Monthly Archives: June 2011

Guest post: Sadness is my boychick (or girlchick)

Sadness is my boychick (or girlchick)

by Queen Emily

Bio: Queen Emily is an Australian trans woman in her early 30s, one of the co-bloggers at Questioning Transphobia and Hoyden About Town. She is quite amazing.

Title remixed from Lykke Li

I know how the story is supposed to go, for a trans woman. It’s supposed to go from unbearable pain pre-transition to happiness post, a journey that culminates with SRS1. This is the triumphant narrative the psychiatric/medical gatekeepers want, as proof of their success, and it’s a story we tell cis people in general to justify bodily interventions cissexists still find disturbing and fake at best and horrifying mutilation at worst. We’re supposed to be happy enough to live as a woman, to have the right body, to be accorded the minimal respect of a name and a pronoun (if not exactly full equality). And even trans positive discourses demand a certain positivity to address ciscentric narratives that value cis bodies more than trans, that objectify us as objects of mingled disgust and desire and utterly conflate femaleness with cis femaleness.

These are all true enough, but they’re incomplete. The pain Lisa talks about in the above Questioning Transphobia link continues to linger after transition. When it comes to trans people and reproduction, the predominant motifs continue to be assigned sex. In Western Australia, my home state, the government has been fighting through the courts for two years for the right to neatly align trans men’s sterility with their access to male legal sex documents (trans women’s sterility, however, which occurs permanently after approximately six months on estrogen, counts for precisely fuck all in gaining our access to the correct docs). Cis feminists have incorporated trans rights into pro-choice activism predominantly through the awareness of trans men and female-assigned genderqueers’ potential pregnancies. But these are all primarily concerned with assigned sex capabilities, treating trans populations as tacitly, implicitly, as “really” our assigned sexes.

Arch transphobe Germaine Greer has long had a riff where she declaims that no trans woman would possibly menstruate or get pregnant if it were physically possible. As Germaine appears to have never met a trans woman (her “research” wouldn’t deign to actually consult the population she so boldly declaims about), let me just say: it’s total bollocks. It fucking hurts that I can’t get pregnant.

This isn’t simply about being a parent. It is quite possible that my partner and I could have children one day — if her doctor says it’s safe with her disabilities we could go through IVF in Australia, and there’s surrogacy and adoption too (not that these are unproblematic by any means, just that there’s a possibility we could find an ethical solution). It’s not just about not having children — though it is undoubtedly part of it. And it’s not just about how society can use childlessness against women in general, or the links between homophobia and reproduction (ie the line of reasoning that says gay marriages aren’t “real” because there’s no potential of “natural” childbearing), or even how infertility has been specifically used against trans women (“sterile fucktoys” is one particularly charming epithet I’ve encountered from radfems).

But that doesn’t quite get at the pain I’m describing. When I say hurts, I don’t mean metaphorically. I feel this inability of my body in my body, feel the wordless dull ache in my stomach, inside where my uterus should be, between my legs. It’s there in the strain of muscles, the odd twitch. Between them, my cousins have had three babies (all female-assigned) in the last few years, and my sister and her partner are gearing up some of their own. Sometimes it’s hard to be around, because I am envious, and there’s no cultural space for me to say so without it reinforcing my own supposed inferiority as a trans woman.2

Without fail, I clutch a hand to my tummy when I see them, to feel that pain, but also to feel the could-have-been, the should-have-been. I can’t explain why it’s there, any more than I explain the feeling-not-feeling sensation of my body before hormones. It doesn’t make sense, because it is sense. So what I’m saying is there’s a history and a geography of loss and inability written into my sense of my lived body. It doesn’t overwhelm me, but it’s there when I’m alone as much as the times someone close to me has a child. It just is, and I expect it may well always be in some form.

The thing is, if there’s loss, then there must be mourning too; if you have grief, then you’re already grieving. Freud changed his mind several times on when mourning is accomplished. At first he thought that mourning is completed when a new love object is found, when devotion has been transferred to another love object. And it’s true — love helps you heal from pain. Seeing my friends and family happy with their pregnancies and their children, babysitting those children, is a joy.

But it is nevertheless bittersweet. Emotions don’t cancel or replace each other, as Freud imagined early on. Later he suggested that mourning finishes in incorporation, when you’ve incorporated the lost loved object into yourself. In her wonderful book Precarious Life, Judith Butler suggests that mourning is “when one accepts that by the loss one undergoes one will be changed, possibly for ever.” Mourning is accomplished by transformation, a transformation that “cannot be charted or planned in advance,” because one can never truly know who one is or will be.

