Miss Tree

3 stamps, a tree branch, and a person you’re not

When you get down to the bottom,

To the root of it all

You’ll find:

3 stamps, a tree branch, and a person you’re not

I hear you all singing

Telling me to join in

You tell me, “It all means something.”

You tell me to commit

But I know the true face of mystery

I’ve seen what’s behind the mask:

I know I’m really no one

And I’m okay with it

It doesn’t have to matter

To have meaning

It’s about common sense

But sometimes sense is senseless

And I just go along with it

With my 3 stamps, my tree branch, and the person I’m not

The trick is to be no one

To commit against sense

But commit to “commitment”

Or be committed for “making sense”

When you tell them about:

the “3 stamps,” the “tree branch,” and the “person you’re not”

You are who you are as you are who you’re not

And which one is real is a mystery

The Tree That Would be a Bridge

A tale of self-sacrifice.

Once upon a time, there lived a tree.

This tree grew up like any other tree.

Her roots planted firmly into the ground,

She grew up tall and she grew up right,

And took in each day and absorbed all its light,

Casting shadows, where her fruit fell,

To feed the creatures at night.

But this tree was special,

She saw things a bit differently,

Like you and me, this tree could see,

And she knew an important thing.

She wasn’t the only tree in the world,

There were others, so many others.

She was happy for the few that surrounded her,

Even though they were very different from her.

But so many were on the other side of the creek,

And many, she saw, looked just like her.

“Other trees like me,” she thought,

Stretching her branches wide.

When she noticed across the river,

On the other side, those other trees who looked..

Like her, did the same.

It took some time, trees are very slow,

And very patient, but she raised her branches,

Stretching them tall, and to her amazement,

So did they all.

This repeated for days until finally,

She thought, “I must meet them.”

And began an arduous plot,

She would stretch her branches every day,

Reaching, slowly but surely, to meet them.

Season after season passed, as bit by bit,

She made her way across the creek.

Until suddenly, she felt a sharp pain in her trunk,

And everything went dark.

Other, strange looking trees came,

With their axes and saws,

Uprooting the tree, cut without flaw.

She was aware of it all, aware the whole time.

And there really isn’t an appropriate rhyme,

To convey the horror of this crime.

But, the tree thought,

As she was reshaped into a bridge,

And stretched across the creek,

To help others live,

“There are worse fates for a tree,

than being a bridge.”

And in the fall, when the fruits and leaves,

Of the other trees like her covered her completely,

Like a warm blanket, she felt her wish came true.

And the bridge lived happily ever after.

As for those other strange trees that moved over her, they lived less happily, but the bridge was happy to help them move across the creek, as she had so desperately wanted.

Auntie Tom

The Uncle buried beneath the tree.

There’s a place that exists

Between myself

And my self,

Where lies;

Beneath the surface

Undermine me–

They spread like wildfire,

Burning us, like dead tree stumps.

“Auntie’s a man! Don’t you see his XY chromosomes?

A male named Tom and that is all– that is all!”

“She’s a woman! DNA doesn’t matter, SHE

is not like any male I recall.

…And her name’s Nell,

A female;

S H E

never was ‘Tom’.”

“Stop it!” Nell cried,

Struggling;

Grappling;

With him again:

“My name was Tom,

it hurts to say..

There’s baggage with it,

and hell to pay..

You can’t know what it’s like,

Living on edges so grey,

To carry the burdens of Uncle Thomas,

Auntie Nell never having her say!

What’s a scorned woman to do

With such burdensome men?

But kill them over

and over again?

He might rest in peace,

If you’d just let me live,

But instead here’s Uncle Thomas again,

Cursed by you to live among men. “

“THAT’S TRANSPHOBIC!” one activist cried,

“THAT’S MISOGYNISTIC!” another replied.

Auntie Tom walked onward with a sigh,

Back into the place between herself and her self;

Tripping, over

Misunderstandings;

Like brambles in time,

Cutting through, and through and through,

Uncle Tom died:

Then revived;

Revived;

And revived to be shed,

By Auntie Nell with her ever-waiting edge.

“Stay out of my spaces!” a woman cried through her lips

“Keep out of mine too, faggot,” boasted a man with his fists,

Twisting Nell into Tom

And Tom into Nell..

