I am famous now (my 15 min so to speak): http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/04/14/transgender.irpt/index.html?hpt=C1 (see picture #4). The comments below it, however, leave a lot to be desired. It never fails to amaze me how people voice their opinion without truly understanding what is involved and the why. It would be like trying to have someone who feels completely whole with their body at birth try to explain that to me. I cannot fathom it.
I just wish people would just see us as human beings as well and be ok with us being ourselves.
So this weekend was good. I had originally planned on going for nice long walks on Saturday and Sunday but had nearly forgotten about my H&R Block appointment on Saturday. Geesh! Where does the time go?? It is that time of the year again, tax time. I figured I’d get some back and H&R Block are pretty good about reminding me about things I can cover as expenses and such. I owe a small amount to NYC for city taxes (only because the company didn’t realize I was in NYC area and thus, taxed under it). But it’s really small. Between what I get back from the Feds and what I owe for NYC and paid towards H&R, I’ll get back a fair amount. Additionally, after discussing it with my preparer I may have held back more money from my stocks than I needed to. If I’m right, between the return and the difference another credit card may yet bite the bullet. Even if I don’t use that amount, nearly a third will go *poof* thanks to the Federal return. Paying off this particular credit card will be important since the interest rate is 29%!! It’s absurd how much they can charge in interest. Heck, loan sharks seem to charge less in some regards. Once this one is done, then I’ll go after the remaining credit card and then, lastly, the line of credit (which has the lowest interest of anything I have). I’m contemplating canceling two Canadian credit cards (Amex and Visa) since I have ones down here but I may keep the Visa and just trash the Mastercard. They give me the most grief since I don’t have a Canadian address any more.
And as always, I checked my FICO score in both Canada and the US. I do this for two reasons: first, to see if there are an discrepancies between the reality of me and what they think I have, and second, to see how I fair out there. My Canadian FICO is actually good (mid-700s) while my US FICO is a little low (mid-600s) but I think the lower US score is due to only being here for two years. I’m sure as time passes that will get better and better. My plan to get a house is more realistic as each day passes. I’ve been better about my spending and this will alleviate some of it. If I continue as I have been, I should be credit card and line of credit debt free by this time in 2012. And that is definitely a good thing.
As I was writing this entry, I went ahead and canceled my Canadian AMEX. It was surprisingly easy. They even had it as part of their automated telephone system. It was weird, however, since I was hoping to speak to them and have to battle to get it canceled. But I suspect the major ones, especially if you don’t use it that often or if it’s paid off, are not really interested in fighting you for it. Ever since I took that leap and paid off most of my debt, I’ve felt free and more alive. It’s a great feeling. Getting rid of it completely will be awesome.
After doing that, I got a call. It was CNN. I finally did that interview with the intern. It was nice and very polite conversation. It’ll be interesting to see the final piece. He said it’ll be by the end of the week or sometime next week. (knowing news media it’s possible that it could be pre-empted by some disaster somewhere and that’s fine). I’ll give credit to CNN that they are, at least, attempting to put us more in the spotlight and not as some freak show. They seem genuinely interested in who we are and how we got to where we’re at. I still think they need to cover more of the rainbow of the types of trans individuals and not just the white side of things. What I face as challenges are far, far different than what POC trans individuals face. That I have no illusions about and I mentioned that as well.
I really need to remember to bring my phone with me when I go out. K keeps reminding me to do this. I should have but forgot.
Class had finished early so I thought I’d go out for a walk given the nice weather. I haven’t left the apartment in about a week and it was nice to stretch my legs and get out for a few hours. I had to get more yarn (yes, I’m a man who crochets… don’t all gasp in horror at once). I was going to get my haircut but I’ll hold off on that until Sunday (I’ve become rather shaggy and this warm weather hasn’t helped). I’m also going to visit the optometrist as it’s been a couple of years since my last exam and I’m finding that watching TV has been hard (the fuzziness). So it’s a needed expense that I have to do.
After walking around for about three hours, I came back to relax and follow up on some work that I had to do. I decided to call K in Los Angeles and noticed that there was a voice mail waiting. I listened to it and it was an intern from CNN wanting to talk to me about my transition.
<insert jaw drop here>
Who knew that 3 simple pictures would make such a difference?
I called back and left a message. As it happens, I’m doing the same course next week as I did this week which means long hours (9am until 7pm) but since it’s a co-teach I might be able to call during lunch or while my co-instructor is teaching. We’ll see what happens but needless to say, it’s all rather exciting to be contact by the media for something positive than my last experience. (My last direct interaction with the media was a reporter asking me how I felt about my mom being brutally murdered. It was one of those “You aren’t seriously asking me that, are you??!”).