And this, to come full circle to my title, is where I’m at. Sadness, loss, grief, are a part of me, incorporated into my sense of myself, my body, my family, in contradictory and ambivalent ways. Sadness is my child, and that’s ok.

  1. Ed note: Sex Reassignment Surgery.
  2. Arwyn style footnote: cis women, please stop saying “you’re so lucky not to have periods!” to trans women. You may as well just punch me in the stomach.

Whose uterus is it? A poem and a polemic

Flipping, squirming, hiccuping being inside
me
my
belly moves, bulges, requires
tables to be shifted
my
body to be shifted
my
gait and stride and way
I
move through the world
to be shifted
to make room, one day, for
not-me

*****

Whose uterus is it?

Increasingly, it seems, not the person in whose body it resides, not when US states have to debate — though most aren’t even doing that — whether to compensate women they insulted and forcibly sterilized, when pregnant athletes are banned from sports, when, not long-ago but right now, women face murder charges for pregnancy or neonatal losses, when women are being stripped of rights and social supports and we can’t even get the powers that be to acknowledge this systematic attack.

There are two unique genetic signatures here in this chair, but only one body. Two heartbeats, but one flesh that interacts with the world. The person-ification of the parasite within me, the extent to which I am I-and-other, is for me to decide — not strangers who wish to rub my belly, not family who speak of “our baby”, not governments who would criminalize my choices not for their effect on my fellow citizens but for perceived damage to the flesh-in-and-of-my-flesh.

I am not heartless, not lacking in sentimentality, not ignorant of the profundity of the person-creation that is procreation, of the of-me-but-not-me-ness of the being within me. But as long as it is within me, sustained by me, symbiotic with me as no other stage of existence can be; as long as this is so, no one has the right to dictate or regulate my rights, my choices, my self as though it is not my body who will bear those burdens.

Because, whatever you may say, it is my uterus.

Hello NPR!

If you’ve just heard of Raising My Boychick from the article on NPR.org, welcome! Take a poke or two around, browse the unfortunately-unfinished Glossary, be sure to read the comment policy, and, if it seems like someplace you’d want to visit again1, generally make yourself comfortable, and feel encouraged to introduce yourself.

If you’re a regular reader wondering what the heck2 I’m talking about, check out The End of Gender. It’s an absolute crap title and premise, but the article itself is surprisingly decent. And, there’s the fact that I’m quoted. So yeah. Just don’t read the comments.3

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To readers new and old, a reiteration of what RMB is about:

Mostly, it’s a reflection of my life. And thus, because my life largely revolves around (though less often is directly about) the parenting of the Boychick, has quite a lot about parenting. But it’s not a Gender Neutral Parenting blog. To the extent that it’s a parenting blog at all, it’s about anti-bias, anti-bigotry, anti-kyriarchy parenting4.

But it’s also about surviving parenting. And parenting as someone with a mood disorder/mental illness/crazy bipolar brain. And attempting — often poorly — to parent in a way consistent with the radical notion that children are people; this is sometimes called attachment parenting, or joyful parenting, or connected parenting: I call it the rational extension of my commitment to social justice into this adventure called parenting.

(As often as not, it’s about critiquing the ways my fellow adventurers go about advocating and discussing this style of parenting, because what’s the point in treating our children like people if we’re teaching them to treat their fellow humans like things?)

Often, it’s about bodies. My body, fat bodies, menstruating bodies, pregnant bodies, women’s bodies (cis and trans), bodies of color, bodies less valued by society, bodies with challenges, attractions toward bodies, loving our bodies, massaging bodies, and the amazing, breathtaking beauty of all bodies.

It’s about intersectionality.

And, occasionally, it’s about Doctor Who.5

(Regulars: Did I get it all?6 Feel free to fill in the blanks in the comments.)

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And now, two notes:

1) If you have a disability, chronic illness, or sensory impairment, and have or plan to have (or because of this have decided not to have) children, please contribute to the AP Our Way project. Its goal is to give voice to parents with disabilities, particularly in relation to practices considered part of “attachment parenting” (whether or not you identify with the term). But in order to do that, I need your voices. Your writings and poems and drawings and thoughts and pictures. So send them to me. Be part of something amazing.

2) If you’ve a business you might like to advertise on RMB, now would be an excellent time to send me an email. Reasonable prices and discounts for small, single owner-operator businesses. I’m extremely picky about who I’ll partner with, but the upside to that is my readers tend to actually pay attention to and trust the few advertisements I have.

