So, in the comments of my February post You Call Those Statistics?, Clarisse raised the point that numbers shouldn’t be the issue, no-one-deserves-to-be-oppressed should be the issue:

the argument to dismantle gender expectations, cis privilege, et cetera should not be based on numbers/percentages of transpeople. I know that’s not necessarily what you’re saying, but I wanted to point it out — and to make a note that I think is just generally so important and worth repeating, viz: basing any argument against oppression on how many people are affected by that oppression means moving away from the central point (which should be “no one deserves to be oppressed”) and towards an unproductive numbers game.

Totally randomly, I noticed a post I’d bookmarked back in April that gets more to the point of one reason statistics and numbers matter, In Tough Economic Times, Transphobia Will Get Alberta Out of Debt.

Uppity Brown Woman quotes for the gist of the issue:

The Alberta government delisted funding for gender reassignment surgery this week, and trans activists are quickly organizing to push for the program’s reinstatement.

In Tuesday’s budget, the province announced it was cutting the GRS program to save $700,000 a year. Alberta plans to spend $12.9 billion on healthcare in 2009, according to figures released this week. The GRS program funded surgeries for between 10 and 20 people a year.

Since the program apparently only funds 10-20 surgeries per year, and given that $700,000 /10 = $70,000, or /20 =$35,000 which is just ever-so-slightly more than SRS really costs (17,000 CAD with Brassard, last I heard), I’m assuming that it covers hormones and counseling as well as is just being talked about as surgery ‘coz that’s what cis people understand. Can anyone confirm or deny this?

So, $700,000 sounds like a lot of money, right? I mean out of 12.9 billion that’s gotta be a chunk, right?
700k/12.9b = 0.00005426, or 0.005% of the budget. This is where statistics come in.

If trans people are 1 out of every 500 people, then it seems like 1/500th of the budget for healthcare is certainly not *more* than we deserve, likely less; similarly, if we’re 1 in 11,900 or 1 in 30,400 or 2 in (11,900+30,400). If the program covers hormones and counseling, and all forms of trans related bottom surgery, then it should be a pretty substantial percentage of our healthcare costs, regardless of whether or not it also includes FFS/top surgery/BA/electrolysis/binders/prostheses/etc.

12.9 billion CAD / 500 = 25.8 million CAD.
700,000 / 25,800,000 = 0.027, or 3 percent of our 1/500th of the budget.

I think it’d be pretty reasonable to say that SRS, and in particular hormones, counseling, and SRS combined, are worth 3% of the healthcare dollars allotted to the trans community. (Remember, those of you that are young and able/not-chronically-ill, that the amount spent per person per year goes up drastically with age, so that while hormones & counseling might be drastically more than what you and your temporarily-able-bodied 20-something friends spend on non-trans-related medical care, it’s a small fraction of what the average 70 year old spends. Those of us with disabilities or non-trans-related chronic illnesses will probably find 3% somewhat less shocking. This is in no way to minimize the huge burden of those already-economically-marginalized paying-out-of-pocket-as-if-uninsured-whether-or-not-you-are for care, which generally increases the cost by a factor of 5-10.)

.51/30,400 + .49/11,900 = 21,335
12.9 billion CAD / 21,000 = 614,285.
700,000/610,000 = 1.147, or 110% of the budget that would be reserved for our population if our healthcare needs were 100% average.

Now, our healthcare needs ARE above average, and that’s OK, and if these figures were correct (which they’re not, duh) it still wouldn’t justify “delisting” the services as if we were taking everyone’s money and running with it. However, I think the difference between denying us 3% of what’s due to the average person and denying us 110% should be pretty clear; with bad statistics, aided by the “10-20 surgeries per year”, this seems like an exorbitant amount of money to spend per person, but with better stats, it shows the action for what it is–throwing our life vests overboard on a ship in danger of sinking “to save weight.”

