Contains artificial favourings

the-pI’m going to be uncomfortable out loud, here.

I’ve been thinking about writing this for the last week or so, since I started noticing a stridence in me concerning the absurd amount of casual misogyny there is in my culture – in the press, in the media, in advertising, (in friends), you name it.

I spend quite a lot of time at the moment feeling like a stroppy teenager, in spite of being 50. Fair enough, I’m going through a hormone-and-transition-induced second adolescence/puberty, and being a stroppy teen comes with the territory of trying to figure out who the hell you suddenly are in the face of all this change in you, and others’ reactions to it. And teenagers often become politically strident because they’re starting to get their first firsthand glimpses of the more global iniquities built into the adulthood they’re being expected to participate in.

One of the reasons why I love the fifth Harry Potter book so much is that Harry is 15 in it, and spends the entire book being pissed off at everyone. With plenty of good reason – but it felt to me that there was this beautiful acknowledgement of the shift from childhood to adolescence and that duelling awareness of powerfulness and powerlessness that it raises up in you. I love Harry so much for his frustration with everything.

So yes, all that, but now back to me and my discomfort (stop putting it off… I was just setting the scene, see… I know, but get on with it… okay.)

I’m going to try to write as objectively as I can about something I have very subjective feelings about, and that’s the Demon P-Word. There’s this word that gets used an awful lot these days in discussion of gender, race, sexuality, ability, and so on and that word is privilege. I had at first planned to see whether I could write this whole blog-thing without actually using that word, because it has become so loaded with connotation that, ironically, it’s very hard to maintain objective discourse whilst using it. But then I felt that my discomfort with the word demands that I not try to dodge this. I’m actually quite scared, sitting here, contemplating writing My Position On Privilege™.

I’ll start by taking a stab at defining it. In the specific way it gets used currently in political discourse, I think this: Privilege is any advantage you don’t know you have, because you’ve never been without it.

Why I’m uncomfortable with a lot of the use of this term I’ve come across lately is that it appears to be wielded as a kind of trump card during any debate, in order to declare another person’s views or opinions invalid, and I find that creepy and underhand. I think you can only declare someone’s opinions or views invalid by explaining why they’re wrong – not by declaring that person inherently invalid due to their different life experience.

So I’ve made my Statement Of Position there, and in making it, I’ve actually decided I’m going to avoid writing that word for the rest of this blog-thing (because it’s so loaded, and not just for me), and use instead the word advantage. I think advantage is a both more transparent and less elitist way of saying the same thing, because the P-Word is historically loaded with a connotation of class, wealth, position, stuff like that, and drips with personal prejudice for that reason – it’s impossible not to use it to some extent as an insult.

And now after a brief pause to do something else, I feel obliged ask myself: Or is it just you imagining this? And no, I’m pretty confident that a lot of the time, there’s covert or overt bile in people’s use of the P-Word against others. It’s like they’re saying “You won the advantage game, so you lose the argument. End of story.” And that’s nonsense.

Just to be very, very clear: I am in no way questioning the existence of advantage, just the use of the P-Word as a lazy means to “win” a debate – and I sometimes see it used well and as part of a cogent explanation too.

*****

Blah, blah. What all this is meant to be about, now that I’ve got all that out of the way, is that I’ve noticed myself of late becoming this strident feminist teenager, posting outrageous examples of casual misogyny on facebook as I encounter them either online, or just in the course of daily life.

And what this has drawn my uncomfortable attention to is the fact that I’m like this now, two years into a male-to-female gender transition… and I wasn’t like this before. It’s all relative, of course – I was aware to some extent of all this kind of crap going on out there, but it didn’t affect me personally in the way it does now that I finally have my permission to be a woman. And this leads me to the uncomfortable conclusion that yes, I lived with an advantage for the whole time I was “passing” as a man, an advantage that I’m no longer living with, and that’s why this stuff pisses me off now in a way that it didn’t before.

My main excuse for taking so long to realise this seems reasonable to me, now that I think about it. You see, as I began transitioning, I spent a lot more time online and in the company of people having these kinds of discussions and debates around gender and advantage and suchlike, and I think that this abuse of the P-Word I wrote about earlier led me to shun the idea that I did actually have an advantage due to not growing up as a woman, because it kept being couched in a “therefore we can pretend you and your views do not exist” kind of way. Even a lot of people who use the P-Word out there are now fed up with the P-Wars, a kind of Top Trumps card game in which people seem to be working out who wins a debate not on the basis of who makes the best reasoning case, but on the basis of who was the most oppressed and least advantaged.

