Monday, November 5, 2007

Depending on Strangers

Yesterday I tried to post and found that all I could write was garbage. I think this is because I was trying to write about my therapy appointments. In general, my appointments are rather boring. My identity, however, depends so entirely upon these twice-monthly hours of telling a stranger my inner-most thoughts that I thought I would want to write about these alienating experiences. It turns out, however, that once these sessions are over I prefer to keep them over. Traditionally, meeting the "gate keepers" of ones identity has been a time where transmen and especially transwomen were forced to assume gender roles rigid in white Western standards. Men were forced talked about cars, women about shopping. I am incredibly lucky to have found a therapy center that is progressive enough to not require me to bind everyday or to not find my partnership with a genderqueer woman suspect. These experiences are related in both historical and current contexts in the books How Sex Changed, Sexual Metamorphosis, Conundrum, The Whipping Girl, and parts of Transgender Warriors as well as many books written by therapists. I have found that when trans-spectrum people write about our lives therapy is only included as yet another example of discrimination or it is not included at all. It seems to be that academics, therapists, and activists who are cisexual are obsessed with surgery, hormones, and therapy, the trappings of our identity. It places our identity outside of our own bodies and our own consciousness and into the privileged ideas of others. It makes sense, then, that when we are given the chance to write about ourselves we stay far away from the hospitals and waiting rooms where we are judged based upon our ability to conform to the gate keepers idea of "man" and "woman" and instead turn towards our created families, our partners, the identities that we hold true regardless of our diagnosis.

All of that said, I am very lucky to be living in Minnesota. The University of Minnesota's Center for Sexual Health has never once judged my identity. They have been supportive and kind. I was surprised that my therapist considered that last two years of my life as my "real world" experience. She also insisted that it was not being correctly gendered that mattered, but that I was presenting a gender I felt comfortable in, regardless of how it was understood. My therapy is not nearly as humiliating an experience as I anticipated, and I have not yet felt that I need to present a more traditionally masculine male identity in order for my identity to be taken seriously. Perhaps years from now i will want to write about these hours with a stranger, but for now I feel that out of all my trans experiences, these sessions have the least to do with who I am.

I do want to write about an intriguing off-shoot of therapy, however. The legal and medical labyrinth I am now entrenched in has given me a few happy things to celebrate. When i was very little my family would celebrate the Feast Days of my brothers and my saintly namesakes (mine was July 20th). Without a saint to my name I have had to create my own days to celebrate, and ironically the transphobic processes of the state have given me inspiration. Halloween, for instance, now has a special double-meaning as it is the day I was declared transsexual by the Center for Sexual Health and November 29th is the day I legally changed my name. I have decided to celebrate it as my new Name Day and there is a certain pride in reclaiming these potentially humiliating days, and I see links between these celebrations and the way that family is recreated in queer contexts...an idea I have always loved. Reclaiming, recreating, extending, and evolving words is one of the most radically transgressive ideas.

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