Status: First Day of Fall, 2018

Pink_DressI’m a trans girl. Initially, I didn’t like how my brain was female and my body was male. At the time, I disliked how I think. I wished I could think like the boys around whom I was growing up because I was born with “outie” plumbing so everyone took it for granted I’m a boy and so did I. I tried hard fit in, to think and react like a boy but I just couldn’t. As part of trying, I did macho things, some of them harmful to me, like smoking cigarettes. I tried hard to be more macho than anyone else so I smoked 3 packs a day when I was 14 (for one day).

As an adult, I started realizing there’s value in being emotionally sensitive and communicating like a girl does. Also sex and relationships with girls were great because we would have an amazing mental connection. So things changed to where I liked how I think. But I felt freakish thinking like a girl and looking like a guy. I wish I didn’t look like a guy. I felt conflicted and wondered why I was such a crazy individual that I’d have girlish thought patterns so strong that femininity was fundamentally dominant.

One day I saw a counselor versed in trans girl issues, and she explained that being trans is a known and fairly common (though culturally suppressed) biological mutation, so a simpler and more likely explanation for me thinking as a girl isn’t that I was crazy but simply that I’m trans. I though the news too good to be true, so I insisted on tests and I took the Stanford Bern test and then was satisfied that, wow, I’m indeed a trans girl.

Then began the journey to unlearn everything macho. From trying to be as guy-ish as I could, I had to learn to walk, dance, talk, move and dress like a girl. It was hard but I rejoiced in my femininity. I wore 6″ stilettos until I could walk a mile in them easily. I wore stripper dresses out in public even before my boobs grew. I was screamed at while I walking down the street. I heard death threats. When people ridiculed me I’d turn and walk to confront them in conversation. I wasn’t phased when people disapproved or were mean to me. I didn’t need their permission to live openly as myself. I was finally fundamentally happy. I would wear a sexy blonde wig because my hair was still too short for my liking. One day, however, all the adversity got to me and I bought a mousy-colored wig, and when my girlfriend at the time heard of it, she gave me a speech to the effect that she understands I’d like to become invisible and hide, but I can never hide because I’m a 6″ tall, muscular trans girl and for me, blending into the background isn’t an option and will never be. She was right. So from then on, I lived my life all-out.

I started taking hormones. I SO wanted to look more like a girl. I would look at pictures of cellulite on a girl’s thighs, and I’d fantasize about that, wishing I looked like that. I didn’t like my plumbing. I paid a deposit and made an appointment to go to Thailand and have Dr. Suporn change me “down below” to look and function more like a typical girl. I felt I needed to do so, to be fully a girl.

I then realized I’m a girl based on what’s most fundamental to me: my brain. I think like a girl, so regardless of my plumbing, I am a girl. So I canceled the Thailand trip and got my deposit back. I still didn’t love my private parts in front, but they ceased bothering me. And they’re useful for writing my name in the snow.

* * *

Today is September 22nd, 2018. I looked in the mirror and saw a happy, tall, blonde with long hair and nice-enough natural boobs, and hard nips. I have a layer of fat below the skin and the backs of my thighs are just barely not perfectly smooth in a way I love. I still don’t have cellulite but almost. I haven’t shaved my face or body in months but except for a few fine, stray hairs around my nips, I’m smooth all over. My legal paperwork has my new name and my gender marker is F on my driver’s license and passport.

My mother used to be mean to me about being trans and now she’s cheering me on. Wherever I go, almost everyone calls me “Miss” or “Ma’am.” Some guys still get confused, but they’re nice and it’s OK. What they think of me doesn’t affect who and what I am. Almost everyone is always nice to me. When I go out, I just wear eyebrow pencil as makeup and I still often get complimented. I love my life.

 

 

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Good Times … Based on What Matters, and Transphobia Doesn’t

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Choosing a Focus

Someone near and dear to me has a father who dispenses wisdom that she would mention to me with mixed feelings, as in “my dad is annoying but it’s hard to argue with his logic.”

One example was when there was a complex mix of things going on in her life, and she was very much focused on the negatives. Her father observed this, then asked her to imagine a lovely sunset yet nearby there was also a pile of doggie-doo. Both were part of the picture, in this mental exercise. She could choose to focus on either, or both.  His point was that it might be more in her interest to focus on the positive: the pretty sunset.  She and I both found it hard to argue with that premise.

You can’t help how you feel, but you can help what you choose to focus on.

Choosing to Tune Out

I have exceptionally good hearing. I’ve picked up barely-audible comments or conversations that others, much closer to the dialog, didn’t figure I could hear.  Later, when I repeated what was said, these people were amazed that I was able to hear so well. It’s true; when I focus on things, I hear uncannily well.

Part of what I focus on involves things of potential danger to me or to whomever I’m with.  As to negative comments from guys, I no doubt hear those too, as in: the sounds are audible, but it’s become my habit to tune them out psychologically.  It’s a very useful habit.

Puzzling Negativity

When I was a trans girl in stealth mode, and looked officially like a guy, guys as a rule were very nice to me. But, after I came out as a trans girl, much negativity started to be focused on me.  I initially figured that it’s because I looked freakish at the time, too androgynous and bitter by my standards. By implication, I also figured that, once I look more feminine, happier and prettier, things would improve.

