Blog against sexism Day

Today is blog against sexism day 2007. (Un)coincidentally, it’s also International Women’s day.

Blogging against sexism is as obvious as blogging in favor of breathing. Sexism sucks. I think all civilized humans can agree on that. But if we all agree, why does it still exist pretty much everywhere? And what exactly do we mean by sexism anyway?
I think a lot of people view sexism in much the same way as they misunderstand racism. (White) people have the mistaken idea that racism is an emotion. In this view, racists hate black people. But let’s look at Strom Thurmond. This guy had an affair with a black woman and had a daughter by her and made sure to look out for his daughter during his entire life. It’s possible that he loved his mistress and his daughter. Similarly, many sexist men love their wives, mothers, sisters, daughters too. Heck, I love my dog. For real. She’s great. The best dog ever. No where near my equal in anyway, and possibly an emergency food source in the case of horrible disaster, but I love her.
My mother loved me. She thought she was doing me a favor by giving me a bunch of chores (and she was, but she wasn’t doing my brother the same favor . . . nor my dad). I had to wash dishes and clean bathrooms and vacuum and do normal kid-level household chores. But I complained, because my chores were ongoing whereas my brother got to do fun things like mow the lawn – which only needed doing once a week. My mother explained that when I got married, I would be responsible for all the cleaning and cooking and she was trying to prepare me. Because men and women have different roles in life, or did when she came up, pre second wave feminism.
Obviously, emotions like love and hate are related to sexism only in extreme cases. So sexism isn’t an emotion. What is it then? It’s both personal and systematic. Both reinforce and propagate each other. Personally, it’s gender essentialism. The belief that women have some sort of distinct role. The lowering of their horizons. Binary oppositions invite ranking and comparisons. When you create an essentialist gender binary, you put one group over the other and then compare them. Women lose every time. That’s systematic sexism casting it’s ugly shadow. When you set women on one course and men on another, men win and women lose.
Systematically, it’s the organization of society in such a manner as to favor men at the expense of women. Now some of you might be thinking to themselves that not all differences between men and women are socially constructed. Cisgender men don’t get pregnant, but cisgender women do. Well, that’s true. But the huge life-time earnings hit that American women take from getting pregnant is a social decision and thus is constructed. As is health insurance not covering birth control. As is women doing most of the labor in the world but men owning most of the resources. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN states, “Women produce between 60 and 80 percent of the food in most developing countries and are responsible for half of the world’s food production . . ..” But “[n]ot even 2 percent of land is owned by women . . ..” and “[f]or the countries where information is available, only 10 percent of credit allowances are extended to women . . .” while at the same time “[t]wo-thirds of the one billion illiterate in the world are women and girls.” The list goes on, but it’s depressing. ( )
In the US, women do most of the household chores and tend to earn less than men. Household chores are labor, although unpaid. But why do women earn less? Because they tend to be in fields that pay less than men. Why do these fields pay less? Because there are women in them.
More and more men are becoming nurses. The pay is rising. The prestige of the job is growing. When computers were first invented, software was an afterthought. The hardware was cool. The first programmers were all mathematicians who had to program extremely head-warping algorithms to compute stuff. It was much harder than it is today. But it was low status. Almost all of the first programmers were women. Gradually, engineers started to realize that the software was more important than the hardware. As programming became more socially important, the number of women declined in relation to the number of men. Now some folks wonder if maybe there’s a math-based biological bias that makes women unsuited to programming. Try again. It was Grace Hopper who invented the idea of high-level computer programming languages (and Cobol and Fortran).
Ok, so there’s a wide social bias that sees women as inferior, forces them to do more labor and yet keeps them in low economic rungs. And maybe the US isn’t “ready” for a woman president. And this is a worldwide problem. So what to do about it?
1. Make healthcare free. Cover contraception, abortion and prenatal care. Cover everything.
2. Paid maternity and paternity leave. Free childcare. Allow flexible work schedules. Shorter work schedules too. 40 hours a week is unreasonable. 2 weeks of vacation a year is absurd.
3. Free education. As high as you want to go and can go.
4. Mentorship. Match women, POC and other minorities with more experienced people in their field, who can help them navigate their way up. Also, start this mentoring early, maybe in college or even before.
5. Recordkeeping and outreach. You should know whether or not your place of business or university is reflecting the diversity of your region. If it’s not, then it’s time to do some outreach. Send out representatives from your company into the community, to job fairs to schools. Pick representatives who reflect the diversity that you are trying to mirror.
6. Consciousness Raising. How are things divided up in your own, personal life? Is it fair? Does it reflect exterior income inequalities? See your household income as joint rather than seeing incomes as separate. Separate incomes mean that the lower paid person might be pressured to quit or go part time in order to economize on paid services. This has lifelong repercussions on earning ability. (see Do you see women as having different roles than men? What? Why?
These suggestions would benefit the majority of people in the US. Free healthcare helps everybody. Changing work-related penalties for having kids helps everybody. Free education benefits everybody. It’s an error to see this as a zero sum game. As our fearless leader says, we can grow the pie higher.
These changes create opportunity for women (and other folks) while removing penalties unfairly placed upon women. It moves childcare from the realm of chore to the realm of paid labor, thus increasing the economic participation of caregivers. This isn’t a complete list, but it’s a start.

