Tuesday, September 22, 2015

What kind of future?

So. My wife and her (supposedly) most understanding family member saw fit to remind me of my place in their hearts with this little gem.
(this is going to be quite long, but you can't say this right in 20 words)

I'm not even going to get into an angry argument, and I'm asking right now for my actual friends to not go there either, however tempted you may be. But I did want to share it to make this very important point:

It is absolutely and unequivocally true that my transition has caused her indescribable pain and loss. She seems to believe that I can't imagine that or simply don't care (if I simply didn't care I'd have seized the moment and ran at the first of the year or, more exactly, left empty handed years ago, but nevermind that) but she couldn't be more wrong. I'm far more aware of the pain she's feeling than her or any of her allies could possibly hope to understand of what they would have me accept and live with, moreover, I doubt seriously any of them even think they need to try. Yes, I do in fact understand what she's feeling - a loss she would feel in one form or another whichever solution to me no-win dilemma I might have chosen (or could chose now) - but more than that I know how and why we got to this place, and THAT is the reason for this post, not any desire to hold her and her supporter up to criticism.

Here's why:

Because I, and everyone else in my generation trans or not were raised and formed in a world which was almost completely ignorant on the condition I'm dealing with. Even the "experts" were just reacting to outward signs and flailing for explanations, often getting it wrong - one of the most notorious explanations of it was entirely wrong. BECAUSE I was completely ignorant, I was SHAMED into fighting an impossible battle to deny this reality. BECAUSE the world was ignorant, it doubled and tripled the shame. Reveled in it. Wallowed in it. Took great pleasure in humbling and humiliating the very few of us willing to endure it in order to live the truth of their heart and soul. Those of us ashamed and afraid not only saw that shaming but even learned to do it to our own selves.

And so, like so many others, I tried desperately to "do the right thing" - hide my shameful secret and be "normal" - dare to fall in love, have the temerity to get married and have kids, and (in my case) become the very sort of shamer that had made me hate myself. And because I dared. Because I thought, honestly thought, that being what I am with something that could be controlled, repressed, repented of, I involved an innocent and unsuspecting woman in my life. I made her promises - in LOVE - and in all sincerity, that I'm not able to keep.

Because. !. Was. Lied. To.

Lied to by the whole world I lived in, the whole culture that surrounded me, all of it. Jokes like the one in this image were "everybody knows" and "common sense" and THAT is the lie. THAT is the shaming that everyone like me learned from their mother's knee and THAT LIE is why she is in pain tonight. Because of THAT lie, I put her in a no-win situation right along beside me.

It is an absolute abomination that one so desperately hurt BY that l;ie now thinks it makes sense to stand among those trying to push that same lie on a new generation of trans people.

You know what that means? A whole new generation that feels shamed and disputed and degraded by even those very people they trust most to love them; a new generation of parents ashamed of and abusive towards their own kids because they feel shamed to have a child who's trans; a whole new generation of people who, far more than half the time, will try to take their own lives rather than endure it (and far too often succeed)...and a whole new generation of trans people who will subject themselves to THAT LIE and try to "do the right thing" and fight it...and they will dare to fall in love...have the temerity to marry and have kids..and someday come to the breaking point and do to some other woman just what was done to my wife.

And yet in every single word and act in which she, and those who support her, and those who simply don't understand, and those who are still mis-informed about what the Bible says - all with the best of intentions! - that seeks to shame, humiliate, and mock trans people, all those well intentioned folks join hands with the hateful and mean-spirited folks to ensure that some innocent woman in the years to come will be hurting just like she is now.

And the worst part of it all is - she can't conceive that any of what I just wrote is true.

Those of you who REALLY want to be good, do good, treat people like you think Christ would have you treat them - please, for the love of the God whom you serve, STOP POSTING HATEFUL, CALLOUS, COLD-HEARTED BULLSHIT LIKE THIS!!!! When you do, it says far more about your heart than it does about mine.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Face Off

Less than 3 months and already another blog post? What's the world coming to?! My stars and garters!

So let me preface these comments with a very prominent disclaimer: I'm not in these comments attacking or disputing the existence of God as you - if you - believe him to exist. Those who know me know I've grown up in mostly Southern Baptist Churches, and those who know me reasonably well are aware there's still a license to preach in a box 'round here somewhere with the name I no longer claim on it. I can't say that I am, any longer, a fan of man-made orthodoxy. While the Bible says that Scripture is not of any private interpretation, it also says that each person gives an account to their own master, not to other people.

