Tag Archives: transition

Crossdressers

Look, there are many kinds of crossdressers.

Some CDs do it for purely sexual reasons because it’s arousing.

Some CDs are “sissies” who use their CDing to satisfy a sexual kink.

Some CDs do it to express their inner feminine selves – for them it’s not arousing at all and more of a way to be comfortable in their femininity. These CDs are almost like bigender or genderfluid and use CDing to express a “second self”.

Some CDs are crossdreamers who fantasize about transitioning.

Some CDs are mixtures of each category.

Some CDs can’t be pigeonholed into a category at all.

From each group of CDs it is possible for their feelings and desires to change as they get older such that they later end up on HRT and socially transition.People grow and change as they get older. Desires change. Opportunities change. Brains change. There is greater awareness now that medical transition is an option for trans women of any age. Sometimes it can take decades to figure all this gender stuff out. There is no one single trans narrative.

Don’t assume that just because someone has a history of CDing that they can’t later on transition and assume a binary trans female identity. Their journey of gender exploration is just a valid as Jazz Jennings or anyone else. Stop the judgment. Stop the holier-than-thou trans olympics of whose more transy than everyone else. Stop putting people into hierarchies. Don’t assume. Don’t judge. Accept. Empathize. Everyone is different.

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Filed under Gender studies, Trans studies

Metal Me vs. New Me

 

On the left: Me, in 2009, age 22, when I was at LSU doing a Masters in Philosophy. I was definitely going for the metalhead/white Jesus look.

On the right: Me, today, age 29, without any makeup, 9.5 months into Hormone Replacement Therapy, with 8 sessions of laser hair removal under my belt. 6th year PhD student at Wash U St Louis’ philosophy-neuroscience-psychology program.

It’s super weird looking at old pictures of myself. I recognize myself but at the same time I don’t recognize myself. I understand who I was in the past because I have memories of those times. I even partly still identify with that old person because we both share many of the same core values and beliefs. I’m still as atheistic as ever. I still have a philosophical disposition to question everything. I still love blogging and writing. I still love my long hair (though now I take much better care of it). We both still love metal. I am still disposed to occasional bouts of psychosis. Still a Zen Buddhist at heart. Still love cannabis (though I recently quit smoking). I am still very much a utilitarian at heart (though I’ve grown to be more deontological with a focus on autonomy).

But now I’m a much better feminist than I ever was. I am a better humanist too. I have a better appreciation of the true diversity of humanity, the wonder of humanity, the darkside of humanity. I have discovered a newfound solidarity with the LGBT community, especially with my trans femme sisters. I have found new purpose in life. My career ambitions have changed. I am focused more on my relationships (sounds sexist, but it’s true – gender transition made me care less about getting a tenure-track professorship and I realize I would be happy doing almost anything so long as I have the time to enjoy my relationships and write). I have a newfound love of makeup and beauty culture though I am approaching that whole culture with a skeptical but appreciative eye.

I’m both the same person and a whole new person. I changed my gender, which changed my brain at every level, but I still have a psychological connection to my past. My past as a “man” shaped who I am as a person and I will always be grateful to that man for not fucking things up too bad to get me where I am today, a very privileged, well-adjusted, confident, and happy trans woman in her late twenties.

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Filed under My life, Transition

My Many Privileges

First, I have the privilege of being white. I’m not going to elaborate on this privilege because if you don’t understand how being born white in America is a privilege then you’re probably just a racist bigot who won’t be persuaded by what I write anyway. But I recommend listening to the voices of #blacklivesmatter activists and listening to their stories of discrimination and violence at the hand of the police state as well as the systematic discrimination of white supremacy in the good ole US of A.

Second, I have class privilege insofar as I was born into the working middle class. My parents were never “rich” per se but they worked hard and could always provide food on the table and a roof over our heads as well as enough money for amazing Chistmas’s, birthdays, etc. I had a nintendo and LEGO and bikes and they bought me a car at age 16.I was fortunate to inherit money from my grandmother on my dad’s side. My middle class privilege has provided me numerous opportunities in life. Although I worked hard in school and was “smart”, my socio-economic status helped me get into a decent university while also having my family support me in countless financial ways through my young adulthood.

