Monday, April 10, 2017
Trans Essay -- "For The Rest of Us"
We're currently reading Kate Bornstein, "Gender Outlaw, of Men, Women & the Rest of Us." NY: Routledge, 1994 -- Revised, NY; Vintage, 2016.
In the past several weeks, months, stages. . . events . . . experiences . . . episodes, we've been adopting the position that gender is fundamentally a socio-cultural paradigm, a sort of "surface level utterance" used to convey, communicate sexual status -- more or less. Gender inhabits and determines a lot of other human functions, but by and large it's all about communicating sexual status [vis-a-vis one's reproductive role].
There has been some transition in the vocabulary of "gender theory" -- how ironic! We've essentially moved from "transvestite" (across vestments) to "transsexual" (across sex), to "transgender" (across gender), to just plain "trans" -- We use the term "trans-whatever" a great deal, a means of deconstructing and problematizing the Western male hegemonic hetero-normative dyad.
What we're seeing in "trans-authors" we're reading are M to F, "full surgical/HRT gender-transition" models: Kate Bornstein, Sandy Stone, Julia Serano, etc. These are "trans" cis-M who "transition" through hormone replacement therapy (HRT), and surgery -- coupled with a "transition period" of varying duration where one lives in or transitions to the "other gender." Male to Female is one variation, Female to Male is the other. No one seems to "transition" from "binary to something else" -- although Bornstein opens this "Third option" line of inquiry.
We've observed personally the process of this transition protocol: Locally an individual endeavored the transition from cis-M to trans-woman. Initially "he" began presenting touches of lace trim on "tank tops." Hormones (HRT) engendered a softening of skin, facial features, developing breasts. They let the hair grow longer, jewelry and accessories, gender-neutral "uni-sex" style clothing -- this what we call "beach casual" since we live at the beach. This person now presents as "female" and would like to ID as "female" rather than "trans-woman." She is not interested in presenting a biography of transition.
We're interested in presenting an organized insurrection against the Western masculinist hegemonic hetero-normative dyad! ("Gender Outlaw" and militant, radical, feminist . . . ) We are troubled by the disjointed machinations, surgical risks, endocrine disequilibrium and fragmented ID narrative that "conventional" transition entails. We are not broken! Why break out a fractured narrative for what is a cohesive and essential part of our identity?
We have all these clothing/accessory options, and have long since stopped separating these items into "M" and "F." We like various presentations of earrings -- we have 3 piercings in each lobe and wear "biker earrings" (butch) all the way to the other end of the earring spectrum in "chandeliers," the stuff that swings and dangles.
Bornstein, in coaching how to "pass" as the other gender notes: "Accessorize!" We have a "medical alert" tag for Warfarin. I have "jeweled" this item into a "necklace, and "accessory" -- also a large tungsten ring/band worn on the left middle-finger (It's a metaphor!). The sea-shell string necklace is pretty "surfer, beach casual." The 6 foot freshwater pearl strand stills seems to "detract" -- but on sale at Ross and who would pass on such a deal? (another pun)
Our wardrobe runs the full spectrum: Biker leathers, to frills and lace. Pants, skirts, dresses, handguns, Harleys, earrings, knives (boy jewelry). We don't wear what doesn't work for fashion We have an extensively developed fashion sense, "male and female." We read Dress for Success and learned from our mother who owned a boutique and obsessed once about navy socks which she thought were black. Mom taught us, "accessories which detract, or at least don't add to the look should be avoided." Dresses/skirts for us "detract." Hell . . . biker leathers and a .357 magnum "detract" when one attempts to present "gender neutral" "non-binary" "gender-queer" or what ideological signifier we're using these days.
Dresses don't work for us, because we present as a cis-M "trans" and NOT as "female." Skirts/dresses are rigidly "femme." and that's not us. Not that we don't enjoy wearing them, and flannel nighties too. They just engender too much rigid "femme" statement to work for our day-to-day gender presentation (or whatever we're calling this socio-cultural performance).
Let's note here, since we're at it, that when we do wear nighties and skirts, it is because they are practical, pragmatic, comfortable and "pretty" which we like. We don't wear them as a sort of "girl disguise."Our identity is not a costume, not a masquerade, not "drag" and not "camp."
In the Allison, Ali, Alison post a few days ago, we trotted out the double bell curve:
There is in this model an overlapping identity between "female" and "male" -- and it goes without saying that we problematize the whole notion that an obstetrician, at the moment of birth can examine one's pubic region and determine "sex" -- Maybe this designation method works for what we attribute to "sex," but those ontological and epistemological regions we term "gender" involve "gender mapping" and personal identity. Personal identity is not about genitals. Personal identity is metaphysical; a state of mind "beyond" (meta) the physical.
