Tina K. Russell

April 13, 2008

Awesome Cissexual Columnists: Joseph Ho

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Tina Russell @ 8:13 pm

Taipei Times – archive

I haven’t written anything about the big “pregnant transsexual man” story because I have a bit of contempt for the international media with a big song-and-dance about what is an immensely personal decision. Why should a man feel somehow obligated, as some people seem to expect him to, to forsake the biological functions given to him at birth while affirming who he is through transition? A transsexual man, tragically, still cannot inseminate a woman, so the smug, lingering idea that somehow a transsexual man should be allowed neither the ability to give birth nor the ability to inseminate is insensitive and bigoted.

But, the good part of this whole “he’s pregnant” media circus is that it probably won’t have to happen again. Every transsexual has the right to decide how much he or she wants to transition, straight from no physical transition–where I am, at the moment–to a full slate of treatments and surgeries, and the sooner the public understands that, the better. What seems silly about this story to the trans community in particular, I imagine, is that many transsexual men forgo bottom surgery because the process of manufacturing a penis is experimental and constantly improving, whereas a constructed vagina is more or less like the one that about half of us get at birth. So the story, I’m sure, is nothing that any actual transsexual considers much to write home about. Why wouldn’t you want to keep around the biological tools you were given at birth? It’s not like they make you any less of a man, especially when the only other option is simply to be rid of them, with little as a trade-off.

The good news, though, as I said, is that, once this media circus is over, people around the world will be much more familiar with trans issues and much more comfortable considering the possibility. The tone of most of these articles seems to be voyeuristic curiosity, which, while annoying, had to happen at some time, and once it’s over I’ll be glad we’re done with it. A transsexual getting pregnant is not a huge deal, and the and it will be good for the rest of the world to realize this, even if it comes with a slightly snarky and irkingly condescending few news cycles of lurid obsession with one man’s very personal decision.

So, though these snarky and condescending articles have been steadily flowing through my Google alerts for some time now, I’ll pick this genuinely moving, and insightful, article from a paper in Taiwan.

Such turns are quite rare in the existing script of a transgender life. And this is exactly where the problem lies: Everybody seems to expect transsexual people to tell the same story, a story of “a soul trapped in the wrong body,” and the determined search to find a “true self.” And when this quest for the “true self” is to be proven with a relentlessness that strives forward regardless of the price to be paid, then how could a transgender person still harbor a lingering sense of attachment to their original reproductive organs, their sensual feelings and functions? Consequently, full identification with the target gender, and showing only the behavior of that gender, has become the only way for transgender people to validate their identity.

At a seminar on transgender issues three years ago in Taiwan, two brave female-to-male transgender people openly talked about difficulties in their sex lives. They posed a straightforward question to the audience: Should their female reproductive organs, their feminine feelings and their female patterns of sexual pleasure be forgotten and abandoned in the transition process? Why can’t the experiences of their life as women become a valuable source of wisdom in their new life as men? Why must they start from scratch? Why must old bodies be negated before a new life can begin?

Please read the rest. It’s a great article. This kind of innate, subtle, humble, objective respect is exactly how to be a good trans ally. Take a step back and remember you’re not a saint for discussing transsexual issues. We’re real people leading real lives, and your understanding–and respect–is greatly appreciated.

In fact, it tickles me pink, almost more than anything, when someone with no ties to the “trans” or “queer” communities brings up transsexual issues out of the blue in a polite and respectful way, affirming our simple desire to be understood as real people, as coworkers, as family members, as friends. When so much of the world is hostile to me and my people, it leads to a sort of constant on-edge feeling, the knowledge that people you know of and respect may be confused and frightened by who you are, if they ever met you. So when someone with no connection to me reaches out to my people and establishes himself or herself as a friend, I am happy.

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