Saturday, 4 March 2023

Seriously not helping 2

In a previous post I talked about some people whose behaviour is seriously not helping the cause of trans people. These are people whose antics and conduct are so unreasonable that they are creating a backlash of resentment which is making things worse for the rest of us.

Aaaaaand I've come across some others. The first person I've heard about lately is Jessica Yaniv, a 35-year old Canadian transwoman, described on her Wikipedia page as a "transgender activist". Yaniv has been causing all sorts of trouble in British Columbia.

Jessica: seriously??
The issue I first came across was hearing that Yaniv had brought a series of lawsuits against beauty salons in her district who had refused to perform waxing of her genitals.

The salons were all small businesses run by a single beautician, most of whom were immigrants to Canada. Yaniv sought damages of up to $15,000, alleging transphobic discrimination.

Yaniv hasn't had genital surgery, which is pertinent to this article in that the beauticians stated (very reasonably) that they didn't advertise waxing for male genitalia, that they hadn't been trained to perform it safely, and that they objected to working on male genitalia for personal or religious reasons. They all said they didn't refuse on account of Jessica's transgenderism.

So here's the thing. It's quite possible to find salons who will wax any part of you, no matter who you are. For a hilarious example from Scotland, you can read about Miss Twist's experiences here. It's just a matter of phoning around first, and asking politely. Speaking for myself, I get my legs and chest waxed regularly by a lovely woman called Lynne, and I've never had any trouble (mind you, I don't go for genital waxing).

Jessica Yaniv deliberately targeted small businesses (rather than the large beauty chains), run by women whom she knew would be uncomfortable with the request, and who would be unlikely to be in a strong position to mount a defence against legal action. In other words, her behaviour was predatory. The lawsuits were all dismissed, but the associated costs and inconvenience caused two of the beauticians to go out of business as a result, even though she was ordered to pay damages to them.

You might think that such a resounding legal defeat would deter Yaniv from further similar antics--but she's no quitter! The next thing which came to my attention was that she was protesting that a gynaecologist had refused to see her. Yaniv posts frequently on Twitter, and she wrote:

Yaniv: So a gynaecologist office that I got referred to literally told me today that 'we don't serve transgender patients', And me, being me, I'm shocked.. and confused... and hurt.

Gervais: twittering
But the thing is, any reasonable doctor looking after Yaniv would know not to refer her to a gynaecologist. A gynaecologist just isn't the right sort of specialist to be dealing with any potential problem with her equipment. She might as well complain that her electrician refused to fix her plumbing. The right doctor would have been a urologist, or maybe an endocrinologist. Although as I have written before, the Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is demonstrating willingness to treat transwomen.

And my second comment is that she, being her, isn't shocked... or confused... or hurt, but delighted that she now has another excuse to play the despised victim, and kick up another ruckus.

But this time her comments came to the attention of comedian Ricky Gervais. I have never really enjoyed his comedy, although I came to view him in a new light as an actor. Like many comedians he can be quite vitriolic in his material, and lately he's been disappointingly transphobic very openly. In exactly the same vein, he lays into Jessica Yaniv via his Twitter account. Here's one example, but there are others.

It doesn't bother me if Jessica Yaniv annoys Ricky Gervais--but it does bother me when her antics are causing harm to the wider trans community, and they undoubtedly are. Canadian media say trans people have reported a sharp upturn in online hate toward them as a result of the publicity around Jessica Yaniv.

I find myself wondering what Jessica Yaniv gets out of all this controversy. I sense that she is using transgender rights as a shield, behind which she hides while lobbing rocks at everyone within reach. She craves attention, she craves publicity, and she enjoys exchanging Twitter insults with adversaries. I wonder what her next stunt will be--I'm sure we shall all hear about it in due course. But I'm prepared to predict that it seriously won't be helping.

Lemieux: seriously??
Still in Canada (!) we turn to the case of teacher Kayla Lemieux, who has been teaching woodwork in the Oakville Trafalgar High School near Toronto. The problem is Lemieux wears colossal prosthetic breasts (unfailingly reported as "Z-cup", although I don't know what that actually means), complete with very prominent artificial nipples, while teaching students. Understandably, this has provoked "months of debate" about her appearance.

Things seemed to develop when the New York Post reported it had followed Lemieux and discovered that she doesn't wear them all the time, and in fact usually presents as a man. Naturally, there is photographic evidence, and the testimony of a neighbour in further support.

I don't really think the New York Post represents the pinnacle of investigative reportage. Nonetheless, it seems pretty clear that Lemieux has been well and truly busted (geddit?). Lemieux has finally been suspended from her job (though without being sacked), and the New York Post is taking the credit.

"Oh, that's not me!"--seriously??
When you're discovered doing something you've been trying to keep secret, you have two options: you can come clean, or you can double down. With a weary sigh, I note that Lemieux has doubled down. She insists that the man in the New York Post's photos isn't her. You can judge for yourself here.

