I am but thirty years behind myself. Here are five minutes only it took all day.

This week I am almost in the mood to construct a long, wide-ranging, single draft from beginning to end and yet relatively coherent manifesto. 

Almost.

I have become preoccupied with voice. Voices, even: those whose near- but not-quite-appearance earned me the “psychotic features” feature of my Official Psychiatric Diagnosis–well, one of them. I have several spread through time and space and now in binary code–but not just those voices. And my voice, or those voices I can describe as available for me to use consciously and willfully even if I have my skepticisms regarding will including a question nobody has answered yet in a way I find useful which question goes mainly like will: what the fuck is it and why are we so attached to the idea of it. I confess I do not “get” will as an entity or function or even faculty although I sometimes get some little where if I approach will as a name that gets passed around among a small circle of verbs having to do with wishing and desiring and commanding and otherwise employing agents of action with or without their consent.

But not just my own voices those which seem to obey what is called me and those which seem to obey the more occult me’s whose functions are not clear beyond their our being indiscriminate attempts to survive the world as they we see it: double-binds chained up into triple- and quadruple-binds to the point that uncertainty issues as its own exponential feedback loop quickly pegging the meters and shredding paper wire and splintered wooden cabinets who crash to the ground and into the crowds huddled around the stacks as though distorted signals were only nutritious if embraced bodily the bass notes picking us up off our feet and setting us back down again 120 times every minute.

But also voice in general: who made the first vocal noise on Earth and what did it sound like when mineral and salt and metal and gas all gathered their breath at once to voice almost nothing other than the interminable lines of divisions and multiplications and the branches and the flowerings and wanings and the iterations and the iterations and the daily business of securing stellar energy in some digestible form or another enough to live through the next day or night or month or winter.

Was it a croak or a squeak or a peal of lungs over ossified vocal folds in announcement of announcement.

We are here.

Where.

Here.
 
 
Here.
 
 
 
Here.

So I have been reading and I have been writing but I have not been speaking or that is I whose life’s work has been determining what to say.

to all of this.

have been keeping mum.

It is an ancient imperative I suspect at least as old as my ancestors’ graves on that Asian peninsula we call Europe wherever they might have been lain some thousand or so places who no longer have names that they themselves know to answer to.

This was going to be a cut and paste. Here is one from a letter I wrote to a friend not long ago.

I have some observations and I have some hunches and I have some ideas but mostly I cannot make out whether or not I have a voice. I may have one. I do not really know if I do or maybe it is that I exercise my own voices for my own auditors and everyone in here is fine with that but when I consider any degree of broadcasting any of these voices even in the smallest ways (should I be writing this? I do not know but I seem to be able to keep writing today so I am going to keep writing today) we bombard ourselves with questions and second and third and fourth guesses about the propriety of ourselves, we, myself, all of me speaking at all.

All of the accounts I read whether of my immediate family or my more distant relations in time and space to the extent that these accounts are fitted to typically heterocompulsive protestant imperatives to that extent I cannot find my place in any of them. I could not possibly have existed before now or that is what they tell me or that is what they tell me in not telling me anything more than what they do the covers of family bibles recording sons and daughters of sons and daughters of sons and daughters as though this were all that ever proceeded from the mouths of humanity or even the only possible terrestrial issue these accounts do not account for me at all.

This other thing too: the language I have been given or the terms with which I have heard my life or lives similar to mine explained and described and discounted and disposed of issues from and reiterates such monstrously outsized shame as a throttle and lash that it is hard to maneuver around without sustaining multiple lacerations at my own hands. It is as though the abusive methods that trained me up in the way I should go worked so as to establish internal agents unable to do other than continue to offer abuse.

I was very well trained as I was growing up to exceed expectations especially when I perceived those expectations as having their hopes bound in some point above. Above me, that is: in stature, power, authority, and all that go with them to render the whole deal of growing up quite awful. Which is not so different from what other children felt. On the other hand I do not know many others who had a Lake of Fire held over their heads or under their feet as the consequences of not only not exceeding expectations but of not examining yourself minutely for other signs of rebellion–and this was just one item on a very very long list of things to do and not do and you had to be very careful and watchful because Satan could trick you into thinking you were doing the right thing when really you were doing the opposite and even though that might seem like it was all on Satan it turned out in the end to be your fault or you were going to be tortured forever as a result and this was certainly reasonable even if by the time you were 16 it would begin to show its absurdity at 7 you took it all very very literally. That is I did.