Well, now that I’ve got here, I just want to acknowledge out loud that yes, there is that difference between being a cis woman and being a trans woman; the difference that by not growing up as a woman in this culture, you don’t get first-hand experience of casual misogyny until you live as a woman. And since this endemic misogyny is a painful thing to live with, when it’s clearly directed at me myself, I can only imagine what it would be like to grow up with that your entire life.

Of course, my ability to imagine this is helped a lot by all the negativity and prejudice that was directed at me myself while I was growing up, for being Jewish, gender-nonconforming, queer, smart, short-sighted, having (as a kid) buck teeth, and then through being abused and so on – so I know what it’s like, I just can’t know it directly.

And knowing and acknowledging this difference, I’m filled with a sad compassion for women, whoever we are, and however we arrive at womanhood. That’s all I really wanted to say. My culture is much improved compared to when I was growing up, but this stuff is still going on all the time. I’d really love there to be a point in the future where women could grow up never encountering this except in history lessons.

women-courage

Advertisements

Aye, there’s the shrub

barbie-legsThis is about… well, a quote I came across today (from the Canadian band Propagandhi) is very apposite: “Ordinary people do fucked-up things when fucked-up things become ordinary.” This will be about The Middle Way (sort of) and gender stereotypes, and cultural pressure, and something I’m saving for later for dramatic effect.

Earlier today, a friend of mine posted on facebook about not being interested in shaving her legs. This caused a small avalanche of responses from women friends, explaining various ways in which it could be made easier to do.

I notice two things here. The first is that as a woman, not being interested in shaving your legs is sufficiently off-centre culturally speaking (in our particular culture, anyway) that it’s noteworthy enough to want to post about. The second (and more fascinating one for me) is that it’s very, very difficult for most women to hear another woman say “I’m not interested in shaving my legs” and take it at face value. Hence in their minds, they seem to translate what they’ve just heard directly into “Actually, as a woman of course I’d really like to be able to shave my legs, but I don’t know how/lack the confidence/lack the time to do it…” and take it from there.

Personal Disclosure: I shave my arms and legs, every few days. I do this because although I have been taking hormones for 2 years now, the body hair on my arms and legs still resembles male more than female body hair (somewhat black and wiry), and I don’t wish to look like a man ever again – I used to look like a very furry levantine bloke. This hair is slowly fading and getting finer, and on my torso has pretty much vanished now, but once my arms and legs have caught up with my torso, I won’t need to shave any more, because I won’t have hair that I don’t want to have. And then I won’t shave.

So I haven’t personally been on the receiving end of this kind of “education” from women regarding my body hair, but I have experienced a barrage of it, particularly from other trans women, for not being interested in make-up. We have a conversation, it eventually comes around to me saying “I’m a tomboy, and I don’t like make-up so I don’t wear it.” They often begin by saying how they understand, and how everyone is different and so on – but then inevitably they crack under some weird internal pressure and start telling me where I can go to get lessons in applying make-up, clearly under the impression that regardless of what I’ve just told them, the issue is really that I’m too scared to do what I obviously really long to do, which is to wear flawless make-up and be a Proper Woman™.

Here we are, then. In Buddhism, there’s a concept known as The Middle Way, which (massive oversimplification alert) points to the need to transcend extremes through transcending the dualisms that plague our minds in life – in this case, feminine/masculine. Women in this culture are drawn magnetically (nay, shoved) towards an extreme called “femininity” (as defined by whoever, but which at this particular point in history includes the wearing of make-up and the shaving of legs), and they are led to think of this as The Norm. From this cultural magnetic pole, not doing either of those things, if you’re a woman, is deemed Extreme.

This is interesting, isn’t it? (Oh, please say yes…)

This is a general principle in life: if enough people believe or do something, it’s Normal. No matter how extreme it is in the broader picture, at least within that culture (be it an entire society, a country, a region, a subculture like emo or football supporters or Christians or whatever) it’s Normal, and not doing it or believing it is Extreme. So much unnecessary strife is caused both in groups and individually by this tendency to think in polar, binary, dualistic ways about everything –  it’s either this or it’s that, right/wrong, good/bad, in/out, saved/damned, female/male, to be or not to be, and so on.

