25th March 2016
Finished a tutorial group presentation today with three of my classmates. Ten minutes audio presentation of the assignment - psychologically based intervention programs, then five minutes questions, for each of us. Strengths - tying in my program with theory - Bronfenbrenner's ecological model; considering my audience - brief explanation of statistical strength; using statistical data. Weakness - remembering terms such as "caseworker" on the hop. The quality of all our presentations was good, and we all demonstrated considerable effort. I felt my strength was theory, and was interested that one other presentation on bullying reached similar conclusions on the research. Lots of it, and hard to draw together conclusions. My conclusion that a theoretical model of bullying is needed feels strong. I have reasons for this conclusion, based on the research data, specifically the weak relationships between any one thing and bullying. I'm picturing all these factors but little work on particular combinations of factors - current multivariate stats work.
These strengths suggest to me, again, coupled with the 3000 word essay last study period, that I am capable of this new work. That first toe-dip in the water with first year statistics is beginning to feel overly cautious. Back then I had no idea how I'd go, but now, I'm pleasantly surprised, even exhilarated, at the possibilities that could open up. Still scared but my presentation today strengthened my confidence. I also acted as timer for the other presentations - using my phone app, and assisted in managing the four presentations. Not the first time I've managed a group, but today felt different - I stepped up to the plate, switching between supporting role and lead role as required - hopefully without riding over anyone else too much. It felt seamless and we ran to time.
Of course, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. The future will tell, with my postgrad work, just how capable I am. My gut feeling, based on the ongoing fingerprints of my Lord and Lady (Deity), and the way the assignment process is becoming more straightforward, is that I will find myself capable. This capability is a key marker of the success of my transition. I've taken my life change into literally every aspect of my life. Increasingly I'm being seen as a woman, my past a dimming memory; all without reference to my genitalia.
20th March 2016
One of the most critical things for me to do, despite all the busyness, is to make a space that is mine. I do this in cyberspace. Setting my main computer up using a house model. One folder is called loungeroom, another attic . Other folders are called cupboard and coffee table. There is a Kirby Memorial Library folder, memorialising a primary school teacher who encouraged my love of reading. The A E P Higgins Study, containing my undergraduate work, memorialises my dad. He was so proud when I first graduated. Actually he was so proud of me from my birth, if one photo of him holding me is anything to go by. This house model sets up a mindset for various types of files - magazines in the loungeroom say, and a chance to remember special people. This otherwise mundane computer becomes a container of memory and meaning. A container I can access from other devices and computers thanks to cloud syncing. My space is as close as my pocket.
12th March 2016
This morning, after arriving home from a night shift, Lipstick and I drove to Hawthorne Canal, near where it narrows and heads upstream, and went for a walk. There's a cafe, Cafe Bones, across the canal footbridge from where we parked the car, that caters to humans and canines. The best spinach/fetta roll and beef pie we'd had for a long time, plus hot chocolate / cappuccino, and the entertainment of canines of all shapes and sizes. Including a Malamute who stood taller than the table and showed some interest in my pie. A simple "no, that's my breakfast", while nudging the plate away from snout, was sufficient. This place is popular and the dogs were very well behaved, playing and occasionally delineating their territory. Lipstick and I then walked to the canal mouth, crossed back over via another footbridge, and went back to the car. This is a brilliant way to start the day and part of what makes life worth getting out of bed for.