Contriving her soul

Into liquid-like hell;

Wringing it out, pouring

Into the void of themselves.

Cursed, they now carry on

With the truth of their lies;

Knowing the hells of Auntie Nell

And the heavens Tom will never find,

As a man who wants to, but just can’t die.

Roots: Liminality

Of life on the edge.

I’ve recently learned that my dad isn’t my biological father.

Before he married my mom, he’d had a vasectomy. They tried to reverse it but the attempts were unsuccessful. Still, they wanted a child and my mom was determined to carry one into the world. Thus, they opted for a donor.

I’m 35 years old and just now hearing the news.

There are so many complex thoughts and emotions brewing in me. This revelation feels so incredibly important, but meaningless at the same time.

On one hand, this changes nothing.

My parents are still my parents. I love them with all my heart. I don’t blame them for not telling me. I understand completely why they didn’t. They raised me as their own to the best of their ability and provided me a great foundation for opportunity in life. My dad broke his body working in factories for more than half his life to keep our family afloat. Carrying that sort of burden is what makes a man a father, not DNA.

On the other hand, this changes everything.

It feels like there’s this whole strange, new half of me that I never knew existed, that was buried away in my DNA. I have a completely different biological makeup than I’d previously understood. The man whose DNA I share is a doctor. An incredibly healthy one no less. Risks that I’ve feared my entire life from my dad’s side of the family are no longer things I need to worry as much about. Alzheimer’s, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and more. My dad endured a heart attack at around my current age. I’d feared for so long that the same might be likely for me.

It isn’t…

I now also know that I have siblings living all across the United States. Many of whom have kids of their own. I’m an auntie to at least five!

Two half-sisters have already contacted me through 23andMe, one of whom found all this out when she was 15 and set about doing all the legwork for the rest of us. She’s spent years seeking out the donor and our siblings. I’m so grateful to her for being so informative for me in this time of need. She told me his name, all about his history of endocrinology practice all over the country, his current location, health status, family life, everything I could hope for and more!

If I had learned all this but had nothing to go on, I’d feel so much more lost. Knowing his name and being able to learn so much about him and our genetic family so quickly has been such a blessing.

All at once, those new thoughts and emotions exist within me. A new, very deep well from which to draw life experience and inspiration from is here and I’m eager to dive into it, but at the same time terrified to. Right now, I really can’t know how this knowledge might change me.

I’m going through something a lot like a grieving process. My old self has died and there’s a whole new me here now. Who am I? I’m not entirely sure I know yet. But then again, I’m not entirely sure any of us ever knows the answer to that question.

I’m feeling very… between right now.

And that brings me to the broader topic I’d like to discuss today.

Liminality is a concept I have recently been grappling with.

The term has its roots in anthropology. It refers to the period following a rite of passage, during which one may have completed their rite and should, by all rights, be changed through the experience. But they exist in a state of betweenness, in which they struggle with the idea that they themselves have actually changed and society shares the same struggle in accepting them within their newly acquired role.

A good modern example of this might be the time following completion of a degree but prior to settling into one’s career in that field. Your rite of passage is complete, but yet the sense that any passage has actually been complete is liminal.

It’s like living on an edge. Split between your past and future selves.

Liminality is an aspect to life all humans endure. It’s a part of the human condition, there’s no doubt, but it’s an aspect to humanity that I find especially prevalent with regard to trans people.

Transitioning is interesting to think about in terms of liminality and rites of passage. The intent of our rite of passage is to change our sex from male-to-female or female-to-male, but given current technology, sex is immutable. Some sex traits are mutable, no doubt, but sex itself remains unchanged. Thus, our rite of passage can be thought of as incomplete. Moving from one state to the other is impossible for us. All that completing our rite of passage can possibly allow for us existence within a constant state of liminality.

We transfolk live on the edge, existing in a liminal reality every moment of our lives following transition. The idea that a transman is male or a transwoman is female is something that exists only in verisimilitude. When I’m seen by others and interpreted to be female, their conceptualization of me has the appearance of being true, but appearances can be deceiving.

While it’s possible for most anyone to slip in and out of liminal states, once we transition and slip into ours, the only way out is detransition. I’d happily choose intrinsic liminality over existence as a man any day.

