I know…yuck. But, I am a social media professional and what better way to promote myself than through the one avenue I haven’t touched yet…TV!? So vote for me here if you’d like to see me on a show about remarkable people who happen to be TG.
So, I’ve been blogging for the Upper Delaware GLBT Center as part of my internship and unfortunately today I had to blog about something very disconcerting regarding one of our trans-members. I strongly urge all my followers to read the article in the link provided and commit to holding Daniel Tosh accountable for this transphobic episode.
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.”
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.
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.
I’ve always believed in magic. The kind of magic that allowed a little Spanish woman from Honduras, my grandmother, to divorce her ogre of a husband and single-handedly raise two daughters on a seamstress’ income in the United States of the 1970’s, despite only knowing limited conversational English.
I believe in the magic of making something from nothing, just as my grandmother did when she stretched each dollar to ensure that her two princesses were always well-educated, impeccably groomed and treated to those mainstays of American culture…ice cream, movie outings and hamburgers, every once in awhile.
I believe in the magic of supplication. Of asking for help and summoning assistance…be it from God…or one’s family…or one’s own inner reservoirs of untapped fortitude in order to endure the otherwise unendurable. I believe in the magic of family that supports one another in those times of great need, like my grand-uncle helped his sister those many years ago.
I believe in the magic of time travel, for when my grandmother tells me of those days, the past comes alive and through the windows of her eyes I can see every tear, every fear…every unyielding hope that brought her from there to here. I make that journey with her and know that magic exists.
I believe in the magic of filling a grandchild’s Paterson-poor holidays with a treasure trove of toys bought through scrimping, saving and layaway plans. In the magic of multicolored lights, popcorn tins, a glazed ham in the oven and the symphonic strains of friends and family swirling throughout the living room of a tiny third story apartment, stretching it beyond its limits and, for that day, transforming it into the grandest of palaces.
I believe in the magic of inheritance. For that same woman’s magical strength of will has been passed down from mother to daughter to me. I believe in the magic of the undying dream, which resulted in a much sought-after home for my mother and a much sought-after son for my aunt. I believe in the magic of the seemingly impossible and the magic of transmutation, for I became what I ought to have been through the same magic that’s swelled through the veins of three generations of my family’s women.
I believe in the magic of recording this for posterity’s sake, so that this magic never disappears from the world. I believe in the magic of sharing and the way that sharing can make ideas flourish and spread like ivy…so I share this fable, born of magic but grounded in truth with any and all who will listen. I share this magic with you.
Alright. First off, I hate judging ANYONE, really I do. But I’m a human being, so I do it anyway. That being said, I’m really irritated about certain high-profile people in the TG community who shall remain nameless but who’ve been in the spotlight recently. I don’t want to come across as closed-minded, because I don’t feel that I am…but I am offended. Offended by some girls who think that what they’re doing, either in the adult film industry or as “burlesque” performers (i.e., strippers), is helping the community out. Despite your delusions, girls, having men view you as a sex object for your plastic parts is not doing me any favors, I’ll tell you that right now. Some of these girls even go so far as to insinuate that they’re helping to garner respect for all trans people everywhere through these public appearances. May I ask how? How can you garner respect when you’re devoid of respect for yourself…and when this utter lack of respect becomes painfully apparent through the choices you make in your everyday life, from what venues you decide to attend to what clothes you wear? Still, a lot of these girls are too caught up in the whirl of admiration they get for their “work,” that they really do think they’re, dare I say, positive role models. Many of them do have their own positive attributes, beauty or some less savory skill…but a pretty face alone does not a role model make.
A quote from Candy Darling comes to mind, said to a co-star during one of her first Warhol collaborations, “Why don’t you try developing your brain instead of your bust?” Intellect is the sexiest thing around. And intellect dictates, by virtue of common sense, that if you want to be viewed as a role model, you set a good example…primarily through your interactions with whatever target group you’re hoping to influence…not with rooms full of sex-starved fetishists looking for a good time and a glimpse of your under-bits. It’s not only in poor taste, it’s offensive to me. Personally offensive. I try to keep an open mind about certain people’s circumstances, but, I really feel there’s little justification for engaging in such a lifestyle in today’s day and age. My family wasn’t wealthy by any means, and as far as trans-girls go, I’m pretty damned cute…still I was never tempted to make “easy money” by exploiting that and debasing myself. How can you presume to call such money easily gained when it comes at the price of your very dignity?
