Thursday, May 22, 2008

There is a continuum ya know

So, I'm thinking of a few posts I have in the works (and as I write this intro I'm still not sure which this post will turn out to be); one on my childhood[trannyhood], women-only space and "WBW"-only space, or one about me my genitals and sex. Being in my childhood home, filled with memories, I don't feel like crying (no I wasn't abused or anything. It's just that I really, really miss my cat, my best friend for over a decade, and this house is filled with memories of her).
Or, as seems to be popular, write about my thoughts on WBW and women-only space. Not only do I find that topic to be becoming somewhat boring, but I also feel...odd commenting on the validity of women-only space as I am a man. Perhaps, when I've thought more about it, I will write on being a man in women-only space (while my school itself was co-ed, the dorms and certain classes were single-sex) and how gorram uncomfortable it was.

So, since I miss my boyfriend (and sex), I'll write about sex.

Ok, fooled ya, I'll write about my relationship with my body as well as give an unsexy and probably somewhat clinical overview of how the romantic and sexual relationship with my BF have progressed. I've been reading the comments on certain posts over at Bilerico and I am somewhat amused by how guys like me went from a HBS/transsexual man to "woman with a fetish" due to a single act.

Plus, it gives me a chance to brag about how much I like most of my body; despite having confidence problems in some areas, I am still quite vain (I am a Slytherin after all). ^.^

Moreover, I recently found the text of Eli Clare's speech given at the Philly Trans* health conference and it is so amazing.
Looking at shame and body shame; specifically within trans* and disability contexts:
This obsession with cure turns disabled bodies into medical problems to be solved. In doing so, it ignores disability as an issue of social justice. Ignores that many disabled people would rather put an end to ableism than have our bodies “fixed.” Of course this gets complicated when I turn back to trans community, to those of us who seek to reshape our gendered and sexed bodies. But really it’s not our desire or need for bodily change that I’m challenging here. Rather, it’s how we name those desires and needs, because to claim our bodies as defective and to pair defect with cure, not only disregards the experiences of many disabled people, it also leaves us as trans people wide open to shame...Of course there’s another important strand of naming at work in our communities—a strand that declares transness not a disease, gender nonconformity not a pathology, and bodily uniqueness not an illness, a strand that turns the word dysphoria inside out, claiming that we are not the ones dysphoric about our genders, but rather dysphoria lives in the world’s response to us. This naming acts as a necessary counterbalance. But I have to ask: what about those of us who do in truth deal with deep, persistent body disonnance, discomfort, dysphoria? A social justice politics by itself will never be enough to resist shame.
I see my transsexuality as a medical condition (not defect) and medical transition as a way of treating my body dissonance. But I still agree with Eli, being trans* (or disabled) does not make us defective, it is society and how society sees and treats us that is defective. Yes, both groups may need treatment, but we don't need to be disappeared or 'cured' into normalcy. As I re-state later, we also have the right to refuse treatment or to choose an alternate treatment to the mainstream options.

Okay, back to me and my body; I just wanted to give a shout out to that fantastic speech.

My relationship with my body is rather complicated to say the least.

I am quite happy with most of my body. While my hair does not always cooperate, I find it to be pleasing to the sight and touch--especially when I can dye it green. My face is attractive enough I suppose, I wish my lips weren't quite so pink though--makes me look like I'm wearing pink lipstick and I look too much like a girl if I cover them with black or deep brown instead...
I am quite fond of my legs, nicely shaped imo and with a decent amount of hair. While I wish I was taller, it's not a major issue .
My arms, despite being thin, are actually quite "masculine" being as they are quite hairy and have visible veins. They are actually one of my favorite body parts, not just because of how they help me pass as a cis*guy, but their overall look, shape and texture and whatnot, is quite pleasing to my eyes--I love the almost blue cast my veins give my arms.

I have some problems with my torso and hip areas though.
I always have bruises on my hips; while they are still relatively narrow, I still forget how wide they are and I bump into walls and tables.
I have a great deal of dissonance regarding my chest; I'll go to take off my shirt and, sometimes, I will be honestly surprised that I have gynecomastia (breast growth on men).
Luckily for me, it isn't a very bad case, a sports bra and a bit of layering is enough to hide it most of the time. group of friends enjoys having "shirtless o' clock" and I enjoy being nude when it's just my BF and I. Moreover, it is incredibly uncomfortable wearing four layers in 80 degree weather. I want it gone, not just hidden.
There are times, like now actually, when I only take a shower every other day just so that I don't have to confront the dissonance.
I pray to the Gods that when I eventually start hormones there will be enough fat redistribution to take care of it. I don't want to put myself at the mercy of hospitals and doctors and hospital staff and insurance companies more than I have to. I've heard too many stories, even just from friends and family, about uncaring nurses, insurance bureaucracy, transphobic staff, and the like. Not to forget that I hate the idea of being helpless and unconscious as some strangers cut me open; if I can I will most definitely have a friend watch over the surgery to make sure nothing happens. And a night at a hospital scares me; what if I get a nurse like the one my mom had after her heart surgery--one who refused to come to help and who left my mom's ESL roommate in pain because she couldn't be bothered to show her where or how the "morphine button" worked. And this is 'just' about top-surgery, How will I feel about genital surgery? Though, for anyone not aware, top-surgery is often deemed more important than any genital surgery by many transgender and transsexual guys (according to what I've seen over the years in various ftm communities).

