Category Archives: FolksLikeUs

Pushing Trans People Towards Suicide Is Not Natural

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Evil Gatekeepers (As Opposed To The Traditionally Terrible Ones)

I’ve been stewing on this for awhile now trying to figure out if it’s something I should keep buried or dig up and expose. The guilty party has been “punished” to some degree (though I’m not entirely clear to what degree) but there are aspects to his abuse that I fear have gone unreported.

A therapist I had been seeing leading up to GRS was an evil, evil man. I don’t use that lightly – it was uncovered after I had ceased seeing him that he had raped several of his patients. I couldn’t bare to keep up with any kind of detailed account of his “trial.” I use the word without being sure there even was an actual criminal proceeding. I know that he was stripped of his medical license and forced to leave the country (he was originally from Central or South America) but I don’t know if he ever spent a day in jail.

I knew him to be evil not because he raped me – I didn’t fit his pattern of victims – but because of a number of other unethical and hurtful things he did and said to me. Keep in mind that I had basically no real choice in seeing this man. A requirement for surgery at the time (and I presume it still is) is that you have a number of letters from a battery of psychiatrists, psychologists and other doctors verifying that you are indeed “really” transgender. The concept itself is grosteque but the real-world implications of this requirement mean that you have to pretty much do whatever your doctors tell you to do unless you’re willing and/or able to find a new doctor and start the process all over again. By the time I had started seeing him the ball was already in motion for surgery. Not going along with him meant delaying something that had already taken 10+ years to get underway.

This man would consistently and persistently misgender me. He would on occasion use my dead name, one that he had no use to know and yet demanded to know all the same. He would even show so little interest in me that he on occasion would drift off to sleep in our meetings. Truthfully, those were the best meetings because those meetings didn’t involve invasive questions regarding my genitalia or sex life. The dude was obvious and thorough trash but again – what could I do? Defer a $15k surgery for several more years while I struggled to find a psychiatrist that would even agree to write the requested letters in principal? I had settled on this asshole because I couldn’t find any other.

I swallowed my pride, numbed myself, and did as best I could to just get through it. Those closest to me knew that he was an asshole but I couldn’t bring myself to discuss the full range of his fuckery. It was debasing and I was incredibly embarrassed by it… or rather, that I just let it happen. Some folks along the way have developed this notion that I’m a hardass and somehow tough. I’m not. It’s a carefully cultivated image that serves as a feeble protection at best. Truth is, I’m a fucking marshmallow and this shit hurt.

Had it ended there I wouldn’t be writing this now. That he’s been stripped of his medical license is as adequate a punishment as I can expect for how he treated me (though whether or no justice has been found for his other victims isn’t something I can comment on.) But there’s one more thing he did that’s been gnawing at me for years and I don’t know what to do about it.

He had some teaching capacity at a local university and at one point he informed me that a small class he was teaching was going to interview me. It wasn’t presented as a choice – the implication was clear that if I didn’t consent to this interview I would not get a letter from him signing off on surgery.

I met with his class in his office. It was a small group of maybe 5-6 people. Chairs were arranged around a single chair in a semi circle where I was to sit. Over the course of the next hour or so they would take turns asking me questions about my past and upbringing. Some of these questions were the kind you’d expect from your typical curious cis gawker(not inherantly offensive outside of their gross banality) but others were incredibly personal and invasive. They would try to get me to admit to childhood sexual abuse or that I had participated in sex work; they asked detailed questions about my first sexual experiences and how often I masturbated as a young child; they questioned the validity of my identity in numerous ways attempting to stumble upon some “gotcha” I hadn’t considered. It was an embarrassing and disgusting thing to participate in. I kept a smile on my face as best I could but I was so upset by this encounter and as soon as I was a safe distance from his office I had a proper meltdown.

