Friday, February 25, 2011

Your Naked Body Is None of My Business

Let's file this post under things that I notice aren't being said in common anti-transphobia blogs I've seen.  Not that I've seen every single blog in this vein in the blogosphere, I haven't, not even close.  But I do think that certain responses should be a lot more common when the issue of "should pre-ops and non-ops be allowed to .... XYZ" seems to come up.

I am referring of course to the more common debates over whether transwomen should be allowed to access women's public restrooms and locker rooms, changing rooms, or White Womyn's Music Festivals etc... places where, apparently, women are expected to be at least partially nude at any time.  These debates always seem to reach a fever pitch when it comes to whether or not transwomen who have not had "the surgery" should be allowed or barred from the premises.

Before I give you my opinion, let me explain what MY dog is in this fight.

As I've explained in my blog earlier, I am an "Op" transsexual, for lack of a better term.  This is to say my vaginoplasty failed in a big bad way..  The surgical outcome has resulted in years of chronic pain and scarring and a lifetime of behavior modification centered around accomodating said pain. 

That said, I am far happier, far more comfortable  psychologically, possessing a "failed vagina" than I ever was possessing a "normal penis." Such was the intensity  of my body dysphoria pre-surgery if I had to go back and do it all over again, pain and cosmetic trauma and all, I would.  I HATED having a penis. I HATED the masculinization of my body during puberty I hated everything about my primary and secondary sexual characteristics right up until and long after I began HRT. 

Having surgery, even with crap results, undid an incredible amount of body dysphoria for me.  I can't over emphasize how important getting one's body "right", whatever "right" looks like for individual trans people,can be.  But even more compelling than the need to have one's body look "right" for the individual transperson, is often the need to stop looking "wrong." 

And that's what surgery did for me.  It didn't do a damn thing else for me, and with it came a host of hellish problems all their own.  But I will forever be grateful and glad for escaping that feeling of abject "wrongness" inside of my own naked skin.

So yes, if you must know,  I am good to go in women's changing rooms and just about any other place you might expect to see a naked lady *gasp and swoon.*   Unless you get right up between my legs, which I can't imagine why anyone would do so in a women's changing room, you wouldn't automatically know there was anything particularly wrong with my lady parts.  I haven't personally feared being ejected from women's restrooms and locker rooms for many many years now. 

BUT.  Every morning, like some hapless Rip Van Winkle who rouses from his 100 year sleep still terribly alive, loved ones long dead and memories still reeling...  I do recall what life was like before surgery. What my life felt like, I mean.  From the fucking inside.  Before passing.  Before I was allowed to access women's only spaces without fearing the side-eye.    Personally I don't understand how ANY post-op and/or post-transsexual could EVER forget what zir life was like beforehand.... Time does not heal all wounds.  I have been transitioned for the entirety of my adult life and... some days I remember the years as if yesterday.

What do I remember?  Other than the self loathing, the feeling of being trapped (Yes, TRAPPED in my own body... my apologies to those who hate the metaphor)...  What I remember best was that I was every bit as emphatically female identified  then as I am today... My mind was still my mind, my soul my soul.  Only my BODY was different.

Here I go again with the "Primary Transsexual" crap.  (I hate that cissexist psycho-medical jargon too, believe me.  But for some reason it has become as tho we obviously trans "male" children who grow up into women are slowly being re-written out of existence.... as if there were only ever six of us thru out history, well documented cases cynically invented by the patriarchs of Psychiatry and Sexology to control  The Flesh... while the rest of transkind , the REAL transfolk, all fall into the category of the much later in life transitioning manifesting one day out of the ether of self doubt and self denial.   That may be an unfair assessment of what mainstream trans culture has become, but that's how it often FEELS hearing my story discussed in trans circles these days)...   

Like I was saying, as a "primary transsexual", I came out in earliest childhood and I was always very vocal about being a girl and NOT being a boy.  I NEVER felt it was appropriate to identify as male I NEVER willingly consented to identify as male and I constantly looked for ways to get out of doing so.   I took the absolute earliest opportunity to escape my assignment as male and I haven't looked back since, except to shudder with relief and horror over the twilight zone mindfuck that had been my life til  right up until I got out.  I know that sounds hyperbolic, I know that sounds so "surely it wasn't THAT, bad Jane..." but for me, and for so many of my trans sisters, yes it sure was.  

