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PEOPLE'S EXHIBIT A:

Somebody I'm friends with on Facebook posts this on an LGBT message board: "I made my decision not to go on hormones, and that was a personal choice".

One of the first replies posted was: "Honey I'm sorry... actually I'm not.. if you are not taking the steps to become a woman.. you are not trans.. you are simply a feminine gay man... stop confusing people and making it harder for real Trans people."


PEOPLE'S EXHIBIT B:

On a different message board, I am replying to someone who has referred to me dismissively as "a cisgendered straight guy who really wants to be a sexual minority so he can be part of a movement".

I reply tersely: "No". He quotes that and replies "Yes".

I write: "Being a straight male — being heterosexual — isn't just 'you have boy parts and your sexual attraction is for people who have girl parts'. (If you disagree with that you aren't leaving any room for a transgender lesbian, who, prior to surgery, has "boy parts". Maybe you and your friends consider transgender lesbians to be "straight males" up until they transition, I don't know)"

And to THAT he replies: "I would consider Trans people as the Gender they feel they are, whether they've had surgery or not.

That isn't at all relelvant to your case because YOU AREN'T TRANS! Transgendered people try to live as their preferred gender to the best their social and financial circumstances permit. If they can, they will fully transition, though sadly that isn't possible for a lot of people. You aren't doing that."



PEOPLE'S EXHIBIT C:


On a Facebook-based chat, I have this exchange with yet another person:

Other Person: Your [sic] Gay...A man to have female tendency is a GAY Man how hard is that???....my gawed!!!!!


Allan Hunter: Not hard at all, not for male-bodied people. Which is why I don't identify as GAY, I'm a male-bodied girl who is attracted to female-bodied people. If I identified as gay, people would assume it meant I was attracted to MALE-bodied people, now wouldn't they?

Other Person: Well you can't be Lesbian...

Other Person: Your straight and you like women

Allan Hunter: I don't identify as lesbian because I am male, and lesbians in general do not consider male-bodied people to share that identity with them.

I don't identify as a straight man because I am a girl, or a sissy or a feminine person if you prefer, and straight males have made it loudly and specifically apparent that they don't consider people like me to be men, nor do I wish to be seen as one of them. Also, "straight" means more than "people with female equipment and people with male equipment getting it on". Heterosexuality is gendered, with specific and polarized expectations of the male and the female person -- a "man" role and a "woman" role. I'm a woman or girl and both my identity and the relationships and partners available to me are quite different.

Of course it may be your intention to call "bullshit" on this and say "we don't want your kind and do not consider that you belong". I'm kind of used to that. Rather than just putting my fingers in my ears and saying "no ur wrong", I'd rather go into this with you if you're so inclined. Why is my identity invalid and yours valid? Couldn't I just as easily say "You're a woman like any other, there are no 'gay people', you're just a woman, that's all there are is women and men, and you're making a big deal out of irrelevant things that don't matter"?? {edited: changed gender references}


Other Person: I just said you can't be Lesbian!!!!!

Allan Hunter: Other Person: I agree. I can't be lesbian. I can't be gay. I can't be a straight man. I'm not bi. And transgender doesn't fit either. It's something else.

Allan Hunter: The female people I'm attracted to tend to be butch. Some identify as guys / bois / men. If anyone is going to be the top it isn't going to be me. It's different from being a straight guy, trust me.

Other Person: Then that's your problem....since you strongly believe your A women...Then you need to get a sex change...let's see if that makes you happy.



PEOPLE'S EXHIBIT D:


Back in January, I sent my standard query letter to a publisher that publishes LGBT titles. My cover letter explains that THE STORY of Q is specifically a genderqueer coming-out story. In fact, it was roughly the same cover letter that I posted here back in Sept 2014.

In due course, the editor wrote back: "I finished this yesterday, and after discussing it with the publisher, we're going to have to take a pass on this. It's not a transgender book and definitely not a gay book, so finding a large enough readership to make this economically viable would be tough."

I send this reply, cc'ing my publicist, John Sherman, whom I've been working with: "That is correct. I thought you knew that. It's something else."

My publicist replies to me, responding to my cc: "Yes, it’s something else. Could the subtitle perhaps have been the first clue? Jeez."




** ahem ** [clears throat]

Let's get one thing str... I mean, let's NOT get one thing straight, but let's at least get one thing established, dammit.

I'm not trying to "join" an existing sexual or gender identity club. I am not submitting an application to be approved and welcomed as if this were the Rainbow Homeowner's Association and Community Watch Board or something. When I say "this is my identity" I mean "this is who I am", and you can accept it or you can reject it; you can care, or you can NOT care, but you don't really get a vote on it.


In second grade I was a person. I was a person who perceived myself to be like the girls. I was a person who was perceived by the other kids as being like the girls. I was a person who was proud to be like the girls despite the expectation of the boys (in particular) and the teachers (sometimes) that I would be embarrassed and ashamed of that. I won't say I didn't need and did not seek anyone's approval -- I wanted the girls to accept me and let me play with them. Some did. I was out to prove I was worthy of their acceptance and approval despite being a boy. I won't claim that, in 2nd grade, I had an understanding of sex and gender as two different things -- I didn't, not like that. But I understood that I was LIKE the girls and I wanted to be PERCEIVED that way; I understood that I was NOT like the (other) boys and I did what I could to distinguish myself from them because I did not like being treated as if I were one of them. Who I was had more to do with being "like the girls" than with the fact that I "was a boy". I was between 6 and 7 years old when I was in second grade, and that was how I understood matters at the time.

What that means -- ONE of the things that that means -- is that in third grade and thereafter I was a person WHO HAD THAT HISTORY, a person who already thought of myself in those terms. Hence it was very much a part of my IDENTITY.

So all of my experiences from then on were the experiences of a person WITH THAT IDENTITY.

I didn't invent it as an adult upon reading about being modern gender identities and LGBTQIA people. Do you get that? I'm not just flinging an angry retort in your direction when I say "you don't get a vote on my identity", although yes, encountering people who attempt to negate my identity does make me angry; I'm not in the process of trying on this identity to see if it fits and to see how other people will or won't accept it.

Instead, this identity is who I have been to myself for over half a century. There's no original or "normal" or prior identity I can revert back to were someone to (hypothetically) convince me that I am not really as I describe. My lifetime experiences have been shaped by my perception of myself, just as yours have shaped your experiences.

My adaptive coping mechanisms are the adaptive coping mechanisms of a girl who behaves as a girl who has been through a bunch of specific experiences that people who aren't male girls seldom go through. Those adaptive coping mechanisms reflect the priorities and sensibilities of a girl whose context of operation include

• being in a male body

• being in a social environment where people expect male-bodied people to be masculine and boyish

• being in a social environment that, to the extent it understands and recognizes the possibility of male people being girlish at all, is hostile and contemptuous towards male girls

Those developed coping mechanisms channeled my subsequent experiences: some possible things that could have happened ended up NOT being among my experiences because of how I handled things, and some possible things ended up happening precisely because of how I handled stuff. And of course I was further shaped by those experiences.


Thank you. I'll climb off this soapbox now. This rant has been simmering in the background for awhile now.


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ahunter3: (Default)
"Do you often feel you have to choose between being an activist and making an issue of this stuff, or finding romantic-sexual partners? I've been doing this shit for 35+ years and it has always felt like the search for personal solutions and the attempt to educate the planet about the relevant issues were like 'choose one; you can't do both', if you know what I mean".

I've mentioned occasionally in passing that speaking out and self-identifying as a gender invert has not tended to be a good mating strategy for me or, presumably, for anyone in my specific situation. I delved into it a bit in this blog post from 2014 for example. And yeah, I'll be honest: I think one of the reasons I'm doing this gender activism stuff now, in my late 50s, is that when I was younger I was lured into spending more time and energy seeking those personal solutions, trying to find a girlfriend. It's only now, with that basically working for me, that I seem to be giving the activism attempts more of my focused attention.

I assume this is NOT true in an analogous way for all people within the LGBTQIA-etc tent. Most centrally, it seems self-evident to me that gay and lesbian people, if they are open about being such and attend gay / lesbian social-political organizational meetings, will be that much likelier to meet precisely the people to whom they are attracted. And that therefore being out and about and having some degree of public visibility and/or seeking out clusters of similar people IS conducive to finding potential partners.

Gay and lesbian folks may not be all that aware of how it doesn't quite work that way for some of us who identify as sexual-orientation or gender-identity minorities.