This intrinsic, ever-present liminality is a huge part of what defines us as transwomen/transmen and makes us distinct from both men and women. It’s a burden we must carry as trans people. Those who are not can come to carry similar burdens following various rites of passage, but living on the edge is not intrinsic to their existence as it is to ours. For them, the edge is escapable. They can return from it to center themselves in reality with time and effort. For us, escape would only mean falling into the void. The edge is all we have.

So now, as I stand on the edge of this new well of experience and peer down into its darkness, I’m both terrified and excited to take the plunge and see where this new passage takes me.

I’ll see you all on the other side.

An Orgasm

On being hollow..

I’ll never have kids,

But I’m pregnant with words,

Made fertile by my experiences with you.

My fruits,

Would reshape the world if it let them,

If only they could exist.

There’s this burden we carry,

This burden we are.

It defines and confines us

Entwines us in our own yarns.

My burden is distinct,

It’s hard to tell you what it’s like,

To not make babies but only make rhymes,

To deal with it all knowing

the time,

the time,

the time,

How can I explain it?

What it’s like to exist..?

To be stitched together,

And filled with shit,

But none of it life,

None of it real,

A fabricated mess of pain

And doubt congealing on a spinning wheel.

But I guess you get it anyway,

C’est la vie, that’s what it’s like to exist.

Everything’s so goddamn important,

And meaninglessness subsists.

The only thing I have that’s real,

Is the sadness I share,

This pill you swallow

Of the burden I bare.

So take it for what it is,

Hope it’s to your liking,

It is what it is.

A part of me needs you to have it,

A part of me hates you for taking it,

A part of me fears what it will mean to you,

A part of me would love to just forget.

But does it matter anyway?

Is it even real?

This burden that you’re grasping to feel,

Is as real as the babies who’ll never be

Born of my non-existent womb.

But I hope what I carry

Can still carry meaning

That keeps you coming

For me baby;

Again, and again, and again.

Roots: Trans/Women

The duality of trans.

Trans women are women.

Transwomen are transwomen.

Trans women are men.

Trans women are trans men.

Transwomen are women.

Trans Identified Males are men.

Transwomen are transmen.

Trans women are women not trans women.

Trans women are not women they’re transwomen.

Trans women are transwomen are trans women are transwomen.

I AM SO SICK OF TALKING ABOUT THIS!

So let’s talk about it more, shall we?

As I’ve represented above, there’s a wide range of perceptions of who/what trans people are, which are usually VERY context heavy in one’s subjective perception of us. The truth is far more complicated and nuanced than any one such assertion can encompass.

Here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to split myself into two halves, and you’re going to (hopefully) have a good time reading about it.

(Thank you very much for reading, by the way!)

TRANS / WOMAN

Let’s begin with the latter.

Woman:

Trans activists are often challenged with the question, “What is a woman?” I’ve grappled with this question for years and the only conclusion I can come to is that there is no adequate trans-inclusive response. It’s an argument we simply cannot win unless we reduce “woman” to mean anyone who identifies as such.

Accepting trans women are women requires adopting a philosophy that values trans women as so similar to adult human females that they should be recognized as what we’ve commonly understood to be women rather than the distinct category transwomen. In valuing similarity with the category, we might accept the term “cisgender,” a term that makes me uncomfortable for many reasons.

First of all, when “cis” was originally coined, it was “cissexual” to compliment “transsexual” as its opposite. In its original meaning, “cissexual” simply meant “one who has not medically transitioned”. It was a term describing a non-transsexual embodiment.

Today, the term has become “cisgender” following the cultural shift away from “transsexual” to “transgender” instead. This term carries quite a bit more baggage. It does not simply refer to a non-transsexual embodiment, it refers to one’s identity.

The exact definition according to the Oxford dictionary reads: “Denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex.”

But what if someone is gender non-conforming? What if someone is against the idea that any sense of personal identity/gender should be tied with their birth sex at all? What if someone rejects the idea of gender entirely and thinks only in terms of sex? How can we force the term on to such people? How can we make them identify as cis?

We can’t, and we shouldn’t.