It was inconceivable to doubt what the preacher said even only to oneself. Your opinion was not only emphatically unsolicited but understood as refuted without hearing: silly, selfish, sinful–a scale yes but usually involving divine judgment as early in the process as necessary to make a clearly open-and-shut case whose sentence needed be no more than one single sentence if it were in need of pronouncing at all.

“I never had to spank her. I could just look at her a certain way and she would be crushed.”

It was true. Crushed I was.

It occurs to me to mention something about cultural social capital and how it is constructed by others and by oneself under conditions where oneself is expected always to be speaking from the seat of shame and where this extends to gender and sexuality in particular to make certain subject positions–let’s say however many might be on the “ftm trans* spectrum” in sociological discourse but on a sort of spun off trajectory into a wtf is gender and I may have a beard and I do love it yes but please stop assuming I am a man sort of spot or station or region or place–difficult even to describe much less speak from as though anyone would be tending their ear in a direction nobody would know even where or how to point.

It would not be theoretical exactly although it would have to be no matter what else it was.

For now though the mention is the best I can do for it.

There may be more.

There is more.
In fact.
In fact there is more. Already. In so many words. So many that I am running out of storage space again.

Advertisements

Why do men tell me things?

I used to be a man-hating dyke. That is, according to a certain strand of American popular thought, I must have hated men, because I was a dyke. Back then I did at times feel more than a minor annoyance at some men, and on the odd occasion I came close to kicking a stranger in the junk because he was following me too closely on an uncrowded sidewalk just long enough for me to become aware that he was following me and that I did not know his intentions for doing so and was thus growing uncomfortable with his behavior.

I never actually assaulted anyone, and I am fairly certain now—because nothing untoward happened then—that most of these men meant me no harm and would have been very surprised to know that I was waiting for that fatal wrong move, which I would have answered by whirling around with fists, elbows, knees and feet flying. And I cannot say that in the moment I hated them. I did find it exasperating that they could not seem to figure out that walking right behind a woman on an uncrowded sidewalk might be construed as threatening behavior and that therefore they might want to consider what they were doing. Still, hate is too strong a word for what I was feeling then.

I may have changed my mind now.

It has been almost fifteen years since I began a transition from appearing to walk the earth as a woman to appearing to do so as a man. It has turned out not to be a “gender transition” exactly, because I am not convinced that my gender has changed. It is now packaged differently, and I usually feel less cognitive dissonance when others react to me as though I were just another guy than I did when they reacted to me as just another dyke, but what I thought was a desire to “become a man” has quite vanished, and with it any idea as to what a man is or should be or should do in almost any circumstance. I am pushing fifty so closely that by the time you read this I might not be pushing anymore but have arrived and already begun coasting downhill, but I have not the first clue as to what a fifty-year-old, bearded white guy—a description that reasonably approximates my current presentation—is expected to do, like, pretty much, ever.

And other older white guys? Oh my god.

I am a writer, a reader, and a thinker of some fashion or other. I spent my formative thinking years as a body that was read as female and thus often assumed to be incapable of adequate thought. I was, and still am, so introverted that I pull introversion/extroversion scales wrong side out when I take personality inventories. I hate confrontation for various reasons and for various, often related, reasons, I assume most primarily that I do not know what I am talking about when conversing with others in real time. I do not think quickly on my feet; my brand of introversion and social anxiety makes it difficult to articulate myself at all outside of my room and without a keyboard or at least a pencil and paper. I think intuitively and visually and have to translate this sort of thought into a linear language of at least somewhat common understanding before I can present myself coherently, and that takes time—time that is usually not available at parties, in discussion groups, in seminars, or in other social situations in which I have been called to try to think and present at the same time.

Short version: I do not do well in real-time arguments and spent the first half of my life not being taken seriously anyway due to (somewhat) female appearances. Thus, in spite of the fact that I am supposedly educated and well-read, I will still default to Intimidated in an average conversation with anyone. Conversations with men, in particular, though, have become almost surreal since I have come to look like one of them.

