Monica Roberts

It's A White Transwoman Thang

Filed By Monica Roberts | January 26, 2008 7:35 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: African-American, Monica Roberts, transgender

One of the things that's been a contentious issue ever since I transitioned in 1994 and have been around the transgender community is this ongoing battle between the pre-ops/non-ops and post-ops.

Frankly, that's more of a white transwoman thang that I try to stay out of, but here's my take on this asinine mess.

Much of the sniping between the two groups has several elements to it. But the major bone of contention between the pre and post-ops is over the word 'transgender'.

The reason a majority of people in the community use it is because it's an inclusive umbrella term for the entire diverse community of gender variant people.

The post-ops usual argument is that the pre/non-ops haven't worked hard enough to save money like 'they' did to have GRS (genital reconfiguration surgery), so don't hate on them. They can't (or won't) understand why any transsexual would want to keep that 'ugh' male organ.

Post -ops also assert that they are being lumped in with the transgender community 'against their will' and it keeps 'them' from being accepted by natal females as women. They claim that one day the 'silent majority' of post-ops will revolt against this 'oppressive' situation and not only start their own movement, but push for laws that give rights only to transgender people who have completed surgery.

Yo, did y'all consider the fact that the reason y'all have problems being accepted as women is because of all that WMP that you're still clutching on to like a wino holding his last bottle of MD 20/20?

On the flip side, the pre/non-op argument is that the post ops are not only wrong, but are selfish, arrogant and bitter people who have not only turned their backs on their less fortunate sisters, but have forgotten where they came from. The pre/non-ops also assert that ignoring the fact that many peeps can't have GRS for medical reasons is callous, and the 'just work hard and save for GRS' argument, while I agree with it in principle, the fact that this line is almost always spouted by white post-ops and ignores the reality that transpeople of color live with. We don't have the access to the financial resources that many of these former white males did.

In addition, basing transgender rights on genitalia is not only shortsighted, but cuts large swaths of the community out of the post-op proposed legislation. The genitalia only test cuts out transmen and intersex people. It also cuts out the peeps who can't have GRS for medical reasons or because the medical GRS technology for transmen at this time is woefully lacking.

Personally, as someone who prefers a Kingian broad stroke approach to civil rights legislation, the post-op arguments to me are insensitive, borderline prejudiced and racist, laced with white male privilege and smack of Hateraid for non-ops as well. .

One pattern I continue to see with some white post ops is that they blitz through the real life test and go straight to the table for surgery. They they wonder why and get mad because they spent $10K for a neocoochie and got 'sirred', while a non-op with five incles of neoclit in her lace panites gets treated as a female.

A major reason is that because GRS for some pre/non-ops will happen about the same time George W. Bush gets nominated for a Nobel Peace prize and they know it, the pre/non-op spends more time focusing and perfecting the internal and spiritual aspects of femininity.

Anybody with positive cash flow can get an improved female body, but femininty is a learned, spiritual, constantly evolving journey. You aren't going to master it (if you ever do) if you're more concerned about getting the earliest possible surgery date or stressing because you didn't get the day you wanted for your facial feminization surgery consultation.

These pre-op/post op skirmishes tend to not only be a white thang, but increasingly a generational and racial one as well. It's limited to those people who grew up with the rigid societal gender roles of the 40's, 50's and 60's and those people who obtained GRS after running through the more restrictive HBIGDA/WPATH Standards of Care gauntlet in place at the time.

I noticed that neither the African-American transgender community, nor is the younger generation of white transgender people as fixated on genitalia as some of these post-ops, Barney and the Religious Reich.

It's time for all of us, pre, post and non-op transpeople to take a deep breath, go to our neutral corners, chill out, realize that the Reichers hate all of us and work to codify civil rights protections for 'errbody' in the community. .



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Monica, welcome! You've only posted a few times so far, yet I'm already sure you're going to be one of my favorite contributors. You have a great voice, so to speak.

As a side note, I'm starting to think that Bilerico's greatest contribution to the LGBTQ community is the richness and frankness of its trans dialogue (from a non-trans reader/contributor's perspective, at least), as well as the heightened visibility of the trans community, its wide diversity, disagreements, commonalities, etc.