I have spent some time sorting out whether the things I believe are supported more by Scripture or by religious tradition, and that alone can cut away a lot of weeds, but also, I've tried to re-examine some on-the-surface irrational things and reconcile them with a point of view that doesn't go so far as "made-up-by-sheepherders." To the traditionalist believer, it's "falling away" at best, to the skeptic it's rationalization. Be that as it may, I still believe there is a real deity behind the New Testament concept of God  (i.e. a God of grace, not a god of law). But for the purposes of the rhetorical conceit of this post, I'm laying that aside. In some points here I'm saying "you" or "they" when technically it would be correct to say "we" but I think that would get confusing.

Hat-tip, by the way, to Jillian Page for her post which inspired this one - hopefully I can elaborate on the thought, and not just re-word it.

One of the fundamental premises of Traditionalist (i.e. Fundamentalists, Evangelical, Orthodox Catholics, Mormons and most Charismatics - as distinct from all Christians) hold about trans people is that we suffer a "delusion." Basing their entire concept of sex/gender on genitalia (except when they style themselves clever and bring in DNA) they insist it is self evident that one who believes they are authentically the gender that doesn't align with their genital sex is delusional. But as Page points out, there's a big elephant in that room - they believe in something much less objectively proevable than I do.

Go back 30 years and it would have been hard to say that. Until recent innovations in medical technology, claiming that a transsexual was "born that way" was necessarily a highly subjective claim. Most of the available evidence to be analyzed relied on the patients (collective) account of their internal perception of self, and the manner in which they dealt with it - and that reaction too subjective in that it couldn't be divorced from environmental factors (for example, in 1980 it wasn't the same thing to come out in California - difficult - as it was to come out in Mississippi - virtually impossible). It's only in the last couple of decades that we begin to accumulate objective observable evidence that there is a biological basis for the condition.

But that evidence has now been observed and the database of such is constantly growing. It is not entirely conclusive how it happens yet, though there are some pretty good hypotheses, but few things in science are conclusive. So the claim of the trans person is no longer entirely based on subjective "feelings" and, moreover, as more and more trans kids come to light the more popular "alternate explanations" for transsexualism can be objectively demonstrated to not be credible. In short, my so-called "delusion" has scientific credibility that is objective and not dependent on my subjective opinion.

Now contrast this to any system of organized theistic religion you might wish to name. For example, the religion I was brought up in. That system of belief holds that the Earth and all creation are considerably younger than the scientific evidence would suggest (by many orders of magnitude), it holds that the origin and history of life (as we know it today)  was radically different than what the science seems to suggest, and from there it holds one long series of claims after another than to the rational mind seem insanely improbable (i.e. that it's possible to cover the entire surface of this planet with water for just one example) and along the way cite the infallibility of a book they then have to work very hard to explain on some points (the idea that the sun stood still in the sky, for example, or that God commanded a pack of bears to kill children for mocking the baldness of his prophet). Yes, it is possible to rationalize much if not all of that and not kill the whole point of reading the book at all, but what I mean is the things that are held without being explained away (for example, taking the Noah story at face value rather than as a fable with a moral lesson.

Beyond that, the whole Christian experience, in the best light, could - by the unbeliever - be called delusional. You'd believe, at a minimum, that there is a being whom no one has ever seen, and for whom all evidence is subjective; a being wo, among many other puzzling aspects, was able to both pray to himself and answer his own prayers, to sacrifice himself to himself and resurrect himself from death; to whom the prayers of the righteous are persuasive even when they pray for contradictory outcomes; one who is always to be praised if we survive the tornado but not to be faulted when our neighbor does not. Some of you believe that being placed under the water for a few seconds is the difference between eternal bliss or eternal pain to name one of a hundred variants of ritualistic behavior, none of which have any objective evidence for their claims. Heck, the very claim of eternal bliss/damnation has no objective evidence.

But it is nevertheless passionately believed. To many people, including many who once believed it, that's the ultimate in "delusional" and yet it is THOSE people who MOST passionately condemn what they see as "delusion" in the trans person.

