Metacentricities

  • What I Have to Say Today

    I've been triggered, greatly, by the events of the last two days. Not because I didn't expect it. Not because #ThisIsNotUs. But because I knew it was going to happen, but I didn't really want to believe that it would. I'm not including any pictures on purpose - I've been way too triggered by them, and I don't want to make it worse for anyone else.

    I am really a Gen Xer, even though supposedly demographically, being born late in 1959, I'm a boomer. But I say that because the country I grew up in was different than the one boomers grew up in. I was barely 4 when the Birmingham church was bombed. I was still very young when the schools in the south were desegregated. Because of the class I grew up in, I grew up in a world of opportunity, even as I could see that it wasn't one that all black people shared.

    I've been a student of history for the past 20 years or so - intrigued by the past, and the ways the events of the past not only have echoes now, but actually create what we are looking at right now.

    I'm not sure the Civil War ever really ended. I think perhaps we've been fighting a cold civil war since 1865. There have been great strides since then, as the quality of my black, queer, genderqueer life attests to. That said, there is a relatively small but significant number of people in this country that would happily return us to a time when blacks (and all POC) are subservient, women are in the kitchen, and queer people are shot on sight. And there is a much, much larger number of people who might not say they want this, but frankly wouldn't mind so much …

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  • The Gym

    At varied times in my life, I've been a gym rat. I've always enjoyed lifting weights - I would say it's my favorite exercise. I spent a number of years away from the gym, but I'm back now. I don't just lift weights - one of the other things I happen to enjoy is aquaerobics.

    One of the things I'm doing as I go through this process is notice things.  I'm noticing what's out there, what people say and do, and what my internal responses are.

    First, of course, there is the locker room. Every time I go to the locker room now, I'm so aware of the fact that it doesn't feel totally right (it never has.) And after I get top surgery (even if I don't take T), it's going to feel even less right.

    Then there's the aquaerobics group. 95% of the time, it's all women. That was true today.  Every once in a while, one (other?) guy joins. As we were doing our thing in the pool, someone said something I didn't catch (I'm thinking it was slightly salacious) and another person said, "we're all girls here."  And all I could think of was "no, actually, we're not."

    One of the things that I've always hated is being called one of the "ladies" or "ma'am." Ugh. I hate that. I've never, ever been a lady, and I never will be. Some aspects of my being are female, although I'd not say they were "feminine." No part of me is "lady-like."

    The locker room, and public bathrooms that aren't gender neutral are going to be a challenge for me, especially if I stay in a sort of in-between state after top surgery.

    I remember starkly one day I was in an airport, in line in the women's bathroom, and …

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  • Coming Out As Trans

    I'm still not sure I identify as "trans", although I've slowly but surely begun to realize that perhaps I've been avoiding that identity because it scares me. I've identified as genderqueer pretty much the moment I heard that term, in the mid-late 90s. Before people began to talk about gender fluidity and multiple gender identities, I didn't really have language to talk about what was going on inside of myself.

    As I said before, I don't have the narrative of "a man trapped in a woman's body." I've never quite felt that, even as I've felt, for a very long time (as long as I can remember) a boy, and then a man, somewhere buried inside there.

    I have had gender dysphoria for as long as I can remember. In all of my years of working on getting to be friends with my body, the dysphoria has only gotten worse, not better.

    And fully accepting my dysphoria is what has allowed me to come to the place of wanting to do something about it - wanting to present differently in the world. And presenting differently to the world, in this world, at this time, means, basically, that I am trans.

    And perhaps that's the problem. That's the rub. Because our society is so divided by gender, I can't just choose to present another part of myself that's so present for me without changing my relationship with the world.

    I'm getting used to that - used to this idea if I want Maxwell to have his time in this world, the world will not see him in the same way as it sees Pearl (not my real given first name). Max can't live in exactly the same way as Pearl has lived in the world. The same spaces will not feel safe to …

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  • Top Surgery

    On Friday, I'm going to see a surgeon. I'm one of the lucky ones, living in California. My insurance will pay entirely for gender surgery. A few weeks ago (was it only that long ago?) I called Kaiser, that has a specialized transgender clinic in the East Bay. I spent a very nice time with a mental health specialist, who was I guess going through the varied things needed to make sure that I was OK for starting this process.

    I'm excited and petrified. Going to doctors isn't really all that fun for me (I don't know that it is for most people.) But I have a fairly long history with them, having had a number of medical ailments in my life. I've had mostly great doctors, and a few horrible doctors, and some in between.

