The Cistrix has you.
You have followed the white rabbit already. In reading some of my posts some of you have said “what the hell?”. Other have read a bit and tried to turn away, to control X their way out of this.
On March 31st, 1999, a Trans person created film was released that redefined and effectively cemented an entire area of film, and created something that will, without question, be considered a classic for decades to come. As a cultural touchpoint, it has affected nearly everything in US culture, and is referenced at least once a day in something, in some way. It is on the National Registry of films, included for significant impact. That film was The Matrix.
I have used the film as analogy previously, in explaining why I use a certain phrase to describe myself, but I haven’t deeply looked at the themes through the knowledge that they were created and driven in part by a trans woman, who, much to the dismay of many, is now the most successful woman director of all time.
Now, with that opening remark, let’s dig into the ideas from the film that let us see much of how the culture we live obscures the truth.
How we are trapped in The Cistrix.
In Simulacres et Simulation, Jean Baudrillard delves into the concepts that surround the nature of symbols, the power of symbolism, the structure of real the ideas of reality and realness, and investigates things which include areas such as existentialism. In the novel and film The Da Vinci Code, the protagonist Dr. Robert Langdon would have been very familiar with it, as much of what is used as the basis of his understanding of symbols and the nature of their interaction with our world and the way we see ourselves and the world around us is linked to and part of what that book speaks to.
It was required reading for me in College, but I’d read it already while stationed in a South American country that I wasn’t in and don’t know anything about. I is worthwhile reading if you want to think on some of the deeper stuff, and in my opinion, if you want to study people, and how to help them and learn to make social change, it is very useful.
In any case, one of the key elements to all of this is to understand that a Simulacrum is a copy of something that isn’t there — something for which there is no original, something that can only exist through the copy itself. The plural is Simulacra.
A Simulation is the imitation of something real in the world — a process or system or institution — over time. In this way, he touches on and explores the nature of social constructions, and seeks to disarm their power, among many other things. As basically an existentialist philosopher ( a statement many would disagree with, but post-structuralism is derived from it and so is postmodernism and semiology), he is closely associated with the concepts of postmodernism and the semiotic ways that society operates.
In this sense, the “self” that we build for ourselves as Trans people that is inauthentic — that is a shell where we essentially pretend to be women and men when, in actuality, we are not, instead we are men and women and something either in between or neither — is a simulation of a Cis person, a fancy package over the inner truth, with all the symbolic power that is carried in behavior, in mannerisms, in clothing, and so forth.
We wrap ourselves up in this — often becoming lost in it — and we tie an anchor to it early in our transitions out of fear of the unknown or loss or abandonment or whatever. For many of us that becomes our reality, our “real world”, the warm and familiar sights and sounds and tastes, though none of it is real, none of is authentic, because it is, in the end, all merely simulacra of the actuality, the deeper and underlying truth that we then set free after transition.
You may wonder why I bring that up in a commentary on The Matrix. Well, shortly after Neo is told to follow the white rabbit, he has to get something from a location on his shelf — a book he has hollowed out that is itself now merely a simulation of a book — and yet as a symbol, it is important. And that book is this one.
And while called one’s own personal jesus, as neo is described after handing what he gets from that book, Neo, this alias, this non entity who exists only in the aether of the net, does not exist. That’s important because the song that is named after that is making references to the same thing — the nature of symbolism.
And right after that, we are led to wonder if we have ever had that feeling where we are not sure if we are awake or still dreaming — and there we are dealing with that point of transition when it is starting the floating and strange feeling of how something momentous is going to happen, a realization about ourselves that is voiced is strong and permeating ourselves, yet everything is still the same and we hesitate as we inch forward into the abyss that will change our lives, with only strangers who shock us, who stand out, who do not operate by the same rules we know so well, to guide us along a path that is scary and dangerous as all get out.
And all that less than 10 minutes into the film.