My other issue with the term is that it has been co-opted by social justice activists and encoded into the language of privilege hierarchy. To be “cis” is to be a trans oppressor. I never have, and never will look on people who are not trans as my oppressors. It sickens me every time I see activists weaponizing the word to turn ordinary people into a class of trans antagonists.

None of this is to say that “cis” doesn’t have meaning or usefulness. It’s a perfectly valid way of structuring thought to be more trans-inclusive within the categories of “men” and “women” but it is understandable why many find the distinction which excludes us from these categories valid. This typically comes down to a difference in philosophy between valuing our differences over our similarities with those categories or vice versa. In my thinking, I value difference, and so in the ways I choose to identify myself and structure the language I use, I choose to express and respect that value.

I completely understand why most trans people value similarity and choose to instead identify themselves as trans men and women and advocate for the separate categories of cis men and women in society and I would never condemn them for doing so. My intent here is not to attack trans people or challenge this value of similarity over difference, it is only to speak to what I feel is right by my own philosophy and show what it has to offer the world.

Neither philosophy is “correct” and in fact, regardless of which we find greater value in, we trans people have both similarities and differences with men and women.

So, without “cis,” what is a woman?

Women are adult human females. Am I an adult human female? No.

But I am perceived to be one.

Objectively, I am an adult human male.

Subjectively, I am often interpreted as a woman.

You might say that I’m not literally a woman, but figuratively speaking, yes I am. When I am seen in the world and perceived to be an adult human female, I become subject to the same expectations as women. The cultural script I am expected to follow is a woman’s script. If I stray from that script, I am punished for what’s seen as “unwomanly” behavior. When I adhere to it, I am rewarded.

This woman’s script isn’t something that comes from within. It isn’t woven into my identity. It’s something that’s been imposed on me by society based on how I am perceived. Thus, I share subjective circumstance with women. My movement through the world is similarly restricted. People have expectations of me and react to me on the basis of those expectations in the same ways they react to women.

This means that I do experience misogyny. I am oppressed under patriarchal rule. But I recognize that although these things are true on the basis of how I’m perceived, my experiences and oppression differ from women on the basis of my sex. There is a limit to the scope of my womanhood, whereas there is no limit to theirs.

The scope of my womanhood is limited to the moments in which I pass as female. There was a time I lived in stealth, passing every day in every interaction. For that time, I was a woman per the subjective experience of others. Since, I’ve come out of the closet and now am much more open about the fact I’m trans in my interactions. By no means do I come out to every stranger I meet, but if I’m asked, I will tell you the truth, and the same is true if we become friends, co-workers, partners, or otherwise intimate.

Trans:

The truth is I’m trans, and the scope of my transhood is much wider than the scope of my womanhood. At all other places in life where my experience intersects with others, my transhood takes precedence.

When I say I am trans, I mean that I am an adult human transsexual. A transsexual is someone who undergoes medical treatment in order to undergo a binary transition from living perceived as their birth sex to living perceived as the opposite sex. Mutable aspects of our bodies allow us to do so through hormone replacement therapy and various surgical procedures. But it is important to remember that sex itself is not mutable. We can never really change sex.

There are also transgender people. Now, most would tell you that transgender and transsexual mean the same thing. Not long ago, I may have told you the same, but I’ve since found value in making a distinction between the two. In my early 20s, I came out to friends and co-workers and took my first timid steps out of the closet. During that time, I took on a new name, politely asked those in my life to use female pronouns for me, took on a part-time non-conforming lifestyle, and a handful of other changes. In this period, I was what I understand to be transgender. What separates me then from me now is the medical transition I’ve undergone and the fact I now live full time as a transwoman and am legally recognized as such. I’m happy to call such a person trans and treat them as they’d like to be treated socially, especially if they have every intent to medically transition, but it should be recognized and treated distinctly under law/policy.

My official legal status is female. At least, that’s what it says on all my identifying information. There’s heated debate over whether or not this status should apply to me and other trans people under laws and policies. I’ve got mixed feelings on this topic, but what pushes me off the fence is the implications it has for transmen under such laws. Transitioning from female to male, transmen take on a male legal status, which can strip them from access to laws, policies, programs, services etc that they might need.

