Sunday, April 30, 2023

The cultural conservative

There are a number of studies pointing to the tendency of some people to hold conservative views versus progressive ones. Here I refer to cultural issues as opposed to fiscal because it is clearly possible to be a frugal liberal and not have it be an oxymoron.

After observing society over the years, the overwhelming conclusion one reaches is that fear is a major driving factor. People who tend to be fearful of change are more prone to hold conservative views and when that is paired with lack of intellectual curiosity and education, we can see how difficult it is to dissuade them from their deeply held but often erroneous conclusions.

Human history is replete with resistance to cultural progress and yet at each flash point these same people do not recognize themselves within it. The civil rights battles to defeat segregation used much the same argumentation against black people as is now used against LGBTQ people. Before that it was resistance to women voting and so on. 

Misinformation and paranoia are allowed to spread uncontrollably until the fire is put out and society adjusts. Thus we can draw the conclusion that the masses are well stocked with simpletons who can be manipulated and no better example of this than the Trump era and its erascible and unflinching base as proof that there is no shortage of dullards.

The remedy of course is critical thinking and education both of which are perenially in short supply. So we will wait this latest moral panic out until the next one rears its ugly head.

Self improvement

Our ideas about ourselves can morph even over the course of the same week and we can be so self critical that the flagelation exceeds the gravity of the crime commited. This is something to be worked on particularly if you tend towards excessive self analysis as I do.

Understanding how our past affects us is pivotal here and phobias or fixations developed in childhood will be particularly persistent to eradication. In working through them there can be much frustration when we don't see the amount of progress we would like.

I think it helps us to realize we are deeply flawed creatures prone to reversals because that way we can forgive the missteps. When our only goal is to always move forward and do the right thing we can be looser and more forgiving of inherent flaws. Hence we can embrace imperfection while still shooting for improvement and know we won't reach the high bar.

I endeavor to work on this more and more.

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Pierrette

Pierrette is a vivacious woman in her mid 70's who used to work in aerospace. We met while I was having coffee at a public market and hit it off from the get go. She has vibrant intelligent eyes which are full of positivity and you can see in conversation how much she relishes life. I asked how well she had adjusted to her own retirement and the conversation just flowed from there.

I have never made a habit of telling people I am trans because it is not relevant. Hence I have no need to correct pronouns or explain my history. If they detect something they are welcome to ask and I will happily answer which removes a layer of worry that used to perturb me greatly. That shedding has reflected very positively on my demeanor. What this translates to is that I am very nice to people but my confidence, were it ever to be required, can also give off a vibe that says it might be unwise to perturb me.

We do not owe people information because we are not apologizing for existing and there are no laws being broken. Many trans people (in particular those who are older and not transitioned) have so much deeply buried stigma around the issue of gender that they almost feel they are committing some form of contravention. As a result their movements and facial expressions will betray them in public; something I was personally very familiar with in my youth.

Hence I will see Pierrette on some Friday which is her day to be there, and we will once again engage in conversation. 

Be who you are.

Shipwrecks

Once we have loved and lost we are never the same afterwards and there is scar tissue left behind reminding us that we need to protect ourselves from being quite so exposed. If we are wise we will draw lessons from it since it is an arena so steeped in the purely emotional.

We human beings have a spotted history of success with love and there are countless shipwrecks which dot the landscape. In the end even those who stay together hobble along and often count on mutual lived experience as glue to counteract the occasional instinct to flee. Here the mundane requirements of life also act as distraction.

With age there is usually more reticence to being so vulnerable because the memory of the sting does not easily dissipate. If we are brave enough we might tempt fate again and reimmerse ourselves in those waters but this time with more caution and less childlike belief in the concept of the mythical soul mate.

There is no perfect formula however, and those who so value their freedom in the single life, sometimes sit alone mired in deep and lonely thought on a Saturday evening; pining for where the grass is greener.

Welcome to the human race.

Friday, April 28, 2023

Gender Trouble


 

To the lions

Our current geopolitical battles involve pushing back against an encroaching global appetite for totalitarianism. The idea that one leader and one set of ideas can be counted on to lead a populace has been attempted before to disastrous effect. When people see their governments failing them they are tempted to storm the Bastille and remove the perpetrators who let led them to suffer.

Neoliberalism failed us and the idea that we could count on fairness to adjust our markets and our societies was an error. People who lost livelihoods were never retrained but simply left to the mercy of economic structures which had no room for charity.

