On Transfolk

A question in e-mail:

You recently said you were supportive of transsexuals. Could you expand on what you mean by that?

Sure.

First off, the quote my correspondent is talking about is probably the one here, in which I say “I am generally trans-positive because I believe people should be who they are, and they deserve love and support in becoming and then being that.”

To expand on that — well, look. Everyone is in the process of becoming who they are; we all start as rough drafts and through the act of living and choices we make, refine who are, hopefully getting closer to who we imagine we could be as we go. None of that is easy. Some people have further to go with that process than others, because of their own set of circumstances. I think if you’re a good person or are at least trying to be, when you see someone on that sort of journey, you encourage them when you can. And if they have come to a place where they are happy (or even just happier) with who they are, then you celebrate that with them.

People who are trans seem to me to have a particularly hard journey: The eventual recognition of the disconnect between the gender their bodies have and the gender they sense themselves as being, the years of dealing with that disconnect, the hard choice to rebuild their lives and all the repercussions of that choice, and having to do all of that with much of the rest of the world looking on and judging. That’s a hell of a road to walk.

So the first question to ask is simply: Why make it harder for them? I can’t think of any good reason for it;  for me that solves that. The second question is: What would I want if that were my road to walk? If nothing else, I would want people to accept that even if my road is rough, where I’m going is somewhere I think is worthwhile and will help me be the person I want to be, for myself and for everyone else. That being the case, by the principle of the Golden Rule, that’s what I should do for transfolk, if nothing else.

(Note, if you will, that this is not a cookie-bearing statement. I am saying I try to be a decent person to transfolk. You don’t get extra credit for trying to be a decent human being. That should be your default setting.)

All the above is general and pretty high-minded, so on a personal level: I know transsexual people, like most of the transfolk that I have met and consider at least a couple to be good friends. I don’t have a single moral, ethical, religious or philosophical objection to transfolk in any way, and have no idea why I should. I support their rights, including the right not to be discriminated against, in the workplace and out of it, due to their trans-ness.  I additionally judge people who I think are transphobic, usually punting them into the category of “asshole.”

I also readily admit to being a work in progress on trans matters. I occasionally flub the gender of the transfolk I know, which I feel bad about because even if it’s unintentional it’s still a poke, and like a lot of folks, there are probably times when I step in it and don’t know until later. It wasn’t until this year that I clued in that “tranny” was a slur; it’s not a word I use at all but I saw a pal get dinged for it and when “ah,” and then “duh.” And in a day-to-day sense I’m not keeping up with trans issues and concerns, and as an extension of that I don’t have positions or thoughts on every issue that has an impact on their lives. So, occasionally clueless but hoping to improve. If you’re trans and you see me step in it, feel free to let me know.

On the tangentially related matter of transvestitism, my entirely of thought on the matter is: Wear what you like, I want you to be happy.

Indeed, in a general sense “I want you to be happy” covers most of my response to the variation of human identity experience at this point. Is what you’re doing making you a happier and better person? Is what you’re doing hurting anyone else? If the answers are “yes” and “no,” respectively, then not only am I fine with what you’re doing, the fact of the matter is that my approval or consent should be entirely immaterial. Be the person you are.

161 thoughts on “On Transfolk

  1. As someone who’s difficultly setting is on “lowest,” I never felt any urge to give anyone who’s life is that much more difficult any grief about it. I’ve never been able to understand why some people feel free to judge others because “they chose to be that way.”

  2. Thank you for that. Like your other posts on various aspects of being a decent person, it should really go without saying, but sometimes it bears pointing out to people who haven’t thought about it.

  3. Yes indeed. People should focus on themselves rather than trying to denigrate or change what other folks do with their lives.

    Also, in the aside on transvestitism, should they “wear” what they like?

  4. John, great piece. I find around transpeople I know and like that pronouns are very seldom my friend, and the Old Sunburn Metaphor (I didn’t sunburn your arm, I didn’t touch you on the arm in order to hurt you, but when I affectionately touched you on the arm I did hurt you and I damned well do owe you an apology) is a useful internal precept. I pulled out three quotes for my “Quotes I like and want to keep” file; one of them was the typo/homonym error “Where what you like, I want you to be happy” because the more I look at it, the more I see in it. Please don’t correct it!

  5. I think you should have a cookie anyway, just because of the “rough drafts” line. Anyone who is revising and rewriting to make themselves better deserves a bit o’ extra kindness I think, because that’s usually brutally hard and painful work, and THAT deserves a cookie (or two).

  6. I’ve never been able to understand why some people feel free to judge others because “they chose to be that way.”

    Some people take being different from them as a personal affront. If it’s a deliberate choice, so much the worse. As I understand it, attitudes like that can be softened by introducing people to as many folk who are different from them as possible, and pointing out that ‘different’ is not ‘wrong’.

  7. Elaine, sadly, there’s a point at which the “different from me=insult to me” jerk-app just takes over the personality so that the more exposure to people who are different from their expectations, the more the person becomes convinced that the whole world needs correcting. (True and sad case: someone I knew who was a bit more devoted than she should have been, perhaps, to her teenage son, including picking out all his clothes and deciding what sports he would play, created a “man cave” sort of bedroom for him at home. When he moved out on his own, she had already planned to help him find two or three hairy-bro types to live in a manly football/beer/girls on the wall kind of place. Instead, he quietly moved into a squeaky clean, minimalist studio apartment with lots of light and air and no television. For months afterward she ranted about how after all she had done for him, he had gone and criticized her like that, and that he had no right to criticize her, and like that).

  8. That last paragraph is awesome, and phrases a general “duh” feeling I’ve had that always leaves me mystified when I find someone who doesn’t share it. I mean, why would anyone want to invest energy into making someone else be less happy and a worse person, just because they might be wearing something different or identifying themselves a little differently or loving someone with matching parts? Why would anyone even care, except to say “oh cool, good on you for being happy with yourself and stuff, insert fistbump here, let’s go find a tasty beer”?

  9. It wasn’t until this year that I clued in that “tranny” was a slur

    Every time I see the word “tranny”, I think that the person is talking about their car. It makes for some surreal conversations, sometimes.

    However, I agree with your basic rule – if it doesn’t affect me and doesn’t hurt anyone other than you, then I have no business telling you what you can and cannot do. If our laws were written with that in mind, the lawbook would be a lot shorter (and there’d be a lot of lawyers out of work).

  10. @johnD – my rule of thumb when it comes to using the word tranny: am I talking about cars? If yes, then it’s okay. If no, then it’s not okay.

  11. It is sometimes scary but always gratifying how much we think alike. I am frequently praised for my views on things like feminism, sexism,racism, homophobia, etc by my female and gay and lesbian and trans friends and I make the same point: I shouldn’t be given credit for being a decent person, it’s what everyone should be.

  12. I enjoy reading your novels but it was the discovery of your blog that won me over as a fan.

    Thank you for consistently writing clear, eloquent posts in support of basic human decency towards a wide range of individuals, and for writing with honesty and humility.

  13. It’s always baffled me why anyone would be upset that someone else is living a different kind of life, given that those kind of lives don’t affect the person in question. Especially when it comes to transsexuals: even if the world were a considerably better place and everyone was perfectly fine with transsexuals, they would still have to deal with the emotional trauma of being in the wrong body and the long, hard road to gender reassignment surgery. Why would anyone make that harder for them by persecuting them? Some people just baffle me. (Although I do sometimes mess up pronouns as well. I try to watch out for that, but an apology is sometimes in order.)

    What does “tranny” mean with respect to cars? I’ve only ever heard the word as a reference to transsexuals.

  14. Minor correction: A body has a ‘sex’. A person has a ‘gender’. Gender is made up of what the society you are in believes a male or female to be, whereas sex is simply being physically male or female. You can be any mix of those two things :)

  15. Bess:

    With respect to cars it means the transmission.

    Isaac:

    I’m going to leave that error in there as an example of the potholes in my knowledge, but keep it mind for future references.

  16. Thank you for this.

    Your post inspired me to write down my own thoughts on acceptance of LGBT people, including some experiences that were really important to shaping the way I think about it.

    On acceptance.

  17. Hi John. Thanks for posting some good old-fashioned common sense when it comes to dealing with people, let alone people in my loosely affiliated tribe. (We do have a couple things in common: We both worked in Features at the Fresno Bee — I was an assistant features editor from 2004-09 — and were both let go by McClatchy. But it was in Fresno where I had my gender epiphany five years ago, and I came out there, of all places, and it was the best thing I ever did.)

    Like you, many people I know, from family on down, still screw up the pronoun, which does drive me nuts. But I do realize that it’s not from any malicious place — they’ve just known me so long that it’s a force of habit more than anything. (If you didn’t know me pre-Frannie 2.0, you probably won’t make that mistake. I pass well.) I just give people a gentle noodge once in a while (“Heeeee?”) and they’re coming around at their own speeds. As long as I know people are actually trying — and everyone I know is — I grit and grin and hope for the day they get it right.

    Anyway, again, good common sense for dealing with people in general. Besides, if you scratch beneath the surface, you’ll find — tell ‘em, Island of Misfit Toys — we’re all misfits! And if you have any questions about the trans world, don’t be afraid to ask. Be well.

    Fran Fried, Prospect, CT
    Author of the WordPress blog Franorama World, where I’ve written a lot about the gender trip

    PS: If it makes you feel any better: I never knew the PC police, or GLAAD, or whoever, declared “trannie” to be a slur until a year ago. We’re not talking about the n-word here. There is no such thing as a transgender “community,” as I’ve learned (especially in the Bay Area), and any person or group who claims to speak for all of us is full of shit. To me, it’s a word that can be taken affectionately or detrimentally, depending on the person using it and the context.

    Besides, it led to one of my funniest memories of Fresno. Bryan, a very handsome blonde in his early 30s who has the dry sense of humor of a gay Englishman twice his age, came up to me at a Super Bowl party at the Landmark and saw my usual vodka-and-cranberry and said, “I have a new name for that.” The part-time Bentley chauffeur looked at me and, unblinkingly, said “Tranny Fluid.” Makes sense — same color, different viscosity, but it’ll get you lubed pretty quickly …

  18. @Elaine:

    Let’s blur the lines a little and point out that what some people see as a deliberate choice (changing from F to M or vice versa) other people see as no choice at all (have always been F or M, just had to make a few adjustments to be truly who and what they are and live their lives–as they are).

    This is one of the biggest breakdowns in communication about people who are living lifestyles that differ from the theoretical norm.

  19. Unfortunately, when a lot of people can’t imagine what it’s like to experience something, such as being/becoming transgender, their default response is “say what? ick.” Which is a sad statement on our imaginative abilities.

  20. JohnD – on DIY guitar FX pedal forums, I also see it used as short for “transistor” a lot as well.

    Still makes me do a double-take.

  21. This whole post resonated with me.

    A few years back I flew to Arizona to drive my friend’s furniture to NC. She was getting a divorce and moving back.

    As we drove from the airport to her house, she told me that she had started dating a woman. I could tell she was unsure how I’d respond. I asked, “Does she make you happy?”

    “Yes,” she replied.

    “Good. That’s all that matters to me, and all that should matter to anyone.”

    I felt really good about myself for a day or so, but on that long drive I realized I shouldn’t feel anything special since, really, both helping your friend move out after divorce and accepting their sexuality should be the default setting.

  22. I always thought of tranny as the part of the car between the engine’s output shaft and the drive shaft(s) to the wheels (from “transmission”.) Learn something every day.

    Sex vs. gender. I’ve already got a headache.

    So the first question to ask is simply: Why make it harder for them? I can’t think of any good reason for it; for me that solves that.

    Them? I can think of few good reasons to make life harder for anyone.

  23. To be picky: The conflation of societal gender with internal sense-of-self is one of the things that makes life suck for trans people. The problem is that, in the 70s, as we realized that gender roles were societal, people concluded that gender itself had no biological roots. This resulted in a whole pile of trans suicides as people tried to raise kids with the understanding that any conflict between experienced gender and biological sex was obviously a result of cognitive inputs, social expectations, or some such.

    So far as I can tell, humans have an innate sense that their species comes in two types, and of which of those two types they are. Trying to ask what information they conclude it from is missing the point; it’s an *instinct*, and the instinct doesn’t have to be a conclusion from anything; it’s just there as direct, primary, experience.

    Note also that the degree of this is highly variable. I have basically no sense of gender identity; I thought trans people were pretty weird until I found out that most cis people *also* have a strong sense of gender identity. Then I concluded that *everyone* was weird.

    I don’t buy the “it’s a social construct” analysis for sex, either. Yes, there are things that are not clearly male or female, but if it were really a social construct, it would not be so consistently the case that you need at least one cow and at least one bull to get calves. Biology is real, it just has edge cases that don’t quite fit. Life’s complicated.

    This piece resonates for me because it ties into a piece you wrote some years back arguing about your right to marry a member of the same sex. I married someone that, at the time, both of us thought was female. We eventually figured out this was wrong. A couple days ago was our 18th anniversary.

  24. No, gender is not what society makes it. Gender is something concrete in the brain. HRT works much too well with a trans person for there to not be neurological mechanisms that make use of sex hormone. Ya, trans is a disconnect between mind and body, but that disconnect has a neurological basis to it. Please understand that my enviroment never shaped me into wanting to be female, rather, I simply AM female – at least in my brain I am.

  25. It is easy to say that if someone is not bothering you or anyone else, you shouldn’t care how they live their lives. Yet we are naturally interested in how other human beings around us live their lives, and we understand that some things we observe in our fellow humans are simply variations in the human condition and some things reflect illness or self-destructive behavior (e.g., self-mutilation, substance abuse). I don’t think it’s utterly irrational for someone considering transfolk to wonder which of those categories they fall into, and indeed for a time I wondered that myself. Eventually, I decided that I ought to accept that transfolk are dealing with their situation as best they can, and that it was not necessary for me to “get” in some essential way what it was like to be trans for me to be supportive. I’m not sure what exactly resolved that issue in my mind; probably to some extent it was reading testimonies of transfolk, including in particular the economist Deirdre (born Donald) McCloskey.

  26. Hello Mr. John,

    Was reading your post this morning and my mind wandered off as it sometimes does and I found myself wondering “Hmm, was that an option in Old Man’s War?” Transferring consciousness from a male body to a female when the soldiers were “rebuilt.” Having experienced military “single-mindedness” I suspect not but it could certainly be allowed when the lucky/good few retire. At this point my mind jumped to an octogenarian transferring his brain from an old worn-out body to that of a young lady in I will Fear no Evil. A novel from almost half a century ago that explored gender roles assigned by society. Hint, hint, hint. ;-)

    In a round-about way you have reminded me of two of my comfort-novels from may years ago and that is a good thing. Yes, I know my brain is peculiar but it is the only one I have got. ;-)

    MO

  27. As usual, I am possibly skirting mallet territory, but I feel this needs to be said:

    You say, “I want you to be happy.” Does that include people who would rather not work with, or more to the point, employ transfolk? I think you’re doing both groups a disservice by forcing them together. I mean, what right-thinking trans person wants such an asshat for a boss?

    Yes, being a decent human being should be the default setting. I just happen to think forcing people into that setting is itself not very decent.

  28. Theodore Minick:

    “Does that include people who would rather not work with, or more to the point, employ transfolk?”

    You apparently missed the part where I ask whether what one is doing is harming someone else. Discrimination is harm. No one wants an asshat for a boss, but an asshat should not be able to fire you or otherwise make your life difficult because you’re trans.

    While not suggesting you’re doing it here and now, Theodore, I do think the recent fashion of intolerant people demanding that the rest of us must accept their intolerance on the basis of being tolerant is pretty weak. Bigotry is bigotry and it’s not something that should get a pass.

    And yeah, I think this is going to lead far off topic, so let’s cap this discursion here, please.

  29. Theo – You raise a valid question based on, I assume, your upbringing and I don’t think you should incur any mallet-wrath. Replace transfolk with any other word describing a group of people “Does that include people who would rather not work with, or more to the point, employ ______?” an I believe you’ll have your answer.

    Shall we force “comfort” into the workplace? What if I’m not comfortable working with the fat dude who reeks of cigarette smoke and Indian food? He’s a good worker and a pleasant person, so maybe I’ll be the bigger man and just suck it up.

    If anyone knows of a reason why GLBT people should be shunned that has nothing to do with religious beliefs, I’d like to hear it.

  30. Trans issues are one area where I definitely find myself stepping in it pretty much constantly. I feel immensely fortunate to have trans people in my life who are patient enough to call me out and accept my apologies when I mess up.

    As much as I mess up, though, I also really do not understand people who believe that they get to decide/police someone else’s gender. Just. Wat.

  31. Thanks for this, and for your efforts to understand and act appropriately with respect and compassion.

    I like that the title graphic of the blog has a Kate Bush lyric :)

  32. The hard part I have, and I am not proud of this, is that although I would not not want someone discriminated against in a legal sense, and generally not in a cultural sense. I am still transphobic enough to hesitate on the question of would it be an issue in regards to would I date a transgendered person? I have known a few transgendered people who “pass” (like it is for me to decide!), and if I didn’t know their history it would not bother me. Part of me thinks it it because although I can accept transgendered to a point, there is still aspects that I don’t get or understand, and I, it is my problem not theirs, still fear what I don’t quite grasp. But then most people have parts of their personalities that baffle me, and I get over those, so I really don’t know. I don’t feel like I have a good reason or feeling on why it should, and many on why it shouldn’t. But my gut feeling, which is not one of acceptance at that level, is not one I am proud of. I have never rejected someone based on this, and I hope that I wouldn’t. But, if I were their shoes, I wouldn’t date me, and intellectually I do feel like an asshat for it. But, in my gut…

  33. “Don’t get so tolerant that you tolerate intolerance.” –Bill Maher

    I think that pretty much sums up the problem with drawing a boundary on the definition of “tolerance” and “intolerance”.

    Other than that, yeah, wear what you want, marry who you want, etc, and so on.. There is a category of behaviors that really aren’t anyone else’s business, because they harm no one. This would be one of those things.

  34. @Greg

    The question is a basis of who one want to be friends with, who one want to marry, who one want to have over in their home is essentially bigoted. And those bigoted assumptions are the same among those people’s friends and family, like always rewarding like, I think the end is a segregated tolerance which is hardly indistinguishable for intolerance.

    Live and let live, is not the end point of common human decency it is merely a necessary beginning.

  35. Edward, I’m pretty much on-board with your statement “Part of me thinks it it because although I can accept transgendered to a point, there is still aspects that I don’t get or understand, and I, it is my problem not theirs, still fear what I don’t quite grasp.” This is what I struggle with as well, why is it that I am more comfortable with people who are gay than people who are transgender? I wish I had an answer that satisfied me because I really want to be fully accepting.

    I think John hit the nail on the head with “I also readily admit to being a work in progress on trans matters.” That’s how I see myself, a work in progress. I am flawed in this area and try to get better and just because I feel a certain way now doesn’t mean that feeling will always be the same. For example, my first double-date in college was with a gay couple. My then girlfriend’s best friend was a gay man and he was also in a new relationship. Like most couples there was some public displays of affection and I was uncomfortable. PDA between straight couples never bothered me but this did. And it bothered me that it bothered me.

    What helped me get over this was acknowledging that I have flaws and I can’t help how I feel and think. This was just something I wasn’t used to and really not much different than being anxious of deep water when I was a kid. The more we hung out the more comfortable we became with one another and slowly that uncomfortable feeling faded. I suspect I would be much more comfortable with transgender people as a whole if I had a good friend who was transgender. In the meantime its always good advice to treat people with respect and hope for them to be happy.

    Thank you or writing this post, John. It made me take a few minutes out of my day to think on this.

  36. As the father of a transgendered person, thank you for this.

    I admit, I had some trouble adjusting to the idea that my son was actually my other daughter. but it all came down to one thing; I want my child to be happy and not lonely. I may not be able to do all of that for her, but at least I can refrain from putting further stones in her path.

  37. This post is filed as uncategorized; I would find it very helpful if you could tag all (or even some) of the posts where you explain basic human decency, so that I can more easily refer my kids to them. I fully agree with you but am not as good with words, and not just in English.
    These posts of yours would be appropriate also for a number of my colleagues, but I am doubtful that they’re open-minded enough to benefit from them.

