Friday, 30 September 2011

Perfect presentation - is it possible? And if so, is it ethical?

Perfect presentation: I dare say this is the goal of most trans persons who aspire to live a normal female life at some future point. The ability to look and sound and behave exactly like a natal woman, and to be apprehended as one by everyone - adults, children, eagle-eyed border guards, lovers, perhaps even pets. Presentation so good that nobody in the whole wide world would ever for a moment think there was anything unnatural about oneself. Total acceptance for what one seems to be. Not the slightest suspicion aroused. The ability to carry off a tour de force of deception that is way beyond mere 'passing', because one would be living it totally, and not acting or attempting a big bluff.

I think there are individuals - and they need not be post-op - who indeed have such good presentation that they are as accepted in public as natal women at all times, and without question.

But just above I used the word 'deception', and this gives a hint of a possible moral or ethical concern. Is it completely right to have a presentation so flawless that there is no discernable difference between oneself and a natal woman?

This will only be a talking point if you are uncomfortable about fooling people bigtime. I see can that many will not mind being undetectable, and will feel the utmost satisfaction if they can pull the wool over the eyes of bigots and anti-trans busybodies and fussy jobsworths who want to be obstructive. I can personally share such delight - up to a point. But I also hate downright lying to people I like. And the thought of conducting a long-term masquerade, however successful, is not attractive. I did that, unconsciously, for decades before I transitioned, and I don't want to deliberately repeat the performance. It seems so dishonest, and undermines some of the joy of being one's real self at last.

But neither am I an idealist or perfectionist. I supect that the kind of deception I'm talking about is something that must be lived with. So that once anyone has committed themselves to a certain winning presentation, then the best practical plan is to carry on with it with gusto and determination, constantly fine-tuning and improving it, especially if it leads to rewards and high regard.

Sigh. Any better notions? Can the circle be squared on this one?

26 comments:

  1. Ethical??? Decption is ALWAYS unethical. If you are a man or a tranny, deceiving people into belive that you are a woman, IS an ethical question which you have raised and so, I will leave it to you to answer.

    If you are a woman, where is the descption?

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  2. Is it possible?

    Uh..... YEAH!!!

    Living my life as the woman I had always known to be is not being deceptive. Just the opposite, for the first time in my life I'm being true to myself. In every day real life, NO ONE will come up and say to me that I'm a lying, deceitful person even if they have figured out whom I once was.

    THEY DON'T CARE!

    There is more important issues than this.

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  3. Lucy, I must admit to being troubled by the reading in your blog again about themes of 'deception' and inauthenticity. You have written before about 'passing'...a term I personally despise and which I think, like so much of this language, stems from a feeling about ourselves which - for me at least - is extremely unhelpful. This language, these concepts, all put society's attitudes and prejudices at the centre of our self perception, not our own.

    You are you. It's absolutely good enough. Time to put down the worry about who or what other people think you are?

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  4. There is so damned much wrong with your post I scarcely know where to start!

    I guess I'll start with the whole idea of deception! Where the heck is this deception? The world is binary... there are males and there are females and there is no "deception" as you put it. Unless you are in fact a man in a dress who is trying to pass yourself off as being otherwise... As for me? I'm female and so I "present" as a female! There is no deception, no lie, no pretense, no falsehood no "trying to pass", Because...durrrr! I am female!

    As to how my past relates to others? I am a female! What exactly is there to tell? That I had surgery to correct a birth defect? That said defect plagued me for years? This this should be anyone's business but my own? How?

    As for living as and being accepted as female 24/7/365? What the heck is so hard to grasp about that? I am female! How the heck else would I be perceived? As a man? How freaking odd would that be? I mean I am a female!

    As for having to lie about my past? I NEVER lie about my past! I simply leave out any minor details that are no ones business but my own! It's called discretion! It is an art that any wise woman practices and often! (Hint every lover is always the best and biggest and the only one who touched your heart!)

    In fact I have never had a lover who knew of my past and by god I never will! It's none of their damned business!

    As for knowing if it is possible to be female? uhhhh yeah!!!! There are some three and a half billion of them wandering the earth and of those who shared in this birth defect? I know of more than a few for whom their past is a closed book known only to them and their doctor... just as it should be!

    You really need to get your head together on this one Lucy cause you are headed towards a rude and ugly awaking... Hate to be the one to tell you this... but you had a sex change, so like it or not, it is way too late for any crying or regrets, you are now physically female so it is past time to get that bloody damned bastard out of your head and stop playing why won't the world accept me games!