So what’s this thing I’m saving for later for dramatic effect? It struck me, reading the responses to my friend’s comment on not being interested in shaving her legs, that so much of the gender-stereotyping behaviour in our culture is self-perpetuating, and that being a feminine woman (or a masculine man) is very much like a manifestation of the Stockholm Syndrome. This is the term for when people get kidnapped, and often (out of an unconscious sense of self-preservation, in order to stop the experience from being as horrific as it actually is) persuade themselves that they like their kidnapper and what they stand for, and side with them and excuse/justify their behaviour.

We women are pressured into doing stuff like shaving our legs. Then we normalise the experience for ourselves, and then we come up with justifications for doing it that allow us to pretend we’re making a choice. That’s the extreme, polar position, of course. Women are doing this to a greater or lesser extent. But this well nigh ubiquitous knee-jerk response to someone saying “I’m not interested in doing this optional leg shaving thing, thanks very much” is such a giveaway that these women seeking to enlighten us are not doing so from a position of personal choice.

So if  you find yourself (and I’m saying this to myself, before I say it to you, gentle reader) strongly drawn to defend a belief or activity that someone else says they’re not fussed about… take a good look at yourself. Why do you care sufficiently to be evangelical? And seriously, about make-up or removing body hair, for fuck’s sake? Let go.

willow_catkin
[I apologise for not being able to find a decent multiethnic photo of Barbie-doll legs. This here is a furry catkin – don’t tell me you don’t find it cute, even if you have a pollen allergy…]

*****

PS: Bloody hell’s bells. I started writing this blog-thing around 11 months ago, and made a point of not advertising it to anybody. I decided I was writing it primarily as a way of sorting some things out in my own mind to do with the subjects that preoccupied me – being a Buddhist trans woman going through transition, whilst also dealing with acute PTSD – and that if people found it, it would be because they were interested in the same things I am. Somewhere along the line, people have started finding this and reading it, and I now have 50 followers, whatever that actually means.

Well, what it really means is that some people have found this blog-thing because they’re interested in the same things. Some people have found it by googling other things randomly connected with things I’ve mentioned in this blog-thing in passing, and some of those have stayed to visit. And I know for certain that a few people have found this blog-thing through misspelling things in google, because I get to see some pretty funny “search results” listed as what brought people here. Admittedly, mostly it’s peacock feathers :). Anyway, I just wanted to say to the people out there who’ve let me know they are appreciating at least some of what I’m writing, thanks for letting me know. I hope what I’m writing is helpful to others, because I’d like it to be. It’s certainly helping me, writing this.

Spousal veto

No VetoAs things stand in England/Wales, same-sex couples cannot marry, they can only enter into a civil partnership. And different-sex couples can only marry, not enter into a civil partnership. (Since the law here only recognises two genders, F and M, I’m stuck using this gender-binary language in order to discuss this issue.) This is all set to change, with the passing of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill through the House of Lords a couple of days ago, meaning that this is set to become law at some point soon, and any couple should be able to marry. But of course, it’s not that simple for trans people.

Until this becomes law, if a trans person wants to marry someone, they have to be legally the “other” sex from their intended spouse, otherwise they have to settle for a civil partnership (and vice versa). Changing your legal sex, for the purposes of getting hitched, requires a GRC (Gender Recognition Certificate). When someone who is married (or in a civil partnership) transitions and wishes to obtain a GRC , things start to get complicated. Until the new law passes, a married trans person would have to divorce their spouse and then enter into a civil partnership after obtaining a GRC (and vice versa).

You’d think that once the new law passes, this would all become moot. And it should. In an ideal world, where anyone can get married (or enter into a civil partnership) gender regardless, all that would be meaningless. But two things prevent it being that straightforward.

One, obviously, is that it’s still not going to be possible for different-sex couples to be in a civil partnership, so a couple that’s already in one when one spouse transitions will still have to divorce, and then get married after the issue of the GRC. There is an amendment in the new law which will float a discussion of civil partnerships for different-sex couples (at some point in the next few years, ho hum), but at least it’s in the air that this is needed.