Gender Therapy in the Low Lands

I’ve been putting off posting about this for a long while, so I’m hazy on the details. But how many Americans can give a first hand account of gender therapy in the Netherlands? I feel a duty to post. This kind of meanders into TMI a bit, though. Be warned.

Ok, so when I last spoke of my therapy issues, I’d seen a regular shrink who wasn’t sure what to do with me and who did not speak very fluent English. (I want to clarify that I’m not criticizing anyone when I say they don’t speak English well. It’s not like I speak Dutch well, which is the language of the land. When I mention that somebody doesn’t have high English skills, it’s just to clarify that communication was not overly clear. This is a sub-optimal situation to have with a shrink.) She asked me about going to see the gender specialists at the university in Amsterdam. There was back and forth. Finally, she referred me to a center in Voorburg.
Several days later, a letter came in the mail giving me a date and time for an appointment. Fortunately, my assigned time did not conflict with my class schedule. I biked the several kilometers to the PsyQ building there. PsyQ is some sort of organization that deals with people’s mental issues. I don’t know if they’re public or private or some mixture thereof. People seem to largely have private insurance in this country. Anyway, so I showed up and walked through an automatic door to an entry alcove. There was a large glass window with a woman behind it and a microphone. There was no opening in the window at all. It was solid glass (or whatever). I had to show ID to the woman behind the glass and also present my appointment letter. She pressed a button and the automatic glass sliding door to the lobby opened.
Of course, they deal with crazy people, so they need security to protect themselves. From people like me.
The woman took my insurance card (they only reimburse and don’t cover anxiety, which is specifically mentioned on my appointment letter, but whatever) and asked me questions so she could fill out paperwork for me. Because my Dutch skills are too low to fill out any of the forms by myself. People are generally very nice about my inability to communicate in their language. Anyway.
I went to the waiting room and a woman came to meet me and explained that she was filling in for whomever I was actually supposed to meet with. She asked me all the stereotypical shrink things while taking copious notes. How did I get along with my mother? My father? What was my childhood like? I told her about coming out in Catholic school. The first girl I kissed. blah blah blah. She wanted to know about my earlier childhood. At home, I played with boys. At school, I played with girls. My parents and grandparents always got me girl toys. I had a collection of Barbies, but found them to be dull. You dress them up? Who cares? Until, one day, my friend Christy from school came over one afternoon and wanted to play with my Barbies. She pulled off their clothes and a bisexual Barbie orgy ensued. Apparently, what you do with Barbies is make them have sex with each other.
“So she taught you how to play with Barbies?” the shrink asked, very seriously. Um, yeah, am I paying for this? Because I suddenly feel like I’m stupidly wasting everyone’s time.
She changed the subject. “So what makes you think you might be -”
“I don’t know.” I cut her off. I said “I don’t know” a lot. She asked me if I would rather talk to a man or a woman. Was this a trick question? If I say woman, then I’m really a lesbian? If I say a man, then, I’m really a man? Which way should I go? Ack. I asked for a fluent English speaker. Then I started coughing and couldn’t stop. I went home and felt crappy and got a fever and was sick in bed on my birthday (I’m 31 now, btw) poor me.