In significant ways, they got worse instead.  There’s a certain mindset of guy who responds to me more and more negatively, the better I look.  This used to puzzle me until someone wise and wonderful explained to me some wisdom that her grandma had shared with her when a boy in elementary school was being mean: little boys are rarely pointedly mean for no reason. Oftentimes it’s because the little boy secretly has a crush on the girl and is excruciatingly embarrassed and tries to hide it from the girl, and also from his friends, his family and in a peculiar sort of self-denial, from himself too.

Homophobia

I read some more about that phenomenon, and I learned that oftentimes, the guys who are most negative to gay guys eventually show themselves as being gay themselves. For them, being mean to gay people is basically a defense mechanism intended to hide that they’re attracted. For an intense dramatization of this sort of mindset, I recommend watching the movie American Beauty.

By contrast, guys who live their lives confidently and aren’t bothered by gay guys any more than by anything else that’s value-neutral in their lives … odds are that those are probably guys who don’t feel the need for a defense mechanism, either because they’re straight or because they’re simply confident in who they are.

The word “homophobia” describes this mindset; it’s not the fear of gay people but the internal terror triggered in a person when faced with a gay person — internal terror because he realizes he’s feeling attraction and that’s anathema based on his peculiar value structure, and so he feels a tidal wave of self-disgust, which he then projects onto the gay person.

I’ve been told by someone with a Master’s in Counseling that disgust is the emotion that hate-crime violent people tend to feel right before they initiate the violence, so homophobia can be the prelude to a very dangerous situation.

Macho Behavior

The situation is exacerbated when the psychologically fragile person is among peers, and it’s worst when the prevailing culture is macho, which is a mindset that celebrates superficial symbols of masculinity  — the biggest truck, the most expensive car, the biggest engine, the loudest car exhaust, the most expensive rifle, the loudest sound system.

The courting behavior of this mindset is so lacking in heterosexual persuasiveness that sometimes the macho guy’s best notion as to wooing a girl is to make his car’s tires squeal loudly and his engine to rev loudly. By what stretch of his imagination this is attractive to the typical female, I can’t imagine.

There’s often a huge culture gap between macho guys and the girls that they’re supposed to be so obsessed with …  as yet another element of macho culture.  Ironically, though, spending social time with a girl tends to be alien and bewildering to macho-culture guys, who actually feel much more at ease spending social time with their buddies, in spite of their loudly proclaimed obsession with girls.

Transphobia

As to macho guys who are mean to trans girls,  the situation is more complex, yet still similar to homophobia. I’m a trans girl, and the body part I can use to write my name in the snow is the least interesting part of my physique, in my opinion. Not so, as to the vast majority of the guys who hit on me. Often they approach me in great secrecy, deeply ashamed of their obsession with my frontal plumbing.  If I’d made that available in a pay-to-play arrangement, then by now I’d own a different-colored Bentley for every day of the week.

Then again, my announcement that a great many guys are obsessed as such is hardly newsworthy to anyone tabulating the statistics as to the sort of porn that, no surprise, guys watch the most, by far: trans girl porn.

This sets the stage for transphobia, which is parallel to homophobia but typically aimed at trans girls instead.  The hotter the girl looks, the more intense the effect. So, as I’ve gradually started looking better over the years, I’ve gotten to experience more and more transphobia aimed at me – -and the less secure the guy feels, the more blatantly transphobic he is, and the more dramatic a public demonstration he makes of it. He’s even willing to behave in a way that’s utterly ridiculous, even in public as long as it soothes the excruciating discomfort he feels psychologically.

I’m no psychologist, so quite possibly, I am mistaken. Maybe I trigger this intense negativity for other reasons.  Maybe  I remind the guy of his most-hated niece, or most-hated movie character. Maybe he just behaves in a goofy way, at random. But, I don’t think so.  Human behavior tends to look a lot less random once the principles of scientifically validated psychology are applied.

Do transphobic comments and the antics of insecure macho guys bother me? No … because unless they’re a danger to me, I tune them out.  They don’t register.

Transphobia at the Rib Cook-Off

Macho-culture events are the ones where I observe the most transphobic behavior.

An example of a macho northern Nevada event is the annual rib cook-off held every late summer in the area by the Sparks Nugget hotel-casino. I tend to avoid the festival because BBQ pork isn’t my thing — but if it were, I’d go buy it at a local restaurant instead of going to that festival, since it’s Macho Guy Central for that week.

Guys from the American South tow their pork-BBQing contraptions and special sauces in trailers for thousands of miles behind their shiny, high-lift pickup trucks just to compete in this festival.  As such, there’s a large contingent of macho guys around, with many of them coming from east of the Mississippi and south of the Mason-Dixon line.

I don’t keep track of when such macho festivals occur; they’re basically noise in the background as far as I’m concerned.

So, a few years ago, when a not-yet-out British trans girl friend came to visit me, and I wanted to show her a pretty place with lots of white marble and elegant decor, I took her to the Sparks Nugget, even though on that particular weekend, the place was overflowing with macho guys. Reason: her arrival coincided with the annual event of the pork-BBQing macho-guy crowd.

