Archive by Author | Cara Elizabeth Ramsey

I Now Know…

As an older trans woman, who fought with herself for decades before finally being able to throw off the internalized transphobia and even misogyny that frightened me from embracing myself, there are consequences to having waited so long to transition.

I now know there will never be a happily ever after.

I now know I will never be a bride.

I now know my humanity will be forgotten, indeed already have been forgotten, by those I loved.

I now know that I will always be seen as a monster by people who once mattered to me.

I now know that I have to fear feminists as much as misogynists.

I now know that I have to worry about “trans panic” brutality and even murder, in addition to everything else women worry about it.

I now know that no matter what I do, I will never be “good enough” for some people.

I now know that 99% of men out there view me as a “fuck toy” and not a human being.

I now know that lesbians see me as some sort of abomination to be hated.

I now know that the religious right uses me as a scapegoat to induce fear and loathing in ignorant voters.

I now know that my service to my country did not matter, because of who I am.

I now know that the “land of the free” does not include me or those like me.

This is pretty disheartening, isn’t it? But it’s my reality. I know these things and have come to accept them. But do you know what else I know?

I now know there are some people whose hearts are large enough to include people like me.

I now know there are people who would and did stand by me through the hardest moments of my life.

I now know there are some people who will fight for my rights, even if we’re losing that battle.

I now know that the American church lies, constantly, to maintain the fear and loathing of its members against anyone not like them.

I now know that religion is a lie, and that I am no different, fundamentally from anyone else around me. We are all made of star stuff, after all.

I now know there are new people to love and be loved by and that those who abandoned me can be seen as just a bad memory, a lesson in exactly how not to behave.

I now know there are people willing to stand up against the brutal notion of “trans panic”, to argue against it, and who value my life as a human being.

I now know that ideas can be bigger than the societies that spawn those ideas, and while many still see diversity and equality for all as a threat, that others can and do see it as a desirable goal, even if we never reach it in my lifetime.

I now know peace with who I am, something I never had before.

Finally, I now know that I would rather be who I am in this life and where I am in this life than who I was and where I was before.

In closing, let me leave you with these thoughts.

“You are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream.” – C.S. Lewis

“Risk something or forever sit with your dreams.” – Herb Brooks

“Life is a lot like jazz, it’s best when you improvise.” – George Gershwin

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.” – Maya Angelou

“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.” – Carl Gustav Jung

And on that note, I hope that every one of my friends can find the peace, strength, and commitment to follow their own dreams, live their own lives, and become whom they wish to become.

Language and Gender (And Sex)

Our thinking is shaped by the language in which we think. Many ancient Middle Eastern cultures identified 3, 4, 5, and in one case even 6 genders. And their languages had support for these concepts. Did that make their entire civilization wrong? Hardly.

Cis is from Latin and means “on the same side” whereas trans is also Latin and means “on the opposite side”. Many apparently ignorant people get bent out of shape about the word “cis”, thinking it was invented in the 1990s. It was not. Applying it to gender did happen in the 1990s but “cis” and “trans” are Latin and have been around thousands of years.

Our thought processes are shaped by the language in which they occur. If we are told there are 2 genders, we think that. We “believe” that. And we shape our thought processes around that bedrock assumption. But if someone from the ancient Middle East was teleported to the present, and if we could speak to them in their native tongue, they would perceive gender binary language as simplistic, crude, reductionist, and primitive.

What happened in the 1990s was a direct outgrowth of thinking shaped by language. English defined people as simply male and female. Then you have trans people who were identified at birth one way but who identify “on the opposite side” of their socially assigned gender. Cisgender researchers wanted a term to describe those who were not transgender, and cisgender made sense because it also uses a Latin prefix, just like transgender does, and then applies that meaning to the binary thinking that English encourages.

The only reason that cis and trans work is because of reductionist thinking, encouraged by the English language, that there are just two sexes and just two genders. In other cultures, this doesn’t even occur as a thought process, let alone as a name for a thing. Instead, there are distinct words (and often pronouns) for additional genders.

For example, in English we’ve been taught that “eunuch” was a man who had his testicles removed but was that how it was really used in the Ancient Greek language? No, it was an umbrella term. What we would call a “gay man” today was often referred to as a eunuch, as well as those people who removed their testicles to feminize themselves as much as possible (what we might call trans women today).

