06 September 2009

Justifying the Ways of Trannies to...

If I remember correctly, in the introduction to Book I, John Milton says that his purpose in writing Paradise Lost was to "justify the ways of God to men."

I won't pick on Milton for justifying the ways of God to men--as if he felt no such need to justify them to women. Or children. Or.... All right, you get the idea.

Will I ever get to be a self-appointed oracle/advocate the way Milton was. I would love to have the talent--which Milton clearly had--needed to do the job. I'm just not sure I'd want the job.

However, I may find myself taking on a similar task, if on a smaller scale.

The other night, I was trying to help Sonia understand how Denise, as a transgender male, feels. And tonight I found myself doing the same thing when I responded to an e-mail from a Trinidad alumnus. His wife was getting antsy about all the time and money he's spending on surgeries.

He told her she needs to walk in his shoes in order to understand why he's trying to get the "perfect" surgery. Our seeming displacement isn't the same as the feelings of people who want to be skinnier, fitter, prettier or handsomer. Most people who have such wishes want merely to have a better (by their or society's standards) version of the bodies they have. They don't feel they were placed in the "wrong" body: They simply don't like the current state of the bodies they have.

On the other hand, we as transgender people, feel displaced in our bodies. We are prisoners for as long as we are living in the genders assigned to us at birth; we are refugees for as long as we are transitioning into the genders of our minds and spirits; we are naturalized citizens when we live in those genders. To carry this metaphor a little further, the person who is not transgendered is always at home and welcome in the native country of his or her gender.

Today, Danny, a female-to-male who had his surgery with Marci two days after mine, sent me an e-mail in which he described the friction his surgeries--or, more precisely, the amount of time and money he is spending on them--is causing between him and his wife. As much as he loves her, she has never walked in his--our--shoes. That is what he said to her; surprisingly (to my surprise, anyway--I've never met her) she was convinced by that. However, I don't think she, Sonia or anyone else, really, can fully understand our experience, no matter how empathetic they are.

Of course, this is the reason why I hated, or at least resented, most people when I was younger. They had a privilege I didn't. All of them, my parents, my brothers, my teachers, my co-workers, even my friends and lovers, never could understand, no matter how much they tried or wanted to. Other trans people I've met have described having similar feelings. Some still had them.

So does this mean that now I am a sort of transgendered Milton? If only I had his talent. Of course, I hope I don't have to go blind to see what he saw!

Justifying the ways of trans people to cis-gender people? It looks like my first job is to come up with a catchier line than that!


EdMcGon said...

This does beg the question: What if someone cannot afford the surgery?

Justine Nicholas Valinotti said...

Yes, it does beg the $23,000 question.

That's one of the reasons I wrote my "Authoritarian Genital Fixation" entry. If gender is defined solely by genitalia, then those who can't afford the surgeries are left between no-man's and no-woman's land.

EdMcGon said...

I wonder if a charity for such people might be a good idea? What are your thoughts?