bcholmes: I poison you! (Circe Invidiosa)
[personal profile] bcholmes

Recently, I made passing reference to a comment that got me thinking about the problematic nature of plastic surgery and how that conversation is a bit weird for someone like me who has had a fair amount of work under the hood.

I feel like I've had a few similar moments where I'm hearing conversations and I'm like, "hmm... wait. This sounds a bit different to my trans ears". One was in the "Fat is not the Enemy" panel today. There was good discussion about the importance of learning to love our fat bodies. [livejournal.com profile] porcinea told some really good anecdotes about her own headspace realignment from one where fat shame was normal to where she felt genuine fat joy.

And the conversation seemed to generalize a bit to acknowledging that there's often a lot social pressure for women to hate their bodies and that learning to love the bodies we have is such an important feminist action. But obviously I can't hear that without thinking about the many, many conversations I've had where people seemed to be telling me that my trans identity seemed to be an example where I couldn't Learn to Love the Body I Had with a dollop of You're Too Invested In The Social Construction of Gender. (That latter argument goes, "if our society wasn't so uptight about the social role of women and the social role of men, then trans people wouldn't feel any need to change their bodies because they could do the stuff they want to do regardless of what their body looked like." This often reminds me of Ayn Rand logic.)

Even when I do have these "Now, just hold on" moments, I find myself wondering when it's fruitful to just blog about them or if it's a good idea to bring them up in the panel. Despite having these "Now just hold on" moments, I think WisCon "gets" trans issues. I think that the majority of people who attend WisCon, even if they're not fluent with trans issues, get the whole "questioning gender" concept. And, as this year's Elves and Dwarfs panel reminds us yet again, it's not true that the majority of people who attend WisCon get issues like racism. I mean, they get it at the level of "racism is bad, don't be racist." But. I hope you know what I mean.

Anyway, I don't feel as compelled to take space in non-trans panels to talk about a trans spin on the panel topic when it's clear that we need so much more space for dealing with race issues (there are probably other issues that need space at WisCon, but it's so clear that race needs so much more discussion and treatment). I want to be clear that I still think that WisCon is the best con evah (partially because there are so many people who recognize the deficiencies and jump up to do the work to improve them), but it'd be wrong to gloss over these unhappy-making elements of the con.

cis-gendered go at it.

Date: 2008-05-25 11:00 am (UTC)
ext_6381: (Default)
From: [identity profile] aquaeri.livejournal.com
Isn't a large part of the difference where the unhappiness with the existing body comes from? I mean, the happy fat people I know demonstrate to me that most of people's unhappiness with being fat comes from social rules about fat being bad. Whereas it's absolutely not a social rule that one should be unhappy with the sex of one's body (particularly not if the body is male), so that's pretty convincing that the unhappiness genuinely comes from the owner of the body.

Similarly, it strikes me that the most successful plastic surgery is breast reduction; the fact that breast enlargement is also offered (is there any other category of plastic surgery that is true of?) hints at the fact that the desire for smaller breasts comes from the owner of the breasts.

I wonder if a general rule of okay body modification vs "try to learn to love what you have" is whether there are roughly equal numbers wanting to go both ways.

Re: cis-gendered go at it.

Date: 2008-05-25 02:34 pm (UTC)
ext_28663: (Default)
From: [identity profile] bcholmes.livejournal.com
is there any other category of plastic surgery that is true of?

Does MTF SRS and FTM SRS count?

Re: cis-gendered go at it.

Date: 2008-05-30 01:55 am (UTC)
ext_6381: (Default)
From: [identity profile] aquaeri.livejournal.com
Well, that's the thing exactly, isn't it?

(no subject)

Date: 2008-05-25 12:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nellorat.livejournal.com
What [livejournal.com profile] aquaeri said above: I think it all comes down to who wants you to change--is it something you want to do for yourself, or is it something you want to do to fulfill the expectations of other people? In practice, that's all kinds of messy, because it's so hard to know what is True Will and what is societal programming, but still I think there's a clear distinction.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-05-25 01:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jmthane.livejournal.com
And on a slightly more practical note (of which I'm sure you're aware), it's a lot harder for a fat trans person (at least MtF; I don't know about the other way, 'cause, well, I'm not going that way) to get "the" surgery. 200 pounds seems to be the usual cutoff for that, which means that, at my current 250, no way.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-05-25 02:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sarah-dragon.livejournal.com
I had no idea there was a weight cut off? How hard a ceiling is that?

(no subject)

Date: 2008-05-25 03:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jmthane.livejournal.com
How hard depends on the surgeon. I know Schrang (retired now) had that ceiling, and I recall (but cannot verify right now) that some of the others do as well.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-05-25 01:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] epi-lj.livejournal.com
I totally think that there are times where people need to learn to love their bodies as they are and times where people need to change their bodies to be the way they want them to be. I realize that there was an expression of this at the panel that we both sort of raised our eyebrows at, but that seemed to me to mostly be unquestioning, where I assume that given the difficulty that trans people face getting where they want to be that I can take as a basic given that they've thought very critically about which of these situations it is (even if I felt that it was my place to question people's motives or approve of their plans).

I think an example that isn't really directly analogous to what you're saying here but is probably the closest that I can come is that while I very much want to learn to love my body as it is in terms of beauty standards (and people reading my journal know that I'm at different points on that curve on different days, but I think in general I'm doing okay there), that I do want to work on my body in various ways so that cycling works better, and sometimes when I get asked if I would want to lose weight if I could safely and permanently in some magic fashion my answer is basically that for beauty reasons, no, but it would be kind of cool as a cyclist, because hill work and so on would be a lot easier if I weighed less.

