A prejudice regretted

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Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.

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43 Responses

  1. Avatar Vikram Bath
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    says:

    I can’t help but notice that your prejudice seems to have only fallen because of another prejudice. If she had in fact looked like a drag queen instead of a beautiful woman, your opinion would have perhaps been reinforced rather than changed. In a way, you lucked out by having the right kind of experience to pierce your illusions.Report

    • Avatar Russell Saunders in reply to Vikram Bath
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      says:

      Perhaps.

      Perhaps she would have been unpleasant or off-putting or any number of other things that would have, as you say, reinforced my prejudices. Certainly not all of the transsexual people I have met since were as charismatic and charming and pleasant as she was. I could have ended up even more sure in my bigotry than I was.

      Perhaps simply meeting a real transsexual person instead of my idea of one would have sufficed. Perhaps not.

      In any case, things went how they went.Report

  2. Avatar Kazzy
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    says:

    “I don’t know quite what I was expecting. Perhaps a variation on the drag queen theme, a tarted-up man playing at being a woman, all artifice and arch affectation.”

    But what if she had been like that? Relying on personal experiences runs the risk of someone confirming every negative stereotype another person holds about the group in question. What then?Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy
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      says:

      I see you and Vikram addressed this above.Report

    • Avatar Russell Saunders in reply to Kazzy
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      says:

      Then, as I said in reply to Vikram, I might have been all the more sure of my bigotry.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Russell Saunders
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        says:

        I wonder if there is a way to challenge people’s stereotypes without demonizing the stereotypes.

        Less, “No… Transexual people aren’t a bunch of hulking she-beasts,” and more, “So what if they are?”

        This piece is challenging some of the ways I think about all this. Thanks.Report

      • If I may pivot toward homophobia a bit, that’s a big question to face. It has many, many facets, many of which I’ve tried to explore in other posts.

        On the one hand, we want our society to accept that most of us gay types are boringly mundane, and not all that different. But some of us are drag queens and some of us are fey and effete. Some of us like to dress up in very little clothing or wear feather boas and ride around on floats at Pride.

        How much do we change or hide about ourselves in our efforts to gain greater acceptance? Lord knows I’ve got my mental lines, but who am I to say where other people’s lines get drawn? How much is acceptance worth?Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to Russell Saunders
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        says:

        I think one implication of this is that we can’t necessarily say all bigots are evil. If all of us are just one or two experiences away from having a different set of views, then perhaps we should be less judgmental of people being judgmental. After all, bigots are people too.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Russell Saunders
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        says:

        Vik,

        That is why I prefer the “act, not actor” route. Instead of seeing people as bigoted, I try to see them as people who hold bigoted views. They person is almost always redeemable. I realize that might simply seem semantic, but I think it helps with how we approach the problem.

        Russ,

        I didn’t want to pivot towards homophobia but am glad you did, only because I feel I can speak a bit more knowledgeably on it. What is challenging is, as I note above, how we divorce act from actor. Once upon a time, I lived with and was good friends* with a gay man who was fey and very dramatic (he was an acting student). I liked the kid, but I couldn’t stand the fabulousness. But not because of his sexuality… I just found it irksome. I find it irksome whether it is demonstrated by a gay man or a straight man or a gay woman or a straight woman. I spent a good time with the theater crowd and just find that sort of behavior annoying. It took a bit of work to separate my frustration with the behavior from the guy behind it and, more importantly, his sexuality. It helped that we had another gay roommate who was not most of those things… much more “Will” than “Will’s super gay friend” from “Will & Grace” (an analogy offered by another party, so forgive me if that is off). So I could see, “Okay, it’s not a gay thing… it’s a drama thing. Oh, I hate all the straight drama dudes, too.”

        I think we can make room for people to be uncomfortable with any number of actions, provided they aren’t unnecessarily linking those actions with personal identifiers… even if there might be a correlation or even a causative relationship**. The problem is, if you don’t interact with a variety of a given group, it is hard to learn the diversity within that group and to get through all this nuance.

