Nor am I a quarterback.

Also known as, “OMFG no, I have to do a trans post.”

“But I’m … not … a cheerleader” is also a sentiment I feel whenever a trans or queer person assumes I am “cisgender” or “privileged”  because I don’t think I am trans or “identify as” queer.

Believe this, even me in a dress (which happens now and again, usually with shorts underneath, with dresses I’ve picked because they’re comfortable and easy to just throw on instead of choosing separate pieces) or a skirt (which happens, also with shorts beneath, because I like the breeze I get from loose bell or a-line skirts) — or me with long hair, which I’m growing out as an embracing of primitivism, a rejection of queerdom, and because I like the way it turns wild and crazy when I don’t brush or care for it at all — or even me with haphazardly applied, chipping fingernail polish (it’s happened and I refuse to feel ashamed) — is a hell of a lot less “feminine” than your average drag queen.

I’ve worn high heels maybe a handful of times in my life, all of them vintage models (the kind with the thick heel, not stilettos), each time when I was in my twenties, and each time for some kind of job. Each time I found them uncomfortable. I’ve never once plucked my eyebrows. I stand “like a man” (with feet side by side, and my shoulders up, other than when I was being ‘an indie kid’ and rounded them in appropriately emo self-efficacy; I’m being facetious, really I’ve spent a lot of time in my life trying to conceal my breasts by slouching).

Combine this with my “masculine” personality traits, and my homosexual tendencies, and you have the perfect recipe for being thrown to the trans wolves.

I was thirteen when people first started to suggest I was “different.” I don’t think there was a concept of or word for trans in my hometown, so I assumed people were telling me I was a lesbian. It offended me, only because it seemed offensive to assume there was one certain way for lesbians to be. So it wasn’t until I was fifteen and my uncle decided to undergo later-life SRS and live as a woman that the juggernaut really got in motion.

My father and stepmother, who had minimal contact with me, were mildly horrified at uncle Paula’s decision, but in the name of liberal acceptance they soon learned the jargon even if they didn’t understand it. It took them a little while, but at some point I feel they decided that perhaps this strange, unexplained “transsexuality”, which was apparently innate and thus probably genetic (right?), was the reason their estranged step/daughter didn’t behave in traditionally expected ways.

Now, I’m reasonably sure that my mother told them to shove off and STFU. Because my mother is badass, and, all of her possible shortcomings aside, would protect me with her life. We don’t always agree, but I love my mother. Just as an aside.

At the same time, because of this other influence, by the time I reached queer theory, I’d heard enough peripheral whispering that I really started to wonder: Was I a man inside?

I’d certainly always wanted to be treated “like a man”, in terms of being considered intelligent and independent. In my teens, I wanted to be accepted as “one of the boys.” I was good at things that men were thought to be better at, like spacial relations and concrete thinking. I’d preferred gender-neutral toys, like wooden animals, plastic musical instruments, Etch-A-Sketches, dinosaurs, things I could make out of fabric, and just plain my imagination, to my Easy-Bake Oven or fashion dolls.
I’d certainly rejected femininity. I felt uncomfortable with my breasts, my period, and my female body. I didn’t want to get married or have babies. One of my lifelong best friends who I’d always admired and wanted to emulate, came out when we were teenagers as a butch lesbian, which everyone knows (ha!) just means “a wannabe man.”

Voila! Trans! And the queer group agreed! I even picked a male, although ambiguously androgynous, alternate name and everything.

The problem with that is … well. Where do I begin?

Any right-thinking, non-conservative person knows that a child’s choice in toys has no reflection on his or her physical sex, not even if they believe in a “brain sex” that is different from “genital sex.” Gendered children’s toys are propaganda. Hey, I’d never liked toys, such as militaria and other assorted glorifications of violence, marketed specifically towards boys either (not only because in a perfect world I’d be a pacifist: my Christmas list when I was six or seven years old read “a pony, a [specific] jigsaw puzzle, [a specific book title], a [certain stuffed toy], + world peace forever!!”).

Any woman who’s looked around herself knows to be self-conscious of, and even afraid because of, her female body. Female bodies are vulnerable: to rape, abuse, attack. To pregnancy, transmitted disease, and death. The male medical establishment has yet to come up with a way to ameliorate menstrual pain and discomfort, and on a deeper level, our periods are a reminder of our fertility — thus our vulnerability. And our breasts, in addition to being terribly objectified body parts and thus a magnet for leering creepers, are the most obvious physical indication marking us as Other. Most women know that to be female is to be open to attack.