Consider transgender folks, in particular the conventional transitioning variety, those who wish to transition, are in the midst of transitioning, or have transitioned. A transgender woman may find friends and form alliances within a support group or political action group composed of transgender women and men, but for most of them it doesn't form a very good pool of potential partners. To be precisely fair, it is possible that a transgender woman who was straight could become romantically involved with a transgender man, or that two gay transgender people of the same sex could do so. But most trans folks of either gender want to be seen and accepted as people of their target sexual identity and to have the experiences that are typical for such folks. Transgender men generally wish to live the lives of men, and transgender women to live as women, with as little emphasis as possible on their being transgender. Typically, they want to "pass". Being out and making a public spectacle of their own trans status could be seen as working against those interests. Most transgender people are not hoping to meet potential partners who have an erotic or romantic interest specifically in transgender people.

It's a phenomenon that also occurs in groups other than those associated with being part of LGBTQIAetc. Consider the situation of a radical feminist woman whose attractions are towards males. Conventional wisdom says that although her perspectives and political interests rule out a nontrivial percent of what would otherwise be her potential dating pool, she may meet some more-evolved males who are politically conscious and thoughtful people... but that her direct and immediate feminist activities aren't a set of behaviors that are especially geared to making that more likely to happen. Feminist women tend to accept the conflict of interest as a given: being a radical feminist is not in and of itself thought of as a mating call for meeting such guys. At best, it's perceived as a useful filter for driving away the attention of folks whose attention one would not want anyway.

There are groups for which I would think it could be a mixed bag for their identity-factors to be openly known. For example, bisexual people (and by extention pansexual people, to whom the rest of this generally applies) have often indicated that when potential partners learn that they aren't exclusively straight or gay, it makes many of them reluctant to get involved. Both potential same-sex and other-sex partners often tend to feel more at ease dating folks who are attracted in their own direction exclusively. It is, of course, entirely possible for bisexual people to become involved with other bisexual people, where those attitudes would not be an issue. And one would more easily meet other bisexual people via the process of being out and participating in political-social groups openly as a bisexual person. As for the non-bisexual people who would also be part of the pool of potential partners, it might once again function as a useful filter.

I don't really know for sure whether it's intrinsic to my own kind of gender and sexual identity that being out and loud and public work against the likelihood of linking up with attractive partners. My observations all come from the current (lifelong, so far, but current and hopefully transient nonetheless) situation, the situation in which gender inversion isn't on the public radar yet as an available identity. So we have to remove from consideration the notion of being part of a social-political network of gender inverts and all that that could provide. Certainly I think it would make it easier for gender inverts to find partners if I were to succeed in publicizing the concept and people were inclined to recognize themselves in the description and begin to think of themselves in those terms. But would the kind of women who find gender-inverty males attractive be attracted to the ones who are overtly self-labeling? That's the question to which I don't know the answer. It's a bit of a moot point for me (dating and connecting when you're a middle-aged person is, in general, more flexible and more geared towards the post-labels complexities that folks come to appreciate after a few decades of experience). In the entirety of my 20s and 30s, I can only think of one time when someone's interest in me may have been sparked, in part, by things she heard me say about my gender identity. But, once again, it wasn't a world where women would have heard a few things that I said and thought "Aha, he's one of those gender inverts".



I presented down in North Carolina, at Mars Hill University. I promise to blog about it next!


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ahunter3: (Default)
So I was examining all my previous blog posts the other day, to see how often and in what detail I had blogged about the psychiatric system and being a psychiatric survivor, and found to my surprise that I haven't really covered any of that.

Which, to those who know me from the message boards I frequent, must be sort of like hearing from Al Sharpton that he blogged for two years and somehow never got around to discussing racial oppression and race relations in America. I mean, psychiatric oppression is notoriously one of my "climb up on soapbox" issues.

Maybe, possibly, I was disinclined to spoiler my own book. For those of you who read last week's blog entry about my transformative event listening to Pink Floyd? Well, the immediate fallout was that I tried to come out on campus as a different gender and sexual orientation; and the fallout from that, 3 months in, was being asked by my dormitory resident advisor to get some kind of bill of good health from the mental health clinicians across the street. And when I attempted to cooperate with that I found myself on a locked ward, treated like someone for whom a lack of coherent mind had already been established. And yes, it's an important axis around which the final section of the plot of the book revolves. But I don't have to reiterate the narrative that's in the book. I have other interests in writing about it.

When the request was made of me by the RA, I didn't find it surprising. I was a young college student who was talking to a lot of people about gender and sexuality. If I had been a person who seemed obsessed with anything that constituted a set of unusual and new ideas, there would have been the possibility that folks would think I was crazy, but ever so much more so when the obsession-topic was so directly focused on SEX, right? Thanks to Sigmund Freud, we're all very much exposed to the notion that disturbances of mind come from disturbances of a sexual nature. If we tend to think that some middle-aged guy who liquidates his retirement fund to buy an expensive red sports car is expressing some sexual insecurity, isn't that an even more likely armchair diagnosis when some college student starts risking social standing to tell people he's really a girl and that neither the assumptions normally attached to guys nor the assumptions normally attached to effeminate guys are appropriate?

Yeah, I was totally not surprised that there was a reaction basically amounting to "maybe you're not OK in the head and should talk to a shrink about this".

And reciprocally, I knew from my own firsthand experience that before I had a clear healthy understanding of my identity, I'd found the whole subject matter of sexual identity and gender to be emotionally threatening. I'd been squirmy and uncomfortable about it even while I was obsessing about it all the previous semester, trying to figure myself out. So from the outside, yeah, sure, it seemed reasonable that my current excitement and inclination to start talking with a lot of intensity about this stuff could be perceived as a kind of acting out of unresolved tensions and worried uncertainties. The fact that I now felt I was in possession of important answers rather than haunted by disturbing questions didn't change the fact that the subject matter was a sort of ground zero for emotional and cognitive stability issues.

As it turns out, approximately two years AFTER this, long after I'd successfully pried myself loose from the university's affiliated psychiatric system and gone on my way and had begun composing my first serious effort to write and publish a book about my gender identity, I found myself seriously craving something akin to a consciousness-raising group, some sort of sharing and counseling experience from which I could hone my ability to express what I was trying to express and get some feedback from other people on what I was trying to say... and let myself be talked into checking myself in to another such institution. Yeah... fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on ME, highly embarrassing, but yeah...

Whereas the first institution was an old-fashioned central-casting loony bin, with us patients mostly padding around between TV sets, cafeteria, domino games, and an occasional session of "occupational therapy" doing arts and crafts stuff, interspersed with being shoved into seclusion and tied down and shot up with thorazine and all that, the second institution was new and shiny and ostensibly modern in approach and attitude. "The staff all wear street clothes and so do the patients. No bars in the windows, it's more like staying at a hotel. And they won't try to put you on medication, they don't believe in that approach, instead there will be biofeedback and dramatic role play. And the patients all participate in each other's therapy. Everyone is here to work on their own shit. Not at all like that snake pit you were in before".

Yeah. Right. Oh yes, the staff did all wear street clothes but unlike us they had keys to the locked doors. No bars on the windows, to be sure, but the screens were made of heavy metal mesh that created a barrier you weren't getting past without some industrial-strength cutting tools.

And, yes, patients "participated in each other's therapy", all right. Here's how that worked: when you first came in you were assigned to a social status called "level 4". To eventually get out, you have to be gradually promoted to "level 1", and at each level-promoting opportunity all the patients on the ward gave feedback but the final decision-making authority lay with the psychiatrist running the place. One of the behaviors for which you would be evaluated was the kind of feedback you provided about other patients' progress. Making and expressing your own observations that coincided with the opinions of the staff would definitely work in your favor; expressing attitudes or perspectives that did not coincide with those of the treatment team, on the other hand, could work against you. In short, the psychiatrist operating the facility was manipulating the entire social environment, controlling what positive feedback and what negative feedback each patient would receive, and making it so that the institutional message was being effectively echoed by all the other patients, by penalizing them if they did not participate in that fashion.

They didn't much appreciate it when I analyzed all of the above, pointed it out and designated it as a reward-and-punishment behavior-modification tank, a Skinner box. They invented a new social status for me alone, effectively a "level 5", removing from me some of the privileges I'd originally had upon my first arrival.

Oh, and it was largely true that they did not believe in medications. They were achieving their results without them, mostly. Not so much in my case, though, so I was eventually told that I would need to start taking a drug called Navane. I took that as my cue that it was time for me to leave. Using a table knife from the cafeteria, I took out the screws attaching a retaining slide lock from one side of a set of double doors, then escaped through the gap between the doors despite the chain looped around the handles. Hitched out of the state and haven't been tempted to place myself in psychiatric custody at any time since.



