Authenticity and “Passing”

I originally wrote most of this as a comment to another blog I follow. But I realized it’s useful and wanted others to have the chance to consider this as well.

I really really dislike the term “passing” but I’m going to use it here because so many people in the community understand it. I prefer to think of it as just acceptance of who I am.

One of the things about “passing” seems to be a lack of effort. And I don’t mean that in the way some people might think. In fact, perhaps I mean it the opposite way.

When we’re unsure of ourselves, when we’re not authentically ourselves (which I agree is hard!), we start to “act”, and our role in society becomes performance art rather than just who we are.

But the funny thing is that people seem to be able to detect performance art versus authenticity. Maybe we try to hard. Maybe we make subtle mistakes or maybe we’re acting so hard that we don’t make mistakes. Maybe we “act” too hard and it sends signals to others.

I’m not really sure. But what I do know is that as I acquired personal inner peace, as I began to simply “be me” as opposed to someone society thought I should be, my issues with “passing” vanished.

Yeah, I admit I’ve had medical help along the way as an MtF trans woman but that help, while it definitely helped, wasn’t the final piece of the puzzle for me.

It was when I finally found a way to “be me” that I stopped acting. And almost as soon as I stopped acting, I stopped getting misgendered, etc. I know it’s not that easy for everyone. I know that hormones need time to work. I know that there are other aspects. But regardless of all those things, it does seem to me that “passing” includes being authentic, just “being you” rather than a construct.

NOTE: Part of finding that inner peace, for me at least, did come from surgery. Once I completed GCS, then I began to finally, for the first time in my life, begin to feel positive about my own body. So surgery played a role there too, but only a role.

September 10, 1957

On Tuesday, September 10th, 1957, I was born, in Wheeling, West Virginia. On Tuesday, September 10th, 1957, the 22nd episode of the Arlene Francis Show aired. On Tuesday, September 10th, 1957, the 32nd episode of The Tonight Show with Jack Paar (Johnny Carson’s predecessor) aired. On September 10th, 1957, well known actress Kate Burton was also born. On September 10th, 1957, the number one song in the US was “Tammy” by Debbie Reynolds.

In short, it was just another ordinary day in 1950’s America. There was nothing really remarkable about that day except perhaps that it was not remarkable in any special way, shape, or form. But it was remarkable to me because that’s when I “arrived” in this world, a world into which I had already been biologically primed for pain, unhappiness, and confusion.

A few years after this my maternal grandmother would stop driving after an auto accident. But until that time she drove her Thunderbird with wild abandon. She and my grandfather traded their cars in every two years and while I don’t know what they owned before that time, from that first generation Thunderbird going forward for almost 20 more years, the Thunderbird was her preferred car.

On the day I was born I was told she was given the news and stormed out of the hospital, bawling her eyes out as her sister, my great aunt Pat, came in, saying “It’s a BOY!” Little did she know that the child within that body was a little girl, a little girl who would be forced to be something she never felt she was.

I speak of my maternal grandmother here because I was never really allowed to get to know my paternal grandparents and once my father left us, when I was nine, I only saw them one more time in the rest of my childhood years. So for reference, unless I say otherwise, I speak of my maternal grandmother.

When I was about five years old, and the exact age escapes me but it must have been close to that, a particularly fateful day happened on one of my outings with my grandmother. You see, despite her initial reaction, she’d taken a fancy to me, and once I was old enough, she took me on her hair trips, which occurred every two weeks. Now perhaps it wasn’t every trip. I don’t remember clearly enough to say, but it was often. Our trips always followed a particular format. We’d drive to Wheeling, West Virginia, to the hair salon where she’d get her hair done. Then we’d go to Elby’s Big Boy Family Restaurant for dinner. I’d try all manner of things but dessert was almost always the Big Boy Strawberry pie.

And then we’d conclude the afternoon out with a visit to LS Good and Co., a department store in Wheeling that had been there for years. I’m unsure how long though I suppose I could look it up. My grandmother told me it had been around when she was a child. How much older than that it might have been, I couldn’t say. She had worked there, first in retail sales then as a buyer for the store during the Great Depression and her younger sister was the senior buyer for the store when I was a child, so my grandmother was a well known and respected figure there.