Recently I’ve heard a lot of trans people using the phrases “male bodied” and “male identified”, and been kind of thrown.

Most of the problems with “(fe)male bodied” would be pretty apparent from my post about “biological”, but I think that it’s worth discussing here specifically in its contrast to “(fe)male identified,” and “(wo)man identified.”

The problem with ____-identified is that it’s not just _____; what the hell is the point of saying “woman-identified-woman” unless a)you mean a political lesbian (the original meaning of the term) or b)not all women are “woman-identified” or not all who identify as women really are?

This is, I suspect, the exact opposite of what those who use the phrase intend to be conveying–which is, to be clear that they are legitimating the person’s identity, not using “male” and “female” coercively. But its use, like “gender identity” (“we can’t discriminate against trans women because, unlike other men, they have this weird internal identity as women that’s legally protected” as opposed to ‘the right to define one’s own gender is federally protected, and one cannot discriminate on the basis of the reasons underlying that definition’) reserves the unmodified term for other use, rather than using the unmodified term and clarifying if need be (for example, for advertising a woman-only space, ‘questioning the legitimacy of any participant’s womanhood and all other acts of gender policing are unacceptable in this space.’).

“(Fe)male bodied,” on the other hand, is used supposedly as a means of talking about a person without making a judgment on hir identity. But there are two problems: who does “male bodied” refer to, and how do we know?

It’s not always clear, when someone says “male bodied,” whether or not they mean to include me. As I wrote in Biological, it makes no sense to refer to me as “male bodied,” because
1)I identify & define my body as female
2)while some characteristics of my body would be read male under a coercive, “objective” scientific lens, others (e.g. hormone levels; softness, dryness, and depth of skin; breasts; fat distribution, the smell of my sweat) are pretty clearly female.

What “(fe)male bodied” does is try to avoid the messiness of respecting our identities and categorizing us solely that way and find an “objective” way of talking about people that you can use just by looking at them or by knowing their histories. But this Cartesian mind-body dualism is bunk–my body is still my body, and defining it was male or female is still defining me as male or female, and my body is not this thing that exists wholly separate from my mind, that cannot know or feel things or from which my sense of self can be divorced. My sex and my body are my self determination, don’t try to pry in with the crowbar of coercive language.

Part two is that not only do some people use the term to classify me as “male bodied” and others use it to classify me as “female bodied”–but that there’s a reason for this ambiguity. This “objective” “neutral” “real” body that they want to jump to just isn’t there. Some people mean chromosomes, some mean presence or absence of a penis (cunts don’t count y’all), some people mean hormone levels and how your body appears socially, some people just aren’t thinking about trans and intersex people’s bodies. But the assumption of using the phrase is that people will have half a clue of who you mean, which positions all bodies as belonging to pre-acknowledged sexed categories unambiguously and objectively. Regardless of what categories persons are placed in and how transphobic that placement is, by “empowering” the listener to do the placing, the term nullifies self-definition of sex/embodiment, and undermines resistance to the binary medical model for being trans.

So while I fully support all people speaking of their bodies as male and/or female (and/or other possibilities), don’t use “(fe)male bodied” as a category of people (based on body parts) as opposed to an individual’s self definition–even if you’re trans.

My body is my identity, my identity is my body. Don’t try to separate them, I went to a lot of effort to help them learn to play nice with each other.

Seeing Red

July 16, 2009

I cannot stand it when people make me choose between their white and someone else’s black
But when they tell me it’s all shades of gray,
I see red.
I do not live in the demilitarized zone between male and female—
that place is armed to the teeth
and I have chosen sides.
I am not between, I am Other, I am deserter,
And for that they will hunt me to the ends of the earth,
They will ask me if I practiced sounding like a woman and yell that I am a MAN,
        As if saying it would make it true,
        As if these combat boots would ever march for them,
        As if they didn’t know that.