        * We lost touch over time but recently connected via Facebook. Never hard feelings, just different people with different interests.
        ** I read a piece once that said the preponderance of gay men in the arts has to do with the fact that many of them feel as if they are constantly acting just to get by, so drama becomes a natural area of interest and skill for them. I’m not sure I buy it but figured I’d leave open the possibility.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Russell Saunders
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        says:

        @kazzy –

        a gay man who was fey and very dramatic (he was an acting student). I liked the kid, but I couldn’t stand the fabulousness. But not because of his sexuality… I just found it irksome. I find it irksome whether it is demonstrated by a gay man or a straight man or a gay woman or a straight woman. I spent a good time with the theater crowd and just find that sort of behavior annoying. It took a bit of work to separate my frustration with the behavior from the guy behind it and, more importantly, his sexuality.

        I went through a similar thought process, not with any one specific person but in an earlier comment thread here…was commenting about how I sometimes find the “drama queen” persona a little off-putting or annoying, and as I was writing it, realizing that I had been considering it a primarily “gay male” type, when as you say, it’s really just a “type” that can manifest male/female/straight/gay (and often manifests in theater-related fields).

        (And I should also note that I like some people with this persona a lot – but they need to have the goods to back it up. They either need to be either genuinely funny/cool/interesting people, or else have the artistic/creative chops to justify going around and acting like their whole life’s a stage all the time. But when it’s just seemingly just an “acceptable” way for shallow people to act catty to other people and be attention-seeking for it, it still rubs me the wrong way, in a big way).

        @russell-saunders – you are very clear that this was residual prejudice for you. In your opinion, would it be possible for a doctor to genuinely think there was something “wrong” with a given transsexual person from a mental health POV, and to believe that hormone treatments etc. were potentially more harmful than not, perhaps masking the patient’s true problems and/or exacerbating them? If so, would this be a reasonable reason for a doctor to be reluctant to provide the patient’s hormone injections?

        PLEASE NOTE: the preceding question is a hypothetical, and does not represent my own beliefs. I imagine the number of transsexual persons who are just mentally “confused” (by this I mean “confused” into thinking they are transsexual when they aren’t really; I don’t mean truly trans peole who might be “confused” because they have been placed by biology and happenstance and culture into an incredibly difficult situation to navigate) to be vanishingly small, and in any case likely weeded out by mental health professionals long before they get to you for an androgen shot.

        I am more interested in what would seem to be a potential grey area when it comes to the Hippocratic Oath and an individual doctor’s conscience (not to mention the intersection between physical health and mental health and a doctor’s degree of responsibility to concern himself with both).

        If this hypothetical is too inflammatory or insensitive, I would be happy to explore a roughly analogous scenario anyone can think of.

        Totally OT, but the trans person I am acquainted with is also extremely beautiful/feminine (when I first met her I had no idea she used to present as male) and very nice.

        She’s also a seriously, seriously hardcore Republican, which just seems…odd for some reason.

        Also, this: But some of us are drag queens and some of us are fey and effete. Some of us like to dress up in very little clothing or wear feather boas and ride around on floats at Pride.

        Plenty of “straight” people like to dress in drag and do some of these other things too. Kinksters and freaks unite!

        Last thought, again sort of way OT. The picture of Chelsea Manning that is everywhere makes me really, really sad. Not because she’s trans or anything like that.

        It’s hard to say what the picture’s effect on me would have been had I encountered it with no prior context, not knowing who it was – but something about that grainy, b&w low-angle phone shot just makes her look so lonely and trapped and doomed.

        Which of course may be what I am bringing to the picture, though I don’t know if she took it after she already knew what kind of hot water she was in for the leaks.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Russell Saunders
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        says:

        Glyph,
        ” In your opinion, would it be possible for a doctor to genuinely think there was something “wrong” with a given transsexual person from a mental health POV, and to believe that hormone treatments etc. were potentially more harmful than not, perhaps masking the patient’s true problems and/or exacerbating them? If so, would this be a reasonable reason for a doctor to be reluctant to provide the patient’s hormone injections?”

        … a paternalistic doctor might be reluctant, yes. But in general, I’d recommend “send them to a psych, and if they still want it, do what they ask”Report

  3. Avatar zic
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    says:

    I have a dear friend, two months in to HRT as she begins the transition for the he she was born to physically to the she she was born to mentally.

    She says the difference is astonishing. Her skin cleared up. Her hair looks thick and lush. She went through years of depression and self-loathing that caused her to isolate herself. Now, she often feels lonely as she tries to build the connections to others she refused to build before.

