Detransition in the Media

This is from my Facebook, but it’s probably more appropriate here.

I’m not sure if anyone is noticing the profusion of detransition stories appearing in the news, the National Post just posted one from the Telegraph; I have noticed as I set my media feeds to look for them. These stories generally focus on outlier cases where established protocols are not followed, i.e. people transition not following guidelines, which many people don’t understand exist in a comprehensive state. Though, there are cases where private clinics or private citizens don’t follow protocols. Also at issue here is the use of older junk studies, as many of the modern protocols are pretty recent; it’s very easy to cite out of date studies to cherry pick your data.

Most medical bodies require a minimum age of 18 for SRS, years of therapy, and a sizeable period of HRT. During which time people would likely experience dysphoria over their body changing if they were not trans. You don’t just go get your genitals cut off. Most modern studies peg the regret numbers at between 2 and 4 %. This is much lower than many elective plastic surgeries. Also, the regrets are for incredibly diverse and nuanced reasons.*

I wish the media would stop politicizing our bodies and go fuck off!

*I’ll add to this point here: I didn’t want to get too political on Facebook, but I also realize that most cis people have a very limited ability to critically examine these articles. And why would they? They don’t read trans medical studies, psychological protocols, gender theory, etc. I recently watched a famous Youtuber, Princess Joules, discuss here SRS regrets. This trans woman in no way regrets her transition, but merely the surgery. Why? Her point is interesting and something that keeps me awake at night. You are not signing up for a free fully functioning vagina when you get SRS. No, the neovagina as it is referred to in medical terms is basically an artificial wound that wants to close up. Joules, who if I remember had SRS a few years ago, I following her process,  takes issue with the fact that she essentially got rid of her piece so that she could look better in a bathing suit and didn’t realize how much effort and pain a lifetime of post-op dilation would be. That’s right, you need to dilate your neovagina, sometimes 3-5 times a day for the first year plus, and then regularly after for the rest of your life so the wound doesn’t close. I don’t have a nevagina, but I believe dilation involves douching and spending 20 minutes with the spacer in you. That’s a pretty big commitment on top of the insane recovery rate and possibility of atrophy and possibility that you will not be able to orgasm. And you know what, for lots, nah, most trans woman who get SRS, it’s totally worth it. I just want to highlight that it’s not a straightforward process.

I suspect that for women who have extreme genital dysphoria this is a good tradeoff, but if you want to look good in a bikini, it might be better just to tuck. Wanting to keep your penis is not a sign of detransition. Society just needs to accept that some women have them, and some men have vaginas. If only we could trade, hey that’s a good idea! If there are any trans men who want to swap, PM me.

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Trans Geographia: Internationally Trans

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I figured I would update my blog with what’s been happening on the Netherlands front, seeing as how my global transition is what makes my blog somewhat unique (I guess). The Netherlands, like all Western countries is very bureaucratic. That means I’ve had to register for two major databases. In both cases, people have been nice but questioned my passport. Equally as frustrating, when I do anything official it outs me, as I have to use my dead name.

On that front, Ontario, in its infinite glory requires me to have lived there for 12 months to change my name. Changing my gender marker is relatively easy, but my name is a whole different thing. I do not see the point of doing the latter without the former. Again, I will be outted merely by using my ID. And, it will make it impossible, if it isn’t already, to go stealth through the airport. I talked to the Registrar General’s office in Ontario and they had me send in a statement, so we will see what happens, perhaps it will be okay. Still, I live in fear of having to do anything official. Today, I had to make a bank appointment and of course, that outted me. My email at school outs me, and every time I get carded, something that should be a joyous occasion at 32, I’m outted.

On the health front, I easily got an appointment with a doctor who agreed to copy my script for hormones. Unfortunately, they don’t carry estradiol in injectable form. So, I got passed on to the VU which is the scary official gender clinic, something I avoided in Korea because it doesn’t exist. Meanwhile, I said I had a very limited supply of estrogen, which is not accurate, but I wanted to create a sense of urgency. Unfortunately, I need to be prescribed needles here. I can order them online, but if I go more than a month and a half the doctor will know I lied as he expects me to run out. He has offered the patch, but I don’t want to change my delivery system. Injections have been good to me, and they keep me flexible as I have to be able to reach my own ass. Apparently, the wait time at the VU can be a year, so I am faced with several challenges on this front, the most abysmal being if I only stay here a year and leave before I getting treatment/more hormones then what?