The great thing about diverse blogging communities like Bilerico, I think, is that I, as one kind of LGBTQ person, get to learn so much about other LGBTQ people in what I consider my larger community without perpetually having to ask my "larger community members" potentially invasive and culturally incompetent questions. I mean, direct dialogue is certainly necessary and good, but having access to this rich discourse definitely improves my ability to formulate and ask other questions.

So, thanks for jumping into the fray here on Bilerico. I look forward to reading more!

I have to disagree Monica...

The issue is Non Ops who take issue with Post-ops who have blended into mainstream society.

Many of us "White Post-Ops" as you say have been living as ether Pre-Op or like myself as Paleo-transgendr for a decade or two before making the trip to the operating room.

This amongst other generalizations you have made simply don't fit.

True there are a few as you put it "White Post-Ops"
who have gone from zero to female in one year but they are still few and far between.
Had i done that i would have been Post-op in 1981 instead of 2003.

The pre/post cat fights seem to usually be started by Non-Ops who assert that we the Post-transition women have disfigured ourselves. They say we lord our status over others, i would like to see a quote that supports that, can you show me one?

Monica Helms amongst other pre/non-ops can't.


You say we "the White Post-Ops" have plenty of cash to on hand to have our surgeries. well being a person who lives below the poverty line I financed my surgery by eating lots of rice and beans, not partying every Friday night and saving my money. furthermore I did it on a disability pension and a 24 hour a week part time job.

SO i am sorry i really take exception to your assertions and find what you say not only playing the race card but just plain out right offensive.

With all due respect and i mean this kindly,
All i have to say to anybody who wants surgery is "get a part time job cut your expenses and save for a year or three like i did"

Take care
Susan Robins

Holy cow, what a callous thing to say. You'd make an excellent Republican presidential candidate.

MauraHennessey | January 26, 2008 8:17 PM

I begin to understand why my friend refuses to trans-identify or to become involved in trans-issues.

She would never deserve to be accused of holding on to white male priviledge. She would be rightfully angry at the accusation and the two of her close lesbian friends here with me tonight are already angry as am I.

While I don't agree with Sue's rationale, I must disagree with you somewhat, Monica, for other reasons.

Personally, speaking as a white transwoman who can't afford SRS, I find it's far less of a race thing than a class thing. Many white people are in poverty or are of limited means as well, and I think it's a bit shortsighted to define this particular issue by racial lines.

Sure, I'd have SRS if I could afford it, but I can't. Since coming out and beginning to live fulltime, I've been unemployed more than I've been working, and you can be sure it has a lot more to with my status as a transwoman than it does with the color of my skin. I'd also point out that this is in New Jersey, a state that has workplace protections for gender-variant people in place since last year, and has had them for transsexuals in particular since 2001.

While it's certainly true that a higher percentage of African-American transpeople are likely to have financial issues, it's a problem by no means limited to any particular race, especially when you're talking about fulltime transsexuals.

"One pattern I continue to see with some white post ops is that they blitz through the real life test and go straight to the table for surgery. They they wonder why and get mad because they spent $10K for a neocoochie and got 'sirred', while a non-op with five incles of neoclit in her lace panites gets treated as a female."

Excellent point. So many people don't get that no one else knows what's under other people's clothes; that surgery doesn't equal passing. That's why in these parts, transpeople are admonished to "Rush Slowly".

And I love "neocoochie". Well, the word, that is. I mean, I *do* like NC, but that wasn't my point. I also really like the phrase "after-market vagina", but this is my new favorite.

I have to admit, I don't know a lot of wealthy transgender men or women - black or white. Maybe that's just my experience, but I'd be more inclined to agree with Becky that it's more class-related than race.

But, I can totally see your analysis of the pre- vs post-op debate. After the past couple of weeks worth of pissy comments and name calling in a few threads, I'm personally sick of the debate. I know from the e-mails that I've gotten from other readers they are too.

Sadly, it turned an opportunity to teach into a reason to tune out. I'm glad your post provides some history and some middle-of-the-road analysis. I appreciate it.