The other, and more insidious, issue as far as trans spouses are concerned, is the amendment that’s being termed the Spousal Veto. This is the amendment that requires a trans spouse to get their spouse’s permission before obtaining a GRC. The stated reason for the necessity of this amendment is that it is “unfair” for a spouse to suddenly find themselves in a same-sex marriage without their consent. This is problematic for all kinds of reasons. One is that it clearly and implicitly maintains the idea that marriage is absolutely not “equal”, if the right of someone not to be in a same-sex marriage is being upheld in this way  – it’s pretty inherently homophobic, as well as transphobic, at heart.

The main problem, for me, is that it is giving one spouse legal power over the other. In practice, what it’s going to mean is that a spouse who’s not happy that their partner is transitioning has the power to prevent them from being their true gender, unless they divorce. It also means that estranged spouses have the power to prevent their trans spouses from fully transitioning out of spite, should they wish to (and there is evidence already that this goes on a lot).

I do appreciate that for someone to have their spouse transition can be devastating, and often does lead to the breakup of marriages/civil partnerships. But by the time someone can apply for their GRC, they are required to have been living full-time in their “new” gender for two years, and I would think that’s plenty of “forewarning” to their spouse if they don’t wish to remain their spouse under these changed conditions.

To me, giving a trans person’s spouse this “right” to exercise power over their spouse is as absurd as it would be, for example, to have a law requiring them to have their trans spouse’s permission to divorce them. There should not be laws that give people power over each other in this way, at all. It’s a clear statement that the law considers a cis spouse’s rights of more value than a trans spouse’s rights. This is unacceptable.

Please write to your MP, and support this campaign:

http://www.c4em.org.uk/drop-the-spousal-veto/

c4em

How can something sarong feel so right?

blossom-bootsSorry. Even when I’m narked about something, I can’t resist a good pun. Just be grateful that I don’t write copy for tabloids.

Anyway. Before I get onto the main topic of this blog-thing (sorry, this is going to be a long ‘un), let’s just take a moment in awed silence to admire this photo to the right, here. It’s what I imagine my 50% BUTCH teeshirt would look like if it were reinterpreted as an impressionist painting.

…shhhh…

Honestly, the first time I saw this photo, it made me cry, because it’s such an adept and beautiful expression of what I meant by 50% BUTCH, the commingling and flirting with multiple gender identities and stereotypes and expressions. I love it so much.

Okay, now back to being narked, and the subject of this blog-thing. Two separate but interconnected experiences I had today, and my reactions to them, and consequent musings thereon.

This morning, I was singing sea-related songs with a choir I’m in, at an RNLI (that’s lifeboats) fundraiser in a posh little estuary town. During our interval, I got chatting with one of the women I like most in the choir, though I don’t know her very well yet. It turns out she’s worked in the past with endocrinologists and plastic surgeons, and is down with the whole trans thing. Sort of. We had a really nice friendly conversation about my transition, and she asked me how long I’ve been on hormones (two years). And then she said “And when do you plan on starting to wear women’s clothes?” and I couldn’t help myself, I laughed out loud.

I then pointed to my ensemble and said “The socks are the only menswear items – and that’s only because my feet are too bloody big.” I then proceeded to educate her on The Life And Fashions Of A Trans Tomboy. She took it well, and was apologetic, and got the point that women present a vastly broad spectrum of clothing expression, within which my outfit was by no means anywhere near the “masculine extreme”. (I was wearing black cotton moleskin bootcut trousers, a pale-blue-and-white striped vest top, an equally pale blue cotton hat, and purple converse lo-tops. I mean, come on.)

So that was alright, best belovèd. It’s not the first time I’ve been asked this, and won’t be the last, I’m sure.

Then after the gig, I headed home on a blisteringly hot train, and got home to a flat that was 30˚C. So I thought I give in, and I broke out the sarongs. I have four sarongs – two Thai ones, and two tie-dyed African ones. I put on one of the Thai ones, and then for a laugh, I photographed myself and posted it on facebook (I don’t habitually go for selfies, please note) with the caption “I don’t do skirts/dresses, but sarongs are unisex, and it’s bloody hot, thus… for the well-dressed trans tomboy about town.” (Yes, I am out everywhere, including on facebook.)

