Monday, April 27, 2015

The Bruce Jenner Interview Experience

It's been a few days since the interview and in those few days, the transgender conversation has exploded. Within the community, I've seen both overwhelming support and overwhelming damnation of Bruce Jenner coming out on national television.

Dawn Ennis, a friend of mine (whom I have yet to physically meet :-D) in the trans community, made an excellent point in her TV interview that everyone has their own experience in how he or she discovered and figured out what to do about being transsexual, and I think people need to be conscious of that. Jenner is a celebrity and has been for about 40 years. No one could ask him to remain closeted just because his coming out would invite so much press. In my opinion, he handled it well. I can think of several other ways this could have gone really badly.

As the spouse of a transsexual (I'm still not sure why no one used this word instead of transgender, but I'm no expert either), I found the interview fascinating. Much of what Jenner said was true for our experience - albeit from my perspective. We have two kids, but they were much younger when Tasha began her transition than when Jenner's transition started. I was amused at one of the wife's quoted comments calling transition a "journey" because that's what Tasha's father called it. It's a very impersonal comment. I would never call what a trans person goes through a "journey." "Ordeal," probably. "Process," maybe. But when you wish people luck on their journey, it means you are not coming along. It's that person's journey, so send me a postcard when you get there.

I think Jenner will have a lot of support throughout the transition, even outside the family. People will accept the woman Jenner is and that will be good for trans people. But what about the other trans people? The ones who are not celebrities. The ones whose name we don't know. The ones whose only person looking at him or her is himself or herself in the mirror.

I thought mostly about the wives as I listened to the interview. I'm a spouse, after all. It was nice to hear that the ex-wives were supportive (although if they weren't they wouldn't say since they were quoted on national TV). I thought about having torn feelings toward Tasha's transition. I thought about being angry at the universe for all of it.

I remembered thoughts that went through my head only a few years ago that still echo sometimes in my head. As I was taking the last of Jonathan's things out of our closet and putting them into bags, I had this crazy revelation (however irrational it might have been) that I didn't marry a man after all. I married a woman. The only person who wanted to marry me was not even a guy. I'd had relationships before, but none of those led to marriage because clearly guys didn't find me to be marriage material. It made perfect sense to me at the time. If you know me personally, you'll agree that it fit nicely into my self-image.

Jenner said that as a man, he was being himself under the circumstances. That was not authentic to how he really felt about who he was, but in the man's body, he was who he could be: a woman's brain in a man's body. But did that make him a "man" while he was in that body? He certainly had that body's sensations. Like Tasha, he acted and reacted like a guy. Tasha tried to convince me of this, and I finally just let the idea go, but I maintained that a female brain was responsible for guiding the testosterone-driven body, so it was still not quite the same. But does it really matter in the long run for me as a spouse? It shouldn't. People come in all colors. Some guys with guy brains are more emotional than other guys with guy brains. I, for one, do not act like a "girly girl." So, should it have mattered? No, but it did. Have you ever doubted your attractiveness because your partner changed genders? Do you think the average person ever would?

The interview made me wonder about all of the other spouses out there. The ones who, like me, have gone on "the journey" with their partners/spouses. I know that there are many spouses who say they're bi-sexual, so the gender change didn't matter to them. What about the other heterosexual spouses? That's why I started this blog: to share my experience with other spouses out there. Maybe it was a selfish thought, but I kept thinking about the stories of those women and men who chose to stay and how many of those trans people never tried to end their lives because of it. I felt for Jenner's wives. I cannot have a shared experience with the transsexual person, but I can with their partners. I also thought about stories of partners who left.

If you haven't watched the interview, you should. I wonder what people who have absolutely no exposure to this felt about it. I mean really. I'm not talking about the people who post responses under articles. My perspective is different as a spouse to that of a transsexual. My experience is different from other spouses/partners. My experience is different from someone who has never had to think about it. What this interview did was start a bigger conversation, and that's super important. Sure, it's going to cause all sorts of reactions. Some will probably be bad. But the elephant is in the room and nobody can get around it without touching it now (unless perhaps you live under the carpet). So much good can come out of this. It's true and proper education at its finest. It's a "real world application," as they like to call it. Your perspective on the interview is important. The interview itself can be a jumping-off point to meaningful conversations.

Take advantage of Jenner's vulnerability, no matter what you thought of it.

24 comments:

Rachel said...

Why didn't they call Jenner a transsexual? There's an interesting question Marni!

What IS the difference between transgender and transsexual?

These days, no-one seems to know (or be truly educated/informed)

Why don't they call Janet mock or lavern Cox or Jazz Jennings transsexual? (Ever seen the response lavern gives when asked about if she's had SRS?)

I am one of the nameless ones, who only had the person on the other side of the mirror.