In short, though I am in more liberal context, I am in a bureaucratic mire that will take some time to sift through. And, if your life is designed to be mobile, if your career means moving countries, then being trans is a potential challenge as there are no mechanisms to transfer healthcare easily across international lines (that is if you move to a country that can care for you). So, that leaves me at 32 with basically the choice of starting over again and staying in the vicinity. Not necessarily a bad option, but the implied lack of other options is a problem. At the end of the day, my gender prevents me from being able to enjoy the mobility that I would otherwise have, and that seems fucked up. Still, as long as all of this red tape clears, I still wouldn’t choose to change any of my decisions. I guess I am just going to have to continue to test the system, even when there isn’t one.

 

A Creative Response to “Transvestism Today” (1960)

I had to write a short, creative, response to an archival artifact. I chose the following.

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Here is my response, first in a poem and then a short analysis:

Raised skirts
Bare long-heeled legs
Eyes catching the corner of the page

Faded images
Of women
Arranged
By off-page male eyes
Bordered in red, yellow, and black
Like Nazi propaganda posters
Espousing dangerous hypotheses:

“There are individuals
[Deriving] great pleasure
In dressing as [the]
Opposite sex.”

Words empowered
By unseen credentials
Cast long 
Spectral shadows.

 

Transvestism Today by Edward Podolsky (MD) and C. Wade, a sexological account of transgender women caught my eye in the  Digital Transgender Historical Archive. The title’s use of “transvestism” * is mildly offensive in a modern context, but forgivable considering it was published in 1960. Even the subtitle of the book “The Phenomena of Men Who Dress as Women,” seems plausibly excusable given the lexical conventions of the day. What caught my eye was the women who adorn the glossy cover of the book—the image of which is now preserved in high-resolution digital scan (Appx. 1). On the cover five women are shown in panels, almost all of them striking erotic poses; on the reverse, a single woman adorns the back panel, her skirt lifted solicitously revealing her stocking clad thigh. Under the woman, the text read: “The sale of this book is strictly limited to members of the medical profession, psychoanalysts, and students in the field of psychology or social sciences.” Juxtaposed beneath this spread is the digitized version of the inside cover jacket, the author’s image, middle-aged male and white seeming to cast his gaze on these sexualized women. It seemed to me less like an erudite text than some form of specialized pornography. Yet the jacket blurb assured me that the author was an expert on the science of sex and published in many scientific journals.

The introduction to the text seemed to contradict the air of desire created by the peritext. The author noted that “transvestites” were “deviants” and that in primitive cultures they served a role, but in “cultured” societies descending from “Mosaic law” transvestites were “frowned upon” (Podolsky 11). The introduction proceeded to gloss over previous studies conducted on the “transvestite phenomena” and discussed it as a “neurosis” citing “psycho-pathological” factors such as latent homosexual, sadomasochistic, narcissistic, exhibitionist, and fetishistic causes (16). And yet, the fetishized covers of the books again seemed strange to me, as if the pathologization described in the book, was more of a mirror for the author and audience. Later in the text, there are images of famous trans women like Jacqueline Charlotte Dufresnoy (63), and “transvestites”  in the process of transforming themselves into women (65). All of the images are of beautiful white women that easily conform to cisgender beauty norms. They also capture the cisgender fascination of transformation and imply the idea of deception, as if these women apply a costume to become beautiful, sexual, and deviant.

Leaving aside the language and issues of pathologization, the first of which has evolved in the ensuing six decades since the text was published and the latter only discredited this year (the de-pathologizing of transgender as a neurosis), I am struck most by the imagery of the text. Trans women are often criticised for being caricatures of femininity because some women supposedly represent overly feminized appearances. And yet, here seems a possible cause of this criticism—a criticism I have experience. The women displayed in this text adhere to male beauty standards. The “expert” sexologist has tremendous power over the treatment and conceptualization of trans women. The specter of mental illness and the sexual context in which trans women are cast in embodied in a text like this. I feel this specter today in the medical processes that dictate my existence and I feel the unfair double standard it creates; that I am either too feminine or not feminine enough. There is a reason why trans women dress ultra feminine when they go to the VU or other clinical institutions, that reason is linked to the criteria male sexologists have created to conceptualize the ideal trans woman, i.e., ones that they could find desirous.

