Monday, November 29, 2010

Part 2: Sara and Julian Discuss Trans/Feminist Issues: a few more thoughts on the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, and on to the matter of Cisgender Women's Privileges

This image is from here. We can note how it doesn't include political location and structural position as part of how identity is defined, decided upon, imposed, enforced, and determined. This is, typical to U.S. dominant culture, a highly individualistic and apolitical understanding of "identity". For whom isn't "oppression" a factor in their identity?
[Part 1 of this exchange is *here*. What follows is Part 2.]

JR wrote: "The truth about MWMF is that there's no way to know who was FAAB and who wasn't, unless the person gets naked while there or is known by participants to not be FAAB. So intersex women, trans men, and trans women have likely attended."

Sara responded: Yeah, they first vocally expelled trans women they knew were trans. But eventually got against doing pantie-checks and adopted a DADT policy instead, still telling potential trans women going there that doing so was disrespecting the policy and they should feel ashamed for that.

    I've never been there myself and have no intention to go, either. My only take in the debate is to be against injustice.

    It's a bit hypocritical to say "for all women" and then define women as "not trans-women" (or like they say: FAAB).


As I understand it, the issue is that some people with male privilege want to attend and claim to not have male privileges. Not necessarily in those terms, but that's the political gist of it, as I see it. If Black people wish to gather without people who have white privileges and entitlements, to convene and celebrate what it means to be Black, I am all for it. And if someone shows up who is not visually identifiable in terms of distinct race as such things are constructed in the U.S., and many Black attendees experience the person as throwing white privilege all over the place, and want that person to leave, they should have the ethical/communal right to do so. That's my view. And if a white person shows up and claims (completely genuinely) they have always felt Black, grew up in Black community, identified always as Black, and see themselves as Black, I also support Black people not letting that person into their gathering.

Identity is not a product of subjective experience only or, often, even primarily. If that were true, lots and lots of white middle class New Agers who felt "Native American" (maybe especially "in a past life") or who were into "Indian culture" ever since they could remember (as they stereotypically and exploitively understood it), would have been claiming to be "generic Native American--heritage, language, affiliation, or nation unknown", while holding onto VERY white privileges and entitlements. And the very act of claiming, in all earnestness and sincerity, to be part of a group you aren't part of, if you structurally oppress that group, is even more proof that you aren't a respectful member of that group, not proof you are. And, just to be clear here, as I understand it from American Indians and First Nations people, there are varying ways of determining ethnic membership and skin color isn't one of them. So I'm not saying that "white" people can't be American Indian or First Nation in heritage and identity.

But in the dominant U.S., identity, along with subjective experience of self, is also a product of how one is experienced interpersonally and socially, and how one is structurally positioned and located in political hierarchies. Some women, for example, may well be predatory, and if women don't feel safe with her being around, then they should be able to request that she leaves and not returns, based on her behavior being disrespectful, threatening, hostile, or violating to other women.

Sara, do you see it as an injustice for an oppressed group to be violated by people who are structurally oppressive, by being born and raised with privileges FAAB women didn't have as girls or as women? Do you see it as an injustice or a social wrong for women to be made to accept into a gathering members of the human community they don't wish to have there, when that decision is not based on race, ethnicity, class, age, ability, or appearance?

I think a key point of contention in these debates, which I imagine you and I will explore much more, is the issue of who carries cisgender privilege, and what cisgender privileges mean, for example, when the cisgender person was always gender non-conforming or always appeared to not "fit" the dominant categories that were or are socially enforced, with terroristic force.

You might have heard of the Vancouver Rape Relief vs Kimberly Nixon court stuff that went on until 2007?

Yes. I have.

Their argument is about FAAB, again - but the way they "spotted" this particular one was through looks, and they brought arguments against "masculine looks" (defacto also excluding butch women), wether it be clothes or just "your face looks too masculine".
    I agree they only should hire women, but not their reasoning that reeks of lookism. And they never proved their point about the need of FAAB-only. They only asserted it was so.
    One wonders how they deal with not triggering victims of female-female rape. Since the concept of triggering was central to their court plea.


I will get back to you on this case. I need to research it a bit. I won't forget to pick up these points you make, though. And I thank you for raising them.

"No, that's not the same. You repeatedly keep ignoring the issue--that the person or people excluded are not politically structured in the same location, socially, as those who the gathering was designed to support. Those who seek to exclude are politically located beneath those they seek to exclude, structurally speaking and evidenced in behavior."

    You might not agree, but it's evident that women in general are located structurally above trans women in general. Like white women are located above black women, or Jewish women.


I'd like to know what your conception is of trans women. Are you speaking here only of trans women who have had MtF surgery or hormone therapies? Are you speaking of trans women who, regardless of therapies being approached and surgeries being performed, pass as women in the larger population, or those who don't? What about trans women who have decided not to transition, but who choose to present as genderqueer? And who, to most people, appear to be and are regarded socially and politically as male-men? It is a frustration for many of us who are trans and intergender that the term "trans woman" gets used and repeatedly discussed as if this is an identifiable population who are more oppressed than cisgender women, when no such group exists in such a readily identifiable way.

You say "women in general are located structurally above trans women in general." I assume you are using the term "woman" in the first part of the sentence to mean cisgender women. I see very cloudy evidence for making that statement and think it presumes far too much about the conditions impacting cisgender women's lives and trans women's lives.

For example, we might say that gay men are always more oppressed than straight men. And while gay men have a different relationship to homophobia and heterosexism than straight men, I've known "fey" straight men who have been queer-bashed, and gay men who have always been assumed to be straight. So if we're speaking of "who gets beaten because they are targeted as gay" it doesn't always play out that it is gay men. Some straight men are beaten for being gay too, even while they're not gay or bisexual.

Here's another example. A lesbian cisgender woman onced remarked to me that, in some ways, she has more privilege that heterosexual women. That goes against "conventional thinking" in anti-oppression activist circles--she was part of such circles at the time she made this statement to me. She wouldn't deny that lesbian women are targeted generally and in specifically harmful and hurtful ways for anti-lesbian violence, which may be institutional as much or more than being interpersonally experienced. But she noted that living intimately with members of the population who are raised to sexualise your oppression is not "a privilege" among women. It is a danger. And to the extent that lesbian women don't choose to "regularly sleep with men--or one man", they are not putting themselves at the same risk for rape as those women, often heterosexual or bisexual, who do regularly sleep with men--or one man. Heterosexual women are more likely to be battered and abused by a man than by a woman. So is her socialisation to live with men--or one man--intimately, "a privilege"? Yes, if she's married to a man she may, statistically and in fact, in her own life, benefit temporarily or for the long term in economic ways, but she's also made vulnerable due to that economic advantage, when and if it is there. She's vulnerable to homelessness upon divorce, for example.

You then state: "Like white women are located above Black women, or Jewish women."
First, many Jewish women are white. So that gets problematic right away. I'm someone who does believe that if all other aspects of being are politically on par, white women live more privileged lives than Black women in a white male supremacist society. And I'd say that white Christian women in the U.S. have privileges over and against white Jewish or Muslim women, Jewish women of color, Black Christian or Muslim women. So, in that sense, white Christian women are structurally located above those other groups of women, in the U.S., generally speaking.

I'll respond to your evidence about how it is you arrive at the conclusion that trans women are structurally positioned below cisgender women, as we proceed here.

The incredibly high suicide rate speaks for itself (50% attempt and about 20% overall succeed).

That's so very sad. Tragic.

And given that stats are often calculated based on LGBT youth, for example, I'd welcome knowing your source for that statistic. Not because I don't believe it--it feels accurate to me, however horrible it also feels to contemplate that. But because I just want to know how they gathered that information, given this, which is a common problem for our community (from Wikipedia--admittedly, not the best resource for such things):

Though it is impossible to know the suicide rate of LGBT youth because sexuality and gender minorities are often hidden and even unknown, particularly in this age group. Further research is currently being done to explain the prevalence of suicide among LGBT youths.

Are we assuming the people we're talking about are white and class-privileged? Because most stats are based on people with race and class privilege. Poor and of color populations are routinely not factored into such statistics because the researchers don't bother to find out how such populations are impacted by mental health issues, depression, suicidality, suicide, or violence and murder. If a poor woman is murdered and her body is found, is it assumed she was a prostitute, compared to when a rich woman's body is found? If she's Black or Brown and her body is found, is there an assumption then, by media, that she died of drugs, HIV/AIDS, or prostitution-related harm? How would we know her cause of death? If someone is a drug addict, and they die, how and when do we know that was a suicide or not? If most suicidally depressed women--trans or not--do not seek out mental health services because the services, personnel, agencies, and institutions are so terribly racist, heterosexist, and classist--or just plain inaccessible or unavailable--how can we really know how many women--trans or not--commit suicide?

But there's also housing, employment and hospital discrimination, simply for being trans women.

I'm wondering, right now, if there's any meaningful difference in how cisgender women in prostitution survive--what their chances are of being assaulted and worse, compared to trans women in prostitution. I'm wondering if the issue is "being trans" or "being visually gender non-conforming". Because it seems to me that, again, there's a huge assumption here that "trans women" are all, everywhere, recognised and identified as such by housing personnel, employers, and hospital workers. Are you wanting to make that kind of stereotypical statement about "trans women"? Again, isn't the issue here more about who appears to be gender conforming and who doesn't--regardless of whether or not they are trans?

Being left to die on the pavement after you got hit by a car, is not a privilege. Nor is it one to have the paramedics laugh at you instead of helping you. This really happened to a trans woman, a couple years back.

I can well imagine--against some internal resistance--that there are despicable experiences visited upon trans women in life and in death. And the thoughts make me shudder as is the reality that poor people are more likely to be left unattended when in life threatening situations: the Katrina/U.S. government neglect disaster is proof enough of that. The incident you cite is horrible--beyond words horrible. But that is an example of a story that is anecdotal, however true and horrid it is in its indication of some cisgender people's utter cruelty and gross inhumanity--was the person who hit her a cisgender het man? Were the paramedics cisgender het men? I ask because this might be a case of a combination of forms of gross bigotry and inhumanity--combining homophobia--if they registered the victim not as trans but as a "cross-dressing 'homo'", for example. Do we know how the paramedics identified the victim in their gross humor? It could be a kind of anti-lesbian gender non-conforming misogyny, also. I believe you oppose conclusions about oppression based on anecdotal evidence. There are so many unanswered questions about that one atrocity. I raise those examples of how some non-trans people respond grossly and inhumanely to trans people because so many non-trans people don't even accurately identify trans people AS trans people. So I wouldn't assume, for example, that the victim was mistreated because they were perceived to be transgender, but rather because they were perceived to be a "cross-dresser". That's as likely to be the bigotry one would encounter, depending on how one's body matches with society's restrictive homophobic, lesbophobic, transphobic, classist, racist, and heterosexist ideas about "appropriate" attire personal presentation. And none of that means a transgender person wasn't mistreated in grotesquely dehumanising ways--regardless of what was in the minds of the abusers.

I have absolutely no doubt that atrocious things happen to some trans women. I'd be in tremendous denial to state anything contrary to that. But moving from that awareness to a conclusion that trans women are oppressed structurally by non-trans women is not reachable, for me, based on anecdotal stories, because we all have them about every population. Paramedics, for example, laugh at many people--such as obese people. And I'm willing to bet that all the people involved in the degrading behavior weren't cisgender women, but were cisgender men. Do you know if that was the case? And, sorry to make you recount those details.