    She says the decrease of testosterone is a relief; feelings of rage and anger have abated to be replaced with a sense of calm. The downside is the androgen used; a diuretic. A better option is available in Europe and Canada, but not FDA approved in the US.

    She’s at the beginning of a long road; and has chosen to walk it slowly. No startling revelations and coming out, just a slow transition to herself. A butterfly, awakening.Report

    • Avatar veronica dire in reply to zic
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      says:

      @Glyph — BTW, you mean “anti-androgen,” and the specific drug is spironolactone, and makes you pee a lot, traps potassium in the body, and lots of other nastiness.

      That said, it works.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to veronica dire
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        says:

        Thanks @veronica-dire!Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to veronica dire
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        says:

        whoops, adding the ! messed it up. That was to @veronica-direReport

      • Avatar veronica dire in reply to veronica dire
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        says:

        I think I meant that reply to @zic, or something. This is all confused.

        Sorry.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to veronica dire
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        says:

        @veronica-dire – no worries, the commenting system sometimes gets all of us. I hope I did not come across as insensitive above with my question, that wasn’t my intent. I always appreciate your input and POV – if I sometimes ask dumb questions around here on these topics, it’s often because I don’t know any better, and it helps me greatly to have someone who *does* know better participating in the conversation.

        So thanks again anyway, even if you weren’t replying to me.Report

      • Avatar Veronica Dire in reply to veronica dire
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        says:

        Thanks, @glyph.

        I wouldn’t call your question “insensitive,” not exactly. It was clear you were showing genuine curiosity. That said, I suspect you are unaware of the history of medical gatekeeping and how it deeply abused trans people.

        This is maybe hard to explain, and certainly I won’t say as much as I would like, but it is this: When the gender identity clinics first began operating in the late 1960s, the hopes of trans people lit up. Finally, finally, a solution to our misery. But our hopes where quickly dashed. See, the doctors had different ideas. In fact, of the thousands of patients who flocked to programs such as the Johns Hopkins and Stanford gender identity clinics, the vast majority were denied care. The reasons were various, but here are a few:

        1. The doctors would not “construct” a homosexual. So to qualify for transition, a trans women would have to like men (and vice versa for trans men).

        (To make things clear: I always speak in terms of the felt identity. People “born male” who are seeking to transition to women are trans women. Likewise, “born females” seeking to transition to male are trans men.)

        (Oh, and the terms “born male” and “born female” are problematic. Typically we use the terms AMAB and AFAB: assigned male/female at birth.)

        2. For trans women, the patient needed to be sufficiently feminine, to wholly embody the socially acceptable standards of womanhood, such as wearing dresses, makeup, walking like a woman, and so on. In fact, in many cases the woman needed to be attractive to the doctor.

        Really. That happened. Whatever their flaws, these doctors took copious notes, and they saw no reason to hide their misogyny. No doubt they were simply unaware of how gross they were.

        3. The patient could in no way “fetishize” their gender. Of course, this was according to the doctor’s rigid heteronormative ideas of fetish.

        (If you want a full dose of how horrible this gets, google “autogynephilia.” Or don’t. Your choice.)

        These were not the only criteria, but they were the most pernicious. It is worth noting that I fail on all three accounts. I would have had no hope.

        So, these days things are better (but hardly perfect). Depending on where you live, what clinics are available, what you look like, your history, you physical presence, your wealth, you can still be denied care.

        This history sticks with us.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to veronica dire
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        says:

        @veronica-dire – thanks, and those clarifications/definitions in terminology in terms help me at least. I appreciate your patience and understanding as I try to work through my thoughts.

        RE: this one:

        2. For trans women, the patient needed to be sufficiently feminine, to wholly embody the socially acceptable standards of womanhood, such as wearing dresses, makeup, walking like a woman, and so on. In fact, in many cases the woman needed to be attractive to the doctor.

        I can see a possible alternate explanation other than misogyny on some doctors’ parts here. Given the overall tenor of society’s acceptance of the idea, there may have been some fear that if the trans woman was not going to be sufficiently able to “pass” as a woman, she might be in danger of physical violence from other people. They may have been thinking that they should only do reassignments if the results would be indistinguishable from an AFAB person (did I use these terms right?); otherwise, the patient might be “safer” remaining assigned male (not to mention, the doctors’ own reputations would be safer – if others did not judge the final results as “aesthetically pleasing”, the doctors themselves may have been professionally pilloried for botching the job, even if they had worked to the best of their capabilities at that time).