  38. Commenters: If you are cis (that is, not trans) and are wondering what you can do to help be a better trans ally, one place to start is your workplace. For example, do you have a gender-neutral restroom? And if someone says they want to change their name, does your human resources department or recordkeeping office make it easy to change the name on all their paperwork? (This is especially an issue with college diplomas, I believe; transfolk who have already transitioned would like to be able to apply for jobs without outing themselves as trans by submitting paperwork under the old name.) A few more questions that are harder for you to personally work on, but you can bring them up:

    * Is there a nondiscrimination statement or policy that includes gender identity?
    * Does the employer provide equal health benefits for family members of employees with same-sex partners?
    * Do your health benefits include mental health counseling, reassignment surgery, and prescriptions for transsexuals?

    Lambda Legal has a worksheet for “Is This an LGBT- and HIV-Friendly Workplace?” as part of
    http://www.lambdalegal.org/publications/out-at-work
    http://data.lambdalegal.org/publications/downloads/out-at-work_worksheets.pdf

    And you can rate yourselves using the HRC survey questions:
    https://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/corporate-equality-index-about-the-survey

  39. Brilliant post, John. I like your attitude of letting others be happy in their own way very encouraging. I tend to take an existentialist view of life, so I don’t have any problem with trans men or trans women. In the end, we’re all discovering our identities and trying to create meaning in our lives. Why should gender be any different? I’m biologically male and identify as such; if another biological male identifies his gender as female, so what? How is that person hurting me or anyone else, except perhaps confusing those with a few ingrained assumptions?

  40. It seems to me that any time you are describing someone with “you are a ^noun^” as opposed to “you are ^adjective^” you are running the risk of offense. (Exception: professions.) I would rather you described a trait that belongs to me, which implies the possibility of other traits (such as human being) instead of a catch-all noun that puts me in a category and leaves.

  41. I’ve been working on this for years, and I am a work in progress on this. I usually get pronouns right, but I do make blunders of various sorts, which I am usually fine with being called out on, and then apologizing for.

    My biggest problem has been in dealing with one particular trans-woman who has decided that she gets to decide what it means to be female, not just for herself but for all women, both trans and cis, as well as for gender fluid people who are currently presenting as female. She has publicly berated me for undermining her by not shaving my underarms or legs (which she couldn’t tell by looking as I have almost no body hair, and she only found out that I haven’t shaved in 30 years when someone else mentioned it), for not wearing makeup, for not painting my toenails. Her theory seems to be that since those things are intrinsic to how she wishes to present as female, my not doing them is mocking her. She has told me, publicly and repeatedly, that by not doing those things, I am being anti-trans.

    My response to her has been to tell her that I am happy that she enjoys doing those things as part of being female, but I don’t enjoy them, and that my choice not to do them is by no means a comment on other women’s different choices. (I have also told her that I am certain that if I had more than 10 invisible hairs on each leg, I might make a different choice about shaving.) she continues to harp on how I am “being a woman wrong” and how my choosing not to put makeup on before stepping out of my house is “anti-trans”.

    At first, I understood this as her problem, not mine. Then, one day, she told her story to several new acquaintances in my presence, and then she got to the fact that, even in retrospect, she didn’t feel female or unsettled gender-wise until her ex-wife got pregnant when they were both in their mid-twenties. I gather that this is an unusual but not unique situation, but it does mean that she spent 25 years experiencing herself as make, being socialized as male, and not feeling excluded from the male club. (I hasten to add that I asked her if that is indeed her recollected experience, and she says yes.)

    So. I realize that I experience her policing of my gender presentation and her constant claims that by choosing a different way to be female than she chooses, I am somehow betraying all trans people everywhere as follows. “OMG, it’s another man telling me how I am failing as a female!”

    Now, I do recognize the transphobia in my sudden internal identification of this woman as male, but I stand by what it feels like to me. This woman readily admits that she was fully socialized as male, and I experience this part of her approach to trans identity as being very male in how it feels to be on the receiving end of it.

    In the end, I experience this particular woman as using techniques she learned while being socialized as male (which I do understand is by no means a universal socialization experience for trans-women) to lash our at a cis woman who scares her. I suspect that since she is carrying around a belief that there is a right and wrong way to be a woman, that she is afraid that she won’t get it “right”.

    In the 70s, among radical lesbians, there was an on-going debate about who was really a lesbian. Only women who had never had sex with a man? Only women who had never married a man? Only women who had never borne children? Only women who were also feminist? I stood then by the motto that “a lesbian is anyone who says she is”. I am now learning to see past binary definitions of gender, and I believe that “a (wo)man is anyone who says zie is”. Is that enough, as long as in my head, a woman who admits to being socialized a male and who then acts as she was taught by that socialization, reads as “acting male”? I don’t know.

    But until I figure it out, I will still be a work in progress as far as trans issues go.

  42. @Dave, I like the deep water anxiousness link. That was what happened with me. The first transperson I knew I found (in my gut) a bit odd, though I never said anything.

    Part of it (for me) came from a knowledge that I was dealing with someone who was outside my experience. Part of it came from I suck at remembering names and when she changed, she changed her name. I knew her for years by a different name and screwed it up more than once (and beat myself up for it, and felt awkward around her, cause what if I stuffed something up again?).

    I’m up to more than a few transgendered friends (counting them seems rude) and my gut is no longer anxious. Yes, I still stuff up their names. But given I can’t keep my children’s names straight in my head, I just keep reaching for a name and eventually get it. Just like I do for the kids.

  43. The second question is: What would I want if that were my road to walk?

    This is the first time I’ve ever seen John Rawl’s veil of ignorance used in real life. I’ll be showing it to my debate students when we get back to practices.

  44. SorchaRei: Men, unfortunately, do not have the market cornered on enforcing patriarchy/kyriarchy and telling women how to be women. In fact, one of the most insidious things about the entire interconnected mess of social injustice is that there is so much buy-in from the disprivileged themselves, because life is noticeably easier if you don’t buck the system. Hence, mothers who know in their heads that their daughters should have the right to bodily integrity but still have them do things from shaving their legs to nose jobs in their teens to female circumcision, so that some man will want to marry them some day.

    So — your acquaintance is a woman. (Because she decided that for herself, as she should.) However, she’s evidently a woman deeply invested in looking like and presenting in general the stereotypical, patriarchal “feminine” ideal, and being horribly rude about it. IOW, she may have found Gender Identity 101, but she’s in desperate need of Feminism 101 and about a dozen of the Miss Manners books, too.

  45. It took me a long time of revision to get to the point where I could actually admit to myself that part of the underlying description of myself needed to include some measure of “being a woman”. And I’m very thankful that the vast majority of my friends think as you do, John, about it being as long as I’m happy, and not hurting anyone else with it.

    (And, of course, anytime someone claims it is hurting them, I have to wonder how long they’ve been suppressing it themselves. Because that’s the only way I can think of that they’re being hurt, either by denying their sexuality or gender issues.)

    As a matter of fact, I have at least a couple of people that actually do prefer to refer to me as a woman, because they see me as so much more “at peace” that way.

  46. @Scalzi
    Thanks. It may not seem much, but this kind of writing actually means a lot – if it just to make sure that the judgemental voices aren’t the only ones heard.

    @SorchaRei
    Sounds like that coworker of yours is quite an asshole, actually. An insecure asshole, maybe, but still an asshole. What a sucky situation – especially since there actually are MTF folk that don’t find joy in the femme dispay, either.

  47. @whiskeypants: what some people see as a deliberate choice (changing from F to M or vice versa) other people see as no choice at all (have always been F or M…)

    I agree, and it speaks to what other people have been discussing here about not understanding what would drive a trans person to correct their gender. I would say that far more people who are observing that action would regard it as a deliberate choice, where the people taking the action see it as no choice. For me it was a deliberate choice to stop avoiding the inevitable confrontations, and to go with what makes me a happier and more functional person. When asked ‘why’, my response has been ‘I wouldn’t if I didn’t have to’. So, a need rather than a choice, but a choice to accept myself and to accept the difficulties involved. I’ve only met one person so far outside the trans community who has fully understood that.

    @John Barnes, have you read the Science of Discworld, I think it’s vol. 3, where the authors are talking about the ‘make-a-person kit’? Parents raise children by inculcating a set of rules that make a person of their culture, as your acquaintance was trying to raise a ‘man’, according to her understanding of what a real ‘man’ should be. Like hers, some rule kits are more restrictive than others, and are also more geared towards the idea that different=wrong (=not ‘us’=enemy). Also, the more inclined a person is to relying on certainties, not questioning their rule kit, the more inclined they will be to seeing different people as an attack and as you say, wanting to correct the world.

    What that has meant for me, in transitioning at a workplace that could be expected to be very conservative, was to make sure that all the people I work with know me as a person and respect my work, and then gradually introducing my gender difference. In this way I am trying not to trigger their defensive conditioning. It’s working so far.

  48. @C Nelson

    I recognize that she is a woman, and I recognize that on the surface, she is acting like the mother who wanted her son to be male in a man cave, or the mother who doesn’t want her daughter to play softball because she finds muscled arms unfeminine. And I have encountered my share of cis women who like to police female presentation, both in support if a traditional version of femininity, and in support of the no-make-ever ideal.

    What I struggle with in my interactions is my reaction to the way she speaks to me, which feels exactly like a traditionally-minded cis man lecturing me about being female. That is, yes she is a woman, and heavens yes, she needs an infusion of Judith Martin into her life, but she uses tools she learned from male socialization, and that feels like male sexism to me.

    And it’s my response that tells me I still have work to do. Work to stop experiencing rude, kyriarchy-supporting crap as being gendered. Yeh, sure, some gender-policing is done by men and some by women, but why should my brain insist on categorizing it as a man hating on my way of being female vs. a woman doing it? It’s just an asshole doing it, and they all need to be stopped in their tracks.

    Also, work to find ways to support myself in the face of “your choices about how to present yourself are inherently anti-trans” instead of running to a trans or gender-fluid friend for reassurance that choosing not to use makeup is not an attack on trans people that my cis privilege is somehow blinding me to seeing.

    She’s lashing out at me, and since the attack starts from “you are hurting trans people”, it’s hard to see how there is any useful response other than an internal reminder that this can’t really be about me. I am not going to emulate her by telling her how to be trans, but I am going to reflect on what the interactions teach me about myself. Namely, that when I get mad enough, I do attack people by denying them the freedom to state their gender and have me be decent enough to accept it and move on. Even if I have never said it out loud until today, I have said “just another man telling me how to be female” in my head. And even inside my head, that’s not the person I want to be.

  49. I think this is one area in which being somewhat autistic/Asperger’s is a benefit. I can’t really recognize faces, unless I see you daily over a long period of time, and I tend to be pretty impervious to gender clues. It was a huge relief to me when asking, “which pronouns do you prefer?” became relatively common in my pinko-commie-liberal area of the US, because then I could quit guessing, and just *ask,* and it was suddenly polite, instead of rude. YAY!

    I’m not so sure about 3rd-sex/gender restrooms. On the one hand, also a YAY! but on the other, folks should feel free to use whatever gendered restroom they are comfy using. But that doesn’t include folks who may not be comfy in either binary, so maybe a third choice is appropriate. But then, my military-base-raised upbringing (plus decades of waiting in interminable lines to use the “ladies’,” especially in theatres, because intermission is totally not long enough) rears its head and I think, why not make all restrooms unisex? But the military is weird, in that a six year old girl can walk into a restroom in a base library and see six grown guys’ dicks, and it not be some sort of awful traumatic experience, just everybody doing their business. I think that sort of thing fundamentally influences the way one views the world.

    Third, I guess, if I’m counting, gender preference has always seemed kind of fetishistic to me. I’m firmly bi, so I it seems kind of odd to only be attracted to people of a certain gender. But some folks are only attracted to brunet/tes or tall people, or people with attached earlobes, so there you go. Weird, but apparently normal, although quite baffling.

  50. mintwitch, as I understand it, there are several benefits to providing at least one gender-neutral restroom. One is that it’s more comfortable for families; parents can bring their opposite-gender children in without any fuss. (Because, yeah, the experiences you had are not necessarily typical.) And another is that *no one else will gender-police you for going into the gender-neutral restroom.* The Sylvia Rivera Law Project reminds us that transgender youth have been “prevented from using the restroom or locker room that corresponds to their gender identity and sometimes even being unable to use any restroom at school because of their gender identity.” This is common enough that the safe2pee database helps people find public gender-neutral or single-stall restrooms.

  51. John, thank you for this post.

    SorchaRei, thank you for articulating your situation in such a clear and compassionate manner. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head: this trans woman is acting like an ass in doing the very thing to others which she presumably does not want done to her. Your gut reaction of re-gendering her as male because of her behavior is problematical and wants work, but it’s also very understandable given how you have been socialized and the cultural waters we must navigate. Good job on parsing what’s her problem and what’s yours.

    Trans people, wherever they are in their individual journeys, are no more enlightened than anyone else. Sometimes some of us get what we need, and then turn around and nail the people behind us good and hard by judging them in ways which we ourselves didn’t want to be judged. I’ve never understood it, but there it is. Some of us are pleasant to be around, and some of us are boors. Sorry you’ve run across a boor, and I hope she fixes it soon.

    Grace

  52. That’s basically my ethics in a nutshell – why make it harder for anyone? Unless their mission in life is to hurt other people, then it’s okay to throw obstacles in their path.

  53. Thanks, John. Speaking from the Place of Trans (I transitioned twenty years ago this month), it’s funny that I never for a moment figured you’d have any other attitude than exactly what you wrote here. No cookies, but nice to know people who just Get It Right, and on this as on so many others (The Scalzi Method: “Be nice to people; admit when you fuck up; dislike bigots and bigotry”), you do. And being explicit about it sets the example for your fellow cohortarians (the formerly generic “hetero white non-disabled men”), so maybe one cookie. :)

  54. Your reasons are good and plenty. I have another to add. If I lived in a time when hacking the brain and body was an option, with most of the bugs ironed out, long-term side-effects documented and so forth, I’d absolutely begin amending my biology to better suit my mind’s personal preferences. While the result would not be a transition to the other naturally occurring biological sex, it seems likely that I would eventually fall outside many people’s definitions of a normal human being. Knowing this, it would be hypocritical of me to negatively judge transfolk for their aspirations, especially since many people who willingly tolerate transfolk would balk at allowing someone to become something they’re biases deem unnatural. Lots of people are willing to tolerate differences they approve of, and pat themselves on the back for their own open-mindedness, but will object vociferously to differences beyond what they regard as good or acceptable, irrespective of whether those differences are deleterious to anyone else.

    Being on the lowest difficulty setting is a cultural arrangement which could just as well turn against the player in another time and place. It behooves those of us who enjoy its benefits to remember that all that separates us from the other players is the fickle tide of public opinion.

    I additionally judge people who I think are transphobic, usually punting them into the category of “asshole.”

    I suspect many (insert difference)phobes are also narcissistic assholes. They’re unwillingness or inability to see other people as people causes them to see any difference as a critique on their own person, so when it’s a difference from a trait of themselves about which they’re particularly insecure, they lash out. In extreme cases, the person will project their own fears onto other people who don’t actually themselves embody the difference the narcissist fears – e.g. “gay panic” directed toward a straight “metrosexual” man. None of which excuses their assholery, but it does illuminate the real object of their fear and loathing, namely themselves. But because they see other people as nothing more than nonplayer characters in their petty megalomaniacal drama, those people become blank receptacles onto which to cast the insecurities they’re too terrified to address in themselves, which is as pathetic as it is cowardly.

    That said, I want to be clear that I’m not saying this is the motivation behind all (insert difference)phobia. There are also plenty of people who acknowledge that their fear and/or loathing of someone different is unjustified, and work to overcome it. The difference is that one is a bias and the other is a judgment affirming that bias. When I was a teenager, I found the notion of gay sex disgusting, and in that sense I was homophobic. Yet I never felt or believed I was threatened by gay sex, and it was never contraindicated in my own chosen code of values nor any code I thought worthwhile, so I consciously worked to overcome that bias and, in a few years, gay sex neither disgusted nor attracted me…it simply was.

    @ Issac

    Minor correction: A body has a ‘sex’. A person has a ‘gender’. Gender is made up of what the society you are in believes a male or female to be, whereas sex is simply being physically male or female.

    Transvestitism, transgenderism and transsexuality are all distinct (though not exclusive) examples of transpeople. A person may indeed be transsexual with or without also being transvestite and/or transgender.

    @ whiskeypants

    Let’s blur the lines a little and point out that what some people see as a deliberate choice (changing from F to M or vice versa) other people see as no choice at all (have always been F or M, just had to make a few adjustments to be truly who and what they are and live their lives–as they are).

    Ultimately though, whether it’s a choice or deterministic is irrelevant to whether someone should have the right to be who they are.

    @ Tim Chevalier

    Actually, Isaac’s comment about sex and gender is an oversimplification. Sex and gender are both social constructs

    That’s still an oversimplification – though the article you linked to has it correct. Gender is entirely a social construct, with arbitrary roles being assigned to individuals based on their potential role in human reproduction (though whether an individual is predisposed to identify with a particular role may well have innate components). Sex, on the other hand, is an attempt to categorize whether one individual can viably reproduce with another, which isn’t a social construct, but rather a rough predictive model. It’s only a rough model because it only makes accurate predictions about viability or non-viability most of the time since some individuals are able to fulfill either roles and some can fulfill neither. There is, nevertheless, a biological basis for the categorization. It just isn’t as cut and dried as conventional wisdom would have it. However, because human cultures make virtually no distinction between sex as a cultural construct (AKA hormonal dimorphism) and chromosomal sex, people usually mean the former unless they’re explicitly discussing sexual reproduction.

    The article argues against the convention that chromosomal sex is more relevant than hormonal dimorphism to defining sex, and for the idea that the opposite is true. The problem with that is that biology is not a value system, it’s just empirical science. So scientifically, neither one is more or less relevant or valid; they are apples and oranges (or hormones and chromosomes). Non-scientifically, which is to say in terms of personal values, whether or which one is more valid is just that, something each of us must decide, which is why any claims that either one is objectively more important, independent of a specified biological context such as dimorphism or reproduction, falls flat. For one person hormones will be more important. For another person chromosomes will be more important. For a third person neither will matter. And who are any of us to tell someone else what aspect of their sexuality they should value above others?

    Gender is a whole other ball of wax. Life: it’s complicated. Fortunately the Golden Rule is pretty simple, if not always easy.

    @ Beej

    I felt really good about myself for a day or so, but on that long drive I realized I shouldn’t feel anything special since, really, both helping your friend move out after divorce and accepting their sexuality should be the default setting.

    I’d argue that there’s nothing wrong with feeling good when you behave as a basically decent human being by accepting your friends as they are; just don’t believe you’re going above and beyond the call of decency. It’s fine to reinforce good behaviors by letting your endorphins flow when you practice them, and feeling ashamed for anything that helps you reinforce that aspect of yourself is irrationally counterproductive, so long as you maintain perspective and don’t forget that what you did wasn’t superfluous. Really, following one’s own beliefs about right and wrong should never be superfluous – it’s just moral integrity – but that doesn’t make it immoral to feel good about being on the path along which your beliefs guide you.

    @ Michelle

    No, gender is not what society makes it. Gender is something concrete in the brain. HRT works much too well with a trans person for there to not be neurological mechanisms that make use of sex hormone.

    But society is made up of biological people with biological brains. Perhaps there is an element of nature and nurture, and maybe for some people it’s more nature than for others. After all, not even all transfolk are homogenous.

    @ αλκαλι

    Yet we are naturally interested in how other human beings around us live their lives, and we understand that some things we observe in our fellow humans are simply variations in the human condition and some things reflect illness or self-destructive behavior (e.g., self-mutilation, substance abuse).

    There’s a difference between illness and difference. I’m diagnosed as high-functioning autistic. There was a time when the way I am would have been considered an illness because most people couldn’t conceive of how anyone would want to be autistic. They saw only the difficulties and none of the advantages to a differently-abled brain. As a word, illness has meaning only with regards to the specific outcomes; and those outcomes are too often judged, even today, on what makes other people comfortable rather than what the individual in question wants. Denying someone agency because one disagrees with their goals, irrespective of whether those goals objectively harm others, is dehumanizing in the truest sense of the word.

