adrienmundi: (Default)
I almost dread my biweekly electrolysis. I'm down to the area around my mouth, and the center of my throat. All of this is incredibly sensitive, though in different ways. The area on my throat hurts less than I'd expect, but triggers something deeply aversive in primordial parts of my brain. I have to actively fight a stomach churning, need-to-get-away response, and remind myself that I've chosen to do this, and for a reason.

The area around my mouth, upper lip in particular, actually hurts more (and this is at a lower voltage), but I bear it much better. Typically after about 15 minutes on my upper lip, slow tears start running from my right eye. I feel bad for my electrolycist when that happens (which is kind of peculiar anyway, but metacognition is kind of my go-to).

I want this to be done. I don't want to have to shave my face again,ever. It's taken years (5-6 years, I think) to get this far,and more money than that about which I'm comfortable thinking. I tend to spiral out into the economics of being trans, and the fucked-upness of the consumer model of the (elective?) medical industry, and then I have to just turn my attention elsewhere because I'm so very tired of the spectres of "normalcy" and "just use of resources".
adrienmundi: (marked)
I realize today that I've done a shit job of introducing myself to the genius loci. There are some constants (wind, the sun, my muse), but I don't speak the local dialects, and I've been lazy and inattentive when it comes to learning them. Some of this has been due to circumstance, some due to personal changes, yet none of that forgives the rudeness of not introducing herself to the local hosts. I need to change this.

Also, I've realized that the fear I had years ago, on a weekend dedicated to psilocybin introduction, there was a nightmare on the eve prior to ingestion/introduction, in which I was aware of scores of suddenly apparent cylinders/stylized mushrooms declaring in increasing unity, "He's here! He's here!" might not have been a portent of some terrifying external presence, but might have been to/about me (what does gender matter to mushroom spirits?). Or, I could be very wrong. Still, I own a mycological debt that has yet to be paid.

My breasts are large enough now that I think they're visible to others if I dress without care. I'm acutely aware of my fear of appearing to be a guy-with-boobs, and all the negative judgment with which such a perception is associated, and I can bemoan how impoverished the interpretive filters of others are, but what am I doing for myself in regard to others? What is it that I want, and is it worth more to not face that and realize it can't be had, or to see it for what it is and try (even if failure is (overwhelmingly) likely)?

Also, look deep within at your envy/jealousy. You may not want what it looks like others want/have, but this keeps coming up enough to suggest (demand) some internal attention. Green may be your color, but envy poisons that which it touches.
adrienmundi: (Default)
This is something I wrote for a local burn newsletter, in an attempt to try and minimize my own feelings of categorical exclusion and also plant some subversive seeds that might make it easier for me to stand up for myself. No idea if it will work, but it's something.

Your Preconceptions Might Be Misleading You:

A Transgendered Perspective on Burns

One of the most impressive and potentially liberating things about burn culture is its intentionality, the desire to create something open, expansive, creative and free. The ten principles lay out a basic framework that can serve as sign posts pointing participants in the direction of this loosely envisioned social space, but engaged participation requires personal commitment and reflection. I'd like to draw your collective attention to an area of concern that may not be immediately obvious, but that fall within the general burn domain of intentionality and inclusion. I'd like to talk to you about transgender issues.

First some basic concepts. Sex is rooted in bodies, and is usually assigned at birth and unchanged through life (think “It's a girl/it's a boy!” announcements). Gender is rooted in one's sense of self, how one relates to the self, sex, others and culture. For a lot of people, sex and gender line up in culturally proscribed ways such that the links between them can appear seamless or even invisible. (It's worth noting that one can be culturally congruent in regards to one's assigned sex and gendered sense of self while still taking issue with some of the more rigid pronouncements about behavior and manifestation. Someone can be an aggressive female tomboy or a sensitive domestically inclined male artist and not question one's sense of self as a woman or man.) For other people, that's not necessarily the case.

Some people are familiar with the concept of transsexualism, but it's still probably a good idea to go over some basic concepts. Transsexuals are people who don't necessarily take issue with the idea that people are either men or women, but do take issue with the positions they were assigned in it. Transsexuals fall under the transgender umbrella, but there are many other people who do as well. Some may view themselves as combinations of women and men, or (like me) neither men nor women but something else entirely. What ties ties trangendered people together is questioning the idea that sex equals gender according to the assumptions within their culture.

What does this mean for you as a participant in Alchemy? I'd like to look back at some of the ten principles, particularly Immediacy, Radical Self Expression and Radical Inclusion. Immediacy, in the sense of overcoming one's own barriers to one's inner self, as well as the barriers between the self and others, self and community that everyone creates at a burn, is definitely at play. Everyone probably carries preconceptions about gender with them, and this often enters into the very first moment of meeting someone. Think about language, for example. Instead of greeting someone with a gendered term like “brother”, why not substitute something more inclusive? Friend, burner, compadre, collaborator: the list is potentially endless, and an opportunity for playful creativity. Similarly, instead of telling someone “You're the coolest girl I've met here”, why not raise the stakes of the compliment and say they're the coolest person, free of categorization? Who wouldn't rather have twice the compliment, given the choice?

Radical Self Expression is definitely in the mix when it comes to gender. Engage the possibility that the muscular person in hot pants you think might be an interested girl might actually have an experience of self that is being expressed in a personal style you don't quite understand. It's still quite possible to enjoy the traits without attaching labels; a strong back, for instance, is always a strong back. Why not express yourself in that situation, if the spirit takes you? If you suspend your preconceptions, even incrementally, you not only give others space to be more themselves, you might also give yourself more room at the same time, and isn't that part of what it's all about?

