowing that my biological child is 100% a part of me.

A: My mother was unable to have any children after me, so she and my stepdad adopted my little brother when I was already 17. I can tell you that I know she loves him just as much as she loves me. So, I think the only difference is actually the physical act of carrying the baby…. There is not that bond, but I really don’t think it matters when it comes down to it.

A: I have great respect for non-gestational mothers. Their want for motherhood is a powerful force that must overcome far more obstacles. Many women find themselves mother’s without truly contemplating how much or even if they want to be mothers.

Women Discuss Motherhood (part 2 of 5)

In researching for tomorrow’s post, I asked some friends to share their thoughts on the nature of womanhood, motherhood, and birth. The answers were so interesting, I thought I would share them with you

Here are the responses, offered in random order, anonymously, and without comment…

Q: What are the benefits and hardships of your ability or lack of ability to carry a baby?

A: I feel blessed to have carried both my daughters. My two experiences were very different, and special in their own way. There is a “hardship” in a sense of needing to be responsible with my ability to conceive. A responsibility I did not shoulder well in my teens and twenties.

A: I suppose the easiest answer is that there is an expectation that I should. I want to have a child, if I choose to, on my own time and in my own way. There is an expectation that since I’m a woman, and in a long-term relationship, I should bear a child. I’m not completely sure that that will be the direction my life will take.

A: I thought, with PCOS, the hurdle was getting pregnant. I wish I had been more aware and prepared for the complications that occurred (pre-eclampsia, IUGR, low milk supply).

A: I didn’t have any trouble once I managed to get pregnant, so I can’t speak to how it feels to deal with infertility, but I have some friends who did. It seems to me that being pregnant provides a mother with an instant connection to the baby. It’s harder to connect from the outside. I also think that having failed pregnancies makes it harder to enjoy being pregnant, at least at first, because of the fear of losing the baby again.

A: Having gone through a period of time where I thought children were not going to be possible, I can relate to the lack of ability. The hardship is just the sense of loss of something I thought I was going to be able to do. I had already experienced a betrayal by my body because of cancer and now no children. I guess I handled it though the same way I handled cancer….you just deal with what life gives you and make the most of it. BUT, since a miracle occurred and I was able to have children eventually, I can say the benefit is obvious…the love and satisfaction from having two great kids. There have been serious health, financial, and emotional crises to bear though. Most notably being pregnant and having children has been hard on my physical health.

A: It’s nice that I have the ability (therefore option) of carrying a baby myself, especially in terms of practical considerations like financial cost. Paying for other methods must be terribly expensive. I however fear pregnancy, and the disadvantage of being able to carry is everyone’s expectation that I will. Do I really have a choice? It wouldn’t feel weird to me for another woman to carry my egg fertilized by the father’s sperm, but likely he and our families would not be okay with it.

A: I had a VERY difficult pregnancy with my daughter, after having a miscarriage. My body is very different from having had kids. But the changes are not really problematic.

A: When I didn’t believe we could conceive, at first I assumed we would adopt, and that would continue that path to Motherhood. As I grew older/more mature, I decided it was ok for me not to have a child. I was working with about 15 children with disabilities each day, and that was plenty. I believe a benefit of my ability to (finally) carry a baby to term was developing a responsibility and bond to the life I had inside me. Being an egocentric person, I needed that time to grow as a person.

A: So far I have been pregnant 4 times, and miscarried 4 times – all around the 12 week mark. This was from 2007-2010. I have been too scared to try again, I don’t know if I could go through that heartbreak one more time. I’m still in a kind of limbo I guess, not sure if I will ever try again or not.. (I’m 32, I need to decide before too long!) So, the hardships for me are the extreme emotional toll, the stress it has put on my marriage, and on how I feel about myself as a woman. The benefits, I suppose, are that I don’t have to have that responsibility in my life.. something I was never completely sure I even wanted in the first place.

A: It was a hardship to not be able to have a child – and I felt a lot of guilt about being the reason we couldn’t. It was a horrible time – and I blamed myself for the losses — more than I should have. Are there benefits? Only that I don’t share a child with a man that I don’t love — no irritating conversations with the ex.

Women Discuss Motherhood (part 1 of 5)

In researching for tomorrow’s post, I asked some friends to share their thoughts on the nature of womanhood, motherhood, and birth. The answers were so interesting, I thought I would share them with you.

I had eleven respondents, so I will be providing all eleven responses after each question.
Here are the responses, offered in random order, anonymously, and without comment…

Q: When you were growing up, was the idea of being a mother appealing, and how was that opinion influenced by the notion of pregnancy and birth?

A: Growing up, I always assumed I would be a mother, and never considered another avenue until I had been married for many years and had failed to conceive. I had decided that it was OK with me not to have a child, but months later Mother Nature took over and she is now 14 (moral: if you decide its ok not to have kids, start using birth control just in case.) I had never given much though to pregnancy or birth. I knew some of the trials of being pregnant, and also had learned the ins and outs of childbirth..neither affected my desire to have a child. I accepted it as part of the job.

