So here’s the thing:

Long ago, back when the Land of the Free was still pretty young and had that “new country” smell, Thomas Jefferson exhorted those who would keep the whole crazy “America” train rolling to “educate and inform the whole mass of the people… They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.”

Poetically spoken words, and as true today as they were then – not only for our country, but for the myriad groups composing its citizenry. As a member of several groups – American, Hispanic, Liberal, Transgender, People Who Realize White Castle Is Kind Of Gross But Keep Eating There Because It’s Good, Damn It – I know how important education is to fostering understanding not only between groups but between members within those groups.

All of which brings me to my point: I’m currently compiling, via blog, Claire’s Transgendered Primer for the Curious, Apprehensive or Confused. In it, I hope to provide a (very) basic guide designed to answer questions that non-transgendered people have about us, as well as foster discussion and educate folks about who transgendered people are (hint: we’re people who happen to be transgendered, not amorphous clouds of gender variance who have temporarily taken human form. Well, except for me).

I’ve requested input from my transgendered sisters and brothers regarding the topics they’d like to see addressed, and now, I would ask you, non-trans readers, the following questions:

1) What questions do you most often have for or about transgendered people?

2) Do you have any first-hand experience with a transperson, or are you reliant solely on the media’s somewhat less-than-appealing portrayal of who we are?

3) What opinions do you currently have regarding the transgendered (if any)? Do you feel they might be subject to change if you were more thoroughly educated on the subject?

Judging by the reactions this idea has received so far, I’m both apprehensive and excited to see what develops. I would ask that, if you send me an e-mail or post your comments right here on Claire de Lunacy, that you be respectful of others’ opinions (which is not to say you can’t be a total smartass, just don’t descend into the lowlands of Flame Hate, The Hate that Flames) and contribute something genuine to the discussion (again, I must stress that ALL opinions are welcome, regardless of my alignment with them along the idealogical, religious or psychological spectra).

I’ll be compiling the posts, comments and messages I get this week and I’ll post the results in the Version 1.0 edition of The Primer this weekend, so whether you’re a transperson who’s dying to set the record straight (insert pause for irony), or a non-transperson burning with curiosity, let your voice be heard, my friends!

Education, collaboration, and illumination begin with YOU.

Well, okay, they begin with “E,” “C,” and “I,” respectively speaking, but that’s not very catchy, is it?

12 Responses

  1. Just found your blog a few days ago on TSB, so I am trying to catch up and enjoying myself thoroughly! I started reading because I like the way you write, and I imagine you speak in a very similar manner, which paints a character of you in my mind’s eye that I love. We would be friends in the real world, I think!

    So the transgender part had little to do with why I kept reading, but I must admit I am fascinated. I have known one MTF in my lifetime, but I was never close with her, so I don’t really count that as personal experience.

    I think the biggest hurdle for me, as a straight, white, boring ass woman, is understanding the sexuality aspect of the transgendered person. We get it mixed up somehow, when I imagine it really has nothing at all to do with it. I think this is something that should really be addressed in the primer.

    We (the uneducated public) tend to think, okay, you really are a woman but you were born with the wrong parts. No problem. Then the orientation spin happens. Naturally you must then want to be with men, right? (wrong!)

    But that’s where the brain goes with it. We oversimplify, because it is a lot to understand when we aren’t going through it and have never known someone to go through it. So I would suggest that the primer make it clear that being transgender has very little to do with orientation. Or does it? See? I have no idea!

    Otherwise, my questions would be run of the mill. When did you know that you were transgender? How did you make the decision to go through with surgery? How do others make the decision not to have surgery? How do the dynamics go with other transgenders who choose not to have surgery? Does life get easier after surgery, or does it just get difficult in different ways? How do you approach it with people when you meet them? Do you eventually tell them, or is it none of our business?

    I could probably go on and on, but I’ve already comandeered your comments for long enough. It’s lovely to have ‘met’ you, and I look forward to the primer, and your blogs!

  2. Thanks Tara – lovely to “meet” you as well! I had only a few moments to check out your blog, but I did comment back and spread some blog love there.

    Hmm…”blog love” sounds both clinical and disturbing. Henceforth, we shall call it “blove,” thus distilling an abbreviation into an abbreviated portmanteau. Mwa-ha-ha!

