In reading that title, I should point out I am not talking about Beer. Not that I have anything against beer, mind you, as I am sure it is a fine and properly admissible historical artifact.
No, today I am going to talk about what people inevitably call the “Kool-Aid”, which is kinda bothersome for me as I have a preference for keeping some of the old trademarks of my youth (some, not all, and it has no bearing on economic or legal reality, as it comes from nostalgia). More specifically, I am going to refer to the brand of flavored drink mix that I happen to promote.
I will ignore the way that whenever anyone uses that social metaphor, what they are doing is comparing people around today to the followers of Jim Jones. That is, they are making a direct comparison between an effort and/or movement to help other people to a mass murderer’s infatuation with himself and his cult. So they are, in a very real way, completely minimizing the deaths of the people in Jonestown, Guyana. It also ignores the fact that it was an act against capitalism. That it was an act of revolution. (At least according to Jim Jones). So when I see that, I think of 900 people who just had their lives cast into the bin of “people of who don’t count”. But then, I have a sense of history.
Said differently, I’m going to talk about what I promote as an agenda, or way of seeing things, and I’m going to try to do this as simply as I can, which, if you’ve gotten used to me, means I will do something I rarely do and bother to edit the post somewhat.
And so, away we go…
I’ve seen a lot of our detractors and opponents and just the usual detached from reality mentally but sadly still floating around in it physically folks who do what they can to piss on trans people talk about things like the “kool-Aid” or the Agenda or any of various things that ultimately seek to say that trans people, as a whole, have a common and homogenous agenda that they usually describe in fearful terms.
It turns out that I do have such. Personally. Can’t say how many other people follow it, either in whole or in part, because I sorta let them do their thing and I do mine and since we are all generally “going for the same goal”, we will get there.
Even if we don’t entirely know what that goal is.
For me, that goal is best expressed and described as The Line. In the end, it is where I “draw the line in the sand” for what is and is not acceptable. In its most simple form, the line is the basic rights of human beings as I see them. Fortunately for me, the way I see them is derived from the way that most people in the world who spend time and effort on figuring this stuff out see them. I’m terrible US-centric, as well, as my Line comes from the American sense of those values, according to certain things we have signed on to and support. You can read it by scrolling to the bottom and clicking on Pages.
At least in theory. I prefer not to support them in just theory, because doing that leads to the whole “everyone equal but some are more equal than others” problem. The reason I wrote these out, and have updated and cleaned them up over the years since I did was that I wanted them in a format and a method that allows me to more readily grasp them — plus, the task of creating such a thing also brings the concepts into a sharper focus and lets you understand them more deeply.
I did the same thing when I read Mary Daly. And bell hooks. I am very good at rewriting things in order to gain a greater understanding of them. I don’t change the meaning when I do so, I make an effort to make the meaning(s) clear to me. And that parenthetical s is important, because one of the reasons I can see multiple viewpoints is that I do that,
So I read and considered and structured and wrote the same things that people have been writing since the mid 1700′s (and earlier) and what emerged was the whole page here called, appropriately enough, The Line. Ages ago, I was absolutely asked by someone I was engaged in a fight online with where it was I drew the line when it came to “adding” stuff. Who counts and who doesn’t, essentially. And that’s what it is: a list of who counts.
The answer is, of course, everyone. Everyone counts. Everyone benefits. Everyone has rights. And no one has the right to interfere with those rights.
When an argument comes up and people use the argument of “well, I have a right to not”, I look to my old The Line post and I read through it I attempt to find some sort of validity in their argument in that line.
So when I see people use that line, I look at them and absolutely with cold-blooded and merciless sincerity I say to them “no, no you don’t.”
There isn’t one.
Indeed, separate bathrooms exist because the religious right of the day — the Temperance Movement, which birthed the Suffragette movement and got Prohibition going and made prostitution a crime — said that Men were helpless and weak things (without exception) and so they needed to be separated from women whenever in public in order to stop them from falling prey to their baser instincts.
I will note that this is the exact same idea that separates women from men in Semitic cultures (historically and even in present day) — men are helpless and weak creatures easily swayed and subject to falling prey to their baser instincts whenever women are around.
The above is a nice way of saying that women need to be protected. It is a key element of patriarchy. It reinforces a key idea of separate but equal that informs pretty much the entire debate around women and men doing anything together. And, as has been shown time and time again, separate is never equal.
