Monday, 24 November 2008

Likewise

From SheWired, an account I could have written myself. Only the minor details differ.
Although she identifies as a transsexual female, Wilson maintains she’s “not going to shy away from the fact that I spent the first 47 years of my life pretending to be a man. That experience in part made Ashley Wilson the woman she is right now. I like to think God gave us the global view, to sort of see both sides of the fence.”
47 years... and yes, it has given me a similar perspective, especially when it comes to Feminist issues.
In her male guise, Wilson parlayed a BS in Journalism from Temple University and an MS in Library and Information Science from Drexel University into a 25-year career as a “very successful” fundraising specialist serving nationally recognized nonprofit organizations.
For me it was a BSc in Computer Science from Sydney University, and a MInfoTech(with distinction) from Charles Sturt.
She may have spent 47 years in the guise of a white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant man, but Wilson insists, during that time she “never realized just how privileged they are, and how the world caters to them. I was your classic blue blood republican WASP in a three-piece power suit and I completely repudiate that world now. I went to the polls on [election day] and I voted for Barak Obama!”
WASP does not have the same connotations here. Yes, I partook fully of male privilege. I wasn't talked over at meetings; it was assumed I knew what I was doing unless proven otherwise; and there are a thousand and one little things, some of which I'd observed with incredulity and disgust at the way other women were treated, but most of which I was completely unaware of. As unaware as a fish is of water. In Australia, there's not the same racial past that there is in the US, and we don't take religion nearly as seriously. In many places, churchgoing is comparatively rare, and not going to church is quite normal for more than half the population. Of those who do identify as Christian, the largest denomination (by a whisker) is Catholicism, with Anglicanism a close second. Conga-Metho-Presos - the Uniting Church - also has a presence, but Baptists are probably outnumbered by Lutherans. Both would be outnumbered by Jews and even Buddhists. Given that a third of the population was born overseas, and many of the other 2/3 are of Irish descent, "Anglo" doesn't mean as much either. It's not taken nearly as seriously.

Perhaps it's because of that that I don't repudiate my past, not completely. I still vote Liberal (mainly), which in Australia means right of centre. I'm hoping the policy shifts to the centre in social issues (which would put it to the Left of the Leftists, who contain a lot of very socially conservative traditional Irish Catholics). I'm trying to make "compassionate conservative" not the oxymoron that it seems to have become. Anyway, onwards.
Brought up in privilege and comfort, Wilson admits “when I transitioned, it was such an incredible experience to…hear the stories of my fellow transgender people and realize just how insulated I had been from the world.”

She met less fortunate trans women, who were, Wilson says, “like broken human beings; I mean they just had horrible lives. And to hear them talk about their suicide attempts, and having to prostitute themselves…it makes you so angry.”

“I never would’ve imagined that at the age of 50, I would feel this way, that I would have become so—radicalized, and left wing,” says Wilson now. What she heard propelled Wilson to “do something,” and she asserts, “I’m determined, before I’m finished that I am going to make a difference for us in the world.
Yes. What can I say but Yes and again Yes. Now most of the really terrible stories I know of are from overseas. The situation in Australia is not terribly good, but at least we have reasonable unemployment, medical benefits, and disability pensions. We're not terribly good, but most other places are terrible, and some worse than that. I suppose Australia in that regard is already Left wing, at least, compared to the US. Though to the right of much of Europe.

One thing I am aware of though. I was privileged, and continue to be so, though in different ways. My family remains intact, though my marriage has suffered a strange sea-change. The Love remains. I have support through the University, and the opportunity to reach out to medical and other students. To make a difference. Radicalised? Yes, I guess I have been.
“When you transition,” Wilson contends, “it almost forces you to become an activist because there’s no other way you can survive. You have to stand up for yourself, everywhere. You get tired of it. Like why does it have to be hard all the time?
Delete "almost". I've had it easy though, with relatively few problems (apart from those with the Passport Office...). No, my Activism is because I can do no other. I've seen and heard horrors I never dreamed were possible. As a conservative, I believe in personal responsibility, and that means that if you see such horrors, you are personally responsible for doing something about them. Even if you hate "activism". Even if all you want is a quiet life. Even if it means having to explain oneself repeatedly to one's erstwhile political allies, and being ostracised by those who hold similar ideals, but assume that you have to be Leftist like they are. The only thing more improbable in anyone's mind than a Conservative who is a Transsexual Feminist, is a Transsexual Feminist who is Conservative. Ok, so technically I'm Intersexed rather than Transsexual, but I make no apology for not fitting neatly into anyone else's definitions. Close enough, and the one area where I do fit neatly, that of the category "woman", well it took me some time to recognise that myself. But I digress.
As a Board member for Trans Kids Purple Rainbow Foundation (transkidspurplerainbow.org), Wilson hopes that media exposure will translate to funding for research and education about transgender youth.

“Anything we can do to help these children I see as sort of our duty and our gift to the next generation,” enthuses Wilson, who recalls “setting off a fire storm,” herself as a toddler insisting, “I’m not a boy, I’m a girl.”

“I know what I went through when I was that age. How lonely and scared and confused I was and how the world so beat up on me, to the point where I had to lie about everything, even to myself about the truth and try and try to fit in where I could never fit in—as a boy. People looked at me and saw an extremely effeminate boy and they assumed I was gay. And they beat the crap out of me because of it.”

“If we can keep these children from having to go through [those] kind of experiences,” Wilson argues now, “I think that would be worth something.”
I was always built like a tank, nothing remotely effeminate about me. Merely feminine, and I took great pains to hide that. The body helped - though I still had experiences with violence when young that quite literally scarred me for life. Grade school rather than High School though. Much of that was of my own making to some extent - I reacted to smaller children being bullied by larger ones with the same ferocity as a mother tiger defending her cubs. It was only luck that I didn't end up being the equivalent of a tiger skin rug.

The same thoughts and feelings influence me now. We must do something for the children. I can't help the young girl that was me, but I can help those in the same situation today. In fact, I can't not help them, to the meagre limits of my ability, it's not in me to say "let someone else handle it...". It never was.