Monday, July 29, 2002

she ain't necessarily so... oh really??

Editor's Note: This entry is backdated from my old website I had back in 2002.

A friend of mine recently sent me an article that I found interesting. Although I can't re-publish the article here, I have provided a link to the article here. It is by the online editor Jonathan Last of The Daily Standard and it is regarding transgendered people. After reading it, I was compelled to write Mr. Last and reveal my feelings about his viewpoint. This is a rare thing for me to do. Outing myself here, to family, or a friend is one thing. Outing myself to a public voice is completely another thing. However, from one of my favorite movies, Strictly Ballroom, comes one of my favorite phrases: A life lived in fear is a life half-lived. I have posted the content of my letter to Mr. Last here in this post to my transition journal.

Mr. Last,

A friend e-mailed to me your article concerning transgendered persons entitled "She Ain't Necessarily So." I read it, at first, with enthusiasm, but then it seemed to me as if you had missed the point. I would like to take a moment or two of your time to point out some issues I have with your article.

Most of what you said is true. There was one factual error: the tracheal shave for the male-to-female transsexual does not raise the pitch. Sadly, nothing can do that short of vocal chord surgery. The change of voice in a pubescent male is due to the vocal chords stretching to accommodate a deeper range. Once they stretch, they don't stretch back... and removing the cartilage (that also affects some women) will not alter the voice in any fashion. The way most transsexuals deal with this is through intense vocal training.

The portion of your article that I had the largest issue with was the political standpoint that you presented transsexuals as having. It really all boils down to one thing. Not special rights... just equal rights. I have yet to see a law that gave "permission" to do something. In fact, laws are defined to determine what we shouldn't do. We shouldn't kill, steal, discriminate, lie under oath, drive under the influence, etc. These types of laws are defined to protect the greater good of the people.

But some laws or rules are already "special" rights in and of their own natures. Two primary examples are the current employment non-discrimination laws and the defense of marriage act. Currently, it is unlawful to discriminate for reasons of age, gender, race, religion, physical handicap, etc. But why do we need the "for reasons of" clause at all? Shouldn't it just be that it's unlawful to discriminate? If someone is willing and able to perform the job that is required of them, that should be the only reason an employer would want to discriminate. Transgendered persons are often vastly intelligent people with skills to offer society that are hard to parallel. In my own personal case, it was a way to keep my mind off my inner conflicts. I poured myself into my work, into learning, into my hobbies, into being everything that I could for everyone else except myself. This is a common situation amongst my "kin."

I know computer scientists, engineers, medical professionals, mechanics, and service industry workers that take exceptional pride in their work and happen to be transgendered. Often this is because of their own dedication to perfection and often it is because of the microscope they feel like they are under... and sometimes it's both.

I myself am a software developer with over 10 years experience in 6 different programming languages. Yet my own situation which is emblazoned upon my permanent record for all to see often denies me an appropriate position for my skill set and experience. All we want is to be productive and recognized members of society, be comfortable in our own skins, and occasionally get an "Atta Girl" or "Atta Boy" from someone for our efforts.

The Defense of Marriage Act (or DOMA) specifically indicates that marriage is solely defined as a union between one man and one woman. But what business does the government have in defining something that is clearly within the bounds of religion? In my opinion, legal marital benefits are classist. They reward people for being heterosexual, "gender-normal" couples. When a significant percentage of people are unable to fulfill this requirement, they are forced to file an inordinate amount of legal work to simply protect their homes, their rights to see each other when one is hospitalized, their rights to provide for their "spouse" in the event of their death, the list goes on and on. Yet all of these things are taken for granted with a marriage license... which is only available to the preferred majority.

Do we need to create new laws that protect all the special interests? No. That's silly and costly bureaucracy. We simply need to re-examine the laws we have and say, "Does this serve ALL the people or just some of them?" In one extreme case, a female-to-male transsexual (Robert Allen Eads) was denied medical treatment multiple times for uterine cancer at a time when it was completely operable, simply due to the prejudice held by the doctors available to him. He was the subject of a documentary called "Southern Comfort" if you're interested in learning more about that case.

I'll close this with one final comparison. I have a cousin that is suffering from a neurological disease (the name escapes me). She is bound to a wheelchair and unable to manipulate her limbs or even produce more than a marginal amount of facial expressions.. and completely unable to speak. When I look at her, and see the love in her eyes, and I see the sheer beauty of the person inside, it's as if I'm looking at a mirror. She too is trapped within a body that isn't right. I know how desperately she wants to stand up, dance, laugh, cry, read and learn, walk through a field barefoot, articulate how she loves the smell of rain, etc... all the simple pleasures of life. But her body keeps her trapped, unable to express herself the way she WANTS to... she can only express it as much as she is able to.

If there were a way to cure her, we would praise the medical industry until our voices were hoarse, and then do it all over again. Yet, there IS a cure for me and my brothers and sisters... but it is not praised and there is no rejoicing for rescuing a trapped soul. Instead, it's a subject of ridicule, scorn and often violent hatred. You wonder why there is no "hard data" available for your inspection? It's because it's a closely guarded secret... for fear that we might lose it.

I hope I've helped illuminate some of the inner feelings that a transgendered person deals with when dealing with society. Other countries are not so quick to judge as ours. But I love this country as much as anyone else... and I want to be a part of it as much as anyone else.

Best Regards,
Jenna Ramsey
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