This line in the sand is one ingredient, however, in the stuff that I promote. First, there are rights. Concomitant with all the rest, and underlying the efforts for all the rest, one must keep in mind that all people have these rights. That includes the idiots and the fuckwits and the generally crappy people who think that all people shouldn’t have the exact same rights.
People like Maggie Gallagher. People like Bryan Brown. People like Orson Scott Card (who’s hit novel is about to become a movie and which funded and will continue to fund efforts to oppress us). People like Cathy Brennan. People like Elizabeth Hungerford. Organizations like the Alliance Defense Fund, the Traditional Values Coalition, Focus on the Family, the American Family Association. Companies like Chick-Fil-A. Religions like the Baptist Conventions and denominations, the Catholic Church, certain sects of Islam. And all the people who support them and their ideas.
All of them firmly believe that all people should not have the exact same rights, and yet, if asked, all of them will naturally say they do believe in such. The proof is in the pudding, in the way they talk about those things, in the measures of actions, not words.
And all of them have taken actions to ensure that everyone does not have the same exact rights.
They want to split things up, to minimize them, to make rights available based on some quality that they approve of.
This is why they are prejudiced. This is why they are our opponents and detractors.
Rights are enforced through Law. That’s pretty much a very US centric concept right there, to be perfectly honest. We firmly believe that rights are inalienable, that is, they are born of something beyond what Mankind makes. One could (successfully) argue that rights are based in religious ideas, but, in my perspective, they are based in philosophical concepts.
And that is the second part. I am, and I promote, a very existentialist view of things. It isn’t perfect — I still can be derailed into arguments of an essentialist nature by arguing about etiology and physiology and all the rest. But I am human and I do put forth effort to make it so that I avoid that as much as possible.
This doesn’t mean that it is nihilistic, or that it is atheistic or agnostic. It isn’t. My own religious beliefs are deeply Gnostic, and like anyone else with strong religious beliefs, they inform much of what I talk about. They inform much of how I think about things. This is similar to those in the list earlier.
If Gnosticism wasn’t a heresy in the Catholic Church, it might be a little more interesting in the world today.
But the core of this aspect of the agenda that I promote is that people have these inalienable rights in order to exercise them (or not, as they see fit) in a manner in complement to and part of an existential life.
When you hear a lot of the arguments that people speak of in terms of those who are hostile to us as Trans people, what they speak to is a kind of “essential Essence” that has primacy and centrality and power above and beyond. For Radical Feminists, it is the Feminine Essence. For the religious opposition, it is a “natural Order” or inherent essence. This essence exists separate of the individual’s existence, and comes first and foremost.
In my approach, existence precedes essence. That is, the person, in and of themselves, is what determines and informs their own existence.
In overly simplistic terms it is a fight between “I am, therefore I think” versus “I think, therefore I am”. I am in the part that says I think, therefore I am. Brennan is in the camp that says I am, therefore I think. (Like I said, this is an oversimplification)
Within this, the individual is responsible for what it is that they do with their lives. That means that their feelings are their problem, and that they decide how to handle them. It means that people do not make you mad, you allow yourself to get angry about something they do.
You can, with a bit more effort, not allow yourself the same thing.
In Brennan’s world, she reduces this to “individualism”. She probably isn’t aware that when she talks about such it is always with a very negative and hostile context, because she’s personally opposed to it (that the US is founded on such, and that her profession is built around such is sorta there for comic effect as she runs around and uses the master’s tools, but hey, everyone can’t be smarter than the rock they are).
Accordingly, Transness, itself, is a very deeply existential thing the way I see it and talk about it and work with it. Transness is, in and of itself, an existence which is contrary to the expectations of us that we are shown, coerced, cajoled, and pushed into. This all works against our ability to form and find our own personal authenticity. That is, we are seeking to live our lives authentically, in keeping with an existential precept. We are thus able to do all that good jargon based stuff that talks about making yourself a better person and living a better life and all the rest.
Because when you live authentically, you get that stuff according to what you put into it.
This is notable because most of Feminism has shifted from an essentially worldview to one that is much more existential. Even the “hard sciences” of Biology, physics, and chemistry are all deeply, deeply informed by an existential understanding of things.