A: Absolutely, yes. I wanted a big family. Because of my PCOS, I saw pregnancy as this beautiful, sparkly, unobtainable goal. I had a highly glorified image of pregnancy and birth before going through it myself.

A: The idea of being a mom was appealing — but I’m not sure if I had a real thought about being pregnant/giving birth. When I got a bit older I was a bit freaked out about childbirth – but figured it was the primary way to get the child I wanted.

A: It was for a while, but became less so as I got older. I was the child of a very young mother, in a family of very young mothers, and I always wanted another life. I am, truthfully, terrified of being pregnant. I mean, I’m sure I could do it, I’m a survivor like that. But nothing about it sounds fun. I think I’d prefer to adopt, but with all of the hoops that are involved, I’ll probably just wind up sucking it up in the end.

A: Yes, I have always wanted to be a mother. I had long term baby doll games that I would play where I would feed them on a (rather loose) schedule and only play with other things if they were “napping”. This would go on for days. I knew that babies came from the mommy’s belly & how they came out, but I don’t think I knew that it was painful. I was fascinated by the idea of pregnancy.

A: I guess being a mother sounded appealing…like that’s just what you do when you grow up and get married and such. Didn’t give much thought to pregnancy, but birth sounded terrifying.

A: Honestly, I never really thought about being a mom when I was growing up. It just always seemed like something I was never going to do.. I can’t say that it was appealing or unappealing.. I didn’t have feelings one way or the other. I just saw pregnancy and birth as how new babies come into the world.. didn’t think much further into it than that.

A: I went through various phases of both wanting and not wanting children. As a young girl and teen, motherhood seemed almost inevitable. It was just what one did. My teen pregnancy brought the thought that I did not want children *yet* but that I would eventually. As a young adult, I did want children, but in an amorphous, poorly defined way. I feared childbirth and the pain involved. In my late 20’s, I had settled on the thought I didn’t want kids.. Then I became pregnant (unplanned again). I felt that my choice to have children was then distilled into this pregnancy. Either I wanted this child, or no children. I chose carry that child. I don’t feel that my notions of pregnancy/ birth influenced this decision much at all.

A: Being a mother was not particularly appealing, I don’t think the notion of pregnancy/birth had much impact.

A: The idea of being a parent and teaching a child about the world was always appealing, but of being a mother specifically, no, not ever, especially in terms of pregnancy and breastfeeding and constant care of a newborn. I did not play with dolls and pretend to be a mom; I played with Legos, tinker-toys, Lincoln logs and video games.

A: Growing up, the idea of being a mother was not necessarily appealing, but I expected it to be apart of my life. I never thought anything else of it. In this vision of having children, birth and pregnancy were never anything that I thought about or had any particular feelings toward.

How Very Timely (Second in the trans* attraction series.)

 

Today I set about my usual task of contemplating which subject should be blogged about today, when, much to my delight, this appeared on my Twitter feed.

It’s an editorial published on Salon.com about a cisgender, straight man who wants to join in the discussion which we find ourselves engaged in. Give it a read, I think it’ll prove to be a worthwhile piece of the puzzle I hope to put together over the next week.

_______________________________________________________________

I’m attracted to trans women

After years of confusion and shame, I’m ready to stop hiding the truth about my desires — and I’m not alone

I never thought I would have to come out about being attracted to women. But that’s the funny and sad position I’m in these days. Although I don’t see anything different about my sexual orientation, most people do.

About four years ago, I was an exchange student in Thailand, a country known for its large, open transgender population. While most men avoided trans women, I saw no difference between them and cisgender women (women who were born biologically female). I was attracted to trans women, in other words, and I spent the next three years of my life in confusion and shame.

The heteronormative world in which we live had successfully convinced me that being attracted to transgender women meant I had a fetish. I began questioning my sexuality and even my masculinity.  I didn’t even know what to call my sexual orientation.  Finally one day, after hours of searching, I came across two terms that described what I was feeling. Trans-attraction and trans-orientation. Neither one is official or common, but their use is growing due to the increasing demand for a way to categorize people who are attracted to transgender people. When I saw these words, a feeling of relief washed over me: I was not alone. I don’t always describe myself as trans-attracted, but the label helped me feel like I had a place in the queer community and it helps others understand my sexuality.

My year in Thailand made it a second home for me, and I returned last spring for a study abroad semester. Once again surrounded by the transgender community, I started thinking about my sexuality almost every day and this inner conflict re-arose.  That was when I started reading queer theory. Julia Serano, a transgender activist and writer, pointed out that it is not acceptable to consider attraction to trans women a fetish, because that reduces them to fetish objects.  Trans women are treated as if they are not worthy of love. In her speech, titled “The Beauty in Us,” she said, “Because our culture deems us undesirable, our lovers and partners are often expected to explain why they choose to be with us.”  After reading that powerful speech as well as many other queer theorists, I stopped feeling so backward. It was the shaming of trans-attraction that was ridiculous — not my sexual orientation

However, I wasn’t ready to be open, because I wasn’t yet aware of the desperate societal need for me to do so. I didn’t realize just how damaging my shame could be to trans women. It wasn’t until I fell for a transgender girl in Thailand that my own toxic silence finally melted away. When we met I thought that she might be transgender, but I was not sure.  Regardless of what might be between her legs, I found her confidence, independence and grace inspiring. We started seeing each other.

