Thursday, April 25, 2013

Sterile as a Surgeon

This week is National Infertility Awareness Week, and as someone who cannot have biological children of her own, I feel the need to offer my two cents about coping with infertility, both as an atheist and trans woman.

Beth Presswood shared a great article this week, The Art of Giving Advice to Your Infertile Friend - Don't!, the list included:

1.  Don't tell them what position worked for you.
2.  Don't tell them they can always adopt.
3.  Don't tell them that kids aren't all they're cracked up to be.
4.  Don't tell them to relax.
5.  Don't tell them not to worry.

I found the article helpful and amusing, but found it insufficient from my personal perspectives.  So I thought I would add to the list:

6.  Don't tell them to pray or that "God has a plan".
Not everyone believes in deities or supernatural forces.  Even if they do, this just implies the reason people are unable to have children is because of some character flaw rather than a medical condition preventing pregnancy.

7.  Don't tell them they're being selfish.
Yes, the world is overpopulated.  Yes, there are multiple options out there to becoming a parent.  Yes, not everyone has what it takes to be a parent.  But these are not helpful things to point out to a friend who is mourning their infertility.  They very well may come to accept their situation and find a way to work with it, but now is not the time to criticize them.

8.  Don't tell them "miracles" or "surprises" happen.
That might be true for some, but some of us are 100% incapable of reproducing.  I have no uterus or ovaries, and therefore will absolutely never birth a child.  And I'm not the only woman out there who knows that about her body.  So this phrase is completely unhelpful.

And a special one for trans people:
9.  Don't tell them they "chose" to be infertile.
You may see my "choice" to go on hormone therapy as the end of my fertility, but I don't see it that way.  The truth is I was unable to birth children of my own from the day I was born.  Yes, some trans people freeze their eggs or sperm before starting hormones, but I personally found the idea of "fathering" a child in the future to be dysphoric.  (Not making any judgments about girls that do, it's just my own issue.)  And the same holds true for same-sex couples.  Just because they can't have biological children from sex alone doesn't give you the right to call their difficulties a "choice".

I'll be completely honest, accepting the fact of my infertility has been a real struggle for me sometimes.  I still feel a twinge of jealousy and resentment whenever I see a pregnant woman.  It's subsided over the years, but I still think, "Does she even know how lucky she is?  Or does she just walk through life oblivious to her privilege?"

I feel the same way when cis women I know tell me I'm "so lucky" because I don't menstruate.  Most of the time I just let it slide off my back, but sometimes it makes me want to lash out.  First of all, I still have all the "symptoms" you do, minus the bleeding.  My hormones cycle, I get PMS occasionally, and have to deal with bloating, food cravings, and all the rest.  Secondly, can you remember when you were waiting for your first period to "welcome you into womanhood"?  Maybe you thought it was scary or exciting.  Maybe you worried about being the last one of your group of friends.  Well, imagine going through all those emotions and then having it never happen.  Sure, you get over it and move on with your life, but it still nags at the corner of your mind from time to time.  Every time a girl asks if I can lend her a tampon or talks about something I'm expected to relate to but can't, a tiny part of me dies.

It's just another case of the grass being greener on the other side.  In many ways, having absolutely no danger of unwanted pregnancy is a relief.  My partner and I don't have to worry about birth control and I'm extremely lucky to have met someone who already wanted to adopt before he met me.  And when I think logically about it, it's actually a good thing we can't have biological children.  There's mental illness and cancer in my family and plenty of health issues in his family.  And even though the hardcore feminist in me knows there's way more to being a woman than menstruation and pregnancy, there's still a teeny tiny part of me that has internalized the sexist belief that my lack of either makes me less of a woman.