Women who are aware on any level are also aware that marriage and children are big yawning traps that bind you to another human being for life and leave you at numerous extreme disadvantages: physically, mentally, emotionally, economically. Many women don’t wish to get married or have children (although many women end up doing one or both anyway, my mother being one of those women).

Not only is the idea that butch lesbians are “failed men” or “wannabe men” ridiculous, it was even verifiably untrue in the case of my friend. As she had a first name that was difficult to shorten, we always greeted her as “Hey, man,” and “Man” kind of became her second, affectionate name. She also enjoyed the irony, as she was a proud butch (“Yeah, I’m a girl, and I’m gonna kick your ass!” was her favored exclamation as she prepared to pound some bully into the dust).
Of COURSE I looked up to Man. I STILL look up to Man. She was a hero, especially for our little town.

As far as my aptitude at things that men are traditionally supposed to outperform women at: I was precocious. When I was very young, say seven or eight years old, I read in a book that girls were supposed to be good at some things and boys at others. I immediately deduced that the “girl” set wasn’t as cool as the “boy” set, and decided: Fuck that, I’d teach myself to be good at boy stuff! It wasn’t that hard: I was alone, without video games, for most of my childhood, so I did a lot of thinking and didn’t allow “You’re not supposed to be good at that” to deter me. I literally influenced the development of my own brain, in an attempt to avoid later discrimination.

(If I may? Suck on that, assholes who believe in “brain sex.”)

So I’m not trans. Nobody “is” “trans.” Leaving aside the fetishists and paraphiliacs for the sake of continuity: Some men act in ways that society considers “feminine” or “effeminate.” Some women act in ways that society considers “masculine.” All people experience some kind of dissonance between their prescribed gender roles and their actual selves. (I consider laser hair removal and breast augmentation to be perfect examples of this dissonance even in a population that would typically be derided as “comfortably gendered” or “cisgendered.”)

Trans and SRS are commonly prescribed to “cure” homosexuality: If you’re attracted to someone of the same sex, don’t worry, if you “change your sex”, you’re no longer of the same sex! Same if you don’t display the expected affinity for things and behaviors considered innate to your sex: you can change sex and now you’re normal!

It’s a sad state of affairs that people feel the need to resort to surgery instead of embracing their own (and others’) differences — but that’s not going to happen, is it? Silly me.

Face it, born women are not all willingly submissive fuck-robots with huge tits and a fuckhole that goes to nowhere; born women tend to get uppity with things they want and the needs they have and stuff. Also about not getting pregnant, the bitches. Not even the ideal type of male-fantasy women (ie, Pam Anderson, Sasha Grey) could live up to the pornified, dominance-submission-based male fantasy. So a class of people had to be created to keep women in line, keep them either always trying to measure up to the standard or constantly needing to insist they aren’t really mentally or physically defective (“men born into the wrong body” — because a woman’s body is always the wrong body, isn’t it?)

All I can say is: Yeah, I’m a girl, and I’m gonna kick your ass.

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17 Responses to Nor am I a quarterback.

  1. joy says:

    Also, google Carolyn Gage’s writings about Teena Brandon. She has two essays, both of them slightly different, and I can never find both. I’ll update this comment when I do.

    As a summary: Incest survivors often tend to gravitate towards transdom, especially if they are also lesbian. I never identified with my abusers as Gage writes about, because I didn’t even remember it happening until years later, but I certainly did realize that my little-girl’s body made my male relatives treat me differently.
    (I suspect now that my abuser might have been caught, and/or even created a preemptive alibi by telling his father, brother, and male cousins that I was “a Lolita” who’d come onto him; from the time I was small, I can recall all of them looking at me strangely, making comments that didn’t make sense at the time, and constantly reading double entendres into every statement I — a child of ages 4/5 through to teenagehood — made. Whether or not he did ever penetrate me [I can recall him at least exposing himself to me and touching me], this all constitutes as abuse in and of itself.)

    Like other abused girls, I learned that a female body was not a safe place to be. No counselor or queer/trans advocate I ever spoke to, ever asked me about this. I finally told all of it to my second-wave counselor last year, and she had to pause the session to put her head in her hands for a minute or two. Way to fail, queer/trans movement. And though I was already a radical feminist and well out of danger of transitioning by then: thank you, second-wave feminism.