Part of my socio-economic privilege was that I was able to build up a good credit score which has allowed me to finance my transition, including paying for 8 sessions of laser (~$1,700) as well as buying a whole new wardrobe for all four seasons of St Louis weather (granted, I do shop at goodwill a LOT), buying a shit-ton of makeup, etc. I live a comfortable life for the most part. I have a lot of credit card debt but I managed to spend 11 years in higher-education without racking up any student loan debt.

I feel privilege that I was able to get so much university/graduate education before starting my transition. Some trans people feel like they would have been better off transitioning before puberty or during their teen years. But personally, I am glad I was not out-as-trans during highschool or college. For one, I would literally be a different person. And two, I probably would have faced outright bullying and intolerance. And I was able to use my “male privilege” in order to power my way through grad school without ever having my intelligence second-guessed just because of my sex.

But I can only feel that last one (late transitioning)  as a privilege because my genetics have made it such that when I did start transition, at age 29, after only like 5-6 months of HRT and a few laser sessions under my belt I started passing pretty well and now, 9.5 months on HRT and 8 sessions of laser, I pass probably like 80-90% of the time which is a HUGE privilege. It allows me to blend into society relatively well. My passing privilege allows me to be gendered correctly. To avoid harassment. To avoid danger, violence, insults. I don’t pass perfectly, and I am still clockable – but my genetic luck (and the laser) has made it such that I can go outside the house to run an errand without spending two hours putting on makeup to downplay my masculine features. I am lucky in that I don’t have to perform femininity to the extreme in order to be accepted for the person I am (although I do LOVE makeup and all things feminine and generally identify as a very femme person). But it’s not necessary to my survival. I also started transition with long hair and that helps a lot for avoiding misgendering.

Most trans women are not as privileged as I am. They struggle with suicidal thoughts. With homelessness. Rejection from family and friends. Depression. Anxiety. I don’t deal with any of that.  I haven’t been forced to turn to survival sex work just to pay for my hormones. I managed to get my legal name change ($175 court cost) without too much hassle. I have a good credit score.

I managed to find love and acceptance in my partner. I am happy and engaged. I found true love within the first year of my transition. You know how rare that is? I never take it for granted and count my lucky stars every day.

Sometimes I feel guilty – like survivor’s guilt. I want to make a difference – but who cares what a “stuck up white bitch” like myself has to say? I’ve been told I’m the “epitome of white passing privilege” and that I’m “just like Caitlyn Jenner”. But I still feel like I have important things to say. Important things to write. I want to help my fellow trans folks who are not as fortunate as I am. I want to be a voice for those who don’t have a voice. I never want to talk over people though I’m afraid I do that all the time as part of my privilege.  Please correct me when I’m wrong. I will listen. I’m all ears. I identify as an intersectional feminist. I want to listen to the diverse narratives of trans folks of all stripes so that I can boost their voices.

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Filed under feminism, Gender studies, My life, Trans life, Uncategorized

1 Month Transition Update

Ok so I have debated with myself about to what extent I want to make this blog reflect my personal journey as I transition and experience HRT or whether I want it to stay more academic. I decided though that sharing my journey and photos of my “transition timeline” might be of interest to other trans people. I know I continue to draw inspiration from others and have an enlightened self-interest in learning how HRT affects people differently so consider this an exercise in self-documentation.

I can’t promise I will always do monthly updates but it might be fun.

VictorStJuly 1st, 2011

I had then just moved to St Louis with my at-the-time fiancee to start my PhD. I was reasonably happy. Wasn’t troubled by gender identity stuff. Just thought I was a run-of-the-mill crossdresser with a secret life of dressing up that I kept private from pretty much everyone. It was just some thing I did, often for sexual reasons to be perfectly honest. I mention that because I see many trans women overanalyze things and think that because their crossdressing started sexual they aren’t “really trans”. However what can start as a “fetish” can definitely transform into legitimate gender issues later -early sexualization does not invalidate one’s identity – it just has nothing to do with it – it’s a side effect and also could be an effect of circulating testosterone levels. But for me, over time, my crossdressing had less and less a sexual component and became something I did because I found it the most comfortable way to exist in my house. I just enjoyed wearing’s women’s things.

