TRANSMEN COMPOSE VOLTRANS
Author: Aligül Arıkan; Translation: Kıvanç Tanrıyar; Editing: Begüm Acar
ATTENTION: Gender codes are almost like products which are distributed along with sex!
ATTENTION: Sexuality and gender is something much more complicated and manifold than “man” and “woman”
ATTENTION: Whenever our physical appearance is different from the “gender through which we had been accepted,” and whenever “we are not a woman or a man” according to the society in which we live, our lives are exposed to physical and social violence under every circumstance,every minute.
We have began to gather under the roof of LambdaIstanbul four months ago regularly as three transmen, after having thought “well, why don’t we come together and talk about ourselves.” First of all, we would like to see how do we interpret ourselves and what do we experience. We recognized that we have similar questions and similar troubles where our experiences have something in common and where they differentiate from each other. Having all of these in our minds, we came together in order to find solutions.
I want to talk a little bit about what we had talked in these meetings. Since all of us three are part of both a feminist movement and a LGBTT movement at the same time, our discussions concentrate on “womanhood, manhood, transsexuality and gender, opening the identity, the acceptance of the identity.” I want to mention two prejudices we have to face frequently. First claims that “trans people reproduce gender roles and dynamics,” and the second “f/m trans people took the advantage of the privileged segment of society after they have accomplished their bodily transition.” Responding the first, an apolitical trans, who does not have a connection with feminism, reproduces these dynamics just as apolitical men and women do, who do not have a connection with feminism. Gender codes are almost like products which are distributed along with sex. Two different sexes are defined on the basis of an assumption which claims that there are certain fundamental differences in bodily parts and these members are evenly distributed in each person. It is a usual attempt to claim that these sexes are “distinct” from each other by utilizing the discourse concerning gender roles and dynamics. Thus, it becomes possible to underline that one sexual identity is “superior” to the other one.
This fact is not only inherent to our society; it is prevalent in every culture. These codes differ from each other with respect to varying cultures but capitalism, patriarchal system and heterosexism together do triumph upon the two sexes. And hence, to get rid of gender codes does not become a burden only for transwomen and transmen but for everybody. We are trying to establish something new through hit or miss methodology. Many stimuli reach us from exterior traditional patterns. Within the LGBTT movement and within many other organizations, a person who opens him/herself as gay, lesbian or bisexual, but then recognizes that he/she has a different sexual identity and opens him/herself as a transsexual, the attitudes with respect to gender codes change towards those persons, which is a mark displaying how we internalize these codes and dynamics. When a gay opened himself as a transwoman, another gay friend of him revealed that the latter did not know anymore how to behave him. When a person opened herself as lesbian, she could communicate with her gay friend, by embracing each other, but when she opened herself as a transman, the same friend began to express himself, by shaking the hand of his friend in a formal manner –maybe in order to show that he accepts his identity.
Responding the second, some f/m (transsexuals from women to men), who accomplished their gender transition, want to intermingle with other men as “men” and they intermingle. There are some points which are overlooked: Many f/m may not have accomplished this transition because of many reasons. There are also millions of trans people who do not need transition or are transformed partially. To sum up, there are many who do not want to and choose not to be intermingled within society, different from those who want to intermingle.
The words we uttered are not sufficient to express ourselves. Whenever our physical appearance is different from the “gender which we had been accepted” and whenever “we are not a woman or man” according to the society in which we live, our lives are exposed to physical and social violence under every circumstance, every minute. If we take advantages we take just as every women and men takes. These points should not be disregarded.
I guess to be active under the roof of a feminist organization is an opportunity for me and for those who are working with such an establishment and for those who have a connection with it. Usually one cannot conceive transsexuality thanks to being imprisoned within the dichotomous sexual system1. There is an assumption that every “woman” entering to the room possesses female sexual identity. It is possible that such conceptions may be changed. Feminist organizations put all their efforts in order to corroborate female gender identity, that gender roles and dynamics may not suppress women in order to overcome each violation concerning women. Personally, by being active under a feminist organization, I began to ask myself, “What kind of a man I do want to become?” and “What kind of a man I do not want to become?” and to get the answers of those questions, by questioning myself.
As we live our lives, we have to face several prejudices and reactions. Many reasons may underlie these reactions, but I guess the most important one is the painful effect of the dichotomous sexual system. We are accustomed to the frames “women” and “men” to the degree that, if somebody says that sexual identity is something else, we feel what he/she said is something unperceivable, impossible and beyond our perceptions. And if we are obeying the “norm” we never have to think about how we are perceiving ourselves.