    And, thanks for your input on the Primer! This is rapidly moving from a caprice to a real life Project…one I hope will prove fruitful (no pun intended, ha, ha, oh, crap, here come the PC police).

  3. I’ll try to keep this pretty short, but you are asking for a lot here.

    Questions I might have? Well, tara covered a lot of them in her comment. It is hard to think of more general questions for what I am sure as a very individualized experience/lifestyle.

    I have only talked briefly with a a few transgendered individuals. One of them was a prostitute, but I try not to let that affect my opinion too much. 😉

    My opinion of the transgendered is pretty limited. Not burn-them-at-the-stake limited. That’s not the way I meant. I mean that I have very little experience or education on the matter. My religion (LDS) states that it is fundamentally wrong since we are born a specific gender according to our divine destiny. And I agree. But, that doesn’t mean I should hate, avoid, fear, or persecute those that don’t agree or live a different lifestyle than I do.

    I guess that sums up about all you asked. I admit that it would be interesting to know more.

  4. 1) I’m curious about how they make functional penises out of vaginas, and vice versa. There’s no nice way to ask this question.

    2) I have a transgendered sibling and a transgendered friend. Both of them make way more sense after the transgendering.

    3) Transgender was the last sexuality-related thing that I became ok with. I accepted homosexuality and even tranvestites long before I understood TG.

    Sometime in high school, I wanted to explore TG to see if I could understand, so I started by watching that movie… the title of which I can’t remember… played by that actress… whose name I forget. It’s the one based off a true story in which she plays a transgendered male who is eventually murdered when people find out about him. That movie made me feel a lot of compassion for the transgendered situation, and after that I was able to wrap my mind around the whole thing.

    So I do think that being educated on the subject can bring positive results.

  5. Oh yeah, and I should add that my transgendered friend is lesbian and my transgendered sibling is straight, so I know that TG and sexuality aren’t the same thing.

  6. I only have a comment. We’ve known each other personally for 14 years, through lots of different situations, even though you strangely keep moving further and further away every few years (what’s up with that?) I think I’ve probably asked you every question I could think of, so I know the answers. I still think that doing what you did took a lot of balls (ironically), and I’m in awe of it. I’m looking forward to seeing what other people come up with in terms of questions and comments.

  7. @Sov: Good Lord, has it really been 14 years already? Yeesh. I’m not moving farther away, I’m just losing weight so that I appear to be more distant. Either that, or building my new house on that glacier wasn’t such a hot idea.

    Thanks for the kind words, buddy!

    @Sra: The film was most likely “Boys Don’t Cry,” starring Hillary Swank as Brandon Teena. I appreciate the comments and questions – to tell you the truth, I’m kinda curious myself to see how the others choose to answer/respond…although I will say up front that you’re DEAD ON regarding the world of difference between someone’s gender and their orientation. Good on you!

    @Trovan: I appreciate your comments and courteous disagreement… I’m all for a friendly exchange of ideas. I was intrigued by your post and am thrilled to include another viewpoint on TG life…I’m hoping the Primer will prove edifying, informative and entertaining to you.

    Thanks to everyone who’s contributed so far – this post has garnered the most views Claire de Lunacy has had yet!

  8. I forgot to mention that there’s no gross White Castle out here. That’s a good thing. I have a friend who’d never even heard of it before. He though it was just a made-up place for Harold and Kumar to go to in the movie. I told him it was real, disgusting, and very popular.

    And yep… 14 years. Or, the 12th anniversary of “It’s All in the Attitude”, if you prefer it that way.

    I think I just thought of a new blog topic…

  9. Heya!

    Some questions from $2:

    1. How do you balance what you want (your happiness/mental well-being) and and what others expect of you?
    By ‘others’ I’m referring to family members and long time friends. There is a fine line to walk if you are concerned with what people think about you. And I don’t mean in a shallow “why doesn’t she like my shoes?” kind of way, but a genuine concern for how your behavior effects a loved one’s happiness.
    Except for those ‘crazy’ people who look at you and don’t see gender. Instead they see your heart. BTW-your heart says lay off the White Castles. 😛
    And on a side note: I know a guy who loved to explain why WC burgers are so tasty. It all has to do with the tiny onion vapor holes in the patty.