I almost didn't get my last job. They figured I was trans if only for the name mismatch (legal and current usage) and the head woman in HR thought it might be better for me not to get hired, for my sake. The formator and the scheduling guy thought I would do fine, and I got hired. The people who worked there were generally not mainstream (videogame testing needs hardcore gamers, of which there are few), so I didn't get harassed or anything.

Not hiring me "for my own sake" wouldn't have been much help even had there been discrimination and harassment. I need income like everyone else.


I totally agree. I totally agree that the apparently cisgender (?) woman was not doing you any favors at all. I'm curious to know how you know she was cisgender. I can also imagine scenarios where, for example, a Jewish person tells another Jew, "it'd be better if you didn't work here" because the place is crawling with Christian anti-Semitism. Same with a gay male doing the hiring for a position in a place that is virulently homophobic. But, assuming that woman was cisgender, that'd be actionable discrimination, as far as I can tell. Fortunately, you did get hired. I wonder what she has to say about this now? Have you run into her since? I'd be curious to know if she's been confronted on her discriminatory attitude--not necessarily or even preferably by you, but by anyone. Is it still actionable, do you think? I'm not saying you should risk your job to pursue a case, or that you even have the will or energy to do such a thing, but I am wondering if those other people you encountered in the hiring process are required to report her discriminatory behavior.

I'll close for now and look forward to your responses. I'm glad you got the job!!! I hope you're relatively happy with it. :)

87 comments:

undercoverpunk said...

I like this.

Sara said...

"I'd like to know what your conception is of trans women. Are you speaking here only of trans women who have had MtF surgery or hormone therapies? Are you speaking of trans women who, regardless of therapies being approached and surgeries being performed, pass as women in the larger population, or those who don't? What about trans women who have decided not to transition, but who choose to present as genderqueer? And who, to most people, appear to be and are regarded socially and politically as male-men? It is a frustration for many of us who are trans and intergender that the term "trans woman" gets used and repeatedly discussed as if this is an identifiable population who are more oppressed than cisgender women, when no such group exists in such a readily identifiable way."

I'm speaking of transsexual women when I say "trans women", not of transgender men or women, which are already much harder to place (is a male-bodied person who doesn't undergo medical transition, but dresses to be recognized as feminine, a transgender man or woman?)

To me, a transsexual person is someone who has or will undergo (in the near future) at least hormonal therapy and some degree of social transition (doesn't mean they'll necessarily pass, wether it's desired or not). Surgery not required.

I cannot define the transgender experience, as I'm outside this group.

And I am comparing to cissexual women and people, not cisgender. Cissexual is not-transsexual (which includes transgender), and has additional issues (such as identification, and the social transition, bathroom usage, passports). Transsexual people can rarely "completely hide" their status, either it's legally visible, or it's readily visible by looking.

And going "compleltely stealth" (hiding all that pertains to the change, legally and visually) means not being able to speak of one's past. Having its own drawbacks for many.

Sara said...

"For example, we might say that gay men are always more oppressed than straight men. And while gay men have a different relationship to homophobia and heterosexism than straight men, I've known "fey" straight men who have been queer-bashed, and gay men who have always been assumed to be straight. So if we're speaking of "who gets beaten because they are targeted as gay" it doesn't always play out that it is gay men. Some straight men are beaten for being gay too, even while they're not gay or bisexual."

I'd say gay and lesbian people are discriminated in being able to speak, frankly, of their life partner, without being judged as lesser by mainstream society. Regardless of their appearance or degree of gender-conformity.

I could say my boyfriend is discriminated by proxy for being with me, if people know of my trans status, because he's then assumed to be gay (while he's not).

As for me, well, as soon as anyone knows of my status, they could take my relation at face value. Or say I'm a really very gay man if I date men, or a fetishist man if I date women (yeah some "scientist" invented a term for it, autogynephilia).

My family doctor thinks like this, and he's generally liberal. He didn't recoil in horror in knowing I was trans, for one. Still, I'm "a very gay man" to him. He was stunned I could still be virgin (in every sense) when I was 23. Probably because gay people are assumed to like sex a lot more. He absolutely wanted to test me for STIs (and HIV), which I knew I was negative for.

Sara said...

"And to the extent that lesbian women don't choose to "regularly sleep with men--or one man", they are not putting themselves at the same risk for rape as those women, often heterosexual or bisexual, who do regularly sleep with men--or one man."

I'm not sure what are the rape statistics amongst lesbian and bisexual women. So I can't say much there.

"Heterosexual women are more likely to be battered and abused by a man than by a woman."

That's for sure. The reverse is true also. Heterosexual men are more likely to be battered and abused by a woman than by a man, at home (cause let's not mix in street violence and mugging).

While gay men might be more likely to be battered and abused by men, at home.

Men are just less likely to be raped by women, but DV is an equal opportunity crime. I'm pretty sure the rate of DV isn't lower amongst lesbian and bisexual women than amongst any other groups.

It's about mental problems, stress, substance abuse, self-control problems, anger issues, entitlement to attention/sex/money/gifts/kids, revenge, and more. Controlling someone is what happens from it if it continues over a long enough period. And it certainly isn't limited to men, to want to control things.

Feeling more or less entitled things go your way is a rather primal human reaction against things not going your way enough. It's the anti-doormat instinct. A reaction against perceived selfishness. A healthy ego will feel it at a reasonable time.

Sara said...

"Yes, if she's married to a man she may, statistically and in fact, in her own life, benefit temporarily or for the long term in economic ways, but she's also made vulnerable due to that economic advantage, when and if it is there. She's vulnerable to homelessness upon divorce, for example."

Well, here you receive a check per month based on how many underaged children are in the household. The custodian parent gets it (or both if they live together). If separation occurs, the government forces a payment for the children, and possibly for the economically disadvantaged spouse.

The spouse benefits are supposed to be temporary for her to get back on her feet and find work. But even then, there seems to be no time limit.

There's also always welfare, a last-resort income that's about equivalent to half minimum wage, free of taxes. Everyone is eligible for it as long as their income is low-enough (usually nothing, but child support counts) and are not eligible for unemployment benefits.

For an example, both me and my boyfriend are on welfare, and able to make ends meet with our incomes together. No luxuries, but no homelessness either. At worst there's roommates.

But that's in Canada.

Sara said...

"First, many Jewish women are white."

Some people consider Jewishness to be both religious and ethnic. That is, you could be Catholic, but of Jewish descent.

I'm not sure I understand the need for that distinction, but it exists.

Sara said...

"As I understand it, the issue is that some people with male privilege want to attend and claim to not have male privileges."

The festival started as "an event for all women". They only decided in the 1990s to define "all women" as "those who didn't have male privilege as children" (because trans men are welcomed, they surely do have male privilege).

Sara said...

"And if a white person shows up and claims (completely genuinely) they have always felt Black, grew up in Black community, identified always as Black, and see themselves as Black, I also support Black people not letting that person into their gathering. "

The race analogy is always a failed analogy when applied to trans people. You can't "feel black", because its completely cultural. There isn't a physical component of Black people that can be felt, and thus changed.

You can change your body configuration, because you know that the one that people say you have, is wrong. Taking hormones and correcting something you feel is a huge mistake. But that's because body configuration has biological ramifications that skin color doesn't. Testosterone and estrogen don't feel the same. Having no breasts at all vs having some (even small ones) doesn't feel the same, physically speaking. And breasts that men have due to excessive weight are different.

Breasts are fatty tissue in majority, but estrogen changes how they feel, and their shape. On top, there would also be skin texture (hormone-affected), body smell (also hormone-affected at least in part - diet affects the rest) and metabolism (testosterone favorises muscle development, estrogen doesn't).

Sara said...

"Identity is not a product of subjective experience only or, often, even primarily."

The argument I heard the most often said by radical feminists about female identity, is that it's something that's imposed on you, and that the experience of being demeaned etc is what makes someone female.

That's the reasoning for woman-born-woman mainly, besides assumed male privilege (and the non-existence of female privilege).

Sara said...

"And given that stats are often calculated based on LGBT youth, for example, I'd welcome knowing your source for that statistic."

About the trans suicide rate, I didn't see the study cite for it, but I've seen it often, and in many places. Most being trans support groups online.

Sara said...

"Are we assuming the people we're talking about are white and class-privileged? "

I can't say about race, but trans people in general are certainly not class-privileged.

Most are working class, or homeless due to unemployment rates and the lack of last-resort income in the US.

A few, like Lynn Conway, are comfortable, but she's also unlikely to be representative, being the inventor of a key component of processors we use in computers today.

Studies say that, for those who were middle-class workers before transition (professionals and such), they saw a drop in income post-transition. Those are also usually older when they transition (like 40+). Previously represented as "the majority of trans people", its less and less true nowadays, where people transition long before having had a career or marriage (a social obligation in the past, and seen as a cure against the horribleness of being trans).

Sara said...

"If a poor woman is murdered and her body is found, is it assumed she was a prostitute, compared to when a rich woman's body is found?"

If a poor trans woman is found, it's always assumed she was a prostitute. Mainly because trans women are overrepresented in prostitution (more than 1/500, their ratio in society) and that it's a stereotype about them.

Also because people think that trans women in general are just oversexualized men who love meaningless sex (most people don't assume this of women in general, only of prostituted women - they do assume this of men in general though).

Sara said...

"I'm wondering, right now, if there's any meaningful difference in how cisgender women in prostitution survive--what their chances are of being assaulted and worse, compared to trans women in prostitution. I'm wondering if the issue is "being trans" or "being visually gender non-conforming"."

Prostituted women are in general seen as low-class.

Trans women, wether pre-op, non-op, or post-op is seen as "really a man", and could be the target of homophobic rage (their client being possibly perceived as gay makes them passionately kill or hurt them - an artefact of the very rigid norm of masculinity).

They're usually not visually gender non-conforming, or are not chosen. At worst they pass for a homely not-too-pretty woman, when clothed.

If we get in the visually non-conforming, it's more in the male prostitute market of same-sex. The client knows this person is a man, and might like cross-dressed men.

Sara said...

"Because it seems to me that, again, there's a huge assumption here that "trans women" are all, everywhere, recognised and identified as such by housing personnel, employers, and hospital workers. Are you wanting to make that kind of stereotypical statement about "trans women"?"

If your identification is not changed, no amount of looking pretty and using a female name is going to save you.

I still got a M on my IDs, and can't change it save for having surgery - you don't need to dig far. Most transsexual people (80%) don't have surgery for a host of reasons, most being economical, some of choice. And trans men don't because of bad results, and an even higher price tag (100,000$ for something that might look like a penis from afar).

Sara said...

"was the person who hit her a cisgender het man? Were the paramedics cisgender het men?"

I'll assume paramedics are mainly men due to the strength needed to carry people (often heavy people that you can't touch in certain places due to wounds) on the stretcher.

The person who hit her seems immaterial to me though. Accidents happen. I'm pretty sure the one who hit her didn't do it on purpose.

Sara said...

"Do we know how the paramedics identified the victim in their gross humor? It could be a kind of anti-lesbian gender non-conforming misogyny, also."

They cut her bleeding clothes (a normal procedure to not make it worst) and found a penis. That's how. I sincerely doubt they thought she was a lesbian.

Sara said...

"So I wouldn't assume, for example, that the victim was mistreated because they were perceived to be transgender, but rather because they were perceived to be a "cross-dresser"."

True, but the cross-dresser can leave his or her cross-dressing clothes home. A pre-op or non-op transsexual person generally can't hide that they're trans when naked, even if dressed in a t-shirt and jeans over that.

People assume I'm a girl 99% of the time. If they saw a penis, I doubt they'd think "cross-dresser". More likely she-male, or transsexual, or pervert.