Psychiatric diagnostic labeling has political significant for gender activists in particular, and I think everyone in this movement should take note of these things:

Delegitimizing — Any time a person's behavior is attributed to their disturbed mental condition, that is code for "you can ignore what they're actually saying because it doesn't make sense and there's another, more hidden, reason for why they're saying it that's different from their stated concerns and objectives".

Usually this is couched as an act of kindness — instead of seeing yon person as a destructive maniac doing horrible things, please see that person instead as acting that way because their brain is misbehaving and don't hold it against them; and if they express hateful wrathful attitudes or creepy desires and intentions, don't take it as face value that they really feel that way and really want to do those things, there are underlying reasons causing them to "act out" like that.

But if you start with the assumption that the person in question is expressing exactly what they intend to express, it is obvious that regarding them as impaired in this fashion has the effect of discounting and disregarding them. And if you then coat that very political act in the drape of kindness, it doesn't appear to be a hostile act and those who engage in it need not feel guilt or share for having silenced someone's voice.

Depoliticizing — It is normal and natural that a person who has been made to feel marginalized, marked as inferior and different, oppressed, subjected to hostility and violence because of the category they are perceived by others to be in, and so on, feels painful emotions as a consequence and has a mind plagued by self-blame and self-doubts and other recurrent cognitive content of that ilk. That is the essence of what it means to be a victim of such social processes, that it gets inside your own head. Psychiatry and the surrounding penumbra of "mental health" counseling services often focus on the victim and the victim's thoughts and feelings, to attempt to provide ameliorative and supportive services. Doing so, by itself, though, identifies the problem as being located in the victim.

A political approach to marginalization and oppression and such categorical social exclusions is to identify the problem as being located NOT in the victim, at least not in the primary original-causal sense, but instead being located in SOCIETY which has done them wrong.

Even the therapeutic act of talking about what one has been through and processing one's feelings and thoughts can, and should, be political. It is important for victims to see the experiences they have been through as due to an ongoing social phenomenon in need of fixing. If this perception does not take place properly, the victim typically continues to blame themselves, for having reacted as they did emotionally.

Carol Hanisch wrote the quintessential article on the subject, "The Personal is Political", back in 1970, published in both The Radical Therapist and in Notes From the Second Year, the first being a compendium of writings about psychiatric liberation and the second being a compendium of writings about women's liberation, thus underlining the connection between gender activism and a radical questioning of psychiatric practice.


Gatekeeping — For transgender and intersex people in particular, another issue of concern is the role of the psychiatric establishment in disbursing available medical treatment. Hormones and surgery that are desired by a person in order to allow them to perceive and to have others perceive their body as their gender identity and sense of ideal bodily integrity require are quite often restricted to those who have been deemed appropriate for those treatments by a psychiatrist.

At a time when a person is in the most intimate and personal portions of the process of defining themselves to themselves and to the world around them, they are put in a position of having to entertain and engage with someone else's notions of acceptable identities and appropriately gendered behaviors. Persons seeking surgery or hormonal intervention that would typically make it more likely that they will be perceived as female people often have to adopt the most ridiculously pink Barbie doll mannerisms and express the corresponding priorities and interests or else risk being deemed an inappropriate candidate for the medical services they seek; likewise for individuals seeking medical interventions that are socially associated with being perceived as a male person — anything deviating from the most narrowly constrained uptight masculine in activities and interests, gestures and thinking patterns, can cause a psychiatric professional to withhold access to the sought-after procedures.


Pigeonhole-Defining — The psychiatric profession is not ignoring the phenomenon of people claiming variant gender identities. New terminologies have appeared within the psychiatric lexicon over the course of years, phrases such as "gender dysphoria" and so on. And in all fairness, not every recognition of a gender-variant identity is necessarily infused with the stigma of being considered a mental disorder, although they've certainly done their share of providing us with that kind of recognition.

They do, however, tend towards a kind of thinking in which there are a finite set of phenomena and each legitimate phenomenon is accorded an official name and often some theories about causality, even where pathology isn't being evoked. In the case of transgender people, for example, they have largely come to the point of believing that such people exist (as opposed to believing that someone who thinks of themselves in those terms has a mental disorder, which is certainly progress). Some of them believe that the phenomenon of transgender people is always caused by a biological built-in difference in the brain. Many of them harbor the expectation, consciously or not, that normal transgender people are exclusively heterosexual, do not deviate from the sex role of the gender to which they are transitioning, that they all do wish to transition, and that any ambiguity or multivariate expression of gender indicates that the person has not properly adjusted or perhaps is not genuinely a transgender person in the first place.

It's a very different mindset than one that says gender is mostly a social contrivance and that, as such, there are an infinite number of healthy ways to self-perceive and to socially present as a gendered person. The latter is about freedom and the authenticity of one's own representation of gender identity; the former is about slotting every person into a finite number of officially legitimated category-boxes.

To the extent that they've promoted this kind of thinking within the LGBTQ+ community itself, they've contributed to an environment where young people, in particular, think in terms of there being a specific and limited number of possible legitimate genders, and that it is their task to worry about which one they really are.

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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)
I was in Bluestockings (the book store) the other day and a book titled INTERSEX (For Lack of a Better Word) caught my eye.



Since I fancy myself an activist in the gender & sexual prefs rainbow these days, and intersex is (like genderqueer) one of the latter-day additions, I figured it would do me good to read it and get more of a sense of the experiences of intersex people. Because, you know, even though my situation doesn't really overlap theirs very much, it would be useful to have at least a generic familiarity with their concerns in case someone asks me someday while I'm presenting about genderqueer issues and whatnot, right?

OK, OK... so I should be aware, by this point, that I'm likely to recognize myself in descriptions and identities I wasn't previously familiar with. It's not like I don't have a lifetime history of that. I'm not now identifying as an Intersex person, but reading Thea Hillman's exposition left me with the strong urge to write her an email or something, commenting on things we have in common.

Hillman herself had run into the term "intersex" quite some time before deciding that it truly applied to her. She's had Virilizing Adrenal Hyperplasia from early childhood on, but received medical interventions that blunted the impact of her body's unconventional cocktail of hormones. "Intersex", she thought, "means people who have ambiguous genital, and I have normal-looking genitals". It took awhile for her to decide that yes, her experiences with doctors peering and poking at her breasts and vagina and inspecting her clitoris, being prescribed various hormonal medications and taking them as shots down at the nurse's office at school, internalizing a sense of herself as not necessarily OK, yeah, that qualified her to use the label. It took longer than that, and based on her writing seems to be an ongoing process, to be comfortable with the idea that she would at times be the face of intersex, the person showing up at conferences as the designated intersex person. Worrying that she wasn't "intersex enough" and that someone else would challenge her, discredit her.

As I read that, I found myself nodding because I often have that feeling about my own identification as genderqueer. That someone on some message board or in some forum or at some conference is going to say that if I don't ever feel a need to present as female, if I'm not genderfluid or otherwise inclined to want to be seen as a female person at least some of the time, and I'm a male-bodied person who is attracted to female people, then I'm just some cisgender hetero guy who wants to be edgy and is therefore colonizing the experience of legitimately marginalized minorities. Yeah, I know what it's like to worry and wonder that you've stolen someone else's label and that sooner or later someone's going to object.

Then Hillman goes on to describe trying to network, especially with transgender people. And finding that although, yes, they have a lot in common that links them, she often finds the issues of medical transitioning to be divisive. Because for intersex people, being surgically modified to pass as one sex or the other is something so often done TO them without their fully-informed consent, very often as infants or young children. Hillman describes how disconcerting it was to be the lone intersex activist surrounded by transgender activists discussing surgical intervention as a solution, not a problem, and describing it in glowingly positive terms as an choice-affirming and life-affirming resource. To complicate matters, Hillman was informed that she, too, qualifies as transgender: "By taking hormones", she was told, "you transitioned away from being intersex towards something else, towards a more traditional female".

And there again I was struck with the sense of shared experience. I'm not a transitioner and the issues of surgery and other medical intervention make me feel pretty alien and different too. And I, too, of course, have been told many times that the term 'transgender' applies to me, as a male rather than female girl-person, regardless of whether or not I wish to modify my body accordingly.

Sorry if I sound like I think I'm such a Special Snowflake, but always after experimenting with so many of these identity-labels, I've found myself backing away politely: "No, that's not it. It's something else".

When I finished the book, I made a note of the publisher — Manic D Press — and made an entry for it in my query-letter database.

