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I do tend to whine a bit. In here, and on the topic in general. Comes with the territory: when atypical female people set out to draw attention to social feminization and the expectations and roles and whatnot that they have to cope with, it's widely perceived as aggressive belligerent ranting; when we do our version, it's naturally going to be experienced as narcissistic whining.

I do a lot of my whining about the difficulty of getting more people to listen to me whine.

I was out for one of my long walks last Sunday and wondering how I'd feel about this obsession, and about my life in general, if I never get any significant traction. Would I feel like I had wasted my life and my time? I've occasionally said that in my life I really only set out to do one thing, take on one serious project, and this is it. Now that I've passed the midlife marker, it's a question worthy of consideration: how will I feel if I wake up on one of my last days as an old old person and look back and realize, if such is the case, that I set out to do one thing in my life and failed at it?

Mostly I think I'd feel like I gave it my best shot. And that I had done what I felt driven to do, and was true to what felt right for me. I think if it comes to that, I will feel good about myself for having believed in myself and made the attempt. And I will consider it a life far better spent than if instead I found myself looking back and realizing I had set aside something that I considered an important mission or calling simply because the doing of it turned out not to be easy or swift.

So in light of all that, I should acknowledge that although I complain a lot about how frustrating this all is, I am doing what I have selected for myself; i chose it and it is what I want. I get some measure of satisfaction from it even when it resembles beating my head against a wall.



Meanwhile, I have some news-bits, some morsels that are all flavored up with success instead of that perennial head-against-wall stuff for a change.

• Thanks to musicman, who recommended me to them and encouraged me to keep following up with them, it appears that I will be a presenter at Baltimore Playhouse, most likely on January 22. This will be another performance of the basic talk I gave at LIFE in Nassau last March.

• I finally met with the woman who manages the campus Women's Center and also teaches introductory Women's Studies at my alma mater SUNY at Old Westbury -- Professor Carol Quirke. After what happened with the personnel at the Nassau County LGBT Center, who kept not returning my phone calls and then indicated a nearly-complete lack of interest when I finally got more pushy with them about it, I was mostly starting to think that the Old Westbury people were similarly hoping I'd simply go away before they had to tell me I'm nowhere near as interesting as I think I am. But I made an appointment to drop in on her during her regular office hours, and it went well. I left off some additional materials (including a printout of my blog posting) and we talked about socialization and gender and how we felt about biological essentialism and coercive political correctness and I think we're very much on the same channel as far as how we view such things; I definitely went away thinking she was receptive to my ideas and really is interested in having me come to speak there.

• I'm immersed in a slow shift from mostly querying literary agents to querying independent editors (for feedback, actual content editing, and potential referrals whether they officially refer authors or not) and querying small publishers. One editor, Nikki Busch, has recommended that I find an independent editor who specializes in developmental edit, i.e., "the big picture stuff: organization, narrative voice, pacing, character development, and so on". She's aimed me at the Editorial Freelancers Association to find someone who specializes in memoirs and nonfiction narratives and I'll probably do that. Meanwhile, I have a query in at Neuroqueer Books, an enterprise that I believe Old Cutter John's son started, and I should be hearing back from them any day now. And I'm about to query Manic D Press, another possibility.



Whilst out walking and thinking last Sunday, I processed some other related notions and ideas:

• Some of my difficulties with networking are actually tied to my tendency to speak to people who happen to be members of an organization or participants in some movement-related activity as if they, personally, WERE the movement incarnate. I caused problems for myself back in 1980 when I tried to correspond with the Director of the on-campus Rape Crisis Center as if she were radical feminism incarnate and poised to consider my perspective on behalf of radical feminist thinkers everywhere. It was more recently a behavor causing confusion and miscommunication when I contacted the Programming Director at the Nassau Country LGBT Center to suggest that I present to them there: I spoke to her as malebodied sissyfem genderqueer liberation addressing the existing LBGTQ establishment and not as a potential presenter speaking to an organization official in charge of booking speakers and arranging events.

I do that, I realized, because I am mostly doing my own socio-political activism all by myself, so none of my behavior is supported or reinforced by being a person in a position doing a task or job, or of being a part of a group or organization and therefore experiencing the little social perks of belonging and participating and being engaged in a shared activity.

