Trans Antagonism in Star Trek: Discovery

Spoilers for Star Trek:Discovery S1E14 (release date 02/04/2018). Content notice for trans antagonism.

One of the most common euphemisms used for surgical procedures related to gender transition is “sexual reassignment surgery” or “SRS.” It is probably the most commonly known phrase for these surgical procedures after the even more obnoxious “sex change surgery.” Although I don’t personally find SRS to be a particularly useful term (I prefer to call each medical and surgical procedure by its technical name), I recognize that it is a commonly known one and many people, including many trans people and medical professionals who work with us, use it.

During the most recent episode of Star Trek: Discovery, “The War Without, The War Within,” we learn more about what has happened to Ash Tyler, a Starfleet Lieutenant, and Voq, a Klingon loyal to the martyred T’Kuvma. It seems that Tyler’s appearance, memories, and personality have been surgically implanted upon Voq, in an apparently incredibly painful procedure.

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Trans Antagonism in Star Trek: Discovery
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Erasure During Pride Month

CN: Specific examples of erasure of asexual, aromantic, fat, disabled, and elderly people. Discussion of erasure generally. Brief mention of kink.

I often experience pride month, pride events, and pride media not as a fantastic celebration of a community that includes me, but as a reminder that I’m not the right kind of queer. The erasure of a whole variety of queer people is deeply alienating for many, and that erasure can feel especially stark during June.

Yesterday this video from the fitness company Equinox came up on my Facebook feed. It is purported to be the alphabet of the LGBTQA community. The video is well designed and has some good things about it, but the entire thing was ruined for me by the very first line:

“I consider myself and advocate and an ally.”

This video BEGINS with one of the deepest and most common erasures in the queer world. The inclusion of cisgender heterosexual allies and the erasure and alienation of asexual, aromatic, and related identities is consistent and deeply harmful. The fact that cishet people literally come first in this video is deeply flawed, especially because there are much better options for the “A” in the queer alphabet.

This could have been mitigated if there was, at any point, an inclusion of ace spectrum people in the video – but none appeared. As far as this company and the community center they partnered with are concerned allies are part of the community, and ace folks are not.

Three other groups of queer folks who are frequently erased from the community, ignored, and forgotten are also absent from this video. These are groups people whose bodies are generally seen as unattractive, undesirable, unsexy. Fat people, visibly disabled people, and older people are utterly absent from this video, just as we (I’m fat btw) are so often absent from visual media. Queer communities are simply no better about this than the general culture, and this video makes no attempt to include anyone who isn’t commercially attractive.

As a fitness company it is clear that Equinox is trying to promote itself as a specific kind of environment. They want to say that this is a place where you won’t have to share a locker room with anyone you may not find attractive. The use of only commercially attractive people in a video like this has several effects – it sends the message that “real” LGBTQ people are thin/muscular, young, and able bodied, and it sends the message that fitness spaces like Equinox are also only for those who are the same.

There are things I like about this particular video (it’s highly racially inclusive, pretty, and definitely not femmephobic). I liked the inclusion of SM without making it all cishet (because cishet kinksters aren’t queer, but queer kinksters totally are). I liked the inclusion of nonbinary people, since they are often also left out. However, the things it celebrates are largely those that are already celebrated in every other pride event and media thing I see. Those that are absent are the ones that seem to be absent so often.

Ace spectrum people are a part of the LGBTQA community. Hell, they are right there in the name. Queer fat people, disabled people, and older people are part of the LGBTQA community. They deserve to be seen and included. My fat ass is just as queer as the gay model who gets into a viral video. My over-60 and over-70 friends are just as queer as a young androgynous blue-haired waif. My friends who use mobility devices deserve as much recognition in their queerness as a professional dancer does.

It’s time for the erasure to stop.

Erasure During Pride Month

Yes Please! Longer Term Testosterone Options

CN: Discussion of testosterone based hormone replacement therapy, injections

Medication adherence is a big issue for any medication that needs to be taken long term. The WHO estimates there are problems with medication adherence in 50% of patients with chronic diseases in developed nations. People in poverty are impacted disproportionately, and generally poor adherence can lead to poor outcomes for patients. Although being transgender is not a disease, medication adherence is often a struggle for transgender men taking testosterone for hormone replacement therapy. Exact statistics are hard to get on this specific situation, but the WHO data suggests the hypothesis that this is a common problem for hormone replacement therapy as well. Anecdotally, I know far more guys who have struggled with compliance than those who have not, after the first year or so on T.

Better medications won’t solve the cost and doctor access issues. For most people a new prescription is required every six months or a year. Most insurance still doesn’t pay for hormone replacement therapy, and many transgender people in the United States and some other countries don’t have medical insurance with good drug coverage anyway. Keeping a consistent medical care provider for long periods of time can be difficult (especially for a population with low employment stability), and having to convince new doctors to continue your old medications, especially doctors not already familiar with caring for trans patients, is often a hassle.
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Yes Please! Longer Term Testosterone Options

TBT: When Kinksters Don’t Want To Risk ANYTHING

Throwback Thursday posts are posts I have previously written on other sites. They are reposted here sometimes on Thursdays. This post was originally posted on Queereka on 8/20/2013.