If I get a follow-up, I’ll definitely update here.
So I recently got an email that piqued my egotistical interest:
Since you previously contributed to our Transgendered Stories assignment on CNN iReport, I thought you’d like to know about a new assignment that just launched. To coincide with the CNN documentary “Her Name Was Steven,” we’re looking for transgendered, transsexual or questioning individuals to share a message with the world. What would you like others to know about you and your experience?
The assignment is simple: Just put a message that you would like others to know about you on a sign and take a self-portrait holding it up.
You can find the assignment here: http://www.ireport.com/ir-topic-stories.jspa?topicId=417959
We’re accepting submissions until April 9. Please feel free to pass the word along! We look forward to seeing your submissions.
p.s. “Her Name Was Steven” airs on CNN this Saturday and Sunday at 8 and 11 p.m. ET. You can find out more here: http://www.cnn.com/CNN/Programs/presents/
Hrmm. Sending a message out to others to let them know what they should know about me, eh? Very intriguing. And how to do it in a few words, no more than a sentence or two? Well, I came up with 3 different messages. You can see the posting on CNN iReport section here and I’ve posted the larger ones below. In some ways, this feels akin to “Ask a Trans” kind of threads and videos I’ve seen elsewhere. And perhaps in a larger, more mainstreamy way it is. My last video on there was actually well received. I think, for the most part, people are nice and kind. But we rarely remember those.
Our minds would rather burn in the painful, angry, hateful ones and forget the ones that show love and affection. It’ll be interesting to see how it’s received. I have no illusions that appearing hetero-normative and being a white male is a benefit to me. Nay, it’s a privilege that I will never shake.
I’ve been absent from my support group of late. A lot of it is because of work. The reality is that there is only so much time in a day and teaching, often, in the CST timezone means that I often don’t finish until 6pm EDT. Sometimes I’m on the road. Since it takes an hour to get to group it means I often miss out on attending. It’s hard at times since the group is often the closest thing to an extended, closer-to-touch family. I do miss it. One of the things I’ve wanted is a large family to be around. I’ve known a large part of my life alone. Having that option where I could invite friends over, have a beer and a cigar, yap, laugh, etc. is something I’ve wanted. Having siblings of some sort, with some kind of shared experience of life, is the other thing I’ve wanted.
Today, as I avoided doing some work, I watched Southern Comfort (2001). It was a wonderful DVD in that it showed the great family connection that Robert Eads and his “sons” made but heartbreaking and maddeningly baffling that the health care system so blatantly ignored the basic raison d’etre for health care: to look after those that need medical help. I have to say that I’m incredibly luckier than most at the support that I’ve gotten from the medical profession here in NYC. As much as I want to move to small town, parts of me worry about the exact issue that Mr. Eads experienced during his lifetime. To die of a curable cancer because no one would treat you is just wrong. My post this morning was about universal health care and whether it could exist here. I have doubts since patient’s rights are not something that seem to be considered.
To keep the good of the patient as the highest priority. — Modern Hippocratic Oath #7
Since so many doctors are taught to put the value of medicine before the needs of the patient, even if universal health care came to be many patients will be ignored because they do not fit into the societal definition of male or woman. I’m not sure how denying someone medical help because they are trans is ensuring that the “good of the patient” is being kept as a priority compared to one’s own fears, prejudices and ignorance. And before someone says that it was perhaps the medical profession was unable to do it, when they called they referenced the trans portion at the end. Until those words were mentioned, the medical professions were eager to help. As to the reasoning as to why they refused to help isn’t clear. It could be anything from fear to ignorance to just place hatred?
I’m sure a lot has changed since this video was made, especially since the Southern Comfort Conference is held in Georgia. But I’m sure there are still areas and medical centers that still discriminate against trans individuals. I wonder how much this is changing with the more visible younger trans guys that are more evident these days? Hopefully, the economy isn’t used as an excuse to prevent an individual from getting support these days. One can only hope that one day health care will be about providing patients with the best possible care, regardless of who the patient is.
I recently read Véronique’s blog where she discusses an article by the Catholic Exchange where ENDA would legal protections against discrimination based on gender identity . In a nutshell, they say that trans individuals are deceivers, particularly focusing on MTFs, because they (transsexuals) are those “who reject the sex they were born with and want to be publicly accepted as the other sex” and want protections as well as additional consideration for hate crimes against trans individuals. As I read the article and a few of the comments, I thought to my blog entry to yesterday. So I thought about the discussion and some of the premises that it was based on. It was based on the fear that it would allow men in women’s dresses to go into women’s changing rooms and restrooms. I was surprised they didn’t use the “rape and pedophile argument” that is often used in this case. The whole thing is based on the idea that it’s a deliberate attempt to deceiver others, society and themselves. And that it’s being encouraged by the mass media and medical professions.