The US became the most extreme laboratory which proved the failure of the unfettered free market. As the middle class shrunk under the weight of stagnant wages and increasing automation, there was no safety net there to rescue them. Capitalists took their winnings and pocketed them thus proving that nothing ever really trickles down. Hence the new fascination among some for a new twisted brand of theocratic fascism.

This failure increases the appetite among the masses for false populism and people who do not understand what is happening to them fall prey to despots. It's a story as old as humanity itself. But societies will readjust as they did in the early stages of the 20th century, however not before the many innocent are fed to the lions. Just as they always are.

If I am concerned it's not for me but for my children but then I tell myself that every generation comes with its challenges.

The next chapter

Even if we wouldn't ever go back, being retired isn't immediately obvious. You have been working for over 3 decades in a challenging career and suddenly you plunge into the void. You also have grown children with their own busy lives and suddenly it's just you staring into the mirror.

As a trans person I distracted myself for years through work, parenting and social activities which allowed me to focus attention away from my dysphoria. Now I have the time to explore whatever aspects remain and not previously adequately dealt with. Those distractions are gone and the little odds and ends which inhabit your skeleton closet are suddenly demanding examination as you ponder the past and how you got to this junction.

I am full of hope and positive energy and yet I can see how some people get depressed when entering this new and last chapter of life. There is plenty of opportunity to relive key moments of it and what you might have done differently.

Life is only lived forward with no assurances that each move of the chess piece will render an expected outcome. We are creatures more of reflexive instinct than calculated tactic because at our core we are more motivated by our emotional needs than the rational.

Patience with the self is what is required here. That and the gathered wisdom of knowing that certain distractions we used to employ in our youth did not lead to where we had expected or ultimately desired.

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Our place on the spectrum

I was on the record in my old blog that the term "trans umbrella" is a bit of a misnomer and that this concept is better described as the gender variance spectrum. It would encompass all forms of divergence in gender expression and identity from an expected societal norm and would include trans people who fall more on the identity side. For those who practice gender expression with no particular desire to be the other sex we could employ the term "cisgender gender variance" (thank you Jack Molay) to describe what is essentially benign gender bending some of which may be driven by arousal patterns (but need not be).

Making this distinction is not about discriminating but rather about helping people remove stigma about who they are and to develop an appropriate response. For example, some older trans people hide behind the term "crossdressing" while others self describe as trans just to be spared internalized shame about simply enjoying wearing women's clothing which, as of the writing of this post, is not a criminal offense although it regretably once was. Thus if you have never seriously considered transition, this could be a significant indicator for you that cross gender expression timed to suit your needs is all you need to be happy.

Understanding where you fit under this spectrum of gender variance is only made more confusing by the amount of opinion in social media circles which tends to obfuscate the topic. Since no two people are alike, viewing someone else's transition video won't necessarily help you determine what you should do only that in can be tempting to overstate where you might lie. Being a feminine man or a masculine woman (both of which are plentiful in this world) also need not be an indicator one is trans.

I continue to firmly believe that the presence of gender dysphoria is the key indicator with regards to entering the trans end of the spectrum. This is a condition one is born with and which cannot be easily ignored lest your health suffer. Ideally it should be treated somehow and our research tells us that it responds quite well to range of options which typically span social to medical transition. 

If you saw specific signs relating to your gender identity prior to entering puberty, it's a good clue that you might be trans. However there is still no shortcut in understanding where you fit unless you happen to be one of those trans kids who by age 4 does not take no for an answer; someone who Harry Benjamin would have termed a high intensity transsexual. The rest of us have to unfortunately fend with prolonged introspection since dysphoria also tends to be graded.

It is not an accident that this subject is so complex since it involves us complicated humans. But if we think long and hard enough, an answer along with the right level of response will eventually come to us if we are patient.

Even then, life is complicated.

Who knew.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Stain

The wheels are starting to fall off the FOX News bus which only bodes well for American democracy. Dominion voting systems won its defamation case and now Tucker Carlson will need to find another haunt from which to spew his right wing propaganda. Smartmatic is next up on the litigation front and they are asking for a bigger sum than Dominion.

