Azure Jane Lunatic (azurelunatic) wrote,
Azure Jane Lunatic
azurelunatic

Community, gender, Don[na|o] Vorrutyer, and me

So after literally months of debate, I left [info - community] theladiesloos, not because of anything said or done in there (I barely participated at all, and the activity level is of public record on the profile: see start date, see number of posts = light use) but because while I understand the need that others have for gendered private spaces on a regular basis, and have occasionally sought them out myself, it makes me profoundly uncomfortable to be a part of one implemented in that fashion. I am perfectly comfortable to participate in the GeekFeminism.org community discussions. I suspect that the thing that has me running so hard and so fast is the intersection of the enforced privacy, the standard for admission being self-defining as a woman, and a gatekeeper effect where an existing member must confirm that you are a woman.

I am OK with being a woman. It's what the genetic dice rolled up for me, and I'm OK with being me for the most part. I like lipstick, long hair, and skirts, in the performative department. My genital arrangement does not displease me. (My reproductive system does displease me; I have all but given up on the idea of a body birth.) (My brain chemistry also displeases me, but that's not this topic although doubtless it would be affected in some way.)

But, see, I'm not attached to it. Girl stuff and boy stuff were not emphasized as part of my childhood. I got to adolescence without too much of the "but girls don't...!" and "but boys don't...!" attached to me. My brain does tricks like "All right, since all the girls are leaving in the van to go get ice, and all the boys are staying at the park with the baguettes and hummus and their books, and I am at the park with a book, and that hummus does look tasty, I must be a boy!" This, in my long hair and lipstick and frilly skirt, with a body that is exceptionally hard to mistake for male. (It has been done, but it was by a 5-year-old, and I was in full Darth Vader getup at the time, with a very concealing shirt.)

I am often "one of the guys". I do not often have problems with being one of the guys. I tend to hang out with men who are "one of the girls" and women who are "one of the guys". (My hobbies, computers and slash fandom, are strongly skewed, however. Tech skews male. Slash skews female.)

A female-bodied friend once confessed to me that they had gone to a campus LBGTQ meeting, intending to have gone there for the B, and realized that, if all things in the world were as they liked them, they would have been born as a man. They (and I don't know which they prefer to be called, so I'm using 'they') mentioned a mental exercise for cisgendered people to put themselves through.
Imagine that one day you woke up and you were the opposite sex. Not a Metamorphosis-like change, but as if it had always been this way. You have a closet full of clothes that suit your biological sex. Your orientation has also remained consistent relative to your body -- if you are straight you are still straight, if you are gay you are still gay, if you are bisexual you are still of course bisexual. Everyone treats you according to the sex of your body.

How would you react? To what lengths would you go to regain the body you currently have?

My answer surprised them. "I think I'd be mostly okay with it," I said thoughtfully. Evidently this is not the usual response. My one point of conflict at the thought was predictable: at the time I was courting a man who was a true Kinsey 0, and the thought of such a fundamental incompatibility with him was unbearable. But absent that, I did not think that I would have any motivation to attempt to again live as a woman. Not if that would mean making a fuss and going out of my way any more than I already do. I might still maintain long hair. I would probably go in for kilts. I would still lose tubes of Burt's Bees lip balm to the washer on a semi-regular basis, and they might even be tinted. Learning the societal expectations for a man would probably be just as painful as my unlamented adolescence. I wouldn't know how I'd actually cope unless I were actually thrust into that existence, unless there are psychologists out there who have tests that can accurately assess these things, and I don't think that modern psychology is quite up to the task.

At the end of the day, it's still a thought experiment, and in no way equivalent to the special hell that is having been born and living in a body that is the wrong sex.

But the older I get, the more and more I start to identify with Donna Vorrutyer. I don't know if she was deliberately written this way, but when I think of her decision to make the transition, I hear a frustrated oath with overtones of triumph. "All right, I'll play by your fucking rules, boys!"

I am not Donna Vorrutyer, nor Dono. There is nothing that I desire and need so much as Donna needed to inherit her late brother's post, that I am legally barred from on account of being female. Betan medicine does not yet exist. These are the factors that separate me from her: legally encoded gender discrimination, a time-sensitive goal, the need to work within the existing law to reach the goal, and the availability of a tested/straightforward/complete technological solution within that span of time.

Donna's solution is not a viable one for most scenarios of sex/gender based legal discrimination. As a long-term solution, it is always more ethical to enact change to the law. Two men who want to get married should not have to have one of them turn into a woman in order to do it, even if it's just a legal fiction and no one actually goes through a transition. That's just fucking stupid. Transition should be for people who actually want it, not for people who are trying to jump through legal hoops.

Right now, the state of medicine is such that only people who are fundamentally not OK with their body as it is will (or should) consent to go through gender reassignment surgery. I believe that as it gets better, easier, and cheaper, more people will have it done, and for perhaps different reasons than people today are going through it. I believe that one day, it will be good enough and affordable enough that people who do not actually dislike the sex their body got at birth will have it as an option, and that they will do it for what would now be considered frivolous reasons.

These procedures are going to continue getting better. As they get better, more people will choose to transition. (People who are fundamentally attached to their current gender will never transition unless the technology gets good enough that they can do it quickly, easily, cheaply, and have no chance in the slightest of getting "stuck" in the wrong gender.) As more people choose to transition, there will be a larger sample size to isolate the factors that make people require a permanent and full transition from other factors, and there will be more actual science and less halfassed guessing behind stuff on gender.

If Betan-standard medicine existed, and there were a reason for me to have done it, I might well be one of those people that Dono offhandedly mentioned, those who have made the switch more than once.

It's all academic now. That sort of technology will likely not exist in my lifetime, and I'm unlikely to encounter anything that will prod me out of my gender inertia, particularly since the current political climate makes me skew female out of sheer stubbornness.

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