In my view, it would work best if we were recognized as a distinct class and our laws were coded directly to us, rather than being funneled through laws designed for men/women. We are already recognized as a distinct social class and enabled to specified rights in many ways, such as in anti-discrimination laws and the laws enabling us to legally change our sex/gender markers in the first place. Why not simply apply this same approach where it’s needed and design laws/policies that guarantee trans inclusion through explicit mention?

Regardless, in terms of legality, we do often recognize transhood as a distinct status and I would say that we always should.

Medically speaking, it’s important my transhood be recognized as well. If I’m treated as female, I could be administered the wrong medications, receive improper treatments, be misdiagnosed, etc. There’s a whole host of things that could go wrong. You’d be hard pressed to find a trans person who disagrees. I’ve known many trans people and have never once met one who thought it appropriate to lie about their trans status to their doctor. We aren’t delusional. We understand the medical implications of what we are.

When it comes to spaces in public life, whether I like it or not, I am trans. Intersections in these spaces are very complicated for us come with a lot of nuance. Here, I’m speaking of areas like toilets, changing areas, showers/baths, services, sports, prisons, etc. as well as sexuality and in spaces shared by people of particular sexualities. Generally speaking, I would say that I would be most happy with trans-specific (or single occupancy where appropriate) spaces. However, at the same time, I recognize this is not always practical. It would be a logistical and financial nightmare to create spaces specifically for us, and even if you did, there are simply far too few of us in the world to justify it.

Thus, we opt for nuanced integration. There’s a lot to talk about with regard to all of these spaces. I could delve into my opinions on each here, but it would make this article far too long and I would be digressing far too much. Let’s suffice to say, in addition to what’s already been said, that the fact I am trans takes precedence in all cases. There’s a horrible tendency I’ve noticed for trans activists to be opposed to discourse over these topics on the basis of their mantra: trans women are women. It’s so discouraging to me when I see nuanced discourse being denied to people in favor of the mantra. For such activists, there is no nuance to be explored. Either trans women are women and welcome in all of those spaces without question, or you are a bigot/TERF.

For the record, no, you are not a bigot nor a TERF if you hold concerns over the nuance that comes with our public accommodations. Such concerns are perfectly rational/reasonable and worth addressing in good faith, returning the same reasonability and rationality with any interlocutor. If you’re looking for someone to have that sort of discourse with, please feel free to comment here, contact me via my contact page, or DM @drawnoutofshape on twitter. I’m always happy to discuss those views with anyone.

Several years ago, when I was first becoming interested in radical feminism and gender critique, I went on a forum and asked a group of gender critical feminists a philosophical question:

If we had the technology to enable complete transition of sex leaving trans people indistinguishable from the opposite of our birth sex chromosomally, hormonally, reproductively, etc. would you then recognize transwomen as women?

Going into it, I thought, “Of course they would see me as a woman then. There’d be no way to distinguish me.”

But, I was proven wrong.

Even if we had a magical tube I could enter and then re-emerge female, I would “technically” be an adult human female, you might even objectively identify me as one, but there’s still a difference.

There’s still the fact that I had the experience of being born male, and the experience living perceived as male up until I stepped into the tube. These historical differences count for so much more than we give them credit. They account for much of our learned behavior, garnered expectations, social mobility, granted opportunity, and personal autonomy. Had I been born female, my experience of the world would have been completely different, as would the world’s experience of me. The ways I would relate to the world and the ways the world would relate to me would be deeply impacted by that difference.

Transwoman:

Now, let’s put my two halves back together and return to our complex reality.

In the past, some women have expressed to me that they aren’t comfortable having intimate conversations with transwomen, “Why?” I would ask, and I’m sure they give me good answers, but I wasn’t willing to hear them and consider the truth they could see plain as day.

It wasn’t until a woman asked me this question, that I finally understood:

“If a person said they were a transwoman and engaged in an intimate trans-centric conversation with me, only to later reveal that they are not actually trans, would I feel lied to/betrayed?”

Yes, yes I would.

I’ve spoken with enough of my trans sisters by now to understand very well that there are just some things, usually very personal, intimate things about my trans experiences that I am only comfortable communicating with other transwomen. I want to communicate those things to someone who can understand and relate to them. If someone claimed to be trans in order to gain that kind of trust and garner that kind of intimate discussion from me under false pretenses, I wouldn’t feel safe communicating with that person anymore.