A big part of the mindfuck of being coercively assigned male was being forced to use boys' and men's public restrooms and changing rooms, no matter how inappropriate and unsafe I felt doing so.

So yeah, I can't and won't forget any of that and I will never sit in smug judgment of those who long to access critical safe public spaces, have a demonstrable NEED for these safe spaces,  but are  not allowed simply for having the bodies that they have.  And even today I thank my lucky stars for my privilege, knowing that when I go into the women's restroom nobody is likely to say  "HEY WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN HERE! I'M CALLING THE POLICE IF YOU DON'T LEAVE NOW!"

Back to the issue at hand.  Pre-ops and Non-ops and  Bears oh MY.  Okay not Bears.  I know absolutely nothing about that scene and it's besides the point.   But about the pre-ops and Non-ops in women's changing rooms.... I have this to say.

Your naked body is none of my business.  Even if we're in a public space where we're all gonna be naked. Conversely, my naked body is none of YOUR business either.  Full Stop. Period.

The anti-trans arguments always  hinge upon whether women, particularly cis women, will feel "invaded" or "annoyed" or "threatened" by the presence of  a woman-with-a-penis in the room.  Because having a penis means you're a man.  And women's spaces are created as safe spaces from Men.  And thus from penises.  And if you have any respect for women's spaces you must be willing to bar all penis bearing individuals from said spaces.

Okay.  I can understand, in this cissexist world, where having a certain set of genitals automatically marks you as being a certain class of person, why this argument seems to hold water.  I can even agree, when I use women's restrooms and/or changing rooms the LAST thing I expect or want to see there is a penis. I will cop to that. 

That said, I don't see how it's any of my business what my lockermate's junk looks like, just because she's naked.  

For those of you who've been in these spaces... Umm... haven't you ever seen something you wish you hadn't??   One time I accidentally walked in on my 67 year old ex co-worker changing her adult diaper in a stall.  I really wish I hadn't seen that.  I have seen other women, cis women,  with bodies so hirsute I had to stop and wonder about them for a second. I have seen nude and partially nude women's bodies of all shapes and sizes and textures and I'd rather not have seen any of it.   But their bodies were NONE OF MY BUSINESS.  If what I saw before me was unpleasant to my eye, I always had the option of AVERTING MY GAZE! 

I swear I'm not being obtuse. I understand that there are situations where public nudity is involved, where the atmosphere is more social, such as in women's bathhouses, steam rooms and day spas and whatnot.  Places where having non-standard-for-a-typical-female body would be a big handicap in that atmosphere.    Again, that still doesnt make anybody else's body your business.   If you don't wish to nudely interact with someone based upon the way their nude body looks to you... you do not have to do so. 

The problem comes when BEHAVIOR starts to transgress the boundaries of comfort and safety of the persons occupying any given space.  The "logic" behind the fear of un-operated transwomen being in women only spaces is that this might give cis men the bright idea to pretend to be transwomen just to gain access to women's space.  Do I really have to take down this argument?  Others have done it much better than I.  And really... I don't know of anybody who has ever done that.

Now I would think that if any person, cis or trans, male or female or neuter, were to enter into a public space reserved for one particular type of behavior and began oh, aggressively propositioning and ogling the people in that space, I would PRAY the attendees would be empowered to eject them as a matter of course.   People can always (and should always) be held accountable for their behavior.  But to be held accountable for having a certain kind of body?  For having the gall to drag a particular shape of meat-avatar into a room??   Umm... not so much.

I could go on and on, but I'm hoping you gather my meaning.  There is no excuse for upholding Cissexism (and it is nothing else but) by claiming that the mere existence of a penis in women's space is the exact same as a man invading women's space.    The only way to make this claim is to say that Penis=Man.  And please don't hide behind the disingenuous claim of "I personally don't believe that a pre-op transwoman is really a man, but I respect the fact that most cis women would be bothered by seeing one in the locker room..   I Because what you're saying is,  "I don't believe in cissexism, but I respect other people's cissexist beliefs."   and that would be BULLSHIT.