Radical Inclusion: this is a big one. Everyone is welcome at burns, and everyone deserves respect. Being aware that your preconceptions about gender may make all the difference in someone else feeling a part of the burn community, as opposed to feeling like the same forces that make “reality camp” feel so unwelcome are present and unquestioned at burns as well. Be open to the possibilities others embody, and please, manifest your own. We could all do with more intentionality, presence, creativity and individuality. I'll show you mine if you show me yours.

* They may still, but their sense of gendered self doesn't rely on it


Oct. 11th, 2009 09:15 pm
adrienmundi: (Default)
Not the sleeping kind. I think I'm having trouble with mine lately. I don't know, maybe dreams isn't the right word, but it's different than idea, much stronger and more meaningful, more foundational, than idea can encompass, at least in my head. There's something about imperatives, something about rightness, something about impatience and frustration, and increasingly, something about questionable possibility.

What do you do when your dreams might not be possible? How to you adjust, or can you? I think that's one of the reasons I feel so stuck, and increasingly hopeless; I don't see a way these ideas, dreams, imperatives that are so freaking core to me can maybe ever be realized, but they're still a huge, important part of me. I can't just turn my back on them, even if I thought it was possible. And I don't think I can cobble together some sort of fucked up compromise, because honestly, the world is bigger than I am and has no interest in compromising with me; any change would be on my part, and I desperately fear would reek of accommodation and surrender of things I'm not sure I can live without and still be me.

Where the fuck do these ideas come from, anyway? These unpopular, difficult, contrary to "reality" ideas, dreams, imperatives... How are they sustained? Upon what do they feed, when all messages are about impossibility or self erasure, about making deals with the world that feel like severing, selling or suppressing parts of self? I'm not one of those people who thrive on negation and opposition, honestly I'm not. I'm happiest when in harmony, when accord can be found; it just feels like that's increasingly rare.

I don't know that I can give up these dreams, and I don't know that I can accommodate their imperatives. I don't think I'm just being negative; I feel like I'm trying to assess things with a more practical eye, and seriously, the message is, over and over, that I have to either give in, or create levels of subterfuge and deception that must be maintained at all times, and I don't relish the idea of any of those possibilities. Should I automatically surrender or be crushed just because the world is bigger than me?

Oh, and happy coming out day, everybody.
adrienmundi: (Default)
(specifically, Alchemy, but more generally Pre-Heat and Transformus, too)

Radical Inclusion

This is great, in theory, but in practice, at least on the non-normative gender side, it kind of fails. This isn't really anyone's fault, but as a trans person, it sucks and is very alienating. People expect the world to fall neatly into two groups, men and women. Even if all other rules and expectations are suspended, given even the tiniest prod, people will organize themselves and others into groups of men and women.

Case in point: labeled showers. They're preexisting, facilities provided by the site itself, and clearly split and labeled Women and Men. It doesn't much matter that the unspoken event perspective is that those signs carry no meaning; in practice, people followed the rules as put forth by the labeling on the doors. Sure, there were stories of occasional girls in the boys' side, but I didn't hear tale once of any perceived boys in the girls' side. And sure, there were open, outdoor showers, but they only worked intermittently. When they were down, the choices were to attempt to fit myself into the one size fits most categories, or do without (Clothed, I'm largely viewed as a boy, unclothed as maybe something else, and personally, I don't identify as either). Again, no ones fault specifically, but alienating from a transgendered perspective, to be faced with the bifurcated choices staring you in the face, and feeling powerless to do anything about it.

Another case in point: language. It's probably some part of burn culture (maybe a carry over from forerunner hippie culture) to try to include everyone (but in particular, perceived men) with the salutation of “brother”. (Curiously, I never heard sister used for anyone; maybe the presumption of fraternal bonds means something particular and unspoken.) I get that it's intended to be warm, if generic, to symbolize some sort of bond or potential bond, but I'm no one's brother (no one's sister, either, but again, that was not in use). In a way, it makes it worse that it's well meant, because it comes to a painful choice; accept the mislabeling and misperception with the warm intentions,or keep them both at arm's reach to prevent the persistent assault on my sense of self. I suppose there's a third choice, to try and engage each speaker in an ad hoc Trans 101, but the burden of being a teaching moment at the drop of a hat, of grounding people's probably unconscious assumptions about sex and gender, is a lot to ask, and I am not up for that kind of duty, particularly at a place which purports to include and allow quite a lot.

This isn't anyone's fault, really. I can't stress that enough. Not everyone has a trans friend or loved one, and most everyone is raised in a culture where sex and gender are expected to match and are generally clearly visible at all times. But, statistically speaking, odds are I wasn't the only transgendered person present. But even if I was, really, the question comes down to this: how inclusive do you/they want to be? The decision was made to allow children, to have wheelchair accessible toilets, so there are signs it's important, and I think that's good. But in an environment where so many suppositions and premises of dominant culture are upended, suspended or examined, the places where mainstream, unspoken ideas of sex and gender are still in play stand out as extra noteworthy, and at least in my case, extra painful. I don't know how to fix this. Maybe it can't be fixed. But it does seriously make me reconsider if there's a place for me at events like this, if it's worth the risk and the heartbreak. So far, the jury's still out. Call me an optimist, maybe a masochist, but I haven't thrown in the towel yet.
adrienmundi: (Default)
It's no secret that I'm strongly social contructivist. I'm not an absolutist about it; I don't always come down on the side of nurture, but I don't think I can do much about nature, and focus my attention on the forces actually in play (I am, however, strongly opposed to biological determinists, for a lot of reasons).