We met three times before she told me she was transgender.  It breaks my heart when I remember how nervous she was. She was afraid to tell me for two reasons: One was fear of rejection. It must be so painful to be turned away and shunned by someone you like because he does not see you as a “real” woman, whatever that means. The other devastatingly sad fear that she had to deal with was fear for her safety. I could have exploded into a violent rage and responded with my fists, or even a weapon. This certainly happens to transgender women, often when all they are doing is searching for love.  According to Trans Murder Monitoring, there were 265 trans people murdered in 2012 alone. Somehow, facing those fears, she mustered the amazing strength and courage to tell me.

I watched relief pour over her face when I told her that I didn’t care.  It’s a strange world that we live in when two people who are attracted to each other have to come out to each other.  Later that evening, she turned to me and said, “I feel free.”  Finally being open about my sexuality was liberating for me, too.

So why bother coming out? I could easily hide this, since I am attracted to cisgender women, too. I decided to be open about it, though, because of how few openly trans-attracted people there are in the world and how this silence contributes to stigma about trans people and sexuality.  Although trans attraction is hardly a rare phenomenon, it remains hidden because almost all trans-attracted men are in the closet. As a result, the common assumption is that men who date trans women are desperate and simply put up with the fact that the woman is trans. Yet, we are not just OK with it; we are just as attracted to trans women as we are to cis-women, regardless of their biological sex.

A few weeks ago, in September, DJ Mister Cee, a prominent figure in the hip-hop community, was “caught” with a transgender woman.  After being outed and admitting to being attracted to trans women, he was so ashamed that he resigned from his job at the radio station Hot 97. His trans attraction was turned into a scandal. The only thing that should be considered scandalous is the fact that he had to hide his attraction in the first place.

I’ve had enough of this shaming. It’s created a disgusting culture of trans-attracted men using trans women for sex but never forming a committed relationship with them. Most trans-attracted men are only trans-attracted at night. Then, during the day, they run back to their heteronormative relationships with cis-women of whom they are not ashamed.  Even men who are in committed relationships with trans women will often tell those women that they could never introduce them to their friends or family. Imagine a woman who has been to hell and back trying to transition into who she really is only to be told by her lover that he is ashamed to be with her. The hardship that trans-attracted men go through (and believe me, it is hard) does not even come close to what trans women have to go through in their day-to-day lives. That is why it’s so important for trans-attracted men to start coming out of the closet. Personally, I am proud to be attracted to women who are so strong.

_______________________________________________________________

I want to get into trans* visibility in a forthcoming post, but I felt like this was a good stepping stone as prerequisite reading. There’s a compelling story unfolding, and we may be at a point where trans invisibility is no longer the favored state.

Fat Shaming and the MRM

-The following is a response to comments on this post: https://serialnonconformist.wordpress.com/2013/10/21/extra-the-mrm-mens-rights-movement/

I was somewhat resistant to jump into this one, because others have already done wonderful work here, and frankly, I cannot add anything that hasn’t been covered. But, as this has found its way to my door, here I go. BTW, to address concerns over troll-feeding, this person (until their last post went awry in paragraph two) has been reasonable in their approach, and I am happy to engage in polite discourse as long as it remains that way.

***TW: Fat shaming, Rape culture***

As far as I can tell, ‘Fat Shaming Week’ was a project of the website ‘Return of Kings’ (linked, but not recommended) http://www.returnofkings.com/ A cursory glance at their page seems to indicate that their work includes both MRA and PUA themes, so I am really unsure how anyone outside these movements would be able to distinguish which arm of its operation was responsible for ‘Fat Shaming Week.’

I left your second paragraph comments alone, but added a warning. I just can’t begin to know what you hoped to accomplish through the use of that kind of language. You are attempting to make an argument that there is a difference between attempting to police the weight of someone who is slightly overweight as opposed to someone who is significantly overweight. I would argue that trying to police another person’s weight, no matter their BMI, is always the same. You’re always going to be taking away the body autonomy of that person, and you’re always going to be dictating to another human being how they should feel about themselves.

Beyond that, even if there was something ‘wrong’ with being fat, who the hell is anyone but that person to decide what life choices are appropriate for them? And who is anyone but them able to know what factors affect their weight?