    If you have things to work on then get to work! Hey no one twisted your arm and made you do this! You are the one who called the tune and now that it's a playing? Well you best get to learning how to dance already! That it might be hard or that it will take years to learn it? So what? You didn't really think it would be easy did you?

    Climb on the table, go to sleep and snip snip and a few hours later by magic it just happens? Tain't so! But if there is a girl in that head then it is doable! I know cause I and others did it!

    MKIA

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  5. Sigh. I accept responsibility for being unclear and not getting my meaning and intention across. But I don't think it was that opaque. I seem to have touched a raw nerve here.

    I was talking about a minority of trans women who are in a position to go anywhere, and be with anyone, without any possible challenge. I'm not one of them at this point, but I do aspire to that state, and it troubled me that if I reached it I would often have to be untruthful in order to maintain a perfect 'cover' - rather as a spy in a foreign land, whose job requires him to pose as a local, needs to fully enter into his part and necessarily deceive everyone in order to remain undetected.

    I'm not accusing anyone of breaking any law, social or otherwise, but as a philosophical matter 'living undercover' seems questionable and worth at least some discussion. I don't think it's an unimportant issue.

    I'm not hung up on whether I blend in with other women. I've ample everyday evidence that I do. Moreover, I constantly push the boundaries and seem to get away with it. That gives me a solid basis for a proper self-confidence. So much so that I'm not afraid to test my attitudes in a public blog. Nor incidentally to publish my image close-up - not always a flattering sight! And I get some comeback now and then - but that's what happens when you look for a readership.

    Nor am I struggling to get rid of the man in me. I accept that at this point my male conditioning is still apparent, but it will fade.

    This clearly wasn't a well-received post. But not all of them can be. At least it was expressed in the low-key language of the educated enquirer, and not in the shrill language of those who can only rant.

    Lucy

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  6. I think you might be missing the oint, Lucy.

    IF you are a woman, then WHERE is the deception?

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  7. Lucy

    I'm not angry and no, you did not touch a raw nerve but that said, it does get old when faced with the same ol precept behind this idea of "trans!" As in when you are saying trans-woman, that you are saying that you were once a man, not male bodied, but a man, and that bottom line, no matter what you do, you still are!

    Look it is exactly as Anne said it! There really can be NO deception if you were "a woman to be" and all you did was correct the plumbing...

    While that certainly does next to nothing about decades of social conditioning which must be unlearned and the unlearning is not easy, bottom line...

    The only reason a transsexual gets surgery is because the two parts do not match and that mis-match is making her insane... Once the parts match then there can be no deception, there is no lie, there is no falsehood, there is no untruth, there is nothing clandestine or stealthy, there is no wool to pull, there is no presentation...

    You simply are!

    Now if the issue is not "deception" because one is still male, but how one is perceived by others that is still reading as male, then that I'm afraid falls to you to fix... Not as in getting them to be accepting of you as other, but for you to get it right as a woman!

    You are correct by the way in this does need to be discussed a whole lot more than it is, but you gotta let go of all that front loading for there to be any dialog what-so-ever

    MKIA

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  8. I don't know if it was the bit about deception or the assuming that we have to be a minority... or exactly what it was about this, but darn Lucy! This has gotten under my skin and boggles my mind!

    I mean isn't the very point of all this transition business to do the very thing you are calling a deception?

    It reminds me of an ongoing discussion long ago, back when I started between a "trans-woman" who after transition, still lived with the wife, still had the same job, same house, same car same neighbors in fact the same everything but her genitals and first name... Yet this same person would swear up and down that it was utterly impossible to be other than the pseudo-woman she was!

    The irony of it was that these comments were usually directed at a particular woman who is, as you put it, "natal" as is humanly possible! Her voice never cracked, she had her correction over three decades back and she is happily married and has been for two decades and her husband has no idea about her past and never will... In fact, other than her doctor and his nurse. NO ONE in an entire continent has any clue that she was born other than she is now!

    There were several women who mentored me but I gravitated to this one in particular because she did the work and went on to the very thing that I had aspired to since I was five!

    but as you put it even then it seemed that was a minority thought (and has gotten more so with time!)

    So I guess it always takes me back a bit whenever I read something, as I read it here, questioning to the negative if it is really possible to leave it all behind...

    It is and I been followed in her footsteps since day one and for most part, I like her, now fit your definition of that tiny minority that can and does life just as ordinary women...