    • Mary Sunshine says:

      You are so very welcome, {{{ precious daughter }}}.

      ** wipes away tears **

    • “Like other abused girls, I learned that a female body was not a safe place to be.”

      Yup. I have a friend who is transitioning simply because she says she has never felt she should have breasts or menstruate. Um, that’s called growing up under patriarchy, girl!

      The queer/trans community will never accept that young dykes are “transitioning” not because they are really born male, but because of a tremendously woman hating society.

      And personally, as a lesbian, I loathe being called “queer,” by others, just because I love women. As radicalesbian once put it, queer is an anti-feminist gay male term.

      • joy says:

        “Queer” is such a strange term. It chafes me whenever I hear it now.

        It holds such possibility for communicating some realities that we experience under patriarchy, but it’s so improperly executed that we might as well just do away with it and start that revolution already.

  2. jj says:

    I couldn’t agree with your post more. I felt all of what you describe growing up.
    And I also had a very similar experience to Joy above.
    I was a incest survivor as well and have been pushed by both the queer community and counselors that I must be tranz.
    I would be interested in reading more of the theories around how incest survivors gravitate towards transexuality, esp when lesbian. If you could find those links that would be great.
    I stand with you in the “Yeah, I’m a girl, and I’m gonna kick your ass.”
    I got yer back.

    • joy says:

      jj — welcome! I’m the blogess, so it was also my comment that struck a note with you.

      Here are the Gage essays:

      http://carolyngage.weebly.com/teena-brandons-inconvenient-truth.html
      http://carolyngage.weebly.com/the-inconvenient-truth-of-teena-brandon-paper.html

      (They have similar titles, but they’re slightly different articles, and both worth reading.)

      Just because I like it: here’s another writing, about one of my childhood heroes, that advocates female self-protection. http://carolyngage.weebly.com/why-annie-got-her-gun.html

      It’s surprising how many women I’ve now met who’ve had similar experiences. While I “was” “trans” (technically I was living as “queer”, as I never bound my breasts [though I wanted to], never tried very hard to ‘read as male’ [just as ‘an effete boi’], and never took T), I thought my resistance meant I was a “bad trans” or “still in the closet”.

      I stopped “being trans” when my girlfriend (an FtT who’d eliminated her breasts and menstrual cycle through anorexia) cheated on me with a man I’d also once slept with. It seemed silly to keep fighting for this “transgression” when it took the same stupid forms as “straight living”, just with more confused language, painful body modding, and tortured navel-gazing. However, I thought I was still a “trans ally” …

      until I really thought about the homophobia evident in trans (including: male lesbians? lesbians with penises?! really?! pull the other one, the one that doesn’t reek of the oh-so-typical male effort to infiltrate, fuck, and ‘re-convert’ lesbians), took a good long look at the misogyny (especially unavoidable are the rape threats, the murder threats, lodged against radical feminists), and confronted the inherent conservativism in the entire movement.

      So … I’m not ‘glad’ that you went through the same things as I did … but I AM glad that we have each other’s backs now. And I thank you!

      • radfemcrafts says:

        I love you and your mom. Love reading about her, and your relationship with her. Also, I have a very similar “Am I trans?” past as you. It was all a lot of fuckery and mental hell so I’ll say: Isn’t it lovely being on the other side of that bullshit? Hell yes.

      • joy says:

        Thanks, radfemcrafts!

        As for my relationship with my mother: I’m glad I saw through the bullshit pomo/third-wavey obfuscation directed at me by society and funfems that said my mother’s protection of me had actually “stifled my development as a confident, sexual being (ie, porn star)” or some such shit.

        We’ve had some disagreements that aren’t worth talking about and are also entirely due to patriarchal societal bullshit — but I love my mother, and I’m glad she and I have that kind of relationship.

      • Mary Sunshine says:

        Joy, thanks for the link to the Annie Oakley article. I love this:

        Annie Oakley had learned the hard way that independence is something to be asserted, not granted.
        Oakley seemed to understand that the shortest distance to reforms for women was not through the
        torturous machinations of the electoral process, but by the mere presence of a female population
        universally armed and presumed dangerous. Far from being old-fashioned and conservative on the
        subject of women’s rights, Annie Oakley was radical and far-sighted. It appears that we feminists have
        yet to catch up to Oakley’s vision of a world made safe by women.