I'm also a girlfriend (potentially a wife) so (believe it or not) I can empathise with "the wives" (spouses)

Personally, I think Jenner was correctly categorized (transgender)

Rachel said...

P.S yes, it is somewhat of a "journey" for some of us, however, even though they say good bye no-one asks us to send a post card when we get to where we're headed.

Marni said...

Rachel - I hear you. :-)

Rachel said...

Something else, I'm a girl who was born with a penis, I went through a male puberty, I can't have my own babies and (although I'm not terrible) I'm also not the most attractive girl in the world.

My man isn't every girl's "brad Pitt" but, his eye's and his cheeky boyish smile...

He's a good, hard working man.

I don't know you personally, but I'm quietly confident you don't give yourself enough credit when it comes to being "marriage material".

Give it time, love yourself! You'll see.😘

Dianne Piggott said...

Here is my thought on "transgender" versus "transsexual." The word transsexual is about sex. Sex has connotations of genitals and, well, Sex. There is titillation in the baggage of the word. Outside the community it makes people stop listening to what I'm saying and start thinking about what is under my skirt. In the community it heads straight to, "hmmmm, pre-op or post-op?" And there can sometimes be judgment in that difference. So I prefer to use transgender because then we can just understand where I am in the world and not deal with my clinical designation. Now, this is just me and my thoughts about how I live. I like to move on from how I was configured, past how I am now configured and right into how my life is now.

Dianne Piggott said...

Here is my thought on "transgender" versus "transsexual." The word transsexual is about sex. Sex has connotations of genitals and, well, Sex. There is titillation in the baggage of the word. Outside the community it makes people stop listening to what I'm saying and start thinking about what is under my skirt. In the community it heads straight to, "hmmmm, pre-op or post-op?" And there can sometimes be judgment in that difference. So I prefer to use transgender because then we can just understand where I am in the world and not deal with my clinical designation. Now, this is just me and my thoughts about how I live. I like to move on from how I was configured, past how I am now configured and right into how my life is now.

Rachel said...

Interesting Diane.

In my experience 50% or better of human interaction is about what is "under your(our) skirt" why exactly should you (or anyone else, lavern cox, Janet mock etc) get excluded from that criteria when the other 99% of humans handle it on a daily basis?

Marni said...

Rachel - About my comment, I give myself much more credit than I used to, so I'm cool. :-)

Also, regarding Dianne's comment, I think you've nailed one of the problems with society. When you look at a "man" or a "woman" people make assumptions about what's under the skirt. This is Dianne's point, I think (please correct me if I'm wrong, Dianne). When it comes to people diagnosed as being transsexual and that particular word is used in a public setting, it automatically causes most folks to question what still under there. Using the term "transgender" says to most people, "Hey, I was born with the wrong gender brain but it's none of your business how far along I am in figuring out what I'm doing about it." Transgender encompasses a little more than transsexuality, but it can be a satisfactory term to briefly explain that a person isn't necessarily a "born" male or a "born" female.

The fact is that it's natural for human beings to assume things about what's down there and for that topic to be somewhere at the top of the list when first meeting someone. Our true, primal purpose is survival of the species. But for trans folk, it's just not that simple, and drawing attention to that fact can make it even more uncomfortable. I may be an outsider, but I completely understand Dianne's desire to minimize the attention to genitalia. She's not asking to be excluded. She's asking to not have to feel like she needs to explain. 99% of the population doesn't have to do that.

Rachel said...

99% of the population (including transsexuals) also ISN'T trying to change or "break" the "rules" either Marni.

But believe me, I understand Diane's (and those like her) motives as well, most likely far better than most in fact

Marni said...

I don't know about that, Rachel. :-) As a plain old woman myself, I'm trying to change the rules. It's because of what people think is under the skirt that we have gender inequality in pay, for example. Just sayin'. :-D

Rachel said...

So you want people treat you like a male?

A word of advice: be careful what you wish for.

Marni said...

WOW! Where on Earth did you get that from any of my comments? My ENTIRE point was that people shouldn't be judging anyone. But the sad fact is that they do. If you look like a male without pulling your pants down or your skirt up, people are going to ASSUME that you're male. It's the same the other way, too. But you're not going to pull your pants down or your skirt up, most likely, so they're just gonna keep assuming. Dianne's point was that she shouldn't have to show her genitals or talk about them for people to bug off. If people are going to assume based on your outward appearance, for her saying Transgender does NOT cause most people to wonder about what's REALLY going on down there, whereas Transsexual DOES. THAT was the point. I don't want people to treat you any way other than what you want them to. That's it. That was the point. If you got your assumption from something I said, please let me know so that I can apologize appropriately and restate so that you don't read in to anything I say.

Rachel said...

"I don't know about that, Rachel. :-) As a plain old woman myself, I'm trying to change the rules. It's because of what people think is under the skirt that we have gender inequality in pay, for example."- Marni.

