Dysphoria

Dysphoria makes me hate my body, makes me angry with it, makes me resent it like its a prison. I feel like we’re at war, my body and me, and I am helpless against it. I cannot stop change it and I cannot escape it. Dysphoria makes furious, but  also exhuasted. Sometimes, instead of an acute horror its the dull, constant ache of a crushing fatigue that I just can’t shake. Its smothering me, soffocating me, drowning me and I’m fighting so hard to get to the surface, to break free and suck air into my lungs, but somehow I’m always losing because one lungful of air is never enough before it pulls you back under again.

At its worst, Dysphoria it makes me want to hide my breasts, to cover them up even when I’m already clothed or cut them off and put them away somewhere. It makes me want to hide my stomach, to ball up, to cover it, to block it from view because there are organs in there that just shouldn’t be and when you look at me its like you can see straight through my skin to where they are. It makes me want to crawl out of my own skin and flee this body.

Dysphoria is immoblizing. It means I can’t do something as simple as going to the store to buy tampons or pregnancy test for myself, because I cannot acknowledge that pregnancy or menstruation could even happen to me and I definitely can’t handle anyone else knowing that. It means I can’t even talk about that stuff  with people who might need to know or be able to help because I can’t say those words out loud. Because as soon as you know I can’t stand to have you looking at me. I want to hide, I want to wear layers and layers and layers of clothes even in my suffocatingly humid apartment. It means that I would rather buy a bunch of Misoprostol (an anti-ulser medication) over the counter and give myself an abortion at home than go to a clinic. It means that I will avoid accessing necessary health care or talking about certain aspects of my physical health. It means I will lie to your face if you ask me about “my period” because if I don’t tell you, if nobody knows, then I can pretend it doesn’t happen.

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Kate Fridkis: Why Do I Slip Into ‘Girly Voice’?

via The Huffington Post

By Kate Fridkis

I lose everything. Stamps especially. I know I have enough stamps to last a lifetime, but they’re tucked away somewhere secret, somewhere clever that felt self-explanatory at the time. I lost my little proof of service slip from jury duty, and then I got another jury duty notice, but in Brooklyn this time, because Brooklyn and Manhattan don’t really talk, they just wave casually at each other across the water and go on with their day.

I called the Manhattan county clerk about twenty times, trying to get evidence that I’d showed up. No one answered. Finally, on my fifth call of the day, a man picked up the phone. I quickly explained the situation.

“When you’re given proof of service, it is a very important document,” he informed me sternly. “It is not something you can just put down and forget about. You need to be more responsible.”

And this is when my voice changed. “I understand,” I said in a breathier, higher, more excitable voice. “It’s just that I’ve moved a lot.”

“There really isn’t an excuse,” he countered.

“Okay,” I said, repentant and slightly childish. “But can you help me out and send me a new one?” My tone went beseeching. It was wringing its delicate hands. It was wearing a little pink dress.

He decided he could find it in his heart to do that. And then there was the complicated matter of my last name, which has always refused to be categorized. The name on my birth certificate is Kate Mende-Fridkis, a name without a single nice-sounding syllable, which intimidates the new viewer and twists the tongue. The unhappy man at the country clerk searched under “Fridkis,” and then he searched under the hyphenated name, but it turned out to have been filed without the hyphen, and by the time we figured out the problem, he was in an even worse mood. What kind of self-respecting person would ever go around with a name like mine?

Me! Adorable little me! A girl who sounded like she had wide, startled eyes and dewily available cleavage. A girl who I could suddenly picture: glossy, shaggy hair falling in her clear-skinned face, a tight white tank top, push-up bra and little jean shorts. Her legs had never betrayed her with stray stubble. She liked heart-shaped jewelry. She thought it was funny that her name was complicated, because she had a great sense of humor. She was tons of fun. She would play sports with the guys at a picnic, but her pitching arm was weak.

It wasn’t that I was flirting with the man — I wasn’t! I wasn’t saying anything cute or seductive or teasing. It was just my voice. It had automatically transformed.

Which shouldn’t be easy, because I think I modeled almost all of my speech patterns off this girl I hero worshipped when I was 12 and 13 and 14 and 15. She was a couple years older, wore work boots and tough canvas pants, kept her hair in a braid and prided herself on being able to lift really heavy things. She talked in a predictably no-nonsense way. Her voice was slightly nasal, and she employed a captivating mix of fancy vocabulary and southern slang. God, I wanted to be her. Right down to the beat-up Ford F150 we both fantasized about driving one day (she eventually did, while I eventually drove my mom’s Toyota Previa, the ugliest minivan in the world). When she liked my boyfriend, I was happy to pass him along to her.

