A Scene from The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

Busy street in New Delhi : Stock Photo

Excerpt from The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy

There is a scene in the novel that just rivetied me. It is such a powerful reminder that in the end we are who we are.

A baby has suddenly appeared on a site where some desperately poor people in India are staging protests. Their causes are legion. At this point, the author hints that the child, who is the color of night, may be supernatural. A man with political ambitions wants to hand the mysterious baby over to the police. An old Hijra–an ancient Hindu term for what we would call a trans women, a category of persons who are at once holy and despised–has moved to protect the child, arguing that the child would quickly die if dumped into an orphanage.

“And yet, in order to arm themselves for battle, they retreated  right back into what they sought to escape, into what they were used to, into what they really were.

He, a revolutionary trapped in an accountant’s mind. She, a woman trapped in a man’s body. He, raging at a world where the balance sheets did not tally. She, raging at her glands, her organs, her skin, the texture of her hair, the width of her shoulders, the timbre of her voice. He, fighting for a way to impose fiscal integrity on a decaying system. She, wanting to pluck the very stars from the sky and grind them into a potion that would give her proper breasts and hips and a long, thick plait of hair that would swing from side to side as she walked, and yes, that most well stocked of Delhi’s vast stock of invectives, that insult of all insults, a Maa ki Choot, a mother’s cunt. He, who had spent his days tracking tax dodges, pay-offs, and sweetheart deals. She, who for years had lived like a tree in an old graveyard, where, on lazy mornings and late at night, the spirits of the old poets whom she loved, Ghalib, Mir, and Zauq, came to recite their verse, drink, argue, and gamble. He, who filled in forms and ticked boxes. She, who never knew which box to tick, which queue to stand in, which public toilet to enter (Kings or Queens? Lords or Ladies? Sirs or Hers?) He, who believed he was always right. She, who knew she was all wrong, always wrong. He, reduced by his certainties. She, augmented by her ambiguity. He, who wanted a law. She, who wanted a baby.

A circle formed around them; furious, curious, assessing the adversaries, picking sides. It didn’t matter. Which tight-arsed Gandian accountant stood a chance in hell in a one-to-one public face-off against an old, Old Delhi Hijra?

Anjum bent low and brought her face within kissing distance of Mr. Aggarwal’s.

Ai Hai! Why so angry, jaan? Won’t you look at me?”

Saddam Hussain clenched his fists. Ishrat restrained him. She took a deep breath and waded into the battlefield, intervening in the practiced way that only Hijras knew how to when it came to protecting each other–by making a declaration of war and peace at the same time. Her arrire, which had looked absurd only a few hours ago, could not have been more appropriate for what she needed to do now. She started the spread-fingers Hijra clap and began to dance, moving her hips obscenely, swirling her chunni, her outrageous, aggressive sexuality aimed at humiating Mr. Aggarwal, who had never in all his life faught a fair street fight. Damp patches appeared in the armpits of his white shirt.”

On the Whole, It’s Better If Straight People Think You are a Lesbian

1869 t jeunnes femmes objets japonaise

Yesterday I drove a dear friend to a medical procedure that required them to be put under general anesthesia. My friend usually gets read as a butch lesbian. I have shoulder-length curly hair that gets styled and colored regularly, I wear makeup and earrings, and yesterday I wore a skirt and feminine top with Mary Jane flats.

I tend to look, as a friend observed, like a retired lady high school English teacher.

This is the sort of outfit I have come to favor on days when I won’t be doing anything that might get my nice clothes dirty. Since I stopped policing my body language and speech, my behavior is pretty darn femme.

We were read, from the moment we walked through the door, as a cisgender lesbian couple. After the procedure, I got called back into the recovery area to talk to my friend’s doctor. They treated me as a wife.

Me getting read as a femme lesbian happens every time the two of us go somewhere together.  It doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I’m being seen as who I am, a woman, so it’s all good! Besides, I wouldn’t mind really being a cisgender lesbian.

While these days I almost always get perceived as a cisgender woman, there are situations, such as medical encounters or professional situations like tax preparation or getting a will drawn up where there is often no way to avoid outing myself.

When I have done that, it is always awkward.

Even when the professional doesn’t get seriously nasty (been there, mainly with people who were religious) there is usually a noticeable drop in the warmth of the social interaction.  Casual and joking and relaxed turns into formal and serious and stiff.  I feel as if formal politeness is being used to keep me at a distance. And any friendly banter about our lives or the weather or traffic or whatever simply dies.

However, when I am read as one of the partners or spouses in a lesbian relationship, I am almost always treated as well as when I am read as a cisgender straight woman.

Granted that the sample size of these encounters is relatively small–and I am certainly aware of the dreadful experiences of cisgender lesbian friends who have been treated shabbily by bigots, something that happens far too often–I suspect that at this point in our society’s evolution, it is somewhat less difficult to live as a femme cisgender lesbian than as a femme trans woman.