    2. Have you ever avoided people or certain situations?
    Who hasn’t, really. From your point of view are things like family/class reunions…..ugh! enough to send someone into hiding? Or are they a chance to include people in your magnificent makeover?
    I just about deleted ‘magmake’ cause it’s cracking me up. Random reference to one of Nance’s weight loss DVD’s. “Think positive thoughts about the lifestyle changes you’re making. You are giving yourself a wonderful gift. A magnificent makeover.” Bleck! Can you hear the string instruments?

    3. Are you free for lunch next week?
    Nothing to do with TG-let me know.


  10. Okay, here it goes. I’m going to try to answer your questions but I fear that I am sticking my neck out a bit far on this so please be gentle if I go too far or seem cluelessly offensive.

    Question 1 (my questions):
    – Do most trans folks connect with some sort of support group even if they are not in a big city?
    – I imagine it to be different from person to person but how do the hormones effect emotions, sex drive, volatility, aggression, etc?
    – I know a few people buying black market hormones because they can’t afford to transition under medical supervision. Have you seen much damage from that?
    – Is there an elitist tendency among MtF’s about how far along one is in transition? I’ve found that to be the case among FtM’s and I personally think its garbage.
    – Do you find that a lot of people move to a new geographic location as a part of transition? If so, does it help?

    Question 2 (my experience with transgender persons): When I was a child, my friend Tim (now Tina) would never (or maybe could never) say what it was that felt so awful inside of him but he was so uncomfortable in his own skin that even by age 8 I knew it. For very different reasons, I felt uncomfortable in my skin too so I think that Tina is the reason I developed an early empathy and compassion for what it must be like for trans folks. Nowadays, I have many friendships with transgender persons. The number of those connections increased significantly because of my work with organizing several years of Transgender Day of Remembrance (Nov 20 each year) events at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. However, my involvement always had an ironic twist that never sat well with me. We were certainly honoring those who were murdered (and we were the only site for such memorials for several hundred miles in any direction) with the vigil and educational programs. Yet, I felt so much rage that it took the death of such amazing people to chip away the ice from the hearts of even a hand full of people. There is something truly evil afoot when it takes brutal slayings to make someone suddenly feel compassion.

    Question 3 (my opinions of transgender persons): I think I just answered part of this question above but I’ll be explicit. I know all sorts of trans folks who individually I like and dislike for all the same reasons I like and dislike anyone else. However, my opinions of the trans community in general has been mixed and troubled. I see so much divisiveness, labeling, and “should”-ing be thrown at the trans community and within the trans community. So, I’ve often felt powerless to connect and offer any genuine love and compassion. I’ve felt frustrated when I’ve tried to reach out and been told that I couldn’t possibly understand enough to really care. Nevertheless, I know those walls come from years of hurt and wounding so I don’t feel personally offended by it… just powerless. But it still makes me sad and quite frankly, as a lesbian, I know that we, as a group, have been some of the cruelest to our trans neighbors.

    Okay, I think I need an anti-depressant now. I guess the sunrise over Lake Michigan will have to do. Take care and best wishes with your primer.

  11. WOW. Thanks to all who’ve replied so far! There’s a lot of food for thought here! Yeesh!

    @$2: You are hilarious! I can TOTALLY hear the music, and it is terrifying! :O

    I am, as a matter of fact, free for lunch next week. How’s Friday?

    @Sov: Oh, yeah – The Attitude! Oh, man! I smell a comeback! No, wait, it’s just this gym sock that fell behind the hamper. To think that my pre-blog nonsense was generated in mimeograph form is both sepia-toned nostalgia inducing and horrifying.

    Also, White Castle is delicious and its tiny treats of tastiness shall always find a place at my table.

    Right next to my Lipitor.

    @ Lavender: Thanks for sharing! I’m sure the girls and guys over at the trans-ponder group will have plenty to respond with regarding your post! Before we answer your questions more officially in the Primer, let me say that no question asked with good intent and sincerity on the part of the questioner should be met with anything other than respect and appreciation!

    OK, kids, get those questions in if you have ’em! I’ll be directing members of the group here to read your questions tomorrow morning, and generating the Primer this weekend! Stay tuned, and thanks to all who decided to (and plan to) contribute!

  12. I love you!
    Friday it is. I will send an official outlook invite on Monday……I know you’d be proud. Thursday I am booked for a cut and highlight. Should I do it? I always end up full of regret and clutching a cheap box of Deep Chocolate Brown #245 for cover up.

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