Thursday, March 21, 2013

Eddie Izzard and Rocky Horror

As much as I like Eddie Izzard and his slightly chaotic rhetorics and we do play on the same team mostly, he recently said something that I find bothers me. It has been on my mind for several days which means I need to do something with it. So here it is.

"The Humanist Community at Harvard, the American Humanist Association, and the Harvard Community of Humanists, Atheists, and Agnostics presented their 6th Annual Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award for Cultural Humanism on February 20 to comedian, actor, marathon runner, and aspiring mayor of London (2020) Eddie Izzard.

Following a short performance, Izzard took time for audience questions."

In response to one of the questions on being in boy mode lately, part of his reply was:
"And then there’s transvestite and transsexual, which I believe are the same thing but it depends whether you take hormones to move yourself from transvestite to transsexual. The next person has a different thing saying, “No it’s not that. This is the name of it.” It’s a bit like where gay and lesbian were back in the 1950s."

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As I said, we mostly play on the same team. That's the transgender team. But the team is divided and he is in the transvestite corner and I'm in the transsexual corner.

Here he says that, in his view, transvestite and transsexual is the same only transsexual is transvestite plus hormones. I cringed when I read that. I really did. I remember the first time I saw the Rocky Horror Picture Show and got really confused when Tim Curry sang about being a sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania. I know it sounds good, but it's highly confusing. A lot of people think that transsexual = transvestite + hormones and they can use those words interchangeably. But that's not the case.

Not fitting the binary gender is confusing as hell. It took me some time to figure out where I fitted in as well. You don't fit the norm, the standard. You are different and don't fit in, you stand out. And then you find this group of people that doesn't fit the binary either and you assume they must be like you then. Transvestites have their own culture. It's something they do. And when it isn't convenient they can choose to change into clothes that fit their birth gender and be left alone. I recently got to know someone who is a drag king. I didn't know she was one until she told me so. I never would have guessed. This is one of the main differences between transvestites and transsexuals. For one group it is optional when they express how they feel. For the other it is always there. There is no on or off switch. One of the questions I got from some people when I told them I am a transsexual was if I couldn't just be a masculine woman and maybe go in drag every now and then, or be a tomboy. It seemed like such a simply solution. If I could, I would. It would make life easier. It would mean I wouldn't have to change my body, just the way I dress. If I was a transvestite I could. But I'm not a transvestite. Even if I would go in drag full time it would still not solve the problem.

So this brings me to the hormones. Once you start hormones you can't undo them anymore. It's not just for when you feel like it. It's changing your body permanently. When a transvestite takes off her make up and high heels, they still feel like themselves. They can look down at their bodies and still say: this is me. When I look in the mirror, I don't see myself. And no matter how I dress up and do my hair, I am still not me as long as my body remains the same. I believe this is a fundamental difference between transsexuals and transvestites. The difference is being able to look at yourself in the mirror, being able to undress without feeling repulsed by your own body. This is a huge struggle for all transsexuals and can not be ignored or belittled. A transsexual is not a transvestite going over the top. A transsexual is someone who is trapped in a body that they do not belong in. Transition is not something you do because you feel like the world should accept the way you wish to express yourself. It's not optional. It's life or death.

I'm not saying travesty is not a valid gender identity. And I'm not saying life is easy for them. They have their own struggles and I am very glad they have Eddie as their spokes person. I'm just saying, just because apples and pears are both fruit, doesn't mean they are the same. Of course everyone should be treated equally, no matter what gender someone has. But that doesn't mean we should treat everyone the same, because people are not the same. After all, if they were and we did treat everyone the same, I probably would have struggled with being born in the wrong body, and the expectations that came with that body, much less.

This is what I believe. Though, of course, I could be wrong as well. Feedback is always welcome. After all, I'm still learning as well.

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