    But there is something really vulnerable about going to a surgeon (a *plastic* surgeon at that) about this thing that has been so tender for me for a long time.

    I've never liked my breasts, since the beginning moment they began to grow. I started puberty really late (more on that later) and it happened fast. One minute, I had a body that I liked enough. The next minute (or so it seemed), I had a body I hated. I have gotten much, much better at loving this body, but knowing that I can get rid of my breasts is a relief. I know for many of you that might seem harsh. If you love your breasts, I'm happy for you. If you don't have any, but want some, I can't really understand, but I can hold a space for that for you. But the idea of not having them feels so freeing.

    Right now, this feels like it's the right step for me …

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  • Beginnings

    I have to start somewhere - although I don't really know where. Do I start at the point where I hated wearing girl's clothes when I was a kid? Do I start with the running battles I had with my mother about what I was going to wear? I'm wanting to lay it all out - explain it all, even though at some point it's unexplainable.

    First, I'll give you a little background to get you oriented. I'm 57 (I'll be 58 in about a week.) I've lived for 35 of those years as a lesbian, and lived what I might say was "to be determined" before that. I never considered myself straight, really. I grew up in a different age. Straight was the default, you didn't think about it much, until you had to.

    Gender has always been complex for me - ever since the beginning, but it has gotten more and more complex as I've gotten older. No, let me revise that. I have gotten clearer and clearer about the complexities of gender inside of me. I've never had the narrative that I was a "man stuck in a woman's body." That said, there is a man in my body, and has been since the beginning. He's not alone in there, but he's there. And he's been in the background of my life for a long time.

    And not. I've dressed in men's clothing (including underwear) since I could buy my own clothes. I haven't bought an item of women's clothing in over 30 years. There are other ways that I express male gender, and I'll dive into that later.

    This blog is meant to be a chronicle of a big change I'm going through. After living as a woman for my entire adult life, I'm considering living as a man …

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  • You're Not Off The Hook Just Because You Don't Have Privilege

    Preface: This is only about interactions and conversations with people who are active, committed allies. This is NOT about conversations with anyone in the alt-right, or your sexist, homophobic uncle.

    I see this dynamic play out over, and over, and I realized I really needed to write something about it.

    The dynamic is this: someone with privilege (race, gender, class, cis, sexuality, ability, etc.) says or does something. Perhaps it's an unconscious mistake, or perhaps not. What happens next is that the person without privilege gets triggered. And then they speak about what that privileged person just said, which then triggers the person with privilege, because, of course it does.

    And with both people speaking while they are triggered, they continue to injure each other, and probably themselves, too. The person without privilege gets more jaded, and the person with privilege gets more wounded, feels more shame, and nothing changes. They each bring this same dynamic into other places and spaces, and... no wonder everyone feels like shit about the whole thing.

    What's most important for both sides of this equation is learning to get untriggered before you speak. It's just as important for the person without privilege as it is for the person with.

    Why is this? This is not about what's right, or what's polite, or whatever. This isn't tone policing. This is about what's effective, knowing what we know about the brain. One of the things we know about the brain is that when we get triggered - we're in fight or flight mode. Our amygdalas are active. And what do they do? They actively hijack traffic from your pre-frontal cortex - that's your wise, thinking brain. The amygdala does that because it's not evolutionarily advantageous for us to be thinking when we're in mortal danger.  But it gets …

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  • I Read Tuvel's Article, So You Don't Have To.

    There has been quite the uproarabout an article in the journal Hypatia on "transracialism" by Rebecca Tuvel. It's creating a real controversy in feminist academia and philosophy.

    So first off, I'm not a philosopher. I took one philosophy course in college. I did teach feminist studies of varied sorts in my academic career, so I guess I have a few creds, but really,  one could say I'm not all that equipped to critique an article written by a philosopher in a peer-reviewed journal. Except I am. It's hard to believe this article actually got published.

    An amazing quote I got from an article written by Kelly Oliver, a philosophy professor at Vanderbilt is this:

    As one academic wrote to me in a private message, “sorry I’m not saying this publicly (I have no interest in battling the mean girls on Facebook) but fwiw it’s totally obvious to me that you haven’t been committing acts of violence against marginalized scholars.” Later, this same scholar wrote, again in private, saying Tuvel’s article is “a tight piece of philosophy” that makes clear that the position that “transgender is totally legit, [and] transracial is not—can only be justified using convoluted essentialist metaphysics.

    And given that quote, I just had to write this post. If this is a "tight piece of philosophy", I'll eat my hat.