And that’s it!7

  1. And if you can put up with the truly ridiculous number of unnecessary footnotes.
  2. New readers: I’m taking pity on your virgin eyes. There’s rather a bloody lot more swearing around here normally.
  3. Never Read the Comments. Except here. Then always read the comments.
  4. Kyriarchy. One of my favorite words. Learn it, love it, use it.
  5. Because.
  6. If not, it’s probably because I had three hours’ sleep last night, and I’m not entirely sure of my own name at the moment.
  7. This is likely to be one of the shortest posts you’ll ever see. I don’t blog by the rules.

Fat and pregnant: 30 weeks

Since it’s been a while, allow me to present a selection of pictures in payment for your patience.

27 weeks, in the same position as the baseline:

Yup, everything's growing

29 weeks, taking video of the three most adorable vow-renewal attendants you could imagine (I haven’t gotten permission from the parents of two of the three to share any of the pics of them, so you’ll have to trust me):

And two days ago, at 30 weeks (little did I know when I bought this dress it would make such a fabulous maternity top):

(You can tell which picture me and my dinky camera phone did NOT take, aye?)

And now, a wordy tangent:

All the clothed pictures you’ll see of me from here on out (until the Fetus decides to come out, at least) are likely to be either in a dress or wearing a dress-as-top, for the simple and pragmatic reason that that’s all I have that fits. It’s a strange feeling, to dress so femme, not on the occasional whim, when the mood strikes, but every single day, because there aren’t any other choices that cover these gawdawful belly panels.

And it’s all the stranger because I’ve long had a complicated and difficult relationship with femininity. Internalized misogyny thanks to a second-wave era upbringing, the micro-culture of my nonconformist family, having my body take on a woman’s shape before I was ready to let go of a child’s life, a lifetime surrounded by fat shame and fat hate, including in my own family, and a deeply hurting psyche that said (and, as we’ll see, says) I’m not good enough, worthy enough, beautiful enough for beautiful things: these all contributed to a discomfort with anything “feminine” and especially with any desire of mine for femininity, for “girly”, for pretty, for nice. Wanting these things is a sign of weakness, these factors conspire to inform me, a deviance, an acquiescence to colonization by patriarchy.

It pains me to write these words, and know that some part of me still — always? — believes them to be true, for all I can see their falseness.

It’s getting better. I can buy make up now without wanting to hide it (though I will never want to wear it more than twice a year). I can ask for recommendations for and schedule an appointment with a hair stylist (though I will never buy Product, for a variety of reasons not least of which is I can’t be arsed). I can shop for and say I want a gorgeous, versatile dress (though I will always pull jeans on by default).

But when the dress shows up wrong: I can’t stop from hating myself for how much it bothers me. I can’t admit how much I care. Because it’s wrong. It’s weak. It’s shameful. It’s just a silly dress, and I shouldn’t be bothering with them anyway, it’s all foppery and femininity and I’m too good and I’m too ugly for such frilly finery.

It’s just a dress, and if I care, then I’m just a girl.

My brain is not always a stable or comfortable place to be. (But then, whose is?)

I care. And there’s a girl inside of me, who hated pink but wanted to sometimes, just sometimes, love it too, who hurts like hell when she’s finally allowed something pretty and it all goes pear shaped, because perhaps she’s allowed an indulgence, but only if it’s clear that it doesn’t matter, that it’s a silly pastime, a self-aware amusement and nothing more. But she’s not allowed to care.

It’s that message, from my own mind, that hurts more than anything. And the tears that flow from that only fuel the disdain.

The whole situation is more than a little ridiculous.

But it’s also entirely serious.

The dress in question, by the way, is the one in the second picture above. I’ve been assured it looked lovely, and it went well enough on the day that I didn’t devolve into a panicky puddle (it helped that my mantra was It’s Not My Day), but it didn’t show up the way it was supposed to. And I wasn’t supposed to care.  But, of course, I did.

It would be easy to laugh it off and blame pregnancy hormones, and certainly that’s a culturally accepted out. But although they complicate it, exaggerate it, I cannot lie and say they created this too-much-caring, this contempt-of-caring.

For if nothing else, it’s not unique to me. If you listened to the Think Out Loud radio show I participated in1, you heard much confusion between gender-neutral parenting and anti-femininity parenting, where the point was not so much to offer our children options but to erase any leanings toward the girly.

The activist in me sighed to hear it, but the girly-girl, the long-denied dress-wearer, cried.

  1. And if anyone knows where to find or has made a transcript of it, please let me know!

Naked Pictures of Faceless People: Taking the long way home

Welcome to RMB’s Naked Pictures of Faceless People, a series of guest posts from diverse anonymous writers. (Read more about NPFP’s origins.) These are the posts that are jumping to get out of us, but for whatever reason — safety, embarrassment, conflict of interest, protection of loved ones’ reputations or feelings, or so on — we don’t or won’t or can’t post at our own blogs. Anyone is welcome to submit or discuss a potential post by emailing me at arwyn at raisingmyboychick dot com.