For a long time, social constructivism drove me nuts, and was a source of much pain and frustration. If, as I believe, I'm a product of my time, culture and environment, why do I experience so much disjunction and alienation from it all? Why do I have such a hard time finding sufficiently similar people who speak a dialect of my native language, or even a place where I can relax with others in some flavor of knowing solidarity? Going around and around on this loop lost me untold weeks or months of sleep, and who knows how many missed opportunities. It's not a sustainable project, despite my stubborn insistence otherwise.

But it struck me today that I'm doing it wrong. If I do believe that I'm a product of time, place and culture (and I do), then I can't be alien, I can't be foreign, I can't be Other. I fucking belong here, as much as anyone else does. It's my place too, god damn it. I'm not a foreign body* to be attacked or expelled, just a different kind of native. If I experience difficulty communicating, interacting or integrating, it's not just my fault, and I'll fight anyone who means to suggest otherwise. I'm here. I belong here. And I'm not leaving.

adrienmundi: (Default)
I've got competing narratives of bodies in play, and I've got to find a way to get them to all coexist peacefully. One narrative, oriented towards the outside direction, is that beauty and visceral attractiveness comes in many, many forms, and I'm lucky enough to enjoy more than I'm supposed to; I like a lot, a lot, but feel no obligation to like everything. Unfortunately, this is me->outward only; I don't know how to turn this in such a way to be self inclusive. I don't know how to interpret my self in relation to the other body narratives in play within me.

The biggest, most inflexible, is the either/or of man/woman. I know why this is in me; because it's damned near everywhere, all the time. There's a big, solid line separating most people's worlds, and any suggestion that it isn't necessary, natural or irrefutable gets some pretty extreme reaction.* Of course, it gets tricky and complicated in my head. I make a certain kind of occasionally attractive guy, and there's a need to be found attractive, but it comes at a pretty sharp cost; I'm an occasionally attractive guy. According to the either/or narrative, all that will be thrown away if I decided to pursue being some kind of big, ungainly, roughly made facsimile of a girl. That I'm not sure I want to be a girl, but I know I'm not in any way comfortable or satisfied as a guy, fades into impossibility when this narrative is ascendant.

There's a deeply internal, almost prelinguistic narrative that I interpret as the voice of my body that makes itself pretty clear it has a vision of self-actualization, and thinks I should get off my ass and get to it. Since I don't experience it intellectually or verbally, I only get occasional glimpses, but there's something about size becoming strength, about being able to ignore or negate rigid rules applied by others. It's an active image that would require more physical confidence than I currently possess, a pretty healthy amount of working out, and a degree of plastic surgery. Unfortunately, I only get a sense of this in very localized images; I don't know how I'd fit into a larger social and economic world in which conformity is rewarded and nonconformity (of which this carries a lot) is punished or exiled.

There's a very local narrative that keeps being offered to me, one which posits that I'm just fine, if not good, exactly as I happen to be at that moment. I have a hard time making sense of that one, maybe because I don't understand lack of criteria or conditionality. If I'm always OK, then there's no effective measure, which sort of renders acceptance meaningless, doesn't it? I know that's not how it's being offered, but that's often the route it goes in my head as I try to make sense of it. Too, I don't know how I'd be able to move from the very local of being good (assuming I can find a way to accept it) to the larger social/economic in which I expect I'd have to hide or suppress self or aspects of self. While I haven't really experienced that disparity** I imagine it to be gut wrenching and agonizing.

I really get that everyone isn't always fully showing all aspects of themselves in every interaction. I really do get that. I know the check out person at Publix doesn't really care or want to know what parts of skin I like to bite as an act of appreciation, for example. I understand that. This seems different in a lot of ways, though. Part of this is that I see, or at least think I see, how others don't struggle with what I struggle with; someone may be unhappy about their hair, their complexion, their weight, for instance, but those are modifiers that hang on some noun concept of unchallenged self, either explicitly or implicitly underwritten by the larger social world. I don't have that, and am acutely aware that the compliments and accolades I do get are all attached to a noun concept that cuts or contorts as it comes to me.

Action is tricky, even though inaction, while clearly preferable to nonconformist action, pales in comparison to capitulation and acceptance. "Superficiality" is the kindest of the obstacles thrown in my own path, which while damaging and consuming time and energy to even try to confront, is way easier to deal with than the spectre of buying into the very things I hate (an accusation any member of any minority has encountered at the hands of the resistant majority). I stumble on the signifier/signified gap, and am left wondering if there's ever really a Ding an Sich, even in the most personal cases. But again, the interaction between personal/local and larger social/economic are poorly mapped, if at all; the clear message is to accept the latter and use it as a model for the former, but that obviously doesn't work for me.

And yet, the voice of the body, my body/body awareness, gets louder and more impatient. The feeling that I've got to do something, and that sooner beats later, is growing and gathering speed. I need to learn how to live as a person and a member of the social/economic world. I think I'm doing OK at the latter, but at huge cost to the former, and that's a deal I deeply regret many times a day.

As a part of this struggle to change, I'm trying diligently to be able to listen. I know in the past I've been harsh and resistant to even the most well intentioned contact, but I'm trying hard to listen and not automatically respond with "Oh yeah? Fuck you!", or possibly even worse, leak out the massive frustration I feel with myself and my situation onto those who happen to be near and at hand. I leak badly, but I'm trying to become more aware of that, and to work to redirect things since I can't easily fix the holes. I'm tired of being volatile.

