the aeaea manifesto

Last few days have had so much energy eaten by discourse that I need to put my thoughts down, I have work to do and a life to live. This may not be eloquent or useful, but will summarize my responses to two recent papers; one of which I read in detail; both of which end up screenshotted all across trans twitter and so keep reactivating me. For some reason in combination I end up in apathetic dysphoria freeze/spirals like I have only very rarely done post-transition, and it has been relevant to understand why.

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First I recently wrote of: literature review (Gliske, 2019) of brain scan studies identifying dysphoria correlates, only new thing being author postulates these are causes not symptoms and that direct modulation may (some day) alter them, reducing dysphoria. Such conversion therapy need not hinge on the flawed theory of the author, but is a more general philosophical question now gradually actualized – we are developing both invasive and non-invasive brain impact methods (transcranial magnetism, electrodes…) and it does not seem entirely unreasonable it will become possible with a willing subject to combine with methods like in EMDR – activate certain pathways and selectively dampen/erase them over and over, as a way to alter habitual reactions or the response to thoughts and memories.

Any such method will of course be highly variable in efficacy, take many years to get past initial horrorshow stage, and with side effects. The closest I can see possible in the case of dysphoria is something like an augmented PTSD or phobia treatment, where eventually one feels just a dull, neutral ache which activates no panic. It is the modern version of “learn to endure it”. There exists trans people who try now doing the latter; many of whom are in impossible situations where they feel they can never become cis passing, never accepted, etc; those would probably – will probably – become the test subjects. Some will consider themselves successfully “cured”, others will not. For those, I suppose I do not begrudge them whatever they do, I am simply sad for them and angry for a world where puberty made so much so difficult for some of us.

Others – me, and perhaps most of us – would neither accept the perfect “become cis of your AGAB” magic pill or the above laser-guided exposure therapy “learn to endure it” treatments. We want to be what and who we are, we just want smoother and more effective transition. It is the potential consequences for us that frighten me. Essentially, when there has emerged – and I can’t really afford to just blanket say it cannot – some sort of trial therapy like the above, with a handful of detransitioners touted as “successes” because they no longer have debilitating dysphoria manifestations, then there will begin to be voices saying that we already then have that sort of conversion therapy as an alternative. Those voices will be heard by conservatives and by health insurance systems. If it is cheaper to make us less depressed and suicidal by conversion therapy, than to let us transition socially and medically, they may not deny us the latter legally, but would have a much easier time denying us support (social and insurance-wise) in pursuing it. What we suffered from being read and understood wrong, and in the wrong kind of bodies, would be considered our own faults, since we did not choose to have our painful, impossible wish lobotomized away.

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Here then the second paper (Byrne, 2019). I had not planned to read it, but sitting down now to collect my thoughts I did. I technically have more formal training in philosophy than in neuroscience but am more outside this field, so perhaps I miss out on sensible reading aspects someone better anchored would – somehow I doubt that. Byrne is head of philosophy and linguistics at MIT, and in this his first paper on sex and gender he took help by noted anti-trans voices including Blanchard, Stock and also anti-trans trans people like Andrea Long Chu and Debbie Hayton. From the start I think there is a fundamental disconnect here between Byrne’s views and mine, as he believes words have some sort of meaning which exists beyond the pattern of their use, interpreted most generally. This is where perhaps actual trained philosophers could tell me that this in fact is a widely accepted view, though it still is not mine – I see words and concepts as patterns of human perception, action, emotion, position and thinking, with anything than the full set of all human thought at any moment being a symbolic (statistical) simplification, and with statistical and imperfect correspondence to anything outside subjectivity. Never mind that though.