    So while I agree that concern for others includes asking if they are self-destructive, and there are plenty of behaviors its worth trying to argue people out of for their own sake, I do not hold that that by itself confers any just right to police them. And while I realize you weren’t suggesting force, it remains that people are often deprived of their equal rights under the aegis of paternalism.

    @ Michael O’Toole

    Was reading your post this morning and my mind wandered off as it sometimes does and I found myself wondering “Hmm, was that an option in Old Man’s War?” Transferring consciousness from a male body to a female when the soldiers were “rebuilt.” Having experienced military “single-mindedness” I suspect not but it could certainly be allowed when the lucky/good few retire.

    There’s a side plot in The Ghost Brigades that deals with a tangentially related issue.

    @ Edward Brennan

    The question is a basis of who one want to be friends with, who one want to marry, who one want to have over in their home is essentially bigoted.

    Not wanting to be friends with or associate with someone because they are X-ly different is bigotry. Marriage and physical relationships, on the other hand, have an aesthetic component in addition to the underlying friendship and spiritual compatibility. Aesthetics are not morality (some would argue otherwise, and I disagree with them, but that is beyond the scope of this thread). I don’t think it’s bigoted not be aesthetically attracted (sexually or otherwise) to someone else. For example, it’s not bigoted for a lesbian woman to be unattracted to a man, and so discount him as a potential mate.

    @ Savage Wombat

    It seems to me that any time you are describing someone with “you are a ^noun^” as opposed to “you are ^adjective^” you are running the risk of offense.

    Well, yes, but there are terms that are widely considered slurs which you should only use to describe someone who has volitionally indicated that they’re un-offended by it, just as there’s no reason to use a word that is not widely considered a slur when talking with someone who has indicated they are offended by it. If you think they’re being hypersensitive, don’t talk to them. Other than juvenilely pushing people’s buttons, what is the point in knowingly offending someone? For known slurs, being considerate of others means defaulting to some other descriptor. And if you don’t know one, ask. That’s just good manners.

    @ SorchaRei

    It’s just an asshole doing it, and they all need to be stopped in their tracks.

    For myself, my measure of a friend includes whether, when I let them know they’re being a asshole to me, they listen or they just start defending their asininity and berating my objection. If it’s a pattern, I end the friendship. It should go without saying, but there is no reason why you should necessarily use my yardstick.

    @ mintwitch

    Third, I guess, if I’m counting, gender preference has always seemed kind of fetishistic to me. I’m firmly bi, so I it seems kind of odd to only be attracted to people of a certain gender. But some folks are only attracted to brunet/tes or tall people, or people with attached earlobes, so there you go. Weird, but apparently normal, although quite baffling.

    As someone who is definitely heterosexually wired, I’m not the least bit offended that you find it odd, weird or baffling, just as long as you don’t deem me inferior for it and you respect my right to be odd, weird or baffling by your lights :)

    Even so, sexual orientation aside, I don’t particularly identify with any gender roles. Because I’m a modestly big guy, I often have people assuming I’m masculine, but it really doesn’t signify for me at all. I’m just me, and all my life since very young childhood I’ve had a strong tendency to avoid internalizing gender attributes because I always wanted who I was to be volitional, even before I knew what volition was.

  55. @soarcharei – What I struggle with in my interactions is my reaction to the way she speaks to me, which feels exactly like a traditionally-minded cis man lecturing me about being female.

    Nah, your friend is just being a common-or-garden jackass. It’s one thing to be a vegan (for example), it’s another thing to lecture every person you see about eating the flesh of dead animals and why they are horrible for doing it. It’s one thing not to like children and not to want any children, it’s another thing entirely to bring up how you are child-free and how breeders are ruining the world and how selfish it is to reproduce when all I said was I had to pick up my kid from day-care.

    Your friend is merely being a PITA. It’s possible that the particular way she manifests her assholeitude is more commonly associated with men than women, but the general “You have a lifestyle choice that disagrees with mine and I AM GOING TO TELL YOU SO AT GREAT LENGTH” is just general dick (uh…) behavior.

  56. Oh, and – for those wondering about pronouns. My own rule is that I’ll give people three shots at it. Get it wrong once, I’ll politely, and maybe humourously if I know and like you, correct you.

    Get it wrong twice, and the humour’s gone for sure, and you may have to hunt around a bit to find the politeness in the correction.

    Get it wrong the third time with me (without, for instance, evidence that your neuroatypicality interferes generally with your gendervision, or whatever), and you are pretty much PNG, as would be any generally assholish person, and you won’t have to hunt for the politeness anymore either, because it will be very, very evident that any you found was purely unintended.

    Call it the IRL Mallet of Correction. Loving optional.

  57. ElaineG, glad to hear it’s working. I sometimes think on the macro scale of things that nations that get the Imperialist virus really deep into their national self-definition have an extremely hard job understanding why anyone would object to becoming just like them, and therefore develop peculiar levels of hatred and savagery whenever anyone tries to leave; I’m thinking of Athens and Melos, Rome and the Social Wars, England and Ireland, and the US and Cuba … hatred out of all proportion to the simple offense of wanting to be on a different road.

  58. Gulliver

    So while I agree that concern for others includes asking if they are self-destructive, and there are plenty of behaviors its worth trying to argue people out of for their own sake, I do not hold that that by itself confers any just right to police them.

    Also, if the “damage” they’re doing to themselves is scraping themselves raw while attempting to wrest themselves free of the constricting, thorny branches of social expectation, rather than admonishing them to stay still “for their own good,” maybe it’s better we all take up shears and give society a thorough trimming. It’s not like those thorns don’t scratch the rest of us to a lesser extent. That we can bear them does not mean we would not benefit from their removal.

  59. I am the cissiest ciswoman to ever cis her way out of cisville — I don’t have a highly femme gender presentation or anything, but my identity as female is very close to the core of my being. I grew up knowing trans* people and never had even the remotest issue with it, it all seemed perfectly reasonable to me. . .

    . . . until I met a transman for the first time. And I reacted with instinctual revulsion, and actually had to pull myself out of a social situation (as politely as possible) to check myself before I wrecked myself. That’s when I realized that while I was perfectly understanding of what I thought of as “men wanting to be women,” since I am myself a woman and love it, I was very judgmental about what I thought of as “women wanting to be men,” because I interpreted that as violence against me and everything I understand about myself.

    Boy, that was revealing. And uncomfortable. And required a really strong re-arranging of the way I understood gender and sex and a lot of my own identity. Work in progress, indeed; I’ve gotten better, but I still have a long way to go.

  60. John Barnes – Thank you for that metaphor. I hadn’t heard it before and think it’s a very useful addition to my lexicon.

  61. ‘Get A Job!’
    Oh, you have one?
    Well, go do it.
    Wait, seriously? Your job is being an asshole and you _Are_ doing it?
    What’s the pay and how can I sign up?
    Oh, I gotta be like you?
    Okay, such a nice talk, have a nice day.

    It’s been to long since I’ve read Simak Goblin Reservation.
    IIRC, it’s in that book where the main character is very offended by
    the word “tolerance.”

  62. Edward: I am still transphobic enough to hesitate on the question of would it be an issue in regards to would I date a transgendered person?

    And later: Edward: @Greg: The question is a basis of who one want to be friends with, who one want to marry, who one want to have over in their home is essentially bigoted.

    Look. Not to put too fine a point on this, but pftfptpftpftpft.

    I am a straight male. I have only been attracted to women. That doesn’t make me bigoted against gays.

    There will always be personal choices and personal preferences that will be beyond your control. We don’t choose to be straight. We don’t choose to be gay. Just because who you’re attracted to falls within some group or another doesn’t make you a bigot.

    What makes you a bigot is when you feel the need to intercede between two people who are attracted to each other (being against gay marriage, being against inter racial marriage, etc). What makes you a bigot is when you feel the need to interced between someone and their job because you don’t like their race, religion, gender, orientation, or whatever.

    But who you are attracted to is, I believe, not really a choice. So, it isn’t really indicative of bigotry. And probably more importantly, it is quite possible to marry someone and still be a bigot against something about your spouse. It’s quite possible to be a white person married to a black person and still be a racist. Or be a christian married to a muslim and be religiously intolerant. Just because you get into a relationship with someone who is transgender doesn’t mean you’re above transgender bigotry.

    I think Scalzi put the right bead on it when he said “I want you to be happy”. If you approach this from the point of view of “I want you to be as happy as I am”, then it is quite possible for a straight male who only ever had romantic interests with other women to be able to stand for gay marriage, because the goal was for others to be as happy as I am. For gay men and women to be as happy in their gay relationships as I am happy in my straight relationship. That doesn’t mean if I’m not equally attracted to men as I am to women that I’m a homophobe. It means I stand for their right to make the same sort of personal choices that I made, i.e. to get married to the person they love. It doesn’t mean everyone must be attracted to everyone else or else they’re bigots.

    In fact, I would go so far as to say that relying on your personal tastes as the final measure of what is and is not acceptable can ONLY lead to bigotry of one kind or another. I like vanilla ice cream and can’t understand anyone who likes strawberry ice cream. That’s a matter of personal taste. And if I allow that to be be my guide, I have no room for anything other than vanilla ice cream. If on the other hand, I take on that everyone should be as happy with their ice cream as I am with mine, then I don’t have to like strawberry ice cream to see value in allowing it space on the menu.

    Your personal tastes will ALWAYS be a subset of all tastes.

    The idea of “equality” is beyond personal taste and enters a different realm, a realm of principles.

  63. @greg

    For me, there is a final point when it comes to gender/sex (others have addressed the quandary of these words and I don’t really feel the need to address it here) that if I truly accept a person as a female (or male) whatever their gender choice is, I should, hopefully in my mind, be able to treat them as that gender. IE if they identify as female (or male depending), being willing to date that female and I (As I am also a straight male), am uncomfortable with the fact that, no, I would not. So in the end, even if they identify as a straight female- I ultimately don’t treat them as such. I don’t treat them as a straight female which I am attracted to. I treat them as a straight transgendered female- which puts them into a separate category. Separate and not really equal. Hopefully acceptable to others, but not when it comes down to it, to me. Not in that way.

    And yes, If I am unwilling to date a black woman, purely because that is the deciding point over all others, I would be a bigot in that regard, and my tastes bigoted. When it comes to transgendered women, I have a hard time drawing a happy distinction here.

    Is that a difference in treatment that makes a difference. If someone were deciding not to date me just because I was white, or maybe of the wrong ethic lineage- I would think they were bigots. I would think they had a problem. I would probably accept them as friends etc, if they realized it as a flaw with in themselves, but if they tried to justify it as some perfected sense of personal taste- I would probably not and just consider them an asshole. That could just be me trying for a certain amount of acceptance of my own imperfections. I’m trying not to be a bigot- I just don’t alway succeed. Sometimes the problem might be bigger and deeper than I am. A flaw within myself I am only capable of consciously fixing to a certain point, because it is also part nature of the biological and social systems I am unconsciously stuck with.

    I am sure that bigotry is not always a choice of the individual in the same way that disgust is not. There is lots of nature and nurture that goes into it. In this case I am not proud of my tastes. I wish I could rise above them. In this case my unconscious self might not ever be as accepting as my conscious self wishes. I can accept that to a point, that my tastes can be a un-perfectable defect in my character. Some people can’t do complex math, I’m stuck with some bigotry.

    Hopefully they are better at accepting me for who I am, warts and all, than I am in accepting them.

  64. When it comes to dating transfolk, I do actually think it’s a bit transphobic to say that you wouldn’t date someone just because they are trans. I don’t think it makes you a bad person, but I do think it’s the kind of thing you ought to work on. I say this as a trans man who has had a lot of sex, often with people who have never been with a trans person before. I have a couple interrelated observations from my experience:

    1. You might think you ‘just aren’t attracted’ to trans people, but attraction happens before you have any evidence about someone’s trans status. If you’re attracted to women in general, there’s nothing preventing you from being attracted to a woman who is trans. She’s cute, you have things in common, she makes you laugh, you love spending time with her, you kiss her after a nice evening out and you enjoy it– what does a Y chromosome have to do with that? Oh, sex? Well…

    2. Sex isn’t really about genitals. I’m struggling to avoid TMI; I’ve slept with straight women and gay men, both trans and cis in each category, and obviously the genitals are involved in the process, but the experience is really all about the person you’re with. Sleeping with a trans woman is a lot more like sleeping with a cis woman than it’s like sleeping with a cis man, even if the trans woman still has a penis. It’s fair to be a little nervous of the mechanics because every new sex act is a little intimidating before you’ve done it, but that doesn’t mean you’ll never enjoy it. Even casual sex isn’t really about the Tab-A-into-Slot-B mechanics, it’s about your partner and the overall experience. So if you’re attracted to someone before their pants come off, you’ll likely still be attracted to them afterward, even if they don’t have the equipment you’d expect.

    3. Trans people are… people. They probably have a lot of other qualities more relevant to your interpersonal relationship than their trans status. It would be fair to avoid dating someone who didn’t speak any language you could understand, or someone who wanted to live a lifestyle that would make you unhappy (urban/rural, kids/no kids, etc), or even just someone whom you disliked as a person– because all of those would directly impact the relationship itself. Being trans or cis is more like being left-handed or right-handed– if the chemistry and compatibility are there, it won’t change that.

    I think when people contemplate ‘dating someone who is trans’, they start by imagining a hypothetical ‘generic trans person’ (a process likely to be fraught with stereotypes), but we don’t date people in the general, we date individuals. A better test would be to think of someone you like or are attracted to, and imagine finding out that they are trans– does it change how you feel about them? (If the answer is yes… well, pretty much everybody is some kind of *-ist, however unconsciously and unintentionally; I know I am. But you might want to think about it for a little while.)

  65. @ Edward Brennan

    If someone were deciding not to date me just because I was white, or maybe of the wrong ethic lineage- I would think they were bigots.

    I would never deem someone bigoted for not being romantically or sexually attracted to any trait of mine, physical or otherwise, and I would not want to date someone who was not attracted to me. I’m sorry, but aesthetic tastes and moral judgment are categorically not the same thing, and being accepting of someone is not the same as being attracted to someone.

    Even though I do not share it, I respect your contrary belief.

    I will add that no physical traits are deal-breakers for me. I don’t know whether I’ll be attracted to someone until I meet them, because they are either attractive as a whole person or not at all, and there’s no single characteristic that I can say couldn’t be attractive to me in someone. Attraction is a gestalt experience for me. So I can’t say that there is no transgendered woman toward whom I could be attracted, because I haven’t met everyone on Earth. I know it hasn’t happened yet, but then I’ve only met a handful of transfolk period in my life. That said, I wouldn’t consider someone a bigot because they weren’t romantically or sexually attracted to me explicitly because I’m white (really more pasty pink, but I’ll work on my tan during camping season). That said, a wonderful woman has taken me off the market, but it doesn’t mean I don’t still appreciate the latent chemistry of attraction with others.

    Like Greg, I don’t consider my romantic or sexual tastes a measure of my tolerance. For instance, my partner is not white (save for the definition of white that includes anyone who isn’t black), but that doesn’t have anything to do one way or the other with my tolerance of people of color. Attraction and tolerance are different domains.

  66. First up, many thanks to John for being so supportive, and to everyone else for the intelligent and respectful discussion. It constantly amazes and delights me to see how much things have changed for trans people in the past decade.

    Next a quick word on bathrooms. Gender-neutral bathrooms are a very good thing. There are people who prefer to use them, for a whole variety of reasons. They also provide a safe haven for trans people in places where they might be in danger using other bathrooms. However, because people seem to love policing bathrooms, it is all too easy for discussion of providing such spaces to morph into a firm requirement that all trans people must use a gender-neutral bathroom. For many of us, this is not acceptance, it is othering (especially if you’ve been happily using gendered bathrooms for years).

    That brings me to the current state of affairs which I think (in the places where I have lived: UK, Australia, California) is often one of tolerance but not of acceptance. What I mean by this is that most people are now perfectly happy for me to dress and behave as I want, give myself whatever name I choose, have gender surgery and so on, but some still see me as Different. This can come in a variety of forms, the most common of which are, “but you are still ‘really’ a man”, “but I think you are sad/weak/crazy because of what you have done”, and “but I don’t want to be associated with you because what would my family/friends/neighbors/customers/etc. think?”. Doubtless this will change with time, and I’m not complaining because we have come so far so quickly, but it is nevertheless part of my lived experience.

  67. SorchaRei, your story just shows that trans people can be assholes too. Being trans isn’t bad in itself, but it isn’t an automatic exclusion from the asshole club either.

    There have always been men who want to dictate what it means to be a “proper” woman (in fact that’s ultimately where most if not all such ideas come from). Some will keep that same attitude, and some of the same ideas, after they transition. Sounds like your acquaintance to me.

    I personally would be inclined to tell her to fuck off and die, but far be it from me to dictate to you how to be an acquaintance of an assholic trans woman!

  68. I find myself in an interesting position in that while I (with stumbles) support transgender people’s right to exist and thrive, I also am acquainted (haven’t seen in 20 years) with someone who has been transitioning for the last few years–and I still think of the person as the wrong gender. This is a matter of the grooves worn by friendship and time, and I’m working on it, but reprogramming is hard work, and so far hasn’t stuck.

  69. SorchaRei, I think your acquaintance is being incredibly rude but also, I think you are not necessarily wrong in viewing her behaviour as masculine in origin.

    Social gender presentation consists of behaviours that are associated with ‘male’ or ‘female’. Let me say here that I don’t think there is a ‘right’ way to be either male or female, unlike your acquaintance, but it is possible to trigger the uncanny valley effect with a discordant mix of social and physical cues. ‘Passing’ as male or female means, consciously or by reflex, giving out a harmonious set of cues in body language, physical appearance and behaviour. And it can mean behaving very stereotypically, say if there are physical attributes to overshadow or if one doesn’t have cis friends to correct one’s behaviour, or especially if one is insecure. Ironically, behaving too stereotypically – trying too hard – can also ‘out’ the person trying to pass. And once the image is broken, it stays broken.

    We grow up learning ways to behave according to the gender we are socialised in; some trans people reject that socialisation later than others. And we can carry baggage and habits from our previous lives that are more stereotypically associated with the ‘other’ gender. Learning to pass for myself is a process of identifying them and retraining myself. I happen to think that if that process is easy, then it’s an indication that the decision to change is the right one, but I still have forty years of passing as male to unlearn; it doesn’t happen overnight.

    So, it sounds as if this person is being dogmatic and insecure in her process of unlearning male presentation and behaviours and might be hanging on to some that she is not conscious of. And is being intolerant and rude. Thank you for being uncomfortable that you perceive it as acting ‘male’.

    (I’m aware that by saying the above I could be walking into a minefield, and that cis women are also perfectly capable of being intolerant assholes, but I’m not comfortable with everyone denying SorchaRei’s perception.)

  70. Elaine: It is certainly the case that trans women acquire, to some degree or another, a number of typically male behavior traits thanks to spending time living as boys and men. They can also benefit from the privilege that upbringing affords. I know I did. But self-confidence, aggressiveness and arrogance are not solely male traits. It is possible for women to display them as well. And indeed assertiveness courses for women often encourage the adoption of typically male body language. The issue here, as I understand it, is that if SorchaRei did not know that this person was trans then she would simply dismiss her as an unpleasant woman, but because she does know that the person is trans, she’s tempted by the “really a man” meme.

    Now of course I’d be happy if trans women could manage to leave behind the more asshole-like aspects of traditional male behavior. I’d like men to leave them behind as well. But equally I don’t think that trans women should be required to become diffident, submissive and afraid to express opinions. That’s sounding suspiciously like saying they should be overtly femme.

  71. Kathryn T.: I find that fascinating because I had an almost opposite Growth Experience, as it were, and for the exact opposite reason.

    I am, more or less, cisfemale, insofar as I have never really thought I wasn’t female. But I spent most of my childhood raging to different degrees against the expectations of being female in the society where I lived. Boys so clearly had the upper hand in everything I was interested in, I resented being pegged into another category. Didn’t question that I was in that category accurately: I just…didn’t like being there. So I spent a lot of time being pleased if I could dress so that I was mistaken as a boy, but also trying to choose career goals based on not knowing any women who did something, just so I could prove girls could do that too.