In the end (not long after that encounter) he did write me the letter I needed. It was every bit as grotesque one would expect : he was continually referring to me by my dead name (which by this point hadn’t been legal for 10+ years) and the incorrect pronouns. The content itself seemed almost manufactured, as if he hadn’t taken any notes of value over our entire time together. At any rate, it was done and I was done with him. I never saw the man again.

Though I didn’t pay close attention to his story I am fairly certain it centred solely on his sexual misconduct. The evils he did to me are minuscule by comparison and yet there’s more to it. In coercively insisting that I be interviewed by his students he in some way implicated his university in this mess and it’s that part that I’ve struggled with. That this man (or any man) could ever think to bring a class of students in to interrogate a patient for academic purposes… how did this ever pass ethical muster within the school? Would any other kind of patient be forced to dance like this? Shouldn’t the antiquated idea that I need doctors to “prove” that I am who I prohibit any such behaviour by default? There’s no way to decouple coercion from such a situation.

I don’t know what to do. Part of me thinks that I need to reach out to the school and let them know what happened to me and implore them to provide safeguards such that this doesn’t happen again. Another part thinks it’s futile – that trans folks defacto have less credibility than cis folks and that any concern I bring to them will be dismissed or denied. Even if they acknowledge the event actually occurred I have 18 years of personal experience showing that unethical treatment towards trans people is perfectly acceptable medical practice. Another concern is that I don’t know if I’m opening myself up to legal issues in bringing this to light. I’ve been vague with details and I didn’t name the doctor but it’s easy enough to find out who he was (and what school he represented.)

If this post ever sees the light of day I fear it’s something I can’t ever take back. I’ve edited and tweaked again and again it but setting it loose is terrifying. Reading it I can’t help but think of how cowardly I was and still remain. I’m not an activist. I just want to get by in peace but coming back to this repeatedly in my head isn’t making that easy. I’m also terrified of a public pile-on : a horrible mix of folks demanding I take some kind of action, those that find no particular issue with his conduct, and those those that think I’m exaggerating or lying outright. Hopefully I’m wrong there but seeing how some of my trans siblings are treated when online attention is turned their way doesn’t fill me with confidence.

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The Aggressive Trans Woman

When I was coming to grips with being trans I didn’t have a lot of resources at my disposal. I was young and didn’t know anyone who was transitioning – Nova Scotia wasn’t exactly a queer hotbed in the mid 90s. What’s more, the internet was really still in it’s infancy. There were a few trans resource sites (some of which are still available today) but they were, without exception, pretty terrible. There was some useful practical advice but the aspects geared towards understanding trans identities were heavy poisoned by the predominant therapies of the time.

One particular meme that stuck with me and formed key aspects of how I relate to the world is that of the invasive and aggressive trans woman. The myth was such that trans women were always taking up too much space and being too assertive, demanding, or inquisitive in their interactions with the world. In essence – they were still acting too male.

I became incredibly paranoid of conforming to this stereotype, particularly after placement in some social circles fell apart due to conflict. I would play it cool and distant with folks in an attempt at making sure they were comfortable regardless of what I wanted or needed from them. I would rarely initiate contact, and if I did, I would try to do it in the most guarded and unassuming ways. I would always try to keep an even and passive tone and would never be too inquisitive and engaged in interpersonal situations. I policed every interaction with people through the lens of “will this be read as assertive-read-masculine?”

Of course, the meme itself is utter bullshit. The template of the aggressive trans woman is throughly steeped in transmisogyny and the vast majority of trans women I’ve met have been similar in demeanour to myself. I have to wonder how many of them have internalized this harmful image much as I have…

At any rate, this is said just to reach this statement: I’m a pretty cruddy friend and an exceptionally cruddy partner. I know this. It’s not sufficient for me to point to this meme and my adoption of its counter stance as justification for my behaviour and yet I still filter my behaviour through its tenets. How this interplays with depersonalization… well, that’s a whole other post in itself.  That I am able to live alone (and by traditional metrics, lonely) and enjoy it doesn’t in any way forgive how I act.