Byrne wants to defend the concept that “woman” should mean “adult human female”, and that it explicitly refers to something biological, not something social. Broadly speaking he lists various ways in which people broadly use the concept and speak and think about womanhood to mean, usually, just that, and he paints this idea as something persecuted and controversial among philosophers but not among sensible ordinary people. The text is rambling, tone widely shifting, type and extent of reasoning fluctuating and he makes some casually thrown in problematic assertions, chief among them, from some few anecdotes, that third gender people across the world really mostly have been femme gay men (my intuition being: many many people throughout history, if given the option to transition legally and medically, would have; many ambiguous states were second best options, just like mine was, but of course not all). He also randomly makes up an intersex condition instead of using the perfectly applicable CAIS XY one, then goes on to say that intersex women neither are women or female, but that they should be called that, and treated as such, out of kindness – second class womanhood, and very jarring against the rest of the text which highly praises some sort of honesty to imagined concepts; if one’s concepts means one should not speak and act according to them, then are they really sensible concepts to hold? He also willfully ignores how “cis woman” or “birth-assigned woman” is perfectly serviceable for addressing people where that holds.

All in all the argumentation is thin, repetitive and there is little to summarize beyond, “based on various assumptions, this is how we use this term, or ought to use it”. Instead I best summarize my impressions by my counter position. This is that, as noted, words and concepts are their usage, therefore sometimes very fuzzy. Words like woman (girl, etc.) have cultural and contextual meaning that go far beyond the biological; this ambiguity does not cause us any problems in practice, we understand to use them in this way and are able to give them specifying qualifiers when we have to. Many important usages of the term has nothing to do with biology and everything with social positions; in many cases such usage overlays partly with a usage that references biology. Again, this is not in practice confusing. We are able to communicate this just fine. So saying the concept is solely biological is not true, because only some forms of it is.

That said, I have no issue at all with those forms of the womanhood concept referencing “adult female humans” a lot of the time they are used. This is because I do not use the term “female” in the same way that Byrne does. First, that term too has the same multiplicity of effective meanings as do “woman”; we use it also to reference social positions and symbols a lot of the time, not merely biological. Here I know there is disconnect – my use of the word is spreading but not as accepted yet. More so still within the areas that this discourse actually is about, namely the status of trans and intersex persons. My concept and linguistic use of “female” in the biological sense applies to any person that identifies as such. I have written of it elsewhere but will briefly reiterate this idea.

Essentially, as a biologist, I reject the unqualified use of sex/male/female as biological terms. There are any number of sexed properties – within anatomy, endocrinology, reproductive lineage tracking, genetics, gene expression, and for animals – human ones also, perhaps – in behaviour. These are not discrete; we can define an infinite number of ways of tracking aspects of the same concept, so one could speak of as many separate but correlated sex characteristic continua as one wants. Usually but not always they are bimodal but not separable. I believe that some philosophers apply a “cluster definition” to define “male” and “female sex” out of this, but in the end, as for any other concept in biology, we need to make definitions when we establish terms which are not compelled from the data, but are choices we make – this is where also STEM concepts become social constructs. We cannot take an average of an infinite number of dimensions, so there is not a single obvious way to choose where in this space to put a boundary between “male” and “female sex”.

Much easier in each subcategory. My body has largely female endocrinology, for example, no real reproductive capacity any longer, largely male karyotype, intermediate anatomy of a lot of tissues. And in that aspect of neurology and behaviour which is also part of my biology, I declare myself “female”. When trying to decide then on that short hand which is (unqualified) sex, or biological sex, I have the following concept, and it is one I try to propagate to others, and which I want eventually also to propagate in research literature: default to anatomy, gonads and karyotype in that order, but if the person themselves opts out of either maleness or femaleness, or opts into either femaleness or maleness, through honest self-declaration, then consider that the determining factor.

This does mean that for some person like mitochondrial Eve, whom Byrne references and say we know without need for qualification she is female and a woman, I will believe her female since I know she had female gonads; I do not know but have no reason to believe she would have opted out; since I know only she is likely female, I will consider her likely a woman, and use she/her pronouns to describe her until I know better. Byrne references some newborn child with XX karyotype and a vagina; here again I will consider them likely female but I am not sure it is a good idea to speak of them as she, the girl, until they tell me so – here, in fact, would be somewhere we could shift the Overton window leftwards, a currently unacceptable proposal which would still be well motivated – consider no child a boy or a girl until they decide they are, do not speak of them as such, let their initial unchosen names be neutral. This is a position I will not fight for right now but that I favor in principle as a way to not simply let the bigots be the ones expanding the space of what is no longer too outlandish, it is sensible but not yet sellable.

