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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Who Makes a Woman?

Author Elinor Burkett asks if women and men have different brains in her quest to assert “What Makes a Woman?”

The greater question she wishes to attend to is whether trans women are women. To Burkett, they are not.

She asserts that many self defined Progressives are adopting an idea that differentiation within the brain causes differences in life paths taken and hard wires our gender within us all.

That may or may not be true, these notions or ideas about brain differences.  It is a straw man argument. Proffering such seeks not to discuss the greater issue, but to obfuscate it.  We do not need to debate such notions, because the outcome changes nothing with respect to Burkett’s real claim, “that being a woman means having accrued certain experiences, endured certain indignities and relished certain courtesies in a culture that reacted to you as one.” Burkett further claims that “female is a social construct that has subordinated [women].”

We can agree that Woman is a social construct and that it most certainly has subordinated women, however, her vague “certainties” are lacking. What precise experiences, what certain indignities, and which certain courtesies is Burkett professing? Besides not being fully articulated in her piece, Burkett’s Rules of Womanhood are, so far as I am aware, not articulated elsewhere.  If one discounts trans women for failing to possess some or all of Burkett’s Rules, what becomes of cisgender women without all of the dynamics Burkett asserts are necessities, not just sufficiencies? Do people like Burkett have the privilege of asserting qualification upon womanhood?

Arizona State University Professor James Paul Gee is vested in the study of linguistics and discourse communities. Gee’s work is well documented and his understandings of literacy, learning and acquisition are nearly unparalleled.  For Gee acquisition is “a process of acquiring somethingsubconsciously by exposure to models and a process of trial and error, withouta process of formal teaching.” We find Burkett presenting a notion of acquisition.

Social constructs rely upon acquisition. It is a process by which enculturation transpires. Burkett accepts Woman is a social construct. She asserts acquisition is a mechanism which bestows membership. Since acquisition requires exposure, and such exposure alone, without a process of trial and error is insufficient to acquisition, such memberships change over time. The greater the exposure, the more frequent the process of trial and error, the stronger the acquisition. So if one is to accept Burkett’s ideas of membership into womanhood, all women are not equal members. Some have less exposure to models (constructs) and fewer sequences of trials and error. Are they less of a woman? Burkett believes so.

The issue is not “What Makes a Woman?” as Burkett entitles, however it is “Who Makes a Woman?” as her argument reinforces. Burkett believes she makes that determination.


Setting aside diversionary theories, we can see Burkett offers nothing new under the sun. This form of Essentialism is premised on there being only two qualifying attributes of a woman; the assignment of female at birth for that individual; and progressing entirely through one’s lived experience within that socialized group as reacted upon by society. Consistent to this, Burkett argues those “who haven’t lived their whole lives as women… shouldn’t get to define us.” She manages this while simultaneously defining transgender women, without to this author’s knowledge, having lived ANY of her life as a trans woman.

So what of those individuals who were assigned female at birth, but didn’t have the same certain experiences Burkett ascribes are necessary for membership within the construct of womanhood, namely being reacted to as one?

Sojourner’s Truth is filling this discussion faster than the Republican Presidential race is filling with hopefuls.

“That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman?”

Sojourner Truth’s lived experiences are that of not being seen as a woman by a culture that devalued her very existence. Burkett’s arguments would deny Sojourner membership for not “having accrued certain experiences, endured certain indignities and relished certain courtesies in a culture that reacted to [her] as one.” So membership may consist of assignment at birth, or it may include lived experiences, yet possession of both are not necessities.  Given this, the social construct of Woman is open to all women, of all experiences, regardless of sex assigned at birth or Elinor Burkett.

“…and now old Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say."

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Of ordinary strength


I was recently asked to provide input for a piece being written in Baltimore GayLife concerning Women's History Month. I was asked who my role models were and if I knew any Sheroes (she-heroes, women regarded as heroes.) After citing several role models and women I admired and looked up to, I was informed by the author, I had be listed as a shero by someone else and if I could write a little something on it.

