W: “I strrrrruggle with the intersectedness thing”

1) What physical spaces do you feel safe or unsafe in?  Emotional spaces?  How does this relate to your race, age, sexual orientation, background, class, etc?

 

Physical/Emotional:

Realized again this month I have a fragile sense of safety. Thought I was absorbing the sadness around me after Sandy and Boston, a week each time of feeling unable to cope. Realized I was feeling fear. Related to being Jewish, the particular way I was raised because I have no Jewish friends who seem to feel the way I do, or even close it seems, out of many. physical and emotional.

Emotional:

Felt unsafe, the exact word I used to describe it, in my college department. Afraid of 3 male colleagues. In the last year, I stopped checking my mailbox till after 5:00 when one who’s office was there would be gone. I didn’t want to be alone with him. So there was a little physical fear, actually. Didn’t feel afraid of 2 women colleagues who treated me similarly.

Class:

I very often feel more secure, as a woman raised in a middle-class “professional” family, than does my partner, a man raised in a poor family whose 4 sisters and brothers and parents didn’t graduate high school (except him).

2) How do you perceive your own physical appearance and those of other women?  How do you think others perceive you physically?  What elements contribute to these perceptions?

 

I can tell you what I notice in other women’s appearance:

I notice how fit and “firm” they are, regardless of weight. (I have no idea if this is relevant.)

I notice how grey hair “ages” women or doesn’t; my brown hair is 100% fake.

I’m transfixed by plastic surgery on women’s faces. Oh, didn’t need to say “women’s.”

I think others see me physically as middle-aged, plump, often Jewish but not always.

3) How do you feel walking outside as a woman?  Safe, unsafe, targeted, ignored, harassed, invisible?  Does this change depending on where you are, how you are dressed, who you are with, who else is around?

 

I feel, like, fine walking outside. Not sure I did as a younger woman, in terms of verbal stuff. Have felt safe physically going back at least 30 years (of 57), I think.

 

At a Mika concert with my daughter last week (who insisted on standing nowhere near me, so I looked like I was alone) I felt VISIBLE because of my age. In a good way. Kind of an intimate night club, and when Mika played first notes of each song, we all cheered. But after 3 notes of one, I was the only one around me who could i.d. the song, and I got props! Took great care in how I dressed. Tho who knows how what I chose to wear was perceived. I was going for hip but not “young,” whatever that is.

At my college, I felt invisible, again the exact word I used. First noticed it when I was rushing to class pulling an overflowing briefcase and trying to balance armful of other materials and no one held the door for me. I think students literally didn’t see me, middle-aged woman.

4) What does the intersection of your woman-ness with other elements mean to you?  I.E. race, class, age, ability, ethnicity, sexual orientation, I’m sure I’m missing some.

 

strrrrruggle with the intersectedness thing. Just have never been able to grasp it. Or articulate it. How embarrassing is this.

Love the word “woman-ness.”

 

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Internalizing it all

Although I have “officially” completed this portfolio assignment, I wanted to revisit it to discuss Wednesday. 

Rewind to the previous Wednesday, where my planning-an-ism-group focusing on transphobia and gender performance/presentation decided that we would challenge ourselves and our classmates and professor to pick “something that is integral to their/our gender identity” and alter it in some way over the course of the next week.  The members of my group gave the option to complete this activity at Columbia, on the next class day, and agreed that we would do this ourselves, so that if someone else decided to, they would not be the only one.

I decided that for this activity, I would not “do” my hair-brush, product, style, etc, and just put it under a hat.  Additionally I decided that I would not wear makeup, heels, jewelry, or accessories of any kind. 

Fast-forward to two days ago.  I had been nervous all week. 

I put on my jeans, T-shirt, and hat as planned and nothing else.  Finding I was ready twenty minutes early, ate some ice cream for breakfast (my version of a pep talk).  Walking to the subway, I felt like a little boy.  I watched as men on the corner who usually call to me said “Hello gorgeouuussss” to the woman in front of me and looked right through me.  As some middle-aged women in my interviews described feeling as they aged, I was invisible.

