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Category Archives: transition tragedies

Give yer head a shake…

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The world has lost their ever lovin’ minds. This city, anyway. i swear to god. okay, so we had a field trip last week, my college students and I*. We went to a shelter and housing program for street-entrenched youth. That was fun. Every time I take a class there, we all leave inspired and hopeful. A very good woman who has been with the organization since it opened here gives us a tour and explains their work and history, and tells us stories about some of the youth who move through their programs – from street to home, marginalized to belonging. It’s a great program, seems like. At the end of the tour and talk, one of my students asked a question, “what about LGBT youth (as if they’re all the same, as if we have ANYTHING in fucking common)?” He didn’t mean any of the acronym except the “T”, though, it was clear. No one does anymore. She replied, “well, we just happen to have a young man who wants to move into their longer term housing program, and he is in the process of going on hormones and looking at surgery, he’s seeing doctors and therapists for transition, and after a lot of discussion with the staff, we have decided to let him move into the women’s floor. She referred to him with masculine pronouns because, she explained, he hadn’t been through the chemical and surgical alterations yet [she didn’t use those exact words].

There is a whole floor of apartments in a building separate from the shelter for young women who are going from the shelter to the housing program. They each have a small bachelor apartment with a small kitchen with ‘fridge and microwave, their own bathroom, a bed, a table and chairs, some shelves — and there are common areas–a big communal kitchen where they can all sit for a meal together, an area where they can play board games, watch TV or whatever. There is another floor for young men. Youth can live there, paying rent, as long as they are attending school or working, until their 25th birthday. When they move out, the rent they have paid to the organization is returned to them, so they have something to start out with. It’s a great idea, and there are staff who provide some guidance, like parents would do, and other kids in similar circumstances.

Our guide had explained to us that since they separated the boys from the girls in the short term shelter, they have noticed there are some striking differences between the issues they face. The boys are mostly in trouble with drugs and addiction–there is some involvement with gangs and with other criminal activity, and some of them suffer from depression. The girls, now, overwhelmingly the girls are coping with the legacy of incest and other forms of male violence and sexual abuse. They often have eating disorders, they cut themselves, they have a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. The staff has to be very sensitive about boundaries and consistent with rules — they have to find a number of ways to reduce and eventually help these girls stop these self-destructive behaviours. Help them return to and care for their bodies. Give them a sense of belonging and having some autonomy — bodily, intellectually, spiritually.

But if a boy moves in who is going to modify his body in unnatural ways, (much like cutting or starving himself), he wil be encouraged. Not only encouraged, but in his case he will be offered the assistance of doctors and therapists and pharmaceuticals. This is cognitive dissonance. The girls who are suffering from dysmorphia because of whatever reason are encouraged to care for themselves, learn to love and respect and tend to their bodies and figure out how to be an authentic person among those with whom she has common cause. The boy who is suffering in a similar way is, on the other hand, given a message that yes, indeed, his body is wrong. And he is expected to place himself into the care of the institutions of medicine and psychiatry for the rest of his life in order to become right. This is abusive.

Earlier that week we also had a guest speaker come in who is a teacher in an alternative high school. She works with kids who have been pushed from mainstream schools, and gives them her best – all of her heart and love and hope until they have their own to share. She talked mostly about her work with girls. She is passionate and concerned about her students. She loves her work and finds the school system a racist sexist classist institution, and does all she can to give the kids in her classes the love and attention they do not get in the mainstream schools (because they come to her class believing they are all wrong, and pissed about it too — Aboriginal, poor, female, all of the above). She showed us a list of all the things that are in the way of her students gaining a good education. Not one of those things was “SEXISM”. She had written heterosexism, homophobia and transphobia, but not fucking sexism (which is what all those other things are, HELLO). And she told me that her students want a girls-only school that will also not be transphobic. I said, “wait, what? So if it’s only for girls, does that mean FEMALE only, and M-F trans will not be admitted? or does that mean gender — so M-F will be admitted, but girls who think they are or want to be boys, F-M won’t be? what’s the rule here?” and she said, “that’s what we heard from the kids.” And said it would be a longer conversation. Sigh.

