Monday, July 5, 2010

THE GENDER MONOLOGUES, BY DON CHARLES

On my June 12th post entitled, Transgender People Are Not Mistakes, I wrote the following:

Blended gender exists, and when that blended gender exceeds one's comfort zones and/or society's comfort zones, many transgender (and other) people are led to believe that they are one gender trapped in the body of the opposite gender when, in fact, they are not trapped at all, but are created just as they are meant to be by God Who also transcends gender.

Hence, it's up to all of us, transgender or not, to recognize transgenderism as a gift, as transgender people can be seen to more fully represent the nature of God Who also transcends gender!


In this vein, the following is an article that Don Charles kindly gave me permission to reprint here, after which I have included his incisive comment to the critics of his thesis.

His discussion and comment are superb, and deserve to be thoughtfully read in their entirety:

The Gender Monologues

A Myra Breckinridge Moment


I was a middle-aged man before I finally saw Myra Breckinridge, that bawdy, gender-bending comedy from 1970. Based on a book of the same title by Gore Vidal, it had long since become a classic cult film. I'm old enough to remember when it first got released, but I was still too young to buy a ticket (as I recall, the MPAA had slapped it with an X-rating). I'd like to have watched it in a theatre, just to see the reaction of the audience.

How it must have shocked them! They saw Lesbianism (with Farrah Fawcett, no less). They saw transsexuality. They saw movie critic Rex Reed in a hospital bed, screaming hysterically about his "tits"! And there was that infamous "pegging" scene where Raquel Welch rides a naked man like a mechanical bull! The content was so incendiary for that era, I'm surprised that a major movie studio (20th Century Fox) would touch it.

I thought Myra Breckinridge was the most absurd film I'd ever watched. The climax, where Myra pulls down her panties and exposes her transsexual anatomy to a room full of men was especially demented. I know what Gore Vidal was up to, though. He was trying to startle conservative America out of its ignorance about the range of human gender and sexuality. Methinks his approach was a bit too over-the-top! The man had the right idea, though.

America is still ignorant about gender and sex, and so is most of the rest of the world. The laws, the media, the public education, the courtship rituals, the religious practice! All of it is geared toward people who are heterosexual, and either male or female. Just think how many millions of human beings that leaves out! It's unbelievable, not to mention uncivilized and unkind.

As a Gay man growing up, I know how damaging it was for me to not be validated by any of society's institutions. Lesbians and Bisexual folk suffered along with me, I'm sure. At least we came of age in a time when the oppressive notion that homosexuality is sick was beginning to fall out of favor. Unfortunately, Transsexual persons didn't have that advantage. They still don't have it.

Transsexuality perceived as a malady is part of the Myth of Queerness. In my opinion, it's the worst part of all! Rejection of gender diversity is the basis of all hostility directed at LGBT folk. It dictates a rigidity of gender definitions that flies in the face of nature. It denies the very existence of blended gender, forcing Transgender human beings into prefabricated roles that don't fit them. It tells Transsexual boys and girls that God made them wrong. Historically, it has driven them to commit suicide, attempt self-castration, visit backstreet surgeons and harm themselves in various desperate ways.

I've heard that, for some Transsexual children, the belief that something's wrong with them comes very early in life. This doesn't surprise me at all. Negative messages about yourself can be absorbed at an early age, and what could be more negative than people not acknowledging your gender? I don't believe these feelings of wrongness are inborn, though, and they need not be permanent. They can be overcome, or at least soothed, by the intervention of loving parents.

First, Transsexual children must be affirmed in their gender identity. When they insist that they belong to the "opposite" gender, parents must believe and accept it! This isn't easy to do, but a child's natural gender expression must never be condemned. It should be interfered with only when the child has to enter a potentially hostile environment.

Second, Transchildren must be taught that they are Transgender. Third, they must be taught that Transgender is a gender all its own. It has its own unique rules: A girl can be born with a boy's body. A boy can be born with a girl's body. Or a child may not identify with either male or female gender. All three possibilities are valid.

Most important, parents must explain that prejudice against Transgender people exists. It's necessary to prepare them for the inevitable hurts. Transsexual children must be given a frank talking-to just as soon as they can understand it! It's for their own good.