String theory, anyone? Quantum Mechanics, anyone? Sub-molecular, epigenetic, the fucking internet, anyone? An essentialist view would have hampered many of these things — and indeed, it is the existentialist understanding that makes these things capable of being grasped.
Multiplicity of Forms
The next part of the Agenda that I promote is that the Trans Community is much more than it has historically been described as, and that it is not simply an “us vs. them” community, but rather a broader and less clear-cut, much more fluid concept.
And I say the above with the clear and bright knowledge that “Inter and Medi and Non/A” are terms that I am using as placeholders until those groups find their own centers and begin their own cultural and social growth and development and suddenly it becomes more than just Transsexual and Transgender and Gender Variant as they develop their own language.
Because Transness is something that comes from existing, and the ways to exist are rather varied. How we establish and create a taxonomy for it is a relatively minor concern, but it must happen naturally as far as I am concerned, arising out of the geist that is created by the arising of culture and the collision of ideas and experience.
I am keen on seeing the various elements and aspects of the Trans community find themselves, and I do help where I can and I do what I can to further that, but for the most part, I often find myself an observer to much of it because the fight for those legal rights is often the first and foremost concern of many.
When I say I am doing what I can, I don’t mean that figuratively, or merely online, either. I mean that the combined efforts of my days is focused on helping Trans people get past something that seeks to hinder their living Authentically.
Shame & Stigma
When I spoke earlier of the existential aspects of all of this, I noted that there are things which seek to stop us from doing so. We are taught those things, we are cajoled and coerced and “boxed and labeled”. Sorted into people who are acceptable to be called men and people who are acceptable to be called women.
The attacks of the entire previous group are based in their essentialist philosophical outlook, but the way they attack us is to use existing ideas and concepts already present in the culture to do the same thing as the rest of society. This is why they have to take our words and our language and twist the meanings we ascribe to them so that they become something else. It is a strict and direct playbook from those people who seek to cause harm to those they have power over.
The reason I don’t favor that approach is that it isn’t authentic. And I tend to like being who and what I am on my terms and in may way and fuck ya’ll. I’m perfectly content letting some people run around thinking that I am the Night Wind, the creature of the night from legend, the old, old, goddess reduced to shade of her once glorious self, the Mother of Nightmares.
It isn’t true, but some people will think that. And other people can make money off of that. And still other people will be swayed by that. And that means that the shame and stigma will continue to be fed into that which is aligned against people who happen to be Trans.
Then again, being an existentialist, I am also familiar with the power of the Absurd, and how the meaning we ascribe to things is entirely within our power, and thus, when they say that, I do not see it as *me* being terrible and inhumane, I see it as that group taking the time to invest in me the fears and concerns they have, and thereby giving me power over them that I just have to figure out how to use.
An opportunity, then.
But I am not immune to the hurt that accompanies the use of those things. I am not inured to pain, to suffering, to being damaged. And I know that these things they push on us — these ideas about who is and who isn’t, what is right and what is wrong, that females are this and males are that and the entire mélange of attacks that we see all the time on Trans people from the New York Post’s horrific treatment of us to the less well publicized paper that says that Trans women found murdered were asking for it, after all they were freaks and they were drug addicts and they were prostitutes.
And I know that shame and stigma pile on us, as people, not as a collective group, and that they cause us great and lasting pain. That it is all part of the act of ostracizing, and that that act is an act of aggression that seeks to cause someone harm.
I know this because this is what the science shows. This isn’t belief. This isn’t guessing. This is certainty, because Trans people are human beings and human beings are attacked in these ways and human beings feel these things and this is what it does to them.
This is truth, but more importantly, this is Fact.
It heightens Angst, a concept and an idea that is often reduced to something kids feel but which is widespread and deeply impacting. The political divide in the US is, in part, so great because of angst. The angst of the American public over freedom and what it means and how to limit it and how to expand it and who deserves it and so forth and so on and yes, we are right in the middle of that.
The reason that getting “gay marriage” passed across the country won’t have deep and lasting impact on the rights of LGBT people isn’t just that it doesn’t change the challenges of work and housing, it is because it doesn’t address the underlying problem of deep-seated discrimination. It is half the battle, not the whole thing, and it is only a symbol of that half.