    Which meant that when I was introduced to the concept of “women wanting to be men”, as it was simplistically expressed to me first, I had no problem with that idea. Of course women would want to be men! Who wouldn’t want all the benefits of swapping to the favored category? But I had a much harder time wrapping my mind around the reverse, because I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to take on all the problems of Being A Woman if they didn’t have to.

    I got over that. I learned better, thank god. I learned to accept that sexuality and sex and gender are three separate axes, and how I feel about ‘em doesn’t have a lot to do with how other people do. But it’s interesting how these things can make our brains jump in different ways until we train them out of it.

  72. Cheryl, agreed on every point, as I stated in parentheses. What I wanted to do was to say thank you to SorchaRei for recognising the ‘really a man’ meme and being uncomfortable with it, and that I wasn’t happy with everyone correcting her on her own perceptions.

    On how men and women behave, and what is ‘male’ and what is ‘female’, possibly that’s veering off-topic so I’m going to say no more.

  73. Being transsexual I would like to add something here. If you make a mistake, please don’t stress about it. A mistake is exactly that, an error. Something you did not mean to do. I do know people that get upset at mistakes, but I have never understood why.

    12 months ago when I transitioned, my colleagues started a ‘Shame Sheet’ on our whiteboard for when people got my name or the pronoun wrong. I insisted that I was put on the board too, to their shock. But I spent my life using the name my parents gave me. Of course I was also going to get it wrong too! (Twice btw, both times signing emails, and corrected before sending – but I still put my mark on he board!). Knowing that I got it wrong made it easier for the people in the office to stop stressing out when they occasionally got it wrong. It was not a big deal!

    If you do it deliberately then obviously that is something different! But then, if it was deliberate you wouldn’t stress about it would you?

  74. Edward: If someone were deciding not to date me just because I was white, or maybe of the wrong ethic lineage- I would think they were bigots. I would think they had a problem. I would probably accept them as friends etc, if they realized it as a flaw with in themselves,

    yeah, we’re not going to agree on this in any shape or form. If someone wasn’t attracted to me because of my hair color, my height, my body shape, my eye color, my facial feaures, the sound of my voice, or any other physical attribute, I wouldn’t see that as a flaw in them. There’s nothing special about any other attribute of a person, like their skin color, that suddenly turns them from a personal preference such as “preferring blondes” and transforming them into a bigot who is flawed.

    If you want to hold yourself to this measure, that’s fine. If you judge others by this measure, then I think you’re the one with the flaw.

    The goal of equality isn’t to get everyone to be bisexual, multiracial, transgendered, sexual-clone-omnivores. The goal of equality isn’t to get rid of all differences and make everyone the same. And if you think it is, you’re doing it wrong. You’re reminding me of a subset of the gay community who likes to forward the idea that everyone is at least a little bit gay. It’s an attempt to destroy differences in the name of equality. And while it has good intentions (equality) it is taking a rather silly approach (no one can be different, we’re all a little bit gay).

    I treat them as a straight transgendered female- which puts them into a separate category. Separate and not really equal.

    I’m not gay. And I don’t have to be gay to stand for equality for gays. If my being straight and my lack of attraction to men gets taken by you and turned into a “separate but equal” thing, then you’re definition of equality can only result in “everyone is exactly the same”. That’s not equality. There’s no way to implement that in reality. The way it shows up would be a straight person thinking gay people are actually straight but getting into a gay relationship for some other reason. It shows up when a gay person tells you everyone is gay. It shows up when SorchaRei’s asshole trans-woman acquaintance tells SorchaRei that every woman should look, behave, and groom themselves like the asshole trans-woman does.

    The only way to true equality is to allow for differences, to allow individuals have their own personal tastes and preferences, and to respect those differences equally. And that includes respecting and allowing for your own differences, preferences, and tastes.

  75. At the risk of being all pedagogical.. some info on the issue. The basics are really simple, but the more you delve into it, the more fuzzy and messy it gets.

    Before starting to quote various papers, abstracts etc, objectively verifiable stuff, some personal opinions and observations.

    Trans men were boys from birth – no matter what they looked like. Trans women were girls at birth, no matter what they looked like too. This model of reality is a really good one, use it and you won’t go far wrong.

    Many, in fact most, Trans people are messed up to some extent. Damaged. Not directly because they’re Trans, but because of the way they’re treated. Nearly every Trans person knows personally another Trans person who’s been lynched/tortured/raped/murdered for being Trans. Almost none have escaped being verbally abused, most have been physically assaulted at one time or another, about one in three with bottle, stone, baseball bat etc. The risk of being murdered objectively isn’t that great, only 17 times the national average, but the psychological effects are visible in far more. Even those who consider themselves mentally healthy can suffer from mild social anxiety disorder. I think the worst effect though is that they get too used to it, it’s just the way things are. They accept that in certain parts of the country, they’re forbidden from using public restrooms. That if they report a crime to the police, they have a one in three chance of being arrested themselves, with chance of acquittal being negligible. That if they get murdered, there’s only 1 chance in 3 the murder will be solved, and even less that the killer will be convicted. That they will routinely be denied medical treatment at ER’s and doctors offices, with 1 chance in 20 they’ll suffer physical assault there. They also accept it as normal that no matter how many FBI statistics, surveys etc there are corroborating these facts, that most don’t believe them, they’re so far out of the ordinary experience.

    At least people are aware that Transsexuals exist. The same can’t be said about those who are Intersex – born with bodies that don’t conform to either a male or female stereotype. Technically, that’s 1 in 60, but practically, 1 in 500 is a more useful figure, for those where it doesn’t take a lab test to detect it. If a woman has given birth to three children, does it really matter that she has the 46,XY chromosomes usually found in men? Or that 1 in 300 men aren’t 46,XY, if there’s no other sign of that other than their anomalous genes?

    A significant number (~ 10%) of apparent transsexuals were Intersex babies surgically altered to look like one or another sex when young. About 1 time in 3 the surgeons get it wrong, girls end up looking like boys, or more often, boys looking like girls as the surgery to construct female genitalia is easier.

    A vanishingly small proportion (<1%) of apparently Trans people are Intersex, with 5ARD, 17BHSD, 3BHSD or one of the other syndromes that can cause a "natural sex change". This can either cure existing Gender Dysphoria (Transsexuality), or induce it.

    This comment is long enough already, so I'll put the medical abstracts in a follow-up

  76. @ Vivamus

    Thanks for your post. I do want to treat people as the complex wonderful individuals that they are, to treat people as people. I would hate for a phobia to keep me from a loving relationship, that would in all other ways be good for me, and good for that other person. People talking from personal experience, as your post does, helps me get a little more past the fear of different by making it less so.

    @Gulliver

    I much prefer the gestalt experience. To have deal-breakers that keep me from those sort of experiences make me feel like a lesser person than I hope I am capable of. Especially when it
    doesn’t seem actually justified in my actual taste experiences.

    If this were food, and I find the reduction absurd, I find my stance more like green eggs and ham. If the gestalt came up, I hope I would try green eggs and ham. (And yes- treating people like people- is probably not to objectify them too much as food. Though it does leave me reflective of what sort of food am I?)

  77. First, a paper about the biological basis for *some* of what we call “gendered behaviour” Most of that has no biological basis at all, it’s purely socially constructed, some has a tenuous basis, but a small proportion is instinctive.

    “Prenatal hormones versus postnatal socialization by parents as determinants of male-typical toy play in girls with congenital adrenal hyperplasia” Pasterski VL, Geffner ME, Brain C, Hindmarsh P, Brook C, Hines M Child Dev 76(1):264-78 2005
    — Data show that increased male-typical toy play by girls with CAH cannot be explained by parental encouragement of male-typical toy play. Although parents encourage sex-appropriate behavior, their encouragement appears to be insufficient to override the interest of girls with CAH in cross-sexed toys.–

    CAH (Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia) in its most common forms leads to some masculinisation of a female foetus.. About 1 in 10 such people identify as male. The rare 3BHSD form can cause masculinisation of a female foetus or feminisation of a male one, and in atypical cases, this can manifest long after birth. While CAH is often associated with male-typical play patterns, it’s only rarely associated with lesbianism, and even more rarely associated with a cross-sexed gender identity, even if the genitalia is very masculinised.

    Now for two papers that really explain the whole thing.

    Sexual Hormones and the Brain: An Essential Alliance for Sexual Identity and Sexual Orientation Garcia-Falgueras A, Swaab DF Endocr Dev. 2010;17:22-35
    –The fetal brain develops during the intrauterine period in the male direction through a direct action of testosterone on the developing nerve cells, or in the female direction through the absence of this hormone surge. In this way, our gender identity (the conviction of belonging to the male or female gender) and sexual orientation are programmed or organized into our brain structures when we are still in the womb. However, since sexual differentiation of the genitals takes place in the first two months of pregnancy and sexual differentiation of the brain starts in the second half of pregnancy, these two processes can be influenced independently, which may result in extreme cases in trans-sexuality. This also means that in the event of ambiguous sex at birth, the degree of masculinization of the genitals may not reflect the degree of masculinization of the brain. There is no indication that social environment after birth has an effect on gender identity or sexual orientation.–

    Biased-Interaction Theory of Psychosexual Development: “How Does One Know if One is Male or Female?” M.Diamond Sex Roles (2006) 55:589–600
    — A theory of gender development is presented that incorporates early biological factors that organize predispositions in temperament and attitudes. With activation of these factors a person interacts in society and comes to identify as male or female. The predispositions establish preferences and aversions the growing child compares with those of others. All individuals compare themselves with others deciding who they are like (same) and with whom are they different. These experiences and interpretations can then be said to determine how one comes to identify as male or female, man or woman. In retrospect, one can say the person has a gendered brain since it is the brain that structures the individual’s basic personality; first with inherent tendencies then with interactions coming from experience. —

    The typical Transsexual girl is born with a mostly male body, and a brain which is feminised in certain specific areas – usually in others too. This feminisation results in female-stereotypical instincts, senses of smell and hearing, body language, thinking patterns and emotional response. As the girl socialises with other children, she first realises that she doesn’t think like “other boys”, and then somewhat later, realises that she *does* think (somewhat at least) like other girls.

    I’m really simplifying here. All these differences are statistical, and I doubt anyone on the planet has a 100% stereotypical male or stereotypical female brain. Moreover, the hormonal whoopsie during foetal development often causes atypical neurological development in some areas that conform to neither a male nor female stereotype. But as long as the lymbic nucleus is feminised, instincts and emotional response will be feminised. If the SPL is feminised (it isn’t always), the “body-map” will be for an “innie” not an “outie”, and genital reconstruction may be necessary to avoid severe psychological trauma.

    White matter microstructure in female to male transsexuals before cross-sex hormonal treatment. A diffusion tensor imaging study. – Rametti et al, J Psychiatr Res. 2010 Jun 8.
    — CONCLUSIONS: Our results show that the white matter microstructure pattern in untreated FtM transsexuals is closer to the pattern of subjects who share their gender identity (males) than those who share their biological sex (females). Our results provide evidence for an inherent difference in the brain structure of FtM transsexuals.–

    A sex difference in the human brain and its relation to transsexuality. by Zhou et al Nature (1995) 378:68–70.
    — Our study is the first to show a female brain structure in genetically male transsexuals and supports the hypothesis that gender identity develops as a result of an interaction between the developing brain and sex hormones —

    Male–to–female transsexuals have female neuron numbers in a limbic nucleus. Kruiver et al J Clin Endocrinol Metab (2000) 85:2034–2041
    — The present findings of somatostatin neuronal sex differences in the BSTc and its sex reversal in the transsexual brain clearly support the paradigm that in transsexuals sexual differentiation of the brain and genitals may go into opposite directions and point to a neurobiological basis of gender identity disorder.–

    Note though that neither sex nor gender is a strict binary. Both get fuzzy round the edges.

    Sexual differentiation of the human brain in relation to gender identity and sexual orientation D.Swaab & A.Garcia-Fulgaras Functional Neurology, Jan-Mar 2009:
    — One person we studied had untreated male gender dysphoria (S7), took no hormones and kept his transsexual feelings under wraps. He appeared to have a large INAH3 volume – in the male range – but a female INAH3 number of neurons (68) and a female BSTc somatostatin neuron number (95). Hence, this individual’s hypothalamic characteristics were mid-way between male and female values —

    Post-natal hormones also play a role. While the aplastic basic structures are set in the womb, development of the plastic ones require post-natal hormones to complete.

    Changing your sex changes your brain: influences of testosterone and estrogen on adult human brain structure by Pol et al, Europ Jnl Endocrinology, Vol 155, suppl_1, S107-S114 2006
    — Objective: Sex hormones are not only involved in the formation of reproductive organs, but also induce sexually-dimorphic brain development and organization. Cross-sex hormone administration to transsexuals provides a unique possibility to study the effects of sex steroids on brain morphology in young adulthood.
    Results: Compared with controls, anti-androgen + estrogen treatment decreased brain volumes of male-to-female subjects towards female proportions, while androgen treatment in female-to-male subjects increased total brain and hypothalamus volumes towards male proportions. —

    As I said, the more you delve into the details, the more complex it all becomes.

    But the simple idea of “boy brain in girl body” or the reverse is at least as accurate as the idea that there are boys and girls in the first place.

  78. i have a friend who is trans and while at the beginning I was startled I soon said ‘I don’t get it, and I’m not entirely sure I want to get it, but that’s my hangup and not your problem. I’m your friend, and I want you to be happy.’

    As we all went through her transition I made my fair share of pronoun issues, but I also helped her with her presentation appearance. She also happened to be red/green color blind, and not having been raised female she had no idea that the color name on a tube of lipstick has little to no relation to what is actually inside…

    But we all stumbled through somehow, and I stood as a Witness when thanks to a legal loophole .about 8 years ago she legally married the woman.she loved. (it had to do with the way various states handle gender as legal status on various forms of ID and what is considered
    proof of ID to marry).

    They moved away, and we’ve all drifted apart, but
    I like to think that I’m a slightly better person for having had the experience of having my preconceived notions rattled around a bit. I still have my biases and my blind spots, but when they get pointed out to me I do my best to deal with them in my own life and I certainly don’t expect the universe to arrange itself to meet my personal comfort zones.

  79. SorchaRei’s experiences with her associate reminds me of the ones I had with my first endocrinologist (I am today on my third endocrinological provider due to problems encountered.) To keep this short, it was apparent to me that she believed I needed to desire to be a conventionally attractive woman who always wore overtly feminine clothing, was interested only in men, and did not have other “unfeminine” activities. That I am lesbian, intended to remain in my relationship with another woman, then eschewed skirts and heels (I do wear them today, but as part of a menu of highly varied clothing choices,) and ride motorcycles was so far afoul of her criteria for how a woman was to be that she sought to prevent my transition. That obstruction included direct lies about the efficacy of HRT regimen designed to convince me that it could not be effective for me, and subsequently proven false. This endocrinologist is a cis woman who claims at least 15 years of experience treating trans women.

    Had I believed her claim, I would never had the most significant emotionally/mentally transformative experience of my life. Since I grew-up on a dairy farm in the northeastern United States, I came to have a view of it in terms of outdoors and weather. I describe my previous state as existing in an unrelentingly cold, foggy, and overcast landscape, infused with meloncholy but that I had no experience with any other state – that was all I had ever experienced. Then, when a certain combination of HRT components was prescribed (after I had fought for it for two years) I experienced a warm, sunny day for the first time. My therapist tells of a previous client who described it as emotionally going from the 8 crayon box to the 64 crayon box.

    Ultimately, that therapist proved that she failed the original point of this post – I had to lie to her about which endocrinologist I was seeing to be allowed access to my surgery letter. She’d have withheld on the grounds that I was not safely taking HRT because she felt that only one endocrinologist was capable.

    I was exceedingly fortunate to have had a strong woman role model in my life in the form of my mother. I have my career thanks to her.

    fadeaccompli: I think it was Julia Serano who once said, “trans men are presumed to transition for reason of privilege while trans women are presumed to transition for reason of perversion.” The statement follows from a lot of your own analysis.

  80. I agree with vivamus that most folks don’t actually know whether they’d be attracted to any given trans person until the subject comes up in a non-theoretical way. But let’s say you meet a trans person to whom you are not attracted. You want to not be a jerk to this person, but you feel how you feel. What do you do?

    You treat them like you’d want to be treated by someone who doesn’t find you attractive. Which is, hopefully, the same way you treat cis people to whom you’re not attracted.

    The situation only becomes Complicated if you’re an entitled jerk who thinks that people have a responsibility to be attractive to you. Nobody owes you that. As long as you get that, you’ll probably be fine.

  81. Gulliver

    I’m sorry, but aesthetic tastes and moral judgment are categorically not the same thing, and being accepting of someone is not the same as being attracted to someone.

    Perhaps not, but they inform one another rather heavily. Our tastes tend to align with what is morally accepted by the culture(s) of our upbringing. If our aesthetic preferences* are based in bigotry (and vice versa), then we can, and should, work to change them.

    For instance, my partner is not white [...], but that doesn’t have anything to do one way or the other with my tolerance of people of color.

    Maybe not in your case, but in the case of someone who is not attracted to black people as a category, something is going on in their head that prevents them from considering black people as individuals. That denial of individuality, that failure to see past some generalized set of features marked as “black,” is both a manifestation of racism and a form of objectification. It’s learned. (And it’s not safe to assume that that intolerance doesn’t bleed over into other contexts than sexual desire.) Being turned off by someone’s race is not the same as being turned off, on an individual level, by someone’s particular complexion or the size of their nose or the shape of their eyes.

    …….
    *Note that I’m not talking about sexual orientation or paraphilias here.

  82. Stace

    If you make a mistake, please don’t stress about it. A mistake is exactly that, an error. Something you did not mean to do. I do know people that get upset at mistakes, but I have never understood why.

    I’m a cis woman, but I don’t have a very feminine presentation, which sometimes confuses people. A few months ago I was at a restaurant and my waiter misgendered me. Even after getting a better look at me, he had to ask whether to call me sir or ma’am. I didn’t give a crap about his mistake.* However, he proceeded to apologize every time he came to my table and insisted on giving me a salad on the house. That obsessive focus magnified a mere error into a giant, hairy, drawn-out question about my authenticity as a woman. And even though he wasn’t malicious about it, his discomfort with my non-conformity to his expectation of an appropriate gender presentation became my problem. I can’t even imagine how much worse it is for the trans* folks who have to put up with that sort of well-meaning self-flagellation all the time. A mere tastes was exasperating enough.

    …….
    *I know this apathy is a luxury of cis privilege.

  83. AgentDani:

    I do believe that what you quote is entirely right, in the initial mistake people make when thinking about trans issues. It’s complicated somewhat for me by the fact that I have no particular attachment to my assigned gender beyond the three-decade-long contrary streak that makes me want to prove that having been assigned it doesn’t mean I can’t do certain things. But I try to remember–because my instincts are not always caught up with what I believe–that my perceptions != reality. My reasons for sometimes wishing to be a man have very little in common with a trans man’s reasons for wanting to be recognized as the man he is, except for some accidental overlap.

  84. As an honest-to-goodness real life transsexual, I know that there is a lot of misinformation, fear, and prejudice out there in society. For the most part, people tend to fear or ignore what they do not understand. And unless one has specific reason to educate one’s self about transsexualism, there is really very little meaningful education and knowledge out there in the mainstream.

    As for the term “tranny,” I actually like it. In fact, I at times refer to myself and my transsexual friends as trannies, but always in a loving and positive manner. I do, however, also enjoy and engage in self-depricating humor. Moreover, I have no problem with my close non-tranny friends having some fun at my expense as a transsexual, either.

    Coming to terms with MYSELF has been the most difficult experience of my life. I spent many, many years hating myself, denying myself, and believing that I was an abomination of society. There have been many times throughout the years I felt I would have been better off dead. I would not wish the intensity, pain, confusion, chaos, and agony of gender identity disorder on anyone.

    That said, I have made great strides in accepting and learning to love myself – the real, legitimate, and authentic person that I am. Because of this, I do not want my friends to treat me with kid gloves. I do not want others to feel as if they must walk on egg shells around me, because they do not need to do so.

