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March 12, 2007

Where Did I Leave My Crow Bar?

The Journal of Lesbian Studies is calling for submissions to the upcoming “Lesbians and Body Image” issue. One of the questions really caught my eye:

crowbar.jpg” What differentiates body image situations where it is seen as desirable to change your attitude (i.e., “accept your body”) vs. where it is seen as desirable to change your body (i.e., transsexual surgery)? What determines whether someone identifies as a butch lesbian or a FTM transsexual?”

Is it possible to ever “accept your body?” There’s a huge difference between wanting to “shed a few pounds” and abhorring your body configuration. Body image is different than gender identity. Body image is how I feel and see myself in my own skin. Gender identity is how the world perceives me. These two things can overlap, but they are distinctly different.

If you’re going to ask if a lesbian could just “accept their body,” then you must ask “could lesbians just accept their heterosexuality”?

I was going to write a long explanation about the difference in sexual orientation, gender identity, but I’d rather ask a question.

What are the differences between:

“sissy”

“nelly queen”

“masculine”

“feminine”

“diesel dyke”

“femme”

“girly”

Discuss.

(this post was inspired by Angry Brown Butch)

(H/T) Plain(s) Feminist

  • Buki

    “pseudo knowledge,” “lack of understanding.” Both good ways to discredit what I say without actually adressing it.

  • Buki

    “pseudo knowledge,” “lack of understanding.” Both good ways to discredit what I say without actually adressing it.

  • BEAR Rodgers

    buki… Thanks for NOT reading what I wrote.

    Though, speaking for myself, my gender is quite acceptedable, it was my physical sex that was the problem. Your parting comment, though you might have meant it to look supportive, actually advertised the complete lack of understanding that the article has. Congratulations are bringing the arguments back to te original issue: Lack of understanding/knowledge and pseudo knowledge of the majority.

  • Buki

    Wow. You’re falling into the trap of thinking that being a woman is the same as being physically female. This is what the doctors go off, when they say “it’s a boy” or “it’s a girl.” Under this definition, you have no claim to womanhood, so I would stay away from it.
    Saying that you need to change your body, because they don’t match, is like saying that you need to change your eye colour, or your race, to match your hair colour. Not everyone of the female gender is of the female sex (duh), and just because most people are doesn’t mean that everyone needs to conform to that norm. There’s no real connection between female gender and female sex, besides that people insist on using the same word for them.

    There’s a really horrible idea of womanhood that’s projected by the media, and it includes having a female body. Unfortunately, many transwomen fall into believing that this is actually what is necessary to be a woman. Not all of them, though. There are some transpeople who are able to embrace their gender, while at the same time accepting their body. I hope one day you gain this ability.

  • Buki

    Wow. You’re falling into the trap of thinking that being a woman is the same as being physically female. This is what the doctors go off, when they say “it’s a boy” or “it’s a girl.” Under this definition, you have no claim to womanhood, so I would stay away from it.
    Saying that you need to change your body, because they don’t match, is like saying that you need to change your eye colour, or your race, to match your hair colour. Not everyone of the female gender is of the female sex (duh), and just because most people are doesn’t mean that everyone needs to conform to that norm. There’s no real connection between female gender and female sex, besides that people insist on using the same word for them.

    There’s a really horrible idea of womanhood that’s projected by the media, and it includes having a female body. Unfortunately, many transwomen fall into believing that this is actually what is necessary to be a woman. Not all of them, though. There are some transpeople who are able to embrace their gender, while at the same time accepting their body. I hope one day you gain this ability.

  • BEAR Rodgers

    buki’s last comment, “Also, you’re acting like there’s something inherently contradictory about being a woman, and having a male body.”

    Well, now, there go the IQ points again. “Contradictory” is opposition, opposite, polar differences. So yes, being a woman and having a male body is polar opposites. Same as being male and having a female body is contradictory. BECAUSE, except for people trying to cope with those issues, this is pretty much a binary gender world. Male being one extreme, female being another, therefore contradictory. A mass majority of humans are taught what being male or female means from the moment they are pulled pushed from the womb (some say while in the womb). What is the first thing the doctor proclaims as the baby’s lower torso is pulled free? Having witnesses several births, believe me it is not “your child is healthy!” It is the child’s physical sex appearance or genitalia. Outie means male, innie means female, (even though sometimes genetic quirks can cause other formations that would startle many of you). Then it’s fingers, toes, tail, etc. So, now some official has announced you as a particular gender based on physical appearances, you are now on a polarity. Eventually, we learn that male and female humans think differently. Okay, so mentally there is polarity as well. So what happens when physically you are one polarity, but mentally you are another? Come on class… it’s contradiction.
    Unfortunately, not all contradicted folks will be able to have surgery to match the polarities. Many will die because the contradictions are too much. Some will be strong enough to continue on, though seething with resentment. Luckily, there are options to either alter the polarities or to neutralize them. Though few, at thistime choose neutral/neuter.