Some of us don't know the ins and outs of the minute distinguishing characteristics these two groups have used to differentiate themselves. As I sat and watched the two groups of women tear each other apart, I simply thought, "You know, the first redneck mo-fo that came upon any of you in a dark alley would call all of you 'chicks with dicks' and beat the hell out of you." Perhaps instead of beating up on each other, they'll learn to look out for the common enemy - and that's not each other. :(

Good post.

MauraHennessey | January 26, 2008 10:14 PM

"Neo-coochie" and "after market vagina?" You deny the women of operative history their legitimacy as women. They don't earn it from surgery but by living as women. Not a member of the trans-anything caucus I am bowing out of this at this point but as a lesbian feminist I am appalled at what I am hearing and worse, the applause that it is generating.

I dislike the anger from both sides, but these scatologic swipes at these women smacks of the kinds of put downs that women in general get from misogynistic men.

Bil
actually i get along quite well with rednecks.
Never in my life have i had one call me anything other then lady or maaamm with the exception of a good friend back in the mid 70's who was a anti government survivalist type. he never knew this was a few years before the beginning of my paleo-transgender life.

Take care
Sue


Great article. I do agree, however, that the issue is probably more one of class than race (though, of course, these categories do overlap a good deal). There are, unfortunately, some people who just can't fathom the difficulty for a lower class person to get money for SRS (sure, you could be brave and go to Thailand for about $11K, but if you won't leave the U.S., as many people won't, you're looking at a cool $20K). On the other hand, I think the beef that some post-ops have is not the pre-ops/non-ops necessarily, but the people who believe in gender "deconstruction" and don't care to assimilate. They have every right to do so, of course, but there's no question that it's very difficult for mainstream society to understand and does reflect on us all.

Bruce Parker Bruce Parker | January 27, 2008 2:49 AM

It is always really predictable that when a person of color makes a statement that makes it seem like whiteness may actually mean certain things folks always do everything they can to shift that to being a male thing or a class thing. I don't disagree that social class is a huge factor in pre or post op status. I just think that it is silly denial to act like race and class aren't very closely linked.

Great post. I am really happy that we have your voice here with us.

"don't care to assimilate" - I am just not sure that assimilation is should be desired in any context.

" 'Neo-coochie' and 'after market vagina?' You deny the women of operative history their legitimacy as women. They don't earn it from surgery but by living as women. Not a member of the trans-anything caucus I am bowing out of this at this point but as a lesbian feminist I am appalled at what I am hearing and worse, the applause that it is generating.

I dislike the anger from both sides, but these scatologic swipes at these women smacks of the kinds of put downs that women in general get from misogynistic men.

Agreed.

Janis Walters | January 27, 2008 8:12 AM

Monica, I have enjoyed your contributions thus far at Bilerico and am glad you are on board. While I agree with a lot of your points today, I must admit I was a little put-off by the title and disappointed at the emphasis on race/class. Bil stated my feelings at this point quite eloquently - "After the past couple of weeks worth of pissy comments and name calling in a few threads, I'm personally sick of the debate."

I am getting really tired of the name calling, labeling, and self-righteous attitudes that have appeared in comments in the past few days. This whole pre/post/non-op debate causes major rifts within the TG/TS community at a time when we need to be focusing our efforts on uniting together to work for equality and justice. We will never be recognized as a viable segment of the LGBTQ equation if we can't learn to work together to educate and advocate for recognition and rights.

Last Monday, even though I am disabled and the temperature was well below freezing, I chose to walk over 3 miles through a predominately black area of the city as part of the Dr. Martin Luther King parade and carried a sign that simply stated, "Hate is not a family value" Many people gave me a pat on the back, shook my hand and cheered me on. We need to understand that hatred, labeling and name-calling are detrimental and will never gain us the equality we seek.

Namaste,
Janis

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | January 27, 2008 8:42 AM

Bil,

I, too, am getting tired of pissy comments. Rather than being a place for open and honest discussion, at times it seems that Bilerico is becoming an ideological lockdown where if you express an opinion that is deemed suspect, the political Borg swarm will descend and pick you to pieces.

That's neither fun nor engaging, just stultifying and exhausting.

