My access to healthcare has become somewhat of a mixed bag. I’ve been fortunate enough to receive insurance under my family for twenty-four years. Dental, check-ups, and even braces. But ever since I came out as queer and then as a trans woman, services have been hard to come by, and added to that, even more difficult now that I’m uninsured.
In the case of my local community, I am lucky. Here in Chicago we have a variety of transgender-friendly and women’s health providers: Howard Brown, Chicago Women’s Health Center (CWHC), and Northwestern come to mind as institutions that serve the LGBTQ community with respect, compassion, and care. One institution, though, the CWHC, I’ve found myself in a bit of a struggle with due to their oversight of trans women care.
The CWHC does great work for women, or at least those who were assigned female at birth. Yes, I get it—services fluctuate and non-profit health centers are constantly in need of money. It’s difficult to serve everyone with limited resources.
I mean, on a practical level it make sense, right? There’s an estimated 50.8% of the U.S. population that are cis women,¹ while only 2% (by “liberal” estimates) are transgender—and that includes trans men, of course. When comparing reproductive health between trans and cis women, it’s apples to oranges to kiwis, or something. The point is, all bodies are different, but the essential functions of cis women are the same, while, for trans women, it depends on surgery status, hormone levels, and generally how your transition has effected health risks and benefits.
However, we do not live in a practical society. And particularly feminist institutions don’t function on “provide the greatest good for the most people.” Feminists operate with a keen eye toward institutionalized oppression. That’s how feminist health centers got started in the first place, right? They saw the systemic exclusion and non-prioritization of women in a male-dominated field, medicine, and decided to change it—to make it more accessible to women, to give them agency, and to be treated (mainly) by other women.
So it may be a no-brainer that these services should be served to transgender people too. Not so much.
About a year ago, Chicago Women’s decided to provide hormone replacement therapy (HRT), testosterone, to trans men and transmasculine individuals—not to trans women and transfeminine ones. A year or longer ago than that, they began a trans gynecology program for this same gender group.
This makes sense on a couple levels. First, they provided expertise on gynecological service to cis women, so all you really need is some transgender 101 information to make sure transmasculine folks are comfortable doing this check-up. Secondly, and more interesting, is the historical tie between cisgender women, particularly queer cis women, and transgender men. There’s a whole other explanation why these communities are closer together than cisgender and transgender women.
First, there are community-based reasons. While no one knows exactly the “origins” of the queer-as-orientation-and-identity community, it mainly came from transgender folks (both trans women and men) and cis women. But mainly it grew out of and was claimed the cisgender lesbian community as more trans men / transmasculine folks came out.
Simply put, trans women have been so historically marginalized by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transmasculine communities (albeit in different ways and capacities) that we were never included with “queer” in mind. Hell, Silvia Rivera, a radical trans woman and one of the leaders of Stonewall, was banished from the “LGBT” community because people yelled at her “we don’t need any more drag queens in our movement.”
Second, there’s a more specific gender and sexual orientation explanation. Frankly, I believe a vast majority of lesbian and “queer” cisgender women, even those who will stand in solidarity with trans women’s rights, stray away from us sexually, romantically, and physically because of phallocentrism and something called “gender essentialism.”² This is very much a hang up from 1970’s second wave feminism.
But honestly, what does this all have to do with a small feminist health non-profit in Chicago? I think the larger issues of exclusion—historically, communally, intimately, sexually—have everything to do with receiving basic, comprehensive healthcare. Until cisgender women truly welcome trans women as sisters, partners, lovers, and feminists, this issue will remain a sore spot in the historical wedge between us.
So, the bottom line is that CWHC decided to provide services for trans men, including hormones, over that of other women: transgender women. Our shared history in women’s and LGBT communities informs why many “feminist” communities still favor those with a biologically-assigned vulvas over women who don’t. Hence how “women’s health” still does not mean all women. Women’s reproductive health means cisgender women’s health.
I don’t expect this to change overnight. I don’t expect everyone to think of trans women when they hear “women’s health.” I don’t expect CWHC to change overnight either.
But change does not happen by itself. I’ve organized a petition to push for comprehensive trans women’s health. “Equal access and equal care” must be the slogan. That is, if trans men can get gynecology exams, then we should have prostate exams. If you’re opening up testosterone hormone services, make sure you include estrogen as well.
We’ve all made progress so far. I’m pleased to see CWHC give an apology and start focus groups for transfeminine folksthat are finally happening. I encourage anyone who is transfeminine or trans female to give input on what your needs and our needs are.
Challenge women’s health institutions. Do it for all women, not matter what their “parts” are. Who knows, maybe in a few years we’ll have Planned Parenthood providing comprehensive care for all women everywhere.
Among the queer-identified community, many people opt in for polyamory. Yet many lesbians do not. Forget the U-haul jokes here, it’s just that it’s simply not commonplace for women to even consider it as a viable option.
