Trans Issues

Jaded's picture

Making Our Bodies Matter

friend and I started talking about communities, alliances and feminism(s) a few months ago — this conversation is a brief culmination of our identities and ideologies.

Me: Writing about bodies isn’t too difficult for me, that was until I realised “writing about bodies” meant writing of bodies other than mine, or even if I were to write about myself, the language automatically becomes clinical, my gaze objective and the talk goes to whatever is ailing me — it’s never about how I feel about my body, my relationship with my scars or what I see when I look in the mirror. As I am now living in a new city and adjusting to the weather patterns here, I have to take more care of my skin here than in I did in Mumbai, I have to leave myself notes to apply [x] cream before my heels crack and bleed — it’s such a jarring experience to see that my body has carried on without me (in a sense), has already started cracking, started healing in some parts while I have gone on and done something else. It all came to a head when I was thinking of Suheir Hammad‘s words — when she says “What am I saying when I say I sit in this body, dream in this body, expel in this body, inherit in this body” — where she posits the body as a start to all experiences, and here I was forgetting to take care of my body altogether, even in the most routine and seemingly trivial ways. I’ve often complained to friends that I feel ‘bound’ in this city — as public transport systems are irregular and auto rickshaws are a luxury I cannot always afford — so most of my ‘movement’ is between my apartment, the massive Uni campus and its libraries. Now that I re-think what I mean when I say ‘bound’, I mean more than just physical limits to where I can go or am kept from, I find limits in my syllables and expressions — precisely because my body feels those limits more intimately and primarily, as if my body translates these borders in the silences that creep up everywhere, from my thoughts to my academic writing. It’s only when I completely stopped producing words and syllables a week ago, went for a three-hour long walk, felt my words come back to me as I described to my guardian just why were my heels bleeding this time I realised how closely my body felt limited here*

*This isn’t to say there weren’t other barriers in Mumbai, just that navigating these particular changes is an entirely new experience for me.

Renee: It’s equally jarring to see your body stopped in time, unable to keep up with you, and trying to formulate contingencies for when it starts to slide backwards in time. This has been my experience since losing my job just more than a year ago.

My teeth hurt all the time now; one has eroded almost to the gum line, and I touch them constantly with my tongue and my fingers to make sure none are loose. I waited out a UTI two months ago, but an ear infection still lingers (and makes my teeth ache even more). There is no money for a doctor or dentist to attend to current ills, never mind the dreams I once had for my body. Most upsetting, when my current stash of hormone pills runs out, in perhaps a month or so, I may not be able to afford more, and at that point the person I know as me officially begins to disintegrate. I never really knew myself before starting hormones, and the threat of losing that is terrifying beyond what I can describe. Already I find myself glancing in the mirror more often, touching my face, to make sure I still exist.

But it’s not just the physical degradation I feel. For now, I’m staying in a friend’s spare room, sleeping upon a mattress on the floor, with all my worldly possessions piled in boxes around me. My days are lived largely in the space between my bed and the downstairs basement, where the household television is. I have few reasons to go anywhere else, and fewer resources to do so. I wear the same clothes most days, because to do anything else means doing more laundry, which inevitably costs someone money, even if that someone isn’t me. I don’t shower every day, or moisturize, or shave, or wear makeup, because all of those things are an expense too…and so again my body suffers.

It’s apropos that my body gets neglected first and most, as it’s the rejection of my body by others that led me here. Slowly it decays, out of sight and forgotten.

Me: Right, we’ve discussed this before. It’s not so strange, when you connect this ‘disappearance’ of any marginalised body (or in our specific contexts: a trans body and a third world woman’s body) to the larger theoretical hyper-visibility in academia, where you have theories on our bodies but empirical absence of our bodies. We’re still people who need “welfare”, we are still debating whether “woman” as a category can be made inclusive — basically, we don’t go beyond the boundaries our bodies set for us in academia, these ‘bodies’ (the way we see and live them) are wholly absent within mainstream feminist discourse. At the same time, there are people voicing us, fixing who we are and who we should be like, either they’re making theory for us or about us. Your bit about ghosts makes me think of our theoretical ghosts in academia. Sometimes I just don’t understand how to counter most theory I find about “third world” people(s) in any field. Recently I came across a study that talks about the dire condition of transgender people in Bangalore done by [x] European academic institution, where the entire focus was to show how pitiful and “unlivable” their lives are — the lives they’re leading sitting in their third worldly bodies as we talk and will continue to do so long after we’re done talking too —  and for a week and a half, I kept on going over their words, unable to respond in any manner at all. There is no denying that people here need help, specifically speaking, I would love help in [x] areas of my life too. But only if you see how much help you need too, how we can both help build each other’s identities. I’m not that interested in “self-sufficiency” as much I’d like to build alliances and common ground where there is little to go by, you know? Especially within theory, [as I’ve often ranted to you] I feel like a lot of my work, or the work the organisations put in, comes to signify very little change, if perceivable at all. There is, often a literal and a metaphorical wall when it comes to the subjects of development policies, between us and the people we are allied with, between my different selves (of different racial and gendered molds), that quite honestly I wonder if my body and voice exist, if anyone is listening at all.

And it’s not just recently I’ve started feeling invisible within academia — I remember reading things like “India is a backward and orthodox third world country” as a child in my geography text books and I’d mouth the words in my mouth, to see if the iteration of the word would somehow make them more believable — where in our daily lives we’re constructing “national pride” (at the cost of someone else’s border, always) and in school I was taught a different tale of India — but it’s now that I am beginning to learn the terms with which this exclusion in academia is accessible to me. Feeling isolated but not having the terms to legitimise your experiences — there’s something to be said about that, no?