I didn’t care. As I walked cheerfully through the lobby of the hotel-casino, I enjoyed seeing all the happy people around, and I seeing the pretty decor.  My friend didn’t seem all too happy, though.  Once we were back in my car, she confessed to barely not slugging some of the macho guys who had been saying some very rude things about me.

I expressed surprise at the rude comments because I’d totally tuned them out. I had been enjoying myself, and rude comments hadn’t registered. She was surprised that I could do this, and I assured her that it’s a very handy skill.

Transphobia at a Classic American Muscle Car Show

Classic American muscle car shows tend to be another macho-guy event. Problem is, I really like these cars. I like 1960s culture, and that isn’t limited to me playing Simon & Garfunkel music on my guitar and watching 1960s TV shows.

My fascination includes 1960s car culture, including 1960s American cars, to the point where I can tell you the difference between a 1965 Ford Mustang and the 1966 model.  I can discuss cubic inches as to the various engines used, and I could probably tell you a 10-minute story about almost every model of American muscle car made in the 1960s.  I personally enjoyed owning a high-performance Plymouth Barracuda at some point. Part of the reason why I like my Ford E-150 van so much is that it has a Windsor 302 V8.  I could go on and on …

So, today, when there was a classic car show in the small town where I live, just east of Reno … of course I went. I enjoyed it very much.

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Were there macho guys there? I don’t doubt it, but I didn’t notice any. I chatted with a nice lady who came up to me and said hello — and apart from that, my focus was on enjoying the pretty cars.

If I inspired any macho-guy insecurity and thus goofy behavior, I didn’t notice any– neither by seeing nor hearing anything.

I’d just bought a nice new dress today, and I was feeling especially elegant, and so I set up my camera and took a few selfies. When I came home later, I processed these pictures, as in: cropped out irrelevant things around the periphery, and straightened skewed shots.

To my surprise, in the picture that I placed at the top of today’s article, in the lower left corner, is a guy behaving in a rather undignified way, with his focus clearly on me, and with his macho buddies nearby. Here are the enlarged views:

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I have no idea who this guy is. Perhaps he just randomly behaves like that sometimes, or perhaps it’s a photo-bomb mindset. The latter had to be explained to me since I didn’t grow up in US culture. I gather that part of the macho mindset is malice reserved for someone taking a general picture, and the agenda is simply to ruin the ambiance of the picture.  So, could be that this guy is just generally being rude, not targeting trans girls.  Who knows …

If it’s transphobic behavior perhaps he’s just outed himself … in which case: thank you, Sir. I appreciate the compliment. I did indeed look quite nice today.

Either way, it was nice to not even be aware of this person until much later, and then only by coincidence..

 

 

Voice

Phone call, today.

“Hi, this is Tanya.”

“Oh. I thought you were a woman.”

“I am a woman. I’m a trans girl.”

Awkward …

* * *

As time goes by, many of the trans girls I mentor gradually look better and better, as well as more and more feminized — but voice feminization tends to lag far behind. That’s the case with me too. I no longer look like Rambo …

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… but nowadays I wish that I’d started retraining my voice years prior and with much more commitment. I used to be called “ma’am” until puberty came along. After that … well, here’s an example. When I was a teenager, post-puberty, I called a girl on whom I had a crush. Her dad answered, then handed her the phone and said: “it’s that guy with the deeeeep voice.” Ouch. So, yeah, it’s been an uphill battle for me.

One of my businesses sells used auto parts, including for the 1980s BMW 3-series. I like to make sure that what I sell is good, so before I sold a power antenna to a gentleman in Texas, I tested it personally. Yes, it works: apply power, and it extends. Remove it, and it retracts.

I tend to work late (as in REALLY late) so last night I got to bed around 5 a.m. and so mid-morning, I didn’t see the gentleman’s email or hear his text message or get his call, saying, essentially: “yes, the antenna works but not well enough. It doesn’t extend far enough.” He wasn’t happy.

So when I woke up around noon, I saw what had happened. Normally I prefer email since I dislike how my voice sounds but I figured I’d better call him pronto, and the conversation started as described above.

This is a genuinely nice gentleman, so the reflection is on me. I know that.

After he’d processed the “I’m a trans girl” information, he responded with “that’s cool, man.” He explained that he’s from New York, he’s open-minded and whatever people want to be is fine with him. All in all, I wish everyone on the planet were as nice. Even so, the problem with his premises are:

1. I’m a girl, not a guy
2. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide to be a trans girl. I woke up one morning and realized I’ve been a trans girl all along.

Anyway … those are cultural problems for another day.

I’ve spent enough time in guy culture to know that from then on, he classified me as a guy, and the conversational style went along accordingly, from his half of the dialog anyway. I left it at that. If I wanna be treated like a girl, it seems to me that my best recourse is to sound like a girl.