Am I arguing that religious beliefs ARE delusional? No, I'm not. Rather, I'm arguing that if the Traditionalist critic of trrans people is evaluated according to the very calculus they wish to apply to trans people, they score FAR worse on the "potentially delusional" tally. I'm suggesting that given that their belief system, AND MINE, is based on a big steaming pile of subjective experiences and speculative conclusions, that any such person is poorly positioned to question the legitimacy of my gender identity claims. Put another way, if you want to believe that the Earth was created in a week six thousand years ago, and you want to believe that any day now the true church will be Ruptured out in advance of Seven Years of Tribulation and you want to believe that all of humanity save eight people were destroyed in a flood - GREAT! Knock yourself out. That belief alone does me nor anyone else any harm (there are religious beliefs that do others harm, but lets not get too far into the weeds with the comparison).  I'll not call you delusional or try to get in your way.


You are not then in a position to criticize people who have actual objective tangible scientific evidence
in their favor as being victims of delusion who must be saved from their own error. At least have a little bit of intellectual consistency and self awareness.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

About Zoey Tur and Misplaced Priorities

So, we're apparently at it again. Once again some high profile trans person is going off the reservation appointed for us by the arbiters of what trans people are allowed to say and think. I've tried to confine my remarks on this to short (for me) replies on various sites where the brouhaha is...brou-ing? But at some point their gets to be more to say than can be confined to a tweet or a Facebook post.  So knowing that (a) hardly anyone pays attention to my blog (and why should they when I post so seldom?) and (b) if they do this will catch hell, let me wade in anyway.

First, a disclaimer: We all disagree with everyone at some point on some score. Rare indeed is the valued friend in the trans community, or respected "leader" with whom I haven't disagreed on some point. I'm absolutely certain Zoey Tur has said or implied something lately which I simply don't accept. This post is NOT about defending Zoey Tur from measured and appropriate disagreement. However, the ongoing controversy over Tur brings to light (again) some other unsettling realities that need addressing. If you read this as a fangirl defense of Zoey you are missing the point.

I'll taken it as a given that anyone who's read this far is at least somewhat familiar with the nature of the dust up but I do have a few followers who are not tuned into the massive soap opera that is internal politics among trans celebrities. By the way, for clarity, by "celebrities" I mean both celebrated folks who have transitioned and thus have platforms, AND those celebrated as trans "leaders" whether or not they enjoyed any notoriety previously - I'm not prepared to concede to the latter group the title of "leader" whatever their self professed qualifications.

Zoey Tur is a national correspondent for Inside Edition who has been employed in journalism for decades before her transition (I'm not going into the whole business of what her name was and what she did, other than to note she has experience and is not just a "famous face" fake correspondent. She's transitioned relatively recently, as compared to some of the other celebrated trans folks, and that provides ammo to her critics in that she's perceived as "wet behind the ears" when publicly addressing trans related news, as she is being repeatedly called upon to do.

So, first the news story. In a Planet Fitness location in Midland Michigan, a person since identified as Carlotta Slodowska entered the women's locker room, s/he says, to stow her coat and purse, and later again to retrieve them. Unbeknownst to her at the time, another patron named Yvette Cormier saw her, clocked her as a male, and protested to management who told her Carlotta was within company policy. Cormier, having failed to receive satisfaction proceeded to spend a week harassing other patrons warning them about the "man"(?) allowed to enter the ladies locker room. Finally PF had enough and terminated Cormier's membership because of this behavior, so she turned to the media. It was only then that Carlotta realizes it was sh/e being discussed and, naturally, went to the media as well.

Now there are SO many layers to this initial story even before we get to Tur's remarks. There's "pretty privilege," i.e. if Carlotta had been pretty and passable this never happens; there's the fact that Cormier acted badly regardless of whether her concern was valid; there's the point that Carlotta purposely avoided being in any state of undress in the locker room; there's the fact that advocates tend to latch on to any story, no matter how problematic, that advances the narrative - and lest you misunderstand I'm a vocal proponent of private-space access by sincere gender identity so don't think I take issue with that goal - but there's the rub: it IS a problematic situation. Enter Zoey Tur who had the temerity to notice and in so doing she tread on the third rail of trans advocacy.

Seperatism, and/or the accusation thereof.

Of course, Now I have to divert and provide background on THAT for the uninitiated. Did I mention this stuff was complex? Okay, how do I make this brief but clear? Within the broader transgender community, there are some competing schools of thought - with different shades of extreme in each. In the broadest terms, the great majority of the politically active (that is, those who control the accepted narrative via media access or widely popular writing) religiously adhere to the concept of "transgender" as one unifying term applying without distinction to any gender non-conforming behavior, condition, or presentation.  "Conforming" in this case would be to societal expectations associated with your "biological sex" (I will NOT go down THAT rabbit hole or we'll be here for 5,000 words). This has the political advantage of maximizing the number of affected persons, and the emotional advantage of avoiding the possibility one might inadvertently marginalize someone.  It is, however, not as simple as that.

