Friday, January 22, 2010

Thoughts On Transsexual (not to be confused with CD/TV/GQ) Inequality In A Diverse "Transgender" Umbrella

WARNING: This is not a politically correct thought:

I noticed that the trans community is ranked at the bottom of the LGBT totem pole. I saw how parts of the movement are so bought out, and since the trans community doesn't have the money or resources that the rest do, their agenda is often ignored, or back burned. Also, the trans community is so diverse, and there are so many different steering wheels. I'm not one of those conservative "transsexual" women who is phobic of cross dressers and transvestites because of the theory that they are heterosexual or homosexual MEN who have a sexual fetish, want attention and invade "transsexual" space and slow "transsexual" progression (though many CD/TV men are like that). If a man gets satisfaction putting on a dress and using the woman's restroom, who am I to judge him? I may not feel safe if I was in that bathroom when he was in there, but whatever strokes one's boat, I think, or maybe he should use the man's bathroom, just to be respectful. So some of my trans feminist friends plead not to include the transvestites in our mission, but would we really want to start a war with transvestite men just because we have nothing in common with them? We are being persecuted by the same patriarchal system, so lets not condemn or fight each other. My trans feminist friends told me that many transvestites go as far as to claim they are transsexual, just to be more accepted. People can Verbally identify with whatever label they want, and I don't have to take anyone's fetish personally.. Humans have a instinct about them, a sixth sense, they internally register what someone's gender essence is when they meet them. I will not blame the slow advancement of transsexual women on the men who like to dress up for what ever reason (but will blame it partly on the refusal of some trans gatekeeper's refusal to initiate internal conversations about this controversial topic in our community that many TS women want to talk about!), and then say they are transsexual, which may confuse society's education of the entire trans community, which includes transvestites. They can express themselves however they want, and people should just let them do what ever pleases them. But I do believe in DIFFERENT, BUT EQUAL.

However, it disappointed me in the 90's when I saw some gay male gendered acquaintances of mine go on national television ( like Jerry Springer) and parade around and say they were transsexual. I know the money and free trip to Chicago and attention they received (and thier only chance to be on national TV) was beneficial to their desires, but was that morally right on their part? I happened to know a few of the actors/guests that were on the show, so I'm not reading people Ive never met. These were men who lived their lives as men, and only dressed up for "fun", "erotica", to perform in "drag" or to engage in homosexual sex (but with a wig on). They did not identify as women, so I was offended that they would mock and exploit the authenticity of my sisters and I's being, and our plight to be understood and accepted, for such selfish and deviant gain. It was hard for me to forgive a few of the men I knew that that went on those shows, I felt like they had hurt my ideals just for fun, and I felt uncomfortable around them, like they were predators, but that was me just being young and taking things so personal. Regardless, When I was 20, I moved back to Orange County to be by my family and friends, and also because I did not feel connected or nurtured by the trans community I had come to know in LA. Now I do have friends in the trans community, but I still think more attention needs to devoted to "transsexuals" who personally identify with the binary, and who feel that "transgender" and "transvestite" new politics are ignoring the wants of many "transsexuals". I know today's youth wont forget "transsexuals". Today's mainstream opinion of the transsexual community was definitely shaped by some questionable characters that participated on Jerry Springer/like media forms (the girls are always saying those were the dark years for our movement).

So, its absolutely no wonder to me at all why so many "transsexual" women selectively choose when to stay "in the closet", and live their lives as the women that they truly are, away from people who they may not mesh well with. And I don't think they should be called cowards or sell outs. So many times I go to these trans conventions or meetings, and hear people bash transsexual women that "pass" and who aren't activists, and that are "in the closet". Firstly, no one is entitled to automatically be a trans activist just because they were born with unusual bodies.

