Tag Archives: trans*

So I’m getting married (again).


The best way to find out if someone is trustworthy is is to trust them.

– Ernest Hemingway.

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So, I’m getting married…again.

My partner and I had already exchanged silver commitment rings on a bone white clifftop along the trail that lead to Marley Spit from Bundeena. We found the rings from a hippie shop on King st – Russian wedding rings, the bands intertwined. We un-shouldered our packs, took some photos, ate Vita Wheats and then slipped the rings on each others fingers. Took more photos. Felt a bit giddy.

Afterwards we jumped around in this big sandy rock puddle in bare feet in the wind then decided to walk back against the falling hush of late afternoon. We got muddy, we laughed and cracked dirty jokes. There were tiny birds following us in the bushes. I peed beside the path and he stood as lookout. We finally came down to the beach and waited for the ferry. The sky was fired up in pink and grey and the mosquitos started biting.

And then we rode back on the ferry, talking in the wooden boat about kink, our dreams, our families. Our future.

That was my commitment day and it will remain in my memory as one of the more profound, sweet and easy-going exchanges towards a solid bond I’ve had. It was all us, no ceremony. Our families and friends were not witnesses which at the time was a desired absence. For that commitment, at that time.

I’m not especially into big weddings. I’m into hella sucessful relationships and I actually think big weddings can exclude some of the possibility of that by generating needless stress and worry and weighing folk with expense and debt. It feels so needless and so theatrical. At times hysterical.

But I’m not against weddings altogether, or marriage. For the longest time I raged aloud that I was against both, seeing big weddings and consumer overload, seeing my history, my own painful past marriage, my hatred of convention. I’m really not a conventional person. I was projecting my issues and writing them in big fucking capital letters across the sky for all to see. I like this quote, from Jean Kerr: “Being divorced is like being hit by a Mack truck. If you live through it, you start looking very carefully to the right and to the left.”

And it isn’t that I was wrong. It’s that I’ve dealt with some of that stuff, and I feel better. Which is pretty wonderful, I must tell you. To find some peace is something I have struggled for, long and hard. I found it long before I found Librarian; he is not the arbiter of my soundness of mind. Those props go to big pharma, my family, friends and therapist and the ambling of time.

Here’s what I believe about marriage: I believe in consensual healthy all-people marriage. That means all sexes, genders, and groupings of people, across all races and religions and so on. I believe in group marriage – being polyamorous – and I believe in marriage rights that recognise the trans and intersex community as well as the same-sex marriage lobbyists.

I acknowledge I have massive privilege in being able to decide to get formally married by the state because I am female bodied and my primary partner is male bodied. This is something nobody should ever forget, if they are married. By luck of birth, you can choose a form of relationship recognition that others are barred from. And it behooves you to at least remember that and show some respect and kindness and join the struggle for those communities across a range of issues they deem relevant.

So yeah, I’m getting married again. I had just been to a funeral of a beautiful woman, the mother of one of my brother’s best friends. It was terrible of course but she seemed such a sprite, such a fantastically funny woman who loved hard but laughed harder. And we were walking along Harris St and passing by the ABC Centre and the moon was awfully big with trees bashing silhouettes against. And there was traffic and we were arm in arm and I asked, will you marry me?

He’s sensible. He took a few days to think about it. And he answered me in response to the lyrics of a Bruno Mars song from a youtube video I was fascinated by, as he was walking out my friend Anna’s gate to a concert, throwing it over his shoulder like the cheeky man he is. There was zero cliche romance in the making of any of it – it was just a pretty unspectacular proposition with an unspectacular reply. I like that it’s pretty much only cute to us, which makes it an anti-hype story that’s too boring to retell at a million dinner parties. Have I mentioned I hate cliche? I hate cliche. I also hate pink. Not puppies or Christmas though.

The one thing I’m not going to write here is why. People ask the question with such gumption, as though they would accept it if I thought myself in a place to question their personal decisions. Folk who do this should reconsider or I’m going to start asking you who you vote for, and why, and look at you like you owe me a damn answer.