I speak “shibboleth,” fording the river of our tears and our blood,
But when you outstretch your welcoming arms, will they have bayonets?
Will you assuage the guilt of stabbing my sisters by treating my wounds
        Or by casting me out?

When we expose your prejudice, when we won’t shut up,
        will you plant your guns in our hands?
        will you make believe we threatened you with our flesh?
        as you did to Diana Courvant and the women who didn’t actually shower at Michfest?
Will you do it on the same day you pull a knife on my friend for being on the land
        and tell her you can’t control yourself?
Or will it be the day you watch me trapped against the wall
        and punched in the face?
Will you reproach your friend for getting in the middle of a fight,
        while you look on?
Will you praise the words of those you saw “not see it happen”
        And ignore my rescuers and advocates, those who were there?

Will you be “shocked!” that gay men, that white men, would do this to me?
Will you reproach my anger at black men’s harassment while disbelieving white men’s fists?
When HRC lobbies for transphobic discrimination,
Will you still tell us to focus on the people who do real violence?
When I, passing, duck behind my bike from a black woman swinging her shoe at my head
Will you still insist that violence against oppressors is righteous?
Will you, the white anti-racist in a white neighborhood in a white city
quote statistics and tell me it was a fluke?
Or will you insist that everything is shades of gray, that it’s complicated,
And ask what if my body, my presence, my existence was triggering for [real] survivors?

Will you ever see our blood, our tears, our scars?
Will you ever see our lips, our blush?
Will you ever see the blood on your own hands?
Will you ever see the wounds from your righteous, “friendly” fire?
Because until then,
I’ll be seeing red.

Hey, everybody! So, y’all may remember the critical post about PTHC I made a while back, encouraging folks to submit workshops.

1)I will be leading one called Queering Genderqueer:

Are you third-, fourth-, or nineteenth-through-twenty-fifth-gender(s), but everyone seems to put you in the same damn box—including the genderqueers? Feel invisible because you’ve transitioned, you’re trans female spectrum and/or trans feminine spectrum, working-class, a POC or disabled, or femme’s a crucial part of your gender? Or just pissed that your friends are invisiblized and misgendered by the people that ought to be their community? In this workshop, we’ll discuss our experiences as non-binarily-gendered people who don’t fit in the non-binary-gender box, and talk about how to confront the subversivism, (trans) misogyny, and other oppressive ideologies that too-often shape what genderqueer is taken to mean.

2)Obviously from #1, I’m going. Are any of you in Philadelphia and willing to put me up for a couple nights? (sometime 6/11 till 6/14 in the morning, but I’ll mostly be at the conference, and I won’t have a ton of stuff) A couch or even a cushy patch of floor would be fine. You can either comment or email me at takesupspace AT!

3)I hope I get to see you there! Let me know and we can meet up.

Last time around, not having read The Man Who Would Be Queen except for exerpts/quotes, I wrote about how the two type/Blanchard-Bailey-Lawrence (BBL) theory is misogynistic/regulates female sexuality. I stand by everything I wrote there, but I’m pissed at how much discussions of the book hinge only on the autogynephilia part, and neglect the ridiculous racism/classism of the “homosexual transsexual” (by which we mean straight trans women) section.

Seriously, it’s so bad it’s hard to even talk about. But, among other things, he says [straight] trans women are mostly [W]OC with below average IQ, and are trans (rather than being gay boys) because they come from lower-class non-white broken households and don’t have enough ambition or family support to ‘defeminize,’ and there are more Latina trans [women] because of machismo.


He’s yet to come out and say that black/Latin@ and lower-class people are bad parents and should have their kids taken away from them, but he does seem to think that 20% MOC in his gay boy sample is a perfectly standard percentage for Chicago residents, whereas 60% TWOC needs remarking on.