I see the identification of polyamory, or non-monogamy, like I see the identities of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities. Honestly, I believe some people are born poly, while a number of others may “choose” this path for relationships. That’s certainly not to say LGBTQ people choose their identities, but there is a certain coming out process where folks choose to be out or not in particular capacities with themselves and with others.
Poly folks are widely misunderstood, even among the LGBTQ population. In the era of where fighting for marriage equality is a cornerstone issue for lesbians and gays, polyamorous options usually get pushed to the wayside in favor of monogamy as a civil right. But I argue that acceptance and celebration of poly relationships fit the queer civil rights agenda.
By the time of this past Valentine’s Day, I found myself navigating several relationships and, in the process, myself. It has been an emotional and deeply fulfilling path, and it’s still no less important to my at-home partner and me.
I came out as polyamorous when I was 20 and, like virtually everyone poly or monogamous, it’s been a bumpy road finding balance and happiness. When I came out as bisexual, people told me I was just a sexual person, like that was the only reason I liked boys and gals. Well, I am not afraid to claim myself as a sexual person and a proud ethical slut. But my orientation and gender have little to do with how much intimacy and sex I desire.
My first poly relationship at 21 was sticky, especially since at the time I presented as male and wanted to be very fair, ethical, and feminist in my desires. This queer woman and I decided together to open up our once monogamous relationship, but rarely acted upon it. We kissed other people, we flirted, and we even had some joint, ahem, hook-ups, but we never crossed the threshold of either of us dating other people. And then there was the last month of our relationship.
I was really smitten with this other woman. We had hooked up before, a couple years ago. She went off to college, dropped out, hung out in California until breaking up with her boyfriend, and then there we were in the same town again.
My girlfriend didn’t want me to have sex with this other woman. We came to an impasse. I was about to move, I did not want to leave her, but it felt so important to be with this other woman at least for one night. One night together before I left.
Looking back on it, it wasn’t fair to my girlfriend at the time. We stayed together through it. We both regret how it went down. I also felt a little over my head navigating things where I really should have moved on.
And I did. I came to Chicago, left her, and have found many other relationships, big and small, with several people and have ended up living with my partner of a year and a half.
I’ve been also struggling to find how my relationships have changed since the beginning of my transition and coming out as a trans woman. I’m finding new attention on me, this new desirability from different queer people to be with me. It feels really great, validating, and humbling, but also strange. I feel like men in hetero relationships just don’t get the same flirtatious attention that women give each other. It’s special.
I still get butterflies in my stomach when I meet someone new that I really like. I feel happy that they show such tender affection toward me, and that I have a beautifully intimate support system that has webbed itself together.
I get really happy when I hear my at-home partner met someone new, got a phone number while we’re at a bar, or has a date coming up. It made me blush with happiness to see her at her birthday kiss a girl she’s been dating for a little while. I whispered to our friends, “that’s so hot!”
I’ve worked very hard to feel secure with myself, my independence, and my commitments to my partners. I love communicating. You really have to in order to be polyamorous.
Polyamory is certainly not perfect. Someone usually feels neglected at some point in time. Jealousy happens, even when you remind yourself how much that person loves you. Envy—feeling the pure frustration of someone else who seems to have people crawling all over them. And then the unfortunate reality that you have to prioritize people in your life, and it sucks feeling like number two or three. I’ve been on both sides of the equation.
But to me, monogamy seems to have the same problems twice fold. It’s the feeling of guilt of checking out others, a tired resignation of being with one person for the rest of your life, or the secrecy of emotions and desires where you can never be truly and wholly honest with your partner or spouse.
I know I do not take this for granted. I do not know of any polyamorous person who does. It is a wonderful tangle, an exchange, and something exciting.
So what did I do for Valentine’s? I sent a few messages to some partners and spent the whole day with my at-home partner and sweetie, Rosy.
This year, Swarthmore College’s Queer and Trans Conference Planning Committee is pleased to announce the theme for our 2012 conference: “Power, Pleasure, and Violence: A New Discourse of Bodies, Desire, and Sex”.
I had the excellent privilege this last week to fly out to Philadelphia…
GAW THIS SOUNDS SO LOVERLY :)
ps i love syd :D
shifting nouns, shifting ground
Nouns are as complicated for me as pronouns. My relationship to identity monikers is both a site of confusion and a site of growth. When i decided to transition this time around, i thought of myself as a woman.
My identity fell upon binary lines. i didn’t even really feel all that connected to the idea of being a trans woman. i was simply a woman, and began taking steps to align my body and presentation with that reality. This was a process that was simultaneously liberating and hindering.
i grew my hair out, awkwardly at first. i started taking estrogen. i learned to sew fabulous dresses and wore them everywhere. i shaved my body hair. i wanted to be perceived as a woman, period. This never really happened.
Some folks in my life saw me this way, but these folks were particularly gender conscious and were committed to allowing me to define myself. For them i am incredibly grateful. i was given some space for becoming. i was empowered by knowing that there were folks who took my word about who and what i was.