Friday, December 25, 2015
Another Christmas Days comes to a close, nothing special, just a tree, some presents, some food, being together. Rewriting the scripts of Christmases past. That is indeed a miracle. 2015 has been a turning point personally. In ways more significant than changing gender. On the world stage it has included increasing world-acceptance of same-sex marriage, which brings a cheer that I still juxtapose with my conservative heteronormative upbringing that couldn’t even handle de-facto relationships. The same stage also included ongoing violence of terrorism, challenging my ability to love regardless of religion or ethnicity. War I can handle but terrorism reaches into the heart of where I live. It was late 2014 when a woman went into a cafe in Sydney for a coffee. She died, a victim of a siege in the name of terrorism. Everyday at work I see the terrorism threat level sign, the police patrols, the security awareness, and feel afraid even without a specific threat or action. The signs, patrols, and awareness do not bring safety, they bring fear. On the personal stage, the year began with trying to climb out of a very deep dark hole that has been the previous years. Looking for a way forward. I wrote a piece, and posted on my website, about giving myself permission to fail. Unexpectedly that released me from whatever chains I’d bound myself in. I stopped fighting the darkness, allowing it to be and do its work. Surprisingly I then began to move up and forward again. For the first time in ages feeling good happened, and happened in spite of much that had not changed. I changed my surname, and added a further middle name, giving me a really strong name that is a source of strength, and symbolising breaking with the remnants of my past. I changed phone numbers and didn’t tell remaining relatives, and miscellaneous acquaintances. Finally deciding that building bridges with my sisters was a task too difficult. Too much had happened that needed some acknowledgement by them. Too much pain from my sisters and step-dad. Too little reaching out to my world now. I grew up with family being everything. I live with the results of pain inflicted by three families. That Christmas tree, the first for many years, is writing a new story.
2016 is when planning for the move to Melbourne will inexorably begin. There is little that's certain except change and burgeoning (slowly) hope. Oh, and I can write an essay. Fears of finding work and facing the next challenges of study and career. Time management. Income. I won't say "bring it on" but I keep placing one foot in front of the other and exploring the journey.
Monday, November 16, 2015
After the recent Paris terrorist attacks I placed a couple of tweets on Twitter, giving my opinion of violence in the name
of religion. Yesterday I did some cursory research on Lebanese history, given a recent terrorist bombing in Beirut. While getting
off to sleep last night, pondering why Paris was widely reported in Western media and Beirut was not, I realised a difference.
Modern Lebanese history is peppered with sectarian political violence - terrorist acts. This reminded me of the Northern Ireland
IRA terrorist activities, and The Balkans. These three conflicts, wars by another name, were/are mostly confined within national
borders. Consequently, they are localised and that influences their relevance for western media coverage.
The Paris attacks, and then think New York, London, Madrid, Nairobi, and so on. Extremist groups operating politically in the name
of Islam claimed or were found responsible for each. Each attack occurred outside the borders of the associated political conflicts,
think Middle East and Somalia. Both World War I and II were generally fought within the boundaries of the countries in conflict. For
example, battles did not occur in Switzerland, Spain or Sweden. While these battlefields included civilian areas of cities, for example,
that became possible with the advent of air-warfare, and the targeted cities were within the borders of countries involved in the war.
The aforementioned terrorist attacks are shocking because war is taken outside of the relevant national borders. While politically,
western countries send military into various regions such as the Middle East, Afghanistan, and so on, this has typically been the
result of a terrorist action against those countries, or other unacceptable and unresolved diplomatically, actions. The terrorist acts
have carried this war outside the regions of origin. While these regions have social and religious faultlines, sometimes / often
exacerbated by colonial decisions regarding national boundaries, terrorism extends the reach of these faultlines around the world.
Whether Islam is a peaceful religion or not seems as irrelevant a question as whether Catholicism is, or Protestantism. Both these
Christian religions have had violence carried out in their name across the world in previous centuries. Think Crusades and South /
Central America for Catholicism. Extremist Protestantism supports violence, particularly in the U.S. and Africa, against LGBTI people.
Hence my tweets draw this link between extremist religion and terrorism. A recent event at work showed me I am respectful of Islamic
ritual, when I withdrew quietly after inadvertently disturbing a Muslim colleague engaged in prayer. The train crew cab at that time
was not a place I expected to encounter religious ritual. However, this ritual was important to my colleague and he choose an
available time and space.
I am not against religion. However, the extreme manifestations that attach religion to politics and violence such as terrorism
has no place in the 21st century world. Violence carried out by countries against each other, at least has boundaries, and limits.
The potential to breach these limits contributed to restrictions on nuclear warfare. Voting a government at war out of office gives
citizens a chance to limit the war. Terrorism breaches these boundaries, creating a New Orleans situation where violence spreads
across the world-scape as water spread through the city and suburbs. That is why I support containment of terrorism, both locally
and by at least circumscribed action against terrorist bases. Where terrorism resides within a larger framework of social injustice
and inequality these issues will not be addressed by violence.
As I tweeted, where this violence is attached to religion, I shake the dust off my feet at the door of their meeting places.