Most of the time I try to have a sense of humor about my situation.  The title of this article, "Sterile as a Surgeon", is a phrase I use quite often to describe my reproductive abilities.  But it's not the only thing that defines me.  I don't like to brag, but I'm a pretty awesome lady in a lot of ways, and I strongly believe I will be a pretty awesome mother in the future to my adopted kids.  I'll have my own issues to deal with, just as a woman dealing with pregnancy will have her own issues to deal with, but we can still stick up for each other.  We can encourage each other.  We can talk about what makes a woman or what makes a mom and what does not.  Whenever I feel down about my sterility, I just remember that being infertile is only a state of being and it is no more or less valid than any other.  We're all human beings who deserve love and respect, the rest is just details to keep life interesting.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Straight Invasion

I'm not much for the club or bar scenes these days.  Truth be told, I never was.  Sure, I enjoy a drink as much as the next person, but I prefer to have parties at home with friends rather than dark rooms with strangers.  But sometimes I go out to clubs to hear a band I enjoy or to play "wingwoman" for a friend who wants to get laid.  Chris and I live in the "Gayborhood", affectionately called because we're a block away from a concentration of gay bars and other queer-owned businesses known as "The Strip".  Many of our neighbors are queer, the local businesses are queer friendly, and we live down the street from a queer church.  Whenever I go running around the neighborhood and see lesbian and gay couples openly showing affection, I feel at peace and happy.

Chix Rocks!
Naturally, we offer our home to any friends who want to go out drinking at the clubs and don't want to worry about sobering up or calling a cab to go home.  So I took my friend Caitlin out to the lesbian bar for her birthday to see Chix, a trans woman cover band (who rock!), and hopefully find her a nice girl to take home.  We grabbed dinner before we went to the club and watched the groups of people filter into the different clubs.  And consistently we noticed large groups of straight girls towing along one or two gay boys into the most popular gay club.  It got to the point where we played a game, "Gay or Straight," attempting to guess orientation.

Our observations were not unique.  Many friends have complained about this club being "invaded" by straight people.  First, it was straight women going with their gay friends, then going by themselves in large groups, followed by straight men who want to pick up straight women.  And it makes me really uncomfortable, and I'm not sure why or if I should even feel entitled to be uncomfortable.  So at the risk of saying something problematic or discriminatory, I want to discuss the issue here.

First, I feel conflicted because my straight sister goes to this club almost every Friday night, and I have no problem with it.  Maybe it's because she's so supportive of LGBT people, like me, and that she's has plenty of gay guy friends and doesn't objectify them or use them as a substitute for female friendships like a lot of straight girls do.  Maybe it's because she's actually an ally and not just "okay" with queer people.  I'm not sure, but that's the first source of my conflict.

Part of me wants to believe that the sudden influx of straight people into queer spaces means that straight people are so comfortable around queer people means we're finally reaching a place of acceptance and understanding that we've been fighting to achieve for decades.  Part of me wants to believe that, but there's a nagging part of me saying that might be true of some, like my sister, but it's definitely not the case for all.

Illustration: Hawk Krall
I think what best encompasses my discomfort at straight people in queer spaces can be summed up by the bachelorette parties that are always present at drag shows.  I think this is one of the most tasteless things you can do in a queer space.  Not only are you being drunk, loud and obnoxious.  Not only are you sexually harassing men who you know are not interested and women who you assume (wrongly) are interested.  Not only do you feel entitled to free drinks and other special treatment because your "big day" is around the corner.  But you're doing all this in front of people who are not legally able to marry.  Honey, you need to take your tacky ass out of this club and go somewhere else.  Your heterosexual privilege isn't just showing, it's flopping all over the place, and it isn't cute.  I know you came here because you don't want "guys hitting on you", but trust me, nobody wants to hit that mess.  I hope the MC on stage tears you a new asshole for being so thoughtless.

Okay, now that I've got that off my chest...

The problem I have is not with straight people who enjoy queer spaces.  Honestly, what's not to love?  The problem I have is with straight people who use queer spaces.  If you are a straight person at a gay bar or any other queer space, you are a guest.  And proper respect needs to be shown, lest you come across like an asshole. 