This is no small change, for me. For the first 1,000 years of my life, or so it feels anyway, I always felt inadequate in the guy culture that I was told I should assimilate with. I think like a girl, and I never could think like a guy and fit in. I always wondered “what’s WRONG with me?” and I tried extra hard to behave as guy-like as I could. I was the bravest pretend-guy I could be. I behaved as if I were a cat with nine lives. I was more daring, more macho, and more gung-ho as to guy things than most guys around me. I tried to chase down a robber in LA. I faced down a violent guy in a road rage incident that he’d started on an LA freeway. More than once, I faced down a mean & dangerous guy who was harassing my girlfriend at the time. I could pull an engine block out of a car by hand. I could pick up and carry around automatic car transmissions. Bad neighborhoods didn’t phase me. I went everywhere I felt like going. In Africa, I went into black neighborhoods where white people were discouraged to go plus it was illegal. In LA, in the period before, during & after the race riots, the house I owned and lived in was in Sun Village, making mine the only white-owned house around. The day the LA riots broke out, I was the only white person around, as far as I could tell, in South Central LA because I was socializing with a girl who preferred to meet there, and so we met there, simple as that. When I had a dry socket after having my wisdom teeth pulled, I didn’t take painkillers. I just powered through it.

Girls tend to be at least as brave as guys are, but I was brave with a strictly pretend-as-hard-as-possible-to-be-a-guy style. In addition to that, I walked and talked as guy-like as I could. So, ironically, now that I realize I’m not a guy who thinks like a girl — I fundamentally AM a girl … I have to unlearn all my guy-style behavior, which means going from one extreme end of the spectrum to the exact opposite.

Voice control basically involves muscle memory, since the voice-related aspects are under muscle control. Problem is, there’s a mental block too, for me and many of the trans girls I mentor. It’s not viable to easily go from sounding like (in my case, Arnold in the Terminator, Germanic accent, wooden enunciation and all) to sounding like … silver bells tinkling. Sounding in-the-middle, like some blend of male and female, sounds so freakishly weird to me that regardless of how nice people are to me about it, to ME it sounds horrible. So, as to strangers, I prefer to just not talk over the phone.

I realize that delaying my voice transition just makes me remain in limbo-land longer, as in it prolongs the most-miserable place for me to be, and the prudent thing for me is to power through it. It’s just … difficult.

Facial Electrolysis Progress Report

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This article provides a status update as to my own personal journey specific to facial hair removal, and it draws a parallel to girls going through menopause. I’m starting with the latter aspect.

Romantically, I’m only attracted to girls. I have fun with guys, including in bed — but the guy could never break my heart or give me butterflies in my tummy. The girls I date cover a wide age range. One lovely example is currently in her mid-60s, and she and I were in a romantic relationship for eight years, plus we were friends for many years before and after that romance too.

During that time, menopause was part of the relationship dynamic, and the same can be said for my relationship with one other romantic partner, too. As a trans girl, I can’t personally experience menopause, but my point is that I have sympathetically observed it at close range.

The lives of trans girls tends to be difficult and it’s tempting to feel sorry for ourselves. We so wish that we could be like genetically integrated girls, and we forget that every life has its pros and cons — and that the life of a genetically integrated girl is inherently no picnic. Menopause is part of the reason why.

Probably every reader of this article understands the nature and causes of menopause, so I’ll just summarize my understanding of it as being a set of biological changes that superficially appear to decrease femininity, with an emphasis on “superficially” because the fundamental brain structure of the girl was feminine when she was born, and remains so during her entire life. Menopause doesn’t change that. Fundamentally, she’s as feminine as before. But, along with other changes she experiences, her facial hair typically becomes more noticeable.

Ironically, trans girls tend to approach the facial-hair situation with the story line being played out in reverse. The process of transitioning (to living openly as the girls we fundamentally are, as in brain-wise) tends to start with lots of facial hair and tends to end with little or no facial hair.

Some aspects of biological femininity are the consequence of having female hormones, and taking them changes a trans girl’s body as such. Trans girl facial hair, however, doesn’t stop growing vigorously just because the girl starts taking feminizing hormones.

What does help, long-term, is waxing, laser hair removal, and electrolysis. I started my own transition when I was very broke, so lasering wasn’t viable even though I’d scraped together enough money to pay for one or two limited-coverage laser hair removal sessions. As far as I know, that did very little for me, and since I’m blonde, that’s not totally surprising. The darker one’s facial hair is, the more effective laser hair removal tends to be. So, that left only two options: waxing and electrolysis.

Waxing involved putting some hot sticky wax on my face, and then a strip of strong cloth over it, and ripping the cloth away, removing the hair all at once. That hurt so much that I once chipped a front tooth while biting down from the pain. But, at least the pain spanned a large amount of hair follicles, and it was short-lived. Over time, waxing caused my facial hair to thin out somewhat, and it did wonders to make my body hair thin out, including “down there.” However, at the rate that waxing was thinning out my facial hair, I might be a hundred years old and still trying to wax my facial hair into oblivion. I had to find a better way. Electrolysis was the answer.

It permanently destroys the hair follicles by super-heating each one, individually. The heat is so severe that it causes a searing pain that I, having been stung by a bee more than once, would equate to approximately the intensity of a bee sting. Until recently, that was more pain than I wanted to experience.

However, when my feminizing hormone-pill regimen was starting to show noticeable results as to reshaping my body, I also started to get acne along my jawline. My teenage years had been plagued by acne, so I really wasn’t looking forward to a re-occurrence of that. A friend of mine opined that, in her experience as a beautician, acne that’s concentrated along one’s jawline tends to be caused by hormonal issues. I also heard that acne tends to be focused on infected hair follicles.

