Tuesday, 24 June 2008


A series of very kind remarks by Katherine Cummings, editor of Polare, the magazine of the Gender Centre in Sydney, got me thinking - and counting my blessings.

Kate said, and I quote
..my belief that Zoe is an extraordinary person..
Which is very nice of her, and boosts my ego, but with all due respect to a woman who I deeply admire, I'm not sure it's true.

I have been put in an extraordinary position, sure. And I seem to be doing rather well. But monster of arrogance and ego that I am - and I'm not joking there - even I can't bring myself to believe that I'm an "extraordinary person".

I've been immensely fortunate, with my family and friends. I've been at least as fortunate in being born where and when I was.

There are, right now, people like me literally starving to death in Zimbabwe and elsewhere. They deserve rights equal to my own, but they're not getting them. Had I been born just a century earlier, I would likely have died at age 4 from whooping-cough. The vaccine only partly worked on me as it was, and I was very sick indeed. I also had my appendix out in my early teens, and if I had been born in 1858 not 1958, that would likely have killed me too. There must be a dozen times when my medical conditions could have killed me if I had been born in Angola rather than England, or just a few generations earlier.

I also have the privilege of being, if not exactly rolling in filthy lucre, at least having enough to eat, access to clean water, and protection from the elements. I have enough money too (just) for the hormones I need to take. And not every TS person in Australia can say that. Many who use the Gender Centre as a refuge "live rough", homeless, and destitute.

But they live - many of them. They, to me, are the extraordinary ones. The teens thrown out of home - as I was not - for "disgracing the family". The ones who see their only chance of eating, let alone saving for necessary surgery, is to peddle their bodies. Some make it. Some become resounding successes, despite these huge handicaps. Many do not though.

Compared to them, I'm very ordinary indeed. I'm privileged. I had parents who loved me, and sacrificed much just so I could have the best education they could get for me. I have a family, I have a son, and considering just how weird my endocrine system is, that is nothing short of miraculous.

Even my extraordinary circumstances were necessary to make me the woman I am. Not quite the standard model, but close enough. I keep on trying to imagine a male version of me. That person would be quite different in ways I really can't comprehend. I like to think he would be like my father, another extraordinary person I was privileged to not just to know, but to be his daughter, not that he knew it at the time. Not that I did either, not completely.

So this post is for the truly extraordinary people I have known. The ones who survived rape, and torture, and being penniless, and the many soul-destroying, searing and devastating experiences I didn't have to.


Anonymous said...

May I suggest that, before you go admiring someone deeply, you take a really good look beneath the carefully constructed public persona, beneath the words on paper, and delve into what they have actually done to other people, and especially those of our own background?

Battybattybats said...

So what are these alleged dark secrets you speak of anonymous person?

Anonymous said...

Zoe, granted you're not to the "only needs one name" level (Mozart, Napoleon, Einstein, Musashi). Nonetheless, you'd be above ordinary based on your work--did you think just anybody can waltz to a PhD in your field? Add in your personal experiment in biochemistry and its ramifications and the fact that you're willing to announce it to the whole world, and tack on that you're doing that while employed and busy with a doctorate, and if that doesn't qualify you for exrtaordinary, then would you please tell me what you think does qualify?

Zoe Brain said...

I've sent you an e-mail on the subject. The person concerned is very private.

I'm not even remotely in her league. Or that of a dozen others I could name. Literally, I know their stories. I've met some.

Anonymous said...

I replied but we might as well put it here too. That lady is an extraordinary survivor; what you are is an extraordinary advocate. The courage involved in announcing your story, over and over in different and often hostile venues and responding courteously to all comers, IMHO, is not less, just different. I certainly would never have done it. If you reply "I didn't think it was especially brave, I just did what I had to do", I'll invite you to count the number of VC and Medal of Honor winners who said the same thing.

Battybattybats said...

Zoe, you rock. It's that simple.

Your not the greatest person alive, no-one's saying that.

You have had advantages and you have had disadvantages and you are trying to make the best of what you've got.

But you care about those less fortunate than yourself, you seek to enlighten others more ignorant than yourself even when it can be hard to do so but most importantly also you seek to enlighten yourself further too even when the answers are uncomfortable.

Thats a rare combination of innate traits or choices or conclusions whichever you consider them to be. That is valuable and there is no denying it.

Zoe, you rock.
Others may rock more, a lot certainly rock less, but the fact remains you rock.