What happened next was very frustrating, until it became more hilarious than frustrating (though it stayed frustrating too, and I’ll get on to that…)

I received several responses (including private messages) of “encouragement” from straight women friends (both trans and cis), and I discovered that it was virtually impossible for them to get their heads around the fact that when I write “No, I don’t like skirts/dresses on me ever, and almost never on anyone else either :)” I mean exactly that, and not, for example, “Aye me, I long to wear skirts/dresses but alas, I lack the self-confidence and/or fashion knowledge :(.”

I kept thinking I’d got there with each of them, and that they finally got it, only to have them somehow press their own reset buttons, and jump in all over again with “…but you could look really good in a skirt if you <insert heterofemme fashion tip/self-help bollocks here>…” In the end, as I say, I got more amused than frustrated – and decided to share the frustration, so I began simply posting “No, I don’t like skirts/dresses” over and over again to their replies, until they just shut up.

These two experiences together in one day have wound me up into writing about them, but also been cause for me to wonder: Why do I feel perfectly comfortable wearing a sarong, and perfectly uncomfortable wearing a skirt/dress? So that’s what the rest of this is going to be about, because (as they say on South Park) I’ve learned something here today.

How is a sarong so different, for me, from a skirt? (Let’s assume from now on that skirt is shirthand hahaha, shorthand for skirt/dress, because I can’t be bothered to keep typing that – even though explaining this to you has taken up way more characters, blah blah eat less peanut m&ms, Womandrogyne… (…okay…))

Well, as I said earlier, a sarong is a unisex garment. In many countries where a sarong (or its analogue – I’m using sarong as shorthand for colourful-piece-of-cloth-that-you-wrap-around-your-bottom-half) is worn as everyday wear, both men and women wear them. Yes, there are usually different forms or colours depending on your gender, but the basic garment is unisex. This is why I’m comfortable wearing it – because it’s an androgynous garment. It doesn’t (for me, and that’s what’s important here) point in my own culture to a very specific gender. Slinky girl models wear them, hunky expensive male footballers wear them.

That explains why I like wearing sarongs, and am comfortable wearing them in front of others (though I prefer to do so barefoot). But why don’t I like skirts? this is the bit I’ve got a lot closer to understanding over the last few hours. (I’m sorry it’s taken us so long to get here, I had a lot to say and I’m full of chocolate and peanuts and a bit überverbose in consequence).

When it comes down to it, it’s a visceral suspicion that women’s skirts are a symbol of oppression of women. Why? Well, if you set up a culture so that exposing your genitalia (even if slightly covered) is considered a no-no, and then you put just the females within that culture into clothing whose bottom ends are freely open, you’re basically saying “No: you may not – and it is assumed that you will not – be as active and free with your body as men are, because otherwise you will show your slightly-covered ladyparts and be immediately written off as a harlot of some sort.” And it is often harder to run in a skirt (let’s not even get onto high heels – I’m certainly never going to get onto them, and it’s not because I’m 6’3″) so a degree of relative helplessness is often built in too.

So something in me is sufficiently certain that on women, skirts are somehow a symbol of shame and repression, and there’s no way in hell you’re getting me into one of those things.

Of course, there’s also the fact that I hardly ever find them aesthetic (or in fact not-absurd) when other people are wearing them, so I don’t want to wear them because I think they look ridiculous. But that’s also intertwangled with my sense of what skirts represent.

For sure, you have the same potential body-parts exposure issues with a sarong – but then men share that burden, so it’s no longer a finger pointed at women.

I’m really surprised to find myself thinking all this, and writing it, today. But then, as you’ll have gathered from my recent blog-thing about the girly-keys, I seem to have entered a phase in my growing-up-into-a-woman where I’m becoming acutely aware of the bollocks going on out there, the profoundly deep, thick, and cloying layer of Double Standards in the What’s Acceptable In Women/Men game.

I know I’m by no means the first person to notice this stuff. I’ve read some of it before, myself, especially about how so much of women’s fashion seems to be about the sexualising of defencelessness. It’s just that, as the saying goes, This Time, It’s Personal. And I’ll come back at this point to the fact that all my queer women friends just get it, and most of my straight women friends (as seen above) don’t. I have to assume that it’s very firmly implanted into the straight woman’s psyche that True Woman = Skirts/Dresses, to the point where they’re condemned to defend that nonsense. And that queer women have already had to swim upstream against so much cultural conditioning about what makes a True Woman that they have no problem understanding my mistrust and dislike of skirts, even if they like them themselves.

