To Use or Not To Use

A while back I said that I wouldn’t be using the word trans with an asterisk because some people consider it offensive, but I’ve recently been looking into it some more and wanted to make a short post about it.

In programming languages, an asterisk is usually added at the end of words when using search engines in order to find other words that have something in common. So if you were to search for trans* and add an asterisk, the results would include other terms like transportation, transmisogynist, transform or transplant. It was therefore created to be inclusive. This is the only argument I found in favour to using the asterisk, really.

Some consider it offensive because it’s as if those who aren’t “trans enough” can’t be included under the umbrella term unless the asterisk is used, meaning non-binary genders wouldn’t officially be trans (I don’t recognize this as a valid reason since some people who are genderqueer, agender, genderfluid, cross-dressers, etc., don’t identify as trans, even though others with the same identities do. Those who don’t wouldn’t be included under the word trans but would under the word trans*). Another reason for not using it is because some say it is more often used by those who were FAAB, therefore excludes trans women, which I can’t really agree with either.

However, Natalie Reed makes some different good points against the asterisk over at this place and Jack is also against it for other reasons.

Now you can decide yourselves whether to use or not. I won’t.

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Pride alongside fear of judgement

Spain is much more accepting of homosexuality if we compare it to North America. I have never, I repeat, never, physically come across anybody who had a problem with my lesbianism. And I am open about it, it’s not a secret. Of course you have the teenagers saying “that’s so gay” as a synonym to boring, ninnyhammer or uncool, as well as “accidental” homophobic comments, but us gays don’t usually have to hide much or fear we will be attacked because of our sexuality. It is a good idea to stay away from the older people who go to church though, just in case. This is Catalonia; I’m guessing the situation in Madrid and other places in Spain are different, by what I hear.

The thing is, in a few days a childhood friend of my sisters and me is coming over to visit us as he passes through a city nearby. We grew up in the same town in New Zealand, where everybody knew each other and talked happily. My parents sent us to Sunday school so we would learn a bit about religion, but I soon started questioning the existence of God when I realised I wasn’t forced to believe in one. This friend’s parents, however, were (are) very religious and I fear that I mustn’t say anything queer-related just in case the beliefs have passed onto his generation. Christians aren’t exactly known for their tolerance towards people like me.

Normally this wouldn’t be a problem; I keep my mouth shut and have him leave with the opinion that I am nothing but a funny intelligent beautiful nice girl –though I could improve on my modesty, it seems-. However, next week is Pride Barcelona and I intend to be on my best queer behaviour as it comes. Talking about Pride, I have no idea what I’m supposed to do, since it will be my first time assisting. I don’t even have a flag or a banner, for that matter. I hope they sell them around there somewhere.

I’ll have to test the waters before saying anything. Maybe his brother is also queer; us middle kids seem to be the ones who always bend societies norms (don’t trust me on this, it has not yet been proven that the second borns are the most likely “gay of the family”).

But there is another problem; I am not ashamed of who I am or who I’ve become. But I also love the past me that my friend knew. If he knows what I am now, if he finds out that I am ace, that I like girls and that I am genderqueer, the image of what I was before will be erased from his memory. And I don’t want that. I guess I have some serious issues when it comes down to letting go of the past, mainly because my life when I was seven is so radically different as it is now. I love both and want both, but now I have to choose one. Strangely enough, I have the same hairstyle as back then. Maybe that can help a bit.

So we go back down to the “not trans enough”

I haven’t mentioned this before, but ever since I have began to interact with “real life queer people”, I have become friends with people like P, who I have already talked about, P’s girlfriend and L. L and I have become good friends because we are the same age and we are going through the same circumstances and situations at school and in life in general. The other day, though, L told me that P isn’t trans because he doesn’t want to be a boy, referring to the fact that he is non-binary, has no preference for pronouns and hasn’t undergone surgery.

P was telling me a while ago how he had bought a binder and how he was planning to have top surgery as soon as he could pay for it and convince his parents. I also know that he has been through a lot of difficult experiences because of his identity, so I didn’t really like L’s comment. But it isn’t the first time I hear people saying that non-binary people aren’t really trans, or completely ignoring or invalidating their existence.

