Archive for the political Category

Why I am “Transgendered”

Posted in about me, political, queer on 12.23.09 by Maalik

Note: The views I express are mine alone and should be considered as a voice within the transgender community rather than the voice of the community itself. I can speak only of my own experiences. This is true for this entire blog, but I think it is especially important to note in this post.

The way I view myself as a trans person would usually characterize me as a “transexual”– I am a man and have been a man for as long as I’ve been alive; for me, my trans status is more akin to a medical condition than an identity. Despite this, I prefer to identify as “transgendered.” I’ve tried to figure out why I do not refer to myself as transexual. While I dislike the gender binary, I am perfectly content to live within the male box and  I don’t think of myself as particularly gender-transgressive.

What I’ve found is that, like many transgendered people, I see a flaw with the definition and usage of “sex.” I am male-bodied and will be whether or not I make any effort to “masculinize” my body. I wasn’t born in the wrong body; I was a boy born in a male body in a society where “male” was wrongly defined. For me, top surgery is like pectoral implants than heart surgery– my body does not necessarily need correction in its present form.

This isn’t to say that transitioning isn’t necessary. The disphoria I experience with my chest is very real and very serious. But it does mean that, were I able to live comfortably with my present body, there would be nothing to fix. For me, transitioning isn’t about altering my body to make it more male, it’s about altering my body to make it more comfortable.

Transgendered man, transsexual man, man with a trans history… honestly, the specific label I’m given within the trans community doesn’t really matter to me. But if I have to choose, I’ll go with “transgendered” because I’m as much about redefining gender roles for society as a whole as I am about adhering to them for myself.

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The Military

Posted in about me, family, life, political, Uncategorized on 11.03.09 by Maalik

I’ve always been intrigued by the military. Only a few members of even my extended family were in the service, so family had little to do with it. Neither did media– I only started watching war documentaries when I was a teenager and rarely sought out media romanticizing the military. Part my motivation was patriotism, but that didn’t explain everything. Somehow, I have always wanted to serve.

When I started high school, I seriously considered enlisting. I wanted a plan when I graduated and college wasn’t a part of it; I knew I wanted to eventually become a lawyer, but I didn’t feel like I was ready to begin that path. The benefits of enlisting and serving for several years seemed then, and still seem today, like a viable option. I spoke with several recruiters and decided I wanted to go into the Navy. It wasn’t until I attended a recruitment meeting at my school that I realized part of my draw to the armed forces– I was the only female in the room.

Even when I identified as a girl, I did whatever I could to make sure people didn’t see me as one. My pants always sagged a little lower than the guy next to me and I made sure to hold eye contact just a second longer. Serving was my trump card– you have a penis? I was in the military. Serving was how I would show everyone that I was man enough even if I wasn’t man at all.

When I started identifying as transgender, I still had no second thoughts about enlisting because I had no intention of physically transitioning. Living as female for a few years was worth it, and I had no intentions of pursuing a relationship that would get me discharged. The chance to prove myself as a man outweighed all inconveniences.

I did, however, have to consider whether enlisting was truly something I wanted to do. Certainly, serving would help prove my masculinity, but there were easier ways. I eventually decided that I wanted to enlist– other benefits aside, I was not ready to go to college and serving would provide me with opportunities that I could not get by taking a year off and getting a job.

I am not serving today because of my parents and my age. When I decided to enlist, I was seventeen and could not do so without consent. My parents were completely opposed to me serving, so I had to wait a year. Somewhere between seventeen and eighteen, I realized that I could not live for any extended period of time as a woman. I was willing to die for my country, but I would not make myself miserable for it.

Sometimes I still think of enlisting. After I transferred schools, I attended an ROTC meeting and thought about it. But I could never legally serve as Maalik and I could never happily serve under my birth name so I cannot serve. If the policy on trans people serving were changed, I would definitely consider enlisting but I can accept that not happening on a personal level. My masculinity is not contingent on serving (hell, plenty of feminine people serve) and defending Americans legally is just as patriotic as defending them physically.

On Covering

Posted in books, political, queer, reference on 08.13.09 by Maalik

“Everyone covers. To cover is to tone down a disfavored identity to fit into the
main stream. In our diverse society, all of us are outside the mainstream in
some way […] every reader of this book has covered, whether consciously or not,
and sometimes at significant personal cost.”