I expect I’ll have more to say on this, either to clarify or contradict what I’ve just written today. Because it’s a big conceptual leap to take, and why should I assume it’s perfect first go? For example, it has just occurred to me to add that my visceral mistrust of being made to appear defenceless is fed by my experience of having been abused. So apparel suited to flight is relevant to my needs (running away, not wings).

I leave you with another image I’m rather fond of…

apronangelo[I apologise: unusually, I don’t know where either of these two images originates.]

Getting your bearings

sand-dragonThis is about living with mobile goalposts. Well, no, I suppose it’s about living with mobile everything. That’s the point.

There’s a word in Buddhist Sanskrit: kṣānti (pronounced kshantee). It’s a quality that gets translated variously as patience, or tolerance, but my favourite translation is bearing. The ability to bear what’s actually happening.

This feels very relevant to me at the moment. A couple of weeks ago, I was under the impression that come September, I would be having my gender affirmation surgery, and coincidentally getting my damaged urethra mended for good.

Last week the goalposts shifted. I found out that I wouldn’t be getting my gender surgery until November at the earliest, and that in the meantime, I’d be having some kind of interim surgery to get my urethra through the few months until it got properly rebuilt.

This was hard to absorb. I felt angry, because the vulnerable wee person in me felt betrayed by having been given false hope that this would all be over sooner. I also found myself feeling in competition with the other local trans women – because they all got to go for their 2nd opinions before me (over here, you have to be assessed by a 2nd independent psychiatrist before you get the thumbs-up for gender surgery, and I’m going for mine next Monday), and this meant I might not get a pre-op consultation appointment for August. If I get that pre-op appointment in August, there’s a very good chance of getting my gender surgery in November – but if I don’t, it might not be before next year.

I was a mess for a few days. Grumpy, upset, argumentative, feeling hurt and sorry for myself. But I was also putting a lot of effort into caring for myself in the midst of this, because I’m fed up with punishing myself for “not responding creatively enough to suffering”, it just adds to it. Anyway, I pulled out of that nosedive and felt pretty good by the end of the week, pretty balanced and ready to do what I could to make the August appointment happen (by getting the two healthcare professionals involved to fax through referrals before posting them, since the internal postal system for the NHS could slow each letter up by a week). And ready to accept that it might not go the way I wanted it to.

Then this morning happened.

I managed to speak to the gender surgeon’s secretary who’d been away until today, and she explained to me that no, the gender surgeon would not after all be having anything to do with my urethra reconstruction, so I need to get that sorted out first locally (by the surgeon who, several months ago, bounced responsibility for that onto the gender surgeon). The consequences of this are that I have to start the process all over again of being assessed for surgery locally, getting on a waiting list for that, having the surgery. And then I have to have fully healed from that before it’s okay for me to have the gender surgery, since that involves catheterising me for a week, and I need a healed and robust new urethra to cope with that.

Two things stood out from this conversation afterwards, and made me yell “Fuuuuuuck!!!” and then put on White Punks On Dope by The Tubes very loud. The first is that, given that I have no idea how long it might take to go through this loop of waiting-surgery-recovery, I have absolutely no idea when I’m going to be physically fit to have the gender surgery. Probably sometime next year, now. The second thing that stood out was that since I’ve been bounced back to the original surgeon I was referred to at the start of the year, he could have done all this back then, and saved me months of pain and opiates, and I’d be ready for the gender surgery now.

So I was bloody furious for about an hour. I whinged to friends by email, and on my facebook wall, and on a forum I frequent.

And then I got over it. (Mostly.)

This surprised me. People were phoning me up later today to see how I was dealing with it, after having read my emails etc., and by then I was pretty sanguine.

I’ve always been intrigued by kṣānti – and I think I’m experiencing the fruits of having cultivated some, over the years, and also over last week. It’s sort of like I exercised my kṣānti muscles last week overcoming my tendency to feel IT’S NOT FAIR!!!, and so when this new goalpost shimmy happened, I was more flexible, more turned to face the real nature of things.

