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Posts Tagged ‘identity’

For several years I’ve turned away from a lot of physical measurements like weight and (except in the most general terms feasible) the dimensions for sizing clothing, because I know that the numbers have been bad, and that since I was stalled out thanks to body loathing and health problems from making any progress, it would just be more stress about things I couldn’t fix.

I’m interested to discover that I actually want to know some of these things about myself now, and amused at just how profoundly rusty I’ve gotten at measuring myself.

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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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“In Defense of Eye Candy” is an article about computer interface design, but the more I read it, the more I realized that it applies to gender identity and presentation just as strongly. One of the features of kyriarchy (and I love that word, and am so glad to know it) is the idea that things expressed in rationalistic categories, preferably with numbers, are fundamentally more real than ones expressed in terms of emotion. So it pleases me very much to read things like:

…emotion is not a luxury: it is an expression of basic mechanisms of life regulation developed in evolution, and is indispensable for survival. It plays a critical role in virtually all aspects of learning, reasoning, and creativity. Somewhat surprisingly, it may play a role in the construction of consciousness.

and:

affect, which is inexplicably linked to attitudes, expectations and motivations, plays a significant role in the cognition of product interaction…the perception that affect and cognition are independent, separate information processing systems is flawed.

This speaks truth to me. It suggests that beauty, in the sense of achieving the presentation we desire, is likely to genuinely improve our own cognition, and in letting us deal with the world as people who feel truthful about ourselves improve the ways we interact with others.

The more we learn about people, and how our brains process information, the more we learn the truth of that phrase: form and function aren’t separate items. If we believe that style somehow exists independent of functionality, that we can treat aesthetics and function as two separate pieces, then we ignore the evidence that beauty is much more than decoration. Our brains can’t help but agree.

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I grew a beard when I was college and kept it up until early this year. In retrospect I’m kind of wondering why I didn’t pick up on the gender dimension of my more or less constant body horror earlier on, but that’s how it goes sometimes – I got distracted by the disability dimension. Anyway, I used to say in jest that I kept the beard up so that I wouldn’t have to look at my whole face, but there was more truth in that quip than I fully knew.

I’m still getting used to seeing what my face actually does look like now. Do I like it? No, not especially. But I think that in time I’ll come to like it better, and be able to change some of what bothers me now.

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This week so far, four of my long-time friends have told me some flavor of, “Wow, you seem a lot less stressed this week.” So far I’ve replied with something along the lines of, “Yes, I made some big progress on old personal stuff. I’ll tell you more when I get a bit more sorted out.”

I’m just impressed and happy that it shows even to people who have no idea yet what it is that I’m up to. This lays some more good foundation for a more general coming out, I think.

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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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