Feeling not desirable, sexy, beautiful, or even cute, affected me in almost every interaction I had that day.  It shook my self-confidence, it changed the way I walk and assert myself in conversations.  I had conceived the activity to challenge what it might feel like to not be able to present as the gender we identified as, as the gender we ARE.  But the activity turned itself on me, as these things often do.  It became an exercise in misogyny, the male gaze, and internalized misogyny.  I could not wait to go home to change and wear heels and flowers in my hair the next day.  Even my size had become traitorous: as a skinny woman, I was perceived as attractive, the “right size.”  Without my other feminine accessories and form-fitting clothes, I felt young-not like a man, but like a boy- and asexual. 

Was I still myself?  Somewhere beneath my “undone” face and hair and baggy clothes, of course I was myself.  But I didn’t feel it.  The world has spent the past 27 years teaching me that the BEST me, the most desirable, presentable, acceptable, RESpectable, successful version of myself, takes an hour to “become” each morning and otherwise, I was doing it wrong. 

I don’t want to end this blog by condemning myself or other women and taking the onus off of men and patriarchy for putting this male gaze, this rape culture, this blatant and more covert misogyny upon us.  It is NOT our job to shake this but we may be the only ones willing to begin interrupting it.  Even just a thought: perhaps I don’t shave my legs twice a week.  Perhaps I let my hair frizz.  Part of this is difficult for me because it intersects hugely with my OCD: ‘put-together’ means a different thing to me and moisturizing, accessorizing, perfect hair, perfect face, perfect matching underwear and bra: these give me peace of mind on multiple levels, they are part of a checklist.

Or MAYBE, maybe, I look at each piece of it and try to find out what feels good to me: the essential me.  Maybe I have internalized, breathed in, so much misogyny, so much genuine hatred and non-acceptance of who women really are that this will be a never-ending process.  I’m okay with that. 

If I let my hair puff and swirl and put flowers in it, maybe I am more that original me than the girl with ironed hair OR the girl with all her hair beneath a cap.

Nicole: one trans woman’s perspective

4/21/13

Reposted without permission from: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/lifestyle/4867253/pre-op-transgender-woman-takes-revenge-on-childhood-bully.html

 

Bloke who ogled me in bar called me Glenda the bender when I was a boy

Nicole’s revenge as she waits to have sex op

Transgender Nicole

Looking to the future … 32-year-old pre-op transgender Nicole Gibson
Stewart Williams
Exclusive
By JENNY FRANCIS
Last Updated: 01st April 2013
 
 
 
 

PULLING pints behind the bar, stunning Nicole Gibson’s slender figure and long blonde hair never fail to get attention from men.

At 6ft and with shapely curves, the barmaid loves the compliments but admits she is still getting used to them.

Because despite her striking good looks, Nicole, 32, was born a BOY and, although now living as a female, is still pre-op transgender.

Born Glen, Nicole — who changed her name last year — was relentlessly bullied as a child and cruelly named “Glenda the bender” by some boys at school.

But now she has had the last laugh, as one of her childhood bullies flirted with her at the bar, unaware who she was.

Nicole, from Horsham, West Sussex, who is due to have the operation to complete her sex change later this year, explains: “No one can believe I’m the same person.

“When I was at school I tried to fit in with the other boys but I was a target for bullies.

 

Pre-op transgender Nicole

Curves … Nicole shows off her feminine figure
Stewart Williams

 

“I was working a shift in the local pub last year when I heard a guy behind me say, ‘Who’s that behind the bar? Phwoar! I would’. When I turned round, I realised it was one of the boys who teased me at school.

“I couldn’t resist confronting him so I walked over and told him who I was.

“The look on his face was priceless and it made up for how terrible they made me feel at school. It’s funny that the boy they bullied for being gay is now a 6ft blonde woman they all fancy.”

Nicole changed her name by deed poll last year and is now legally recognised as a woman on her passport and driving licence.

On hormone medication to help her develop breasts since June 2011, she now has a 34B bust and will have a full sex change operation later this year on the NHS.

She says: “When I was referred for treatment I wished I’d done it sooner.

“I couldn’t wait to start taking the hormones and I was shocked at how quickly they worked and I started developing hips, a bum and boobs.