Needless to say, this kind of affirmation is an extremely difficult undertaking. The parents of a Transsexual child will find little if any community support. They will lose friends. They may also make enemies. Depending on where the family lives, their lives and/or livelihoods may be threatened. There's no such thing as over-protecting Transgender children! Cruelty stalks them everywhere.

Some psychologists recommend forcing adherence to biological gender expectations(listen to this May 2008 report by National Public Radio reporter Alix Spiegel: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=90247842), but what a mistake! It can lead to tragedy. Failure to affirm gender identity destroys a person's sense of self-worth. If parents and other responsible adults choose to value societal approval over a child's mental health; if they fail to respond compassionately to blended gender, then Transsexual children will suffer needlessly. I don't know if it's possible to make the world completely safe for them, but we've certainly got to try.

You might ask: Why am I so concerned about these kids? How do I know so much about what they need? What's in it for me? Well, I was deeply moved by that NPR report I linked to in the previous paragraph. Also, if you've read my other Gender Monologues, you’ll know that I view myself as a Transgender person. No, my biological gender never conflicted with my gender identity; but because of my non-traditional gender expression, I still suffered. My childhood was anything but a pleasant one. It would've been so much better if my parents had understood that I was Gay, hadn't tried to bully the femme behavior out of me, and had prepared me for the hostility I encountered. But they had no guidance! Nobody told them how to raise an effeminate boy. I'm no expert, but I've done some research, and anything I can do to help parents understand their blended gender children, I'll do.

My core message is that transsexuality in human beings is normal. Ironically, that message has infuriated some Transfolk. Many if not most Transpersons will assure you that their biological gender is an affliction; but why wouldn't they believe this? Who doesn't? Binary gender bias couldn't be any more pervasive; everybody on this planet learns that gender is either male or female. Nobody who lives to adulthood escapes contact with a Transsexual person, but society stubbornly behaves as if they don't exist! With no validation from the world they live in, Transfolk come to believe that they shouldn't exist, at least not in the body they were born with.

From the cradle to the grave, Transsexual individuals are never fully affirmed. Initially, their gender identities are rejected by the people around them. Later, many reject their own biology, and the medical profession concurs. They're diagnosed with "gender dysphoria" and set on a course ending in so-called gender reassignment. But there's no need to force Transfolk to go under the knife; they've been so deeply indoctrinated by society's transphobic messages, most of them couldn't be more willing. Biological "legitimacy" has become an obsession for them.

They consider themselves "disordered" until they can "transition surgically." And what if they don't have the money to pay for the surgery (which ain't cheap)? Tough t*tty! Then they're "trapped" for the rest of their lives in a sex and gender Twilight Zone. That is, if they don't resort to drastic measures which can result in injury or death. Excuse me for asking, but has anybody considered the possibility that it's our thinking about Transsexual bodies that's disordered, and not the bodies themselves?

The only Twilight Zone that Transfolk live in is a society that despises the way they challenge conventional concepts of gender. The trap that encloses them is one of collective ignorance! What is natural and good (male and female blended into one body) the modern world has portrayed as unnatural and bad, so bad that it's pathologized. When the Lord has gifted humankind with a trio of genders, why do we insult Her generosity and pretend to only possess a pair?

The scientific mind in all its broadness is somehow too narrow to conceive of a woman with male anatomy, or vice versa; but if God can conceive it, we can believe it! Gender identity needs no medical component in order to be valid. It isn't necessary for Transfolk to undergo "sexual reassignment". It's a futile endeavor, anyway! The gender you have at birth (male, female or transgender) is the gender you will always have, cosmetic procedures notwithstanding. What's necessary is for Transsexual men and women to feel free to express gender identity as they see fit. If that expression involves extensive surgery, so be it; but that doesn't make blended gender an affliction! Transsexual anatomy is no more of a deformity than large noses or small breasts or dark skin is.

There's nothing about a Transgender body that needs to be fixed!

God knew what She was doing when She fashioned little girls with penises and little boys with vaginas. God loves the Transgender body! It must be very much like Her own. When the Lord shares Her mirror image with a segment of humanity, you don't call that a mistake. You call that a blessing. May ancient civilizations did. Most Native American nations did.