So, it seemed logical to me that, if I get rid of the hair follicles, I’d also prevent acne from occurring. My dermatologist had already prescribed two not-that-cheap acne medications, to be taken over a long period of time. I decided to opt for electrolysis instead, and I’m glad I did. My acne vanished and it’s never come back.

When my electrolysis sessions began, I felt like there was a massively long period of pain, with very little appreciable sense of progress. The journey of a thousand miles might well begin with a first step, but I’m the sort of person who’d prefer to count the steps, to track progress. So, I asked my electrolysis lady to count out loud, as she was doing each follicle. That provided me with a sense of of progress.

The first hour and a half or so, she did just my upper lip, and counted 800 follicles or so just in that area. I was dismayed and very unhappy about the pain. Imagine, if you dare, the pain of a bee sting, every six seconds or so, spanning most of an hour and a half. I hated it, but I decided that if pain was reason to stop then I would simply stop then and there, and never start again. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who experienced that temptation.

My electrolysis lady has many stories and a good sense of humor, and she would sometimes tell tales of other clients, albeit anonymously. In the process she also taught me more about my own nervous system, including that the center part of my lips are serviced by two separate nerves, and twice as sensitive as a result. By implication, any hair follicles that she removes right by the center of my upper lip … they hurt much more than follicles not close to the center.

She told the story of a client whose upper lip she had been treating. The lady could barely stand the pain from having the sides of her upper lip done, but when it came to the center of her upper lip, it was just too painful. She said “no more” and so she left, essentially with a tiny mustache remaining on her upper lip. somewhat reminiscent of the mustache of a very unpleasant person who dominated German politics in the 1930s. Honestly, I could relate to the temptation to get up and leave, regardless of the aesthetic consequences.

There was the option of numbing cream, but I simply couldn’t afford it, so I just endured the pain. I also couldn’t afford to go every week, but even so, progress was steady. About eight months into it, the hair on my upper lip was down to less than a few dozen.

The reason why the hair count diminishes as opposed to dropping immediately to zero once and for all, is that hair follicles grow in cycles, and electrolysis is only effective on hair follicles during a particular part of their growth cycle — and it’s not evident which growth cycle is applicable. So, every follicle gets treated, and causes pain, but not every follicle dies. So, it’s a battle of attrition, over time.

In any particular week, my electrolysis lady might focus on part of my face, such as my chin, and the next week she might focus on my neck, in front. I asked her to focus on the aspects that most bothered me personally: my upper and lower lips, and my chin. Soon, I didn’t need to shave those areas between sessions. It felt wonderful.

Next came the area near my ears and the front part of my neck, then my cheeks and my jawline, and the sides of my neck. But, every visit, it was always a question of picking one or two — or a few — areas on which she would focus. There wasn’t enough time or money to focus on anything more, because there’s a limit to how many follicles she can remove in an hour, and there were simply too many.

And yet … things kept improving.

So, by now it’s mid-January 2018, and this week saw a milestone: my session was only one hour long, and yet my electrolysis lady was able to cover my entire neck, jawline and face, because there were so few hairs remaining, because so much had been permanently destroyed. I’m delighted to report that!

I plan to be back every week, to win the battle decisively over the next few weeks. New hair growth is less painful to remove, and the process is almost certain to be effective, so that’s the best time to destroy the follicles – just as they’re coming out, and we know they’re just coming out because a week ago, there was nothing to be seen. I’m happy!

2017 Transgender Day of Remembrance in Fallon, NV

ggggIMAG0196Every year, November 20th is the day when transgender people, and those who support us, come together on the Transgender Day of Remembrance. We formally recognize trans people who passed away from unnatural causes (murder or suicide) in the preceding 12 months.

I hosted such an event today, in my apartment, just after midnight (as in, during the first few minutes of the 20th). In attendance was one other trans girl, a friend of mine who at some point not that long ago was struggling with depression. Nowadays, a couple of months after moving to Nevada, she seems to be happy and thriving.

I’ve attended Transgender Day of Remembrance events hosted elsewhere, and these are somber and unhappy occasions in which the attendees take turns to read a name, the matching location, and how that trans person died.  It’s often horrific stuff, e.g., Jane Doe, a trans girl in Anytown, USA was attacked by a bunch of street thugs, and here are the details as to how they killed her. More often than not, the murder victims were trans girls, and often they were disfigured while being murdered, and they died painfully.  It’s certainly a stark and sobering ceremony. I can’t help crying while I’m reading the names and specifics.

My own hosted Transgender Day of Remembrance event tends to have a much different tone. If I know a trans girl who passed away from unnatural causes (murder or suicide) in the preceding 12 months, I tell her story, in depth and detail. This year, nobody.  Good!  So that would make it the shortest event in history.  However, I don’t stop there.  I continue on to the subject of: “and let’s keep it that way” with a discussion on personal happiness, and personal safety.

As to the personal happiness, everyone in attendance was already intent on living a long and happy life. Not much to say, there.