It is possible to encounter the questions “What does transman mean?” “How do you define yourself?” and “How do you know that you are a man?” You always have to make an explanation and you have to tell at which points you are different from others. After a while it becomes boring because you are always the teller and you begin to think that it is violence which you are exposed to. And if you reverse the questions, by asking “How do you define yourself as a woman?” “Is there a difference between what I have told and you have told?” you encounter responses such as “Well, I had not thought about it that way ever before,” “Well, why I call myself woman, I should have named so because of biology.” And mostly you have to face stunning faces.
However, our perceptions concerning both our sexual and our gender identities may vary. There may be infinitely many combinations.
Another topic we stress is the politics of body, the legal procedures prescribed during transition period and what we desire to have with respect to our bodies. Before one gets a blue or pink identity card, a legal procedure enforces a person for psychotherapy for two years, to use hormones with an approval from the doctors’ committee report; then a procedure containing in transmen removal of breasts, womb and ovaria, penis operations, in transwomen removal of testicles and penis, vagina operations, and again doctors’ committee approval is enforced (it is necessary that in transwomen vagina should be 9 cm. in depth and transmen should have a penis of 9 cm) and trans persons should litigate for a new identity card. This process lasts from two to six years, depending on the person’s wish. If at some point one of these necessities may not be fulfilled, process begins right from the start. There are many troubling aspects of these processes, but there are some advantages, too. But we believe that this process should be restructuralized in a way where people have their own will over their own bodies.
I want to talk about a conception which is widespread in our society, thus within our circles. It is a question that hindered me to open myself to myself and which I have encountered frequently, after I have opened to the people surrounding myself: “Will you be operated?” We think that there is not a process of transformation which should have started at point A and finished at point B. We agree on this definition of transition: A point to be reached where the individual is happy, peaceful and is satisfied concerning his/her sexual identity and the wholeness of his/her body. And he/she him/herself has to decide how much and to what degree the transition should be. Otherwise, we may be oppressed, we may not be encouraged to open ourselves to our surroundings and it becomes harder for us to accept our identity. We, as each person of the Transmen Initiative, do possess a perception of our body, differing from each other as well. For example, for me it is sufficient, if my upper body is alike a traditional male torso. Some other does not want to have any differences in his body. And the other one is living as a man and claims “I am a man possessing a vagina.”
Besides, we are discussing what we can do now and in future. As Transmen Initiative we do have some objectives: we want to remove the transmen invisibility and want to render an awareness. In order to overcome invisibility one has to become visible. We think we may overcome the problem on the long run through acceptance of identity and openness. It is necessary to inform people surrounding us concerning gender identity and the problems rendered by dichotomous gender system –gender and sexuality is something more complicated and manifold than “man” and “woman.” Recently we want to make a fresh beginning through arranging film organizations and conversations. One of our objectives is to learn the content and the details of the two years long therapy process in Çapa. We want to meet transmale persons and want to talk about the initiative and LGBTT movement and the importance of getting organized.
It is difficult to achieve these objectives, by being only four persons, it may be nice that other transmale people, or people who question their sexual identity would join. In order to achieve this, people have to be made known that such a formation is present. Thus, we try to benefit from the announcement possibilities. We have begun this process through a meeting against homophobia, through Gay Pride and through panels we participated here and there. We have an e-mail list open to the participation of transmale people questioning their sexual identity: (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Since we are a fresh initiative, I explained our organizational experience through what I told before here and then, and it is also the topic of this forum. Perhaps I may add something else. We all belong to the LGBTT movement and we usually encounter this question: “Why transmale cannot get organized?” Perhaps this may have several reasons: first of all again and again since dichotomous sexual system is prevalent, primary obstacles concerning getting organized are the difficulties in defining one’s self and belief in that one becomes isolated. We may not want to get organized, since we may take the easy way out, just elsewhere where identity politics is practiced. We may add transphobia and homophobia which we have to experience in every sphere of life. And some of us may not get organized because he does not want to express himself or wants to avoid demonstrating his will thanks to the prejudices against the trans people within LGBTT movement. Conclusively: If somebody overcomes these obstacles and comes to the reaches of the boiling point where he decides he should do something, two people are sufficient to get organized. It is a starting point.