Hidden memories of disgust

CW: non-detailed mention of genitalia.

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In earlier posts I’ve mentioned a lack of memories of transmasculine people. Thanks to a few posts by fellow bloggers, I’m suddenly remembering. And I’m embarrassed by my own disgust and I have to be honest about it. There’s no other way forward. 

Forgive the messiness of this. Emotion and memory are messy enough, but I’m thinking aloud and aware simultaneously of my inner process and all the poppycock gifted to me by others. The straights, the queers, the fearful, the traumatised. 

I have to admit that I laughed a lot as I finally came to terms with being a trans guy. I’d had a lot of fun stirring others with my “all white men look the same to me – who are you again?” and my “oh I don’t read books by men any more, they’re so passé.” I’d delighted in getting sports betting fanatics off my back during the dreaded men’s football season by saying, “all footballers are rapists.” It was so effective as a conversation stopper. And then when I came out I added yet another tired old white guy to the tally – just what the world craved! 

Sometimes feminists do enjoy badmouthing men. Not all men, haha, but boy, a lot of us deserve it. There’s just no getting around the stats for murder, rape and general mayhem. It can be a source of pride to say women are biologically superior, that if women ruled the world we’d all be happier, and that testosterone is the source of all evil. 

A lot is tongue in cheek. A lot is a way to discharge ongoing tensions involved in dealing with outdated and unacceptable attitudes on a daily basis. And sometimes trauma crystallises into self-protective and toxic rhetoric of its own. 

When I came out to my family in the 90s as a lesbian, my mother asked me why I hated men. “I don’t,” I said, “Some of my best friends are men. I just don’t want to have sex with them.” “Any more,” I would have added, if she wasn’t so focussed on me becoming a virgin bride one day. Other people automatically assumed I’d been hurt by men. Some assumed that I’d been molested as a child. For goodness sake, said one therapist, if that were the cause, there’d be darn few heterosexual women at all. 

At the time I found the p*nis disgusting, and a lot of male attitudes and behaviour disgusting, and had discovered that I had a lot more fun with women. It was a relief to stop trying to be a good heterosexual woman and embrace my true nature instead. 

While questioning my own discomfort, my dysphoria, I discovered genderqueer erotica. For a while I inadvertently came out to librarians, as I requested everything available on the LGBTIQ list. What struck me most, among these erotic stories, was the total absence of v*lvas. I’m still astounded. When I read Whipping Girl, by Julia Serano, even this absence made a curious (unhealthy) sense. If you read Julia’s book, you’ll see what I mean.

As I’ve said before, each group has social dynamics and I kept bumping into people who had vested interests in conformity. Part of me craved the intellectual rest and security of submitting to others’ rules. I explored all kinds of factions and theories within queer culture. Then retreated to my own corner to sort through it all and decide what fit me best. 

I remember hushed discussions of trans people and of particularly butch women who seemed to be taking masculinity ‘too far.’ At the time I remember agreeing, silently, that men were bad and looking too much like a man was bad. I was frequently read as male myself, but that was ok. I found that I enjoyed the ambiguity and fluidity of sexuality and gender. 

Later, I feared taking my own masculine presentation ‘too far,’ and wondered where the line was.

I’m drawn to social psychology and sociology, being bewildered and bothered by much of society. It’s a comfort to think that someone might have useful insights. They’ve studied the nature of groups, for instance, and ways in which groups foster cohesion. Identifying a shared foe is one method, as amply illustrated by politicians who frequently scapegoat the vulnerable. Ignoring the fact that all (most?) of us contain our own unique mix of both oestrogen and testosterone, some groups choose to scapegoat one of those hormones, equating it with the worst of human nature – a scourge, or a weakness.

So it was with me at one point. I’d only needed to analyse one edition of one newspaper to form the view that men were the source of all evil. Testosterone was toxic and the p*nis a weapon of mass destruction. Most further news broadcasts reinforced this. Personal anecdotes from friends and acquaintances reinforced this. The idea of someone within the lesbian community ‘becoming a man’ or even looking ‘too much’ like a man was appalling. Disgusting. I was ok with trans women because hello! Women! But to go to the dark side? Oy.

So I empathise now with my older lesbian friends who find my transition shocking. I see their aversion and yes, their disgust, and their struggle to understand. I see some of them embrace trans women and mouth platitudes of inclusion while curling their lips at trans men and non-binary people. And while I’m hurt, I do save space in my heart for them. After all, it took me a long time to accept myself, and these friends can’t see inside my soul. 