Straight girls, don't assume all the gay boys here want to dance with you or that all the girls here want to fuck you.  Don't freak out because there's "a boy" in the ladies room.  That person might be a drag queen, or a trans woman early in her transition, or a butch lesbian.  So what?  They just want to pee, check themselves in the mirror, and get back to dancing.  Don't cock-block your gay friends or twat-block your lesbian friends.  You might be here "just to dance", but they might be looking for something more.  Don't assume that your presence here is a blessing just because of who you sleep with.  This is not the time or place to find a new gay best friend.  You should have already walked in with one.

Straight boys, don't assume all the gay boys here want to fuck you or that any of the girls here are interested in you.  The girls are either actively attempting to avoid male sexual harassment, already spoken for, or don't like dudes.  You are going home by yourself tonight.  The girls here are not making out for your entertainment, so don't stare.  You don't have to cling to your girlfriend like a protective talisman to "show" that you're straight.  We already know you're straight, but some boys might hit on you just to fuck with you.  Deal with it.  Maybe now you'll understand why the straight girls are here to avoid being hit on.

This is a safe space, so check your judgment at the door.  You are not at a damn petting zoo and nobody is here for your personal amusement.  Don't point at, laugh at, stare at, or ridicule anyone here or we will turn on you so fast your head will spin.  Welcome to our home.  Don't be rude and we can all have a fabulous time together.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Letter to My Future Daughter

Dear Zoe,

It's been a few years since Dad and I went across the world to adopt you.  While we can't be 100% certain yet, chances are good that you will continue to identify as a girl and later as a woman as you grow older.  So, with that assumption being made, I'd like to talk to you about what it's like to be a woman in this world.

Your Dad and I have done everything we can to make sure that you have any and all options available to you, no matter what.  That's why we were just as happy to let you dress up as Captain Janeway for Halloween last year as we were to let you dress up as Princess Ariel the year before that, and a Stormtrooper the year before that.  That's why we bought you the new President Barbie doll for Christmas along with that cool microscope we used for your science fair experiment.  Our primary goal as parents is to make sure that you're safe, happy, loved, and have all opportunities available we can provide.  If somebody ever tells you that you can't do something because you're a girl, or any other reason, we will help you learn how to stand up for yourself and fight back.

The things you will experience as you grow older will be different from what I experienced as a girl.  And not just because I was born a little different from most girls, as we've already discussed.  They'll also be different from what your aunts and grandmas experienced as girls.  It was only a little over a century ago that women were allowed to vote!  It's only been a few decades since women were allowed to serve in the military, or go to college, or work full-time, or play sports.  A lot of women over the generations have had to fight for each one of those rights and more.  And every time women take a step forward, there are plenty of people who try to push us back.  There was a time when women were sold into marriage.  We couldn't marry who we wanted to, we couldn't own property, our husbands could beat us, we couldn't decide if and when we wanted to have children, we couldn't work and earn our own money.  And for whatever reason, some people want women to be treated that way again.  That's why it's important to always stand up for who you are and what you believe in.  Finally, there are a few lessons I want to pass along that I've had to learn the hard way.  It will always be my hope that you have an easier time learning to love yourself and that you pass these lessons on to whoever you love in the future.

How you look has no reflection on your worth as a person.  It doesn't matter if you're pretty or not, thin or fat, feminine or masculine, if you wear short skirts or baggy jeans, a human being always deserves respect, kindness, and dignity.  Every person has value, regardless of appearance.

Your body is your own.  No matter what kind of relationship you might have with someone, they have no right or ownership of your body.  That means only you can decide if you want to have sex, if you want to have children, if you want to wear makeup or dresses or skirts.  Anyone who tries to coerce you into making decisions does not respect you and does not deserve your love.

Never apologize for being smart.  Never pretend you don't know the answer or you don't have an opinion.  If somebody thinks you are stuck up because you speak your mind, it is only because they wish they were as intelligent and outspoken as you.  When in doubt, try to be like Hermione Granger.

