Last year, we blew minds and scared the horses. Not every trans person cares about passing! Some of us are really happy with our bodies! Some of us transition really easily! Come see more myths about trans people get blasted to smithereens.
Keffy R.M. Kehrli - writer, id's as female-to-male
Elliott Mason - trans man, gestational father (gave birth to child)
Rachel Kronick - trans woman, even admitting that is pretty scary
Autumn Nicole Bradley - biology student, writer, creates text-based games about transhumans, tends to view own transition through that same lens, functions as woman in society but thinks of self as androgyne
Katherine Cross - scholar of gaming & identity (missed full discussion); trans woman, though also more complexity to that like Autumn
comes with 101 handout! Five pages, maybe one of the panelists will put it up somewhere? Edit: per comments and personal conversation, a copy is now up on Steelypips.
opening disclaimer: panelists talking about their own experience
"Myth number 1: All trans people are trans in the same way."
Topic #1: identity and expression
Elliott: "everybody knows when they were three" and were life-long accurate; yes, accurate for some, but angry at world for insisting that everyone knows by a young age. (E.g., people who identify as lesbian, grow to fill space and then realize doesn't fit fully, come out as trans men.)
Rachel: when interacting with cis people, the standard narrative is a form of apology--it's not my fault because. Is it a choice? Shouldn't matter if it is. "Why are you this way" in the right company can be wonderful but more often, means having to explain what is wrong with me
Autumn: huge myth that trans people always want to distance self from past, that whatever gender experienced in the past was ephemeral and best forgotten. Her male past been very valuable in terms of how frames understanding of oppression (e.g., been in the locker rooms to hear men talk about bodies like hers; rape culture). Myth created by medical establishment. Related to idea that "always knew"; if had, would have been much more active sooner.
Katherine: extent that does distance self from past, only because socially imposed. Ideal world, wouldn't have to hide past because people might misunderstand how identify and want to be treated now--show old pictures, "ah-ha, that's what she REALLY is," as back then. Not intrinsic sense of shame or self-hatred. Idea that "born in the wrong bodies" -- told father that, with certain amount of deliberate mendacity, because wanted to _change_ body, the way we all do (diet choices, hair cuts, glasses/laser surgery, tattoo, etc.). Trans people "sort of limit break" in terms of way that want to change. Transhumanists call this "morphological freedom," familiar to feminists: "my body, my choice."
Keffy: also in "didn't particularly know until much older" camp. Expectations about trans bodies re: what modifications must necessarily want. Also, if have made choices, must necessarily like every aspect of what goes along that. Takes testosterone, has good & bad sides (has not turned into Hulk, which is good but every once in a while . . . ). Ex. of finding someone to prescribe, who was really fixated on one aspect (body hair) and never wanted to talk about anything else. Sometimes does have gripes about what testosterone is doing to body but hard to share because reaction is often, "well, you chose that." But, people get really weirded out when ask questions about things doing to body and are told that doesn't feel need to do that.
Autumn: fact about transition that gets overlooked: are at a time in history where puberty is optional, at least physical effects, get to pick and chose as to what you want to be when you grow up. Haven't instituted that as a rite of passage except for those who insist very clearly and very young, light-years beyond where most people are in terms of trans acceptance. Blogger, name missed, "reclaimed my body from the blind whims of biology." Own perfect body = tall 14 year old who turned 30 last year.
Audience q: interaction with culture's obsession with young bodies?
Autumn: glad asked, does come up: important to decouple idea of sense of self from what one finds sexually desirable. Re: younger & older bodies: when pedophilia is analyzed, find attraction to implicit femininity of unmatured body, neotony reads as female. Also: androgyny in this culture requires to start with assigned-as-female-at-birth body, because testosterone is additive (bone structure, etc.) and assigned-as-male-at-birth harder to be read as androgynous or female.
Elliott: decoupling identity from what find attractive: for self, can say that during years of self-closeting, did look for things in sexual partners that desperately wanted to be; also never dated women because so much bound up in that body re: own history of self-loathing. Some people do experience changes in who they're attracted to during transition, so much tied into other things.
Rachel: autogynephilia: theory created by Blanchard (not an ethical researcher) that trans women are basically attracted to women and are getting their messages to themselves mixed
Autumn: "a really messed-up theory" -- clarifies: trans women are in a self-obsessed masturbatory fantasy of sex with self as a woman, has no attachment to any other person in bed with them, solely internally focused idea.
Rachel: it's the amazing idea that you might be turned on by being yourself.
Autumn: created to provide a means of access for trans people to get surgery that did not fit traditional model of what Blanchard called homosexual transsexual (I think): so gay that want to be a woman. Made up to be truthy enough to get cis people to agree to provide surgery.