Cis people, and cis women specifically, please stop making the cotton ceiling about YOU.
This ain’t about YOUR panties.
This ain’t about “shaming” you into engaging in a sex act you attent interested in. Or using the language of social justice to coerce someone into intimacy or sex with someone with whom they are uninterested in.
This ain’t about “shaming cis women into sex” this is about you shaming us OUT of it.
The culture of shame, disgust, devaluation, desexualization, mockery, misogyny, transmisogyny and transphobia leads to a an already desperately isolated and oppressed group to feel shamed, unwelcome, and unloveable in our own communities.
We deserve a chance at love, intimacy, and self-love just as much as any other queer woman, and we can’t get there until we address the larger problem of wholesale exclusion and near universal and vocal disgust towards us and or bodies.
“no more apologies” referenced this idea of being forced to be ashamed and bow to the comfort of cis women.
But here is a secret, those of you who are disgusted by trans women? We never wanted to have sexytimes with you in the first place.
When you make it about you, you ARE part of the problem.
Sometimes I wonder whether trans men writing about transmisogyny and trans-man-douchebaggery and how much is sucks is the new spoken word poetry. Every time I’ve written anything about how trans dude culture can get pretty gross in the way it appropriates the experiences and oppression…
Carlin Ross is a babe. Especially when she’s talking about porn with the boss.
as my newsfeed, twitter feed, and regular listening on npr becomes unbearable with so much crap about who is winning over who in the republican primary, i constantly remind others that this is nothing more than a sideshow to real politics: the class struggle.
now, don’t get me wrong. i’m not an anarchist who thinks that all elections and voting within the u.s. power structure is worthless and compromises one’s principles. nor am i a communist party, usa member (or many other social-democrat groups) who are opportunists, apologists for obama, or at the worst, cheerleaders for the democrats. i believe strongly that people move politically within election seasons. it’s our jobs as revolutionaries and activists to use that movement to our advantage.
in 2008, it was different. we had the first (cisgender) male african american and white woman within short distance to winning the democratic party nomination, and the presidency. obama was clearly more progressive than hillary clinton (and sadly still is!), and you had this big movement of particularly youth activists being siphoned off the anti-war movement into the political campaign (again). so, this wasn’t really a choice for my area of activism, neither was it for the serious revolutionaries in the trade union movement (and i’m not talking about the i.w.w. here, folks). you had to work with the obama supporters. and you most definitely had to guard your activists from becoming sucked into the democratic party.
as predicted, and because of the state of leftist non-unification in the u.s., activist groups hemorrhaged. only the strong survived, and many local, regional, and national groups that did had a strong backbone of dedicated leftists and/or communists. still others went into more non-profit community center politics — but that’s for another article.
in 2012, we see what we’ve prepared for all along since the economic collapse in 2008. obama was never the answer, the u.s. still leans “center-right” in bourgeois political standards, and the international situation is still more ominous with the manipulation of the arab spring in libya, syria, and of course, iran.
of course, as leftist activists, we see nothing to be gained by engaging the 2012 obamaites. and rightfully so. anyone who is so mired in love with obama as the “practical center-left” and so fearful of a republican alternative deserves criticism.
my personal prediction is, seeing how split the republican section of the bourgeoisie, and the base, that there will be no chance for the prospective republican nominees to win, unless of course something big happens. romney is too moderate and is a mormon. santorum is too far right, and is a frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter. newt is gone, and the racist ron paul has been out of the picture since the beginning. if paul decides to run as independent, it only increases the odds of republicans losing.
our main job is to build upon the occupy movements and organize big mobilization against the nato and g8 summits in chicago, starting in may. occupy has already succeeded far beyond what the organized hardcore left expected. it has quantitatively shifted public opinion and garnered significant support in anti-capitalism, anti-bourgeois (the 1%), anti-corruption, and pro-socialist beliefs (albiet in many its forms). yes yes, i have many criticisms of occupy, but that will come in another post.
also is our main job to resolutely struggle against the upsurge of the criminalization of dissent: the national defense authorization act, bradley manning and wikileaks, and of course the case of fbi repression of political activists across the u.s.
don’t be mired in the 2012 political sideshow. this isn’t about queer rights, wars, healthcare, blah blah blah. yeah, those struggles for intermediate demands are important. but we all know we win these rights from the peoples struggles, not politicians. fighting against the nato/g8 summits go hand and hand for developing both demands for, one example, free speech rights while also preparing the masses for revolutionary struggle. it’s a step by step process.
so in the words of amilcar cabral, a luta continua! the struggle continues!
This is a long overdue update! I launched the website for Queers in the Outdoors on November 21. Just over a month later, on December 24, (my birthday!) I had received enough donations to cover all $1085 of my fines, plus the cost of postage for all the calendars I mailed….
This is wonderful :D And what a great cause to support.