Monday, November 9, 2015
I am tedious - not like those other tasks…
This is starting out to be a tough week. A considerable amount of repetitive, focused work at my job, which I’ve emotionally
detached from, coupled with the study equivalent of practicing musical scales on the piano. In summary - tedium in all directions.
This is rich soil for growing self-pity and regrets. Almost nothing in my life is how it was imagined to me as a youngster and,
as acknowledged by at least one other Queer blogger, this can be a drain. Response - dig in to some favourite books in between
study and job tasks; remind oneself of the wonder of life; practice self-forgiveness; practice self-care. New wine goes in new
wineskins, so the New Testament points out in an era before glass bottles, or the new wine splits the old skins and spills.
This morning that image struck me.
This new life has indeed required a new skin. Trying to put it into the old life skin did just what the metaphor said - it split the
old skin. Tempted to say good riddance but that would be disingenuous. The old skin worked for that life but that life was not mine;
never was going to be. This queer new life is mine and while all our stories are different, they share the similarities born of doing
something new, something different, and being attacked by others for it. Yes, as I write “others” I am subtly turning the tables on
the conservative hetero-based society that would see us as “others”.
Sadly, my reading so far suggests that “othering”, having an “in” group and an “out” group, is deeply ingrained in our society. Both
groups almost need each other, basing identity on NOT being like… whoever. On othering someone. If I had to make a prediction I would
say that a new “other” will turn up before a radical change of society’s philosophical foundations. It was the slaves, the
African-Americans, the Protestants or Catholics respectively, the Gays and Lesbians, the Bisexuals… whose next? Love and acceptance
of difference and sameness is the positive choice. Basing identity on who we are - woman, man, boy, girl, transman, transwoman,
intersex, healer, parent, lover, rather than who we are not, or even who we are like, is the key.
Celebrating who I am and what I have is my personal key.
Friday, November 6, 2015
I’m beginning to realise my day begins with two things - a cup of coffee (my flatmate is good at making those - thanks K!), and
a dose of bravery. Years ago I was called brave for transitioning gender, leaving me a little puzzled. What I’ve done doesn’t feel
brave; it was just something I had to do given the circumstances - but perhaps that is the definition of bravery. Then, in a recent
chat, a woman I work with called me brave as well. That chat included my commenting about noticing the loss of “white male privilege”,
for example, having to think twice before walking through a park at night - my shift times routinely have me out late evening/early
morning. My colleague paused and specifically thanked me for recognising that. In that moment I began to see what linked our lives
as women - whether cis, trans, or other, whatever our shape, size, and physiology (eg. not all women experience menstruation or have
breasts) - it was the common experience of being “othered” in a patriarchal society. Of having men treat us as something “not male”,
without bothering much to find out what “not male” is. It is men who give us our identity as women - those who are not men. That is
perhaps at least part of the source of being considered brave - I let go of male privilege and entered a world of lesser privilege.
Last night I read a novel by M. E. Tudor, Standing Her Ground, in which the young woman protagonist was subjected by her parents
and pastor to a “pray the gay away” session at their church, and (unknown to her parents but not her pastor) was subsequently
raped by three young men in a room away from the main hall. One of those men, the pastor’s son, raped her while the other two held
her down. Jodi subsequently left the church, and her parents, to stay with an old school friend and his mother, who had always treated
her as family (in the best sense of the word). Then Jodi realised she was pregnant from the rape, and choose to keep her child. The
book picks up her story three years after these events when her parents (with collusion from the pastor and others in that church)
seek custody of her son. That attempt fails and the pastor, and three rapists, are indicted for rape and fraud charges. Disturbingly,
the rape of Jodi was considered a “corrective rape”, an attempt to “cure” her of homosexuality. Jodi stands up for herself and her
son, in the face of fear, and does not lose her humanity, her womanhood, her sexuality, or her faith. The latter particularly brave
in the light of her treatment by one church.