      • joy says:

        I like that too, Mary!

        I read a fictionalized biography of Annie Oakley when I was a child (I was precocious, largely friendless, rather insulated, and living in a rural area where there was little to do but go for walks in the woods and/or read). It was written for adults, so it dealt with her abuse and molestation and how that impacted her growth into adulthood.

        For a child going through the same kinds of things in a slightly different context (even if I didn’t entirely recognize it at the time), this was a crucial event. I was able to viscerally feel that these things happening to Annie Oakley (Phoebe Ann Mozee) were terrible, and to see that she found her path to freedom by learning how to defend herself as opposed to caving in.

        I don’t recall much more about the book (I don’t think it dealt with the idea that she married Frank Butler as a means of further protection whether she knew it or not; it probably made their relationship out as a “true hetero love” thing), but I do recall that it made another really important, if really sad, point: Annie Oakley never truly found peace. She never truly felt safe, not even as the best sharpshooter in the world.

        That speaks to the pervasive effects of abuse, of living in a society that hates you, considers your body as open property, and wants you dead.

        Fuck the patriarchy. I want a gun.

  3. jj says:

    Thanks for the reply. I’ve never felt I had much of a community, but have longed for one. I’ve recently really longed for a butch best friend of sorts, someone who has had a similar story.
    I myself have never ID’d as tranz- but I can ‘pass’ if I desire. I did ID as being a part of the queer thing for awhile but honestly it never felt right to me. I ID now as a butch lesbian. In my 20’s thru early 30’s I had many queer/tranz friends who pressured me to ‘come out’ as tranz. I was very tempted, but alas did not- because even then I felt it was very much a trend that I didn’t want to be a part of. I saw friends transition and then drift away from being my friend, and only seeking out the friendship of their new ‘boys club’. I also recognized that the only reason that I really was tempted was to change my body. Specifically my fat distribution. I’ve suffered with body dsphoria since I can remember- but predominately bottom dsyphoria- prob stemming from the childhood abuse. I still suffer with it, but it’s getting better as I age. (37 now)
    I have never dated or slept with a man, so I have only ever ID’d as lesbian. Queer felt too male inclusive to me.

  4. joy says:

    Oh, yeah, the body dysmorphia. Yep. The only reason I ever considered taking T was that people said it would speed up my metabolism, and I desperately wanted to be thin: to erase the markers of femininity that I considered the root of my oppression. I really idealized the abovementioned girlfriend, because even though she was erratic, inconsistent, a serial cheater, often outright mean to me, and basically a hot mess, she’d managed to accomplish what I couldn’t in terms of anorexia. It was all so fucked up.

    This whole lesbian community: when we can find allies, they’re the best. But we have to weed through all the funfeminists, sex-pozzy/mozzies, BDSMers, male apologists, and porn apologists first — and then there’s the radfem wars about who’s “really” a lesbian, who’s not a separatist, etc.

    Which, I understand that women, especially lesbians and especially lifelong lesbians, have to be especially careful: but ffs. This is not helping the immediate crisis situation(s). It’s not helping more women come out, and it’s not providing solidarity and community for women who are already out.

    (For the record, I don’t always call myself [hahaha, “identify as”, hahaha, oh, no, actually that hurts] a lesbian because I have previously slept with men and I don’t want to appropriate anyone’s cause.)

    So we find community where we can, and trans is not where it’s at.

    • Mary Sunshine says:

      Eloquent. You water my roots.

      • joy says:

        Thank you again, Mary. These comments are just my thoughts as they happen. I often fear that they’re wrong or offensive, because and but I’m new at this whole “female community” thing. In fact, I think we all are new to it, really, when you come right down to it. Even those who’ve been aligning themselves with women since forever are still blazing new ground, because it’s such an unpopular stance.

      • radicalesbian says:

        Joy’s a water sign. (Me too.)

      • joy says:

        Good point! I forgot about that (oddly).

  5. joy says:

    Also, for anyone still confused as to why trans ideology is conservative and homophobic (among other things):

    http://gendertrender.wordpress.com/2011/04/15/nhs-to-begin-controversial-chemical-castration-studies-on-gay-children-as-result-of-transgender-lobby/

    Yes, please just read that entire title and let it sink in. Proceed to the article if you can. But everything that’s in the title is in the article, and more.

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