Swimming Through Shit

I was always crap at rotary breathing.

That’s the technique you use in the pool where you turn your head to the side, take a breath, and then turn it back down into the water for the next stroke.

Somehow, I could never quite get the coordination right, which left me with a yellow ribbon pinned to my swimsuit — the “guppy” ribbon — for almost all my time at the Y.  No 25 yards with rhythmic breathing for me.

I went to see “Trans: The Movie” tonight.  It was at a social change film series.  There was a panel afterwards with the producer, a local doctor who supports transpeople and a transwoman (the transman was scheduled, but unavailable.)

Hated the film.   Hated it.  Lots of medical shots, including in-vitro fertilization (with frozen sperm) and delivery shots of Christine McGinn and her partner’s baby, and the big finale was having Oprah get her audience to woo-hoo at how much of a freak Christine was, a lesbian woman who fathered the baby she breast fed!

I connected with the two femme partners, Christine’s partner Lisa and the partner of a newly out FTM, because femme lesbians make sense to me.  Of course, being a femme myself, I know I could never score one for a partner, although a few have tried to talk me into being butch for them because I have so much training for it.  Not gonna work, gals, sorry.

And I really liked Chloe, who made a choice to have a final rendezvous with a shotgun.  All the people around her were all bummed out, so the movie tried to make it about their loss.  Winners write the history of wars, and survivors write the history of suicides.   The music kept trying to tell me how sad the story was, but we need to be able to make our own choices.

A question was asked as to why transpeople are the targets of so much violence, and the panel just didn’t have an answer.   So I raised my hand.

Gender is a very coercive system, I explained, or at least compulsory heterosexist binary gender is.   We let children bully other children into conforming to gender roles, authorizing stigma and abuse for any of those who don’t properly follow the rules.

When people feel bullied into a gender role that doesn’t quite fit them they feel stress.  And when they see someone mocking their sacrifices, someone who is boldly revealing something they have learned to hide and deny in themselves, well, the system of bullying they experience makes them think they are entitled to bully that person.

After all, “they are asking for it,” aren’t they?    They could be decent and proper, but instead they put their own perversion out in the open, and “they deserve what they get.”

People who pick on transpeople are acting out of their own internalized gender policing, destroying what attracts them, just like they try to destroy their own queerness.

This is the same basis as homophobia.   There has even been a study; you can look it up.

This is the point that none of them got, that the movie doesn’t even start to get.

A trans life is a struggle against stigma.   We are taught the stigma early, so early we learn to be our own police, our own jailers.

The way stigma works is to make everything harder, to try and inhibit people so they don’t have the standing or energy to threaten the status quo.   Everything is made harder, with leaps of fear and danger ladled on.   We are always waiting for the “third gotcha,” always ready to self-inhibit so we don’t seem like we are “just asking for abuse,” seem like we “deserve” all the abuse people can pile onto us.

Living in the world as a transperson is like swimming through an ocean of shit.    Every stroke is harder than normal, every breath is fraught with danger.

Sometimes, we get a burst of energy, lifting us up for a while, but that cant last forever.  Eventually, we choke again, going into another struggle period.

Some people can handle this better than I.   I suspect they were the ones who had no trouble learning rotary breathing, who had the coordination to compartmentalize well and only breath when they are out of the shit.   Jamison Green says we have to be able to give transpeople hope, that our destruction is the lack of hope.  The lack of hope that the swimming through shit will ever end, say I.

I suspect this is why some transpeople deny the title of woman even to transpeople who claim it, because from their experience, they know that living a trans life is swimming through shit, through stigma, forever.

It’s hard for me to tell kids “things get better,” as the Trevor Project asks, because I know lots of transpeople for whom things don’t get better.

Sure, if you do the big final death there is no chance for another rebirth here, no chance for a new lesson or new delight, wasting the possibilities of life.   I always tell people to do something crazy if they think they want to kill themselves; after all, what’s the worst that can happen if they take a bus to the next big city or start hooking?  Sure, maybe they will die, but they were gonna do that anyway, and maybe, just maybe, some new possibility will pop up.

Try, try, then try again.  Change your strategy and do something new.  Try.

But don’t think you are not going to end up swimming through shit.

All humans have to keep swimming, sure, but unless they understand the stigma of gender or other stigma, they can’t understand how thick the shit can get.

And too many people are so struggling with the shit that when they see someone trying to get out of it, they will act out to hurt and destroy them, so everyone knows that this shit is real.

I’ve been trying to get my head above.   But when I see things like “Trans: The Movie” and hear so called experts speak, then share my own insights, even getting a hand for a point I made on why there are so few trans leaders (because no transperson wants to be trans, they want to be themselves) but get no contacts,  when I have to struggle with fools and creeps, then I know one thing.

It’s wicked lonely to spend your life swimming in shit stigma.  Wicked lonely to be a long lost tranny swimming in shit.   Painful to have to keep breathing, keep your head above the shit for so long, so long.

And we all get tired eventually.

2 thoughts on “Swimming Through Shit”

  1. I totally agree with the swimming through shit, it is how I feel since I came out, from day 1 I have regretted the decision, even though I spent months making the decision. I have been accused of so many things, I just cannot win, that and the loss of my career due to transphobia. I cannot help how I am, I have suffered extreme mental health issues since coming out of the closet in 2009. Prior to 2009 I never had any issues, for 34 solid years I was a picture of mental health, then with the sudden “you are no longer required” 2 months after signing a new contract hit me like a bullet to the brain.

    I admit even today I consider myself a failure at not being able to recover. I am sinking in the pool of shit, no question, most days it is just the depth that changes.

    I would never tell anyone it gets better, 4 years on and it is not only not getting better, I have taken 3 steps backwards…

  2. “Trans:The Movie” is a very disheartening film. Packed with surgery footage, including the cesarian birth of twins created with frozen sperm, it attempts to tell the stories of newly out transpeople while relegating mature transpeople to the role of expert. These stories, however, are told only through a few interviews, leaving just glimpses of the challenges of a trans life. The big climax is comes when a transwoman gets to be displayed by Oprah as the only person who both fathered and breast fed her own child, as if having Oprah certify how odd we are is some kind of triumph. In the movie’s most manipulative sequence, it examines the life of a transwoman who killed herself though the eyes of the nons around her. These people rewrite the history only through their limited observations, with the transwoman never really being given a voice. This movie demotes transpeople to objects of curiosity in their abjection, which is likely to cause transpeople who watch it to find themselves seeing a world through the eyes of a huckster trying to make a buck on a weak and ultimately negative film.

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