In case this sounds “unreal”, just Google “corrective rape”. This is the type of event I fear from every man who happens to be
walking the same way as me at night. The fear is there regardless of any actual threat. Just being male is the threat. The
additional risk of being discovered to be pre-op transgender builds the threat of rape to that of murder. Even with no actual
threat, and the recognition of miniscule risk, the fear exists. I never experienced this fear pre-transition, when I thought of
myself as male, and was socially accorded the privileges thereof. Fear is not quashed by cognition, but by safety. By a society
that legally, spiritually, and socially, promotes safety. For transwomen and transmen that means being accepted by ciswomen and
cismen as women and men respectively. For other gender identities it means being accepted as those identities and explicitly, for
all gender diverse people, and all people, having safe spaces declared. Our railway stations, our bus stops, our trains, buses,
taxis, public buildings, businesses, all need to have signage and practices indicating they are safe spaces for all people (this
idea has been read elsewhere). The coercion of video cameras in public spaces is not enough. Safety needs to be positively and
I’d much rather begin my day with just coffee.
Thursday, November 5, 2015
personal reflections on sociology of identity
As I near the end of this subject, my 16th out of 24, more than ever I find myself reflecting on my own life as a sample subject
matter of the theorising of identity. Growing up I adopted practices and beliefs that were hegemonically applied, such as those of
gender, education, religious practice, being an oldest sibling. The hegemony was in the association between the socialisation and its
“rightness”, and the lack of choice afforded by the social forces. Additionally, and critically, these practices and beliefs were
experienced as my choices, my beliefs, my practices. The times I truly acted on my own volition, my own originated choice, were
labelled as wrong or “of the devil”, or selfish (considered wrong in itself). True, these practices were against the wishes of the
socialising forces from church and family and school, but they were not consciously acts of rebellion. Rather, in the case of my
friends, the Goodacre family, it was a somewhat lonely young person going where they were welcomed. Other beliefs, such as
premarital sex and defacto relationships not being as wrong as I was told, or having communion in other churches or even being
baptised, developed from a questioning of beliefs and practices that was tacitly encouraged. Still, the results of such thinking
were considered wrong and independent thought and action became associated with guilt. Even moving out of home brought a grief
response from Mum which generated some guilt.
So, I was socialised into practices and thinking, effectively duped into calling them my own, and experienced guilt for daring to
behave independently. However, I reconciled independent thought with my core relationship of me and Deity, and out of this nexus
emerged the self-identity that I recognise today. Of course, I also recognise what Giddens identifies as the risks of such thought,
and the weight of responsibility for such choices. The socialisation was not particularly wrong but it was almost a pre-modern context,
with little room for the reflexivity that Giddens associates with modernity. Ultimately I rejected the label of “male” which my formative
socialisation gave me, quite reasonably I should add, and took up that of “female” upon realising I am transgender. Now I’m engaged in
a postmodern / late modernity project of creating a female self. Using the practice of reflexivity to reshape my material body and
its social relations, authentically from the core beliefs and practices inherited from my previous selves. These beliefs and practices
provide the personal narrative that forms a coherency of self-identity in the face of changing body and sociality. I suspect it is this
coherency that my therapist has spent four years leading me toward, and which ultimately preserved my sanity.
Sunday, October 11, 2015
My religious past left me with no tools to explore this strange queer world I find myself in. This strange queer world largely
ignores religion, or at least the based-in-Christianity type. The late Joshua Goodacre was my first contact with a non-churchianity
Christian. For all his faults he loved people as I read Jesus loved people. Unconditionally and leaving the sin part up to his Dad,
and tended to leave judging for idiot pharisees and moneylenders in the temple. Joshua attracted people at times who wanted personal
power on Joshua’s coattails rather than serving God but the ones I saw didn’t hang around long. Now I understand Joshua better
and have to assume my meeting him was no accident of fate. We both trod/tread our own paths and live(d) our own relationship with
Deity, not the relationship mandated from some pulpit. That is scary and requires a confidence and trust in Deity that I suspect
most children of Deity do not reach. Paradoxically, growing up and gaining this relationship requires becoming as a child again,
and having the basic uncomplicated trust and love of a child. Realising it’s a big world and exploring it continuously, learning
we do not know everything. Something like the academic humbleness we take into our studies and ongoing academic work. We do not
know everything. But I want to find what is behind that hill over there…
Saturday, October 10, 2015
finishing a course of therapy
This past week saw the ending of four years of semi-regular sessions with my therapist, Julie Catt. Two reasons - one therapeutic
process based, the other planning for my future. Neither is more important than the other and both say much that is important.