        I am not saying this would have been the correct choices, or adequate justifications, but I can at least see it being a possibility for some doctors beyond mere prejudice and misogyny on their parts.

        Similarly, I can see some doctors wanting to apply certain applicant filters for the patients’ physical well-being w/r/t the procedures themselves. I assume at the time there could be complications from either surgery or hormone therapy (and I further assume that both processes have been improved with time).

        I am trying to come up with a good analogy and failing, but let me try this one (and apologies in advance if this is offensive): if I love to wear womens’ pumps, but I also have size 15 feet and there is no specialty shoe shop near me (and I don’t have internet access), I might request a foot-size-reduction surgery, because I am only truly happy and feel “myself” when in pumps.

        Now, a doctor might say, “are you sure there’s no way for you to be happy with the feet you have? This surgery is painful, and sometimes it goes wrong; the result might be deformed feet, and trouble walking for the rest of your life.” He wouldn’t necessarily be making any moral judgements on me, but instead expressing concern for the physical risks of the path I am requesting to take.

        Aside from being over-simplified (male/female is more than shoes), one place where that analogy potentially fails is that some people would make an argument that wearing pumps is something I like to do (and therefore can live without), not an essential part of who I am; but as we’ve seen in the culture wars over homosexuality/bisexuality, and polyamory, and straight kinks, and (I assume) also over transsexual rights, it’s not always clear where the line falls between “what I like” and “who I am”.

        I tend to fall pretty much on the side of “what you like IS in large part who you are, and as long as what you like hurts no one else who didn’t consent, then go for it”; the culture mostly seems to be moving in this direction, so yay! I have also been accused of being a techno-utopian, so to me it is all to the good that technology exists, and is improving and becoming more accessible, to let anybody be who they want to be, regardless of whether that is a function of their “essence” or their “preference”.

        Again, thanks for your patience as I work through this in my mind. One reason transphobia is a thing, IMO, is that people like me have very little frame of reference for understanding. I feel I understand (to some degree) gay men – they feel the way I do about women, except about men. I feel I understand (to some degree) gay women – they feel about women, the way I do. There’s some cross-mapping and analogy there for me that, however imperfect/incomplete, helps give me some small insight into the experience (or at least I feel like it does).

        But I don’t always understand women very well, not being one. And I don’t well understand being a woman who was AMAB, because I have always known/felt I was male. I have no prefab mental “tools” to help me understand the experience and its ramifications, except people who will be patient in trying to explain it to me. So again, thanks, and if I am going seriously astray in my thinking here, please let me know.Report

      • Avatar Veronica Dire in reply to veronica dire
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        says:

        @Glyph — So here is the thing: the excuses you make for the doctors are no doubt correct, insofar as this is what they told themselves. But I look at this from a structural/feminist perspective — it is misogyny because the doctors were eagerly playing their role in a sexist social system.

        Transphobia (like homophobia, racism, classism, sexism, and so forth) is not about singular acts of wrongdoing by bad people. Instead, it is an unjust social system that traps us all.

        On understanding trans people, this thing is this: you also have a gender identity, just as I do. But like a fish who does not know it is wet, you cannot see it.

        But here is the thing: as a trans person, there is a sense of gender wrongness (before transition) and rightness after transition, and this is something that you absolutely cannot possibly understand, and that I cannot describe — like describing colors to the blind.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to veronica dire
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        says:

        @veronica-dire Thanks. I get and agree with most of that, except this part:

        Transphobia (like homophobia, racism, classism, sexism, and so forth) is not about singular acts of wrongdoing by bad people. Instead, it is an unjust social system that traps us all.

        …which is a way of looking at it that I need to consider more frequently – but it seems to me to conflict a bit with the bolded word choices in this part:

        the excuses you make for the doctors are no doubt correct, insofar as this is what they told themselves. But I look at this from a structural/feminist perspective — it is misogyny because the doctors were eagerly playing their role in a sexist social system.

        While this para overall comports with the one above, the bolded word choices seem to imply (at least to me) “singular acts of wrongdoing by bad people” (maybe I am reading into that, but something about “excuses” and “eagerly” just seems to imply individual ill-intent to me – they are making choices to harm people eagerly, and making excuses because they know they are doing wrong).