For most people, they will not consciously self-identify as male or female, men or women, but they will be fine with the labels following from above scheme of disambiguation – anatomy, gonads, karyotype – and I will reference them as such unless I hear otherwise, or I have reason to believe perhaps they might in their heart of hearts be inclined to opt in or opt out of the default definition. This is seldom complicated. In everyday situations I don’t ask the receptionist their pronouns before speaking with them; I use names and other social cues to guess until I learn otherwise, but when I learn otherwise, I make damn sure to remember it.

For trans people (I won’t speak for intersex people here and now), we clearly made our choice: either to opt out of our AGAB, opt into our non-AGAB, or both. This already defines our (unqualified and biological) sex, even before we undergo any interventions (and not all of us do). We also occupy social spaces of man/womanhood, girl/boyhood. But beyond this, medical transition alters some of our sexed properties, as I outlined by example for myself above. When I finally have surgery, I will no longer be gonadally male, and yet another few percent of my tissues and structures will be anatomically female. With more years of hormone therapy, more of my gene expression patterns will change, and I will become slightly more physiologically female. We don’t know exactly what does and does not change. Some of my future research aims to test this. Not least in part because I can then determine better what technologies for transition we currently lack.

So in summary, I and my trans sisters are adult human females unless you specify, for example, karyotypic adult human females. I suppose Byrne can call me a karyotypic man if he wishes, and I would acknowledge this, but in the unqualified sense I am simply a woman. The whole kerfluffle of defending “adult human female” is irrelevant for these issues since we should problematize the concept of “female” itself including from a biological standpoint. Which is not the same as denying biology or erasing the needs of cis females. That research I mentioned? The other reason I want to do this is because I want to understand how hormonal and other factors make bodies sick and healthy in different ways in men and women (using here, as usually, the terms as statistic entities, and statements about them being statistical rather than essential in nature), so that the issues cis women have faced with inadequate medication and health advice, with increased mortality as a result, will be addressed. This is the opposite of either ignoring or failing to act on inequities resulting from biology.

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(The above should also make clear something else I have alluded to. I do not see sex and gender as fully separate things. I see both as socially constructed. I see this social construction as being informed by biology, including the biology of brain and behaviour. I do not consider a sex/gender distinction particularly politically useful, and I see conceding “sex” as something immutable and binary and obvious as a dangerous mistake when made by trans activists.)

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So then finally, back to where I was eventually heading, why does the combined discourse of Gliske and Byrne frighten me so? Not only on the practical level (access to transition healthcare), but on an existential level? It is because for me, core to my identity as a (trans) woman is that I need for others to see me as one. When they divide the world into men and women, I need for them to group me with the women (if no division is made, all fine!). I need for this to be heartfelt and honest, for them to genuinely apply any sex- and gender-differential emotion or action or phrasing to me exactly as they would to any cis woman. I will never perfectly have this, of course. And in the end, it is my own view of myself that matters most, but that view is informed by those around me. If society as a whole decides on a conceptualization of femaleness and of womanhood which I am excluded from, then I cannot feel at home.

I feel we have made very significant headway (but also some of it was always there – defining these terms from karyotype is a 20th century thing, definitions before that were likely anatomical but may have had strong social components too, especially in third gender cases) in propagating definitions that include trans people. “Trans women are women, trans men are men, non-binary people are both or neither as they say they are” is widespread enough to positively surprise me. Responses to Gliske (not so much to Byrne) from within his own scientific community echoes this already. We have made strides in visibility and recognition.