Therapeutically I am in favour of regular visits to a therapist, not as some social fashion accessory, but much as one would see
a dentist or mechanic for routine maintenance on teeth and car respectively. However, without brushing your teeth or checking water
and oil levels, the dentist or mechanic will have considerably more work to do, and may be unable to save teeth or car. I had realised
this year I have the tools to care for my mental health, and it was up to me to take responsibility and use them. Given my tendency to
treat therapy like some people treat attending church, ie. attending and participating is enough, and nothing else is needed, it was
critical I finish with therapy to “encourage” myself to do some actual self-care mental health work. As it happens I was already
doing this and consequently therapy sessions had become less frequent. Formally finishing my time as Julie’s client made the important
statement that I was adequately caring for myself. It was a statement of confidence in myself and a chance to say “thankyou”.
Finishing therapy also indicated the achievement of goals of the therapy. Four years ago the goals were to complete the
psychological work of transitioning. While I was uncertain of just what that work entailed, then or now, this year feels
like a completion point. I have made decisions about my past, dealt with what little I could and closed the door on the
rest. Concurrently I have begun planning for an increasingly real future. Such planning has involved spiritual dimensions
as well as life-management. For example, I have made a definitive break with church attendance, seeing churches (I have
experienced several) as locations of intellectual poverty, ideological brainwashing, and emotional crutches. My relationship
with God (my Lord and Lady) is just as real as ever and plays out in loving the people in my life and doing the work that has
crossed my path. The life-management dimension has included better record keeping, budgeting better (some weaknesses still), and
professional focus. These dimensions are linked to my past by being consistent with the young man (who became this woman) who
questioned, sought honesty, and increasingly trod their own path. Julie walked part of this journey with me in our therapy
sessions and by finishing this course I have opened the door (ethically) for her to attend my graduation as a friend and colleague,
not as my therapist.
In late 2009 I was visting a bookshop in Beechworth, Victoria, with some friends of my past. A book titled Normal stood out from
its shelfmates. In 2011 I discovered the author of that book was a psychologist, and I contacted her. The sessions that began then
have coincided with the most challenging and exhilarating years of my life to date. And Julie, through her memoir and therapy
sessions, showed me that my own crazy life is also “normal”.
Saturday, October 10, 2015
I should be...
Tonight I followed a reference from a sociology work on transgenderism and found myself in a website giving a “Christian”
perspective on changing gender. While not as ugly as some I’ve found, it still essentially said I am wrong and in need of
salvation and psychological repair. What Andrew Katay publicly called “broken”. I don’t actually disagree with that assessment
in general, since even a brief glance at my life indicates its brokeness and I’d much rather be more clearly male or female than
this space called “transgender”. Some of the website material is drawn from people who transitioned gender and subsequently
regretted it, and from scientists who do not agree with resolving psychological issues by surgery. No real arguments from me
here either. Surgery to change gender is a serious decision, but so is facial plastic surgery, for example. Further, I don’t
consider gender surgery would materially affect my life as a woman, and so I’m not seeking such surgery anytime soon, although
if money was available I would have the surgery tomorrow, so to speak. Even without surgery, changing gender is a serious
decision. At a minimum it severely disrupts your life and there is no easy road back. Further, the statement “I should have
been a boy / girl respectively” is not well understood, although subjectively understood by the speaker. This is a crucial
point of a sign not holding the same meaning for speaker and hearer, as in Saussure’s work. A person may know they should be
a different gender but the social world that helps form that “knowing” may challenge the person’s ability to know. They may
reject the self-awareness present in “I should be…” and hear some other reason for the statement. All I can say is transitioning
has been a good decision for me, answering many questions and throwing other issues into greater clarity.
Saturday, October 3, 2015
maybe hell is freezing over
I swore I would not help Lipstick and K tidy their bedroom. So, what happens? After finally dismantling the rocking chair
(needed more resources and energy to restore than I have, or foresee having), and laying another ghost to rest, I arranged some
of K’s boxes in the corner it formerly occupied in the lounge room. Then I arranged boxes that were occupying passageways in the
space vacated in the bedroom. Consequently the utter mess that was Kim’s corner of the bedroom got tidied up. Some boxes were
sorted a little but at least the boxes and bags are now more accessible for sorting. I guess I now need to rouse K into doing
that sorting and I can see stuff in the walk-in closet being placed in Kim’s corner. Flow on effect. If hell freezes over then
Lipstick might actually sort some of her stuff again, and tidy it up. Actually, Lipstick has helped but I wasn’t supposed to do
any of this. My office area in the loungeroom is looking tidier though as I continue to scan in papers and magazines. And
Lipstick’s desk tidy drawers she bought me yesterday work a treat in tidying the desk (I love this desk).