Specifically: I’m not as inquisitive as I should be. I don’t initiate contact as often as I should. I’m hesitant to deliver hugs. I make people feel that I am disinterested and that they aren’t special to me. If you are my friend I have no doubt made you feel like shit at one point or another.

I hope that some day I can shake this conditioning. If I talk to you at all I promise you this – I DO like you. You are important to me.

If you’re still in my life, I thank you – I know it’s not easy. I hope that some day I can make it up to you.

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Success/Failure and The Presumption of a Binary Outcome

Close friends of mine recently had a beautiful daughter and I’ve had the pleasure of spending a lot of time with her. I’ve gotten to feed and hold her and generally enjoy her in fits and spurts that allow for the rosiest view of what life as a parent is to be like. I’ve known for a long time that I couldn’t (biologically) have kids myself so getting an opportunity to enjoy this experience by proxy is really significant for me.

Not surprisingly my mind has wandered onto the topic of adoption. For a person like me, the idea of adoption is ludicrous. I have a slew of things going against my favour: I’m older, I’m single, I’m heavily tattooed, I’m queer, I’m trans, I’ve got no substantial support structure, and I’ve got a history of mental illness. Disregarding whether or not I would ever WANT to adopt a child it’s clearly something that could never happen. I could pour effort into the problem until I ran my resources and resolve dry but there’s no surmounting all of these obstacles. In the end all there’d be to show for it would be the pain and disappointment for having tried at all. There’s no partial victory condition with regard to adoption.

I have to wonder how many trans people perform similar calculations in their head with the assumption that transition is all or nothing, success or failure. I know when I started out a combination of a lack of role models and some very narrow and cisnormative medical conditioning (and online resources!) led me to believe that there was one golden path to being “real” and that anything short of that ideal was effectively a failure. I ran the tally in my head, figured my odds were good, and took the chance. Two decades later I understand the naivety of those assumptions and have realized that MY golden path doesn’t conform to the one I set out on all those years ago. I am re-drafting my own success condition that, when measured against the narrative I used as a template, is by comparison a failure. I’m okay with this.

I wonder how many others, even today, do the same calculations and, making the same mistaken assumptions I did, decide that failure is the only option. For every one of us that takes the plunge and begins making incremental steps towards… something… how many more draw the conclusion that their ideal can never be reached and therefore it’s not worth the attempt.

I would hope that as trans folks become increasingly visible and our presence more widely felt that a greater number people will cease seeing transition as an all or nothing proposition, or at least, have access to exemplars that are comparable to themselves. This means that to the extent it’s within our power to do so we owe it to those that come after us to highlight as many unique voices as we can. We don’t have direct control over the narratives that cis media wants to prop up for popular consumption but we do have some means of control within our own community and I hope that we find a way to reign in our individual egos and agendas enough that these alternative routes can be highlighted as the successes that they are.

(And yah, I realize this is stuff that’s been said a million times before. Blame the egg nog. Or rum. Or The Feelings.)

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We Need You

There’s been a thought running through my head for awhile now that I touch on briefly in my last posting and reception to the coming out of Chelsea Manning has re-enforced it for me. The thought is this, and it bums me the hell out:

The fight for acceptance and equality of trans people by the population at wide is un-winnable if fought for by trans folks alone.

Trans people, as a population, are few. Finding definitive statistics for this is hard, but suggesting that it’s thousands to one isn’t unreasonable. We are geographically diverse. We are economically diverse. We don’t even have a unified position on what it means to be trans. We’re all unique collections of attributes, desires, and goals and that makes any kind of organized movement difficult.

Openly identifying as being trans is dangerous to both our physical and economic safety. Standing up for our own rights necessitates that identification and puts us directly in the crosshairs. Beyond these material disincentives, many of us have been conditioned by way of professional medical gatekeepers to desire anonymity as an end game in and of itself (something else I’ve previously ranted about).

