Pasupatidasi's Blog

thoughts, poetry, life as it is…


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in the air

spring is definitely in the air around here.  but that isn’t what i am writing about this day…

instead, this is about things in the air, or rather ‘on the air’ … the media.  media coverage of things can do many things, not all of them good.  but it can tell the truth about issues that are largely misrepresented. and that’s a very good thing.

lately one of those things is about transgender people.  folk already know that it was due to a barbara walters special on transgender children that aired in april 2007 which led to the beginnings of a much happier life for my daughter, ziona.  when she told me she was a girl, i had no idea how to help her…until then.   the airing of that program actually started me on a research journey.  ordering books from amazon.com such as ‘the transgender child’; calling boston children’s hospital to speak with dr. spack’s clinic; and scouring the internet for anything to help me understand how to support my daughter…how to ease her pain.

that’s one thing about transgender people, old and young, that cis-gender people don’t and maybe can’t understand.  just how much pain is experienced…

every good parent ‘feels’ their child’s pain.  we fret over every fever.  break out the chicken soup and lose sleep until our little one feels better.  when they are bullied or have their feelings hurt by their peers, schoolmates and such, we want to take their pain into our own souls and perhaps sternly reprimand someone else’s child for their insensitivity.  we cringe when we clean out the gravel from their skinned knees. so you can imagine how heart-wrenching it is when the ‘booboo’ your child has is one of being a girl or boy in the body of the opposite gender.

ziona was suicidal at three.

altho, i’m not usually the optimistic type when it comes to human nature, i can’t help but to be very hopeful at the recent and even upcoming media representations of transgender people.  the series “transparent” on amazon…chaz bono, janet mock, …just google ‘transgender media icons’ and lists of role-models for our transgender children come up.  and that’s a very good thing!

my daughter is well on her way to becoming the girl she was always meant to be.  i had an ear to hear her words and a heart to feel her pain.  but were it not for media covering this ‘thing’ of “transgender kids”, who knows how much more pain she would’ve had to endure.  like my many transgender adult friends who had to suffer through puberty in the wrong body…and for transgender women, the many irreversible effects of testosterone, which mean more difficulty in being ‘read’ as just women.

so i am delighted with the media bringing the promise of a better day for transgender people.  just google ‘transgender documentaries’ or ‘programmes about transgender kids’.  i am hosting a woman who had found herself ‘homeless’ after she divorced her wife and disclosed to her family that she is not a man, but a woman. she has been approached to be part of a new documentary which, if she is chosen, would help pay for her transition…she has recently gotten a job and no doubt will be finding her own place in the near future.  but to afford the cost of transition in a state with no obamacare or find an insurance companies that will pay for it isn’t easy.  and who really has extra tens of thousands of dollars to afford it on $13 dollars per hour.  i hope they pick her, of course.

our culture and in fact the ideas many people have floating around in their brain-pans are largely infused by media.  the television programmes and the movies tend to be very good at imprinting people with values that are represented.  this can be very bad at times. for example when the news drum-beats for war, or commercials make women feel ‘less than fresh’ in order to sell them something. but it can also be good, when the invisible becomes visible, when the light of our collective attention is poured out in a dark place.  programmes that tell the stories that have been ‘left out’ … or wrongly portrayed, programmes that educate about things that are misunderstood, are a way forward and a welcomed relief to the ignorance and bigotry that might stand otherwise unchallenged.

yes, there’s something in the air these days….and it makes me very hopeful


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vested interests

been doing a lot of reading of all things transgender in the past few weeks.

there’s the case of the trans-woman jailed for murder having the state pony up for the appropriate treatment for her medical condition…boy, did this one stir up a powder keg online!

there was a blogger who declared that no lables are good…that using them segregates us as a community.

there was a woman who declared that she didn’t feel the need to have gender reassignment surgery to be the woman she is…what lies between the thighs doesn’t negate her womanhood.

there was a commentor on an article who claimed that there’s no such thing as cis-gender privelege, but the same person also didn’t think transgender people were ‘real’…just weird and confused.

there were a couple of reports and articles about transgender women being attacked by straight males, which brought up the whole issue of a little thing called ‘disclosure’ or ‘rules of engagement’ which ended up going to that familiar “she had it coming”, ‘blame the victim’ philosophy heretofore used by rape apologists.

