Wednesday, July 24, 2013

7.24.13 Butch/Femme Misconceptions

There is SO much misinformation on the Wikipedia page for "butch and femme." It is very frustrating. I mean, obviously on one hand Wikipedia is NEVER the most reliable source of information, but there are a lot of people who consult Wikipedia for explanations to things.

If you want to know what "butch and femme" actually means, try asking some lesbians : in particular butches and femmes. Ask *actual* butches and femmes if butches are "masculine and tough" and femmes are "feminine and passive." 

The answer you will get from ME is that "masculinity" and "femininity" are constructs that can (and should be) dismantled. To me, femininity describes anything a female does and masculinity is anything a male does. The problem is when we ascribe certain traits and outward presentations as masculine or feminine. Cultural differences vary WIDELY on this. 

Also, don't you think that there are passive butches and tough femmes? 

The bottom line is that both butch and femme are females. Neither one is trying to "be the man" in the relationship - both are women in the relationship. To think otherwise is to adopt a *highly* androcentric view of lesbian sexuality and romantic attraction. 

Are butches and femmes playing an outdated role that mimics heterosexuality? NO. Butch and femme are strictly *lesbian* concepts. Butch and femme are two sides of the same coin - historically butches and femmes presented as such in order to find a partner. Butches stood out from other women and femmes were their partners. Femmes initiated with the butches (so, how on earth are femmes passive)? If you weren't one or the other you often weren't let into gay bars for fear that you'd cause trouble. 

Femmes are just as feisty, just as powerful, just as independent as butches. Butches are just as nurturing, just as considerate, just as tender as femmes. 

So, for the love of Artemis, please stop conflating butches with men and the butch/femme dyad as mimicking heterosexuality. These concepts are WORLDS apart. Thank you.

This is just my understanding of this. If I am wrong, don't hesitate to correct me. Also, if you have your own stories of butch/femme misconceptions you have encountered, feel free to share them below! 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Guest Post: tw: self injury, sexual abuse

This is a guest post and is not Heath Atom Russell's story, nor Heath's personal opinions: 

I come from a background of sexual abuse and objectification. My father made it well known that he prefers his women "stacked". I ignored his comments about other women, and about my older, adopted sister being flatter than a wall, but eventually puberty and mother nature caught up with me. Both my mother and grandmother were DD+ and by middle school I was there as well,  I wore baggy shirts and refused to wear a bra despite my mother's efforts.

Unfortunately this only attracted my father's attentions more. The abuse got worse, so I did everything I could to make myself unattractive to my father.  He didn't like blondes, so I sun bleached my hair, he didn't like women with short hair, so I cut mine off, didn't like tan women, so I stayed out all summer and tanned. It was a constant back and forth of me trying to become unappealing to avoid sexual abuse.
Eventually this battle lead to me getting an eating disorder, binge eating made me feel happy temporally as I became fat, the only thing that seemed to keep my father off of me. His disgust at obesity in women, despite his own weight problems, was the only thing that kept his pedophilic tendencies at bay. This was the beginning of my own weight struggle. I yo-yo'ed my size from a 10 to a 24. I would balloon, then the abuse would stop, and I would feel safe, then I would drop down, get touched and go back up. Eventually my weight became my safety net away from harm, and I stopped dropping down and I plateaued the summer before my senior year of high school. 
I won't forget the day my self-harm began, I was in a tank top and leaned down to pick up an ice-chest and my father stared down my shirt. I immediately set it down and went back inside to talk to my mother. She had know for years about my abuse, but her reaction is a long story for a different day, she told me that I should just take the compliment.  

That night isolated and locked in my room, filled with fear I took my abuse out on myself. It wasn't "me" that was to blame for my abuse but my body, specifically my breasts. I ended up taking scissors and cutting off a 1 inch circle on my breast.  I didn't have a desire to take them off, but I wanted them disfigured in hopes that I would be spared from my father's gaze. To be spared from all mens gazes, because despite my age and size, I was still, and still do get harassed by men because of my breasts. 
The first wound lead to a second and a third and then on the other breast. I picked and peeled and prevented my wounds from healing. I hid my bloody bras from my mother until one day while visiting my dying grandmother she noticed blood soaking my shirt from one of the wounds and took my to the bathroom to see what was going on. 

I told her it was a pimple and that the others were scratches. She had me immediately looked at by a doctor, who checked me into the hospital because angry red lines on my breasts indicated that I had blood poisoning as well as a flesh eating virus making things worse.  I ended up missing more days of school that year from that than the death of my grandmother. 