I am so glad that you joined this blog, Monica. Thank you! Yours is a voice crying out in the wilderness.
Over the last couple of days, there have been some abusive and vitriolic comments that inflicted pain. Some of the viciousness was directed at other comments, but some was directed at entire groups because of where they are in life.
Somewhere in the Bible is the story of a runner. The runner is advised not to compare how fast he is with other runners because he will always find some who can run faster or farther than he can. He should compare what his best is with the very best he can do.
When we look at ourselves from this perspective without comparing ourselves to others, perhaps we can regain respect for one another in the T community. To do otherwise and to continue this accusatory divisive language will only prolong the day when we have hate crime and employment legislation.

My God, isn't this the truth. After learning a whole lot about trans-community in-fighting over the last few weeks here, it's good to get this quick run-down to make sure I picked up enough to understand it and to have some familiarity with where people are coming from.

Bruce makes a good point - when subjects of race are brought up it seems that the first reaction on the part of many people is to turn the discussions into only those of class, as if it can't be about both or neither or something else or everything.

In my small exposure to this argument, it sounds a whole lot like white privilege on the part of some of the post-op people - if you even try to advocate for anyone else's humanity you're attacking them because it means that their experiences aren't universal.

I was surprised how the discussion on Waymon's post, which was about the Religious Right's attack on an LGBT non-discrim bill in Florida, turned into this debate with several post-op transwomen
complaining that the discussion was indicative of "hatred" against them, how it proved that "trangender activists" were the enemy, etc. I was in the dark on the issue - I wondered how a bill that sought to protect all trans-people (no, it won't, but that was the intention) could have been read as an attack on post-op transwomen and how those who defended the legislation were part of some misogynist, trans-phobic brigade because they were opposed to genital checks in front of women's locker rooms.

It made little sense to me, outside of the context of a privilege that sees helping anyone else as an attack on them.

OK, now I'm going to step to the side-lines on this one because it's probably going to get out of hand again....

I think the beef that some post-ops have is not the pre-ops/non-ops necessarily, but the people who believe in gender "deconstruction" and don't care to assimilate. They have every right to do so, of course, but there's no question that it's very difficult for mainstream society to understand and does reflect on us all.
Lisa You bring up the same point i have in the past and while i respect a person's right to live as they wish i think it is vastly unfair that many not all will attack Post-transition folk for not supporting their agenda. I do need to point out that not all Pre-transition or transgenderists (non-op's) support deconstruction, i know a few who do not. They like the current state of things...

Being told that i am part of the problem is very intolerant because i happen to support current gender/sex roles. I can support what works for me and respect a person's desire to change things at the same time and there is no conflict in that position.

Take care
Sue

Alex

just two points;
I think that if we as a society are going to become a color blind society then we need to at some point stop playing the race card. I know of two post-transition women who adopt views opposite to Monica's views. while i respect Monica's views i can disagree with them without calling names or dropping snide sexist comments. In this day and age the US is very far into the acceptance stage of being a fully color blind country. Just look at who we have running for president this election season. Sooner or later everyone will have to put the issue of color behind them if we are to grow and tackle the next big social issue.

Lets hope it does not get out of hand.....

Take care
Sue

As a young trans-person who has only been exposed to the "community" "dialog" for less than a year, all this is very disheartening to me. I jumped into trans-politics full of hope and a idealistic vision for the future only to be repeatedly reminded that humans are selfish, mean, and non-tolerant toward difference. I guess my lingering question through all of this is if we are going to pretend there is a broader trans-community are we going to act like it and form a consensus around a clear vision and goals that together we can strive for, because I'm not sure that even exists. If we can't agree, then why do we bother to fight, its not getting us anywhere. I'm all about being critical, but why do we need to look immediately to what we disagree on, rather to what we do agree on. Anyone who disagreed with any aspect of Monica's post said nothing about how they may agree with her call for unity in the face of civil right protections. So validity should at least be given to this idea, and then maybe we can bicker about specifics, hopefully in a civil way. I'm sure its been said a hundred times, but why don't we put our similarities first, then worry about our differences when we are at least all protected from the rest of the populations hatred.

and another thought, I don't think colorblindness is the goal here, I think diversity is. We don't want to be a society who ignores difference, but one who respects it.