My question, though, wasn’t “what do you hear from the kids?” My question was, “what will your criteria be? Who will decide what “girl only” means? Does it mean those youth born female who are ‘transing’ will be denied access? Does it mean that those youth born male who are transing will be allowed? When in the medicalization of their political unrest and adolescent confusion will they be accepted? Do you have a map, a chart a series of graphs? What the hell are you talking about, really?”

Anyway, no matter what she or we hear from these young people– and it’s important to hear them, and care about their opinions and ideas, of course it is – there is genuine science that says that the human brain is not fully formed until up to about 25 years of age. They need us to be consistent and boundaried and to guide them. Do you not remember the decisions you made as a teenager or young adult that you grew to regret — DEEPLY regret, by the time you were 30? Taking up smoking, for example, getting your boyfriend’s name tattooed on your forearm, or trying heroin to lose weight — those kinds of things. Remember? Or when you thought that women who married abusive men had made their own bed so should lie in it, or that the immigrants and refugees from South East Asia were “taking our jobs” — remember when you believed the stuff that you read in the newspaper? And when you got your sex education from your peers on the playground and thought you couldn’t get pregnant unless you had sex while you were having your period? This is the same. The same. But ever so much worse because adults are encouraging this delusional thinking.

I knew to the core of my being that I would grow up to be a boy. I knew it. When I was 10 or 11. I told my mom, too. I told her i had read about this tennis player who had got surgery to become a woman. I thought, “That’s the answer! I can get surgery to become a boy!” I didn’t know what that would mean. But I said, “When I grow up, i will get that surgery too.”

And my mom started to cry, and she said, “Oh, no Erin, you won’t, say you won’t”. I backed down in the face of her tears — she didn’t cry in front of us very often, and it was very distressing. I never mentioned it again, but I harboured that fantasy for years. Pretty much until I became an adult, and learned about feminism, and started hanging out with and reading and talking to feminists. I became a feminist and a lesbian at about the same time, and I never thought about becoming a boy again. But I tell you what, if i had been born even ten years later, i may have been in the same kind of danger as the boy at that youth shelter. Indeed I might be dead by now. There are no long-term studies on the effects of puberty blockers and hormone treatments and so forth. I might have been placed on puberty blockers and testosterone shots and had a hysterectomy and mastectomy before I realized how GREAT being pre-menstrual is. I’m not kidding, either, I love being pre-menstrual – I’m so alert and focused and sensitive – and super strong too. I don’t have many more pre-menstrual times to go though, I’m at the age when the unborn children are packing it in, setting up the retirement home for eggs that have dodged the bullet (never mind that there hasn’t been a bullet in decades…).

I hope to god someone tells that boy to at least wait. And tells the rest of the young men in the men’s part of the housing complex to welcome him, and embrace him as one of their own–because he is. He is a male, and doesn’t have to be masculine to be a ‘real’ man — any more than I had to be feminine to be a ‘real’ woman. i hope that for him, but I don’t expect it. dammit.

*I teach short intensive courses in a private college, they train people to become ‘small p’ professionals. It’s a racket, that whole thing, another blog post will come eventually about that whole stinky business. Maybe…