Sara said...

"But moving from that awareness to a conclusion that trans women are oppressed structurally by non-trans women is not reachable, for me, based on anecdotal stories, because we all have them about every population."

One doesn't need to be oppressed by some group in particular. Only to be oppressed period. Trans people can oppress other trans people, even if they structurally have the same degree of power.

Lesbian people can oppress other lesbian people, and so on.

Cissexual men and women have more structural power than transsexual people, and as such, might use it more often (they can get the backing of society more readily) - and get away with it more often.

Sara said...

"I totally agree. I totally agree that the apparently cisgender (?) woman was not doing you any favors at all. I'm curious to know how you know she was cisgender. "

I had a talk with her about who I was and all, because I knew it would come up, and I wanted to be correctly identified at work, even if my legal name wasn't changed yet.

She was completely clueless about transsexual people, besides knowing they existed (so were other employees). She also said I was the only trans people working there.

Sara said...

"But, assuming that woman was cisgender, that'd be actionable discrimination, as far as I can tell. "

The burden of proof would have been on me, to prove I wasn't hired for this reason. And then launch a human rights case, possibly taking months or more...and during that time I'm not working.

Launching discrimination cases about hiring practices is very hard unless you have proof the bias was there.

Not hired because you're male/female, and they didn't tell you a thing? Hard to pursue.

Not hired because you have long hair as a guy, or short hair as a girl, and its not a job requirement (anything not with the public should not require anything beyond a basic dress code or basic rules - not covering hair, nails, make-up or jewels)? Very hard to prove.

The army (both US and Canada) is a glaring example of them having a dress code for reasons that have nothing to do with working with the public. And a glaring double-standard with regards to hair length etc between men and women. Suing them is out of the question for most though.

Sara said...

"I'd be curious to know if she's been confronted on her discriminatory attitude--not necessarily or even preferably by you, but by anyone. "

She was confronted by the 2 men who said she should hire me. And by me later when I wanted to change my internal email name - basically outing me to everyone needing to mail me, or consulting the mail employee list.

She said my name should be legally changed first and that she had her hands tied (I wonder by who, since she was the HR head).

Sara said...

"but I am wondering if those other people you encountered in the hiring process are required to report her discriminatory behavior."

They're not required to do so. One did so because he became my boyfriend. He told me as someone who was close to me, rather than as an employee.

Julian Real said...

Okay, Sara. Here comes my multiple-posting of comments/replies to what you've written. I skip some stuff, but I think I respond to most of what you've stated above.

Let me know if there's a point I missed that you'd like me to address or if you feel I've greatly misunderstood you at any point.

I'm not sure how many comments this will be--likely more than twenty.

Julian Real said...

Sara wrote:
I cannot define the transgender experience, as I'm outside this group.


I didn't realise until you wrote that that some transsexuals don't consider themselves "under the umbrella" of "being transgender." Thanks for educating me on that!

Sara wrote:
Transsexual people can rarely "completely hide" their status, either it's legally visible, or it's readily visible by looking.
And going "compleltely stealth" (hiding all that pertains to the change, legally and visually) means not being able to speak of one's past. Having its own drawbacks for many.


I can see that.

Sara wrote:
I'd say gay and lesbian people are discriminated in being able to speak, frankly, of their life partner, without being judged as lesser by mainstream society. Regardless of their appearance or degree of gender-conformity.


Wow. That really stunned me to read that, Sara. When I read it I felt like you were showing me a significant level of misinformation and lack of insight about what it means to be lesbian and gay in a lesbophobic/homophobic society that oppresses us. I'm kind of astounded you would say that, frankly. Not that I disagree with the point--we often do have to mask or otherwise hide the gender of our partner in conversations. But that's basically THE LEAST of what I and many lesbians and gay males deal with from a heteropatriarchal misogynistic-homophobic society. Personally, when it comes to having been "gay" for the last 25 years, and from never having been heterosexual, "the gender of my partner" has not been the issue most of the time--which is partly due to me not having one most of the time. Lots of us are single!!

I hope you appreciate that for most of us who are lesbian and gay, especially those of us where were not heterosexual kids, that "not being able to speak out loud about our partner" is a minor issue, relative to other survival-based issues, such as how not to get beaten, raped, and killed. Lots of us who do get all of that abuse and other forms, don't even HAVE partners! And, I am physically close with male friends--hugging warmly and such, or walking down the street with arms linked, so homophobes are going to bash us for that, and we're not even partners.

Julian Real said...

Sara wrote:
As for me, well, as soon as anyone knows of my status, they could take my relation at face value. Or say I'm a really very gay man if I date men, or a fetishist man if I date women (yeah some "scientist" invented a term for it, autogynephilia).


I hate those kinds of terms, but have to note that many, many, many HET male-men are fetishists of women's bodies, body parts, and try and colonise women in many horrid ways.

Sara wrote:
My family doctor thinks like this, and he's generally liberal. He didn't recoil in horror in knowing I was trans, for one. Still, I'm "a very gay man" to him. He was stunned I could still be virgin (in every sense) when I was 23. Probably because gay people are assumed to like sex a lot more. He absolutely wanted to test me for STIs (and HIV), which I knew I was negative for.


If it were an option, I'd find another doctor, were I you. And I know that's often easier said than done!

I'd be interested to know why you say "liberal" like it's a necessarily good thing. I just need to share with you that for many, many oppressed people I know--particularly those oppressed by gender and race, "liberalism" is experienced very directly and systematically, and institutionally, as VERY oppressive and insulting to the individuals I know as members of oppressed classes. Your public regard for liberalism does nothing to ally yourself with those of us who are fighting liberalism as well as conservatism in North America. And I know lots of genderqueer, transgender, non-transgender, non-genderqueer, lesbian, gay, bi, and het people, and one transsexual person who would agree that liberalism is not friend of queer people, or of women generally, or of people of color generally. So please be mindful of the fact that your promotion of liberalism is the promotion of our oppression as women, queers, and race-marginalised/non-dominant people. You once again stand with those who oppress us when you publicly proclaim "being liberal" as "good"/ I get how for you it is good compared to what you might get from some white person who is more conservative. But for me, it's just a different kind of social nightmare. So too is it for many women I know. That you don't experience liberalism as oppressive is something I wonder about: why don't you, given that liberalism has no policy or plan or course of activist action to respect or liberate queer people, or any women: especially of color, especially lesbian? Do you stand with us as an ally or not?

Julian Real said...

Everything you say about rape and DV I'm gonna have to put in a separate post, because, to me, it is so in need of a thorough critique and I'd have to cut that up into bits to post in as comments. For now, though, I'll state that, in my view, it comes across as either just plain wrong, or it reeks of male supremacy. I've heard almost the same exact words from MRAs. And this isn't the first time in our conversations that your political views and their collide. And I'm wondering how and why that is. Do you experience yourself as, in some ways, being politically in line with Men's Rights Activists?

And I realise our systems are different with regard to welfare, but I gotta tell you: what you wrote about it is also very much in line with what racists and misogynists say in the U.S. I don't imagine you are intending to be in line with that. But when you say things like:

Well, here you receive a check per month based on how many underaged children are in the household. The custodian parent gets it (or both if they live together). If separation occurs, the government forces a payment for the children, and possibly for the economically disadvantaged spouse.

The spouse benefits are supposed to be temporary for her to get back on her feet and find work. But even then, there seems to be no time limit.

There's also always welfare, a last-resort income that's about equivalent to half minimum wage, free of taxes. Everyone is eligible for it as long as their income is low-enough (usually nothing, but child support counts) and are not eligible for unemployment benefits.

For an example, both me and my boyfriend are on welfare, and able to make ends meet with our incomes together. No luxuries, but no homelessness either. At worst there's roommates.


Do you get how pro-capitalist/pro-CRAP that all sounds? Do you see how that plays into really gross, classist, racist, misogynistic stereotypes about "women on welfare", especially Black women on welfare? Again, our cultural/regional/national histories are different, so maybe all I'm asking is for you to learn more about the history of "women on welfare" in this country. Here's a great place to start:

http://www.msmagazine.com/spring2002/tillmon.asp

I'd very much appreciate knowing your response to that article.

Julian Real said...

Sara wrote:
Some people consider Jewishness to be both religious and ethnic. That is, you could be Catholic, but of Jewish descent.
I'm not sure I understand the need for that distinction, but it exists.


Jewishness is viewed in many different ways by many different people, Jewish, non-Jewish, and anti-Semitic. I know, for example, that someone can be Jewish and a religion that isn't Judaic. I used to be Buddhist and have never been religiously Jewish, in terms of belonging to a synagogue or congregation. I do however study up on some Jewish religious history, so I know Christian's anti-Semitic bullshit when it crosses my path. Pun intended.

Sara wrote:
The festival started as "an event for all women". They only decided in the 1990s to define "all women" as "those who didn't have male privilege as children" (because trans men are welcomed, they surely do have male privilege).


I find that answer evasive. So I'll reframe and rephrase it. Do you think people with male privilege should be entitled to attend an event clearly meant to be a safe, comfortable, welcoming space for people without male privilege? And, can you see/understand how, from the perspective of a woman who has been oppressed by, and never statused in her own individual life by male privileges, that seeking such a space would be wanted and needed? Do you support people gathering who have never had who do not currently have male privileges?

Sara wrote:
The race analogy is always a failed analogy when applied to trans people. You can't "feel black", because its completely cultural. There isn't a physical component of Black people that can be felt, and thus changed.


Some people say exactly the same thing about gender. Not "biological sex", but gender. I think one point is that what is termed "race differences" do exist, naturally, but their meaning--the meaning of skin color and tone, the meaning of variously shaped eyes, noses, and lips, is entirely cultural-political, not biological. Similarly, one could be born male and feel female, but "feeling like a woman" (or a man) would mean that someone is accepting what society says "a woman" is. Does that feel like a more appropriate version of the parallel to you?

Julian Real said...

Sara wrote:
You can change your body configuration, because you know that the one that people say you have, is wrong. Taking hormones and correcting something you feel is a huge mistake.


Do you see culture as impacting "feeling female" and anyone--trans or not--wanting "to be a woman" or "a man"?

Sara wrote:
But that's because body configuration has biological ramifications that skin color doesn't. Testosterone and estrogen don't feel the same. Having no breasts at all vs having some (even small ones) doesn't feel the same, physically speaking. And breasts that men have due to excessive weight are different.

Breasts are fatty tissue in majority, but estrogen changes how they feel, and their shape. On top, there would also be skin texture (hormone-affected), body smell (also hormone-affected at least in part - diet affects the rest) and metabolism (testosterone favorises muscle development, estrogen doesn't).


But fatty tissue, skin texture, and body smell, and metabolism aren't so different in some cultures where body sizes and shapes between males and females aren't so different. And there have been, and may still be societies that don't even have terms for "two different genders or two different sexes". Identity may be organised around what one does, one's age, and other factors other than how the white West "does" sex and gender. This wouldn't take away from your own experience--as you didn't grow up in one of those societies. You grew up in one that is white het male supremacist, as did I. But I guess I believe it is important to question the "universality" of "sex differences" as a means of checking where male supremacist politics hides in assumptions about biological sex difference.