A week or so later, I went back to the same place, still feeling like I had a cold. I met a different woman, the head of the sexology department. She explained that the woman I had talked to previously was no longer employed by PsyQ and since they are having a staff meeting on March 5th to figure out what to do with me, somebody there should have met me in person. I was very careful the whole time not to say the word “transsexual.” (Because I am totally logical.) She asked me a few times the same question that the other woman had asked more than once. Did I have problems during sex? (Problems only in that the ladies can’t get enough of me. heh heh.) I asked her to explain herself. Well, my lack of a penis might make it difficult. (good lord) Then she asked me how I felt about my period. (um, well, questions about it make me feel uncomfortable.) I don’t think I dislike it significantly more than anybody else I know who has it. She asked me why I hadn’t stopped it with birth control. I explained that I really don’t like taking pills or whatever and don’t want to mess too much with things like that unless I have to for some reason. I’ve heard women talking about birth control side fx and stuff and always have felt glad I don’t have to mess with it. Emotional messes. Mojo killing. No thanks. “But it’s possible to stop it. Why don’t you do it?” she pushed. Yeah, but it can make your breasts bigger, I pointed out. She accepted that. She wanted to know why I hadn’t gone to Amsterdam to the university. Hey, I’ve just been going where y’all have been sending me.
I got the vibe that if I had asked for a referral for testosterone, she would have been willing to write one right then. (Actually, normally, they make you get 5 appointments in Amsterdam and then you carry forward. I don’t know if the appointments are to get a note for hormones or for surgery.) She clearly thought I was – that word that I was carefully shying away from. Which, I mean, what did I expect? A pat on the back and a “good for you being genderqueer!”? If I was fine just the way I am, why am I seeing a shrink anyway?
Then she talked to me about what she’s going to recommend they do with me. Anxiety therapy is the first priority.
god help me, I’ll get off Zoloft soon.
I’ve been off school for the last week. No classes! I didn’t go anywhere. I did an application for Birmingham (UK, not AL) and sat around. Today, I had a duo recording with a improv guy from the composition department. I took a deep breath and screamed “I don’t know who I am” as loud and as long as I could, though my tuba. (Metaphor, but not really.) Blat blat blat, I screamed, inhaled, bellowed improperly attacked breathy notes that don’t know where they’re going, what pitch they want to be, how they will resonate, where they are now, what valves are pressed or how much. Wail, blat blat blat.
Afterwards, I felt so much better. I didn’t even know I felt tense, but afterwards, I just felt so like I’d worked something out. so maybe the key to getting off Zoloft is playing loud, angsty tuba? I came home and actually mixed a piece of music. this entailed both me getting Ardour to work and having the attention span to mix something. Tuba is key.
I’m trying to be proactive. I used to tell myself to wait on things. I didn’t need to worry about my mental health problems as long as I could walk and eat and stuff. In the book Breaking Silence, I read about lesbian nuns developing stomach problems from stress and what I got form that was that I could wait until I had stomach problems. Yeah, last summer counted. I always wait like that. I went to a support group for FTMs once in San Francisco. One old guy there said that if you have to transition, eventually you’ll have to. In She’s Not There, Boylan writes of her experience at age 41, just being totally unable to carry on without taking action. I don’t want to be a mess in 10 years. I don’t want to delay and have my first stubble come in grey. I want to deal with this now and take action or put it behind me. I want to move forward from where I am now.
I know that’s it’s not a path of discovery, that it’s a path of creation. I have agency. I apply technologies of the self to create my own identity. It needs to be an identity I can make some peace with. that might require some more therapy. Or more tuba.

My letter to Michael Savage

Dear Mr Savage,

On the 26th of February, you stated on your radio show, “You say there are people who are sexually confused, who think that they’re men when they’re women. They’re not normal.” These comments were in regards to explaining to a child how it was that Melissa Ehteridge was thanking her wife.

I would like to comment to say that you seem to have confused lesbians with female-to-male transsexuals. While it’s true that some lesbians do eventually decide to transition to male, the vast majority do not. As Etheridge has given absolutely no indication that she plans to do so, I think you are in error regarding her gender identity.

