Some list posts, based on this news:
The cost of the binary — you are either one or the other — is so high.
So many people want to use that binary to negate who we are: “You are really what I say you are!”
And we pay the price.
This death makes me sad.
Blessings to Christine/Mike and all who loved them.
And then, to someone who implied that Penner should have had more therapy before:
Yes, de-transitioning happens. For example, I know a local who is living as a man with a surgically created vagina. They had genital reconstruction, but their life as a woman wasn’t really satisfying them, so they chose to live as a man again.
I can’t agree, though, that therapy is the answer.
In my understanding, the vast majority of those who de-transition don’t do it because they don’t know themselves to be trans, but rather because the challenge of interacting as a woman with the limits of a body that went through puberty as a male just are too much.
Joan Roughgarden said in the New York Times, “When you first come out as a transgendered person, you spend your first year in absolute euphoria. Then reality sets in, and you have to make a life and deal with the stigma.”
It’s finding a way to deal with that stigma as a woman, with the defenses of a woman, that is the challenge.
I have seen lots of transpeople come out and assume that they must be transsexual, so they want to change their bodies as fast as possible, with the assumption that if they change their bodies it will change the way people see them.
Until the euphoria wears off, though, you have no way to see clearly. I will note that Penner detransitioned after about a year; the same time Ms. Roughgarden says that the euphoria wears off and the stigma hits hard.
In the end, there are limits to changing a body, especially a mature one. So many of us have to come to grips with the notion that the best we can do is pass as a transsexual woman, and not pass as having been born female. And the life of a transsexual woman has profound challenges, as the New York Times has also begun to discuss.
I accept that there is a wall for transwomen when the euphoria comes off and the stigma hits hard, and then we have to make the best choices we can make to keep what we value; a job, status, a family, expression, truth, whatever.
But then again, that is the challenge for every transperson, everyday. It’s just that letting the pendulum swing helps us find the balance. There is no way to find the center point by creeping up on it; you have to swing wide and come back.
Every transperson, even if they don’t, don’t, don’t ever want to live there, has to spend some time in the world between binaries, some time when they are not man, not woman (or not woman, not man) and that’s a real challenge in a heterosexist culture when binaries are enforced like hell. We need to enter no man’s/no woman’s land to find the path to our own home.
And that’s why I railed about binaries.
We makes our choices, we transpersons.
Penner was Mike and that wasn’t working, so then she was Christine and that wasn’t working, then Mike again.
And if that wasn’t working, well another choice.
And one more, to someone who wants more boxes.
I would never deny anyone the chance to assimilate.
There are many transwomen who have assimilated very well over the years, becoming one of the women, in their relationships with other women, with their community, with men. They don’t need to be some third thing; they are women.
The primary duality is wild & tame: how much do we want to be tame and assimilated and part of the group, how much do we want to be wild and individual and have unique expression?
Every human has to find their own dynamic balance between these extremes, both valuable in themselves. No human is an island; we need the support of the group. No one wants to lose their own unique voice completely.
We all need both to not care what others say about us, be wild and free, and care what others say about us, so we can play our part in the structures of community. I know how to be an indvidualist, sure, but that doesn’t mean I don’t need a job, don’t need friends, don’t want my gifts to be accepted & valued in community.
What has never made sense to me about the idea of a third gender is what that gender would look like. Would it be manly females or womanly men or something different?
Most times, when I try and hunt that down, people admit that what they mean by a third gender is “O,” as in “M,” “F,” “O.” It’s a catchall that stands for other, a whole range.
To me, that’s not a third gender, that’s just a move away from fixed binary gender, from compulsory binary gendering based on birth genital configuration.
It is time to move away from rigid, binary gender, from heterosexist gender, but that doesn’t mean that it is time to move away from gender. Gender is an important system of social control, offering us both security & opportunity. Gosh, without a rich gendered context, how could transpeople ever have the symbols to create a rich gender expression.
That move away from heterosexism is coming, as it comes in any society where reproductive pressure is off. There is a reason why “Zero Population Growth” and “Gay Liberation” both bloomed in the 1960s, as the children born of mothers who got their first taste of freedom in WWII and then were re-gendered in the 1950s came of age.
But as to Mx. Penner, there were undoubtedly many layers going on.
Like most transwomen, zie probably had dreams of assimilating, of what zie wanted life to look like.
Unlike most of us, zie was also visible from the start, even in the awkward first steps to creating a new and more truthful expression. Sports columnist for the LA Times, so very visible, and so very vulnerable.
The world has changed, becoming more accepting of gender that isn’t simply this or that. If it hadn’t, Christine would not have been able to come out and get the support she did.
“People born one way who try and act behave and try to appear the other way;” that’s a kind of definition of what the word transsexual means, isn’t it? It assumes that there are two ways, a binary.
In my experience, though, it’s when we stop trying and become that the magic happens.
But to get past the fumbling, to create a powerful and authentic expression of who we are, well balanced between assimilation & uniqueness, that takes time.
And for so many emerging transsexuals, that time of grace is denied. We end up stuck behind our own defenses, whatever they are. Those defenses protect us sure, but they also limit & isolate us.
The notion of trans is much more acceptable in culture today. People understand more.
But if being trans means we are denied assimilation, that women who have lived as women for decades are dismissed because they are “really a man,” well that’s a problem.
To me, it’s vital that we have the opportunity to cut loose from compulsory gender, assigned on the basis of birth genitals.
And it is also vital that when we cut loose, we are not always then limited to “other.”
It is vital that we get to assimilate, that our allies open the space for crossing, not just for queering the assigned.
Or at least that is vital to me.
(A note on pronouns: I don’t know how Penner thought of themselves, so I have tried to use gender neutral pronouns talking about them, unless I was talking about one stage. Reffering to the period when they identified as Mike, I use he, when they identified as Christine, I use she, and to the life, I use zie or they or Penner. I’m just trying to honor all Penner’s identifications because I don’t know how they would want to be remembered, though I admit, I think of them as Christine.)