Many people seem to assume that every culture before us thought in the exact same way that we think now. That’s simply not true. Much of this is not new at all, but a return to the nuance and complexity that many ancient cultures already recognized and even supported within their languages, which gave them far different perspectives than we have in the Western World which is driven by its history of simplistic obsession with binary thinking (not just about genders either!) which derived from the prevalence of Abrahamic faiths in our society and our society’s longer term history.

The same is true of sex and sexual orientation. Ancient societies often viewed these things in more complex ways than simple binary reductionist thought. Could such thinking be useful to us? We ought to at least explore that, shouldn’t we?

I encourage everyone to stop and think about how language shapes your assumptions about sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity. This isn’t easy because our very thought processes occur in the language with which we are most familiar, but it can still be done. And once we realize that a perspective might not align with what we know scientifically to be true, because of how language has predisposed us to view that perspective, we can then begin to change that perspective, and maybe even the language used to describe the underlying reality in a more accurate manner.

And maybe, just maybe, helping language evolve to be more inclusive and considerate of anyone who does not fit the reductionist gender binary may also help people become more inclusive and considerate as well.

Transgender History: References for Use

This page is a long list of links intended to provide historical information about transgender people, their places and roles throughout many societies, and the long term proof of our existence throughout history. Please feel free to reference this as you wish.

If you have suggestions for articles to add to the list, please let me know via comment, or if you have my Facebook or Email contact information, please feel free to let me know that way as well.

Beyond Caitlyn Jenner Lies a Long Struggle by Transgender People
Third, Fourth, and Fifth Genders In Cultures Around The World
Transgender History: Trans Expression in Ancient Times
What It Was Like to Transition 50 Years Ago
Transgender Elders Share Stories About Life Long Before Caitlyn Jenner
Christine Jorgensen, Caroline Cossey and the power of role models: Transgender in Pennsylvania
Trans Oral History Project: Miss Major on Stonewall
“Stonewall 25”
Meet the Participants
Sylvia Rivera Obituary
Stonewall: The birth of gay power
Interview With an Actual Stonewall Riot Veteran: The Ciswashing of Stonewall Must End!
Pat Cordova-Goff Answers Questions About The Stonewall Boycott
San Francisco’s Stonewall: The landmark transgender rights riot of 1966
‘Stonewall’ film is rewriting LGBT history
Anonymous activists give Stonewall statues historically accurate makeover
LET’S REMEMBER WHAT STONEWALL ACTUALLY WAS
New Alan Turing Letters Reveal Turmoil Over Sexuality, ‘Gay Cure’ Hormone Therapy
Once a Pariah, Now a Judge: The Early Transgender Journey of Phyllis Frye
50 Years of Transgender Models By Daniel Reynolds
Freddie Mercury dressed Princess Diana in drag to sneak her into a gay bar
Ladies In The Streets: Before Stonewall, Transgender Uprising Changed Lives
Every LGBTQ+ Person Should Read This
National Portrait Gallery Adds First Transgender Person to Collection
The Complete History of Transgender Characters in American Comic Books
Teddy Girls: The Style Subculture That Time Forgot
1977: Story of transgender pioneer Angela Morley to be broadcast on BBC Radio 4
Remembering Holly Woodlawn, a Transgender Star of the Warhol Era
The First Black Trans Model Had Her Face on a Box of Clairol
America Pretends There Are Only Two Genders, But Did You Know The Navajo Honor Four? (VIDEO)
Lambda Legal Applauds Appointment of First Openly Lesbian Justice to Minnesota Supreme Court
TERF hate and Sandy Stone
Trans History 101: Transgender Expression in Ancient Times
Transgender Revolutionaries Profiled in New Documentary Series
Nancy Reagan and the AIDS Crisis
Transforming History
The dark side of “visibility”: How we slept on trans people becoming the new scapegoats of the right
BRITISH MEDICAL JOURNAL LONDON SATURDAY 9 APRIL 1966
Jim Fouratt: A classic example of transphobia in older-generation gay men
In the Early 20th Century, America Was Awash in Incredible Queer Nightlife
Rebel Girls: These 6 Queer and Trans Trailblazers Made Political History
The riot that predated Stonewall, 50 years later
Bond Girl Tula was the First Transgender Woman To Bare It All in Playboy Magazine
It’s official: Stonewall Inn is a national monument
How the Nazis derailed the medical advances around sexual reassignment surgery
Happy 65th Birthday, Sylvia Rivera!
The Story Of David Reimer: A Medical Experiment Gone Wrong
Before European Christians Forced Gender Roles, Native Americans Acknowledged 5 Genders
Treatment of left-handedness offers a window into LGBTQ discrimination
Trans: A British History, edited by Christine Burns
7 Realities Of Being Trans Back Before You Knew We Existed
Being able to transition took a quantum leap in the early 1970s.
Historic gay landmark to close while another hopes for recognition
Transforming History
Tracking Transgender: The Historical Truth
Statues of Greek Hermaphrodites
Christine Jorgensen, 1979
The B-52’s’ Fred Schneider on RuPaul’s Pre-Fame ‘Love Shack’ Cameo: ‘He Got the Line-Dance Going!’
Trans Britain: Our Long Journey from the Shadows
A history lesson for Trump: Transgender soldiers served in the Civil War