*the so-called thrill of transgression that leads to the fetishization of trans bodies is fueled by this line; it's the shame, the naughtiness, the secretive breaking of the rules that can make something a private spank fantasy and a publicly disavowed aberration.

**brief bouts of miserable depression as a teen as I tried to make sense of myself as something between a transsexual and transvestite, moving between the very local acceptance of an SO and the larger world of school/family/world.
adrienmundi: (Default)
I know I've belabored and complained about nonconsensual categorization and the paucity of choices here, a lot, over the years. I think a valid criticism of those posts would have been that they were entirely too theoretical, distantly removed from experience or interactivity. I don't think that necessarily invalidates the points made, but they were in no way balanced or all inclusive.

I've been thinking a lot lately about specifics, about practicalities and what role, if any, pragmatism plays in questions of intense individualism, idealism and manifestation (tip of the veiled top hat to ineffabelle, who engages these questions directly; that she starts from different premises and comes to different means doesn't remove the importance or utility). Based on the kine-/synaesthetic feel of it all, I feel like I'm much closer to daily life and practical, tangible issues and questions.

The prospect of NYE celebratory options brought this recently into sharper focus for me. We had originally planned on attending a local goth/industrial party with one of the best, most consistently talented DJs in town. Goth/industrial in Atlanta, particularly as implemented by this promoter, tends to default to the unimaginative and predictable bar-sexual version of lazy BDSM that rarely even looks fun for the participants (yet still manages to attract a horde of slack-jawed onlookers). Obviously, I've got issues with the narrative and its implementation in this "scene". It's not a defensive distance from the perceived threat of (some) sexualities, at least not any more, but more about the narrow and restrictive channel of options and choices.

A few years ago, I'd sworn off all events by this promoter because he made a habit of charging reduced admission for "ladies/goddesses", etc, and I found that distasteful on many fronts. Systemically, it is in effect prostituting the presence of some attendees, and sending a message to others that yes, indeed, the presumptively female there are intended as objects of their lust and gaze. I know it's a choice for all participants, but I found it disturbing. I also found it personally unacceptable to be cast as a "man" by the staff. Realizing that I could object on personal grounds was a pretty big deal for me, even if my only action was to register it via lack of my money or attendance.

I'd gone to a more general (i.e. not spanky-BDSM, just music and overpriced drinks) night by this guy a month or so back and found it surprisingly good. Flat fees at the door (at least I think so; I didn't notice any differentiation other than "on the list" and not), the same excellent DJ, and a great mix of people and attitudes. Based on that experience, I was enthusiastic about giving his NYE party a shot. While the promoter has a reputation of being inconsistent and a jerk, he's always been very nice to me, remembering me across years of absence, and I want to believe good things about people. I also wanted good music and a good crowd.

Alas, no, it was not meant to be: one price for "guys", a lower price for "ladies". I get that it's probably nothing more than a crass business decision; as has been pointed out to me, "guys" are probably much more likely to pay more to be around fetishy "ladies" than in other environments. Still, I don't care; I find it unacceptable for the reasons outlined above, and I'm not going. To their credit, my people are down with that decision.

But it got me to thinking about the space between my own sense of (un? a-?)gendered self and the practical problems of the very dualistic categories applied by public default. This carries over to my dissatisfactions with work, my concerns with presentation, and all issues around my problem making new interpersonal connections or maintaining existing ones. I have tended to recoil from situations that call upon me to take a gendered position, retreating deep into myself if I can't retreat outwardly. Unfortunately, this probably tends to only further cement the perception that I occupy "man" position, and that's becoming increasingly clear to me that it's untenable. I know, more or less, what I'm supposed to do to be a "man", but it's not easy or the default; I know it like a recent immigrant. It requires constant, conscious monitoring, both to watch for potholes and to choose the least odious of the perceived options. It's just not working for me any more.

However, the underwritten "other" choice is no outlet, or at least doesn't appear to be. I don't like the sexism and essentialism of the "guy" side, so I've no reason to think I'll like it any more from the "girl" side. I constantly monitor myself as it is; I see no reason to think that wouldn't be magnified if I chose to occupy the "girl" side. This is even before getting to issues around passing and the perceived public right to pass judgment, though those remain very legitimate concerns. I don't like trying to live as a "man"; I'm not very good at it, and it's very uncomfortable and increasingly painful. I don't know how to live as a "woman", and pretty sure I don't want to, particularly not at the cost I perceive it to come. But I need to be able to connect with others, personally, impersonally, in spheres social, institutional, vocational and health-related. Hell, I don't even exercise in large part because of this gap between self and the duality of the public interpretive palette, only physically manifest rather than ideological. Everyone experiences gender everywhere social or interpersonal, I know, even though many may not perceived it because they don't experience conflict. My problem is that I don't know how to disentangle the threads of "available choices" from my own experience of self, or if it's even possible.