The term "Woke" seems to be the current flavor of the month for the perennially flustered American conservative who cannot comprehend why their society is evolving. To distract their obedient sheep, they will cancel companies intent on breaking rules which defined their battery limits for a civilized society. Since people aren't students of history they do not recognize their own behaviour as being endemic to the resistance experienced at each key milestone of major societal change.

I continue to have hope for the American experiment because the upcoming generations hold more progressive values which makes me think positive change is coming. Yes, the re-election of Biden is a milquetoast compromise but at least he will keep the ship steady until a younger politician can enter the presidential arena.

Ultimately the Trump era will be remembered as a stain on the country but one it had to live through in order to finally cleanse itself of the worst instincts of the white boomer.

Solar system

A family is it's own solar system with no two alike. The old expression is that one chooses their friends but not their family and connections between the members can be as destructive or sustaining as circumstances permit. Human beings in their complex construction interact within this structure while trying to maintain their unique identities. Our psyches deal with personal hurts and joys and we feel different levels of confidence in opening ourselves and the risks inherent in sharing them.

With age I have found that a certain healthy distancing from my own solar system benefited me as perhaps being the oldest brought with it expectations I cared to no longer fulfill. More appropriately I would say I could not. For families come with expectations entrenched in lived history and trying to remove them is no easy feat. Here is where the pandemic provided me an unexpected respite.

If we have spent any significant portion of our lives playing a role, leaving the stage may not be obvious but sometimes it must be done if we are to be whole. For in the end we are the ones responsible for our own happiness and all the other members of the family for theirs. If you have a penchant for helping others before yourself there comes a time when you must take priority and tend to your own little wounds.

Retirement has a way of leaving you much time to reflect on your life, and in so doing you can trace your previous steps so clearly. The exercise being less about bemoaning past mistakes and more about coalescing them into a life lesson which allows you to hopefully move forward with increased perspective.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

The criticals

Helen Joyce, Posie Parker and Kathleen Stock are all members of a gender critical movement which wants to emphasize that sex and gender are not ever separable concepts. Their idea is to emphatically deny that trans identities are valid in order to deny them rights in society by saying that the existence of trans women in particular threatens the status of biological women. Joyce and Parker are both on record in their use of language which borders on the genocidal. Such is their almost ecclesiastical belief against the right of trans people to even exist.

I watched a video recently where Kathleen Stock (who is a philosophy professor) debated economics professor Deirdre McKloskey in front of a mostly hostile audience to the latter. Mckloskey, who fully transitioned in 1995, held her own but was clumsy in beating back argumentation which was skewed towards biological reality rather than in the nuances inherent in how one detects personal gender identity so early in childhood development (which is the case in most transsexuals).

Observing that Stock is a biological woman and McKloskey is not, changes nothing in the lives of either person once the debate is over which underscores how lived experience is far more relevant than what chromosomes reveal about us. In other words, the framing of gender criticals is about who can birth and what genitals one is born with than about what makes one identify a certain way.

In addition, the tiny percentage of trans people (made even smaller by those who go through to full medical transition) makes the gender critical movement argumentation all the more needlessly alarmist. They are of course disingenously factoring in the gender variance spectrum which has greatly been made visible in the last decade and using that as additional leverage. The fact that some people feel comfortable identifying as non-binary or gender non-conforming horrifies them and allows them to paint everyone with the same brush.

Once again, nuance and intelligence are jettisoned in favor of dogmatic hyperbole which is a shame.






Growth

Shyness and being different do not make good bedfellows. Life demands that we burn off insecurity for survival and being overwhelmed with this affliction does not lend itself towards that goal. With age we gain experience and hopefully also insight into the value of living authentically without fear of prejudice.

We all succeed to varying degrees and at different stages of life to break away from the fear of judgement. Necessity may finally force our hand because failure to do so is the more painful option and afterwards we may then marvel at why we did not act sooner.

Personal growth cannot be rushed and each stage is left to stew in its own juices until some relevant nugget of truth is extracted. Without introspection we do not necessarily wither but then we also do not progress. 

Today I am a better version of myself but it wasn't easy getting here and even then there are still all kinds of warts to eliminate.

All in due course.

Monday, April 24, 2023

Vantage point

Its either all or nothing isn't it?

Some trans people know they needed to transition to save their mental and physical health while some who detransitioned talk about how it ultimately wasn't for them. Neither experience is invalid however because it is not a zero sum game and the fact that transition is right for some and not for others should not surprise anyone.