  • Buki

    I believe you’re misunderstanding what I say. I’m not saying that your gender identity isn’t part of you. It is. It’s just that your sex is another part of you.

    Also, you’re acting like there’s something inherently contradictory about being a woman, and having a male body.

  • Buki

    I believe you’re misunderstanding what I say. I’m not saying that your gender identity isn’t part of you. It is. It’s just that your sex is another part of you.

    Also, you’re acting like there’s something inherently contradictory about being a woman, and having a male body.

  • A transperson’s body is a part of them, but their gender identity isn’t a physical THING. If you have a vagina, you CAN have a penis inside you. You CAN have heterosexual sex.

    Desire is the key… in both cases. The desire to live as a male just ISN’T IN ME. Why is that so hard for you to understand?

  • Buki

    No it’s not. Asking a trans person to accept their body is asking them to accept something that’s part of them (even though they often wish it wasn’t). Heterosexuality isn’t part of a lesbian at all; it’s just not there.

  • Buki

    No it’s not. Asking a trans person to accept their body is asking them to accept something that’s part of them (even though they often wish it wasn’t). Heterosexuality isn’t part of a lesbian at all; it’s just not there.

  • IF your trans, you can’t just accept your birth body image. It’s an excellent analogy.

  • Buki

    Asking lesbians to accept their heterosexuality is a pretty poor analogy. IF you’re gay, you don’t have heterosexuality to accept in the first place.

  • Buki

    Asking lesbians to accept their heterosexuality is a pretty poor analogy. IF you’re gay, you don’t have heterosexuality to accept in the first place.

  • BEAR Rodgers

    Bravo A.J.!
    How many of the JLS “staff” or readers have tattoos, or piercings, or even ritual scarring? How many put on make up, color their hair, wear designer glasses or tinted contacts, spend hours selecting just the right clothes for any particular occasion? Or shave any area, or cut their hair and nails, paint their nails, or wear bras, tight pants, loose pants, shirts, bright or drab colors, or..? Are not all those examples of changing your body to fit someone else’s view of you, or your view of yourself? Some things, like tattoos, scars, surgery, are mostly permanent. (I say mostly, because they all can altered almost back to previous or done over to hide the original.)Yet lesbians, every one I have met anyway, have had either a tattoo (or many), or a piercing (or many), and some have had breast reductions or enhancements. Oh, oh, weight reduction is another body alteration that can be drastic, is exercised by almost all Americans at some point in their lives, and in many cases it’s just about appearance not medical issues. (Darn, now I am thinking about that poor anorexic waif again.)
    As a human being, I hate having surgery. From taking bullets out of my back, to medically needed hysterectomy, to medically approved full mastectomy, I hated being under the knife. But I am damn glad I went thru with it. For today I am ME, and I am ALIVE, and I can WALK, and it has nothing to do with who I sleep with (like Lesbianism), but everything to do with being free to choose what is best for ME.

  • BEAR Rodgers

    Bravo A.J.!
    How many of the JLS “staff” or readers have tattoos, or piercings, or even ritual scarring? How many put on make up, color their hair, wear designer glasses or tinted contacts, spend hours selecting just the right clothes for any particular occasion? Or shave any area, or cut their hair and nails, paint their nails, or wear bras, tight pants, loose pants, shirts, bright or drab colors, or..? Are not all those examples of changing your body to fit someone else’s view of you, or your view of yourself? Some things, like tattoos, scars, surgery, are mostly permanent. (I say mostly, because they all can altered almost back to previous or done over to hide the original.)Yet lesbians, every one I have met anyway, have had either a tattoo (or many), or a piercing (or many), and some have had breast reductions or enhancements. Oh, oh, weight reduction is another body alteration that can be drastic, is exercised by almost all Americans at some point in their lives, and in many cases it’s just about appearance not medical issues. (Darn, now I am thinking about that poor anorexic waif again.)
    As a human being, I hate having surgery. From taking bullets out of my back, to medically needed hysterectomy, to medically approved full mastectomy, I hated being under the knife. But I am damn glad I went thru with it. For today I am ME, and I am ALIVE, and I can WALK, and it has nothing to do with who I sleep with (like Lesbianism), but everything to do with being free to choose what is best for ME.

  • What I always want to ask when I see people saying, “But you should just accept your body,” is whether they say that to people with tattoos.

  • What I always want to ask when I see people saying, “But you should just accept your body,” is whether they say that to people with tattoos.

  • This thread is hot and heavy, to say the least. Open and honest dialog, hopefully coupled with respect for all parties, seems to be the best way to advance in our collective understanding of trans identities. Here’s my contribution:

    ” Why can’t there be women who feel like they are men and continue to be women and how everyone else perceives them can be damned.”

