What the Monsters Think They Know

nosferatu shadow

On NPR today there was a piece about some studies that show that men who habitually sexually harass women tend to hold some common beliefs.

They believe their victims, however emphatically they reject the perpetrator’s advances,  want to have sex with the perpetrator.

They believe that victims of harassment who report it are lying.

They also tend to have no empathy for someone who feels that her back is against the wall and that she has no choice but to tolerate being groped or to accept performing degrading sexual favors in order to get or keep a job she needs to survive.

The suffering of their victims is all a big locker-room joke to the perpetrators.

Short version: the monsters believe that all woman are oversexed, lying bimbos without feelings or rights. In the view of the perpetrators, the victims deserve to be harassed, groped, even raped because of who they are.

If you are “out” as a trans woman on social media, I guarantee that you will receive unwanted advances, some of them incredibly crude and ugly and graphic, from guys who think that trans women are freaky sluts who exist only to serve as sex toys in their disgusting, ridiculously adolescent sexual fantasies. It is inconceivable to these “men” that we might be on a social media site to seek others with common, non-sexual interests with whom to interact in a friendly manner.

They become furious and verbally abusive when you ask them to please go away. (I default to polite, which I quickly learned is a mistake in dealing with these characters.)  It’s one reason I got off Facebook. But that isn’t where I am going here.

I would like to focus on one element of this: not being believed.

A key theme in anti-transgender propaganda being pushed by the bigots is that we are lying when we describe our experience of a long-term, at-the-core-of-our-beings, distressing-to-the-point-of-despair disconnection between the gender we are behind our eyes and what other see.

To hear them tell it, being transgender is a faddish notion we picked up last week from the “liberal media” as part of the sinister media’s plot to destroy America for no reason.

The first step in denying a person their humanity is to make them the butt of a joke.  See straight male “locker room humor” that degrades cisgender women. See how trans women are often the punch lines of  cruel “jokes” where the alleged “humor” is contained in the supposedly ridiculous idea that a straight man could find one of us attractive and enjoy our company. Yuk. Yuk.

Trust me, though, straight men being attracted to and even falling in love with trans women happens more often than you might think. Yes, Virginia, reality is terribly messy and complicated!

Sometimes those relationships even work out. Really.

Men who are attracted to femininity sometimes pick up that vibe coming from us and respond strongly to it. The external packaging is a major factor, but there is more to it than having breasts and long hair and wearing makeup.

It’s about the person inside.

That is why bigots work so hard to ridicule and dispute and dismiss what we transgender people tell you about what we experience in our inner lives. It’s the same toolkit of tactics that male sexual predators use when they do everything in their power to destroy belief in the competence, autonomy, and dignity of cisgender women.

One thing the monsters get right is their fear that once you accept the idea that all persons should have what they say about their preferences or private experiences–“I don’t want you to touch me!” or “I have always experienced myself in my inner life as a woman,” for example–respected, all their vile games go away.

Imagine that. Everyone entitled to dignity. What a crazy idea.



Christmas Shopping 2017

1943 women shopping montgomery al

I’m almost there! I’ve set up the Amazon gift cards that are set to be delivered on Christmas Eve, mailed the paper Christmas/holiday cards to all sorts of people several days ago, and prepared and even in a few cases already handed over gifts.

Today I will cook something that I plan to put in a nice package and present to a friend. Not telling you what it is! I’ve been giving people baked goods as presents.

Yesterday I was in the men’s clothing department in a large, rather high-end department store trying to decide on one of my last gifts.

If you are a transgender woman on the other side of transition, that is an odd place to find yourself. I used to hate hate hate being forced to buy male clothing. It made my skin crawl. It made me sad.

Those clothes felt like a prison uniform. When well-meaning friends and family would give me masculine clothing, I always tried hard to sound thrilled and appreciative, but I was dying inside because those gifts were symbolic of how hopelessly trapped I felt in an identity and life that wasn’t me, and that I hated so much that I wanted to end it.

So now I have moved to a much better universe where I get to be me!

Yesterday I was just one of the many women in that men’s department buy shopping for gifts for the men in their lives.

Being that–being me, just a woman among other women–felt completely comfortable. It felt right. Religious bigots will never accept this, but it felt normal, the way my life should have been all along.

I was finally home!

So the male clothing that surrounded me didn’t make me sad. It didn’t make me think about dying. Instead of seeing those clothes as a reminder of how wretchedly out of place and utterly miserable I was, they had become a means to give someone else pleasure.

Happy Holidays!

Dancing Among Other Women

sephardic dancing-women

Saturday evening I attended a Hanukkah party with a Jewish friend, who was kind enough to invite me. There was a klezmer band–most of them were women–that was simply marvelous!

I’ve always liked klezmer music from the first time I heard it. Something in it speaks to me of being joyful despite struggle and suffering. I can relate to that.

Once things really got going, some of the women left their seats to take part in some traditional women-only dancing. I was really into the music–I react quite strongly to music, moving and being moved by the good stuff and cringing at the bad–and my friend grinned at me and said,”Why don’t you join them? You know you want to!”

I did!

There were around 30 women dancing. Many of them, fortunately for me, didn’t know the steps either, but the dances weren’t terribly complicated, and there were a couple of women who were obviously very good dancers. The rest of us imitated what they were doing.

I  found that if I just went with the music, it danced through me.

The band played several dance tunes from both the Ashkenazic and Sephardic traditions.

It was joyous!

When the band finally took a break, I rejoined my friend. He was beaming. “It was so good to see you that happy!”

I thanked him profusely then, and later, again, in an email. I said, “Thank you so much for creating that situation. It’s what I’ve always wanted, you know, to be able to join the other girls. I can’t express how much that meant to me.”

He replied, “Your face expressed it all.”



Why Are Your Protagonists Always Women?

1909 London young suff

I have a small confession: I also write fiction and have completed two novels, one of which is available on Amazon.

Years ago, someone who read my stuff asked me why all my protagonists were women.

The question caught me off guard, and I probably gave some sort of incoherent answer. The truth was that I was using my fiction writing as a way to inhabit women’s lives in fictional worlds in a way that, at the time, I was unable to inhabit a woman’s life in the real world.

It was a safety valve that bought me some time in my long struggle not to be transgender In the end, it wasn’t enough, not nearly enough.

Sublimation never is.

I just saw a piece about the first English translation of The Odyssey ever done by a woman. All translation is a creative act, as Jorge Luis Borges, the Argentinian poet and short-story author who was himself an important translator of fiction, pointed out. With different languages, since literal translation is rarely possible, the translator must make decisions about how to express what is being said. Inevitably, who the translator is will affect the final product.

Many of the older translations done by males had a decidedly sexist tone.

I want to read Emily Wilson’s version!