on a support site i visit, usually lurking and reading but not posting too much, there have been instances of endocrinologists refusing to treat transgender children…in the middle of testosterone protocol.

there were cases i read of people fighting the school system to win the right for their trans-children to be called by their affirmed name, referred to in the proper pronouns and use the bathroom which is true to their gender identity.

as i read these various stories, i always have an opinion…something that perhaps is common to the human condition, having opinions i mean. and tho i surely have strong opinions about a number of issues, few of them are are held as adamantly, as those i bear for issues about transgender people. (that ‘mother bear’ thing again)

not for nothing, even before realising i am raising a transgender girl i had strong opinions about issues regarding trans-folk, having stood up for these, my sisters and brothers, on numerous occasions when their ‘validity’ as whom they believe themselves to be was held to scrutiny by others in the lgbt community. (prescient perhaps?)

but even tho in the past i had ‘strong opinions’ about their right to self-identification and self-determination, the plight of transgender people in general was usually out of sight and out of mind.

not anymore! my opinions are fierce these days!

of course the murderer spending the rest of her natural life in prison deserves to have the state pay for necessary medical treatment, just as the state pays for bi-pass surgery for murderer’s or daily doses of insulin. there should be no doubt that this person has the same right to gender reassignment surgery. damn it!

labels? yes, they are certainly used by some to drive a wedge between groups of people. but to others they are proudly worn! signifying who they are now and what they’ve gone through to be here. every label that can be placed upon me i wear and own, reclaim and redefine until they are no longer the labels put on me by others, but designed and embraced by myself to state my truth to the world. my daughter is glad of the fact that there is a word for her, one that separates her life-experience from those of other little girls: she’s proudly transgender.

the transgender folk who don’t feel surgery is necessary? more power to them! and how dare anyone try to tell them that they must go ‘all the way’ or they are somehow ‘less’ their affirmed gender! at times i wish that ziona didn’t feel so strongly about ridding herself of the “boy part”. she is every bit a girl to me even tho it still is there, but she will never feel right until the surgery is done. more power to her too!

as to non-disclosure being used to justify attacks against transgender people? i’m as outraged about this as i am when i hear ‘she was dressed like a hooker’ justifications of rape where the victim is likewise blamed for the evil that is done to her. what exactly must my daughter disclose? when? and why? she has been a girl all her life! the fact that she had to have surgery to undo a birth-defect is no more necessary to disclose, in my mind, than a person having surgery to mend a cleft palatte or remove a nasty mole, or colon polyp. and were there no stigma attached to a person’s choice of sexual partner, partners or the genders thereof, it wouldn’t matter in the least that one disclose who they were at birth. it’s outrageous!

primary care physicians, pediatric endocrinologists and school personel who are ignorant of the fact of transgender children, and the attending proscibed protocols and standards of care should be made to go back to school and catch up! they should not be allowed to bail on their patients or students! i think doctors actually recite a rather beautiful oath that would preclude them doing so. as for the public and private school systems, well, i’ll just say that i am grateful everyday that we don’t have to use them…that i can stay home during the day and teach my own child, with my own values, and that her ‘socialisation’ doesn’t include being bullied by other children, but rather sharing fun with the few friends that she enjoys.

i guess i’m much more strident in my opinions these days, much more likely to express them too! i have a vested interest in the world changing for the better…my daughter will have to live there!


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wouldn’t wish it on anyone

the other day, after a long time since last i’d spoken with her, i called up an old friend. we’ve known each other since the early 1980’s when she still wore the external body of a male. but to me, she was and has always been, my sister.

ever since she was able to recall, she had felt as tho she wasn’t male. beaten for wearing her sister’s dresses and derided for being a sissy, her childhood was not a very happy one. only her mother seemed to quietly understand and support her.

like many transgender people who aren’t allowed a choice in the matter, she chose to follow the lifestyle and sexual preference of a gay male, on the inside knowing that she was really something other. like many transgender people before her and since, she knew that being gay was not who she was. but even within the lgbt community, at a time when the ‘t’ part of that acronym was not fully accepted by the community, she was told that she was probably really just a feminine gay man.