One that seeks to rid people of a bit of the stereotype and the stigma and shame that gay folks have been subjected to for years — that they are not capable of real love, that they are disordered and wrong and therefore not as good as everyone else.
If it doesn’t, then you likely aren’t Trans. Trans people are told they won’t be loved, that they will be lonely, that they are merely “fakes” or “copies” or “deceiving” people. All of which act to say that they are not real, that they are not authentic — unless they do things the way someone else tells them to do them.
Here, we see the power of this shame and stigma and how it gets inside us, and even works to turn us against each other, despite what the evidence, the facts, the truth say. “CD’s are not trans”, “transvestite’s are just people who are sick and twisted perverts”, “transgender is a bad thing, I am transsexual“, “you aren’t areal transsexual“, “the umbrella is bad” — all of these things seek to utilize existing stigma and shame to enforce on someone else the idea of what it means to live authentically.
I will say it clearly: Stealth is a transphobic reaction born of stigma and shame. Know that. It is fact. That doesn’t mean you have to live your life not being stealth. That requires a strength that not everyone has. That requires a sense of safety that not everyone has. That requires a sense of self and a way of living that not everyone finds authentic to themselves. These are not oppositional concepts. Stealth may be transphobic, but in a culture that is transphobic, it might be useful to stay alive. And it has been done for centuries by pretty much every group out there, Stealth — and woodworking, and all the other variations — are, in effect, the Trans version of the Patriarchal Bargain that women make, and effort to wrest some sort of power from a system that is stacked against you. And everyone does it to some extent or other unless they literally go around letting every human being they encounter know they are Trans.
Which some folks do.
And authenticity can *only* come from inside one’s self. You cannot find it in other people’s prescriptive actions and words and ways of saying what is and what isn’t.
And if you are to find ways of separating the wheat from the chaff, of finding out what is *you* and what is someone else, you have to take a chance and get hurt some more, and that’s not easy for anyone to do. But it helps, greatly, when you have the words to describe it.
The words we use to describe things are important. I belong to a particular school of thought that says the words we use to describe things — and how we understand those words — influences how we explain them to ourselves and how we make other people understand what it is we say.
Labels exist not to limit, but to enable communication, to share some sense of something in a manner that other people can understand. This is why the term Cis is so important — not just because it centers Trans lives with those people who are something other than Trans, but because it allows us to convey a concept with clarity and ease and I will be blunt — the only people who have a hard time understanding Cis are Radical feminists.
Everybody else gets it. If they have it explained well to them. If the language is there to make them understand. This is why those placeholders from earlier do have import — they allow us to explain a concept to others and then create a bridge of understanding. They allow us to start looking at our own ways of seeing thing within our community and then to discuss those things, so another ingredient in what I advocate is that we use these tools for that purpose.
And among the things that language allows us to do is to get away from the old, false ideas that previous people have set for us in that ongoing and desperate attempt to explain what it means to be Trans, in all its glory and variation.
“trapped in the wrong body” is perhaps the most dangerous of them all, the most hurtful, and yet, it was something that people could grasp hold of, and understand, and over time, this oversimplification has come to stand as the reason, when it was merely an example of what it can feel like at times, not a statement of the reason or what it is like or how it is.
And this is also why I use the terms Trans — without an asterisk — and Transness. They convey a different way of understanding the concepts I work with and the ways in which I do the work I do and the thoughts I have and the agenda I promote.
This is important because Trans people are not made. They are also not diseased. They are not disordered. They are, in all ways, just as much a part of humanity as people with curly hair and people with straight hair.
Trans people are not sick. Transness is not a disease, not something that is wrong with someone, not something that is aberrant or abnormal. It is not a mutation that is changing in terms of population because of the freedom we have suddenly gained. It is not a lark or a whim; it is not a mental problem, because it is not a problem.
Transness, in and of itself, is no different from anything else that marks people as different from folks that are seen as “not commonplace”. Left handedness, curly hair, height extremes, hair color. It is our life.
And we are not like everyone else. That doesn’t mean we are better than everyone else, or that we are worse than everyone else. It just means we are Trans people, and our Transness exists, and it exists in us our entire lives because we are human being and this isn’t something one needs to cure or fix or change.
You do not fix or cure or change Transness.