Your precious Mr. Elam seems to believe that fatness is an effective rape-repellant. (linked but definitely not suggested) http://www.avoiceformen.com/women/the-unspoken-side-of-rape/ So, given that thinking, shouldn’t everyone get fat? And, since we are on the subject of rape and obesity, survivors of sexual violence and misconduct make up 30% – 40% of those who are treated for eating disorders. http://www.aftersilence.org/eating-disorders.php

If the next argument is to toss some pseudoscience at me and attempt to show a causal relationship between obesity and healthcare costs, I will point out that it is exceedingly difficult to discern whether there is a direct causal link (as opposed to a correlative one) or if secondary factors may be the cause of both the obesity and the health issues.

I am fat. At the time of my last checkup three months ago, I was also in good health. Usually the rebuttal to this is what has come to be called the “Vague Future Heath Threat” which goes something like “Yes, you’re healthy now, but it won’t be long before your fatness has negative consequences.” http://www.fatnutritionist.com/index.php/the-death-threat-its-not-about-health/

In essence, this false notion about health is no different from any other straw-man arguments. It’s the same as saying “I am not a homophobe, I just want to make sure you are looking out for your eternal soul.”  I call BULLSHIT!

One thing that can be shown: people who are fat-shamed tend to GAIN weight. Let me say that again. People who are fat-shamed tend to gain weight. http://www.nbcnews.com/health/fat-shaming-actually-increases-risk-becoming-or-staying-obese-new-8C10751491

So, is this really about health? Is this really about your ‘concern‘ for my wellness, or a ‘concern‘ over healthcare costs. No. This is about your hierarchical self-esteem, and your sheep-like reiteration of some asshole’s assertion that they get to decide what everyone else should look like.

I have bad news for your movement: I love my fat thighs, my soft tummy, and my curves. …And you know who else does? The gorgeous women of all sizes who fuck me!

There is a wealth of information on fat and health, here are a few resources:

http://www.haescommunity.org/

http://www.fatnutritionist.com/index.php/articles-evidence/

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120904193052.htm

Also, here are some great responses to Fat Shaming:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/evianasuperbo/the-best-response-to-fat-shaming-week-9gi6

http://www.themilitantbaker.com/2013/10/my-excuse-im-glad-you-asked.html

http://marylambertsings.com/2013/09/06/i-want-to-talk-about-body-positivity-ok/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/iris-higgins/an-open-apology-to-all-of_b_3762714.html

All my love dear fat sisters, and dear skinny sisters alike.
You deserve love, and you deserve a space in which to love yourself.

MWAH!

  • “After I washed my car, it rained. Therefore washing my car causes rain.”
  • “When I got in the bath tub, the phone rang. Therefore getting in the bath will lead to the phone ringing.”
  • “We won our baseball game when I was wearing these socks, so it must be the lucky socks that caused our win.”

– See more at: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/science/correlation-vs-causation#sthash.VodX8Ggv.dpuf

  • “After I washed my car, it rained. Therefore washing my car causes rain.”
  • “When I got in the bath tub, the phone rang. Therefore getting in the bath will lead to the phone ringing.”
  • “We won our baseball game when I was wearing these socks, so it must be the lucky socks that caused our win.”

– See more at: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/science/correlation-vs-causation#sthash.VodX8Ggv.dpuf

  • “After I washed my car, it rained. Therefore washing my car causes rain.”
  • “When I got in the bath tub, the phone rang. Therefore getting in the bath will lead to the phone ringing.”
  • “We won our baseball game when I was wearing these socks, so it must be the lucky socks that caused our win.”

– See more at: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/science/correlation-vs-causation#sthash.VodX8Ggv.dpuf

Serialnonconformist Revisited: The Girl in the Blue Pants

This post was originally posted Spetember 7, 2011.
I felt like it was important to go back and look over some of these posts from early in my transition to get a feel for where my thinking was at that time. I will be providing commentary at the end.

The Girl in the Blue Pants

I was born March 30, 1980.  As in the case of almost all babies, a cursory glance at the identifying parts determined whether I was a pink-dress-wearing baby or a blue-pants-wearing baby.  I was said to be the latter.  While I would go on to be called Lauren, I was given a different name at that time.  I liked the name I was given, it was the name of a great man and personal hero, my maternal grandfather.

I am told I was a precocious child from a very early age.  Language came easily to me.  I was curious, expressive, and sensitive.  I’ve been asked before what my earliest memory is. While most of my early memories revolve around my maternal grandparents and the wonderful times I spent with them, I believe that my earliest independent recollection is of banging my head on my headboard in anguish over something or another.  Take that as you will.  I was pretty happy most of the time, but I did continue self-injuring behaviors well into adulthood.

I realize the first time something felt wrong about being a girl in blue pants as soon as I learned there was a difference between boys and girls.  A guest speaker came to my preschool to talk about strangers, and what strangers might do to our bodies.  I remember there were different words for what boys had and what girls had.  Amusingly, I mis-remembered the name of the girls’ part as “Gertrude.” Despite having the wrong name, I hung onto this idea of Gertrude.  It seemed, at the time, like something I needed to file in my brain in a brightly-colored folder for use later.

