Equal marriage terminology control

One of my current hobby-horses. The media (and even the LGBT media) keep referring to equal marriage as “gay marriage” or “same-sex marriage”.

Why is this inappropriate?

Well, for a start, “gay marriage” as a term blithely ignores bisexuality. After all, if two people of the same sex wish to marry, neither of them is necessarily gay – they may be a gay-bi couple, or a bi-bi couple. Underlying this omission is, I suspect, the unconscious assumption many people have that bisexual people don’t commit, so why would they be thinking of marriage? So if a same-sex couple wants to marry, they “must” be gay. And for that matter, the media keeps talking about “straight couples” when they just mean opposite-sex couples – who may be bi-hetero or bi-bi.

But taking this further, even “same-sex marriage” as a term is flawed, since it assumes binary gender, and ignores both intersex people and those who identify as genderqueer in one way or another (as does “traditional marriage”, of course).

So let’s leave gender and sexuality out of the terminology-mix entirely, it’s not needed there. To me, the premise of Equal Marriage is really, really simple (or should be): if it’s legal for people to be in a relationship, then it should be legal for them to marry, if they want to formalise their commitment that way.

And there’s absolutely no reason why a marriage has to be between only two people, either. There are plenty of polyamorous relationships that are more stable and committed and happy than many monogamous couple marriages (many of which aren’t great PR for monogamy, let’s face it). I don’t know why so many people are so afraid of polyamory. Why not let polyamorous threes, fours and up commit formally if they want to?

Thus endeth the rant…

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That PTSD thang

This is the bit about me and PTSD (and obliquely about me and Buddhism).

Let’s see. Two years ago, things went a little crazy after my housemate/landlord moved in someone I’d barely met to be a new tenant/housemate. This new person was scary (it turns out I’m in no way the only person who felt that). I went to Paris and freaked out while I was there, thought my thyroid had gone mad and was making its own speed. After a month of blood tests, the doc decided it was my brain messing with my body chemistry, and not the other way round, and first called what I had PTSD. I sort of learned to deal with it after a couple of months of hell. It was like having a part of me that snapped awake and alert for no apparent reason (I’ve already mentioned calling it my Inner Meerkat, haven’t I?)

Then this January, it really kicked off much more full-time. It seems to be fundamentally connected to being abused as a kid, and beaten up by teenagers 5 years ago – and by a lot of bullying and homophobia/transphobia before, between, after, much of which related pretty directly to my gender ambiguity broadcasting itself and making me a juicy target.

In retrospect, it’s really obvious that this PTSD has been kicking off sporadically since my teens.

This has made being a Buddhist interesting! There’s a sort of view prevalent among at least some Buddhists that Buddhism is the cure for everything, or should be. So I’ve had an interesting time since the PTSD has kicked in over the last few years, since meditation in the traditional, formal sense that I’ve been practising it for 21 years, became pretty much impossible. I was lucky enough recently to find a partial explanation for this: apparently, the part of the brain that does mindfulness in Buddhists is also the part that triggers panic reactions in PTSD sufferers, which explains why every time I got mindful, I’d have to get up and leave (metaphorically or literally). This has been an odd blessing actually, because it’s forced me to find a new way of being present that actually works, and damn tradition and people who insist it must work.

I discovered that I had to stop trying to make things happen, and start letting them happen instead. So these days, what I can do is visit a safe place I go to in my psyche (beech forest with bracken and wild garlic, sigh…), and then just wait to see what’s going to emerge. I’ve had some very positive experiences that way – most recently being pushed flat by a bear who told me “…and stay down! Stop trying so hard!!” (in a friendly way, of course).

There’s surprisingly little in traditional Buddhist teaching about working with ordinary fear. There’s lots about dealing with the existential fear of death and that, but pretty much nothing that could tell me directly how to respond to sitting safe at home feeling like I was terrified. So again, I had to work it out for myself. And the most amazing discovery I made was to stop trying to change it, stop trying to push it away or transform it, and just start to keep it company instead. Fear deserves compassion, and I’m bigger than just the fear, but I am also the fear, so why would I want to destroy it? Stuff like that. Which when you come down to it, is basic Buddhism: the cultivation of loving kindness, and its response to suffering.

My life has become a lot narrower in the external sense since the PTSD kicked in so much. I can’t do as much, its harder to go out, I’m more likely not to meet commitments because of fear or IBS caused by fear. But my inner life has spread out bigger, because it’s needed to.

Oh well, and I’m watching a lot of scifi :).