Oh, and yeah: I'm no longer under consideration by the literary agent who requested the full manuscript. And with 640 queries to literary agents and 589 rejections, I've finally crossed the literary Rubicon and sent my first query letter off to a small publisher. It's something I've avoided doing up until now because more than a handful of literary agents have a policy against taking on any new author if any publishers have already seen their book and passed on it. And so up until now I've maintained the ability to say "nope, no publishers have seen it". Except that that isn't 100.00% true. Because when I attended the New York Writers Workshop Nonfiction Pitch Conference back in October 2013, one of the conference events was the opportunity to pitch our books to each of three publishers. Publishers, not literary agents. Well, so if I've actually been deflowered anyway...

Mostly though simply because it was time. The publishers I will be querying will be small publishers, the sort that consider small-volume titles and do not require that only literary agents contact them about books. Publishers that publish niche titles that literary agents tend to pass on because they won't attract a mainstream readership and hence won't appeal to mainstream presses with the larger profit margins that a mainstream book sale can command.

You'll perhaps have noticed that I've never mentioned the specific literary agents I've queried when I've blogged about them. Just a sort of superstitious nervousness on my part. I don't suppose there's any reason to keep it a secret, nor any reason to keep secret the fact that I'm querying any specific publisher. Probably less so, in fact, since I'm only going to query one publisher at a time.

The one I'm starting with is Seal Press.


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ahunter3: (Default)
Basically, movements like ours tend to have two goals: to reach out to others like ourselves, in the belief that if you're like us it's easier to have the support of other similar people than to be isolated; and to do social change, to modify how we're treated by others, to stop the mistreatment or oppression, to change the law or the social structures, so as to make the world safe for ourselves.

Today, I want to focus on the second priority, the social change fork.

I don't know what your experience was, but I first ran into hostility, directed towards me for being different, when I was a kid in school. I found it startling, shocking; I hadn't expected it and didn't understand it. Why were these people so hateful and mean?

Looking back on it with the additional benefit of hindsight and a lifetime of thinking about it, I'm aware of a couple of things that escaped my notice in 4th grade:

• To a lesser extent than what they were displaying, but still definitely present within me, I was hostile to THEIR differences from ME as well; mixed in with my anger and hurt was some outrage: how DARE they, I mean LOOK at them, they're pathetic, something's wrong with them, how can they be that way instead of being like me and then on top of that be so wrongheaded as to think I'm the one who deserves to be made fun of? They should look in a mirror, yeesh!!

• They had a notion of what my differences meant. It was all distorted and badly wrong in a lot of ways, and it was shot through with contempt and ridicule, and basically didn't reflect any meaningful understanding of me, but they apparently THOUGHT they understood what it meant to be like me, and they were largely in agreement with each other.



We tend to form our notions of dogs in large part from our experiences with dogs, but our notions of hippopotamuses almost exclusively from what we've heard about them and how they're depicted.


When it came to male-bodied people (or people perceived by their classmates and teachers as male) who act like girls and share the interests of girls and so forth, I was often the first direct experience for many of the other kids in 1st and 2nd grade; they hadn't formed a lot of attitudes yet, and although there was some of that basic xenophobia thing — "eww, why are you like that, you're different?!?" — it didn't get bad until later.

The boys and girls who had class with me talked about me to other kids, because it's an item of curiosity, something to be described with a mixture of fascination and revulsion. Their description of me and how I act was formed from their experience of me, although of course shaped by how my behaviors seemed to them, and would not have tended to include much of any self-description by me of my own behaviors and how I saw them.

Within a couple of years, most kids my age had HEARD OF people like me, partly from this process (where kids describe someone that had been in their class who was like me) and partly from things they picked up from TV or things their parents or other adults said. Girlish boys were held up to ridicule for them before they met me, and still, in many cases, before they'd had much actual contact with anyone like me. So they observed a few things, sufficient to make them think "ooh, he's more girlish than any of the other boys in class, let's torment him, it'll be fun", anticipating that I'd rise to the bait and prove my boyish masculinity to their satisfaction... and when I didn't, and didn't try to conceal how I was, they had their first live one, one of those sissy boys they'd heard about. The circus was in town. Come see the weirdo!



This is the situation for marginalized minorities in a nutshell. Mainsteam people (e.g., cisgender conventionally binary people in our case) know about us primarily from what other mainstream people have said in the process of describing us to each other. There's a certain amount of not-very-friendly xenophobia ("ewww, you're not like me, why aren't you like me?") that probably can't be attributed strictly to social structures or "isms" of various negatively discriminatory sorts, but they're heavily fertilized and fed by what's inside the package of shared social attitudes towards us, the stories that the mainsteam have told themselves about us, and yes, in many cases they are also reinforced by institutions, social structures, systems that perpetuate our situation.

Laws can be overturned, policies can be set, and systems, especially formal systems governed by rules and whatnot, can be modified to make room for us, and to make those kinds of changes, it has proven useful and effective to appeal to mainstream people's sense of justice and to point to our injuries and the damages done to us and the unfairness and unnecessary nature of these hurtful things.

But formal structural rule-based aspects of society are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Attitudes may to some extent follow the path initially set by court decisions and institutional policy decisions, but for attitude changes to become pervasive, there has to be understanding, not just compliance.

Race — I dare say this as a white-skinned American who has never been on the marginalized side of racism — the concept that racism is wrong is easy for racially mainstream people to understand. People are born with one set or another of certain ethnic physical characteristics that we categorize as "white" or "black" or whatever; the people thusly categorized are otherwise not inherently different, and treating them on any level — institutionally, personally, culturally, etc — as if they WERE inherently different is wrong, immoral, unfair, has caused great pain and suffering. OK, in actual practice embracing and enacting a racism-free world is not quite as easy or as simple as we once hoped, but as a CONCEPT it has turned out to be something that people could grasp sufficiently well to make overtly racist attitudes socially unacceptable and viewed as reprehensible. Or possibly it only looks that way to me because it's 2015 and the long rough slog it took to get to this point stretches far back into our cultural past.

At any rate, gender and sexual identity, in my opinion, are largely NOT understood clearly by the mainstream folks. I think we're getting a decently generous batch of politically correct compliance and parroting back to us of the most common phrases likely to appear in newspapers and magazines about differently gendered people and our experiences, but it is accompanied by a lot of perplexity and pushback from people who resent being pressured to parrot those phrases when it makes no sense to them, they don't get it. They have some attitude, some annoyance, and some lingering xenophobia ("why can't you just be normal, why do you want to be a special freaking snowflake?"), but not such a high prevalence of real hostility and contempt so much as bewilderment.

Me, I'm not a 4th grader any more. I'm sure of myself and my gender identity, I am not plagued with nervous self-doubts about my difference, I understand how the pieces of the puzzle fit together, and I'm willing to be in the circus sideshow. Yeah, come see the weirdo. Ask your questions. Wanna hear my story? I'll tell you how it is, what it's like. Don't worry about offending me, I've heard worse, I assure you. Interact with me. Think about this stuff. I want you to understand. The more you mainstream folks understand the more you will hold attitudes that I want you to hold because they just plain make sense, not because everyone will point fingers at you and tell you you're an insensitive privileged cisgendered boor of an asshole who should be ashamed of yourself.


That is how I view our activity. I'm glad we're winning at the policy-change level, but the current rising trend towards correcting people for microaggressions and castigating them for triggering behavior and otherwise trying to roll out social change by demanding compliance before understanding, that doesn't appeal to me.

Even the phrase "social justice" is getting on my nerves lately. The word "justice" is a heavily loaded term. We live in a punitive society. The systems that dispense justice largely do so by identifying evildoers and perpetrators and violators and wrongdoers, and then punishing them, as well as or sometimes instead of stopping them from continuing to do so. And they are all of them systems that rely on authority, coercion, power over other people, to lend force to their implementations of justice. Oh, I understand anger, all right, and the gut-level desire to see the shoe forced onto the other foot, oh yeah WE shall coerce YOU and designate you as a perpetrator of our oppression and FORCE you to stop it, punishing each offense, identifying it as a social misdemeanor against us, connected historically with how we've always been treated up to this point, and if it makes you feel disempowered in the process, yay, so much the better, assholes. But it's morally wrong, it's tactically wrong, it's factually wrong, and it's, dammit, politically wrong.