1405189639910July 12, 2014

IMG_118692860119832July 19, 2014

Still deeply in denial about being trans. I had talked about the possibility of transitioning with my ex-wife but I always told her that was not something I was interested in. She seemed to accept that answer. So did I. Little did I know….

IMG_20150424_180457 (2)April 24, 2015

This is probably the last picture that was ever taken of me with a beard. This was still before I realized I was trans. My wife and I had split up back in October, 2014 for reasons unrelated to my gender identity. Things just felt apart – it’s a long story. But needless to say that after getting divorced and going through another brief relationship my crossdressing returned with a vengeance. I shaved my entire body shortly after this picture was taken and began crossdressing more seriously, expanding my wardrobe, and going out in public dressed. At some point I even came out on Facebook as a crossdresser. Funny – only a month after coming out as a crossdresser (to much consternation from my family I might add) I realized I was trans and had to do a second coming out.

10359017_10103963545410072_434187556417985148_oApril-May 2015

This is the picture I used to come out on Facebook as a crossdresser. I received a lot of support …and a frantic phonecall from my mother. But it felt good to come out of the closest as a gender-nonconforming person. It still took me awhile to be comfortable presenting feminine around people in my department though I was starting to present feminine around my friends. Baby steps at first. Like nail polish. And then a bit of makeup. And then highly androgynous clothing. Eventually tilting toward the feminine. It takes time. As I learned the hard way at a bar one night  with a friend early in my adventures of crossdressing out in public, presenting totally femme when you are not ready to present totally femme can be a really terrifying experience – make sure you can escape if you need to. Go at your own pace and preferably in safe, LGBT friendly places.

IMG_20150525_154600May 25, 2015

After struggling with my identity as a crossdresser and a feminine man I finally came to terms with myself and accepted myself as a trans woman for the first time. My life suddenly took a new focus. It was terrifying and exhilarating all at once. I startling googling “transgender” etc and I stumbled across horror stories about murder rates and suicide and depression and all this scary stuff about how awful it is to be a trans woman. Honestly I was scared shitless. But after calming down I came to do more research that put some context around the statistics and significantly helped me see things with a clear head. Being trans wasn’t going to be this terribly scary thing. I had a lot of privilege in my life. I started to see how transition could work and I began to plot my social transition.

When I first accepted myself as trans I was not sure how far I wanted to go with hormones or surgery. I was pretty sure I did not want “bottom surgery” but I was less sure about hormones and growing breasts and losing my sexual function. I briefly toyed around with the idea of a bigender identity and presenting ambiguously and not going totally full time. I think this brief foray into bigenderism was really just my own internalized transphobia working against me, pulling me back from my true identity, which I have come to realize is a binary trans female. I had to learn to accept myself totally as a woman in order to reject my history of male-identification. It definitely did not happen over night. I struggled to see myself as a woman because I did not conform to the typical trans narrative of being made fun of as a “sissy” growing up. I always fit in the with the boys – I loved being a boy (albeit one who secretly was obsessed with wearing pantyhose). My lack of femininity in my gender expression as a young boy and my comfort as a married man in society made me question if I was “trans enough” to really identity 100% as a woman. What does it even mean to “feel” like a woman? I struggled with the idea that I have “always” been trans – for me being trans almost felt like this radical choice I was making – albeit a radical choice to be true to my authentic self but a choice nonetheless – which defies the standard narrative of trans being innate and biological. I felt like I was just going through another phase – until it wasn’t – until it started becoming real. My social transition and dating as a woman really helped provide some much needed validation. Also healthy amounts of therapy. I started seeing a gender specialist.

IMG_20150807_194855Aug 7, 2015.

I got bangs! I actually kind of regret this haircut now. But oh well. Live and learn. Cis women have had decades to learn from their mistakes – I am compressing an incredible amount of trial and error into a short period of time!

