Your Natal Sun I Do Not Accept

[Editorial Note: this is another personal essay, written more out of a steam of frustrated consciousness, than from care and critical reflection, for my natal birthday -- which I do not celebrate, as such.

My forthcoming blog post -- "America's Got Abjection: The Trans Sacrificial Subject from Stage to Street" -- will be up in a short while from now. I've opted to write two personal pieces for this week]:

 

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Trig Reciprocal Functions: I’m a Trans Woman Adjunct Prof and I Use Trigger Warnings

“… Without a sense of identity, there can be no real struggle…” 
― Paulo Friere, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

An odd scenario has evolved in how we negotiate art, politics, and interpretation when considering the relationship between intersubjectvity and the circulation of meaning in the teaching of literature. A new morality has emerged: forget a ‘spoiler alert’ and you’ve committed a punishable heresy. Who dies at the end of a season of Breaking Bad? Serious business, people. Existential necessity. Just Good manners. But as for ‘trigger warnings’ [TW]?  Shit, that’s just crybaby neoliberal self-petting for the snowflake and kleenex crowd, for those disposed to “fragility of mind“.

Now, I’ve procrastinated on writing on this topic in the same way I sidestep “death of the humanities” debates. The arguments are vociferous and dispersed, with a conglomerate of tenured professors siding together in detecting a “chilling effect on our teaching and pedagogy“, with the frigidity of puritanical TW advocates and millennial whingers collaborating in the straight jacketing of literature and its magnanimous task to challenge the naive. You’d need a page to list the entire bibliography of this point of view, which has enjoyed a fair whack of “father knows best” in big academic publications.

However, those supporting trigger warnings or content notices have either been ignored, miscast as proponents of censorship and pedagogical restriction, or just unremarkable ableism that implies that those of soft constitutions should best stick to Archie comics. There have, however, been several very good defences  – I recommend Shakesville and Samantha Field for start. And, this morning, Julia Serano proposed some evaluations, in an essay over 6000 words. Serano notes a generational issue in play, but I’m not so sure of that. Regardless, one does sense that an older professoriate has absorbed too much Admin-think; and they now preach that tough love is the TruthHurts.edu for the weak-soled kids of the now.

Really, I would probably have jogged past the subject, throwing my hands up in dismay at the fray, if not for a scholar I greatly admire, Jack Halberstam, offering a much-discussed intervention into the field.

In terms of joining the debate, Halberstam’s essay felt like a second-half substitute of another striker in football (soccer), a fresh pair of legs rushing onto the pitch to replace a wearied captain playing midfield. To put it another way, Halberstam brings flash where for too long we only heard administrative arguments against TW. Halberstam’s dazzling style of aggressive play, albeit appearing somewhat late in the match, is mostly tooth and less tactics: “all social difference in terms of hurt feelings and that divides up politically allied subjects into hierarchies of woundedness,” he writes gnashingly of TWs.

With the dozens of heavy footed pieces out there, I realize the contribution I might make is how I — as an openly transsexual woman in university classrooms — use TW in my syllabus and course dynamics

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Aoife’s Birthday

I don’t believe that I, as a trans woman, have a ‘horoscope’ in the influential sense, as in stardust destinies and calibrated retrograde planets. Of born this way by cosmically housed roulette personalities. But if astrology is the study of cycles, then transition has taught me to unlearn more than a few repeated patterns that doomed me to never being truly born. I refused to live in that lifeless way: I picked my own sign.

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Eyeliner, Menstrual Blood, and the Nostalgia for a Body Occultism

 “Transies who attack us only care about themselves. We women need our own culture, our own resourcing, our own traditions . . . . But if you claim to be one of us, you have to have sometimes in your life a womb, and overies and MOON bleed and not die.” – Z. Budapest, commenting on how “real women” are to worship the Goddess in Dianic Wicca [her emphasis and spelling]

Zsuzsanna Budapest believes in the sacramental secretions of menstruation as determinative of the “female life cycle“, which serve as secret gateway mysteries to the Goddess. She both affirms the specificity of the female experience, whilst concurrently rejecting the culturally oppressive way womanhood is constructed, by liturgy-fying the female body as altar of worship. As such, Budapest has been an iconic figurehead in the project to reclaim female perspectives by consolidating them in the fixed notion of a singular biological body that can be accessed and celebrated in a metaphysical fashion, outside the providence of patriarchal authorisation.