On this particularly eventful day, as we navigated the store to find her sister, we went through the floor with children’s clothing. She stopped, seeing a little boy’s formal summer “suit” – navy blue shorts, a navy blue jacket, white shirt, and bow tie. She picked that up off the rack and held it in front of me and said, quite approvingly, “You would look cute in this.”

I remember the incident like it was burned into my brain (probably because it is). I stood there looking first at my grandmother, then across the aisle. I pointed across the aisle and said “But I want that!”

My grandmother turned and looked, whereupon a look of sheer abject horror overcame her entire face. I was pointing at a yellow sun dress with flowers. Now I want to emphasize that my grandmother was not trying to be cruel. She spoke to me in the kindest, softest, most loving voice, but the problem was that she couldn’t see her own face and I could. And her face wore a mask of sheer horror. She knelt down and said softly, “Little boys don’t wear dresses. Those are for little girls and you’re a little boy.”

I know she wasn’t trying to convey what she ultimately did convey to me, but it was very clear to me at that moment that I had done something horribly, terribly wrong. I just had no idea what it was that I’d done. Needless to say, the little boy’s suit was forgotten, placed back on the rack, and we hurried onward, my grandmother trying to pretend that nothing had happened.

My grandmother was a matriarchal figure. A powerful businesswoman in the local community, even her husband bowed to her force of will. She was a powerful influence on me, and perhaps in ways she didn’t realize as well.

I mention this because there was another “formative moment” that involved her. I must have been about 12 years old, maybe 11, maybe 13, I don’t really remember the specific year, though I’m fairly certain it was when I was 12.

After my father divorced my mother, he abandoned us. She ended up on welfare and food stamps to make ends meet. To help her out, my grandmother, who owned a rural motel just outside the county seat of the county where we lived, bought a mobile home, had it set up and connected to the electrical, water, and sewer systems of the motel, and that is where I spent the rest of my years before adulthood, except for a short period of a few months that deserves it’s own discussion, perhaps at another time.

In any event, there we lived, at this motel. This motel was a popular one, because it was clean, well kept, and very reasonably priced. So a lot of traveling salesman stayed there. Traveling salesman often carried pornographic magazines, which they also often left in the rooms where they stayed. Our maid staff would throw these magazines away and I would fish them out of the trash, to read.

I never felt particularly lustful towards the women in those magazines, though I often was jealous. Why did my body do this to me instead of that? I felt I was being punished for something, that I was broken, and that there was no one else as “horribly wrong” as myself. I was very introverted, especially at school. I’m well aware there were whispers about that “queer” kid, though I was not what they accused me of. Perhaps, in my mind, I believed I was something far worse.

On a fateful day in the summer, and it had to be summer because it was hot and I wasn’t in school that day, I was reading one of these magazines. Now normally I smuggled these into my grandmother’s house and read them in her guest bedroom, where I could hide them in the bed frame should I hear anyone coming. I always had a book with me as well, so that I could pretend I was reading. And honestly, I frequently did read sitting in that room on the floor, as far from the door as I could muster. I read the entire Lord of the Rings for the first time either in that room or in my own bed late at nights.

But this isn’t about the Lord of the Rings. On that day I was reading one of those magazines and I was enthralled. It was an article about transsexual women and about “sex change” operations. It suddenly had become obvious to me that you could change your sex, that you could be who you were. Or so I thought.

I was so enthralled with that article that on this day I did not hear my grandmother coming until she had already entered the room. And she had already seen what I was reading. She ripped the magazine from my hands, screaming at me, then looked specifically at what I’d been reading and her face flushed an angry red. She began to rant. “Good people don’t do this! This is an abomination! These people are perverts! You’re not a pervert, are you?” She stormed off and that magazine was never seen again.

But that question, coupled with the deep love and respect I held for my grandmother, tormented me for decades afterwards. “You’re not a pervert, are you?” When I wondered about “sex change” operations, that shout would always echo in my mind – “You’re not a pervert, are you?” When I felt compelled to read about the topic of transsexual women, that shout would again echo in my mind – “You’re not a pervert, are you?”

And I concluded that no, I am not a pervert so no, I cannot think about that, consider it, or even allow it to enter my mind. That question helped drive me to block out so much of myself that the last few years have been a complete reawakening unlike any I’ve had since I was a teen.