“We are never deceived; we deceive ourselves.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (German Playwright, Poet, Novelist and Dramatist. 1749-1832)
The more I thought about it,the more I was puzzled by items in the article. So began taking it apart, starting with the word “deception”. This is an old word from the 1400-1500s and is defined, by dictionary.reference.com, as a noun, to be either ” 1.the act of deceiving; the state of being deceived.” or “2.something that deceives or is intended to deceive; fraud; artifice”. Ok. I can live with that definition. But who’s being deceived? They claim the public is being deceived by the media and activits; the individual themselves are self-deceiving both themselves and others; and that the media and medical profession is deceiving trans individuals into believing that they must do this. Hrmm.
So, my own thoughts from when I was younger — before gender mattered to me — about seeing myself as male was a self-deception? And which is worse: self deception or perceived deception of society? Honestly, if no one knows my gender, does it matter? If it doesn’t matter why are people being killed over it? (Well, they did say that it was understandable to have this reaction because of the fact that one has “deceived” the other person of their “true” DNA). By their logic, I should spend the rest of my life in a gender that never fit, that’s not comfortable and caused me more personal grief over the course of my lifetime. It is almost as if they are saying that the person attacking is the victim, not the person being attacked.
But part of the premise that they are forwarding is a belief that there is a deliberate attempt by a trans individual to “deceive”. And what they do not understand or perhaps, may not be able to comprehend is that this isn’t a choice to do an action. For me, deception involves a deliberate intention to commit fraud to someone else and that we are aware that it is a fraud. And (yes, I’m generalizing but take a leap with me, please) I suspect that many trans individuals, like myself, don’t view transition or being trans as a fraud but rather that we’re finally being authentic as was given to us. A born-again Christian once said to me that while he didn’t understand my path he did admit that he felt that God had put many challenges before me. And he’s right (whether it is God, Allah, some other deity or none my life has been filled with a variety of challenges). I had always wondered why others were happy with life and how could I get in on that. I tried all sorts of things — things that often made me feel uncomfortable and made me feel like a sham, a fraud.
You should not live one way in private, another in public. — Publilius Syrus (Latin writer of maxims, 45BC-1BC)
Apparently for those that believe the way that the Catholic Exchange do I should live my life as a sham than as my true self because society might have issue with it. I look back at the past and how Jesus or Buddha wer defined (I use Jesus as a reference since it’s a person that a Catholic could identify with; please be assured I am no way near the compassionate man he or someone like the Buddha was) during their times on the planet. Both men were viewed with fear, revulsion and misunderstanding until people took the time to learn about them and what they were talking about. Both had little desire to cater to the wealth and helped those that needed the most help. They remained true to themselves as beings rather than living up to the desire to fit into a specific view of things: one was the son of a carpenter (and probably likely to inherit that role) while the other a king and believed to inherit riches beyond imagination at the time. Society would have been happy with that but they “bucked” the trend and went with what they felt was the true nature of themselves.
If others choose to believe that someone like me deliberately attempts to deceive them, the one suggestion I have: this ain’t about you. It’s about me and what fits for me. I’ll let you know what you need to know when it’s relevant. There are a lot of things about me that others don’t need to know (although I do talk a lot here about what seems like everything) but there are some things that are on a need-to-know basis or will be on that basis.
It is something that I’ve mentioned before but is worthwhile mentioning again: trans history is often almost non-existent. It’s not that it doesn’t exist but that few people remember it, know about it or care to know about it. Recently in the Dallas Voice they did cover it. I’ve included a snippet of the article below. Keep in mind that trans history goes farther back than this. In fact, Buddha allowed for transgendered “males to be ordain and live as nuns and transgendered females to ordain and live with monks”. Most of the information is piecemeal and all over the place. Perhaps one day it can be centralized in one location or published in a book about the history of trans individuals worldwide. Quite often, however, it is more recent times where transgendered/transsexual has become politicized and a request for explicit rights and protections has been asked. Hopefully, one day, too, this will be a wonderful part of history.
On Saturday, June 28, the Stonewall Inn, a Mafia-run gay bar in Greenwich Village, is raided by police officers arresting gender nonconforming patrons and workers, hauling them off in paddy wagons. Though reports vary, transgender individuals such as Sylvia Rivera have been cited as among the first to resist police harassment.
This same year, Stanley Biber performs his first sex change operation and his practice in Trinidad, Colo., later becomes known as the “Sex Change Capital of the World.”