Throughout my young childhood, I was surrounded by girls.  My best friend, and two other very close friends were girls that lived on my street.  I remember even then, how much I wanted to be included. I wanted to prove that I was more than my blue pants.  For the most part, I was accepted as being capable of doing all of the girl things, and my blue pants didn’t seem to hold me back.

I remember, in particular, my deep love for the cartoon “Rainbow Brite.”  One of the only conspicuous concessions to my femininity was the purchase of a Rainbow Brite doll.  I wonder to what degree my parents either thought that was a phase, or were mortified by that.

School came and brought with it further expectations of gender from my contemporaries.  Other people in blue pants wanted to rough-house.  I didn’t.  I wanted to play with my pink dress friends. I quickly learned that just wouldn’t do!

My first pathetically one-sided run-in with a bully was in kindergarten.  I can still remember the boy… Randy was his name.  I had two strikes against me: One was, of course, being a girl; the other was being taught to be a strict pacifist under any and all conditions.  This was something of a fascination to boys, it seemed.  Someone who would not fight back under any circumstances.  The temptation was great, indeed!  Add to that, the way I dealt with these conflicts was to tell the teacher.  That made me additionally popular as a target, as playground bullies tend to prefer their brand of justice over that which was dispensed by the powers-that-be.

My essay entitled, “It Gets Better” addresses the bullying in greater detail.

I engaged in asymmetrical warfare with my brother as a result of the same facts that made me a favorite target among classmates.  He was a properly-credentialed boy, and I found myself doing things like playing the overture to “The Phantom of the Opera” at high volume in order to achieve the effect that might otherwise be achieved through a scuffle.  He was a much better scuffler than I, despite my four-year advantage.

The age of seven saw me moving several cities over, and leaving my street full of girlfriends behind.  There were new girls to play with, but they were outside of my travel boundaries.  This was a very lonely time.  I made friends with a boy on the adjacent cul-de-sac (the only kid my age within my travel boundaries at the time) this was largely a product of his owning a Nintendo video game system.  I had discovered by then that doing as the Romans did helped thwart some of the difficulty I had with my peers, but bullies were bullies.

In the ensuing year or two, I began to really be conscious of how to tell lies well.  I was at the optometrist for my weekly ‘quack’ eye exercise nonsense.  As these exercises caused me considerable discomfort, I lied to the optometrist about not feeling up to it.  She bought it!  But then, she walked me out to my waiting mother to whom I tried to lie about having said that to the optometrist.  I was busted.  I spent the rainy afternoon writing “I will not lie.” over and over, and missing my favorite TV show “Ramona” which was about a girl my age who was misunderstood.  Despite being caught on this occasion, I went on to become such a strong liar, I could make myself believe my own fabrications.  My identity split in two.  There was the version of me that I thought would not get in trouble, and the real me buried somewhere deep inside.  I think my ability to act is largely a product of what this period in my life caused me to do.

It was this striated personhood which had me in love with stories like “The Little Mermaid,” “The Phantom of the Opera,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” and “Beauty and the Beast.”  Stories about people who were so much more than what their appearance portrayed, about people who needed to be something else if they were to be happy.

Time marched on.  I was lonely from being without girls to play with.  At the end of third grade, my teacher had a sleepover for the girls in my class.  I, of course, was not invited.  I was very jealous.  By fourth grade, the pressure of being someone else, coupled some pretty severe problems at home gave rise to my checking out of school in a drastic way.  I developed anxiety over judgement and acceptance.  I would do my schoolwork, but not turn it in, as I did not want it graded.  School never improved for me.  In fact, it was met with increasing terror and contempt year by year.

Junior high had the other girls’ bodies doing fascinating things.  I was doubly fascinated, as I was both interested in girls, and wanting that for myself.  I started being left at home alone at some point.  I used to literally run to my mom’s closet and try on her clothes in a fury, hoping not to get caught.  I spent enormous amounts of time in the bathroom considering what it would be like to have the right parts.  I learned everything there was to know about female anatomy.  I never found myself contemplating sexuality in what one might call a conventional way.  I remember the first time that I was caught staring at breasts, I was doing so out of wonderment and envy rather than attraction.

From the time I was twelve, well into my adulthood when she eventually passed away, my mother had cancer.  It was Hodgkin’s disease, which is a lymphatic cancer.  This began to make some things obvious to me that had not been as obvious before.  One was that I did not want to be anything like my mother. Another was that my father would have probably been more happy pursuing his dream of being a history teacher than have to deal with having a kid at nineteen years old.  Oddly enough, however, I have shifted my beliefs in recent years.  I think I have turned out a great deal like my mother.  Perhaps (as is my hope) just a better version of the woman she tried to be.

My mother was not a well person in another way too, though.  She was not mentally sound.  I say that as a person who takes daily medication for depression… she was not well.  I do not judge that she was ill, only that her denial kept her from getting the treatment we all desperately needed her to have.  Her erratic behavior had indirect effects as well.  My father was pushed to the breaking point with trying to appease her.  He had no energy left for other matters, nor the will to overrule my mother’s insane expectations.  I bring all of this up because, this is often the period of time when people start to figure out gender variance.  I was too absorbed in other matters to explore that.

