First of all, happy belated Thilafa to everyone! Our cleaning came early, in the form of making Jessie’s studio a habitable space for two people again, which is all kinds of awesome. Now I can sit next to her and yell at her instead of doing it from the living room! In all seriousness, though, this really has made a huge difference in both of our lives, being able to spend time together in the same room, even if we don’t work on the same things together all the time.
The calendar isn’t forgotten or abandoned, nor is anything else. Right now, the order of the day is… well, I’d have to call it “rebuilding,” but that’s not quite the right word. The truth is while everything is going absolutely swimmingly in terms of our immediate finances, we’re still in a much more precarious position than I would like. We have no credit and no cushion on which to fall in case something bad happens, and I’m much too keenly aware of Coyote’s eyes on the back of my head than to tempt fate and suggest that nothing will go wrong. I’ve done that before; I know better now. At the moment I’m socking away a good chunk of change every month, I’m paying off the bankruptcy, and we’re doing what we can to watch spending without turning into hermit crabs. Negotiations are underway to greatly increase our quality of life, but little enough should be said on those until they actually come to pass.
Actually, the real reason I’m updating is because I happened to run across a piece of information that I think needs to be shared, not just with my immediate circle but out into the wider world: Labor of Love, a real-life story of a happily married transman who opted to stop taking his testosterone and become pregnant to carry the child that his wife could not.
It’s unfortunately rare that something happens that causes people to reconsider how they view the world. Most people, confronted with new ideas, merely filter them through the lens of pre-existing decisions. Anything that causes cognitive dissonance simply gets rejected as “wrong” or “immoral.” I’m under no delusions that this will do anything else, but I can hold out hope that maybe this will be the trigger that forces at least a few people to really
start thinking about the interplay of sex and gender, and how destructive these things can be for some people.
What is a male, really? We as a society, as a people, do very poorly when trying to explain this idea, this concept of “man” as distinct from “woman” or from “person.” We hold up procreation, differences in thought and mind, historical and biological perspective, and all manner of religious pronouncement to divide one from the other, and yet in the end, we really have done little more but paint two rooms in different colors and called that a meaningful distinction. Is this really all there is to our view of male and female?
To be sure, there are underlying biological distinctions that can be drawn, and these should be important. Genuine issues of health and physical well-being arise when talking of how to treat one versus another, and these distinctions are non-trivial. However, they are also non-applicable outside of that realm, and yet we continue to try to propagate these biological notions of sex into some sort of meaningful social context, as though the presence or absense of any one of a number of physical or genetic markers is somehow indicative of a deeper pattern.
The problem, really, is not that we have ideas of “male” and “female”. It’s that we have so many different ideas of them and yet we have no way to reconcile them all. A person can be genetically male, hormonally female, physically male, and emotionally ambiguous, and yet this same person is expected to compress these near-orthogonal states of being into a single false dichotomy. Worse, many places consider this answer immutable, and almost all consider at most a single state change to be legitimate. Where is the place for those who simply can’t answer the question “are you male XOR female” with anything other than “mu”?
Often, when these sorts of issues arise, I heard it asked if I think it’s fair to expect people who have no experience with these issues and can be reasonably expected never to deal with them to have to change their worldview to accomodate the extreme minority that this sort of issue impacts. To these people, I can only ask whether they consider us worthy of equality of not. Do these people expect me to respect their decision to be treated as male or female, to not simply refer to them all as “sir” or “ma’am,” whichever least matches their presentation that day? Or worse, to simply decide at a whim which to use, and change my mind and pronouns for them daily? Do they expect me to grant them their gender and respect their decision not to question their biology? Do they expect me to their their claims of being gendered seriously when they’ve never seriously considered the implications of their insistence?
When the assumptions of “what is normal” change, so too do the assumptions of what is polite.
And yet, even through all of this, I am left with the dilemma: how do we as a people overcome this normativity that permeates our culture? Do we even bother trying? Do we treat escape from labelling as a TAZ and revel in it when we can do it, with the expectation that we will all return to the Great Lie outside? Do we storm the barricades and refuse to let ourselves be defined in such simplistic falsehoods? Is there even a single right answer to this question, or, like gender itself, do we each have to make it up as we go?
I’d like to think that, collectively, we could make an impact on the larger society, and yet I have to honestly state that our chances of making any real positive impact are probably vanishingly small, while our chances of screwing things up for ourselves is quite comparatively large. Nevertheless, I’d like to think that, in small ways, we are making an impact. With every person refusing to conform to the expected norms, whether from a pregnant transman or a hijra demanding recognition of zir own sex, we’re all pushing the boundaries of what is male, what is female, and what is normal.
I doubt I’ll see the kinds of change I’d like within my lifetime, but I can dream.
If I could know for certain the real situation behind the curtain….