Kate Bornstein, in "Gender Outlaw" (supra) refers to this interstitial region between the two over-lapping bell curves as "gender outlaws" -- aliens in a rigidly defined Western male hegemonic dyad of sex/gender which insists upon "either/or," "male/female." Current signifiers for this space include "non-binary," "gender-queer," "trans" and a few that we make up on the spot: We ID as "trans-whatever" and "stealth lesbian." We also ID as "butch" -- butch biker, but that presentation is so, soooo, soooooooooooo, very butch that we are able to "pass" as "lesbian butch male" (whatever) up to and including using the men's restroom and standing to pee! LMAO
Public rest-rooms are a rigidly bifurcated convention. We don't feel appropriate in either one these days. Which sets up this situation:
Suppose we drag our dick into the "women's" restroom. The women are horrified that "there's a man in here!" And so we explain: "We're in gender transition. We still have our breasts and vagina, but the testosterone therapy is starting to kick our ass!" LMAO (Think about it!)
We are "vigilant" when standing at a urinal. Long hair, earrings, a "purse/bag" . . . "accessories." Thankfully, more and more buildings afford a "family restroom" which is "single serve" and accommodates mixed gender groups (family) and the disabled. We are a disabled veteran, but our "gender" is not "broken" and doesn't need "fixing" with surgery and hormones.
We encountered recently, at the Harley-Davidson shop (macho) a cis-F who appeared to us initially as "cis M" -- and then we watched her speaking. Besides the voice, there are gestures and postures (semes) which present "cis F" and "cis-M." (Linguistics is our academic field.) She was presenting a really "butch" hair style, motorcycle leathers, boots, trucker's wallet on a chain. Altogether appropriate attire for riding a Harley-Davidson. We we wearing pretty much the same stuff, only "women's" long-sleeve T with open neck, hair in a pony tail/bun, dangling earrings. She caught our attention and we noted, "Nice to see both sides of us here!"
We cannot "pass" as "female" -- Too many years of testosterone poisoning. We're 5' 10", 210 lbs, beard growth, secondary male-pattern hair distribution, male musculature, bone structure, stature, gait, all the semes that present "cis-M" without much effort. OK, we can "pass" as "female" in the dark, on deserted beaches. We cannot walk into 7-11 and engage socially as "femme." -- And we really have not much desire to present as "femme." These days, (read "gender fluid") we're content to challenge presumptions: e.g. "Don't 'sir' us! We have trans-gender issues!"
Speaking of which -- The US Army is in town for training at the local military base.
Since we are a [disabled] veteran, we found ourselves this morning on base. We noticed a soldier walking across the lawn and realized that from a distance, because the fatigue uniforms are "uniform" for both "male and female" -- and with a hat to obscure head/facial features -- we could not easily determine the gender of this soldier. He was "male" -- stature and gait . . . OK no hair under hat, and spitting. There are innumerable semes that present gender if one makes the effort to learn/read them, rather than simply taking them as set in a rigidly fixated cultural stone-work.
Same day, later at Starbucks we encountered two more soldiers in fatigue uniforms, hats ("cover"). These were a Captain, and a Major, two women. I realized "women" when they removed their hats. One had short (read "male") style hair -- but too long for male military and so "female." The other had her hair in a bun -- which prompted questions:
"What's the regulation on hair?"
"Must be put up off the collar."
"This off the collar hair apply to men?"
"No sir, only women."
"And so what about earrings?"
"Earrings permitted only in dress uniform, one on each lobe maximum and 1/4" diameter."
"This apply to men?"
"What if we're trans?"
"Trans-gender soldiers need to be on hormones [HRT] for six months, and a note from command."
We asked about "What if we don't take hormones?" but they needed to get back to work.
Let's note the obvious, that they address us as "sir" and it's all pretty cut/dried -- despite our best efforts to problematize the border-line boundaries.
Evidently we're not going to survive in the updated Army. And we did not survive when we were enlisted, 1966 to 1970. The VA is still disability-compensating us for that gender ID conflict. "100% service connected disabled, PTSD, gender-dysphoria, substance abuse." We don't know of any gender outlaws who don't "self-medicate" to reconcile how they feel about who they are.
Mostly these days as a New-School gender iconoclast we find it reassuring and validating that our encounters with the social matrix are mostly colored with unquestioning acceptance and engagement.
This does not mean at all that there are not gender fixated, rigidly dichotomized gender-bigoted assholes amongst us.
The "fool" in literature is the outsider who reveals TRUTH. The "trickster" negotiates the deconstruction and cosmic disorder of the social milieu. The trickster is the survivor who re-establishes the cosmic order. As Bornstein notes, this is also the role of the shaman, typically a specialized spirit guide with presence in both worlds -- ALL OF THE BOTH WORLDS.
Identity is not about being in one state or the other. Identity is about being fluid in ontological, epistemological, cosmic orientation. Identity is metaphysical: "across the physical" . . .
Buddha notes, "The only constant is change."
The Tao gives birth to One
One gives birth to Two
Two gives birth to Three
Three gives birth to All Things
-- Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching 1988
(in process, revisions, additions forthcoming)