I recently finished Covering by Kenji Yoshino. The book describes how society pressures minority groups to assimilate into majority culture in three basic ways: conversion, passing, and covering. Writes Yoshino, “If conversion divides ex-gays from gays, and passing divides closeted gays from out gays, covering divides normal from queers.”

Conversion is to change one’s self. To become straight if you are gay. Passing concerns hiding those properties. You may be gay, but you must hide that part of you.
Covering deals more with behavior. You can be gay, you can even engage in gay activities, but you must do it in a way that is not “gay.” Calls for gays to stop “flaunting” their sexuality are demands for covering.

Yoshino writes that covering follows four axies. Appearence deals with how a person physically presents himself; African Americans, for instance, are often eshewed from wearing their hair in natural styles such as dreadlocks or braids. Affiliation deals with cultural identification; a gay man may refuse to discuss gay culture. Activism encompasses one’s political identity; a woman who refuses to identify as a feminist. Finally, association deals with the relationships one forms; a trans person who only has cis friends.

Conversion and passing are considered wrong because they are either impossible or impractical. But covering is seen as a legitimate request because it involves behavior, specifically the behavior of a minority group. Yoshino points out that courts generally side with calls for covering; women are asked to wear (or not wear) make-up because it is their behavior, and not their selves, which is being asked to change.

Yoshino also mentions that not every instance of non-traditional cultural behavior is covering. A gay man who likes sports may simply enjoy sports, such intersts are not inherently acts of covering.

In what ways have you found yourself covering? Both as a transgender person and as a person of your assigned sex (or in some other way). What “covering” behaviors are simply a result of your personality and interests? Did/do you ever wish to convert or feel the pressure to pass?

On "Female Socialization"

Posted in about me, femininity, life, political, queer on 08.13.09 by Maalik

Recently, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the idea that trans men were socialized as women. I’ve always identified as a transguy, the trans connected to guy, because my experience as a man is influenced by the years I lived as a girl. I know it’s different for everyone, but I’ve come to realize that I never had that experience. To say that I was socialized as a woman is inaccurate; because I’ve never really had that experience.

This comes up a lot when others consider trans men a “different kind” of man or assume that because of our female upbringing, we are less misogynistic than our cis counterparts. They wrongly presume that because we are female-bodied, we experience life like a “traditional” (heterosexual, cis, femme) female and that this experience translates into a more understanding position. For me, and for many of us, this simply isn’t true. I’ve had to fight against my own misogyny, caused both by the desire to be seen as “manly” and by scorn towards the gender that wrongly embraced me.

I don’t know what it’s like catcalled, because it’s never happened to me. I don’t know the fear of walking alone at night, because I’m usually the one who is feared. When I speak, others listen to and respect what I have to say– and I recognize that these are privileges that most females don’t have. For all intents and purposes, I was socialized as a man; I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman.

I will admit that I am often mistaken for a butch lesbian, but even that doesn’t carry the same value as being perceived as a “traditional” woman. In my limited experience, butch lesbians are given much of the same respect that men recieve– they are seen as knowledgable about sports, vehicles, and traditionally masculine things while being sheilded from sexual advances. The descrepency comes in dealings with sexuality, where butch women become the gay minority. For me, even when I was perceived as a woman, I was treated like a man.

My sex does influence gender; as a female I have to navigate the medical community in much the same way that a woman does. But my sex does not inherently make me more knowledgable about a woman’s experience or more understanding to women’s issues. My sex influences my gender in much the way that my race or sexuality do; certainly, they play a role in my gender, but no more a role than anything else. I am not a blackman, but a black man. Not a queerman, but a queer man. And no longer a transman, but a trans man.

A Strange Epiphany

Posted in about me, life, political, queer, rants, transition on 02.10.09 by Maalik

I just realized that I’m a guy. Okay, bare with me because I know this sounds a little weird in the context of this blog. The thing is that I’m so preoccupied with my body and feeling like a female waiting to transition, the fact that I already am a guy never really struck me. And as often as I call myself a transguy and identify as a man online, internally I always feel as if I’m being deceptive. As if I’m not really a guy because I don’t have a beard.

