Thursday, August 28, 2008

taking some excellent advice

I watched this amazing video the other day, via a Safe Schools blog, which got it from Bilerico, who got it, I guess from the originator, Jay Smooth.

Here is a technique to put at the top of one's toolkit. It's talking about racism, and the excellent advice that it offers is directly applicable to other situations in which someone says something offensive or uncomfortable, and I want to call them out on saying it without inspiring a huge, defensive, "I'm not transphobic/sexist/racist!!!!" reaction on their part.

This is for two reasons. On the one hand, sometimes such things will be said by people who haven't fully processed their own privilege, or had their consciousness raised- well meaning folks who just don't realize that whatever they just said was messed-up. Or even folks who HAVE done a lot of work around their privilege (whatever kind of privilege that is) can still make a mistake, or speak without thinking, or say something that they just hadn't considered from all angles yet. To use a trans example, this would be my friends who have worked hard (to varying degrees, but all to a certain extent) to understand what it means to be trans, to understand why I need to transition, to recognize my (everyone's) right to articulate and access my own gender identity....yet still say things like "Wow, Eli, you look just like a boy!"

Prompting me, in my braver moments, to say "Thanks for the sentiment, but I want you to know, that's offensive; telling me I look "like" a boy automatically sets up a situation in which I can never "be" a boy, only an illegitimate facsimile. Which hurts my feelings and invalidates trans folks everywhere."

So it's nice to have this video as a reminder of the importance of focusing on someone's words/deeds, since their other actions and intentions are great, and NOT racist, sexist, etc.

Then there's the other situation, the less comfortable one: dealing with people who actually ARE racist, sexist, transphobic. The trick is, a bigot will pretty much never self-identify as such. And who am I kidding- as Avenue Q tells us, we're ALL a "little racist." So I guess here, I mean people who have never tried to understand their privilege, who refuse to acknowledge that systematic oppressions like racism and misogyny even exist, let alone flourish, in our society, the folks who cling to their behavior and declare "I'm not a homophobe! I have gay friends!" even as they vote against marriage equality and hate crimes bills. Since they will (almost) never acknowledge (for example) that they are, in fact, homophobic in their little unexamined hearts, often the best and easiest way to thwart their behavior is, as this video tells us, not to get into a big philosophical debate about whether they're homophobic or not. They will invariably get off track and out of proportion and probably not get anywhere, since for them to lose that argument, they have to say "Uh, yeah, I guess I'm a homophobe." Which most folks will never feel comfortable doing. Even in the unlikely event that they realize that you are right, that they ARE homophobic, they'll probably be too embarrassed/defensive to admit it.

But! as Jay Smooth so rightly points out, by focusing on concrete, undeniable evidence- aka "that fucked up thing you just said"- it's possible to NOT let offensive words slide by and spend the rest of the day kicking yourself for not having stood up and said anything; an activity that I am totally sick of. There's no grey area of having to decide whether someone's really transphobic in their heart or not. One can just straight up address the behavior, stick to the facts when explaining why it's offensive, and (hopefully!) get the person to acknowledge that the thing they said was messed up, and agree not to say it anymore, thus winning the battle and taking a tiny step towards winning the war without attempting to actually win in one skirmish the whole big "you're a racist" war.

Thanks for the excellent advice, Jay Smooth!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

shot day

I'm a day late on my shot, because I was too crazed yesterday to remember that it was Friday, the day to pause after my morning shower to scrounge together some alcohol wipes, needles, syringe, find a spot on the edge of the bed with plenty of light, deliberate over which spot on which thigh to choose, so as not to run into any 'tough spots' (mysterious sections of my leg that feel harder to inject through than others- I suspect perhaps scar tissue is building up from these 52 shots a year I've been giving myself) or brush a nerve, which makes my leg twitch weirdly while I'm giving the shot and then sometimes aches deeply for 2-3 days afterwards.

It was so exciting at first to learn how to give myself shots, to take my oily agent of change into my own hands, and have control over my own destiny. Now, that excitement hasn't quite morphed into resentment, though I can sense that on the horizon, but it's definitely turned into a chore, one that I have to work to remind myself of rather than look forward to each week.