Had a cry on the way home from grocery shopping. Literally locked horns with K to get her mess around the lounge cleared up. Told
her straight if she wanted to be a baglady she could catch the train to Central or Circular Quay and live there. The really
interesting thing is, after all the tough words and actions, Lipstick cooked dinner. Now Lipstick is asleep in her bedroom, K is
asleep on the lounge, Suzie is sleeping on my old work jacket on the lounge room floor, and peace reigns, except for the tapping
of the keyboard. Kim and I told each other we care, and Lipstick, well, Lipstick cooked. I guess we love each other.
It utterly sux though that the routine we began last December of early morning walks just fizzled out. I was left with the work
of fucking awful lunchtime shifts and none of the benefits of a more regular routine of exercise etc. so, my mood nosedives,
Lipstick claims she’s trying to help me out of my hole but her efforts have little impact given the enormous losses and changes
I’ve experienced. So, it’s fucking naturally up to me to do more. Fucking D serenaded me in TCAC Wednesday arvo before I signed on,
and bloody N tagged along. I was paralysed. No room to establish social contact because of fucking fears on Lipstick’s bloody part.
I wasn’t embarrassed, just mocked by some fucking power. Ironically she’s created the very circumstances in which I would consider an
affair. I am just dead emotionally, and what emotion I have leaks out in tears. Although I would not consider an affair, my heart
went out to N upon learning his mum or dad (forget which) had died. Neil has seemed lost this year, the few times I’ve seen him. The
spark has gone. I just couldn’t convey my sadness. None of this I told Lipstick simply because I didn’t want an awkward conversation
(both of them their, at sign on, on my birthday? Hhhmm.), and worse, I didn’t want the memory of an act at least remembering my
birthday spoilt. I don’t trust Lipstick with something as tender as my feelings. That’s the part that hurts. I forget too the
last time Lipstick really went out of her way to show me I am special. I just don’t feel special much. I think that hurts most of all.
Saturday, October 3, 2015
A key problem for me, reliably masked by the negative affect and tiredness that is residual from Guillaume-Barre, is there
is nothing, outside my books and a cup of coffee or chai latte, that I can reliably look forward to. Everything else carries
a stench of probable disappointment. It’s better to not look forward to than to be sickened by the stench. Yet, I still try. I
buy an outfit that speaks of future personal appearance. I do my studies. I be careful when crossing the road so I don’t end up
dead on the road next to a car and traumatized driver. I eat. I don’t overdose on medication. etc. Foolish woman.
Thursday, October 1, 2015
Happy Birthday to me Girl. Kim bought me a tee and a shift dress. I cheated by pointing them out to her but they are still
are lovely present, and I’ve already worn them. Today I bought myself a black skirt and ivory top, business attire, an anchor
into the future. Going to wear them for my final appointment with Julie next week - and similar outfits in my future activities.
That all depends on completing an essay or more however. 14 subjects complete and 3 in hand. Leaves 7 to commence.
Fuck. I can do this.
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Key marker of transitioning success
The early history of the medicalisation of transgenderism centred on the ability of the person to “pass”, to appear and behave
adequately in their new gender, female in the case of male-to-female transgender, male in the case of female-to-male. Although
this necessity has declined somewhat, being able to blend in, disappear in the social crowd, is critical if someone may kill you
for being transgender, there is still some imperative to “look the part”. Erving Goffman’s work comes to mind here, with identity
being formed and sustained in the minutiae of daily social interactions, and our deployment of “objects”, such as
clothes and accessories.