Ahh... now for the uncomfortable part: my genitals.
Truth be told, I used to hate them.
Growing up and even into adolescence, I would 'hold it' for as long as I could before going to the bathroom--I couldn't stand to sit. Later, when I first attempted to masturbate I disassociated myself entirely and found no enjoyment.
And even later, when my BF and I were first starting to go beyond kissing, I told him to ignore and pretend like I didn't have a vagina at all; and that I wasn't sure about the rest of the area, but he wouldn't be the only one getting any fun.
Eventually, we started to do more than kiss. Eventually, we found things that didn't set off my dissonance too badly that were still fun for the both of us. And, eventually, I came to trust that he sees me as a guy no matter what. No matter that my chest wasn't flat when unclothed, no matter that I didn't have a typical cock, no matter that I have an extra hole.

So, after much thinking and me having to convince him that I actually wanted to, we tried PIV.
And I found that it wasn't so bad--that as long as he still saw me as a man I was usually able to ignore the dissonance.
And surprisingly, I found that when I was feeling bad about being trans*, when I wasn't passing, when I felt like it would be better to just hit the reset button on this life...that having my most important person be made acutely aware of how my body is not male-assigned and yet still having him see me as 100% man was enough to get me through (the orgasms afterwards helped too of course).
It's not a fetish. I still can't masturbate and I'm sure that it'll take a lot of time to develop this level of trust in my future relationships.
It's validation from my most important person; the feeling of love and trust mixed with the knowledge that no matter what I am a isn't sexual for me--it's something else entirely--English doesn't have the words to describe how it feels for me.

As for the penis (and lack of a vag') making the man... Well, in my case I'd really like a peen, my map says I should have one and there is no way I can describe how much it hurts to have my body not match my map that badly. Hopefully hormones, when I eventually go on them (no insurance and it's bloody hard to find anywhere that'll sell T without a script), will make my dick grow enough to lessen the discord to a manageable level... But I'm pretty sure I'll keep the vag'; I've grown to like it, the dissonance surrounding it is manageable, and PIV is way easier than anal (and I am so very lazy).
So anyone, be they HBS or Christian or feminist or have letters after their name, wants to tell me that learning to cope with a vag' makes me less of a man...well they can go fuck themselves with rusty railroad spikes.

Not respecting trans* identities because that person is not as disphoric as you think they need to be is cissexism; it's just as cissexist as not respecting trans* identities period.

My body is my own; I will change what I believe will lessen the most dissonance, keep what I can learn to live with or even cherish, and leave the parts that were never a problem alone.
And I do want genital surgery, but this doesn't make me more of a man than a guy who has been able to deal with, or never had, the same level of dissonance about his genitals (same idea for women btw).
I don't think every trans*person can, or should, attempt to live their life without surgery/hormones. Some people just don't have the same levels of dissonance, some people are able to work through it without hormones and/or surgery. But I also don't think that medical transition, or surgery, should be requirements for being a transsexual or for legal transition.

I won't live my life without medical transition; if I am prevented for too long I know that I'll eventually kill myself. The dissonance is that great; and learning to live with my body-as-is is merely a stopgap measure to help me deal until I can medically transition. But this also means that I can see how a trans*person with less dissonance can work through their dissonance enough to live without medical transition. Remember, some people can pass without any medical transition. And some people don't care as much about passing as a cis*person as long as their loved ones see them as who they are.
I can also see that some people need medical transition ASAP and that hormones and surgery mean a lot to them. Sometimes, it must seem like some transgender folks are saying that anyone can or should live without medical transition (and there are some folks that do believe that); that medical transition isn't important.
And some of these folks think that all trans*/transgender folks think that no one should have them.
And while I can see it from their point of view...they need to stop and learn that even if someone doesn't need surgery that doesn't mean that they necessarily believe that no one needs surgery.
Furthermore, just as important, that one's medical decisions do not change their identity and nor do they define their identity. People have the right to seek alternate treatments and moreover I do not know of any medical condition that is diagnosed by the treatments one chooses to use.

I don't know where my transition will take me. I won't let others tell me what i have to do to be respected or a valid man. I won't let anyone tell other folks what they must do to be respected or a valid person either. Everyone is different and should be respected.
Nature abhors rigid categories; humans are the ones that create and define rigid categories, not Her.

Although I doubt there is one complete passage between shame and pride, there are many tunnels through the thicket, and on the other side lives an openness that lets us slide into our bodies and makes space for persistent joy and comfort. Body love can wake us up in the morning, put us to bed at night, visit us as we’re dressing to go out or just singing along to our favorite song. These moments don’t usually arrive as big, as loud, as brash, as a Pride parade. They just show up one day in the mirror or the camera, not that we’ve passively waited for them. No, we’re all too aware of how hard we’ve worked for them, but still they arrive unexpected. Sometimes in community or with a single friend. Sometimes with the encouragement of families and partners, or in collaboration with health care providers and therapists. Sometimes they arrive as we’re rabblerousing in the streets or when we’re stuffing envelopes for the next fundraiser. They arrive as we tromp through the woods or walk down the street or dance up a storm on Friday night.
However those moments arrive, let’s build community that nurtures them. Let’s figure out ways of naming bodily difference that fosters comfort and joy. Let’s build a politics that holds space, safety, options, and shuts no one out. Let’s pay attention to shame as both a community issue and a health issue. Let’s create the space to make our bodies home, filling our skin to its very edges.
”--Eli Clare