Example #832 as to why cis people should never ever attempt to write about trans women. Ever. Every single negative stereotype is included here, fromExample #832 as to why cis people should never ever attempt to write about trans women. Ever. Every single negative stereotype is included here, from the age-old trope of "the surgery" and depictions of trans women as frivolous and overemotional to the extreme and wrapping up with the "trans woman as tragic warning" trope that means we can only ever be killed and even then denied the very identity we died to achieve. And so much misgendering. So much. From the common "oh, Wanda's really a man" to a rather imaginative new form of exclusion with "I'm sorry, but the moon can't take you to dream land because only real women can use her magic."
I wish I weren't a completeist. I wish I'd have just skipped this entire volume beforehand, because then my love for the series would remain untarnished and I'd not have to add Neil Gaiman to the list of writers I adore but I can't think of without cringing. I picked up this graphic novel because I wanted to relax in the brisk autumn afternoon and think on subjects that were far from my daily life. To see my life written as a tragicomic mockery that reinforces so many harmful concepts was not what I was in the mood for. At all....more
Stylistically, this really reminded me of Jeanette Winterson's writing, though published long before her. The separated paragraphs serving to recountStylistically, this really reminded me of Jeanette Winterson's writing, though published long before her. The separated paragraphs serving to recount several concurrent narrative lines recalled Sexing the Cherry. It's always interesting for me to discover where the authors I enjoy find their inspiration....more
I find it incredibly difficult to discuss the works of authors that I adore. I’ve written nearly 300 reviews for this site over the years, yet on someI find it incredibly difficult to discuss the works of authors that I adore. I’ve written nearly 300 reviews for this site over the years, yet on some of my favorite writers I have said nary a word. Why is it always easier to describe why I don’t like something than it is to explain why a piece of writing resonates with me? I finished this book several weeks ago but have been torn as to how to review it. I didn’t want to just rate it and mark it read, but I don’t really know how to express how this short essay affected me. I’ve written three other drafts of this review so far and none have been able to get to the crux of how I feel about this seminal piece of first-wave feminist writing.
First published in 1929, A Room of One’s Own collects a series of lectures that Woolf delivered to two women’s colleges on the topic of women in fiction. A broad topic, to be sure, Woolf approaches it with all the cool logic intermixed with vivid imagery which made To The Lighthouse and Mrs. Dalloway such essential reads. Rather than focusing on how women in fiction have been portrayed throughout history, she turns her analytic eye on the lack of women writers asking the crucial question, “why is there no female Shakespeare? Why is it that it wasn’t until the advent of Austen and the Brontes that women began to tell their own stories?”
Her answer is so well known at this point that it could be canon. In order to be able to create, a woman needs a little bit of money and a room of one’s own. Basically, she needs to be freed from the daily demands of unpaid carework and domestic labor with which she has historically been saddled and a space where she can sit uninterrupted in order to coax the muse into cooperating with her. For a long time it was the latter half of this statement that really resonated with me. I’ve never had a room of my own, sharing with siblings while growing up, roommates while at university, and with my spouse until recently. Every piece of writing I’ve managed has been done while surrounded by people, words frantically inscribed during lulls in conversation or while trying to block out the sounds around me. I can only imagine how much more productive I could be were I to have a space I could seclude myself.
It wasn’t until the events of this year that I’ve realized just how important the first part of the statement is as well. Since coming out I have been lucky enough to meet a wide assortment of trans women, nearly all of whom are incredibly smart talented and absolutely brimming with creative passion. Yet almost without exception most of these women are forced to expend all of their energies on simply surviving. The endless struggle to find and retain employment, the constant threat of violence (physical, sexual, and emotional) that we are subject to whenever we are in public, the lifelong need to have access to the medical care that keeps the epic mindfuck that is dysphoria at bay- these are the struggles that the women I love spend their days consumed with. All the space in the world can not help you create if your every waking moment is filled just with the struggle to feed yourself and keep a roof over your head.
So if I want to read stories that are reflective of my own experiences, if I want to see films that feature trans characters that don’t rely entirely on the offensive stereotypes so often promulgated by cis people who have probably never met a trans woman, if I want to hear music made by girls like me, then economic security should be the primary place I should lend my efforts as both a trans woman and as an activist. Because I very much want to see more creative works made by trans women. I feel that we have a very unique perspective on not only gender and sexuality but human relations as a whole and that reading trans women’s stories is of benefit not just to me or to people with trans people in their lives, but to our entire culture.