In short, I don't like pretending to be a "man", don't really know how to pretend to be a "woman", and don't really know how to be myself. I'm going to have to do something; the pressure for change is coming from deeper, lower in me than just my head, and my desire for more meaningful, honest connection is growing. I still worry about irrevocable social action (some outings can't be taken back, even if they're originated by me), but I also worry about doing nothing, about what tacit acceptance means to and for me, as well. Reading so-called experts doesn't help, but I haven't found any action that does yet, either. I'm open to help from wherever I can get it, but I don't know where to look any more.
adrienmundi: (Default)
I don't think it's any secret that I have a broad, expansive gaze, and despite the joking (from me and from others), it's not particularly acquisitive or valenced. When I'm in the right frame of mind, it feels very much like appreciating qualities, manifestations and moments of greater actualization that cuts across, or ignores, the standard narratives of categories and assigned meaning. But the best thing is, it's fun, and in a strange way, full of power and potential. I can't get much more specific without lapsing into language that dissolves into incomprehensible metaphor and borderline synaesthesia.

But, and this is maybe why it only feels about potential, I don't know how to trust or hope that anyone can view me that way. When there's that moment where my eye catches someone else's and there's that flirtatious exchange of attention, I'm at once all about projecting an honest but not presumptive appreciation as well as holding myself at a distance from potentially receiving that in return; there's often an amused voice in my head that says, "I'm probably not what (you think) you're looking for".

I don't think this is just me, honestly. I don't think it's as simple as just assuming the best and moving forward (whatever that might mean), because I'm still painfully susceptible to the visceral stab I feel when people talk about "that tall guy" or the like (and it's not that I don't like and really appreciate the occasional "that tall girl", I still know it's not right, and worry that it sets up inaccurate expectations). Too, I know desire and attraction are delicate, powerful things, and would not want to inadvertently give the impression of not honoring or respecting that in others, in part because I know what it feels like.

This isn't the brutal, exclusionary pain that it has often seemed like in the past, but it's definitely something that feels like it's keeping me from a greater, more open and honest engagement with people, both as a class, in groups, and individuals. If I can some how get a handle on this, it feels like, something very good will come out of it, but I'm more reflective and confused right now than the possessor of a hunch or plan.
adrienmundi: (Default)
There are some topics, some issues about which I'm reluctant to write or speak because I fear it will give authorization to some to ignore my wishes or requests and instead validate their own comfort where I am concerned. I'm talking about the (my) body and gender here.

More and more over the past year or more, I've been creeping up on this idea that my body knows what it wants, has a template or internal schema from which it operates and tries to connect with the world. This is very different from what I've generally held as ideas of what my body should look like, how it should work, or what I might want, but the difference is more tied in with the gut, with a feeling of inhabitance or inhabitability and much less about tags that convey meaning to the outside, and then back to my self.

I've been less than fully diligent with my hormonal regimen for six months or more now. I think this is definitely related to all of what's going on. At this point, I've all but stopped my spironolactone. While I appreciated some of the effects (reduction of body hair, booster effect on the estrogen), the sexual effects seem to be almost directly counter to what I'm coming to recognize as the internal push for bodily autonomy. I've never really had an issue with my genitals. Even when I was convinced I was a transsexual, I never minded having a penis; I minded definitely the meaning and sorting associated with it, though. To an extent, I still do, but there's something about respecting the body as a body, not a cultural object or signifier, or at least not as either of those primarily or exclusively.

I can't really call the effects of spironolactone side effects, since it pretty much works as advertised. I understand its place in transsexual, or more traditional mtf implementation, but for me, not so much. While I think my endocrinologist recommended it for its booster effect on breast growth, it probably didn't occur to him that the libidinal (in the physical sense) and genital effects might be an issue for me. To be honest, I might not have listened if he had articulated that more clearly (he didn't). One one hand, I had (have) an axe to grind on biological determinism, and acted (act) as though what may be true for others in regards to traditionally sexed hormones will not (necessarily) be true for me. On another hand, I was (am) pretty certain that more breast growth was something I wanted.

The latter point leads me back to body knowledge and internal familiarity. While the language of dualism is deeply disturbing to me, I can't think of any other way to say it, but my body knows what it wants, and is unconcerned with social meaning, membership or approval. Historically I've been unwilling to listen, at first because I did buy into mind/body dualism, and the subnarrative that my body was clearly the problem, and thus wrong; after that, I was reluctant to listen, because the social narrative of the meaning of bodies led (leads) me to different places, conclusions and worries than I wanted to face.

But my body is finding a voice, a means of communication that would be hard to ignore if I wanted to any more. I don't think that I do. It could be that I'm so taken with the novelty of this new perspective that it's easy to ignore the very real concerns and difficulties in store or already present (though a cataloguing of extant concerns and dangers and fear of them do not fully overlap), but I prefer to think that, when faced with what seems like incontrovertible new information there is no honest choice other than to stop and listen. The negotiation between the body's template, the social meaning and expectations, and the mind's fears and concerns will be a large, but different, work.
adrienmundi: (Default)
I'm having problems with narrative and meaning. I'm very cross with the available narratives of bodies, and the meanings assigned them. But that's a social thing, this narration and meaning making based on minor differences here and there... at least I think it is; it's hard to say, living as deeply under the influence of memetic colonization as I, as we, do.

But if it is, then the reality of bodies can be a very different thing. Or can it? If the narrative around meaning assignment is a cultural construct, then it should be possible for an individual to change the relationship to that individual's body, and if that's possible, it should be possible for me to do so. Right?

Assuming it is, though, doesn't solve the problems when a body outside the narrative, a body developed and inhabited outside the dominant narrative, encounters that loosely fixed set of meanings and assignments. Assuming a degree of individual comfort, of inhabitance, can be achieved individually, what does that mean in relation to social interaction/encounters? Does individuation come, or potentially come, at the cost of alienation?