I am also non-binary, but I can tell you that I very well am trans. I have somewhat found a way to feel comfortable with my body and have accepted the way society may perceive me and my gender instead of letting myself succumb to dysphoria. Who says I am not trans because I sometimes use the girls’ toilets? Shall I tell them about how hard it is to not be able to listen to Korean music regardless of how much I love it because of the amount of jealousy I feel towards the singers? Do I have to mention that just the other day I was insulted while walking down my very own school because of my gender expression? Do I have to give explanations as to why I like wearing pink, why I giggle sometimes or how I cry when watching “Bridge to Terabithia” for the fifth time even though I identify as a boy? Do they not understand that I don’t want to undergo surgery, that I love my body, that my fear of injections is much bigger than my fear of being misgendered by a stranger? Did they know that I say I’m comfortable with my body but still spend half an hour in front of the mirror deciding which clothes to wear because I don’t want my breasts to show or my hips to be noticed?

Does the way how somebody feels uncomfortable about themselves determine their transliness? Of course it doesn’t. Neither does the way they love their bodies or how they act or the way they express their gender. Surgery, hormones, clothes and experiences are completely irrelevant when it comes to determine a person’s identity. P is trans, I am trans and so is L. And so is anyone else who says they are. We are all just different types of trans.

Thank you, beautiful

I usually only post on weekends, but yesterday I didn’t really write much. Plus, today I am very angry. My day was going fine until 1:30, then one thing after another kept coming up as if trying purposely to make me bothered. It started off with a comment from a girl in my class. She was reading the newspaper and then suddenly started laughing. She had found a headline called “Ku Klux Klan paid a black transvestite for sexual service”. Then everyone started laughing. I don’t understand why in the world the newspaper would think it is appropriate or even necessary to say that Ku Klux Klan was having sex when he was arrested, let alone that it was with a transvestite person –though I have my doubts whether or not the person was really transvestite or preferred some other term that better represents their identity and gender. The only reason to say that the person he was having sex with was black is because Ku Klux Klan worked for a racist organization, otherwise that information would also be absolutely irrelevant.
Right after this, somebody shouted “¡Hija de p***!” outside our classroom window (literally means daughter of prostitute in Spanish). It’s actually the most used insult here in Spain, but after having my gender discrimination sensitivity mode turned on, the swearword really got to me. It is incredibly sexist. First of all, the fact that you are calling somebody else’s mother a prostitute is not nice to the mother, but also offensive to the prostitute. Prostitution is not a thing to laugh about. Women who work in this business usually have no other option but to do so and I can bet that they probably do not enjoy selling their bodies to older men who are most likely to have sexual desires that they could not put into action with women who they don’t pay. If one of these women happens to get pregnant, they will have to abort (though they can’t anymore thanks to Gallardón’s new abortion law) or keep the baby and, most likely, bring it up on her own. This means she cannot continue to work in the sex industry while she is pregnant –or after, really- and has to somehow find another job. If there were other jobs available to her she wouldn’t have become a prostitute in the first place. Now, calling somebody a son/daughter of a prostitute is underestimating and ignoring the incredible work that the mother must have gone through to bring up a child in that situation.
Hey, but my class wasn’t over yet. My history of art teacher goes around asking everyone whether they knew the answer to her question, and of course nobody did (how are we supposed to know which artist made a statue she barely mentioned two months ago?). When my turn to say I didn’t know came up, she said “you have no idea, do you, beautiful?”. This comment offended me. Mainly because I am not a girl and I dislike being so noticeably gendered like this, but also because she would have never said “you have no idea, do you, handsome?” if I was male. It’s as if it was ok to state that my looks are acceptable even though I am clueless and ignorant about art history, because it is important for girls to be pretty. It doesn’t matter if a boy isn’t good looking because he is expected to have the brains, while it is preferred that girls have the looks instead of the capability of thinking for themselves. Not only that, but it also seems fine if somebody comments my appearance for no apparent reason whatsoever; I’ve had bus-drivers, cinema ticket sellers, shop keepers, even old men I help up the stairs say something about how nice I look when saying thank you or goodbye. These comments are not welcome and always make me feel insecure and inferior to the other person; clearly my appearance is the most important factor about me. Couldn’t the old man who I helped have said “thank you, you strong girl”?
I finally left the class and thought I could go back home and crawl into a corner of my room and hate the world, but then I saw a shirt in a shop as I was walking down the school slope that had the phrase “Who needs Google? My wife knows everything” on it. This actually links to what I said before; girls have the looks, boys have the brains (non-binary genders are totally ignored, of course). When a girl gets “too smart”, smarter than her male companion, that is, she will be named “know-it-all”, “impertinent” or even “bossy”. You probably wouldn’t find a shirt that said the inverse.
My sister then convinced me to go shopping with her because she needed to buy summer clothes, which was a big mistake, but I might get into the male and female sections in shops another day.
What are your thoughts about these aspects of gender discrimination (or other aspects)? I will say goodbye now because I have an exam tomorrow about a book written by the only Catalan female author you might ever hear of, Mercè Rodoreda.