Trigger Warning: There is a trigger warning on this post for explicit descriptions of sexual and emotional abuse of a minor.

Taking the long way home

Therapy is a deep well from which to dip replenishment. But, sometimes there are things unseen beneath the deepest waters. I began having nightmares after a session where I was trying to figure out why when things are at their most difficult, I turn away from what heals me and run headlong into the suffering. The nightmares were about a bright light shining in my eyes while dozens of large black spiders with long segmented legs pried my jaws apart. Then I started having the dreams flash on me while I was awake. Then memories began flashing.

Being the only child of a single, narcissistic parent, I’m pretty good at keying in to other people. I’ve been told that when I focus on someone in a conversation, they feel like they’re the center of the universe and that I really care about what they’re saying. And it’s true. I do find people and their passions fascinating. As a child, it was a coping mechanism in dealing with the only adult I had to rely on however inconsistently that love was returned. It was a constant shift between intensity and abject neglect both physically and emotionally. I was a latchkey kid from the time I was six years old. My afternoons were mine to do with as I pleased. There was usually an empty fridge at home, but we had plenty of neighbors. Any mention to my mother about feeling hungry were ignored or brushed aside. Actually any feelings that were not of interest to her vision of reality were pushed away or belittled.

I remember my mother telling me when I was ten that my grandfather died. Papa, as I called him, was the father figure in my life. I began crying and my mom moved over to hug me, as she began sobbing over how horrible it was for her that her father was dead. She needed comfort from me and I gave all I could until she was done, at which point she decided it was time to buck up and put on a brave face.

Shortly after this, my mother decided this brave face was going to need braces. My fairly straight teeth needed to be straighter, I suppose. Up until this therapy appointment I mentioned in the beginning, I’ve had zero memory of having braces or anything about going to the orthodontist. I knew I had braces because there were photos, but I have no connection to that girl in those pictures. I chalked it up as more of the hazy blur that most of my life is to me. But, for some reason the memory came up that she chose an orthodontist who was a few miles away so I would be able to ride my bike to appointments.

Those dreams were haunting my waking hours and memories were coming back in disjointed sensory snapshots. Bright light. Heavy breathing. Painful fingers pulling and pushing at my lips and jaws. Then it was back, like a key slipping into the right lock. My orthodontist enjoyed causing me pain. He told me how much he liked pulling on my lips and pushing against my gums. I understood that I should give an adult what they needed. I think I was 11 the first time he put his flaccid penis in my mouth. I told my mother but she didn’t believe me. It didn’t fit in with her image of who a daughter of hers should be. So, I never talked about it again.

I think I was twelve when he began putting his hands and dental tools inside my vagina. He liked to make me sore. He liked to crush my labia between his fingers. He like knowing he could push on my vulva and I would feel sore the next day. He liked to make my braces extra tight, so that my mouth would be sore longer.

I looked forward to my regular adjustments. I began equating suffering with being real. The rest of my life I wasn’t real. I was an adjunct to someone else’s whim.

I would to take the long way home over the gravel road on my bike from these appointments to keep the soreness that little bit longer.

When I was fourteen, I took an entire bottle of aspirin and went to bed. But, I couldn’t sleep because I was worried it wasn’t enough to kill me. So, I told my mother. I remember the drive to the hospital where she told me how furious she was at me for scaring her so badly and that I was a spoiled brat who would do anything for attention. I remember her disgust with me when I was induced to vomit at the hospital. I remember telling the hospital therapist, “I wasn’t trying to kill myself. I was looking for attention,” as my mother looked on.

I was sixteen when we moved and my mother took me to a new orthodontist. He was angry with how crooked my teeth had become due to the poor work on my braces. He recommended having them removed entirely and starting over again. I passively agreed. He removed them and I never returned to get them replaced.

I have not told anyone who knows me about this yet. Sharing this with my partner will be another burden he’ll willingly bear. That is the type of person he is. He is carrying so many of his family’s burdens right now that I’m not ready to add another of mine to his load. Sharing this with my therapist will change things and I’m not ready for that yet. I’d like to keep this in my well just a little while longer. Knowing that others will read it will help me feel real. It will give me time to heal some of the soreness.

My teeth are still crooked and I’m embarrassed by them. But, I know that their crookedness doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with me. And now I know why I turn away from the things that heal me when times are at their most difficult. It’s because I still take the long way home over the gravel road.

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Taking the long way home

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