This seems extra problematic for me as I work to disentangle self from group identity, traits from group identifiers, because that work seems to hold liberatory promise, but is it only privately liberatory, and if so, what does that mean in relation to degrees of public domains?
adrienmundi: (Default)
(in which I confess weakness and failure of imagination)

Anyone who has read here semi-regularly, or talked to me for any length of time at all, has probably heard me say things about the gendered state of social interaction, specifically that I think most people automatically expect humans to fall into either easily identifiable male or female, that they naturalize that expectation, and base a lot of their assumptions and default settings on it. At this point, I think that's old news, from my perspective, but it's still an important stepping off point.

I also talk/write pretty openly about identifying myself as neither man nor woman (I'm leaving the largely invisible assumed link between sex and gender nigh implicit), though to be honest I write much more openly about it than I talk about it in much of my daily life. I have often complained, and still complain, that perceptual and categorical limitations of others invariably lead to me being defined as something which I do not identify myself.

It's a relative new thing for me to look at identity as both internal and social (here is a more in depth look at the topic), and today I'm not liking a lot of what that says about me, to me. I think I used to fight more successfully for a not-man status (because that's almost always the default to which I am assigned) than I do now, and I think part of it had to do with social manifestation. Due to some circles in which I moved (goth, glam, *cough*larp*cough*), and the opportunities they presented, I played more openly with some of the visible markers of not-man-ness, approaching-aspects-of-woman-ness (using general defs, not mine, but not feeling the scare quotes today). Sure, I suspect that no matter the ensemble, I was generally taken as a man in girl clothes (except for a few times I think I was read as transsexual), but it seemed like there was enough of a confusion of signals and manifestation to leave people with the slippery idea of, hopefully, at least, "this may be a man in a way I don't understand man" (which, while a long way from ideal, is still better than most default interactions).

But for a variety of reasons (the post-millenial practical death of goth, absorption of spanky industrial, often frustrating glam djs and loss of venues, general suck of prominent larpers, etc.) those opportunities are no longer available to me, and I've not replaced them in kind. To be honest, I'm not sure in kind exists locally; if it does, I haven't found it. What I've found surprising (and disappointing) is that my sense of self as anything positive, gender wise, has been fading as those externalizations recede, leaving me to define/feel my sense of gender in the negative (not a man, not a woman, not some point on an imaginary line between them). It seems I have a problem finding a positive, internal sense of a gendered self without some social reality.

To be sure, some of this I've denied myself. I'm stupidly suspicious of my friends, who've stated repeatedly and often (less so over time, probably in part due to the vehemence and dismissiveness of my rejection) that I could manifest pretty much any way I wanted around them. To the extent that such a rejection was unexamined, I think it was a mistake, but emotionally, my reaction still makes sense to me; it doesn't feel socially real or meaningful if acceptance (too strongly positive a word, but I'm word stupid right now) is based on individual relationships with me, with personal affinity. I don't think I've been able to articulate that until just recently, but I don't think it's an a posteriori justificaton: more a untangling of meaning.

What this shows me about myself is that while I can have a sense of self which I think is valid and legitimate (not a man, not a woman), the socially defines aspects of identity seem rooted, probably unsurprisingly, in what feels socially possible, viable. To the extent that a social identity, or the social aspects of my gender identity, doesn't appear possible, it reflects on the internal framing of my sense of my own gender identity. In other words, I am shocked and disappointed to discover that the line between internal and social is fuzzier and permeable in both directions.

I find myself at the moment having difficulty reconciling an internal sense of self which rings true, and a feel of the social terrain in which there appears no sufficient possible manifestation of said self, and no amount of willpower or thought seems to be able to help me bridge that apparent gap. This is affecting me in a host of bad ways, from body image, social disengagement, contraction of horizons, inability of/failure to imagine something better towards which to work, usw. I need to find a way to get over this, or at least a crossing point, but also one that doesn't feel like capitulation or defeat.
adrienmundi: (Default)
Sometimes I wonder what it's like for people who aren't trans or have gendery issues with their bodies. Do they have some sense of physical self that more or less matches their tangible bodies? I remember thinking the cleverest thing about Butler's "Gender Trouble" was the argument she made that everyone has an imagined body overlaid over their actual, and I still think it was situationally brilliant philosophical judo, but... I'm not sure I buy it, or at least buy it in the way I think I was being asked to.

For instance, I have this quest to seek out what I experience as an internal, almost tangible 'click' of bone sliding into place, or something of a similar texture, that to me means things line up, I can feel and act from the tips of my fingers to the tips of my toes, weight is lifted from my shoulders and my spine is pulled up from the crown of my skull. Things are possible then, things both physical and not just physical, possibilities expand and doubt recedes. I've experienced it in small ways before, usually moment or task specific, but when I did, it was revelatory. I'm not sure I can describe the sense of not being out of synch, physically, better than I have, and I'm not even talking definitionally (that's a whole different issue).

This ties in, for me, with a sense of what it feels like my body wants to be like (not at all the same thing as what I think it should be like, or what meaning it should carry; those things come later, I think). It's not an idea that feels external, and I do root pretty savagely for traces of co-optation. I don't think this arises from guilt and/or conflict, and would actually suggest that the guilt and conflict arise from running into assigned meaning and external valuation. I've no idea from whence it comes, but having laid some of my most damaging etiological fears to rest, I'm coming to be of the opinion that it doesn't matter, and I don't think the burden is on me to explain it to those who would attempt to exercise the privilege of insisting that I do.