And I think a salient politic point is that most "female/former" girl women are raised to not feel like they aren't or can't be "woman enough" and are told by Hollywood, Madison Ave., pimps, and corporate pornographers that it'll take cosmetic surgery, breast implants, reshaping of labia, etc., to "be more like a REAL woman". I think there are good reasons why intersex and non-transsexual people are leary about the medical establishment. And I hear you also being wary of it, and critical of it. What troubles me is when any critique of that medical industrial complex, corporate as it is, is termed "being transphobic". To label the critics that term is to shame any and all of us who want to do away with a society that DICKtates what women and men are and requires surgical interventions to "become" a woman or a man. Most women I know have had "issues" with their breasts at some point. And surgeons are now doing breast implants on teenage girls. Most male-men carry anxieties about their dick size. Why? Because "having a big one" is seen as "being more manly". That's some fucked up male supremacist socialisation, if you ask me.

I agree with you that the physical/physiological differences exist that you highlight, but does that mean that all women should produce the same amounts of estrogen and progesterone (as well as testosterone and androgen)?

Julian Real said...

Sara wrote:
The argument I heard the most often said by radical feminists about female identity, is that it's something that's imposed on you, and that the experience of being demeaned etc is what makes someone female.


In my view and that of most folks I know who do human rights work/feminist work, identity is imposed on us: heterosexual identity is compulsory; being "female-girl" or "male-boy" is imposed. The "assignation" "it's a girl!" is a social statement at least as much as it's a biological one. When most parents hear about or find out about the "sex" of their baby, they want to know so as to prepare how to socialise their child into the "right gender". Isn't that your own experience. "Non-white" identity is imposed by whites. The groups who are "non-white" varies from century to century in the West.

Sara wrote:
That's the reasoning for woman-born-woman mainly, besides assumed male privilege (and the non-existence of female privilege).


The reasoning for activists noting that there is a political group who experiences childhood as girlhood--however varied that is--and adulthood as womanhood, and that that group is oppressed by male-men is to be able to strategise revolutionary and reform measures for disMANtling patriarchal societies that oppress, violate, and subordinate girls to men. I'm confused by what you added parethetically; are you saying there's such a thing as female privilege that males are structurally or interpersonally oppressed by?

Julian Real said...

Sara wrote:
About the trans suicide rate, I didn't see the study cite for it, but I've seen it often, and in many places. Most being trans support groups online.


Can you send me a link that distinguishes transsexual suicide rates compared to lesbian and gay and other queer and trans/intergender suicide rates? I'd like to have that link for my blog.

JR had written:
"Are we assuming the people we're talking about are white and class-privileged?"

Sara responded:
I can't say about race, but trans people in general are certainly not class-privileged.
Most are working class, or homeless due to unemployment rates and the lack of last-resort income in the US.
A few, like Lynn Conway, are comfortable, but she's also unlikely to be representative, being the inventor of a key component of processors we use in computers today.


The issue I was trying to get at is this: What which populations of transgender or transsexual people are polled or questioned?
I'd like to know which demographics get interrogated or who have stats collected about them/us, because it's usually biased to invisibilise poor people and usually puts white/class-privileged people front and center, pretending that demographic is "universal" or that "universal" understandings of humanity can be based on the studies of that demographic only. I was speaking about suicide studies, not "what the economic status is of transsexual people". And what I'm wondering is if the homelessness and unemployment issues are about gender non-conformity, or are they correlative to "those who have had transsexual therapies or surgeries"? Or, for example, being "out" as lesbian or gay?

Sara wrote:
Studies say that, for those who were middle-class workers before transition (professionals and such), they saw a drop in income post-transition. Those are also usually older when they transition (like 40+). Previously represented as "the majority of trans people", its less and less true nowadays, where people transition long before having had a career or marriage (a social obligation in the past, and seen as a cure against the horribleness of being trans).


And the alleged "horribleness" of being lesbian and gay. Again, I'm wondering if the correlations aren't to transsexuals only, but to all people who "come out" as gender non-conforming or sexually non-het.

Julian Real said...

Sara wrote:
If a poor trans woman is found, it's always assumed she was a prostitute. Mainly because trans women are overrepresented in prostitution (more than 1/500, their ratio in society) and that it's a stereotype about them.

Also because people think that trans women in general are just oversexualized men who love meaningless sex (most people don't assume this of women in general, only of prostituted women - they do assume this of men in general though).


From what women tell me, they are categorically believed to be "wh*res-by-nature", from girlhood forward into adulthood. Gay men can get tossed into that stereotype too. All Black people, across gender, can get tossed in too--if they're not already there based on being a woman or gay.

Only white het men aren't stigmatised as "wh*res-by-nature. So we disagree here, I guess.

And, *women* are overrepresented in prostitution, no? Poor people are too. So too are children and women of color, trans or not, queer or not. I mention this because I've seen you and a few other transsexual or transgender activists make a case that trans people experience forms of oppression that non-trans people don't. And for me this is kind of like arguing about which women are most oppressed by gender? Thin or heavy women; dark or light women; blond or brunette women? When the political analysis goes there, it is often missing the point: women are oppressed by men. That's a form of oppression that has to end--yesterday, if possible. And I don't see the transsexual and transgender people who are making a case that cisgender and cissexual women oppress them, note that all people identified as female and as women are oppressed by men, and to forget that is to forget what a necessary form of activism has to be: radically transforming, not transgressing against or "appropriating" male-man supremacy. I also don't see many queer people, generally, focusing activism on ending male supremacy. This concerns me, because homophobia/lesbophobia/transphobia are all so deeply tied to misogyny and heteropatriarchal social imperatives.

Julian Real said...

Sara wrote:
Trans women, wether pre-op, non-op, or post-op is seen as "really a man", and could be the target of homophobic rage (their client being possibly perceived as gay makes them passionately kill or hurt them - an artefact of the very rigid norm of masculinity).


At its root this is misogyny, isn't it? I mean gay men are hated by het men because they are seen to be and do what they assume women do and are for: being sexually submissive to men. As John Stoltenberg, a white gay man noted, gay men are oppressed because they are seen by het men to participate in the degraded status of the female.

Sara wrote:
If your identification is not changed, no amount of looking pretty and using a female name is going to save you.


I appreciate how having an appearance that isn't "in sync" with your government ID is going to bring with it many problems, including around immigration.

Sara wrote:
I still got a M on my IDs, and can't change it save for having surgery - you don't need to dig far. Most transsexual people (80%) don't have surgery for a host of reasons, most being economical, some of choice. And trans men don't because of bad results, and an even higher price tag (100,000$ for something that might look like a penis from afar).


Yeah, I appreciate that.

JR wrote: Were the paramedics cisgender het men?"

Sara responded:
I'll assume paramedics are mainly men due to the strength needed to carry people (often heavy people that you can't touch in certain places due to wounds) on the stretcher.


The point I'm wanting to clarify is that misogyny/homophobia is the core of much of anti-transsexuals violence, harassment, and humiliation. This isn't to say that if a transsexual person experiences any of that, it isn't also transphobic or transbigoted, but it is to say that if we're going to end this violence, our analysis had better be clear about the roots of our collective problems. This is why it frustrates me that some transsexuals and transgender activists put their energies into focusing on "radical feminists" as the problem population, as "their oppressors", when it is white het men who oppress all of us.

Julian Real said...

JR wrote:
"Do we know how the paramedics identified the victim in their gross humor? It could be a kind of anti-lesbian gender non-conforming misogyny, also."

Sara responded:
They cut her bleeding clothes (a normal procedure to not make it worst) and found a penis. That's how. I sincerely doubt they thought she was a lesbian.


They probably thought she was a cross-dresser, then. Because, again, something I think we can agree on is this: most people are very ignorant about transsexual experience, existence, and realities.

JR wrote:
"So I wouldn't assume, for example, that the victim was mistreated because they were perceived to be transgender, but rather because they were perceived to be a "cross-dresser"."

Sara responded:
True, but the cross-dresser can leave his or her cross-dressing clothes home. A pre-op or non-op transsexual person generally can't hide that they're trans when naked, even if dressed in a t-shirt and jeans over that.

People assume I'm a girl 99% of the time. If they saw a penis, I doubt they'd think "cross-dresser". More likely she-male, or transsexual, or pervert.


That's my point precisely, Sara. You just stated what I've been trying to get across.

JR wrote:
"But moving from that awareness to a conclusion that trans women are oppressed structurally by non-trans women is not reachable, for me, based on anecdotal stories, because we all have them about every population."

Sara responded:
One doesn't need to be oppressed by some group in particular. Only to be oppressed period. Trans people can oppress other trans people, even if they structurally have the same degree of power.

Lesbian people can oppress other lesbian people, and so on.


The important point here for me is that "oppressive" has a structure, it has systems and institutions which keep it working in certain ways, in certain directions, and not in others. There's no "Black oppression of whites" for example. And there's no lesbian oppression of het men. I'm not going to get into a semantic debate about whether trans people oppress each other. Across race and class, people oppress one another, trans or not. Across race and class, lesbians oppress each other, structurally, if not also interpersonally and intimately. But again, WHM supremacy rules the day, at the end of every day, and our activists efforts ought not forget that, imo.

Julian Real said...

Sara wrote:
Cissexual men and women have more structural power than transsexual people, and as such, might use it more often (they can get the backing of society more readily) - and get away with it more often.


That's precisely the kind of statement I take issue with and want to unpack. What structural power does a sex slave who is cissexual and cisgendered have over a trans person? What structural power do Third World children who are being raped by white Western men have over trans people? I find your statement really problematic, because it seems to assume that most cissexual and cisgender women have some form of power to oppress that isn't structurally real, imo. I welcome you to disagree, but which "cissexual women" are you speaking about? One in five is Chinese, after all. Most are not white, and not class-privileged, so where is this structural power to oppress coming from. Where's "the backing by society", as you aptly put it above?

JR wrote:
"I totally agree. I totally agree that the apparently cisgender (?) woman was not doing you any favors at all. I'm curious to know how you know she was cisgender.

Sara responded:
"I had a talk with her about who I was and all, because I knew it would come up, and I wanted to be correctly identified at work, even if my legal name wasn't changed yet.

She was completely clueless about transsexual people, besides knowing they existed (so were other employees). She also said I was the only trans people working there.


This again makes a key point I'm wanting to get clear about: that most non-trans people don't have an f'ing clue what it means to be trans: transsexual or transgender, and so if the harassment, discrimination, and violence happens from strangers, or structurally, it is likely rooted in something else, like misogyny or homophobia.

Julian Real said...

JR wrote:
"But, assuming that woman was cisgender, that'd be actionable discrimination, as far as I can tell. "

Sara responded:
The burden of proof would have been on me, to prove I wasn't hired for this reason. And then launch a human rights case, possibly taking months or more...and during that time I'm not working.

Launching discrimination cases about hiring practices is very hard unless you have proof the bias was there.

Not hired because you're male/female, and they didn't tell you a thing? Hard to pursue.


Yeah. I hear you. Again, I wasn't meaning to imply that it's something you should do, because I can see how difficult and possibly economically impossible, it would be to do--to begin the process even, let alone take the matter all the way to a court, let alone WIN. That's the case with almost all rape and battery cases NOT filed by women and girls abused by men--for all those reasons and more. From the sexism and victim-blaming of the police, to the sexism and misogyny in the courts and criminal justice system, to the triggering/traumatic "examination" of one's body, to having to face the perp in court. The list is long for why it is that most raped people don't ever report it to the police or seek civil or criminal remedies.

Sara wrote:
The army (both US and Canada) is a glaring example of them having a dress code for reasons that have nothing to do with working with the public. And a glaring double-standard with regards to hair length etc between men and women. Suing them is out of the question for most though.


Yes. Agreed. But organising more broadly to address institutionalised misogyny is not out of the question--women have been doing it for centuries and continue to. The problem, to me, is that those women who have been doing it get targeted as "the oppressors" of other groups--namely men! (AS IF!)