Ive got a doctor's appointment next week, my yearly gynecological visit. I intend to ask the nurse to show me where I can self-inject on my hips/butt area. I know lots of guys use that spot, and it'd be nice to have four injection sites to rotate through. Also, I'm trying to brainstorm any other medical attention I might need to see if I can get it then- such as my next testosterone prescription refill, though it's a couple of weeks early- because I'm moving up to New England in ~6 days, and I'm not really looking forward to trying to track down a doctor up there.

I've definitely been spoiled by being in NYC and having Callen-Lorde and its dedicated HOTT program available to me, chock full o' knowledgeable, respectful and experience providers. I know that being an LGBT clinic isn't always a guarantee that the providers will live up to the T on the end of that acronym- and in fact, my experiences with providers in other departments at C-L were regularly less than stellar, with them not immediately reading me as trans, and so making assumptions, and then making insulting gaffes when trying to cover up their surprise...much like any 'regular' doctor, I'd imagine! But the staffers in the HOTT program have been consistently fantastic, and I'll miss them.

I'm going to be living within semi-reasonable driving distance (less than two hours) of both Boston and Northampton, so if necessary, I can probably dig up a reasonably experienced doctor in one those two hotbeds of LGBT stuff. But I'd prefer to find someone closer to home, and I don't know what the range of my new health insurance is going to be. So this may well be an opportunity to start from scratch with a brand new doctor who's never had a trans patient before, and the thought does not fill me with any particular joy.

It's frustrating to have a medical condition for which I need medical supervision but because of which I'm nervous to speak to a doctor. I don't know of a lot of other situations for which that's the case. Doctor-patient relationships are always fraught, of course, but I just don't know if there is another kind of medical condition which would cause the same kind of worry that I have right now- that I just won't be able to find someone competent or (more worrisome, actually, since it's not that hard to right a prescription for T) willing to treat me. And that I might face hostile or derogatory attitudes in my search.

Now, Captain Optimist in me realizes that it probably won't be that big of a deal. Most doctors are reasonably openminded people (right?) who are bound to do no harm (right?) and I am confident in my own knowledge about my medical care, and my ability to advocate on behalf of myself. Of course, I'm well aware that I have had the good fortune to have good medical care in the past, access to plenty of information, and a more-forceful-than-average personality, so it is still rather unfair that I as a trans person may need to draw upon various personal resources that not all trans folks have.

It reminds me of things that I hear about in the Fatosphere, of folks who are fat activists and who work to empower people of size. They often have to struggle to get appropriate, respectful healthcare from a medical establishment that doesn't respect them or consider them normal. It's a tiring, disheartening thing to have to convince one's own doctor to stop focusing on whatever is shocking about oneself (being fat, being a dude with a vagina) and instead look at me as a patient with needs that may be related to those issues, but may not! Fat folks often have to remind their doctors that hey, not everything can be fixed with the advice of "Well, if you just lost some weight...." and likewise, while I am going to need trans-specific health care, that mostly boils down to monitoring my hormone levels, and I may very well health care for things that have nothing to do with my being trans (allergy medicine! eye doctor! whatever!), and it'd be nice to have the security of knowing that I could present with a medical issue and not have to worry about the doctor getting sidetracked by Teh Tranz.

You never know. I could get lucky and find someone who is, if not experienced, at least happy to work with a new kind of patient, and intelligent enough to listen to me and not say anything too asinine. "Wow, I'd have never guessed you had a sex change!"

And I'll see how my gyno visit goes on Wednesday. I hear that once you've had three normal paps in a row, and if you're not, er, interacting with anyone new and unusual, you can go down to once every other year for the gyno visit. Two years from now, I may well be leaving New England, so I might not have to find out what the OB/GYN in my new town would think of a dude in his or her waiting room.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Trans in the Sands TODAY, New York City

hey, anyone in the NYC area- I just found out that today is the annual Trans on the Sands event held by the LGBT Center. It's a day at Coney Island where we all get together on th beach in our favorite fabulous beachwear, no matter our gender identity or bodily configuration or whatever combination of the two, and enjoy the safety in numbers to have a stress free day at the beach. Not to mention hang out and connect with pals.

So, if anyone wants to hit up Trans in the Sands TODAY, from 12-5 at Coney Island, here's the map
The weather is gorgeous!

neither I nor my computer have been horribly maimed, I've just been too busy packing and moving and getting a new job (!!) to post much. Once I'm settled in the wilds of New England, I'm sure my posting will become much more regular.