Furthermore, while you are right to insist that transsexuality is unusual, “normal” is something of a loaded term and not one that’s easy to agree on. For instance, it’s more typical to be right handed than left handed, and for a long while it was considered “unnatural” to be left handed. Now it’s just considered to be less common. This word is even more in dispute when the “natural” (non-human) world cannot even be taken into consideration. As far as I know, there are no other mammals with the ability to change their sex and certainly none that have to power to do surgery or produce artificial sex hormones or even any that wear clothes. One could therefore conclude that since transsexuality as currently understood by humans is unavailable to animals, this somehow clinches it’s unnaturalness. But /all/ wearing of clothes is unnatural and I certainly wouldn’t use the nudity of animals to argue for general human nudism. Furthermore, as we do not understand the communications of animals, it could be quite possible that some have managed to transition from one gender to another within their animal communities and we would be completely unaware of it.

I hope this letter has cleared up some confusion for you regarding transsexuality and lesbianism. If you would like some recommendations for books that could clear this up further, please don’t hesitate to reply.

Thank you very much for your time,

There are people who are not normal, who have a confusion in their head, and they think they’re a man even though they look like a woman.

SAVAGE: Portland, Oregon, [caller], KXL, you’re on The Savage Nation.

CALLER: My wife was sitting on the couch with our 7-year-old daughter when Etheridge got up and did her piece thanking her wife and four kids, and our daughter looked over at our — at Mom and said: “Was that a man?” And how do we answer our kids when we’re forced to [sic] — this homosexuality upon us?

SAVAGE: I will tell you how you answer it: You say there are people who are sexually confused, who think that they’re men when they’re women. They’re not normal. Normal people are not like that. Normal people are like Mommy and Daddy. Mommy and Daddy are normal. There are people who are not normal, who have a confusion in their head, and they think they’re a man even though they look like a woman. That’s what you have to say to them otherwise the child will grow up confused.

Previously on the same broadcast:

ETHERIDGE: I have to thank my incredible wife, Tammy, and our four children, Becky and Bailey and Johnnie Rose and Miller, and everyone —

SAVAGE: Turn it off. Get her off my show. I don’t care what her name is. I don’t like a woman married to a woman. It makes me want to puke. How’s that? I want to vomit when I hear it. I think it’s child abuse. That’s my opinion — one man’s opinion. If it’s illegal, tell me it’s illegal to have an opinion in America. Maybe I can be excommunicated for having an opinion.

I want to puke when I hear about a woman married to a woman raising children because, frankly, I think that it’s child abuse to do that to children without their permission. What does a child know? Ask them when they’re 16 whether they want to be raised by two lesbians or two men. What are the two men doing behind the other wall? You think the children don’t hear it?
It’s fair to wonder why I am reprinting hateful garbage on my blog. Before I answer that, I’m going to add even more hateful garbage:
“The only thought that pops in ur head when u think ‘feminist’ is a fat, manly, tall lesbian who wants to take control over everything….”
” I don’t want this blog to be about the fact that I’m NOT one of those angry, hairy, lesbian feminists.”
“Maybe she had some notion that feminists are all lesbians, have hairy legs, and hate men.”
“Despite how ‘feminists’ have been portrayed, most of us don’t hate men. We aren’t hairy, unwashed, bosom sagging, shrill harpies who want to destroy families.”

Well, that was fun

Not that there’s anything wrong with being a hairy-legged lesbian.
What’s the common thread here? Gender normativity. Lesbians want to be men. Feminist are lesbians and want to be men. None of these people are conforming enough to gender stereotypes. I’m not going to go dig up comments on the other side of this, but it wouldn’t be hard to find examples of men getting called “fags” regardless of their sexual orientation, but because the speaker feels they insufficiently conform to gender stereotypes. Men are men and women are women and people who seeks to redefine or expand those roles clearly want to change their sex and that’s a bad thing.

