Outness, Revisited and in color!

Some of you may recall that not too long ago I wrote a post about “Outness” — the degree to which trans people allow others into awareness of their being trans, and something that we tend to borrow from the cisLGB world that doesn’t fully deal with us.

Since then, I’ve had discussions about it, and I’ve done more thinking, and different things have been pointed out to me and to others.

Sarasnavel, in one set of comments, noted the ageism that tends to creep given the division on the current community:

Ah, but what about those kids? Specifically, the high body dysphoria types, since they are the ones that force the issue. Now that there actually exists a generation that is being allowed to socially and later physically transition as early as needed (think “4 years old” and, “at puberty”), I think we may see that it really *is* about passing (replace with your favorite term meaning, “not identified by others as one’s birth sex”). The ones that are starting out as their identified gender have never built any other identity, external or internal. Nor internal defences against the discord. To them, it really is about that one area that doesn’t fit, but they are being taught that it does not affect who they are and that it will be fixed. For them it becomes merely, “a minor medical condition” due to it’s private (read:invisible) nature, and that view is reinforced in the way they are necessarily presented to the small group that has access to birth certificates and other records, such as schools and doctors (when did unqualified educational managers become privy to kids’ health care records, anyway?).

Gina, in the comments to one of it’s locations, had this to say:

I think these are pretty accurate categories, but there’s no mention made of the big bugaboo… how one passes (I know, I know, we’re not supposed to talk about that). And yes, there is a similar spectrum of passing.

And Rebecca over at Thang Blog had some thoughts that are important and critical to my interest in re-exploring it:

The goal is, I guess, to make sure your presentation matches what you think it should be, and let everything else wash over you. Easier said than done, no doubt, but something I’m striving to achieve every day.

As most of you can likely guess, I have little to argue with there, lol.

But there’s one more element to it that popped up while I was talking and thinking about it, and it’s taken me a while to back to it…

The element that had the most effect on my thoughts regarding this was the overlapping nature of some aspects of these options.  That arose out of a discussion on a support forum I visit often but of late comment rarely because, well, to be frank, I’m busy than I’ve ever been in my life, and making time means taking it away from something else — usually my me time, lol.

Some of the questions raised, however, are about the effect of passing, and it’s likely that those folks who deal in passing may not realize the problem with it, so I figure I should address that as well in this brief follow up.

And so, without further ado, I present a visual version of the way I see this working out:

This is a visual representation of outness

The Outness Scale

What I hope is a little more visible here is the way that although there are discrete points within the whole line of it, those points also have expansions that often overlap, allowing someone to be somewhere in between any two points, that can vary according to the individual situation they find themselves in. Trans people often have different degrees of outness in their lives — work may be at one point, play another, home life a third, and so forth.

The idea here, however, is to collect them into some thing that’s more flexible and easier to express than nebulous concepts like “woodworking” or “stealth” which are increasingly difficult to in the modern era to obtain, and which allow for even youth to have a degree of outness.

It was suggested in one comment that youth who transition early will only ever have one way of being — except that’s not entirely true.  They may, generally recognize that they are such, but they still transitioned, and even if they had the supportive environment we are often struggling to set up, they will still have a point where they have to deal with the physiological aspects of transition.

Passing, however, is a bothersome concept. For one, it’s a racism dervied concept — something borrowed from a colorism influenced history that’s negative in all ways.  As a concept, it’s inherently based in the idea of “fooling” and “decieving”, and while I can appreciate the subversive joy that many take in it, that subversive quality is dependent on the notion that we are not who we say we are in term sof our gender and/or sex.

But more importantly, passing relies on something external to the individual — it is a judgement that is made wholly in the minds of other people (even other trans people), and this outness scale is based on the degree to which an individual is empowered to control their lives.

In a sort of backwards, weird ass way, I’ll illustrate this by using a similar concept of disclosure. Disclosure is a part of this structure — some people have a rule for themselves that says they should always disclose to potential partners.  Other people have a rule of never disclose, and some folks have a rule of sometimes they will and sometimes they won’t, to varying degrees.

The flaw in disclosure, however, is that people often try to create a blanket rule *for other people*, and tell other trans folk “well, you should always disclose” or “well, you should never disclose” when, ultimately, the decisiopn and choice is not something they have any right or moral foundation on which to make that blanket rule for other people, since they are not living that person’s life.

Factoring passing into the question of outness is based in the perceptional understandings of others, much like a blanket rule for disclosing is.  It’s someone else placing a judgement and a concept on the individual, which is not empowering, but rather strips their power away from them and places the person who makes that statement in a position of power over the trans person.

Passing is a horrible word, lol.  I’ve been accused of linguistic dancing when I talk about how someone may or may not meet the socially and experientially developed expectations of what a member of a particular social sex role should look like. But what I am describing in that long hand is the concept of passing as it’s commonly used.  If we had another word for that, I’d use it — but my personal experience as a light skinned person of ethnic descent has led me to a deep and abiding awareness of the racist and colorist expectations behind it, and the strong parallels between the two uses (since that’s essentially the same, save one deals in skin color and the other deals in gender and anticipated sex organs).

Indeed, part of the reason that I developed this structure for dealing in outness is that I’m slowly examining the concepts surrounding the terms we use such as “disclosure” and “passing” which are, ultimately, reflections of internalized stigma that we are still dealing with in our own burgeoning culture.  I cheated, of course, and dealt with an easy one that enables me to look at how we, as trans people, differ from the LGB parallel of out and closeted, without stepping on the multitude of trans people who are also LGB, since they often experience both forms of closeting and perceive them as a uniform thing.

Incidentally, you may have encountered a pice out there written by a gal who has absolutely no foundational basis in social structures applying a rule of physics to a social concept like gender and using it say that there is no correlation or linkage between, say, transsexuals and cross dressers.

Allow me to point out that the brain studies they often will also cite always feature people who they would label as cross dressers, and that the best science of the day all shows that the source for someone being a crossdresser in terms of brain is the same source for being a transsexual.

Sometimes I read her stuff and I think she’s working for Cameron.  Ignorance can justify many things.

I say this because in the social sciences spectrums are quite common — and a spectrum in and of itself is always made of discrete points that share a common bond — it is, essentially, a line, formed by a lot of points close together — and the things she’s trying hard to ignore is that the line is drawn using the same basis for all points.

In the same way that a strand of DNA is made of discrete nucleic acids, and that those are made of discrete molecules and that those are made of discrete atoms and that those are made of discrete particles such as positrons and neutrons and electrons, etc, a social spectrum is made up of a collection of discrete points.

Thusly, the image above reflects those discrete points, yet shows how they blend and can interact, sop that a person may be in one, but be affected by elements and aspects of those to the sides of it.  THere are people who are Out who have elements of being Open.  People who are closed that have elements of being in and elements of being blended.

A really good version of the above image would have the In segment as a slowly shrinking area, the Out segment as a smaller area, and the remaining ones in increasing size with the Blended one have the most reach.  Since I haven’t caught up on using photoshop lately and didn’t feel like spending four hours doing that, you get what I give ya right now, lol.  The reason for the variable size of the spheres is to show that a Blended Point might reach as far as the edges of Out and In,  And that In is slowly decreasing due to the difficulty of entering such a place and the basic demise of those for whom that was a huge deal.

It also reflects the population breakdown in my admittedly anecdotal experience (for now — I’m using this basis in a needs assessment) .

It’s still in an infant stage, really, and needing greater consideration and study and discourse, but this is where I’m going with it so far.

Hope you enjoy.