As to personal safety, there was a lot to say. It’s a sad fact that people do exist who choose to initiate physical violence against others. These aggresors can affects trans girls in three possible ways:

  • Coincidence, as in being in the wrong place at the wrong time
  • Being the target of someone who’s specifically focused on trans girls
  • Being the target of someone who’s focused on soft targets, and believes trans girls to qualify

As to the latter, my approach to personal defense is like the national defense policy of Israel. I don’t care how many irrational people want me dead: I refuse to go along with that, and I’m cheerfully ready to fight vigorously in my own self-defense. You might as well go look for trouble with a wolverine. Whoever thinks I’m a soft target hasn’t been paying attention.

A trans girl friend of mine makes no bones about this.  Nevada is an “open carry” state, and she cheerfully carries a massive handgun around in a holster on her hip … as far as I know, whenever she’s out and about. I love her spirit, and in essence she’s adhering to the same principle as I do.  Our styles are, however, very different.

I’ve found that I can discourage violence in part by showing how quietly confident I am.  In guy culture there’s a useful phrase: “I can handle myself.” I make a point of personifying it, and my attitude seems to reflect that.

In the West (east of the California border, anyway) there is a saying that it’s better to be judged by twelve than carried by six, meaning that it’s better to be on the winning side of a fight to the death, and then have to justify my actions to a jury.  I don’t intend ever to initiate violence, but if someone else does, then the saying applies to me.

That’s part of why I think that betting everything on carrying a gun might make me less safe. I do own firepower but I’m wary to carry it even though I have a permit.  Hollywood movies tend to paint the picture that a handgun is something you wave in the general direction of an aggressor, and when you shoot, there’s a not-too-loud noise, and the bad guy drops dead immediately.

The reality is a lot more stark if  you’re being attacked, and you’re the only one with a gun.  You might be caught by surprise, and you don’t even have enough time to begin to draw your gun. Because you’re rushing, you might have butterfingers, so you might get it stuck while trying to get it out of the holster. You might pull the trigger prematurely and shoot yourself, or be so startled at the noise that you drop the gun or lose the few wits you had about you. You might not get the safety catch released. You might not have a round chambered. You might hold the gun incorrectly so that it hurts your hand when you fire. You might not aim well enough, so you might miss. Even if you do hit your target, it’s statistically most likely to be 200 pounds of angry male aggression rushing toward you, so your chances of stopping him with one bullet means that this one bullet had better hit in a very debilitating place, and realistically, you’re lucky if you hit the onrushing attacker at all, never mind in a place where it matters. Even if your bullet does kill the attacker, he might die several minutes or hours after he’s killed you.

I’m all for your right to carry and use a hand-gun for self-defense, but it’s no magical death-ray. If a handgun is part of your defense plan, then learn how to use it. Be realistic as to its limitations, even as you get trained and become proficient. Few things have been as humbling to me as attending handgun training, and to see how difficult it was for me to hit a large, stationary target that wasn’t all that far away. And, that was with ear protection and eye protection. If an attacker is rushing me, then if my training was effective enough that I get off one or two shots fired off in the right direction, it means I have hot metal bullet jackets flying through the air, perhaps hitting me in the eyes. Also, loudness increases dramatically the closer your ear is to the source of noise, so having the gun go off so close to your ear might freak you out. Gun noise is so loud that it’s hard for me to think clearly afterward, if I was anywhere near where the gun went off.

Keep in mind that whoever is outside your door (or in some cases, coming in your door) might be law enforcement. If you shoot at an officer, you’re likely to end up either dead from return fire, or in prison for a very long time. This point isn’t lost on assholes, so an intruder might pretend to be the police, so that you get tricked into letting your guard down. Can you tell the difference? Your life might depend on it — and often, not just yours.

Whomever you’re shooting at might also be a neighbor, or a family member, or a friend or a lover who had no malicious intent. If it was all a misunderstanding then saying “sorry” doesn’t undo the harm that a bullet can do.

I grew up in guy culture, so I’m clear that guns score major bragging rights in macho culture — but for me, the reality of owning a gun is very sobering. In my opinion my gun is less glamorous than my toilet plunger.

Death is a tragic event. Even if the person dying is someone who initiated violence, and was thoroughly evil, there’s still the tragedy of what might have been if he’d afterward chosen to become a good person. Death removes the opportunity to redeem oneself. It’s all over. And, pulling out a gun means that there’s the stench of imminent death in the air. Many lives will be dramatically changed, including that of innocents.

Before handguns came along, the strongest person typically prevailed, unless you knew combat craft that swayed things in your favor. I personally have formal training in Judo and Karate, and I’m very clear that it takes a several years to learn and polish these skills to anything approaching a useful level, in actual combat.

Handguns are indeed an equalizer in a combat situation. The phrase “God Created Men and Sam Colt Made Them Equal” … it makes a good point. If a 5′ tall 100-pound girl is attacked by a 6’6″ tall 240 pound aggressor, a gun in her hand can make his size irrelevant — but only if she uses it effectively.

I look forward to the day when the Transgender Day of Remembrance becomes pointless because we are all living in harmony together. Trans or otherwise, that’s how it should be.  Initiating violence is the ultimate transgression, but there are other ways of hurting people too. I’m actively enthused about all of that ending.