And it’s on this point of argument that her thinking overlaps one of the primary tenets of radical feminism that excludes the placement of trans women as women: the female body is a distinct, discreet ontological unit that, determinatively, defines female experience in strict biological accord.

Considering how this exclusion is determined, and why it has been so influential in the criticism levied at me recently, is important in understanding why intersectional feminism differs from previous body occultism of some second wave thinking.

Dianic Wicca prioritizes a gynocentric form of worship in which women, as defined according to their reproductive biologies which constitute the true female experience. Largely ahistorical, culturally non-comparative, and ultimately occultic — Budapest’s Dianic “priestess hood” and its “womyn only” policies have created repeated controversies in the dogmatically flexible world of public paganism.  Budapest has found herself debating this position that posits all women as sharing in a uniquely positioned bodily configuration, and having to fight off the manner in which expectations are foisted upon them according to that configuration. Transsexual women are anatomically pre-destined never to experience this Venus-gnosis of the Divine Feminine.

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Pennyred and the Interloper’s Dilemma

Aside from routine blood draws to check my hormone levels — too often delivered with a procedural piercing of sensitive elbow skin — or the blistering zap of laser against upper lip, few aspects of my transition cause me so much consternation as reading TransTwitter. Each morning, I warily suck up my lower guts with my abdominal muscles, like Houdini hardening his abs to take a punch, as I survey the torrents of TransTwitter.

Our infamy for volatility and political vulcanism has encircled all of us with the aura of harsh notoriety.  I’ve known many’s a twisty maze in the underdark of the internet  – pro-ana, hard kink, steroids, catch the bus, drugs — and of them all TransTwitter has the most ill fame in general. This is most unfair, in my opinion, and not accurate of our diversity. Nonetheless, at this stage, I reckon no major cis author is putting ‘transgender’ in the headlines without bracing for retaliatory critiques … and well they should, in my view. The era of trotting out trans people as savage evidence to be appropriated and dominated by whatever cissexist thesis is fashionable in that instant is over. Trans people have won a certain amount of reactionary visibility, even if mainstream authorship merely alludes us.

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“Poof! You’re a Girl!” The Interval of Losstalgia and a Childhood Friend

“You and me are real people, operating in a real world. We are not figments of each other’s imagination. I am the architect of my own self, my own character and destiny.” — Jean-Paul Sartre, L’existentialisme est un humanisme

 

This is a story that I never told to anyone in full before . . . about the I who was before I.

By the age of ten, as far as combatting my increasingly agitated whirl of gender dysphoria, my rhetorical options were down to two: hide or lie.

I had already demonstrated prodigious talent for both.

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Why I’m Supporting NED in the Wold Cup (AKA: A love letter to my closeted self)

My passion for Dutch football has been longstanding, but not established by geographical belonging or bloodline connections. I am not Dutch, and as far as I know have no ancestry in that nation. I’ve visited the nation many times, both in my dream annals of places I wanted to live as well as highlight reels from a tourist’s visa. But my address has never been in their borders. My throat, irritated by the steam engine vowels of Dutch, never mastered the language. Smoked gouda goes well with artisan crackers, but swallowing herring in a single snatch remains an impossibility. Wooden shoes, windmills, and placid canals belong on postcard fare. And I hold no passport there. Yet the rims of the Amsterdam canals encircled my early years. In that city I made my first stab at my indomitable Sphinx.

Amsterdam was where I first learned the word transsexual.

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“The Stranger is Always You” : Hedwig, Survival, and the Questionable Trans Label

[Preliminary Note: my reading of Hedwig and the Angry Inch is based upon the filmed production (Mitchell 2001), augmented by consulting a printed edition of the stagescript (New York: Dramatists Play Service Inc, 2003). I have not seen the current Tony-winning production, starring Mr Neil Patrick Harris, and my interpretations can therefore not speak with specific to his performance.]

And Agathon said, “It is probable, Socrates, that I knew nothing of what I had said.”

“And yet spoke you beautifully, Agathon,” he replied.    — Plato, The Symposium

 

My first attempt to watch Hedwig and the Angry Inch — with the love of my life sitting on the couch beside me, who is also trans — ended in an epic cinematic panic attack. I was shocked by the display of coercive sexual relations set to an all spit, no polish, saloon soundtrack; and then this notion of the gay-guy goes too far and seeks out a backroom “sex change”; and then the operation is carried out by a grimacing Victor Frankenstein who specialises in budget bottom surgeries that he botches with the scalpel. The misadventures all result in the deformed trans woman and her physical ignominy of the angry inch.

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