The above two incidents were not the only ones that affected my confused youthful mind but I recount them today, September 10th, on my 59th birthday as I look back at the mistakes I’ve made in life, and the excessive “respect” I gave to authority figures – respect that nearly killed me with depression and suicidality. And I don’t blame my grandmother either. She was a product of her times. In the 1950s, the “Public Service Announcements” would air, in black and white, on that new fangled device called a “television”. And those PSAs were very strongly worded against homosexuals. (Here’s one such PSA, almost 10 minutes long. Note the similarity with themes and lies used against transgender people today that were used against gays back then.) Though trans people may not be homosexuals, they were even then seen as a subclass or the “perversion” of homosexuality. So even with all her character strengths, my grandmother was also highly flawed and very bigoted.

I wrote this entry today not to criticize, but to illuminate. Powerful cultural forces were working on many of us who transitioned later in life. Those forces screamed at us that we were “wrong”, that what we wanted was “wrong”, that who we were was “wrong”. Cultural forces can be very powerful in shaping our behaviors. I know they shaped mine with regard to my sense of gender identity, such that I treated it as a kind of mistake, error, or fatal flaw.

It is my hope that someday soon no child will be forced to feel that they are “broken”, or “wrong”, or a “pervert” for who they are. And while we are making progress on that front, sadly, today is not that day.

Mental Delusions and White MTF Late Life Transitioners

Over and over again, I encounter late life transitioners who are absolutely desperate to hold onto their conservative and Republican credentials. This tells me they’ve not really started to transition yet because if they had, if they had been out among other women and learned and seen what other women put up with from the right wing Neanderthal mouth breathers in the GOP, they either could not be Republicans or they have hearts of ice and stone filled with hate for their fellow human beings.

The GOP has lied about everything it touches. The GOP courted KKK votes in the south beginning with Richard Nixon, via the “Southern Strategy” as created by his campaign adviser, Kevin Phillips. This article is from 1970 from the New York Times where they interviewed Kevin Phillips to understand how he won the South. Now either all those hateful white supremacist George Wallace style voters all, down to the last man, woman, and child, suddenly had a conversion and began supporting civil rights for people of color… OR they were attracted to the GOP via a series of code words and phrases that signaled white supremacy and dismissal of the black man. Which seems more reasonable to you? Yet very few older white MTF transitioners ever know about this, let alone accept the truth of it.

And this was not a one time thing either. Lee Atwater, in the middle 1980s, had his interview where he explained how they stopped saying “N*****, n*****, n*****!” and instead resorted to using code phrases like desegregation, forced busing, welfare bums, etc. Atwater was so upset with what he did with his life that he begged forgiveness on his death bed in the early 1990s for being a racist. Yet very few older white MTF transitioners ever know about this, let alone accept the truth of it.

Another of Nixon’s men, John Erlichman, said this also: “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.” Yet very few older white MTF transitioners ever know about this, let alone accept the truth of it.

Even further, in 2005, Ken Mehlman, then RNC chairman, publicly apologized to the NAACP for the GOP’s long history of racist attacks against people of color, and for using people of color to induce fear in ignorant white voters. This is public information yet very few older white MTF transitioners ever know about this, let alone accept the truth of it.

The GOP has never once balanced a budget on budget cuts as they claim. The budget being balanced in the 1990s was a compromise of budget cuts in some areas, and substantial tax increases in other areas, including on the highest bracket income earners. But you won’t hear Newt Gingrich or Republicans admit that. Republican states are among the poorest in the USA with the states taking the most federal handouts being Republican 9 times out of 10. On the other end, blue states (Democrat controlled) pay more to Washington than they take back. So who’s the real deadbeats here? Sam Brownback’s Kansas application of libertarian right wing nonsense now has the state running deficits of incredible proportions for such a small and relatively poor state. Even other Republicans in Kansas want to reject that nonsense now. Likewise, Scott Walker has done no favors to Wisconsin or its residents, cutting the state university budget by $450 million just so he can spend $400 million on a new sports stadium. Yet very few older white MTF transitioners ever know about this, let alone accept the truth of it.