Fact is, and so I’ve learned from experience, divorce is cheap and easy – unless you have a million assets but that all remains the same if you’re in a de-facto relationship. There’s certain benefits to it when the person you’re marrying is from another country, despite him already having a work visa all on his own-some. For instance, there’s stuff around having kids together that works better when married. On paper, it’s not very romantic. It’s binding, it isn’t, it’s meaningful, it isn’t. All of those arguments seem like straw-men to justify ourselves when we should be asking just why people presume it’s their business.

I wish the people questioning me had diverted their energy to ask me how I was feeling about getting married again. That would have been actually useful and not antagonistic. Because it isn’t like I was going to sigh “ok, I fold, you’re right – this is madness!” At least my therapist had the decency to ask first how I was feeling, though to be fair she’s being paid to care a fair bit about my feelings.

I’m feeling excited. Scared. It’s bringing up a lot of memories for me. I’m apprehensive of almost everyone expressing any desire to involve themselves. I don’t want a production and I’ll fight hand over fist to keep the planning autonomous. There’ll be no hype, no bullshit, no big fucking dress, no catering and no white attire anyfuckingwhere. If the thing costs more than $50, we’ve done it wrong.

I’m sure of him though. As sure as a human being can be of another human they hope in. All human love is frail, of course it is, and all trust has the capacity to expose us and falter and fail. I have a few friends who view human attachment with a cold and cynical eye. They act like they were the only ones ever given reason to doubt the rightness of caring for another person in such a way as you’d hitch your wagon to them. I view it with a warm and cynical eye, with a carefully open mind. I’m no Elizabeth Taylor, but I’m no dyed in the wool denier of my squishy heart with it’s squishy loving-people needs.

I know what I want to do with my life, and that’s give the greater share of it to a partner well-matched, a small family, my work and my community. I’m bloody ‘well’ enough now, with a good career underway. I’ve found my grooves and I have my community. I’m so far from the stroppy, messy, unsure, anxious and malleable 21 who married an Irishman on a hill over Tamworth. I’m nearly 30, and I’m a big girl.

And I’m sure of him, my Librarian, my accented man who brings me tissues and juice when I’m sick, and wrestles like a big mean puppy with me, and finds me rare books, and hates conservatives, and hides in caves in the middle of nowhere with me, makes plans to swim in winter pools in the summer with me. Talks lustfully about the same boys I talk lustfully about. Communicates honestly, openly, gently. Who asks me if I want to live in Montreal one day. Who loves a long train ride and shares Laura Viers on his iPod with me.

My Librarian with his tall spine and scratchy beard and serious demeanour and long legged gait. With his willingness to get drunk with my family the first night he met them. Who tells me he misses my brothers. Who singlehandedly wins my friends over. Who hates the prospect of monogamy as much as me. Who teases and whispers and shakes me to my toes. Who has seen half the world and still prefers to look at me.

I can hardly wait to stand with no fanfare in no expensive dress, with no fancy food, and no fancy appointed place, to say how excited I am about the reality of being primarily bonded with this person for, hopefully, a long fucking time.

Here’s to a long fucking time!

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Dear love: I am struggling.


Dear love,

As you know, I am struggling with your transition because it means we can’t have a child for a long time.

This is really hard for me because I feel like I’m a bad person for being sad. I want to be able to be just filled with joy for you, and supportive in every way. Yet there is a part of me that is grieving the loss of the little family in the near future that I had envisioned, in the ways I had envisioned it. Suddenly the road just got really complicated and hard for us both and I’ll admit: I’m pissing my pants.

I am so glad you have found a way to be more of yourself, to become who you want and need to be. I never wanted to stop you and though it hurts for now, I think our choices are the right choices.

I hope you understand that my sadness is a separate entity from my gladness. It is hard to feel at once like you believe in what you are doing, believe in the person you love and what they are doing with their life, and also feel like you want to throw a lamp through your window in total crushing disappointment. Also I am freaking my shit out about having to face IVF one day maybe. With the chance of pregnancy loss being so high, and the chance of success so low, it is a really frightening prospect for me. So, it is pretty strange to accommodate competing emotions like that.

I know this is really hard for you, in different and similar ways. You didn’t choose to have a partner who is baby crazy any more than I chose a partner who needed to inhabit their gender so it makes sense. We’re just awesome like that, and we’re doing our best with some awkwardly competing needs. I love our communication and how it is so honest.

