Monthly Archives: December 2012

“Snake Women,” Transwomen and Hate Crimes In Myth

As someone who’s always been fascinated by mythology and the archetypes that evolved from those timeless stories, I find it enthralling to see how many cultures have developed similar symbology regarding the same things. Though the symbology may have differed, based on the specific phobias and hang-ups of each distinct society, the same figures emerge time and time again. One such figure is the Snake Woman. Before I delve into this any further, allow me to divulge my original source of inspiration for this topic.

I had taken an Anthropology class called, “Magic, Myth and Religion,” when I first started college and my professor had mentioned something that really struck me. He told us that numerous cultures have “snake women” or “serpent-goddesses” in their folklore, which must be challenged and defeated by some virile, sweat-soaked (not at all homoerotic, *coughcough* yeah, right) champion typical of male-dominated societies at the time. He then went on to equate their serpentine parts with penises, which seems to make sense considering a woman with a penis (whether it be a figurative or literal one) might potentially pose a significant risk to the patriarchal status quo. Whenever a male-born person relinquishes the privilege bestowed upon them by a patriarchal socio-cultural system, they are shunned. They are denigrated for essentially denigrating themselves. And as this pans out across ancient cultures, the fear of the feminine bubbles up into self-righteous indignation and “The Outcast” becomes immortalized forever as “The Monster,” in myth and legend. In the case of female monsters, many are given male qualities, the most prevalent of which are aggression and outspoken natures, at least compared with the ideal of womanhood as concocted by the male.

We are then left with beings like Medusa, who fornicates in the temple of Wisdom and as punishment for asserting her sexual power is cursed, her crowning glory taken from her and replaced with a mane of unruly serpents and a petrifying gaze. Or the child-eating Queen Lamia, who is turned into a half-serpent and who according to Aristophanes, sprouts a phallus “for monstrosity’s sake.” Throughout the world we see Nagas, Shirabyoshi, primordial sea goddesses, and even the biblical Lilith becoming conflated with gender-variance and almost always they are then demonized in some way. The snake has always been a phallic symbol, and by extension a symbol of power. What better way to illustrate the adoption by a woman of a powerful role than to physically morph that woman into a half-woman, half-man? In this way, folk tales and myths were able to be understood by masses which were by and large, uneducated.

It’s funny how a lot of the cautionary tales against the Snake Woman in myth mirror the “trans panic defense” that’s so often used to murder young transwomen today without consequence. Demonizing us in the same way that these seemingly primitive-minded people used to; responding with “justified hatred” against any threats to their patriarchal societies and, by extension, their collective sense of manhood. If it’s a monster, it’s okay to kill it. And monsters are deceptive, in the same way transwomen who deceive men into thinking they’re natal females are. That’s the erroneous line of thinking anyway. However, isn’t a delusion that the human being in front of you is a demon just so it makes it okay in your mind to hurt them a form of self-deception too? That’s the problem…far too many people never question the myth and as a result, our roles have become perpetually engrained in black and white, to the extent that in modern-day China, Thai transfolk or Katoey are referred to as “renyao,” a term which, when analyzed, can mean both “enchanting” and “monstrous.” The sad reality is that in today’s world, too many victims of hate crimes are still held to be exactly that. Until we replace the myth with a new one – an empowering one, filled with heroes and heroines who confront transphobic ignorance wherever it sprouts we will remain, to many people, “enchanting monsters.”

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“When The World Ends,” A Reflection On Hormonal Mood-Swings

It’s not often I use the blog to address my personal life, but as the year is nearly at an end, I’d like to take some time to reflect on just what this year has brought me. Lately, I have been very stressed out. No, not even stressed out…I would say “slightly derailed,” better describes how I’ve been feeling. For me, 2012 has been a year of sudden change and sustained effort, two things I typically despise. Between the 20-page research papers and hazards of my daily hour-long commute both ways, I’ve been thrust by providence or fate into the proverbial spotlight. Doing speeches, and panels and attending board meetings and functions and lots and lots of parties. I’ve met many people, some of whom I simply adore, and others I decidedly don’t. Handling these waves of new personalities is a challenge in and of itself as I’ve found it’s integral to alter your approach depending on who you’re dealing with and I think that’s something a lot of us fail to take into account. This world is full of people and people are like little machines you’re constantly having to punch codes in…the wrong codes lead to breakdowns, the right ones lead to updates. Not sure if that allegory even makes sense (it’s early!), but it is a demanding process that never seems to end.

