I haven’t written in a long time. Far too long. I always meant to start again but something inevitably would get in the way, usually my health. I’ve been hospitalized repeatedly, sometimes as frequently as three times in a month. I’ve dealt with pain and anxiety and depression. I’ve spent all my energy on trying to get better, but all that I’ve really accomplished is to hold off on getting too much worse.
I met Niki last year and very quickly felt close to her. As a couple of disabled women in activism we had a sort of connection that I very much appreciated. Going to Skepticon with her especially was a wonderful experience. We looked out for each other. Had a sort of sense of the little things that made big differences, the stuff that you just never can understand without having a chronic illness.
There’s one moment in particular that I keep replaying in my head. It was late on the drive back from Skepticon, after a huge weekend and probably ten hours at least in the car. We were at a rest stop for fuel and the bathroom. On the way out, she washed her hands, left her cane standing and took two steps to the hand dryer. I could see how excruciating for her it was, and recognized that look of regret when she knew it was two steps back to get her cane. I just whispered and asked her if she’d like me to move it next to her, and the nod and expression she gave spoke of such genuine relief.
Niki wrote. She wrote because it was important to her, because it made a difference to both her and the world around her, and she was amazing. And now I’m going to write, because it’s the most positive thing I can take away from this. I’m going to stop getting tripped up by hospital visits and several thousand page blog posts detailing my health care not being absolutely perfect. Writing is hard, but so is living with disability. She did both, and so will I.
I’ve just published an update and sequel to last year’s Gender Analysis episode “Trans Passing Tips for Cis People”, which explored how perception of gendered features can vary between individuals due to the influence of a number of documented factors. This episode examines further evidence for various biases in gender perception and attribution, and considers what this means for trans people in the context of widespread cis assumptions about “passing” and the intensifying debate on restrooms:
In everyday life, interactions between the expression and interpretation of gender are so diverse that whether someone “looks like a woman” isn’t always entirely predictable. This naïve model of gender perception treats gender as a property emitted from an individual, with all others as passive receivers who simply accept this expression at face value. Yet this is precisely backwards – expressions of gender are not objective and singular; they are subjective, interpretative, and multiple.
The same trans person, on the same day, with exactly the same appearance, can still have their gender read entirely differently depending on who’s looking at them. Why does this happen? At least in part, it’s because many of the variables involved here aren’t located within the one person being observed, but rather the multiple people observing them.
I’ve just finished a wonderful interview at Victoria Darling’s TransEthics blog, covering topics like public awareness of trans issues, support for trans youth, barriers to healthcare access, controversies within the community, and more. A quick preview:
TE: Is it your goal with the series to make trans people more relatable to the general public?
ZJ: This is a theme of the series, but more than that, it’s a theme of all of my work. I’ve found that this is often a matter of actions more than words. Simply existing publicly as an out trans person means creating opportunities for people to become familiar with us – when they see me, they know one more trans person than they did before. They know about my life, my history, my motivations and ambitions, my unique and defining features and interests.
This is what it means to humanize a group of people in the eyes of the larger public. It’s easy to make quick and uncharitable generalizations about who we are when you have a near vacuum of actual knowledge about us as real individuals. Unfamiliarity reduces us to an abstract concept for the wildest array of misconceptions and fears to be projected upon, rather than actual people who are a lot like you and are sharing a world with you. My series more narrowly serves to highlight specific issues facing trans people – aspects of our lives that can be quite challenging, but that cis people would otherwise have no reason to consider or be aware of in the usual course of their lives. These are experiences that I want to convey to cis people – I want more of them to have a deeper and more meaningful grasp of what this is like for us.
You can catch the rest of the interview at TransEthics.
For those of you who are new to this blog, I’m Zinnia Jones. I’m a professional writer and researcher, a radical feminist, a secular activist, a trans woman, and a mom, living in Florida with my partners Heather and Penny. As a former Christian, I’ve been vlogging on YouTube since 2008, addressing faith issues and political developments with a focus on LGBT topics. After transitioning in 2012, I’ve increasingly covered trans-related subjects with an emphasis on the experiences of trans people and the impact of structural prejudice on our lives. These themes have featured prominently in my web series, Gender Analysis. I’ve written at Freethought Blogs from 2012 to 2015, spoken at the Florida Secular Rally and SF Pride, participated in panels at Women in Secularism III, and made appearances on Al Jazeera America and CNN to discuss trans healthcare access in prisons. Continue reading “Welcome to The Orbit, an atheist blog network for social justice”
Transcription below the fold!
Hey, all! The survey I mentioned last month is now available for trans participants to share information about themselves (anonymously) to improve our understanding of how trans people live in the U.S.
I just finished taking it, would love for you to take it if you’re trans and want to do it also, and here’s a link:
I’ve taken the pledge to participate in the survey, and I wanted to provide you all with the opportunity to contribute as well. Last I checked, about 9,000 people had taken the pledge.
Somebody asked a straightforward question about whether a trans person is their gender and suddenly the questioned no longer understands what “gender” is. Continue reading “Trans-ient amnesia”
One of the weird ways this has manifested is through people incorrectly guessing how to pronounce my name. My nametag says “Luxander”. (It used to say “Lux” but I didn’t want to keep answering the “what is that short for” question so I fixed it.) Most of the times people mispronounce it, they squint and ask if my name is “Luxandra.” Someone asked if it was “Luxandria” one time. Yesterday, someone asked if it was Lux-on-dra, with the long A.
Okay, so I recognize that there are people with dyslexia and other disorders that result in difficulty reading. However, this happens so often and (if you’ll pardon the phrase) so aggressively that I’m pretty sure it’s not just dyslexic people doing it. Continue reading “That's Not My Name”