Thursday, August 14, 2014

Bea*yond Transphobia: Letter to Gavin McInnes and All the Haters

Dear Gavin McInnes and All the Haters,

I have just read your provocative article on Thought Catalog and decided it would be nice to respond to your assessment of several trans* related issues here on my blog.  Before I begin, I would like to note that (1) the only reason I provide a link to your article is so that people might learn about such issues by contrast, since you have provided an excellent non-example of how many things work, and (2) I am exercising an extreme amount of self-control in attempt to be civil and to not devolve into an unproductive Internet battle of ideas.  You are welcome; you certainly don't deserve civility.

Your article fails to note many important factors of trans* livelihood and I think that you and All the Haters would benefit from a little education:

  1. It is imprecise to refer to MTF genital reassignment surgery as "a guy having his penis removed" for several reasons.  One, the person in question is not, in fact, a guy, but rather a woman or a transwoman or a transsexual (or transexual, if you're a follower of Riki Wilchins) woman, or something else along these lines.  In the future, remember that it is best to let people self-identify. Continuing to refer to someone using an identity they do not share when they have already endured many years of living uncomfortably in such an identity is not permissible.  Doing so belittles and insults an incredibly courageous and noble process of self-actualization in the face of infinite adversity.  Furthermore, on a technical note, in the surgery of which you write, surgeons do not remove the penis; they reconfigure it, preserving much of the tissue, in order to create an essential body part with which the patient actually identifies.
  2. Drag queens and trans* identities are not the same thing.  Drag queens use gender non-conformity in performance at designated times. Trans* people live in their gender identities. They are neither for performances not brief in duration.
  3. Not all trans* women want, as you so crudely put it (correcting the pronoun error), "to feel a penis go in and out of [her] vagina."  Some trans* women identify as lesbian, and have no sexual interest in men.  Other trans* women do have sexual interest in men.  Other trans* women are asexual.  Other trans* women do not have the desire to have genital reassignment surgery in the first place.  Some of these women prefer being the insertive partner in sexual relations; others do not.  Stated simply, trans* women are just as sexually diverse as the rest of the population.  Human sexuality is a spectrum, and as trans* women are, despite your reductive approach, human, we share the same diverse range of sexual interests.  Kindly respect that.
  4. "Tranny" is offensive.  Never use it again.
  5. Actually, you seem to rely heavily on a broad range of offensive language to further dehumanize the medical processes by which trans* people alter their bodies. Would you use "tits," "cunts," and "cooch" so freely if you were referring to cisgender people?  My hypothesis is no. Please give trans* people the respect and dignity we deserve.
  6. On a similar note, I don't even know where to begin with your description of the product of phalloplasties as "weird cheese-blintz looking things."  Unless you're comfortable describing your own penis in this way, I would recommend not doing the same to others.  The Golden Rule, and whatnot.
  7. I have a feeling trans* activist and writer Janet Mock never said that she grew up as a "black chick."  I have heard her say in interviews that she was not born a boy, even though she was raised with the expectations to be one, but rather born as a baby, who when old enough to recognize her own agency determined for herself that she was, in fact, a woman.  Identifying a person as remarkable as Janet Mock (or anyone, for that matter) with such a crass colloquialism is rude and I appreciate your abstaining from doing so in the future.
  8. The way in which you flippantly speak about the high rates of drug usage and suicide is inexcusable.  That our population—and particularly the sub-population of trans* women of color—experiences a much lower average life expectancy is an unfortunate fact, and an unsurprising one when you examine the overwhelming impossibility that faces us at every turn: the systems of education, work, health, and law do not often understand gender non-conformity and transgender identities as legitimate, nor does the majority of society, frequently resulting in verbal, physical, and sexual violence.  Sadly, such difficulty pushes many people to drug usage and suicide.  However, your outlandish assertions that we never live to old age and that when we die, no one notices because no one knows us is false.  I have met many lovely trans* people over the age of 40 and I have wept for a trans* friend who passed too soon.
  9. We are not "crazy."  We are not "mentally ill gays."  Some of us do suffer from dysphoria and for this reason we pursue medical options like hormones and surgeries.  I have interviewed many people who have taken these measures to reduce their dysphoric sense of body image and who have been drastically happier after doing so.
  10. As your definition of a man appears to be the intimate knowledge of TurfBuilder and "how cement works," I am saddened to discover that you have three children.  Your prejudices clearly indicate to me that anyone primarily under your care and influence will suffer from a warped understanding of gender and humanity.
  11. Again, hormones and surgeries, as well as other treatments to realize one's gender identity, are legitimate and healthy options for many people, not "mutilations."  Is it a mutilation when a ciswoman enlarges her breasts?  Or a cisman his penis?  Or is it only a mutilation if the change goes contrary to the assigned sex at birth?
  12. Finally, I don't dispute that being a woman or a man can be, as you say, awesome, just so long as the people identifying themselves with those words are given the space and the respect and the dignity to do so, whatever the current or past status of their genitals.  I would also like to add to this celebration of gender that it is equally awesome to live between or outside the woman/man binary.
I wish you a swift and healthy recovery from the extremist bigotry and ignorance that has at present befallen you and All the Haters.

In the meantime, check your fucking privilege.

all my best,
bea cordelia

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