    As a transman, that statement resulted in a flush of anger on my part as well. Allow me to present a question that frames my experience: Why can’t people accept a view in which there might be a brain/mind/soul sex that differs from the gross-level body sex? If we hold that that were true (and I experience it that way), the quoted question makes no sense. I don’t experience myself as just feeling like a man, I experience myself as male. And since I get to exist in the public sphere with my pants on, like everyone else (thank God), people experience me as male (now), too. Does this change that I have female anatomy, even though I’d rather not? No. Does it allow me to exist in the world and be treated in a manner that is consistent with my innate identity? Yes. Am I better off as a result? Yes. Is it a more pleasant experience for people to interact with me now that my secondary sex characteristics match my innate identity and they can perceive me as I perceive myself? From what I’ve been told, the answer is a resounding Yes! It’s a win-win situation for all, in my experience.

    Unfortunately, things get a little (or a lot) “stickier” when a trans person’s external expression is not “convincing” (I say that with the risk of offending someone) in that he/she/ze doesn’t “pass”. That would be a burden to me, and I probably wouldn’t have transitioned if that had been the only option. Those that do seem to be more secure in themselves than I am. I am a social being, and, as such, life is much easier (and I am much happier) when my family, peers and strangers believe that I am who I experience my self to be.

    Until recently, I did not consider myself transgender. For lack of a more clear-cut descriptor yet less-maligned word, I consider myself transsexual. For me, it’s an issue with sex not gender. I am moving towards transgender, though, as I slough off the constricting societal constructions that are the gender system. In other words, I don’t have to be a “man’s man” to be a man.

  • This thread is hot and heavy, to say the least. Open and honest dialog, hopefully coupled with respect for all parties, seems to be the best way to advance in our collective understanding of trans identities. Here’s my contribution:

    ” Why can’t there be women who feel like they are men and continue to be women and how everyone else perceives them can be damned.”

    As a transman, that statement resulted in a flush of anger on my part as well. Allow me to present a question that frames my experience: Why can’t people accept a view in which there might be a brain/mind/soul sex that differs from the gross-level body sex? If we hold that that were true (and I experience it that way), the quoted question makes no sense. I don’t experience myself as just feeling like a man, I experience myself as male. And since I get to exist in the public sphere with my pants on, like everyone else (thank God), people experience me as male (now), too. Does this change that I have female anatomy, even though I’d rather not? No. Does it allow me to exist in the world and be treated in a manner that is consistent with my innate identity? Yes. Am I better off as a result? Yes. Is it a more pleasant experience for people to interact with me now that my secondary sex characteristics match my innate identity and they can perceive me as I perceive myself? From what I’ve been told, the answer is a resounding Yes! It’s a win-win situation for all, in my experience.

    Unfortunately, things get a little (or a lot) “stickier” when a trans person’s external expression is not “convincing” (I say that with the risk of offending someone) in that he/she/ze doesn’t “pass”. That would be a burden to me, and I probably wouldn’t have transitioned if that had been the only option. Those that do seem to be more secure in themselves than I am. I am a social being, and, as such, life is much easier (and I am much happier) when my family, peers and strangers believe that I am who I experience my self to be.

    Until recently, I did not consider myself transgender. For lack of a more clear-cut descriptor yet less-maligned word, I consider myself transsexual. For me, it’s an issue with sex not gender. I am moving towards transgender, though, as I slough off the constricting societal constructions that are the gender system. In other words, I don’t have to be a “man’s man” to be a man.

  • “…I can whip up a pretty story in which we call anorexia mutilation through starvation and we call sex reassignment mutilation through medical intervention, both of which are caused by people thinking that their bodies do not match who they really are.”

    and i can whip up a pretty story in which we call lesbians people who engage in deviant behavior that defies the laws of nature and god. or something.

    it’s important to understand that “sex reassignment”, at least in my case, had nothing to do with me “thinking that [my] bodies do not match who [i] really [am].” i am not my body. and i like to think that women are not their bodies, because if they are, then feminist theory is *way* off. because if women are their bodies, then how are they anything else but producers and cultivators of babies?

    why is it such a problem that i’ve taken advantage of the current medical technology to improve the quality of my life? why do so many people take issue with this? why do some people think that my body is not my own, to do with as i please? how, in the name of everything holy, does surgically altering my body in a way that improves my quality of life, have anything to do with you?

  • “…I can whip up a pretty story in which we call anorexia mutilation through starvation and we call sex reassignment mutilation through medical intervention, both of which are caused by people thinking that their bodies do not match who they really are.”

    and i can whip up a pretty story in which we call lesbians people who engage in deviant behavior that defies the laws of nature and god. or something.

    it’s important to understand that “sex reassignment”, at least in my case, had nothing to do with me “thinking that [my] bodies do not match who [i] really [am].” i am not my body. and i like to think that women are not their bodies, because if they are, then feminist theory is *way* off. because if women are their bodies, then how are they anything else but producers and cultivators of babies?

    why is it such a problem that i’ve taken advantage of the current medical technology to improve the quality of my life? why do so many people take issue with this? why do some people think that my body is not my own, to do with as i please? how, in the name of everything holy, does surgically altering my body in a way that improves my quality of life, have anything to do with you?