“Transvestite” does not equate to cross-dresser in the text. Instead it appears to cover a diverse range of gender nonconforming configurations, today analogous to the umbrella term “transgender.” Evidence of this is in the use of Dufresnoy who is a transexual.

Works Cited

Podolsky, Edward,  and Wade, Carlson.  “Transvestism Today.”  Book.  1960.  Digital Transgender Archive, https://www.digitaltransgenderarchive.net/files/sn009x962  (accessed September 27, 2017).

Mina in Tokyo Part 2: Or, Weirder Things

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Getting ready in our diminutive bathroom was taxing. The bright and still incandescent light bulb was at eye level and only added to my stress sweats. By the time I left the Airbnb in my Turkish skirt and black top I was slick with sweat. I felt vulnerable and worried: I had been out as Mina in full female accouterment in Asia, but usually with a more androgynous look. The first twenty minutes of our walk to the subway was awful, I had full chub rub on my thighs which only seemed to exacerbate my anxieties. We arrived at the metro station and descended towards the underground. At this point, I started to sweat more which induced panic. I left the station hastily with Jenny.

On the street level, almost in tears, I felt the cool breeze mercifully on my face. I wanted to go back to our impractically small apartment and hide. I instinctively knew that I couldn’t go. I would never forgive myself and I’d traveled too far down this path, I needed to feel victorious in my externalization of Mina in Tokyo. I also realized that no one was looking at me, not at all. Was I passing, or was Tokyo just use to weirder things? We altered our plans in order to avoid the hot subway and headed for Ni-chome, Tokyo’s gay district, stopping to eat some strange fishes along the way.

The gay district was unique. When compared to other major Asian cities, it was pure contrast, but even compared to Toronto, Montreal, London, it was remarkable. This was the case because the several block radius comprised of hundreds of bars stacked on top of each other inside medium rise buildings. The magnitude of bars at street level alone was staggering, Gold Finger, Campy!, and the standard eagle bar. But beyond this there were bars for every subculture, a friend pointed out that there was one for snowboard dudes, another for skinny boys, and yet another for fat men. The bars were also tiny in comparison to the mega-clubs of the West. And I’d read that they catered to regulars and scenesters.

This made the neighborhood uninviting. It was still early, but some of the bars were filling up. We looked across the road from where we were standing at Campy! Bar, there were foreigners inside, mostly cis men, but all the hostesses were drag queens. The ratio of queens to patrons was almost 50/50 and the prospects of having simultaneous conversations with multiple drag queens at once seemed daunting.

We had originally planned to go to a series of bars further afield that was owned by a trans woman. We had averted these plans because of my emergency hot flash. My sweats under control, we thought maybe these bars would be a better fit. We hailed a cab, fully knowing that we might be in for a ten minute and 50 dollar ride. The cab that pulled over for us had a rainbow stripe cut across the right side of the top of the car, from hood to boot. The stripe of multitudinous colours was a departure from the immaculately drab slate grey covering the rest of the Toyota Crown, a variable museum fossil.

The cab door opened automatically and inside the seam of the door, there was a strip of blue LEDs. The driver was equally as eccentric and old. He carried on a conversation with us in the ten words of English he knew interspersing three hundred times as much Japanese, occasionally he would stop talking to give us presents, tissue, maps, and glasses cleaner. Ultimately the series of bars we were looking for were closed or gone, but the cab ride was easily worth the time and 60 dollars.

We ended up back in Ni-chome, only now I was cold. We settled on a bar with a seat on the street and a sign that welcomed all genders. This seemed unnecessary to me in a gay district, but maybe it was meant to diffuse the tribalism I’d read about. We drank gin and tonics and took in a wildlife. The fauna was standard, mostly men with some foreigners and the odd woman. Drag queens roamed the streets sporadically and the occasional older Japanese crossdresser (I assume crossdresser, as that is a subculture here).