But I don't know what it's like feel at home in one's mass as a state of being, and most of the intentional changes I make are attempts to get closer to that goal. I want to be at home in me; I guess that's what makes me my flavor of trans.
adrienmundi: (Default)
Identity is tricky, really. It's one of those concept, words, that everyone thinks means the same thing to everyone, or at least means the same things for everyone else as the speaker/writer does, at that time. I know I'm opening up myself to the accusation of projection here, and I'll accept the accuracy of that, but I'm pretty sure it's not just projection.

From the social sciences side, particularly the cultural studies angle, identity seems to come across as a sense of self in relation to group membership or the potential of group membership. It's largely internal in origin; there's a lot of focus on the validity of self naming, self assigning, as a fundamental level of individual respect, and honestly, I think that's a good argument.

But there's also a social aspect of identity that's largely external, I think. It's how people, all of us, sort others (at least some of the time; I've yet to meet, or be, anyone who doesn't). It's not simply a question of objective perception and accurately delineating, though; people can only be sorted by criteria that are known, accepted, and perceptible. It's in this bit that the social aspect of externally sourced identity can come into contrast with the personal, internally sourced identity.

I could make a series of attempts to draw on examples more removed from me than not, in categories more generally in play than those most directly of interest to me, but that'd be a bit of uncomfortable deflection, and wouldn't serve my longer term project, which is at least in part to get those categories more widely distributed. So, I'm getting personal.

When people see me, I think they generally see someone they presume to be male, and based on that presumption, think I'm some flavor of a man (that the link between male and man is largely unquestioned and automatic is another problem). For the most part, this isn't really their fault; they've been trained pretty much since birth in those categories, to see them as natural and half of the only game in town. However, it is their fault that they discard potential bits of data that might call one or both of those into question. If not for the perceptual 'error handling', I think it's not that difficult to tell that I have small, but present, breasts in most of the clothing I wear. If one is looking, there are other so-called secondary sexual characteristics present in me that aren't generally lumped under either male or man, but they tend to be discarded because they don't fit the perceptual filter assigned to contain my meaning.

But, if they want to be people who respect others, and who expect to be respected in return, they are responsible for their own education and the damage their own ignorance does. Everyone has at least one area in which it would be perfectly understandable if others interpreted them differently than they define themselves, but in which it is also perfectly understandable if they get hurt and frustrated at. I don't think this experience is that foreign.

But, back to my own case, I say I'm not a man (as far as I know, I'm male, but I've never sought to confirm or deny that). To the extent that anyone is, I'm the expert on my sense of self, and it's not unreasonable to expect that to be acknowledged. I think in a lot of cases, what confuses the issue for me is that I also say I'm not a woman. If I were to present myself within the widely accepted binary of male/man, female/woman it would be something people could more easily accept, because it doesn't question the conceptual framework, merely my place within it. I'm not saying that would lead to instant, easy acceptace; there are a lot of people who don't accept transsexuals or the concept of transsexualism, but I would suggest that they understand what they're rejecting. The idea that someone can experience themselves as not a man, not a woman, and not just some combination of the two (another pet peeve of mine) is really dissonant to a lot of people. I suspect this is why I'm so generally taken as a man with modifiers, because I don't accept the easier (not easy) out of woman with modifiers (I include the common misperception of transsexualism, that of a 'man who wants to be a woman', in my case, in that category).

So, I'm generally perceived of as a man. Because I don't express a certain amount of standard man-markers, I think a lot of people who are open to perception of difference tend to assume I'm non-straight (usually gay). On rare occasions I' assumed to be bi, but this is no more accurate than when people relievedly decide I'm straight because my SO appears to be female and a woman ('assume' because in the former instance, they'll likely never know, and in the latter, they'll likely never ask). From my perspective, this is inaccurate, a case of specious logic based on the miscategorization of me as a man; from that perspective, it's legitimate for me to balk.

But socially, I am perceived as a man, and as heterosexual. That means, whether I ask for it or not, I am granted heterosexual privilege (I definitely don't ask for it, if there's any question). This underscores the fact that there are consequences, be they positive, negative, or indifferent, to socially recognized identity, and that in many cases, they're often more than simply positive or negative across the board. That's not my conclusion, because I don't think I have one; I don't mean to make a tidy bow on this so that everyone (me included) can feel better about the mistakes they make, and will continue to make, regarding others because they're both miscategorizer and miscategorized; that's much, much to simple to be accurate or useful.

I have tended to adamantly, and at times, aggressively, insist on the total supremacy of self definition. I still think people have the right to that, and it's not at all unreasonable for people to insist on that in dealings with others who claim to respect others, either generally or individually. I still maintain that the burden of educating others is not mine alone, or even at all (and the opposite is true; it's not the responsibility of others to educate me on their issues, but mine). I say it's understandable that people make the misperceptions and mistakes they do, and it is, but that excuses nothing, and it does nothing to make it less painful when they do. Knowing that in all likelihood, I do something similar to them doesn't make me feel better, or justify complacency in any way. What I hope it does is make me more open to the idea of other possibilities, to the idea that I might be wrong and/or ignorant, and that while it might be understandable, from my perspective, it's not ideal, and I should work hard to learn and understand when that is the case. I'd like to think that's the case with others, but honestly, some days, it feels like a luxury I can ill afford. I'm working on that, too.

il promesso

Jul. 2nd, 2008 06:55 pm
adrienmundi: (Default)
I mean to write about bodies. It's been a long time since I've touched that subject. I mean to write about bodies, about mine, about them in general, about struggling to overcome a cultural dualism that I find deeply injurious, about how trans identity, my trans identity in particular, interacts with that cultural dualism, about how the body carries social identity markers, how that may reflect or conflict with internal or personally claimed identity, about identity as a complex series of interactions, not a simple, smooth vector of meaning.