There is absolutely nothing you "have to do" just because you're a girl.  This includes housework, child care, or even being nurturing or empathetic.  These are not things you should do because you're a girl.  This are things everyone should help out with, regardless of gender.

I'm going to share something with you that your Grandma Kowski taught me, "There are two kinds of people in this world.  People who masturbate and people who lie about masturbating."  There's nothing wrong with enjoying sex or masturbating.  They should be enjoyable.  Sex is a serious decision to make and I hope if and when you decide to have sex you and your partner use protection.  That being said, never be ashamed about your sexual choices.  Some people try to humiliate women for enjoying sex by using words like, "slut" or "whore" or "freak", but all of those people (and everyone else) exist because somebody had sex.

But most of all, never forget that you are worthy of love and Dad and I will never stop loving you.  You have the power to make this world better and I sincerely hope that you do.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Get Angry

The Thinking Atheist is one of my favorite podcasts to listen to.  And Greta Christina is one of the most awesome people alive.  So when I heard the most recent episode of The Thinking Atheist with her as a guest, I was thrilled.  Naturally, conversation turned to her book Why Are You Atheists So Angry? and she talked about how anger is not only a necessary part of any rights movement but also a necessary part of any person's life and that most people experience anger out of compassion.  The idea really struck a chord with me.  And it's true!  There have been times when I get so angry I want to spit, and it's usually because of somebody suffering needlessly.  I would never have thought to call it anger from compassion, but it sums up that strange mixed feeling of wanting to "comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable," to borrow a bumper sticker phrase.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

While They're Young: Part 2

In case you missed it, this series deals with indoctrination that begins before a child is even born.  In the case of Part 1, "gender reveal" baby showers and how they reinforce heteronormative gender norms.  But the name of this blog is Trans and Godless, and I simply cannot talk about indoctrination without touching on religion.  Specifically about shame.

Once my parents divorced and we lived with my dad, we went to my grandmother's Baptist church and later to the Church of Christ when he married my step-mom.  It was the Church of Christ that I threw myself into with all my heart.  For one, because it was the only social outlet in the small town of less than 10,000.  For another, it was an acceptable place to run away from home, which had a lot of drama due to 5 kids and a dad with schizophrenia living under one roof.  And finally, because I had a lot of internalized shame about my gender and sexuality.  It was a very by-the-Bible church, and while there were no overt homophobic sermons, there was general understanding that God wanted people to be a certain way.  And since even divorce and musical instruments were frowned upon, I hardly thought the church would be okay with me being a girl, let alone a bisexual and trans girl.  Marriage was a holy covenant between a man and a woman where the man had power over the woman, who was intended to serve her husband as punishment for the sins of Eve.  Everyone was a hopeless sinner and the only way to be redeemed and allowed into Heaven was by accepting Jesus and being baptised in the church.  We were instructed to evangelize to our friends and loved ones, lest they be lost to Hell forever.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

While They're Young: Part 1

I published this story on April 9th, 2013 as a stand alone story, but realized that when it comes to "getting them while they're young" I absolutely must talk about religious indoctrination and how that ties in with gender socialization.  So stick around, this is only the beginning.

The phenomenon of "gender reveal" baby showers is an irritating, heteronormative trend that just needs to stop.  Whenever I hear a new mom gushing over "finding out what color to paint the nursery," I just let it go.  Because that isn't the appropriate moment to fight abouts gender norms.  But will I rant about it here?  Oh you better believe it.
Blue bow ties for boy, pink pearls for girl.
For those of you who have no idea what the hell a "gender reveal" baby shower is (obviously you don't have a Pinterest account), I'll fill you in.  It functions like any other baby shower, except the party is themed around the guests attempting to guess the baby's gender.  The guests are given a pink or blue gender-specific party favor of some sort in order to show their team spirit.  Then at the end of the party, the couple reveals the baby's gender, also through the use of a pink or blue gender-specific prop.  I've included some examples throughout this article.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Invisible Again