Meanwhile, if you’re a trans girl living in a place that makes you unusually likely to be mentioned in the 2018 Transgender Day of Remembrance, I hope that you get out. Move out, move out West, and come live in a place of acceptance and harmony.  You have every right to have your rights respected, and to pursue your happiness without living in fear.

 

 

 

Planning a Hierarchical Structure of Concepts

ggg2016-05-04 01.41.03There’s a lot of talk, and confusion, about trans issues. I’ve been wanting to arrange the basic concepts in a logical hierarchy. As it happens, I chose a web-based forum to do so. Here’s what I wrote, essentially:

* * *

I’ve been pondering how best to structure my contributions in this thread. My premise is that we all live in the same metaphysical reality that exists independently of how we perceive it. That reality is our common ground, even though we have different perspectives, and different ways of perceiving. A friend of mine helps me work on the broken cars I buy and analyze. She’s color-blind so she and I literally see the same object differently — but we can still communicate and develop common ground about any particular object. Last night we took the valve covers off a bought-for-$300 BMW 740iL V8, and we were communicating clearly and precisely as to which objects we were touching, using and removing (also losing, breaking and dropping). We were working on the same car, in the same reality.

That’s why I like to begin with observable information and then build higher-level logical concepts from there — sort of like Isaac Newton observed the apple falling from the tree toward the earth, and used that as the starting point for the theory of gravity. Whether or not you like Isaac Newton or the theory of gravity, there’s no reasonable disagreement as to whether or not the apple fell (moved) from the tree toward the earth.

There’s a proper place for hypotheses too, as long as we’re clear we’re hypothesizing. For example, if my friend tells me “I don’t see the car keys anywhere near me anymore, and I did an hour ago” then I’m going to be more receptive to what she says if she also adds “maybe my brother took them; I know he’s a thief and he was here in the last hour” or “there’s a flock of magpie birds nearby.” Her offered hypotheses help me to go from “I can’t even imagine how this might be so, you must be overlooking something” to “okay, what you’re saying sounds plausible.”

As to polemics (as in, attacking falsehoods) this is where the dynamics can disintegrate socially. As an admirable example of how to deal with this, Newton simply published his work, and he didn’t engage in much argument with those who took issue with the implications. Nevertheless, some popular-yet-mistaken notions do deserve to be dismantled so I plan to focus on these too.

A lot of this seems like unnecessary intellectual plodding but I’m trying to be methodical. Planned structure:

1. Identify ways in which humans observably differ physically — with a focus on aspects we have used to culturally classify some people as male and others as female, including:

A. Observable in plain sight:
— shape of front plumbing
— presence or absence of a vagina
— presence or absence of testicles
— changes that typically occur as a result of puberty: Adam’s apple, height, facial structure, hair, skin tone, fat distribution including boobs, nipples, menstruation
— behavior

B. Observable thanks to medical science, e.g., surgery, autopsies, x-rays, ultrasound, MRI, CAT scans, microscopes, DNA sequencing, chemical analysis
— ovaries
— chromosomes
— brain structure

C. Observable thanks to introspection and self-awareness
— bodily functions

It’s going to be important to not skip a step in these observations. If I see my friend at a barbecue out in the sun all day, then that evening I see her being three sheets to the wind, and I see her getting into an argument, then I should not jump to “I see you’re sunburned” or “I see you’re inebriated” or “I see you’re angry” if I see her face being red. All I can safely say is that I’m observing the red hue in my friend’s face. As to why her face looks unusually red to me … that’s not a premise I should leap to. Maybe we’re standing outside a brothel below its red light, and maybe that’s the only reason her face looks red to me.

Introspective information benefits similarly from precision. Until earlier this year, I had a brilliant girlfriend who sometimes experienced intense anxiety. When it happened, then instead of leaping to conclusions, she’d begin by becoming very quiet and focused, and saying pensively: “my heart is racing, my breathing is fast and shallow, my mouth feels dry” and so on, and from there she might well conclude that she’s feeling an anxiety attack coming on. I respected how she always began with observable facts, first and foremost — and built on that.

2. Arrange things in a causal hierarchy proven by science. Correlation doesn’t imply causality, but some things have been proven to be causal.

For example, someone’s body producing a large amount of testosterone during puberty has been scientifically shown to be caused by the presence of functioning testicles. Someone’s facial structure being shaped as a male, someone’s voice being deep, someone being taller than average, more muscular than average, more lean than average, having a particular skeletal shape in certain respects … these have been scientifically shown to be caused by the presence of a large amount of testosterone during puberty.

Instead of dealing with a bewildering multitude of ways in which people we tend to call male differ from people we tend to call female, the issue can be boiled down to “did you have functioning testicles during puberty?” Much else happens as a consequence. This sort of focus can be very helpful in simplifying things.

3. Identify observed cross-cultural behavioral traits in which people we tend to call male differ from people we tend to call female.

4. Indulge in hypotheses to suggest how some of the as-yet-unproven possibly-causal links might yet be so.

5. Focus on scientifically shown or observed examples that go outside of the lines where people we tend to call male differ from people we tend to call female. Fit the concept of transgender people into this pool of anomaly.

6. Focus on the concept of being transgender, and what constitutes a reasonable burden of proof as such.

7. Focus on the concept of being attracted to a transgender person, and what that implies for whoever is feeling this attraction.

