Thursday, July 30, 2009

Soapbox Thursday: The Crying Game

[DISCLAIMER: Both Pygar and Lilly are wonderful people and I don't in any way intend to impugn or criticize their opinions. I think they are as entitled to their viewpoints as I am to mine and enjoy the dialogue that is subsequently created when we disagree! they both ROCK.

2. No animals were hurt in the making of this rant.
the photo is an image of the actor, Jaye Davidson (MALE but intact)) from The Crying Game ]

In a recent blog (see here), Pygar related an experience with a post-op transsexual woman, about whom only in hindsight did he realize she was once, physiologically, male. His question was, should she have informed him of her status beforehand? The discussion centres primarily on whether or not a post-op transsexual has a moral imperative to inform potential partners of their sex change?

It has engendered an interesting and lively discussion. Lilly’s “rant-on” (see here) reflects her strong belief that not telling is, in her view, a form of deceit.

As my own opinion is unequivocally that the lady had NO imperative – moral or otherwise – to reveal what is in fact her private and personal business and is ultimately irrelevant to who she is, I thought I would outline my arguments.

First, from a biological perspective, there is ample and irrefutable evidence that gender is not based on physiological sexual characteristics. How we present physically is not always commensurate with the thought process, emotional needs and gender-choice that an individual internalizes as real to them. Studies have revealed, again and again, that nature is fluid when it comes to sexual orientation. From observations of homosexuality among numerous species (not just homo sapiens) to case studies of people – and animals – who despite having the sexual characteristics of one gender, live and present as the other sex are there for the asking.

In short, nature screws up – quite often.

A case in point would be the sad history of hermaphrodites in our society. From freaks displayed in circuses, an almost equally repugnant trend began in more “enlightened” times when babies carrying both sets of sexual organs were almost inevitably “turned into” females. Arguments were specious, fulsome and full of scientific jargon as to the necessity and reason for choosing the female sex when both gender sexual organs were present. The reality was simply it is easier to create a vagina than a penis. This caused a great deal of distress and emotional pain to individuals who would have identified as male (not to talk about those content to carry BOTH – as they were born).

The reality is that many of the characteristics we identify with gender are actually artificially imposed dictates of largely paternalistic and misogynist religious dogma. Like many of the prejudices we internalize as fact, the reality is that most of our biases arise as a result of societal imperatives and dictates – NOT because the issues are inherently ‘wrong’ or “unnatural”.

Second, identifying females as female BECAUSE of owing a vagina and breasts and males as being MALE because they have penis and testicles, then we are certainly narrowing down the realities to an unacceptable level. So if a woman has a double mastectomy- does that make her “less female”? If a man is for whatever reason, emasculated by having penis and/or testicles removed – is he “less male”. What about individuals who experience some form of trauma to their sexual organs (i.e. are not born that way) through disease, accident or malicious intent? Are they somehow then NOT the sex they presented as originally?

Third, undertaking an operation that will permanently change your sexual characteristics is fraught with anxiety, emotional trauma and is the result (I would think in pretty well every case) of a lifetime of confusion, distress and insight. Nor is the medical profession quick to perform such a task. Candidates must go through a rigorous and drawn-out period of emotional, psychological and physical testing to qualify. It is, when all is said and done, intensely and powerfully, personal.

On the religious front argument, if you believe in god- how can you then turn around say “he” made a “mistake”?? i.e. these individuals feel to the core of who they are that they trapped in a body which outwardly does not reflect who they are. They were (if that is your belief) “MADE” that way by god – so HOW can it be wrong to correct that?

Fourth, from any perspective, I fail to see why someone is required to reveal their previous gender to a casual sexual partner. If indeed, a relationship formed and it looked as if what began as casual was turning serious for both, I think it probably a good idea to discuss when a rapport, mutual trust and mutual commitment is starting to form. Any relationship must have at its core, honesty and a sense of trust. By the same token, I think it honourable when entering into what looks to be a long-term commitment to be honest about a lot of other things too.

I equate discussing your previous gender on the same lines as sharing information about your upbringing, family issues and/or past emotional trauma – only to be shared with someone with whom you feel a committed, caring and mutually trusting relationship is being formed.

Fifth, CHOICE: Although I see Lilly’s point about "choice", I don’t necessarily agree. One is entitled on a moral –hell, a LEGAL perspective to offer full disclosure when it comes to certain things. Like if you have HIV. Or herpes. Or some other sexually transmitted or other form of transmittal disease (i.e. Hep C is transmittable through body fluids and mucus membranes but not necessarily sexually-related).

But I feel strongly I am NOT compelled on any level to offer full disclosure about certain parts of my life that I consider irrelevant except to someone with whom I am planning to form a committed and long-term relationship. I do not believe even in a committed relationship that an individual has to vomit out every single emotional trauma, moral dilemma, past relationship or experience that has ever taken place in their lives. I truly, honestly and sincerely feel that each of us is entitled to some privacy of thought and emotion, no matter how close you are.