I usually see my isolation as a limiting factor (and a source of frustration). But there's a sense in which it means that nearly all of it that I do involves a cerebral connection to the cause qua cause; I'm never immersed in it because my friends are there, or because I like the wine and cheese and music at the receptions, or because it's an ideal socioppolitical venue to meet interesting new people, or because it's my job or my career.

Oh, it's still mostly a limiting factor, and yeah you can be forgiven for pinching your nose at the intellectual snobbery residing in the previous paragraph, don't get me wrong on either account, I know and I know. (The latter is a compensation for the former). But it's still relevant here. If there's a useful takeaway from this observation, it's that I will probably have my most satisfying conversations with the most fervently committed extremists, and that I need to nurture a more pragmatic streak within myself for having conversations with the rest of the folks I encounter along the way.

• When I speak of being a sissy or a male girl or describe that I was always one of the girls despite male body, one of the common misconstruals I get is that people visualize flamboyant emotive dramatic people, people for whom the feminine is centrally about "look at me". That's not it. Actually it was all about "approve of me". More explicitly, it was "obey the rules, be the teacher's pet, show us what a good citizen you can be". There's a not-so-nice element to it which I should probably emphasize more often, if only because it offsets some of the sickeningly-sweet aspects that may be hard for some to swallow: we who bought into that thought ourselves superior, were often smug snobby kids who were sure that we were going to be the ones to end up in charge of things. Because we were doing it right, were doing what adults valued.

Women's studies courses often observe that the "good girl" mystique sets girls up: it turns them into approval-seekers, pleasers of others. What sometimes gets lost is that the girls who embraced it believed in the same tradeoff that I did: they thought they, and not the undisciplined weak childish people who lacked self-control and who did not play nicely with others, would be the ones who would run the world.

At any rate, I was not initially alone among the children. What happened to the rest of the good boys, the nice guys? How did the other ones feel about the bad boys, the disruptive and disobedient boys, calling them girls and calling them sissies and taunting us with the claim that they were doing "boy" right and we were the weak ones, afraid to risk disapproval? I know what happened with many of them: they became convinced and got defensive about it. They stopped caring more about what other goody-goody people (mostly girls) and teachers and other adults thought and started to care about what the bad boys and tough boys thought of them. But what about the others?

Anyway, yeah, we wanted to be better than others. Little Lord Fauntleroy aloof from the riffraff. Tattletale Boy glad to see the misbehaving children get what they deserve. Sure, I'll confess to it. So OK, the world is fully entitled to be wary of our reappearance on the stage to claim once again to be some flavor of better, a new and more sexually liberated way of doing male and all that squeakyclean gender smugness.

How about merely "as good"?, though? You figure people can admire us some if we stand up for ourselves and assert that we like being who we are?

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ahunter3: (Default)
I was around 8 or 9 years old when I first experienced the boys' bathroom as an unsafe place. The other boys would talk about dicks and shitting and piss, had quite the case of pottymouth on them, and they quickly noticed that I was a prudish and prim and prissy kid who didn't join in and wasn't comfortable around them. They'd cluster around me sometimes when I went in, to ask me obscene questions and enjoy making me uncomfortable, and I didn't much care for their company, especially when combined with the intermingled necessity of having our pants open and our private parts exposed.

That made it all the more startling when, just a few years later, adult males accused me of loitering and being up to something disgusting. They didn't specify what but said I should knock off the phony innocent act and they better not catch me hanging out there, do my business and leave, and I should be ashamed of myself.

I went to summer camp one year in my grandmother's home town where no one knew me. I went in enthusiastic because it would be a fresh start, instead of being among people who had already singled me out as someone to ridicule and harass. That made it so much worse when the same behaviors spontaneously generated themselves and made me fully aware that it was me, not something uniquely messed-up about the people on my block and at my school.

I was showering in the locker room after gym class and when I headed back to the area with the lockers and benches to put on my street clothes, the other boys watched with expectant amusement. I tried to ignore them and just get dressed but after a moment I realized my underwear was missing from my locker. "Where are your panties, Alice? Did you leave them at home?" I stared from face to face, miserable, expecting someone to toss them to me along with further mocking comments but instead everyone was delighted to make suggestions about how I might find them. Eventually a theme developed: I should really go check out the stalls, they think I might find them there. I did: floating in a filthy unflushed toilet.