8. Focus on the concept of being a cross-dresser, and what that implies.

9. Reconcile this to proper standards of where the line to mental health gets crossed.

10. Reconcile this to improper standards of where the line to mental health gets crossed.

11. Hypothesize as to the root causes of animosity toward transgender people.

That’s my planned structure. I hope it serves us well.

~Tanya

Oversimplified Mental Models

PurpleBlack

A wise friend of mine mentioned the irony of someone apologizing for misgendering a pet, or God forbid, someone’s infant … yet that same person will then cheerfully and pointedly misgender trans girls.

This issue reminds me of a guy friend of mine, whom I’ve known for 25+ years. We would walk through fire for each other. When my Jeep broke down in the Nevada desert in the summer, he was the guy I called for help. He’s the most brave and masculine guy I know, and very much a bottom-line, cut-the-crap type of guy. He likes me as a friend, because I’m a good friend to him too, and he likes my values, and that’s that. He liked me before I came out as a trans girl, and he likes me after I came out — but he did mention that he grew up on a farm, and when he wants to discerns the sex or gender of an animal he picks it up, turns it upside down and he looks, and that’s that. So, not that he wants to debate it, but he’s not all that convinced that I’m really a girl because he’s pretty sure I have “outie” plumbing (and indeed I do).

For animals, his approach is good (unless that species of animal can also be trans, who knows). But sex (as in male/female) is not the same as gender. So much as my friend is a good friend, he’s oversimplifying. Some people are born (as autopsies later showed) with a male structure “down there” and yet a fundamentally female brain structure. And much as it’s important to be able to write my name in the snow, or do my girlfriend without having to go buy a strap-on, it’s my brain that fundamentally makes me what I am.

My friend is oversimplifying on another point too: Not even sex organs are binary. Many people are born intersexed. Also, not many — but certainly some — people even have brain structures that are neither fundamentally male nor female. So even as to gender, it can get pretty darn fluid.

As humans, we need simplicity so as to function. I have another beyond-utterly-brilliant lovely friend who’s on the autism spectrum somewhere, as probably am I, but it’s safe to say she’s to the right of where I am. Hardly any answer I get from her is simple. It’s almost always a vastly complex analysis with disclaimers, context, exceptions, pros and cons when really all I wanna know is whether or not it’s OK for me to now put the darn milk bottle back in the refrigerator. Bottom line, I need to decide, and act. The milk bottle is either going into the fridge right now or it’s not: Yes or No. The phrase “I just need a yes or a no” is something I frequently say to her. Simplicity is a big help for me in living my life. As humans, we need to make decisions and act on then. The traffic light toward which my car is hurtling turns amber, and I’m going to step on just one pedal really hard, and it’s a binary decision: accelerator or brake. I “get it.” We need things to be simple.

Problem is, sometimes in using a mental model for decision-making, we oversimplify, and when reality is more complex than our oversimplified mental model, we end up making bad decisions with bad consequences. When we use oversimplified mental models in the context of trans issues, we’ll make bad decisions about trans issues.

As an analogy: ironically, this same friend has a dad who owned an automobile electrical repair shop. The dad is brilliant and famous for fixing and troubleshooting every car ever made, so maybe ten years ago when my 1987 BMW 325 was having erratic temperature-gauge issues, I brought it to him for repair. He messed with it for more than a week and finally gave me the car back and said “I can’t fix it.” Basically, he had chased the wiring from the temperature sensor to the gauge, including to ground in both places. That’s how temperature-indicating circuits normally work. He’d even bought a new gauge from BMW, and he’d tested the sending unit thoroughly. Yet, he couldn’t solve the problem because he was using an oversimplified mental model. The model worked well for more-simple cars but not for this BMW, because the BMW has a tiny battery pack integral to the instrument cluster, to accurately store the service interval settings even when the main battery goes flat. When the tiny battery pack finally goes flat after 20 years or so, the instrument cluster electronics, including the temp gauge, go haywire. It’s a $10 fix to get new batteries from Batteries and Bulbs and they’ll even solder them in, but unless you include these little batteries in your mental model, then you’re unable to deal with the reality of the situation. Mental models are useful, but oversimplified models are problematic because they will create the classic human tragedy of someone trying to to the right thing while actually doing the wrong thing.

It’s one thing to misdiagnose a BMW but often the stakes are life or death, such as well-meaning parents whose oversimplified mental models on sexuality and gender lead to a dynamic in which their gay or trans teenage kid accepts the parents’ premise, evaluates himself/herself to be a bad person in that context, and commits suicide.

Often, the tragedy is not even that evident. Many kids don’t kill themselves but they dutifully accept self-hatred as the proper thing to do, and they lead a miserable life of subsequent self-flaggelation whether it’s cutting themselves or less-obviously destructive things — all because (for all their superficial rebellious grand-standing) they fundamentally buy into the parents’ bad premise that gay or trans people are evil. Realizing that he/she himself/herself is gay or trans, the kid then applies that principle, concludes “so I’m a bad person then, unworthy of happiness” and to the parents’ consternation, then consequently pursues an agenda of self-punishment, possibly life-long … all because the parents chose an oversimplified mental model.

~Tanya