CN: Transphobia

Recently someone on Fetlife in the Minnesota kink scene posted a proposed draft of advice for how newbies should attend a munch. In the kink world a munch is a casual public gathering of kinky people for conversation and socialization. It usually takes place in a restaurant, coffee shop, or bar. Generally they are open to anyone and are often the first thing new people do when entering the kinky scene because they are fairly non-threatening and have a very low bar of entry.

When discussing the most conservative level of expected attire the proposed advice was the following (emphasis mine):

“Conservative dress that won’t attract unwanted attention from the vanillas. This means no stereotypical fetish or dungeonesque clothing or handcuffs. Any visible collar should pass as jewelry. You can cover a collar with a scarf or perhaps a turtleneck. No Fetishwear. No latex clothing. Some leather clothing may be okay as long as you aren’t covered from head to toe. We don’t also want it to look like a biker convention. No corsets worn on the outside. No littles wear. No ageplay clothing. No visible diapers. No pony play costumes. No puppy play costumes. No furry costumes, etc. No t-shirts with offensive or suggestive slogans. No Ballet Boots. In the case of crossdressers, if you don’t pass, don’t crossdress. Don’t showup in a sequined dress looking like a flamboyant glammed up drag queen. In the case of genderfluid, genderqueer, and transgender people, do your best to pass. The point is for everyone to blend in as best they can. This is NOT the place for social protest.“

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TBT: When Kinksters Don’t Want To Risk ANYTHING

TBT: In Testosterone Veritas

Throwback Thursday posts are posts I have previously written on other sites. They are reposted here sometimes on Thursdays. This post was originally posted on Queereka on 2/16/2015.

CN: Transition experiences, discussion of aggression and objectification.

On Cracked yesterday a trans man named Roman Jones wrote about 6 Awful Lessons I Learned Transitioning from Female to Male. Some of the stuff in there felt similar to my experiences, though it’s been awhile (9 years) since I had to bind and much of this stuff applies more to the transition process than the stage of life I’m at now. I found his commentary about medical care especially on point – problems with getting decent medical care has been an ongoing problem for me and many other trans people.

But then late in the article Jones says:

It’s not only physical, either — transgender people who have undergone hormone therapy are a goldmine of information about the differences between men and women because of the effect different hormones have on your mind. Describing his experience with testosterone on This American Life, one trans man flat-out says “I felt like a monster.” He completely stopped thinking about the random women he encountered as people, and a nice-looking one would turn his mind into a pornographic View-Master. That guy was on an irresponsibly high dose, but most trans men on testosterone agree that it increases libido and aggression, which can be a shocking revelation for someone who’s spent their life chasing the estrogen dragon.

Here’s the thing: Testosterone does not create sexism on it’s own. People learn these attitudes (aggression, objectification) from their culture. Just because trans guys are usually raised being perceived as girls doesn’t mean that we don’t live in a culture steeped in sexist attitudes and we internalize them as much as anyone else does. T makes us look more masculine and for many guys it makes us feel more masculine, but it doesn’t tell us what masculinity means. Our culture does.

Trans men often say that T made us more visually stimulated. This is certainly my experience – when I’m on T I am far more likely to look at porn, to be aroused by the sight of my partners, and to notice attractive people around me. But visual stimulation isn’t the same thing as objectification. Lots of people are visually stimulated, not all of us see the people who’s appearance arouse us as less than human. One can be both attracted to someone AND know that they are a person. People do it all the time.

Aggression is similar. Some trans guys experience increased aggression on T. Many don’t. Some of us start crying a lot more (I cry at movies. A lot. Especially Pixar ones.) and some of us have a mellowing of emotional volatility because we’re so much less stressed out with less dysphoria. Our responses are varied because our expectations are different and our ideas about what manhood is and who we are as men is so diverse. Guys who are already prone to aggression or who see aggressiveness as a manly trait and part of their masculinity will have problems with that. These problems are created by a culture that teaches us – all of us! – that violence and anger are male attributes, a natural result of testosterone.

The models of masculinity I saw growing up in my family were extremely gentle. My father is an incredibly gentle man. My best memories of him are of sitting on blankets on the floor with him and my siblings, playing and telling stories. He works incredibly hard for my family, is soft spoken and introverted, and deeply devoted to my mother. My strongest image of adult masculinity is that of a devoted father and husband. Unsurprisingly, aggression is not a problem I have had with T.

Testosterone doesn’t create monsters of trans men or anyone else. Patriarchal culture creates toxic images of what manhood is, and some guys (trans and cis) internalize these images. When we experience an increase in libido and visual stimulation due to suddenly having our hormones corrected it shows to us and the world who we really are and who we think men are. The toxic culture we live in can create aggressive and objectifying sexist pigs out of us if we let it.