That’s what kṣānti means to me, really. It means having the ability to bear the impermanent, uncontrollable, shifting present. It’s different from the whole worry-about-the-future, rehash-the-past thing (which I also do if I’m not careful). It’s about being willing to assent to being a small and constantly changing part of an endless and changing cosmos, constantly mutually affecting each other, constantly shifted around, like goalposts on skateboards. Goalposts made of fog on skateboards. Or something. You get the picture, nebulous.

This isn’t just some conceptual denial process I’m talking about. I know on the one hand that at some point this year, I’ll get my urethra fixed, and that’ll be good. and at some point after that (maybe at the end of this year, maybe not until early next year), I’ll get my gender affirmation surgery, and then my anatomy will be better than it’s ever been ever. And I also know something may come along next week that changes the whole picture all over again. And I’ve been trained, by decades of practice (albeit very reluctant!) to be not only better able to bear the reality of uncertain reality, but also to be better willing to bear it. Because my experience tells me that it’s going to happen anyway, and that if I assent instead of being dragged kicking and screaming through the present, reality will happen anyway, but I’ll have a much more gentle ride of it (as will the people around me!)

As I’ve been at pains to point out before, I’m not making some grand claim to Something-With-A-Capital-Letter™ here, some kind of Insight or suchlike. I’m just saying that actions have consequences (a foundation of Buddhism), and a consequence of acting as if reality really is about constant change and mostly way beyond our control is that life becomes more enjoyable.

You know, in fits and starts. Because reading the above, it’s obvious that there’s still quite a hurrumph factor in my story about what happened. Living in the society I do, it’s pretty hard not to be trained to complain, to feel let down and betrayed by imperfection. So it’s a work in progress, like my anatomy. But I really am grateful – I live in a country where this surgery is going to happen, and I don’t have to pay for it (except indirectly, through taxation). And I’m grateful for the Buddhism I’ve been trying to live by for 22 years, that has allowed me to be relieved of being constantly stuck in the trap of anger and feelings of unfairness and betrayal. And believe me, after spending most of my life living with that all the time, it’s delightful to only feel it sometimes, and to be able to turn to myself and say “…Nah, let’s not.” 😀 Sometimes.

Just to end with, I want to say that this is why in the Buddhist school I’m a student in/of, we teach not just the cultivation of mindfulness/awareness, but also of emotional positivity, of loving kindness. Because let’s face it, being more aware means being more face-to-face with reality, and its shifting and uncontrollable nature – and it takes a certain amount of emotional positivity to bear that. You can’t face reality with your mind, if your heart’s not in it.

I’ve probably mentioned this before, but what the hell – just as trees need sunshine and soil and insects and water and and and… we need love along with our awareness, or we claw up towards the light and end up sickly and leggy and easily blown over. (ACME Metaphors™):

The voices of the hearts of trees
Have this to say:
Grow… but grow slowly
Grow slowly… but grow

Fern-uncurling

[up top is a sand sculpture from Kauai that seemed apt to Reality coming along suddenly and… And down bottom is a fern with a ladybird, because.]

Full marks for misogyny

for-the-girlsWhile I’m on the subject of ranting…

In the city nearest to where I live, there’s a hardware shop that sells suitcases and backpacks and locks and suchlike, and has a key cutting service.

In the window for a while, they’ve had this horrendous thing you see in the image to the right here.

Since it’s too small an image for you to be able to make out what’s written on the keys, let me help you. The options are as follows:

100% ANGEL
100% BITCH
100% BABE
TOP TOTTY
FLIRTY
YUMMY MUMMY

They’re pink. They’re glittery. And yes, your options are indeed virgin, bitch, or sex toy (and oh yes, skinny).

For those of you beyond the shores of the British Isles, the word totty is a term (originating in the upper classes) probably best defined as “women considered merely as the means to sexual gratification.”

This display pisses me off in so many ways, it makes my head spin. Polarising the genders (why aren’t men allowed pink door keys, then?), stereotyping women, and then dismissing them into a few demeaning classes. Yummy Mummy is borderline, because you might decide to give that to someone who’s a mother and feeling less attractive as a consequence, but taken in context, it’s just another version of YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE SEXUALLY DESIRABLE/AVAILABLE! and if you’re not, you’re a VIRGIN/BITCH!!