A little while ago, I woke up to the radio announcer promoting a show about writers featuring two women who have turned their backs on their womanhood and rejected solidarity with other women, other lesbians, in order to gain a measure of safety and acceptance and power for themselves. They wrote a book together about their treachery, and are now celebrating its publication.
Of course, they do not see their embrace of gender-neutral pronouns, breast-binding and rejection of their own femaleness (along with femininity) as misogynist. But that’s what it is. The radio announcer said, “Both were raised as girls, but it never really sat well with them”, and then there was a clip of one of them talking about her preference for the (often grammatically noxious) use of the pronoun “they”.
OF COURSE they never liked being girls — I don’t know anyone who did, not really. Some women do like to be girly to an extent — there is some fun to be had in the dressing up part, but god, the pointy shoes, the toxic hair spray, the expectations to take care of everyone everyone — all the children, all the sick people, all the elders, all the men–all the time (and if we get paid for it, we get paid a pittance). Oh, there is so much about being a “proper woman” that is really hard and unfair and painful. And THEN, to add insult to injury, the clothes that women are supposed to wear almost ALWAYS have no proper pockets. And they’re uncomfortable and not as well-made as men’s clothes.
Women are always the ones to make adjustments in order to prevent attack. Carry a whistle, don’t go out alone at night. hell, don’t go out alone. don’t wear the christly clothes that men have designed and relentlessly marketed to us, don’t leave your drink alone, don’t drink, don’t go here, don’t go there, carry this, don’t carry that —
This trans thing is just one more thing women can do to protect ourselves from men’s aggression. Become men, then they won’t hurt us. Then we can also get the stuff that men get — the acknowledgment, the room to move, the attention when we speak, the extra money on our paycheques, the pockets and the sensible shoes. Plus, because men are not trained to pay attention to others as much as women are, they won’t likely notice the female in the locker room. If they do, though, they’ll be pissed. And they’re much more dangerous than are other women (which we know of course, that’s why we do all this elaborate stuff to avoid their wrath).
So there. a couple women who are a bit safer. And they can say, “we’ve never been women, we have always been men” because they didn’t feel comfortable conforming to the feminine gender. Meanwhile, all the other women, (who are ALSO uncomfortable conforming to the feminine gender, by the way), are left in the same rigid social constructs that benefit men (materially, certainly, though the cost to their humanity is great–if they only knew). They’re still cooking most of the meals, changing most of the diapers, making less of the money, and packing themselves and their kids off to transition houses when Prince Charming goes off the rails (again). But our heroes are brave and transgressing binaries by I-dentifying as masculine-ish “theys”. Thereby leading the way.
leading the way backwards. “You’re right,” their ‘choice’ tells everyone, “you’ve been right all along, being a woman is less than being a man. Women are, yes, weaker, dumber, and less important than men”.
If you are female and troubled because you are not allowed to take up your share of public space — don’t bother with all that messy, uncomfortable, complicated political organizing or rape crisis work, or trying to change the gendered, racist, capitalist systems that keep us apart from each other, that increase the pressure of the boot on the necks of our sisters and aunties and neighbours — don’t bother with all that. Bind your breasts, pitch your voice a bit deeper, call yourself Stefan or Logan (Do they ever pick names like Marion or Leslie or even Bill or Roger?) and be a man.
That’s why I call what they’re doing treachery. They can (kind of, almost) pass, and they have race and class on their side, too — they’re using all this to get a bit more for themselves. They’re not doing jackshit to change the conditions of other women’s lives — it’s such an unimaginative solution to women’s oppression*. Building solidarity and organizing politically with other women is really hard and messy and frustrating — but if it wasn’t for the work of women before us, we would not have the vote, or pants, or transition houses or laws that criminalize rape, or access to abortion or credit cards (a dubious benefit, to be sure) or literacy or—
Now i want to be clear — i don’t give a rats ass if they, or any woman, wants to take on a male name, and wear their jeans with the crotch at the knees like the boys do, and take up welding — what really burns my ass is the denial of their femaleness. Why do they not say, “We didn’t like what was expected of girls so we decided to change those expectations for girls”? Why not look around, see where the holes in the walls are, and hammer away at it to make space for other women too? I guess ’cause it’s easier to do the individual thing, and adjust your own behaviour than it is to look for where we benefit, too, and address the contradictions and take responsibility–
Those two, it’s not entirely their fault, their betrayal of women — and i don’t think they’ve chosen an easy road — no woman’s road is easy, well, not many — but the road of the ‘passing for male’ is I think easier. I think it’s kind of comforting for the powerful when the oppressed do something like this, conform to the existing social structures — they’re not rebelling or making waves, they’re just sliding in to a different part of the structure. It’s easier for everyone that way. Except for those who are already on the bottom. Their burden, then, becomes a bit heavier.