In the midst of all that melee, it has been integral to do one thing: take care of myself. For my own personal self-care routine (and I’m assuming, for many of my readers as well), balanced hormones are fundamental and the only way to maintain them balanced is by taking them every day at a regular time and scheduling periodic blood tests with your physician. I haven’t been and finally it showed yesterday before a holiday party I attended. I was in my car, crying and had, in a manner of minutes fallen completely out of love with life and the people in my life. Almost systematically, I became disillusioned and livid all at once and when pressed for the reason, I had none to give. I felt a loss of control and an utter dearth of joy. It just spilled out of me and it was a mood-swing. One of the side-effects of estrogen therapy many of us fail to take into account because we don’t think it’s as “serious” as stroke or thrombosis. But I assure you, it is. I know because I was one of those people who scoffed at the “mood-swing thing” as being something I could easily handle. And I realize I must admit my fault in all this, too. In the frenetic chaos that my life has been this past year, there have been many times when I’ve gone to sleep after pulling an all-nighter at some ungodly hour and forgotten to take (or just been too lazy to take) my hormones. Thus, I’ve experienced spikes and lows and kept pushing them aside, brushing them off until the holidays rolled around and my seasonal sadness became the catalyst for a mood swing that left my nerves jangling when they should have been jingling.

The world can wait. It’s important that you and I know this. It won’t fall apart if we take the time to take care of ourselves, but we will. If we allow ourselves to grant importance to our problems, even when others we confide in may not consider them very important at all, we also grant ourselves importance. We don’t put on the “I can do it all” facade and power through it. We each have differing levels of resistance to outside stressors, and it’s important to be respectful of that. My pain may not be the same as yours, but it is just as significant. And as a tg woman who’s been undergoing long-term HRT, I sometimes forget the element that was missing from my life during last night’s mood-swing: balance. So, I had a rare moment of practicality and made an alarm on my phone at 10 AM sharp that reminds me to take my hormones every. Single. Day. No matter what. Equally helpful is my return to this blog and being able to take solace in my writing process again. Never ignore your outlets! For me, that outlet is writing…but lately it’s been something I haven’t had the energy or time for…or at least that’s the excuse I give myself. And that’s another thing: Be mindful of your own excuses and analyze ways to break them apart, because most of them just injure you in the long-run. So, sisters, my advice for the new year…cut through the garbage you give yourself ABOUT YOURSELF…cut through the garbage other people fling at you and just focus on you. Sounds so simple, but often, it’s exactly those simple things we fail to remember.

Queen

I opened a window back to his world
A world of “I could be’s” and “maybe”
A world of prattling prayers and possibilities
That the “me” in the mirror could not yet see

Maybe I could be a Queen…that steals all the boys’ hearts
Maybe I could be a Queen…that’s completely off the charts
That zigs and zags every which way…just like they do in all the chess games
Maybe I could be a Queen…enthroned and scheming to fill her humdrum days
Maybe I could be a Queen…of riches…all of which, I’d give away

Maybe I could be a Queen…that trades her crown for love
Maybe I could be a Queen…that never bites her tongue
Maybe I could be a Queen…dipped in blood and hard as stone
Maybe I could be a Queen…armor-clad and barbed-wire bad…to the bone

Maybe I could be a Queen, a Queen and not a pawn
Maybe all my rights of manhood could be willed away…long-gone
Maybe I could be a Queen…a lion turned to lamb

Then maybe I remember…I already am.