IMG_20150901_094431September 1st, 2015

This picture was taken in the lobby of my endocrinologist the first day I started Hormone Replacement Therapy. To say I was incredibly stoked would be an extreme understatement. I was SO happy. Oh I should mention I really tried to femme it up because I wanted my endo to think I was “serious” about transitioning and “trans enough” (aka passing according to Western cisnormative hetero beauty standards), which is of course utter BS. But whatever. I still ultimately do it for myself and myself only but in this case I did feel the pressure to conform to standard trans feminine expectations in order to maximize my chances of walking out of that office with a script in my hand. This paranoia and counter-productive mindset is ultimately a function of the problematic gatekeeping system in trans healthcare but that’s a post for another day…

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A thrilling moment sitting in my car outside of Walgreens. For those who are curious, my my doc started me on: 2mg estradiol X 1 day, 50mg of spiro x 2 a day, and 2.5mg finasteride x 1 a day. I should be getting my estradiol bumped up to 4mg at the end of October – I’m excited about that.

IMG_20150908_155606September 8, First week of HRT

Did not notice any real physical changes my first week of HRT. But I did have increased anxiety about passing and became really interested in researching all things HRT. I had trouble sleeping the first few nights because I was so excited about waking up and taking my next dose. It was like waking up to Christmas every morning getting to take my pills. I have since calmed down as to where my sleeping patterns are back to normal and I am getting good sleep again. It’d still say I’m pretty preoccupied with trans-related thoughts though.

IMG_20150914_130139September 14, second week of HRT

At this point I had just had my third session of laser hair removal. Still working on removing residual facial hair – I still have a noticeable shadow though it’s not nearly as bad as when I first started.

IMG_20150922_171031September 22, week three of HRT

IMG_20150930_183313September 30, week four of HRT

It’s been 31 days since I started HRT. Probably the biggest change I have noticed is my skin is a lot softer now. My body hair seems to be growing in slower and less thick and dark – I shave less frequently and shaving is much easier. My sex drive has diminished. Erections are harder to get, sensation is minimized. Ejaculate is pretty much dry (this happened only a couple weeks in surprisingly). Not much development breast-wise. No sensitivity or pain or breast buds yet. Things look slightly flabbier and puffier but that’s about it – unless I am imagining things because sometimes  I slightly maybe see some breast development but it’s so subtle I don’t want to say for sure. Appetite has increased. Not much in terms of mood swings or mood changes. Fairly happy and content. Bouts of dysphoria here and there, especially after laser wrecked my face for a good week. But dysphoria seems to be getting better all the time. I seem to be starting to get gendered female more often even when wearing androgynous clothing. I feel like I am passing a little bit better. I’m also getting better at makeup and my gender presentation. My awful bangs are starting to grow out so my hair looks a little better. My current goal is to grow my hair as long as possible as quickly as possible.

Stay tuned for next month’s update!

BONUS PICS:

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Some Quick Thoughts on “Passing”

In a recent interview Janet Mock talks about the concept of “passing”:

I have such a difficult time with the concept of “passing” because I feel it gives this idea that there’s some kind of deception or trickery involved in our identities. I am a woman, people perceive me as a woman, and when I walk on the street, I am not “passing” as anything. I am merely being myself. Often, my trans-ness does not lead the way when I walk into spaces and that allows me safety and anonymity. And because trans people are marked as illegitimate, our bodies and identities are often open to public dissection – and this is a major burden for many trans people, a burden that I often do not have to carry in every space I enter because of the way that I look. Our safety should not be based on the way that we look.

What I find interesting in this passage is the idea that the very notion or phrase of “passing” is problematic.

If it’s so problematic, why are so, so many trans people seemingly obsessed with the idea of passing? Why is /r/transpassing one of the most popular trans-related subreddits on reddit? If a trans woman cares about passing, does that mean they believe they are interested in being deceptive? I think the problematic nature of passing is more complicated than Mock suggests because trans people seem to have a love/hate relationship with the whole idea of passing. In my limited experience. trans people seem to recognize the problems built into the concept but nevertheless the concept has a central place in many trans’ people’s heads. This is an interesting tension.

On the one hand, I have seen plenty of pre-transition trans people say they will only transition if they believe they will fully pass. This suggests that for some trans people passing is not just some accidental side-effect of transition but rather their whole reason of transition, the telos or purpose of transition, to pass as a cis person, to not be noticeably trans. If they cant pass 100% then they would consider their transition a “failure”.