The minority view (at least among those with a platform) is that the expression "transgender umbrella" ought to be a bit more of a literal analogy than the majority folks seem to apply it - which is to say that just as varying sorts of people with varying needs may shelter under one umbrella, likewise not everyone under the Transgender Umbrella has the same issues and needs, even if they are of the same value and worth. For example, to use another celebrity name, RuPaul has no need of laws designed to ensure insurance companies cover transition related medical expenses - because he is a self-identified man who has no need to transition, despite his "gender non-conforming" profession.  Different sorts of folks under the umbrella with different sorts of needs. Seems prety common sense, right? But THAT sort of thinking is the third rail of which I spoke.

Enter Zoey Tur.

The touchstone is an interview with Dr. Drew about the aforementioned PF story. You may view the critical portion (for the purposes of her critics) of the interview here.

Let me be clear, I do not personally know if what Tur reported concerning the background of Carlotta Slodowska is correct or not. It's got some traction in online discussions but such discussions tend to be incestuous with a circle of people referencing, ultimately, each other. It is not necessary that the report is true for the point I wish to make to apply - because Tur is not standing accused based on having falsified those claims. Rather, her critics are after her hammer and tong because, they argue, it doesn't matter if they are true. Tur believes that it does matter and, full disclosure, so do I. But I do not write tonight because I agree with that position. Read on.

Tur's comments point out that Carlotta Slodowska identifies in his/her own posts on Facebook and elsewhere as a MAN. Moreover, it seems that many of those posts contain some rather sordid material (as such things are judged) of the sort that the majority advocates had rather not exist. But they do, according to Tur, exist. Like it or not that changes the complexion of the situation. Let's acknowledge that not a few trans women came to a place of transition via a journey through "I'm just a crossdresser" denial, and let's also acknowledge that a lot of people, trans or no, have more than a little bit of kink in their present or past. But Carlotta Slodowska has, we are told, a post history that reeks of the ugliest stereotypes thrown at trans women by our critics both among radical feminists and Pharisaical Traditionalist Christian activists. If Tur had not reported the evidence on that they surely would still have become very public.

The uncomfortable (for the majority position) but logical truth is that if a self-identified male, particularly one with a publicly displayed track record of fetishization of crossdressing is proudly defended as entitled to the protections which are absolutely necessary for transsexual women, then he becomes Case Study A1 for the political movement to keep trans women out of sex segregated spaces for women. Zoey Tur had the temerity to state the politically incorrect but obvious conclusion. Let's think back to the umbrella analogy above. A male-to-female (or vice versa, but we all know who's the accused threat here) transsexual who is in transition or has transitioned has a legitimate, non-negotiable NEED to access the ladies room (bath or locker) for a host of reasons which one would hope needn't be explained. A self-identified male, crossdresser part time or no, does NOT have a NEED to do so. One may argue it's best to allow it and that's a discussion that can be had but I speak of health and safety need of a sort that can't be addressed any other way. Again, remember, the critics are not saying Zoey Tur was wrong about Carlotta Slodowska's self-professed identity, but that she's wrong about whether it matters. But on tat point, at least, she's right - it does matter.

We are a very tiny minority of people (even under the very broad "transgender" definition) and we are asking the massive majority to revise a deeply set cultural tradition in order to accommodate our health and safety needs. They have the political power to squash us like a bug and legislators in some half dozen states (and growing) are attempting to do just that.  We have the high moral ground but the grip on it is exceedingly tenuous.  Already the "pro-family" groups (and the "gender critical radfems") are tripping over themselves to point to this story and say "See? See? We TOLD you these policies would bring out the perverts!!!" I'm not saying Carlotta Slodowska is a "pervert" by any means, but HE says "I am a MAN" and then proudly displays his kink in public, there's no other way it could have ever played out.

Still, Zoey is considered off the reservation for having reached the obvious conclusion: we don't need that kind of help! Since my own transition I have tried to educate my friends and acquaintances in small town Mississippi about trans people, starting them from a knowledge base of essentially zero since almost none of them had ever met a trans person before me. Universally, what they THOUGHT a trans woman is reflects pretty much exactly what Carlotta Slodowska has said of himself. That perception will never lead to our very real medical and safety concerns as transsexual women being addressed. Tur nevertheless has become a pariah among the "right" people because she violated the cardinal rule that insists that all transgender people are exactly alike.

