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Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

Tiptoeing in

I have great parents. Dad’s passed away, but I’ll write about them both in the present tense here, since this is about both of them as continuing presences in my interior life. They love my siblings and me, and raised us with a love of learning and desire for justice. We had privileges many don’t, and Mom in particular wanted us to know that we did and that it made obligations for us to see that others got a chance at a decent life too.

They’re not perfect, of course. Dad was more than a little homophobic, not to the extent of ever opposing equal treatment under the law but really not liking to be around them. Mom is much better about it, partly because of having had a lot more LGBTQ friends and colleagues over the years. Nonetheless, she’s a product of her times – she grew up in a small city on the Pacific coast during the Great Depression, and she has borne her share of griefs and shocks and then quite a bit more.

We have this delicate little dance going on. She really, truly doesn’t want to hear about having a transgendered child. But her love for us has always come with a lot of trust, and she genuinely does want the best for us and has been willing to support our best judgments even when she’s not sure we’re right. I wish to live honestly around her. But I also don’t want to add one scrap of unnecessary grief to her life, either. Things have been hard for her since Dad died, and I really don’t know how many more years I have with her, and I want them to be as happy and comfortable as may be. The American scene gives her enough horror and misery at is – for the wife of a World War II pilot proud of his part in fighting fascism, and a woman who’s always been committed to social justice, the Bush years were horrific, and the new depression gives her a lot of occasion for unhappy memories. I feel I owe her every consideration that’s compatible with my needs now.

So there’s this funny dynamic at work. She doesn’t want to deal with a lot of the big-scale issues associated with my self-realization. But when I can isolate something and talk about its contribution to my well-being in other terms, then she will accept its feminizing benefits as well. This has been true when it comes to my appearance, and some thoughts about wardrobe changes, and even (thanks to my history with unusual internal chemistry along with the systemic illness and thanks to male relatives on Dad’s side turning out to have problems with over-production of testosterone) thoughts about whether an anti-androgen regimen of some sort might help.

I remind myself that I didn’t come to my own realization in just a couple of weeks, and that whatever suspicions or questions she may have had about me in the past, this will take her at least as long and probably a lot longer. In the meantime, I’m glad that I can share pieces with her and get good reception.

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I’ve been posting with my new identity to a few places I’ve been active at before, and find myself enmeshed in all the usual arguments about unrecognized privilege, discrimination’s existence without consciously bigoted intent, all the Awareness 101 stuff. At the same time, I’m reading and thinking about the discussions at trans places about moving past all that to other discussions, and also about the practical application of that desire to prejudice in women’s place online and off.

I’ve been here before!

This is just what it was like when I started taking part in disability exchanges. I could probably play Mad Libs with a lot of posts.

So I’ve realized the awful truth: we notional young ones, just out of the self-realization, we’re the massed levies that let the veterans consult about higher matters. I am a spear carrier at last!

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I’ve never been as good as I should have been at listening without rushing into comment. I think I’ve improved with the decades, but still…one of the hardest things for me about my new situation is recognizing just how often I still need to hush up and listen to others, because I don’t yet have any foundation of experience of my own on which to stand and talk.

But I hope to get better at it.

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The Bush administration made me into a hard-line social democrat, or perhaps an outright socialist. (I’m still thinking about it. The Obama administration’s economic catering services are keeping up the leftward pressure on my perspective.) It also made me something of a misandrist.

It’s not that I think all men are bad. I’m uncomfortable around a lot of male-bodied people, but I know that some of that is simply compensation, and a projection of my own interior realignment. It’s something that happens whenever a person goes through a big life change. Nor do I think that women are incapable of brutality and degrading violence as well as less physically overt cruelty.

Still, it seems to me that the horrors perpetrated by Bush and his administration aren’t really aberrations within patriarchal, corporate capitalism. The whole point of their system is that you’re supposed to be amoral except when your bosses need you to exercise self-restraint to protect their own schemes. Adam Smith had things to say about what government needed to do to protect people’s well-being outside the sphere of market activity, but for the modern elite there is nothing outside the marketplace, nothing that they can’t try to buy or steal and then sell or lease back to the rest of us. Then when some of them become the supreme bosses, there’s never a reason to refrain from indulging their passions at all, and someone else will always bear the burden of clean-up. Bush, Cheney, and their gang were simply more thorough about it than earlier gangs, and their escape without any real penalty laid the groundwork for their buddies in finance to do the same now.

This isn’t the world of all men. But it is men’s world. It’s what ambitious men do if they’re not stopped. And it’s hard for other men to stop them, because they play both on cultural cues they helped build up and hooks that run way down into our primate souls and beyond. In the immediate term, simply shifting power to specific women won’t help much because nearly every woman who’s risen within the existing order is compromised by it as thoroughly as almost every man is. In the longer term, though, it seems to me that a saner social and political order will necessarily be one in which uncoopted women have much greater influence over both law and practice.

As I write this entry, I realize that this is the context in which Bitch Ph.D’s glorification of her own bigotry horrifies me so much. It is a very characteristically male sort of response, whether she got it from her bigoted-joke-loving boyfriend or, as I think, developed it on her own. She’s gotten to used to being an individual voice of authority, detached from a community of close influence and correction, and is in a rather direct symbolic sort of way being a dick about it. This is how the world keeps getting re-broken.

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It’s not like I didn’t know there was transphobia all over. I’ve been guilty of my own share, after all, both before I ever thought seriously I might be trans and even after I began wrestling with the thought. But this has been a very depressing week both for LGBTQ rights and concerns in general and for trans respect in particular.

For me personally, watching Bitch Ph.D actively defend a very bigoted transphobic joke was especially aggravating. I learned a lot about feminism from exchanges she contributed to. I guess this is her way of signalling that lesson time is now over.

There’s no time like the beginning,I guess, to be reminded that any ally can abandon us at any time, right alongside the reminder that all categorization, including metadata, can become a weapon. I’ve always been skeptical (and worse, sometimes) about claims for the importance of constantly challenging and reconfiguring categories. Now I see that I was wrong. I simply can’t trust the care of my identity to anyone else.

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