        While we all agree that “I was just following orders” isn’t a good excuse, I do think we need to make some allowances for the idea that “they just didn’t know any better back then”. If a doctor thought they were doing the right thing for the right reason, even if they were wrong, or the overall result of their collective actions was misogynist/transphobic, it seems to paint every doctor with the same brush (rather than simply indicting the total system that as you say, enfolded them/us all).

        Of course, that’s easy for me to say, because I wasn’t the one getting the short end of the stick.Report

    • Avatar Veronica Dire in reply to zic
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      says:

      @Glyph — The issue is this: bigotry of any stripe is the manifestation of a social system. And these systems are, at their root, manifestations of human behavior. A person with power within an unjust system has a choice to make. Those who choose to act in concert with the oppression are themselves culpable, even if they find ways to rationalize it. And, yes, I will name them bigots, misogynists, sexists, racists — whichever applies.

      On the other hand, those who work against the oppression deserve full credit, particularly as the system will punish them by seeking to remove their authority. (The system punishes allies also.)

      On that note, the doctors who pioneered trans healthcare were a strange and heterodoxical bunch. Actually, many of them were pretty messed up themselves, often running on unchecked ego (John Money). Others seemed to be genuinely interested in doing good (Harry Benjamin) and in small doses rose above the standards of their day.

      But they were to a man misogynists.Report

      • Avatar Veronica Dire in reply to Veronica Dire
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        says:

        (I think this comment landed on the wrong level of nesting. I blame society.)Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Veronica Dire
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        says:

        @veronica-dire – Getting back to my initial question, I wonder to what degree the Hippocratic Oath (as they understood it) played into all this.

        The Oath being, IMO, inherently “conservative” – “First, do no harm” seemingly inclines against taking actions that are new, dangerous or perceived to be “radical” (and what could be more “radical” than deciding that the simple and neat and immutable gender binaries our entire culture is built around, aren’t so simple, neat, or immutable?).

        Which brings me into the territory of “were they sometimes failing to help out of concern for doing no harm”‘ and “at what point does ‘failing to help’ shade into ‘harm'”?Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Veronica Dire
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        says:

        I blame society

        Awesome.Report

  4. Avatar NoPublic
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    says:

    NB: I’m going to draw on my own experiences in this comment. With this comes the danger of making things about me (a cis-gendered straight (Not a 0, but closer to 0 than 6) white male). I hope I can avoid that.

    1) Folks have already mentioned the “beautiful” part being as important as the “transgendered” part in your response. Pretty people win in our world, people relate to them better. That’s just the way things are. Yes, you might have taken longer to get where you are if she’d been homely or rude. That you moved at all indicates more flexibility of mental state than many people generally show. Still, it does argue that “well composed” spokespersons are a part of making growing awareness more positive.

    2) Re: flamboyant stereotypes. I’m, as noted above, the dominant (notationally at least) demographic in my part of the world. I have at least as much mental reservation about being associated with certain SWHetMale stereotypes as I imagine a given gay man might have with the “feather boas and assless chaps” crowd. I cringe at the posturing and crabbing and fist-pumps and ab flashing on Jersey Shore (and in my local college bars). Likewise the loud face-painting can crushing on head guys at sporting events (and in my local sports bars). But the world doesn’t group me with them the way it does gay men with the Pride parade or gay women with the butch dyke stereotype. I am still uncomfortable around certain groups of my “peers”; I get ribbed for not joining into some of the tribal rituals, but I don’t lose much for being part of that demographic. We’re not, to use a phrase fraught with context, tarred with the same brush. Is this just a function of my demographic (and cultural) dominance? Or is the visibility of my conformance to the demographic relevant? The conflation of negative young black male stereotypes onto every black male would suggest that it’s heavily weighted by the dominance portion.