Katherine: two notes: 1) just for fun, someone did study of cis women nurses, using taxonomy used to diagnose autogynephilia, most of them would have been considered to have it, so how useful is this? 2) broader issue about sexuality: trans people are made to be ashamed of their bodies as things that can be used for sex, especially if not have had sexual reassignment surgery (after all: nothing wrong with finding self sexy!). E.g., if are trans woman with a penis, your sexuality is not legitimate and your identity isn't either, if can get sexual pleasure in that situation then not really committed to this. Very damaging to trans people specifically, also to society's understanding.
Keffy: medical aspects of transitions involve serious considerations beyond just desire: e.g., testosterone not option for some for health reasons, reassignment surgery is, well, surgery, also very expensive. Hard to talk about, discussing downsides to surgery feels like giving ammo to haters.
audience: own experience with HRT, most precious change is in emotional palette
Keffy: surprised that everything that people told would happen emotionally didn't, did have emotional damping effect but went away after couple of months
Elliott: not currently on hormones except having gestated ("free HRT, but in wrong direction!"); example of mother, who always hated body until menopause when suddenly forgave body for being that shape
Autumn: at first, awakened to emotional life that never had before, probably greatest effect of estrogen & worth all of the rest. Friend refers to prior life as living in muted pastels. But after effects of puberty burst subsided, glided back to where was before, but doesn't experience as being numb, choice to experience things at present or put off until can deal.
Rachel: didn't have a very pronounced experience when started hormones.
Katherine: very like Autumn. Not trying to say that all women are more emotional because of estrogen, very complicated interplay, but estrogen pulled back curtain because in part of bodily dysphoria.
Autumn: something that comes up in research: if seen as being unemotional, translates as objective. But doesn't mean person is not feeling emotion, rather can't recognize when feeling it, so less equipped to compensate for negative emotions that color perceptions about world.
audience: based on experience of trans friends, really resents medical profession's assumption that everyone needs therapy
Keffy: did do three months of therapy just in case someone needed a letter to prove blah blah. Actually found very damaging because had to teach therapist about being trans, therapist actually brought in list of horrible things that would happen to trans people and said need to accept all them to be trans, like increased likelihood of dying in alley. Also makes harder to find help for other mental health issues.
Rachel: had opposite end of spectrum, surgeon (only one in area for trans related treatment), asked for advice about hormones, "So, when are you going to get surgery?!" -- hammer, nail
Katherine: system of gatekeeping is not there to help trans people, to protect cisgender people, built around idea that have to stop innocent cis people from mutilating their bodies. Trans women, we may well need therapy, being a woman in a patriachy sucks! But doesn't need therapy to decide whether woman, knows that perfectly well.
Rachel: people say: "oh, you've got a cold? It's probably because you're taking hormones."
Autumn: regarding myths themselves, taking point from talk on radical bisexuality: treat myths as open ontological question, what are these myths saying about what society fears about us? For instance: if a trans woman isn't comfortable with everything gendered as female, that's proof that not woman rather than attack on patriarchy. Fear: this gendered behavior is not actually essential quality of women.
Elliott: another myth, that transition has a finished end. Historically, expected that once "done" would go somewhere else and live as though never had past. Thinks that ~30 years from will have people transitioning at first puberty, right now backlog of people who had to wait to retire or spouse to die, but once stops being so stigmatizing to make that decision, society would already be different.
Keffy: with people transitioning early or identifying early, seeing myth that always know early; seen long-time activists saying "so much easier for kids these days!," no, not everyone is aware of options. Also: idea of appropriate time to transition--society's way of deflecting.
Elliott: yes, prior statement was wishful thinking of reducing "no you're not" time period.
audience: amazing therapist in Boston, myth that therapy is always useless lets therapists off hook for being bad at job
Autumn: stress of minority also part of it, then add other identities
any last myths to be busted?
Katherine: a lot of trans women are feminists, and not only that but the most radical feminists you will ever meet because have had front-row seat and not inclined to take excuses. "What do trans women bring to feminism"--as if haven't always been there
Autumn: ditto, refuse to cede radical feminist label to people who want to exclude other women
Keffy: kind of 101 myth, but trans people also always been major part of queer movement
Rachel: read Beyond Inclusion website in handout
Other further reading in handout (rest is 4 pages, double columned, so will not transcribe)
Evolution's Rainbow: diversity, gender, and sexuality in nature and people, Joan Roughgarden
Whipping Girl: a transsexual woman on sexism and the scapegoating of femininity, Julia Serano
How Sex Changed: a history of transsexuality in the United States, Joanne Meyerowitz
The Intersex Society of North America
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