*I know there are some trans people who are involved in some political organizing — of course there are — and even some who are gender-critical and working with others to dismantle sexism, address class inequality and interfere with systemic racism — what i am most concerned with here is their utter disrespect for femaleness, and their seeming acceptance of the taken for granted assumptions that patriarchy makes about our ‘essential’ qualities.

Someone’s little brother

So, when i went home to Red Deer, in December, I looked up my old friend Simone*.  She and I were BEST friends in Junior High. I loved Simone.  She lived really close to the school, like, a block, and it was an “inner city” neighbourhood. Red Deer was barely a city then, but still, they were close to the main drag in the middle of town–a couple of mean bars close by, the Park Hotel and the Windsor within walking distance. Mind you, the school, two or three churches and a couple of pharmacies were as well. All the Institutions of Power within spitting distance of the house where my friend lived.  No power themselves, but surrounded. Like most of us, eh.

her parents were commissionaires. Which meant they worked for the city,  and took payment for parking at the lot by the post office, or walked around and ticketed cars parked by expired meters and other stuff of that nature. Not exciting work, and i don’t think it paid all that well, either.

In Simone’s house lived:  Simone, her two older brothers,  her younger sister and brother  and her mom and dad. This was a tiny house, and pretty rugged-looking. A rental in a constant state of dubious repair. I think the two big boys slept in roughed out rooms in the basement (which I remember as having a dirt floor–but i could be wrong. It was DARK down there).  Simone and her sister slept in bunk beds on the main floor, I can’t remember where the youngest brother slept. There was also an assortment of cats and a bunch of gin bottles.

Simone and I hung out all the time, especially in Grade nine. we would sit in her room and listen to Black Sabbath and other stuff like that. Until she became a born again christian, then she got rid of all her Black Sabbath records.  She wouldn’t give them to me, either, ’cause they were satanic. I didn’t care about that, I liked the music (i have NO IDEA why, looking back now). But she wanted to protect me from that stuff, I guess.

One weekend, my family went to Jasper for a long weekend.  I invited Simone to come too.  I wanted her to come live with us, because her house was so cramped and she was always working to take care of things, cooking, cleaning, trying to take care of her younger siblings…her parents were, well, neglectful at best. Mom said Simone could come, but she would have to tell her parents where she was. I don’t know why we didn’t do that. But she did come for that weekend with us. We rode horses one day, and hiked around. Dad built a big fire every evening and we roasted marshmallows.  It was a lot of fun. We were relaxed with each other.  We were like sisters.

When we started high school, she tried to set me  up with her boyfriends cousin. We liked each other alright, but there was no spark at all. For our first date, he picked me up in his truck, I think Simone and her boyfriend were with us, too, and we went down to the school parking lot and spun donuts in the snow for a while. That was in the days before speed bumps and concrete barriers.  that’s what kids did on Friday nights. I’d often borrow my mom’s car and go there with some friends to do exactly the same thing.  Then we went to some late-might diner and had french fries and hot chocolate.  Or maybe we went to Tim Horton’s for the other kind of donuts.

Anyway, it was a nice night, but he and I didn’t match up. Turned out, he and Simone took a shine to each other. By and by she became pregnant. She didn’t finish grade ten. She made her own wedding dress, it had a medieval looking bodice and sleeves that were tight at the shoulder and upper arm, and flared out below the elbow. Really pretty, if you go in for that kinda thing. She had her first son that summer, and moved with Stu to a trailer near Blackfalds, I think. We tried to keep in touch, but our lives were just so different now. I was a high school girl and she was a married woman and mother.