I want to thank you for being truthful with me about what you really needed even though it wasn’t what I wanted to hear. Thanks for holding my hand and letting me cry in a crowded restaurant. Thanks for not making me feel like a selfish bitch for being sad. And thank god for napkins, hey.

I hope we can grow together and maybe one day make a really attractive toddler that at least three other kids in daycare crush out on.

Also, I might be kinda weepy sometimes about this. I hope not too often. I hope you understand.

xx so much love and hope,

Bettie.


Sex Laws: why neo second wavers get all in mah grill.


“In a patriarchal society, all heterosexual intercourse is rape because women, as a group, are not strong enough to give meaningful consent.”
Catharine MacKinnon, quoted in Professing Feminism: Cautionary Tales from the Strange World of Women’s Studies.

“I want to see a man beaten to a bloody pulp with a high-heel shoved in his mouth, like an apple in the mouth of a pig.”
Andrea Dworkin; from her book Ice and Fire .

“When a woman reaches orgasm with a man she is only collaborating with the patriarchal system, eroticizing her own oppression…”
Sheila Jeffreys.

My friends and I exist in an extremely rarified little cosy of a network we call ‘the bubble’. The bubble is full of people who question their privilege actively, try not to be racist, classist, sexist, queerphobic, sex worker phobic or transphobic* – among other things. Most of us would probably describe ourselves as third wave or post modern feminists, if we really thought about it.

The result of living daily in a group of beautiful people like this – in which I can breathe easy and forget the world – is that I’m startled when I run across really gross politics again.

The thing that I find most appalling is when it comes from people I’d really expect better from. And of late, I’ve had the startling experience of running smack bang into not-so-subtle transphobia and sex negativity from neo second-wavers in my peripheral network.

‘Neo second-wavers’ is the clumsy term I use in Bettie Land to describe people who support ideas around sex and gender posited by notable radical feminists of the 60s, 70s and 80s like Andrea Dworkin, Catharine MacKinnon, Germaine Greer and a host of others.

In the contemporary context, self described ‘eco feminists’ such as Carol Adams support questionable interpretations of the body, sex and gender. Greer continues to produce problematic tracts and soundbites in this area, and Sheila Jeffreys…well. Other people have unpacked Jeffreys far more eloquently than I, so I’m just going to save time and say she’s a heck of an arsehole.

From where I sit, it seems that what most of these thinkers have in common is that they’re discussing sex in ways that configure it as a bad, scary thing owned by patriarchy and only ever wielded as a tool to hurt and oppress (by ‘men’ against ‘women’ – forget gender pirates, they don’t exist here).

Gender, see, is innate and manifest only in a binary, and they seem to have a decided on a set of ways of loving, fucking and embodying self that they deem healthy. Anything else is submission to patriarchy. Trans women are not ‘real’ or they’re really just men butchering their bodies to steal femininity, trans men are traitors to womanhood, women who like fucking men are brainwashed slaves, porn is violent and coercive both in construction and consumption, and sex work is done by women who are victims of child abuse and current male exploitation.

The second wave feminist interpretation of Lacan’s ‘male gaze theory’ is a good example of how fucked and completely disempowering a lot of their sex and gender talk is. In this reading of male gaze theory, the response of women to the male gaze is irrelevant, because they’re only able to respond from within the unequal hegemonic frame of their existence. In other words, if you’re a (biological) woman you’ve no mind of your own. Don’t start getting ideas that you do, because that’ll just be a product of the patriarchy, too. Somehow.

Sex negativity and disempowerment, second wave can has. Some of this is so twisted and constricting that I just. Don’t. Even.

I could deal with these viewpoints if they’d evolved into something more constructive in the early 80s, and hey, largely we’ve moved beyond this – right? We all know better now – right?

Wrong. Lately I’m coming across way too many people my age, in my community, who still think along these lines.

I used to be pretty good friends, a couple of years back, with someone who supported ideas like this. She was anti porn in a big way and mounted an argument with such gusto that my partner and I deleted all the porn on our computer. So much smut, lost! Armed with woeful stories from blogs ‘revealing’ the abject and all consuming horrors of porn, she told me how most porn performers were victims of sexual assault as children (not true) and how most porn was coercively made (also not true).