Next, a woman is not "in the closet" just because she does not walk around with a "Trans Pride" t shirt in the office, or on a romantic dinner. The quote "The Personal is Political" is used over and over again by people in the trans community who disagree with the group of trans people who just live their lives as the gender they are, with out using every chance they get to say how "different" they are. (I've also noticed that its only trans people who don't "blend" in that complain about those who do) A women does not have to submit herself to any labels that the system provides her to categorize under. If a woman walks through life with those around her internally acknowledging her female spirit, then good for her. She is under no obligation to say "Wait, although it's obvious to both of us I'm woman, I'm under contract to tell you what a doctor wrote on my original birth certificate"- maybe a more intimate relationship may deserve more disclosure, but even then, each circumstance is different, and who do judges think they are to tell others what is right in a relationship that is not even their own, a type of relationship that they may not be able to truly understand for that matter. Also, many partners of trans people are enlightened and authentic enough to listen to the words of the heart, the unspoken language. It's like trans people planting seeds to inspire the partner's "self" realization, and some of these people who just come into loving a "trans" person, would not always prefer to speak into the universe such words that have negative stigma, which are labels that love did not create. They just happen to accept their "trans" companion as the gender they are. Some partners of trans do not need a full blown conversation on such external world categories for the pair's love to be pure, honest and evolve. The Oscar winning film "Boys Don't Cry" portrayed what I have touched on so perfectly, that being when someone falls in love with someone who happens to be trans, and comes to the knowledge "independently", that the love may just continue, with out "the conversation"- the "confession". Spiritually, there is nothing to confess, and Chloe Sevingy's character's heart knew this, trusted it, and accepted her trans sweetheart played by Hilary Swank (who won the Oscar for Best Actress). Using words that were labels never were exchanged between the two, because they had more important things to do, like love and accept each other unconditionally. Lastly, this whole "passing" term is so destructive and degrading. Let's look up some of the definitions of pass in the dictionary. Pass: 1- to secure the approval of . 2- VOID 3-effort; try And the definition of Passable: Just good enough" tolerable

My thoughts on these definitions:

Pass definition 1: to secure the approval of: Relating this definition to transsexual women who aesthetically appear to be born as "genetic" woman, it implies that TS women are living their lives as women to be approved by the world, and are conforming. The truth would be that they are just living life as themselves, who they were meant to be, and to be putting God's will before that of the establishment, and not because of convention's strict and suffocating binary gender "rules". Because when she was an innocent girl untainted by the sheep of the world's sad and controlled vision, she knew who she was, and decided at that early age that who she was was pure, and that the church, government, society, media and school would have to try to trick someone else to conform, because she was guarded by a strong and loving angel who would protect her from the land of the lost, and she would be guided one day to those who saw the light.

Pass definition 2: VOID: This definition alone should cause the trans community to opt for a different label for trans people who physically "present" themselves as who they are on the inside. Void means false, empty, containing nothing, useless, ----these are the saddest and most dehumanizing words ever to describe a person! To use vocabulary such as "pass" suggests that a TS woman or man is not real because of their physical entities, and that's scary when the trans community themselves is using such community defeating adjectives.

Pass definition 3: effort; try: This definition draws the illusion that a TS is living as someone she or he is not. Can't she just BE? She is not "trying", she IS. There is no "effort", it's NATURAL. Suggesting that a "TS" is "trying" with "effort" to be, is the same thing as saying she is FAKE, which makes the word "pass" derogatory. If anything, she is "trying" to point out to people that vocabulary is of extreme importance, especially when we are trying to educate non LGBT people here. The words we choose and allow to stay in our movement, will play a large role in our presentation, and success.

Passable definition: Just good enough; tolerable: This definition I have the most problem with. When using the word "passable" to describe a trans person who conventionally looks like the gender she/he is, it's like saying she barely made it through graduation, so she's acceptable. Its saying that all the others who may not be "passable", are inadequate, and unworthy to be classified as the gender they are on the inside. To say that someone is more of a girl then the other just because of what she looks like defies the very message of the trans movement, which to me is: Gender is FLUID. Many "straight" people have this thing where "if it looks, acts, and walks like a duck, then it's a duck"- never mind if it's a duck where it counts- in the heart. So when we use the word passable, we are feeding into this shallow mainstream rule.

A friend of mine had a wart removed that she was born with, it was on her chin. She did not feel connected to the wart, its not that she hated the wart, its just that she wanted to continue the rest of her life's journey with out the wart-----that simple. So she had it removed. Her picture on MY space does not feature The Wart, nor does she tell everyone right when she meets them that she used to have a wart. And she does not do charity work for removal of wart survivors. But she is a wonderful, honest and giving person. Likewise, women (or "transsexual" women) should be entitled to live whatever life they want. I have many "transsexual" women friends who do not feel that their voices are heard in the trans movement, so that's why they are missing in action.

I went on this tangent to express that many "transsexual" people feel that they are being bullied in the "T" movement by self proclaimed or innate transvestite people and transgendered people, and that we should all remember to be more inclusive of women who identify as women, and men who identify as men. The woman who says she is FTF, not MTF, is an example. And also, that the term PASS, does NOT pass the test! And we should look for a new answer.