Halfway through high school, my life took a major turn for the better, in terms of feeling connected to the world of women again.  I had my first real girlfriend at this time.  Not only was she an amazing partner, she was willing to answer my questions about her experience of the world as a woman.  We had some of our best time doing things more typical of two girls.  This was a definite turning point.  I never had relationships with other women in the same way after this.  Being surrounded by a group of girlfriends became the norm again, but in a new, more grown-up way.  They were willing to share with me what it was to be a woman in the same way that my younger years had surrounded me with those willing to show me what it was to be a girl.

Women opened their lives to me, told me incredibly detailed accounts of the innermost workings of their experiences.  I was a captivated audience, and this served me well, as it made people all the more willing to share with me.  I found myself with deep, intense friendships.  I would go so far as to say that I not only loved my friends, but in many cases, I may have been in love with them.

By Nineteen I had found the perfect job working at Disneyland.  Finally getting to leave the facade of myself behind for a few hours, I delighted in being a more true version of me, and also in playing characters.

At twenty, I found myself suddenly in need of a place to live as my mother turned me out because I had opted not to take her to the Disneyland employee party that year.  Being kicked out was nothing new.  I found myself homeless two days before Christmas at age seventeen, when my father found it convenient to allow my mother to assume that an altercation he and I had was because I was a menace, and not because he had succumbed to his violent temper (as was his custom.)  I had to think creatively to find a home in the space of a few hours.  The most reasonable and immediate solution seemed to be moving in with my then-girlfriend (To be clear, this was not the same one as I’d had in High School.)

The relationship was doomed from the beginning, but neither of us had very good options as we both sought to be free of the drama of our families of origin.  We married that summer.  She was disappointed in me.  She wanted me to act more masculine than I did.  She asked if I was gay, she told me to “be a man.”  Of course, I was unable.

That relationship came to an end some five years later, after the death of my best friend caused me to finally make some tough decisions about my life.  I began talking to an old flame.  I was able to talk to her in ways I hadn’t before.  I spoke, in plain terms about how much I felt I was a woman, and how jealous I was of the experiences she’d had.  She was supportive and understanding.  I moved from Southern California to Fort Worth, Texas.  I did this to start over with the old flame.  I made huge strides in figuring out who I am during that time.  It was a good environment for being myself.  That relationship did ultimately end, but my momentum did not.

I went into the relationship with my wife knowing a great deal about my gender identity.  At that point, I was explaining myself as “emotionally female.”  I had not accepted the term “Transgender” because I mistakenly thought that meant I had to be transitioning.  We had a daughter together.  I did everything I could to be a great partner through pregnancy.  It was a hard road, though.  It stung so deeply that I was watching this amazing process of creating life unfold before my very eyes, but I was not able to participate in the way I desperately wanted to.

My daughter was only a few months old when I was having a conversation with a friend in which I was explaining my gender issues and she asked a very simple question of me that started a revolution.  I was telling her why I could not transition to a life in which I was outwardly female.  The question stopped me cold.  “Why not?”  I came up with justifications as to why not… she countered.  Ultimately, I was left to contemplate whether I might actually get to show the world who I am at long last after denying myself for over thirty years.

Over the next several months, I slowly chipped away at my need to cling to my false identity, and began to embrace the idea of allowing myself to be myself.

A new name, new pronouns, new titles, new clothes, an exhausting regimen of hair removal, and heavy makeup.  Prosthetics came and went (with the appearance of my own tissue growth.)  Coming out to all sorts of people under a variety of circumstances.  Being polyamorous meant I would have to do what most trans people do in learning to date as their preferred gender.  I am due to have even more hormones started in a few weeks.  ( I am on a starter dose of daily estrogen at present.)  The hormones alone change all sorts of physical and behavioral changes.

The fact is, though, despite all of the outward changes, you probably have always known me… even if you knew me by another name, or with a different appearance.  The person I am now is the same person that came out at my most happy and comfortable moments before.  Maybe Lauren was listening to you when you needed someone to talk to.  Maybe Lauren cooked for you.  Maybe Lauren helped you pick out an outfit.  I have always been there.  No matter what other truths may have seemed to exist, if you have known the core of me at any point, you have known Lauren.

And, just as importantly, the person who was miserable… the person who didn’t want to live… the person who lied and was controlling and manipulative….That person has nothing to do with me.  That person was a product of having to keep up a charade all day, every day for entirely too long.  That person was exhausted!

I buried that person.

I wrote this entry about eight months into transition. It wasn’t long after this was posted that we moved back to my native Southern California. I’ve had the chance to reconnect with my dear friend from all those years ago, before I knew enough about gender to know I had to live a lie. She sees to the core of me just as she did then. And, our daughters play together just as we did all those years ago.