    Let's get one thing done first. The whole premise of this article is to debunk varied arguments that suggest that you can change gender, but you can't change your race. And I have absolutely nothing against talking about, and thinking about what that means - what it means to decide you are of a different race than you've grown up with and society perceives that you are. And because both gender and race are …

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  • I'm a Primitive Christian (among other things)

    I've been attending Quaker Meeting lately (off and on for about 2 years, regularly for 6 months now.) In particular, Redwood Forest Friends Meeting in Santa Rosa, CA. I've been struck by a number of things about it, which I'll be writing more about, for sure. I've been reading about George Fox, and early Quakerism, as well as current manifestations. And I've been amazed to learn how many different strains of Quakerism exist.

    I knew that in some ways, modern Quakers in unprogrammed meetings were, in some regards, a fair bit like UUs in the breadth of their beliefs. And I do find this to be largely true, at least in what I've experienced locally, and what I've read lately. But that breadth developed a little differently. For Quakers, it seems, some of that breadth comes from the core concept the priesthood of all believers, and the central importance of the direct individual experience of God, present in each one of us.

    I've been reading the Faith and Practice of the Pacific Yearly Meeting (the Yearly Meeting that my local meeting belongs to.) I came across this quote:

    Early Friends considered themselves Christians; they interpreted and justified their unique vision in Biblical and traditional Christian terms. However, from its inception the Quaker movement has offered critiques of many accepted manifestations of Christianity while at the same time empathizing with people of other faiths. We might use the phrase "primitive Christianity" to describe more closely where Friends fit across the Christian spectrum. Primitive Christianity usually refers to those teachings that pre-date Fourth Century Christians, who had been embraced by Constantine and were becoming "established." These earliest followers of Jesus were radical revolutionaries, representing a "new order" of faithful who lived communally, eschewed violence of all kinds, and practiced simplicity.

    I left …

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  • Three Communities, Right Now

    I am likely one of a very few people who has nosebleed seats to the goings on in three different communities right now. I say nosebleed because I'm not closely involved in any one of these controversies, but because of my spiritual, avocational, and professional histories, I remain connected to these communities.

    So in no particular order, here we go:

    Drupal.

    Drupal is an open source CMS that I used to build websites with. It has a large vibrant community of developers (of which I used to be a part) who contribute to it, and advance it, and just basically make it run well, and build cool stuff with it. Like many open-source communities, it has a "Benevolent Dictator for Life," generally the person who started the whole thing in the first place. Over the past few weeks, a very long-time contributor to the project, named Larry Garfield (also known as crell) was asked to leave his leadership position by Dries Buytaert, Drupal's BDFL. In the beginning, it seemed that the issue had to do with Larry's particular BDSM lifestyle, but later, after the unveiling of DrupalConfessions, it has appeared that there may well be more to it than that. Again, I can't really say, because, nosebleed. But it has left the Drupal community in disarray.

    Unitarian Universalist Association.

    A few weeks ago, the UUA President, Peter Morales, resigned just ahead of the end of his term, because of a controversy relating to the hiring of yet another white guy to lead the Southern District, when there was (at least) one woman of color who was eminently qualified for the post. There has been a lot of weeping and gnashing of teeth, as well as three amazing people stepping up to lead the UUA at this time, and, of …

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  • Contemplating the Questions

    I don't have much in me right now, except for questions. So I'll ask them, sit with them, and perhaps you can sit with them with me.

    First, How can I balance my regular life with the effort, work, actions needed at this time?

    These are not normal times, and this is not a normal, garden variety conservative president. I remember what life was like under Reagan, Bush I and Bush II. My life went on, pretty much as normal. I was an activist, so I did activism, but it didn't feel like an emergency - urgent, but not life-threatening. Most of us have to work to eat, keep the roof over our heads, keep our cats in kibble, so there has to be some modicum of a normal working life. But sometimes it feels like even that is problematic now. How can I plan courses or events, or launch new products, or write new code, when all this stuff is happening? But I have to, at the same time.

    What effort, work, actions are really needed?

    This is the tough one. On one hand, sure, writing our congresspeople, marching in the streets, doing other kinds of activism, is important - but what is really going to make a difference? We have someone in office who actually seems not to care at all about the rule of law, nor does he respect the balance of powers. So what is really going to make the biggest difference? Those of us against Trump might be in the majority, but there are an awful lot of people who like authoritarians, and are fine with what he's doing. So what actions can I take that are going to have the biggest effect?

    How to reach those people?

    Ultimately, white working-class people who are authoritarian Trump supporters …

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