After a while we headed to Gold Finger. The “woman only” sign outside seemed to not imply a strict rule on Fridays, not because of me, but the men I could clearly see inside. I shrugged and let go of any misgivings I had about the second wave feminist vibe of the sign. The bar was packed but the g and ts were enormous and the music diverse—not J-rock or J-pop, in this case, I could handle the odd Spice Girls “song.”

The denizens of Gold Finger were as diverse as the DJ’s tastes. Some small Kiwis swung about wildly on the small elevated strip of floor that passed as a stage, they seemed hungry for all that was being offered. Japanese girls mingled and cuddled with Western girls and a drag queen and person of indeterminate gender wearing a bathrobe–not a kimono–rounded out the scene. We stayed, drank, danced, realized it was queer pride, and then went home way past our usual nine o’clock bedtime, staggering a little from the chub rub and gin and smelling like ashtrays―a nostalgic aroma I could do without repeating.

The following day I took a cue from my hot flashes and only wore eye makeup in addition to earrings. The day was unremarkable in the sense that again I passed unnoticed. I reflected on this fact. If I’d been in boy mode―something I like less and less over time―I would have usually been looked at more than I was in Tokyo in girl mode. I don’t know to what extent I pass, but regardless, my stature in a land of people stuck around 160cm seemed remarkable enough to draw attention. I’m glad it didn’t regardless of the reason. I suspect the reason is this. On a previous visit to Japan, before deciding to come out as Mina, I saw a middle-aged man standing outside a 7-11 smoking while donning a Pikachu onesie at 1 am. The next morning I saw a crossdresser in a different 7-11 at 10 am wearing a French maid costume with their balls hanging out. I feel then, that a 188cm Canadian trans woman is just not so interesting, or perhaps the Japanese are just really, really, polite.

A Question

Does anyone have any advice on building traffic. I am always busy and can’t seem to figure out the nuances of social media. I feel like sharing my stuff across other media networks would be good, but honestly I don’t want everyone on my Facebook page to read my stuff. Should I use Twitter, Instagram, etc??? Any advice would be welcome. My partner shares her pieces on Reddit, but there is more demand I think for trans partner resources. Maybe the web is just too saturated with trans social media?

Thanks,

X

Mina in Tokyo Part 1: Or, Weirder Things

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The following series of posts were written in May. I was at the time in a media blackout, so they never got posted.

Our trip to Tokyo coincided with that time of the month. No, not that one, but the other one, lycanthropy (post laser). At this point, I look super bad with my patchy hair. A mere glance in the mirror at the sparse patches of hair, or possibly what looks like lichen, throws me into a spiral of dysphoria. And, I can’t stop picking at it. Each time a hair falls out it cancels a second of dysphoric emotion. What’s hardest is having to meet people. Aren’t you suppose to a girl now they think. Why have you added lichen to your face in an attempt to mimic a goatee? Or at least that’s what I imagine they think.

Prior to my big Tokyo debut, we headed for Nikko in the mountains north of Tokyo. We arrived after a rather stressful, but successful, exploration of Tokyo’s labyrinthine train system. We watched the dizzying array of high-speed trains pull in and out of the platforms every few minutes: purple ones,  gold ones, double deckers, and ones with elongated dolphin like snouts. Our train was packed. This served as a warning for Nikko, which was also packed for the season. It didn’t matter. We transferred into a local train and drank in the verdant bucolic glory of central Honshu.

The village was quaint, maybe “town” is a better word, and our guesthouse even more so. We ate sushi and lay in the sun in the woods beside our temporary residence. The next day we made our way to the shrines for which this place is famous for. The shrines were beautiful and decorous in only the way Japanese spaces can be, but what stood out the most was the surroundings. Beyond the throngs of people up from Tokyo, here to take in some heritage, was the massive pine trees reminiscent of the north-west coast of North America. These trees spoke volumes about the people and their respect for this place, as they had chosen not to fell the sylvan giants for at least 500 years.

Even more delightful was a row of Bonavista status called ghost jiso, hidden away from the park in an area called the Abyss―a small gorge with water rushing through its floor. The statues were all outfitted with a red caps and bibs. Each stone effigy seemed to reflect an inner and unique disposition. Some statues were contemplative while others looked hostile, gleeful, sad, or meditative.  