Look at Mercè's lovely laugh!

Look at Mercè’s lovely laugh!

Transphobia in the trans* community

I have joined numerous trans* groups on facebook where we often discuss gender, sexuality and similar topics. This particular post caught my attention:

“So I’d like to bring up something I feel is extremely important and a problem in our community.

We demand tolerance and acceptance from the cis world, and yet most of us RARELY tolerate and accept cis people as people who have legitimate reason for initially being a bit ignorant to trans and gender issues and variants. Just because some stranger misgenders you or someone you know personally is scared and uncomfortable about your issues does not give us the right to be angry, impatient, and rude to them. We have an opportunity to educate the majority of this world, because that’s what they are, the majority, about something very important that could actually do them a lot of good as well even if they still identify as cis. By coming at them with anger, impatience, and rudeness we are ruining any opportunity for us to properly communicate these issues to them, educate them, and in effect, ruining opportunities for ourselves to be treated with more respect. The way you treat people plays a MUCH bigger role in how open they are to changing their views than just facts. A lot of us have been treated poorly in our lives and have grown up with insecurities and defences as a result. We need to be aware of this and NOT act out of these insecurities and defences. We need to show love and humility to those who don’t understand. If someone is abusing us, and acting transphobically and hurtfully, that is different, but just someone who is ignorant and doesn’t understand? Give them a break.”

Clearly this person and I have opposite opinions, so I decided to give them an equally long post refuting what they said.

“I know most of the people around me don’t even know what the word transgender means. I do expect tolerance and acceptance for who I am, as I do tolerate and accept cis people for being cis. But their ignorance isn’t justified.

First of all, I’d like to know which reasons people have to be ignorant to trans and gender issues and variants. They are being rude to us when they misgender us, even if they don’t know it or mean it. Just because they are “uncomfortable about my issues”, it doesn’t mean they then have an excuse for making me sink into a hell of dysphoria with their pronouns. Sure we should try and be polite, and it might look like one stranger has just misgendered us once (for whichever reason), but when EVERY stranger misgenders you, all the time, wherever, whenever, then that’s when I get angry. Most of us don’t go at them with anger; we start out kindly, but things start to weigh on our backs after some time.

We are not walking dictionaries of trans* issues. We don’t have to answer people’s questions, especially if they are impertinent ones, if we don’t want to. It’s great if one of us decides to inform our family and friends and such, but we are never obliged to. As you said, we have an opportunity to educate the majority of this world, but not an obligation. Nobody can get angry at me if I don’t want to talk to them about how somebody gets a sex change or what the word ‘allosexual’ means.

Nobody answered my questions for me. I went and looked for the answers myself. Others should not expect me to do so for them. Their ignorance should not be rewarded with our patience.

Plus, what do you mean by “give them a break”? They don’t need a break; it’s me who is being kicked out of bathrooms, insulted as I walk down the hallways, laughed at behind my back, forced to wear dresses and skirts by my very own mother, misgendered by those who I have kindly asked they use different pronouns… I wish I could have a break.”

Amazing what a key can do

I commented some weeks ago how I used the boys’ bathroom for the first time. After that, I used them four more times, but then arrived to the conclusion that it was nearly as uncomfortable as using the girls’ toilets. Not because I didn’t like it, but because I wasn’t getting used to it. I had made sure nobody had seen me, but there were limited times in the day when the bathrooms are free to use.