Guys, don’t let it. You don’t have to be that guy.

TBT: In Testosterone Veritas

Queerphobia, and Why We Took Down Our Pride Flag

CN: Homophobia, harassment, and mention of the Orlando shooting.

Yesterday Spouse asked our landlord to come over and look at our broken shower. He arrived in the early afternoon. I was home when he came over, but about to go to bed because I work overnight.

I don’t like our landlord. Our apartment is mostly fine, but our landlord is an overly involved busybody, who regularly tells incredibly sexually inappropriate and sometimes homophobic jokes. He makes me deeply uncomfortable. Spouse is a more forgiving person than I am, and therefore has greater tolerance for his bullshit, but they don’t love the nosiness or inappropriate jokes either.

Just after the shooting at Pulse in Orlando Spouse bought a rainbow pride flag and put it up inside our front window. It has been there since, visible from the street but not extremely obvious during the day. The flag made both of us, but especially them, feel substantially better. Queer visibility is important to us, and sending a message of support and pride is important to us. It has been comforting having those bright colors visible inside and outside of our home.
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Queerphobia, and Why We Took Down Our Pride Flag

Reply All Shows How To Ally

CN: Queer and QPOC erasure.

Reply All is currently my favorite podcast – it is a show about the internet. Since I basically live on the internet, it’s like having a great podcast about my hometown. They wander off topic occasionally, but when they do I still generally find the stories they tell pretty awesome. This week the episode contains one of the best instances of allying I have heard in quite awhile.

One of the segments on Reply All I like best is called “Yes, Yes, No” in which the two internet-fluent hosts explain confusing things (usually tweets) to their less net-savvy boss, Alex Blumberg. If done poorly this could be a painfully boring process, but instead it gives them an opportunity to discuss some of the most interesting parts of internet culture. They have previously used it as an opportunity to explain and condemn Gamergate, and shed light on annotations made through Genius. I love this segment because although I often have some knowledge of the things they discuss, I always learn something new.

Recently they did a Yes, Yes, No segment on a tweet about the Clinton campaign’s social media work. It was one of the less complex versions of this segment, but included a bit that I (along with probably a million other people) noticed as incomplete. They were discussing the phrases “Yas” and “Drag him” as used in that tweet. Their description of the background on the word “Yas” went:
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Reply All Shows How To Ally

Throwback Thursday: How To Get It Right, When You Got It Wrong

Throwback Thursday posts are posts I have previously written on other sites, such as Livejournal, Science Based Sex, Queereka, Skepchick, or Skeptability. They are reposted here sometimes on Thursdays. This post was originally posted on Queereka on December 14th, 2012.

For years after I began my gender transition I regularly had an experience that is nearly universal among trans* folks: Someone would use the wrong gender pronoun for me, or my old name. That was a bit uncomfortable, but not nearly as bad as what came next. If they knew me and realized their mistake it would be immediate – if they didn’t then either I or someone else would correct them, prompting the response:

“Oh no. I am SO SORRY. Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I just did that. How could I do that? I’m so so so sorry…” etc.

That was the worst part. It would last seconds, but felt like hours. In the end, I was spending my time and energy comforting the other person, and often the original conversation was entirely derailed. Now we were focusing on my transition, and the conflicts or struggles my transition was causing those around me. Again.

It still happens to me in a slightly different context. Someone will use an incorrect pronoun for someone else in conversation with me, and again they are apologizing. Repeatedly. Exaggeratedly. Apologizing to me for a mistake they made regarding someone else’s gender, and worse – they are quite forthcoming with me about how HARD it is to get those things right, how much they STRUGGLE with it because, you know, they’ve known her all these years…

Just stop it. Please.

First of all, the longer you spend talking about, and apologizing for, the mistake the longer I and everyone around us is spending thinking and talking about someone else’s transition. Furthermore, telling me about how hard it is for you shows complete insensitivity. Changing your language is hard? Tough. Deal with it. Compared to what your transgender friend is dealing with in transition, it’s incredibly easy.

How to get it right if you make a mistake? Correct yourself. A FAST apology is perfectly appropriate, but get back to the subject at hand.

“I was out with Keith… I mean Alice! Sorry, my bad. So anyway, Alice and I were out at the movies…”

Throwback Thursday: How To Get It Right, When You Got It Wrong

Throwback Thursday: Fuck That Comic

Throwback Thursday posts are posts I have previously written on other sites, such as Livejournal, Science Based Sex, Queereka, Skepchick, or Skeptability. They are reposted here sometimes on Thursdays when I think they are applicable to current events. This post was originally posted on Queereka on August 5th, 2013.

Parade

This comic has been turning up on my Facebook page lately, generally by well meaning straight people. I’ve seen it about a half dozen times already. Each time I get a little more angry. Why does this comic piss me off? It’s a celebration of marriage equality, right?
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Throwback Thursday: Fuck That Comic