Because transgender issues are so fraught with controversy, I DO believe it would be wise to share this with a potential life partner or one runs the risk of your potential partner feeling betrayed down the road when it comes out (and secrets ALWAYS come out). In that sense, yes, that is where the element of choice comes in.

Like any bred in the bone prejudice – some form of which we ALL exhibit – I think one of the most persistent and prevalent viewpoints regarding transgender individuals is a stubborn insistence on seeing them as ultimately REALLY “male” or REALLY “female”, despite the reality that from almost their earliest memories they truly, sincerely, completely and utterly felt themselves trapped in a body which did not reflect their internal vision of self. And when they then successfully take their physical body and create a shell which then reflects their inner conviction, there is a vast majority of the population which continues to tell them they are “wrong” – that they are in fact the sex they were born.

The bottom line is that it is NOT my place to tell someone who they should live their lives – nor in what form – that is an intensely personal choice and one which I respect.


Chloe said...

Nice post, selkie...

While I consider myself hetero (having never had a desire to have intimate contact with a female) I'm not really concerned with gender. I think?

I HAPPEN to be attracted (so far universally) to men. Manly men, at that. Rawr-inducing men.

But... I'd like to think I'm open enough to recognize that I am simply be attracted to humans. Not genders or body parts. Humans. And all of the humans so far have been mentally and physically male.

One of my dearest friends is a female, biologically, but male mentally. I relate to Dani as a male friend. Male mentality, male judgment, male confidence, male male male. Female reproductive organs on a male human.

If I found myself in an intimate relationship with a post-op male... And didn't find out until later... And it bothered me? I think the more interesting question would not be whether or not the person should have informed me, but more WHY I had a problem with it.

Having known my friend Dani for so many years, I recognize that if he ever felt like making the physical match the mental? It wouldn't change a thing about how I feel about him as a friend (love him to death) or as a potential partner (no sexual attraction.)

I think the more pressing issue would be what was going on in my head, with my ideas, ideals, prejudices, and social constructs that was making me feel it was not okay for me to be attracted to someone who was ALWAYS male in mind and at some point in their life used medical technology to become male in body.

That would be interesting to me, not whether or not the person should have told me about a medical operation...

Anyway, I'll shush. Interesting to think about. Thank you!


THE Michael said...

I think it's pretty interesting that manly men who are downright homophobic will STILL be turned on by observing women on women, or will eagarly participate in a mff threesome. Why who is equiped with what should be such a threat to someone's gender identity is really beyond me. I personally do NOT get turned on by the thought of making out with a male, but the fact that some do is no skin of my backside. So, if I ever got laid by someone who once was a male, I say give that girl kudos for having passed so well as a woman that I never knew it, which means, of course, she really WAS a women.

Anonymous said...

great post and i agree with michael. i don't understand how it all works but I also know there is more to understanding creation than anyone will comprehend.

Gillette said...

The thing that always pisses me off about transgendered women is that they almost ALWAYS have perfect legs and butts. Totally unfair. And often amazing eyes and skin. Beyond irritating. Brats.

But in reference to your post-

It's an age old question and one I grappled with as a whore: when to share that deeply personal stuff that's their business if the relationship goes further but none of their business at first?

Ultimately I came to the decision that if I like you and care about you, I tell you who I am. I don't want those walls. If I don't want you as a deeper friend, it's none of your bloody business.

And if you want to reject me, that's good information for me early on. Cuz why would I want to be in relationship with anyone who rejects my core?

Timing is really difficult. The longer we keep a secret (cuz we're afraid we'll be rejected), the bigger deal it becomes. It gets tricksy when definitions of "what time is a good time" differ. And I agree that no relationship can ever be deeply intimate with that big a secret, primarily because the secret keeper has to invest so much energy in hiding.
And when you have to hide one huge thing, other things get sucked in, too.

It ain't easy. Nope. My heart goes out to folks caught in the place of having to consider this dynamic, whatever the source. No matter which end we're on, it's difficult remembering that when we are in the middle of a rejection situation, that it's more about the rejectOR than the rejectee.

Liras said...

Oh gee, this is a hard one.

I think long-term, it should be told, but short-term, nope.

But I am a woman--my gender identity is not threatened by sleeping with a man who was a woman. Men often seem to define themselves as not being the Other-female. To be male, is to always be male. A male that changes is suspect. And through some magical powers (via sexual contact), can turn a man into a grey cloudy area.

No, I do not believe it. But it seems that the CW is that a man must sniff out the male and female of the species and act accordingly. Otherwise he is suspect.

And nothing seems to damage the hetero male ego than to be labeled gay, gay-ish, or gay-friendly.

I have not read the links you provided, I am just replying to your post.

I also do not think I have the right to tell people who they are and how to live. I have too much going on, to attempt to exert control over others. Nor do I want to.

Pygar said...

Thanks for the kind words Selkie - and for developing this lively discussion further.

Interestingly as I was reading through the discussion in my own blog I too thought of Jaye Davidson in The Crying Game - except I couldn't remember his name!