Before all of this, there are efforts to stop this, because all melodrama needs a villain, an antagonist; in this case unclearly personified by Agent Smith, who functions as the stand in for all those who work on behalf of normalcy, of appeasement, of going along to get along, of not making waves, of being just like other people, of assimilation.
And as a mystery — a tantalizing temptation, a glimpse of something that could answer a question that nags at our protagonist (you are not really a man, Toni) — grabs him, he does something unusual and is given a warning of danger, of risk, and the hint of a reward.
Much like many of us are told of the cost to us in friends and family, of the risk to our economic and social health. If we are fortunate, by people whom we do not see as “different”, from people who are in such expected garb that we do not immediately accept them as what they are, as Trans people.
And then just as quickly as that strangeness began, it ends, leaving us dealing with the mundane drudgery, the problems of work, the challenges of waking up and being late, but we have taken those first few steps, and the questions, the need, the force of this knowledge (you are a trans person, transgender, transsexual, and this is not real) drives us forward again, and we find ourselves running into the problems of that world around us, that power that opposes us, that massive set of institutions and systems intersections that is, we will soon learn, called the Cistrix.
We are given a strong taste of it when we first run into someone who is not supportive of our coming out — those moments of people in authority telling us we can’t be trans, we are this thing and we are just like everyone else and this is just some phase, some strange moment of difference. And we are told — sometimes directly, but not often — that we cannot have too lives, and that life as a trans person has no future, but the other one does, and we are given a choice, not overtly, but by implication, by suggestion, through hints and through symbolic gestures of many sorts where if we cooperate, then we can have a decent life, and we fall back on our expectations of our rights, our privileges that we thought we had all this time, and still plan to go forward with this.
Only to find our voices taken away from us because we dared to go forward, dared to defy the conventions, dared to resist the very system we have been a part of our whole lives, blind to the truth.
Yet the need to know pushes us further, keeps calling us, and we still venture into the darkness, the rain, the little voice still speaking in our heads (I have spent my entire life looking for you to see me again, to be me again) and urging us on, where we find that as new folks, people treat us with a strange since of suspicion, and we have to prove ourselves to these people who want us to trust them, who tell us that they know we won’t be able to go back that what we are doing is forward or nowhere, and we slide a little further along — online or offline or both — into the Tunnel, the strangeness.
Then those days come when we read something or we talk to someone or we have a moment and we realize that we have a choice to go deeper or to run away, a second to decide will we take the pill that lets us go down the rabbit hole and see what is there to be seen, in the hope that it is better, that it is a good thing, or the pill that lets us go back and not move forward, cast all of this aside, get on with our everyday lives, to assimilate, to appease, to fade.
We think we are in control of our lives, that we are the makers of our reality, that what we do has real power and real importance, and we are still trapped inside the Cistrix still wrapped in Ciscentric thinking, still enamored of constructions that were created without us ever being thought of or considered.
We learn why we are there, in that place, in that moment, in a situation where we are, and why we are pushed there.
We start this process because we know something. What that thing is we cannot explain, but we feel it. We have, typically, felt it our entire lives, or at least from the time we become of aware of it which might be very young or come along much later. We don’t really know what it is at that stage. There is something wrong with our world, we don’t know what it is but it is there; like a splinter in our mind, driving us crazy, affecting everything we do, and with each passing ear it has grown stronger and stronger.
We want to know, then, what the Cistrix is.
It is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in that space you are while read this. You can see it when you look out your window, or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work, when you go to church, when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.
That truth is that we are not women and men, but that we are Men and Women and those in between and those outside it. That the lives we are leading are a form of bondage, a prison that we cannot see or smell or taste or touch. A prison in our own minds, created for us from the earliest moments of our life and taught to us every day, and reinforced 8000 times a day in the media we see and hear and expereince, hardening the neural pathways in our brain to accept it and reject other things.
But telling someone new to this whole thing about it is never good enough, s never quite enough to express it, to explain it, to get them to understand that this is not about the surface stuff, it is about the deeper stuff. That this is not about the clothes we wear or the make up in our lives, it is about the person we are.