I posted this photo on a discussion board for genderqueer folk, and we had a great time picking it apart. And out of that discussion I found arising in my mind a response in particular to 100% BITCH, and knew what I’d prefer mine to say (if my door key were sparkly emerald, since I wouldn’t be caught dead with anything pink, sorry…)

So allow me to modestly present my new teeshirt, which I’m outrageously delighted with:

50percent-butch

I’m especially delighted with this because as soon as I thought of it, I realised it actually expresses me beautifully! This is why I forked out the £8 to get a vest with it on (I wanted emerald, of course, but they didn’t have it in my size…)

I love the nebulousness inherent in the idea of 50% BUTCH – because in most people’s minds, butch is something you either are or aren’t, and is still so symbolic for many people of a very specific (and polarised) gender role or expression. Please forgive me for saying this (it’s my inner teen speaking, and xe’s a bit pretentious sometimes) but this feels like a fine and gentle act of Gender Dissidence. As the womandrogyne trans tomboy (with a hint of trans man about xyr) that I am,  wearing this I am Schrödinger’s Butch.

I’m really looking forward to wearing it at various pride events this summer. And if you like the idea, you’re welcome to copy it – just tell people you saw it here first, because I’m feeling rather proud of this, it has to be said…

*****

Just so we’re clear, I’m aware that the key thing is meant to be “just a bit of fun” – but it’s reinforcing the kind of stereotypical mentality that’s going to make every girl who doesn’t fit that tight gender-pigeonhole (and every boy who does – and that’s just considering the gender-binary people) feel excluded and dismissed and invisible. And I’ve had enough of that kind of crap.

Also, that thing the girl is holding? I like to think it’s a cold fusion reactor of her own devising. Because there’s more to her than meets the eye.

[For the curious/geeky: the vest font is HandelGothic BT]

No more favouritism

equals-sign

[This is a stroppy blog-thing – but I’m feeling generally irked at the moment, so I’m making the most of it to motivate me to post here again, in the hope that I’ll acquire some momentum and keep on posting things, since it’s been a while… Share The Irk!!]

I know, I’ve banged on about this before. But as part of the process of trying to achieve “equal marriage” (or as close as we’re going to get) in the UK, Lord Dear has introduced a proposed amendment to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill currently under discussion. His amendment ‘aims to protect the “belief in traditional marriage”, and separates straight couples’ marriages from those of gay couples.’ (Note that this is part of his concerted attempt to scupper the bill entirely.)

That’s enough, now.

I’m all for protecting people’s right to hold their personal beliefs, so if someone wants to believe that only marriages between one man and one woman are “real”, then let them go ahead and believe that, on their own time. But if you want to enshrine your personal beliefs in law, at the expense of anyone else’s personal beliefs, then forget it – your time is up, I’m afraid.

There’s been so much whinging lately about (in particular) Christian people here feeling persecuted. Nope, all that’s happening is that you’re finally losing the “right” for your beliefs to matter more than anyone else’s. You get the same deal as everybody else now, and that’s not called “persecution”.

I’m pretty tired of living in a country where much of the Christian community believe that their faith is the Default Setting, and deserves some kind of special treatment, just because they were lucky enough to have that enforced in the past.

*****

While we’re on the subject of ridiculous bollocks, I’m very pleased to note that California has passed a law protecting the rights of trans students to use the bathrooms appropriate to their actual gender (as opposed to any apparent gender foisted on them by birth, or by people with rigid concepts of the relationship between gender and anatomy).

The bollocks-factor is in the comments of the Republican senators, who largely opposed the bill. Apparently, some suggested that “less capable male athletes might join girl teams to gain a competitive edge.” (This is when they weren’t blathering on about how sex offenders would suddenly crowd out bathrooms.)

If any of you senators had the first idea what you have to go through to declare yourself gender dysphoric, to be trans*, and to transition, you’d forget the ridiculous idea that anyone would do something as arduous and scary as this for any reason other than because… they wanted to transition and be their true selves. Of course, you don’t want to know anything about the reality of the situation, because your belief buckets are already full to the brim with absurd fantasies about why we’re trans* and transitioning.

That’s enough, now.

You don’t have the right to impose your beliefs and fears on others through law. Get used to it, equality is slowly inching towards you, willy-nilly.

tilda-russia

[Seriously, I just wanted any excuse to repost this fab photo of Tilda Swinton outside the Kremlin, showing her support for beleaguered LGBT Russians. Tilda, we are not worthy…]