    I am no different than any other person in this respect, because I AM a person. If you are my friend, you can call me a tranny. You can call me a bitch. You can say and do all of those things and more, because I tease and taunt back in my own sometimes tasteless and seemingly offense manner. But we can do these things together because we love, respect, appreciate, and admire each other. So to my friends out there, have at it. Call me a tranny. I love it!

    The flip side of the coin, though, can be quite irritating, frustrating, and offensive. For example, in having my prescriptions filled for estrogen and spiro (a testosterone blocker) a week ago at Walmart, the pharmacist asked me THREE times if he read my prescriptions right. To which I wanted to reply (but didn’t) – “Yes, motherfucker. You read them right!!! Now please stop talking about it and fill the shit!!!” And when I went to pay for my prescriptions, the pharmacist’s assistant who rang it all up at the cash register snidely, and with scowl firmly planted in place, made the comment “I didn’t realize these were for you.”

    Sigh.

  85. I’ve been following the is-it-bigotry-to-believe-I-wouldn’t-date-a-trans-person conversation with some interest, partly because I realized that I many have an analogy to contribute. There’s a scene in the novel Ivanhoe that confused the life out of me when I first read it (I was about fourteen, I think): basically, it’s when Ivanhoe first wakes up to see the beautiful “Jewess” (word from the text) Rebecca nursing him and–like any sensible heterosexual male–immediately is attracted to her. She, sensible woman that she is, immediately tells him her religion–and watches as the desire fades from his eyes, as she is automatically placed in the “not a potential partner” category. Now, Scott, in context, didn’t mean to call Ivanhoe an anti-semite (in fact, for Ivanhoe to continue to be sexually attracted to Rebecca might have been more vile, in Scott’s world-view, given that later in the novel that’s exactly the sort of threat Rebecca faces and Ivanhoe tries to protect her from), but that’s of course what he was. We (modern readers) recognize Ivanhoe’s response as a sign of personal anti-semitism, even if Scott and his character don’t/didn’t. I think maybe those people who are worried about their personal hidden transphobia might be afraid of finding that sort of reaction in themselves? And realizing that that very fear might mean that they still have personal work to do in accepting transpersons as fully male or fully female, as the persons self-define?

    Anyway, it might be a more useful analogy to use to discuss the issue. It also occurs to me that the dating minefield from the other side of the experience must be extremely difficult–even more difficult than I’d considered, before I started reading this thread. So thank you for that realization (among many), John and everyone who has posted.

  86. A. Noyd

    That sounds awful! How he couldn’t see that bringing it up again time after time was not they way to go…

    My parents were here this week for Christmas and on the last night my dad made a single mistake, and was absolutely gutted, really beating himself up about it. I said the same as I said here, including about the ‘Shame Sheet’ in the office and me making mistakes. That last bit is what got him to calm down – it’s something that he had not expected. But there was no need for it in the first place. They have been beyond supportive since I told them that they should not have to feel bad for if they make the odd mistake.

    As for the dating. Actually, I think that if you are not attracted to someone’s features then you are not attracted to their features. If though you are dating someone and when it gets serious you are told and then break it off, then yes it does say something about you. And, no,, dating a transsexual woman does not make you gay!

  87. Mary Frances: That’s a very interesting analogy. It is a long time since I read Ivanhoe, so I have little memory of it, but the question I’d ask is whether he’s genuinely repulsed by the thought of sex with a Jewess, or if he simply recognizes that she is someone he could never have a relationship with, just as he might have done had he seen a Christian woman wearing a wedding ring.

    As you surmise, dating can be a minefield for trans women. It is not impossible. I’ve been amazingly lucky. But we all have to face the fact that there are many men who will be sexually attracted to us because of our appearance, but simultaneously disgusted/shamed by that attraction thanks to their knowledge of our history. This is why trans women are murdered in ridiculously large numbers every year.

  88. cherylmmorgan@3:48: For what it’s worth, as I remember the Ivanhoe scene, it isn’t that the hero is instantly repulsed; it’s more than he immediately removes her into the “never have a relationship” category . . . but not in the same way that he might have, had he found out that Rebecca was a Christian married woman. That, I think, is what confused/bothered me about the scene even as a kid: he just–stopped admiring her. There was nothing predatory about his initial attraction/admiration, but then it just ceased to exist. As if a Christian man wouldn’t recognize a Jewish woman as attractive unless he were a sexual predator? At least, that’s the message I got as a kid, and–as I said–it made no sense to me at the time (well, still doesn’t, in any real way), but it did seem to help me understand the way some of the posters on this thread were trying to discuss the situation.

    Oh, dear God, I hadn’t gotten as far as considering murder rates among trans women! I was just thinking of it in terms of the kind of vicious slap in the face a rejection could be–but of course, it could/would escalate to violence, couldn’t it . . . and in a horrible way, it makes the Ivanhoe analogy even closer, because there is a Christian villain in that book who is immediately attracted to Rebecca but only as a suitable object for rape, because of her heritage. (Well, more or less: it’s complicated by Rebecca being one of the most human and admirable characters in the novel and Brian de Bois-Guilbert being “redeemed” by his love for her, though I don’t exactly recall how that worked; I checked a plot summary on Wikipedia before adding this comment, to refresh my memory, but it didn’t help all that much.)

  89. Mary: We (modern readers) recognize Ivanhoe’s response as a sign of personal anti-semitism

    I haven’t read Ivanhoe, so I can’t speak to whether that character was anti-semitic or not. It does not, however, seem unusual in the real world for people to marry within their religion. If a Catholic will only marry another Catholic, or a Jew will only marry another Jew, or a Muslim will only marry another Muslim, or for that matter an Atheist will only marry another Atheist, I’m not sure if that’s bigotry.

    As it happens, I married someone who has a somewhat similar religious/spiritual background to my own experience. I don’t think that makes me a bigot. I can say that there was zero chance that the person I married was going to be a man. I don’t think that makes me a bigot.

    I think the point is to allow for differences equally, not try and make everyone the same. I was at a gay wedding this summer and cried when I heard the vows they had written for each other. The point is that love is the great equalizer, and that comes in many different flavors. The point is NOT that everyone must have the same flavor or same taste in who they love.

  90. [Deleted for trolling stupidity so immediately apparent that I didn't have to get more than three words in before I expunged it -- JS]

  91. Greg, look, it’s been a while since I read the book but this (short and largely internal) scene obviously made a deep impression on kid-me. The point isn’t that Ivanhoe was rejecting Rebecca as a potential marriage-partner–he was already in love with and secretly betrothed to Rowena at the time, so presumably he would have rejected every female as a potential wife. The point is that Scott specifically says that Ivanhoe just instantly stopped seeing Rebecca as a beautiful woman, or even as a woman at all, really. It was as if she’d suddenly become a dependent child–someone he could respect and protect, as a Chivalrous Knight, but not a woman, per se. (And Rebecca knew that that would be his response, the minute she told him her religion, because he was a Hero; Scott is also quite specific about that.) Would it help clarify how peculiar this seemed if I tell you that Rebecca was played by a young Elizabeth Taylor in the movie, and that it was pretty close to type-casting, based on Scott’s descriptions of Rebecca? It was a bit more than just “choosing to marry within one’s religion,” I think.

    And that’s what struck kid-me as weird, and kind of why I thought the analogy might be helpful in this discussion.

  92. @ Zoe Ellen Brain

    That they will routinely be denied medical treatment at ER’s and doctors offices, with 1 chance in 20 they’ll suffer physical assault there.

    Wow! I thought there was more accountability of medical practitioners than that. You hear about how they walk on eggshells to avoid getting sued. You wouldn’t expect them to go attacking patients. The rest, sadly, comes as no real surprise.

    Technically, that’s 1 in 60, but practically, 1 in 500 is a more useful figure, for those where it doesn’t take a lab test to detect it.

    I knew intersexuality existed. I had no idea it was that common.

    If I may ask, what led you to discover those data? I ask because I freely admit that even though I interact daily with a variety of intelligent, cosmopolitan types from business to art to academia, I never hear much about the plight of transfolk. That’s not to say it’s up to the world to deliver the info on a silver platter, just that I regularly hear about the plights of other marginalized groups, and I wonder why transfolk are so much less represented. Are people so much less accepting of transfolk than, say, lesbian, gay and bisexual people? It seems like anyone enlightened enough to accept the latter three into their lives would be just as tolerant of transfolk. I say this from a place of acknowledged ignorance. Like John, I have a lot to learn. Unlike John, I didn’t realize how much until I read this thread, so thanks to John for providing a forum unlike quite any other I know of on the interwebs. I admit that, as much as I admired the Lowest Difficulty Setting thread, I was the choir echoing the preacher. With this thread, I feel like I’m more part of the target audience.

    I hope you don’t mind, but I searched out your blog because I’m interested in learning more.

    @ AgentDani

    Ultimately, that therapist proved that she failed the original point of this post – I had to lie to her about which endocrinologist I was seeing to be allowed access to my surgery letter. She’d have withheld on the grounds that I was not safely taking HRT because she felt that only one endocrinologist was capable.

    Both your endocrinologist and your therapist lied to you? Geez…I’m realizing how much my privilege has allowed me to see doctors as mostly trustworthy by default (and, really, only my natural skepticism and scientific training cause me to seek second opinions and compare their work at all).

    @ A. Noyd`

    Our tastes tend to align with what is morally accepted by the culture(s) of our upbringing.

    Unexamined, yes. I regard this as something to overcome, not accommodate. Morality by taste is irrational, IMO.

    If our aesthetic preferences* are based in bigotry (and vice versa), then we can, and should, work to change them.

    We should, IMO, work to change the bigotry. If the aesthetic preferences are indeed informed by them, they will follow. The other way around is (again, only in my opinion and I make no claim to be anyone else’s moral arbiter) putting the cart before the horse.

    Maybe not in your case, but in the case of someone who is not attracted to black people as a category, something is going on in their head that prevents them from considering black people as individuals.

    That is one possible reason. It is not necessarily the reason.

    Being turned off by someone’s race is not the same as being turned off, on an individual level, by someone’s particular complexion or the size of their nose or the shape of their eyes.

    People vary. The fact that racism might cause someone to be unattracted to someone else on account of their race† does not mean that being unttarcted to a feature society uses to construct race is automatically the result of racism. Let me illustrate with a thought experiment. Say historical accident had resulted in everyone in a particular region having blond hair, and everyone in a different region having brunette hair, and the brunette haired race’s culture conquered and enslaved the blond hair race’s peoples. In that situation, would you consider it racist for someone to be unattracted to blonds? If so, how did the alternate history remove the actual aesthetic preference we know if our world and substitute race as the only extant motive?

    I can’t even imagine how much worse it is for the trans* folks who have to put up with that sort of well-meaning self-flagellation all the time. A mere tastes was exasperating enough.

    Not to compare my experience with yours – I wouldn’t because my privilege obviates the utility of a direct comparison – but I’ve lost count of how many times people have described me as masculine, manly, big strong man…followed by me asking if that’s really how I present (I don’t thing my behavior does, even if my appearance kind of does), because it’s certainly not part of my self-image, followed by them tripping over themselves to apologize for their assumptions. I know they mean well, but it’s so awkward that I sometimes wind up wondering if it’s worth correcting their assumptions about me. It is eminently sigh worthy.

    @ Anne Kelly

    And when I went to pay for my prescriptions, the pharmacist’s assistant who rang it all up at the cash register snidely, and with scowl firmly planted in place, made the comment “I didn’t realize these were for you.”

    Yikes, what the hell is wrong with people? Yes, I understand what leads to bigotry, but I’m ever amazed how shamelessly cowards people will actively degrade someone simply because they can get away with it without fear of reprisal.

    @ Mary Frances

    She, sensible woman that she is, immediately tells him her religion–and watches as the desire fades from his eyes, as she is automatically placed in the “not a potential partner” category.

    I think your explanation, that it was anti-Semitism either on the part of the author or‡ on intentionally instilled in the protagonist’s fictional subconscious, is probably correct. But there is a parallel in my own life. I learned as a young adult that a long-term committed partnership with someone who is deeply religious was doomed to failure, because the values were too incompatible. That hasn’t stopped me from being attracted to women upon discovering their religion, but it has caused me not to pursue possible dates (and my partner is agnostic and from a very traditionally Catholic family). Of course there is a difference between Judaism and being an ethnic Jew and, having not read Ivanhoe, I wonder whether Rebecca was informing Scott that she was an ethnic or an observant Jew.

    † and I don’t buy the corollary that a racist can’t be attracted to someone of the race toward which they’re racist.

    ‡ because I don’t like to make assumptions about authorial intent unless I actually know the author personally, since remote psychoanalysis is usually really an analysis of the author’s culture rather than the author as a person.

  93. @ John Scalzi

    Mea culpa. I hit post instead of preview before IA) spell-checked or B) refreshed the thread and saw your friendly warning. One button difference between coming off as ungrammatically dense or a well-spoken house guest :-/

  94. Ivanhoe was written in 1820 and set in (iirc) 1180. Rebecca was Jewish by both culture/heritage/ethnicity and by religion. Ivanhoe was a hero for removing her from the category of “attractive women” because she was non-marriageable; Brian de Bois-Guilbert was a villain for putting her in the category of “rapeable without consequences” because she was non-marriageable.

    Back to the actual topic, I agree with Scalzi that every individual person is the absolute final authority on what their gender is, and any personal behavior or corporate policy or facility design decision or law that doesn’t recognize that is foolish and cruel.

  95. AgentDani (and fadeaccompli) –

    While that Serano(?) quote isn’t necessarily inaccurate, in my limited experience it is (or at least was) applicable primarily to heterosexuals. One of my closest friends began transitioning FtM in the early ’90s, and at least at that time the gay/lesbian attitude was often entirely the reverse. The gay male response at the time tended toward “Ewwwwwwww!”. The lesbian response tended toward “How dare you!” , with (at least among the more ideological) an implicit or explicit assumption that FtMTs were, to revisit Scalzi’s metaphor, trying to game the computer and reset their default.

    And frankly, the medical/psychological community reflected a lot of this; there were far fewer resources at that time for transmen vs. transwomen, less well-defined standards of care, and less well-thought-out procedures. (An FtMT friend of that friend, one of the most frighteningly smart people I’ve known, had a hand in designing his own genitalia when the current state of the art looked inadequate, and I think his designs are still in use.)

    I suspect that much of this has changed and improved in the two decades since. (I haven’t kept up too much, since past a certain point in the best outcome one’s T friends are no longer identifying as T, just as the sex/gender they should have had in the first place.) I sincerely hope so.

    (And yes, that friend is getting a link to this discussion.)

  96. Another thought occurred to me as I think about this topic which I freely admit I haven’t given much consideration before now.

    Imagine you met a human in Bank’s Culture universe. For those unfamiliar with it, those humans are born with the innate ability to slowly transition between biological sexes basically just by meditating real hard. Once changed, they not only have all the hormones of the opposite sex, but they can sire or bear children accordingly (even by parthenogenesis, IIRC). Knowing Banks, he probably intended it to be a total transformation, hormones, chromosomes, neurological patterns, whatever differentiates one sex form the other.

    My question is, if you met someone who said they were one sex in the past, but are now the opposite sex, and there was no scientific test you could do…no genetic assay, no blood work, no double-blind psychological screening…that would tell you the person had ever been a different sex, would you consider them transsexual? What, for you, determines which sex you perceive someone as being, and does it make a difference how the person got there?

    I’m not just asking this to be musing. For me, the answers reveal that my sexual orientation is not contiguous with my willingness to otherwise orient towards people, i.e. I accept people as whatever they choose to be (regardless of whether or not they alter their biomosphism), but my intimacy boundaries are in part defined by biology, not only prospective partners’ neurological self-identity. I still don’t regard this as immoral because my sexual orientation, like a transperson’s sexual identity, is also neurological, not a choice (I’m not even certain its aesthetic). I can choose to treat a transsexual woman as a woman, but I cannot choose to be physically attracted toward someone I’m not. However, I also recognize that this is a perception of physicality, not origination. Were I to meet a Culture woman who had been a man, I could imagine the possibility of physical attraction.

    Added to all that is the fact that I don’t know categorically that I couldn’t be attracted to a woman who had been a man but was unable or uninterested in totally biologically changing. As I said before, physical attraction for me is not predicated on any specific criteria. But I concede that it is difficult to imagine. Possibly this is simply due to my limited experience with transfolk.

  97. @Gulliver

    Re: Medical treatment – there’s a lot of political activity on this subject, the issue of introducing “conscience clauses” that excuse pharmacists, doctors, nurses etc from having to treat “those people” if it offends their religious convictions. I know of no other minority group where bills have been introduced, and passed, at state and federal level, that require hospitals and clinics to allow their staff to refuse to treat members of that group without repercussion, as a matter of “human rights”.

    I live in a city of 300,000 people. I have to travel interstate, a round-trip of 400 miles, for each 15 minute endocrinologist appointment, because of this, I have to carry a card informing ambulance drivers that they shouldn’t take me to the nearest hospital to where I live in case of emergency, because that one’s run by the Catholic church and I’ve been refused treatment there before. It depends who’s on duty.

    It’s something you get used to. No great drama, as there *are* alternatives,it’s merely an inconvenience, not a death sentence as it would be if no alternative existed.

    Are people so much less accepting of transfolk than, say, lesbian, gay and bisexual people?

    Yes.

    Just look at New York State. The SONDA – sexual orientation non-discrimination act – was passed in 2002, after the clauses protecting trans people were removed. Same-sex marriage was recently legalised too. Trans people still have no protection, despite bills being introduced nearly every year, including the year same-sex marriage was passed. A significant proportion of LGB people are against equal rights for Trans people, and a group of NY Lesbian lawyers even wrote a submission to the UN arguing that existing human rights legislation covering them should be repealed.

    On Monday, October 15th, the East Aurora School Board voted unanimously to approve a great policy that protected the district’s transgender students’ right to privacy, respect, and equal opportunity.

    The policy (which would have asked school administrators to deal with these issues on a case-by-case basis) would have required teachers and school personnel to address a student by the name and pronoun that corresponds to the student’s gender identity, would have given students access to the restroom and locker rooms that corresponds to their gender identity, allowed students to dress appropriately, and would have ensured that transgender students had the same opportunities in physical education and sports as cisgender students.
    The policy had been in the works for months and was sparked by a parent seeking more protection for their transgender child.

    On Wednesday, October 17th, the Illinois Family Institute (IFI), an organization designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, generated hundreds of emails to the school district demanding they overturn the policy. The vast majority of these emails came from outside of the school district.

    As a result of the pressure, the Board voted on October 19th, just four days after enacting the policy and in the face of hundreds of supporters, to rescind it. A committee was established to analyze the situation and make recommendations for a new policy, but after even more hateful demonstrations from the IFI, the committee was disbanded this week.

    Police had to be present at the meeting, as some of the participants were Trans, and required protection from the mob. Still, at least the school board didn’t fire the person who recommended this policy – though they took a vote on that, and it was a close-run thing.

    Some stats concerning Gay men, Lesbian women, Trans men and Trans women – rates of assault

    Received verbal abuse:
    76 per cent of males
    69 per cent of females
    92 per cent transgender male to female
    55 per cent transgender female to male

    Physical assault without a weapon:
    32 per cent of male
    15 per cent of females
    46 per cent transgender male to female
    45 per cent transgender female to male

    Physical attack with a weapon, knife, bottle or stone:
    12 per cent of males
    6 per cent of females
    38 per cent transgender male to female
    9 per cent transgender female to male
    12 per cent other

    Source – AAP/Speaking Out: Stopping Homophobic and Transphobic Abuse in Queensland.

    The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) today released a comprehensive new report, “Injustice at Every Turn,” revealing the depth of discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming people in a wide range of areas, including education, health care, employment, and housing. The study, based on the results from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS), was based on responses from over 6,450 participants. The NTDS is the first large-scale national study of discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming Americans, and paints a more complete picture than any prior research to date.

