Vaginal Discourse

Okay, so that <3 thingy doesn’t work so well when you’re using bad-assed web typography. Still.

If you’ve followed Bitch magazine over the years (and if you haven’t, you need to start, like, yesterday), you know they’ve had pretty consistent financial struggles. Unfortunately, that’s just part of the reality that most small-to-medium-to-not-gargantuan print media find themselves in.

Bitch needs your help again.

Lemme offer up two reasons why Bitch is near and dear to me. First, I’m a writer. (And by extension, I’m a reader.) Bitch is one of the reasons why. I’ve been fortunate to have some amazing people encourage me to share my writing, but even before that started happening, I met Bitch at my local feminist bookstore.

Love

Ninety-six pages of smart writing about things that I cared about were waiting for me inside. Holy crap, there were people writing about things I had actually been thinking about for months. Television! Music! That asshole on the bus who keeps staring at me! Better yet, most of the writers were women. A lot of them were young, like me. Some of them were huge queers. Hooray!

I have no idea how many other writers Bitch has inspired over the years, let alone how many it might in the future. And for those of us who are writing, Bitch is an important outlet. My friends need bread and readers, yo.

And let’s be frank Read more…

On Monday, I heard an NPR piece about the new, “less revealing” full body scanners TSA in rolling out. As a radical, queer, feminist trans woman who teaches environmental science, my ears perked up when I heard a TSA spokesperson say the following:

After someone comes through the machine, they see the very same thing that the officer sees. And that is, no image of a passenger but instead a generic outline of a human body indicating where the anomaly is. [Emphasis mine]

Anomaly, eh?

Noun
anomaly (plural anomalies)
1. A deviation from a rule or from what is regarded as normal.

Oh, the academic discussions I’ve had over what constitutes “normal” and/or “natural.” While I think I get what the spokesperson was saying (explosives are unacceptably deviant), I have to say the whole piece troubled me.

Yesterday, Bilerico reported on the scanners, citing the National Center for Transgender Equality’s concerns:

Pink and blue buttons appear to be used to commence scanning for travelers. It appears that TSA officers need to select a pink or blue “scan” button based on their perception of a traveler’s gender. The new software may identify “anomalies” based on gender-atypical anatomy, rather than only targeting foreign objects. This may be a security trigger which would lead to an invasive pat-down, potentially embarrassing questions and in some cases, biased harassment. NCTE urges the TSA to provide greater clarity for the public on how the new scans work.

Pink and blue buttons? Are you fucking kidding me? That’s not good at all.

The software changes also don’t address the concerns of other groups. It may help or hinder travel for people who carry medically necessary devices or for people of certain faith traditions. For example, questions remain about how the new software detects medical devices like urine pouches, or religious wear like the kirpan, an ornamental weapon, required to be worn by orthodox Sikhs.

Damn straight. I find our security state unacceptable, period. As is always the case, the oppressive burden of “protecting” society is falling on those of us whom society deems as unacceptably deviant. No amount of re-tooling is going to change that fact.

Nona Willis Aronowitz and Dylan Lathrop have made an impressive graphic showing the lifelong financial costs of each of the eight preventive services* that the Institutes of Medicine recommends that all women receive for free. It turns out “the cost of being a woman” (exclusive of everything beyond these eight services) potentially runs to the tens of thousands of dollars. It’s a scary chart.

Still, there’s something that’s been bugging me about the recent focus on these eight procedures. It’s blatantly obvious to me that any civilized society should give all its members free access to said services. Absolutely. It’s also clear to me that getting these services covered for all women is the best outcome any of us can hope for these days. It’s an incremental approach, but it’s an incremental approach that will save lives and save many women tens of thousands of dollars.

So this is the part where I don’t play Oppression Olympics. There are lots of other conditions (that often enough intersect with womanhood) that are at least as expensive as the “list of eight.” The people with these conditions also may not have the money to pay for their medical care. Any civilized society should also cover the cost of their medical bills.

