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The Last Word on “Genital Preference”

It’s one of the last retreats and first rejoinders of people whose support of the transgender community isn’t rock-solid. It’s the base of operations of people who don’t oppose our existence but nevertheless find us grotesque and confusing. It’s tiresome, it’s exhausting, and it makes more of us more likely to date each other than our shared experiences and social spaces already did. We have to warn each other that our relationships might end if we transition, partly because of this specter.

The argument from “genital preference” simply will not go away, and that’s because its framing is tangled and often dishonest.

As a trans lesbian who herself finds one genital configuration more aesthetically and sexually desirable than the other, I come at this topic from a distinct perspective. And the most important thing I have to offer here is this point:

It is not the preference that is a problem, it’s how that leads a person to treat their prospective partners.

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The Last Word on “Genital Preference”

My “Rapid-Onset Gender Dysphoria” Was Anything But

When I told my family and my oldest friends that I had recognized myself as a transgender woman and would be pursuing transition, I was 27. Every one of them told me it was far too sudden and that I needed to spend a lot longer thinking about my life before committing to it. Some of them accused people close to me of somehow coercing or corrupting me into my new gender. Most of them tried to convince me that I was actually a dyed-in-the-wool ultra-masculine man’s man, bizarre and tragicomic against my small-framed bookish nerdiness and the facts of what was actually happening. They saw a “sudden” decision and an equally sudden dive into dresses, makeup, long hair, and pretty shoes, because they didn’t see who I had been and what I had been doing and thinking privately for the previous 27 years.

So when I heard that a “researcher” named Lisa Littman had published a widely-criticized “scientific study” proposing that some trans children aren’t “really” trans, and instead coerced by “social contagion” into imagining that they’re trans in a phenomena she deceitfully called “rapid-onset gender dysphoria,” I saw her angle immediately.

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My “Rapid-Onset Gender Dysphoria” Was Anything But

Exercising While Trans, Or How I Learned To Stop Lifting and Love Myself

I haven’t always had the healthiest relationship with exercise. Truth be told, exercise verged on self-harm for me for a long time, and it took some major personal revelations for me to see it. Continue reading “Exercising While Trans, Or How I Learned To Stop Lifting and Love Myself”

Exercising While Trans, Or How I Learned To Stop Lifting and Love Myself

Love Lives Here: A Review

“Thank you,” I told them. “Thank you for being so much better than an occasional phone call asking if I’ve given up yet.”

Zoë Michelle Knox and Amanda Jetté Knox were already famous in Canada for the improbable beauty of their journey when I met them. They were the family that had gone from the picture of white suburban normalcy to a beacon of queer hope, as father and son rediscovered themselves as wife and daughter, made public by Amanda’s blog and Internet presence, and they had been all over Canada’s magazines and web sites. The fact that they were local meant that my friends and extended circles were particularly aware of these lovely people, and made sure I heard when their speaking tour brought  them to an auditorium within not-too-forbidding walking distance of my home. They spoke about Amanda’s then-nascent book, Love Lives Here: A Story of Thriving in a Transgender Family, about trans issues in general, about how society fails us and how people can make sure the transgender family members among them feel loved, supported, and cared for despite widespread social disapproval and even violence.

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Love Lives Here: A Review

Halves in the Meeting Place

Immigrants are always homesick. This is the core of our story. Even those of us who flee horrific circumstances have at least one thing we remember fondly, or that becomes fond when it is gone. To emigrate is to surround oneself with the unfamiliar, and to live in the echoing absence of what was once everywhere. There are days when those echoes are a deafening cacophony, laying down the impossible demand of that incoherent word, home.

Ottawa’s yearly Latin festival puts the many feelings of that word into focus. This gathering of my people in the plaza before Ottawa City Hall is a riot of sensation. Live music invites listeners to come close, and an uproar of food smells permeates the area. Hand-written signs advertise our regional specialties with words I rarely see even on our restaurant menus, and every spoonful of yellow rice and chunk of slow-roasted pork is a portal to a world I left long ago. Even the less familiar offerings, Peruvian noodles that take notes from South America’s Chinese community and Colombian pastries I’ve never tried, come with our unmistakable aroma and style.

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Halves in the Meeting Place

Their Brows Look Like Mine: FFS and Ethnic Identity

“This is what it means to be a girl, isn’t it? To never feel like enough.”

I wrote these words as one of the sadder moments in “The Prom Pine,” a short story whose fanfiction version you can read here. (The non-fanfiction version, an extended narrative meditation on dissociation and its uses, will appear in a future edition of Spoon Knife.) It’s true that this world imposes that pressure on women in general, with every ad for makeup, diet, clothing, exercise, and more promising relief from that anhedonic treadmill, but trans women face a special pressure here. The outside world doles out validation in proportion to our efforts to conform to cisfeminine expectations, and we often start from difficult positions, testosterone poisoning setting us back before we even begin. It takes eons of soul-searching to find the lines between gender dysphoria, social conditioning, and everything else. I’ve found a whole other line, and it weighs on me now.

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Their Brows Look Like Mine: FFS and Ethnic Identity

There Are Words For Us: What “Striking Vipers” Did Wrong

Transformation and exchange are two of the most thematically interesting ways to explore gender and relationships in fiction. This isn’t a new idea, with the story of Tiresias providing an example from Greek antiquity. Such stories can range from ignorant and banal to nuanced and powerful. As a trans woman, I have long held a fascination with them, and they ultimately helped me come to understand what I wanted from my body and my life. “Striking Vipers,” the first episode of season 5 of Black Mirror, is neither of these, instead being a tragic, wasteful misfire that perhaps handles some of its other themes better than this one.

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There Are Words For Us: What “Striking Vipers” Did Wrong

Positivity Means Fixing What’s Wrong: How Body Positivity Fails Trans People

There are a lot of good things to be said about the body positivity movement. Encouraging people of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, and abilities to feel beautiful and valuable despite not fitting into their society’s narrow mold is a transparently good idea. People deserve to not feel insecure or ashamed of their bodies, especially when the source of that insecurity isn’t much bigger than marketing. There is a darker side to constantly proclaiming that people should accept themselves “just as they are,” however. Some people’s problems with how their bodies are shaped aren’t a matter of trying to live up to an unreachable beauty standard, and shouldn’t be treated as such.

Transgender people face continuous, intense opposition to everything we are and everything we do in much of the world. One of the forms that this aggression takes is proclaiming that trans people shouldn’t want to reshape our bodies to fit with their genders, and should accept our deviant shapes “just as they are,” all couched in the language of body positivity. To undertake aesthetic, medical, or surgical interventions to change appearance is, in this view, to succumb to social pressures that we should instead be resisting. By their logic, a trans man should strive to be content with growing breasts he never wanted, and a trans woman should embrace the androgenic baldness that awaits her if she doesn’t take hormone replacement therapy, because to do otherwise would be insufficiently “positive.”

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Positivity Means Fixing What’s Wrong: How Body Positivity Fails Trans People