You might want to do things that make your effort to live authentically easier. You might want to find ways to reduce the stigma, or enable other people to treat you in a manner that is more conducive to your living your life authentically, but these things do not, in and of itself, cure of fix or change one’s basic transness.
That exists. It can exist strongly or weakly, it can exist along different axes, it can come in waves or be consistent and enduring.
It is separate from the things you do about your transness. Some Trans people will do nothing. Some Trans people will do one thing, others will do another thing. Some will do all of the things that have arisen to achieve all of this.
And some will say that if you follow this idea down the road in terms of its logical end, following a reducto ad absurdum methodology, that what I am seeking is for people to just be whatever they want to be. And that means that the surgeries and the hormones and the rest will stop and end and all the other stuff.
They would be half right.
Take away the social systems that govern gender, and Trans people would still exist. They would still seek those surgeries and those ideas and those concepts. It does not mean that Trans people today are the same as they were in thousands of years past, but it does mean that Trans people have been around for thousands of years, and they have always found ways, no matter what the gender system in place ways, and no matter where they are or what the culture is, to live as themselves and to live authentically.
We are not “new”. We are not “recent”. We are part of what it means to be human, in all its glory and we are, therefore not being raised in a manner that works for us.
Our lives are spent in a state of constant pecking. Using the analogy of mosquito bites, I say that a single mosquito bite generally isn’t going to kill someone. Yes, there are risks of disease and so forth, but for the most part, they are only annoying.
Nor is two or three.
But a hundred becomes really painful, and the pain lasts. It endures. Enough of it, and it might carry over for two days. Now think of it as 8000 to 10,000 times a day. Never ending. Every single day. Until it becomes a blur of history, a constant biting and itching and scratching and bleeding and scarring that never ends, never stops, until you find out that there is something you can do about it.
That’s what having transness, being Trans, in a world that is hostile to Trans people feels like. And the thing they can do about it is take some pills that make you slowly less susceptible to those bites. Perhaps get a few surgeries that will help alleviate the discomfort of some of the more enduring bug bites in places that being bitten by a bug really hurt and really make challenging.
And we can do something about that.
We can make it so that the suffering of people is reduced. Not eradicated, because, well, there will always be people like Westboro Baptist Church or its kissing Cousin the kind of Radical Feminism associated with another Bug. But reduced.
And those two groups and all their spiritual and social kin will oppose it at all costs. Because this deals with helping Trans people when they are young. Young enough that the pain and misery that those who don’t get that help go through is avoided, young enough that the 10,000 mosquito bites aren’t striking every single day for years.
And that part of my agenda is that we help the children live lives that are authentic, because to not do so is child abuse and neglect. And this is where I am outside many others. This is where I am stepping away, just I stepped away in each of the foregoing things once before.
I assert that adult Trans people have all the characteristics that adult survivors of child abuse and neglect have. I assert that based on experience and the work I do and a study of the issues within the population and the impact of all of that.
You see, I see it. And I know that everything one does to help people who are such helps Trans people. I don’t have the funding to do a longitudinal study or make any serious stuff happen. I want it. It is part of why I am involved in begging for money for the organization I work for right now, a critical and important campaign that literally means life or death for the organization, although I won’t usually say that.
And it works, and it fits, and I have talked about it over and over again and I said it bluntly over a year ago. And it is starting to trickle out into the world and I am seeing it change the way that people approach us.
Because it is that obvious. And the hard part is that the stuff that makes it so is that we treat Trans people as if they are not Trans people. We raise them poorly — wrongly, harmfully — and that scars them for life and affects their ability to do many things that by the time they have achieved a place of personal strength, it is too late, and the damage is done.
And I say that we cannot ignore them, and that’s where most of my efforts lie, in helping those who were already raised poorly, who have come up in a world seeking something, and when they find it, they are not well prepared for it, or it is a hard thing to go through because Transition is crisis point.
The act of transitioning is a crisis for people — and it is one that is recognized as such, by many, and it needs attention because it is a lonely period all too often.
And that’s the last piece of the Agenda, the plan, and perhaps that scares the hell out of people and I know for a fact it does, because they tell me it does. Often in so many words.
It means changing more than just laws. It means abandoning old ideas about how things are and how things are supposed to be. It means that we have a lot of work that is framed under just a few simple heading here, but that it is possible, and that is desirable, because it will not help only Trans people.