I even make space in my heart for that vocal minority who seek to keep themselves safe  in changing rooms and public toilets by traumatising transgender people and placing them in unsafe situations. As all I’ve heard from them are expressions of fear and hatred, rather than a wish to resolve the situation to the benefit of all concerned, I can only guess at their motivations, their triggers. I’m guessing that p*nises are synonymous with weapons and trauma for them, regardless of the owner. If this is the case, then I empathise with the panic. Given that I experience my own panic attacks and phobias, I won’t question their sanity. 

But I do question their morality. We here in Australia have a (recent) history of indiscriminately killing anything that has offended us, plus any of their families and their friends. We kill sharks swimming and feeding in their own darn habitats, trees that stood innocently by a road used by drunken/suicidal/speeding drivers, and eagles that have a perfect right to kill their own meals. We don’t stop at one, but forcefully assert our assumed dominance. It’s stupid and wrong. Shaming, blaming and attacking trans and gender diverse people is wrong. Making innocent people pay for someone else’s transgressions is wrong.

Like the ridiculously polarised arguments between cyclists and motorised transport users, the solution lies in design. There are multiple design solutions already available, so enough hate already. Let’s move on. 

After reading a blogger’s personal list of things that disgust them, I recalled my own discomfort and disgust. And after reading Trans Narrative’s book review of We Both Laughed in Pleasure: The Selected Diaries of Lou Sullivan, I recalled earlier mindsets, lingo, and social contexts of the 1980s and 90s. And I remembered a photographic exhibition, Assume Nothing: Celebrating Gender Diversity, that I attended with my ex-partner in the early 2000s. I had been drawn to it so strongly, without knowing why. It was a lot longer before I figured it out and even later that I borrowed the (gorgeous) book by Rebecca Swan, from the library.

I’d like to end by saying that it’s an interesting time to be a man. To be a trans man. To have lived experience in feminist and women-only environments, and to participate in conversations about toxic masculinity, gender equality, sustainability, and what it means to be a whole, happy and healthy human being. I’m learning so much and am grateful to have this outlet for my thoughts. Thank you for reading. 

Now, who on earth is that old white guy in the mirror?

*

I had a lot of fun writing this. Along with the blog posts mentioned, I was inspired by Luke Turner’s beautifully honest memoir, Out of the Woods (2019) – wholeheartedly recommend that book, too.

(I truly found the list of things that evoke disgust to be interesting and thought provoking. Cannot locate it now, sadly.)

32 thoughts on “Hidden memories of disgust”

  1. Interesting and I wish you could find that blogger’s post of disgust. Like the list of disgusting foods “would you eat this?” I’d be interested in the context of the post, and now I’m considering my own. Maybe you’ll find it one day. The whole bathroom deal always seemed blown out of proportion. I understood in terms of privacy but heck I hate to be in the public bathroom with anyone myself at certain times. I look at it as if we’re teaching our children shame and rigidity and intolerance. And male bashing is quite satisfying in the land of Trump and cronies but I remind myself no man is all men. I’ll look for that book. It’s the second recommendation from a blogger I’m adding to my growing lists.

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  2. As a white man who strives to be sensitive to women’s fears and beliefs, I still get my feelings hurt by blanket statements made by women lumping all men together. As you pointed out, there is a, XY spectrum. For those of us who skew away from the edges, it seems unfair to put us all in the same bucket. And while it’s never opaquely stated, I feel some discrimination from the male extreme as well (what? you don’t watch sports?!! At a party, you’re going to find me hanging out with the women.) The ill will you must receive is unfathomable to me. Thanks for opening up this topic to my awareness. It helps me better understand others and myself.

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    1. I appreciate your comment, Jeff. I wonder whether blanket statements are ever accurate? I was going to make one about them and caught myself. 🙂

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  3. I also, am an old white guy, and have always been white and guy, not always old. I grew up in the middle of homogenized Amerika. And with alcoholic parents, I was disgusted by myself and lived behind a wall of shame. It took decades of hard and painful work to free myself of it and learn to love who I was, the way I was. I have worked hard at learning unconditional love. For me, mine and others. Even after learning that I was worthy of my own love, freeing myself from the mindset of judging others, has been hard. It seems as if disgust is a fall back emotion. A first response to the truly different. I keep on working at it. I am eighty now, and I hope to live long enough to be totally free and able to love all. Thanks for your sharing. We are on a hard path. Dr. Bob

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      1. Thanks Over Soil: Many decades ago I spent a week with Jiddu Krishnamurti in Ojai. He was all about meditation. I have been since. I have been impressed by two things; one, how easy it is to overcome the stress of any one negative thought. And two, how quickly another replaces it. It gets easy and it is UnEnding. Dr. Bob

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    1. It certainly does feel hard at times, hey. Today it feels beautiful as well. I’m nourished by the sharing of our stories. Thanks mate.

