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Декабрь 10, 2009

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01:15 pm - Fuck You Reloaded

Fuck You and Fuck Your Fucking Thesis

Why I Will Not Participate in Trans Studies

Dear Mr. or Ms. Grad Student, I am sorry to report that I will not participate in your study as a data point. I don't understand what you're trying to accomplish. I don't trust you. I don't like you. I don't care if you succeed. In fact, I kind of think you suck. Here's why:

What do you think you're going to do for me? For us? For trans women? Do you think it makes a difference if you study the menstruation needs of trans guys? Or you study trans people's partners' self-declared sexual orientation? How about sexual practices and HIV? How about trans culture and SM, would that change my life? Would that change anyone's life, except maybe to get you a few dates with some svelte transguy? Oh and a book contract, you might get a book contract. And your thesis getting approved could very well land you a post-doc or a teaching position somewhere, certainly aim you for a career... fuck you.

I'm sure you have self-serving justifications. Everybody has self-serving justifications, its how us humans get through the day. But I don't care what they are. You aren't the first, hell you're probably not the first this week, and you probably won't be the last to try to convince me that this particular topic, this particular project, this very one that you thought of, will change the world and make things better. Hell, I've probably helped as many non-trans people finish grad school as I've seen trans women friends commit suicide- let me think about that for a minute, both number in the dozens... and how many people have I seen go through grad school openly as trans women? None. Wait, no, one. No, two. Three? No, just two. Am I supposed to ignore that imbalance and keep pushing you wankers along?

Let me tell you something: trans people have already been studied. We've been interviewed, sampled, tested, cross-referenced, experimented upon, medicated, shocked, examined, and dissected post-mortem. You've looked at our chromosomes, our families, our blood levels, our ring fingers, our mothers' medicine cabinets, and our genitalia (over and over again with the genitalia- stop pushing condoms on us, dumbass, we know what they're for.) You've watched us play with dolls, raise children, fall in love, look at pornography, get sick, die, and commemorate ourselves. You've listened to our ears. You've listened to our fucking ears! But you've never listened to our voices and you need to do that now.

There are already studies about what trans people need. You want them? Go read the needs assessment Michelle O'Brien wrote for THAC in Philadelphia. Go look at the final report of the Sex and Gender Minority Subcommittee of the Mayor's Task Force on Homelessness. Go read that amazing omnibus study the San Francisco public health department commissioned a few years back, the one that found trans women have an average monthly income of $536. Ever seen rents in San Francisco?

So what do people like me need? Not counseling. Not new labels on condoms. Not more doctoral candidates palpating our business. Trans women need, more or less in order: decriminalization, housing, education and employment. As in, not being swept off the street, not being banned from shelters, yes being allowed in GED classes, and, well, employment. Can you provide these? Not as a goddamn researcher, and probably not as a member in good standing of whatever professional body you aspire to join. You want to actually do something as good you say you want to do, drop out, abrogate your loans, and become a social worker. Decriminalization, housing, education and employment. You'd do better to hire one of us as a receptionist.

Oh sure, I'll bet you can find some young trans woman, probably a year or two out of the closet, who will swear to you that if only she had hormones, if only she could get surgery everything would be okay. Its very sweet that you weren't too intimidated to talk to her, but she's wrong. There is not stealth horde of passing women waiting to claim the young after just one more hoop- we are who we are, and we are talking to you right now. Hormones are nice but they won't make you employable. Surgery is great but it won't get the cops off your back. Facial reconstruction won't get you a lover. Decriminalization, housing, education and employment.

Y'know, a thought occurs to me. Everything on that list I keep repeating comes from somewhere else, didja notice? These aren't problems caused by genitalia, or elongated ring fingers. These are problems caused by social conditions, by society, by the people who run the world around us who, funny, look a lot like you. Have you ever considered studying yourselves? Why do non-trans people have such a big fucking problem with us? Why do they care where we shower or whether their IRB sees us hanging around the computer center after hours? Why is it so damned important who we date, or, frankly, whether someone like you is dating one of us or not? Can you tell me that? Why not, Mr. or Ms. Big-Shot Researcher Who Wants To Do Something Good For The World? Too hard to do the... research? I'd love to see an fMRI series of psychology grad students watching a video in which attractive trans women explain to them that their proposal lacks... a bit of depth, maybe it could do with a more developed sense of social context perhaps? Come up with another draft by, lets say, the 16th, can we all meet again on the 16th? How does this essay make you feel: indifferent, mostly indifferent, somewhat indifferent, somewhat angry, or very angry?