Believe it or not I am an infinitely practical person.  I do understand how the world works and how much power cis people have to define what is and what is not women's space and who should have access to it.    I understand that the majority of the world currently believes that there is no such thing as a woman with a penis, that only men have penises, and if you're born with a penis that and only that is what makes you a man, no matter what else you turn that penis into, or your life, for that matter.  .  I also understand that in a sexist and misogynist world, women really do have a vested interested in creating women only safe speces where Men Do Not Enter.  But a no penises policy does not accomplish this task.  Men who are trans, that is coercively assigned female based upon their genitals and who have not had phalloplasty,  retain the  theoretical "right" to enter such spaces based on the shape of their genitals.  Meanwhile Women who are Trans,  coercively assigned male and  until surgery thus forced to identify themselves by the shape of their genitals, are barred from the very safe spaces they, as women,  they are (documentably) in dire need of.

Back to me now.   I remember....  !!!     Pre-transition, preteen, pre-power to define my own life, I still desperately needed a safe space, even then.  ESPECIALLY THEN.   A safe space from MEN in general,  and a safe space to BE female.  Being openly feminine and yet coercively identified as male, I was certainly never felt welcome in men's only spaces, certainly never made to feel safe or that I really belonged there.  The men who did see me in these spaces (more often than not)  treated me as a threat to their very manhood for simply existing, like I had come to infect them with my girl cooties.  Ironically, when I think about it, pre-transition and passing for a feminine teenage boy, I never met with ANY panic from cis women whenever I occasionally did go into women's restrooms, precisely BECAUSE of my obvious femininity. 

I'm sure then, assuming I was a flamboyant gay male,  they also assumed I must have a penis. I don't remember the topic ever coming up tho?  Hrmmmm.   I do remember my best girl friends from school would drag me in along with them at the malls, and occasionally sneak me into the girl's restroom at school (picture  the Ricky Vasquez character in My So Called Life.  Uncomfortably similar to me back then...)   Pre-transition, passing for a cis gay male, nobody ever "went and told" on me, nobody ever said they were afraid I was there ogling them, nobody ever protested my presence (to my knowledge). 

Granted, personal anecdotes aren't proof of one's argument, but when we're talking about the "dangers" of penises in women's restrooms, it's anecdote city, baby.  So, you show me yours and I'll show you mine.

Wow this post is going on forever when I really wanted to say something very simple.


"Trans women are NOT a danger to cis women in women only spaces.  Not even " un-operated" trans women. People who behave disruptively in women's only spaces ARE a danger to women.  However, a women being naked in a women's only space where nudity is expected is NOT being disruptive... even if the naked women in question has a penis.  PERIOD.  (But Jane, a MAN being naked in a women's only space IS disruptive.  Again, if you can't drop the cissexist premise that penis=man then you will never get what I'm saying and you should probably move on to the next blog).  

Existing is not disruptive!!  If you don't like what you see, then don't look!!  It's just that simple.  And if you are personally so traumatized by the very idea of a person with a certain body part being in the same room as you... THERE IS THERAPY FOR THAT!  

Okay I will have to go back and clean up this post for sure.  But I need to get it out there.  Just something that's been a long time in the making for me to talk about.  So... yeah.  Happy Restrooming, everyone?


**NOTE**  I have been editing and re-editing this post like mad and I'm not done yet.  You might wanna give this another read after a couple of days a week or so.  I'm sloooow.


  1. Wishing for something intelligent to add...

    I got nothing... except...

    You, Miz La Plain, are awesome.

  2. Because what you're saying is, "I don't believe in cissexism, but I respect other people's cissexists beliefs."

    YES. This. I'm actually much more irritated by people who couch their arguments in "It's nothing personal, this is just what's best for the most people" than I am with people who are just out-and-out hateful. The haters at least know what they are; the ersatz allies pat themselves on the back for reaching fair compromises while prioritizing transphobes' comfort over trans women's safety.

  3. Great post, lots of thinking going on here in my little head. I like Katiesparrow's comment: Prioritizing transphobes' comfort over trans women's safety. That does happen a lot, doesn't it.