Around the same time, I had another friend who had mastered the girly voice. She slipped into it whenever a guy was within hearing distance. She did it to all grownups, actually, and she dimpled at the same time. She simpered sweetly, she played absently with her hair, she was always looking up through her eyelashes. Except of course when we were alone, and then she was just normal, straightforward, her eyes on the same level as mine. I couldn’t understand it. It made me angry, but I didn’t know why. I didn’t know where she’d learned to do it, and why she thought she should. She sounded like she was 7 when she did it, but not loud and self-satisfied, the way I’d sounded at 7. The way someone imagined little girls sound when they are 7. The way 7-year-old girls on TV used to sound, before they were fast-talking and sarcastic and already knew about sex.

What is that voice? I hear women do it on the street when they are talking to a man they want to quickly placate. I heard one of my college roommates use it every night on the phone with her boyfriend. Girls and women slip into it so naturally, and then out of again, on a daily basis.

And maybe I’m one of them. I have somehow learned how to do it, using it while on the phone with the guy at the county clerk’s office so that he will be nicer to me, hopefully. I don’t remember learning it. I don’t remember practicing it. I don’t remember making any decisions about it except for the one that I made when I was 12 and 13 and 14 and 15, to never, ever talk like that, because, come on, it’s stupid.

“Thank you SO much for your help!” I was exclaiming in the girly voice.

“No problem,” he was saying, pacified, “Just make sure you’re more responsible in the future.”

“I will! I will definitely try!” The girl in my voice was twirling her glossy hair, leaning eagerly forward. She could do cartwheels and they showed off the tattoo of Stitch from Lilo and Stitch on the small of her back. She had very long eyelashes, top and bottom. She sometimes bit her lip, and it did not make her look like a rabbit.

We hung up. I stood there, and I thought about what I should have told him. It would’ve gone something like this: “Listen, George. I’m sorry if this is an inconvenience for you, but I need that proof of service. I don’t need a lecture about responsibility. Life is busy and hectic, and I don’t have time to explain mine to you, or apologize for it. I’d appreciate you getting me that slip of paper so that we can both get on with our day.”

George and I, we’re like Manhattan and Brooklyn, we should just wave casually at each other across the water. It doesn’t need to be more than that.

George sent me my proof of service, and I was about to send it to the Brooklyn court when I realized that the names are different. This jury summons is for a married Kate with a new last name that I still sometimes find myself stumbling on. The last one was for a Kate with a hyphenated last name without a single decent syllable. It’s ironic, since I usually just go by Kate Fridkis, which isn’t either of those, but which has grown to sound right in its quick awkwardness.

“Shit,” I yelled, in my real voice. “Shit! They’re not gonna accept this! It’s under different names.”

“Just send them a copy of our marriage certificate,” my husband called from the other room.

And I would have, except that I can’t find it anywhere. It’s probably with the stamps.

——————————————————-

This was written by a cis woman, but this is something I’ve experienced before so I thought I’d re-blog it. This  happens to me almost exclusively when I’m interacting with cis dudes who don’t know that I’m a non-binary trans person and I hate it. Its always involuntary and I never catch myself until its too late and it always feels my voice is betraying me. Please comment below if you’re trans* and you’ve had similar experiences.

Op-ed: ‘Freaking’ Cis People | Advocate.com

Op-ed: ‘Freaking’ Cis People | Advocate.com

by Riki Wilchins

One of the pleasures (and occasional pains) of writing a column online is reading the comments complete strangers leave. It wasn’t even in response to something I’d written, but rather to another commenter, that Rufus Rufushy Ulrik wrote the two-word imprecation I can’t get out of my mind: “Fucking cispeople.”

Only that. Nothing more.

To my ear, it’s even more effective than Danah Gaz’s “Die Cis-scum,” which has an over-the-top edge of goth hostility to it, a take-off on a Ross Meyer 1960s trash flick, “Faster, Cis-Pussycat! Kill! Kill!”

But “fucking cispeople” resonates with me in ways I’m still coming to grips with, right down to its note of plaintive resignation. No exclamation point, no caps. More of a sigh than an expletive. It crystallizes something I’ve been feeling for a long time but couldn’t put into words.

You see, I have struggled with my fair share of those twin demons of all despised minorities who have the misfortune to be nomadic, wandering in search of a cultural heritage and a geography of acceptance: shame and self-loathing.

