Today is “Write to Marry Day". My partner and I have been living together for 12 years this week. I’m non-op M2F transgender/androgyne and my partner is a woman. I haven’t changed my legal documentation, nor can I do so without undergoing surgery, thus I am still legally male. Because of our respective legal sexes, we could waltz into city hall anytime, get a marriage license and get married. But that feels hypocritical to us, and so we haven’t gotten married, nor will we legally marry until there is full marriage equality for all couples of any gender combination.
We live in New Hampshire, which legalized same sex civil unions in Jan 2008. We worked with the NH Freedom to Marry group to achieve this, and while we’re happy that our state has passed this legislation, a civil union still doesn’t offer all the same rights of a marriage. If we were to marry in NH, and then I legally changed my sex, our marriage would become illegal, as happens across the country for many couples containing a transperson. We could get a civil union in our state, however this doesn’t grant us the 1000+ benefits at the federal level. So we’re waiting.
Currently on the ballot in California is Prop 8, which if passed would deny same sex couples the right to marry which had recently been passed by the state’s courts. A fierce battle has ensued, if Yes on 8 were to win, this could negatively affect other Freedom to Marry campaigns throughout the USA. The opposition has spent a considerable amount of money, so the campaign for No On Prop 8 needs financial support to advertise in print, radio and TV. A special bloggers’ Write to Marry page has been set up at Act Blue for contributions http://www.actblue.com/page/wtm.
If you vote in California: Don’t Stop at the Top! http://dontstopatthetop.org/. Propositions are at the bottom of the ballot. Finally, if you can volunteer in California, No On 8 needs volunteers to help with Get Out The Vote efforts throughout the state. To volunteer, visit http://www.noonprop8.com/action/netroots-gotv.
We look forward to the day in which couples of any gender can celebrate their unions with full equality. Please help No On Prop 8!
Reading various responses to the Mike Penner/Christine Daniels re-transition news has made me realize that I need to be more vocal about my own experience with this. There are people in the trans community who re-transition, or for various reasons; family, health, religious beliefs, etc., decide to never transition at all. These aren’t easy choices, and can be just as difficult as making the decision to transition. Unfortunately, there is a stigma attached to both re-transition and non-transition within the transsexual community. There is concern that our stories could provide fodder for the anti-transgender or ex-transgender factions to use against all of us. If people can transition back to their birth gender, then they have fuel for their argument that there’s no need for treatments and transsexual surgeries. Perhaps there’s also fear of “There but for the grace of God go I” if things got tough.
Thus many of us who re-transition tend to disappear into the woodwork. I think we’re encouraged to sweep it under the carpet, both from within the transgender community, and especially from outside as well. Don’t ask, and definitely don’t dare tell! The end result is that people only hear about “successful” transition stories, or an occasional overblown, sensationalistic de-transition story from the media. Complete with transsexual regret and a pink bedroom as reminders.
I’m generally not shy about disclosing my transgender status to others. I often disclose it so as to educate about transgender issues, and also simply to be more open with my friends about who I am. Although I occasionally mention that I once transitioned M2F, lived full time for over a year, and then re-transitioned, I rarely tell my full story. I just say that I’m transgender and leave it at that. Why?
I think the primary reason for this is the considerable stigma that goes along with de-transition. The tendency to see it as a failure. If someone re-transitions, perhaps it’s because she really wasn’t transsexual in the first place. If I’m to be truly honest with myself, I have to admit that I’ve internalized this shame to an extent. It’s still there in the background, even after all these years.
I suppose that people who have known me for a long time probably think my transsexuality was “just a phase". Kind of a very weird mid-life crisis. Some guys buy a red sports car or have an affair. Others change genders. I think they truly want to believe that I changed back to male and am happy. And if I’m not happy as male, I don’t think they really want to know that either. SInce I’m not wearing a dress when I go to their house for dinner, it’s easy for them to think that it’s over and done with. They can ignore that I might be wearing a female shirt with my jeans. Seen but not really heard.
I ask my fellow sisters and brothers who have re-transitioned to not stay silent any longer. Why are we locked away in a closet, even invisible within our own transgender communities. There are others who need to hear our voices, our stories. To know that it’s OK to be who they are. To know that it’s OK to be who we are. There is no shame in re-transitioning. Likewise, there is no shame in not transitioning at all if the circumstances aren’t right for it. To me, the real shame is societal expectation that we must be either one gender or the other. No acceptance for anyone in between or outside. And rigorous enforcement against expression of anything else. I think it’s time for society to transition.