  • Susanna

    Lauren I used “existential condition” to mean “condition of existence” i.e. as a part of “being” which is a “given” and for which I offer no explanation or theoretical justification. Its a usage which predates Sartre, but one which I ought not to have used since its a bit confusing to the reader, thanks for pointing my error out.

    BEAR did such a good job with your “anorexia-transsexual” analogy that I feel no need to respond except to point out that advancing what is at its root an “essentialist” argument is pretty silly for reasons which need no elaboration.

  • Susanna

    Lauren I used “existential condition” to mean “condition of existence” i.e. as a part of “being” which is a “given” and for which I offer no explanation or theoretical justification. Its a usage which predates Sartre, but one which I ought not to have used since its a bit confusing to the reader, thanks for pointing my error out.

    BEAR did such a good job with your “anorexia-transsexual” analogy that I feel no need to respond except to point out that advancing what is at its root an “essentialist” argument is pretty silly for reasons which need no elaboration.

  • Lauren

    >Can you see the basic difference between those 2 mismatched comparisons?

    For the sake of argument (if you can wrap your brain around that), I’m going to persist in saying no, I cannot see the difference between the two situations, because I believe I can whip up a pretty story in which we call anorexia mutilation through starvation and we call sex reassignment mutilation through medical intervention, both of which are caused by people thinking that their bodies do not match who they really are. We can interview your medical experts on the root of transsexuality, and then we can (just for the hell of it) interview my (male) medical experts who have proven that women are more suited to housework than men because it is a sexual turn-on for women. (No joke, that was real medical research that you can find referenced in Germaine Greer’s “The Whole Woman.”) Moral of the story being to beware of medical experts, even of medical “fact.” It has a habit of being trendy and self-serving.

    But thanks for calling my argument “beyond stupid.” I surrender to your superior powers of debate.

  • BEAR Rodgers

    Lauren…. I was raised a feminist in a way that mainy women coming up today have no idea about, and by some really tough feminists that would make anyone cry. So, in all seriousness sister, comparing anorexia to transsexualism was beyound stupid.
    Anorexia, in basic layman’s terms, is a body image related psychological condition. It causes people, mostly teen girls, to think they are too large and therefore ugly. They then attempt to make themselves beautiful/pleasing by starvation. Starvation causes medical trauma to the internal organs, and can eventually cause the premature death of an anorexic.
    Transsexuality/GID may or may not be a psychological disorder (it is in the DSM but could be removed, like homosexuality), medical experts are finding it is a birth condition but cannot agree on which point in fetal developement it occurs. It’s leading symptoms are incongruency between one’s mental gender, and the gender expressed by one’s physical body. a TS person knows the only way to match their mind to their birth body is by medical intervention. These treatments tend to prolong their lives. Without treatment, a TS will, in many cases, take their own life prematurely.

    Can you see the basic difference between those 2 mismatched comparisons?

    And to all the lesbian Transwomen who have responded, bless you! JLS totally negated the concept of your existance. Hell, they seem to think Transmen are just over stereotyped butches. Well, many FTMs were never lesbians, or butch, or male figured. I am counseling one Transman who could be the most physically delicate, scrumpcious, femme, woman you ever met. But inside, baby is a “he”, likes men and women. Will heever look like a stereotypical male? No. Will he stay a woman because he knows others percieve him as a femme? No. Because it does not matter what others think, it’s what he thinks. Oh, funny thing, he was anorexic too, but when GID treatment was finally available, he is doing much better. YMMV
    BEAR

  • BEAR Rodgers

    Lauren…. I was raised a feminist in a way that mainy women coming up today have no idea about, and by some really tough feminists that would make anyone cry. So, in all seriousness sister, comparing anorexia to transsexualism was beyound stupid.
    Anorexia, in basic layman’s terms, is a body image related psychological condition. It causes people, mostly teen girls, to think they are too large and therefore ugly. They then attempt to make themselves beautiful/pleasing by starvation. Starvation causes medical trauma to the internal organs, and can eventually cause the premature death of an anorexic.
    Transsexuality/GID may or may not be a psychological disorder (it is in the DSM but could be removed, like homosexuality), medical experts are finding it is a birth condition but cannot agree on which point in fetal developement it occurs. It’s leading symptoms are incongruency between one’s mental gender, and the gender expressed by one’s physical body. a TS person knows the only way to match their mind to their birth body is by medical intervention. These treatments tend to prolong their lives. Without treatment, a TS will, in many cases, take their own life prematurely.