I know that the, Ayn Randian logic that you mention here has crossed my mind before, especially very early on in my first brushes with trans people, but it's been fairly obvious that a lot of trans people *aren't* hugely hung up on societal constructions of gender and are willing to have careers and pastimes and do other things that are considered non-traditional for their gender, so that seems like pretty straightforward evidence that there's more to it than that. I don't have a strong sense of gender identity, myself, so I grappled a little with the idea that people do, in ways that are not just constructions of things I can extrapolate from my own brain, but I accept that about a lot of other things where other people have a strong core sense about X that I don't, so why not gender?

(no subject)

Date: 2008-05-25 06:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sparkymonster.livejournal.com
So. Some of my thoughts are that I think positive physical change for your body should come from a position of love. Which sounds pretty hippy dippy.

1) I believe that it is extremely difficult to do things like become physically stronger, be able to lift more weights, and be able to run further, if you loathe your body. Thinking "I'm frustrated I can't bicycle faster/further. I am going to train more" is still a positive. Thinking "I need to bike further because I'm such a disgusting blob" is about punishing your body, not improving it.

2) I think trans people changing their gender is an example of positive changing of your body. Depending on the person, they're trying to make their body fit how they think it is supposed to be/supposed to look. They may be trying to change what they perceive is a mistake that happened in utero. They may be trying to shift their presentation to be more in line with how they feel their true self is. Those, to me, are about changing you body so you are able to love it the way you want, rather than changing your body because you hate it. I guess for me, trans people who take steps to change their gender presentation (from binding, to hormones, to surgery) are in line with my beliefs about bodily autonomy.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-05-25 02:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sarah-dragon.livejournal.com
I suppose I may be dense but is it not possible to be ok with your body and STILL want to change it? I am ok with being heavier, I do not hate my body but for general health reasons and some vanity I would love to slim down. I have had plenty of love and affection at my current weight so there is no social pressure to lose.

I also do not hate the body I was born with, and even if one day I do decide make changes it will not be because I feel any social pressure to (and there is social both ways) but because I wanted to.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-05-25 03:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] the-siobhan.livejournal.com
I know we've had this discussion. I honestly can't say where my line falls, but I know I feel very differently about somebody changing their gender than say, the girls I knew in the prep school who got nose jobs for their 16th birthday.

I know I'd get surgery in a New York minute if it meant I could have a functional tail. And I'm pretty sure there aren't any external social pressures towards that. (Unless you count the obvious social rewards for having something SO AWESOME.)

(no subject)

Date: 2008-05-25 06:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sparkymonster.livejournal.com
Hrm.

So I think that talking about trans bodies in terms of body acceptance can be really interesting. Because of the whole "but if you really accepted yoru body, then you wouldn't be trans" stuff which is such utter bullshit I can barely control myself. I went to this discussion on body image issues a while ago, in which the moderator who was obsesed with the idea that sexual attraction is about "DNA dancing with delight" (he utterly refused to acknowledge or discuss the fun of non reproductive sex and sexual attraction). He also felt that that in order to discuss our "true" selves we should be naked. Which. ARGH. One of my friends there, who is a trans guy, felt really under attack because he knew that if he stood their naked, people would see a naked woman, not his "true" male self.

That interaction really got my brain going on what it means to be body positive and body respectful. One thing which I think is important is discusing body autonomy. I do not have the right to tell you what to do with your body. Which, as a follow up, I do not have the right to tell you what your body is. You utterly have the right to self identity. And I really hate it when people twist fat acceptance to shame other people. I particularly hate feminists shaming other women about their bodies.

I'm torn about how well WisCon "gets" trans issues. The reason I proposed the "Trans101" panel was due to some comments made last year in panels where people didn't get it. I mean, they sort of did on the surface. But they still pulled out "bio women", "born women", that transwomen weren't really women, etc. And rawwwr.

I moderated the panel and was extremely frustrated at my fellow panelists who I don't think were very body positive. The woman to my right was deeply fat hating. I am feeling fired up to hand select a panel for next year to talk about fat positive issues in a more, well, thoughtful targeted way. No talking about dieting or health. No acceptable fat bullshit.

I personally am super passionate about this as a feminist issue and a gendered one. I'm not quite sure what I want the panel to focus on yet but your comments touchign on trans issues are thought provoking for me.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-05-26 12:52 am (UTC)
ext_28663: (Default)
From: [identity profile] bcholmes.livejournal.com
*nod* I hear you on the panel, and I really enjoyed your contributions. I've chatted with a few people about the whole "I dieted, but it was because I wanted it" moment and everyone I've spoken to was a bit horrified that this was taking place in a fat acceptance panel. So, I hear your pain.

Nonetheless, I loved the stuff you brought to the panel, so thanks for that.

I have more I want to say about body acceptance versus trans identity, but I need to ponder a bit before writing it down. But thank you for your comments.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-05-28 05:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nadyalec.livejournal.com
Yup. It's real tricky.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-05-30 02:04 am (UTC)
ext_6381: (Default)
From: [identity profile] aquaeri.livejournal.com
Sorry to deflect and geek about your icon, but does the sign really intend to have zz and not zw (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ZW_sex-determination_system)?

(I mean, if anyone thought chromosomes were the way to tackle who goes to which bathroom...)

(no subject)

Date: 2008-05-31 09:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nadyalec.livejournal.com
I stole this icon, because I think it is cool! It's supposedly from the Seattle museum of SF. I like the ZZ and not ZW theory, tho!

xoxo

Nabil

(no subject)

Date: 2008-06-01 12:28 pm (UTC)
ext_6381: (Default)
From: [identity profile] aquaeri.livejournal.com
I guess that means I should nitpick at the Seattle Museum of SF instead. But yes, it is a very cool image.

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BC Holmes

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