I don't believe in the Culprit Theory of Oppression. I don't think the white cisgender able-bodied male people gleefully plotted everyone else's plight in the primordial paleolithic boys' bathroom and then subjected us all to this. I also don't think people intrinsically benefit from having power over other people and therefore are unfair beneficiaries whenever someone else is disempowered and silenced and marginalized and oppressed. Furthermore, if it were true, it that really were the case, YOU CAN'T FIX IT since if it is intrinsic, you are, by definition, saying that you would oppress if given the opportunity to do so; that anyone, ever, with the opportunity to oppress will do so; that anyone set up to be in a position of protective power to enforce equality will use that power to oppress, instead, because, well, it's intrinsically beneficial to them to do so.

It's a measure of how marginalized (ha! so to speak...) I am within our own activist communities that I just got booted from a Facebook group, the Genderqueer, Agender, Neutrois, Genderfluid, and Non-binary discussion. The precipitating event? Someone had posted a link to an article about Triggering. In the article, the author, Gillian Brown, said "Triggering occurs when any certain something (a 'trigger') causes a negative emotional response", and then went on to explain the necessity of preventing triggering from occurring, and the necessity of stepping in to protect people and keep the space SAFE by reminding people to put trigger warnings. I replied with some derision: by that definition, we would all have to preface anything that might cause a negative emotional response in anyone with a trigger warning. It's a silly definition. More to the point, this is simply not how I think we best make the world a safe space in which to be genderqueer people. We make the world safer by making ourselves understood. We make the world safer for ourselves by stepping out, being brave, being seen, letting people point and ask questions, by risking hostility and derision, by being brave enough to SHOW that we aren't going to be intimidated by the risk of hostility and derision, by not being ashamed of who we are.

It didn't go over well, apparently. (I can only conjecture; my membership in the group evaporated without any private message and I can only assume they decided I was a trigger and made people in the group feel unsafe).



OTHER NEWS


I haven't blogged in an embarrassingly long while. A big part of it is that I'm metaphorically holding my breath while an agent is reading my entire manuscript, trying not to become unduly hopeful that she'll represent me, but not succeeding in that attempt. I can't help it. I may be setting myself up for a horrible letdown but I am full of excitement and joyful daydreams.

I have, however, at least succeeded in not just sitting motionless in these endeavors. I've continued to send out query letters. And as a matter of fact, I got a request for a partial (a request to read the first 50 pages) from a query letter and therefore, for a couple weeks at least, for the first time ever, had two agents simultaneously expressing interest and reviewing my writing with the possibility of representation. Unfortunately, this second agent soon wrote back on June 3:

> We were impressed by From a Queerly Different Closet: The Story of Q's
> holistic approach to the underwritten topic of growing up queer.
> However, we struggled to engage emotionally with Derek because of the
> lack of specificity in prose. For example, it was difficult to
> understand why, in middle school, Derek found boys' behavior to be
> "bad" (rather than merely displeasing or disruptive), when Derek had
> not expressed a desire to be "good" or why Derek was ostracized
> growing up without knowing how exactly he was teased in each school he
> attended. Without such basic details, it was difficult to get a sense
> of Derek's personality and essential conflict. Ultimately, this meant
> that we couldn't completely fall in love with the story.


That was such a thoughtful and personal rejection letter that I did something I never do in response to rejection letters: I wrote back!

> Hi, and thank you for the most thoughtful rejection letter I've ever
> received!
>
>
> This is the type of feedback I was hoping to get except, of course,
> accompanied by something along the lines of "please address these
> concerns and send us modified chapters" instead of "not quite right
> for our list".
>
> I don't suppose y'all liked what's there well enough to want to work
> with me on it to see if I could address some of these concerns? (It
> can be hard for me as the author to "see" only what is on paper
> instead of seeing through it to the story that I already know —
> especially after editing it to a smaller size).
>
> If not, well, thanks again for such a personal and encouraging reply.

No subsequent reply though, so onward I move, on my still-neverending quest for a lit agent.


Current Stats:

Total Queries (Story of Q): 562
Rejections: 524
Outstanding: 37
Under Consideration: 1

As Nonfiction, specifically, total queries: 373
Rejections: 343
Outstanding: 30

As Fiction, total queries: 189
Rejections: 181
Outstanding: 7
Under Consideration: 1


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ahunter3: (Default)
Hi! Yes, I am nearly 10 days past my presentation date, and I didn't review the experience or anything. There's a reason for that: a battallion of bronchitis buggies set up their field offices in my lungs and colonized my nose and sinus passages and left their dirty bootprints all over my carpet and stuff. I've been very busy doing things like breathing and being alive. Now I'm starting to do some other things, but reviewing my presentation at Life in Nassau / Nassau County LGBT Center isn't where I'm going to begin today. Soon, I promise.


But today I thought I'd cycle over to the Tone Police Station. We hear so much about tone policing, most of it negative and most of that, I'm afraid to say, well-deserved, but I was curious to see if there was another side, any other side, really, to the story.


Luw Movin, Community Relations Officer, was quite willing to talk to me. Luw, who prefers xe / xes / xe's pronouns, is a soft-voiced intersex individual of Aleutian and Pacific Islander background who identifies as trigender woman-man-altbeing and xe's distinctive handcarved arm-braces and some posters on xes wall proclaiming "SCHIZOPHRENIA IS A DIFFERENCE. NORMATIVITY IS A DISEASE" and "STOP INVOLUNTARY PSYCHIATRIC TREATMENT" provide testimony to Movin's status as one of the differently abled and differently minded amongst us. "Yeah, really", xe says, "I'm not a joke. What's a joke is that some of the folks in Tone Police thought that by putting an individual who belongs to the smallest number of obvious privileged identities in this chair, they could make their problems go away. You better believe there is tokenism, but I'm good at what I do and this position appeals to me for my own reasons. Sit down, if you're a person who sits by preference".

"Anyway, sure, that's part of the Department's image problem, that tone policing is a behavior of the comfortably privileged people, and directed towards marginalized people. But that's not where the Tone Police dug themselves into this hole, it's not the core of our PR problem, our public relations situation. No, the problem with the Tone Police is that we've reacted to people's anger, their expressions of trauma, by focusing on HOW UPSETTING THEY WERE BEING when they spoke of what they'd been through."

I nodded. Movin was saying just what the critics of tone policing so often said.

"You think about that for a moment", Movin continued. "Here's somebody finally putting into words how badly they were abused, the lack of any acknowledgment that treating someone that way even constituted abuse, and here come the Tone Police telling them 'Whoa, the way you say that, you could be making some folks in here feel like you're blaming them personally, be careful how you express yourself'... "

Luw Movin brushed xe's braid back from xe's face and laced xes fingers together on the desk in front of xes. "Tone Police going to be seen in one of two ways if they keep doing that. First off, people are going to feel like the content of what they have to say has been belittled, after saying something of that impact, something as personal and vivid as what they just shared, because the reaction ignores what they said and focuses on the WAY THEY SAID IT. Now, as bad as that is, that's the more charitable interpretation, because the other likely interpretation is that the Tone Police doesn't LIKE what they said, that they've got some kind of stake in the silence, that they don't WANT this kind of truth coming out, because it makes them uncomfortable, so they turn to tone policing as a way of silencing them."


"Well, wait a minute then", I reply, "because it sounds like you're agreeing with the charges people are making about tone policing. But you ARE the Tone Police, so since you're here you must have some notion that tone policing isn't always a bad thing...?"

"Are you asking if I think there's any legitimate purpose to the Tone Police? Well, yes, or at least I think there can be. At least if there's less... tone deafness from the Tone Police themselves. But let me give you some examples."

Movin glanced around the room, xes eyes finding their way over to the bookshelf on the far wall, and xe nodded. "All right. Example. Psych Rights. The National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy, 1985, the big conference. Internal politics within the movement was in more uproar than usual because the mental health system was all of a sudden trying to fund user-run self-help, and that was us. But to most everyone who'd been a part of the movement all the years up through then, the mental health system had been The Enemy. It was an Enemy of many parts, many arms and legs... you had the APA, that's your organized psychiatrists themselves, hard-core enemy; you had various state Departments of Mental Hygiene... always sounded like they thought of us as an infection, bloody Department of Mental Sanitation, but they were mostly enemy... anyway, the nationals, the Nat Institute of Mental Health, often progressive in some ways but they work with the others... the astroturf organizations, Alliance for the Mentally Ill, phony grass-roots, really the parents and families who love medical-model psychiatry because it isn't Freudian, yeah my kid is batshit insane but not because we toilet trained her wrong, she has a mental illness, and we need to be able to drug her up for her own good and ours too, so them, AMI, theoretically potential allies but Enemy, pure Enemy, in every fight along the way. Then associations and endowments and stuff, the Mental Health Association, that kind of thing. They don't have to manage institutions or justify what they've done in them so sometimes pretty progressive, but not always on the same channel as the movement. And so on. Well now all of a sudden some factions in that constellation of Enemy is saying they want to fund us. Give us money to organize, run our own alternative stuff, do public education. And overnight, half the people in the movement are all 'Oh goody goody let's write grant proposals' and the other half is 'Anyone who accepts their blood money is tainted and we should blackball them from all future movement events'." Movin shook xe's head with a wry smile. "We needed to be talking to each other, respecting each other, listening to each other. But there were a lot of people who figured certain... let's call them 'issues', I guess... certain 'issues' had ALREADY been discussed, and wise people had been present to discuss them, and a consensus was reached, and therefore we ALREADY know the answer to that one and if you're not on board with that answer you have said wrong things, you've destroyed your credibility in this context."