Thus, this battle become a proxy war for the real fight - the Crusade to destroy "Seperatism" (or any perception thereof). But that war itself is misguided. There are those out there, a fringe, who think that "legitimate" transsexuals are superior to, and ought distance themselves, from "lesser" transgender people such as crossdressers. Maybe Tur is one of them (I've not heard her claim that) or maybe she's not, but admitting that there is a distinction, a difference in nature and needs, between transsexuals and crossdressers (or other parts of the transgender community) is not a case for seperatism but a case for clear communication and wise goals. We don't need ordinances that make it possible for RuPaul to pee in the ladies room, we need ordinances that protect people with actual female gender identities to do so.

After all, have we not built the entire case on gender identity? Do not proposed laws and policies routinely say "sincerely held and consistent gender identity" or words to that effect?  Now comes a self-identified MALE and yet our "leaders" rally and say "it doesn't matter!!" of course it matters! It's what the whole thing was built on! Who are we to deny Carlotta Slodowska's self-reported identity because it furthers our otherwise worthy agenda? Have we not then become hypocrites?

It can be rightly argued that crossdrerssers, while presenting as females, are also in danger in men's rooms -  and from that further argue this justifies defending Slodowska as entitled here. There's a discussion to be had there, but I've gone too long already to divert into detailing it. But even allowing that point of view, that means the one who holds it and Tur have a DIFFERENCE OF OPINION not a difference on the facts. The crusade against Tur is about suppressing OPINIONS that do not align with the script. Tur has expressed opinions on other subjects (all the guns are being brought to bear now so a lot of stuff is suddenly appearing that was not discussed a month ago) which are now being eviscerated, and on some of those I strictly disagree with her. She's also being called out on points which are lightly if at all supported (a lot of yelling, not a lot of links). IF all the accusations were true, I'd have many points of disagreement with her.

Most notably, it's accused that she's saying only post-op trans women are legitimately trans. I'm 90% certain that's not her position and wasn't her intent but if it were, I'd be very unhappy with that and would happily debate her on the point.

But this whole business isn't really about any specific comment, it's about the Proxy War. Plus a couple of side dishes of human weakness. Tur went off script, she acknowledged that there's a difference between someone with a female gender identity and someone with a male gender identity and that smacks of Seperatism. Layered onto this ugly beginning is a war of competing egos, arrogant people calling other arrogant people arrogant for not changing their minds and agreeing with them, "veteran" activists resentful of "newbie" faces in front of the camera, those without the financial wherewithal (or prevented by other circumstance) to have GRS resentful of the one who has and looking suspiciously to see if she's lording over them (maybe she is?).

It's all very sordid and ugly. But it's worse than that and this, at long last, is the reason I wrote so much on the subject tonight: it's distracting.

As I noted, in state after state legislatures are moving forward bills specifically targeting trans people. Culturally we have never been more visible and we stand on the ragged edge of moving towards general acceptance, or towards tremendous and vicious backlash - WE DON'T HAVE TIME TO ATTACK EACH OTHER!

Disagree with Zoey Tur? Great! Hell, maybe I do too. but why oh why do we take our eyes off the ball and start trying to destroy her? Damn let's try to destroy Tony Perkins or somebody instead. If you disagree with her say so. I'm perfectly sure Dr. Drew would be happy to book a guest with a famous face who could explain to him in great detail how she disagreed with Tur. But do well to remember that disagreements WILL HAPPEN. Not every Democrat agrees with every other Democrat, not every Methodist agrees with every other Methodist, not ever Latino agrees with every other Latino. The question is - what will you do wen that disagreement arises? State your case, or angrily try to destroy the one with whom you disagree? Disagreement and the vibrant exchange of ideas is GOOD. Group-think is NOT. Right now many higher profile trans activists have seemingly become devoted to the group think above all else and as a result we are putting the worst possible face out there just when the spotlight is brightest and the opposition most motivated.

Please be careful, you leaders, where your priorities are. While your petty rivalries run rampant, all us peons still have a lot of REAL needs to address. I don't ask you to agree, i don't ask you to keep silent about your disagreement, but I do ask, no plead, for CIVILITY. Zoey Tur, however legion her faults may be in your view, is not your enemy and if you have made it your mission to destroy her it is YOU who are off mission.