Dignity. That’s what it SHOULD be about. Our journey to ourselves is a beautiful thing. We follow our paths, compelled by one of the strongest forms of loyalty a human being is capable of possessing…that undying, unflinching pledge to our very own souls that we will be what we were meant to be. Why cheapen such a beautiful experience? To “get there first” by coming up with money for surgeries? That’s all well and good…but then where are you? Where is it that you ‘got to?’ And what did you truly become? It is true that in many cases, desperation drives us, but ignorance should not. We should always be mindful of what we’re willing to sacrifice and what we’re hoping to gain, ensuring ourselves that one does not outweigh the other and that we can live with such choices after the fact.
Part of what I hope to do, both by studying at school and by going to different government agencies to discuss my past, is to put a very real, very human face on what science has labelled an aberration, under the heading of “transgendered.” I’m someone who’s done a lot of growing up, just like you…or you…or you. And it’s been hard, but I struggled through and did it right. Now, I want to give back to the youngsters by helping those who help them understand better what struggles they go through…and who knows, maybe I’ll eventually go back for my MSW and help these kids directly as a social worker. Either way, I help. Even now and as someone who helps, goddammit, I have a right to be upset…our kids deserve better and so do you girls, yourselves! Respect yourselves…it’s daunting to trudge this path with honor and self-respect, but it certainly is not impossible…and don’t let anyone lead you to believe otherwise.
Hey guys, so this is that snippet I promised you a few weeks ago of the fantasy story I’ve been working on…It’s centered around a Mystic named Martine who just so happens to be a Eunuch, as well. In this scene, Martine is roused from sleep by a vision of impending doom. I’ve never written anything like this before…so, hopefully it isn’t completely atrocious…but if it is…lie to me, anyway and tell me how amazing it is…no, j/k…give it to me straight!
Black clouds of sulfur darkened the horizon. I could smell the stench of destruction. Bright flames swirled amidst the grey shambles of Arcadia’s Royal Palace. I find myself running. I can hear my own footfalls slapping the dry, ashen ground as the frigid pearls of sweat rain down my body. Behind me, there are men giving chase. Men in elaborate suits of armor, glinting gold and crimson under the torched city’s light. I know this, though I only see them in my mind’s-eye. I know what I’m running from. What am I running to?
Just then I spot Calliope, my childhood friend and the resident court jester. Her bright garments, now blackened by coal. She is in disarray.
“Calliope! What’s going on? We have to get out of here!” I shout.
“Martine. Look up and you can see.”
“What? See what?” I ask as I tilt my head toward the sky.
The black clouds break at that very moment, giving way to a ray of sun and a torrential downpour.
“The flames…of magic.”
“Magic? Are you saying one of the mages did this, surely they weren’t powerful enough to?”
Calliope stood silent.
“Was it those men…they caused this?”
Still no response.
“Did I? I couldn’t have,” I murmur incredulously.
“Whenever there’s a sun shower, it means a fox has married.”
“Calliope, what are you saying? Why can’t you answer me?!”
Then the light seized me and it was over.
This was the third time I’d had this dream, and each time it made even less sense. I’d told Calliope, who’d of course thought it was the result of over-work and recommended I take a vacation. Recreation was her panacea and in her eyes, there was nothing it couldn’t fix. Morgana, my other friend and Court Herbalist brewed a tea for my nerves and gave me some bitter herbs to chew daily. They hadn’t been working.
I couldn’t help but re-visit my dreams, not only because I was the Chief Court Mage and took dreams very seriously as a matter of habit, but because this dream did what no other had…it chilled me to the bone. I felt this was a vision, a premonition. I’d had them before, owing to my nature as a Eunuch. We were a culture of mystics, prone to seeing beyond the veil of ordinary existence. I was no different, however, I kept telling myself that this dream wasn’t, couldn’t be. Though I suspected in my heart that it was.
What caused the fire? I had the ability, which had taken years of dedicated training to perfect, to supplicate the elements, bend them to my will, speak to the spirits, the raw essences of the very fibers that comprised our world. I could beseech the Spirit of Earth for a good harvest, or the Spirit of Rain to send a downpour, and indeed, would whenever our crops grew dry. In this way, my presence at the Royal Court of the Arcadian Empire became a necessity to our people. As a rule and a show of respect, I usually stood aside and let nature take its course, but whenever the energy became unbalanced as it was prone to do, I’d intercede and marvelous things would happen. There was pride in what I did, but also a deep reverence for the true power behind the mystic…the Spirits themselves.