When I was 19 I was at a party outdoors and a guy there decided I needed some attitude adjustment. He punched me a couple times then an hour or so later came up to me, pretending he wanted to apologize, offering me his hand, and then punching me again when I went to take it. Suddenly his friends had flashlights shining in my face and blinding me while he proceeded to kick and chop at me while everyone laughed. The consensus seemed to be that I had it coming for being such a sissy fag.


So I felt like I'd been through some experiences that were pretty nasty and creepy and I hadn't done anything to deserve such things happening to me. I didn't know why but I promised myself that if I ever figured out what caused this to happen to me, there was going to be some settling up about it. I was going to show the world, get some justice, have some satisfaction.



Now I want to fast-forward to the current era and talk about something I did just the other day: I told some gay men and some transgender women (male to female) that the group I was trying to start, a group for people like me, wasn't really intended for them. (Although they could participate as allies and supporters and be welcome in that capacity)

That not only sounds and feels highly suspect, it's hard not to label it inexcusible bigotry. I mean, WHAT?? I'm starting some kind of group and keeping out gay men and transwomen??

Let me explain how that came about...



In the last 2 weeks...

• I finally got pushy enough with Long Island LGBT center to prompt someone to call me back. It didn't go well: "I'm director of programming... so you're offering your presentation as something we could include in programming, well thank you but no thanks we don't need any additional programming". I wasn't expecting it to feel quite so much like dealing with an Institution; I was expecting it to feel like dealing with a fervent social change activist who maybe would be dismissive of my perspective on some kind of political grounds, but this made me feel like a salesperson being told "no we don't need what you're selling".

• I posted to my liberal-intellectual internet message board and was told I am not gay and I am not transgender so I should shut the fuck up, that gay people's concerns are legitimate and transgender people's concerns are legitimate but I'm just a cisgender hetero guy who has some traits socially considered "feminine", just like most guys do, and apparently I just want to be a special snowflake and pretend that I have a social cause. With less hostility, some of the others posted that I can't be a movement unto myself and that I need to network with others like me, if I can find them; and if I can't find them then maybe I really AM a special snowflake and that when I speak I'm not speaking for anyone other than my own individual self and, if so, why should anyone care what I went through if it's not still happening in any meaningful way to anyone else like me?

• I decided that was a good point and went into Identity House on International Coming-Out Day and had an individual session. I figured my need and desire to participate as an activist and shed some light on my personal gender identity as a social cause was, indeed, a personal need, something relevant to my own emotional health and well-being. It went... OK. The two peer counselors didn't treat me like "WTF are you doing here, you're just a hetero cis guy". On the other hand, they were less helpful than I'd hoped for as far as connecting me up with Identity House people who might be interested in hearing more about this as another gender identity needing political attention. They DID say they'd put me on the email list for a Gender Exploration Group to be scheduled for sometime this fall, which I could be in, and when I indicated an interest in doing what they were doing, i.e., being peer counselors, said they'd put me on the list of people who could be called the next time they do an in-house training. That would get my foot in the door as well as being something I think I'd be decently good at and would enjoy doing.

• And meanwhile, I started a Meetup group titled "OTHER Victims of Homophobia, Transphobia, & Sissyphobia". I figured that plus the descriptive blurb I wrote about it might get me in contact with other people like me in a way that my blog and my participation in genderqueer and transgender and related Facebook groups has not. What happened instead was that about eight people quickly joined my Meetup group and the ones who wrote anything at all about themselves either identified as gay males or as transgender women (MTF). And because I was specifically trying to see if I could find and network with other malebodied people who identify as girl-like or effeminate, and/or as girls or women, but not with intention of presenting as female-bodied or becoming female-bodied, I found myself informing them that they could be supporters and welcome here in that capacity but that the group was intended as a group to bring together males OTHER than gay guys or male to female transgender who had been victims of homophobia-and-company.


So...