From Wikipedia:

As of the 2000 census,…The racial makeup of the city was 41.97% White, 36.77% Black, 4.35% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 0.36% Native American, 13.58% from other races, and 2.92% from two or more races. 26.02% of the population were Hispanic of any race. 21.72% of the population was foreign born; of this, 56.29% came from Latin America, 23.13% from Europe, 17.96% from Asia and 2.62% from other parts of the world.[4] The 2007 community survey for the U.S. Census showed little variation

Some examples:

Alma has also noticed, as I have, the large number of Latina transsexuals. In Chicago, there are several bars that cater to Latina transsexuals. About 60 percent of the homosexual transsexuals [sic] and drag queens we studied were Latina or black. The proportion of nonwhite subjects in our studies of ordinary gay men [sic] is typically only about 20 percent. …Another transsexual, remarking on the same phenomenon, attributed it to ethnic gender roles: “My culture is very macho and intolerant of female behavior in men. It is easier just to become a woman.”

J Michael Bailey, The Man Who Would Be Queen, 183-4.

(It might be argued that he’s not endorsing the claim about machismo, because the next line starts “I am not sure of about the validity of all of Alma’s observations, much less her theories”–but it wasn’t Alma who made that statement, thus the statement isn’t disavowed by the disclaimer, which constitutes tacit endorsement.)

Ken Zucker…tried to predict which boys with [GID] would still have the disorder when they become adolescents. Adolescents with GID are much rarer and presumably much closer to being transsexual. Zucker found several predictors of adolescent GID: lower IQ, lower social class, immigrant status, non-intact family, and childhood behavior problems unrelated to [GID].[‘Coz IQ tests are totally unproblematic.]

ibid 178-9.

They [straight trans women] are outcasts as children because of their extreme femininity. They mostly come from poor, broken families, and family rejection is common.

A feminine boy from a middle-class or upper-middle-class family (such as Danny’s) has more motivation to “hang in there” until he normalizes his gender role behavior, because he has a good chance at a conventionally successful future. Defeminization might also require more ambition and family support than some homosexual transsexuals possess.

ibid, 183,4.

Their customers, of course, are not gay men. They are either unwary straight men or men looking for she-males.) This kind of prostitution is dangerous, especially for transsexuals, whose customers sometimes do not know what they are… The rate of HIV infection among transsexual streetwalkers is very hight, partly due to the high rate of intravenous drug use. [while injection HRT is the same as recreational IV drugs for HIV risk, the implication is pretty offensive.]

their taste in clothing is much more expensive than their income allows… In female impersonator shows, transsexuals often wear designer gowns, which are widely believed (by other transsexuals) to have been acquired via the five-fingered discount. [yep, it’s totally that those irresponsible black/Latina/poor people just want to live beyond their means, not an occupational expenditure…]

ibid, 184-5.

Hey, everybody, generally my daily existence as a human being only comes here filtered through politics, but I thought y’all’d care that Thursday night through last night I was in the hospital w/ appendicitis. I’m far from fully recovered, but I am a lot better/no longer in imminent danger of death. I’m still catching up on my online stuff and school stuff…all my stuff really.

This is wonderful.

I am *so* glad that the jury understood that killing trans women is wrong, that killing individual trans women to threaten/do violence to the entire community is wrong, is *worse* than a non-bias murder, not more-acceptable.

That it took the jury only two hours makes my relief even greater. For once, it wasn’t (that) hard for people to acknowledge that we deserve to live our lives–that Angie Zapata deserved to live her life–to refute the message that crime was intended to send. In that this action holds Andrade in-some-way-accountable, in that it affirms Angie’s humanity after it had been so brutally stripped from her, and after the defense attorneys continued to deny it to her–I am clichéing with joy over the ruling. To be honest I didn’t really have that much faith in cis humanity. Well done.

What I’m iffy about is the repetition that this is “justice.” That ‘punishment’ and ‘retribution’ posthumously help Angie Zapata.