What started this

I heard the Michael Savage rant and I winced. Yeah, there are lesbian-IDed folks who do want to be men. Augh, it’s all true! But then, I thought of the lavender menace. Some feminists really are lesbians. Augh, it’s all true!
The problem isn’t that some feminists are lesbians or that some lesbians are ftm or anything like that. The problem is the insistence that there’s something wrong with this. The insistence that gender normativity is right and good and natural and all transgressors, no matter how small or minor their transgression are unnatural and bad and wrong.
Lest this all be too obvious to justify the mad amount of quoted text, I want to go on to address radfeminists. (Doesn’t it sound like it should be the “fun” kind of feminism what with “rad” and all. It’s not.) Some straight women thought the way to address the charge that all feminists were lesbians was to throw them out of their groups. The lavender menace had to go. Not that there was anything wrong with lesbians, just their experiences and socialization was so different, they should respect the space needed for straight women and butt out. This is why lesbians are not allowed access into the Michigan Women’s Music Festival.
The same reasoning is used to exclude mtfs from women’s spaces right now. When you classify trans people as their assigned-at-birth sex, you’re agreeing with Mr Savage. Because you are denying the legitimacy of transition. Saying that mtfs are men who want to be women is awfully similar to saying that lesbians want to be men. In both cases, the possibility of successful, intention transition is dismissed. In both cases, transition is condemned. In both cases, gender is seen as essential. And really, when Michael Savage and radfeminists are agreeing on something, there’s is something going woefully wrong. This guy makes Rush Limbaugh look moderate. I used to joke that if Reagan said that oxygen was important for breathing, I would start demanding definite evidence for the oxygen thing, because he’s wrong so much of the time. I can’t agree w/ him on anything. Double that for Savage.

Le week-end à Paris

Last weekend, Nicole needed to take the LSATS and the closest place that they’re offered is Paris. In a tremendous display of selflessness, I agreed to accompany her. I took over a hundred pictures, which I’ll be shortly posting along with a narration. Rather than replicate that, I will type here instead the unphotographed sections of my journey and, at the end, some useful advice.


It’s that time of year when Paris stores are allowed to unload their unsold inventory. If last weekend was not the end of it, next weekend will be. At this point, their goal is not make profit, but to minimize loss. This means cheap french clothes for me. I was all over the soldes like vinyl car seats and bare legs in the summer.
For the most part, buying clothes is a chore for me. I have a hard time finding my size, or something I like or a non-hostile place to shop. None of this is true in Paris. I can let my inner metrosexual run amok. On the train there, I read a copy of GQ, looking for trends. Of course, upon arrival, I ignored all of their advice. Loafers? No, I want shoes just like my old shoes, but less old or more functional. (Ok, my inner metrosexual isn’t very metro.)
I walked into a store that sells suits and tweed. They only had a couple of things in my size (which really is as small as certain tweedy shops in The Hague have informed me). Green tweed? I was leaning against it, but then the shop guys were gathered around. «C’est magnifique!» “Wow,” they told me. “Fabulous!” These were old, grumpy suit store guys. At that moment, I began pondering when I could next live in Paris. Sometimes, I kind of like capitalism. These guys wanted my money. Concerns about my foreignness or whatever were entirely secondary. Maybe I do look as fab as they say in the jacket. A distinct possibility, I think, as my self-esteem has climbed to it’s normal Trump-like levels from this encounter. (yeah, ok, see if I didn’t keep telling myself how great I was, hostility would squish me, but in the absence of hostility it over-compensates.)
Yeah, I got TWO pairs of shoes. Neither with goretex or vegan, but I don’t want to wait until I’m in San Francisco to get new shoes. Extravagant. Nicole says it’s reasonable to have many pairs of shoes. Also, two pairs of pants, two shirts, a bow tie (which either says gay republican pundit or high school science teacher. I hope for the former.). So I think I’m good for clothes until 2008.


If you are getting over a cold, don’t try to smoke a pipe, even if it makes you imagine yourself as Hemmingway-esque. If you do smoke a pipe, don’t accidentally inhale. If you do inhale, get plenty of sleep that night. If you don’t get plenty of sleep that night, at least get some the next night. If you are short on sleep and coughing, don’t stay up to all hours of the night, even if you are dreading an appointment early the next morning. If you do stay up too late, at least get up early so you don’t need to sprint 8 km to your appointment. If you fail all of these, skip having beer with your friend on his birthday that night. Even if you feel guilty about it. I can follow at least the last bit. bah.

Errands in The Hague

Ok, I like some things about The Hague. It reminds me a lot of Middletown, Connecticut, but has many more things going for it. And the music and school communities are both really great. I know a lot of people, I have friends. It’s a good time. And it’s less than an hour to Amsterdam, but in many ways it’s also a small town.