Trans-exclusive thinkers (feminist and otherwise) argue that changing definitions in this way comes at a cost. They reference (minuscule, bogeyman, but there you go) risks of abusers gaming the system to harm cis women, loss of sex-specific statistical knowledge (though at worst that is a 2-3% change in any measurement because we are very few), and the discomfort of cis women who have been traumatized by people who look like men and no longer feel safe with them around. Byrne, I am sure, along with others like him would complain there is a lack of simple elegance in my definition above, compared to something as simple as “both XX karyotype and a vagina”, and would argue this lack of elegance also is a cost, in a thought economy sense. Hilary Clinton feels it is awkward to have to expand her view of what womanhood can mean, and other old-school feminists feel their suffering under patriarchy is somehow not acknowledged as strongly if there are women who have not suffered all of it. Not a huge cost, any of this, but a small cost at least.

It is easy to show that what trans people experience under dysphoria – evidenced in our suicide attempt rate to date – is a much vaster cost than any of those minor encumbrances. It also outweighs easily – for many of us – the costs that come from the imperfections of current transition – being a target, as a non-passing trans person in a cisnormative patriarchal world, medical side effects, imperfect surgical options, generally loss of fertility along most paths. It is still easy to show that the scenario where we do transition, and where other people alter their definitions of men and women, male and female, so as to correctly include us, thereby removing main triggers of our dysphoria, is the one of most total utility and happiness. Cis people can suck up the inelegance of definition, the awkwardness of language, the slight fuzziness of statistics and the novelty of tall women washing their hands in a public restroom, because at least it means fewer trans people live in total despair.

But if something like what Gliske surely aims for becomes practice, and becomes widely believed to be an option for us to reduce symptoms of dysphoria? Would then more people side with Byrne, considering the encumbrances I mentioned more important than the remaining non-dysphoric reasons we have to transition? Fundamentally, is my wish to be recognized as a woman, in the absence of a clinical distress phenotype, still important enough to outweigh those encumbrances?

This is what I have been so distressed about. I fear it might not. I fear that my agency and wish will be considered secondary to minor comfort factors of cis people, and so that fewer people would see me as a woman, treat me as a woman, talk of me as a woman, include me as a woman.

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The future is ahead of us. We cannot know where it will go. I will hope that allies and friends and family will see me and my kin as what we are regardless of what symptom treatment options will emerge, and that together we will keep the meme of my more inclusive definitions of male and female, of sex and gender, active in at least the societies where I can live. Perhaps we will lose some parts of the world, like there are parts we have yet to gain. There are countries I cannot visit. There may emerge more. I particularly worry about the US and UK, though I also frequently am hopeful.

Throughout these worries I thought of a term for that space where I am acknowledged as who I claim to be. Whether this is only my own immediate sphere of myself, that of my kin, friends, family, colleagues, city, country, expanding forwards, this space is Aeaea. This space is the sanctuary I may inhabit because it, unlike what is outside, is not forbidden to me while I remain myself. No matter who denounces us, Aeaea remains, and is as large as we make it. Here we are welcome, here we are safe.

quack tales

I usually don’t comment publically on new papers outside my main field but have to in this case. This is because Gliske (2019): “A new theory of gender dysphoria incorporating the distress, social behavioral, and body-ownership networks” manages to combine a lot of useful literature (I have to reread it in preparation for future planned work) and make the 180 degree wrong conclusion, in a way clearly motivated by a desire of the author for there not to be trans people.

In absolute brevity this is a literature review summarizing how sparse imaging data indicates trans people are atypical with regards to brain networks linked to the main components of clinical dysphoria: 1) distress, 2) (reduced) sense of body ownership, and 3) perception/awareness of socially gendered behaviour. The author’s hypothesis is that this atypicality causes dysphoria, and consequently suggests treating the brain networks directly could “cure” it, going so far as to urge for ceasing to carry out currently accepted standard affirming care.