As I've said before, the Gender Rights movement today is stuck where the Gay Rights movement was in the 1950s, the era of the Mattachine Society. Back then, nearly all LesBiGay people believed they were sick (and that's the reason they labeled themselves "queer"). They let themselves be committed to mental wards. Mattachine members flocked to lectures by experts on "sexual inversion." They sought "cures" by means of psychotherapy, drug therapy, and aversion therapy. Some were even castrated, subjected to electro-shock therapy, or forced to undergo lobotomies!

Radical as these forms of "treatment" were, they produced a far less convincing result than "sexual reassignment" surgery does. Essentially, though, the results were the same: People got changed in only the most superficial of ways. They remained who and what they were born to be: People of blended gender.

Over time, LeBiGay folk began to accept the permanence of their so-called medical condition. Some had suspected all along that choosing same gender mates wasn't abnormal for certain people; they'd just never had that knowledge affirmed by society. One day, they realized they didn't need anybody's validation but their own! That's when they rose above the mythology that Gay or bisexual identity was a disorder (although the proliferation of "ex-Gay" ministries shows that we've still got some rising left to do).

It was scary for these early activists to challenge the institutions that had pathologized same gender love. It took an awful lot of guts to claim that "Gay is good" when nobody else thought so. It took even more guts to believe it! Frankly, some Gay people weren't up to the challenge. However, Frank Kameny, Barbara Gittings, Kay Lahusen and several others did find the courage to speak their truth to power.

Thank God for them! They dared to say out loud that same gender love wasn't a sickness, and they forced the medical establishment to admit it. (You can listen to the fascinating story of how they did it by visiting the archives of PRI's popular radio show "This American Life" and downloading the January 2002 episode called Eighty One Words: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/204/81-Words)

They dialed back anti-Gay oppression, gave the LesBiGay populace a much-needed infusion of self-esteem, and paved a path to the more tolerant America we live in today. Society isn't half as welcoming of us as it should be, it's true; but putting up with 21st century inequality beats the Hell out of having your brain carved up like a holiday turkey!

What Gay Rights crusaders did for the perception of homosexuality Gender Rights activists must do for the Transgender body. They must de-pathologize it! The pre-operative Transwoman must have the courage to strip herself naked before a full-length mirror, look at herself without shame and say: "I am a woman, and I am beautiful. Women can and do look like me." The pre-operative Transman must have the courage to do the same thing and say: "I am a man. The world tells me a man can't have a body like mine. The world is full of sh*t!"

It's hardly enough to speak this truth, though. There must be conviction behind the words. That will take some time to develop.

I wish there was a way to instantly validate the identities of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transsexual people all over the world. I want their suffering to end right now. How I'd love to haul off and slap some sense into the hard heads of the binary gender cabal: The clergy, the legislators, the judges, the educators, the doctors! I'd wake them up! I'd shake them up! I'd make them acknowledge the existence of what they've denied for so long: The blended gender of the God many of them claim to worship. The Transgender ancestor from whom separate male and female gender surely evolved from!

There's a little bit of Gore Vidal in me: I long to pull down the panties of oppression and fling those dirty drawers in the faces of transphobic leaders! Leaders like Pope Joseph Ratzinger, who tells lay Catholics that Transgender life upsets the balance of nature:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article5387858.ece

Believe me, I wouldn't hesitate to give Ratzi a Myra Breckinridge moment to remember! Transgender activists need to feel that kind of outrage, too. They must compel the Straight world to broaden its official definitions of male and female, stretch them wide until there's enough room for human gender in all its expressions. That's the only treatment for "gender dysphoria" that will ever be 100% effective.


On another site, Don Charles posted the above article and received significant condemnation by some transgender persons who said that he didn't really understand the struggles that they had, and that he didn't understand that there was a definite need to reconcile their bodies with their gender identities.

The following is Don Charles' trenchant comment to all those who feel that being transgender is in any way "abnormal," "an affliction," "a mistake," or any other label that seeks to conform to, and validate, the dominant society's erroneously imposed norms regarding gender:

I'm Not Buying What You're Selling . . .
. . . this argument that since I'm not Transsexual, I have no insight into Transsexual suffering. Nor will I fall for the old ploy of twisting what I wrote out of context (or lying about it outright). I've neither told you who you are, nor have I told you what to do. Even if I had, what influence do I have over you? Absolutely none. I've simply expressed my opinions. I've tried to envision a world with room in it for LGBT folk to exist as God made them, free of stigma. You obviously want to silence my kind of expression. You will not succeed!