The Republican Party in 2015 introduced over 110 anti-LGBT bills in states and the US Congress. Zero were introduced by Democrats. The Republican party introduced in states and the US Congress over 200 anti-LGBT bills so far in 2016. Zero were introduced by Democrats. The GOP just passed the most anti-LGBT party platform in its history, calling for the repeal of marriage equality, for open discrimination against transgender people, and for reparative therapy to be used on LGBT people, both children and any adults committed for being LGBT, despite the fact that no major medical organization considers being gay or trans as a mental health issue anymore. Yet very few older white MTF transitioners ever know about this, let alone accept the truth of it.

That same party platform carries open unscientific lies, claiming children in LGBT households are more prone to drug use, criminal behavior, and mental health issues, yet the scientifically proven truth is exactly the opposite. Yet very few older white MTF transitioners ever know about this, let alone accept the truth of it.

Over and over again, I get the impression that older white MTF transitioner believe that this is just about their body. Take the hormones, get surgery if needed, and you’re ok, right? WRONG! If you are a woman, you need to learn about women’s experiences. You need to get out and make friends with cisgender women. You need to understand how often we get raped. You will rapidly find that you suddenly have more friends who’ve been raped than you ever openly knew before in your entire life, because male privilege was hiding that from you. You will discover that women get treated as sex objects whether we want this or not. You will find men talking over you and getting angry if you try to interrupt to take back the floor. You will find men looking at you, not as a human being, but as a piece of meat to be evaluated to be fucked or raped.

And once you begin to understand what it is to be a woman in today’s society, you begin to understand that your worst enemy are conservative white men – exactly the group you were part of before. You begin to grasp that, as an older white male, you were part of a sick, twisted, ugly privileged self-centered group of people who want the entire universe to revolve around them. You, as a trans woman, begin to relate directly to the crap that your friends of color, both trans and cis, are experiencing, and all the crap that goes with that. You begin to understand that suddenly you’re worth less in the marketplace, just because you are a woman, and if you fight back about it, you’ll get fired.

So what I see, every god damned time I encounter a “fresh off the boat” brand new older white MTF transitioner is someone who thinks they can somehow, magically remain a part of that privileged, self-centered, lying brigade of white men who think they deserve to control everything.

I got news for you, honey. You’re a woman now and in their eyes, you ain’t shit. So get with the program and start educating yourself. Make lots of cisgender female friends then listen to them! Listen to their health care issues, how white male doctors dismiss issues that those same doctors would take seriously with a white male. Listen to them as they try to tell you that Old White Guys™ want to control their vaginas. Listen to them as they try to explain how hard it is to raise kids when the father is a deadbeat and the social safety nets have been torn to shreds by Old White Guys™. Listen to them as they tell you how Old White Guys™ talk over them or dismiss their ideas, then turn around and agree when a man says the exact same thing you did just a few minutes before.

And once you start to listen, once you start to learn, unless your head is so far up your ignorant ass that you’re already dead from suffocation, you will start to open your mind and realize that the biggest enemy you have, right now, today, in 2016 are Republicans. I wish that was not the case, but that’s the truth. Maybe someday the GOP will decide to focus on liberty and “live and let live” as they did once a long, long time ago.

But that day is not today and that year is not this year. If you are a transgender woman and you’re voting Republican, you’re still trying to hide behind your white male privilege. And I can guarantee you one thing – eventually they will turn on you too.

A Response to the Lies of “A Sacred Androgen”

Recently, the Antioch Review has published an article full of hateful lies, stereotypes, and absolutely incorrect medical information about transgender people titled “The Sacred Androgen” (link marked as “nofollow” so as not to boost the page’s rank).

In response to this, Brynn Tannehill wrote a scathing condemnation of the article and The Antioch Review itself, titled “Antioch Demonstrates Why Mid-West Kills Queers from the Inside Out“.

And in addition to Brynn’s article, I sent the following email to Christina Check who is listed as the contact for The Antioch Review. I encourage all of you to do likewise. The more they hear from us, the more they may realize they have done something ugly and horribly wrong, and perhaps retract and apologize for that piece of garbage they published.

My letter to the editor lies below this line



If you had published such a pile of garbage laden pile of tripe about black people, your offices might have been buried under angry responses from across the nation already.

If you had published such a garbage laden pile of tripe about gays, you would have been dragged through the major press and rightfully pilloried publicly destroying your reputation.

Yet you think you can get away with it against transgender people?