And somewhere, I bet, there's a trans guy wondering why people like you who want "to do work around trans issues" always seem to have so many FTMs as friends.

What trans people need is to get through a day without being inspected, not by the guy making change at the Wa Wa and not by the hipster with an academic stipend. We need data, ideas, plans and strategies, but we need to see them coming from people like us, people who don't, right now, seem to make it into your little position of power. We don't need your study, we don't need your thesis, and we really don't need you to graduate and "do good work." And you? You don't need us either. You are pretty much guaranteed a good life with or without my participation in your little project so please- stuff it up your ass. I say this will all the deference the circumstances warrant.

With love,


(92 комментария | Оставить комментарий)


[User Picture]
Date:Декабрь 14, 2009 02:23 am

Re: Frustrations of a Researcher

You touch on something I've been working on, as an essay, since 2003- the myth of the stealth horde. What you claim, that people get treatment, get a new life, and disappear off the radar is a pervasive but horribly untrue idea in my experience. I've been out for fourteen years, disappeared now and again, kept in touch with as many friends as I could and worked extensively as a (non-credentialed) social worker for various non-profits. I've watched a lot of people transition, possibly hundreds.

The lesson? There is no stealth horde. The people you are with today are the people you will be with in fourteen years, except the ones who die. You will meet new people, and they won't disappear either, and they will grow up like you did. The people you looked at your first day at your therapist-mandated group session (do they still do those? god I hope not) and thought "thank god I'm younger, prettier, smarter, better socialized than they are"- those are the people you will grow up to be. The ones who seem to disappear are just never leaving their apartment because they've lost the last bits of functionality.

The story I told a million people, that they believed they could always spot trannies, because the ones they couldn't spot slipped by them? Technically true I guess, but that isn't what most of our days are like. That isn't what anyone's years are like. The people you see, especially when you've been around a few years and get a good pair of eyes on you, those are the only ones of us there are.

The problem is, the institutions, including our own, they lie to us. We lie to ourselves. We tell ourselves hope is around the corner, hope is at hand. We tell ourselves that better hormones, better surgery, facial reconstruction, something will break us through that wall, that (forgive me) brick wall between us and all the invisible women we know are out there. The surgeons claim that the unsatisfied or the docked are only, what, 1%? And we don't hear from the others because they're busy seducing unsuspecting gynecologists? Bullcrap- the only actual study ever done found an anorgasmia rate of 80%. What does that tell you about our myths and our realities?

The wall has no other side. We can't escape into the stealth horde because there is no stealth horde, and we need to stop looking for "miracles" and start looking for comfort in the trans community we have now. We need to love ourselves, the bungled and the botched, the obvious and the fallen. We need to stop trying to be exceptions and start trying to be better friends.

How do you study that, clinically?

Date:Декабрь 14, 2009 05:01 am

Re: Frustrations of a Researcher

Maybe so - but how do we know?

Do you have a URL for the anorgasmia rate study? The best data I've seen is from Dr Suporn's site, where 90% of post-ops who were orgasmic before are orgasmic afterwards, and 40% of those anorgasmic before become orgasmic. n>>200.

Anecdotally, I've received many e-mails from those who have de-cloaked in a limited way. The number who transitioned in the 70's is small, but a substantial proportion are still alive and in full stealth. But as they've grown older, stealth had become less important to them as they've become widowed or divorced, they want to give back to the community. I have very little data beyond that period though, and nothing on FtoMs. The sample size is too small, and the self-selection bias obvious.

One psych I talked to locally has assisted in over 100 transitions. They're still in contact with about 20 of those, dealing with co-morbidities (substance abuse, rape survivor syndrome etc), but less than a dozen who don't have problems have come back for long-term follow-up. What about the 70 or so, mainly young transitioners, who have dropped off the radar? Are they dead? Dysfunctional and hiding in their rooms? Or just woodworked so completely that their past is something they don't want to be reminded of? How many want to escape a past of sex work and substance abuse as much as anything, with GID just a side issue?

Studies mainly in the Netherlands, where long-term follow-up is almost unavoidable due to the centralised health-care system, cause us reason for guarded optimism. But those figures may be inapplicable in very different social environments. It seems likely that there's a high correlation between long-term problems and "passability", but how do we even go about measuring that?