How politically legitimate is it, how legitimate CAN it be, to be starting a group that disincludes gay people and trans male-to-female people? I'd prefer that you not judge me blithely but at the same time let's not dismiss this concern lightly either. It's a question that goes deeper than this one Meetup group, but rather has to do with my entire gender identity itself.

From my vantage point, I was mistreated for being a sissy and so I set forth to come out and confront the world as an activist sissy. But the gay question is the Giant Pink Elephant in the Living Room. When people were being hostile towards me for being a sissy-boy, they expressed it as hostility towards gay guys. When people expressed sympathy and tolerance towards me, they expressed it as sympathy for and tolerance of me as a gay guy. And the reason I still perceive a need to change the message that kids hear out there is that some hypothetical kid like me growing up is going to hear some continuing hostility towards sissy guys, identifying them as gay, and they are going to hear a strong social dissent that says it is perfectly OK and downright fabulous to be a sissy gay guy.

I could already hear that social dissent in the 1970s when I was a teenager, but it wasn't helpful to me. No one was saying it was OK to be someone like me.


But it means I'm distancing myself from gay guys, making a point of saying I'm proud that I'm not. Or rather that I am proud of who I am and who I am is a sissy-guy who is not gay, which still collapses to the same thing.

Maybe that's part of why it's so damn difficult to find others like me.

On top of the other problems that come with it, we're setting ourselves up to be perceived as homophobic. And/or as protesting awfully loudly, like we're in denial or something, because why else (people tend to ask) would people go around asserting that they aren't gay? So maybe the other sissy males who are not attracted to male-bodied people don't identify as sissy in order to avoid being more rapidly and completely designated as gay, and don't identify as "sissy but NOT gay" in order to avoid being designated as homophobic and closeted and in denial and gay.


The transgender part of it is somewhat different. Although I was occasionally taunted and mocked as a kid by someone explicitly calling me a girl, it has generally NOT been the case that people assume that because I exhibit feminine qualities I must be a male-to-female transgender person. (Gay continues to be the default assumption). It's only where and when I go to the trouble of explaining that I am a male-bodied person who is a girl inside that I find a lot of my space taken up by the Little Pink Elephant, the assumption that anyone who is born in a body designated as male but who identifies as a girl or woman is going to want to transition, is going to identify as female as well as girl or woman, because, after all, girls and women are female.

Outside of one Facebook group, I have not been accused of being transphobic or politically incorrect about how I am attempting to identify. But I've found it difficult for people to comprehend. A lot of people are willing to believe that there is something primordially female in some folks born in male bodies, but they find it less easy to understand that a person born in a male body could possess the personality and behavioral characteristics and patterns of a girl or woman and could come to consider that to be a far more essential definition of SELF than the physical body, but not reject the body itself as any more wrong than being a woman is wrong. "What does it mean to be a woman if you're not female?", people ask me. I'm talking here about people who accept the transgender phenomenon, not the people who go around saying "If you got a dick you're a man not a woman". They could understand if I said I was SUPPOSED to have been born female, that I'm a woman inside and therefore this body is a birth defect. But they don't comprehend how I could feel and say "I am male and I am a girl and there's nothing wrong with me that needs fixing, get used to it".



My mind these last two weeks has returned to the question: WHY is it so damn difficult to put these ideas out there and WHY do I not find them resonating with other people? WHY do they not have the explanatory power for other people that they do for me? (I'd think that even for people who aren't at all like I am, these ideas would explain a lot of things they've observed in the world and they'd go "Aha, lots of things just clicked into place for me").



Maybe I'm the only one. (Seems unlikely, but what if?)


And then there's Douglas Hofstadter, who in his book Gödel Escher Bach spoke of systems of expression (mathematical languages or computer programming languages or any other formal system) and how, for any of them, there are things that are true but which can't be derived or expressed according to the rules of those very systems of expression. That's the essence of Gödel's theorem, but Hofstadter took the idea and ran with it in more universal directions. At one point he posits a high-end audiophile's sound system and asks (paraphrased *) "Won't any such system have sounds that they can't play because those very sounds, themselves, if reproduced with accuracy and volume, would be destructive to the delicate parts that comprise the sound system?"

