Locally Sourced Privilege and Oppression

6 02 2016

In September 2015, I participated in the 30 Days Social Justice blog series as proposed by my friend and mentor, Rev. Gina Pond. You can find there here on doubleinvert and on the blog for my ministry, The Barc of the Blue Bard. One of the topics was Body Shame/Policing, which I addressed from the point of view of being transgender. That post included the following paragraph:

I’ve encountered many in the trans communities who will deny the concept of the privilege of passing for cis, based on the fact that this privilege often comes after a great deal of expense and work. This is completely true: there are those persons who do invest a great deal of time, money, and effort into passing. This can often be for their own safety, because there are cis persons who will violently police the bodies of trans persons. If we don’t pass, we can be in lethal danger. So those who can pass are indeed afforded a measure of safety and this is indeed a privilege. So, being able to pass can prevent cis persons from policing the bodies of trans persons.

I was living in San Mateo, CA, when my transition began in January 2011. In late August 2014, I moved to Berkeley and then to San Leandro with my partner in December 2014. Since moving to the East Bay that August, the amount of cissexism (transphobia) that I’ve encountered has increased dramatically, and it’s been happening more and more lately. So much so, that my nerves are starting to get frayed. As I also mentioned in my Body Shame/Policing blog post, I can still pass for male, if need be. But, I don’t want to. I’m really lamenting that I got rid of my breastforms and the pocket bras I used with them, as the cissexism and misgendering was at an all-time minimum when I used them. Why? because it sent the necessary visual cues for those who were able to perceive them that I was to be addressed as woman. And, no, it’s not just men who harass me. It’s women, too.

I maintain that being able to pass for cis is an effort that results in privilege. I maintain this point of view as I’ve experienced it first-hand. This regional increase demonstrates, to me, that privilege and oppression can and does vary depending on one’s location. And those who believe that the San Francisco Bay Area — sometimes called the Gay Area — is some kind of paradise for all persons who are gender-expansive or gay/bi/what-have-you has taken leave of their intellects. Cissexism and heterosexism are most lethally alive and well here.

MAD: Misgendering and Dysphoria

3 02 2016

Bras and camis of any kind have this odd ability to both help treat and contribute to my dysphoria. They’re a reminder of the development that hormone replacement therapy really hasn’t given me (which contributes to the problem) while also getting me a bit closer to how I feel I should be (which treats the problem). By the way, do you know how difficult it is to find bras in 42-A?

These past few days, I haven’t been bothering with my padded bras. Instead, I’ve been wearing camis or these athletic-type soft cup bras. They’re more comfortable and my breasts can’t fill the A-cup bras that I have. But if I don’t wear the padded bras, my hair and makeup better be flawless. Otherwise, I’ll be subjected to death-glares and harassment from passersby. And, it speaks to the regional privilege I gave up when moving from the San Mateo County Peninsula to the East Bay. The harassment has increased dramatically after moving to this side of the San Francisco Bay.

And now I’m really angry with myself for getting rid of the breastforms I used to have as well as the pocket bras I used with them. The ’forms were a bit big, so I thought downsizing to padded bras with extra padding sewn in would be good enough. But with out the weight of the ’forms or even larger breasts, the bras ride up. This is not only uncomfortable, it doesn’t look right. A middle-aged woman should not have high breasts. By my age, gravity should have pulled them closer to my navel. I’ve heard some women my age lament this fact, but it’s something that should be mine.

As they say in my country, phooey and poo.

I’ve been getting a lot of glares over the past few days. The seemingly intentional misgendering is even worse, and always feels like a prelude to an attack. These things are exactly why I really burns my onions when somebody tells me to step outside my comfort zone.

I’m transgender, and I don’t “pass” very well. I knowingly reduced my comfort zone by undertaking gender transition. Please, for the love of sheep, back dafuq off with the comfort zone thing. I’m always looking over my shoulder.

I Guess I’m a Trans Separatist

30 01 2016

I’ve been seeing a lot of my trans peers using the word “ally” as if it is a term of contempt, and this distresses me. It was my cisgender allies that literally kept me alive when I was seriously considering suicide early in my transition. My trans peers were basically telling me that I shouldn’t have been surprised at what was happening to me and some even insisting that I deserved what I was getting, as late transitioners are little more than sexual deviants.

Some trans persons are even asserting that all cisgender/non-trans people are inherently cissexist/transphobic and that this is a “chronic condition” for which there is no cure. To that, I must quote Benjamin “Yatzee” Croshaw: “What arbitrary silliness!” But unfortunately, this is a common theme among many of my peers who work for social justice. The idea of “presumed innocent until proven guilty” doesn’t exist in social justice anymore. It’s been replaced by “presumed guilty until proven innocent” with no chance of ever being proven innocent. What this basically says is that the circumstances of one’s birth predestines one’s social class. But those of us who have transitioned from one widely recognized gender to the other know this isn’t true. I used to get cis privilege, male privilege, and cis male privilege before my transition. I’ve since traded those privileges for misogyny, transmisogyny, and cissexism/transphobia. And that’s something that gets me in trouble with other trans women: admitting that I used to get privilege as being perceived as a man prior to living my true self. But admitting to these privileges is not erasing my trans-ness. Rather, it reinforces it. Hmm, that could be a whole other blog post.