    Among the key findings from “Injustice at Every Turn”:

    Respondents were nearly four times more likely to live in extreme poverty, with household income of less than $10,000.
    Respondents were twice as likely to be unemployed compared to the population as a whole. Half of those surveyed reported experiencing harassment or other mistreatment in the workplace, and one in four were fired because of their gender identity or expression.
    While discrimination was pervasive for the entire sample, it was particularly pronounced for people of color. African-American transgender respondents fared far worse than all others in many areas studied.
    Housing discrimination was also common. 19% reported being refused a home or apartment and 11% reported being evicted because of their gender identity or expression. One in five respondents experienced homelessness because of their gender identity or expression.
    An astonishing 41% of respondents reported attempting suicide, compared to only 1.6% of the general population.
    Discrimination in health care and poor health outcomes were frequently experienced by respondents. 19% reported being refused care due to bias against transgender or gender-nonconforming people, with this figure even higher for respondents of color. Respondents also had over four times the national average of HIV infection.
    Harassment by law enforcement was reported by 22% of respondents and nearly half were uncomfortable seeking police assistance.
    Despite the hardships they often face, transgender and gender non-conforming persons persevere. Over 78% reported feeling more comfortable at work and their performance improving after transitioning, despite the same levels of harassment in the workplace.

    It’s a convenience sample, and excludes trans people too poor or otherwise disadvantaged to have Internet access. The number of African-American respondents is only 1/3 of expectation if all other things were equal, so obviously they’re not.

    It therefore is likely to understate any problems.

  98. About tolerance.
    So many years ago I tolerated the dog poop smell of the woman who
    sat down beside me on the bus.
    About the same time.
    I did not care that the guys next door were a couple, but I did notice
    that that they had put down wall to wall carpet.
    Poor cold footed I was a bit jealous.

    And then some assholes woke me up with their giggling and I found
    a trash can full of water leaned against that couples door.
    I unleaned it, and did not ask those neighbors about if maybe they
    perhaps had a way to make the gigglers shut up forever that I could
    maybe borrow because sleep is good.
    But I did knock them up, and told them them that I’d unleaned the trash
    can of water, and told them to be careful opening their door, And?
    They seemed to think that I was evil, which, yeah, I woke them up.
    So, Yes, Evil, me? Me are!
    Uhm, where was I.
    Right.
    Turned out that football players aren’t allowed alcohol.
    SDT

  99. @Gulliver

    If I may ask, what led you to discover those data?

    You may ask. :)

    Before May 2005, I didn’t know any of this.

    In 1985, I’d been diagnosed with “undervirilised male syndrome” at a fertility clinic. Basically, I didn’t go through a complete male puberty, thought at the time to be due to some androgen insensitivity. There were many anomalies, but I looked male, mostly. With my clothes on, anyway.

    Had they given me a psychological exam in addition to an external physical one, they would have diagnosed me as a Transsexual woman – I’d picked the name “Zoe” at age 10, when it was obvious to me that I’d been mis-categorised. Later, in view of my physiology I decided the only way I was going to live an acceptable life was to pretend to be male. When she looks like a linebacker, not a cheerleader, what’s a girl to do?

    In 2005, I went through a partial, accelerated female puberty. It nearly killed me, I lost 1/3 my body mass in 3 months. A course of hormone treatments stabilised the situation, and I was re-diagnosed with “severe androgenisation of a non-pregnant woman”. By that time, I looked about as female as I’d looked male before.

    I definitely have CAH – congenital adrenal hyperplasia – the ultrasounds show that clearly. The only diagnosis that fits is the 3BHSD form – 3-beta-hydroxysteroid-dehydrogenase deficiency. This can, in rare cases, cause a “natural sex change” after birth rather than just in the womb.

    There aren’t as many advantages to such a natural rather than therapeutically-induced change as you might think. In a normal Transsexual transition, via HRT (Hormone replacement therapy) and surgery if needed, things take a while, but are planned, and there are legal structures in place for recognising the target sex – at least, if sex-reassignment surgery has been performed, and in most jurisdictions.

    When the change is natural, first there are significant long-term health issues. The change happens with no psychological preparation. It’s very much being “thrown in at the deep end”, with no experience of cross-dressing beforehand. The situation is so rare, few medics know about it, and the patient better be darned good at doing their own research, referring their treatment team to various scientific and medical journals on the issue.

    Then there’s the matter of sexual orientation – acquiring one. I was as asexual as any pre-pubescent girl before the change. Suddenly finding boys looking really cute, with feelings inside I wasn’t prepared for, is the only aspect of transition I think I could have used some psychological therapy for. How everyone else goes through puberty in their teens is beyond me, I found it really difficult in my late 40’s!

    I did get some genital reconstruction (things were a mess down there) to a standard female configuration. Not that I expected to be sexually active, but because it felt right. Finally the peripherals matched the device drivers, I could go with my instincts instead of fighting them.

    In short, what led me to discover this data? Medical necessity at first. Then scientific curiousity. Then empathy, for all those who’ve had it far harder than myself.

  100. @ Zoe Ellen Brain

    Thank you. I’m becoming aware that there is a whole other segment of society that I had been unaware of as a distinct group. I always assumed that when I was voting for LGB rights, I was voting for T rights too, and that whenever I talked with someone about gay and lesbian rights, bi and trans were understood as being part and parcel of the same fight for universal human rights. I’m now considerably less certain that wasn’t often times me projecting my rational expectations onto other people.

    In addition to learning more about the people I’ve overlooked, I’ll bear them in mind when discussing laws, liberties and rights, prospective and extent, with other people. Perhaps I will learn things about some of my liberal friends that I won’t like knowing, but that will let me know who I need to talk with about trans rights. I think because I’m such an ardent civil libertarian and a very left-leaning one, I often just assume that my liberal friends, who are for the most part at least willing to challenge their preconceptions, are all for equal rights and liberty for everyone, but perhaps that’s because that is what I want to believe they stand for. But they’re good people if I’m any judge of character, and I owe it to them to encourage them to think about these things. I’m of the belief that good and rational people will come around to arguments of merit.

    More than ever before, I admire John, who has a much bigger privileged megaphone than I, for blowharding for truth, justice and the humanitarian way :)

  101. Gulliver

    Morality by taste is irrational, IMO.

    I’m more talking about taste by morality, and I’m not saying either is rational. I’m saying that you can’t treat aesthetic tastes and moral judgments as if they do not have huge effects on one another.

    We should, IMO, work to change the bigotry. If the aesthetic preferences are indeed informed by them, they will follow. The other way around is…putting the cart before the horse.

    You’re begging the question that they’re separable. Re-training our aesthetic preferences is part of changing bigotry. To write off all black people or all transfolk or whomever as un- or less attractive requires that we look at them first as black or trans and only second (if at all) as individuals. There are, after all, no features inherent to being black or being trans that are not shared by other people whom we would find acceptable.

    That is one possible reason. It is not necessarily the reason.

    It would take one hell of a coincidence for there to be any other explanation given how arbitrarily races and genders are defined by cultures.

    In that situation, would you consider it racist for someone to be unattracted to blonds?

    Your thought experiment is too simplistic to be meaningful, and I don’t like how it equates hair color with race. In fact, I don’t like how you’re conflating race with single characteristics, in general. Race (like gender) is a set of generalizations about a number of characteristics with an expectation of a certain level of variation. And racism is defined (in sociological and social justice circles) by systemic oppression; that is, one race having socially-reinforced privilege and control over another. Prejudice and discrimination may play a part in racism but they’re not the same thing. By definition, people of oppressed races can’t be racist towards their oppressors. And there are similar reasons why cisphobia and misandry and heterophobia aren’t equivalent to transphobia and misogyny and homophobia.

    I will say that being oppressed is a legitimate reason to feel enough disgust towards one’s oppressors to overwhelm any aesthetic considerations. (But that’s more analogous to not wanting to snuggle up with someone who’s wearing a jacket studded with poison-tipped, flesh-rending spikes.) In reality, however, what often ends up happening is that the oppressed internalize the denigration of their features and identity by the oppressors and judge themselves less attractive. (And that last fact is why I’m not surprised in the least by SorchaRei’s coworker aggressively policing other women’s gender presentation.)

  102. @ A. Noyd

    I’m saying that you can’t treat aesthetic tastes and moral judgments as if they do not have huge effects on one another.

    Sound moral judgments are reasoned by extrapolating from values. As long as you understand why you choose those values, aesthetics need not apply.

    Re-training our aesthetic preferences is part of changing bigotry.

    I disagree, but I suspect pursuing that thread would take us further afield of the thread’s topic than John would like, so I’ll recommend we agree to disagree on that for now.

    Your thought experiment is too simplistic to be meaningful, and I don’t like how it equates hair color with race.

    I agree that it is, like all thought experiments, simplistic compared to reality. Nevertheless, I disagree that my underlying point – which is that racism does not depend on the arbitrary attributes around which it is delineated, and therefore aesthetic preferences towards those traits, individually, is not itself bigotry – was meaningless.

    Race (like gender) is a set of generalizations about a number of characteristics with an expectation of a certain level of variation.

    I totally concur. Which is why being physically unattracted to a particular hair color or skin color or eye color or any other specific trait is not itself racist. Fixating in a single characteristic is fetishistic, but not racist. Whether or not fetishism is always or only sometimes unhealthy I cannot say as that’s not the way my brain operates. Now if someone were unattracted to things which society corrals into the definition of a particular race, that would be a different story, that would indeed be racist. But there is a critical difference between being attracted or unattracted to a particular trait and being attracted or unattracted to a particular race. Which is why, although I admit to finding it difficult to imagine being physically attracted to someone who was not chromosomally female, I don’t know that it’s impossible.

  103. A.Noyd wrote:

    And racism is defined (in sociological and social justice circles) by systemic oppression; that is, one race having socially-reinforced privilege and control over another. Prejudice and discrimination may play a part in racism but they’re not the same thing. By definition, people of oppressed races can’t be racist towards their oppressors.

    That’s not a definition that I accept, as it’s useless in practice.
    It requires a calculus of oppression, so an objective act of race hatred will either be racist or non-racist depending entirely on context. Thus a KKK race hatred document would be racist in the USA, but not racist in Brazil. Hence the definition is not useful.

    Race (like gender) is a set of generalizations about a number of characteristics with an expectation of a certain level of variation.

    +1 Insightful on this one though.

    The Story of Sandra Laing – from an Ethics presentation by Loren Cannon of Humboldt University
    http://users.humboldt.edu/mibockover/forum/Ethics.Forum.Cannon.ppt

    * Born in Apartheid South Africa of White Parents.
    * Was designated white at birth, but was reclassified as “coloured” just after being expelled from her all white elementary school

    Which led to some interesting legal problems…

    * “…If Sandra remains ‘Coloured’ does it mean she will have to be registered as a servant in order to live with us?” [Mr. Laing] added. “Or must she move away into a location? Will we be breaking the law if we take Sandra into a tearoom or a cinema, or take her on a train journey with us? And who would Sandra be allowed to marry?”

    As well as some real Junk Science trying to coerce reality into fitting a socially constructed model:

    These tests included measurements of the nose, nostrils, and cheekbones, and an expert analysis of hair texture. The latter often included the ‘pencil test.’ It was thought that a white person’s hair is not so curly to hold a pencil, whereas a coloured person’s hair could. There were gradations of skin color to be measured in various places of the body including the fingernails and the eyelids; earlobes were squeezed to determine their degree of softness. (It was thought that Black person’s earlobes were softer than others.) Individuals challenging their racial classification before the board would also be asked what they had for breakfast (it was thought only blacks would eat mealie or cornmeal porridge), how they slept on a bed, and what sport they enjoyed (blacks were thought to favor soccer while coloured favored rugby).

    Of course such a ridiculous, not to say inhuman, situation could never happen again. Or could it? How about these tests, described in Brain, Child :

    The tests–many still used today–strike Burke as Orwellian. In one, a child being tested is asked to draw the figure of a person. Girls who draw boys first, predominately, or in positions of power and strength, are suspect, as are boys who draw princesses or mommies. The Barlow Gender-Specific Motor Behavior test examines such things as how far from the back of a chair a seated child’s buttocks are–farther is “masculine,” closer is “feminine.” All the precision of science was applied in developing these tests to measure such things as the angle between the wrist and the hand, how often a child touched his or her hands together in front of his or her body, and how far the hips swayed as the child walked across the room. Especially damning for boys was a lack of hand-eye coordination.

    And these legal grotesqueries:

    “Taking this situation to its logical conclusion, Mrs. Littleton, while in San Antonio, Texas, is a male and has a void marriage; as she travels to Houston, Texas, and enters federal property, she is female and a widow; upon traveling to Kentucky she is female and a widow; but, upon entering Ohio, she is once again male and prohibited from marriage; entering Connecticut, she is again female and may marry; if her travel takes her north to Vermont, she is male and may marry a female; if instead she travels south to New Jersey, she may marry a male.”

    Any resemblance between the two situations is strictly coincidental of course.

  104. ‘Tranny’ was noted as a shortening of transistor, above; at least in the UK it is/was (back when they were common) a standard slang term for a radio, as in ‘transistor radio.’

  105. @ Gulliver wrote:

    Which is why, although I admit to finding it difficult to imagine being physically attracted to someone who was not chromosomally female, I don’t know that it’s impossible.

    Things might be a little more complex there than you imagine…

    From the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism January 1, 2008 vol. 93 no. 1 182-189

    A 46,XY mother who developed as a normal woman underwent spontaneous puberty, reached menarche, menstruated regularly, experienced two unassisted pregnancies, and gave birth to a 46,XY daughter with complete gonadal dysgenesis.

    Reported in the journal because while 46,XY mothers are rare enough, they mostly give birth to 46,XX daughters. Both mother and daughter being 46,XY is truly unusual.

    1 in 300 men don’t have the 46,XY chromosomes most men do. Most are unaware of it. Have you had a Karyotype?

    Then there are those women who become “chromosomally male” due to bone-marrow transplants.

    Bone marrow-derived cells from male donors can compose endometrial glands in female transplant recipients by Ikoma et al in Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2009 Dec;201(6):608.e1-8

    Transplanted human bone marrow cells generate new brain cells by Crain BJ, Tran SD, Mezey E. in J Neurol Sci. 2005 Jun 15;233(1-2):121-3 :

    These show that a bone-marrow transplant recipient’s entire bodies gradually become genetically identical to that of the donor due to cell turnover, and replacement of senescent cells with stem cells from the bone marrow. Even in in the brain. Even in the reproductive glands, so a woman’s ovaries may become 46,XY..

    Of course the important thing is to treat people as people, with kindness and respect. With forgiveness too.. This includes onesself – forgive yourself of minor screw-ups, no need to tread on eggshells, and don’t expect others to either. Also realise that while we control our actions, we don’t control our attractions. Some men find me attractive, I look female enough after all. Others are more aware of the minor anomalies, and I fall into the “uncanny valley” for them.

    And that’s OK, it doesn’t make them bigots, or bad people.

  106. @ Zoe Ellen Brain

    Things might be a little more complex there than you imagine…

    Entirely likely. I’m a computational physicist by training, but I know just enough biology to make an ass of myself. Still, genetics fascinates me, and in this case it’s also philosophically informative*. It sounds like you learned the biology the same way I learned business, careering head-first into the deep-end.

    * Just so I don’t give the impression that I mean to trivialize this discussion, I take philosophy deadly seriously, especially deontology.

    1 in 300 men don’t have the 46,XY chromosomes most men do. Most are unaware of it. Have you had a Karyotype?

    Nope. But it sounds like it’s entirely possible I’m not 100% chromosomally male. Aside from my natural curiosity, that doesn’t really mean much to me since maleness qua maleness is not particularly pertinent to my self-identity, though I accept that aspects of my neurological patterning may be shaped by my karyotype.

    Of course the important thing is to treat people as people, with kindness and respect. With forgiveness too.. This includes onesself – forgive yourself of minor screw-ups, no need to tread on eggshells, and don’t expect others to either.

    Couldn’t agree more. Which is good, because I screw-up regularly :-/

    Also realise that while we control our actions, we don’t control our attractions.

    I think we (or I, at least, since I can’t speak for anyone else’s personal experience) have some ability to shape our attractions, but not much. A woman I once dated asked me what famous people I was attracted to. I replied truthfully that I wasn’t really attracted to people I don’t know because personality is such major factor in attraction and, the more famous someone, the less I’m likely to know about the person behind the fame. I think she was trying to figure out my “type”, but I really don’t have a type. Each person is a totally new discovery. And since I haven’t had much experience with transpeople, and I have only a superficial awareness of the biology of sexuality, I really can only guess based on my imagination, which in this case is woefully underinformed. After all, I’d be hard pressed to name a characteristic of my partner, either her personality or her physicality, with which I was not generally familiar with before I met her, yet I could not have imagined her, so trying to imagine whether I could theoretically be physically attracted to a transsexual woman, when I’m basically ignorant of what transsexualism really is, would be a complete shot in the dark.

  107. @Zoe Ellen Brain

    I’m really enjoying the information you’re sharing, but I would like to push back on one part. Pre pubescent girls are not asexual. I certainly wasn’t and the experiences of my friends would agree with me. From the age of seven or so I had a constant series of crushes on various boys and intense sexual fantasies. In my fantasies I was adult, or adultish as were my partners, and the details were based in the ignorance of a child, but they were as sexual as anything I think now.

  108. Gulliver

    As long as you understand why you choose those values, aesthetics need not apply.

    Ideally, perahps. But what we believe to be the reasons for our choices is not the same as the actual reasons for our choices. We humans are very fond of supplying our justifications after the fact. How many of our values do we consciously choose and how many implant themselves without our deliberation over them?

    The values we unconsciously pick up from our culture are already laden with certain aesthetics, and what aesthetics we unconsciously pick up are pre-shaped by certain values. Culture is both useful and annoying that way. And it’s damn hard work reprogramming ourselves when we do want to change because our attachment to our values does not easily answer to reason. (Otherwise, Stace’s colleagues would have no need for a “Shame Sheet.”)

    I agree that it is, like all thought experiments, simplistic compared to reality. Nevertheless, I disagree that my underlying point – which is that racism does not depend on the arbitrary attributes around which it is delineated, and therefore aesthetic preferences towards those traits, individually, is not itself bigotry – was meaningless.

    Except that an individual (ie. single) trait does not work to stand in for race because race, even at its simplest, is multivariate. Using two variations on a single trait to do a thought experiment about racism fails to account for how ambiguous and arbitrary racial categories are. How, for instance, a white person and a black person could have the exact same skin tone and the black person would still suffer from anti-black racism.

    Anyway, I was never talking about preference for single traits being racist. My original point was that “in the case of someone who is not attracted to black people as a category, something is going on in their head that prevents them from considering black people as individuals.” (Note the italics.)

    However, I would point out that racism does affect the value we place on single traits, like skin color. That’s why there’s such a thing as shadism (aka colorism).

    Fixating in a single characteristic is fetishistic, but not racist.

    These aren’t mutually exclusive.

    But there is a critical difference between being attracted or unattracted to a particular trait and being attracted or unattracted to a particular race. Which is why, although I admit to finding it difficult to imagine being physically attracted to someone who was not chromosomally female, I don’t know that it’s impossible.

    How would you even know the difference before you felt attraction? It’s not like we humans come with our karyotypes tattooed to our foreheads. I’m chromosomally female and I can fail to pass as a woman. There any number of XY women out there who pass far better than me. Or are you using “chromosomes” to refer to some other particular trait?

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    Zoe Ellen Brain

    That’s not a definition that I accept, as it’s useless in practice.

    I assure you that people use that definition for sociology and social justice purposes because it’s more useful than any other.

  109. @ A Noyd

    We humans are very fond of supplying our justifications after the fact. How many of our values do we consciously choose and how many implant themselves without our deliberation over them?

    I cannot speak to anyone else’s path to self-betterment. If altering one’s aesthetics works for someone else in becoming the moral being they want to be, then that is what they should do and I would not lay one iota of criticism at their feet. My path is more algorithmic. I seek to discover those unconscious values and reprogram them. That’s not always easy to do, but it has, for me, been the most effective route to self-betterment.

    Anyway, I was never talking about preference for single traits being racist. My original point was that “in the case of someone who is not attracted to black people as a category, something is going on in their head that prevents them from considering black people as individuals.” (Note the italics.)