After many months of bandaging and wound care the holes closed, leaving me scarred. My father could no longer look at me. So in my mind I had succeeded, I later found out it was less to do with my injuries, and more that he was preying on my younger sister.  
The only good that came from it was that she finally had the courage to do what me and my older sister hadn't, and reported him. the result of that was that did not register as an offender, but is still on probation. 

During my self injury and abuse, I never once thought that I must be a boy because of how disassociated I felt from my breasts. Truthfully I only knew that MTF's existed and was only exposed through Doctor Phil and the like. If I had known about FTM's, I would have bought the trans narrative.  To this day, I have very little feeling in my breasts and have trouble identifying that they belong to me. If I had known that I could change my fate and identify my way out of the whole situation I would have jumped at that chance, I would have bought the trans narrative hook, line and sinker.

I have sat and heard several girls in a space agreeing that they would rather have cancer and get their breasts removed because of how uncomfortable they felt with them and the attention they received; None of them were even comfortable enough to say they prefered female pronouns, and all of them were queer, because "being a lesbian is exclusive". This is a too common narrative: young women willing self-harm in order to accommodate themselves into a world that objectifies them. 

This is completely understandable when you look at how young women are portrayed in western media. All you need to do is change this, and do that and buy this item and you can maybe live up the the expectations that as a women you are told you need to achieve.  People have lashed out at Nymeses for speaking, and for trying to save girls from transition. But when I look at my own background I see stories similar to my own in trans message boards, I hear it in groups like the one I described. 

With everything that is forced upon young women how can we expect them to be comfortable in their own skins?

Monday, July 22, 2013

7.22.13 How to Help a Friend who is Considering Transition (Part 2 of 3)

Last week, I wrote an entry titled "How to Help a Friend who is Gender non-conforming."  This is a continuation of the topic, but a little further down the rabbit hole.

So, let's use the same Brittneigh from Part 1.  She now goes exclusively by male pronouns. Her new clique of friends have either transitioned, are seriously considering transitioning, or are genderqueer.  She's been visiting online trans message boards, has started a youtube channel to document her transition, and her entire demeanor is different.  She wears "guy clothes," has mostly "guy interests" completely hates her body, and doesn't associate with the genderqueer label anymore, owing to her desire to make a "permanent" shift to male.

As her friend, you've tried calling out sexism to her.  You've assured her that you'll be there for her and support her.  You haven't used her as a walking encyclopedia of trans concepts.  You've asked her prodding questions and she is still steadfast in wanting to continue forward with transitioning despite serious risks to her health and safety. You've tried sending her feminist literature, music, and documentaries.  No matter what you've tried, she finds it all a universe away from her because she claims that she just simply "isn't like those other girls."  She's not a lesbian, definitely not a BUTCH lesbian (oh, the absolute HORROR), she's a MAN.  Not a "girl" a MAN.

What is there to do? Anything at this point?

I hate to be the one to break this news to you, but usually if someone is this far down the road in the midst of a combination of factors leading up to this point, there isn't too much you CAN do from a radical feminist perspective.

To be honest, if a person is stubborn enough to want to do this to themselves, they are going to do it with or without your words of caution.  I've seen radfems caution trans people and I've seen trans people caution trans people.  If a person has their mind made up, there isn't much of a chance.

There are a few things you can still do at this point, though.

1. DO remind your friend that the dangers of transitioning are VERY real even though the medical industry tries their hardest to cover things up.  Transition can and sometimes does go terribly wrong.  Trans people often look the other way or they consider botched surgeries an anomaly that has a slim chance of happening to anyone else.  Remind your friend that there are risks associated with any type of cosmetic or invasive surgeries, and transitioning is not exempt from mistakes.

2.  DO ask your friend if they have directly spoken with anyone who HAS de-transitioned if not for any other reason than for knowing alternative perspectives.  At some point in the future, I will have a list of blogs of detransitioners available for people to direct their friends towards. This step is imperative to your friend being able to make a TRULY informed decision, so as to avoid lectures beginning with "YOU MADE A MISTAKE. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY."  It is important that ANYONE considering transition be able to hear the voices of people who ALSO genuinely thought they were the opposite sex and then had regret after transition.  The more perspectives your friend hears, the better off they will be.  Sometimes you just gotta hear the horror stories and the failed stories in order to realize that this isn't a cure-all zero-sum game.  It's not a game at all.  It's a life-changing decision - for better, but MORE likely for worse.

3.  DON'T be too pushy.  This one is HUGE.  They do not want, nor think they require your advice or help.  They will trust medical professionals, phamaceuticals, the porn industry, and their equally confused peers over the advice of you any day.  Which is sad, but as radical feminists, you should be used to this by now.  Don't come off too strongly or come off as judgemental because this will ultimately push your friend away and make her feel more isolated, alone, and depressed, which will just push her further towards transitioning and towards her new friends.