    Given this, can hearts and minds ever be won by a minority in anything more than a case-by-case basis?Report

    • Avatar Will H. in reply to NoPublic
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      says:

      A few thoughts here.

      re: (2): To large degree, I too am repulsed by the more flamboyant sorts. I always attributed this to persons lacking in substance, needing some crutch.
      Oddly enough, I was a performer for a number of years, but one always afflicted with terrible stage fright. First of all, I am terribly near-sighted, and I prefer to see the audience as an indistinct blur. Secondly, I have an instrument to hide behind, at least a little bit. And third, I’m there to do something. After the spotlight, I want my little cave to crawl into. But somehow in my mind, I justified it by doing something of substance; not merely flash.
      At one time, I was standing around talking with some people, and I realized that more people knew me by the sound of my instrument than through conversing. That really struck me. After a few weeks, I came to the realization that most people that “knew me” before coming to know me probably thought I was a real d!ck. I made the conscious decision at that time to try to become a better person (preliminary results somewhat mixed).

      re: Drama queens.
      I tend to think of a certain type of woman when I hear this term; someone particularly high-strung and meddling, always at odds with someone.
      Completely unaware, I just described my mom.
      A tad embarrassed about that, so I’ll take my exit now.Report

  5. Avatar Tod Kelly
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    says:

    Excellent post, as per usual, and it speaks to something I briefly mentioned in my post this week on affirmative action.

    I wish that more of our discussions of bigotry were similar to this. Your story, Russell, is so much more powerful than a snarky admonishment of people who are now where you once were. It’s hard to read something like this and not do a little self-refelction, wherever you sit.Report

  6. Avatar Miss Mary
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    says:

    Thanks for this, Russell.
    I have a friend who identifies at transgender, that I only see rarely now since he lives in my hometown. He’s great now, but man was he a basket-case before he decided to identify as a man. He and I were recently at the same baby shower and we briefly were discussing transsexuals. Eh, whatever. Call yourself whatever works for you. It doesn’t make a difference to me. He did mention that his fiance identifies as queer, as opposed to lesbian. I thought that was kind of interesting. Minority of a minority.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to Miss Mary
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      says:

      Two different things there, which often get confused. One’s gender identity is one thing. One’s gender attraction is another.

      The potentials of both together would include:

      cis-female, attracted to male (straight);
      cis-female, attracted to female (lesbian);
      trans-female, attracted to male;
      trans-female, attracted to female;

      cis-male, attracted to female, (straight)
      cis-male, attracted to male (gay);
      trans-male, attracted to female,
      trans-male attracted to male.

      We don’t have labels that I’m aware of for trans attractions; just another indicator of how difficult and low trans people are in our collective awareness.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire in reply to zic
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        says:

        A trans women attracted to women is a lesbian. A trans man attracted to men is gay.

        It’s easier than it looks.

        (BTW, I often find myself using the terms “androphillic” and “gynophillic.” Once you explain their obvious meaning, then are very useful.)Report

      • Avatar veronica dire in reply to zic
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        says:

        Uh, I mean they are very useful.

        (Edit feature, please.)Report

      • Avatar Veronica Dire in reply to zic
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        says:

        @vikram-bath — I always loved that song, but notice the video contains no visibly trans people, in spite of the fact the song is clearly trans-suggestive. I wonder why that is?

        (Actually, of course I know why it is. I live it.)

        And yes, the video contains a few maybe-genderqueer-ish people kissing, and that is really cool and sexy, but we trans folks do hunger to see ourselves in the media. We seldom do, and when we do we are usually either serial killers or the butt of a very bad joke.

        (I recall once, while watching Queer as Folk, breaking down in tears. I kept asking, “Why don’t we have a show?”)

        (Oh, and I know why we don’t have a show. You need not explain.)Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to zic
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        says:

        I think it’s sort of explained by the OPs response to his situation. At the point at which he interacted with that woman, that was perhaps the only type of person he could have mentally accepted without recoiling.

        I think it might be fair to say that people can only handle things that are one step away from the things they are already comfortable with. If you show them something that’s four steps away, they’ll shut down and you might reinforce their biases.

        So, accordingly the song is trans-suggestive, because anything more would have been too far at the time the video was made. Then again, that’s an old song, and I’m not sure we’re societally any closer to taking an additional step…Report

    • Avatar Jeff Lipton in reply to Miss Mary
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      says:

      I have a friend who was pretty much of a basket case before transitioning as well. Cutting and suicide attempts and general loathing of their body (this person identified as male during this period, but is now female). Since transitioning, she has blossomed and is happy. She has even married the love of her life: thank you marriage equality!Report

  7. Avatar Cascadian
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    says:

    I don’t think I’m biased against trans people. If you want to get the better half riled up, bring up Nixon v Rape Relief. However, many years ago we went to a workshop put on by a well known practitioner of Japanese rope bondage who was in the middle of transitioning. After the workshop, my partner and I spent quite a lot of time talking to him, finding out common friends, experiences, etc. Eventually my partner and I left the party and headed home. On the way home my partner asked why I hadn’t played with him since he was clearly trying to hit on me. My jaw dropped. I had been completely oblivious to his advances. She still teases me to this day about this and I still feel embarrassed.Report

  8. Avatar zic
    Ignored
    says:

    Upthread, @veronica-dire says:

    But here is the thing: as a trans person, there is a sense of gender wrongness (before transition) and rightness after transition, and this is something that you absolutely cannot possibly understand, and that I cannot describe — like describing colors to the blind.