But that’s just not true. I am a guy, I may not be a male, but I’m a guy. And whether I start T tomorrow or a year from now or never, that’s not going to change. I read a quote recently that was something along the lines of “my mind makes me more of a man than my penis ever has.” And that’s the truth.

This whole message board controversy has had me thinking a lot over the past few days. I’m so involved in trans-friendly, queer positive circles that it’s hard for me to understand that most people don’t even know the difference between sex and gender. So when I’m involved with those people, it’s a bit of a culture shock that sends me straight to self-loathing. And the problem is that their opinions are typically more influential to my self-image than the opinions of the trans-friendly people who really matter. So when ignorant people say that my anatomy automatically makes me a girl, I start believing that my anatomy automatically makes me a girl. Even when I know that’s not true.

As is consistent with my past few posts though, I’m not taking it anymore. These people are wrong. They are wrong. And I have been and will continue to tell this to myself until I get it. They are wrong. It’s funny because in any other realm of life if a person said something untrue I would dismiss their false beliefs, but because I’m still uncomfortable with who I am I allow the untruths of transphobic people to have some merit. And I can’t do that anymore. It reminds me of part of The Four Agreements which basically says that the ideas that we accept from others are the ones that we believe ourselves.

I’ve been believing that I am a girl, that my feelings aren’t legitimate, for as long as I can remember. Because that’s what society has taught me to believe is true. And it’s not true, and it’s getting me nowhere. Just allowing these things to be presented as truth without a fight, that’s hurting me. So I have to fight. Everyday I have to look in the mirror and say that my exterior does not define me, that my anatomy does not automatically make me a girl. And when I hear ignorant things I have to remind myself that they aren’t truth. And if I continue to do this, eventually I won’t listen to these people as if they speak the truth.

Eleanor Roosevelt had a great quote, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” I’ve been giving others the consent to make me feel inferior because I’ve accepted that I am inferior. But that isn’t the truth. I am no lesser than anyone else and it’s time I realized this.

Re: Time to "Man Up"

Posted in about me, life, political, queer, rants on 02.08.09 by Maalik

First some back story. One of my recent posts, Time to “Man Up,” was basically inspired by a lot of really ignorant transphobic things I’d been hearing in recent days. The thing that finally set me off was some responses on a message board that I lurked at. Typically when I read things like this I just brush them off because it’s easier. (I’m going to try to have a post up soon about how I’m basically a pushover because when you’re considered a freak by society, an easy way to get by is to just “stay in your place” and you don’t get as much shit.) Anyway, I was so angry I finally replied to the thread which spurred several hours of discussion. Like I said, I usually let these things go, I don’t like talking about myself, and I don’t like having to defend myself to ignorant people who probably won’t get it anyway– so eventually I just let it go because it was pushing way too many mental health buttons.

So present time, I just got an e-mail from someone who had been watching the thread and I get it now. This person thanked me and said that they had been questioning their gender and the message board had frustrated them as well and the resources I’d linked to had helped them. I get it. Even when I lose these “battles,” even when the ignorance frustrates me and brings up the dysphoria and the suicidal thoughts… it matters. And in a week I’ll forget all about whatever was said about transpeople on the message board, but I did my part. I helped at least one person, I made some other people think. And that’s all you can ask for. I’m not ready to come out to my parents yet, but I can stand up and be counted as a transperson online. I can say that heteronormative policies hurt me. And the people who don’t listen never will, but if I can change one mind then we’re that much closer.

Time to "Man Up"

Posted in about me, coming out, life, political, queer, rants on 02.07.09 by Maalik

That’s it, final straw. There are too many people who are completely ignorant and unwilling to learn about trans issues in the world. And it’s not just heteros, a lot of the really ignorant stuff comes from the queer community. I don’t get it, I don’t understand how people can know so little about gender issues and pretend their lack of knowledge makes them qualified to make assumptions about an entire community. I don’t understand how people can be so blinded by their cis privilege they can’t even listen to transpeople.

The past few days have convinced me, more than anything else, that it’s time for me to “man up.” I have to stand up and let my voice be heard as a transperson. I have to do more than just sit and grind my teeth when someone says something ignorant. I have to be out so that things get better for myself and for other transpeople.