4. DO check-in with your friend as much as possible about other things in her life.  One of the factors that trans people often cite for needing to transition is suicidality.  They will often say "if I don't get treatment, I will kill myself."  Often, when a person is suicidal, it's not just one thing they feel suicidal over - it is often a combination of factors stacked up to that person's breaking point.  If your friend expresses suicidal thoughts, get them in contact with a national suicide hotline or The Trevor Project if you suspect they are being bullied.  Show your support for their emotional well-being without necessarily encouraging transition.  Ask her why she feels suicide or treatment are the only options she has.  Ask her what alternatives she has considered BESIDES suicide or transition. Have her focus on those things.  Remind her of things that are important to her (family if she still has good standing with them, friends, pets, hobbies, her job if she likes it, just ANYTHING that can keep her going and thinking about things besides transition).  Take direct threats of suicide very seriously and seek emergency help when appropriate.

5.  DO help her: If your friend engages in any other types of risky behaviors, including but not limited to drugs/alcohol, unprotected sex, eating disorders, spending sprees, self-harm/self mutilation, other types of addictions, etc, try to assist her in getting help for these external issues.

6.  DO really open up to your friend.  This might mean getting deeply personal about your own issues. If you feel discomfort about your female body, SAY SO.  Tell your friend how you try to work through it yourself (or if you haven't been able to yet).  If you don't like being touched sexually, and you're comfortable discussing this with your friend, tell her so.  A lot of people who transition have "top and/or bottom dysphoria" and one of the results of dysphoria means they often shut down during sex or don't want to be touched.  A history of sexual and/or physical abuse might be present.  Talk these things out with your friend.  Transitioning doesn't necessarily help the trauma magically disappear - in the case of FTMs it just raises the libido, which can make dissociation easier.  Basically, get personal with your friend.  Find out what stuff is going on that's leading to this decision.

7.  DO take good self-care.  Your friend might become deeply misogynistic in her attitude and opinions.  She might distance herself from feminism if she was ever really attached to feminism at all.  One of the things I did during my transition was I realized that my "passing ability" wasn't so much related to my physical features - my passing ability SKYROCKETED when I became a misogynistic ass.  During my transition if I so much as MENTIONED feminism in a conversation with a man, I got second-guessed, I got suspicious looks, I got misogynistic questions thrown at me "are you a faggot? are you a woman? why do you care about feminism so much?" In short, your friend might or might not become totally different than anything you've known about her.  Remember to be good to YOURSELF because you're dealing with all of this too, and no, it is NOT "cis privilege" to acknowledge YOUR feelings about how your friend's transition affects YOU.  This is just called thinking critically!

8. DO remind your friend that you'll be there for her and stick by your word.  I mean it.  One of my biggest fears before I de-transitioned was whether the world was going to accept me again once I stopped.  People often get told there is no going back with transition, and physically speaking depending on what steps the transitioner has taken, this is correct.  However, in my case being candid and open to dialogue helped.  I had NO troubles getting back to feminism and the lesbian community.  THEY did not view me as a traitor (as I was told would happen to detransitioners), TRANS people viewed me as a traitor.  Apparently there is no room for mistakes or forgiveness or even feminism in trans circles, but there are ALL of these things in feminism!

Part 3: "How to Help a Friend who is Considering DE-transition" will be up later this week.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

7.18.13 Chaz Bono's Shirtless Photo Is All The Evidence We Need Of His Incredible Weight Loss

Even as a "man" Chaz Bono STILL cannot escape the typical patriarchal female treatment in the media of weight loss. And I will keep saying this until I am blue in the face, but WHEN WILL WOMYN BE ALLOWED TO HAVE THE FREEDOM TO GO TOPLESS? Maybe when men stop being so rapey???? Why must *transition* be the only way a born-female can do this?

Further, even IF womyn COULD be topless and not have to worry about being gawked at and taken advantage of all the time, can you IMAGINE the bullshit a womon would be going through if she was Chaz' current size and topless? Can you imagine if a female celebrity wasn't even topless, but simply in a bikini being Chaz' size? I know EXACTLY what would happen! They'd have crappy paparazzi photos in the tabloids and a bunch of people at grocery checkout lines would say things like "what a fat cow" "ew she needs to cover that shit up" "I'd tap that" "I'd NEVER tap that" "Jenny Craig, bitch" and ON AND ON.

Trans* culture is full of the same patriarchal gender binarist junk that radical feminism seeks to TEAR DOWN. This is one of many reasons I left the cult.

7.17.13 lesbians are sexist

I guess, apparently lesbians are sexist. I came to this conclusion because the minute I say something like "men: stop making violent messes everywhere so that lesbians don't have to keep cleaning up after you" I am deemed a sexist.