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  4. It certainly is easy to blame the testosterone laden for the worlds woes. I often here the comment that women would rule the world better but I’ve seen some pretty awful estrogen laden personages as well. Maybe it’s time (past time) to stop looking at a persons outward appearance, including their perceived gender and start looking at their actions. Although bad actions hasn’t hurt Trump and his allies much. ;\

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    1. Agreed. I’m so sorry about this week’s result. I thought it was a given. I thought it couldn’t get any worse. It’s like playing limbo at a party while on acid… how lowww can you gooo?

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  5. I find your blog really thought provoking, then I get to your recommendation for Luke Turner’s book, and I do a double take! He is a friend of my daughter & son and both are mentioned in his ‘I want to thank these people’ pages, how random is that? Susie xxx

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  6. As an older (63) trans person myself (trans woman in my case) I really enjoyed reading your post. We don’t hear enough from trans men. Having tried to live as a male for over a half century I find it so fun to compare notes!

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  7. Good read! You put a lot of thought into this and you have some really good points. In fact, im going to read it again when i get home. As for all these “differences”between men amd women, i thi k most are imposed by society- internalized socialization. My mind went to a similar place as Dr. Bob above- i have gotten very into mindfulness, meditation, and more in touch with a higher conciousness and its been profound to see how much of ourself is just the ego ( or our thoughts. We have become our thoughts). You might be interested in looking into the topic of merging masculine and feminine energy inside of us. There is an over abundance of masculine energy, yes, but its rooted in problems within the collective unconcious and gender stereotypes, hormones, etc, are a product of this. If you end up looking into any of this, let me know what you think! I have been profoundly affected by it, especially as a trans person. I plan on writing about it

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    1. Hi Christian; One of the many disciplines I have explored in my years of struggling to become ‘self-aware’ suggested that we have both masculine and feminine currents within us (this was an ancient discipline probably before we knew about X and Y chromosomes). I have looked at my own problems with sexuality in terms of having an imbalance in those currents, and my work in tulpamancy was designed to address this problem. (years of psychoanalysis and therapy gave me an understanding of the psychological dynamics, but did not solve my problem with them). In my practice, mindfulness meditation has been key. Dr. Bob

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      1. So far, the most effective discipline has been my efforts with Tulpamancy. It has seemed to be magic; My wife has been becoming much more affectionate and loving since I began. Last night she explained why “you have become much kinder and warmer with me.”
        The solution to the problem, as it is with all problems, was for me to change my behavior.” Dr. Bob

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    2. I’ve been trying to write about that for months now, to no avail. I’ve meditated on and off since the 80s. Just when I think I grasp the things you mention, poof! Gone. So I guess I don’t get it at all. Hoping to learn from your experiences – they sound transformative. 🌿

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      1. Hi dustbunnies! Yeah it takes practice. People spend their entire lives trying to master mindfulness etc. Watching my thoughts as opposed to being my thoughts has helped emensely. Anyways, thoughts for your thought provoking writing!

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  8. Your blog always feels like a safe haven to me, while I’m reading it. And I’m always just in awe of the brilliantly compassionate yet brave way in which it’s written. I’ve read a lot of blogs; but I feel like yours is one of the truly most important blogs needed out there right now. Sending love and appreciation.

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  9. Woke up at 1:11am and can’t sleep, started to read this again (thinking I hadn’t already), but realised i’d missed stuff so carried on, like looking up the words transmasculine and dysphoria, laughing inside at the use of > * in v*lvas, then laughed inside some more thinking of Jeffrey’s love of “Volvo” in the TV series Waiting for god, oh and adding a “vey” to your Oy (with expression) and now it seems there’s another new word to look up: Tulpamancy. “I is getting an eduucashun innit!” ❤

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    1. Ha! I thought I might get edited out of someone’s family friendly reading stream if I didn’t use the *. We live in very interesting times, lol. “Oy vey” is one of my faves.

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