But even those who have not transitioned, those who are comfortable in the genders they were assigned at their births, are not inherently cissexist. Have they benefited from cis privilege? Absolutely. But benefiting from cis privilege doesn’t make one cissexist. If such persons expected to be treated better than trans persons, if they expected trans persons to use gender-neutral facilities, then they’re being cissexist. But, I believe in “presumed innocent until proven guilty” even regarding social justice issues.

If other trans persons choose to hold their allies in contempt, they should feel free to do so. But in doing so, they should refrain from showering contempt on the allies of other trans persons. I choose not to alienate those who have helped me. That doesn’t make me a collaborator to the system. Rather, it make me a person who acknowledges the problems of the system while working to overturn that system with the help of those who benefit from said system. If this makes me a separatist as I won’t support the idea being privileged is the same as being an oppressor, then so be it.

And, Yes: there are those who benefit from the system who are willing to work to overturn it.

Police and New Years’ Resolutions

9 01 2016

I realize this is a little late for a New Years’ Resolution post, but here it is.

On New Years Eve, I saw an article shared on Facebook urging readers to make a New Years Resolution to not call the police. The article has a lot of really good points, and does actually make an exception for violence.

Violence is the most serious challenge. If you feel that your safety is threatened, and the best option to avoid being harmed is calling the police, you should do it. Resolving not to call the police is not a rule, just a way to think outside the box. Rules are for the cops, not for us.

Yet, it seems there is something that isn’t being suggested: that people could make resolutions to not commit crimes in the first place. And I’m not talking about drug offenses or “walking while trans.” No. I’m talking about the assaults that necessitate restorative and transformative justice. I know a young woman who was raped repeatedly throughout her childhood, actually having a miscarriage in her teens. Her childhood cannot be restored. It’s gone forever.

Shortly before I started seminary —{I realize I have to problematize this. I’m a white person who qualified for FAFSA funds for seminary. As numerous people have told me, there have already been enough white ordained Protestant ministers, so I’m taking an opportunity away from folks who deserve these opportunities more than I do. Current social justice moods require that I be held responsible for the circumstances of my birth and the actions of others.}— I used part of my employer’s lay-off severance to buy a new bicycle. I couldn’t afford a car, in spite of my white privilege, and I’d be moving to an area with a lot of steep hills. Not being a strong rider, I opted to replace my existing bike with one that had a better gear range, to better leverage what strength I did have (Yes, I realize this is privilege of being able bodied). That bike, my helmet, and the accessories I bought for it to use for transportation was stolen two weeks after I moved to Berkeley. The total amount of what was stolen was around $850, with the bike alone being about $700. By California standards, this is petty theft. And considering it was taken from a locked garage, one might be able to add breaking and entering. Do I think that the party or parties responsible should have jail time? No. Would I be amenable to restorative justice, having a bike of equal functionality given to me? Sure.

But do you know what would be even better than restorative justice? Not having my bike stolen in the first place.

But don’t worry! At the time my bike was stolen, I hadn’t yet figured out the proper process to register it with the Berkeley Police Department. So, there was no point in reporting it stolen. That’s life in a college town. There are so many bike thefts that if it’s not registered there’s no point.

When people are raped, it’s considered poor form to ask them what they were wearing, where they were, what they were doing, and whether or not they were sober. Furthermore, it’s even considered by some to actually believe men when they say they were raped. Telling survivors to not report their rapes is considered to be supportive of rape culture (unless the survivor was a man, then it’s questionable). Why, then, would we tell people who’ve been on the receiving end of crime to not report it?

I actually had been told that it was a good thing that I never reported my rape, because if I had it’s possible my rapist would’ve found more victims in prison to rape. I was told this by someone in my seminary cohort. Others have suggested that restorative justice would be better. For my part, maybe that’s true. I haven’t been nearly as traumatized by my rape as other survivors I know.

But rather than telling us to resolve to not call the police, please be demanding that others resolve to not commit crime. Stop blaming the victims survivors.

GoFundMe: McEntee Family Survival, Cont’d

4 01 2016

It’s January, 2016. Anne and I are still in our apartment thanks to an extremely generous donation — Thank you, DMT — that covered rent entirely (with a little extra). We should see our EBT card recharged on the 9th, and I have a couple of meager paychecks coming in.