While I don’t pretend to “pass” completely, and have never strived for such a torturous and difficult goal, I do achieve a
reasonable presentation, hey, I even convince myself sometimes! What strikes me as more important is the accomplishment since
I transitioned. Obtaining my driver’s licence, maintaining fulltime work as a woman, completing (so far) 14/24 subjects of my
undergraduate degree, and preparing for a career change, among other things, all indicate successful social functioning. All
involve interaction with others, and doing so as a woman. The licence and career change particularly are “flow on’s” from my
gender change. While the licence would have been gained eventually, it was an early “fruit” of my confidence as a woman, and
perhaps from a need to prove myself. The career change though I cannot imagine contemplating in my former gender.
Whatever the sociological framework for understanding gender change, for me it gets down to a “confidence switch” that was
flipped. Something was brought into alignment personally, a burden was lifted from me, and energy was available to move forward
in significant ways. Regardless of the medical-sociological explanations, this is the key for me - changing gender works for
me. From that first moment of recognition in the mirror, I have never really looked back. Understanding that recognition is the
key, for me, to understanding being transgender.
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
You know, it’s maddening that when you’re down it’s up to you to pull yourself up, and when you’re up - nobody cares.
Nobody simply keeps piling the shit on. When you sink into the muck again, guess what? It’s up to you to pull yourself out.
It’s the smart ones, like James, who killed themselves.
Saturday, September 26, 2015
A copy of my uni discussion board posting today
The question posed by the tutor, Russell Brennan.
So far in the course, we’ve gained an idea that different identities emerge from race, gender, class, disability, age,
religion, family, sexuality, ethnicity, citizenship, and historical period.
Which of these groups do you think most influences your identity and why? How more does it influence than the others?
What other categories or groups do you belong and how have they influenced your sense of identity?
The answer to this has changed over time. Until recent years religion, specifically church activity, has been salient
(I like that word!) in my identity. Now, the expression of religious identity has shifted from church activity to an
internalised religious identity. This identity category, Pagan, is more encompassing than church activity ever was. Looking
after myself and my living spaces is a reflection of religious identity, as well as perhaps the more obvious moral values.
While not mentioned in the category list, my occupational status as a shiftworker has been almost a totalising (as in
Foucault) category, affecting my social activity, family life, and health status. In its irregular circumscribing of my
time, every other part of my life has been controlled. Consequently, any identity construction that involves shared activity
(shared time) has been shaped. For example, I was unable to continue in State Emergency Services because of an inability to
attend training, which was critical as a newcomer.
Gender has always been influential. Initially when, what I now call, gender socialisation did not feel comfortable, and
now, when I overturned that early socialisation, in confronting my community. My socialisation as a male always carried a
residual (inarticulate too) discomfort. Being a male felt at times like literal acting, for example, as groom at my wedding. This
wasn’t acting in Goffman’s sense, although it constructed an identity in the eyes of others, for example, my bride. Problems
later arose when my wife acted in ways that did not support my acted role of husband. Actually, I suspect as a latent lesbian
she was acting the role of heterosexual wife. Needless to say, like any literal performance, the marriage act finished. That’s
now history, as they say, although more generally, how much of any relationship, marriage or otherwise, is literal acting? Feminism
or employment, for example, can disrupt this acting, and change the demographics of marriage.
Now, having changed gender, the category is still salient in identity construction as I not only learn new ways of engaging
socially, but confront social forces that are essentialist, ie. genital based, in determining my gender. My ability to perform
the role of "woman", in Goffman’s sense, is critical here, since few people have "detailed" information about my
body. The "male" on my birth certificate however directly stems from this essentialist gender determination. By contrast,
a close friend who also has “male” on her birth certificate, cannot change this to “female” because she and her wife
(originally a heterosexual marriage) refuse to divorce just to satisfy a requirement to be single for changing gender on
birth certificate. The construction of gender is not obvious unless, and most people don’t, you change it.
The link between gender and sexuality is also assumed obvious. However, sexuality categories are premised on unambiguous
definitions of gender. Material on sexual expression is just beginning to recognise transgender bodies, but the question
of whether the person is gay, lesbian, bisexual, the main sexuality categories, has not been considered. Not only do I find
myself gender an important identity category, but my sexuality has shifted categories as well, particularly with a slight
interest in men that wasn’t there prior to gender change.