    I wanted to emphasize this. From my discussions with people who’ve been through gender reassignment and from reading one thing jumps out at me: when you feel you’re the wrong gender, you always have this sense of something wrong. Beginning HRT quickly brings that sense of something wrong into balance. But people who are not genuinely trans will feel even more discomforted on HRT.

    (My father, who died of prostate cancer, did HRT as part of his treatments. The estrogen made him feel horrid and wrong. My friend who just began HRT says the estrogen make her feel peaceful, more herself.)

    Thank you, VeronicaDire.Report

    • Avatar Maribou in reply to zic
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      says:

      I think Veronica Dire’s comments are very important, and well said, zic, and also that your additions are well-said and important. However, I also want to say that it’s important to recognize that gender is (still) not a binary, and that many people can feel uneasy or even unhappy with the gender they’ve been assigned at birth *without* it necessarily meaning that hormonal therapy and transitioning is the right answer for them.

      Just as blindness is not actually an all-or-nothing situation, and there are varying degrees of sight, there are also plenty of people somewhere in the middle in terms of gender identity. I’m pretty darn gender-nonconforming – I had to figure out over time in college that I did identify with the female body I grew up in, rather than being certain of it – and I have actually been pressured by multiple people to confess that I’m “really” transgendered, and just not willing to admit to that yet (so! untrue!). Not even a tenth as often as I’ve been given a hard time for not being womanly enough, for sure. But it’s just as uncomfortable for me – honestly very similar to how it feels to be told that one isn’t “really” bisexual but only hasn’t admitted to being a lesbian yet, which I used to get told in the early nineties, but people have mostly grown out of that now.

      And then, I have friends whose gender identity is a lot more complicated than my own… friends who sometimes “pass” for extended periods of time as the “other” gender when really it’s just that they identify as both/and, or something even more complex. And then, friends who really don’t experience gender as part of their self-identification at all.

      And so the particular way of parsing trans experience that assumes EVERYONE identifies as either male or female, straightforwardly … it makes me twitchy. Even when it’s just a framework, and not explicit claims that myself and my friends are imagining things.Report

      • Avatar Maribou in reply to Maribou
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        says:

        *cough* I used to get told I wasn’t really bisexual in the LATE 90s not the early 90s. In the early 90s I was in junior high and not really talking to anyone about this stuff! Apparently my subconscious wants me to be older than I am 😀Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Maribou
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        says:

        And so the particular way of parsing trans experience that assumes EVERYONE identifies as either male or female, straightforwardly … it makes me twitchy.

        If I gave the impression that I need everything to fit in either box A, or box B, for the world to make sense to me…that’s not what I meant. There are more things in heaven and earth, etc., etc.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Maribou
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        says:

        However, I also want to say that it’s important to recognize that gender is (still) not a binary, and that many people can feel uneasy or even unhappy with the gender they’ve been assigned at birth *without* it necessarily meaning that hormonal therapy and transitioning is the right answer for them.

        Seeing a spectrum is so difficult, yet when you finally do, the rainbow revealed is beautiful.

        You are spot on, Maribou. I’m sure there are people who need to morph back and fourth to find comfort, too. But that’s really the point of this whole conversation; it’s about learning to be comfortable letting others be comfortable; not asking them to conform to your comfort zone, but learning to accept the rainbow of comfort zones.Report

      • Avatar bluefoot in reply to Maribou
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        says:

        Thanks for this comment. I used to date someone who, depending on circumstance, mood, etc, would present as male or female, and very occasionally androgynous. He had started saving for gender reassignment surgery, then realized he was more both/and rather than either/or though it’s more complicated than that. (Hell, even me using only the male pronoun for him feel wrong for me, though right now that’s what he prefers.)Report

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