The purpose of this post was to challenge people, all people, regardless of gender, to think about the Transgender body in a new way. And I'm not the only one to ever suggest that the current thinking is flawed; not all Transpersons agree with the comments you've posted here. Contrary opinions can be found online, if you've got the courage to seek them out. You say you're offended? Well, I'm thoroughly disgusted by your binary gender bias, thinly veiled in haughty outrage and condescension. Who do you think you're fooling? I see right through your nasty attitudes. It's easy to detect what lies behind them: Internalized shame! Now, there's an affliction that really runs rampant up in here!

You should be ashamed of yourselves, every one of you. Don't future generations deserve to suffer less than you have? Your pitiable victim mentality ensures that Transfolk will continue to be viewed as misfits, both by society and themselves. Lordy mercy, the oppressor has certainly trained you well! When someone tells the truth about you, that you're natural and normal and good and beautiful, you swarm to the attack like pit bulls foaming at the mouth! Such obedient slaves! You deserve an extra helping of raw chit'lins and cold cornbread tonight!

I'm not taking back any of what I wrote. You don't have to read my diaries if you can't handle what I have to say, but I dare you to read them! Dare to stand outside your comfort zone. The truth isn't always easy to hear, but only the truth can set us free. I'll be damned if I perpetuate a status quo that stigmatizes Transgender identity and exploits the vulnerabilities of blended gender human beings! You can be willing handmaidens for the forces of Transphobia if you like! And if doing the work of the Devil doesn't weigh on your consciences, then may God have mercy on your souls.


As I wrote to Don Charles regarding his response to those critics: A great response to these "victims" of their own and society's making! You affirm them, and they condemn you! "No good deed ever goes unpunished!" You speak the truth and they love the lies that consign them to a netherworld of suffering!
Share |

4 comments:

DON CHARLES aka "STUFFED ANIMAL" said...

Jerry,

I'm dreaming of an inclusive, enlightened world. They prefer the nightmare to the dream! What's makes their negative reaction to my essay so out of proportion is the fact that I never condemned anybody's choices. I never said Transfolk shouldn't seek surgical procedures, I merely questioned the need for them.

I understand that many blended gender people are convinced that surgery is the only course of action that will bring them inner peace. What I don't understand is the need to believe every blended gender person feels the same way, and the impulse to suppress the speech of anybody who views transsexuality in a different way. It speaks to a profound insecurity that "gender reassignment" will not heal.

When I suggested that Transsexual men and women affirm themselves by looking in a mirror, it wasn't to prevent them from pursuing so-called gender reassignment afterwards. I'm sure some would. I was simply encouraging them not to hate the bodies they were born into, because there's no valid reason why they should! Scalpels and injections and pills can change a person physically, but not spiritually. Nobody who's insecure in his gender prior to "reassignment", will be any less insecure afterward. That's the truth, regardless of how many rosy post-op scenarios Transfolk may spin for pollsters!

At least Renee Richards, the world's oldest living Transperson, has the courage to be honest. She has stated for the record that surgery didn't solve all of her problems. The problems Transfolk face will never be solved until surgery is performed on the society that resents their existence!

Jerry Maneker said...

Thanks Don Charles. So many people buy into the social constraints and societal expectations that exist that it affects both their self-perceptions as well as their often tenacious belief that they, themselves, rather than those social constraints and societal expectations, are the root cause of much of their suffering.

When I preface my blog with my mantra: "Never let other people define your reality or put you into bondage to their ways of thinking," it is directed to all of us: Gay, Transgender, Bisexual, and Straight.

No one who reads your article can come away thinking that you are telling transgender people what to do, or in any way demeaning them.

You are affirming them, and there are so many who buy into the fiction that they are not "normal." And that is a crying shame! Best wishes, Jerry.

genevieve said...

Don Charles, that idea is being pushed even in medical circles. Most transsexuals do not have the surgery. I'm transgender and have never had the desire for the surgery or hormones.

Another point is I believe that post surgery therapy is needed because, naturally, there will be a letdown when the surgery is concluded.

DON CHARLES aka "STUFFED ANIMAL" said...

Genevieve,

You probably already know about the Transgender people of India, the hijras? Traditionally, they've sought castration, but today many feel it is barbaric and choose to leave their Transsexual bodies intact. They are very progressive and courageous individuals, and so are you.