I read the news yesterday of Christine Daniels re-transitioning back To Mike Penner. As a person who did RLT for over a year and then re-transitioned, also while in a fairly public profession, I truly understand the difficulty of this decision. It was among the hardest decisions of my life, much more so than my original choice to transition.
The news stories I’ve seen of re-transition have often been sensationalist, over the top accountings of this situation, containing mostly stereotypical views of transgender people. I don’t know the reasons for Christine/Mike’s decision, and I’m not going to speculate on them. I respect her privacy. If she ever decides to write about her experiences, I will look forward to reading them. If she chooses not to share these in the glare of the media spotlight, that’s completely understandable.
Not everyone who starts on the road to gender transition decides to continue. Everyone has different circumstances to take into account when deciding to step back. Families, finances, health, religious beliefs, etc. Many of us live very different lives than those portrayed by the media. I’d like to share some thoughts about my own reasons for re-transitioning. I could easily fill up a book or two, here are a few of the more significant factors that informed my choices at that time,
Not wishing to be tethered to a medical process for the rest of my life. I’ve always been one of those people who won’t even take an aspirin when feeling sick. I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of needing to have regular appointments with an endocrinologist, blood work, and daily hormone regimen. I was always pretty sure that I didn’t want surgery, so then there was also the issue of possible negative side effects or complications from long term hormone use. Add into the mix that I have no health insurance, and so all treatments would be paid for out of pocket. I know, even if I had insurance, the chances of it actually paying for treatment aren’t good.
My need to make a living. I’m a self employed musician, and I give private music lessons. When I transitioned and went “full time” in a rural southern town, I lost a lot of work, and experienced significant decrease of what was already a low income. You can well imagine Johnny’s mom’s concern about him taking guitar lessons from a “dude in a dress". The calls for playing weddings and private functions from other musicians who previously hired me as a side person stopped. I still managed to get enough work to survive, but offers to play Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival as an out transwoman singing songs about being a gender outlaw didn’t magically appear. They still haven’t called me And trans music festivals don’t yet exist…
Coming to realization that I was neither of the binary genders. I think that in the beginning of my process, I’d figured that since I hadn’t ever been happy or comfortable as a man, thus I must be woman. Simple. And so I transitioned. As my perceptions shifted from seeing gender as either/or, to a broader continuum, I realized that although I wasn’t a man, I also wasn’t really a woman either. I was something else, that I didn’t even have words for expressing.
Religious/spiritual belief that g-d/dess created me exactly as I am, woman spirit in a male body, for some special purpose. It’s my life’s journey to figure out how to use this unique gift. Transgender people have existed throughout history, in all cultures. Many have lived as exactly who they were without any sort of medical intervention. Perhaps that’s my path. A strange journey to be sure.
Need for physical safety. As we know all too well, transpeople are murdered for expressing who they are. Did I mention that I was a non-passing genderqueer woman in a rural southern town? I must have had an angel over my shoulder that entire year.
I didn’t return to male, although that’s likely what it looked like from the outside. I simply returned to wearing male clothing, and since I hadn’t started HRT, no physical transformation had occurred. Interestingly, although I am supposedly male, I am still sometimes perceived as a woman by complete strangers. I make no attempt to act male, for that matter I make no attempt to act female either. I’m always the same person regardless of my external appearance. I don’t have different persona depending on what I’m wearing. Mostly I’m just frumpy I currently identify as neither gender, androgyne. That’s what works for me, at least for now.
I don’t consider that my gender issues were resolved when I re-transitioned, nor do I ever expect them to be. This will be part of me for the rest of my life. I didn’t transition back to male. I transitioned to something beyond binary gender. I still feel a disconnect between the physical and mental. Things could change, I could wake up tomorrow, and decide to transition yet again.
I continue to work for the day in which a person doesn’t have to be one or the other, that it will be possible to live anywhere on the gender continuum that feels right for each of us and to express that safely in the world. I wish Mike/Christine all the best in her journey.
It seems like almost every LGBTIQ related blog or forum I frequent these days ultimately ends up having transgender versus transsexual wars. I’ve been attempting to engage in respectful dialog with a few people from the “we aren’t transgender” camp, in an honest effort to understand where they’re coming from and to find peaceful resolution to this issue. I hope we can eventually find some common ground, not as part of a transgender community, since they don’t wish to be part of it, but simply as allies in a struggle to create a better world for ALL women and men, including people such as myself who don’t identify within the gender binary.