    Can you see the basic difference between those 2 mismatched comparisons?

    And to all the lesbian Transwomen who have responded, bless you! JLS totally negated the concept of your existance. Hell, they seem to think Transmen are just over stereotyped butches. Well, many FTMs were never lesbians, or butch, or male figured. I am counseling one Transman who could be the most physically delicate, scrumpcious, femme, woman you ever met. But inside, baby is a “he”, likes men and women. Will heever look like a stereotypical male? No. Will he stay a woman because he knows others percieve him as a femme? No. Because it does not matter what others think, it’s what he thinks. Oh, funny thing, he was anorexic too, but when GID treatment was finally available, he is doing much better. YMMV
    BEAR

  • Lauren

    I’m sorry to have inspired both pity and anger all at the same time. That was not my intention. The problem is that when I read what you have to say and try to appreciate your perspective it’s that the perspective is almost too generally defined. Anyone could have made your argument. For the sake of debate, let’s say an anorexic had handed me your argument. It’s not inconceivable that she might say the same things about herself (e.g. wanting to be cherished for what she is, not wanting to feel alienated by a body that she feels is not representative who she is, etc.). The problem of this parallelism between transsexuality, anorexia, or anyone in the entire world who does not think that their body projects who they really are is that this parellelism exists in the first place. Because of this parallelism you find questions like the one posed by the JLS (at least their first question, not the second one), and you will continue to get questions about when is it healthy to change your body image and when should you leave it alone, how much power do you have to define your identity, etc. As I said before, it is a question that has not yet been satisfactorily answered because while telling me that it is terrible to feel alienated by one’s own body (and I sincerely believe you when you say this), you haven’t told me how your alienation is different from the anorexic’s or how it is different from mine when I glumly look in the mirror and discover that I’m not Greta Garbo.

    I cannot speak on behalf of the JLS’s motivations, but for my own part I would put similar questions as theirs on the table because I’m looking forward to the well-turned argument that definitively delineates transsexuality from all other body image issues. That’s why I’m here, so my plea to you would be not to waste your energy responding with pity and anger but instead respond with a great deal of thought.

    One final note: your appeal to transsexuality as an “existential condition” is, I think, misapplied toward your argument and illustrates a misunderstanding as to what the term means. As you have tried to make me understand what transsexuality is, allow me to try and illuminate one facet of existentialism. Or actually, I’ll let Paul Edwards’ Dictionary of Philosophy do it for me. “If any single thesis could be said to constitute the doctrine of existentialism, it would be that the possibility of choice is the central fact of human nature. Even the thesis that existence precedes essence often means no more than that men do not have fixed natures that limit or determine their choices, but rather it is their choices that bring whatever nature they have into being.”

  • What determines whether someone identifies as a butch lesbian or a FTM transsexual?

    This seems such a deeply strange and ignorant question. What determines the difference?! Well, how about whether that person is a butch lesbian or a FTM transsexual?

    I mean, this question may as well be “What determines whether someone identifies as a straight woman or a gay man?” I mean, we both suck dick, right?!

    Yeesh.

  • What determines whether someone identifies as a butch lesbian or a FTM transsexual?

    This seems such a deeply strange and ignorant question. What determines the difference?! Well, how about whether that person is a butch lesbian or a FTM transsexual?

    I mean, this question may as well be “What determines whether someone identifies as a straight woman or a gay man?” I mean, we both suck dick, right?!

    Yeesh.

  • Susanna

    As a lesbian-feminist transwoman I read this: ” Why can’t there be women who feel like they are men and continue to be women and how everyone else perceives them can be damned.” and felt anger rage and finally pity for the writer. Failing to grasp that humans need to be cherished and loved for who they are seems just odd to me, and more than a little sad. To go through life being seen as something we are not, to be cherished or even loved as someone we see as, at best. “an act” is painful beyond description Add to that a profound alienation from one’s own body and you have some idea of what being trans is like. To ask someone to endure that for the sake of an ideological trope is beyond ugly. And indeed even asking the question implies that being “ts” is a choice. I can only speak, of course, from my own experience and from what I have learned from others, but there are few things of which i am more certain: being transsexual is not a choice I or anyone else I no made, for me, and them, its is an existential condition. just an integral part or our being. Nexy is of course right and we as humans do tend to see others’ experience though the filter of their own, but I am glad that some try to avoid forming judgments based on such a narrow base.