So with all of that, with how much I very much relate to what Woolf is espousing in her typically beautiful way, why have I only rated this three stars? Because this slim volume suffers from the same problems that plagued feminist theory from its first incarnations until the early 1980s and which, though there is an increasing amount of criticism against it, continues to this day. That is the lack of awareness of how Woolf’s class status and skin color afforded her the privilege to be freed from care work and to have a room of her own in the first place. By not recognizing that her emancipation came at the expense of other women, Woolf’s emancipatory ideal ended up contributing to the silencing and marginalization of working women and women of color whose status in society did not afford them the luxury of either money or a room. That by not recognizing how the money that afforded her the opportunity to write came from a source that profited from the violence and exploitation of British colonialism, it reifies an inaccurate and damaging perspective. We should always strive to be aware of how the advantages we have come at the expense of others.
This is not meant as an indictment of Woolf, however. The concept of intersectionality is a relatively recent one and far be it for me to anachronistically apply it in my judgment of this thin volume. However, I do feel that it is necessary to read works like this with a critical eye and the knowledge that what Woolf is presenting is necessarily limited by her own experiences as a wealthy white woman in the early 20th Century. Even still, despite this glaring flaw, this is an exceptionally important book and absolutely belongs in the canon of feminist writings. ...more
When I met with my doctor the other week to pick up my prescription, she recommended a book to me that she said really helped her wife come to grips wWhen I met with my doctor the other week to pick up my prescription, she recommended a book to me that she said really helped her wife come to grips with understanding her husband as a transwoman. As I seem to be on an endless quest to help people understand where I’m coming from, I immediately ordered a copy from Powells and spent a few hours Saturday tearing through its large printed pages.
Written by a Bay Area psychologist who had worked closely with many people through their transitions, True Selves: Understanding Transsexualism For Families, Friends, Coworkers, and Helping Professionals paints a vivid picture of what it’s like growing up with feelings of dysphoria, the trauma of puberty, the ways in which adults have dealt with their dysphoria either through trying to build a “normal” life and the moment when the kettle comes to a boil and a person’s true gender can no longer be denied.
There’s a lot in there that I don’t agree with, particularly her ham-fisted attempt at delineating a difference between a transgendered person and a she-male where she claims that she-males are specifically prostitutes that are in some such stage of transition. This is utter bullshit. She-male as a term only has meaning as a pejorative slur which ignorant fucks use for transbashing. See also “lady-boy.” The author fails to take note of the class problems and limited access to resources that has so often pushed transgender people into sex work, and through limiting the scope of that analysis to ignore the broader structural oppression that trans people are subjected to, serves to reinforce the stereotyping of trans people as sexual deviants that leads to slurs like she-male in the first place.
Likewise, she repeatedly misgenders her patients, referring to them as their bio-sex repeatedly through the book. Coming from a trained professional who has worked closely with trans people in a book about helping those new to the concept come to grips with a friend/lover/coworker’s change to have such a glaring problem is just flat out sloppy. Shrink lady, you need a better editor.
Finally, this book was written in 1996, and is very much steeped in the outdated Harry Benjamin Standard of Ethics of Care for transgendered individuals. These standards are what kept me from seeking out treatment to address my dysphoria for a long amount of time, because they set up the psychologist as a gatekeeper who can allow/disallow access to HRT or approval to change genders on state-sanctioned IDs and I chafe at any such constraint upon my free will. I’ve lived over 30 years in this flawed form, needing to prove that to a state-approved professional should not be necessary. Holding the treatment I desire hostage before I jump through the requisite hoops very much makes me feel not like a woman seeking to bring her external form into compliance with her inner representation but more of a deviant needing to prove themselves in the eyes of authority. It’s no wonder that an anti-authoritarian like me was hesitant to plunge into that circle of approval, seeing as I value personal autonomy higher than nearly any other value (as long as you don’t exercise that autonomy to oppress or exploit others, in which case you will learn right quick why I consider myself militant).
While I don’t agree with everything contained therein, it is still the best resource I’ve yet found for explaining dysphoria. The first three chapters, on growing up trans, puberty as a transwoman, and early adulthood where we grapple with ideas of fitting in and passing as a gender that we don’t relate to, are amazing. I’ve never been able to put into words the sense of alienation from people yet needing to perform and be approved of by them that has pervaded so much of my life as these chapters managed to illuminate. You could read 80 of my blog posts and still never get as thorough of an illustration as True Selves manages. This is why, despite all the things it gets wrong, I still think people who want to relate with me should read it....more