It's the TRUTH though. A man does something violent and women (overwhelmingly lesbians) are there to clean up the mess by comforting the survivors and helping them heal. Men destroy nature with their corporations and environmental movements headed largely by women have to conserve nature and establish boundaries on behalf of nature. 

Lesbianism isn't JUST about preferring female genitals to male genitals. Often it is about preferring the company and culture of WOMEN to the company and culture of MEN. 

Men say they wouldn't want us anyway. 

The truth is we don't really want them. Especially not with that attitude. Especially not within a patriarchy.

Some men see this as reverse-sexist. Why? Because it is a direct threat TO the patriarchy. 

I might be prejudiced against men. I might be biased in favor of women instead of men. This does NOT mean I am sexist against men. Sexism is prejudice + power no matter what anyone else says. I do not believe in reverse sexism any more than I believe in reverse racism, reverse ageism, reverse classism etc. If you really think poor people can be reverse classist against the rich, or people of color have the institutional power to be reverse racist against white people, or that children can be reverse ageist against adults, I feel VERY sorry for you and the ideological world that you live in. A world that I'm guessing involves this: "poor me, I am a hetero white dude and people of marginalized groups say mean things about me therefore they are sexist/racist/etc."

If you're part of a marginalized group, and women ARE marginalized despite the fact that we are half the population, you have every right to be "ist" toward your oppressors. Whether those oppressors are men, hetero, white, abled, etc.

You have a right to your prejudices.

Hell, our prejudices might be the only way we ever end up accomplishing anything because we end up questioning the status quo at every possible turn.

So, keep being a metaphorical thorn in men's sides, women. Keep doing this until they back down or they prove us right by reacting violently against us.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

7.13.13 How to Help a Friend who is Gender Non-Conforming

I get lots of questions these days, and lately the questions I've been getting revolve around people wondering how they can help friends of theirs who are gender non-conforming from a radical feminist perspective. People want to know if there were things my friends and family could have said to me that would have dissuaded me.

Truth is that I have no easy and clear cut answer for all of this.  When you hate your body that much (especially your breasts and vagina for women, penis and adams apple for men), it's hard to listen to people try to talk you out of anything.  Compound that with the messages we get from micro and macro societies, pop culture/mass media, the workforce, religion, etc and you are bound to think there is no way out.  When the only successful women you see are women who incessantly pander to men, and strong, outspoken women get punished and silenced, you're going to think your only option left is to be a man instead.

I have decided it would be best for me to compose an advice/how-to guide, and this will be the first part in a three part series.  Part 2 "How to Help a Friend who is Considering Transition" and Part 3 "How to Help a Friend who is Considering De-Transitioning" will be coming later.  In the mean time, let's focus on how to help who I like to consider the "YouTuber" crowd, the "Tumblr crowd," and the general "snowflake crowd."

If you came onto this post wondering how to make someone conform to rigid gender roles assigned to their birth sex, this is not the place to be looking and I think you would be better off elsewhere.  I would suggest possibly mainstream media sources and queer theory will be more suitable for helping your friend conform to gender roles.

However, if you came here hoping to be able to help a friend who is starting to call his or herself genderqueer, zie/zhir/ etc and you're worried they might start down the path of transition only to later regret it then you've come to the right spot.

So, let's get started, eh?

Say you have a friend who was born a female.  Her birth name is Brittney because her parents figured they couldn't name her something like Johnathan for some strange reason relating to patriarchy.  Over the course of a few years, you notice some things about your friend.  She's cut her hair short (Justin Bieber surfer style length or shorter even).  She keeps going on and on about how awesome men are and how she aspires to be like men but she still likes wearing bras and makeup on occasion.  She wants to get into more "dudely activities" because she considers herself a dude, sometimes.  She's decided to let people know that the proper spelling of her name is "Brittneigh" because it's more gender-neutral that way.  She expresses how much she hates her breasts and might even in passing mention something vague about having "bottom dysphoria" too, but for the most part she just really doesn't like her breasts.  She starts using misogynist language and openly supports porn culture.

What's a concerned friend to do without scaring her away from feminism?