JR wrote:
"I'd be curious to know if she's been confronted on her discriminatory attitude--not necessarily or even preferably by you, but by anyone."

Sara responded:
She was confronted by the 2 men who said she should hire me. And by me later when I wanted to change my internal email name - basically outing me to everyone needing to mail me, or consulting the mail employee list.

She said my name should be legally changed first and that she had her hands tied (I wonder by who, since she was the HR head).


Yeah. Good point. You'd think she could at least advocate FOR you, even if she was following some policy that was over her head.

JR wrote:
"but I am wondering if those other people you encountered in the hiring process are required to report her discriminatory behavior."

Sara responded:
They're not required to do so. One did so because he became my boyfriend. He told me as someone who was close to me, rather than as an employee.


I see. I'm glad he reported it.

Sara said...

"Not that I disagree with the point--we often do have to mask or otherwise hide the gender of our partner in conversations. But that's basically THE LEAST of what I and many lesbians and gay males deal with from a heteropatriarchal misogynistic-homophobic society"

Well, you wanted it to apply to people who can appear straight and who are not known to be gay or lesbian. This is probably the universal thing, maybe there are others.

It applies just as much to the buff masculine gay man who never goes to places people think of as gay (like gay bars) as to the more feminine-looking gay man whom everyone assumes is apriori gay (even if it was not true).

You can be a masculine gay man, but apparently, feminine straight men don't exist according to society.

Sara said...

"And, I am physically close with male friends--hugging warmly and such, or walking down the street with arms linked, so homophobes are going to bash us for that, and we're not even partners. "

Note that male homosociality like this (being close friend to a guy, while being a guy) is not accepted, while female homosociality (best female friends, between two or more women) including all the hugging and hand-holding you want, is readily accepted.

And that's much outside the lesbian-for-men thing where two straight women kiss in front of men. Two women who hug each other is never considered sexual.

Ditto for women being with children, it's never considered sexual. While men just have to approach a playground (even as a parent) to get suspected of untoward sexual behavior, namely pedophilia.

Sara said...

"I hate those kinds of terms, but have to note that many, many, many HET male-men are fetishists of women's bodies, body parts, and try and colonise women in many horrid ways."

Well the theory of the fetishist thing I talked about, is one where this "scientist" posits that this fetishism is the reason the person transitions to female.

Autogynephilia literally means "love of oneself as a woman", which sounds fine, right?

But he gave it the meaning:
"The propensity of a male to be aroused at the prospect of having or being seen having female body parts/genitals - to the point where one transitions"

In my mind, this is simply, healthy female sexuality, especially lesbian sexuality, where being attracted to female bodies is totally normal. Thinking your body is sexy (or even your hypothetical future body) isn't some horrible disease.

Sara said...

"I'd be interested to know why you say "liberal" like it's a necessarily good thing."

Because left policies typically favor the poor, while right policies favor the rich and businesses. I think the rich and businesses have it made, and don't need more government help than they already have, heck they need to have their fiscal evasion more checked to me, because its higher sums of money and they got more options than Joe Minimumwage to hide their cash.

So, knowing that left-right party modes are not going away anytime soon, I'll favor the one that seems the least worst.

And here the political climate is different than the US. Even if Harper was as conservative as Bush was, he couldn't bring the same ideas. We don't want war, and don't start our own - at best we send help for the US (which I think is still too much like war).

Abortion is not for discussion - its legal everywhere and even Harper can't change that. Same-sex marriage is the same, he can't change it. And he can't act like he's "working for god" or "speaking with god" without looking like a lunatic or a schizophrenic.

Sara said...

"Do you experience yourself as, in some ways, being politically in line with Men's Rights Activists?"

At best the very moderate ones. At worst, none of them.

Though I agree there is a need for a parallel to feminism to advance the rights of men (since it's not within feminism' focus to do so), MRAs are not that right now.

If feminism doesn't focus on men to the point of building shelters for male victims of DV (and they don't), then some group will want to fill the void.

Individual men have little voice there, and without a strong movement, the government doesn't listen at all, because it doesn't affect it's voting.

So I don't align with MRAs, but I'm for listening to and fixing the real concerns of men (that have nothing to do with rolling back feminism, unlike some MRAs). I'm also for the rights of LGBT groups, of racial and ethnic minorities, of religious minorities when they don't violate common sense or the law (ie Muslim stuff sometimes does - and it's certainly a minority here).

I'm also for the rights of women, I just think it's sufficiently covered by what there is out there (enough groups and organizations that speak about it).

While the rights of men, trans people and atheists (at least in the US for atheists) go ignored and unvoiced.

Sara said...

"Do you get how pro-capitalist/pro-CRAP that all sounds? Do you see how that plays into really gross, classist, racist, misogynistic stereotypes about "women on welfare", especially Black women on welfare? Again, our cultural/regional/national histories are different, so maybe all I'm asking is for you to learn more about the history of "women on welfare" in this country."

Well, it's probably because the US aren't open to *everyone* having welfare, while here it's a last-resort income for all, not just single mothers.

My comment was about how it's a good safety net that will prevent homelessness to an extent. A bad luck where you get fired and can't get rehired elsewhere in a timely fashion won't necessarily mean eviction and starvation.

I'm sure it's happened to the best of us.

Sara said...

"Do you support people gathering who have never had who do not currently have male privileges?"

I'm not sure what my stance is on that.

It's identity politics and that always gives me a headache.

If anything, I don't support female-only poker tournaments and female-only chess tournaments, titles and rankings. For the record, there is no male-only stuff, even if historically it was restricted to males (it no longer is, since at least a few decades, now).

The way it's done, they get ghettoized into less valued things. It's not like chess ability depends on testosterone.

I'm a pretty good chess player for a complete amateur (that is, I'm likely to beat many/most people who only play for fun, while I also only play for fun).

Sara said...

"Similarly, one could be born male and feel female, but "feeling like a woman" (or a man) would mean that someone is accepting what society says "a woman" is. Does that feel like a more appropriate version of the parallel to you?"

Not really. If I feel female, I don't need to specify if I feel like a man or a woman, because people will definitely assume that female = woman.

It's just out of my hands.

If trans women say they "feel like a woman", it generally means they "feel female", but would rather not employ the biological term in explaining it.

I'll assume you do know there is a history of the medical establishment treating them the way you meant. As in, not feeling female, but like a woman. To them, a male who feels female isn't possible, but one who feels like a woman is.

It might sound confusing. Though it's clearly an artefact of the medical establishment (and society in general) being unable to think that biology could get it wrong in the case of sex, while accepting that a role could be wrong, in extreme enough circumstances.

In my case, to me it's clear that it's biology that got it wrong, not the role that was a bad fit (though it was, that's no motive to eliminate testosterone from your system - it causes depression in many/most men who take cyproterone acetate (a powerful anti-androgen that I take) due to prostate cancer.)

In short, were I a normal male, I should be depressed by the lack of testosterone (and possible impotence). And I was by its presence.

Sara said...

"Do you see culture as impacting "feeling female" and anyone--trans or not--wanting "to be a woman" or "a man"?"

To a small extent yes. Especially about declaring it openly, that's taboo. But it's not the make-or-break of a transsexual person. People have been transsexual for millenia, and while hormones and surgery weren't always available, there were ways to at least alleviate part of the pain. Like "male people"* volunteering to become castrati or eunuchs (in pre-Christian Pagan times mainly).

*I put it in between quotes to note that we only assume they felt male.

A castrati or eunuch without supplementation of hormones would die younger than normal due to many insufficences. You don't necessarily need either estrogen or testosterone, but you need ONE in large enough quantity, to be healthy. Bone density, for one, being regulated by those hormones (estrogen in women, testosterone in men).

You asked before if testosterone and estrogen level meant something.

Male adult people have typically 7 to 20 times more testosterone in their bodies than female adult people. Andropause lowers it starting at 40-50 to too-low levels.

Female adult people have typically (depending on when in the cycle, not counting pregnancy) 3 to 10 times more estrogen than male adult people. If you count pregnancy, make that 50+ times (the estrogen levels skyrocket). After menopause it drastically lowers - but my mother of 52 is not even pre-menopausal yet.

Sara said...

"But fatty tissue, skin texture, and body smell, and metabolism aren't so different in some cultures where body sizes and shapes between males and females aren't so different."

Skin texture may not be visually different to others, but it certainly is to you.

Adult male skin texture is more oily, and the skin itself more thick.

Body smell is more metallic and musk-like for males, because of testosterone. Not that it's flowery for females, but it's not metallic. I'm not certain how it affects pheromones, but hormones are definitely a part of it.

As for metabolism, it's how much effort you must expend to be able to increase and/or maintain your muscle mass. It's been said before that women need twice as much effort as men to gain muscle - unless they use steroids (which is testosterone).

Males who use testosterone steroids to favorize their muscle-gaining could reach dangerous thresholds where it converts into estrogen, leading to some degree of feminization. Females who use it could hamper their fertility (no more cycles).

Fun fact: Testosterone, estrogen and progesterone are derivated forms (lower molecule amount)...from cholesterol. So if you don't get enough fat, you don't get enough hormones. Testosterone is the highest of the three, followed by estrogen and progesterone (in molecule amount), which explains why estrogen can't convert into testosterone (it can become more simple, but not become more complex).

Sara said...

"And there have been, and may still be societies that don't even have terms for "two different genders or two different sexes"."

They can have as many genders as they want, but I wonder how they can have more than two sexes. Intersex conditions are rare enough (1/500 for the most common, 1/20,000 for most), so I don't quite see how they could form another sex.

If you mean having different kinds of male and female sex to the point where people subclassify, maybe, I don't know what it would be like though.

The differences in physicality between Haitian, African and Jamaican black people are not something I could see happening within a single society, it's mostly due to geographical (body adapting to weather conditions of the area - like people living high in mountains developing better lungs after a few generations) and cultural things.

Within a single society, the odds are that people will be similar enough. Even actual sex differences are overstated to make them appear "really, really different".

Sara said...

"You grew up in one that is white het male supremacist, as did I."

I'll go with white and het supremacist. I'm not that certain about male supremacist.

To me, male supremacist is the Middle-East, where the male is always right, and the female always wrong, or tolerated. Where the government is definitely slanted to help males more. Where services are more geared towards males. Where customs are male-favoring.

Historically, North America might have attained the degree of male supremacism of current Middle-East, but certainly not now.

I was educated to believe that males shouldn't hit or hurt females, that both have important opinions and that neither is superior in theory. That women can work outside the home in anything they want to (but not that men can work in childrearing).

Sara said...

"And I think a salient politic point is that most "female/former" girl women are raised to not feel like they aren't or can't be "woman enough" and are told by Hollywood, Madison Ave., pimps, and corporate pornographers that it'll take cosmetic surgery, breast implants, reshaping of labia, etc., to "be more like a REAL woman"."

To be more attractive or successful.

But women can rarely be non-women. If she cowers in the corner during a bank robbery, she won't be blamed for her cowardice. If she refuses to fight when provoked, she won't be called a non-woman. A man is considered a non-man very often, by both men and women.

At worst those considered non-women are prostitutes. And that is tragic.

Men who are insufficiently masculine, too feminine, pacific, shy, and/or gay (regardless of the other things) are considered "not REAL men". Regardless of how physically attractive they are.

Notice that this doesn't enter into people being possibly treated poorly, only in when you can be disavowed of your status as someone of your sex. They just tend to overlap (there are a lot more reasons to be treated poorly).

Sara said...

Continuing on the REAL men and women thing.