The next day we almost made it on the train without incident. However, at the electric turnstile, we were blocked from entering. Apparently, we had to pay twice.  This seemed improbable to me. But we acquiesced, and when we returned to the turnstile to slip our now doubled tickets through, it happily accepted. I’ll never get this system I thought. We sat back in our train seats and enjoyed the green scenery once more, watching the landscape slowly urbanize and turn back into Tokyo.

Tokyo was nightmarishly busy for Children’s Day―I know, why do they need a day. Nikko, by comparison, seemed empty in retrospect. We ate and then jumped down to Harajuku to get me a handbag for me for the evening. Jenny lost her phone but she didn’t know this yet. Here the throngs were thickest. After ducking out of a pedestrian street filled to the brim with humanity, we escaped up a small alley feeling dizzy and with headaches to match.

We made our way back to Shinjuku, realized we lost the phone, handily beside where we had left it, and set out to our Airbnb. What 125 dollars will get you in Nikko vs Shinjuku for a night’s stay represents a world of contrast. Where the former was on a mountain surrounded by forests, our new residence felt more like a location for Blade Runner. It’s not that our second lodgings were bad, it’s just that they seemed like the future seen through the dystopian lens of 1982.

Blogs, Kinda Meta

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This is a response to a prompt to write about a research object, the example given was more imaginative, hence my qualification that blogs are relevant at the beginning 😉

Blogs are not arcane or highly metaphorical, but they are a relevant and representational form of communication. Here, I use the word blog loosely and take it also to mean vlogging or other forms of online social media and communication. Specifically, blogs and online community spaces have been crucial in the development of trans spaces. The proliferation of such communication platforms offers a wide range of outlets for communication and support. Personally, I can attest to the dearth of transgender resources or representation in the media in the 90s and early 00s, let alone positive representation. Additionally, as a trans person, I am interested in how media represents (and distorts) transgender issues and people more broadly. Time magazine’s 2014 article, “The Transgender Tipping Point” heralded a major shift in the amount of representation of transgender people in the media, at least in the United States (Steinmetz). And yet, transgender representation is largely dominated by depictions of trans people who appear normative, that is adhering to cisgendered ideals of beauty and heteronormativity: Laverne Cox is a good example and indeed her image adorned the aforementioned Time cover. Likewise, Carmen Carrera, or Youtube vlog stars like Gigi Gorgeous similarly represent heteronormative images of trans people.

Moreover, I often encounter in more academic material an account of gender that is influenced by a feminist perspective and therefore highly artifactual. Likewise, medical literature tends to focus on biology and psychology. Often absent from both narratives are the authentic voices of trans people in all their diversity. Blogs and other forms of online communities, such as Reddit give trans people–and gender nonconforming people–places to assemble, discuss, and define their own narratives. There are multiple research questions implied by this topic. How do online spaces allow transgender people to create support communities? Indeed, these spaces were a tremendous help to me as I began to transition, they provided a community and support network that was otherwise not available. Or, how do blogs empower transgender people to create and share their own narratives? Something that is also relevant to me as a trans person who transitioned in foreign countries. Through blogging, I was able to share my less than typical experience and also join communities. Finally, how can we use blogs as a lens to study transgender diversity? This last question seems most germane, to me.

Blogs and online communication spaces provide opportunities to observe and construct transgender narratives that represent the diversity and plurality of people who fall somewhere under the umbrella term of transgender. The use of blogs as a possible means of analysis and comparison to how mass media represents trans people provides an opportunity to understand this phenomenon as it actually occurs. This stands in contrast to the narrative that is propagated through the media. In a sense, I seek here to avoid what has happened to other LGBTQIA+ members, specifically the normalization of gay and lesbian culture in mass media, I am thinking of the gay couple in the American television series Modern Family. As a trans person, I find my gender often makes cisgendered people question the basis of their own gender identity and experience. I feel like if we normalize representations of trans people, then we fit them into this heteronormative power dynamic and rob transgender of its possible disruptive and subversive pluralities. Thus blogs present a research opportunity to reserve this subversive plurality.