Bruce Parker Bruce Parker | January 27, 2008 11:56 AM

Sue,

I think it is terribly insensitive to think that we should be color blind or that we as a society are working toward being color blind. This ignores the lived experiences of so many Americans and even more importantly in some ways so many realities of our worlds. Race matters. Maybe it shouldn't but it does and a bunch of white people being "color blind" while it (in their mind) removes their responsibility to do anything about racial intolerance and discrimination only truly allows those systems to become reentrenched.

In my PhD program we spend a lot of time talking about how teachers understand racial, class, gender, and sexual orientation differences. The teachers who are "blind" to those differences do everyone a disservice. We need to see the richness of the lives of those who are different than us, we need to see the challenges of those same lives and if there are systems of hate or unfairness we need to work to change them.

It is a lot like straight people to me. It doesn't do me any good for a straight person to tell me that they don't think I am any different than them if they then don't vote for lgbt friendly candidates and don't acknowledge that my life is pretty dramatically different and part of that is because society hates people like me.

Thanks,

I disagree, Michael, I think there's plenty of political diversity here, but I think perhaps you see it that way because so many of us stand against the organization and the kind of politics you rise to defend so often.

What you call the Borg swarm, I call committed and engaged activists. Would that your friends on Rhode Island Avenue could see the difference as well.

Hi Sara

Great comment.
There is some common ground we all can agree on and it's sad it doesn't get enough mention. I think we all can agree that there needs to be guaranteed non discrimination in housing, employment, health care and in a host of other venues.

There is a line in the sand and it doesn't get enough discussion ether, i can sum up my perception of what this line is by the following.

One group of TS and Transgenderists (Non-Op TG etc..) wishes to work with society on it's own terms. This group is happy living in traditional gender/sex roles. This group includes a very diverse group of TG/TS identified people.

The other group wants to reconstruct gender/sex roles and status in society and remake society into a unisex society. This group is made of the same types of people as the first group only their philosophy differ.

Some people say the first group has some degree of privilege the ladder group doesn't have my experience tends to show otherwise. I have known homeless women who pulled themselves up by their boot straps working in the sex trade who have had surgery and made a life for themselves. one person i know who lived in the back room of a business owned by a friend. she saved money and ate beans and rice to save the money for surgery.

While class plays a part from what i have seen a small part motivation plays a larger part the success of transwomen in both groups. It bears mentioning in ether group there is a large portion who believe genital re constructive surgery is not necessary for a healthy high quality life.
There are just as many Post-transition women who want to deconstruct gender/sex roles in society as those who are comfortable with the current paradigm.


Note:
I am not well informed on issues and the lives of transmen so i cannot speak for their experience. That i defer to the qualified amongst us.


I hope this helps to explain one view of the landscape that makes up the TG/TS communities.
Take care
Sue

I said I was going to stay off this thread after I said my bit, but let's modify that and say it meant that I was just going to stay off the topic of the post on this thread.

Sue? You know what? I don't really care what you think about my beliefs or politics. "Snide sexist comments"? What in the world? Is it even possible for you to engage in any sort of honest discussion?

You've been confronted on several other threads about direct contradictions in things you've said and pretty bald-faced lies you've told and your response is always to lie more, contradict yourself further, or just attack the people who call you out on it.

Lets hope it does not get out of hand.....

What the hell? The only time they get out of hand, Sue, is when you make them get out of hand. And I mean "you" as you personally - not transsexuals, not post-ops, not people who speak their minds, not Californians, not commenters, not anyone besides *you* singularly and *you* individually.

You know, the best way to handle people like you is to just ignore them, I know. And that's my policy from here on out. But I just wanted to clear that up unless you think that I might care about anything you have to say about me.

actually Alex...
the snide sexist comments reference was not directed toward you but Monica Helms.

I hope we can get past this misunderstanding.

You've been confronted on several other threads about direct contradictions in things you've said and pretty bald-faced lies you've told and your response is always to lie more, contradict yourself further, or just attack the people who call you out on it.
without proof i cannot address this. sorry..

I am sorry you feel that way.

I sure would like to see where i am such a liar and contradict myself.