  • Susanna

    As a lesbian-feminist transwoman I read this: ” Why can’t there be women who feel like they are men and continue to be women and how everyone else perceives them can be damned.” and felt anger rage and finally pity for the writer. Failing to grasp that humans need to be cherished and loved for who they are seems just odd to me, and more than a little sad. To go through life being seen as something we are not, to be cherished or even loved as someone we see as, at best. “an act” is painful beyond description Add to that a profound alienation from one’s own body and you have some idea of what being trans is like. To ask someone to endure that for the sake of an ideological trope is beyond ugly. And indeed even asking the question implies that being “ts” is a choice. I can only speak, of course, from my own experience and from what I have learned from others, but there are few things of which i am more certain: being transsexual is not a choice I or anyone else I no made, for me, and them, its is an existential condition. just an integral part or our being. Nexy is of course right and we as humans do tend to see others’ experience though the filter of their own, but I am glad that some try to avoid forming judgments based on such a narrow base.

  • Lauren

    Hmm, I feel a little out of place responding to this as I don’t see anything fundamentally offensive about the question posed by the JLS, though the last part of it is unfortunately limited in its scope. It seems to me a perfectly valid question that has not yet been adequately answered. Hypothetically speaking, if I, as a woman, can accept that I wasn’t born with a perfect hourglass shape or whatever, then why can’t I also accept that I wasn’t born a man even if I feel myself to be one? Others may never perceive or treat me as a man, but you’re never going to treat me as if I had the perfect body either. This is, I think, where trannys get into deep water with the whole “transsexuality reinforces stereotypes” argument given by some. Why can’t there be women who feel like they are men and continue to be women and how everyone else perceives them can be damned. It is to appeal to a stereotype in a first place to “feel like a man,” and perhaps to appeal to another stereotype to be perceived as a man, because you have to conform to a stereotypical image of manhood to have others recognize you as a man. Why is there not a level of acceptance on the part of trannys in which they say “This is what I am, but how I feel does not conform with what you think I am. You behold before you something beyond your scope and definition. Accept that as I accept myself.”

    I think that is where questions (and it is actually a very leading question) like the one above posed by the JLS come from. I think it is difficult for lesbian feminists to understand or accept why anyone keeps coming back to the same categories of man and woman. From a lesbian feminist perspective, it also isn’t fundamentally empowering to be bouncing back and forth between the two instead of just saying, “This is absurd. Accept what you are instead of going back to the same litany of male or female options. If you feel yourself to be different, come up with something new, not something old that is already dustily and dully defined.”

    I’m also not sure I see the applicability of asking a lesbian to accept her body as being on par with accepting heterosexuality. A lesbian’s body, regardless of her body image or gender identity, is congenital. Her sexuality may or may not be congenital. It’s difficult to ask someone to accept something about themselves that may or may not be there. Her body has always been there, however, hence the big difference.

    As to your word list, the words “masculine,” “feminine,” and “femme” are interesting because they all gain their meaning from stereotypes and their tone from their object (e.g. it’s okay to describe John Wayne as masculine but when you apply it to Hilary Clinton it becomes derogatory.) “Girly” I see as an apt female equivalent to “sissy” as applied to men. It’s interesting to note how it’s desirable to call a woman feminine, but to call her “girly” implies childishness and frivolity, weakness even (much like a “sissy boy” may be a weak man). “Nelly queen” (insofar as I understand the term) and “diesel dyke” are well-paired together because I think they epitomize the phenomenon of derogatory words that have been made acceptable when adopted by the community, for the community.

  • Lauren

    Hmm, I feel a little out of place responding to this as I don’t see anything fundamentally offensive about the question posed by the JLS, though the last part of it is unfortunately limited in its scope. It seems to me a perfectly valid question that has not yet been adequately answered. Hypothetically speaking, if I, as a woman, can accept that I wasn’t born with a perfect hourglass shape or whatever, then why can’t I also accept that I wasn’t born a man even if I feel myself to be one? Others may never perceive or treat me as a man, but you’re never going to treat me as if I had the perfect body either. This is, I think, where trannys get into deep water with the whole “transsexuality reinforces stereotypes” argument given by some. Why can’t there be women who feel like they are men and continue to be women and how everyone else perceives them can be damned. It is to appeal to a stereotype in a first place to “feel like a man,” and perhaps to appeal to another stereotype to be perceived as a man, because you have to conform to a stereotypical image of manhood to have others recognize you as a man. Why is there not a level of acceptance on the part of trannys in which they say “This is what I am, but how I feel does not conform with what you think I am. You behold before you something beyond your scope and definition. Accept that as I accept myself.”

    I think that is where questions (and it is actually a very leading question) like the one above posed by the JLS come from. I think it is difficult for lesbian feminists to understand or accept why anyone keeps coming back to the same categories of man and woman. From a lesbian feminist perspective, it also isn’t fundamentally empowering to be bouncing back and forth between the two instead of just saying, “This is absurd. Accept what you are instead of going back to the same litany of male or female options. If you feel yourself to be different, come up with something new, not something old that is already dustily and dully defined.”