“If I’m honest, I always worried people would be able to tell I was transgender.

“But I’ve been amazed at how well I carry it off and 99 per cent of people I meet have no idea. It is very flattering and has made me realise just how feminine I really am.”

After developing her new curves, a photographer friend was so impressed that he invited her in for a photoshoot.

 

Transgender Nicole

Smiling through the pain … Nicole would sneak out at night in make-up in her twenties
Stewart Williams

 

She says: “I was shocked that he asked me and didn’t think I’d look as womanly in just my underwear. But I loved the pictures and realised I was actually quite sexy.

“People who have seen the photos tell me I could give the Victoria’s Secret Angels a run for their money.”

It is not just her friends who think Nicole has the ability to wow. She attracts the attention of a lot of men.

She says: “I get chatted up a lot but I’m always aware there is a bit of a time limit on things, as I can’t let things get physical — it’s not fair on the guy.

“It’s important to be honest so I don’t want to trick a guy into bed only for him to have a shock when we get there.

“I met an amazing man last year and he knew from very early on about my gender change.

“He was OK with it and said he was shocked with himself that he fell for someone like me, but we decided we didn’t want to take things further until I’d had my operation. We’re still friends but it just didn’t feel right when we couldn’t be a couple in the normal way.”

Now Nicole is counting down the days to her sex change op, where surgeons will remove her penis and create female genitalia, giving her the body she has always dreamed of.

She says: “I can’t wait to have sex as a woman for the first time, and having seen how much interest I get from men it’s something I can’t stop thinking about.

“I’m sure there are some guys out there who wouldn’t mind experimenting, but sex as a man doesn’t feel right to me.

“I enjoy a snog but that’s as far as it goes now. I’m saving myself.”

As a youngster, Nicole could not understand why she was not allowed to wear pretty dresses.

Coming out as gay aged 16, instead of feeling relieved she knew something was still wrong.

 

Transgender Nicole as a schoolboy

Past … Glen aged nine
Stewart Williams

 

By 21 she was secretly sneaking out at night wearing heels and make-up.

She says: “At school I was bullied a lot by boys who couldn’t understand why I was different and they used to taunt me about being gay.

“They used to shout ‘Glenda the bender’ and made me feel horrible throughout my education. It was a very hard time for me.”

As she grew older, Nicole’s female urges only got stronger.

She says: “It sounds silly but I used to get jealous when I walked past a building site with my female friends and the guys wolf-whistled at them.

“I wanted for that to be me and for people to find me sexy as a woman, not as a man.

“I had relationships with gay men but it never really felt right.

“I didn’t feel good about myself unless I looked feminine.”

At 25 Nicole began growing her hair and wearing women’s clothes, but she did not approach her doctor about surgery until three years later.

She says: “My friends and family knew I wanted to become a female so no one was shocked when I made the decision.

“My family were supportive and as I’ve always been open with them, nothing has come as a surprise.

“I’m really lucky as my mum’s been brilliant and loves having another girl around.

“My dad’s been great too — he totally accepts me for who I am. He’s so sweet and always panics when he slips up and calls me ‘son’.”

Nicole began intensive counselling in October 2010 before psychologists decided she was emotionally ready to start hormone treatment the following June.

She says: “My GP was amazing and told me she had been wondering when we would have the sex change conversation.

“I was her first transgender patient but I think she knew instinctively that I would never be happy as a man. I had to attend a lot of counselling sessions to make sure I was ready to start the hormone therapy.

“But I already had long blonde hair and a wardrobe full of girl’s clothes so I knew I couldn’t live as anything other than a woman.

“The hormones were amazing. I grew in confidence and my curves helped me pass as a woman even more convincingly.”

When she started work at a local bar Nicole’s colleagues were all amazed she was born a male and she says they agreed she was the most feminine person there.

Nicole adds: “I passed so well that people were actually shocked when I told them.

“I couldn’t believe how well I fitted into life as a woman.

“Then when my old school bullies came into the pub and were leering at me it was the ultimate confidence-booster.