The author acknowledges as possible, but never engages with, the far more immediate interpretation that a sense of gender incongruency causes 1) distress, 2) (reduced) sense of body ownership, and 3) (intense) perception/awareness of socially gendered behaviour, reflected over a lifetime in these networks. The author even cites how treatment, including hormone treatment, both alleviates these symptoms and reduces (to the extent it is studied) the signal from these networks. If they were causal, why would transitioning reduce these symptoms? Why would they not remain equally in play with instead good congruence with the target gender?

His (single author, who here can be assumed to be a cis man) only real response to this is the suggestion that both transfeminine and transmasculine HRT increases effective estrogen impact on the brain, and that it simply is that estrogen “cures” this network damage, whether supplied in circulation (in trans women) or through aromatization (in trans men). But if the circulating levels trans women on HRT receive are sufficient to do so, then why would not the same levels do so in pre-HRT trans men? One can construct scenarios but all in all this seems highly to overcomplicate.

The author even gets close to pet theories of mine that both gender and orientation are keyed off assessment of others as “same” vs “different”, but goes off into a speculative Blanchardian rant rather than to explore how own-body-as-“different” would make ample sense as a source of the brain signatures he has just summarized. Discussion on vasopressin receptors as underlying this “same” vs “different” response in sexual orientation is interesting and I must follow that literaure more, but I don’t think it will lead near the conclusions the author wants to draw.

Again, he is arguing to “fix the brain of trans people” and to stop promoting gender affirming care. He does this based a summary of what is known of the neural correlates of dysphoria, but clings to an interpretation of those correlates as causes rather than effects. This is contrasted against a strawman of “male/female brain” theory, with ideas of a subtler network for gender identity glossed over – but if we wanted to find something like that, we should look at that which determines whether a male/female body/person is interpreted as same/different than oneself, which would not be there on the level of large structures, but on connections between other parts which might otherwise look identical between men and women because they are equally used in both, only in different direction.

I am not opposed to studies into this field at all. This paper was useful to me in terms of sources also. But a quack summarizing literature, deciding symptoms must be causes, then advocating and hoping for medical conversion therapy because he does not want there to be people transitioning, is not good science at all.

prime

This will be even less responsible than usual, more disjointed. There just are so many various things and I need venting. Twitter would work but getting now cross-linked with people reading that. Usually a good thing.

Intensive. Submitting two papers this week, two “as soon as possible”. 19 papers published since early 2018. Lots of grant funding (I cannot use it myself but I can use it to hire minions). Invited talks. May end up being selected as a representative towards funding bodies by my institute and by one of our consortia. As a junior PI, openly and non-passingly trans, with purple hair and witchy styles and not speaking the local language. I I pull all of this off it will be magical and I will gain strength from it.

Today is all meetings – first two, other people were no-shows. Now having coffee and breakfast before voice therapy appointment, thereafter another meeting, then another, and need at some point to drop by the office to collect my post. In my apartment is building dust and no hot water, but I met the builders and maybe they fix the latter. They know me well now as the crazy girl who still lives in the building as they repair. I hope they see me as a girl, at least. I should try to do laundry before flying off again tomorrow. Last few days spent in meetings in other locations. Tomorrow random teleconference, because perhaps I can help with yet another Cell revision and maybe earn an authorship that way.

Friday Copenhagen, meeting random frenemies and collaborators, then an old friend. Who suggested we spend a weekend there together. Whom I had a crush on once. I think. I don’t think he is making any moves on me. If he did, I would… probably respond. But mostly I think we will talk medicine and fractals and altruism and stuff like that. Which will be great.

Needing to edit the ischaemic heart disease MS this evening to make it saner, the other authors need my input. And sanity check of our own MS submitted today. My students make me so proud in this, because they really did deliver, better than I had expected. I feel warm pride and appreciation for them, want to make sure they all benefit also. And I need to get back on track with the first Cell revision (is it still Cell though? might be EHJ now?), and the revision about the mutant cyborg mice. All this-week urgent. Almost. And get on top of what I should do to help with the institute funding review. And make slides for Friday in Copenhagen. And not lose track of the creation of a data repository, need to somehow work out how to do that, if they give me an outwards-facing web server. Which I most definitely will name after a Sumerian deity.