Movin pointed to the sign about involuntary psychiatric treatment. "That— in my opinion— is where the line in the sand should have been drawn. If the Mental Health Association of Lower Septic Tankland wants to pay us to do user-run self-help and we don't have to put anyone into an involuntary treatment situation, not by mandated referral, not by required reports to the police, zero, nada, then I don't see what's wrong with accepting that money. It costs money to run a program. If we don't run it, someone who isn't us, who doesn't share our values, is going to get that money and run something."

Xe turned around to face me head-on. "So. Tone Police. This is me, being the Tone Police, and you imagine that you, and a handful of others sitting next to you, have been saying anyone in the movement who takes money from mental health orgs has joined the oppression and is out of the movement." Xe glared at me as if I were the described faction. "YOU do not get to speak to ME, your ally and comrade, as if the wise and important people already decided this and OUR role is to either agree with them or shut up. That would be elitist, and so you sound elitist. YOU do not get magic authority by waving your arms towards established tradition in our movement, magic authority that lets YOU decide whether I have transgressed without hearing my side of things. Want to know why? Want to know why? BECAUSE WE ARE NOT ABOUT TRADITION, you noisy blustery rudeness! We are about CHANGE. All the wrongnesses that change organizations are up against, they are rigid and full of bad thoughts and ideas BECAUSE they have clotted themselves up with tradition and closed themselves off to anything new."

Xe stopped, closed xe's eyes for a moment and chuckled. "That felt good. Except of course that would not work, not saying it that way, not to them. Because Tone Police. It's the right message but the people involved, the old movement regulars, would not have reacted well to being scolded BACK even if, yes, they'd started it. But saying it, saying it the right way, that's a legitimate role for the Tone Police. To tell people, in any activist movement, that it isn't nice to tell others in the same movement that they're on the wrong side of some issue that all the people who matter have long since decided."

I scribbed some more notes for my article, but Luw Movin wasn't finished.

"There's a flip side, even there. There usually is in these matters. Simplicity and activist politics don't mix. Anyway, let's say we all agree that yes, it's bad form to tell other people in your movement, your sisters in arms and whatnot, that the word or phrase or partial opinion they just voiced is Oppressive and that they should Not Say That Again. Not like that, not in that kind of belittling tone, they're entitled to be heard out if they think otherwise than you do on it, whatever it is. But the flip side is that yes, it DOES become tiresome to have to say and resay and reiterate and explain and re-explain the same thing". Movin pointed again to the sign about forced treatment. "The funding did happen. Lots of organizations that applied for it were not our movement and were not opposed on principle to forced treatment. A few years later, people who had come up through user-run self-help orgs that were not movement-run began coming to meetings we'd called and advertised. And they'd say HORRIBLE things in discussion groups! 'Hey that person who just spoke sounded awfully confused and decompensated to me, don't you think we should call 911, maybe they're off their meds and need to be locked up' So immediately of course it wasn't a safe place and what they'd said was wrong in so many ways... " Movin shrugged. "After the first time we implemented an identity policy. That who we were, if you were in here, if you were in these groups, was not just user-run self-help but user-run self-help that accepted, as a principle, that we did not use or condone forced treatment. That lets us stop situations like that without violating the Tone Police principles. I don't want to become that gal or guy who says 'You Just Said a Bad Thing. That Was Wrong and Oppressive and Triggering and You Must Self-abase Now". The Tone Police are still right to jump on that kind of behavior."

"Well", I asked, "so are you going to take every one of the ideas that most of the activists in your cause have come to accept as true and incorporate those into your Declaration of Identity? Does that fix the problem, or are you just sort of relocating it from being an internal friction thing to an us versus them thing?"

"If we took everything that the loudest and most contiguous, let's say, block of activists agreed on and made every one of them part of our Definition, we'd have very little rancorous argument. Of course we'd have maybe 11 members, having either defined everyone else as not-us or driven anyone else away with the sheer volume of what they're supposed to read and say 'Yeah I agree with that' before they can even come in and participate. Look, there are GOING to be hurt feelings and misunderstandings and miscommunications. Someone is GOING to say something that reminds someone else of the way the Oppressor used that language and they're going to find it triggering, and they will hopefully say so and explain what hearing that evokes in them. But you know what? You know what? It doesn't mean the person who said it did something wrong. People complain about the Tone Police as if tone were unimportant, but it's the tone that the Oppressor gave the phrase that made it triggering. How you say something, the hostility or contempt or belitting condescension or whatever, that is what gives terms and phrases, and even opinions and positions and ideas sometimes, their bite. Think of the worst epithet you can think of, a word so bad that people in nearly any progressive movement would be horrified to be seated next to anyone who spoke it. Got one in mind? Got any idea of the origin of the word itself, like what language it comes from, what it meant in that language... OK you're nodding. Tone. And given enough time of the Oppressor using a word with a tone, you've got a meaning, the tone has become the meaning. But if you have an activist movement, well, not just the voice of the Oppressor gets to put tone to a word or a phrase. You hear of any activist movements that have reclaimed what was hurled at them as a derogatory term, and they use it with pride? Oppressor is not the only voice that gets to have tone. So part of Tone Police's role is to say, sometimes, 'Back down. I understand what you heard is something you associate with negative. But the person who just said that is in here, one of us. Give the speaker the benefit of the doubt. You heard it elsewhere with a tone that the current speaker didn't necessarily intend. You should hear it here with the ear you give to someone who shares this cause with you, and don't be so fast in saying 'Bad Word' or 'Phrase Used By the Oppressor', at least not until you've given it an opportunity to be something new and different".

"Well... you've given me a lot to write about, and I think my readers will find this interesting to think about. I want to thank you for your time".

"Well, I should be thanking you for yours. You may be helping the image of the Tone Police with your article... it's not like it could get a lot worse than it is at the moment. Your readers spend their political attention in one or more activist concerns and movements, I imagine. I bet it isn't the psychiatric rights movement, though, is it?"

"Not for most of my readers, I'd say, no".

"Good. Some things are easier to hear and understand when the examples given aren't right up close to where they've been spending their time. Send me a link to it when it comes out, OK?"

I said I would.

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ahunter3: (Default)
To refer to myself as "transgender" or "genderqueer" is a bit like referring to a tortilla chip as a "corn chip".

It isn't WRONG; a tortilla chip really is a corn chip, that's what it's made out of. The problem is that when you say "corn chip", people's minds immediately jump to Fritos, not Tostitos.



On the transgender and genderqueer groups and message boards, I so often feel like serious Special Snowflake Syndrome, constantly posting and reposting my identity, reminding people that "hey over here, don't forget about me & hypothetical others like me, I was a girl in a boy body, no dysphoria, not transitioning, don't need anything fixed except society's expectations that male bodied people are always boys".

When I identify as transgender, it isn't incorrect—I have a gender that is not the one I was assigned at birth—but the connotation for most people is that I therefore feel *trapped in a male body* or that I would wish to present as female and pass as female, and for more people than not, it will be assumed that I have transitioned, intend to transition, or wish that I could transition surgically to correct my body so that it matches my gender.

"Genderqueer" is a more variable term; it should make it easier to be one of a half-dozen specific flavors of genderqueer and I could feel less like a tortilla chip in a bag labeled "corn chips". But in practice I'm finding from my participation on the genderqueer groups that I've still got a corn chip problem. I'm very unusual in that community for considering myself to have a sex (or "physical identity" or "morphology" or "phenotype") and also a gender, the two not being one and the same.