Perhaps in the gendered world as it is familiarly constituted, the experiences I am trying to express are not expressible — that the act of expressing them interferes directly with their expression, that the architecture of ideas and language that we use to express things somehow contains a sort of Bermuda Triangle of entwined connotations that makes these particular notions impossible to convey, as every attempt to do so conveys something else instead. (Seems unlikely and quite the conceit on my part to entertain such a notion, but yeah, obviously I've done so).

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Eye Opener

Oct. 4th, 2015 10:18 pm
ahunter3: (Default)
No one had called me back from multiple voicemails I'd left with the Long Island LGBT organization, the one that operates the transgender support groups I've attended in Bay Shore (young, well-attended) and Woodbury (more nearby, sparsely attended). No one had emailed me back from the emails I'd sent to the woman who teaches Women's Studies at Old Westbury (where I was a Women's Studies major 1985-88) and who also runs the women's center on campus. I had put on my calendar a note to myself to get off my ass and follow through on both of these, to talk with the people involved and get the proverbial ball rolling on booking me to give some kind of presentation on gender, to be more of a local presence doing gender here on Long Island. Gotta build the author's platform, you know.

So with the professor at Old Westbury, I obtained her office hours at least, with the notion that I could do this best if I could be seated across from her and sketch out some of what I wanted to present; I was figuring her lack of follow-through and lack thus far of enthusiasm was reasonable, she doesn't know what my content is going to be like, why would she opt to have me present to her class just because I said I'd like to do so?

So next I called the LGBT folks. Similar assumption: they have no reason to rush out and try to schedule me to present my material when they don't know as of yet what my material is. Seems like the thing to do is try to arrange a sit-down where I can explain enough of it for them to gauge my seriousness and the degree to which my perspective adds to rather than clashes with whatever they're putting on. The receptionist took down some basic info including my telephone number and then said she'd have the programming director get back to me shortly.


I get the call maybe 45 minutes later. "So what's this about?", she asks. "Well", I say, fumbling my way into it, "I consider myself to be a subtype of genderqueer... really I haven't found much information about people like me in the materials that tend to be presented, and I guess you could say I'm trying to come out of the closet and be recognized for who I am, but that recognition requires people's willingness to accept another gender identity. I have some materials and I gave a presentation at one local group which went over well, and I was wondering if I could make an appointment to come in and discuss, well, maybe I could do a presentation there, either in Woodbury or in Bay Shore".

"Oh, well, we're not really seeking any additional programming resources at this point but thanks anyway".

"I don't mean I'm trying to get a paid position or anything, I mean just the ideas themselves, I'd like to sit down with you folks as activists".

"That won't be necessary. Is there anything else I can help you with?"

"I...um...wait... I don't seem to be expressing myself well. I have trouble doing this over the phone. I'm... I found it difficult to... sort things out for myself growing up and... and I promised myself long ago that I'd see that younger people would not have to deal with this all by themselves, and there's still no voice out there that I can really recognize as a voice of someone like me."

"So is there some specific service you want from us?"

"I...you... I assume you are concerned with social... liberation, justice... in the same ways and that if what I'm trying to do is... meshes with... that we're approaching the same issues and concerns..."

"As I said, we're not looking for any programming to add at this point. We have support groups that meet in Bay Shore and Woodbury that you're welcome to attend and although you said you aren't seeking therapeutic counseling for yourself, that's what I'd recommend for you. Aside from that I don't know what else we can do for you".

I repeated that I felt that I flail badly at this sort of thing on the phone and she suggested I email her instead, so I took her up on it, and explained more completely how I viewed my own situation and how I felt that I had a gender identity that wasn't on the radar, generally speaking, and that I wanted to do something about that. She wrote back once again saying that the best they could offer me was the support group that I'd already been to.


I went to bed that night with an old old frustration burning hotly new, that too-familiar feeling of "I can't believe this isn't of more interest than it seems to be, why isn't anyone inclined to be grabbed by it the way other people's issues grab me when I hear about them? Why the hell can't I make common cause with people?"