My job search continues, looking for full-time tech support work. And now Anne is strong enough to where she’s looking for part-time nursing work. But, we still need help. A micro loan that helped with our November rent is due on the 20th, the registration for the car still needs to be paid, and the jobs I do have wouldn’t pay enough for our survival even if they were full-time.

If any of you out there have any tech or nursing job leads in the San Francisco Bay Area (ideally in SF itself or in the East Bay) please let us know. You can contact me through FaceBook, the email associated with this YouTube account (cam94080@gmail.com) or my LinkedIn profile. (To NC who suggested improvements to my LinkedIn: I haven’t forgotten. I’m still working on the profile and have taken your advice to heart.)

Again: Thank you to everyone who’s helped in the various ways you’ve helped. Everything little thing means a lot to Anne and I.

Constance McEntee (LinkedIn)
McEntee Family Survival, Cont’d (GoFundMe)

Looking Back at 2015

3 01 2016

It’s Sunday, 3 January, and I’m looking back at the previous year.

A lot has happened this past year. In January, I got down on one knee in a dog park in San Mateo to present Anne with a “ring” of beads on elastic string, asking her to marry me. The following month, the two of us were married on St. Valentine’s Day by Rev. Gina Pond at PantheaCon. Later that night, I gave Anne her first degree initiation, making her a “duly consecrated witch and priest,” in the Circle of Cerridwen and she was one of the priests that gave me my third degree initiation, ordaining me as a “high priest and teacher.”

For most of Spring and Summer, things were pretty stable. I had been able to get another student loan to help pay off my outstanding balance so I could continue with seminary for the fall semester. But at the beginning of that semester I found out why I still wasn’t getting full funding through the FAFSA. It’s not exactly because I don’t have a bachelor’s degree, but because I don’t have the minimum number of undergrad and grad credits yet. When I get to 71 credits, about halfway through the MDiv program, then will I qualify for full graduate level lending through the FAFSA.

On 31 October, I found Anne cold, clammy, and unresponsive. I called 911 and she was rushed to the hospital where her heart stopped and was restarted. She spent a week in the Intensive Care Unit and another week in a regular room. We’d been married less than a year, and Anne was in the midst of a critical illness. Early one, the medical staff wasn’t sure if she’d survive. But survive she did, and I cannot put in words my relief. When we say, “Till death do us part,” it is of course more than just romantic poetry. But to be facing that very parting — on Samhain, the Wiccan day of the dead — is another thing entirely. One of us will outlive the other, and it’s a humbling thing to go through that.

This all happened during the height of her job search as she’d been laid off at the beginning of October. At this point, I withdrew from seminary and began focusing on my job search. Microloans and GoFundMe paid our November rent, and GoFundMe paid our rent for December and January as well as much of our daily living expenses. The gratitude I feel for all those who helped cannot be adequately described in words.

And now, it’s January 2016. I’m still underemployed and probably can’t stay with my current employer. In order to make enough money to meet our basic expenses I’d have to work 80 – 90 hours per week. If I return to the tech field, even just as a customer support person, I can make in 40 hours per week the money necessary to support us. So, my job search is still in full swing, my seminary education is on hold, and our GoFundMe will continue to be updated.

2015 was one heck of a year, with some bad but a lot of good. May 2016 be a better year for me, for Anne, and for all others we share this planet with.

Advent 2015: Towards the Within

24 12 2015

It’s Christmas Eve. For those with the five-candle Advent wreaths, the white Christ candle at the center is about to be lit.

As I was writing my Advent blog posts, I noticed that there was a theme running through all of them. Though I wrote about each of the Gifts of Advent — Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love — I was also writing about how I encountered these gifts. My posts were focused inward, hence the subtitle of this entry: “Towards the Within” (with gratitude to Dead Can Dance).

Some might argue that this was a rather selfish series of Advent posts, and I would not deny that charge. But as Advent was starting this year, my wife was recovering from a critical illness. We were and still are without the necessary employment to meet our regular living expenses. It was through some micro-loans and the generosity of everyone who contributed to our GoFundMe campaign that we’ve been able to keep our apartment, keep its utilities turned on, and stay fed. With these facts weighing on me, I stepped back from my various ministries in order to ensure my family’s survival.

One of my favorite Bible selections is Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (A Time for Everything), a selection I first became aware of via the song “Turn! Turn! Turn!” by The Byrds. This season, my spirit was turned inward. This was right and proper. At seminary, they will often tell us that we need to be making regular time for self-care. Self-care might seem to be a luxury, but it is a luxury that I would argue is vital for peace of mind.

The Gifts of Advent are not just that which can be brought into the world, but also are things we can receive. And I have received these Gifts gratefully and humbly.

Thank you, my friends. I am what I am thanks to your support.

Be well, and be blessed.

Amen, and Blessed Be.


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