Caitlyn Jenner

I have been thinking about Caitlyn Jenner a lot lately and figured that maybe I should state my feelings about her. To start off with, I have thought from the beginning that she was not really trans, only trying to use it to further her career. I still think that. Why do I think that?  That is a really good question, one that I have no answer for. It’s just my intuition. I have hoped that I would see something that would show that I’m wrong, I really did. But the things she says is either coming from a place of such privilege that she doesn’t understand what trans people go through or she doesn’t really understand what being trans is really like.  I think it is more likely to the be latter and she is playing at being trans.

 

You may have noticed that while I say I don’t believe she is trans, I still use the proper pronouns and name. Just because I don’t believe she is trans doesn’t mean she isn’t and it doesn’t cost me a thing to be respectful. I will treat her as a transwoman because she says she is one and I believe in respecting people, no matter who they are. Just because I don’t agree with her, doesn’t mean I get to disrespect her.

 

Even with all the stupid that has come out of her mouth, she still deserves respect. I will not respect the words that she says when she says things like it’s our fault if people are uncomfortable with how we look. I have met transwomen who have no respect for Caitlyn and that’s just not right. There is no call to not treat her as less than a person.

 

So, I think I’ve beat that topic to death and back. I just can’t stand to see the disrespect that she has received. Now, let’s talk about her as a spokesperson. The only reason she is a spokesperson at all is because she was already famous. Most others have become spokespersons through their activism. The other spokespeople are active members of the trans community, Caitlyn doesn’t seem to be. I find that to be a bit problematic. How can you learn what other trans people go through if you aren’t talking with them?  She has said things that I don’t think she would if she had spent time with other trans people.

 

I have not seen her show, and I really don’t follow her, however; it is hard to not see her words somewhere. Which is a problem for us. Someone who is not an active part of the community for which she speaks and doesn’t take time to learn about the community can’t really represent it, now can they?   I think those two things are the biggest problems I have with Caitlyn’s assuming the role of spokesperson. Now, I consider myself to be a spokesperson for the trans community. I am trans and I know many people who are trans, I participate in the community and have taken time to learn about some of our history and our problems and concerns. And I know to watch what I say, even though I’m not a big celebrity, why can’t we hold a celebrity to the same standard?

What does it mean to feel like a woman?

I’m going to add my own words to the ever popular sport of trying to define who is a woman. I’m sure there will be people who disagree with me, and that’s fine as long as it is civil and not erasing anyone’s lived experience. There really is no good definition that I’ve found. Perhaps it is more subjective than most are willing to admit. I’ll start with all the standard definitions.

 

One, a woman is someone born with a vagina. Wow, I can’t believe that this one still exists. There are intersex people who were born with ambiguous genitalia and were given whichever sex the doctor felt was easiest to do. Once upon a time, babies born with abnormally small penises would be given a vagina because it was felt that they would be better off as a woman than as a man with a tiny penis. So, I think we can lay this one to rest, besides, do you really want to reduce a woman to a vagina?

 

Two, genetics, everyone’s current favorite. Women, of course, only ever have XX chromosomes. Things like Klinefelters syndrome, XXY chromosomes, or women with XY chromosomes, or genetic mosaicism, having both XX and XY chromosomes, just don’t exist. Even if they didn’t, are you going to require genetic testing of everyone to determine which bathroom to use?

 

Three, Periods, pregnancy, etc. There is this line of thought that says you can’t be a women unless you have had a period. What about the poor women who haven’t?  Just because you are born with a vagina doesn’t mean you will have a period. A variant is the must be able to become pregnant to be a woman. How does that play with the many women, who for various reasons, cannot become pregnant?

 

Four, oppression, so if women aren’t oppressed in the right ways, they aren’t women?  This one is just wrong. If you haven’t been oppressed in the same way as women all your life, you aren’t a woman. What does that even mean?  Which particular ways are those that define what a woman is?  Do we use rich women, poor women, white women, black women, heterosexual women, lesbian women?  No two of those groups are going to share the same patterns of oppression. Also, when, these things change over time, so which era do we use?

 

Given the above, it is obvious that defining a what a woman is not easy. Honestly, I have no real ideas about what is a woman versus what is a man. Mother Nature isn’t a fan of nice, neat boundaries. Like a vacuum, nature abhors neat, clean separations. Biology and psychology, like most things in life, are messy and complicated and tend to resist simplification. I’m a physicist by education, only a bachelors, but even so, I know that physics is not nearly as clean cut as people want to think. Quantum mechanics really fuzzes up things.

 

So, what is the take-away here?  Simply that things aren’t so simple. We need other ways of thinking about things. We need to be aware of what we are doing and whose experiences we are prioritizing. Even combining all of the above, how many ‘real’ women would end up being not a woman?  It’s either that or coming up with many exceptions, all just to keep transwomen from being women.

Thanksgiving

Sorry about missing last week. The holidays and the Trans Day of Remembrance took a lot out of me and I completely forgot about posting. However, this led to a great idea, why not do a post on Thanksgiving?  The holidays can be rough for those in the LGBT community, with families being torn apart because not everyone is willing to treat people like many of my friends and myself as people deserving of respect. People get kicked out of their homes because a family thinks it is ‘sinful’ to share a roof with someone who is gay or lesbian or trans. The sinful part of it isn’t the person who is gay or lesbian or trans; it is denying hospitality to a member of your family. But that is not what I want to talk about, I want to talk about being thankful. Not that talking about those whose lives have been made unbelievably harder by the loss of their family isn’t important and needed, it’s just not the focus here.

 

What am I thankful for?  One, for having a family that supports me, even the step-mother that I hate. I can’t imagine how hard this would have been if I had to go through being kicked out of my home and not having any support from those who are supposed to care about me no matter what. Family is important, and not just the people related by blood. In my case, my ex’s family has become mine or rather, I have become a part of hers. When thinking about family, don’t forget the family you made, they can be more helpful than the one you were born to.

 

I’m also thankful for my friends. Without them, I’d not be here today. Not just not writing this blog or dealing with being trans. I’d have killed myself years ago. I can honestly say that I would not even be alive today without my friends. They have helped me by being there, never underestimate how powerful being present can be. They helped by getting me the help I needed, and by making me want to get help. These people have helped me through many rough patches in my life.

 

I’m thankful for being alive. That is something that I never would have thought I’d be thankful for. I have been dealing with depression for most of my life, and dealing with it poorly. People who haven’t had to deal with depression don’t understand that there will be times when you don’t want to live. Sometimes you want to kill yourself, those are the worst. There are also times when you simply want to die. You don’t even have the energy to think about killing yourself, you just don’t want to live any more. Yet, in spite of my depression, I now want to live.

 

There is so much to be thankful for, but that should not ever be an excuse to not do better. That way not only leads to personal stagnation, it also leads to things not getting better. Only those things that are seen to be broken have a chance to be fixed. So, while there are many things I am thankful for, I will still do all I can to make this world a better place.