    But the thing that gets me is I don't get why it is a minority and I guess that is what got under my skin so!

    You see your thought is, as much as I hate it, far from out of the ordinary in our "community" In fact it seems to be the majority opinion and I have no idea why!

    So perhaps you could explain why it is that you would think it a deception to be just a woman, or why one would want to hold on to a past that was wrong in every way possible?

    Cause fer me? I honestly just don't get it! I really really don't get it!

    MKIA


    As she put it, when she turns off the computer, her past becomes just that, her past...

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  9. Hey Lucy honey.

    Just hugs.

    We should get together again sometime. It's been too long.

    Posts are posts. It was clear. No nerve touched. Just hoping you're in a good place?

    xx

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  10. Lucy, purely on an intellectual level I understand what you are saying but the considerations which underlie your post are so wrong if you are a woman born with a body of the wrong sex, that I find it difficult to understand why you had surgery before having this one clear in your mind.

    As Anne says what deception? The only and unfortunately immense deception was all those years during which we late transitioners knew and didn't take the step. Or....?

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  11. Interesting comment, Lucy.

    It's a shame some don't seem to realize it's your life, your perceptions and your questions.

    I'm not at all sure there's any answers, or if any are needed. Sorry. :-(

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  12. That's right Lucy. never mind what us women have to say. Listen to the MEN. They know. So don't you worry your pretty little head. It is your life and you just go on and live it just as you choose.

    You let the men worry about all those big important things like ethics, or what YOU think might be worth discussing or what might be important to you.

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  13. Lucy, your question is a big one I think.

    "Is it completely right to have a presentation so flawless that there is no discernable difference between oneself and a natal woman?"

    Personally, this question, with man replacing woman, is a question I wrestled with, because to create and sustain that man, and I did, it was (and in my case, still is) necessary to suppress huge parts of myself.

    So my answer to your question is, it is wrong to "create a presentation" in order to be flawlessly female, but I can see nothing wrong with having that presentation as long as it is authentically yours.

    Thanks for making me think this morning Lucy.

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  14. Think there are problems in phrasing this re presentation, but really it's just another way of asking how do we incorporate our history into our social relationships I suppose.
    Deception seems somewhat strong when applied to everyone. If you know from an early age, are supported by family and transition as early as possible then the approach that it's simply a birth defect applies reasonably fully. If you've lived a fair amount of your life as a guy then whilst not exactly deception, there is the more substantial one that it weakens you when you deny that former experience.
    My narrative is somewhat different, but I do find it helps, at least with women, when I can have conversations where I can say 'When I was a guy...'. It helps me to be that honest and it helps women around me to better understand guys and it helps acceptance because I'm doing something that a woman in my situation should be doing.
    As an ethical dilemma, I tend to approach it through the Pygmalion metaphor. Is it right for Eliza to take on new accents and behaviour to enter other regions of society ? Sure. Is it right for her to draw a veil over her history ? Absolutely. Is it right to manufacture a different history ? Expedient yes, honest no, and self destructive yes. The more your life has been in a male world, the stronger I'd say these apply.

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  15. Oh Jezees Sophie!

    You don't get it anymore than Lucy does! This is a binary world! If you're a female then even living as a guy with a guy's plumbing confers zero real understanding of what it is to be male! A bit of empathy towards them and their dual brain thingie perhaps but understanding? Nope!

    And as for a manufactured history? Oh give me a fricking break! How many times do I have to say this? I NEVER lie! I manufacture nothing about my past! I can rattle off my narrative coming from a dead sleep and never NEVER miss a beat cause it is exactly what happened!

    The first time a man made love to me one of the many wonderful thoughts that swirled through my head was that I NEVER had a clue what it was to be a man! NEVER! I realized that all my struggles to play man had made me into nothing more than a Cargo Cultist playing at male without the least bit of understanding of male!

    So frankly M;Dear? It's pretty darn easy to give my history from A to Z and in the doing never tell a soul I was born with the wrong plumbing!

    BTW Discretion... It is one of the high social arts that it seems the "trans-community" really should bother to learn! Frankly no one wants to know the details of how you peed and when! So all this prattling on to the grocer or the hat check or the dry cleaner about how you are trans this and that is not only weird but boring as hell too!