Humility, that ever elusive sliver of mercury, impossible to grasp and deadly to hold,  has been my guide. I failed but managed this:

I’m Jenna Fischetti. I have been a facilitator of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of Baltimore and Central Maryland’s (GLCCB) Gender Identity Group since 2006. It is a peer led group for gender non conforming persons. I have been sober for 6 years. In both areas of my life, it was necessary for me to seek integrity.
For me, the moment I integrate the inner and the outer, I produce integrity. The processes for sobriety and for gender authenticity require that I take the actions (outer) so that I may live the truth (inner).
The amazing dynamic which has appeared in my life is that these lessons, these experiences transcend sobriety and gender authenticity. They apply in everyday life, to everything I do. I was just blessed with the gift of alcoholism and a gender which is free of a binary construct. Without these opportunities in my life, it is impossible to say I would have ever known real integrity.
The growth that I must go through in order to consummate my truth in all areas of my life requires that I live to be of love and serve to others. Worthy intentions indeed, yet it is imperfect in persistent practice.
Moreover, I am humbled when I am approached by peers and those outside the select recovery or transgender communities who use words like “courageous”, “inspiring” “brave”.  I suspect I never gave those words a second thought before. It is because the words they use describe actions I took because of my faith in God, in my Creator. Simply put, it was a Power far greater than I.
When I let go of the notion that I alone could author change and accepted that I needed help from others, my life changed. My God works through other people. The men and women in my life who were overtaken by societal expectations of their gender, forced to deny their own truth, helped me by allowing me be of service to them. The peers imprisoned in drug and alcohol addictions, wanting to be free, yet not knowing a path, were my life rafts to safety. No, for it is most assuredly in giving that I have received. If any one ever believes I’m a SHERO, it is because they see the actions of countless others helping me along the Way.
Today there are Principles I have as Guidelines in my life. They give me strength to grow spiritually. It is my basic spiritual believe that each and every human possesses a spirit, a soul which is equal to all others and embodies the Divine. Our bodies, our minds, our gender are the diversities we utilize to touch and help each others. My experiences help you, and your experience help me. The end game is to awaken the Spirit in all of us to practice love and tolerance of others. Again, this Way is imperfect in persistent practice.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

How Do I Feel at the End of the Day...



“We can worry about who is this and who is that, we can argue about who does or doesn’t belong. We can talk about how much more legitimate one or another of us is. In the end, we’re all somebody’s freak – and basic human dignity is not a privilege of the lucky superior few, but a right of all or none.” -Gwendolyn Ann Smith
I've been busy. Life is full and so are its challenges, especially for a member of the transgender community.  

I've lost friends and gained new ones. I’d been forced to find new surroundings and met the challenge with open arms. Like most transgender people in this country, I live well below the poverty line ( <$9,000 per year, albeit the concept of “poverty” in this country is relative) I’ve had my life threatened on the streets of Baltimore and the shoebox I sleep in is just cozy enough to refresh me for the morning trek to the bus stop daily.

I can not begin to claim I am an expert on the challenges of small finance and street harassment  but I am working on my Masters.  I am a transgender person without means for FFS, SRS or at least an orchiectomy. I am unable to swirl a fat check (no, not fat chick as I do not want any “hate mail”) into the coffer of those promoting the Slow March to Equality, nor would I want to.

I exist, I believe, at the Will of my Creator.
  The length of the hallway between that door which opens after the other one closes, is sometimes very long, but its always just as long as its supposed to be (Thank you Gil). The experiences I live through, both good and bad simply serve to give me the tools I need at this very moment.

So while I may consider myself one of those at extreme risk of the rampant transphobia which exists in this world, I am not above the principles of spirituality I wish to ascribe to. It’s just that I have a standard I have to uphold irrespective of the chicanery of others.  Because someone professes virtue yet practices them not, I am not excused from my own action. Even if the acts of others increase the risk I face, I have to accept they are as they are supposed to be. I do not have to approve of them. I can stand up against them, however, I must not allow my principles to be martyred.


So, those of privilege who feel they speak aptly for those without and do so with the smugness and hubris of royalty, I wish to offer you peace and wellness. I need not approve of your thinly veiled cries for notoriety and popularity which wherefore previously escaped you. You were simply just the bullied geek in the hall, band instrument in hand, and alone.

I know because we are one in that.

May we grew as one in this.


Monday, January 17, 2011

And POOF! I'm an Icon

..wave the magic wand and a few thousand dollars, you too can be held up as the latest poster child for Role Model and success story in the Wonderful World of Dizzy.

I'm not sure where we went wrong. In the rush to crown role models, or more appropriately, Idols on the par with any popular television show, we have skewed our sense of success. It is not longer that triumph of the internal struggle and its profound impact on the lives of countless others, , its the attainment of the most recent procedure, the hobnobbing with the current In Crowd and the swilling of the fattest check in the trough of Gay Inc. No, by any measure of a civilized society, these are not qualities consistent to Character or Greatness, let alone Leadership. They are monoliths to Self.

