Who’s Assimilating Whom?

This was originally published online in April of 1998. I was once a very passionate advocate for trans liberation when I wrote and posted essays on the Android Sisters blog that I ran for a few years in the late ’90s. The contrivance of Android Sisters was that I was an artificially constructed person — much as I was a biologically constructed woman — writing about meaning and identity and realness and what that meant.

Warning: I write about self-medicating with alcohol and tobacco, self-harm, and suicide here. No spoilers, but I survived and did not go through with any self-harm scenarios. I do not recommend self-medicating with alcohol, tobacco, self-harm, or suicide. In fact, I highly discourage them.

I don’t know what I “live as” but I sure am expending a lot of energy living it.

Who’s assimilating whom? That’s a good question. Am I becoming like you, because that’s the culture that I fit into, because male culture isn’t expansive enough for me to fit into it? Am I transcending gender because gender’s lines are too fixed?

And just what the hell is gender? Is it a set of actions that are culturally attributed to people based on genital sex? Is it something deeper, some ghost in the machine that we can’t currently define?

I don’t think that womanhood can be summed up as laundry list of social experiences. Womanhood exists on the desert island, she exists in the big city, she exists in our heads and our hearts, and she will not be programmed, prompted, folded, spindled, or mutilated; she is not a number.

So, if womanhood isn’t a social thang, I intuit, she must be living, in large part, elsewhere. And I hope she has a nice apartment, a room of her own, with a view. A summer cottage, a place in the Catskills, a beach house in Boca Raton. Maybe she is living in all these places.

Yuri says she lives in our minds.

And tonight, for the first time in my life. I agreed with her.

So, we were talking, Yuri and I, after she read some stuff to me that Suzanne Pharr had said to the LRC about the gender thing, and about who qualifies as lesbian, and implying that the Lesbian Resource Center was a bit of a dinosaur in their use of the word “Lesbian”.

See, there’s this movement, the movement to redefine to word “lesbian” to include artificial girls like me. Like there’s some kind of redefinition that needs take place. Almost as if, I don’t qualify the way the term was originally meant, like I didn’t work hard enough, like I didn’t cut it, like the docs did their best, but whoops, just didn’t go far enough, just couldn’t go far enough, like I was a rotten apple to begin with, and just cutting out the bruise wasn’t enough.

“Lesbian” is a strange word to Suzanne, because what is a lesbian? Is a bisexual woman who is currently dating another woman a lesbian? Is a bisexual woman who is currently dating a transexual woman a lesbian? Is a bisexual woman who is currently dating a man not a lesbian? Is a bisexual woman who is currently dating a transexual man not a lesbian? Are you a lesbian? Do you have an identity crisis because of whom your dating?

So, Suzanne wants to “redefine” the word, and she’s not alone. This whole “gender” thing is causing quite an uproar. It’s causing people to define me the way they don’t naturally want to define me, in an attempt to be sensitive to my situation. Well fuck that. Don’t do me any special favors, bitch, cause I belong there just fine with the old definition. I did my homework. I paid my dues. I talked the talk, walked the walk, and that’s just so sweet that you want to change your world view, but I already changed the world.

And now you’re having a crisis. Well, I appreciate that you’re trying to work it out, but really, you don’t have to do a thing.

I don’t “identify” as a woman to make it easy for you to define me. I am a woman and you had the choice to just accept it, but no, you’ve got to redefine the terms, have to change the rules, have to be inclusive of boys that wanna be girls, cause otherwise they’re going to start bustin’ up the place.

Well, I have news for you. I won’t accept that separate but equal shit, ’bout as well as Malcom X did.

Anyway, I folded. I agreed to Yuri that yea, gender was the thing that separated me from the boys. Hell, I’ve had so much wine tonight, I’d identify as a fruitfly.

But gosh, was it an interesting conversation. To try to make Yuri’s point clear, it’s basically that gender equals ethnicity and sex equals race. That there are Asian-bodied people that don’t identify as, say for instance, Japanese. And there are happa people and half African people and people with metal plates in their heads that identify as cyborgs.