All the sales are going on now. I keep seeing goretex shoes for sale. Some of them are adequately formal to replace my current everyday shoes, which are leaky. So I went into a shoe shop and asked about the shoes I had seen in the window. The shop keeper lead me to the women’s shoes, which were clearly not what I had indicated. I said I preferred men’s shoes. She said that they were often too wide for women’s feet. “I have wide feet.” She took me to the men’s shoes and gave me no information whatsoever about which were waterproof and kept brining me women’s shoes. “How about these?”
I feigned being late to an appointment and escaped. She wasn’t hostile, but she was employing passive resistance. I was not going to succeed in finding what I wanted and lack of respect for my identity gets old really fast. This is the second Sunday in a row in which I’ve failed to run an errand because service employees don’t want to give me access to gendered-male stuff.
On the way to the park with my dog, I noticed an underwear store had a poster up of a woman in boxer briefs shaving her face. She was topless and had long hair and was extremely sexualized in a feminine manner. You know, in case there was any question about whether biology is destiny. Clothes might make the man but feminine is female is inescapable.
I got a bunch of shrink stuff in the mail yesterday. It’s got pamphlets explaining something or other. I can probably guess at what they say, but they’re in Dutch. I could ask somebody to translate them for me, but I’d rather hide under my bed, thanks. I don’t know how this is going to help cure my anxiety, since the paperwork is making me want to flee. Cola says that if I disappear and then call her from a pay phone at a North American airport, she’s keeping the dog. She’s fiendish. I guess flight response isn’t the way to go with this one. Maybe I’ll fight the letter. Or the doctor. That would go over well.
In completely unrelated news, I’ve volunteered to start doing sound FX for a Dutch fan-produced Star Trek. I’m a huge geek. I’ve been wanting to work more with video and this will give me experience. I never thought of myself as a trekkie before, just a viewer, but uh yeah. Lately, I’ve been looking at where my life has taken me (and is taking me) and thinking “How did I get here exactly? Which way is this train going?” I swear if somebody appeared to me ten years ago and said “in ten years time, you will live in Holland, whine about shoe stores to your blog, and be a trekkie.” I would have said, “What’s a ‘blog’?”


Before I begin, I want to clarify that the Dutch are actually pretty ok as far as restroom etiquette goes. Best are the French, then the Dutch, then a tie between Californians and Germans (I think CA might be a teeny bit better) and at the very bottom is Spain. (Also: waa, waa, waa, nobody understands me.) Ok, so on to our story.

I went to see a Dutch shrink on wednesday. Over the summer, I got a book that said that therapy can cure anxiety. Zoloft can also cure anxiety, but it stops working if I stop taking it. Also, it has not been stellar for my concentration. I haven’t written much music since being on it. So a long-term cure that leaves me able to think would be very good.
“Why do you think you are anxious?”
If I knew the answer to that question, I would have a solution already. I dunno. I think there’s something bugging me that I’m not thinking about. When I have something that is really bothering me and I try to ignore it, I tend to have panic attacks. Maybe that’s the cause of all my panic attacks. I don’t know. Lyme disease was pretty stressful. Lack of sunlight might be a problem. I dunno.
I said “I dunno” a lot. She took copious notes and asked extremely open-ended questions. One of them was “how is your identity?” Ok, this was not out of the blue, since I was sort of without one right after I got divorced, but how does one answer such a query?
“Is there anything else?” she asked.
“How do you mean?” I asked.
She noted that it was open ended.
I took a deep breath. “I have a lot of friends who are transexual. And it’s something I’ve been thinking about.”
She started a new page of notes. “You know people who have had The Operation?”
Gah!!! The Operation. What operation would that be, exactly? Would it be the operation where folks take T (or E, since I’ve known folks going both ways) until they pass? Would it be top surgery? Would it be a hysterectomy? Would that be a medioplasty? A phalloplasty?
“Um, I know a guy who had a hysto?”
Did you mother know? Did your ex-wife know? Does your girlfriend know? How long has this been going on?
no. sorta, not really. yes. I dunno, a few years. You know, I’m not at all sure about this.
So you think you are denying your real self and that’s making you anxious and maybe having The Operation would fix that?
What?!! No, I don’t know! Augh!
Would you like to speak with gender specialists in The Hague?
“I don’t know.” I’m all wary now. Outside the window, a gigantic orange cat has climbed to the very top of a barren tree. It’s among the empty branches, looking around. It’s not acting uncertain, but I wonder if it must be stuck, up so high in the tree. Why did it go up there?
“You don’t have to make any decisions. It’s your life, you know. You can just talk about it. It’s an emotionally safe place to talk.”
That’s easy for you to say. I looked at the bookshelf behind her head. It was red and in the shape of a first-aid cross. “Um.”
“They can also help you with anxiety.”
“Ok, I’ll talk to them.”
“Your friends who have had The Operation- are they happy?”
“Um, as far as I know. I dunno.”
“Well, I think we’ve probably covered enough for this session. How do you feel now? Relieved to get everything out?”
No, that’s not exactly how I would describe my mood at all. How does it make me feel to talk about anxiety? It makes me feel fucking anxious!!
I speak virtually no Dutch. Her English skills are probably not high enough to be doing therapy sessions in English. No, I was not relieved. I left and went to class where I was all jumpy.
On the way out, I tried unsuccessfully to explain to the desk person that while I was happy to provide any insurance info they wanted, my insurance specifically excluded treatment for anxiety and regardless, they just reimbursed me for things, so it would be really better if I just paid cash now. The desk person went to ask a supervisor. Out the window behind her, I saw the orange cat running along the top of the fence, like it was on a mission, had a plan, had a place to be.