Your author uses every bad stereotype, ignores all the current medical evidence including neurobiological evidence that has led the American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, the American Association of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association, and the American Psychiatric Association all to conclude that:

1. Being transgender is not a mental illness (and it’s no longer listed as one in the DSM)
2. Being transgender is a neurobiological medical condition caused by in utero hormonal ratio variations during early pregnancy.

Your article goes on and paints trans women as sex obsessed fetishists which couldn’t be further from the truth and which theory has been totally destroyed. Bailey’s work on “autogynephelia” has been refuted because what he thought was solely trans obsession turns out to be common natal female behavior as well.

Your author asserts that transgender people are mentally ill while mental health professionals say that being transgender is not a mental illness. Your author then goes on to support reparative therapy which has been proven to increase suicidality, and never ever “cures” anything.

Your author cites the 41% suicide attempt rate as proof of mental illness and ignores that mental health professionals cite that as proof of the deep systemic hatred and oppression our culture has displayed towards transgender people. Mental health professionals say YOU need to change your attitudes towards trans people, and not that trans people need to change.

Your author launches into rape culture objectification of women and then tries to use that as a reason to see trans women with disgust.

Your author tries to assert that trans women are just gay men but ignores actual biological evidence that trans women are as different from gay men, in the brain, as they can possibly be.

The above microscope slides are just one of many studies demonstrating that trans women have brain structures very similar to cisgender women and nothing at all like gay men.
In short, your article, “The Sacred Androgen”, is hate speech targeted at a minority group that is being actively attacked and oppressed today in popular media and by right wing politicians and churches for being different. Yet the medical community, across the board, supports trans people and who they say they are. There are only a few old fossils, like Paul McHugh, Bailey, and others who get regularly trotted out by the right wing to support these hateful views.

With the publication of “The Sacred Androgen”, The Antioch Review demonstrates that it is not a rational nor respectful publication and that anything it publishes should be ignored, discarded, and that the Review itself should be driven into the ground as a purveyor of hate speech.

You should be ashamed of yourselves but bigots never are. Just like racists have been hiding in the closet for the last 40 years until Trump came along, bigots never give up their ugly ways and we now know that The Antioch Review is a publication of bigots and bigotry.

Cara Ramsey

The Real Story Behind Middle Class Wages

ShareOfGDPFrom 1950 to 1970, the percentage of US GDP devoted to wages, salaries, and other compensation, in other words, what the vast majority of us call “income” hovered near between 50% and 52% of GDP overall (see St. Louis Federal Reserve chart for more information).

Beginning in 1970 that number began to decline. Under Ronald Reagan and the GOP’s union busting antics, it accelerated.

Today, in 2016, the percentage of GDP that is devoted to income of the middle class, that is wages, salaries, etc., has fallen to about 42%, a 10% decline from its peak. According to the US Census Bureau, this works out to $50,740 per family, not separating by race, which shows further problems (See Table 1, Page 3 of Incomes, Earnings, and Poverty Data from the US Census Bureau). In practical terms, what does this mean?

We have a GDP of approximately $17.947 trillion in 2015. That 10% the middle class has lost amounts to $1.794 trillion dollars. That $1.794 trillion, divided by 320,000,000 people works out to $5608.43 per capita, which means the average family of four in 2016 should be earning $73,173.75.

You hear activists saying that the rich have gotten richer? They have, amounting to 10% of GDP per year every year and this is at your expense. The numbers are right there in the charts.

Imagine what every family could do with $22,400 more per year. Imagine the extra discretionary spending this creates. Imagine how many more jobs are created by that discretionary spending due to new and increased demand.

If you want to understand what has happened to the working class in America since 1970, and especially since 1980 and the dawn of “supply side” voodoo economics, this is the core of it right here. Look at which politicians have fought hardest to make the rich richer and to bust unions, making you poorer. And if you look at that, there’s one overwhelming answer, over and over again – Republicans. Republicans have fought for tax cut after tax cut for the wealthy. Republicans have fought to allow jobs to be shipped overseas. Republicans have fought against unionization and for “right to work” laws which are really union busting laws intended to put the power in the hands of the employer, and not the employee.

And when you look at this data, right there in front of your face, ask yourself why you vote for Republicans when they consistently do this to you. And if you vote Republican, ask yourself that while you look in the mirror and hit yourself with a bat at the same time, because that’s what you’re doing when you vote for the GOP – you’re hurting yourself first and foremost.