1.  DO be sensitive, first of all.  My own personal small first taste of radical feminism left me feeling as though radical feminists didn't give a shit about abuse survivors who suffered at the hands of women.  If they say that a woman verbally, physically, mentally, sexually abused them etc, TAKE THEM SERIOUSLY.  Do NOT be dismissive and BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU SAY.  One of my professors told me the reason women abuse their children has to do with feeling the strain of patriarchy.  I wasn't buying it, and it just drove me away from feminism for quite a fucking while. After all, you probably don't know the reasons why Brittneigh hates her breasts and vagina.  Never make assumptions about why people feel the dysphoria that they feel about their bodies.  In this regard, I would make sure that you tell your friend that you're available to listen to them any time if they want to talk about body issues.  It wouldn't hurt for you to open up to THEM too.  Be a mentor.  Remind young women like Brittneigh that they aren't the only women who feel dysphoria about their breasts and vaginas.  Millions of women hate their bodies.  It's what we're taught to do.  What we know as "butch" lesbians CONSISTENTLY feel butch shame and body shame.  Butch women often feel anxiety and stress over their periods, their breasts, etc.

2.  DO remind your friend in a gentle way that women are FAR more alike than we are different! In the same vein as the "NAMALT (not all men are like that)" argument, there is a flipside.  I call it "INLTOG (I'm Not Like Those Other Girls)."  Women, under patriarchy, often share some pretty basic nearly-universal experiences.  Our capacity to get raped and impregnated by some entitled man is one of them.  Hating our bodies is one of the other nearly universal female experiences. We often see people like Brittney who have an underlying alienating attitude of "MY own personal dysphoria is oh-so-different than all those OTHER girls.  I'm not like them. I'm a boy! I'm genderqueer! You just don't understand what it FEELS like!"  Remind friends that you have (like Brittneigh) that you've felt similarly but that doesn't make either one of you trans or genderqueer.  It makes you women who live your lives out in a way that doesn't reinforce gender.

3.  DO ask your friend questions.  Get to the bottom of this.  Short of having a PhD in psychology, there isn't much else you can do here, but try to ask really basic questions that stump them.  Ask them repeatedly to explain to you what "being or feeling like a boy" TRULY means without them having to resort to either 1. gender stereotypes 2. body-hating or 3. brain sex theory.  If they keep resorting to any of those three arguments, keep saying that you "don't get it" and ask them to elaborate or explain in a different way.  Sometimes this gets people thinking about the absurdity of identity politics.

4.  In the same vein as number 3, DO make it a point to openly call out misogyny and sexism when you're around your friend.  Make it obvious.  Let them know you won't tolerate it when even your FRIEND starts using sexist slurs around you.  Make it a point to lead by example.  Show them examples of women who defied gender norms and are still women, even if they still (into later adulthood) struggle with their self-image.  Patriarchy fucks us all up, yo.

5.  DO really really press those female role models!  I know it's hard to find them in the mainstream media, but if you keep calling out misogyny, sexism, and lesbophobia this is all a VERY good start!  Send your friend documentaries that are feminist.  Keep showing them things that were written and/or created by and for women.

6. DON'T have gender be the only thing you talk with your friend about.  This gets old and I used to be able to pick up on it immediately.  Trust me, it'll make your friend think that you see her as a one-dimensional person when I'm SURE she has other interests in life.  Help her focus on those interests.

7.  DON'T use her as a walking and talking encyclopedia of trans stuff.  Educate yourself.  You have the whole internet before you.  Use google liberally.  One of my biggest peeves during my transition was people asking me all about the sex change process.  DONT DO IT.  Google, google, google!  Your friend will NOT take your advice seriously if you seem uninformed on this stuff. Remember that not all genderqueer people choose to medically transition.  Don't make assumptions.  When in doubt, go back to point number 3.

8.  DON'T be patronizing.  DON'T use slurs like "tranny."  DON'T tell them this is just a phase (even if it is).  Remember, you are here to HELP your friend understand that it is absolutely OK to be a gender non-conforming woman, a tomgirl, whatever! Your goal is NOT to come across like the biggest bully on the planet.  Always remember your goal.

9. DON'T think that you can save everyone.  You can't.  But you can try.  Just remember that ultimately some people will be pigheaded enough to go through with transitioning thinking it will help make their suicidality and body hatred go away.  Sometimes you just have to let people make their own mistakes.  Go back to point number 3 again by asking questions like "are you aware hormone treatment has been linked to various cancers? Are you financially prepared in case a physical emergency happens and you need a hysterectomy? What about surgical mishaps or things that don't heal well?" Etc.

10.  DO present them with examples and stories of people who have actually experienced a lot of these things first hand.  Don't be afraid to refer people to me.

11. DO remind your friend that if she ever decides that identity politics isn't right for her, that she'll always be welcomed back to Sisterhood and feminism.  Not being welcomed back was actually a legitimate fear of mine, and I am so relieved to have been able to form friendships with women all over the world who care about me and support me.

12. On that note, DO remind your friend that YOU care about her and support her, but that you just want her to be safe, happy, and be able to make a positive difference in the lives of women and girls.