On the other hand, Mock is right to point out the cisnormative assumptions built into the concept of passing. I think she is right that the concept of passing implicitly assumes that being cis is “good” and being noticeably trans is “bad” when in a perfect world it would not matter if someone could tell you were trans just by looking at you. But as it is we don’t live in a perfect world – we live in a world where being read as trans can expose you to violence, harassment, and discrimination. It’s not pretty. So passing is not just a side-effect – it’s a defense mechanism against our transphobic society. If society was less transphobic then I would bet that trans people would be less obsessed with passing.

Mock points out that our safety should not be based on how we look. Correct. But unfortunately our safety often does depend on passing. Until it doesn’t, trans people will have a complex relationship with the idea of passing.

Some days I feel very bad about myself because I have my doubts about if I will ever pass due to my face and my voice. Other days I develop a more “fuck passing” kind of mentality where I try to refuse to accept the cisnormative imposition telling me I need to look a certain way or sound a certain way to be accepted by society. It’s hard to know the deep rootedness of my dysphoria because of this tension. Do I care about passing so much because my own body dysphoria is telling me I am intrinsically unhappy with my body/voice? Or do I only care about passing so much because I want to fit into society without having to deal with the anxiety of being read as trans everywhere I go? Honestly, Im not sure. I think it’s probably a mixture of both.

It’s the same way with genital confirmation surgery (GCS) for trans women. I’ve heard some trans women say that they do not have real genital dysphoria (meaning their genitals do not cause them distress) but that they nevertheless want GCS because of fears of dealing with the medical establishment or the TSA and the problems associated with having breasts and a penis simultaneously. So it is the transphobia of our culture that can directly impinge on our bodies and affect our dysphoria. This is what makes passing so complicated. It’s the intersection of the individual and society.

All I really hope is that as more people are being made aware of the existence of trans people we will start to see more media representation of “non-passing” trans people so that we can start to undermine people’s expectations of what it means to be trans and eventually trans people will feel less pressure to pass as they decide whether they want to transition – we need to change the “conditions of satisfaction” of what it means for a transition to be “successful”. How many super tall trans women are discouraged from transition because they think they will never pass? How many people are going to have to live with their dysphoria for the rest of their lives untreated because of the worry that they will never pass? While I am skeptical trans people are somehow going to simply move away from the concept of passing being central to everyday trans-narratives anytime soon – I am glad to see more and more discussion of the problems of the concept of passing – which hopefully will translate into more trans people accepting themselves as they are.

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Thoughts on Stealth

In this post I am going to try and articulate some of my thoughts about the concept of “going stealth” in transgender communities. To go 100% stealth effectively means not having anyone know you are trans. Deep stealth is actively taking steps to erase evidence of your pre-transition self and construct a new history for yourself (“When I was a little girl/boy…”). If stealth is your goal, then you will transition differently than if you decide to not go stealth. You will not announce on Facebook that you are trans. You will likely move to a new city where you know nobody. You will cut off your past life entirely. Any reference to yourself as your former you must be destroyed or hidden, including family photos. If people ask if you are trans, you will say no. You will construct a new medical history. At doctor’s appointments you will answer questions about your medical history in a carefully constructed fashion so as to not reveal yourself as trans unless absolutely necessary. You might actively avoid telling the truth to your friends. You might tell outright lies to avoid outing yourself as trans. The deepest of deep stealth might not even tell their lovers or significant others. They might actively lie to their partners to maintain stealth.

That’s deep stealth in a nutshell as I understand it. In reality people might go stealth to different degrees in different contexts but for the sake of argument I want to work with the idea of “deep stealth” even if that’s not necessarily reflective of people who actually do consider themselves stealth or wanting to be stealth.

Before I begin a philosophical analysis of stealth I want to preface by saying these thoughts reflect my own experience and opinions and are not meant to be judgmental about people who decide to go stealth (though I realize it is going to inevitably come off as judgmental). I want to be able to morally evaluate stealth without calling into question the moral character of people who decide to go stealth. I want to evaluate stealth as an action type and not judge individual people, who have their own reasons to go stealth and the right to exercise their autonomy in that respect.