All medical care should be available to all people and should cost them what they can afford to pay. There are folks like me trying to crowdsource their medical bills. There are charitable foundations that pay for some folks’ care. But ultimately, the solution is to tax people and corporations based on their ability to give, and use the money to make sure that all people are healthy.

I’m not suggesting that anyone who’s eager to see these eight procedures be available for free is arguing against the position I outlined above. Nay, I think we’re mostly trying to do the best we can given a morally bankrupt approach to medical care. However, I dearly hope that when (Maude willingly) these procedures are available for free, society doesn’t forget about other medical needs.


*Diabetes Screening
HPV Testing
IUD Insertion
HIV Counseling
Lactation Support
Hormonal Birth Control
Sterilization
Domestic Abuse Counseling

I thought it would be only natural to start a blogaround of notable news and commentary. I’m not sure how frequently or regularly this feature will appear, but I’m currently aiming for once a week. I’m also looking for a good title, although I have to admit, “Face the Vulva” is definitely growing on me.

If y’all have news, links, or ideas for a guest posts (or fundraising ideas, for that matter), comment away!

Joelle Ruby Ryan recently wrote about traveling while fat and transgenderqueer.

There’s actually a nifty advice column on About.com talking about ableism, breast cancer, and sexuality. (Via @ Scartleteen)

Juliet Jacques’ latest column at The Guardian explores passing as a cis women while out and about.

Our Bodies Ourselves has a link to Stephen Colbert’s takedown of the recent Summer’s Eve debacle.

Adam Polaski at Bilerico reports that the US Department of Health and Human Services is reconsidering its homophobic (and transphobic) blood donation policy.

The Ms. Blog previews a new book: Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex.

The Ms. Blog also noticed that Michelle Obama’s milkshake was in the news this week for some reason.

Morgan Page is over at Pretty Queer, where she’s discussing transmisogyny in Toronto’s queer scene.

Lastly, I award a spontaneous Tweet of the Moment award to Martha Plimpton for:

My vagina is a mysterious bog wherein lives a tiny green man who dispenses wise advice, albeit with poor grammar.

Yesterday, I was listening to midwife extraordinaire Ina May Gaskin on the Diane Rehm Show.

One of the things that struck me is that American medicine’s childbirth orthodoxy essential boils down to: ‘Women’s* bodies, what the fuck is wrong with them?’

I first heard about Gaskin when my partner and I were studying for the birth of our daughter. This was a few months before our then obstetrician informed us that the fetus in my partner’s belly was getting “too big” and something “needed to be done.”

Of course, women have been giving birth for ages. Gaskin, along with other midwives, doulahs and other traditionally female birth attendants have witnessed countless births. They’ve got a pretty good sense for how childbirth works.

This is not to say that I (or Gaskin, for that matter) am opposed to Western medical technology. However, I think it’s startling to consider a system that frequently treats women’s bodily processes as anomalous.


*This isn’t to say that trans* men and [other] gender non-conforming people don’t also give birth. However, cis women make up an overwhelming proportion of pregnant people. If the tables were turned, and cis men were the ones giving birth, I have a hard time imagining that medical science would be as quick to assume that their bodies were behaving in unhealthy ways.

I’m terrified that if I go a day without a post, this whole blog will disappear or something.

In that spirit, here’s a picture of my cat that succinctly sums up my feelings about the weather:

Sleepy cat is sleeping in the window.

[Trigger warning for street harassment]

I just wanted to let y’all in on an exotic part of the trans* experience.

Let’s say the heat index i..OH MY FUCKING GOD. If you’re a cis dude, there’s a good chance you don’t need to worry about accidentally flashing your chest. For that matter, in a lot of settings it’s totally okay to wear clothes that reveal you have a wang and/or or balls, because it’s not like you’re sporting some kind of nasty cameltoe, amirite?