Ok, it’s true that I play the tuba. And I bike around town with a sousaphone attached to my bike. While wearing men’s clothes. And I got to clothing stores to buy these clothes which requires trying them on. Despite all of these things that might lead one to a contrary conclusion, I do not enjoy being stared at. When I am trying to bike home in in the icy wind with a tuba attached to my bike via octopi (aka: bungee cords), and I hear the word “tuba” followed by squeals of laughter, it just annoys me. I’m grumpy that way. Other places I don’t like getting stared at: public restrooms. If you wouldn’t call me “sir” on the street, at a café or use male pronouns when describing the person you saw biking past with a tuba, then what on earth posses you to adopt them when I’m in the women’s room? Oh, but you’re Dutch, so you don’t say anything about my obvious out-of-placeness, you just stare. Well, stop it already. Sheesh.

What I really want to complain about this evening is Pat. I’ve been thinking a lot about Pat lately. This isn’t a person, it’s a Saturday Night Live skit that was broadcast while I was in high school. SNL was a measure of coolness when I was a kid. It signified many things including being allowed by your parents to stay up late enough to watch it, since it started at something like 23:00 on Saturdays. So, therefore, you could talk about how funny the skits on it were at school on Monday, and everybody would know that you were allowed to stay up late enough to watch them. (If you complained about how the band’s second song sucked (it always sucked for some reason. I think the sound engineers fell asleep by then), then you were super awesome because that part didn’t come on until after midnight.)
So there existed a skit about a character named “Pat.” I was trying to remember the theme song of the recurring skit, but I couldn’t quite piece it all together. The internet was no help, but it did give me a few plot synopsi. Anyway, as best as I can recall, it went, “Is it a he or a she? A him or a her? Um, excuse me ma’am, um sir?. . . It’s time for androgyny, here comes Pat!”
The one I remember best involved Pat going to a drug store and trying to buy personal items of a gradually more intimate nature. The druggist is desperately trying to figure out Pat’s physical sex. Would you like T-Gel shampoo or VO5? Pert Plus, Pat says. Speed stick deodorant or Secret? Which is cheaper? Finally, Pat asks for condoms. The audience howls. The druggist asks Pat to chose between extra-sensitive or ribbed. The punch-line is when Pat says “I’m a very sexual being.” The studio audience responds with an echoing, “Ewwwwwww.”
Pat is repulsive. Ugly. Toad-like. Wears unattractive, unflattering clothes. Unkempt hair. Snorts through hir nose when zie laughs. Who on earth would have sex with such a thing.
One plot synopsis, found on the internet, had somebody who became so confused by Pat’s gender that they committed suicide by jumping out of a window. Yes, violence is the correct response to gender ambiguity. But who makes a better target? Self-inflicted, or the person ‘causing’ this desperation?
Did I mention this was on TV when I was in secondary school, on an enormously popular program that conveyed status to those who watched it? The year I graduated, it was made into a movie, which, thank gods, was a major bomb. IMDB refers to the titular character with the pronoun “it.”
I’ve known a fair number of genderqueer and trans people in my time. On average, those folks are about as attractive as the population at large. Many are sexy, some are not. This is in no way linked with their transition status. They’re just people, obviously. Pat is an ugly caricature, with no basis in reality. but zie lives in my head. Even if it’s clearly not true that trans people are ugly and horrible, well, there’s Pat in my head.
So let’s end this complainment with some true statements. Somebody like Pat doesn’t ’cause’ other people to commit violence, whether self-inflicted or hate crime. I don’t cause people to stare at me in bathrooms. Other people’s problems belong to other people, not to Pat and not to me.