There's a situational comedic show on TV here, called Caméra Café, where office workers are filmed through the coffee machine (not a reality tv) in the hallway.

There's the annoying know-it-all guy, the greedy-bastard boss, the blind male lawyer, the busty receptionist, the flamboyant gay guy and more...but those that stand out for my example are those treated poorly for no reasons by others:

The clueless-airhead and not-good-looking woman who works paperwork, and the extremely naive, shy, not-too-good-looking accountant guy. Both of them get treated poorly, but only Mr accountant-guy gets treated as a non-man by everyone. He could be an eunuch that people wouldn't treat him differently. The gay guy is treated better, too.

The paperwork woman gets treated as unattractive, but not as non-woman. Ironically, they eventually form a couple together.

Sara said...

"To label the critics that term is to shame any and all of us who want to do away with a society that DICKtates what women and men are and requires surgical interventions to "become" a woman or a man."

Those who are saying that surgery is mutilation, like Julie Bindel, and who unequivocally want it to not exist, are not doing a fair critique.

And by the way, my main exposure to radical feminism is online blogs and MWMF forums, and an acquaintance online that I've known a while.

It's Amazon Heart, dirtywhiteboi, the I Blame The Patriarchy blog, mAndrea's blog and heated trans discussions on Alas, a blog. Those I remember by name.

Renegade Evolution disavowed her inclusion in radical feminists due to anti-prostitution anti-porn bias (she's a sex worker) in all cases and without compromise.

It's also Sisyphe blog that is from Quebec, where they condemn any measure to help men in any kind or form as misogynist. And I did read what they critiqued (a 70 page report) and it sounded fair and far from being anti-woman.

Sara said...

"Most women I know have had "issues" with their breasts at some point. And surgeons are now doing breast implants on teenage girls. Most male-men carry anxieties about their dick size. Why? Because "having a big one" is seen as "being more manly". That's some fucked up male supremacist socialisation, if you ask me."

I'm not sure people (men and women) being insecure about their perceived unattractiveness is serving male interests.

Having a longer penis or at least a not-short one is a standard that heterosexual men face, from women. Other men couldn't care less, unless they're gay (then it might matter to them). A "not small" penis should be about average, at 5.5 inches.

As for heterosexual women and breast size, it's the reverse. Men care about it and set the standard. Though I dare say that the standard is like for men (having a not-short penis), in having not-small breasts. And B cups are not small (and represent the majority of women without implants).

I only have A cups myself (representing 15% of women, including my mother), and will likely not get bigger ones through hormones, since it's been 4 years.

Sara said...

"I agree with you that the physical/physiological differences exist that you highlight, but does that mean that all women should produce the same amounts of estrogen and progesterone (as well as testosterone and androgen)? "

Androgens = Testosterone, there's just a 'variety' of them, like Dihydrotestosterone (DHT, more potent).

To be healthy, your hormone levels should remain within a certain range, or the potential for problems (like cancer) is much higher. If too low hormones overall, you risk osteoporosis.

And having about-equal levels of testosterone and estrogen will likely cause it to cancel each other. So you need a "majority hormone" at a sufficient level, to be healthy.

Sara said...

"When most parents hear about or find out about the "sex" of their baby, they want to know so as to prepare how to socialise their child into the "right gender". Isn't that your own experience."

It's my experience that society is like this in general. Not my experience with parents. I wasn't "raised as a boy" except maybe clothes. I wasn't told doing the dishes was women's work, or that I couldn't babysit because I wasn't a girl (I did both a lot). I wasn't told to be sexually aggressive or to act stupidly to prove my masculinity.

I was the first born child, and since my parents don't have a daughter, they never felt a need to dichotomize their childrearing. My brothers were raised the same way (I got 3).

As for parents wanting to "raise their child into the right gender", that's them being insecure that, if they don't, their child will be rejected by society as too different.

In other words, people normalize their children by fear of them not falling within normality and being persecuted for it. It might have evolved to be more religious based (God-ordained roles or crap like that), but at the base it's that.

Sara said...

"I'm confused by what you added parethetically; are you saying there's such a thing as female privilege that males are structurally or interpersonally oppressed by? "

I'm not certain that privileges need to structurally oppress.

To me, a privilege is an unearned advantage that favors a group over another for no other reason than this one characteristic. It needs not be designed to oppress another group, it's usually a side-effect of the privilege.

It can also be a disadvantage that affects a group and not the other, then considered a privilege for the unaffected group.

Women have a seduction advantage in the 14-35 age bracket, while men have a seduction advantage in the 35+ age bracket, on average.

That's mainly because they're not considered attractive for the same things, one being more plentiful when young (physical beauty, fertility) and one more when older (wealth, status, experience).

If you're after children and/or marrying before being 40 (and most people who want children or marriage don't wait until being 40), then it's a female privilege.

Some privileges are subjective as well. While others will benefit you regardless of what you do or want (or would require way too much going around it to not be affected).

If I don't like working and don't have the ambitions of having a career, then being able to stay at home in a couple is a female privilege for me. Because I'm not expected to be a provider, and because males can rarely choose to stay at home themselves.

Sara said...

Oh and, unlike race privileges, which are overwhelmingly one-sided when we consider the white/black divide, the male/female divide is not so one-sided, not in North America nowadays.

It may have been heavily skewed to favor males before, not too long ago, and it's definitely so in the Middle-East, but it's not apriori evident that female privileges are insignificant or don't exist for us in 2010 North America.

The cissexual/trans divide is pretty one-sided. One of the only privileges I could cite for being trans is having the experience of being socially treated as both sexes within a single life.

While one of the most glaring cissexual privilege is being assumed to *genuinely* be the sex you state to be. If someone thinks you're the other sex because of how you look or sound, you can quickly correct them and be assured that they will likely not doubt you at all. And certainly not ask you about the shape of your genitals.

Sara said...

"What which populations of transgender or transsexual people are polled or questioned?"

Those who come to services aimed at them (or necessary to transition), or who go to support groups, online or offline. Which is most trans people.

Since you need the avail of a psychologist or psychiatrist to transition, and few go the black market route (for hormones) unless forced to (insurances don't cover non-prescription medications and it's costly with no co-pay).

For example, the hormones I take are worth 110$ a month. I get them for 0$ because I got national insurance (ie free if you got nothing else) and am on welfare (non-welfare national insurance covers 69% of the cost, welfare covers 100% of it).

I saw a psychologist to get a letter for both hormones and my name change (yeah, I had to prove I was transsexual to change my name). And I see an endocrinologist now, once a year, for hormones. He's 1 of only 2 endocrinologists in the province (of 7.5 million people) who prescribes to trans people.

Sara said...

"And what I'm wondering is if the homelessness and unemployment issues are about gender non-conformity, or are they correlative to "those who have had transsexual therapies or surgeries"? Or, for example, being "out" as lesbian or gay?"

Many overlapping issues:

-Gender non-conformity
-Legal identification
-Being known as transsexual absent the rest (like those lawsuits where the transsexual widow gets desherited by the family, who claims the marriage was void - even if post-op and legally male or female at the time of marriage)

Sara said...

"And the alleged "horribleness" of being lesbian and gay. Again, I'm wondering if the correlations aren't to transsexuals only, but to all people who "come out" as gender non-conforming or sexually non-het. "

People knew gay people existed long before they knew trans people existed. They were seen as bad, sinful, oversexed...but they were known to exist. Until the 1950s, people didn't know transsexual people existed, transsexual people themselves didn't know (thinking you're the only one on the planet).

Even then, those who weren't uber-feminine-1950s-housewife doubted they were REALLY transsexual, because of the medical establishment. Until about the 1990s. Trans men were even less known, but have rarely had uber-masculine requirements beyond being an average (heterosexual) male.

Trans women were required to wear skirts and considered not serious about it for not wearing one. Even long before having the Ok for hormones (so you looked like a guy in a dress for most). While being required to not wear skirts is less onerous for trans men - who probably wore pants pretty often already (like most women).

Sara said...

"From what women tell me, they are categorically believed to be "wh*res-by-nature", from girlhood forward into adulthood. Gay men can get tossed into that stereotype too. All Black people, across gender, can get tossed in too--if they're not already there based on being a woman or gay.

Only white het men aren't stigmatised as "wh*res-by-nature. So we disagree here, I guess."

To me, being a whore is "wanting sex all the time".

Certainly women might be violated or their no refused (and then its rape), but they're not assumed to be unable to not want sex. Heck they're assumed to be trading sex for something else (money, status), in as much as they're assumed to be reluctantly giving sex.

While men are assumed to be taking sex from women (ie assumption that men don't give in a sexual act), and for itself. They're assumed to be defacto wanting it all the time, and not wanting it with a woman will get you called gay. Men are assumed to marry to have regular sex, in itself, and to "concede" for things like love, money and status.

Men are ALL considered whores in the sense that they won't be believed when they say no to sex. Or it's an offense to her (she assumes it's because she's not pretty enough).

Men have also long been considered unrapeable (still are in most places, except prison), like prostituted women.

You know why gay men are considered more sexual than heterosexual men? Because the saying goes that women are the gatekeeper of sex in an heterosexual relationship - she says no, it's no-go. But it's assumed that two men will always agree to have sex, because both would want it, for itself.

J Michael Bailey said in his book about gay men and trans women, that trans women liked meaningless sex, like men. He also stated the above stereotype about gatekeeping sex.

Sara said...

"When the political analysis goes there, it is often missing the point: women are oppressed by men."

Women are oppressed by the system, like men are, gay people are, lesbian people are, black people are, trans people are.

They may be anecdotally oppressed by a person, or a group, but they're oppressed by a certain system of hierarchy which affects us all.

It just affects people more the lower they are on the proverbial ladder.

"This concerns me, because homophobia/lesbophobia/transphobia are all so deeply tied to misogyny and heteropatriarchal social imperatives. "

I'm not sure its tied to misogyny in itself, as much as not wanting to question the norm. The norm is something "special" to many people, a place where they feel 'more secure', and where their worldview is safe from questioning, even if its misguided.

Questioning the male = man, female = woman or the everyone = heterosexual norm, makes people insecure. They're not "automatically" normal anymore, they probably never questioned wether they were gay, lesbian or trans. And doing so hurts them, their values being based on being "good", and good meaning "normal".

The most insecure ones are conservative people who want extremely defined and segregated gender roles.

Sara said...

"At its root this is misogyny, isn't it? I mean gay men are hated by het men because they are seen to be and do what they assume women do and are for: being sexually submissive to men. As John Stoltenberg, a white gay man noted, gay men are oppressed because they are seen by het men to participate in the degraded status of the female."

I doubt it's misogyny. While homophobia against gay men is stronger than against lesbian women, at the root of it it's again a questioning of the norm.

Thinking that you could be attracted, possibly, hypothetically, to someone of the same sex, that you find the idea repulsive (because you're not attracted).

People hate obesity because it reminds them that they, too, could gain enough weight to be less physically aesthetically appealing. If obese people didn't exist, this remainder that we can be not-pretty (and thus liked less by others) would not be there. If the norm or high-status was being obese (and it was in times and places of less food), thin people would be thought of as weird and undesirable.

When famine happened and you could be 200 lbs, you were known to be rich. It was a signifier of status. Now that most people in North America are not starving and can get rather cheap foods, obesity is no longer a sign of status or wealth.

I gained 35 lbs in a year, by eating cheap enough food, that's a sure sign that everyone can.

As for "the degraded status of a female", that's the biblical interpretation. That most people in the world no longer care much about (they're *officially* religion X, but few are practicing).

Sara said...