However, I am interested in whether the decision to go stealth is a decision that a virtuous person would decide to make. Is stealth virtuous or not? Is it morally praiseworthy or blameworthy? Or is it neither? Or does it boil down to the qualifier “it depends”? I think it’s inevitable that the decision to go stealth will involve some form of overt lying – I’m just going to assume that for the sake of argument. The question is whether this lying is justified. Many philosophers think that white lies are permissible because of the underlying good intentions as well as the good consequences for everyone involved. So there are probably scenarios in which lying is permissible. The question is whether stealth is one of these scenarios.

We can ask – does it hurt the person who is stealth and does it hurt the person who is being lied to? I think it’s clear that for the most part the people who are deciding to go stealth seem to gain psychological well-being from going stealth. So it’s not hurting them to be stealth although I do wonder if whether people are are deep stealth undergo anxiety about being outed or whether they are so stealth they never have to worry about being outed. But let’s just assume that stealth people know what’s in their own best interest when they decide to go stealth.

So the remaining question is whether being stealth harms other people in some way. Does being lied to about whether someone is trans or cis count as a harm? On the one hand, I can see the argument going “Well it’s none of their business;. It’s a private medical issue and no one has the right to know the private medical information of someone else if that someone else doesn’t want to disclose that information, especially if they wouldn’t feel safe disclosing that information or if disclosing that information would trigger dysphoria or discomfort or whatever. So if someone doesn’t disclose private medical information that’s not ‘lying’.People who are stealth just want to live their lives as normal people without everyone thinking they are unusual or weird because they had an endocrinological disorder when they were younger. Trans people have the right to shed the label of trans if they so wish and there is nothing secretive or dishonest about exercising that desire.”

So I do think that being stealth is compatible with being virtuous.

But stealth is not something I personally aim for. For me it was helpful to know that there were openly trans people out there living amazing lives and doing amazing things. If I hadn’t known about these trans people I perhaps never would have decided that transition was something that I could actually accomplish. That openness and honesty was something that helped push me towards greater self-actualization and self-acceptance – a huge net positive in my life. And if I am happier then I think I have a greater chance of making others happier as well – to live my life in an openly authentic manner is surely likely to have a greater net effect on other people. If I am not stealth then perhaps my openness and my honesty would help bring greater awareness to a highly marginalized group. I could use my privilege as a white person with a middle-class background and academic education with a social platform to stand on as an aspiring university professor to possibly make marginalized people’s lives better. If that happens to even one person then my decision to not go stealth would be justified.

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Was I Ever Cis? Did I Ever Enjoy Male Privilege?

[EDIT – October 1st 2015]] Disclaimer: I now disagree with almost everything I wrote in this post but I’m leaving it up because the arguments are still interesting.

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In this interesting article Leela Ginelle argues that trans people were never cis.

Perhaps because cis identities are seen as more valid than trans ones in our ciscentric society, some cis women see fit to scrutinize and invalidate trans women’s experiences in the way they do. If a person believes I am a trans woman, it would stand to reason, they believe, as I do, that I’ve always been trans. That means I was a trans girl and grew into a trans woman.

By this reasoning, being misgendered at birth—and closeted as a result of culture-wide transphobic hostility through my first 38 years as I was—would be seen as a horrible misfortune, rather than a privilege….

Falsely attributing trans women with “male privilege,” not recognizing the myriad privileges one enjoys as a cis person—privileges that often seem invisible due our culture’s ciscentric practices—works to reinforce transmisogyny and transphobia, rather than erase it.

Trans women did not ask to be assigned male at birth. We were born “ourselves,” and funneled into a culture that forcibly molded us according to a ciscentric understanding of gender. This was a trauma, not a privilege, as evidenced by the 41% suicide attempt rate reported among trans adults.

This is an interesting argument. If I was never cis then I was never a male then I couldn’t have enjoyed male privilege. Some feminists argue that trans women are not “really” women because they didn’t have the social experience of a woman from birth onwards. Ginelle’s response to this argument is to suggest that trans people were never cis and that they suffered a great trauma in being misgendered at birth.