I had been wondering about whether I should ask the school for a key to the teachers’ bathroom so I could do my business in peace, and after a couple of weeks of writing and re-writing an appropriate letter in which I could ask such a request, I finally gained enough courage to hand it in to the director. Between mumbling and stuttering I managed to give the letter to the subdirector, who I have as a teacher, as she promised to redirect it to the director (she didn’t seem to notice my nervousness). I tottled off to my next class while I tried to forget about what I had just done, but only an hour later the subdirector came to get me. I followed her into the meeting room meant for parents with troubled children (this is also the place where you phone your parents to come and take you home after you faint or vomit, so I was familiar with the place).

She dangled a key in front of my face, snapping me right out of my thoughts. She said she had no idea I was going through this and, should I have told them earlier, they would have happily given me the key. She also gave the letter back to me since somebody might read it if they kept it. I asked which bathroom door the key worked with. She said any and all bathrooms I wanted, and proceeded to tell me where all the staff toilets were located – I had already done my research though and, analyzing the situation, knew which ones I should use and when. I said thank you and that was the end of it.

I keep the letter under my cushion and re-read it every night before going to bed just to remind myself how great the world is. I fall asleep with a smile on my face, but am sad I can’t share the news with anyone other than my art teacher (“Hey, you wouldn’t guess what happened!”).

I crossed the director in the hallway the next day and thought that it would be good if I gave her a polite thank you smile in return for what she had done. As I did so, I realised the look on her face. Not a rude look, but an uncomfortable one. She knew my secret. I was a strange being in her eyes and she didn’t know what to do about it. Scared that I might ask for more. She had found herself in an unknown situation of which she had not been warned of. I knew that look. I was now the school transsexual in her eyes.

Bathroom journey

Today I used the boy’s bathroom of my school for the first time. I have used boy’s bathrooms before, but always at places where I am highly unlikely to find anyone I might know. Ever since a group of girls saw me use the wrong bathroom according to my gender, the truth about me being female flew around the whole school like a kid with wings running away from a troll. It turns out that half of the school had no idea and since I pass well enough, nobody had suspected anything either. I have become the subject of laughter and humiliation; fourteen year olds queue up in line to catch a glimpse of me walk past as they try to confirm my sex. I’m sick of this treatment and, although I don’t think coming out as trans* is safe right now or anyone’s business, I want to get people to see me as male again. And what better way to do that than using the boy’s bathroom?

A lovely map of my school

A lovely map of my school

My school has two bathrooms for each sex (I did a lovely picture for you because I can’t be bothered explaining). I had managed to use the one upstairs once, but it didn’t feel like a boy’s bathroom. Everyone walked past in front of it and I had seen it lots of times since my class is just next to it. But the one downstairs was right in the corner, with only those who were going to use it walking towards it; it was placed in the middle of a boy-aura, as if yelling “Males, men and boys this way!”. Using that toilet was going to be a personal re-identification of my gender identity!

From my locker, you can’t see the inside of the toilets, so I had never even seen what they looked like inside. For the past weeks, ever since I decided I must take a go at them, I have been imagining how they would be inside (most of my options were highly unrealistic). By the way, the toilets were extremely ugly and not as dirty as I had expected them to be. I also had started having nightmares about all the bad things that could happen to me. What if while I’m doing my business, a guy walks in and questions my presence? What if I accidently lock myself in and am stuck there forever? What if a teacher sees me and tells me off? What if someone hits me? What if I meet someone from my class? What if I run out of toilet paper? What if somebody stole my computer? I knew I would be nervous, so I decided to find a time when it was likely for the bathroom to be empty, so I could walk in and out without having to face anyone. Unfortunately, I did have to bring my computer with me since I couldn’t leave it anywhere else, so my thoughts about me being hit and robbed were present the whole time.

Nothing happened. I took extra toilet paper with me (which I didn’t use up and now have the unused remains stuffed in my bag – a reminder of my success, maybe?) and chose carefully with stool I would use. I entered. I peed. I flushed the toilet. I washed my hands. I checked my manliness in the mirror. I exited. I breathed.