Those men in my dream. They were…invaders. Nothing of them looked familiar, it was all foreign and menacing. If that type of fire broke out, well, I suppose they could have set fire to the kingdom, but our magical barriers and protective measures would surely have proven mightier than any invader. Then again, how could I know what they were capable of? Perhaps there did exist, beyond the wall we lived behind, a kingdom of stronger means than ours. But that was why the wall existed in the first place, to keep us hidden from the outside world…that world where magic could not thrive, where fantasy went to die. Long ago, we’d all been part of that Golden Age, but our cousins…they let their baser feelings take hold of them…that’s what was passed down throughout the generations, anyway.
If what transpired in my dream were any indication of times to come, then it would seem that the tales were all true. But that fire…what I asked Calliope still weighed in my mind. Why did I feel that I was responsible for it? For the very fall of my home? Did something go wrong? Did my powers betray me? Did the Spirits fail me for once? This type of senseless anxiety was getting me nowhere. I suppose the only thing I could do, was wait for the next night.
So…recently I was diagnosed with TMJD or temporomandibular joint disorder (erroneously, yet widely, known as TMJ) which is basically a mandibular joint issue akin to arthritis, where there is a misalignment of the muscles. Boxers get it after too many knockouts to the jaw and so do anxiety-ridden tooth-grinders. Guess which one I was. Imagine being in excruciating ear pain for a week or so, not being able to talk really due to the pain but still being asked questions every five minutes, having to sustain yourself on a mostly liquid diet because eating solids feels like you’re swallowing daggers and knowing that there’s no cure but “waiting it out” until the next flare-up. As you might expect, it’s rather awful.
Currently, I’m doing well, but every now and then I’ll have a flare-up, usually when I’m stressed. I’ve read that TMJD is more common amongst menopausal women on hormone-replacement therapy, and by extension I’m assuming, transgendered women who are not only hormone-laden, but also perpetually stressed out…so in my case, it makes a lot of sense that I developed this. However, I’m also keenly aware that the initial trigger for my jaw issues started one Thanksgiving weekend long ago, when in my engorged holiday mind-set, I decided to raid the fridge for leftovers and sunk my teeth into some stale chunks of french bread, unhinging my jaw like a cobra and hearing a tell-tale ‘pop,’ which I assumed was perfectly normal. Only, after that, every time I would try to stretch my mouth open, the left side of my jaw would click. I thought it was nothing but then this happened years later. At first, I thought it was an ear or sinus infection because I was prone to those and because it felt like one, but upon consulting an Ear, Nose, Throat Specialist, I was told that wasn’t the case.
So, what is all this preamble leading to? I want you girls out there to keep healthy, of course! ^_^ So, if you’re dealing with this terrible ailment too, here’s a list of tips to keep those flare-ups few and far between!
1) DON’T STRESS THE SMALL STUFF…WHICH, BASICALLY, IT ALL IS! Seriously, I know I’m stealing this phrase from somewhere, but that’s because it’s good and also, very true. Go meditate yourself! Nothing’s worth ruining your health over, so as difficult as it is, try to just let whatever stressful thoughts you have drift on by. Don’t force yourself not to acknowledge them, because forcing anything is a stressful process in and of itself. Just let them pass through you. Unless, of course it’s a thought like, “Oh I have to pick my son up from daycare,” or “I have a deadline…if I don’t do it, I’ll get fired,” those you should probably deal with. But everything else? Nah…
2) USE A MOUTH-GUARD AT NIGHT! They’re like 15 bucks at Target, so price shouldn’t be an issue. Honestly, I started doing this whenever I have a flare-up and the next day I feel waaaaay better. You may look funny, but at least it’s in the bedroom where crowds won’t see you.
3) AVOID COOL AIR DURING A FLARE-UP!! Air-conditioned rooms, blasts of fan-swirled air on the face…they’re all bad during a flare-up because they make the muscles contract in a way that makes your jaw ache so much worse.
4) HEAT, THEN COLD, THEN HEAT!! Hot compress to the jaw (not too hot, but here’s a tip…heat up some salt in a frying pan then bundle it in a towel, it stays hot longer), then a cold compress, then another hot compress all while slowly opening the mouth to condition the muscles to be okay with that sort of thing.
5) NO CLENCHING, NO GRINDING!! Rest your tongue on the roof of your mouth, leaving a space between the top and bottom rows of teeth…like singers do!
6) JAW MASSAGE!! A quick fix, but when that flare-up hits, you need all the help you can muster. A quick massage in circular motions of the jaw and ear area is a big help, calming spasms and generating heat to relax away tension.
7) PUT DOWN THAT STEAK!! Or corn, or apple, or carrot, or practically any other hard food that forces you to open your jaw wide in order to eat it…at least until after your flare-up’s over.
There you have it, my dears…TMJD is a rotten break, but like everything else in life, not insurmountable! ^_^