Interestingly, perhaps, men still address me as though they are quite assured that they have given whatever matter all necessary thought and are offering me the Single Inescapable Conclusion on whatever topic. That has not changed, and so I am getting the impression that in US culture men do not talk to men all that differently from the way they talk to women, except they do sometimes have the sense to keep overt sexism to themselves when women are around. This means I have heard some even-more-horrifyingly-than-before sexist things since transitioning to a masculine presentation, but the whole patronizing tone has not changed. It was always horrifying and it still is.

I suppose I should clarify my terms here. When I say “men” in this case, I am usually referring to cisgendered men with whom I might interact in an average day, or men who have, to the best of my knowledge, no prior experience living as a body perceived and/or labeled as feminine. This is not to say I have not had any conversations with maddeningly obtuse men whose history includes identification as trans- or some other variety of gender nonconformity and/or transition, but this happens less often. Whether this is because other trans-spectrum men [1] are more likely to have at least some awareness of the vagaries of societal gender expectations or because there are simply not very many of us, I am not certain.

What I am describing here, though, are my experiences in conversation with apparently cisgendered men as a USian trans-identified male who spent thirty-five years as a body hailed more or less as female (less as I got older, cut my hair shorter, stopped wearing anything but men’s clothing, bound or otherwise hid my breasts, etc—but this resulted in a confusing presentation much more often than in one “mistaken” for male), and as a person whose temperament makes confrontation quite difficult to negotiate and disagreeable to contemplate.

So, when I encounter men still holding forth as though their thoughts are the unassailable products of rigorous reasoning, even when said reasoning is obviously lacking and nobody appearing to be a woman is present [2], I find myself in a position of not knowing, exactly, what is going on. My experiences as the assumed-feminine recipient of male wisdom do not help me: although I did come to understand that, where I live, patronizing condescension is to be expected of men if one appears to be a woman, this tells me nothing about what to expect if one appears to be a man.

On the one hand, the fountain of youth from which so many female-to-male transsexual individuals drink has rendered my visage a good ten to fifteen years younger-looking than it actually is, and so it may be that I am still considered a novitiate in the world of masculine knowledge, and I am being condescended to because of the tenderness of my perceived years. On the other hand, I wonder whether it is that men simply spout off all the time, expecting other men to challenge them with counter-spouting-off if they hear something with which they disagree. Whether or not the man spouting off believes he is actually right is unclear to me as well, because the “knowledge” so imparted is often so obviously self-serving that I wonder if it is being offered in some sort of ironic self-deprecation that I am just not getting.

Whatever the case may be, I still feel like a squirrel in front of an oncoming car, trying desperately to decide which direction to run, when confronted with Self-Obvious Truths as Mediated by Men. My self-assurance in these situations is almost nil. I do not expect anyone ever to take anything I say to heart, and I do not expect to be able to out-spout any pontificating personage regardless of gender. It occurs to me that I might simply act as though I thought whatever comeback I could manage were gospel, but I do not yet have the bravado necessary to do that. Besides, if I were ever to become a condescending, patronizing know-it-all, I would beg you to please shoot me. I do not think that acting like one even without conviction would be a particularly good idea.

On those occasions when a retreat to computer-mediated communication is possible, I still do not know what is the best way to proceed when I am faced with a man who has no idea that any experience diverging from his could even exist in a parallel universe, much less on this very planet and possibly even next door. I can write, and I know I can write, but I am not convinced that burying someone in discourse is advisable or healthy for all parties concerned. That is, if the tendency in men to declare themselves master of whatever field of knowledge is at hand is also an invitation to other men to join some sort of dick-waving competition, I am not sure that answering that invitation helps things at all. Although I may be in a venue where I can respond, how to modulate that response so as not to stage yet another cock fight is less clear.

I do know that the longer I am on testosterone, the harder it is to resist such competition. This is not so much because I want to compete, but rather because it drives me over the edge with anxiety and rage when one man appears to be dominating the conversation to the exclusion of all others: I am acutely aware of the silencing of others and sensitive also to being silenced myself, living as I do under a constant din of self-doubt, where silence has, for so long, felt safest. Testosterone has had the effect, in me, of amplifying both my emotions and their ensuing impulses to the point that they are often difficult to resist.

But I participated in a few too many usenet flamewars in my internet youth. Thus, my response to being told how I think, for instance, or who I am, is often simply to flee. To approximately here, where I can write abstract treatises on how it is to figure out social propriety when one is not well-versed in determining what might be proper in any given situation. I grew up as an extremely introverted girl, terrified of being wrong but usually convinced that she was so. I am no less introverted and no less terrified than before, and still convinced about 75% of the time, which means that when I do engage in written argument, my instinct is to argue as though my life depended on it. It sort of does, in what my therapist calls my “rich inner life.”