I woke up the next morning with a different judgment on myself. I've been kicking myself pretty hard these past 5 years for not trying harder to connect with organizations like Identity House and discuss my issues with gay and lesbian and transgender activists and instead putting all my efforts and energies into connecting with feminists and discussing my issues as aspects of feminist theory and feminist movement gender politics. Oh, sure, I've given myself a pass for having taken awhile to realize the possibilities and potential in gender activism, of seeing msyelf as part of the LBGT spectrum. But there was all that sense that gee, I'd *been there* and that I should have been playing a part of the political scene in which the modern transgender and genderqueer identities have burst onto the scene. But this morning I sat up and realized "I really *did* go to Identity House. And I really *did* try to talk to people about how I was and what my concerns were. And I stopped going or didn't develop a habit of going very often because my concerns did not mesh with the concerns of the people I met there, and they weren't particularly curious about or fascinated by me as someone coming at this from a somewhat different angle than they were.

So now again this seems to be the case.

OK. Fundamentals. The stance I have taken towards "Society", in its overweening unwashed entirety, is an adversarial one. I feel mistreated and scorned and subjected to some harsh and vicious shit and I have spun around and with anger am being confrontational. This here sissy hatred has got to stop. If nothing else, I get to speak for myself, I get to have a voice, and I get to say I am happy to be who I am and I am proud to be who I am.

So I blithely turned to folks I assumed would be my allies, and blithely assumed that I'd be embraced and accepted there even though I'm different from them, because they're LESS DIFFERENT. But let's stay blunt here: my intention is to change them. To have an effect on them. To alter their agenda. It is not reasonable for me to assume that other people are going to WANT me to change them, to have that kind of affect on them, to get them to set a place for me at their planning table. So this relationship is potentially adversarial too. And I have to approach all my potential allies and comrades and similarly aligned people that I'm trying to make common cause with without expecting them to lap up whatever I exude. I'm not saying I necessarily need to become more abrasive, but I need to not be surprised if they don't immediately latch onto my ideas and priorities and instead are obstructionist and intolerant of differences and myopic in their now-institutionalized thinking on many issues.

I need to remember that, just as with academia and feminism, the individual people at close range tend to be people with job titles or positions within an organizational structure, and probably most of them are not theory-heads who spend enormous amounts of their time playing with abstract ideas about gender and expression and perception and feelings and whatnot and instead are more rooted in everyday pragmatic concerns, on which level my priorities may seem as alien to them as they would be to the local Chamber of Commerce or something.

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ahunter3: (Default)
One of the themes in both my book and in this blog here is my historical lack of much of any sense of community or shared identity over this gender-identity stuff.


In 1980, the year when I first developed this understanding of myself and tried to come out to people, the term "transgender" wasn't in widespread use yet, and most people (me included) had never heard of it. Albuquerque had gay and lesbian community centers and a small handful of sex-segregated gay or lesbian bars and one or two that were mixed-sex and encouraging of bisexuals to come and meet there. I went to them a few times and tried to mingle and strike up conversations but I didn't get any encouraging nods of recognition. The support centers didn't have anything relevant. Gay marriage was decades away, gays were not tolerated in the military, and it was considered entirely legitimate to discriminate in housing or employment. Critically important to do so, even: gotta protect the children from the predatory attention of those deviant fags and all that.


I often tried to start conversations around the theme of transsexuality, which I *HAD* heard of, and the split off from that to explain how I was a variation on that, but although people had generally heard of it, it was regarded as a freakshow kind of weirdness and it was conflated both with homosexuality and with cross-dressing. Those conversations weren't getting me where I was trying to lead, and I didn't meet people who said "Oh, you too?"


I was in Athens GA from 1981 to 1983, and the trendy downtown evening scene, heavily leavened with music (the 40 watt club) and lefty politics and vegetarianism and whatnot, was also a scene where ambivalence about one's sexual orientation and gender was fashionable. Here, also, though, I neither met up with kindred spirits nor explained my issues well. If I floated through parties and interacted in cafes and hung out at poetry readings and played up the unspoken messages, I was wearing the same trendy question mark, and the question was all around straight versus bi versus gay. When I opted to be more overt, my shyness turned it into a ponderously serious lecture that folks found less than entertaining.