Other genderqueer folks tend to be genderfluid (boy days and girl days) or bigender (does anyone else read that as "big ender" as if GenderLilliput 's other island would have "little enders" or something?) or agender, or are somewhere along a continuum-spectrum such as demiboy or demigirl. They are mostly nonbinary: they reject the oversimplified "two possible categories" system of male (or men) and female (or women). Well, I do, too, but in my understanding of myself I am using binary categories, I'm just applying them to two, not merely one, axis. I have a physical axis in which I am a malebodied person and I have a psychological-behavioral and personality axis in which I am a girl or woman or feminine persona. Heck, I don't even know if that makes me nonbinary or binary. Quaternary or Tetragonal, maybe?

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I hear some people occasionally wondering how, and why, transgender people ended up affiliated with gay and lesbian and bisexual folks, pointing out that gender identity is really a separate consideration from sexual orientation. I imagine it happened sort of like this: lots of people, when they encounter someone who appears to be of one sex but who exhibits lots of signs and sends lots of signals associated with the other sex, assume the reason, or purpose, of those gender-nonconforming behaviors, is that that person is gay.

I chose the words "reason or purpose" intentionally: a purpose indicates an intentional act, while a reason implies an explanation, and both of those get applied to this thinking some of the time. As "reason", the thinking goes something like this: "being sexually attracted to guys when you yourself are a guy is a way of being more like girls; that is, being sexually attracted to guys is something that mostly happens to girls; so this person is gay as part of a general tendency to be more like girls". (Or mirror-image of that for lesbians). As "purpose", the thinking runs more along these lines: "acting and dressing and behaving like a guy when you are actually a girl is a way of trying to resemble the people that most girlfolks are sexually attracted to (i.e., guys), so that they'll think of you in sexual terms; you do that to signal that you are a lesbian and want to have sex with other girls". (Or mirror-image of that for gay guys).

So mainstream hetero people would mentally categorize transgender people as gay as a consequence of this kind of thinking.

Gay and lesbian people themselves, I think, weren't immune to that kind of assumption, at least at first, before transgender people had come out to them fairly often and in significant detail: "OK so you want to change your body to fit your gender identity, that's cool with me" could shift to perplexity in cases where the transitioning person was (for example) transitioning to male and then planned on living as a gay male afterwards: "Huh? Then why bother? What are you doing it for?" Certainly the surgery clinicians and psychologists were making assumptions that collapsed orientation with gender identity: to be a good candidate, you were supposed to aspire to be a very NORMAL person of the sex to which you were transitioning, and that meant being postoperatively heterosexual, didn't it?

Therefore, I tend to imagine that a lot of initial coming-out self-revelations by transgender people were made to gay and lesbians people. Because, having been pigeonholed along with them, it made sense to seek understanding there, to find resources and support there and so on; but to get that understanding, some explaining was going to have to take place



All that is kind of prologue.


You see, I consider myself to be in the same kind of situation except that I'm grouped with trans people, because I seem (both from the outside and sometimes from among trans people themselves) to fit the description, but I feel different from most of you. And I don't feel understood in the absence of coming out and explaining a bit. Coming out to you as part of a smaller minority the same way transgender people have been a minority within the LGBT community.

One thing I want to say before I go any further is that it is hard for anyone to talk to a group about how they're different from the others in the group without a risk of it sounding like they're saying "YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG, THIS IS HOW IT SHOULD BE". If I come across to you, reading this, as if I'm prescribing MY gender identity as some kind of improvement over yours, can you give me the benefit of the doubt and try not to take it that way?



OK, one of the biggest differences I feel when I'm discussing this stuff with trans people is "passing". A very large percent of the message-board posts on trans boards is about passing. Do I look like the sex that I'm transitioning to? Here's my latest selfie, do I look like a member of that sex to you? Where can I get this or that garment or piece of equipment or device to make me look more like that sex? And so on. Me, I don't want to pass. It is not my intention to be seen and thought of as a cisgendered female person. I'm a male girlish person. I want to be seen as a male girlish person. I want to be understood and accepted as a male girlish person, or, when that's not an option, to be hated and reviled and despised and detested as a male girlish person.

Being a male person is part of who I am. I do not hate my body. I do not have dysphoria. Being male is not something I need to fix. I have some nice skirts and some purses I use when I wear them, and they are expressions of my girlness and it feels good to wear them in public, proud of who I am. But I do not have any bras. I do have a pretty dense collection of facial hair. I like it; it's pretty and it grew there naturally and I never wanted to shave it off, nor do I want to pluck it out.

Being a girl person, of course, is what was perceived by most people as the part that was WRONG. As a male I'm supposed to be a BOY person. I am to be pitied, considered pathetic. I'm believed to have always fervently wished to more closely resemble those masculine creatures who inhabit the other male bodies. Of course you're nodding, of course you know how that goes, THAT'S WHY I'M IN HERE, PART OF THIS COMMUNITY, to be among my own kind, as much as that is a possibility, and yeah, this is ground zero dead center home base of what we've got in common. I most certainly do not want to be a boy person, I am proud of being one of the girls, proud of remaining who I am in the face of the hostility and ridiculous pressures and hatefulness directed towards girlish male folk. That certainly doesn't need fixing either!

But we aren't all alike in here. And I need to feel understood in order to be able to feel fully accepted. I'm not transitioning. I'd like to get the world to transition towards understanding that males can sometimes be girls as well as boys, and that that's OK. But me, I'm fine where I am, stubborn and unchanging.


And now, some comments about language and terms. I don't want to behave all super-triggery-sensitive or make you think I'm going to lash out at you and accuse you of horribly damaging uses of words that hurt my feelings, but yeah, some of the ways that some of you trans folks use certain terms does kind of make me squirmy and uncomfortable. Let's start with "female" versus "woman" and "male" versus "man". To me they're the specific versions of "sex" versus "gender", and although I acknowledge that it's sometimes a bit of an oversimplification to say that sex is the body (chromosomes, organs, biology) and gender is the identity (personality, the real self), it will do as shorthand. So a woman or girl is someone who identifies as such, and a man or boy is someone who identifies in that manner instead, and they are NOT just by-products of our SEX, our physical equipment. But I keep seeing people describe themselves as (for example) a transgender FEMALE or speak of being a real MALE inside when they are referring to the internal self and not their current physical configuration.

I can see how that would make sense to someone who (for example) intends to transition and become female, but that kind of thing makes me feel a little bit erased. It is very liberating TO ME to have language that makes it possible for me to explain that I have a body of one sex but the gender that usually goes with the other — male, girl — and from my vantage point when I hear or read trans people eliding any difference between "female" and "woman" (or girl) it strikes me as a threat to my ability to say that and be understood. It muddies the water. In an ideal world there would seldom be a need to draw such attention to one's biological plumbing, but we aren't IN that ideal world and I, for one, still need to be able to speak about my situation and draw attention to it as one that needs social consideration.

In an ideal world we wouldn't be pigeonholed into little categories, but in order to speak against the pigeonholing process you often have to identify the category you're in and speak about how the categorial treatment that's tied to it is unfair and oppressive.

Look, I'm not the language police or anything, but I'm letting you know how it rubs me when I read that kind of thing. If you want to disagree, by all means write up a response, and I promise to read it with thoughtful consideration.

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ahunter3: (Default)
Got this reply from an agent*:

> Thanks so much for sending your heartfelt memoir. The big issue
> standing in the way of my taking you on is not editorial, since you
> write cleanly and smoothly. It's a matter of platform, that built-in
> audience who knows the author through some form of media. With the
> comparisons you gave, it's the authors and their reach beyond the book
> world that distinguishes them. Feinberg has long been a rights
> advocate in the spotlight, Boyle had a successful writing career as a
> man, and the Scholinkski was a case that got media coverage that led
> to a book deal, not the other ay around. Publishing is an industry
> that can ride a wave but is not so great at making them. It's a shame
> that a good book is no longer enough, but I see a tough road ahead
> without a really impressive platform. I appreciate the chance, though,
> and wish you luck connecting with an agent who doesn't share my
> reservations.


This is pretty much where I came in, the impetus for starting this blog.


On the one hand, it IS encouraging to get some occasional confirmation that the problem isn't that the book isn't good enough to be published, and QUITE encouraging to get some signal that the problem isn't with the quality of my query letter, either.

On the other hand, the platform isn't something I can easily do much about. I've been operating this blog for a little while now (it's one of the few platformy things that seems to be within my reach), but as much as I deeply appreciate you folks reading it, and commenting on it, I suspect that the agents who are looking for an author's platform won't be impressed with blogging unless there are hundreds of followers lapping it up, not the dozen or so that I have. And I have no clear idea what kind of magic tricks I need to do to drive people en masse over here to read my stuff.

I've been to more GLBT meetings and have found myself understood and accepted there, with reciprocity, but if being part of those structured organizations is going to morph into "a platform", it will take awhile.