Part 2 coming soon.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

7.11.13 Trans "women" and Mansplaining

One of the things I repeatedly encounter with trans "women" is that they have a tendency to mansplain quite often.  They toss around such basic concepts as patriarchy but often don't even mention issues that affect females.  They often don't do shit for abortion rights because a lot of them would love nothing more than to give birth to their own children.  They don't give a shit about how costly it is to have a monthly period because they have "menstrual cycles too."

I really wish I was making this shit up.  But, you see, unlike trans proponents, I am hugely uncomfortable making shit up as it entails complete dishonesty.

So yes, patriarchy gets mentioned a lot by trans "women" as being a problem.  Sexual assault gets mentioned too, but these two topics are only mentioned within the capacity that they affect trans "women" the worst.  Therefore trans "women" should be ultimately prioritized above the needs of actual females.

I have mentioned before in another post that radical feminists realize intersectionality because anything that men deems as inferior IS inferior within patriarchy.  So, if groups of men fight hard enough against other men, then men of color, men with disabilities, gay men, and "feminine" appearing men (and trans "women") will be treated as lesser-than within their male-created systems of oppression.  Men constantly fight over their turfs and their "right" to further oppress everyone else who isn't white, abled, gender conforming, christian, heterosexual, and wealthy.

But the fact of the matter is that men will always trump women, no matter their standing in life. This is why we see men with disabilities buying prostitutes because they think they are entitled to sex.  This is why we see men of color (finally) getting more representation in positions of power, but hardly any women at all.  This is why we see that the push for gay rights is largely based around gay males because they were angry at being treated as "women."

What bothers me is when trans women consistently attempt to explain concepts to me that I am already well aware of and think I'm just some ditzy bimbo who doesn't understand how this all feeds into itself.  But if you strip away racism, classism, heterosexism, phobia of gender nonconformity, etc, you find one single common denominator in patriarchy.



Born males.

And their needs will always trump the needs of actual honest born females.

It's a man's world.  Even if that man is a "woman."

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

7.10.13 Dress

Just a small PSA of the night:
Clothes have no gender. There is no such thing as boys clothes or girls clothes. There are just simply clothes, and who chooses to wear said clothes. If a woman wants to cut her hair short like a crew cut and don overalls and shoot pool and drink beer and belch loudly, she can.
If a man wants to wear dresses and makeup and shave himself and stuff his bra, he’s more than welcome to.
I don't give a shit.
And neither should you.
The former situation doesn't make a female a male.
The latter situation does not make a male a female.
The end.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

7.9.13 Biases

When I was in my last semester at Humboldt State University (a good school for natural sciences, not-so-good at social justice issues), I noticed a rather disturbing program designed by the folks at the Sociology department.

They called it the "Bias Response Team."

Apparently, the goal of this project was to collect data regarding instances of "bias" at the university, and in the local community.  Seems a benign enough concept at first glance, helpful even, and as a social researcher, I can definitely get behind the need to collect data (I am a data fiend).  However, scratching below the surface revealed something more questionable and arguably sinister.

Just a heads up.  George Orwell's "1984" was supposed to be a cautionary tale, not a how-to guide.

The Bias Response Team launched a website where people could report instance of bias they observed.  Reporters had the option to submit completely anonymously.  They were also given the option to have someone of the Bias Response Team address the infractor directly (or have direct action taken on them), or to just use the report as part of the data collection.  In addition to their website, they also had business card sized handouts in various locations at the campus, which contained the website where people could report incidents of bias.

I admit I only used the program once.  I reported one of my sociology professors for using ableist language twice during the same class lecture.

I figured, hey, if you're going to devise this type of thought-policing program, you might as well own up to your own biases and maybe do some sensitivity training.

However, I wonder what types of things people are reporting, here.  No doubt I've made it on the Bias Response Team list as an infractor at this point because I, as an ex-trans person who embraces radical feminism, is now "transphobic" by default for daring to suggest that gender is a hierarchy and needs to be abolished.

This is unreal.  Everybody has biases.  Biases and judgements protect us from dangerous situations.  We pass judgements all the time.  You pass a judgement when you decide not to hire a certain babysitter because they give you the creeps.  You pass a judgement when you decide you want a female-only gynecologist because as a woman, you have the right to be treated by a female.  You pass a judgement when you see someone who is obviously on drugs and appears violent, so you take another route walking home.

We all have biases. And some of them are helpful.

To have a "Bias Response Team" means that meaningful discourse becomes stifled simply because certain things we say might hurt the feelings of others.  When really, college taught me that specifics aren't always the most important thing, as long as you have the overall idea downpat.