We’re in a pickle. It’s not safe for us to openly fight for ourselves, we’re often counter-conditioned to doing so, and there are precious few of us. How exactly are things supposed to change if we’re unable to effectively advocate on our own behalf?

I transitioned a generation ago (President Clinton was still in his first term and cell phones were only slightly smaller than my shoes) and in that time very little has actually changed. There have been minor and incremental improvements throughout the world but to make the comparison to the progression of gay and lesbian rights (with which we are often lumped into yet excluded from) we’ve seriously lagged behind. To an old fart like me it feels like we’ve barely moved at all.

Once more: how exactly are things supposed to change?

If you are well and truly my friend and my family you’ll take up my fight as your own. I need you to be an active participant.

When you see us harassed in public you’ll stand with us. When a co-worker comes out as trans you will vociferously defend them when the inevitable denigrating smack talk begins. When we’re mis-gendered and maligned in media you’ll assemble, en masse, to criticize and draw attention to the issue. When friends make jokes at our expense you’ll call them on it. You wont let the Chelsea Manning‘s and CeCe McDonald‘s of the world languish in prison untreated and doubly victimized by way of their gender and race.

You’ll bolster our lack of numbers with your own and will boost our signal until such time that our voices carry unaided.

You will take the initiative to educate yourself and to listen to us. You won’t betray our confidences.

You’ll help us even the odds.

You’ll empathize. 

Our voices are too few and our positions too precarious. We’re no “one in ten” and we damn well NEED. YOU.

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That Cis Hashtag

The other day the #fuckcispeople hash tag began making the rounds amongst Twitter trans folks. A thorough overview of the origins, motivations, and reactions to the tag can be found over at cisnormativity - I don’t think there’s a whole lot I can add to that analysis. I did however want to discuss how complex a reaction it did have for me personally.

First off, I believe the anger and frustration behind the tag is completely legitimate and whatever I say is not intended to challenge that. I think the kernel of resentment I feel towards cis therapists is evident in my previous post and I believe such people have a LOT to answer for. At the same time, I think folks like me have a lot to answer for as well.

Comparisons between #fuckcispeople and #solidarityisforwhitewomen are easy to make but I think for me there was a critical difference. #solidarityisforwhitewomen was aimed towards white feminists who claimed to be representing all women. It was calling out those that professed to be enlightened with regard to (at least) one axis of privilege. It called out those that should have known better. #fuckcispeople is a scattershot that indiscriminately targets everyone between those that have no idea what “cis” means to professed allies that advertise some level of enlightenment – those that should have been aware of the harm they cause trans folks.

I should have known my actions caused harm. I was willful in suppression of my identity and visibility and actively contributed to the culture that allows trans people to be harmed and othered. A lot of cis folks cause harm to trans folks through no conscious effort on their own part – it boils down to ignorance. For me, it was a known byproduct of my actions. I tried to integrate into cis society and appropriate cis norms (unsuccessfully) for two decades. In that time I was complicit in stigmatizing trans folks just as much as any other cis person, if not more so.

I guess my issue is that #fuckcispeople doesn’t call out either the right people or enough people. It doesn’t call out the folks like me – who aren’t cis by definition but who’ve purposefully tried their damnedest to live and be perceived as such. I set a negative example for all my cis friends who might come into contact with visibly trans people. I’ve helped prime their own expectations with my internalized transphobia and denial of who I was.

I accept that in part I am the product of a gauntlet of cis gatekeepers. I could have defied them but there would have been consequences so I chose the easy route. For me, it’s not #fuckcispeople – it’s #fuckcisnormatives, Vichy trans folks like myself included.

This subject requires more skill and nuance than I’m capable of delivering and I would love to see it addressed further by more capable minds. Too many trans folks, particularly of the white/middle class/”passable” variety, get a free pass. We’re partly responsible for propping up the system that keeps others that don’t have those particular privileges in the direct path of harm and we need to be called out for it.