By 1984 I was in New York City and had dropped in on Identity House, the solidly established support and community center for gay lesbian bisexual and etcetera folks downtown, but even here... they had weekly support groups for gay guys and lesbian gals and mixed groups for political issues like the worrisome new health crisis and so on, and once a month they had a bisexual support group, fourth tuesday of each month. I attended a few and asked about, well, less common variants... someone mentioned transsexuals and a coordinator there laughed and said "they can meet on the fifth tuesday of the month". It wasn't that they were unwilling to offer services, but there was no demand for it, and for most people it was something they'd heard of more than a phenomenon represented by people they'd actually met in person. Well, except for me, but that's not who I was, either. Transsexual meant you thought you were in the wrong body. Really close yet still not quite it.


In the mid-1990s I consulted with a therapist, explaining how cut off I felt over this, and she became all excited about it and seemed very understanding about it, and she said I had "gender dysphoria disorder" and it was a "thing". It felt nice to be understand, but the implicit pathological-izing of sticking a "disorder" label on it overweighed any of the good stuff. And still no sense of shared identity-in-common.


Didn't find it in school. Dropped in on Identity House again in the 2000s and still didn't connect.


SO... yesterday evening I attended a group specifically for transgender people! My partner anais_pf and I ate dinner and then she lent me the use of her car and I headed off to Woodbury. Got tied up in traffic, tried to take shortcuts, got confused, then temporarily lost the slip of paper with the address on it. I was frenetic, wild-eyed, frustrated, worried that I'd be late, worried that I wasn't going to find it at all if I couldn't find that damn piece of paper, then lost in a labyrinth of big industrial-looking blocky buildings poorly marked for specific street names and addresses. Been looking all my life for a group that would constitute "us" and now I'm going to be late or miss it, this can't be happening!!! But it worked out and I arrived and they were just about to get started and it was... it was really nice and I *DID* feel like for once I was with people who shared this in common with me. Not carbon-copy clones, but they knew what I was talking about and they were interesting to listen to as they talked about their situations. They thanked me for coming and said I had a lot of good and useful feedback and interesting attitudes.


I don't conceptualize myself as primarily "seeking therapy" or "support", so much as finally finding allies to talk about what we want to say to the world at large, discuss the politics of our identities and all that, but they made me feel like my presence was a good thing, that I was a good listener and knew what they were going through. And for me... it felt good. I felt like I belonged there, something I never managed to feel in all the years of going to Idenity House and other such places, attending groups that weren't really centered on my stuff, places where I felt like a possibly unwelcome interloper.


I'm OK on my own, having built a life with people who understand me and love me as I am, and as I told them during the initial go-around-the-circle introductions, I am having a good life and I'm lucky and quite happy.


But yeah, it sure felt good to finally be in a room with others like me.

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ahunter3: (Default)
A pretty big chunk of the anger and frustration that I blogged about in my previous entry is actually directed towards myself. A lot of you folks reading it probably knew that.


What am I angry at myself about? Mostly for sort of dropping this for twelve years. Am I being fair to myself? No. (Yeah, I know that). Am I trying to make up for laying it aside and coasting, by being all fervent and intense about it now that I've decided to pick it back up? Yeah (I know that also).


So what's going on with this gordian knot of mixed-up angerfeelings? It's a useful and healthy process for me to prod them and poke them and untangle them a bit, so have a seat where you can look over my shoulder while I poke.


I'd gotten my article into print but I hadn't really gotten any traction among academic feminists or the more mainstream academic sociologists, and I was feeling cast out by both contingents. By 1992 when the article was printed, I was starting to realize I was not going to waltz off that campus with either the PhD in sociology or the women's studies certificate from the interdisciplinary feminist group.


What I did have (as anais_pf pointed out in a comment on my May 2nd blog entry) was the MSW in social work. That meant I could get a job as a social worker, which was important because I was no longer being funded as a grad student. Essentially I had run out of paid time. I could continue to be a grad student, continue to try to finish my degree, but it would have to occur in parallel to doing something else to earn money to pay the rent and buy the groceries. So you can see why I was feeling discouraged about my prospects for success in school at this point, yes?


