Look how smooth Radclyffe is….
When really, inside, Radclyffe feels like this…
Look how smooth Radclyffe is….
When really, inside, Radclyffe feels like this…
In just one week, RADCLYFFE will open as part of the Trans Theater Festival at The Brick!!! The piece has grown and changed since its last production in NYC at the Fresh Fruit Festival, and I’m delighted for the opportunity to present it in a festival with so many other talented trans theater artists! I hope to see you there!
Radclyffe Hall, notorious author of the censored “Well of Loneliness,” swaggered their way through the early 20th century. This pseudo-historical solo performance/seance weaves together stories from Radclyffe Hall’s life and times with what England’s second most notorious invert would have to say about trans/queer life today, such as: “what ever happened to ‘romantic friendships’? What the hell is a ‘genderqueer?! And where can an invert get a good haircut in this town?!?”
In just a week, Sassafras Lowrey and I will be taking off to Europe for a whirlwind of performances, readings, and other shenanigans across the continent (and London)! Check out our new tour poster below to find out where we’ll be!
I’m thrilled to announce that PoMo Freakshow (Sassafras Lowrey and myself) will be touring Europe this November! See below for tour dates and cities, and stay tuned for more details!
Eleven years ago today, I left.
I didn’t have much warning I was leaving– the staff preferred to only give a week’s notice. They didn’t want my eminent departure to give me an “exit mentality,” and it’s one of the first rules of maintaining control of another person: severely limit the information they have access to. The staff at Provo Canyon School were very committed to control.
Provo Canyon School is a lock-down institution for “troubled teens”. They have a website that I don’t care to link here, but you can google it if you want. It’s also interesting to see what pops up when you add keywords like “abuse” or “lawsuit” to your search.
Eleven years is a strange anniversary. It doesn’t have the neatness of 10 years, or the “a lifetime ago” quality of 15. Eleven is too much, and not enough. In ‘This is Spinal Tap,’ Nigel is very proud of his amps that go up to 11– it’s one louder than 10, an extra bit of power for when you need it. I suppose eleven does feel like an extra bit of power, but it’s also slightly ridiculous, a palindromic anniversary. I hesitate to follow that to it’s logical conclusion, because this 11 years certainly would not be the same backwards as forward.
I feel like I should have some pithy things about survival and growing into the self-actualized queer I am today. Some people have asked me, “How do you know that PCS didn’t give you the skills you needed to grow? How do you know that PCS isn’t the key to your survival?” It’s always hard to keep a straight face when I respond. A PCS success story is the bland pinnacle of normal– for the girls, that meant sensible domesticity, (heterosexual) marriage, and children (in that order).
The person I’ve grown into is exactly the person that PCS tried to kill. It was the realization that PCS wanted to kill that part of me that gave me the strength to hold on while I was there, to preserve myself deep within my skin and fight back against their poison once I was released. They said they knew I was the enemy, and deep down, I knew that they were wrong.
Last year, on my ten year anniversary, I wrote a post to the teens that are still locked up in private facilities–or really, I wrote to the recent releases, because there’s no way anyone incarcerated in one of these institutions has access to the internet, let alone to this blog. Remember what I said about the staff being committed to control?
From where I am now, I try to do what I can to educate people about the existence of places like PCS. It’s always a bit chilling for me when someone responds, “I had no clue things like that still happened.” Eleven years later, and I can still see the threads of control, and the way that the troubled teen industry limits and controls the information that the outside world can access about what goes on within their walls.
Still, for all their efforts, they can’t control those of us who survived, and they can’t stop us from speaking out.
To be honest, I’m conflicted about posting this blog. It doesn’t seem to me that I should have to say anything in a semi-public forum, but… it’s bound to come up eventually, and I’d rather forestall any rumors. Not that I think this would merit any rumors, but still. Here goes.
I quit testosterone about six months ago. Before the identity police come in, please note: quitting T does not make me any less trans, just like being on T did not make me any less butch. I’ve identified with both of those labels ever since I was a wee queer tadpole, and my use (or non-use) of hormones doesn’t change that.
A lot of factors went into this decision. First of all, I never intended to be a lifer with T. There were a few specific things I wanted from it– a lower voice and smaller hips were at the top of the list. I started taking T to further queer my gender presentation– not to normalize it. Once it got to the point that I was being read as a man in just about all contexts– and not even necessarily being read as trans in queer contexts– I knew it was time to stop. I’m butch, and I’m trans, but I’m certainly not a man.