(Incidentally, posting this is very difficult. In acknowledging my shortcomings in this regard I publicly put myself in the crosshairs for those that would discriminate against me with regard to employment or social security. I guess I’m starting to value self-integrity over security but that’s a luxury 18 years of relatively uncomplicated employment give me. It’s unfair to expect more vulnerable trans folks to put themselves at this disadvantage – this is why solid, staunch cis allies and us older and more established trans folks really need to step forward.)

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Tip Of The Iceberg

Many moons ago I had a psychiatrist tell me that I wasn’t feminine enough and that, in effect, he doubted my commitment to Sparkle Motion. Well, I saw where he was coming from. I wasn’t particularly feminine. In fact, by a lot of metrics, I was downright fucking butch (and crass and vulgar and and and). At the time, I felt like my body fit me like an ill-tailored suit and I spent a lot of energy trying to be as small and as invisible as I could be (and given how tall I am, that was a great deal of energy indeed.) I just assumed that I had bigger fish to fry and that one day I’d finally get around to blossoming like the goddamned flower I was supposed to be.

Fast forward…oh, 18 fucking years. I’m still processing that accusation and the imprint it’s left not only on my outwardly crafted persona but on the expectations I have for where my life will take me and what’s really “underneath.” See, I’ve lived every day thinking that no one really got to see the real me. I would make efforts now and then to satisfy the demands that this doctor placed upon my identity – the demands that I held to represent my true self – but it would never quite latch. I’d buy whole new wardrobes that were fitting of a woman my age but I would wear them as if I were a circus bear walking on its hind legs. These consistent failures of course would lead to more self loathing and reaffirmation that I was doing it all wrong.

That I made these efforts to satisfy his expectations shouldn’t be taken to mean that I was fully onboard with the plan. All the while that I held these expectations I was actively rebelling and sabotaging my efforts through tattoos and piercings and other unseemly modifications. Whenever I’d remember his words keenly enough to cause hurt I would reactively do something to spite him. I knew I wasn’t doing myself any favours if my intention was to satisfy his image of what I should be and yet I did it all anyway. On one level I clearly gave up on expecting to make the change his conditioning demanded.

And yet, I still held myself to his standards. When I looked in the mirror and saw the antithesis of what he expected I should be I would chide and insult myself in his voice. It didn’t matter that on many levels I liked what I saw – it was still unacceptable when measured against this narrative and ideal that had lodged itself inside my head.

I’ve come to realize that I’m not some butterfly waiting for the right moment to emerge from a cocoon – I AM a gruff and fundamentally unfeminine caterpillar. It’s not some armour I hide behind and I wont some day get over it and blossom. I’m pushing forty – this is who I am.

And how the fuck did I ever let some stupid man convince me that this was somehow a problem? Jesus, if any of my friends ever gave themselves the shit that I’ve given to myself I’d let them have an earful. I don’t know how I’ve been so willfully ignorant of this conditioning for so long. It’s only in the past few months that I’ve finally managed to get a good hard look at this part of my psyche and see it for what it is – utter shite and…

A waste of 18 years.

I’ve spent so long trying to live up to someone else’s expectations of what I should be that I never once stopped to consider if it’s really something I wanted at all. And I don’t. Throwing these poisoned assumptions aside, when I look in the mirror right now… y’know what? I’m pretty fucking okay with what I see. There are things I still would like to change and work on, but on my terms and to my specifications. I need to stop dragging around some dinosaurs assumptions on what a woman should be.

Fuck.

That.

Noise.

(For the record: I’m not angry. I am however feeling incredibly intense. For whatever reason I’m having a profound moment (or series of moments) so the profanity is going to flow freely for the time being. Context may come later. Or not. Whatever, no one’s reading this anyway. :) )

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  • About Me

    Hi! My name is Kimberly Horne and I have absolutely nothing interesting to say. Unfortunately for you I DO have an overpowering need to tinker with technology which is explains the presence of this journal. I mostly talk about games (video and tabletop), technology, tattoos, and my pets.

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