She insists those boobs aren't fake; that she is intersex, and has gigantomastia, although she admits she is "in transition" and has been on hormones. She also insists there's nothing wrong with the way she dresses, although there have been other complaints about her clothing, not just her boobs.

Lemieux: I don’t think there’s any problem with how I have dressed. It’s the personal opinion of other people. I don’t think I have dressed unprofessionally.

There's so much to discuss about Lemieux that I'm not quite sure where to begin!

First, let me state quite clearly that Lemieux's ginormous bazooms are plainly fake. Oversized breasts just don't have those prominent nipples. Second, large boobs are heavy, and women with very large boobs struggle with neck pain and back pain, and often have surgery to reduce their size. Only people who can take off their boobs at the end of a hard day can cope with boobs like those. (I'm also sure the man in the picture is Lemieux).

Oh wait--that's an airship!
You would wonder why a teacher in a woodworking class would be wearing huge boobs, which must surely get in the way and present a genuine hazard when using tools and other equipment.

Second, nobody (not even the New York Post) has reported that any of the complaints about Lemieux were because people objected to a transgender teacher; in the middle of all this, I think that's a positive thing to remark upon. If Lemieux just wanted to be a woman, and work as a teacher, she already had that: all she needed was to just wear what ordinary teachers wear, and buy a reasonable pair of boobs.

The fact that all that wasn't enough makes me think that there is something else going on with Kayla Lemieux. If she only presents as a woman when working at a high school, then there must be something about that which tickles her pickle, so to speak. And the parents (and staff, and school board) of the Oakville Trafalgar High School must really think so too. How did she get the job in the first place? If she was already employed, and then transitioned, it would be obvious that the boobs didn't grow gradually. If she wasn't already employed, whose idea was it to give her a job?

And if Kayla Lemieux is the only trans teacher in her locale, how much harder is she making it for the next trans teacher who comes along? If Lemieux is the only example of a trans teacher they have come across, who is going to want another?

Like Lemieux, I only present as a woman sometimes. But the difference between me and Kayla Lemieux is that I'm always very conscious of the scrutiny that I receive from other people, and I'm aware that I may be the first trans person they've encountered close up, which makes me a sort of ambassador for trans people in the cis world. And my goals are to look fabulous, feel wonderful, and enjoy the company of friends. It definitely seems that Lemieux has some other goals. I don't know what they are, but they are seriously not helping.

It will be interesting to see how things unfold with Kayla Lemieux, although I don't see those colossal melons appearing in a woodworking classroom again any time soon.

If you come across any other people out there whose antics are seriously not helping, please drop me a comment below!

Sunday, 5 February 2023

What a year!

While it's still my intention with this blog to write articles exploring aspects of gender, I still want to write about my personal experiences in 2022, which seems to have been a watershed in my life as Vivienne.

Let me take us back to 2012, when I posted this article, which was about trying to evaluate the place of crossdressing in my life. At that time I was married, closeted, and dreadfully miserable. The article contains this paragraph:
Another symptom of need is that crossdressing haunts my dreams. These are frequent; at least once per week, and for the Freudians among you they are simple, straightforward, wish-fulfilment dreams. I am in some situation where crossdressing is OK: out with my friends, speaking in public, in a job interview, meeting new people. In each case, I am lavishly and wonderfully dressed: I draw compliments and warmth and enthusiasm. People find it interesting and cool. And then I wake up, and that lovely warm rosy glow fades pretty sharply in the face of the alarm.
Fast-forward a few years, and things got a lot better. I started to go out dressed; to interact with people in shops and restaurants, and to express my gender more openly. I started to tell people I'm a doctor rather than hide behind the term "academic", and to blog about medical issues.

Selfie Queen

But things were still a bit slow on the Vivienne front. Dressing was unusual. I know exactly how many times I've dressed, because I take a million selfies every time I do. I'm a complete selfie queen--and now I've become quite the expert on the various photo edits I can do on my phone, my tablet and my laptop, to make the images as flattering as possible.

About 0.00001% of my selfie collection
Part of the selfie thing is to try out various looks and see what works: and there's a lot to think about if you're trying to take a male chassis and turn it into a womanly body! Part of the selfie thing is a long-standing habit: I would use my selfies during those long periods of dressing drought, to soothe my yearnings and remind myself that lovely fem times would reappear. And part of the selfie thing is that I really, really like to look pretty, and seeing nice pictures of myself gives me a real burst of euphoria. (And for the record, while I do adjust the colour balance for the most flattering look, none of my pictures have been enhanced with any image filters, such as FaceApp).

So I know that the number of times I actually dressed enough to take selfies over the last few years is about 4 or 5 times--a year. Part of the problem was that I never quite felt like I had the look together properly. I had to have a huge lead-up to getting dressed: just getting the body hair under control was a mission. And then I didn't feel like my wardrobe was up to much, so I never quite felt the outfit worked. I had one or two go-to outfits, and a whole lot of other garments which just weren't quite right.