Along with this came the idea that all men were potential rapists. Oh, fail harder. I find this statement to be one of the more divisive nonsenses I’ve heard spouted by rad-fems in the 20 – 35 age bracket. Add to this the statements made recently by an acquaintance that the desire of a trans chick to have perky tits was a “male” view of the body she “despised” and that same trans chick should just “love the body they were born in” and I’m wondering just what the hell caused so many young feminists to take on board so much nonsense that was best left to die out with their predecessors.

I mean, fuck. It isn’t like there’s a shortage of alternative ideas, so what gives?

Personally, I think these ideas spread through a kind of cyclical cultural transmission in grassroots organisations that isn’t interrupted enough and grown through discourse with other groups. There are always pockets of well meaning rad-fems springing up and expressing themselves in Women’s Collectives and it can get kind of intra-connected. From what I’ve seen, they’re not conversing openly enough with diverse groups who can bring perspective beyond the second wave bloc they’re keenly reading. You get groups of rad fems who go on reading jags of old shit from the 70s and they’re not reading anything new.

I mean, I remember having Dworkin quoted at me a lot when participating in a Women’s Collective in a regional area in 2008/9. At the time I blithely swallowed it too, because like them, I didn’t have anyone saying HEY, WHAT ABOUT READING THIS TOO? and I wasn’t seeking out ways to get that perspective. And so the snake swallows it’s tail.

To be honest, I find Women’s Collectives an unsafe space for many ‘oh crap, you read Carol Adams uncritically and you exclude some of my sisters’ reasons, but also because I fucking love makeup, heels, shaving, submitting consensually to cis-men for kicks and from genuine desire, acting out consensual violence on women’s bodies for kicks and from genuine desire, and strongly believe it is my right to alter my body however I want, if I want to. If I want to get a boob job, I’ll get a fucking boob job – because it is my body, not yours. If I want to do a pin up shoot, wax my cunt (I would, but actually, OW…) or skate a track in booty shorts, I will. My body. Not yours. And my motives – and the motives of my trans sisters – are not yours to examine or question, either.

That’s actually the crux of my beef with neo second wavers right there, actually. Autonomy and agency. Just where is it? In the second wave rendering of the universe, ‘bio women’ (I hugely dislike this term, so much that typing it makes my fingers angry) are pitiless creatures flailing in a mire of unreconcilable oppressions. There’s just no place to be much more than exploited, and if anything I find this removal of a sense of agency way more objectifying than a dude looking at my tits while I wait in line to buy bread and soy milk.

So shoot me, I kinda like the dude looking at my tits. And the gal in aisle 9. I just also like the right to not like it, too. Consent – the right to give it and the right to remove it – is this handy thing that supports relationships among genders rather than deepening the trenches.

I’m not saying that oppression born of gendering and the fact of patriarchy doesn’t exist. I’m just not buying that it totally makes us helpless and I don’t think it serves us to constantly harp on the idea that EVERYTHING we do is a meme of patriarchy – for one thing, there’s a bunch of other stuff to think about too, and obsessing about patriarchy glosses wildly over the experiences of people of colour, those experiencing class difference and so on. In my life so far, I’ve seen a lot of not-helpless women of different races, classes and cultural backgrounds do breath-taking things. I’ve seen myself do really powerful things.

Those things aren’t glitches or lucky breaks. Maybe we’re not helpless, though the system tries to make us so. Maybe we’re capable and we’re complex and maybe we’re doing a bang-up job of resisting and living, creatively and with pride. Maybe womanhood is something bigger and more alive than the second-wave imagination, which is why their negative circuits just overload trying to think about it.

I really hope that more neo second-wavers get out there and mix and mingle in our rich (particularly queer) community, opening their ears and hearts to all the great people out there who are living realities aloud that confound a limited philosophy that serves only to cage and confine and deny.

After all, isn’t that what life is all about? Big, open hearts, acting boldly. Saccharine though that sentiment may be, I buy it.

The first step to it, is letting other people have the right to exist within their own definition and shutting the fuck up except to cheer them on.

 

*I’m speaking in this post as a queer, gender variant, white woman. I am not a trans* person and am not speaking for that very diverse community – I’m merely speaking as a (grumpy) ally observing stupid shit.


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