    I’m also not sure I see the applicability of asking a lesbian to accept her body as being on par with accepting heterosexuality. A lesbian’s body, regardless of her body image or gender identity, is congenital. Her sexuality may or may not be congenital. It’s difficult to ask someone to accept something about themselves that may or may not be there. Her body has always been there, however, hence the big difference.

    As to your word list, the words “masculine,” “feminine,” and “femme” are interesting because they all gain their meaning from stereotypes and their tone from their object (e.g. it’s okay to describe John Wayne as masculine but when you apply it to Hilary Clinton it becomes derogatory.) “Girly” I see as an apt female equivalent to “sissy” as applied to men. It’s interesting to note how it’s desirable to call a woman feminine, but to call her “girly” implies childishness and frivolity, weakness even (much like a “sissy boy” may be a weak man). “Nelly queen” (insofar as I understand the term) and “diesel dyke” are well-paired together because I think they epitomize the phenomenon of derogatory words that have been made acceptable when adopted by the community, for the community.

  • Rebecca, the ultimate irony of the Serenity Prayer is that you only get to say it for yourself.

    But nexyjo: i think you’re entirely right. i tried to get transness by every hook & crook. i can’t. i don’t. BUT i also went out of my way to ask the most sane & rational (& articulate) trans people i know about it, & then, after a while, you go: this is real.

    if only more of my fellow feminists did the same. (sigh).

    because i think i share a similar sense of gender to the lesbian feminists of that journal. & duh, the thunderbolt of, “hey, maybe we all experience gender differently” was much needed for me. but the whole human race falls into the “theory of everything” trap, no?

    the other thing to remember: lesbian feminists have a whole history of “passing women.” women who could and did pass as men, even if/when they didn’t identify as such. & often they passed only by expressing their gender – ie, butch – but also benefited from being able to have wives & jobs at times/places they might not have been able to before. i think that history sometimes skews the context of FTMs within the lesbian community.

  • Rebecca, the ultimate irony of the Serenity Prayer is that you only get to say it for yourself.

    But nexyjo: i think you’re entirely right. i tried to get transness by every hook & crook. i can’t. i don’t. BUT i also went out of my way to ask the most sane & rational (& articulate) trans people i know about it, & then, after a while, you go: this is real.

    if only more of my fellow feminists did the same. (sigh).

    because i think i share a similar sense of gender to the lesbian feminists of that journal. & duh, the thunderbolt of, “hey, maybe we all experience gender differently” was much needed for me. but the whole human race falls into the “theory of everything” trap, no?

    the other thing to remember: lesbian feminists have a whole history of “passing women.” women who could and did pass as men, even if/when they didn’t identify as such. & often they passed only by expressing their gender – ie, butch – but also benefited from being able to have wives & jobs at times/places they might not have been able to before. i think that history sometimes skews the context of FTMs within the lesbian community.

  • This discussion makes me think about the first part of the Serenity Prayer.

    “God grant me the serenity
    to accept the things I cannot change;
    courage to change the things I can;
    and wisdom to know the difference.”

    In other words… These stupid bitches need to mind their own fucking business and quit trying to tell others how to live their life..

  • This discussion makes me think about the first part of the Serenity Prayer.

    “God grant me the serenity
    to accept the things I cannot change;
    courage to change the things I can;
    and wisdom to know the difference.”

    In other words… These stupid bitches need to mind their own fucking business and quit trying to tell others how to live their life..

  • part of the problem is that people tend to use their own experience as measure of validity for everyone else. if i tell someone i have a headache, chances are that they’ve had a headache at some point in their lives too, and can empathize with the pain i’m experiencing. so my headache is a valid experience. and if i break my arm, and the bone is protruding through my skin with blood all over the place, even if the other person has never experienced a broken arm, chances are that they’ve cut themselves and bled, and know what that kind of pain feels like. and they can extrapolate how much more pain i’m in because of the severity of my injury in comparison with their own experiences.

    perhaps these lesbian feminists who have had body image problems, and perhaps even had gender identity problems because of their woman-ness, who have been able to eventually accept and even embrace their woman-ness and body image, frame trans-ness in the context of their own experience. since they’ve never been trans, they use the only experience they’ve had as a context.

    framing the issue as “”could lesbians just accept their heterosexuality” makes it clear, i think. however, i wouldn’t know. i don’t see myself as lesbian, having a preference for male-bodied people. but that preference exists outside the context of my trans-ness.

    being trans is such a unique experience, at least when i try to compare it with any other experience i’ve had in my life. there are no analogies which even come close. and since we often use analogy to convey our feelings, we simply have no tools with which to explain ourselves. as if we are required to explain ourselves in the first place, something with which i’ve grown extremely weary.