Another part of the problem was (and is) that we have busy lives. We both work long hours, including night shifts, and we have a cartload of kids and animals to take care of. So opportunities were quite few.

And what I wanted, most of all, was a social life. I tried to make contact with some trans people, but for various reasons I didn't really get any momentum. The turning point was making contact with the local Pride network.

Out for Coffee

I'd already had the experience of experience of going to a party at a friend's house as Vivienne, and meeting people there. But everyone there was a friend of a friend--this was a bunch of complete strangers I would be meeting.

A car selfie!
The event was called Out for Coffee, and it was a simple enough idea: turn up to a local coffee shop, meet a bunch of Pride people, and make new friends. Although I have been Vivienne my whole adult life, it's a very unusual experience to introduce yourself to someone by your fem name. At first, it felt really powerful and meaningful--I knew this was something new. Vivienne's identity was becoming more real.

On this first occasion, I brought not just Missy but my stepkids, one of whom is quite rainbow themself. It was a family-friendly event (as many Pride events are). At first I was quite nervous and we all just sat and ate together. But after we'd had breakfast, I started to mingle--and everyone was fantastically lovely.

One woman said I should join the local Queer Women group. I was delighted by the invitation--but also cautious. Would they be OK with members like me? I asked. I know that not all women's groups are welcoming to trans people, and I would hate to make anyone else feel uncomfortable--or even encounter hostility.

So I messaged one of the moderators of the Queer Women group expressing my concerns, and this is her response:
Thanks so much for reaching out with your concerns. You will be most definitely welcome in our group and if anyone makes you feel otherwise please let myself or (other moderator) know, we would hate for you to feel unwelcome or uncomfortable. Our group is about diversity and acceptance for all queer women whether you express this full time or not, it doesn't matter to us. If it makes you feel more at ease, we do have other M2F people in the group who regularly come to our events too. I hope we get to meet you at an event soon 😀 PS: that's a great photo! 
Vivienne becomes a Person

And so I started going along to social events with the Queer Women. The moderator was right: everyone is absolutely lovely, and totally welcoming and inclusive. Vivienne's identity has become completely real: I've been to so many events that I get recognised by the regulars, and I now have friends who have literally never seen me dressed as a man. That is an extraordinarily powerful feeling.
I need all the help I can get!

There have been coffee meetups, board game meetups, meals out, drinks out, social events at people's homes, book club, you name it. There have also been some outdoor things I haven't gone along to: walking trips and boating trips and cycling trips. For me, it's unbearably hot just wearing my wig and shapewear, even before there's any exercise involved!

There is a fantastic mix of women in the group--including a few M2F transwomen. There are women of all ages and backgrounds. The thing they (and I) have in common is an enjoyment of good company, and having fun. To be accepted without question and treated just like one of them is extremely affirming. Some of them even work at my hospital!

Meanwhile, as my wardrobe has expanded, and my makeup skills have improved (practice, practice!), getting dressed has become a lot easier. It still takes an hour from a standing start--but it used to take half a day! And having makeup and clothing just there on the shelf or in the drawer makes the access much easier.

I've also come out to lots of other people, including my hairdresser (who has helped with hair) and my lovely beautician. I get a full leg wax every few weeks, and of course I have been telling my beautician about Vivienne from the first day. She's always wanted to meet Vivienne, and this week we finally made it happen! She introduced me to the other staff members as Vivienne, and of course it was lovely to get pampered in a beauty salon. Another bucket list item ticked off!

Up on the Stage

One of the Queer Women events involved an open-mike evening in a local rainbow-friendly venue, where audience members would get up on stage and read some of their own writing. I decided that I had to get up and give that a go.
Is this thing on?

This time, the audience wasn't just Queer Women, but members of the public, although clearly everyone knew what the themes were going to be. I was struck by the material from the other writers. There were agonising coming-out stories. There were unrequited love stories. There was poetry, and prose. It was raw; it was real. And then there was me!

I've written quite a lot of medical stuff under my male name, and this includes a few anecdotes about inspiring patients I've met on the journey. I chose three: an inspiring one, a moral dilemma, and a funny one. They seemed to go down really well, and afterwards lots of people came up to talk to me.

So let's come back to the wording of that first paragraph:

I am in some situation where crossdressing is OK...: check.
...out with my friends...: check.
...speaking in public...: check. a job interview...: we'll let that one slide!
...meeting new people: check.
In each case, I am lavishly and wonderfully dressed: I draw compliments and warmth and enthusiasm. People find it interesting and cool. Check check CHECK!

It was astonishing when I reviewed that article to discover that so many things, which were once completely unthinkable, have not only happened, but have happened joyfully, triumphantly, and there's every likelihood they will continue to happen! It goes without saying that I could never have achieved that without the love and support of the wonderful Missy.

I've already started off this year with more of the same: four outings so far, including the waxing. Who knows what will happen next?!