A couple of years ago, Stu found me on facebook. I was SO happy! My old friend! Now when I go home, I try to get together with her at least once. The first time, she and Stu came over to Mom’s place.  I never have had Simone all to myself like when we were girls, I wish that she would come to see me on her own sometimes. But I don’t know how to ask for that without hurting her feelings, or Stu’s.  Ah, never mind. we see each other once a year, maybe twice. If we were regulars in each others’ lives, I would ask to see her alone, but not now.

Anyway, the first time they came to see me, that time at Mom’s place, Simone told me that her youngest brother had decided he was really a woman. He’d gone to Montreal to get the operations done, and health care had paid for it. Stu grumbled, “I can’t have a machine to help me at night with my sleep apnea, but he can go get this done for free.” And little brothers’ surgeries amounted to about 10 times Stu’s sleep apnea machine.

Simone and Stu take a dim view of little brother’s decision to “transition”. He asked her younger sister for tips on how to “dress like a woman”. Simone laughed and said, “neither she or I have much to tell him,” and gestured vaguely toward her over-sized sweat shirt and jeans. Of course, being women, they dress like women, but for sure not in the impractical pocketless stuff so relentlessly marketed at us.  They are neither of them “ideal women” the kind their brother is supposed to be (according to the doctors who are “helping” him).  He was supposed to live as a woman for two years before heading off to Montreal to get surgery. That meant, I guess, wearing crippling shoes, sitting down to pee, shaping his eyebrows, pitching his voice high, wearing dresses, and taking short, maybe even mincing, steps to get where he wanted to go. If either Simone or I had to “live as women”, we wouldn’t be able to manage it, i’m pretty sure.

I asked Simone why he wanted to become a woman, and she didn’t know. She is disdainful of his decision and he has written her off as not supportive because she’s too religious. Which is a bit too simple, I think. She is religious, yes, but even though I think the religion she follows would take a dim view of me, her lesbian atheist friend–she hasn’t expressed her disagreement or turned her back on me. If her disdain for his decision was only about doing what her religion dictates, she would turn away from all of us. But she has not.

He was her little brother. She cared for him while he was growing up. She tried to protect him and she comforted him when he was afraid, and she made sure that he made it to adulthood. I’m pretty sure that she was as much, or more, a parent to him than their parents were.  We all grew up in a small city on the Canadian Prairies. It’s not easy to be gay there, even now. Maybe that’s part of it. He’s gay, and he’s from poverty; his brothers are rugged and masculine–his sisters too, kind of–(though Simone’s younger sister does amazing things with nail polish–manicures, I mean).   There was no place for him to fit–youngest kid, always at the end of the line. Growing up gay in the middle of the prairies surrounded by combine pilots and bikers–maybe he didn’t see anyone around him who had what he wanted. Maybe some grown-up man sexually abused him. It’s too common a story to be dismissed as a possibility.

He is suffering. And he sees this as a solution to his feelings of discomfort, dislocation, dis-ease. it’s not. It’s a drastic, individualized answer to a big social and political problem. It is not a solution. and it won’t get him closer to comfort, ease, or inclusion.  Ah, damn. it’s too bad. He needs his big sister now as much as he ever did, but he can’t have her. He sure as hell can’t BE her, either.

I hope he finds solace somewhere. I hope he comes back.

*i’m not using real names here, of course.

Statement about “gender identity”

I-dentity (aka trans) politics is fundamentally LIBERTARIAN and individualistic. It is ahistorical and acontextual. It essentializes sex stereotypes by renaming them consensual “gender identities.” It legitimizes and makes invisible  power structures that give rise to female oppression. It is anti-feminist.

[via UP; also posted by Cathy Brennan, Gallus Mag, NoAnodyne, Sargasso Sea, Smash, LuckyNkl, satisaudaci, gorilerof4b, saltnpepa10, iameatingblueberries, Allecto]

The Body I Want.