In the framework of the criminal legal system–and that’s the only framework we’ve got right now–this is ‘best’ outcome we can get, this is what “justice” is, what “justice” for Angie Zapata is. But I can’t help but have misgivings about a “solution” that supports the PIC (prison industrial complex), that rallies support among trans and queer people for an institution that routinely victimizes us, an institution we should be critiquing and finding alternatives for.

I mean, think if one of the components of his sentence was to have to apologize in person, individually, to all of her family, all of her friends, and (not individually, but a large number of small groups) the whole community affected state-/nation-/world-wide, and have to listen to everything they/we have to say. What if one of the components of his sentence was to help erect a building that would be a center for trans people, or to toil at making a monument for her–rather than building Wal-Mart’s (that victimize the poor, and trans folks are disproportionately poor), operating a call center for the GOP (ditto), and making military supplies (supporting the military’s trans exclusion, hypermasculinity-which-breeds-trans-misogyny, sexism, rape, violence, killing untold numbers of brown people all over the world, and supporting US imperialism)? What if we had a vision of justice that didn’t include getting excited about raping people you think ‘deserve’ it? A vision that doesn’t support the very institutionalized violence that victimizes trans people–particularly but not only trans women, particularly but not only of color?

What kind of “justice” furthers the very violence it attempts to punish?

EDIT: Also, WTF is this, Lurleen & Mirelle? …Thank you to the rest of the commenters for not taking the derail bait, (I mean, really, how bald can you really be about it?) but I think I’d’ve moderated that out.
EDIT #2: Apparently this was a person’s signature rather than the comment itself; my WTF was about suddenly-making-it-about-marriage.

h/t Sable_Twilight.

The next time someone tries to start a discussion about whether transness is morally acceptable, I will ask:

Is it logically possible for you to choose to live in a world where choosing your own gender is universal law? (whether or not you’d actually choose to live in that world)

Yes, it is. Therefore, choosing your own gender is morally acceptable. 😛

I’ll even give you a more suitable-to-transphobic-logic maxim to formulate the categorical imperative: is it logically possible for you to choose to live in a world where transitioning is universal law? (whether or not you’d actually choose to live there)

Yes, it is. Hell, I kind of wish we lived in that world. Think about how many wars would be averted! Plus, so much less transphobia, homophobia, sexism… and we wouldn’t have jerkfaces like George Bush! Therefore, transitioning: morally acceptable.

Let’s try the other formulation of the categorical imperative:

Does transitioning treat anyone solely as a means to an end rather than simultaneously an end in hirself? No. Does choosing your own gender? Nope. Morally acceptable. We’re good.

Yeah, I know, Kant’s not so popular with feminists, anti-racists, and radicals, whatever.

There are more problems with this bathroom logic than I have any desire to suss out, other people point them out all the time (trans folks need bathrooms too–and need safe bathrooms too, trans women are easily distinguished from cis men (generally), a sign does not equal a lock and key, there have been protections in place in Minneapolis for over 25 years (16 years in Minnesota) and there’s not a single documented case of perpetrators trying to use those laws to aid them assaulting women in restrooms, and lastly, using the “wrong” restroom is perfectly legal already.). All these logics are also used to justify ejecting trans women from shelters and Michfest, and to justify violent prison placement.

But for all that this is so frequently taken up by radical feminists/as a feminist debate, the radical feminist insight that rape is committed by people you know, that you’re most likely to be sexually assaulted in your own home, or your friend’s home, far more than in a public bathroom–why doesn’t anyone pick up on that insight?

I mean, yeah, trans folks are already raising the spectre of stranger violence in this case, and that’s prolly relevant. But when you’re talking about hate violence/someone defined as expendable in the public discourse (and, no, if you think white cis women are so defined, go read what Focus on the Family has to say about the bathroom debate), that’s when you’re more likely to get hurt by someone you don’t know.