Have a nice day Alex.

Take care
Sue


If you skipped over it, please go back and read comment number 18.

There's profound wisdom contained in it.

The writer seems to be wise beyond her young age.

I hope she doesn't become discouraged with all of this. I share her hope that some day soon we will be able to get past all this pointless bickering, and become a unified community in our struggle for basic human rights. We just have to.

Monica?

I love the way you write. I love your take on the issue. I don't know enough about trans-politics and of course need to read more but your points, from what I have read on this site, seem to be absolutely right on.

And as for neocoochie and after market vagina? everyone complaining needs to read the whole piece. it's perfect, funny, playful and fits the tone of the piece.

settle down, and see the art for the art, please.

And sue robbins? I'm not going to read or respond to anything you post on trans issues. I'm not trying to be disrespectful, but I think Michael and Bil are right- total reader fatigue. but the exhaustion I have comes from reading the multiple responses you make. once is enough.

We all know where you stand.

Monica? you are a breath of fresh air. thank you!

People are different --- imagine that! Instead of trying to prove that your way of going through life is better than someone else's, learn to appreciate there is a lot of diversity, especially in the trans community.

Monica, thank you.

Monica is - as always - dead on. The fact is that while may *also* be a class issue, it very much *is* specifically a race issue. Having spent some significant time around transwomen of color I can attest that the Great Debate pretty much just never comes up. They tend to have much more pragmatic concerns such as, oh, actual civil rights and real survival. Evidently white transwomen of a generally broad background - often huffily denied with varying claims of their own struggles, in the same breath as they deride the actual experiences of anyone else - have more leisure to waste on ideology.

As a white transwoman who has frequently engaged in that debate, I do not exempt myself from critique.

And thank you Alex, for your own perspective. You confirm what I've suspected for some time, that from the outside we (and I mean all of us) look like a barrel of squabbling shrews.

Sue,

You claim to be misquoted or misrepresented whenever someone points out your inconsistencies and dismiss any claims until they have proof. But after you accused me of taking your argument out of context, I carefully found all the appropriate quotes, cited them so the full context can be seen, and very clearly offered you the "proof" you insist upon. And then... silence. No response from you, despite your continued responses on the thread.

If you want to have a shred of credibility when claiming to be misrepresented or misquoted, go to http://transadvocate.com/transphobia/with-apologies-to-radical-feminists.htm, search for "your legal sex" to pull up my comment, and clarify what "misrepresentation" you think is happening.

monica,

i think you did an excellent job of presenting the situation. i am so sick of trans women attacking each other verbally, as if we somehow caused all of this discrimination against us by ourselves. as far as the terms neo-coochie and the like, LOL you made me laugh. personally, i just think of it as my "cooter". LOL i love it! tight pants give me the camel toe! WTF, it's just us girls talking! why get offended? finally, i agree with your solution. being a trasgender or transsexual woman just means we are women. we have to stay united,or get united, and sooner better than later. there are a lot of people out there that hate us all - no matter if we pass flawlessly, have surgery, or whatever. post-ops, just think about christie littleton for a minute before you lay down on those surgical laurels. if we don't care about each other, who will? monica, i love you and everyone take care and be well...

to the person who said
"The issue is Non Ops who take issue with Post-ops who have blended into mainstream society."

No the issue is that people continue to define "mainstream" as not including the gay and trans community.
We should all work to allow ALL people who are not killers, rapists or abusers to be part of "mainstream" society.
To "forget your roots" as being trans is not only completely self-centered, but also self-delusional.
You WERE another gender/sex at one time, and to act as if you were not is like erasing your whole life and being a blank minded robot waiting to be programmed.
The experiences in your male life, the earlier part of your life, are what shaped your personality, your world view, and ultimately, your decision to change genders.
To try and forget that is mentally very unhealthy.

Also, I agree that it is more of a class issue than a race issue, we must admit that ,sadly, at least in the US, our society's "classes" are still divided heavily along racial lines.

So it is not far off what is said in this article, because she does say "usually" and "most of the time", and talks about rushing to surgery as a trend.
She never says "always" or "All white trans post-ops".
MOST people of color DO have less money than MOST whites, read the census.