“It serves them right for bullying me as a child and I hope they feel bad for causing me so much stress.”

Now looking forward to the future, Nicole says she has never been happier.

She explains: “I’ll be on the hormone treatment for the rest of my life, and every woman knows that sometimes hormones can make you a bit loopy, but it’s worth it as I feel more like myself every day.

“People not knowing I was born a male is very comforting.

“Now I can’t go anywhere without men staring at me and trying to chat me up.”

jenny.francis@the-sun.co.uk

Additional reporting: GERALDINE McKELVIE

 
 

Read more: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/lifestyle/4867253/pre-op-transgender-woman-takes-revenge-on-childhood-bully.html#ixzz2R8g3IfIg

Little somethin’ about agency

4/18/13

Reposted without permission from: http://thinkprogress.org/health/2013/04/17/1883121/west-virginia-abstinence-assembly/?mobile=nc

 

High Schooler Protests ‘Slut-Shaming’ Abstinence Assembly Despite Alleged Threats From Her Principal

By Tara Culp-Ressler on Apr 17, 2013 at 2:55 pm

High school senior Katelyn Campbell

A West Virginia high school student is filing an injunction against her principal, who she claims is threatening to punish her for speaking out against a factually inaccurate abstinence assembly at her school. Katelyn Campbell, who is the student body vice president at George Washington High School, alleges her principal threatened to call the college where she’s been accepted to report that she has “bad character.”

George Washington High School recently hosted a conservative speaker,Pam Stenzel, who travels around the country to advocate an abstinence-only approach to teen sexuality. Stenzel has a long history of using inflammatory rhetoric to convince young people that they will face dire consequences for becoming sexually active. At GW’s assembly, Stenzel allegedly told students that “if you take birth control, your mother probably hates you” and “I could look at any one of you in the eyes right now and tell if you’re going to be promiscuous.” She also asserted that condoms aren’t safe, and every instance of sexual contact will lead to a sexually transmitted infection.

Campbell refused to attend the assembly, which was funded by a conservative religious organization called “Believe in West Virginia” and advertised with fliers that proclaimed “God’s plan for sexual purity.” Instead, she filed a complaint with the ACLU and began to speak out about her objections to this type of school-sponsored event. Campbell called Stenzel’s presentation “slut shaming” and said that it made many students uncomfortable.

GW Principal George Aulenbacher, on the other hand, didn’t see anything wrong with hosting Stenzel. “The only way to guarantee safety is abstinence. Sometimes, that can be a touchy topic, but I was not offended by her,” he told the West Virginia Gazettelast week.

But it didn’t end with a simple difference of opinion among Campbell and her principal. The high school senior alleges that Aulenbacher threatened to call Wellesley College, where Campbell has been accepted to study in the fall, after she spoke to the press about her objections to the assembly. According to Campbell, her principal said, “How would you feel if I called your college and told them what bad character you have and what a backstabber you are?” Campbell alleges that Aulenbacher continued to berate her in his office, eventually driving her to tears. “He threatened me and my future in order to put forth his own personal agenda and make teachers and students feel they cant speak up because of fear of retaliation,” she said of the incident.

 

Despite being threatened, Campbell is not backing down. She hopes that filing this injunction will protect her freedom of speech to continue advocating for comprehensive sexual health resources for West Virginia’s youth. “West Virginia has the ninth highest pregnancy rate in the U.S.,” Campbell told the Gazette. “I should be able to be informed in my school what birth control is and how I can get it. With the policy at GW, under George Aulenbacher, information about birth control and sex education has been suppressed. Our nurse wasn’t allowed to talk about where you can get birth control for free in the city of Charleston.”

Campbell’s complaints about her high school reflect a problematic trend across the country. There are serious consequences when figures like Stenzel repeatedly tell young Americans that contraception isn’t safe. Partly because of the scientific misinformation that often pervades abstinence-only curricula, an estimated 60 percent of young adults are misinformed about birth control’s effectiveness — and some of those teens choose not to use it because they assume it won’t make any difference. Predictably, the states that lack adequate sex ed requirements are also the states that have the highest rates of teen pregnancy and STDs.