I don’t necessarily agree with everything they’re saying, and I don’t expect or need anyone to agree with me either. I do understand that some women with transsexual history don’t wish to be included as part of the transgender community, and I honor each person’s need to self identify. I also request that my identity be respected, I’ve struggled for years to figure out who I am. If someone doesn’t wish to be included under the transgender or LGBT umbrella, I don’t have a problem with that, as fabulous an umbrella as it might be.
In a public dialog with one person at her blog, we were having a reasonable conversation when another person dismissed my last post as “typical transgender bullshit". I had to laugh, since I’m not exactly a card carrying member of the transgender activist elite. I never received a manual and I haven’t paid any membership dues. Besides, many transgender people, with whom I share this lovely umbrella, don’t agree with my sometimes way out there in left field opinions either.
In a recent blog post, I saw the suggestion that the transgender umbrella should be renamed “Transvestite Community". The scenario was painted thusly, some people identifying themselves as “classic transsexuals” wish to completely divorce themselves from any further inclusion with the LGBT community, and all the rest of us transgender folks left under the umbrella would hereby be called transvestites or drag queens. Or maybe just “men in dresses".
I’m not a transvestite. These days the term has negative connotations, however, the word does have a noble history. It was originated by Dr Magnus Hirschfeld, a German sexologist who founded the Institute for Sexual Research in Berlin in 1919. Dr Hirschfeld researched homosexuality and transvestism, the Institute housed his immense library about sex. Years before founding the institute, Dr Hirschfeld was involved in an attempt to repeal Paragraph 175, a German anti gay law. On May 10, 1933, Nazis in Berlin burned works of Jewish authors, including the library of the Institute, along with other works considered “un-German".
I’m not a drag queen either, unfortunately I’m way too frumpy to ever qualify. Seriously though, drag queens were in the front lines fighting for our rights in the 60s. We wouldn’t have bupkes without them. Nada. Nothing. On a personal level, when I originally came out as transgender in a rural southern town, a friend who was a drag queen took me under her wing and introduced me to her world. We were from completely different worlds, with not much in common except being transgender, but she was always there for me as a trans-sister.
Once, the great American songwriter Woody Guthrie was filling out an application form. He got to the line where he was to specify his religion. He looked at the various choices offered, didn’t find what he wanted, and wrote in ALL. Someone in an official position said, you can’t do that. So Woody crossed it out and wrote NONE.
In the spirit of Woody Guthrie, I’m ALL; non binary gender variant, transsexual, androgyne, genderqueer, transgender, transvestite, cross-dresser, “man in a dress” and especially drag queen. Or I’m NONE. If, as a transgender identified person, I’m lumped in with anyone else’s struggle for equal rights, then I will proudly stand with the drag queens, thank you very much! And I’ll be standing there until we all have our rights. Every last one of us.
I am a transgender person, currently using the word androgyne, neither of the binary genders, or somewhere in between. My partner and I were introduced from afar by a mutual friend in 1993, during my transition and year long real life test. We corresponded for a while and then met in 1994. The chemistry between us was very evident, however zie was in a relationship with someone else, and then a little while later I was involved with someone else too.
Fast forward two years, we reconnected. One night when talking on the phone zie asked if I still felt the same way as previously. The answer was yes for both of us, so we made arrangements to visit. A few months later I was packing a U-Haul and moving from the state where I’d lived for the previous 17 years.
Before moving to hir house in New England, I asked about the winters, zie said, oh they aren’t that bad. I don’t remember how many times I almost packed up to head back south that first winter. Except there was so much snow that I probably couldn’t have gotten my car out of the snowbanks to leave.
We’ve now been together 12 years. I’ve almost gotten used to the winters, and we are still very much in love. Not only does my partner accept me fully as whatever gender I might be, zie also enjoys freedom to express hir gender in whatever way feels right for hir, even though zie doesn’t necessarily identify as transgender.
We live with my partner’s daughter and our cat. We aren’t married, however our state recently passed civil unions, so maybe someday. We’ll be more tempted once DOMA is repealed and civil unions come with all 1000 + federal benefits, although I guess we might have to wait a bit longer for that.
cross posted Blogging for LGBT Families Day 2008