Who Are You Calling Unnatural?

shive dual gender

The image is that of Shiva in a dual-gender aspect.

This post is a reaction to the fundamentalists who run Texas who are again going after queer and trans people.

This hatred is being driven largely by the Christian obsessive need to micro-manage the lives of others, particularly in the areas of sexuality and gender. There is a lot to unpack here, but I will stick to one point: the idea that transgender people are unnatural.

Take a good look at the steadily growing body of evidence that we come out of the box with our brains wired to be trans, which looks pretty natural to me. Consider that there are clear descriptions of trans women in 2,500 year old Hindu texts, and that societies all over the planet that had no contact with each other were aware of us. That there are even major deities that have shifted gender.

We show up all the time in families where no one ever talks about anything even remotely related to trans issues, and even in subcultures that have completely cut themselves off from exposure to any kind of mass media (Hasidic Jewish communities, for example) where the subject might come up.

Meanwhile, our Southern Baptist friends in Texas must go to a great deal of trouble to systematically indoctrinate their children in their faith. If everyone stopped training children in Christianity, the faith would be extinct in a couple of generations because no kid spontaneously becomes Christian in the way that some children are just trans because they were born that way.

So which do you think is more natural, trans people or Christianity?





First Time Swimming as Me!

june 20 18 destio

Yes, that is my desk, and, yes, it is a bit random and whimsical–like me!

I had not been swimming in years. Many reasons for that, but partly it was that after I went full time I felt I needed to wait until I had what I needed to fill in those cups in the suit tops.

I’m there. I’ve been there for ages–It’s been years since I could jog without an exercise bra and every cubic centimeter of that tissue is due to hormones–but I had gotten so out of the habit of swimming that I never thought about it. Then a few days ago, a friend was telling me how much she enjoys swimming, so I took the plunge!

I picked a two-piece suit with a skirt that worked well. I pinned up my hair–it falls to a few inches below my shoulders–and went for it.

It was fun! I plan to do that again!

So, yes, there may be trans women in your apartment swimming pool!


First Mammogram 13 June 2018

Image result for classical sculpture breasts

I have been trying to get a mammogram set up for months. My old primary care provider would sort of shrug off referring me for one when I brought it up. I don’t think she really wanted to address my health concerns. I finally changed to a different provider who agreed that, yes, a mammogram to check out my B+ cup breasts would be a prudent thing to do. and unlike my old provider was proactive in other health areas as well.

A friend of mine, a trans guy who was assigned female at birth, gave me a quick run-though on how to prepare for a mammogram: no deodorant, no creams or powders or anything at all on the breasts, wear a two-piece outfit that permits getting out of the top and bra quickly, etc.

I should explain that these days I almost always get read as a cisgender female, which is what happened at the breast imaging place.  I was taken to a changing room where I wiped my beasts and underarms with a damp cleaning tissue and got into a pink gown that opened at the front. Despite all the horror stories about mammograms,  I have had far more unpleasant medical tests. The technician was very nice.

After the mammogram, I was told to go back to the changing room because someone would come for me to do bone density tests. Older trans women have many of the same medical risks that older cisgender women have, including osteoporosis, so my wonderful new primary care provider though we ought to check that out as well.

A second technician appeared, another pleasant woman, who took me to a room where a different machine waited for me. She started running through a series of health questions and came to one about my monthly cycles.

I told her that I was transgender. She and her smile froze for several seconds. I think she was experiencing cognitive dissonance between what I had just told her and the quite femme woman I really am.

I think she may have wondered whether I was kidding. I do not look like nor do I behave like the stereotype that many cis people have about trans women: according to bigots we resemble some cisgender guy on Halloween clomping around in bad drag.

Then we both laughed. I suggested that she just put down that I am not currently having periods. Once she got over the mild jolt, she was very nice.

It was a very good morning!


Jamie Clayton on Cis Men Playing Trans Women


Jamie Clayton, among other topics in this brief video, explains why having cisgender men playing trans women is so wrong.
If you don’t have the time to watch the video let me condense it briefly: bigots think that trans women are just men in drag and having actors who really are just men in drag playing trans women perpetuates that.slander among people who know nothing about us. When cis people meet real trans women they are often stunned by our authentic femininity. I startled someone just this morning.

The Growing Epidemic of Suicide, June 2018



american back view burial cemetery
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I was quietly suicidal for years and no one knew. Transition cured that. This society prizes conformity and superficiality almost as much as it promotes wrath and violence. Although it is critical that our needs for things like physical safety, food, shelter, medical care, etc., get met if we are not to be miserable, to be happy we also must live in a way that allows others to at least catch glimpses of our souls.