It’s Not Your Fault

We need to chat. About capitalism, ecologic destruction, white supremacy, racism, sexism, patriarchy, homophobia, and transphobia. We need to discuss something important in relationship to all of those nasty things. And that important thing is this – it is not your fault that you were born into a world that is structured around all those things.

Don’t blame yourself that you have to find a way to live among all those things. It’s not your fault. You have to live so do the best you can in a screwed up world. That’s not your fault.

However, what is your fault is your response to those things. You didn’t create any of those things. You may have benefited from some or even all of them, even if you’d rather not have benefited from them. (That’s what privilege is – you didn’t ask for it, maybe didn’t even want it, but you got it anyway.) It’s not your fault if you possess some kinds of privilege, but your response to that possession is your fault.

You can only control you. You can’t make the world behave differently. You can’t make other people be good, nice, kind, or responsible.

So you’re white and you have white privilege (yes you do, even if you’re homeless and receiving government aid) – what do you do? You use your privilege to tear down the system that gave you that privilege.

You’re cisgender? Tear down transphobia. You’re straight? Tear down homophobia. You’re male? Tear down sexism and objectification of women, and ridicule of gender non-conforming people.

In short, it is your fault if you don’t take a stand. Nobody is saying you’re responsible for slavery. Nobody is blaming you. But you did benefit from slavery if you’re white, even if nobody in your family owned slaves. The question is, what are you going to do about it? Are you just going to sit there and take advantage of a system that exploited others to lift whites above other people? Or are you going to fight to level that system so that someday the color of our skin doesn’t determine our innate worth?

So, it’s not your fault, white person. It’s not your fault, straight person. It’s not your fault, cisgender person.

But what is your responsibility is how you react to all of that. And that is what marginalized people are calling out when they call you out.

Own your responsibilities. Try to be a better human being. Own your privileges then use those privileges to fight for justice for all. Because if you do not, and you just passively allow oppression to continue, well that, my friend, is entirely your fault.

It’s Not Really About Bathrooms

In November 2015, many of us in Houston, Texas, feared that we would lose on the recall vote about the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance. We did, and we lost massively.

During that campaign, the primary weapon of the religious right was the bathroom predator myth. They had TV ads and everything and blasted that myth across the airwaves. It was not until 2 days before the elections that any local media even began to refute those lies.

As a consequence, we lost that vote bigtime by 61% to repeal the ordinance versus 39% to retain it.

When we lost that vote, within a few days, I made the prediction that the GOP would take the bathroom predator myth nationwide. Why? Because it both helps defeat trans rights and in doing so, it drives ignorant Republican voters to the polls. The bathroom predator myth is, therefore, just a tool to turn out ignorant white straight fundamentalist voters.

This means they are scapegoating trans people as a means to grasp at political power. This was never about women’s safety or bathrooms. This was always about the GOP finding a divisive fear generating wedge issue and then hammering that wedge issue with a sledge hammer til it fractures other coalitions and drives voters into Republican arms.

Republicans see this as a win, because it lets them back down (a little, not all the way) on racism as a fear tactic and instead scapegoat a much smaller population that is unable to defend itself. I’ve even seen Republicans make overtures to black churches about how “bad” trans rights are.

If the SCOTUS ever does rule on this and supports trans civil rights, like the Gavin Grimm case returns to the SCOTUS, you can count on right wingers making “rollback trans rights” into another Supreme Court nominee litmus test just like “rollback abortion rights” is right now.

They will argue they need to pack the court with anti-trans judges to stop this “horror” and “danger” to society. And transgender people will be scapegoated and actively harmed solely to support Republican fear mongering. Trans people will die just so Republicans can use fear mongering to gain political power. And that, my friends, is the real evil here.