I've also come across a marked reluctance in the psychiatric profession to conduct long-term follow-up. I suspect this may be due to insecurity - they think you might be right. But if so, they figure it's still better than having so many suicide. So for their own peace of mind they pretend that everything's just fine, but don't inquire too closely in case it isn't. This isn't just confined to GID, it's for all conditions where there's a real danger of self-harm without treatment.

Attempting to gather data in face-to-face "Transgendered" support groups is almost useless. Those who will transition often attend one or two meetings, then leave as they find they have almost nothing in common with most there. And you can count the number of post-ops attending on the fingers of one foot.
[User Picture]
Date:Декабрь 14, 2009 02:17 pm

Re: Frustrations of a Researcher

The study was by Anne Lawrence who yes, I know, is problematic as a political advocate but at least understands statistics. Basically she aggregated all the data from studies not done by surgeons. She would have excluded Suporn's, the one that you mention, for hot, flaming conflict of interest and I would exclude it too. Even proceeding on cartesian lines, nerve flaps with isolated blood supplies are fragile as hell, and (minimum) 94% survival is a sketchy, sketchy claim.

The fact is, I'd be in that 70%- I've disappeared as far as my initial therapist knows. That's because the program (yes, my experience reaches back to The Programs) was such a horrible experience that I was, how shall I say, lost to care. I don't doubt that people "disappear" from individual contexts, but somehow whenever I lose a friend that way, I track them down a few years later and find that the particulars of their life haven't changed except in location and social set. They are still (seen as) the same person. I won't accuse therapists of having a commercial conflict of interest in making this sort of claim the way I accuse surgeons, but I do think there's a level of pride that wants to think that young trans girls are "so pretty they must be doing well" instead of "running screaming from me and my manipulative requirements for consistent presentation."

The basis of my own estimation is working as a peer counselor and also, frankly, as a friend. This is (suddenly) an outrageously public forum for me to talk about my own life, but I have, indeed, been able to "disappear" in certain contexts- individual jobs, for instance- for extended periods of time. I have never been able to truly enter any "woodwork" though, and I've certainly never met anyone who did, either before or after I met them. Of all the people I've known before and through transition, not one was "passable" enough to disappear in a healthy way? I feel like the stealth horde is an argument from ignorance- we don't know what we don't know, so lets assume...
[User Picture]
Date:Декабрь 14, 2009 08:51 pm

Re: Frustrations of a Researcher

I know that you have seniority, but this last paragraph has been my experience, too.
[User Picture]
Date:Декабрь 14, 2009 09:21 pm

Re: Frustrations of a Researcher

Right? I feel so fucking old...
Date:Декабрь 31, 2009 10:03 am

Re: Frustrations of a Researcher

I'm not sure *precisely* what you mean by the term, but I suspect that I am part of the "stealth horde", maybe?

My only F2F interactions with other trans people have been around service providers, and almost none of that since SRS. My only substantive interactions with the trans community are online and those are through layers of anonymity. I attended a local informal support when I was first starting out and it was full of tragic/scary grownups and I stopped after the second one. I tolerated my gender therapists but dropped them as soon as I had letters.

I've had FFS and I moved right after that and had a few rocky years being "mostly stealth but pre-op". Finding boyfriends in that situation is nerve wracking and bad. Surgery fixed the feelings of having an ugly secret. I went to Suporn and am orgasmic. About two years after that I started really feel like an actual adult.

I came out to my husband before he proposed. I've never had a grownup (post-college) job presenting as a male. I find it relatively easy to find work and my various jobs have all been OK gigs as far as work goes - nothing incredibly "fulfilling and wonderful" but my impression is that most everyone in the world has issues with their job eventually...

From what I can tell, if there is anything especially unusual about me it is that I've stayed around online trans contexts (which is how I found this post) rather than leaving them completely behind. I know of others, roughly like me, who decided that online stuff was making them crazy and they really did just drop out and move on. I can think of one or two where I heard vague rumors of marriage without even telling their guy.

I think "passability" would be pretty easy to measure and is essential to avoiding the obvious and horrible discrimination visible trans people face on a regular basis. Its just one of those brutal truths, I think, that lots of trans women who are poor and can't get jobs could have their life massively improved for decades afterwards by $25k in surgery which they can't scrape together because without the surgery they can't get a job :-(
[User Picture]
Date:Декабрь 14, 2009 02:19 pm

Re: Frustrations of a Researcher

Oh and also, I can think of at least a dozen post-ops I've met in support groups. My feet dont look like that!

(and my whole point is, we all have everything in common with "most there" we just tell ourselves we don't so we can continue to believe that everything will go better for us)

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