Stop Abusing Shame

Date:         Thu, 25 May 1995 12:13:25 -0400
Reply-To:     Queer Studies List <QSTUDY-L@UBVM.CC.BUFFALO.EDU>
Sender:       Queer Studies List <QSTUDY-L@UBVM.CC.BUFFALO.EDU>
From:         Callan Williams <TheCallan@AOL.COM>
Subject:      Stop Abusing Shame!

For your comments....




Stop Abusing Shame!

Callan Williams  Copyright © 1995

We have a paradox.  Many people in this country are concerned about our national lack of shame, how we seem to be self centered, shameless, with a failing morality that it driving this country into a criminal morass.  Others, like those in the recovery movement,  are concerned with getting rid of shame, an internal feeling that something is wrong with them and they deserve to be punished.  They are working to be more authentic and whole, not shame based.

Shaming people is a powerful weapon.  We, as a human culture, have learned to use shame to stop people from certain behaviors. We want people to feel ashamed of theft, abuse, greed, violence and other behaviors that can be damaging to the fabric of this society.   It is important that we work to  limit these behaviors.

Unfortunately, we have been using shame for other reasons.  We have attempted to use shame to enforce not simply a code of deep, shared morality, but also to enforce compliance with an image of who we should be as Americans.  As we became an itinerant culture, moving from ancestral homes in cities and farms, we became a suburban culture, where our worth was valued not from a deep knowledge of our roots and our inner lives but by our compliance with a set of images.  TV and the media delivered these images, planted deep in our brains, and the vast malls, a homogeneous merchandising structure, gave us a way to look alike.

The pressure to keep up this front was, and is, shame.  We are ashamed of the way we look, ashamed of our parents, ashamed of our kids, ashamed of our pimples, ashamed of out thoughts, ashamed of who we are.  

The problem with this is that it debased the value of shame.  If we live with shame everyday, we can soon become sick -- so sick that we get ill, or so  sick that we become shameless.  Shame loses its sting when we don't have a strong context of pride in who we are to contrast it with.  It is impossible to shame those who have lost their pride, or worse, have learned to take a perverse pride in activities that should be shameful.

We can look at prisons, where shameful acts become a badge of pride, turning the entire moral structure upside down.  If there is no building of pride, even in prison, there is no way to control prisoners with healthy shame about destructive behavior.  Even in finance or politics, the excuse "everybody  does it" signals that people don't feel shame about lining their pockets through behavior that is destructive, illegal, immoral -- behavior that should be shameful.

Kids in inner cities are especially prone to overdosing on shame.  They feel the shame that our moralistic, suburban, materialistic culture imposes, yet they have no way to buy the things that will stop the shame.  They learn to live without pride, hardened to shame.  To complain that they are without  shame is to not understand how they have been abused by shame, forced to become shameless.

Like creating resistant diseases by the overuse of antibiotics, destroying our weapon by overuse, we have created a shame resistant culture by overuse of shame.

This process goes on.  We see people who call themselves Christians pulling out the big guns of shame to stop behavior they don't like, such as birth  control and homosexuality, and who then ask why the big guns don't work on the big crimes, like murder and rape.  They don't acknowledge how the abuse of shame has left them defenseless.

As a culture, we must come to an agreement on a set of core values that we can and must enforce.  These cannot be simple lifestyle issues, or marketing tools.  We cannot try to enforce homogenization, for that is unenforceable.  People understand that the creation of unenforceable laws diminishes the  respect for all laws, and we must also understand that the use of shame to enforce surface similarity will diminish the respect for shame.

We must allow people to find and have pride in their lives, however diverse they may be, and however much they make choices that we find odd or unpleasant.  Only then can we all find ways to enforce destructive acts as the truly shameful things that they are.

Many of us are learning to move away from our legacy of shame, the pain of the constant humiliation that was applied to try to make us conform.  We are trying to heal the hurt and find our true self, figure out what we really  should be ashamed of enough to change, and what is simply an essential part of us that doesn't fit into the images of conformity that were pumped into our brain.

As we do this, we must also keep in mind that all others deserve the same  privilege to be proud of their own unique expression, and that we must be  sparing with our expressions of scorn and humiliation, because they don't  need to be ashamed of themselves.  They -- and we -- simply need a healthy sense of shame.

A Tale Off Jennifer

A Tale Off Jennifer 

May, 11, 1995
(With Apologies to Melodie Warner)
Strike the gong! Ring the bells! 
I sing a song of Jennifer Wells 
She flies away very soon 
to have her cock turned into poon. 
Jennifer finally has enough cash 
To get a brand-new lovely gash! 

Never a boy, but learned to be a man 
She tried the very best she can 
To fill the wingtips of a father 
when she was always really a mother. 

Her journey, it was long, 
but soon, not her dong, 
Jennifer will be remade, 
with a sharp surgeon's blade. 
A new vagina 
(Don't be a whiner!), 
Ballsy slice of sculpted perfection 
that can host a yeast infection 

Many people at the Rage 
Would ask Jennifer her age. 
But she wouldn't tell 
Said 'Go to hell!" 
Now she will be reborn 
when her old penis is shorn 
Her life brand new, maybe 
like a just born baby. 

Jennifer trades in her gaff 
For the ability to laugh 
when people want to sneak a peek 
at the area where she takes a leak. 
All her parts nicely tucked in, 
soon Jenny can be simply fucked in. 

Her life has been varied, rich &amp; deep 
Two wives, five kids, maybe a sheep 
She explored while both hard and long 
followed the little head in her dong. 
But yea, that is going, leaving a slot, 
Now Jennifer will explore with a twat 

Who knows what she may see 
When Jennifer must squat to pee? 
Will she live a life of success &amp; fun? 
Feel the freedom, jump &amp; run? 
We hope for this, oh yes we do 
'Cause she's our sister, that is true. 