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A little while ago, a young friend of mine said on facebook that she was going to start taking testosterone. She had decided she was no longer a woman, and was going to take ‘T–  “But only until I have the body I want”, she said.

I’ve been puzzling over this since. What does being a woman have to do with having the body one wants? The gender training i received hasn’t entirely taken, eh. Like pretty much ALL the women I know, we have rejected a lot of what patriarchy trains us to do in order to be a woman. All of us. Even some of my friends, well, acquaintances, really, who say “oh, i like being that woman who takes care of her man”. Grim. But even at that, these women have also rejected some of their gender training. No one of us can manage to be the “Ideal Woman” under patriarchy. none of us.

as for the body–well, patriarchy trains us to strive for slender and kind of weak looking. the Ideal Woman (far as I can tell) has no body hair and not much muscle and big breasts.  If a woman, like my young friend, is stocky and short, she’s going to have a hard time getting that kind of body. And I don’t imagine it feels good to be skinny and without much muscle tone. And on top of that, being a lesbian, well, we used to be a different kind of woman, I think. Now, though, now we’re supposed to look like “L Word” lesbians (that’d be,  like men’s pornified fantasies of ‘girl-on-girl action’). So, ya. I don’t want that, either.

So. What’s a girl to do? become trans! then you don’t have to worry about getting a straightening iron and dieting and all that. you can just take a shot every week (or whatever, i don’t know how it works…) and then you will have the body you want. no diets, no fussing endlessly with your hair, and no worrying about how to be the “right” kind of woman/lesbian.Pass as a man. whew.

but what happens to women, then? This is an individual answer to one woman’s isolation, confusion, resistance. it’s a patriarchal answer, too-i don’t think men got together and conspired to get women to do this–either starve ourselves or poison ourselves (i do think testosterone, steroids, growth hormone, all that stuff is toxic. we don’t know the long-term effects)–but patriarchy is a strong structure, and we are trapped in it. Men benefit from the disintegration of the women’s movement, and from some women ‘jumping ship” as it were, but they don’t have to DO anything–other than the usual — you know, sexual harassment, assault, incest, all that stuff–a few guys do that, keeps us all in line.  there’s a  whole big analysis of  the ways that male violence keeps us isolated from each other, including transitioning–and i’ll maybe get to that some other time, but for now, this is just a quick thread tying men’s violence against women to our own self-loathing and fervent wish to change the bodies we have to achieve peace.

unless we organize.  We need to find ways to come back to each other, to be women together in solidarity with each other. To reject patriarchal norms–to SEE them in fact. We need a women’s liberation movement. I wanted to be a boy when i grew up- i desperately wanted to have a different body–broad shoulders, narrow hips, flat muscular chest, I wanted that.  My own body didn’t always work so well, though being a girl had little to do with that. But I also  wanted the stuff that went with being a boy–the entitlement, the open doors everywhere, the acceptance,  the benefit of the doubt that men just get.

But when i grew up, I found women, and i decided to be a lesbian, and i found feminism, a MOVEMENT–so much to do, so sparky and big and meaningful–and urgent. and then it didn’t matter so much what m body was like– though i train really hard because i can breathe better and think clearer and i feel happier–and i now have a body that won’t let me down, and looks just fine in a suit, too.

Testosterone will not give that young woman the connection to other women that saved my life. That gave my daily activities a focus and meaning. We are all trying to figure out what it is to be a woman in the world, really and truly. I don’t  know what it is, exactly, but it has something to do with our shared experiences of social expectations to become “the Ideal Woman” and the ways in which we must reject it. And it has something to do with what we make room for when we don’t fuss about our “inner self” versus our “outer self” or our body. Together we can find integrity and drive–something a needle or a treatment cannot  (or a bottle or pills, for that matter).  I think we’re supposed to now want a ‘quick fix’ for our alienation–if we change ourselves, we will be happy.