The intervening years have also seen changes to how I relate to my family. I have become somewhat more charitable in my memory of my mother. She did bring a great deal of suffering to my life, but she also taught me about empathy, and kindness, and social justice. I still believe that people are responsible for their actions, but I also know that the extreme nature of her behavior had a lot to do with disease. My father and I have explicitly disowned each other after years of inching toward that outcome. The only semi-routine contact I have is with the elder of my two paternal aunts. I am grateful to have that, but not having any family to give to Babykiddo breaks my heart.

I’ve also seen the earth shift around my relationship with DW. We are starting to become really good friends, and that is a good place to be.

I know who I am , and what I am, and I know where I am going. Getting here was hard, and I would certainly never want to have to do it over again, but I like myself in ways not possible two years ago, and that is a world of difference.

Love ‘ya!

MWAH!

 

The Keeper Gets More Keeperish

Yesterday evening I had a fantastic chat session with The Keeper. In this post, I want to stick to the effect of our conversation, as opposed to the content. I actually think the content will become a lengthy, multi-part discussion on whether or not it is problematic to be particularly attracted to transpeople. Our conversation stemmed from an interesting article from The Advocate, which I will post here:

Op-ed: My Attraction to Trans People Is Not a Fetish

 

No one should feel they need to be closeted about being attracted to transgender people.

BY Diane Anderson-Minshall

October 02 2013 5:00 AM ET

My dad had the best porn stash in the neighborhood: It was about four feet high, stacked row after row in a wall-size closet with rolling doors, and I showed it to every single neighbor girl I could.  When I was a wee one, I used to break into my dad’s pornography collection. In the pre-Internet, pre-home video days, people (usually men) kept their porn at home, in the back of a closet or on top of a cabinet, where it was safely contained and away from small developing minds. I was supposed to stay out of there, but as soon as he was gone I was digging through it all, mostly ogling the beautiful women of Playboy (who I wanted to both be and do) and the actual sex acts in Swedish erotica. (By the way, kids were usually barred from playing with me after I showed off the dirty mags and taught them words like “masturbate.”)


The backs of the magazines sometimes had small, grainy ads for more fetish magazines, bondage gear, and what we used to call party lines. One of my favorites, that I’d flip to, were ads for “Shemales.” These women, who had both beautiful breasts and real penises, fascinated me. At the time, I had no idea how that was possible biologically, but — and without these words to explain it — I was drawn to the dichotomy that existed in each of these persons, of very obvious female and male sex characteristics.

When I was graduated to home video porn, I rented some of the stuff labeled “shemale,” all of which was presumably aimed at straight men. But since that dovetailed with my coming out as a lesbian and then as a feminist, I evenutally stopped renting and stopped talking about my history of attraction to this type of adult film star, in part because I learned that “shemale” is highly derogatory to trans women. It equates all trans women with sex work, it fetishizes trans women who are pre- or nonoperative, and it lets straight men buy porn with penises without confronting their homophobia.

The word “shemale” was an invention of the porn industry, though it’s been employed plenty by the entertainment industry, popular culture, academics, and rabidly antitrans scholars like Janice G. Raymond. There are other slang terms we no longer (should no longer) use like “tranny,” “chicks with dicks,” “dolls with balls,” and so on, for the very same reasons we don’t use “shemale,” though they show up on television constantly. (See this GLAAD report if you don’t believe me.)

But I’ve been thinking more about this issue after Hot 97 DJ Mister Cee, a renowned figure in urban music, got trans-shamed for soliciting a person he thought was a female trans sex worker. He resigned, and then his boss talked him into coming back (after all, this is the guy who introduced the world to Notorious B.I.G.). He’s come out about his orientation: He’s a man attracted to trans women and cross-dressers. and he hires sex workers who fit into these categories. (He’s also agreed to get therapy, perhaps because of his predilection for hired hands, but that’s another column.) The reason Mister Cee was outed was that he hit on the wrong person this time: Bimbo Winehouse, a cross-dressing vlogger and personality who taped the solicitation and posted the audio online.

That’s led to a lot of discussion around all the issues this brought up:
1. Why are trans women often perceived as sex workers, and what does that mean for the vast majority of trans women, who aren’t?
2. The most common occupation for a trans woman on a TV show or film is sex work. And on top of that, according to GLAAD, 61% of those episodes feature derogatory language like everything in the paragraph above or worse.
3. Why are men being shamed for being attracted to or loving a trans woman?

“We, as a society, have not created a space for men to openly express their desire to be with trans women,” writes author Janet Mock. “Instead, we shame men who have this desire, from the boyfriends, cheaters, and ‘chasers’ to the ‘trade,’ clients, and pornography admirers. We tell men to keep their attraction to trans women secret, to limit it to the Internet, frame it as a passing fetish or transaction. In effect, we’re telling trans women that they are only deserving of secret interactions with men, further demeaning and stigmatizing trans women.” 
 