Biber beckons with his surgeon's skilly 
making a box out of Jennifer's willy 
He gives your body a new design, 
but in your head you must find 
joy is in your heart and soul, 
not in a surgically created hole. 

We trust that Jennifer will find peace 
when she has a brand new crease 
Her life will be both fresh and full 
Lo, she's a cow, no more a bull. 
Go have fun, follow your bliss 
maybe even steal a kiss 
the world is open, all for you 
life starts over, rare and true. 

Jennifer's dick said good bye today. 
Tucked inside so she can play 
Jennifer now can move on with her life 
Now not husband, now more house wife 
It is presently time to say 
Good bye dick! good bye -- and hooray!

Say It Loud! I’m Transgendered and I’m, uhhh, confused!

Say It Loud!

I’m Transgendered and I’m, uhhh, confused!

(Apologies to James Brown)

We are those lost between the boxes, struggling with a balance that for most people is very well defined.  When we fill out a form we look at the 2 boxes under gender– male & female– and have trouble choosing just one.

We know our physical sex.  We know our socialization, what sex role we were trained to play.  We know our sexual preferences.  We know what society expects of us.  We know that it is not right.

Sex is a pretty binary thing.  With the exception of a few true hermaphrodites, sex is fixed.  But somehow we know that gender is not fixed, is not some simple on/off issue.  We are men and we are women, at the same time.

This is not an easy concept to grasp for one who’s gender and sex roles seem to fit well.  This aspect of life is pretty simple.  But for one who’s mind hums with the internal dissonance of transgenderism, it’s not so simple.

Everbody has some understanding of the limits of their gender role.  Few have an understanding of the powerful internal pressure created when you know your gender role is somehow wrong.

If the internal pressure is powerful enough, you can change your sex to match your internal gender.  If the pressure is there, but not very strong, you may be satisfied with occaisonal forays into crossdressing.

If the pressure is there, but is balanced with other pressures, like the love of your family, a certain comfort in being a male, a joy in carreer, or a range of other issues, then you are caught between a rock and a hard place.  You find yourself split, trying to find a balance between male and female in a world that doesn’t have a clear definition of such a role.

We work to find such a balance, each in our own way.  Some resist the traditional duality of crossdressing by refusing to take a femme name, trying to find a balanced personae.  Some live full time as a woman, but stop when they realize that does not express all of them.  Some live full time, but resist having SRS.  Others have regular routines of living as a woman, but spend most of their time as male.  Because there is no accepted norm for transgendered people, we all must find our own way.

There are enormous pressures, both inside and outside the gender community to have us find a role that conforms more with the norms in our society.  We may be told that we are just refusing to surrender to our femininity, or that we should start acting like a man.  Even inside the gender community, many are uncomfortable with “gender freaks,” those who stand between the traditional gender roles.

But still we resist.  Most try to find a way of behaving that is gender neutral, finding the balance between male hierarcical power and female connection power.  This is not often simple, as tools that work well in one gender often appear inappropriate when done by the other.  One of us, living full time, has said that she act as a woman, and is stunned when it works for her.

We try to find ways to express ourselves, but get caught in the male female duality that we were trained to believe.  One old saw goes “In the war between the sexes, men see crossdressers as traitors, and women see crossdressers as spies.  In either case, they want to kill them.”  While this may not be accurate, as many transgenderists have found acceptance, it is what we were taught, and it scares us.

One TS has related three questions to be answered before you decide if you are TS

–Would you continue to pursue this if you were blind?

–Are you willing to give up all sexuality if necessary?

–Are you willing to give up your lifestyle and connections?

While many of us would have no problem with the first two questions, we have trouble with the third.  We understand that to be connected is to be alive, and breaking the connections, the history we have now.  We are leaders, we are fathers, we are connected

We know what it means be raised as a male, and that lets us help boys.  We don’t know what it means to be raised a girl, and that creates barriers between us and women.  We understand the rights and obligations of “members of the patriarchy,” and while we may disagree, this creates barriers between us and those who have never been members of the patriarchy, namely women.  We see life from both sides, and have trouble agreeing with politcally correct statements of opression, as we know the influences of both sides.

Is it a blessing or a curse to be given the gift of seeing both sides?  While it makes one a richer person, it also means that you can never be quite so sure about your choices, your decisions.

Many of us put deliberate blocks in the way of our being completely accepted as women.  A male attitude, a few extra pounds, a too glossy look are all things that could be eliminated if we had the desire to become women.  As transgenderists however, they provide a statement of our transgendered status.

Society sees gender roles as directly related to sexual preference.  Men worry about being “caught” by a “false woman,” and women often feel men who express their feminity are out to “catch” men.  To transgenderists, the words heterosexual and homosexual lose their meaning, being replaced with the simple understanding of a preference for men or women.

We try to find ways that let us be somewhere between the fixed, formal gender roles.  Some of us, living full time as women, know that women have a great deal more flexibility in “gender appropriate” behavior.  A woman in jeans and a t-shirt is more accepted than a man in a gown, for example.  This does have it’s roots in the power of the patriarchy, and since women were out of the formal power structure they had less to lose, but it is still true as women take more formal power in our society.

We are transgenderists.  We understand society’s confusion about how to treat us, as we are confused about how to live our life.  We know that “gender benders” appaer to be a threat to all that is good and simple and black and white in society.  We see the pictures Pat Roberston and Jerry Falwell show when they mention homosexuality, not nice normal gay guys, but drag queens in scary sexual poses.

We are transgenderists.  We live in a “no-person’s land” undertanding that gender roles are not fixed and firm, but rather a spread of options.  We are as confused as anyone else about the terrain of this land.

But we are driven to explore it, to find the balance we need in our lives, in our souls.