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  16. It's hard to know how to respond to you, Mkia. You're asserting a far wider notion of the gender binary than I'd go along with. Specifically I'd say that a model of gender dimorphic neurology needs to account for some plasticity. When we talk about the self perception of our gender identity in terms of our realisations about our real selves, I tend to get rather skeptical. I'm not trying to say anything about some residual maleness. Personally when I identify as a trans woman I do so as an acknowledgement of my history, my pre surgical state and my politics, certainly nothing to do with my present gender identity which I sincerely hope stays simply female. Nothing I do is any kind of act in that way.
    But I assume that your biography is such that your history in a man's world hasn't particularly informed you, so the degree of deception you practice could be small enough to be called discretion. For myself that wouldn't be true however much post hormonal sexual intensity I've experienced, and that I'd probably describe pretty much as you, ( but obviously change 'man' to 'soft butch'). My past as a man doesn't weigh on me but those experiences were formative and my socialisation completely different from a cis woman.Therefore ,say, the repertoire of style I have from which my own woman's style developes has elements based on that male history. Do I conceal those, do I tuck myself into a perfect stereotype safe from reading or do I risk being out and proud at every grocer ? That's a hard and legitimate choice, I'd have thought.

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  17. @Miz...Just so you know that was a brilliant observation/reference to the "Cargo Culture". It certainly offers a graet analogy to explain our sad attempts at "Role-Playing" prior to correction.

    Sophie,I am afraid is suffering the residual side effects of too much psychotropic self medication.

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  18. @ Halle....

    Putting ethics aside for he moment, might you comments of the effects of carrying this "perfect presentation' of some who you are NOT.
    anoter words, would ou recommend it as a WISE thing to do?

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  19. This seems to me like yet another confusion between sex (female/male, for the most part) and gender (behaviour). The behaviour and presentation of women born female-bodied is all over the map. I know women who are ultra-femme, and more women who are way more butch than I ever was. And they are all women.

    So this idea of deception and "passing" seems wrong to me. Cross-dressers might attempt to pass. Me, I'm just being me. I'm female. There is no deception and no "passing." Do I act "flawlessly" like a woman? Of course I do -- in my own way. Women born female-bodied didn't all grow up the same way or have the same experiences. They act like themselves too. I'm really no different in any discernible way. I had my own set of experiences that weren't typical of males. Who, indeed, is typical?

    I don't normally bring up my unusual history because, really, no one cares and no one really want to know. It's a conversation stopper. I remember that from when I was much more open.

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  20. It's not a binary world. There's some binary biology - broadly driven by reproductive need (though even this is subject to wide variation...'women' born without ovaries, or infertile, 'men' born gay, and so on.) The rest is binary culture.

    More than 150 native American tribes included within their societies individuals who sat between the two 'poles' (concepts actually alien to them). Born with physically male characteristics, they lived and were treated as women, whilst undertaking some tasks they shared with the men. The phenomenon is widespread in the Indian subcontinent - the Hijra, and in Pakistan you can now be reorded as 'third gender' on your passport. Equally in Thailand, the Katoey are well known. In Polynesian societies, a mix of gender was common and is still found.

    The locked-down cultural gender binary is a product of the Judeo-Christian tradition and the imprint of the European culture that colonised the world in the 17th-19th centuries. Interestingly, as this culture has continually been strongly patriarchal (led by religion), it has in some cases been possible for people born with 'female' bodies who felt themselves to be more 'male' to live lives which spoke to this need. Male society discounted and ignored this flippant attempt by 'women' to ape maleness, and in many ways it still does. It remains very unthreatened by this. In another way, the attempt to join the 'male' culture was seen as flattering and supportive of the prevailing value system.

    By contrast those looking the other way - to present and/or live as 'female' if previously identified as 'male' - have long been attacked and vilified - as this is a highly treatening rejection of the supremacy of the male cultural supremacy. In the same way male homosexuality was an offence, but female homsosexuality wasn't even worth making a law up about, in many societies.

    More an more medical evidence is piling up - pre natal, chromosomal, neurological, that we are all a cocktail of factors that place us in our unique place on the gender spectrum. How we respond to where we find ourselves - from needing to 'transition', to live a genderqueer life, to - at worst - committing suicide, is a product of the relationship between the experience of that place and the society and culture in which we live.

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  21. Some commentators have most certainly had interpretational problems with my post that I hadn't anticipated. Well, I can learn a little from that.

    Perhaps I should have mentioned my historical background on truthfulness, and the particular incident that prompted the post in the first place.

    First the background. Honesty is a big issue for me. My entire working life of thirty-five years was devoted to investigating falsehoods and frauds, unravelling complicated schemes for hiding money, assessing just how much people had lied, and not least making them confront their dishonesty. And of course negotiating a punishing settlement. It's not what I wanted to do with my life, but I did it, and it's left its mark on me.