What is your theory of why trans men are more readily accepted than trans women, regardless of success of hormones into changing the physical looks?

Especially consider that trans men are seen by most as "really being women", and that upward mobility (gaining status) is usually seen as undesirable for others to do (ie you don't want your neighbor to get a better car than you). And so is generally opposed by others who want that status instead of you (feel more worthy of it).

So that trans men go unopposed to be recognized as men socially (unless their trans status is known), while trans women face bigotry of all tripes for "being failed men" or "being former men" (even as they could look like models) - is, to me, a sign that people oppose the mobility of men more, and that the others (this includes most men) generally see it as more desirable status-wise, to be female.

That men don't want to provide for someone they see as a "fake woman" is at the heart of this. They think women worthy of their gifts and being provided for, but not men. To those men, being a woman is being provided for - and something that can only be gotten as a birthright - something that those men don't have, but will be jealous about "one of them" getting.

Like if trans women usurped a higher status without "being worth it" like cissexual women are.

Sara said...

"What structural power does a sex slave who is cissexual and cisgendered have over a trans person? What structural power do Third World children who are being raped by white Western men have over trans people?"

Compare apples with apples please. Throw those oranges away.

A cissexual sex slave is compared to...a transsexual sex slave.

A Third World raped cissexual child is compared to...a Third World raped transsexual child.

If you compare apples and oranges, then I could say Hilary Clinton, president candidate, rich, senator, is oppressing Joe the bathroom cleaner - by her gender.

I could also say that Chris Rock, black, actor, stand-up comedian, is oppressing my white boyfriend, by race, because my boyfriend is basically not known, not rich and certainly not an actor.

So yeah.

Sara said...

"I welcome you to disagree, but which "cissexual women" are you speaking about? One in five is Chinese, after all. Most are not white, and not class-privileged, so where is this structural power to oppress coming from. Where's "the backing by society", as you aptly put it above?"

Again, apples and apples. So then we're talking about transsexual Chinese women.

People are generally oppressed by a system that actually is around them. China is a long way from here. I'm not personally oppressing Chinese people either, even poor ones. And Jamaican men are not oppressing UK women.

Sara said...

"This again makes a key point I'm wanting to get clear about: that most non-trans people don't have an f'ing clue what it means to be trans: transsexual or transgender, and so if the harassment, discrimination, and violence happens from strangers, or structurally, it is likely rooted in something else, like misogyny or homophobia. "

It goes from their stereotypes of what trans people are. Not misogyny, but definitely homophobia, male homophobia against trans women, lesbophobia against trans men.

To them trans people are perverts, immoral (by changing their body), sinful (for the religious), ugly (except in porn), gay/lesbian (even if they're actually gay or lesbian in their 'new' sex - I'd be considered a gay man even if I dated women for example).

They don't hate women, they date them, and love them, and have babies with them. But they're cissexual women.

Sara said...

"Yes. Agreed. But organising more broadly to address institutionalised misogyny is not out of the question--women have been doing it for centuries and continue to. "

It is misogyny to require women in the army or a company to have filed (but long) nails, a certain hairstyle that's different from men's and be required to wear make-up.

It is misandry to require men in the army or a company to have short hair, very very short nails with no polish, no make-up ever, no jewelry ever (except allowance for a manly watch and a small chain for a cross in the neck, hidden).

The mirror of something is its opposite.

Sara said...

"Sara responded:
They're not required to do so. One did so because he became my boyfriend. He told me as someone who was close to me, rather than as an employee.

I see. I'm glad he reported it. "

He reported it to me, not to any authority on the matter.

ll said...

hi sara,

i just wanted to respond to some of what you've said in the latter portion of this conversation. i am a white, jewish, intergender girl with an "intersex condition."

you write: "It is misandry to require men in the army or a company to have short hair, very very short nails with no polish, no make-up ever, no jewelry ever (except allowance for a manly watch and a small chain for a cross in the neck, hidden).

The mirror of something is its opposite."

while that may be true in some "logical" x+x=2(x) way, it is not true in a social context where women constitute an oppressed class. in fact, even when i look into my own mirror, i don't see the "opposite," i see a distorted version of myself. you mention that girls have "more mobility" than boys when it comes to what to wear and how to act, and you give several examples. one being the dorky guy at work being treated like a eunch, and one the example that girls can't wear pants without being chastised,(while boys can's wear dresses), a mobility that extends to trans men over trans women.

it is interesting to me that you frame these instances as instances of male or men's oppression when i see them as evidence of patriarchy. insofar as less boys are permitted to wear dresses than girls are permitted or aware of wearing pants as an option, that is a reflection of the notion that males have power to lose and females have power to gain. i am not suggesting that wearing a dress has some essential relationship to being a female or woman or that wearing pants has any essential relation to being male or man, i am saying that these visual markers have come to be affiliated with "femininity" or "masculinity" in the "west," which have, in turn, come to be affiliated with femaleness or maleness. i'm with julian that insofar as men don't have as much "moblity," it is because their status as an oppressing class is being protected, and any transgression of that is perceived as a transgression of patriarchy. liberal notions of "equality" or even what could be deemed "liberal feminism" promote the idea that "equality" means "being as good as men," without any analysis about how the behaviors affiliated with men are embedded in a context that exploits, rapes, and kills women. it's not really surprising, in that context, why men would be "less able to be mobile" in one sense, seeing that their position is of the oppressor class, which must be maintained in order to preserve CRAP, as julian calls it. and not to wholly devalue sucesses in "equality," that have had very real consequences but in terms of most female people in this world, these "gains" are largely superficial, as is this so-called female potential for increased "mobility" (capitalism often actually requires oppressed classes to be more "flexible").

ll said...

part 2...

not to mention that the so-called "eunuch-making" of men is embedded in a system of intimate affiliate violence against women (i'm not alluding to a causal relation, just saying it is embedded). and when you mention the pressure for trans women to wear dresses and not pants....where is that pressure coming from? this is a genuine question as to what phenomenon you are referring to, as i have heard accounts of male-assigned-at-birth intersex people who "transition" (in quotes for a lack of a better term, some intersex people like it some don't) to women and of trans identified women (many of whom i know who wear jeans and sweatshirts!) identifying this as a problem coming from other trans women. and, to me, that would be a part of patriarchy - NOT saying that these trans women are uniquely prone to "being patriarchal," but just to suggest that women police other women's gender all the time, and that is similarly a symptom of white supremacist patriarchy.

i've seen a trend on blogs pop up that i find immensely disturbing - men's rights activists and those who sympathize with these views appropriating the critiques of white middle class feminism made by those who fall into one, some, or all of the groups women of color, poor women, and sex workers, and trans people. and in doing so i often feel like they fall back on the same "universal woman" trope CRITISIZED by these groups, thus becoming all these "-ists" that the critiques of white middle class feminism were meant to point out. honestly sara i feel like in a way you are doing the same - by alluding to "at least women get to choose to stay home" kind of argument, for example....how many women on this earth get to "choose" to stay home because they are being "provided" for!!!!!??

do i think male people's souls suffer tremendously because of patriarchy? yes, just as i think racism is bad for white people's health too. lotsa science and lotsa spiritual stuff alike will tell you you destroy your soul when you live your life in "defending my status" mode. that *does not* constitute the oppressor class as "oppressed," however, and it does not constitute the superficial "mobilities" the more elite members of oppressed classes have over the oppressed classes as "privileges."

Julian Real said...

Hi Sara,

As I read these latest responses, I'm realising I've not really bothered to ask you this:

Do you believe there is such a thing as white male supremacy? As racist patriarchy that shapes us all to varying degrees? Do you see oppressions as hierarchical and not "going both ways"?

I'm not sure given some of what you've said, if you accept that men oppress women--interpersonally and structurally, through personal practice and institutional values, hets oppress queers, whites oppress people of color, and not ever the "reverse" of that.

Would you agree?

Julian Real said...

I concur with ll's comment, that while it sort of appears that men are restricted, the restriction is that of the oppressor to oppress. He may be limited in some ways, but he also has at his "disposal" a whole class of people--women--to take care of him, to tend to his feelings, to encourage his endeavors, to cook his food, to wipe his ass, to bring him to orgasm.

Society is not organised so that men do all of those things for women. And society doesn't define and enforce men doing them. Society defines women in terms of men, with men as the standard of what it means to be human and women as some inferior, subordinated version of that.

I'll respond to other points here that you raise above.

I responded to your points about rape, DV, and bigotry, here:

http://radicalprofeminist.blogspot.com/2010/12/sara-and-julian-discuss-transfeminist_05.html

Sara said...

"i'm with julian that insofar as men don't have as much "moblity," it is because their status as an oppressing class is being protected, and any transgression of that is perceived as a transgression of patriarchy."

If their status was being protected, logically it would be other people who couldn't "intrude upon the men's domain", by wearing pants, suits or being mechanics, engineers, senators. It wouldn't be them being less mobile.

I'm pretty sure men in Middle-East have more options than women in terms of clothes and expression. And that is preserving their power.

Men can go uncovered in public there, that's already way more than women.

Sara said...

"Do you believe there is such a thing as white male supremacy? As racist patriarchy that shapes us all to varying degrees? Do you see oppressions as hierarchical and not "going both ways"?"

White and hetero definitely, and in probably a great deal of countries, maybe the majority, male supremacy. But in North America, I can't be that sure. It would need to be measured objectively (and I doubt someone can be that objective) on both sides, to get some picture.

That people at the top are men, doesn't mean those men lookout for other men. They probably lookout for their families first and foremost. Wives, daughters, sisters, mothers included.

Politicians are not some altruistic entity who wants to give to other men and to "the brotherhood", they're people after votes and the population's backing to an extent. And women's issues certainly count for a lot for Obama to name a council just for them - that has no men's issues counterpart.

Women's issues sway the vote, men's issues don't, so they (the issues) get ignored.

I see oppression as *the system* oppressing people, not groups oppressing groups. "The system" represents everyone who doesn't know better (no/little empathy about that group) and who can afford to (not shooting your own foot).

Sara said...

"He may be limited in some ways, but he also has at his "disposal" a whole class of people--women--to take care of him, to tend to his feelings, to encourage his endeavors, to cook his food, to wipe his ass, to bring him to orgasm."

Yeah, Mr Muslim in the Middle-East has all that. He's got it made by birthright.

Canadian Joe doesn't have women at his feet, kissing his ass and tending to his feelings. If he cries in public, he'll get bashed for it. If he cries in private, no one cares for his feelings. If he cries in front of his buddies, and they're not super enlightened, he'll also get bashed for it.

Blame the lack of (read: repression of) male homosociality for needing romantic partners to tend to feelings, while women have female friends to do it.

My boyfriend is cooking my food, he likes to cook, and is pretty good at it, so I got no objection. I could do it too, just less good or varied.

I heard masturbation could bring people to orgasm, and that ejaculation didn't necessarily mean orgasm. Some people have standards and prefer a handjob to bad sex (non enthusiastic is bad).

Sara said...

"Society is not organised so that men do all of those things for women. "

Female friends do it to women. It's taken care of. I said why in the above post.

"Society defines women in terms of men, with men as the standard of what it means to be human and women as some inferior, subordinated version of that."

18th or 19th century biology? I haven't read those books, a bit too old. I heard of it. It's not defined this way now.

Being human means being expendable? While being inferior to human means we want to protect you. Sounds non-logical.

Who is being sent to wars frontlines in conscription times and shamed if they don't go (white feathers given by women), or treated as traitors and imprisoned or made to "do volunteer work" (forced and unpaid, don't do it and it's prison) for being pacific or draft-dodgers (WW2)?