But this trauma of misgendering raises some interesting epistemic problems. Ok, so if misgendering at birth is this terrible tragedy it stands to reason that we should take aims to correct it. But so far as I know it is currently impossible to empirically detect whether a newborn baby is cis or trans. That is, it’s impossible to know what their gender identity is going to be in adulthood. Until we have some kind of genetic or biological marker that’s predictive of trans identities the only way to avoid the trauma of misgendering at birth is to simply avoid the practice of gendering infants altogether. But I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

Furthermore, we must ask ourselves if the parents and doctors doing the misgendering are somehow morally blameworthy in their actions. Take me for instance. I was born a “normal boy” with normal male anatomy. Based on this the doctors declared me to be a boy. My parents thought I was a boy. Treated me as a boy. I was raised as a boy. I felt like a boy. I never had cross-gender identification until much later though I did strong desires for crossdressing at a young age.

Did my parents make a mistake? If Ginelle is correct that I was trans all along then yes my parents were making a mistake all those years. But I was also making that mistake. I never thought of myself as trans until recently. So I was constantly misgendering myself for all those years. Was I traumatizing myself that whole time?

Here’s an alternative model than Ginelle’s that I call the Higher Order Trans (HOT) model. At the heart of the HOT model is what I call the Principle of Reflexivity:

Principle of Reflexivity: If you are trans you must be aware of yourself as trans.

Those people familiar with higher-order theories of consciousness will see a similar structure. The basic idea is that you cannot be trans unless you have a concept of transness and you are aware of yourself qua trans person i.e. that you self-consciously identify as trans. If the principle of reflexivity is true this means that I was not trans until recently. If I was not trans until recently, then was I cis the rest of my life? Or was I something else? Something not-trans yet not-cis as well? Was I simply an unactualized possibility waiting to blossom?

I have no problem thinking I was cis before I realized I was trans and thus no problem thinking that I enjoyed male privilege growing up. Ginelle was concerned with the feminist argument that trans women are not real women because they enjoyed male privilege. But instead of denying that trans women enjoyed male privilege, perhaps we should deny that having male privilege makes it impossible to ever be a real woman or that it is an obstacle in the quest to transform oneself into a woman.

For me the essence of being trans is the transition itself. The transition from one state of being to another state of being. The feminist argument assumes that if you start with male privilege you cannot transition into a woman. But this argument makes no sense. An acorn starts as an acorn but transform into a tree. Does the tree have “residual acorn energy” or “acorn social experience” that prevents it from transforming? The very nature of transition is to transmogrify – no amount of “male energy” can stop the transmogrification of male energy into female energy. And that transformation doesn’t happen overnight. Sure, there might be some “residual” male energy when first starting to transition. Moreover the whole idea of “male” and “female” energy as being opposites is deeply problematic and reflects binary assumptions about male and female personality. Perhaps there is more overlap in male and female energy and moreover many females have “masculine” energy and that doesn’t take away from their cis-hood so a transwoman with 80% female energy and 20% male energy shouldnt be any less of a “real” woman.

Moreover even if we buy into the “social experience” hypothesis of what makes a woman (which I don’t) then suppose a trans woman transitions at 25 and lives to be 100. They will have spent 75 years of their life as a woman gaining social experience as a woman. Eventually their 25 years of male privilege will be cancelled out by their years of experience living as a woman. So even on the social experience model it’s possible for a man to transition into a woman.

But we shouldn’t buy into the social experience hypothesis because if you transitioned at age 25 then you wouldn’t be a “true” woman until you are 50 years old. But according to the principle of reflexivity you are trans as soon as you start thinking of yourself as trans. So even if you have 25 years of male socialization as soon as you start identifying as trans you cease to be male and become a woman, a trans woman. The HOT model is superior because it captures the intuition that each of us is ourselves the best expert on what our own gender identity is.