It's a huge undertaking. I can't do it neatly or easily, but I don't really have a choice in this, it seems. This topic has me, rather than the other way around, and I resist at my own misfortune. Stay tuned.
adrienmundi: (flwl(ih))
So I went out to dinner with maurose to a local bar/pub, which was really cool and pleasant. At one point, I looked up as one of the servers was passing by, just in time to catch her catching my eye and pointedly holding it as she walked past, a cruising move more obvious than I've usually noticed from most girls. The confusion to shock to amusement happened quick, and of course I instantly shared it with my companion, ending with what has become common: "Honey, I don't think I'm what you're looking for."

It's a nice joke, with a bit of distancing (some based on being very satisfied, some based on my perception of reality and "normalcy"), only... it's only partly a joke. Hell, even in my dreams and fantasies, there always comes a point of predisclosure, of explaining unexpected parts (from either of the dominant paradigms, which is some progress, I guess; it used to only be from one). I know I'm oversensitive to what I think others are thinking, and I know some people are up for working in whatever medium that calls to them. As I said, it's not like I'm looking, but... it makes the flirting a little less fun, a little less affirming, a little more... complicated. Sometimes, I get tired of being complicated.


Apr. 13th, 2006 09:19 am
adrienmundi: (Default)
There's been a lot of talk lately in certain circles of the internet about bodies lately, specifically about food/denial/control, and about space/privilege. Both of these have been issues nagging at me for some time, so this is me digging a bit.

I don't think I ever really understood the pervasive messages about food and "denial" on a personal level until relatively recently. I've been one of the so-called lucky ones, always tall and thin (6'4", 165-175 for about twenty years); tied up with that has been a sort of dissociation of self, based around gender issues. I was never really inactive, or weak and sickly, but I think I might have been on the wrong side of lean (even though I've always eaten like crazy, despite my hypoglaecemia). With the onset of hormones, some of that started to change. Sure, I began to get breast development, but I started to not have a flat stomach for the first time in my life, and that freaked/freaks me out. Suddenly, all the messages about value and weight (I still weigh 175-180 or so; this is a sign of the crazy) hit me, and I worry, a lot, about being bad, or unattractive, for having a bit of a belly. It doesn't matter that I don't have a problem (quite the contrary!) with it on others. As fairyhead astutely puts it, I've stumbled into the bad parts of increased girliness.

As I mentioned before, I am hypoglaecemic, and I have a high metabolism. I have to eat a lot, spread throughout the day, or I suffer (as do those around me) pretty quickly. But, for the first time in my life, I've actually started thinking about denying myself food. I don't, because I can't, really; my body reminds me in no uncertain terms what it needs, and when it needs it. But it says something to me that the thought has even come up, about the toxic messages about acceptable bodies and the value assigned to them, for at least some people. I don't think I'm in a particularly vulnerable position just because I'm transgendered; I think most assigned women experience some of this all their lives. At best (worst?), it enters me through a different route, but I think the end result is the same.

Physical space and privilege is another issue, one that I curiously hadn't thought about in relation to gender (at least consciously) until recently. As a result of a useful discussion at feministe, I began thinking about how differently socialised "men" and "women" are about space, specifically social, public space. "Men", apparently, are supposed to take up/demand more space than they need; upon reflection, I can see this playing out in a lot of ways in a lot of circumstances. "Women", on the other hand, are supposed to take up/demand less, and to give way; observationally, this seems to bear out much of the time as well. What struck me as curious was that, while not consciously aware of this, I didn't usually take up "guyspace". I can remember having conversations about feeling like I'm always pulled in socially, tend to give way (unless I'm pissed off), and always apologize for even brushing up against someone else. I never really thought of it in terms of gender, which is really atypical for me, but instead thought of it in terms of power. I know, consciously, that the two are very interrelated, but didn't ground that in relation to my interaction with space and bodies. To me, it was about not being noticed, not drawing attention, and thus hopefully not becoming a target. Now, of course, it seems to all be of a piece.
adrienmundi: (Default)
As I continue to physically develop, I begin to worry more and more about the social world and how I will eventually fit, or be forced to fit, into it. It seems like all of my theoretical concerns are coming home to roost as practical concerns; I think I liked them more when they were just intellectual excercises. I simply don't understand why what is right for me personally is seemingly so socially impossible, outside of a very narrow circle of people.

Sure, it scares me; I expect it probably always will. But it confuses me a lot, too. I'm not terribly invested in the idea of passing as passing, but the practical aspects are getting more difficult to ignore, and as a consequence, more personally painful and frustrating. Because I refuse to by the package, and resist the incredibly sexist bases of much of it, I'll probably never look sufficiently "like a woman", which on one hand is just fine; I'm not a "woman", after all. But it's troubling to me that people look at me and automatically assume, for the nonce, that I'm a "man". In not much time, I anticipate, unless I work assiduously at stealth and deception, that they'll look at me and assume I'm a "man" who wants to be a "woman" (but isn't doing a very good job of it). Whatever happened to the idea of personhood? Is it wholly contingent on the either/or? Some degree of passing seems almost a social necessity, but it seems to cost a hell of a lot, particularly from my perspective.

I had more to say, but it's all blocked up now.Maybe later.

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