    As for the incident that prompted the post, I simply went outside in to my car and there was a neighbour whom I'd not spoken to for months. She was working at home that day. We'd had a great conversation woman-to-woman last Christmas in another neighbour's house, and since then we had intended to speak again, but in fact never encountered each other. But now we had the opportunity for another chat. I invited her in to see my house. She instantly accepted, despite being busy, and I gave her the usual tour. All the time we chatted about lots of things, and it struck me how well we got on. It was all so natural, and her departing offer of a cup of tea and more chat soon seemed absolutely genuine.

    She behaved as if she had never heard about the old me and my transition. I felt uncomfortable, not being sure whether she knew or not. My sense of rightness urged me to tell her the truth, to remove any misunderstanding about who I'd been. My gut feeling was that it wouldn't alter her attitude towards me, except to respect me more for my openness. She was treating me as another woman, at ease with me, extending her warmth and friendship, and I felt she deserved the truth. And it troubled me to think that unless we settled this and moved forward from it, then I could end up being friends with her without having been perfectly honest.

    The post was built on all this. Perhaps I should have written it up as a simple story with implications. In a nutshell it asked whether - in personal bonding situations - it's best to set the record straight up front, rather than keep quiet. And that's all.

    Lucy

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  22. I'm not at all surprised by the reason for the question Lucy, I've heard a thousand variations of this over the years and it always comes down to one thing! What is the truth here? After all truth is not absolute but is actually relative to the situation isn't it?

    So to move it off the sex change for a moment might I use the American Revolution for example? Take the "heros" of our revolution! Certainly from England's stand point they were traitors of the worst sort and had England won they would have hung or worse! But England did not win and so to us they were some of the most exemplary and noble men ever born!

    So which is it? Were they the scum of the earth bent on overturning a god given empire? or were they the noble founding fathers of a whole new order who should rightfully be enshrined forever and ever?

    Both?

    Neither?

    guess "truth" really does depend upon the context doesn't it!

    Now then! If you are a female... Right here! Right now. You are a female then how can you possibly be lying to say just that? Would not that truth then make it a lie to say that you were not in fact a female? Cause that is exactly what you are doing by dragging and old trans status back into the picture...

    So, are you female or are you not? Which is the truth for you?

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  23. 22 comments is way too many for one post. I'm going to put this present issue to bed in another post this morning, and then turn to lighter subjects.

    Lucy

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  24. Nah, 22 comments is just getting started! You should be glad to have generated so much discussion.

    Thanks for telling the story that prompted the post. That makes the situation clearer.

    You said you were uncomfortable with the fact that your neighbour seemed as though she might not have known that you had once been male-bodied. You can't just wish that discomfort away. But maybe you should take a cue from her. She might or might not know. Assume that if she doesn't, it doesn't matter, and if she does, she doesn't care.

    I actually sometimes lose track of who knows and who doesn't. My assumption is that no one knows. That's just the way my brain is working these days. Even if they do know, it makes no difference to me. I behave the same way. It's a non-issue, unless someone brings it up.

    I have a friend who is a lesbian who for more than a year has been going out with a wee little very butch woman. Except for the fact that my friend is tall and her girlfriend is short, it's a classic butch-femme match. Like many lesbians, especially someone whose girlfriend might be called "transgender" by some, she is very aware of gender issues. She knows a lot of people who have transitioned in one way or another. Does she know that I am a woman born transsexual? Very likely. Has she ever brought it up? No. Does she act as though she wants me to talk about it? Not in the least. We just enjoy each other's company.

    I was brought up to be scrupulously honest. It has gotten me in trouble sometimes. But when it comes to my history, I am no more inclined to bring it up than to discuss the operation I had when I was 12. Because truly, most people just don't care. And it will stop a conversation dead. Who wants that?

    MKIA has mentioned discretion more than once. It's not dishonest to keep some things to yourself. Everyone does it. Civilization wouldn't function if everyone were brutally honest. Like MKIA, I don't lie. I just keep a few things to myself. And I don't feel the least guilty or dishonest about that. Your mileage may vary.

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  25. There's no obligation, Lucy. As Ariel notes, if she's guessed, she's guessed. If she hasn't, who cares? We all have things we don't talk about; and there's nothing demanding "full disclosure". :-)

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  26. Yes, I think Ariel's comment was very helpful.

    Lucy

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