And at some point, need to sleep. And start fasting again. I am growing heavier and I hate this overweight with all my heart. And get my boots cleaned somehow. And resole my other shoes, and look if the boot model I saw a while back actually exist in Big Foot Girl sizes somewhere. And get a second purse to put small change in so I can easily just give that to beggars instead of it accumulating.

Aside from all the people I long since should write back to, there is at least three. With one, there is clearly interest in me, and who knows how I will respond? I fear I will not be able to, and disappoint. But I also do want it. I think. With another, I am surprised to find myself so strongly drawn, in the absence of any good ways to followup. With one, just glad to be in touch, and perhaps now after all my crises lately I will be able to better just witness. There is another where I am not really sure what to do. I feel she might respond, but that I should not risk hurting her if I am the least bit unsure. Perhaps I should only move with people that I feel really strongly for, but there are also those people where whatever can be there is the right thing. And ultimately, despite all hopes and postures, and despite bonds I do have, there is still unfulfilled loneliness in me.

Three weekends ago, did chemicals with a maybe-crush in the toilet stalls of KitKat, it helped me ride out her relative non-interest at this point, I need to remember that feeling of radical acceptance so I can return to it whenever rejection makes me sad. Radical acceptance is also the name of the game of this Tolle philosopher two friends want me to read, alongside that of the anxiety self-help book I am reading. Two weekends ago, almost wept at the dancefloor until some strange man started grinding. I accepted. His pants were wet to the extent I think he already must have come once. His kisses were uncomfortably stubbly and crude, he ignored my breasts, we had no language in common. I followed him to the club bathroom stall, needed to use some force to have him understand I would not blow him (which I knew only when the chance was, literally, in my face). Gave him a very unsatisfying handjob, first time I do, mostly because I felt I needed to give him something he wanted or it would get awkward. Felt edifying and perhaps validating, but in the also mostly lonely.

Need to get apartment in order for a good reason too. One beloved person visits soon for the first time ever in Babylon. And another will visit soon thereafter, and I have hopes of being in a calmer state then and just sharing that time with them, seeing who I am when I am not haunted and when I am not lonely. I realize more and more strongly that if I could only be less stressed, and more rested, I could somehow once again do those things I could in the past – create, describe. Have ideas. I will claim it back, and share that time with my loved ones, and see what experiences we make. Whether I succeed or not, this I do much look forward to.

Oh and also, I am beginning to seriously worry if a job applicant is stalking me. I understand enthusiasm but there is something over it that somehow makes me more concerned than I otherwise would. Will see where it goes. Maybe it is all good.

So much at once. I feel so tired. I must get through this. I will. It will be good. One step at a time. Staying in the present. Remembering whenever I can to stay proud, and to act so I can stay proud.

Continuing forward.

klab

I had not planned to write here, in fact have done so not as much lately, compared to previously and how much shorter stuff goes in my twitter. On a train, desperately needing to work, but such twitter again delivers me TERF content and temporarily I am back done in that paralyzing dark fear where my brain freezes up and nothing has meaning, my old dysphoria. I feel a desperate need to address and counter the positions that scare me because they would make me something I cannot relate to.

Well, I will try to clear out my mind quickly now so I can continue to where I must be.

There was the claim that there are no positions that are not essentialist because every definition must include criteria. But criteria need not be simple and can depend on a definer. There are definitions of sex that are not essentialist, that is, which can involve choice and decision making, those definitions are no less definitions for that.

There was the claim that biology has an easy time defining sex, but here again I disagree, there are many regards in which we talk of someone as sexed, it makes sense to specify which we talk of. The general unspecified term is fully mixed up with the complex social recognition of sex. While one could identify any number of specific and consistent definitions one can make, each will mismatch everyday use for at least some people. They will also cause unhappiness. Thus we do better in shifting that term around, making it reference the construct. And referencing the construct, which is complex, does not mean we cannot make simple definitions for the properties, or that the complex referencing of the construct is not worth it – that a concept requires more complexity, or even that we choose go give it such, does not make it invalid.