Cis-Sexism From the Inside

Cross Posted From MyFeminisms

 

Jaded's picture

Slipping Out Of Gendered Spaces

Earlier this week I was discussing Wuthering Heights with my class of 11th graders. We were talking about how demarcations, borders and outlines of the Body are continuously challenged in the text, in such a way that the Body becomes a hybrid of human and beast. At one point Catherine exclaims, “Nelly, I am Heathcliff! He is always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being”, here the Body possesses masculine and feminine spaces simultaneously, which by extension ‘queers’ love, as well as allows the Body to dislocate itself from chronic heteronormativity. I was about to explain how the text polices this ‘abnormal’ body when one student asked me to stop. He couldn’t reconcile the idea that a woman’s body can embody and imprint from her lover’s body and identity. He didn’t like that she remained autonomous of her identity while slipping into Heathcliff’s body (figuratively speaking) at will. The way he put it, “Why isn’t she happy with the space she’s given?”. As trans-phobic his statement was, I could understand where it stemmed from. Even when all I wanted to do was stop the class right there and start discussing transphobia, probably also whack him on the head¹ with Gender Trouble till he saw how pungent his assumption was and all I could do was try to not start ranting and fuming, I could see why he thought this way. As a culture, we’re told to see transsexuals and intersex people as the Other, we’re encouraged when we participate in erasing people who identify as trans; so my student’s reaction was hardly out of the ordinary. What stuck with me is how ‘natural’ it was for my student to say what he said, without even pausing to consider that androgyny or ‘gender bending’ may go beyond people who are ‘born that way’.

I don’t really remember how I finished the class, I do remember mulling over what my student said even as I was waiting on the platform for my train to come. Before I knew it, I’m standing in front of the ‘Ladies Compartment’ marked with blue stripes and for a second I couldn’t move.  We gender our spaces wherever and whenever possible, and this differently ‘marked’ compartment proved just that. The reason behind keeping separate train compartments for Ladies and Dudes is to keep groping and sexual harassment to the minimum — by employing the Cure The Disease And Spare The Symptom Method — but the boundaries are clear. If I look like a Lady, I must travel in the space alloted to me or I shouldn’t complain when I get assaulted when I travel by the ‘general’ compartment; questions whether I identify as a Lady are quite easily ignored. At social gatherings and dinner parties, somehow unanimously women use separate rooms or tables, where even the talk is gendered. The Dudes sit sipping alcohol and talking of ‘dudely’ things finance, architecture, politics — I don’t even know what else as I’m generally in the opposite section — whereas Ladies talk about children, husbands, cooking, chores and ungrateful relatives. As a child I used to think that men must speak a different language altogether as they seldom talked to girls or women. This isn’t to say the two genders never interact socially — we’re one of the biggest populations on the planet, so some social intercourse is happening somewhere — but that in the presence of these different spaces, we don’t step out of our boundaries. I am often uncomfortable in such gendered tables or rooms as the manufactured differences always get to me; not because I’m uneasy in my prescribed gender but because there is no scope for me to transgress if I ever wanted to. Media and social traditions foster the idea that a person who identifies as queer or trans is a laughing-stock. In fact most encounters with hijras leave people giggling, because opinions like “can you imagine being a man down there! It’s so sad and funny!” are too commonplace. In fact, “Bobby Darling” is used as a slur to discourage boys from showing their effeminacy, effectively silencing the woman behind this slur as a body who independently chose her trans identity.

Lance A Worth's picture

On Not Being The Man

Sorry I've been away. I've been getting used to University (I transferred). As I'm likely to do, I'm getting involved in Student Activities (I was a Senator in my old school, etc).

Lance A Worth's picture

Un/Supportive

Hey everyone, It's Lance again.

I have been on Testosterone for not quite 3 months and the changes are going great. I'm gaining some of the self-esteem most people take for granted.

arvan's picture

If I ain't broke, don't fix me

I received a compelling link this morning from OdaRygh on the genital reassignment of children, for cosmetic and social reasoning.  When girls in Africa have their clitoris removed, we call it genital mutilation.  When a boy is born with a small penis and is subsquently subjected to surgery to remove testicles and create a sterile womb - it is done under the auspices of social pressure & male value as determined by penis length. 

Sterility is sterility.  Trauma is trauma.  No choice is no choice.  Please read the full article below.  You can see the entire article with links, here.

There is an detailed and relevant site, focused on a proposed bill to end this practice at mgmbill.org.

 

 

Ethical commentary on gender reassignment: a complex and provocative modern issue
Pediatric Nursing ,  Jan-Feb, 1998  

by Anna J. Catlin 

As ethics editor for Pediatric Nursing, I have examined many difficult ethical issues over the last year in this column. The normal procedure is to choose a manuscript that we have accepted for publication, extensively research the issue, speak to experts in the field, weigh the competing ethical principles, and then come up with a reasoned response. Regarding the issue of gender reassignment, this article provoked me, fascinated me, and confused me simultaneously. The literature was oppositional, experts in the field disagreed, the popular press accounts were sensationalizing. I began to dread writing the response for fear of publishing an inaccurate or incorrect response. Ethics training teaches us to ask the basic moral questions: "What is the good?" and "How do we know?". This commentary is offered with uncertainty, stating what I think may be the good and how I think I know.
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Lance A Worth's picture

What's In A Name? Everything.

I announced to friends, family, and colleagues this week that I was changing my name as part of my Gender Confirmation process.

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