It is about the person, not the image of that person; the original, not the simulacrum fashioned in its pale likeness.
We have toye with this so far, We have talked to people, we have explored our feelings, we have read and researched and thought and struggled, and it comes to that point where, really, the decision is made the die is cast.
Hormones are that point. If we take them, we stay in Wonderland, and we see how deep the hole goes. If we don’t, if we choose the blue pill, we wake up in our beds and we believe whatever we want to believe.
Because as humans, we can believe whatever we want to believe, even if that belief overrides reality, even if it denies facts. And we live in a world that does that, that denies things, that hides from things, and that has Agents that act to make sure it stays that way (some of them seeming to be allies, claiming to help us, but not really).
And we take the Blue pill, and our bodies are changed and as that happens we change our lives, our shells, and the ugly truth starts to reveal itself.
Some of us cannot handle it well. Some of us die in this process of transition from the life that was to the life that is. That is transition, that entire moment where we go from point a to point b and in The Matrix, it starts when the mirror envelopes through the training, as we learn new skills very quickly, as we start to understand the basic systems and structures that govern the Matrix itself, the rudimentary stuff.
We awaken to a moment where we find we have a body that is not the body we need, we see in our mind’s eye, the body that is affected by that around us, a body, a flesh, that does not match what we know, or, what we thought we knew, to be real, the be right. It is ugly, wrong, improper, and for a while, we are not *there*, not ourselves, because we start to break down what we learned before, and as we do so, there are those out there who try to tell us that there is even more to be aware of, even more to think on, and even more to do, because, as we come to learn, we are at war.
We must fight, as well, because if we do not, then the Cistrix wins, the powers that be will take us, and we will be their creatures, in bondage, still, if not killed or slain outright or by neglect.
The Cistrix is a system. That system is our enemy. But when you’re inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.
This is, of course, analogy in action. The Cistrix is the culture, the society we are part of, the way that everyone we run into in our daily lives is raised, is taught; every thought, every decision; every want and need and hope and dream and more is part of it. Every law we have, every rule, every institution, every struggle. All of it is Ciscentric at its core.
That doesn’t mean that it is bad for us, inherently, which I’ve come to notice some people are thinking is what I am saying.
I am not saying that. Just because it was created without us in mind, just because our existence did not ever factor into it, that does not mean that it automatically is a bad thing for us.
Freedom is a good thing. Human Rights are a good thing. Don’t make that mistake of thinking that simply because it is Ciscentric, it is automatically bad for us. Feminism may be ciscentric, but it is still good for us, still part of what we need, and if you really stop to think about it for a while, it is one area where we have a built in commonality that stretches across all our own segments and parts.
All this means is that it wasn’t conceived of with us in mind.
What that allows, though, is for us to examine all those things, to take them apart, to look at how they work and don’t work, to point out flaws and weaknesses and to help to change or improve them so that they are no longer Ciscentric.
In doing so, the first thing we have to do is look at the most key elements, the core elements, the smallest parts, and that means looking at the language that we use to describe, to define, to communicate and explain who and what and why and where and how we are.
And the thing we see when we do so is how terms that we take for granted, how things that we accept unquestioningly, are really just hollow shells that do not fit us, do not cover us. How allies are just as much opponents, and how our experiences differ and how they are the same.
I cannot stress more strongly than I do already that we must take care of ourselves, as a community, as a group, as a collective, and how important it is for us to recognize that we are more than the sum of our parts when we do so.
I am accused of wanting to create ghettos (those doing so unaware of the classism and racism in their statements), of wanting us to fail, of many things that all boil down to what I refer to as assimilation and appeasement, two basic strategies that have never worked, have never had success, and if you want proof, just note that until people stopped doing so, they never were able to move forward.
But people do not always remember the line between being courteous and respectful and appeasement, between compromise and assimilation, between the practical reality and the theoretical should be’s.