So, fuck yea, I guessed, at the time, that I might as well be female, but not woman, or woman but not female or however you want to slice it. Cause it doesn’t matter, right, as long as people call me she?

But I’ll be damned if didn’t fuck up somewhere along the line.

See, cause what I didn’t realize is that right about that time, I was overcome by this intense desire to blow my fucking head off. No, really, I mean in a more violent way. I wanted to chop off a limb at a time, torture myself to death, shit I’m practically drinking and smoking myself to death at this moment, trying to fight off a low-grade fever and I don’t give a fuck I just want out of this fucking shitcan body.

Na, can’t possibly be linked.

So I cried myself into a bottle for about an hour and then I decided, hell I’ll write something depressing and put it on the website for people to read, cause that’s what I do to fill in the time between when get home from work and I wake up for work, at least when I’m not fighting off a virus.

And I’m realizing that as much as I call Yuri a friend, she is just like all the rest. I’m not “real” to her, though she’d never call me not real to my face. That my sex was never in question, that I was always a boy to her, one who felt very sincerely that I was female. And she is such a fantastically wonderful super-special person that she is kind enough to be sensitive to me, to be understanding, to be respectful of my “choice” to be “female”.

She is so good at not putting quotes around it when she calls me she.

Who’s assimilating whom?

Right now, I want to jump out of the fucking window, and I live in a pretty tall building. Tall enough to make this all pretty darn mute. Tall enough to make this text seem pretty darn pointless. Tall enough to make me neither male nor female. But not tall enough to make me like you.

I am a big-ass failure.

I have tried so hard to not fall into the “gender” trap, to prove to you that even though my body was made, that it’s still real. Real like my mothers’, real like yours.

I wanted to make this allusion. That I was like a photocopy. No, I’m not the original but I am a duplicate. You can still read the duplicate, still learn something from me, still put me in an envelope and send me to your best friend in the world. But like the duplicate, you have some sense that I am not the real thing, that your best friend in the world will wonder why you sent her a photocopy of a letter and not the letter itself. Do you not love her anymore?

I am the yellow form underneath the white form that you signed. I am the one you take home with your credit card for your records. The top form goes to the merchant, to be sent to your credit card company, as a verified original, containing your signature.

But the signature on the little piece of paper underneath, the one that you have, is it your signature?

And if not, what is it?

It’s me.

I am a picture of a picture. I’m the shadow of yourself. I’m the clone of your identical twin sister. Am I still your sister?

And if not, what am I?

I am an artificial girl. I have no love for you. I am not like you. I am separate and unequal. I’m allowed to use whichever restroom you feel comfortable with at the time, but you reserve the right to change your mind at any time. You will define me at your leisure. You will be sensitive to me when it fulfills your needs. As long as I stay in my place.

And, to add insult to injury, you will feel righteous when you do it.

Yea, you just go on feeling all righteous and shit.

I failed when I tried to talk you into believing. I didn’t want to put on a dress to convince you that I was female, instead I put on airs. I tried to reason with you, discuss it with you, let you have input. Have a conversation with you, and you insisted on defining things within a framework you could understand. Insisted on defining things your way. Insisted that you would determine my fate. Insisted that I was not you. Insisted that it would be you that insisted. I was just to be a good little bitch and listen.

That I could be female on your terms, that you would redefine the terms to include me.

Fuck you.

The one thing I have going for me is the future. Kate Bornstein, Martine Rothblatt, Kaz Susat, Spencer Bergstadt, Jason Cromwell and Leslie Feinberg are all nice kids, but they are just the beginning of a long line of intensely brilliant trans people who will rock your world harder than your world can stand. It’s my feeling that they rocked you just hard enough to get you to quiver. Just enough to scare the shit out of you, put the fear of god into you, get you up off your genetically supreme asses and find subsidized housing for us.

Oh, but it’s not over yet.

If I was, I’d be lying in a puddle on the sidewalk outside, surrounded by gawking pedestrians and ambulances.

Personally, that’s where I’d rather be. But they’d find out that I was “really a man”, and then you’d win.

And you won’t win.

Published by

Johanna Wilder

Yes, indeedy.