There was the claim that it is such a definition of sex, nothing else, that explains oppressions. On one hand clearly false – sexists do not ask for karytoypes. Some probably would if they could, but others would not. Some aspects come from concrete ability to be pregnant, menstruate, not great comparative upper body strength. But much more those things act through their recognition, which can be incorrect and is based on what is seen indirectly, guessed, associated. And ultimately this changes nothing, I need to be a woman, not to embody every oppression women have experienced.

There was the claim that we require a clear sex based definition to fight gendered oppressions. This at least is clearly not the case.

There was additionally claims that modifying language and concepts to allow for transgender recognition would require acknowledging transracial identities, and this could extend further into plural systems, otherkin and so on. And it is true that we can make such definitions. By and large they can become problematic only if demographic is used as a need proxy for distributing limited equalizing resources. But in the transgender situation, such resources generally either are equally needed, or not that scarce. And it can be solved by making more fine-grained need calculations, and we already accept some resources are given to those who individually do not strictly need them. Had there actually been people with similar identity needs as per gender in these other demographics, then the same would apply there, but it is not really the case either. So in theory it could be a reality, but in practice is not, and the posed issue of scarcity can be minimized and does not cost so much that our survival is not worth it.

In the end, we can and need to provide another definition, the way we do. It makes some things more complicated. It harms no liberation efforts. It will reflect how more and more of us see matters.

And ultimately, my own sexing and gendering of myself – my own use of the terms – is what matters, the disagreement of others in terms of language use choice only matters indirectly. It matters because this is how much it matters to me, how messed up I am otherwise. Changing terms and labels and perceptions. Changing bodies too. These are necessary so I can see myself as a person who can be alive. Next to that need, disagreement of others matters less, simplicity of definitions matters not, extent of shared oppressions matters not. It is what I need, so I seek support from it in the actions of the world, which through what they are can make such support real by definition. It harms no struggle. It betrays no principle of needing essences. It does not for its overarching purpose require definitions to be simple.

The fact that I need it this much, and that it does no damage, is good reason to let definition be this complex and to shift definitions of others as we can, but mostly it justifies my own view and definition. I need to make my definition such, and likewise shift my body as much as I can. I would need this even if completely alone in this effort, it would still be necessary for me. And I would still be able to work with that.

raki

A serious problem is getting to be how trans people I follow on twitter shares anti-trans stuff so often, even if only to engage with it. If the moment is wrong, it can mess me up. This moment was wrong, so to clear my head, I will put my thoughts down on post like this.

So, someone made three entangled problematic claims. First, that transition like RPGs is some sort of generalized escape, wanting to be any sufficiently dissiminal not-self rather than to be something specific, not defined by the negative. Second, that transition is a drug-like chase after novelty or identity, to feel some sort of high. And third, that no other group experiences such suffering from being denied identity as trans people do from misgendering, so something must be wrong with us.

For the third, this is not a good comparison – other groups having their identity denied rather usually does not mean such a drastic situation. Usually the whole world and your body does not claim you are not who you think. Exceptions may well exist in case of marginalized/invisibilized identities of different kinds. But more correctly is to compare to stereotype threat – if all the world tells us we are a certain way because we are female, black etc., and those stereotypes are reminded about strongly in an environment where we thought we would not be seen so, that produces a credible threat not to the label but the content of our identities (as belonging to those demographics without embodying the stereotypes). I think this is comparable. I recall also how mindblowingly terrible it was when I considered “genius” part of my identity and I got indications I was not. Plus how the whole crisis of masculinity thing can be seen as a need for white straight cis men to embody what they perceive as positive properties of their demographic. All in all, is sensible in context we are sensitive, others would be from same starting point.