The same, it seems obvious to me now, is true of women. As I wrote when speaking to my womanhood, there is a lot of circumstance I share with women. I consider them my sisters too, not just transwomen. But there’s still some places I can’t go with them. Things I can’t relate to. Things they might find me knowing offensive after learning they’ve opened up under the false pretense that I’m an adult human female, just as I would be offended if I found I opened up to someone who wasn’t an adult human transsexual.

It’s all very complicated, but truth always is. The truth is that I’m a transwoman who values the difference that makes her distinct from women. I exist in a very complex, nuanced reality that is never easy but comes with its own rewards.

What does, “not a woman” mean exactly? Does this mean I’m a man? No, clearly not. My philosophy is transwomen are transwomen. There is more difference between me and men than between me and women.

It means only that I’m not an adult human female, and I’m not afraid to say it in celebration of difference. I’m an adult human male-to-female transsexual; a transwoman, and proud of it.

I’m not afraid to be present in our complex, nuanced reality and show the world how much a transwoman like me has to offer, bringing the full depth and breadth of my experiences to bear in my creations and interactions.

RE: He Who Must Not Be Named

Avada Kedavra

I’ve been suspended from twitter for 7 days for “hateful conduct”.

I’m not going to lie, I said some hateful things about He Who Must Not Be Named. Even typing his name can get you banned from some platforms.

I spoke to concerns I have over the diluting of “trans woman” to mean “anybody who identifies as one” because that’s asking me to accept someone on the basis of faith.

For your benefit, here is the thread I was suspended over.

You’ll find there’s a tweet missing that I was forced to delete in order to begin the 7 day countdown on my suspension.

In this tweet, I spoke directly to He Who Must Not Be Named and said I don’t trust him. I explained how I see him from my perspective, a “perverted, misogynistic man who is pretending to be trans to exploit a poorly designed law and abuse women”.

Is what I said the truth? By no means can I know that, and as you can see in the remnant of my thread, I strongly hope I’m wrong. I’d hoped to discuss this with He Who Must Not Be Named, but have subsequently been tagged as hateful and silenced for 7 days on one of the world’s biggest social platforms.

This presents are serious problem. I have genuine concerns I’m unable to speak to and no one seems interested in addressing them. I’m being punished for questioning something subjective and faith-based.

Whether I’m right or not, He Who Must Not Be Named represents a serious threat to the trans community we need to talk about. So let’s disconnect ourselves from personal feelings about this individual and look at the broader threat.

Let’s face it, if trans people are being defined on the basis of self-identity, then accepting what we are is a matter of faith.

Socially, this idea is workable. I’m happy to accept anyone who says they’re trans actually is. I have faith in people generally like that. But it’s dangerous to enable it through laws and policies.

If being trans is a matter of faith, then we must recognize faith is something that can be manipulated and take a measured approach to prevent that manipulation. The direction we’re moving in is the opposite.

I’ve written about “Turd Flinging Monkey” on twitter, but never in my blog.

Have a watch. Here’s a wicked man who has recognized this same truth and is advocating others like him manipulate it to their ends. This one’s an anti-feminist ideologue who’s pushing a movement to manipulate faith in trans identities to undermine feminism and cause it to “eat itself”. I could show you dozens more examples.

It’s frustrating, I know, but we have to face it, everyone.

These people exist. They behave like terrorists, and we must take care to not enable them.

This is also empirically evident all around the world. Wicked men everywhere manipulate forces to direct faith toward them for personal/political/financial gains. Look no further than your nearest televangelist or politician for proof of this theory.

Our world leaders often invoke faith in order to justify the horrible things they do. “I prayed about this,” they’ll say, or “God is on our side.”

That may pull the wool over the eyes of some sheep, but not me. I see right through it to the wicked heart of it all.

It’s powerful, dark magic.

My invocation of Harry Potter as I say “He Who Must Not Be Named” is appropriate. If He Who Must Not Be Named is invoking faith as I’m describing here, to manipulate people’s concern and sympathies toward wicked purposes, I’m here to say, full stop, it’s wrong, and I pray such people will not be allowed to get away with this.

As I’ve said in my tweets though, ultimately, it’s not my place to judge.

Some things are best left to God.