I want to try to clear some things up concerning the prior part of this article. Many people either called or emailed me responses with different opinions when I originally posted it. Since I did not have the time to write all my thoughts, many thoughts were left out, and people may have drew interpretations of what I said that was not my design or belief. The main concerns that were expressed to me were

1. That I seemed to be on the fence concerning "transsexual" inclusion/separatism from transvestites

2. That I appeared to be in total support of a relationship between a trans woman and a heterosexual man where her being "trans" is not verbalized.

3. That I had not pointed out why trans may not want to be classified as trans, or known by society to be trans

Response to concern 1. A few transsexual women friends of mine contacted me and wanted to know why I seemed to be so wishy washy on the whole transvestite inclusion/separatism from "transsexuals" issue. I do not think that transvestites should use the women's restroom just because they have decided to dress up in women's clothing. Transvestism is a lifestyle, an expression. Where transsexual is gender, and not sex or entertainment related. The media needs to be educated more on the differences in the trans community, because it is such a large umbrella. However, this is not to say one "label" is better then the other, regardless of the stereotypical hierarchy. And I think that we all should help each other, and march together.

Response to concern 2. In a perfect world people openly would say everything that comes to mind, and no judgments would be made. People would have no wounds, and no one would be a target for hate. Challenging enough though, this is not the case, and this external world has drifted far away from the innocent origins of our true home. What is not discussed enough in formal trans issues meetings, is the issues and challenges of trans PARTNERS. They are part of our community, some more then others. Some are nicknamed "tranny chasers" (I dont like the term "tranny") by the community, and these are the individuals who seek out trans partners specifically. And then there are some individuals who just happen to fall in love with a person who is trans, and this partner may identify as straight. I would like to talk more about the fears, insecurities, challenges, identity confusion, etc. that these partners deal with. And also, why these relationships can be very complicated because of the many outside of love factors that influence, or discourage, these unions. But this is a long series a conversations, which I look forward to talking about soon.

Response to concern 3- Many trans people may not want to be seen as trans because of the negative stigma attached to the trans community by the media. They may disassociate themselves altogether from the community, because they feel they will find more fulfilling lives as "normal" (but what is normal?). Instead of working to change the unfair stereotypes, they "disappear" into a society that does not understand the community at large. Again, no one has a specific moral "burden" or responsibility to bear because of their born uniqueness. And these people should not be bashed because they have chosen another lifestyle then the ones we have chosen. And who's to say that they have not found "mainstream" people who understand them, and who they have healthy relationships with. Personally, I want to spend some of my time influencing the world to be more of the home that I want to live in, and for the trans youth after me.

In a way, I am relatively new in my education of many different trans issues, and am changing more and more each day. I am like an open sponge just soaking it all up, and expanding to acknowledge and understand all the different ideas and opinions of the diverse trans community. The opinions I post on my blog represent how I currently feel or think, and are not at all a statement of an orgnanization. And my opinions are entitled to grow, change or let go as time goes on. Its healthy for me to write how I feel at the present moment, because keeping it all bottled inside because I did not want to offend anyone, or I feel I need to express myself "perfectly", or not at all, is overwhelming me with a standstill. Being politically correct is understandable, but this is a blog, a diary, and self expression---not a interview on a PC talk show. I would like to be able to freely voice my self on this blog, and not have to be edited by fear. How can I develop if I cant be honest and speak from the heart? And I want all my friends and readers to honestly comment on what they read here, because what you say has an effect on my perception immensely. We all here are all interested in the same thing: trans progression - so we need to be able to have healthy and raw dialogue. We may differ at times, we may agree, or we may even pull the blinders off each other's windows, windows that we never knew existed. So lets all get it out! Lets collectively and fully understand ourselves as a community, before we go and educate others about us. I am open to changing or adding to my views. I love unfolding anew, but that only comes when we decide to talk about things that some may be uncomfortable talking about. Thanks guys, Ashley Love email:


  1. Ashley, good job overall. You are an important voice in the trans community. The most important point here, for me, is your statement that we must select the words/terms we use in our movement very carefully. We are a very young community and all of us are involved in shaping its future.

    You might want to read my thoughts on Reclaiming Language at:

    Annie R.

  2. Thank you Ashley for your important voice.