she knew better, but just as many others like herself, she began down a long road of self-destructive behaviours and equally as destructive relationships, thinking that the path to her true self would never be within reach.

many long years later she chose to insist upon being true to herself. it wasn’t easy. no one seemed to support her in this, altho as always, her mother extended quiet acceptance and support. so when about a decade ago she started on the path to becoming the woman she had always thought herself to be, there were few who stood beside her and many more who abandoned her completely.

as of today, she has been living outloud as a woman for ten years, and as a post-op transsexual for the past six. we often talk together, by phone since we live in different states. i feel honored to be one of the few with whom she’d always known she could count on.

in the early years after her gender-reassignment surgery our conversations were filled with her expressions of joy in finally being HERself. there were all the emotional differences between male and female to take note of, and she did. there was also a sense of regret at not having been able to ‘grow up female’, as she felt that ‘culturally’ there was much of nuance she had missed. still, she felt empowered as a female in a way she had never experienced as a male. she gloried in her new found sexuality, because altho she had been with men as a man, it was a whole other feeling to experience this as a woman.

often she would tell me that the lovers with whom she had been intimate since becoming a woman seemed disingenuous; as tho they were only ‘hot’ for her because it was such forbidden fruit. few seemed very interested in her as a person, and fewer still wanted to commit themselves in any real way to a relationship, or even being seen with her in public, in that small rural community of america’s mid-section.

she was equally as frustrated by the reaction of women, her peer group really, because there seemed to be little acceptance of her into their hallowed sorority , or even acknowledgement of her womanhood. and among women who knew not of her being transsexual, she often sensed jealousy directed towards her for attention men paid to her.

as i started out saying earlier, i called her again after a long time…months. she was depressed and going through such things as i wont mention here, but most of which had to with the prejudice, and oppression cis-centric society imposes upon those who don’t walk the binary line. it seems the most ignoble irony that her struggle to become whole is seen by most as a pathology, a mental illness or personality disorder. in healing herself, many see her as sick.

as i listened to her, i heard her loneliness, her frustrations. the realisation that she was one of the more oppressed minorities in our society, (a woman…and a transsexual woman at that!) was beginning to take its toll. the men with whom she had had real relationships as a woman, treated her the way society has ever allowed men to treat women: as underlings, to be dominated and controlled by whatever means they chose. the feeling of being empowered as a woman was being met headlong with the reality of a second class citizenry allotted to women.

after long hours of listening to her, she said; “i wouldn’t wish this on anyone” referring to being a trans-woman. i wasn’t shocked.
she wasn’t saying she regretted becoming a woman, it is after all who she really is. rather she was saying that the level of discrimination, ostracisation and oppression to which people like herself were subjected is such a curse as to not want anyone else to have to suffer it. she said this knowing that my eight-year old child is transgender and will one day face similar pain.

of course, these are precisely the realities that made me so fearful at my little boy’s assertions of being a girl inside. these and worse fears were behind my reluctance to really hear what ziona was saying. the hard road ahead to merely becoming who she is will likely be fraught with similar discriminations, ostracising and oppression even despite the progress being made to allow transgender/transsexual people to enjoy the same rights and freedoms as cis people. and even if or when society legislates in favor of transsexual/transgender people, it isn’t possible to legislate people’s attitudes away. there are those who seek to harm gay and transgender folk today despite the ‘hate-crime’ legislations in effect.

it is more than sobering to realise that in supporting my transgender daughter in her need to become who she is, i may prevent her from committing suicide (as many trans folk do that are not allowed to be themselves), i may be able to make sure that she gets the puberty blockers in time to prevent any ‘male’ attribute perpetrating its irreversible assault to her feminine nature, i may be able to scrimp and save for the medications and subsequent surgeries she will insist upon pursuing (and she will), but one thing i cannot do is rest assured that society will treat her with the respect to which she is entitled.

but that’s why i speak out. that’s why i educate others, whomever will listen. and that’s why i am encouraged by the strong trans-women who have gone before to show the way, who blog, write books and go about their lives being unapologetically themselves.

there is no therefore herein. wish i could come up with one. altho if a test existed to identify a transgender person while in utero and i should find that the life growing in my womb bore that gene, i would not consider such thing cause for termination, it is still something i wouldn’t wish on anyone! not at least until society has grown to the measure of compassion necessary to ensure equality and acceptance to all its various members.