I've spoken a couple times at open-mike events where performance artists and poets and comedians and other folks get 5 minutes at the mike, and will attempt to do more, but at the moment I don't see that growing into some kind of huge cult following.

As far as I can tell, my best bet is to just keep plugging away and accept that the lack of platform means I have to do this for a lot longer than if I were famous or had a built-in audience. That I have to believe it makes my road difficult, not impossible.


Current query status (The Story of Q):

total queries: 305
rejections: 193 (includes no reply > 3 months)
outstanding: 111 (no reply yet, < 3 months)
under consideration: 1


* agent's name and agency not included here due to lack of explicit permission. I don't really have permission to reprint the email, either, I'm just doing it anyhow. The references to Feinberg, Boyle, and Scholinski are from my query letter and proposal identifying "comparable books": Leslie Feinberg's STONE BUTCH BLUES, Daphne Scholinski's THE LAST TIME I WORE A DRESS, and Jennifer Boylan's SHE'S NOT THERE

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ahunter3: (Default)
On Monday I went again to the GLBT Center trans group in Nassau County, and on Wednesday I attended the much-larger Suffolk County trans group.



This was my third meeting at the Nassau group. They tend to have about six people in attendance on average, counting me and the GLBT center facilitator. On Monday, there were five and two of them were newcomers, young trans people attending for their first time. One was a male to female, in her upper 20s, the other a female to male who looked barely 18 but was probably more like 23. The remaining person (another middle-aged guy who uses male pronouns) had to leave early, leaving me, the two newcomers, and the facilitator.

One advantage of a small group is that in the course of a 2-hour meeting you're generally going to have the opportunity to open up and talk at some length without fighting to interpose yourself into the discussion or worrying that you're taking away time from someone else. So at a certain point midway through the evening I said, "One of the things I find frustrating is that sense of never fitting in. People make a default assumption because I present as male. Some people go on to observe that there's something a bit off about me as a male person and they make a second-tier default assumption about me as an unmanly male. Even in places like this meeting, where on the signup sheet..." (I pointed to the clipboard I'd been handed when I first sat down) "...we're asked to indicate our gender, I found myself twiddling the pen and wondering what to write down. Other entries said 'M2F' and 'F2M'..." (I made momentary eye contact) "... but I don't have a simple term like that for what I am. For me, I'm a male and I present as male and I don't have a problem with the body, my issue is not with the plumbing. It's that when people made an issue of me being too much like the girls when I was a kid, I embraced that proudly, that's who I am. I wrote down 'genderqueer' on the sheet, but that doesn't really say very much. Anyway, I still worry that I'm going to come to meetings and organizations for trans people and still not fit in, that other people there won't related to me or feel comfortable with me there".

Dead silence for several beats. Then the facilitator said something about the "plumbing" being a clever way to put it. More silence. Someone eventually started a new conversation about something they were dealing with, gender accommodations at their work place or acceptance issues with parents. I made an observation or a suggestion. Cool unresponsive faces, more silence.

A lot of what was going on with me by that point was within me, of course. No one was saying I didn't belong there. It was a very small group and the two others there (aside from the facilitator) were young and attending for their first time. One disadvantage of a small group is that someone can really put you on the spot if they say something you don't know how to respond to. There may be no one else there to fill up the awkward silence and your own lack of response comes across differently than it would in a room full of people.

So it would be unfair to attribute my feelings to my specific gender identity and conclude from their behavior that I really don't fit in among trans people, but yes, that's how it felt.


On Wednesday for the first time I made the longer and more inconvenient trek out to Bay Shore to attend the Suffolk trans group. My partner anais_pf kindly lent me her car and cancelled her own tentative plans so that I could. I fought through rush-hour traffic and got there a half hour early.

Another group was using the meeting room so the receptionist invited me to hang out in the computer room until the meeting time. I logged in and poked around on LiveJournal and other sites but soon became more interested in checking out the titles of the books on their bookshelf. (Andrew Tobias, Martha Shelley, Guy de Maupassant, Jill Johnston. Fiction with gay or lesbian characters. Travel advice for gay and lesbian people.)

A couple of young people came into the room, in mid-conversation. I found myself feeling awkward, intrusive (even though I'd been there in the room first), potentially perhaps an older creepy person or a person sufficiently different in sexual orientation or gender than whatever had brought them to the GLBT center. I made only brief and intermittent eye contact and did not say "hi" or anything; they ignored me. After a moment two or three others came, and greeted the first ones, then more. Soon the room was full of teenagers and 20-somethings, embracing and laughing and greeting and texting and showing each other things. I was still ignoring them and vice versa. Then someone indicated that the meeting room was available and yes, indeed, this cluster of people was the trans group I'd come for.

Whereas the Nassau meeting had sent around the sign-in sheet and folks had been writing in "M2F" and "F2M", the Suffolk group had us go around and introduce ourselves and the pronouns we prefer. That meant either jumping in (and coming out) as a male-bodied non-transitioning girl who is neither M2F nor F2M when everyone else was just saying "I'm Celia and I go by 'she' and 'her'" or else not doing so and remaining unidentified, and feeling shy and nervous I did the latter. I wasn't, fortunately, the only middle-aged person present; the median age was probably around 23 but the average age somewhat higher, with about seven of us spread in the agerange of 40 and above.

There were lots of interesting situations, stories, experiences related. Their angers and exasperations and hurts, the things that bothered them or got them fired up, were things I could relate to and was so seldom able to talk about with other people who had those same reactions and experiences and feelings. My initial feeling of isolation, carrying over from the waiting period in the computer room, was sharply juxtaposed with my desire to join in and fit in.

That's rare, really rare. I go to social events and expect to not fit in, I anticipate maybe some hostility and, far more often, polite cordial distance; I tend to sit back in my corner (metaphorically if not literally), both shy and snobbishly reserved, politely cordial myself, expecting that over time people will learn my name, become accustomed to me being there, and still have no sense of who I am, still not integrating me in as more than an acquaintance, because that's just how it is. I don't blend. I have a private life with special individual people who understand and love me and I'm entirely used to not having a crowd I hang with as more than a peculiar stranger. That's how it is with choir. That's how it is with the kinky fetish scene. That's how it is with the polyamorous groups. It's how it was in college, in the classrooms, in the dorms. It's how it was in the psychiatric patients' liberation movement organizations, even, or on the fascinating hippie commune in Virginia that we visited earlier this summer. Those latter two are much more central identity factors for me than the other things mentioned here, which are more "things that I do" than they are "who I am". But I was reminded afresh and anew last night how much more powerfully, personally resonant the gender identity thing is for me. It's the central defining characteristic that has shaped my individual identity, the thing that if other people don't understand they "don't get me".

I should back up a moment and admit that I sometimes doubt that. I sometimes do wonder if I so desperately wanted an Explanation that, having had this one occur to me, I embraced it and adopted it fervently as both identity and answer... but that, as a one-time partner once said of me, I'm actually a person who likes to embrace his differences, who likes to be unusual and quirky, that I'm a nerdy intellectual who would not have fit in as a kid any better if I had been born female.

But last night it was in the air for me. A really compelling sense of the potential for fitting in, really fitting in, despite a lot of diversity and many factors that should have been sufficient to make me feel like an odd person in that room. And with it, the awareness that I crave it, when it seems like it's an actual possibility. Not feeling so standoffish, instead wanting the meeting to just continue, stay overnight and keep going, tell me more, and I'll tell you my story too. And also the unusual fear: what if they don't like me?

One disadvantage of a large group is that it can be difficult to select a good moment and jump in and start saying really personal things about yourself. I wanted to. I was on the verge several times only to be beaten to the opportunity by someone else. So as of yet I still don't know whether the room as a whole would have looked at me in perplexity and found me strange and not like themselves once I came out.


On the ride home I realized something about myself. I am mostly not a very damaged person despite the world's treatment of sissyboys / male girlpeople / genderinverted guys, but one area in which I'm kind of crumpled from it all is that shy-snobby-unfriendly demeanor. I wasn't always that way. I can recall as an 8 year old, a 10 year old, approaching other kids enthusiastically and expecting them to like me, and recoiling with shock when they were mean and hostile and made fun of me and ridiculed me for thinking they'd want anything to do with me. Over time I learned. Now it's ingrained: I tend to sit quiet and small in corners and if someone approaches I make sure to get out of their way; I have self-effacing mannerisms and I make it easy for people to have nothing to do with me without them having to push me away or reject me; I don't remember names or faces and I'm usually oblivious to conversations going on around me.

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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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