EDIT:

My friend Maia sent me her comments on this article and they were so good that I want to share them:

———–

My primary feedback can be categorized into two general areas:
1) I have experienced transness and transition much differently from your experience, and I bristle at the attempts to make generalizations based on those experiences. In particular, I reject the general applicability of having experienced male privilege, the “male to female” conception of transitioning, and the commonality of goals/experiences around passing.
2) Political! I think that this posts largely omits the notions of structuralized cissexism and transmisogyny, which are a necessary element to understanding trans experiences.
My thoughts:
Some feminists argue that trans women are not “really” women because they didn’t have the social experience of a woman from birth onwards.
– These are TERFs, not feminists. We can’t cede that label to them.
Ok, so if misgendering at birth is this terrible tragedy it stands to reason that we should take aims to correct it.
– Much of my issue with the article in general is the absence of a notion of the power dynamics inherent in this situation. It does stand to reason that “we” should take aims to correct it. However for those of us most harmed by this process, we are never allowed into the “we” that might take this on. There are so many issues that it stands to reason ought to be addressed, but the “we” in power has at best no interest in addressing them, and more often has an actual interest in maintaining the status quo.
 
But so far as I know it is currently impossible to empirically detect whether a newborn baby is cis or trans. That is, it’s impossible to know what their gender identity is going to be in adulthood. Until we have some kind of genetic or biological marker that’s predictive of trans identities the only way to avoid the trauma of misgendering at birth is to simply avoid the practice of gendering infants altogether. But I don’t see that happening anytime soon.
– You give up too early! Much of the support for the rest of the article rests on the assumption that simply avoiding gendering children is too far-fetched to have very much of a presence in the solution to this sort of problem.
Furthermore, we must ask ourselves if the parents and doctors doing the misgendering are somehow morally blameworthy in their actions.
– Yes.
Take me for instance.
– There’s the key to the article right there! This article makes much more sense to me as a personal account and an attempt to understand a single experience, rather than an exploration of a generalizable model.
 
I was born a “normal boy” with normal male anatomy. Based on this the doctors declared me to be a boy. My parents thought I was a boy. Treated me as a boy. I was raised as a boy. I felt like a boy. I never had cross-gender identification until much later though I did strong desires for crossdressing at a young age.
– And this was your experience. I’m genuinely happy that you were able to go through childhood with a minimum of dysphoria, but many of us didn’t experience things that way. I was never “normal,” I was never a “boy,” and I completely reject the notion of “male anatomy.”
 
Principle of Reflexivity: If you are trans you must be aware of yourself as trans.
– In the past I have heard this referred to as “I trans therefore I am.”
I have no problem thinking I was cis before I realized I was trans and thus no problem thinking that I enjoyed male privilege growing up.
– Great! I do have a problem and thus I do have a problem!
Ginelle was concerned with the feminist argument that trans women are not real women because they enjoyed male privilege.
– *TERF* argument.
But instead of denying that trans women enjoyed male privilege, perhaps we should deny that having male privilege makes it impossible to ever be a real woman
– I do deny that having experienced something like male privilege should make it impossible to be a “real woman.” However, I also staunchly deny the generalizability of not having experienced some kind of male privilege. Many of us didn’t, and if you feel you did (I happen to feel that I did, for example), then that will be part of your (our) story, but so many trans women did not experience male privilege.
or that it is an obstacle in the quest to transform oneself into a woman.
– I never wasn’t a woman, and therefore I never needed to transform into one. The diversity of conceptions of what transition means to people is pretty staggering, and it’s tough to generalize what this process is to trans people.
 
For me the essence of being trans is the transition itself.
– I know lots of people who feel this way! I also know that if you were to ask 13 year old Jews what the essence of Judaism is, the bat mitzvah would figure much more prominently in the answer than it would if you’d asked someone older. Trans life continues long after transition. And again, this ignores the political realities of being trans; a lot of the identity or status if defined by the oppressor class in opposition to their ideal. An awful lot of cis people won’t accept the idea that we’re anything other than trans even after transition, so the identity necessarily continues in a way regardless of the way we self define.
 
The very nature of transition is to transmogrify
– Not for me! I just wanted to take hormones and wear dresses. No transmogrification necessary!
Sure, there might be some “residual” male energy when first starting to transition.
– Again, this assumes that trans women have “male energy” to begin with, and furthermore assumes that transition is somehow about the from: ___ -> to: ___ model.
The HOT model is superior because it captures the intuition that each of us is ourselves the best expert on what our own gender identity is.
– No model should be thought to be be superior if it purports to generalize on how we trans people experience gender. If it works for you, then it’s the superior model for you! My model works for me, and so on. That said, Lani and I agree that you’re a superior HOT model.

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