And speaking of biases....I want some chocolate.  I am seemingly biased towards chocolate ice cream in particular.  Perhaps this is just my strawberry-phobia.  Someone call the Bias Response Team! My opinion deeply offends ice cream aficionados everywhere.

Monday, July 8, 2013

My first critique

My first critique! How cool is this?

To be completely honest, I've gotten a very similar argument over and over again ever since I decided to de-transition.  Given the content of this comment, I'm going to grasp out into the dark here and assume that a woman or an FtT wrote this to me, as this is the argument I have consistently gotten from FtTs and female-bodied genderbenders.

If I'm wrong, that's okay too.

Needless to say, the (very western - reeking of heavy individualism) argument I keep getting here, which can be summarized as "this was your mistake, your shameful decision, shut up and make me a sandwich and stop trying to generalize" is getting very tired.  It's about as tired as I get after working 60 hour weeks.  And that's saying a lot because I get so tired, I often dream of having naps (while I am asleep!)

You see, the problem here is that this commenter thinks I actually give an honest hoot as to what sexist "brain sex theory" has to say.  You think I am actually going to legitimately buy into the concept that men and women have two separate brains?!  There are people who think we only use 10% of our brains.  I tend to use my whole brain.  I am going to use all 100% of my brain here in saying that to make the claim that men and women have two different brains is entirely, irrevocably sexist.  Say it with me: SEXIST.  Not to mention how the "studies" that demonstrate brain sex theory have limited test subjects (I am a sociologist. Exactly what do you take me for? I know how research works.  You CANNOT generalize such a limited pool to an entire population of people). Additionally, brain sex theory only demonstrates the differences of brains *while on hormones.*  Let me tell you firsthand, hormones are pretty powerful shit.  But hormones do not mean that men's and women's actual BRAINS are inherently different.  To claim that, is to begin bringing us down a very slippery slope (a slippery slope that males, as a privileged class would readily take advantage of).

The difference between gender and brain sex is.....


Because they are both bullshit concepts! Full stop.

But since you seem to be very wise and know more about me in terms of gender being anything other than a patriarchal hierarchy, I suppose you have colored me baffled.  Time to take my shit and go home!

You seem to think that gender is in any way helpful.  Gender has kept women as second-class citizens since the dawn of patriarchy thousands of years ago.  I know that this is difficult for you to chew on.  It was difficult for me to face that reality too.

As for me changing my opinion so drastically...guess what? I had NO idea radical feminism even existed as a body of theory, nor was I even aware that this theory was responsible for second-wave feminism until last year. I figure that the censorship at my university, online, in the media, even within so-called "feminist" circles is no accident.  People don't want others to know that radical feminism is a legitimate theoretical body, because if people did, they'd get pissed off.  They'd stop being consumers of porn, of plastic surgery, of the beauty industry, people would stop spending billions of dollars annually on things that wealthy men say that people somehow "need" in order to have worth.

I would like to implore people reading this blog who do not like the things I have to say:

1. If you keep coming back here, it says more about you questioning yourself than it does about me. Why waste your time on a lesbian feminist space?

2. If you must waste your time (even though there are other activities more worthy of your time, really!) then please, pretty please, come up with some new arguments that I haven't already heard before.  The rape and death/violence threats from MtTs and the "don't air your dirty laundry" from FtTs is getting old and if I keep seeing more of these repetitive arguments, they will be going straight to the trash.

Thank you. Now get back to productivity, women! :)

7.8.13 Sheila Jeffreys

I want to dedicate this next post to academic and author Sheila Jeffreys.

When I first encountered Sheila's work, I was in the midst of my senior project for my Sociology BA.  My project, entitled "Feminist Perspectives of Transsexuals within the Feminist Movement" was focused around a topic I had uncovered during my transsexual activism.  I had noticed feminist bloggers decrying that trans women (or as I call them male-to-trans MtTs), should not have access to female-only spaces.  This piqued my interest as I wondered how feminists would feel about female-to-trans (FtTs) people in women-only spaces.  As I was still a student at the time and new to conducting research, I decided to conduct a limited study, which focused on students (at the time) currently enrolled in Women's Studies courses.  I distributed a 10-question long paper-based survey.  The surveys were returned anonymously to me in an envelope in a unused classroom.  This ensured that participants were guaranteed anonymity.

The survey distribution and analysis of results was only half of my project.  The other half involved an extensive literature review of any prior work written about my topic.

You can imagine that my findings were scarce.  Very scarce.  I was scraping the bottom of barrels.  The only substantial work that contained any relevance to my project was "Unpacking Queer Politics" by Sheila Jeffreys.

This book was my worst enemy at the time.  It really was.  Even as I attempted to remain neutral for the sake of my project, it hardly takes any reading between the lines for the average person to see that when I reviewed her work, I was skeptical of it at best.