    Noted, and apologies for misunderstanding you or being unclear on my end. It would appear that we are in agreement on this particular point.

    However, I would point out that racism does affect the value we place on single traits, like skin color. That’s why there’s such a thing as shadism (aka colorism).

    Racism effects the moral value, not the aesthetic value. Even if they effect each other – and although I’m not convinced that they necessarily always do, I acknowledge that they can – they are not the same thing.

    These aren’t mutually exclusive.

    No, but they aren’t the same thing either. You yourself pointed out that race is not about a particular characteristic. If the fetish is does or does not belong to a particular race, where race is an arbitrary social construct made of hazily defined traits and heritage, then, in that rather narrow case, the fetish would be racist.

    How would you even know the difference before you felt attraction?

    I wouldn’t. That’s why I said it was difficult to imagine, not that it was therefore inconceivable.

    It’s not like we humans come with our karyotypes tattooed to our foreheads. Or are you using “chromosomes” to refer to some other particular trait?

    No, I’m referring to genetic chromosomes. I say what I mean as clearly as I know how. I’m also learning that chromosomal sexuality is not nearly as cut and dried a matter as I thought. As I said in my reply to Zoe Ellen Brain: …trying to imagine whether I could theoretically be physically attracted to a transsexual woman, when I’m basically ignorant of what transsexualism really is, would be a complete shot in the dark. So while it’s hard for me to imagine it, that doesn’t mean I rule out the possibility.

  110. As some people are expressing surprise with regard to the level of discrimination to which trans people are subjected, I thought it might be useful to add some more perspective. Inevitably my experiences will be particular to me, but hopefully they’ll be fairly indicative what happens in supposedly progressive Western societies.

    Let’s start with health. In the UK we don’t have the problem of hospitals run by religious groups that Zoe describes, we have the National Health Service, which is supposedly open to everyone. It isn’t. When I first transitioned it was hard to find a doctor willing to accept a trans person as a patient (not just for gender issues, for any health issue at all). Such blanket bans are now illegal, but doctors often try to get around this by claiming that they are not qualified to treat someone who has undergone gender-related treatments. As an example, in order to stay healthy trans women need a regular supply of estrogen. It is the only post-operative care that we need and the drugs are so cheap that the NHS makes a profit on prescribing them. Nevertheless, a succession of GPs have either refused point-blank to prescribe them for me, or have agreed to do so only on condition that I am regularly assessed by a gender specialist to assure them that I’m still entitled to the treatment. As a consequence I have to visit a private specialist in London once a year.

    Then there’s legal protections. Thanks to the Gender Recognition Act of 2004, I am legally a woman. I even have a birth certificate to prove it. Nevertheless,the Equality Act of 2010 (drafted by Labour and rubber-stamped by the incoming Tory-Liberal coalition) contains specific exceptions that make it legal to bar trans people from services that are designated single-sex. I note also that all of the legal protections in the UK apply only to people who are planning to, are undergoing, or have undergone surgery. There is no protection for people who are unwilling or unable to take that step, or for intersex people. The “Equality” Act also contains specific provisions allowing schools to bully children who fail to conform to gender norms.

    Finally there’s the “LGBT” thing. There is a phrase you’ll see trans people use, “the silent T”. (You may also see the construction LGB(t)). What this indicates is an organization that claims to represent LGBT people, but actually only represents LG and sometimes B people. In England & Wales the organization that has the cheek to call itself “Stonewall” is adamantly opposed to trans people, except when talking to government when it claims to speak on our behalf. (Scottish Stonewall is a separate and very T-supportive organization.) There are many UK organizations that claim to advocate for LGBT rights in the school system, but I’ve yet to find one that makes any attempt to address trans issues. One told me outright that they had no intention of even mentioning trans issues to schools as they feared they would be barred from access to children if they did so, yet they still loudly trumpet their work on “LGBT” issues.

    Of course there are many organizations that do great work on behalf of all of the LGBT community (or indeed the QUILTBAG community – ask if you need that unpacked), but it is not a given. If you are considering supporting a group that claims to be pro-LGBT, please check to see if they really mean it.

  111. @Geistcat wrote:

    Pre pubescent girls are not asexual. I certainly wasn’t and the experiences of my friends would agree with me. From the age of seven or so I had a constant series of crushes on various boys and intense sexual fantasies.

    Thanks for correcting me. So much I don’t know, so much I think I know but have wrong… and so much that nearly every other human on the planet has been through that I haven’t.

    A little personal anecdote – I teach at the Australian National University, and about 9 months after the change started, had settled in pretty well into the new social role. While I took no great pains to conceal my unusual history, I didn’t advertise it either, and still don’t.

    One day, one of the teams doing an assignment had difficulties, and asked me for some extra help, explaining a technical issue. One of the team members was in the gymnastics team, and he was in jeans and singlet, freshly showered, smelling very male, exuding pheremones…. seriously yummy.

    That was when I discovered I was straight. It took a supreme effort of will to behave ethically and professionally, as befits a student/teacher relationship, keeping my mind on the topic, and not just sitting there open-mouthed, twiddling my hair. Think of a rabbit fascinated by a snake, keeping my eyes off him was really difficult. I’d never experienced anything like that before, and it was completely unexpected.

    How did you ever manage to concentrate on schoolwork in High School? How does any girl?

    It took me a while to get my head around the fact that sexual attraction involved involuntary physiological responses, blood flow, breathing, as well as the emotions, I’d never understood that before.

    This whole thing is wondrous, and bizarre, and hilarious, especially for a frumpy female academic now on her mid-50’s. Fascinating scientifically too, I’m my own experimental animal and don’t have to worry about ethical issues of informed consent.

    We now return you to our usual program.

  112. Zoe: A significant proportion of LGB people are against equal rights for Trans people, and a group of NY Lesbian lawyers even wrote a submission to the UN arguing that existing human rights legislation covering them should be repealed.

    which is to say, anyone can be a bigot. This is one of the reasons I don’t like definitions of bigotry that are a function of power. An individual in even the most marginalized group can be a bigot.

    A. Noyd: By definition, people of oppressed races can’t be racist towards their oppressors.

    I don’t buy this at all. It seems fairly clearly nothing more than an attempt to redefine bigotry so that people in a minority class can be bigots towards members of the majority class while avoiding calling it the bigotry that it is.

    Zoe: treat people as people, with kindness and respect. With forgiveness too.. This includes onesself – forgive yourself of minor screw-ups, no need to tread on eggshells, and don’t expect others to either. Also realise that while we control our actions, we don’t control our attractions.

    This. This in so many ways. All of it.

    Gulliver: I seek to discover those unconscious values and reprogram them. That’s not always easy to do, but it has, for me, been the most effective route to self-betterment.

    It is a useful route to self-betterment, yes. And we are not simply computers to be reprogrammed. The closest analogy would be more like layers and layers of software running on layers and layers of hardware trying to find an internal anamoly and fix it.

    I’m a computational physicist by training

    But the mere act of looking affects the process, yes? The observer effect of physics has a similar thing in introspective work as well. When you look inward at yourself, the self looking inward is part of the experiment as much as the part being looked at. The model we use of how we think we think can limit what we can discover in our unconscious. I’ve found that for most people, when they start looking inward, especially for the first time, they have what they believe is a correct model of correct thinking and they try to find where their thinking is incorrect, and fix it. But there’s little room for error in that model. And it is just a model. I’ve found for many people an extremely important component of introspection, of that sort of self-betterment, is the sort of forgiveness that Zoe mentioned. To have room for people’s humanity, people’s imperfections, including yourself, because you’re human and you’re imperfect.

    I get the impression that if you found yourself unattracted to a trans woman, that you would relate to that as something wrong that needed to be fixed. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of space for your own humanity there. How you go about self-betterment is your choice, but I might suggest you consider the mind isn’t quite as much about programming-to-be-improved as you might think.

    One only has to look at the person who is gay or trans or whatever and who thinks “there is something wrong with me”, who thinks they just need to be re-programmed to think correctly, to think straight, to think the “correct” thoughts rather than their own thoughts, one only has to look at that and feel the heartbreak of seeing someone have no space for their own humanity, their own individuality.

  113. Gulliver wrote:

    I’m a computational physicist by training, but I know just enough biology to make an ass of myself. Still, genetics fascinates me, and in this case it’s also philosophically informative*. It sounds like you learned the biology the same way I learned business, careering head-first into the deep-end.

    Pretty much, yes.

    I’m a defence/aerospace systems/software engineer, but my PhD thesis is very much multi-disciplinary, a mix of computer science, pure mathematics, quantum physics and chemistry. A bit of biology too, genetics, so I’ve had papers in Artificial Life, Physics and Theoretical Chemistry journals. I lecture in computer science.

    http://mitpress.mit.edu/sites/default/files/titles/alife/0262290758chap70.pdf
    Using Meta-Genetic Algorithms to tune parameters of Genetic Algorithms to find lowest energy Molecular Conformers Brain & Addicoat Proc. Alife XII Conference 2010 pp 378-385

    http://link.aip.org/link/doi/10.1063/1.3656323
    Optimization of a genetic algorithm for searching molecular conformer space , Addicoat & Brain, J. Chem. Phys. 135, 174106 (2011);

    http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/ct300190u
    Optimization of a Genetic Algorithm for the Functionalization of Fullerenes, Addicoat et al, J. Chem. Theory Comput., 2012, 8 (5), pp 1841–1851

    Specialisation, as they say, is for insects.

  114. Cheryl Morgan wrote:

    Thanks to the Gender Recognition Act of 2004, I am legally a woman. I even have a birth certificate to prove it. Nevertheless,the Equality Act of 2010 (drafted by Labour and rubber-stamped by the incoming Tory-Liberal coalition) contains specific exceptions that make it legal to bar trans people from services that are designated single-sex. I note also that all of the legal protections in the UK apply only to people who are planning to, are undergoing, or have undergone surgery. There is no protection for people who are unwilling or unable to take that step, or for intersex people. The “Equality” Act also contains specific provisions allowing schools to bully children who fail to conform to gender norms.

    A fair summary. Accurate, unfortunately.

    The Gender Recognition Act 2004 also requires a formal diagnosis of Transsexuality. As any Intersex condition precludes this, my UK Birth Certificate will forever say “boy”, despite biological realities, my UK and Australian passports both saying “F” and so on.

    Because of this document mismatch, I’m effectively precluded from visiting North America. Canada by a law passed in the middle of the year, the USA by a recent change of regulatory policy. I’m unable to board an aircraft in either country, though can disembark. It’s apparently an anti-terrorism measure.

    In Australia, the official position of the Director of the Life, Marriage & Family Centre, Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney,in testimony before the Senate is that Intersex people such as myself are regarded as being mentally handicapped in some way. Many things about marriage require people to have the capacity to consent to what marriage is all about, so a significant mental incapacity might be something that might mitigate against a person being able to consent to a contract of marriage.. That’s their justification used for barring Intersex people from marrying.

    The Reverend Slucki, Convener, Church and Nation Committee, Presbyterian Church of Australia justified the same stance in another way. He testified before the Senate that we should try to do the right thing in principle for the overwhelming majority. That is what this tried and true definition of marriage is—it for the overwhelming majority. The definition we have at the moment has worked well throughout the centuries and that is what we should stick with..

    Intersex and Trans people exist – they just don’t matter.

    In the US, Twenty-one states plus Washington, D.C. outlaw discrimination against LGB people, but only sixteen of those states (plus Washington, D.C). outlaw discrimination against LGBTI people. Even then, the protections are limited – Maryland for example allows Trans people to be refused service at lunch counters, refused travel on buses, and refused the use of public restrooms, though they can’t be fired just for being Trans any more, not since the middle of the year.

    You get used to this kind of thing. Nothing major, nothing life-threatening, just constant reminders of one’s place.

    We face a distinct problem of credibility here. Few believe that such a situation can exist, despite the evidence. It has to be said too that in some places, things are far worse, it’s important to retain a sense of proportion. While Academics such as Sheila Jefferies in Australia and Janice Raymond in the US call for the extermination of Trans people – that they be morally mandated out of existence as Professor of Ethics Janice Raymond puts it – there’s no realistic chance of it happening in either country. Uganda on the other hand may pass a bill shortly that makes both homosexualty and transsexuality capital offences.

  115. @Don Hilliard:

    For what it’s worth, the experiences I describe above aren’t coming from a straight person.

    I was also introduced to the whole concept of trans issues–as something important and worthy of respect–through GLB friends and organizations. While it doesn’t shock me to find that some non-straight folks are prejudiced against trans folks, any more than it would shock me to find that some of them are racist, and sexist, and classist, and ableist, it always disappoints me when I find out.

    I like to think that an understanding of oppression would make people more understanding of other people needing to deal with different types of oppression. But a lot of the time it seems to trigger more of a…I don’t know what to call it. Resource scarcity response? “There’s only so much respect for difference from the Ideal White Man that one can wring out of this society; I’d better make sure it’s given to my group, and not that other group, or there won’t be any left for me.”

  116. How did you ever manage to concentrate on schoolwork in High School? How does any girl?

    In my experience, my prepubescent sexuality was much less focused on people and much more on sexual curiosity and free-floating personal sensations. There was, however, an abrupt change in character and intensity around puberty, and if I hadn’t had unusually distinct memories of childhood, I’m pretty sure it might have been possible for me to greatly downplay that I had such feelings before twelve or so. (This kind of thing varies a huge amount anyway. I’ve talked to some women who insist they had no clear sexual feelings at all until their twenties, despite apparently very ordinary pubertal development and subsequent ordinary sexual histories.) Personally I’ve always thought I got kind of a sweet deal in that I got totally used to things like the mechanics of arousal and such during an otherwise relatively placid point in my development, and only later on had to figure out the interpersonal aspects, rather than having it all thrown at me at once. And yeah, the pantsfeelings got pretty distracting at times during high school, but I found it was also possible to harness some of that extra energy and turn it into intellectual effort. Plus of course lots of people around me were at the same stage, our teachers were used to it, etc.

  117. @Gulliver
    I think we’re enough on the same page that I’m going to leave the rest of our differences alone.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Cheryl Morgan

    I note also that all of the legal protections in the UK apply only to people who are planning to, are undergoing, or have undergone surgery. There is no protection for people who are unwilling or unable to take that step, or for intersex people.

    It’s disturbing how limited humans are in their tolerance. Sure, we say, we’ll accept that people can be born the “wrong” gender and can “correct” that with drugs and surgery*, but we must maintain our gender binary at all costs.

    I have to laugh in the face of people who think sexism is a thing of the past. If that were so, there wouldn’t be all this anxiety over figuring out another person’s gender so we can treat them differently. And it’s not that I think we should be gender-blind, but we can acknowledge what someone is without letting it change how we interact with who they are.

    …….
    *To paraphrase the ridiculously inadequate cultural narrative transfolks get stuck with these days.

  118. Greg

    It seems fairly clearly nothing more than an attempt to redefine bigotry so that people in a minority class can be bigots towards members of the majority class while avoiding calling it the bigotry that it is.

    Take it up with sociologists then. But keep in mind it’s not the definition of “bigotry,” but the definition of “racism.” In fact, your conflation of majority with dominance proves the usefulness of the sociological definition. Racism is about far more than relative numbers. For instance, white people are not a majority everywhere that whiteness is privileged (which is pretty much the whole world), either now or historically. And if you want to talk about animosity going in the other direction, there are plenty of words to describe it, such as prejudice or discrimination or bigotry. But a PoC’s bigotry against white people and a white person’s bigotry against PoC are not equivalent because neither is working within a vacuum. Giving “racism” a special definition is a way to acknowledge and talk about how bigotry that is socially supported has far more power than bigotry that is socially undermined. (Hence why it’s also laughable to worry seriously about things like cisphobia, heterophobia and misandry.)

    Anyway, I’m going to leave this here because it’s gotten too tangential.

  119. This is one of the reasons I don’t like definitions of bigotry that are a function of power.

    Good thing there aren’t any, then.

  120. @A. Noyd: yeeaah, the medical profession does a lot of deciding what trans is supposed to mean, and the decisions they make aren’t always ones actual trans* people agree with. As a nonbinary person (i.e. not a man or a woman, for those who don’t know the term), I find myself very, very glad that my dysphoria is overall pretty mild and hence I don’t feel the need for surgery, hormones or social transition – because I really don’t think I’d be able to access them. There’s frequently really stringent criteria in place (a la living for at least a year as the opposite binary gender from your assigned) which make some serious assumptions about what “real” trans* people look like and what they want – a la “all real trans people want all the surgery that’s available” and so a trans guy who’d like to take testosterone and get top surgery but is okay with having a vagina can’t actually be trans, all that sort of thing. The conditions are so narrow that they exclude some binary trans people too, and nonbinary people who frequently want bits and pieces of the FTM or MTF treatments but not others, or treatments that are considered more cosmetic or maybe don’t really exist yet because the need for them isn’t recognised, have a pretty hard battle ahead of them.

  121. Greg: This is one of the reasons I don’t like definitions of bigotry that are a function of power.

    HelenS: Good thing there aren’t any, then.

    Well, there’s one here titled “why reverse racism doesn’t exist”.

    Let’s start from the beginning. Your first step is to accept that “a hatred or intolerance of another race” is not the definition of racism. The dictionary is wrong. Get over it. … “Racism (or sexism) = prejudice + power

    At least their upfront about the fact that they’re throwing out the dictionary and making up their own definitions. Webster defines bigot as this:

    a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance

    So, according to webster a white person can be a bigotted racist against blacks, and a black person can be a bigotted racist against whites. But some people want to play a shell game with words so they can attempt to disprove up front any accusations of “reverse racism”. The article above might as well say “Ah ha! See! Reverse racism doesn’t exist because I redefined what “racism” means! Tag your it. No touch backs!”

    Bah. Anyone can be a bigot, and they don’t have to have power to be a bigot. SorchaRei’s trans-woman acquaintance is a bigot about what a woman should be defined as and is an asshole about enforcing her bigotted views about women.

    But yeah, some people are playing shell games with dictionaries. A shell game to hide any bigotted minority people. And its silly.

  122. @Zoe Ellen Brain:
    >but the more you delve into it, the more fuzzy and messy it gets.

    So true of everything.

    Viz diapers: if the earring the baby swallowed has no sharp edges
    and the baby is acting like that baby always does do still delve in.
    Best is to do so before the diaper gets fuzzy.

    Sun Tzu: “[When faced by an unbeatable enemy, don't].

  123. BTW, I have actually been knocked over by a woman who
    saw a baby.
    She scared me, but oh thank god her kids dragged her away.

  124. Greg: This is one of the reasons I don’t like definitions of bigotry that are a function of power.

    HelenS: Good thing there aren’t any, then.

    Well, there’s one here titled “why reverse racism doesn’t exist”.

    Racism. Not bigotry. Not. The. Same. Thing.

  125. A.Noyd wrote:

    white people are not a majority everywhere that whiteness is privileged (which is pretty much the whole world)

    Not been to Japan recently, have you? Or China? Heck, even Thailand doesn’t hold Falang in any particular respect compared to any other ethnic group.

    I think the reason why the definition of racism you use is seen as useful in sociology is because of cultural insularity, and historical record. It may apply well in a purely European/American context, but in other parts of the world – including the 2nd and 3rd largest economies – not so much.

  126. @ Cheryl Morgan

    or indeed the QUILTBAG community – ask if you need that unpacked

    I’m guessing Queer, Intersex, Lesbian, Transgender, Bisexual and Gay, but I’m at a loss as to what U stands for unless it’s maybe Undefined? *looks it up* I was close, Undecided and Asexual.

    If you are considering supporting a group that claims to be pro-LGBT, please check to see if they really mean it.

    I will. I’m also going to be paying closer attention to the laws I vote to support to make sure they aren’t throwing anyone under the bus.

    @ Zoe Ellen Brain

    Thanks for correcting me. So much I don’t know, so much I think I know but have wrong… and so much that nearly every other human on the planet has been through that I haven’t.

    FWIW, I never had sexual fantasies or erotic urges until I hit puberty. But girls and boys mature differently, and women I’ve discussed it with have indicated that girls themselves develop at differing rates by up to several years.

    How did you ever manage to concentrate on schoolwork in High School? How does any girl?