Angela Douglas leaves the Gay Liberation Front, established in response to Stonewall, on grounds of anti-transgender sentiment and forms TAO (Transsexual Activist Organization), the first international grassroots transgender organization.
Transgender woman Paula Grossman, a music teacher at Cedar Hill Elementary School in Basking Ridge, N.J., is fired on the grounds she was “an impairment of the school system.” Grossman lost her case at the N.J. state and federal levels and was denied a U.S. Supreme Court appeal.
Transgender woman and lesbian singer Beth Elliot is ousted from the Daughters of Bilitis, the first lesbian rights organization in the U.S., on the grounds she wasn’t “really a woman,” causing a schism in the organization. Elliot, though, is embraced by a two-thirds majority of lesbians at the 1973 Westcoast Lesbian Feminist Conference and allowed to musically perform.
Love it or hate it, the world is introduced to Dr. Frank N. Furter, the self-identified “sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania,” in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” originally a British stage musical.
British historian and transgender woman Jan Morris publishes her transitional memoir “Conundrum,” and is later named by The Times as one of Britain’s top 15 writers since The War.
Fantasia Fair makes its debut in P-town and has today become the longest-running annual transgender event.
Read more here.
So this week I’m in Dallas. It’s been a decent week albeit hot. And I don’t just mean warm, I mean so hot an egg could fry on the pavement if you put it there. The food culture here is also challenging. The deep-frying of everything can be a bit much (although, if I wasn’t vegan, I’d try the deep fried Snickers; maybe if they could deep fry an oreo for me or something). I did have deep fried corn on the cob (!!?!). It did seal in the juicyness of the cob but there was nothing more to it than that. Food aside, it’s been both a good week and a bit depressing. It’s good in that I’m rock star as I teach. The students seem to be enjoying it and staying awake (heat be damned). This is always good and getting lots of questions, even in a small class, has been good. I’ve been “Ma’am” and “she’d” a little more than I’d like, however. It’s weird after going for weeks on end where I get “sir”, “mister”, etc. to be given the other gender like that. It’s almost a slap in the face as to what I do not feel comfortable in.
This is a stark contrast to last week when I felt like I was on top of the world. The variety of activities that ensued to make life seem far more exciting and safe than they do this week. I’m actually kind of concerned, given that I’m in Texas — relatively conservative compared to other places, about how others may be reacting to me and how my presence in certain areas (e.g., washroom and such) may heighten the risk to my personal safety. My students seem ok but it’s really everyone else that I have to deal with that worries me. The looks I get (and ignore for the most part) have me wondering if someone is going to try something. For all of my life I’ve never been worried about my safety until now. The more I experience this the more I want some basic surgeries to address what is still left to address.
This week has seen a continuance of the discussion of Chaz’ decision to transition. It is great in one way to have such a public figure transition but in others, it may open up more of a challenge for other trans individuals. We’ll be expected to be as open and public about our process. For me it’s not an issue but for others it may be. They may have more of a private life that they do not want to be shared nor do they want that expectation to be shared looming over them. Additionally, Chaz startdoom is a benefit to him, even if it’s inherited. He’ll likely be treated better than the average trans individual. This will be true, IMO, on a face-to-face basis. When one is viewed from a distance a whole variety of other factors will come into play, particularly anonymity. The responses by the general public has been less than positive. If anything they have been worse than what I’ve seen against other trans individuals.
In some ways it would be nice to let the public see how a transition is and what it’s like to face discrimination, particularly when people don’t understand the reasoning behind transitioning. It’s not about what’s in society; it’s not about wanting privilege; it’s not about trying to fit in with what society accepts. It is about what is acceptable to the self and how a person views the self in regards to others. I understand why others cannot see the world as I see it and why I have this need or this coercive soul-binding draw to do what I must just as much as I cannot understand what it’s like to not have that in place. The important thing is to remember that not all of us walk the same path. Whether you call it God, Fate or just what life is we each have our own path put before us. Degrading and demeaning one of us affects us all.
As much as I would like to be accepted by society I know that will not be the answer to my ultimate soul happiness. For that, I have to accept myself as is. And try as I might, the view of what I am is very different than what I was born with (just the external parts — inside, there is a lot I like although I’m constantly improving and updating). Shouldn’t that be what our lives are about? Experiencing, learning, growing??
So I did an iReport here and am shocked as to how many people have looked (last count was in the 1,700s!). And from reading some of the responses to the other iReports, many have been positive (although, like any there are those that aren’t so positive about trans individuals). Whee! I think I might do a full response to one report later today or tomorrow. Now, to do some work stuff.