I’ve been physically/non-sexually assaulted by 5 strangers in the past year and a half, for context. I really can’t count how many people have groped me without my consent–strangers and “friends,” mostly but not entirely folks who saw me as trans–though as far as people who’ve perpetrated more serious sexual assault on me, they were both men I was close to, (one trans, one cis) and both in bedrooms. (there was one stranger who threatened to rape me, driving the other way in his car, as I was biking home (in Minneapolis), not really sure whether that’s “worse” or not.)

So I hope you can understand that I don’t mean to make light of the fear of stranger violence, including stranger sexual violence. It happens. But the overwhelming focus on it is not about protecting women, it’s about controlling women. It’s about keeping us scared inside the home where the actual sexual predators have easier access to us. I’m not going to explicate that here, it’s a central second-wave/lesbian-feminist/radical feminist insight–that is, the exact same group that takes all this bullshit they’ve spent thirty years trying to destroy and uses it against trans women because keeping us down is more important than liberation.

We all have the capacity for violence. Rape, and promoting rape, is not limited to cis straight men, to white men, to men of color, to men you don’t know, to men at all, to cis people, to straight people, to people who aren’t survivors, to people who aren’t your close friends, to people who don’t speak out against rape, to people who don’t volunteer on rape-crisis hotlines (that really sucked, by the way), or even to people who don’t write forwards to anti-rape anthologies, or who haven’t written songs against date rape and dedicated them to Sarah Palin.

Those last two categories are pretty specific, huh?

In case you’re wondering, I’m talking about this (trigger warning):

If it’s hard to see, here’s a basic rundown: a Katy Perry lookalike comes onstage to lip sync “I Kissed a Girl.” A few people make brief passes at her, then Margaret Cho, wearing a purple strap-on, and Amanda Palmer come up from opposite sides of the stage and trap “Perry” between them. Cho takes “Perry’s” hand, puts it on her strap-on, and *holds it there* while Perry looks anxious and uncomfortable and tries to remove her hand. Then Palmer touches her belly, “Perry” momentarily looks more uncomfortable, and then suddenly “gives in” and starts acting enthusiastic, making out with Palmer and pushing her butt back towards Cho. (You can see her facial expressions better in this video if it’s hard to see clearly.)

Just in case it wasn’t clear that this was a revenge fantasy rather than just a “oh she really wanted it it’s ok” fantasy (still rape promotion, but still)–A curtain goes up, and when it comes down, Cho is dressed as a minister/pastor/whatever, and “Perry” and Palmer are in wedding dresses… and “Perry” is bound hand and foot, with duct tape over her mouth. She tries to hobble away, and Palmer stops her, making an expression of overdone, false-looking bliss with a sinister undertone. (This part is somewhat more easily visible here) A “Fuck Prop 8” banner goes up and the crowd cheers.

There’s really not a lot more to say. I understand being angry about “I Kissed a Girl”–I’m none too pleased about it myself. (Not knowing my name, fine, I can work with that, but I’m your “experimental game”? … Excuse me?) The song is exploitative/exoticizing/fetishizing/objectifying whatever other words you want to use. Basically it’s gross, keep your hands off my sexuality. But resorting to dramatizing sexual violence as a revenge strategy? (Hell, revenge at all?) Not cool. And it’s not as though Cho could ever objectify or fetishize anyone. Nor Amanda Palmer.

At Women & Children First, one of two Chicago stops of the YMY! tour, there was a comment exhorting [straight/bi] men to stand up and say they’re not rapists, because otherwise all the women would assume they were. But standing up and speaking out doesn’t make you an ally/not a rapist. Not raping people makes you not a rapist. If you don’t think of yourself as a potential perpetrator of violence and consider carefully how to exist in the world as nonviolently as you can, you will perpetrate it. Violence, including but in no way limited to sexual violence, is the norm in this society, not the exception–though often it’s not quite as blatant as Cho and Palmer just put on display for us, or quite as clearly intentional.

X-posted to the Yes Means Yes! blog