There appears to be an interesting turn of events with former members of our Elite. They've seem to have descended Sinai, wiser and more humble for the experience and have quietly taken a place of worth. One such person, at times much maligned of recent, has been drawing my admiration for her quest in life. The improvement and empowerment of individual change in the lives in a local community. Nothing national. Just wishing to make an impact. She is becoming that true role model. I wish to learn from you.

Another has calmly existed for years, a voice of reason and clarity. Always striking accord with serenity in our Sea of Calamity. When derisive debate erupts, I can turn to a pearl or two of wisdom and calmness and reflect. Her vision sees the harmony in the discord.

They are all around us. Some formerly notorious and notable, others becoming obscure. Many never shone bright on the big stage, but all seek selflessness. These are my Icons. My hero and heroine.

The Narcissist and the Autocrat are not my cuppa. Earl Gray suits me just fine.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Child Within

A dear friend presented me with this book to assist me with mediation. Sadly, I'm only recently spent time with my nose in it. However, as with our friendship, when the student was ready, the lesson plan would appear.


The Child Within - Many of the emotional wounds that we carry around were inflicted when we were children. One way to heal such wounds is to comfort the child within. Imagine a child standing before you. Gazing down at the child, you realize that its you when you were small. Kneel down beside the child and introduce yourself. Encourage them to come toward you. If they are willing, hold them close to your heart in a warm embrace. Reassure the child that they are safe in your arms and that you will always be there to protect them from harm.I burst into tear the moment I saw, myself, standing there, arms at my side, no more than 4 years old looking very much like the photo here.



I reached towards him and was distracted by a message from a friend. And I realized, the true message. My vulnerability is my strength. My growth comes from it. Like the inner child I seek to protect, God sees me as His inner child and is there, on His knee, offering me His hand, and holding me near His heart, protecting me on my journey.
I am blessed and for that I am eternally grateful.


"A great man is he who does not lose his child's heart" -Meng Tzu (c.372-c.289BC)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Decade

Happy New Decade to all of my friends and family. A side effect of being a bit geeky is knowing that the New Millenium and thus Century and Decade started on 01/01/01. This means of course last night marked the close to our very first decade of a very apparent brave New World. Most for the obvious reasons, many for reasons yet obscured, yet I suspect, we all feel great change. I know I do.


In looking back, but briefly, I've seen the lost of deeply cherished loved one and the placing of new ones in my life. I've seen my old notions eradicated only to witness new ones germinate. I've taken stock of growth in others, albeit finding that growth within myself too.


My tears, my laughter, my fears, my joy, my struggles and my Faith all still exist. However they have changed. I have changed. The world I view through my own eyes has changed and for once, I end a decade grateful for it all.



Monday, December 27, 2010

Dear Holdout Coworker,

Dear Coworker,
I realize you are the lone hold out of my peers at work which refuses to accept my existance. I understand when you refuse to reply to my hellos. I can have empathy with your disrespect of my personal property by throwing it away. I feel the rise in your bile as I sit directly across from you in the break room causing you move to another table. My dear coworker, I am compelled to love you with every ounce of my existance, even when its seems to go to no good. Because sweet friend, oh frightened one of questioning faith and strength, you are I and I am you.

Love,
You

Friday, December 17, 2010

My coming out note from May 2010

I wanted share a note I wrote on a profile I kept of me, presenting as male. I wanted those who I was friends with to be told in a manner in which I controlled the tone.


I sincerely hope this note helps someone else, either in their own transition, or in coming to terms with a friend or family members coming to terms.


Dear Friends,

After years of struggling, therapy, love and support, I am finally being true to myself. I realize this may come as a shock to some of you. To others, you've been with me all the way. I am not changing who I am, just how I present on the outside to match who I truly am inside.(1 Samuel 16:7).


Every moment we shared was real. Every laugh, every tear, every heartbreak and every joy served to bind our lives together. Each and everyone of you has been an instrumental part of my growth, my life and my sobriety. I only hope we will continue to grow from here.

I am closing this profile down and redirecting all of my friends to my true and active profile at


http://www.facebook.com/jennaelizabeth


I will not try to send you a friends request. I will allow you to make that decision on your own. I only have the deepest love and respect for each and everyone of you.


God Bless you on your journeys,


Jenna Elizabeth Fischetti