Small animals who think their lives are in danger are extremely hazardous to handle; they may not not mean to take anyone out, but will not hesitate to try to do so if they feel threatened. One reason I was able, when it was my job, to deal with animals in that state without any fear or anger of my own was because their aggression made perfect sense to me. I even identified with it much of the time I was at work: trying to negotiate the intense sociality of a daily job left me feeling much like that completely bewildered cat that will take your arm off if you reach for it.

But so any internal model for responding to disagreement without immediately escalating into combat readiness is quite lacking with me. Fight or flight are the only options that make instinctive sense to me, while human social functioning is incomprehensibly subtle. Add the complexities of socialized gender and I am thrown into my own personal third-body problem, where calculating real trajectories—much less ideal ones—becomes operationally impossible. And so answering the pronouncements of men who are so sure they are sure that they don’t even have to care about the actual cause they are promoting becomes an exercise in what I can only describe as sublimely disastrous communication.

I do not suppose that I actually hate men in general because certain ones of them drive me to this sort of distraction, but between my own disabilities in negotiating conversation and the very tiring fact that these same conversations just keep happening, I have come to a place where I question ever more vehemently the very idea of What Men Do in my culture. That devil’s advocate, for instance: who would want to be one? One is reminded of big brothers who torment their younger sisters just to get a rise out of them. Arguing without conviction for a position that makes little difference to the arguing party seems to me to betray some sort of delight in eliciting responses that are enormously costly, in terms of emotional energy, to the person goaded into a response, and in watching, without having to pay a particularly high price for the “entertainment,” the gyrations of another in pain. And what is that? Sociopathy? Psychopathy in larval form?

I wonder, and I wonder how it is that one comes to believe that behaving thus is acceptable in what passes for polite company. Here I am, having gone to some effort to cross over to the “other side,” but how the lifelong residents here choose to behave is every bit as bewildering, and nearly as maddening, as it was before I arrived. I do realize that there is no here here and that there never was; that is, I realize that “men” is a completely fictional category (though not, for all that, necessarily voluntarily chosen). But it is a familiar category, and one that I was led to believe, as most of us were, would make sense upon investigation.

But, no. Like most of life thus far, it makes less sense than ever.

[1] I use the term “trans-spectrum” here as something of a neologism, because it is difficult to use the term “trans” together with “man” in such a way that every person who might be included under such a locution would agree to being included thus, and so there is no current consensus that I am aware of as to how to refer generally to the class of human bodies who were assigned female at birth but who identify as some other gender. “Coercively assigned female at birth” might come fairly close to naming an experience that many of us have in common, but even there rests some controversy, so I note it here and hope that “trans-spectrum” men can be taken provisionally, as it is offered, as a shorthand term that is necessarily inadequate.

[2] See Rebecca Solnit’s “Men Explain Things to Me” for a very useful exposition of the phenomenon of Men Educating Women. What I am mainly considering here is why and how Men Educate Everyone, apparently.

Why I am not here

So now I guess I am posting every other month.

Well, you cannot say I have not been busy. I have books to mail; videos to plan, film, edit, and release; and I am posting my autobiography, UnDiaGnosed online piece by piece, partly as a spur to finish it already, and partly as a serial experiment in publishing and distribution over the internet.

And I have taken to composing lyrical pieces when I am feeling especially inarticulate. Maybe there will be another collection sometime in the not terribly distant future.

Not to mention some interesting developments in the world of politics that have been begging me for some sort of contribution. But I am not going to say any more than that for now.

So, please, go read UnDiaGnosed; I am trying to post a new part every two weeks. I do not really know how long this will take because I have many sections to work on but some of them are short and so I will combining varying numbers of the into single posts. It might be some sort of entertainment for about a year, though.

If I think of something worth arguing prosaically, I will consider running off at the mouth here.

Why we have ethical questions but not answers

As so many do, this post started as a reply to another post elsenet where a writer was quoted about something like the impossibility of an ethics of narrative or what is commonly thought of as postmodernity’s most glaring problem: that of the relativism of its moral arguments, when it has any.