During this timeframe, I had been the host of local "Queer and Ally" open mics.  People could use the space to share their poetry, music, artwork, and books they found that were relevant to peoples experiences.

Seething, I attended open mic one week, "Unpacking Queer Politics" in hand and laid out quite a diatribe for the audience, some of whom were transsexuals and were just as angry as I was for having the validity of our identities brought into question.

However, deep inside I remained curious.  I wanted to know if there were other people who had written about this subject.  So, I began asking some of my professors, and one of them pointed me in the direction of a couple more authors.  However, the deadline to my frenzied final semester's project was approaching fast, and I worked with what I had at that point.  I also didn't even know such a thing as "radical feminism" even existed, and in fact my university is brilliant at censorship.

For those who haven't read this book, I do recommend it.  Not only does this book focus on issues regarding transgenderism, but Sheila also tackles BDSM, body modification, and more.

More recently, she is working on a book regarding transition regret and it will be out early next year.  I look forward to reading it when it is released, and if you look closely, you might notice me in there too.

Sheila, if you see this post, thank you so much for the work you've been doing for women and girls, and for people who are trapped in gender fog.

Heath Atom Russell

7.713 A new home

My username might look familiar to some readers.  For the rest of you who are unfamiliar with me, allow me to give you a short rundown of the past few months.

In November 2012, I stopped the process of a nearly 6-year transition I had undergone from female-to-male.  This was not an overnight process as some claim to say it was (mainly people who don't know me).  Rather, I had been questioning this process for a while before my decision to do what people call "de-transition."

In November, I ceased a 2 year long hormone treatment of bi-monthly synthetic testosterone injections.  At that point, I already had a presence on tumblr and up until the point I was rallying around the needs of self-proclaimed "truscum" to hold the opinion that there are "real transseuxals" and then there are "transtrenders."  This group claims that transsexuality is a medical condition.  I still agree that it is, but it is not one that should be in any way "cured" by the methods currently available.  One disturbing thing I did notice with this group of people was the behavior they had towards anyone who "gender-bended" or otherwise did not fit into their narrow definitions of trans.

Indeed, I have done much activism related around transgender and transsexual issues.  I have three times attended the Trans Day of Remembrance and, in fact last November, I hosted the event with my partner.  I am a board member for my local Pride organization.  I am sorry to say that I may have been solely responsible for opening a dialogue encouraging a gender neutral section of my local "Take Back the Night" event (to Andrea Dworkin: I am sorry.)

During my periods of activism, I have interacted and even was friends with many in the community who would consider themselves transsexual, or at the least, "trans*."  Some of these friendships and alliances turned sour during my transition, particularly from MtT (male-to-trans) people.  One even went so far as to physically threaten me over a difference of opinion (something I would later learn is a common occurrence between MtTs and feminists).

It became even rockier after I publicly announced my de-transition on my friend's public access television show.  Local activists who once cheered me on and gleefully encouraged my descent into body hatred, lesbophobia, BDSM, and misogyny were now utterly furious with me with making (in my opinion) the right decision for my body and mind (and since it is my OWN body, I would hope that my so-called "friends" would be supportive).  Luckily, some were supportive of me de-transitioning for health reasons (although some blamed the health issues I experienced on my weight).  What local activists took more issue with was my assertion that gender is a farce meant to keep women subordinate and men in control.  The gender theorists claim that anything not male is lesser-than in the patriarchy, but what they fail to acknowledge is that anything men deem as "feminine" (as constructed by patriarchy) is less-than.  This is NOT the fault of radical feminists.  Radical feminists understand these issues as well.  However, where gender theorists embrace gender as a laundry list of endless "identities" radical feminists suggest that the entire system is flawed and only serves to benefit men; ergo gender as any type of meaningful concept should be scrapped entirely.

I agree with the radical feminists here, obviously.

On the subject of tumblr, however, when I began publicly sharing my television interview, I received a mixed response.  From the "truscum" (FtTs) who mutually followed me, I received a ton of "how dare you! Take responsibility for your own actions and stop generalizing!" backlash.  From the MtTs I received death and rape threats, was told I was a "failed male" because obviously being a man was "too hard" for me, and other such not-nice things that men usually say to women who make intelligent claims.

I began following more radical feminist blogs.  I began reaching out to people who told me their own horror stories about their own transitions (and people who have family members with transition complications).  However, the bullies kept harassing me via tumblr (and they continue to do so).

I still use tumblr, but under a different username for my own peace of mind.  This is my new (permanent) home.  Thank you for stopping by, and I hope you continue to do so!

Heath Atom Russell (not an imposter)! :)