The framing from each corner would have you believe otherwise as each advocate talks from their own vantage point which is as unique as the stars in the heavens. The reality is that there isn't one answer; there is only your answer.

Transphobes point to detransitioners as proof that being trans is a fallacy which is of course disingenous because this would mean everyone who stayed transitioned was living a lie and only pretending to be happy. But then their objective is to throw the baby out with the bath water and not employ nuance when discussing the issue.

There are different ways to express your gender and for some it doesn't take more than a change of clothing to connect to another facet of themselves. That for others this does not work should not surprise because the permutations are so numerous; just like the stars.

Everyone has a vantage point and uses it to state their conviction regarding this issue but no one has that unique ability to live inside another person's skin. At least not yet.

dog chases car

Critical thinking is a quality sorely lacking in our world and with social media leveling the playing field we could say it is an era which even celebrates ignorance. Today you don't need to do your homework but simply yell louder than the next person and be much more emphatic.

But given this is something I cannot change I am committing to doing my own small part to educate. I will no longer become indignant because for every convert there are 2 more waiting in the wings. People live by their dogmas no matter how unfounded and it often takes tremendous effort to knock them off their perch. That crazy relative who gets their news and ideology from Facebook isn't going to be swayed when both pride and lack of critical thinking plague them.

To avoid radicalization we need to make things better for people which is how they will be convinced. If both their economic situation and quality of life improve they can perhaps be brought back from the precipice of conspiratorial ideology.

Marjorie Taylor Greene perhaps best exemplifies the conspiracy nut subsisting on grievance loose in the political arena and, like the dog chasing a car, she wouldn't know what to do with once faced with needing to provide concrete solutions.

With the utmost respect to the dog of course.



Sunday, April 23, 2023

Read all about it

The Daily Wire is Ben Shapiro's right wing propaganda network. It employs people like Matt Walsh, Candace Owens, Michael Knowles and Jordan Peterson who expound on the evils of left wing encroachment on our civilized society and warn of impending doom should we fail to resist. Cultural progress is particularly offensive with trans issues being its worst example of moral decay and these malcontents will disregard well established medical guidelines and our limited science to preach for eradication of a trans "ideology" which cannot be permitted to flourish.

Expertise need not apply here of course but rather indignation at remaking the landscape in a way that offends judeo-christian sensibilities of what a man and woman are and most importantly should be. There is no subtlety permitted because a sacrosanct orthodoxy cannot allow for doubt. Thus even the intersex are regarded as defectives to be pitied and repaired into binary normalcy rather than as expected variants of a universe which abhors uniformity.

There is no fixing these people because they aren't interested in any useful discourse which might sway them. As Contrapoints points out in her latest video on JK Rowling and the gender critical movement, they must be defeated in the court of public opinion as well as the political arena.



Malaise

This post-pandemic period of history is markedly turbulent. Mirroring the start of the previous century, there is a malaise fed by social injustice and a backlash particularly from the white baby boomer who fears the new unknown. Society is in transition and they don't like it  which once again stokes the embers of fascism in places we did not expect.

Meanwhile the stochastic terrorism of social media platforms like Twitter feeds into the belittling one's enemy producing no redeeming outcomes. We have opened pandora's box and cannot close it again but at least we distract each other with platitudes and selfies which inhibits getting to the root of our real problems. These include being more isolated than ever and deeply cynical of our institutions. With each opinion having equal weight, objective truth need not matter.

I try to stay optimistic in spite of everything because human beings always seem to find ways to reinvent themselves and the pendulum will swing back somehow.

Or so I like to tell myself.

Saturday, April 22, 2023

To begin again

The old blog had run its course. I was pushing 60, on the cusp of retirement and life was now different. Plus, I needed a break and deleting my blog in error turned out to be a blessing because I felt I had outgrown it. I had changed so much since I began it.

Writing is still useful to me and starting again on a new platform seems appropriate. More than ever, I want to write as a person who just happens to be trans because there is so much more to me than that. It is just one facet of what makes me whole.

I am perturbed by the recent backlash against the trans community and those who live full time must bear the greatest brunt particularly if they do not blend by society's standard into the landscape. They serve as convenient scapegoats for the ignorance and stupidity that drive so many in this world.

I don't know how often I will post here but that does not matter since I am not in any great hurry. I simply want to think and observe and so I shall.

The burbs