I hope this wasn’t “too much information” but the question directly spoke to this experience. Goffman’s theory is not
theoretical. It offers an explanation for personal experiences. Similarly, Hall’s reading on new ethnicities, if applied
to gender, is also not just theoretical. I am not simply “woman”, any more than “black” is an “essential subject”,
according to Hall. I have my own individual experience of “woman”. That is the key question, I believe, in identity construction
in the early 21st century. We are not categories, or even intersections of categories (Crenshaw’s reading), although both remain
important, but are individuals at the intersection of social construction and personal agency. It is no longer either but
both. However, material I’ve been reading on the history of sexuality suggests it has always been both. So what has
changed? I suspect the scientific paradigm that has formed the discourse.
Wednesday, September 23, 2015
I really did not want to attend this appointment with my new general practitioner. We’d already met in passing as a friend
of mine was already her patient, but dragging myself out of the muck did not mean I wanted to seek help. However, I dressed in
a smart skirt and lace top, with earrings and ankle-length boots, and turned up at her practice. Two things - she linked my
having had Guillaume-Barre syndrome with residual tiredness since then - still a few months to go till I can expect the tiredness
to dissipate though, and she noted my psoriasis - if it causes arthritic pain there are drugs that can treat, but generally
arthritis is hard to treat. This doctor was taking in medical history and connecting the dots. Yay! For the first time in a
long time I felt someone was not just listening, but actually thinking and drawing useful conclusions. I have a new referral
to my endocrinologist and making that appointment is a next step. This tiredness, easily masked by the demands of shiftwork,
would not be helping my low mood, and to know low mood even could be physical, rather than emotional, gives me a weapon to face
it. I can expect the tiredness and mood to pass, and simply rest, rather than get caught up in ruminations of pain.
Particularly pleasing was my preparation for this appointment, and another with my shift manager. I had worked out, and written
down what I needed to discuss with both, and provided relevant paperwork. Consequently all matters were dealt with. This all
felt dangerously like being organised. Felt good though.
Sunday, September 20, 2015
This year has been crazy, crazier than usual even. Last December-January I had several weeks off work due to losing motor
control over my legs. Guillaume-Barre Syndrome seemed to be the culprit; basically your immune system attacks the nerves that
control the muscles. No control, no movement. Anyway, I regained enough mobility to go back to work - the first week or so I was
nervous about my ability, but it was 6 months, to the day pretty much, before I could run a few metres. That scared me, both the
loss of movement, and the suspicion stress had so weakened my immune system this could happen.
A lot of things scare me now. But in the midst of an even deeper dark pit than I’d ever been in, and that is saying something,
I took a couple of steps to try and climb out, even as I denied I wanted too. Some part of me moved forward, while another part
curled up in my blankets and just wanted to sleep. Maybe that’s how Julie functioned, or how anyone with what feels like
depression functions. A first scrabble of my hands in the slimy walls of the pit was the poem (of sorts) on my webpage,
www.juliemcdonald.co. It seems grim, that is my mood, but giving myself permission to fail, with the caveat I may not, turned
out to be the key. It took much of the stress out of my life. Didn’t bring happiness but it did create a space that could be
filled with forwardness. Changing my name was the second dig into the muck, particularly as I’ve used that to get paperwork in order.
A lot of things still scare me and a lot of painful loss and memory makes me want to scream in horror, but I also see brief
flickers of a good future. And the flickers seem doable.
Saturday, September 19, 2015
Recently I’ve changed my surname, and added an additional middle name. I went through these hoops in 2009, but without the
benefit of undergraduate sociology studies. It’s been interesting to observe who needs which levels of documentation, from verbal
notification via telephone, to email of birth certificate, to citing hard copy of birth certificate. However, this blog post is not
about the sociology, but the personal statement embodied in the name change. It is a statement of new beginnings, of future hopes. It
is a benediction of my past. Yet it is a hawser from that same past. A rope from the strongest stories I’m aware of in that past, that
keeps me moored to life in unknown seas.
As I understand it, the McDonald’s left Scotland as a result of the Highland Clearances. What became my bloodline landed in
New South Wales and helped pioneer the Monaro region. I commented to my therapist once that I had no choice in being transgender,
and she reminded me (knowing that story) that neither did my ancestors in leaving their home. That thought stuck and the McDonald
story, even in its thumbnail sketch, became a source of strength when I begin to drown in self-pity. So, I have chosen this surname
and the doing so is being used as a key to pioneer the remainder of my life.