Mock says she’s witnessed numerous so-called scandals, like those of Mister Cee, Eddie Murphy, and LL Cool J, “where passing interactions with trans women spawn hundreds of headlines, particularly for a man with fame and social capital.” She asks, “When a man can be shamed merely for interacting with a trans woman – whether it be through a photograph, a sex tape or correspondences — what does this say about how society views trans women? More important, what does this do to trans women?”

The answer is plenty, and it’s not good. But I’m thinking now about what it does to these admirers — the boyfriends and girlfriends, husband and wives of trans people. And it leads me back to pornography, in a way. Porn director Joey Silvera is the man who made transgender porn (in this case, adult films with trans women who had not had bottom surgery) acceptable to the public. It’s no longer the taboo it once was; there’s even an annual awards show devoted to the genre (sadly, it’s called the Tranny Awards), and the AVN Awards (the Oscars of porn) celebrate trans actors of both genders. (The most popular FTM star: Buck Angel, a trans man who has also not had bottom surgery; his fan base is primarily gay men even though he bills himself as the “man with a pussy.”)

Maybe Silvera was just making a buck off these women (and buyers), pushing forward the ages-old “circus freak” type of mentality in exploiting them, but what if he wasn’t? What if, like me — and like a lot of people out there who don’t classify themselves as “tranny chasers” or “fetishists” — he was attracted to beautiful women whose bodies don’t conform to our idea of what a “woman” is supposed to be?

I feel a bit like Mister Cee some days, in that I maybe am reluctantly clinging to a label that doesn’t fit, but perhaps no label fits. He feels straight, and he’s attracted to women, which I say makes him straight; but the fact that he’s attracted to women who sometimes still have male genitalia confuses people who need their binaries and bodies to be clearly delineated. Doesn’t that make him gay if he likes dick? Or bi? I don’t know.

I came out as bisexual 26 years ago, then as a queer a year later (and I still love and defend that term because I use it today with my husband, who used to be a woman). When I was working at lesbian magazines I started using the term lesbian because those were the women with whom I was most closely aligned, devoted to even, and to whom I was attracted. Then, eight years ago, when my wife decided to come out as my husband, a trans man, I had to reevaluate what any of these terms meant. I still use many interchangeably (lesbian-identified bisexual, queer, lesbian, bisexual-identified lesbian, and so on), and both my husband and I call ourselves queer even though at this point he’s primarily attracted to women.

I’m, well, somewhere else now.

I’ve found myself in the last few years becoming more and more attracted to trans men. Not all men. Just trans men. There is something about transgender men I find exceptionally attractive both physically and mentally, especially those who were acculturated as lesbian feminists. I know some trans guys — like T Cooper, who has written about why dating a lesbian isn’t as validating as dating a straight woman — find this idea offensive. And few women understand how one can be attracted to trans men and not be straight. I don’t know; sometimes there’s a beauty trans men exude that I am drawn to, like the dozens of lesbians before them.

Does that make me a fetishist? No. I think that just like your sexual orientation makes you attracted to men or women or both, my sexual orientation makes me attracted to trans men, trans women, and nontrans women. And maybe those guys who are buying (or downloading) what is still called “tranny” porn or “shemale” porn are also oriented towards trans women who haven’t had surgery. Why does being attracted to trans women make those men fetishist, but if they were attracted to cisgender women or other men, it would merely be considered their orientation?

Look, I’m not the only woman who is attracted to women (trans and nontrans) and trans men; I’m just one of the few brave enough to come out about it and that’s sad. But I know I have those humble beginnings looking at “shemale” pornography to thank for my openness about gender, even though I wish the men watching it could be open about their orientation, their desires, and could rename the whole damn genre so that trans women were at least no more exploited and abused than cisgendered women who do sex work. But until we open up about all this, that’ll never happen. And every time a celebrity looks at a trans woman it’ll be the “ruin of his career.” At least according to TMZ.

That got us talking about some really intense shame and internalized transphobia. We talked about whether trans* individuals want our ‘trans-ness’ to be seen, and if not, were we not saying “You cannot love all of me.”

Absolutely fascinating stuff!

Truth be told, I have come to expect this sort of deeply expository and entirely engaging conversation from The Keeper. What felt new was just how much she was able to course her way into the deepest recesses of my feelings and identity to engage me in a way which, frankly, provoked me. I am a person who spends a lot of my time delving into the least exposed places in my psyche. I like to know all of what I think and feel.

There is a truly incredible sense of vulnerability in having someone find something about you which you did not know about yourself. It’s as though she stripped me naked and found a bit of skin I didn’t know was there. And then she went about honoring this bit of skin, and making me feel glad it was there, and glad I was in her care when I found it.

I leave you to bask, as I am, in the glory of profound vulnerability. I hope each of you , ESPECIALLY those who are quite self-aware have someone in your life who can see things you don’t yet know about. I think that kind of trust is the most intimate thing that people can share.

All my love,

Serialnonconformist