If you’re the kind of person who has breasts, you’re probably not going to risk exposing them to the breeze. Even in places where that sort of thing is [NSFW] legal, you’re likely to get a stern talking to from the authorities.

Based on my experiences (along with those of approximately half a bazillion other women), random assholes are also probably going to say all sorts of assholish things to you if you’re wearing a perfectly reasonable amount of clothing for a leisurely stroll on the surface of the sun.

If you’re trans*, there’s a decent chance even if (nay, especially if) you’re not wearing much, you’ll be binding or tucking parts of your body with tight, non-breathable fabrics. This is not comfortable.

However, consider the alternative: allowing strangers (and yourself) to see parts of your body that you’d rather not be there. As a trans* woman, there’s the added bonus of having strangers make loud comments about the fact that you’re a presumably cissexual woman that they, definitely assholish men, happen to approve of, only to make subsequent, louder comments about the fact that you’re a trans woman that they, still assholes, most definitely do not approve of. I soooooooooo do not recommend this.

Basically, what I’m saying is that if you see people on the street wearing some amount of clothing while also having bodies, you should keep your thoughts and your hands to yourself.

Last month, a Calgary radio station announced a contest where women could compete for free breast implants by submitting a photo and a personal statement. Predictably, reviews were, um, mixed. Last week, Amp Radio selected ten finalists, from which online voters chose a winner.

The votes are in. Avery, a Calgary trans woman, won the ten-way contest with seventy-six percent of all votes cast. Beautiful.

This is how we work the system.

Societies are not generally open to paying trans* people’s medical bills. Those of us who live in the United States aren’t guaranteed health insurance. To the extent that we might have our own insurance, the corporations that profit from us typically don’t pay for the care we need. Medicaid and Medicare don’t cover our needs, even for qualifying individuals.

While Canadian society generally views health care as a fundamental human right, various governmental agencies determine what “health care” actually means. Some provinces (like Alberta) don’t cover SRS/GRS at all. It’s pretty typical for politicians to treat trans* people’s bodies as budget lines and political footballs. Thus, it’s never clear what various provinces will pay for at various points in time.

Toying with trans* people’s lives is not a uniquely Canadian phenomenon. There are places that have “universal” health care that only allows an outlandishly low number of trans* people to access services each year. Some places have “universal” health care, but force trans* people to conform to narrow standards and submit to horrific psychological evaluations as a condition of their care. Often enough, both of these conditions exist simultaneously. Read more…

Five years ago today, my wife and I got married in the rotunda of the Wisconsin State Capitol (long story). According to tradition, this means we’re supposed to give each other wood. I’ll be sure to let y’all know how that works out.

Our relationship is pretty bad-assed. We’ve known each other for eleven years. We’ve been dating for a decade. Somewhere in there, we both came out.

Last June, I had the brilliant idea of writing a series of essays explaining the whole thing in celebration of our fourth anniversary. So be on the lookout for that. Eventually.

Why the fuck, you ask, should anyone care about any of this?

First off, we’re badasses.

But second, and probably more importantly, is that our story disrupts pernicious narratives about people who are trans*, and/or intersex, and/or disabled, and/or fat, and/or whatever. From what I’ve seen from popular culture, to the extent that people like us exist, we’re alone and unhappy. Sure, like all people, some of us are alone and unhappy. However, some of us are alone and happy. And then there are some of us love and are loved by amazing people.

Sometimes people are in love with each other for many years, irrespective of society’s tired memes. It can be fucking awesome and even vice versa. So now you know.

From Planned Parenthood:

On July 21, 2011, we’re teaming up with the National Women’s Law Center to host a Birth Control Matters
blog carnival to discuss birth control accessibility. Bloggers across the web are invited to weigh in on this important issue.

This summer, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) will issue its recommendation on women’s preventive health care and whether it includes birth control. The final decision on this important aspect of health care reform will be made by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). If the HHS concludes that women’s preventive health care includes birth control, it will be covered by new health plans without a co-payment — a major victory for women’s health!