Pay equality Marni, was your example.

You then say in the next comment: "I don't want people to treat you any way other than what you want them to.

Clearly (from your pay equality example) you don't believe men and women are treated "equally" and hence I gather you want people to treat you the same as males.

Just as Dianne seeks to be treated as a female (even though neither of you have nor have HAD the body of the opposite sex)

What would it take for you to get the "equality" you speak of Marni? You'd have to go get yourself a penis be a man and do what is expected of men no?

So why again should Dianne not have to face the world like you and I in order to get the treatment Dianne believes they want?

Rachel said...

Here IS the truth Marni, it NOT that *transgender* people have NOT YET decided what to do about their genitals, it's that they HAVE decided, that they AREN'T changing their genitals, but they still want (what they perceive to be) the "privileges" given to the opposite sex.

In summary: they still want to be paid like a man, but they don't want to have to do the WORK or live in the world a man has to in order to have that.

Looking at things that way; Maybe they really are women.

Marni said...

So first of all, this side conversation in the comments had to do with the term transsexual vs transgender. My original post really had nothing to do with this or with what your argument has become. Having said that, your points in my responses still have no bearing on your question of whether I want to be treated as a male. Gender equality in my example of pay has nothing to do with that, unless you inherently feel that men work harder than women and therefore deserve better pay. In that case, you are a chauvinist and our conversation ends. However, it seems to me that you have decided what "transgender" means for you. As it stands, my understanding of the "transgender" community is exactly the same as yours. I learned that this particular term is reserved for people who like to appear as one gender but with no intention of changing their genitals. I can find the medical encyclopedia url for that, if you'd like. The issue that we come back to is that I believe a lot of trans people, like Dianne, don't consider "transgender" to ONLY encompass those types of folks but instead encompass them as well as transsexuals. But this is why I use the "proper" term in my blog. I am not, however, trans. So, I'm not going to argue semantics with you. If Dianne wants to, that's her call. But getting back to you last comments, it seems as if you are sticking to semantics and arguing a point I'm not making because for the purposes of responding to Dianne's comment, I did NOT stick with semantics. Does that make sense? If we were using textbook definitions, I'd totally understand your comments to me. But as I was not - as I was going off the comments of someone else - they still don't jive.

Now, if you are indeed going by textbook definitions, then I totally get ya and I'm sorry. Understand what I just said, which is that I was not going by them.

Bridge Maiden said...

Rachel - Whose truth do you speak of? I know post-op women who ID as transgender. As it currently stands, it is the common umbrella term, whether you agree or not. It sounds to me like you are treading that dangerous ground of judging who gets to define their identity and how they should do so.

And why should anyone not wish to be paid equally to another person for the same work?

Dianne - There is no sense of titillation regarding the term, transsexual. It is a term applied to those who undergo medical transition from one sex to another to match their gender. Any further connotations do not make others question their genital status any more or less than transgender. It's nice to think that, but it would be wrong to do so. Once you ID as trans of any stripe, people will wonder...even other trans people.

Rachel said...

Marni,
Fair enough.
No, I'm not a chauvinist.
No, I don't believe ALL men work harder than ALL women. I DO believe more is expected of men (in the realm of work/the work force) how many women do you know of that work as underground coal miners? When was the last time you saw a female plumber show up to unblock the poo from a toilet?

I'm VERY MUCH for equality in the workforce, however, I believe it starts with women.

And that comes from a woman who (with and working right along side OF her boyfriend) owns and operates a heavy trucking company.

Li work just as hard if not harder than the men, I better at what we do than most of them, and yet I'm still not respected nor listened to like the next young male rookie with no experience.

I don't give a damn about "pay" right now, I want more females in industry in order to change minds, to make men take us seriously.

Only THEN will we get traction on pay issues.

Lastly, I apologise, it was honestly NOT my intention to derail, I have issues with ignoring what I feel to be oppression (I can't seem to do it, but I'm working on it)

Rachel said...

Bridge,
Truth of "what" rather than who.

The truth of transgender ideology.

Perhaps they are post-op, essentially however, if one lays claim to transgender as identity(or as anything else) then their male status is what (for whatever reason) they intend to maintain.

I don't believe a transsexual by (as Marni puts it) textbook definitions, lays claim to that label (if given a personal choice).
Ymmv.

No, I'm not telling anyone how to be whatever they think they are or want to be, but I am demanding my right to believe what I believe.

Are they (for some reason) more entitled to their view of the world than I (and the bulk of society) are?

You've a lot of minds to change, good luck!

Marni said...

No worries.

Bridge Maiden said...

Rachel - In that I do know a number of post-op women who ID as TG who lay no claim to a male identity, I'm wondering if you do. It is the old TS separatist argument because being lumped in with the umbrella coverage made them uncomfortable, that they had something in common.