Some of Campbell’s fellow students at GW High School are also rallying for her cause. They plan to take up the issue at a local board of education meeting, which is scheduled for Thursday evening.

M: “assumptions- that I will not be very tough”

4/13/13

1) What physical spaces do you feel safe or unsafe in? Emotional spaces? How does this relate to your race, age, sexual orientation, background, class, etc?

I feel unsafe in places where I’m one of few women or one of few white woman on the street. more at night than during the day. generally where llok different than other and may draw attention.

2) How do you perceive your own physical appearance and those of other women? How do you think others perceive you physically? What elements contribute to these perceptions?

I think of myself as small and noticeable (with big, red hair). I think of my self as white. Others would view me similarly. Gender roles and assumptions- that I will not be very tough.

3) How do you feel walking outside as a woman? Safe, unsafe, targeted, ignored, harassed, invisible? Does this change depending on where you are, how you are dressed, who you are with, who else is around?

I feel less vulnerable in a sexual way as I get older and more vulnerable as a weaker person. Mostly, I feel safer as I age.

4) What does the intersection of your woman-ness with other elements mean to you? I.E. race, class, age, ability, ethnicity, sexual orientation, I’m sure I’m missing some.

I think my woman-ness is a significant part of my vulnerability in all respects. Of course, I don’t know how it feels to be a man! I feel vulnerable as a white woman, but I’ve become accustomed to living in a multi-racial world so I feel increasingly less conscious of my race and more conscious of my age. I don’t think my sexual orientation play a role in this.

narrative

4/4/13

Narrative for ISMS class

What ARE you?

they asked me again and again with my bushy eyebrows my 18 year old breasts on a 10 year old chest my flying away nest of hair as it stood

three inches from my head

until I was furious with my straight-haired mother who never owned a pair of tweezers or a cup size above B

“can I turn you over and mop my house?” they asked until my father offered to walk me to the busstop

each morning.

jewish is never the right answer, never the satisfying answer

 

I am not pretty to you like this

you do not know this type of beauty and you will not. Stop. Talking. Until I am not

pretty to me either

Until

what ARE you

 

Tell them you are tired of trying to make other people happy with labels that do not belong to you.

it is the small spaces, the cracks on the edges

that belong to me. 14 is not enough,

when I crawled beneath my bed and couldn’t breathe for hours or

seconds

is there a name for this dyingness

Is it okay as long as you’re quiet about it? As long as you feel ashamed?

Don’t pretend not to notice.

Make it a joke. Make it funny.

Make it not real.

I spend only 3 dollars a week on hand sanitizer because I know all the bargain brands

I know the bargains for everything

that makes you clean

I wish sometimes I could bathe in it

I think sometimes if you sliced me open I would bleed lysol

beneath the desks I sanitize five times each class but you will never say a thing

until three beers after finals and then you say, oh I wondered about that

 

there is no section of me until intersection I am

wide open and barely here

 

I call myself crazy before you can so when you think it

I can pretend not to notice

 

so why still do I want to show you the dark-spotted rashes

of my wrists

What IS that?

What ARE you?

why do I want to tell you about the summer I was sure

my mother was trying to kill me or my friend who’s bi-polar and every three months

like clockwork, drops her phone into a glass of wine because

she just. can’t. pick up.

 

I could love a woman, a non-man, a trans person, a non-man, a gender-neutral person, I could love someone else.

“Stop calling yourself queer, you date boys!”

“You, bi? You’re boy-crazy!”

Boy-crazy boy-crazy boys are easier

boys are so easy I know how to do boys how to do

boys

maybe if I can feel bad enough about being the white one in this thing I will not notice you are the one in this thing

whose dick is in my mouth how did you not notice

your dick was in my mouth

you are not sorry so I am not

sorry for saying it

 

24 is not enough, “should I say she or they? How can you not care?” I will say she because I knew her when she

or never she

I want to say the right thing.

What ARE you?

 

27 is not enough, “you no longer

meet this diagnosis”

no shit because you stuffed me full of pills

till I was choking

 

Is it okay as long as you’re quiet about it? As long as you feel ashamed?

only tell the truths you are sure about.