Trans cred (pff…)

We just can’t help it. The world wants, and many trans women want, us to put a pin in our lives and say: this is when I first knew I was trans (I’m going to stick with using the word trans because transgender/transsexual, it’s a whole battle thing – I prefer transgender myself). And for many, there’s some kind of weird cred/affirmation in it being as early in life as possible, because there are knob-ends out there who think that the only “true” trans person is one who’s known about it since potty-training.

That said (written), here’s my pin :).

I didn’t let myself know consciously that I wanted to transition until I was 23. There’s a good reason for this. The week I realised I wanted to transition was the week I decided I wasn’t going back home after college. Because home wasn’t a safe place (abuse stuff – enough said). I spent 3 weeks feeling really happy for the first time in my life, after I realised this is what I needed to do – then I told my best woman friend, she freaked out (because she was a product of Greenham-Think) and talked me out of it, and there it lay for another 25 years. I’m not blaming her (mostly), I wasn’t ready yet. It was the 80’s, I was still trying to come to terms with being bisexual, AIDS was just happening, and I had (as it turned out) a whole lot of work to do on recovering from abuse before I was ready to accept that I’m actually a woman, and start doing something about the structural anomalies…

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about my childhood, and seeing in what ways my transness was sneaking in without anyone noticing (especially me). Mostly, the big clues are in the literature I was reading. There were a whole load of books I read and obsessively re-read all the way through my childhood and teens, and they almost all had gender/transgender themes. The 3 that most stick in my mind are (in reverse order) Triton by Samuel R Delany (a social scifi novel in which the main character gets changed from a man to a woman in around 20 minutes near the end of the story); Venus Plus X by Theodore Sturgeon (in which the Ledom, the people the main character finds himself in the middle of, are all both sexes physically, and don’t do division of gender-roles); and earliest of all, The Marvellous Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum (the first of the sequels to The Wizard of Oz, in which the boy Tip, its main character, discovers at the end of the book that he’s actually the Princess Ozma, hidden as a baby by turning him into a boy – and he agrees to being turned back after being reassured he won’t lose all his friends, and becomes a kickarse princess who sorts out the problems in Oz).

And the thing is, I never really wanted to do boy things – but I never really wanted to do girly-girl things either. I never wanted to dress up like a princess or whatever. And in my early time of transition, this bothered me, because it felt like I didn’t have the “cred” – or more significantly, it made me wonder whether I was “really trans”. but the more I’ve felt my way into who I really am, and accepted that I’m the hippy dyke I like to call Womandrogyne, the more obvious it is that things haven’t changed since I was a kid – I’ve always wanted to be who I now am. I always liked bright colours, but I’ve always turned up my nose at girly-girl clothes. Even now, almost all my clothes are women’s clothes (well, shoes are hard when you’re a size 11), but none of them are feminine, I’m your basic tomboy.

It’s a happy thing to look back across your life and see yourself continuous in this way, even though I did a very careful job of hiding my womanhood from anyone who might do me harm, until I was big enough and strong enough to be that vulnerable and take my shields down.

It feels like I’ve spent my whole life “passing” as a man, and now I’m done with “passing – I can just be me, and damn the torpedoes, we don’ need no steenkin’ cred. Here I am – a lot of trans women can’t make head or tail of me (and my lack of interest in being heterofemme) – but lesbians get me straight away.

Let the festivities commence…

It’s like this. I’m 49, and in the middle of a gender transition from male to female. But I’ve been “forced” to coin for myself the term Womandrogyne as a shorthand for saying this: I’m female, but I’ve never been feminine – or masculine, for that matter, unless I’m just a mixture of the two and they cancel each other out, or summat.

People seem to expect that because I’m transitioning, my dearest dream is to look like Liz Taylor or Judith Chalmers – but I’d much rather be Heather Peace (I’d say “Shane from The L Word”, but I’m way, way too old to pull that off). The truth is, I’m just a hippy dyke who happened to get born with the wrong plumbing.

Oh, and something about me transitioning has brought a strong dose of PTSD to the surface – that’s Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, if you can’t be arsed to google it. (Yes, these maroon things aren’t links, they’re just pretty highlights…)

PTSD – for me, this consists of scary flashbacks (basically like being a child whilst being an adult, and not just in the usual way people do that), and having what I like to call my Inner Meerkat – my fight-flight mechanism that trips for no apparent reason on regular occasions, leaving me with a pulse rate of 100 while I’m lying down reading a book, for example. No, I’m not surprised I’m now single either.

I thought I’d start this blogthing to write about what it’s like to be a trans woman who isn’t feminine, and probably some stuff about dancing with PTSD too. Let’s see if I ever get past the post…