Wednesday, April 18, 2007


The panel was fine! Mostly just each of us talking briefly about our identities, etc, and then some questions at the end. I talked (though not as articulately as I might've hoped to) about the difficulties I had obtaining my name change, and why it was particularly illustrative of two common frustrations for trans people. First, by trying to require me to provide "medical documentation" of my "sex change," the judge was holding me to a higher level of scrutiny than non-trans people, and directing that scrutiny in particular at my body, in an invasive/inappropriate/uncomfortable way. And not only that, but he was basing that scrutiny on unfounded assumptions about what it means to be trans- he was structuring his request for 'proof' around his narrow ideas about what it means for someone to "get a sex change" and those notions are limiting and oppressive when applied to individuals who may or may not be pursuing medical transition as part of affirming their gender identity. And all this to impede my attempt to normalize myself by changing my identity documents to better reflect my male identity and presentation!


The other presenters were interesting and articulate, and the questions were perfectly fine, for the most part, although one person asked me "What was your name before, and why did you change it?"

I replied that this was a teachable moment, and a perfect example of what NOT to ask a trans person; that the reason I changed my name was because I wasn't comfortable with the one I had before, and I wanted to legally change my name so that it would be the one that I wanted everybody to call me, and so I didn't tell her what my name used to be.

This led to a rather productive little discussion about how respectful questions are always welcomed, but there's a fine line between education and curiosity, and that sometimes curiosity ought to be satisfied by reading a book or finding a resource rather than asking an invasive question of an individual. Or asking an individual in a safe space, such as this panel, so that they can do what I did- answer the relevant part of the question (I changed my name because I was more comfortable using a masculine name rather than the feminine, though very beautiful, name I'd been given as a baby) and explain why the other part of the question is inappropriate (I'm not comfortable revealing my former name to a stranger in a public forum in order to satisfy their curiosity).

Also, led to some talk about how questions are always better than assumptions, especially respectful questions. I've had some of the most troublesome interactions with people who assume that they're coming from a respectful place, and make assumptions about how I identify, and end up being the most offensive- like Miss Jackie, bless her heart, the karaoke hostess who never fails to mention lesbians whenever she talks to me. Or the social work student who invited me to her "weekly women's dance party down in the Village." I might have looked like a dyke once upon a time (and identified as a dyke even longer ago) but I'm not one now.
Speaking of questions and dialogue, I'm catching up on some backlogged comments in previous posts that I never responded to, so if I never replied to a comment you posted a while ago and you're burning to read my witty replies, check later today.

In other news, my sister took this really cute picture of my while she was here this past weekend. I think it shows off my sideburns nicely, as well as my overall happy state now, Spring 2007, just after my 2nd Maniversary.

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