For the second, I worried because of course it has been amazingly invigorating to transition; I can turn to that struggle and those achievements to draw energy, and I crave stories of and kinship with other trans people. There is something performative there. It can feel exhilarating. But it is not wholly performative, and the same goes for so many other human pursuits – careers, parenthood, styles, changes of life path, unity with people one shares experience with. Humans build euphoria around any struggle, and seek challenges so we can overcome them. But that does not mean that those pursuits are not also generally things we want for our own sake, not just as challenges or for novelty; the goals themselves are desired and fought for. I know there is such a dimension of euphoria and sense of meaning and identity there, but there will be one around all sorts of things and pursuits, for everyone. I watched out for this as I started out questioning, spent time trying to rule out I was actually wanting to transition as a means to an end like this, and I really don’t think I was, I feel I would have needed it anyway and the euphoria is rather something I get as a bonus, and as a way to cope with the concomitant challenges. Of course those things – feeling I do something brave which makes me like unto my trans kin – makes me happy and I draw strength from it, and indulges in it, but the fact that I want this particular form of identity, not another, still matters, still is a very honest wish. Even in the absence of all the trans coolness, I would be who I otherwise am.

For the first, I never wanted to be someone other than me in sense of different. I wanted always to be the perfect me – just like me, but without any grounds for resonable doubt on being who I want to be, need to be, as well as to be female. This is escape into something more so than away from something. Statistically compared to my cis RPG people who pleyed characters of their assigned gender more often than not, it was rare I played mine. So saying I just want to be another is not correct.

Thus all in all, while of course identity building and performance are there, I think they always are and that this is not a counterargument. When I watch a while TV show just because a character may be read as trans by fans, that may guide me to it but it is not only a means to an end, rather it is all of these things. I disagree I and my kin are so much more sensitive, in context, and my escapism, to the extent it is there, also holds for things I actively want to be.

And of course, beyond any dysphoria or novelty or wish to feel I am going somewhere (whether or not for something I also intrinsically want), I transitioned to escape dysphoria. So much of what was there is gone now – because I’ve transitioned – that it is only rare threats like this that brings it back. The fact that it can be activated like so reveals it to be something I certainly feel, and transition as something I need in order not to feel it. That this now becomes so important is a clear indicator of how important it is for me not to feel like I somehow am my assigned sex.

*

Eyes falling shut from tiredness. Will dump this here for now.

senshi

In the middle of everything being heavy yet portentuous, I have received news that, if I understand the Akkadian correctly, means my SRS will be covered by my health insurance.

This is big. I will digest it alongside everything else, and celebrate.

*

More on everything later.

whiteout

I’m narrowly coping. Too many stressors or perhaps rather sadnesses at once, and I am almost out of energy. I feel a need for comfort food but I worry about sabotaging my weight loss from even a single occasion. I don’t feel my body is overweight in a way I cannot handle, I still now feel that I can look OK so long as my bottom parts are not shown. Rather it is some desperate thought that if I only was lean, undeniably lean for my height, then more people would have at least a starting likelihood of finding me attractive. It’s shameful that this all matters to me, that I cannot simply be at peace. And probably it’s illusory, not even as a thin woman would things be that different. But at least it is something I can do. I need something I can do.

More importantly, seeking SRS is something I can do. Psychologist now at least says she will try to provide documents for applying for insurance coverage. I worry it will be rejected anyway. At which point I can still save up, I need to see if I can somehow find sources of income I am presently unaware of. I need a surgery date. My body feels like a corpse and every day of uncertain waiting without knowing when there will be release leaves me with this heavy knowledge that while my mind may be lovable, my body really isn’t.

It might not change anything. But then again it also might. If I retain sensitivity, then at least I may finally feel OK again at least touching myself, even if no-one else will. And while I actively do not want any penetration I can now receive, perhaps after surgery I can want it, and even learn to endure the touch of men; their interest at least I am sure I can attract. I do not want it now but perhaps I can come to want it. Making a trade – he will lick me if I let him fuck me, standard heterosexual script.

I should not care about any of this. But it hurts so much. I feel oceans and oceans of tears behind my eyes. It hurts.