but . . .

I was trying to buy a tweed jacket today and I went to the tweediest store I could find. Many of the stores here are kind of butcher than the same store is in Paris. Zara is way less twinky, for example. I’ve noticed that when I dress more casually, people don’t respond to me as well, so I’m going back to dressing like a swanky Parisian man. Anyway, I was in my casual Dutch hooded jacket, trying to find classier jacket and becoming paranoid. There’s that moment when people looking at me in the store realize that I’m looking for men’s clothes for me. This is Holland. nobody says anything. Probably nobody thinks anything of it, once the connection is made. Or not very much of it, anyway. But I’m paranoid and when the shop clerk volunteers that he thinks I’m a size 14, which they don’t carry, I don’t know if he’s being helpful in telling me the things I’m trying on don’t really fit, or if he’s trying to get me to leave his smart, tweedy shop. There’s really no way that I can know which it is.
When I was in France, for the first time in my life, I enjoyed clothes shopping. But now it’s gone back to filling me with dread. Things have returned to normal.

Not manly enough

Every day, I walk past a barber shop. It was established in 1940 and probably was meant to look old-fashioned then. They have not altered the look since, as far as I can tell. Barber chairs, green tiles, big mirrors, it radiates masculinity like the scent of aftershave. The prices are posted outside for hair cuts, cur and wash, cut wash and shave, etc. A cut is just 15€. “I’m going to get my hair cut there.” I announced to Cola as we walked the dog by a few days ago, “but I’m going to wait until I can take a shower first.”

Mole removal has meant that for four days or so, I could not take a shower. But today I could. Huzzah. Right afterwards, I took the dog for her morning walk and then headed to the barber shop.
“Kann ik dir helpe?” asked the barber.
“I’d like a hair cut.”
“Only herr.”
“What if I get a man’s cut?”
A woman sitting in a chair getting her very young son for a clip intervened to translate. “They only cut men’s hair.”
“I want a man’s haircut.”
She and the barber conferred. All the barber shop was looking at me, some smiling at the clueless foreigner. “No, they only do men’s hair.”
I did not push the point that there’s no actual difference between my hair and a man’s hair (or at least a young teen boy’s hair. I said “ok” and left, feeling pissed off.
If I can’t use the women’s restroom without stares and hostility, I should be allowed access to barber shops, damnit.

A Short Conversation I Had in Berkeley

The scene: New Year’s Day, waiting with a group of 4 mills students and alums for a seat for brunch at La Note

Strange Man: (awkwardly) What’s a group of good looking girls doing here without any men?
Me: Getting ready to kick your ass if you don’t bug off.
Strange Man: (still awkward) What? I’m a nice guy.
Me: clearly.
And then he uncertainly walked off, much to my disappointment. The wait was long and my blood sugar was low and I was really hoping to do some ass kicking. Afterwards, I felt it was good not to have brawled, because he clearly had some sort of disability or problem. Hopefully, at least he got a message that his approach is not going to work for him. I doubt it, though. I bet he went home and pondered how being a nice guy clearly wasn’t working for him and thus resolved to be less nice: ie more aggressive, more mean. It might have been better to explain to him exactly why his line wasn’t working out for him. (“Don’t approach strangers in public. Try bars or singles events instead. Don’t act as if women feel lonely having brunch without men around. Also, hello, don’t we look a little queer to you?”)
Of course, what sparked off my brawl-seeking rage was that he put me in a box marked “girl.” What?!!? Man-seeking feminine being?!? I must destroy you now!!
And then I read Fun Home by Allison Bechdel and I’m pondering gender on a more lesbian-identified perspective right now. I’d still want to fight that guy, though.