There is, after all, no transgender section of any city. Even in New York City, I can find people like me, but unlike other minorities — Lubavitchers, African-Americans, gays, Italians — we have no place we can call our own, where we are the norm, where we see ourselves constantly reflected in eyes of others. So I wander through other people’s lands as Other. Even my presence within the LGB and sometimes T community is remains highly contested.

And before my status as trannie, there was transition. Practically the first thing my doctors did was make sure I really wanted to be a cisgender woman, because what other kind of woman could I want to be? I couldn’t very well tell them I wanted to be a transgender woman or a genderqueer one. Being a “true transsexual” was defined  by the very act of wanting not to be one.

When I was prompted to explain that I felt “like a woman, trapped in man’s body” (thanks, no, I’m just trapped in the wrong culture) I was explaining that my deepest identification — the one that had driven me to give up family and lover and jobs and, yes, body parts — was with those whom I was not: cisgender people.

Having established that I wanted to be a cisgender woman, my doctors then rushed to assure me that I could not be one.

For instance, I would have something called a “blind vagina” (which curiously did not move me to inquire if my new vagina would need a seeing-eye dog – perhaps a faithful black Lab).

I was to have other “shortcomings” cisgender-wise: I wouldn’t lactate, drop eggs, menstruate, get pregnant. They enumerated a veritable cis-copia of things I was supposed to desperately want yet could not have.

To be fair, I think they did this not to drive me from depression to suicidal depression (a journey for which I had already packed my bags and hardly needed their assistance) but rather to insulate themselves from my claims of malpractice when I was inevitably disappointed with hormonal and surgical outcomes that failed to liberate the inner, true cis-me.

And then, of course, there was, as always, passing.

Passing as a cisgender female — what else? — was the grand finale. To be truly successful, I should look like what I was not, a cisgender woman. Moreover, real success meant the audience (and trans people never lack for an audience, no?) observing my little gender performance never realizing that I was succeeding. If they became aware that I was succeeding, then I had just failed.

So I entered my transition with both an overwhelming desire to succeed — a yearning to be what I was not and could never be — and a growing suspicion laced with not a little resentment that the cosmology I had bought into had embedded me in a conundrum from which there was no escape and no possibility of redemptive self-esteem.

We end up in this contested space where we’re supposed to look up to and want to be cispeople, also accepting all the terrible things they think about us. Our bodies become the ground for cispeople to work out all their craziness and discomfort and fear around gender. They get to use their standards and appearance to define the bodies and identities to which we are allowed to aspire and then judge us on how well we do at approximating them.

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot: We’re also dependent on them for things like housing, jobs, and (often) partners. If they don’t like us, we don’t get a lease, or they don’t hire us, or they fire us, or we never get a date. Lovely system.

Which gets me back to “fucking cispeople.” I don’t hold it against cisgender people that I swallowed all this crap for a long time — hook, line, and sinker. Or that it’s taken me so long to purge my system of it, as if it were a particularly diffuse, slow-acting poison. After all, they were playing the game the way they were taught it, just as I was.

What I do hold against them and continue to find appalling is that all the insulting and soul-decaying things I believed about myself had cis-fingerprints all over them.

There are very nasty notions in the cultural ether about transgender people, and my friends, they do not originate with us. To put it bluntly, there is nothing positive in the cisgender world about trans people.

Not. One. Thing.

It’s as if the cosmology of cisgender society is toxic to trans people, like kryptonite to Superman.

Nor is it only the wing-nuts who think this way. How about that hipster, post-ironic, post-modern icon, South Park? The show has an endearing way of puncturing the great and mighty, so it can stick up for the weak and oppressed, like gay people, but not us. Liberal America laughed right along as it compared sex change surgery to being surgically altered to be a fish. That’s how ridiculous we are — changing a man into a woman? Might as well try to turn him into a fish! What could be funnier than watching a man waddle around on flippers because he felt like a fish trapped in a man’s body? Just think of all the transgender kids out there, getting the shit kicked out of them in school each day, who get to tune in at night and see this. Gosh, are we trannies funny, or what? And here I mean not only “funny ha-ha” but also “funny peculiar.”

And what about the transphobic reader comments that will inevitably materialize below this piece, if the past is any guide?

Like the commenter who kept referring to me as “that bitch,” as in, “that bitch ought to have her children taken away from her.” Or Bethany, who asked “Which part of Riki is female exactly? The inside-out penis?” (Original riposte, Bethany!)  Or Nick, who observed that I’m “delusional and can’t accept biological reality.” Or Anthony, who recommends that we all just “drop TB form LGBT and get back to the original” (rat on, bro.) Or Cathy, who calls me “this prick” and pines for a real lesbian who can counter my “woman-hating bullshit” (by this she means a “cisgender” woman, of course).