Summary: In 1984 I'd come up with the idea of going into women's studies in college as a means of reaching out and connecting up with people about my ideas about gender and sexual orientation. Now, in 1992, that was looking like a dead end.


But that wasn't the only avenue available to me, was it?


Well... I had come to the New York City region not only to get into women's studies but also with the expectation that I'd find other people like me, connect up with them politically and socially, and then I'd no longer be trying to do this alone. And THAT had not happened.


I had found a place called Identity House in Manhattan pretty early on. And I had quickly discovered the night life and street scene culture that was present in certain areas of downtown Manhattan. But both of these environments were focused pretty narrowly on gay and lesbian identity. Here were people coming together because they were exceptions to the rule but I didn't fit in with them. Among them, as a smaller minority, were some guys who were "effeminate" gay guys who were out and proud about not being masculine. Exceptions even to the exceptions to the rule. (The average run of the mill gay guy either didn't consider himself nonmasculine, or, if he did, wasn't making that the main factor in his identity, contrary to the widespread stereotype of gay males as all being effeminate sissy types). I didn't fit in with these guys either.


They didn't really have a lot of actively involved people who considered themselves transgendered back then. In fact, the word in use was still "transsexual" and, if you were, it meant you thought you were born in the body of the wrong sex and that you probably wanted surgery, or had already had it, or were somewhere in between. I didn't go to meetings focused on them because there were no such meetings as far as I could tell, and even if there had been, I would once again have felt like an exception amongst these exceptions to the exceptions to the rule. Or so I thought.


Bit of a snob, wasn't I? Maybe. Maybe I could have done a better job of communicating and connecting there. I should perhaps have actively sought out the people who were associated with Identity House who were, you know, activists, who were there to be political about it, not just there to meet other folks like themselves or receive counseling.


At any rate, I didn't. I went to Identity House now and then, ended up on the periphery feeling like a misfit, and then I'd stop going. A few years later I'd try again, same results.


What I did do, in the years immediately following publication of my article, was focus on living my own life according to these understandings and ideas, work as a social worker with my gender ideas being part of my social philosophy, and upload my various articles to my own personal web space on the internet, where I thought maybe I could bypass the official authority of academia and "publish" and discuss my ideas there. Interestingly, that's exactly what everyone is urging me to do now, updated for the 2010s and so on, but it did not work for me. I got visitors, and they would leave little comments— "Love what you said" / "Kudos to you"— but my board did not turn into a discussion forum where people stayed behind to interact and discuss gender. As for my personal life, I was at that time in a communally shared household, living with about 10 other people, and networking with my housemates' other friends and associates; and I pursued a series of relationships with partners and tried to follow the lead of my gender ideas in seeking partners and structuring my relationships.


Then a second round of things falling apart hit me in the late 1990s. The social work agency folded when the associate director was caught embezzling funds, and I couldn't get a new job as a social worker. When I did get a job, it had nothing to do with society or social change. The fourth of a series of relationships that all existed between 1986 and 1996 came to an end and left me feeling emotionally bruised and worried that no one would ever want to be with me beyond briefly. We lost our communal household and were scattered in different directions. I ended up meeting someone new, moving in with her, and finding myself in a much more narrowly circumscribed life: work, where my social ideas had no relevance, and home, where my partner wasn't particularly interested in my gender ideas or inclined to take them seriously. No longer in a school environment or part of the communal household, I didn't meet many new people. And so I said less and less, and I thought less and less about it. I was tired, dammit. I was tired and things hadn't worked out as I'd planned.


So. Yeah, part of me is angry at myself. Worried that the window of opportunity to add my piece of the puzzle to the conversation has closed on me while I had my back turned. I worry that gender activists will say "This would SO have been topical in, like, 1984 or even 1994, but the world is not in need of your coming-out story at this point, it's been done, it's redundant, it's derivative". Worried that nobody gives a shit what someone 55 years old has to say about gender and sexual orientation, period. Maybe even worried that I'm simply out of the habit of trying to be understood, that I've become so Zen in my acceptance of things as they are that I will be tempted into just coasting, getting by reasonably happy in my personal life, only to wake up one day 90 years old and feel really bad that I didn't try harder to say some stuff to the rest of the world when I still had the energy to do so.

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