  • part of the problem is that people tend to use their own experience as measure of validity for everyone else. if i tell someone i have a headache, chances are that they’ve had a headache at some point in their lives too, and can empathize with the pain i’m experiencing. so my headache is a valid experience. and if i break my arm, and the bone is protruding through my skin with blood all over the place, even if the other person has never experienced a broken arm, chances are that they’ve cut themselves and bled, and know what that kind of pain feels like. and they can extrapolate how much more pain i’m in because of the severity of my injury in comparison with their own experiences.

    perhaps these lesbian feminists who have had body image problems, and perhaps even had gender identity problems because of their woman-ness, who have been able to eventually accept and even embrace their woman-ness and body image, frame trans-ness in the context of their own experience. since they’ve never been trans, they use the only experience they’ve had as a context.

    framing the issue as “”could lesbians just accept their heterosexuality” makes it clear, i think. however, i wouldn’t know. i don’t see myself as lesbian, having a preference for male-bodied people. but that preference exists outside the context of my trans-ness.

    being trans is such a unique experience, at least when i try to compare it with any other experience i’ve had in my life. there are no analogies which even come close. and since we often use analogy to convey our feelings, we simply have no tools with which to explain ourselves. as if we are required to explain ourselves in the first place, something with which i’ve grown extremely weary.

  • BEAR Rodgers

    Jounal of Lesbian Studies? Sounds more like Misconception, Inc.
    “Body image is how I feel and see myself in my own skin. Gender identity is how the world perceives me.” That particular line sparked my ire. Gender Identity is not JUST about how the world perceives me, but how I perceive myself. While a practicing lesbian, I was seen as butch, diesil, masculine, male, female. I saw myself as butch, diesil, masculine, male, female. My Identity was all that except the female part. My Gender Identity is about ME! Yes, after surgeries and hormones, I am not seen as female, but still masculine, diesil, male. But that does not change the fact that my Gender Identity has always been there as Male. Being Trans does not mean changer your body made you acertain gender, it means you are that gender inside and surgery helps align your body with your mind. Some Trans people will always be percieved by the world as their biological birth gender, no matter howmany surgeries they have, but it’s how they feel about themselves that makes the difference. Just asthere are lesbians who are percieved as being male by the outside world who will always revel in their own female Gender Idenity.

  • BEAR Rodgers

    Jounal of Lesbian Studies? Sounds more like Misconception, Inc.
    “Body image is how I feel and see myself in my own skin. Gender identity is how the world perceives me.” That particular line sparked my ire. Gender Identity is not JUST about how the world perceives me, but how I perceive myself. While a practicing lesbian, I was seen as butch, diesil, masculine, male, female. I saw myself as butch, diesil, masculine, male, female. My Identity was all that except the female part. My Gender Identity is about ME! Yes, after surgeries and hormones, I am not seen as female, but still masculine, diesil, male. But that does not change the fact that my Gender Identity has always been there as Male. Being Trans does not mean changer your body made you acertain gender, it means you are that gender inside and surgery helps align your body with your mind. Some Trans people will always be percieved by the world as their biological birth gender, no matter howmany surgeries they have, but it’s how they feel about themselves that makes the difference. Just asthere are lesbians who are percieved as being male by the outside world who will always revel in their own female Gender Idenity.

  • Wow, I’m kind of stunned. I’d expect a journal of lesbian studies to be a little less…huh. I don’t even know how to explain it. What does sexual orientation have to do with transsexuality? They make it sound like it’s impossible to be trans and gay. I know that it’s a common misconception among people who don’t know much about either topic, but an academic journal about lesbian studies? WTF?

  • Wow, I’m kind of stunned. I’d expect a journal of lesbian studies to be a little less…huh. I don’t even know how to explain it. What does sexual orientation have to do with transsexuality? They make it sound like it’s impossible to be trans and gay. I know that it’s a common misconception among people who don’t know much about either topic, but an academic journal about lesbian studies? WTF?

  • So here’s the issue: “desire” (desirable) is a strong word to throw around concerning body changes & self-identity. That is, it kind of warps the question. It implies want, not need.

    & That’s one of the big issues when it comes to the way feminism & transness intersect. Often I find people think of body mods like women getting implants/losing weight when they think of transness, where instead the analogy is a lot closer when you think of reproductive choice for women: the control of your own body is entirely about who you are in the world, & whether or not it’s necessary for you to be able to forge a body that jives with your self-identity, whether or not it’s okay for someone to tell you what your gender role is (mother or not mother, woman or not woman).

  • So here’s the issue: “desire” (desirable) is a strong word to throw around concerning body changes & self-identity. That is, it kind of warps the question. It implies want, not need.

    & That’s one of the big issues when it comes to the way feminism & transness intersect. Often I find people think of body mods like women getting implants/losing weight when they think of transness, where instead the analogy is a lot closer when you think of reproductive choice for women: the control of your own body is entirely about who you are in the world, & whether or not it’s necessary for you to be able to forge a body that jives with your self-identity, whether or not it’s okay for someone to tell you what your gender role is (mother or not mother, woman or not woman).