Usually when I read the phrase “post-modern ‘anything goes'” it is being written by someone in a field in which postmodern theory does not figure very large–often a science-y type or sometimes a social science-y type; I suspect that in the social sciences postmodernism does get airplay but it is something like an AM radio broadcast of what needs to be auditioned live and in person.

Yes, the author is a fiction in most postmodern theory, and yes, it is difficult to make any claims to objective reality from within a postmodern critique of metaphysics. We do live in a discursively constituted, culturally mediated environment as postmodern Westerners and narrative does tend to be where one looks when one is trying to discern the grounds of classical Western metaphysics.

But “narrative” does not equal “not real” or “not binding” or even “voluntary” or “at somebody’s whim.”
Continue reading

ensign

I have not written anything here in quite some time and all I have today is a poem but I think it might be worth reading for some of you maybe. It’s.. well really I would like to hear what you find it to be about.

20110328 update:
It has a title now and I changed the ending which may or may not really be the ending but for now it is.

~~~~~~

Speaking of which
whetting molted silver gelatin and tin
Estate sales without captions
prints adrift.
I have a book in my cupboard it is
a board
for cups or so it..

driftwoods spirit face moving
over water
I jumped. I meant
to go back and jump again

pinned on my back when he leapt
unheard “do
what I say and I won’t
hurt you” only
what he said itself blunt force
bearing down on me
and up

Between “turn
over” and
“you’re free to go”
blank space or not space yet
as blank
eraser ripping paper it was so hard to modulate
the swipe.

whisper it.
Ships topple sails purple
slack waving
Flagstone and remnant coursing according
to tide tables
traced
tenderly

Rescind me.
One hot July night not fighting but
well sighted
Sighed open ceiling white sheetrock
I slipped through
roughshod tottering
a canyon rim yonder lights out
ignites shout under jet
streamed ice waterwheel
turned or
burned
or
fern walled gullies in March I place
my cheek to wet moss

splayed under this body
three times my size
in spasms beyond recall
This gentle assailant stalls
rubbing himself
forgetful.

Myself I could not seize the moment
only counting on time to peter out
slow blinking deriliction no notes
Here the scene ends

and ends
and ends
and never tires of ending

I cut my teeth on critique
could train resolve on careful reasoning
Neither
jester
nor prince and you
read with the cunning of
some species reknown
for sprightly banter be it
blood at the teeth or thick wine
tableside

Me I
sputter and point
words
pelts
Spit sticks like glue
if you choose your materials
with care.

Water
paper
plastic
Thrown at the wheel or under

Foam specks on the lens
where it met
my teeth
If speech embargoed emits
tines or spikes
might tumbled sand anaesthetics
supply torsioned skin as parchment.

In my dreams soldiers shadows steel-browed and tensile
summon aircraft screeching phallic and armed.
Set us to flight or walk or crawl
or pulling one fist of earth over the other against that insistent friction

You
have dreamed it too:
cement walled crawl spaces
transparent tenements for
the likes
of us.

Who could have less to hide–

but drift
across storefronts
under street lamps
crowd into shopping malls
shipyards
senate chambers

–in hairshirts
of many colors
Cache of zinc
and lead
tungsten flame
charm
of mercury vapor
let us
let our wolf note
exhale
half-buried
half-ascent
its troubled
wave battered
breath
now swept low–

Shall I

swear or forewarn
as thought races its
final lap
My legs numb
still lurching seaward.

an ontological category of one's own

I have tried writing about this twice already and it is not working well. The moment I am trying to describe is elusive precisely because it is a moment in which I realized that in the reams of cultural histories that have been written, at least in any language that I can currently understand, the universe is assumed to rest upon eternal principles that almost everyone can participate in by virtue of their full assent to the gender to which they were assigned when born–an assent that I have withheld for most of my life and thus which has placed me in the position of one for whom there is no cosmological correspondent.

It is all well and good that I understand that human mythopoesis is always a very human construction and that whatever principles we assign to the cosmos are thoroughly anthropomorphic and in such a way as to reflect only what a limited group of people felt was true about themselves in a limited time and place and so it is not that I think that literally there is no place in some cosmic order for someone like me who cannot sign on to being a case of either male or female humanity. The positing of eternal male and female principles is always a positing and nothing that reflects anything that is actually timeless and universal.

And yet.

Continue reading