These are just a small sample from the posts that weren’t removed for being aggressively hostile, profane, or transphobic, and we’re talking about The Advocate, the leading magazine for the progressive LGBT community. I was thinking I might be preaching to the choir here, but a lot of it turns out to be the Moral Majority in drag.

Being part of cis society is very complicated, not to say borderline abusive. They don’t really get us. Even many of our friends.

Perhaps, when your mind is so strictly bordered by male and female with nothing in between, you simply can’t. You just don’t have a space in your head for “transgender and woman” or “transgender and man” or simply for “genderqueer.”

Sometimes it’s like having a mother you really wish would like you, but who instead constantly withholds acceptance and tells you you’re not enough and keeps pointing out your perceived shortcomings. Which is to say, sometimes it really, really sucks.

Well, I didn’t always get along with my mom all that much either, bless her heart. She didn’t get me either. Sometimes it’s just time to leave home. Alas, we all have a life sentence here in Cis World.

F*cking Cis World.

Op-Ed: My Supreme Court Marriage Rally Transphobic Experience From Hell

Op-Ed: My Supreme Court Marriage Rally Transphobic Experience From Hell.

by Brian Ellicot

The United for Marriage Equality Rally held at the U.S. Supreme Court last month was supposed to be about bringing the LGBTQ community together in support of the Proposition 8 California plaintiffs and Edie Windsor, the principal plaintiff in the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) case that was being heard by the highest court in the land.

But that important gathering — one in which I enthusiastically joined as an American and a New Yorker, and as someone who openly identifies as a bisexual transman — was spoiled for me because of aggressive, transphobic comments and actions directed at me by a series of Human Rights Campaign (HRC) staff members during the rally that I had been so excited to join.

While standing with GetEQUAL activists, I became a target by HRC staff member Karin Quimby, who told me to remove the Trans Pride flag I was holding near the rally stage.

Interestingly, she did not initially know that the flag I was holding was a Trans Pride flag.

Ms. Quimby asked me, aggressively, “What flag is this?” When I told her it was the Trans Pride Flag she said, “This [rally] is about marriage equality, this is not about the trans community.”

Moments later she came back to where I was standing and continued, “You know what, you guys need to focus on what you need to do. We [HRC] are the organization that makes things happen.”

Two more times I was approached by HRC staff members who asked me to remove the flag.

I was shocked by these actions and comments and asked those around me if they could believe what had just been said to me. The reason for us being at the Supreme Court was to show our unity toward the ultimate goal of marriage equality for all people and certainly not to exclude Trans people.

I decided to remain resolute, to stand my ground and not take the flag down, and I stood there for the reminder of the rally.

After additional transphobic comments were uttered toward me by an unidentified videographer, who threatened to burn the Trans flag for reasons that were unclear to me, I decided to hand off the flag to C.d Kirven from GetEQUAL, because I felt threatened and was having considerable emotional difficulty handling such a hostile environment directed at me for being a Transman.

As a victim of a previous hate crime, I was very frightened about what could happen and I didn’t feel protected or safe in this situation.

Fortunately, United for Marriage Equality issued a statement apologizing for unidentified coalition partners who attacked trans people and asked undocumented queer speakers to not come out as “undocuemted” during their remarks at the rally.

Subsequently, I received a phone call “apology” from Karin Quimby the weekend after the rally and later received an email apology from HRC, after they had publicly denied that the Trans flag incident had occurred. I received a second communication on Facebook messenger from Karin Quimby who asked me if “I would make this all stop.”

Because of this wrenching experience, I want steps taken to ensure this doesn’t happen again, especially when we come back together as a community in June when the Supreme Court decisions on Proposition 8 and DOMA cases are expected to be announced.

Because of these events, and speaking for myself and for some other trans members of the LGBTQ community, we want the following steps taken by the HRC to show their commitment to trans issues:

  • An HRC pledge to support Trans related issues comprehensively throughout its organizational goals and objectives, including a commitment to hire trans staff members for a more diverse workforce at the country’s largest LGBT advocacy organization;

  • Commit to supporting anti-trans discrimination at the federal level and support passage of a gender identity inclusive ENDA bill in Congress;

  • HRC must support local efforts across the country to defeat anti-trans legislation including the Arizona Anti-Trans Bathroom bill and support efforts of the LGBTQ community of New York to pass the New York State Gender Expression Non Discrimination Act (GENDA);

  • Invite the Trans community to be official participants in future rallies and be included in the planning of future organized rallies and related activities.