No. we won’t. because The Man is always fuckin’ moving the goal posts.

My young friend will take testosterone, and notice more muscle density and her voice will change and maybe she’ll start losing hair on her head and gaining it everywhere else–but–she can run on the treadmill of trans forever and never get away from her womanly hips.

She could perhaps join a women’s organization, or start a group,talk with other women about body image, what’s the body you have, what’s the body you want, why do you want it? who’s doing the choosing here? really really…

and do some sit-ups.  Core training for the revolution.

i’m sad for her, and for us. i hope she comes back.

man troubles

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so, I was working in the drop-in when this guy came in. now, this is a place that’s for women–but it’s this weird kind of parallel universe where you don’t really have to actually have been raised female, look female, act female or talk female in order to be considered female. never mind that the gender training you received well into adulthood was to be a man–you can just sashay in there and say, “yea. i’m a woman. I got a piece of paper from this doctor who says i’m female.” or not. whatever. makes me wanna set my fuckin’ hair on fire. So…here we are, a big man with a goatee, track pants, big belly, deep voice, “I was born female”, he says, “i don’t understand what your issue is, I’m a woman and I should be here.”

yea, I think, I’m a fucking dolphin and they still make me pay to go to the aquarium, and then i never get to swim with my people…suck it up, princess…

My co-worker says, “i can’t even talk to him, i’m so angry–that’s not a woman’s beard, that’s landscaped.”

another co-worker came in at the same time as upon our man, and was the first to speak to him. whew. i don’t like it when it’s me, ’cause there’s been a ‘draft’ policy for years that kinda changes all the time, and I’m the most outspoken proponent of having the place be “women only”, so i fear that people think I hate trannies, which is not the case, I just…dammit, I just want there to be some place around that’s for women only. please?

Anyhow…so my co-worker, you know, we’ve all been in these fights about being essentialist and exclusionary and bigoted and oh my god transphobic , and she doesn’t want to do the wrong thing, and she wants to be inclusive and good–so she does the wrong thing. lets him walk through the women’s centre to get a coffee, the crowded women’s centre–and promises that we will bring him lunch outside.

give ’em an inch…

As he walks, there’s a ripple of murmur and grumble in his wake. I hear women say, “they shouldn’t let it in here”. Which, you know, is true–except for the “it” part. He’s human, he deserves dignity, respect–even if he does not offer it. He’s damaged, he can’t–letting him walk through the centre was no favour to him or to the women who are there. he gets his coffee, ambles back to the door, leaves. but hangs out close to the door, looking in whenever a woman opens the door to come in or go out.

i go out to ask him to please move to the back door, where my co-worker will give him a lunch. he asks why he can’t come in. I say because your right to self-identify does not trump the womens right to a safe place. i wanted to say, ‘if you are, as you claim, a woman, you would understand immediately what the problem is, and take care of the women around you’. If he were a butch woman, he would not have behaved with such entitlement and belligerence. No way. Even the women who become constructed men, ‘transmen’, and want to still use women’s spaces–they (because, hey, they’re women) will ask in advance if they can come in. They will call a meeting or something–and they’ll back off if told ‘no’. They won’t shout and holler and call in the lawyers. Not in my experience, anyhow.

I suspect, too, that transmen don’t have any trouble getting into all-male space because men don’t gather together to protect each other, to figure out what it is to be male in a world dominated by women–they do it to protect unearned privilege and power–they are not under siege. Unless they are Aboriginal men or refugees or African-Canadian or in some category of “other”. And I don’t know about the intent or structures of those groups. I suspect they need women in them, though, to help them be human.Plus, men don’t really see women, unless they’re, you know, ‘girl from ipanema-ish’. So women can ‘pass’ for the most part, seems to me.