That wasn't too long ago with Vietnam war for the US. No conscription since WW2 in Canada.

Women and children first, because men can all die. And men who survived the Titanic were blamed for not giving up their place to a woman. Treated as cowards and unchivalric.

If they were so inferior, they wouldn't be protected more, they'd be protected less.

Black slaves didn't get preferential treatment over their masters if a disaster occurred.

Sara said...

"and when you mention the pressure for trans women to wear dresses and not pants....where is that pressure coming from?"

From places that act as gatekeepers to provide transition treatment. Places like the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, Ontario (previously The Clarke Institute).

They're one of the last (but largest in Canada) 'bastion' of stupid gatekeeping.

To get hormones prescribed, one needs to find a psychologist or psychiatrist willing to treat a trans person and eventually write a letter certifying this person has "Gender identity disorder".

Then, to get surgery, one needs to find two psychologists or psychiatrists (including one with a PhD), from a restricted list accepted by the surgeon who will operate you. They need to certify that surgery is okay for you and that you've spent 1 (some say 2) year(s) in the "new role".

That's the "Standards of Care". which most docs and surgeons don't deviate from to cover their asses.

Some clinics and shrinks just go further than those requirements. To them "living in the new role" means adopting a new name, and dressing stereotypically as that sex. Often before receiving hormones.

Continued employment, volunteering or studying, is often required to be considered serious (for the whole time, or it resets) enough for hormones or for surgery.

They often require heterosexuality too.

A trans man with hair judged too long, is apparently not serious, and a trans woman not in a skirt or dress is apparently not serious - to them.

Sara said...

"as i have heard accounts of male-assigned-at-birth intersex people who "transition" (in quotes for a lack of a better term, some intersex people like it some don't) to women and of trans identified women (many of whom i know who wear jeans and sweatshirts!) identifying this as a problem coming from other trans women. and, to me, that would be a part of patriarchy "

It's insecure projection, and I can't blame most of them for being made to feel insecure. Given how stupid shrinks can be about trans stuff.

For example, I didn't go to "The Clarke", I knew it was to be avoided like the plague. But the psychiatrists and psychologists I *did* see, were just as clueless.

I started hormones with a doctor who works with youth (and often trans youth), a generalist, to avoid the stupidity of being gatekeeped. I still needed to see a shrink to get a letter authorizing my name change, and authorizing me to see an endocrinologist (who required a letter absolutely) who would be much better than the above generalist.

The first one made me pass a MMPI2 to see if I was 'sane', but said he felt he couldn't write a letter (he didn't feel he had the authority, when he did). So it was pretty unproductive.

The second one was saying stuff like how I wasn't a 'real' woman like her, and that my mannerism was 'gay' and that no one would take me for a woman, ever (even if, at the time, I had taken 2 years worth of hormones, and had no problem being seen as female). I brought my mother (I was 25) in most of those visits, just to mitigate her insults about me.

Sara said...

About the insecure projection.

If you're being told that the only way you'll be approve to transition to female is if you're extremely feminine looking and extremely stereotypical, you might project that on other people, who don't feel they need that to be female.

It's a sort of "but I did all that and you had nothing to do!" thing.

That's especially jarring when a trans woman is not too feminine looking body-wise and feels atrocious being judged as male (like a failure). That woman might need to spend 10,000s on facial surgery, voice surgery, breast implants - just to be easily recognized as female.

Feeling that the jeans and a t-shirt woman can appear female effortlessly can be making you feel real bad about your worth.

I guess it's like how women in general might feel about models and actresses, like they don't measure up looks-wise, but that those models and actresses shouldn't have a leg up them simply because they won the genetic lottery.

I don't feel a need to be necessarily feminine, but I also get recognized as female without effort (jeans and a t-shirt, sneakers, no make-up, unbrushed hair). I was androgynous before hormones, not male or female looking. People generally assumed male for lack of breasts and because I didn't necessarily sound female (androgynous too).

Sara said...

"by alluding to "at least women get to choose to stay home" kind of argument, for example....how many women on this earth get to "choose" to stay home because they are being "provided" for!!!!!?? "

North Americans who don't have children. Like me for example. I can't have children except by adoption, and the chances I even CAN adopt are near-null due to being trans.

Not saying it's a world privilege. I'm always talking about North America, and often Canada (since I live there).

And children increase the costs by a lot. Needing a bigger apartment or a house, possibly a bigger car or a mini-van, higher food costs, and then there's school costs, clothes costs and other-activities-costs.

Then a single wage is usually not enough unless it's middle-class on its own (like my father's was). We were four children, and he was the only one to work. We didn't live richly (no expensive stuff), but we got by easily.

Right now I'm at a working class income (and so is the household income), and can still stay home. My "standard of living" is about the same as back as a child.

Julian Real said...

Hi Sara,

Thanks for clarifying that. I agree that it's an issue for anyone wanting to pass as a woman--including former girls who aren't men. The standards of "femininity" are grossly inhumane, and aren't how most women look.

I'm wondering this:

Wouldn't it be more "progressive" for those of us who are transsexual and trans/intergender, to claim that identity to bust up the gender binary, and not claim to be "one gender or the other". If gender is fluid, as so many queer and trans activists argue, why aren't we insisting the State recognise us as "transgender" and "intergender" and intersex"? Why do we all have to be made to fit into "female" and "male", or "woman" and "man"?

I think it would challenge the status quo a hell of a lot more if all of us who are inter/transgender or inter/transexual "came out" AS SUCH.

I realise, just like with being lesbian and gay, that puts an added burden--the burden of activism, in a sense--on those of us who are not cissexual or cisgendered. But wouldn't that be a more liberating course of action?

Your thoughts on that?

Julian Real said...

I also think it might allow many of us some sense of "being just fine" without having to undergo various additional treatments or surgeries, as you note, to "pass as a woman". Why not NOT pass and be oneself? This is, after all, the exact same challenge many lesbians have taken up, and less so heterosexual women: to "be themselves" and not "fit in" to what the dominant society says "women" have to look like.

Why isn't "transsexual" in your case, or "intergender" in my case, sufficient as an identity? It is, after all, what we are.

Sara said...

"Wouldn't it be more "progressive" for those of us who are transsexual and trans/intergender, to claim that identity to bust up the gender binary, and not claim to be "one gender or the other"."

Most people I know don't take identities for political or progressive reasons, they just are. They can be non-conforming to the norm up to a point they feel comfortable at (like my boyfriend having long hair), but it's not to make a point...it's just what they like.

The more non-conforming you appear, the thicker skin you need just to get by, and that's something people know young enough. To the point where most people get scared of NOT being normal. And in general are less genuine for it.

I'm not that fond of normal myself. I have tastes and do stuff that most people wouldn't do. I don't do stuff that most would. I go with how sensical it sounds to me, as opposed to how sensical it sounds to society.

I wash my hair once every 3 weeks, and have no issue (no grease, no smell). Society's opinion? If you don't wash daily, your hair will stink and be gunky. Society has never tried for any serious length of time though. I have. And found that conclusion HIGHLY faulty.

Black people can generally afford to go longer (even much longer) than people with different hair types, but they're not the only ones who can - they're basically the only ones who night-universally found the washing-daily edict to be crappy for them.

My hair type matters little in this though. I got wavy hair of 36 inch long (terminal length, won't grow longer), except for bangs. It's just a habit thing (scalp gets used to it, produces less oil over time), and long hair is simply helping (oil spreads further).

As for the smell? Urban legend probably from thinking homeless people smell and correlating with their unwashed hair.

Sara said...

"Wouldn't it be more "progressive" for those of us who are transsexual and trans/intergender, to claim that identity to bust up the gender binary, and not claim to be "one gender or the other"."

Most people don't adopt a personal identity out of political choice. It's either forced on them, or a personal choice. Often a compromise between the two.

What part is forced and what part is choice, depends on circumstances, personality, tastes...if your tastes align genuinely with the dominant paradigm, it should not feel like it's forced on you.

My tastes don't align with the dominant paradigm in many ways, and I choose to forgo much of what would be forced on me. My circumstances and personality favor this over being fake in any way. I don't pretend I like gossip or magazine fashion, I got my own sense of fashion and that's that.

If living your normal life feels like performing for society, and "going for the cause" feels like performing for the cause, you're doing it wrong. You shouldn't feel like you're play-acting who you are.

Sara said...

"If gender is fluid, as so many queer and trans activists argue, why aren't we insisting the State recognise us as "transgender" and "intergender" and intersex"? Why do we all have to be made to fit into "female" and "male", or "woman" and "man"?"

I'll support your and others right to identify as such, as long as you support mine and others right to identify differently.

I clearly identify as female, no question there, don't feel the binary is forced on me personally.

You don't clearly identify as either male or female, feel the binary is forced on you.

I support you into finding an identity, even legal, that fits you better. As long as I'm not personally fit into another box than female for convenience's sake or 'for the cause'.

Sara said...

"I also think it might allow many of us some sense of "being just fine" without having to undergo various additional treatments or surgeries, as you note, to "pass as a woman"."

I do feel that one of the main reasons for undergoing genital surgery for me, is to correct the legal identification...but it's not ONLY that for me. Those I got have as much interest to me as a tummy flap.

It would allow more ways to have sexual activities, that are probably more in line with how I feel I could get enjoyment sexually, than having this placeholder that has me anorgasmic (since birth). It has sensations, but psychological desidentification (probably) is preventing anything from happening, or me from enjoying it.

Sara said...

"Why not NOT pass and be oneself? This is, after all, the exact same challenge many lesbians have taken up, and less so heterosexual women: to "be themselves" and not "fit in" to what the dominant society says "women" have to look like."

I'm pretty genuine, in that I refuse edicts about what is "ladylike" or "feminine", unless they are in line with what I already like and feel is practical, fun or interesting.

I wear make-up maybe once a month, I wear skirts mainly when the weather permits, and I feel like it. I pick my skirts and dresses from a wide range of stuff - most of which I reject as not being my taste (I reject 90+% of dresses as not being esthetically pleasing to my eye). I mostly wear pants.

I'll wear lolita fashion rarely, because I feel like it, even if it draws looks (I need to feel impervious to criticism that day though, need thick skin). Lolita fashion is a Japanese fringe fashion about dresses inspired from the English Victorian era. No corset needed or anything, but they have the 'look', and the frills, of that era. They're generally pretty expensive as far as non-formal clothes go.

All those are things I freely chose to do.

Being regarded as male is about as flattering as being punched in the face, to me. I won't figuratively punch myself in the face daily, for a cause. Or for the government.

Sara said...

"Why isn't "transsexual" in your case, or "intergender" in my case, sufficient as an identity? It is, after all, what we are. "

To me it's simply a part, a large part, of my history. It's my backstory, not something I can ignore, but not something that defines who I am. It defines part of my experience only.

My identity, personally, is female. Anything short of that feels like ignoring who I am. I don't want to be forced into some 3rd category against my will, especially as I don't fit it at all.

In that, I regard the Western view of Two-Spirit Amerindians as backwards. As forcing them into a category they didn't choose themselves (many a Western historian describes them as being gay men, others as being a third sex - none as being female). Maybe they could have asked them, instead of writing about them from an European point of view without input.

There might have existed the equivalent of trans men, but if there is, it was completely overlooked in literature.

Btw, the "European point of view" about sex binary, which America inherited, is that the two sexes are immutable, so to them someone claiming femaleness is merely claiming (stereotypical) feminity, and remains male. Allowance for a third sex based on non-feminity being very highly encouraged to label male. See Hijras, Ladyboys, roughly the same POV.