HBS & Vulnerability

It occurs to me that the key tenet of those who believe they were medically diagnosed and properly treated for Harry Benjamin Syndrome (HBS) is that since the medical community believed in their assertions about themselves and acted on those assertions with interventions, the rest of society has an obligation to believe those assertions too.

They often take this tenet to believe that anyone who challenges their assertions, even just by expressing that person’s own beliefs about their own transsexual experience, is attacking the identity of HBS sufferers and deserves to be silenced.

It’s my sense that the entire game here is a rejection of vulnerability.

Every human has a messy and ragged story about who they are. When we fear that story will cause us to be rejected, we try to control our presentation to put out a controlled and constructed story about how we would like to be seen, policing that story with defenses, with a good offense most often being the first choice. We try to knock down the credibility of those who challenge us to thwart the challenge.

To be vulnerable is to be exposed in that messy and ragged truth and letting others take us for who we are. Sure, we don’t expose everything, and we try to look nice, but vulnerability requires being open and honest about ourselves.

That’s a frightening thing, no doubt. And it’s especially frightening to someone who has been cast beyond the pale with stigma and abuse, someone who has suffered the pounding of the nail that stands up.

The transpeople I respect are the ones who want to get naked, want to be exposed, want to be vulnerable. They want to find a way to live in truth & honesty about their lives. And that truth & honesty always requires that they acknowledge that their history & biology aren’t exactly typical for their gender expression.

Vulnerability is hard, but, in my experience, it’s the only way to get the satisfaction we crave of being really embraced for who we really are.

It seems to me that people who need to repeatedly claim their own assertions to womanhood, demanding deference to their beliefs, and especially those who need to repeatedly try to silence those who they believe challenge those assertions, well, they aren’t really comfortable in themselves, aren’t comfortable in the idea that if they are seen for who they really are, twists and all, they can be lovable and valued.

Is fighting to demand your HBS diagnosis be valued over any challenge really just a rejection of human vulnerability, that openness which can connect us?

Maybe.

Meaningful And True

 In response to  In which I do further harm to the cause of transgender linguistic gymnastics…

For a guy-in-a-dress, the pronoun “she” is just another one of the borrowed symbols appropriated for whatever the reason expressed.  “She” may be a linguistic symbol rather than a fashion symbol like high heels or a scent signal like perfume, but it’s just a symbol of womanhood, not womanhood itself, and as such I fail to see why it is more sacred than other symbols.

That said, the drag queen/Virginia Prince Crossdresser model is odd in the way it splits symbol from meaning.  “Sure I do what I can to look femaled, even appropriating a feminine name and pronouns, but those choices express no real meaning about who I am, because I am a straight man and always will be.”    The drag queen model has somewhat more understandable semiotics, rebelling against the limits of heterosexist gender, but still seems to require that the meaning of invoked women’s symbols never take away the manhood of the individual.   The reason for this seems simple: remaining a man keeps them stable in the system of desire as a gay man or straight man, and not as a wobbly woman.

The flip of this are transsexuals who believe that symbol must actually be meaning and try to demand appropriation of legal and social womanhood just because they have appropriated the symbols of womanhood, even the symbol of an un-penised crotch.  These are the HBS crowd.

There are, however, many transpeople assigned as male at birth who work to claim their own womanhood rather than to only invoke the symbols of it while refusing to let go of manhood.  They do try to align symbol and meaning, and exist more in the woman’s experience than the man’s, even without some cannonical bits of history or biology.

The key flaw in your trope is because there are only two words for gender in English, it must be a  binary function.  You are stating that because the symbol set is limited, the meaning must be limited too.  That’s a very guy thing.

But you are correct that many lazy people appropriate symbol without meaning, even down to rejecting the meaning that the symbols they claim  are redolent with.

I did my time as a guy-in-a-dress, rejecting the Prince model, and caring about not just feeling entitled to grab feminine symbol without meaning.   But as I discovered my own meaning, I found symbol to be expressive rather than just playful.

Claiming symbols without meaning is creepy & lazy, yes, but I understand why it is important in a heterosexist world, divided into binary.

It’s just that symbols are so much more meaningful and true when they represent meaning and truth.