You have the right to believe what you will, but ask yourself if, in believing that anyone who IDs as transgender is attempting to retain some element of their birth sex (Are transgender men attempting to retain their female status?), do you negate their personal identity by making broad characterizations?

Or perhaps the term is so common in usage now that it no longer is as charged as it was five years ago and people internalize it differently.

As for changing minds (or what the bulk of society thinks), trust me when I tell you that over my lifetime, minds have been changed quite a bit. It's what allows someone like Jenner, who detransitioned in the 80's, to finally move forward. Sometimes being openly transgender, even after surgeries and whatnot, can be in the service of that end.

Rachel said...

It's just an opinion bridge,
You're allowed to believe I'm wrong.

Peace to you both.

Angus Charbonneau said...

I am a man who “transitioned” to being a “woman” at age 40 (after a similar trajectory to that of your husband and most middle-aged male transgenderists). After 13 apparently happy and successful years living as a “woman” and replicating “feminine” sex role & behavior stereotypes, I stopped taking estrogen out of concern for my health. (Males who take estrogen are at 20x higher risk of blood clots and stroke.) This was two years ago. Very quickly, I completely snapped out “gender dysphoria” and knew for certain that I’m actually a man. I “de-transitioned” and am living in reality, quite happily, as a man. I am trying to un-do the damage wreaked on my body from 13 years of estrogen (large breasts etc.). I had all my facial hair removed so that’s not great; much worse is that I actually had my testicles removed. I’m taking testosterone, and feel much better, but I profoundly regret what I’ve done.

I’m telling you all this because heterosexual males who cross-dress through life and announce they are “transgender” in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s etc. are actually using “gender identity” as an alibi. The truth is that they are erotically attracted to the fantasy of themselves “as women.” It’s called autogynephilia. Male transgenderists and even researchers on transgenderism hotly deny that it exists — despite abundant scientific evidence. Indeed, it’s pretty obvious if you consider that nowadays most fetishistic “transvestites” are pushing things further and actually transitioning. They comprise the vast majority of male-to-“female” transgenderists. Public awareness of widespread autogynephilia would invalidate male transgenderists’ “gender identity” and would put a halt to funds for transgender research.

Anyway, I hope you will consider reading some of the articles on this site: “The truth about autogynephilia.” In particular: “What many transgender activists don’t want you to know, and why you should know it anyway”: https://autogynephiliatruth.wordpress.com/2015/04/27/what-many-transgender-activists-dont-want-you-to-know-and-why-you-should-know-it-anyway/

Thank you.

Marni said...

Angus,

Thank you for the link to the article and especially for sharing your story here.

I'm sure that there are plenty of MtF trans folk who can identify with having autogynephilia; however, I also think the study was a little dismissive of the existence of MtF trans folk who really and truly do not get turned on by the idea of being a woman. My understanding of this community (as an outsider, mind you) is that any good, qualified therapist will help a gender dysphoric individual figure out if he/she is indeed more transgender rather than transsexual, but be that as it may, certainly people fall through the cracks and are misled. Perhaps that's what happened to you. In my situation, Tasha was not sexually aroused by cross-dressing. She was not in denial. She was not lying to myself or to herself. She was a male who, at the age of 4, when "sexual arousal" doesn't exist, desired to be a girl. In fact, this was not discussed in the article at all except dismissively.

You claim that "Male transgenderists and even researchers on transgenderism holly [sp] deny that it (autogynephillia) exists." Transsexuals aren't transgender, by definition. Transvestites aren't transsexuals, either, so they can do whatever they want to. Also, I'd like to know your source for claiming that "They [the transvestites] comprise the vast majority of male-to-`female' transgenderists." I've never, ever read that anywhere, so I'd really like a link or a citation.

Anyway, you may be in for some comments here as a result of your story and the article. I hope you are willing and able to respond. :-)

B. Strong said...

Agnes,

I thank you for sharing as well. I'm sure if you feel you made a mistake, you feel the need to express your concern to others and that is admirable. You don't want others to feel the regret you do. I would ask you what exactly you regret.

If you lived 13 years as a woman, and you said "happy years", what changed your mind? Was it simply the replacement of the hormone? Something tells me there might be something a bit deeper going on...but that's just my analytical/psychological side coming out. I truly am interested though in what changed and if you were happy as a woman, why did you all of a sudden decide you were happy as a man? What did you like about being a woman? What do you like now about being a man?

I am also the wife of a MTF in the process of transition. (I'm reluctant to say transgender or transsexual now...) ;)

I believe my spouse is being honest and authentic about the need to transition and isn't confused about the difference between autogynephilia and transgenderism. When we speak about life experiences, her thoughts have been what psychologists would consider female traits instead of male traits. I've never seen her happier than she is right now. No matter what happens in our relationship, we are supportive of who each of us needs to be in order to find our true selves.