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it gets better…i hope!

sometimes i’m not sure how much about ‘life as it is’ today i should share with zeeona.

i rarely talk about the really scary stuff, like rape, hate-crimes, wife beatings.

but today she brought up the subject of bullying. perhaps because she had recently had an experience with it during the very brief installment at a private school. (the boy had teased her because she’s a girl. irony?)

(i wrote about it in this blog but can’t remember what i entitled the piece.)

she wondered why people bully. in attempting to answer the question, since i really can’t imagine a good reason for the behaviour, i suggested that when people are younger they sometimes don’t know how to act. maybe they don’t like their selves so they try to make others feel bad about their selves too…misery loves company.

zee then said, “well, at least grown-ups don’t bully.”

then looked to me for agreement on the statement, which unfortunately i couldn’t in all honesty provide.

instead, i went on to say that sometimes grown-ups do bully. like men bully or tease women. it hadn’t occurred to me that we were about to get into a talk about gender inequality. but i’ve recently been re-reading ‘whipping girl’ (a great book, by the way! definitely look it up. amazon has it) so i began to launch into the facts surrounding this concept. (deftly leaving out things like rape and sexual harassment that the notion of men bullying women had evoked in my mind)

only half a diatribe into the semi-rant i began to notice the look of disillusion wash over zeeona’s features.

she said “well, then that makes me wish i were male”

i must have had that ‘deer in the headlights’ look on my face and i was nearly speechless for half a second, before i said: “well, you could do that.”

she looked at me helplessly and said “how?!”

now, zeeona is not ignorant of the fact that she will have to take hormones, and have surgery to prevent her body from becoming ‘a man’s body’. her question had nothing to do with how she could be male physically. because she knows that as far as her external form is concerned it already is.

but, you see, she’s as much a girl as i am. and even if i woke up tomorrow with male genitalia, it wouldn’t change a thing as far as my identity is concerned. it is the same with zee.

she moved quickly onto “do grown men tease and bully other men?” to which i answered, that they do and it is often through this behaviour that they bond or develop relationships with one another.

then we were on to discussing other areas of what my philosophy professor at university would call “man’s inhumanity to man”.

as i reflected on this conversation throughout the day, i began to understand just how much a girl she is!

my initial shock when she said the thing about ‘being male’ was short-lived. i didn’t respond as did to try to unseat her from her female identity, but i admit that if she’d have taken that opportunity to ‘come out of the phase’ i would’ve been fine with switching gears right then and there to allow her to try on that male persona: the one she’d never worn, even while being seen and treated as a little cute boy.

this knee-jerk reaction has less to do with her identity, or my acceptance of her than it does the fears that linger deep in my psyche of the ugly parts of the real world. those parts that allow transphobic folk to bully, assault or murder transwomen. (it’s rarer to find such attacks against transmen: see also “whipping girl”)

so we come again to the kinds of question that all parents face: how much about ‘life as it is’ should we share with our children?

perhaps i’m part optimist after all, because one reason i’m loathe to bring up some of the things i fear with regard to zeeona’s tomorrows is that i hope that world will also ‘grow up’. that tendencies to fear and harm those who are ‘other-than’ will begin to fall away and a more fair societal paradigm rise instead.

every day i come across evidence that today’s attitudes and ideals are in a state of flux with respect to transgender people. on the one hand, not a day goes by when there isn’t an article in the news (i get mine from the internet, twitter, and various websites) about some horrendous thing being done to a woman simply because she is transgender or transsexual.

at the same time there are many high-profile transgender people helping to bring about awareness regarding trans issues, (in poland a transgender person and open homosexual were recently elected into two of the highest political positions in the land,) and ever increasing news bites about new legislation made to protect transgender folk against hate crimes and discrimination.

so, it maybe that it’s okay not to share with zeeona today’s version of ‘life as it is’. because maybe, the cliche going around these days is true. maybe in tomorrow’s world, ‘it gets better’.