At one point, our protagonist is introduced to a way of seeing the world that is different, introduced by someone who does not have the weight of preconceptions bogging them down, and this proves, later, to be instrumental in developing an awareness of his own power, a power that stands as a metaphor for all that power that we have. Translated, it might look something like this:
Trans Person: Do not try and avoid the Trap. That’s impossible. Instead… only try to realize the truth.
Cis Person: What truth?
Trans Person: There is no Trap.
Cis Person: There is no Trap?
Trans Person: Then you’ll see, that it is not the Trap that offends, it is only yourself.
Or perhaps it looks something like this:
Trans Person: Do not try and avoid gender. That’s impossible. Instead… only try to realize the truth.
Cis Person: What truth?
Trans Person: There is no limit to gender.
Cis Person: There is no limit?
Trans Person: Then you’ll see, that it is not the gender that is limited, it is only yourself.
There is a danger there, though. It befalls many of us, and the first step down that path is cynicism, but another route is depression, or isolation. A withdrawing from the wider world into one that is narrow, that is confined only to our new experience and, fittingly, it is summed up in a speech delivered by the antagonist, Mr. Smith.
In it, he sums up those he opposes as a virus, an illness, a wrongness. And, much like our opponents, until then it seems as if he is merely softpedaling. He hesitates for a moment before destroying a phone booth. He disconnects and doesn’t realize a rescue attempt. His own hubris and some unknown element cause him to make errors, make mistakes.
He is, of course, the bad guy, but like his one time ally Cypher, who is set up to become a forgetful Reagan and represents our own transsexual separatists, who cling to the way things were, our own stealth inhabiting peoples, who hide from the truth and will, themselves, fight against us, his ideas are about upholding the status quo, protecting the Way Things Are.
In our own ways, we are Neo. We are the hero of the story, and as we struggle and grope often blindly forward, we come across insights, until, one day, some of us wake up with the ability to see the code, to see the matrix itself, the Cistrix as it was written by those who oppose us, who oppress us, who belittle us and attack us.
and what we are doing when we do that is saying to those people out there, to those in power and in authoerity and in privielge, is much like the postscript to the Film “The Matrix”
I know you’re out there. I can feel you now. I know that you’re afraid… you’re afraid of us. You’re afraid of change. I don’t know the future. I didn’t come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it’s going to begin. I’m going to hang up this phone, and then I’m going to show these people what you don’t want them to see. I’m going to show them a world without you. A world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible. Where we go from there is a choice I leave to you.
That is, ultimately, the point of nearly every post on Transcentrism that I write. I want to educate our own community, no doubt, but I also seek to educate the wider world.
This is what activism is, this is what advocacy is. The act of showing people what they are not wanted to see, of revealing to them a world without the rules and and controls that are currently in place, that oppress and limit and break down.
Some rules are needed. Anarchy is not desirable since anarchy means even the absence of the ability to work together, which, I will note, is essential if you happen to want medical care or basic human rights. Because human rights, themselves, are a form of control, a form of government. And anarchy must do away with them, just as surely as it does away with everything else.
But one without borders — national and State just as much as without limits to who we are, regardless of our being Cis or Trans.
One where anything is possible — but anything includes the negative as well as the positive. And we want better outcomes than negative ones.
But, ultimately, they are still the ones in power, and unless we face them from a position of power that is our own, that is ours, that they cannot take away from us, we cannot give them a choice as Neo does.
We are not yet The One(s).
We are still learning the path, and very few of us are walking it, and even fewer of us are the path.
We are the key.
We hold the secret, as individuals, as people, to the changes that give feminism a shift forward, that finalize and finish the movement forward for sexual orientation, that complete the circle for disability and racism.
We have more intersections as a community than people literally believe is possible, and because of that, we are the ones that there will be both more resistance to and more support for than ever before in the history of such struggles.
To use that key, that power, we must arm ourselves not with swords and spears, but with both Reason and Faith. We must armor ourselves not with anger, but with vulnerability. We must know ourselves and we must believe what no one else believes.
We must be Trans People.
And we must make the earth tremble.
preferably not in a slo motion rave, though…