anyhow. so. buddy ate his lunch outside. He pouted. We ignored him. He left. i have no doubt he’ll be back. There are more and more men who come in there. They do not all live “as women” outside, they say they are women when it suits them. Some are consistent, they go around claiming to be women and accessing women’s spaces and we make room for them because, oh, you know, it’s so hard for them (and perhaps we are afraid of them…as we are afraid of men, as a class–isn’t that so? hell hath no fury, I tell ya…). Yea. they do have it hard, but maybe they feel bad because they know, whatever it was that drove them to get all hacked off and tucked in and implanted is still there, they’re still not who they want to be, but there they are now, among women, and they still don’t fit, and how uncomfortable is that? and because they’re men, they get all weird and entitled and defensive.

and dangerous, as well. nothing worse than a damaged man powerless in the world and cornered. yikes. And the women in the women’s center, they know all about the harm that damaged and angry men can do. Even here, in a place that’s supposed to be for women, they are not safe from the rage of men. good lord. The centre has had to ban some of these guys because they’ve harassed women outside, gained access to them inside…not all of them, for sure, but c’mon. Not ONE woman has been found to be a danger to the rest of the women as a whole like some of the men (trannies) have been. What does that tell ya?

ach. apparently there are ongoing discussions in staff meetings about what to do about the men. this is a divisive and troubled discussion here at the drop-in, as these discussions are at every space that women have carved out. once again, men getting in between women’s relationships with each other, sucking up resources we could be directing toward women’s liberation (or at the very least, a little solace in captivity).

argh. see? all this energy on a post about men. i’m gonna write a paper about prostitution and harm reduction now. and go to the gym. Squats, Deadlifts–Core strengthening for the glorious revolution. I’ll tell ya about the two memorials i went to this week, too–some time, i promise. later.

Broken Heart

oh dear. so here i sit, and i know i’m supposed to be packing for my trip with my lover and my friend to the Island, and writing my methods chapter, and sipping herbal tea and being all thoughtful and erudite and organized…but i went off and looked on crackbook, (aka facebook), and i see that this woman with whom i once worked at the radical feminist anti-violence collective got her first T-shot today.

Now, I’m not really up on the lingo, but this woman’s been doing ‘drag-king’ shows the past few years, and hanging with a bunch of women who call themselves “bois” and so forth. And I might be a bit dense, but i can put one and one together. She’s getting her body mutilated so she can think she ‘belongs’ to the queers and the freaks and the ‘transgressive’ gender-benders…I could just fuckin’ cry. She’s not transgressing anything, she’s just drawing the binding of rigid gender tighter across her woman-ness. She’s seen what freedom could look like, she’s seen what damage men have done, and seen what she could have if she did the work–she didn’t want to do that work. But she wanted the social stuff, for sure. she wanted to belong to a group that identified with some shared vision and one that was tight with each other, had a language and did stuff that meant something important to the women who were members of that group.

I guess the ‘bois’ can give her that social stuff, but not ask for the work. cause, you know, it’s not much work to be masculine. except, i suppose, for that part about trying to run away from your womanly hips. but the other stuff–talkin’ about cars and ‘transformer’ movies; fishing and pumpin’ iron; drinkin’ beer and farting…heck. easy-peasy. you can’t really scratch yer balls, but you could stick a sock in your pants and scratch that…

no. it’s MUCH harder to reject gender altogether and try to figure out how to be human. you’re not going to get less lonely by getting hormone injections, J. It’s not going to fill the empty spot where meaning wants to be. When/if you become a sort-of constructed male, you’re going to be further from all you can be. There will be all the shots and the dressings and the lies between you and your essential humanity.

Each time one woman turns her back on her woman-ness, and on her sisters, therefore, my heart breaks. makes my work harder, but even more necessary. I’m so sorry that she has such self-loathing, such loathing for women all, that she wants to do this. i think i’ve let her down. and i know she’s let me down, too.

we’re so hard on each other. in the world that hates women, it’s hard to find the love between us that will lift us and save us. so many of us are giving up. damn.