    Or any boy; it’s not something that’s easy for anyone even when society knows you’re going through it, more or less accepts the fact, and tries to provide some semblance of guidance…plus a teen has a lot of peers who, while often a fertile source of misinformation, at least can commiserate. I can’t begin to imagine what it would be like to go through puberty without those support mechanisms.

    I’m a defence/aerospace systems/software engineer, but my PhD thesis is very much multi-disciplinary, a mix of computer science, pure mathematics, quantum physics and chemistry. A bit of biology too, genetics, so I’ve had papers in Artificial Life, Physics and Theoretical Chemistry journals. I lecture in computer science.

    I’ll just be over here turning green with envy :)

    I wound up working on quantum algorithms because quantum gravity theory disappeared up its own heterotic string. After a decade designing multidimensional data analysis tools, comp physics is a better fit anyway.

    Don’t take this the wrong way, but you remind me of my second favorite Trek character, Amanda Rogers (Geordi comes in first for keeping the USS Flying Deathtrap going while the rest of the crew tried to earn a Darwin Award).

    Specialisation, as they say, is for insects.

    I’ll try that on my doctoral advisor.

    It’s apparently an anti-terrorism measure.

    Minor correction. It’s a security theater measure. We have a lot of that since Dubya consolidated have the alphabet soup under the DHS and recruited his Trained Sexual Assaulters to entertain the actual terrorists.

    He testified before the Senate that we should try to do the right thing in principle for the overwhelming majority. That is what this tried and true definition of marriage is—it for the overwhelming majority. The definition we have at the moment has worked well throughout the centuries and that is what we should stick with.

    Ah, yes, the old mobocracy rationalized with false threats by lying sacks of shit…I mean fearmongerers. We get plenty of that crap here too.

    @ Greg

    which is to say, anyone can be a bigot. This is one of the reasons I don’t like definitions of bigotry that are a function of power. An individual in even the most marginalized group can be a bigot.

    If I had to guess based on my spotty knowledge of human nature, I’d guess that there is also a fear that society won’t take LGB activists seriously if they include a group with so much less nonstereotyped cultural visibility, trying to lighten the lifeboat, so to speak, by tossing the socially weakest group overboard. That doesn’t excuse it. I suspect the same mentality causes some LG advocates to toss bisexual rights to the sharks.

    And we are not simply computers to be reprogrammed.

    Computers aren’t the only thing that can be programmed.

    But the mere act of looking affects the process, yes?

    Naturally.

    I’ve found that for most people, when they start looking inward, especially for the first time, they have what they believe is a correct model of correct thinking and they try to find where their thinking is incorrect, and fix it.

    Without self-doubt and skepticism, introspection is just solipsism, not enlightenment.

    To have room for people’s humanity, people’s imperfections, including yourself, because you’re human and you’re imperfect.

    I prefer to use the word perfect in the original sense: something which is after the fact, or complete. Life for me is a process of perfection, and moral perfectionism is an ever-receding horizon. But the fact that I am neither omniscient nor omnipotent doesn’t deter me from the quest because I choose to take satisfaction in the journey, not the notional destination.

    I get the impression that if you found yourself unattracted to a trans woman, that you would relate to that as something wrong that needed to be fixed.

    I honestly don’t know. But if it was because they were trans, rather than some specific characteristic, then yes, that would require some soul searching. For all I know, though, I’ve already been attracted to transwomen and simply didn’t know they weren’t born female. That doesn’t bother me, but if it did, I’d want to find out why. There might be something that needs revising, but the bug(s) may not be what I suspect, and I wouldn’t know until I discovered it.

    There doesn’t seem to be a lot of space for your own humanity there.

    I don’t beat myself up over it. I see new discoveries about myself as a chance to grow, to make a choice, to direct my development. It is, for me, a process that affirms my humanity. Imagine you discovered an alien starship crash-landed in your back yard. You probably wouldn’t just break it down for parts and materials. You’d try to learn how it worked so you could build your own starship. That’s how I see the process of learning about the human mind and body, and even nature in general. Nature has loaned us a magnificent opportunity to learn from it. Whether we, nature’s sapient children, use it wisely or foolishly is up to us. Stay tuned…

    One only has to look at the person who is gay or trans or whatever and who thinks “there is something wrong with me”, who thinks they just need to be re-programmed to think correctly, to think straight, to think the “correct” thoughts rather than their own thoughts, one only has to look at that and feel the heartbreak of seeing someone have no space for their own humanity, their own individuality.

    That is decidedly not the way I do it. The difference between a reflex and a choice is knowing there are options and understanding the costs and benefits to each.

    @ fadeaccompli

    I like to think that an understanding of oppression would make people more understanding of other people needing to deal with different types of oppression. But a lot of the time it seems to trigger more of a…I don’t know what to call it. Resource scarcity response? “There’s only so much respect for difference from the Ideal White Man that one can wring out of this society; I’d better make sure it’s given to my group, and not that other group, or there won’t be any left for me.”

    I believe the technical term is collaborator.

    @ A. Noyd

    I think we’re enough on the same page that I’m going to leave the rest of our differences alone.

    I think we mainly have different ways of looking at the same page, but we seem to see the same page. At any rate, thank you for a vigorous discussion.

    It’s disturbing how limited humans are in their tolerance. Sure, we say, we’ll accept that people can be born the “wrong” gender and can “correct” that with drugs and surgery*, but we must maintain our gender binary at all costs.

    I would guess that there’s often also a fear at work that if the black-and-white binary is revealed for the sham it is, that that will somehow undermine attempts to have one half recognized as equally human as the other. Some people choose their hill to fight and die on, and find it intolerable that there might be other hills between them and the mountain.

    And it’s not that I think we should be gender-blind, but we can acknowledge what someone is without letting it change how we interact with who they are.

    Words to live by.

  127. I ate out tonight and as I was waiting to use the restroom there, I was thinking how even with sex-segregated single-stall bathrooms like at that particular restaurant, we still give funny looks to people we think are using the “wrong” one. How it shouldn’t matter even to people who are uncomfortable about trans-ness or gender ambiguity, but it’s still this weird taboo. And, just then, a man emerged from the ladies’ room. (Or, at least, I took him to be so, given his full beard and stereotypically masculine clothes.) I ended up giving him a funny look not because of his “transgression,” but because it was such a coincidence he should have been in there just then. Not that he could know that, of course.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    Zoe Ellen Brain

    Not been to Japan recently, have you?

    Actually, yes. But as it would be derailing, I’m not going to get into how my experiences there fit into the fact that white supremacism has left its mark on Japanese culture. If you’re curious, there are plenty of resources you can look into on how white supremacism and racism work in a global context. (It’s not so simple as “white people get the best treatment” or anything.)

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    Gulliver

    I would guess that there’s often also a fear at work that if the black-and-white binary is revealed for the sham it is, that that will somehow undermine attempts to have one half recognized as equally human as the other.

    Which is kind of a silly fear, since if the binary is a sham, then both those halves are in all of us. There’s still value in recognizing as fully human those attributes we’ve been ascribing exclusively to the half that we look down on.

  128. @Gulliver – re Amanda Rogers – don’t know if I’d trust myself with superpowers, I’m acutely aware of my own fallibility.

    There are a couple of things I’m pleased with myself for though. A few times on the personal level where I’ve saved someone’s life, or made it worth living.

    This one –
    http://www.academia.edu/207709/Simulation_Case_Study_-_xtUML_in_agile_development

    That was the basis used for planning the disaster relief effort in Aceh province after the Indian Ocean earthquake/tsunami. The increase in efficiency is thought to have saved 250,000 lives. Annette was the xtUML guru, I was the problem domain expert. Course that was pre-change… but I always worked better with female colleagues, we thought in the same ways. A lot of people said “AHA! That explains it!” when the events of 2005 happened.

    What else – FedSat – still the most sophisticated microsat ever orbited, with a number of space firsts to its credit, such as demonstrating self-diagnosis and self-repair of hardware using field-programmable gate arrays. Something essential for long-term deep-space missions. I headed the on-board computer development team there for the spaceflight avionics.

    The unpaid consultancy work I did for JPL, the MESSENGER spacecraft currently orbiting Mercury uses techniques for error-correction in mass storage that I developed. They were kind enough to give me a mission crew T-shirt, something I value far more than monetary payment.

    Whenever stupidity, malice or incompetence get me down, I think of those things – and how I might be able to help others in the future. I’ve been given so much in comparison with others, it’s a matter of balance. Also Rocket Science is so much fun I’m surprised it’s legal.

    No superpowers required – though having unusual neuro-anatomy helps. I’m not in the same league as NASA Chief Scientist Stephanie Langhoff, or Professor Emerita Lynn Conway, but we all have the same sorts of talent to a greater or lesser degree. Not raw Intelligence so much as creativity and intuition. A lot of processing and pattern-recognition we’re not consciously aware of.

    @A.Noyd – can I cheat and ask for a hint (URL)? I love it when I’m shown to be wrong, and am given the chance to improve.

  129. HelenS: Racism. Not bigotry. Not. The. Same. Thing.

    Oh look. Another shell game.

    Zoe: demonstrating self-diagnosis and self-repair of hardware using field-programmable gate arrays

    WTF?!? They have ram based fpgas that are rad hard space qualified now??? Jeebus. Back in the day, not even fuse blown fpga’s were able to go into orbit.

  130. Here is an essay you can read through Google Books about the historical basis and scope of global white supremacy.

    A decent resource for getting started on contemporary issues is the international tag on Racism Daily. That’s where I found this short article about racism in the Kenyan tourist industry, which is something I’ve also seen a bit of myself (though, being white, I was the unwilling benefactor rather than the victim).

    I don’t want to trigger any spam filters by using too many links (if that’s even a thing here), but you can find lots of very specific examples of the global privileging of whiteness by googling racism in the international fashion industry. Also, on that topic, if you have (or can borrow) journal access through a university, I’d recommend in particular Ashley Mears’ article “Size zero high-end ethnic: Cultural production and the reproduction of culture in fashion modeling”. Shadism and skin bleaching, which tie into the fashion thing, are easy to research as well.

    Lastly, if you want to enjoy a satirical take on racism in fundraising for international aid, google Radi-aid: Africa for Norway.

    And, while the racism discussion is a tangent, issues of global white supremacism do affect trans* people of color. For instance, East Asian transwomen are often heavily exoticized and held up as the ideal in being able to “pass” because there’s this belief in the West that East Asian male bodies are more feminine to begin with. And trans* PoC will often suffer more from transphobia than white transfolk and suffer more from racism than cis PoC.

  131. A.Noyd – as an illustration of the convergence of “background” racism and transphobia, there’s this:

    http://www.lgbtqnation.com/2012/12/the-missing-transgender-woman-and-whats-not-being-done/

    Smith is a 19-year-old African-American transgender woman who disappeared from her Charlottesville, Va., home nearly a month ago; she was last seen leaving to meet one Eric McFadden at a train station and still had not returned two days later.

    According to Daryl C. Hannah of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), since Smith’s disappearance, the only remotely “mainstream” media coverage the disappearance has received has been a local news report.

    During this report, despite identifying as female, Smith is repeatedly referred to using male pronouns; the local police have insisted on the same terminology, issuing a statement in which they refer to Smith as a “young man.” Even “Missing” posters in Richmond refer to Smith as “him/her.”

    I’m reminded of a quote from Pasternak;s Dr Zhivago
    One day Lara went out and did not come back … She died or vanished somewhere, forgotten as a nameless number on a list which was afterwards mislaid.

    *SIGH*. Happy New Year, all

  132. @Zoe Ellen Brain
    Or CeCe McDonald going to jail for murder because she defended herself from racist, transphobic attackers? I mean, one of those attackers was so much a stereotype of what (white) Americans think racists are like that he had a swastika tattooed on his chest. Not that the jury heard about that because the judge did not allow it to be mentioned in the trial.

  133. A. Noyd says:
    December 31, 2012 at 1:42 am
    > – snip – I was thinking how even with sex-segregated single-stall bathrooms.

    A thing that did happen to me.
    I really needed to pee. (Cross my legs and dance needed to!)
    I found a toilet, and said “Oh God, Yes” and after few minutes I zipped up and
    checked for zits or combed my hair or something in a mirror.
    In that mirror I saw female type shoes sticking out from under a stall door.
    Turns out that I was in a female only pee place.
    Next day, three or four girls sniggered at me.
    One seemed embarrassed.

    I later learned that that building had a single mens toilet on the first floor because
    it was a fem only dorm that was being converted into a set of class rooms, and
    I think that perhaps was some politics going on because what prof gets an office
    in a building that is has a few floors that are being modernized.

  134. I can think of more than one cafe I frequent that simply has two ungendered one-toilet bathrooms, just as I have in my own house. Works fine.

  135. @ Zoe Ellen Brain

    re Amanda Rogers – don’t know if I’d trust myself with superpowers, I’m acutely aware of my own fallibility.

    I meant more in terms of her being a polymath. I don’t think I’d trust myself with superpowers either. I’d probably wind up going the full Riker [what?...no, no repressed irritation there…nothing to see, move along…].

    That was the basis used for planning the disaster relief effort in Aceh province after the Indian Ocean earthquake/tsunami.

    I like how compact the program is; easier to adapt and implement.

  136. @ A. Noyd

    Or CeCe McDonald going to jail for murder because she defended herself from racist, transphobic attackers?

    From the article:

    Were her actions justified? The answer is subjective; those who have had similar experiences may think so, while those whose circumstances mean they will likely never face such an attack might disagree.

    No, there’s nothing subjective about it. Either people have a right not to be murdered or they do not. When you initiate a physical assault on another human being, you forfeit your moral right to remain alive. End of story. It’s cold comfort to the CeCe McDonalds of the world, but some day our decedents will look back on these injustices and rightly judge us barbarians. The article quotes someone as having her anger numbed by the litany of forgotten, neglected souls thrown away by an uncaring society. I just feel helpless, trapped in a world where the majority of ordinary people are such monsters that they think some people are disposable, and who lack even the moral courage to face the fact that the only difference between them and the murderers is that the murderers did their own dirty work.

  137. Edward Brennan said up near the top: “The hard part I have, and I am not proud of this, is that although I would not not want someone discriminated against in a legal sense, and generally not in a cultural sense. I am still transphobic enough to hesitate on the question of would it be an issue in regards to would I date a transgendered person? I have known a few transgendered people who “pass” (like it is for me to decide!), and if I didn’t know their history it would not bother me. Part of me thinks it it because although I can accept transgendered to a point, there is still aspects that I don’t get or understand, and I, it is my problem not theirs, still fear what I don’t quite grasp. But then most people have parts of their personalities that baffle me, and I get over those, so I really don’t know. I don’t feel like I have a good reason or feeling on why it should, and many on why it shouldn’t. But my gut feeling, which is not one of acceptance at that level, is not one I am proud of. I have never rejected someone based on this, and I hope that I wouldn’t. But, if I were their shoes, I wouldn’t date me, and intellectually I do feel like an asshat for it. But, in my gut…”

    (btw, how does one do that quote thing anyway?)

    Am I the only one that is a bit bothered by the implication here that transpeople are being viewed solely as potential dates?

  138. MWT — my go-to site for html help is http://www.w3schools.com/tags/default.asp which has a good tool to play with for experiments; the thing you want to use is blockquote around copy and paste of the text. I usually use the i tag instead, only putting it into italic. That site also has good free tutorials on HTML.

    blockquote:

    Am I the only one that is a bit bothered by the implication here that transpeople are being viewed solely as potential dates?

    i:

    Am I the only one that is a bit bothered by the implication here that transpeople are being viewed solely as potential dates?

    Remember, preview is your friend.

    I read it as they would have difficulty if they were attracted to a trans person, went on a date, and then discovered that about their date. I can see how that could be a surprise, or even a shock. I’m long out of the dating scene, but I suspect this is now (or should be now) part of that conversation that I thought of as “the STD, birth control, and pregnancy talk”. How you kids are doing that these days I’ve no clue, though. Looking back … this could explain some things I’d found puzzling about some people. None of my business, though, especially now.

  139. MWT, how I read what Edward wrote was more along the lines of “I like to think I’m not bigoted wrt transgendered people but when I explore my gut reactions, I find to my shame/discomfort that I am bigoted.” The issue of dating is mentioned because it’s one type of litmus test and Edward discovered that when he applied that test, he failed to live up to his rational expectations of himself.

  140. Belated reply due to xbo-er, Christmas festivity stuff (I lurv FIFA 13). Completely agree with you, John. Let it be and let people be. If it brings them happiness, then all the power to them. The process of gender change sounds like a painful and dramatic endeavor in itself. Someone who’s willing to endure that doesn’t need to take any crap from some holier-than-thou.

  141. @ MWT

    (btw, how does one do that quote thing anyway?)

    The sequence is less than sign, blockquote, greater than sign, text of quote, less than sign, blockquote, forward slash, greater than sign

    Am I the only one that is a bit bothered by the implication here that transpeople are being viewed solely as potential dates?

    Er, I think you’re making a mighty leap from I’m bothered that I have different boundaries for transpeople than straight people to viewing transpeople solely as potential dates.

    @ htom

    I’m long out of the dating scene, but I suspect this is now (or should be now) part of that conversation that I thought of as “the STD, birth control, and pregnancy talk”. How you kids are doing that these days I’ve no clue, though.

    Having only been out of it a few years, I can tell you that some people are more open to the talk than others; I really think it depends on the maturity level of the person who doesn’t initiate the talk, and maturity level has only a weak correlation with age or even experience. It was easier for me as I didn’t go in for casual sex on the theory that anticipation is half the fun and makes it safer from a character judgment standpoint (and there were many more people I wanted to date than I wanted to sleep with), so I generally knew the person well enough to broach the topics of sexual health by the time we were both inclined to take things there. Given how few people I’ve known who didn’t have at least some insecurities around openly discussing the risks, I imagine its dodgier terrain to get into on the second or third date. I’ve always felt kind of bad for people who believe broaching those topics removes any chance of interest.

    Remember, preview is your friend.

    Nonsense, preview is the enemy and must be resisted to the last formatting error!

    Yes, I did that on purpose.

  142. I’m bothered that I have different boundaries for transpeople than straight people.

    Ugh…that should have read I’m bothered that I have different boundaries for transpeople than cispeople. My only weak-assed defense is that I had a late night and I don’t have a lot of practice with the terminology for gender-identification.

  143. MWT: Am I the only one that is a bit bothered by the implication here that transpeople are being viewed solely as potential dates?

    you using the word “implication” does not mean you get to make up whatever you want about the post.

    Any implication in Edward’s post would be limited to any necessary consequences of his actual words. To advocate for war implies advocation for fighting and death, because fighting and death is a neccessary consequence of war.

    Nothing in Edward’s post implies as a neccessary consequence the idea that he is viewing transpeople solely as potential dates.

  144. Thank you for this article. Honestly, I didn’t know about you, but a friend shared the link to this blog. I’m impressed with your writing (and heart, and intent, and the fact that Wiki says you’ve published with Subterranean Press and I love Charles deLint), so I’m going to check out your books. :) Thank you again. :)

  145. I really like your article, and thank-you for being an ally. You asked how to be a better ally, there are just a few more things that would have made things easier for me and if it’s OK, I’ll list them.

    1) Always get your pronouns right and if you make a mistake, apologise once before moving on. It’s OK to make mistakes, it’s not OK to ignore them.
    2) Don’t question trans folk about who they are or what made them change their gender presentation. We are who we are, there’s no point in pushing some view that we should be cis. We’ve tried that already. It didn’t work.
    3) It’s really really hard when you get stared at by everyone all the time. Some people have stared at me so hard, they’ve rotated on the spot as I’ve moved past them. I’ve been brought to tears so many times just eating out because of stares. Stares freak me out. Please don’t do it. Bear this in mind when dealing with trans folk. Smile nicely if you find yourself doing it. Find a compliment.
    4) If you have a trans friend who identifies as being the same gender as you, offer to go to the toilet with them if they want a bit of support. Loos are really tricky.

    Thank-you.

  146. if Cassius Clay can be Muhammad Ali, then Andrew can be Andrea and receive the same respect for the change and the harder changes of living as their true self. Mr Scalzi you’re a hell of a human being!

This is the place where you leave the things you think

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s