My testosterone use was always conflicted. My first solo show, XY(T), wrestled with it, and reached a point of vague comfort by the end of the performance. I’m not sure how different that piece would look if I performed it now. I would probably have to add an epilogue. Someone should book the show, and we can find out what happens.
I’ll admit it– and I want to be clear here, I am just speaking for my own experience, and not making prescriptive statements for anyone else– it feels great. Since I quit, I have felt more energetic, more confident, more present in my own body. This may be a coincidence, and it may be psychosomatic. I’m reluctant to declare this as a causal relationship, however compelling the evidence seems to me. This does not mean that I regret the 6 years that I used the hormone– it was right for me then, and it isn’t right for me now.
I don’t think of this as “detransitioning.” There are a couple of reasons for that. First of all, I’ve always chafed under the “transitioning” terminology– I was not “pre-transition” before I started taking T, I was not “mid-transition” while I was on it, and I never envisioned myself arriving at some elusive “post-transition” point. “Transition,” with its implied origin and destination, simply didn’t work for me.
What hasn’t changed is how I present myself or identify myself socially. What is changing, now, is how I’m perceived in the world. It’s strange, I don’t feel as if my appearance or mannerisms have changed at all, but already I’m getting the “sir—ma’ams” and the skeptical looks in bathrooms. And while, yes, sometimes it feels awkward or slightly unsafe, it also feels like I am being more wholly seen than I have been in years.
I’ll be teaching a workshop about testosterone– going on it, and going off it, for masculine-of-center folks– at the Butch Voices conference in Oakland in August. I’m looking forward to bringing more people into this conversation. There is lots of dialogue in transmasculine and masculine-of-center communities about going on T… but very little about going off. Hopefully, this blog, and my upcoming workshop, will create a little more space for anyone else out there who is re-examining their relationship to testosterone. Or if nothing else… maybe it will start a few good rumors.
Do you know how to say ‘my hovercraft is full of eels’ in Dutch? I do: mijn luchtkussenboot zit vol paling. This helpful phrase was included in one of the guides I was looking at so that I could at least pretend to not be a stupid American without any knowledge of the local language when I go to the Netherlands next week. I’m not sure if I will actually need to inform anyone that my hovercraft is full of eels, but it’s good to be prepared.
I’m conflicted about the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). I understand the need for shared diagnostic criteria across the mental health professions, but I’m extremely critical of the pathologization and medicalization of many of the “conditions” and “disorders” that the manual describes. In some cases, a diagnosis can allow individuals who are privileged enough to have health insurance the ability to get their mental health care covered by their insurance provider. That is one of the main arguments I have heard in favor of retaining the diagnosis of “Gender Dysphoria” in the DSM. In other cases, diagnoses can justify declaring a person unfit to consent or refuse treatment. The DSM does not just name and describe “disorders.” It also regulates the hazy border between “normal” and “abnormal,” between “sane” and “crazy.”
Currently, the DSM is undergoing a revision, with the newest version–DSM-5— to be released in May, 2013. As part of the far-reaching revision, the American Psychiatric Association has opened the DSM-5 up for reader comments on the structure and criteria changes. Anyone can create an account, log in, and submit comments on the proposed revisions to the criteria and structure of the manual. In general, the text from the current manual (DSM-IV) for reference with the proposed DSM-5 descriptions and criteria. The current comment period is open until June 15, 2011.
Unfortunately, it probably won’t be too effective to just log on and leave the comment, “This is not a psychiatric disorder. Take it out of the manual!!!”…. which is my first inclination with things like the “Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder.” However, maybe if enough folks offer thoughtful comments, we can shift the ways that the psych industry defines and thinks about our identities, brains, and bodies.
I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that May is both Mental Health Month and National Masturbation Month. If you think about it, they’re both about taking care of yourself and your needs… and they can certainly go hand in hand (or, hand in… um. I’ll stop there).
I’m a little skeptical of some of the language around “Mental Health Month.” I understand the importance of educational campaigns, but the reliance on the talking point that “one in four adults struggles with a treatable mental health condition” makes me a bit uncomfortable because of it’s emphasis on ‘treatment.’ I’m in favor of people seeking treatment if they personally desire it, but our current mental health industry is so focused on pathology and profit that the available “treatments” often don’t support the overall well-being of the individual seeking care. At worst, an individual may enter treatment and lose their right to consent or to leave.
As such, I am cautious about a Mental Health Month that advocates ‘treatment’ without some significant caveats. As I see it, Mental Health Month should be more about addressing the failures of the psych industry, focusing on self-care (there’s where the connection to National Masturbation Month comes in!) and community wellness… and for that matter, we shouldn’t limit it to the month of May!