I'm telling you, this Women's Studies class has the capacity to drive me insane sometimes.  We're doing interviews as part of our final project and I have decided to interview my fabulous Aunt Melanie, who is also trans and a good friend and mentor.  We were discussing our interviews and another girl is also interviewing a trans woman, though for very voyeuristic reasons.  This isn't a friend of her's, it's just some girl she found online who's willing to be interviewed.  I sat as she wondered out loud about this trans girl, as she marveled at how "you would never know" and puzzled about her sexuality.  It was so uncomfortable, so irritating that I came out right there, just so I could hopefully make it stop.  This is something I have never done at TWU because I just didn't want to act as an ambassador all the time, but I couldn't let the ignorance continue.

And yet, it did continued.  It was as if I had never even spoke.  Is she really trans if she hasn't had bottom surgery?  She had a girlfriend when she was 12 before she came out, so does that mean she's bi?  I think she's had a boob job, but I'm not sure.  Here I am, preparing to discuss issues about cissexual privilege, transgender oppression, and the ignorance of trans identities, and it is staring me right in the face.  This is the "enemy".  A well-meaning girl who has no idea just how hurtful her words are.  And the fact that I took a big risk in coming out and that was completely ignored is just bizarre.  It's as though she refused to see me as trans, like she just blocked those sentences of mine out of her memory so that she could hold on to her ignorance and marvel at this freak of nature from a distance.  I was looking her right in the face and it made no difference. 

I can handle haters and outright discrimination.  Those are straight-forward fights.  But dealing with the "I'm just trying to understand" people who mean well but refuse to think before they speak, refuse to empathize with trans people, refuse to think even for a minute what it must be like to walk in our shoes before they start gawking at us.  This is the problem behind movies like Transamerica, which only cis people seem to enjoy and get irritated when trans people point out the (many) flaws.  Ignorance is forgivable.  We're all ignorant of many things before we learn about them.  But this kind of willful ignorance, where someone refuses to even entertain the idea of being respectful, is the worst kind of oppression.  If someone shouts "tranny" at me, I can deal with it.  I just give them the finger, tell them to suck my dick, and move on with my day.  But when somebody is offended at you being offended, there's nowhere you can go with them.  But someone ignoring or pretending I'm not trans is just bizarre.  I feel like in something she did so casually, my identity was erased for half an hour.  I don't even know how to begin that fight.
Don't mind me.  I'll just sit here while you spout crap about my people.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Snap, Krackle, Pop

In case you've ever wondered, this is the sort of thing I get paid to do:

Yes, those are Rice Krispy Treats.  Affectionately called Straight, Bi, and Gay Krispy Treats by my youth.  One of the youth who's been here practically as long as I've been volunteering and working here is moving away soon, and so I asked her what kind of treat she'd like me to bake for her.  (I often bake things for my youth, as I'm essentially playing mom for them.)  She said Rice Krispy Treats, and I told her I would make them fabulous as all hell.  Just a small example of the fabulous things I do for a living.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Ladies, Please Take My Survey!

Hey ladies, please help me out and take my new survey on media exposure and how it affects health concerns in women.  It should only take about 15 minutes and it will help me get an A in my psychology class.  :)

Monday, April 1, 2013

The "Wrong Body" Narrative

Last week "The Takeaway" had a segment on transgender youth that, while brief, was one of the better coverages of trans folk I've heard in a while.  The first segment was on the Boston Children's Hospital's gender clinic and Dr. Spack.  Now Dr. Spack isn't perfect, but to give credit where credit is due, I think he's done far more good than harm for trans folk.  (If only Dr. Zucker could take a lesson or two from him.)  The segment on Tyler Ford, the Glee Project's first transgender contestant, was fantastic.  Not because of the news program itself.  Truth be told, many of the questions they asked Tyler were fairly typical, but I enjoyed that Tyler found a way to turn the questions around in a effective way.  When the host said something about being born in the wrong body, he said he wasn't a big fan of that narrative and that his body will always be his own.