Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Clear Conscious

I have always lived my life with a great degree of self-consciousness. I don't mean the "OMG, I'm so fat" shallow kind of self consciousness. I mean the deep down, every moment consciousness of my self. I think about things every moment of every day. I am hyper aware of things most people take for granted.

I am conscious of my body: it's masculinity, its female parts. I'm conscious in the locker room at the gym of the scars on my chest and the lack of a bulge in my shorts. I'm conscious of the hair on my stomach and how it helps me pass.

I'm conscious of my bodies size, it's shape. I am conscious of not fitting places. Of not wanting to sit in a booth at a diner or go to a small, crowded restaurant because I will not be able to get between the tables without disrupting other patrons.

I am self conscious about the sound my piss makes when I use the bathroom. Do other guys notice that I don't use the urinals. Do they hear that I'm sitting down to pee?

I'm self conscious about sex. I don't have a dick. My body can't have the kind of sex my mind wants to have.

I am self conscious about my artwork. Every time I finish a major project, I think I will never have another good idea. I am self conscious of what I am working on now, about whether or not is important enough, whether or not it is meaningful. I am self conscious about the work other artists are doing. Am I conceptual enough? Am I smart enough? Do I care enough? Is this really important?

Lately I've been experiencing the constant feeling of identity consciousness. I don't mean the grandiose concept of identity. I mean literal identity documents. Last week I had to get a new social security card. I haven't legally changed my name yet. I have a New York License which says "Elizabeth." My birth certificate says the same. This doesn't bother me so much. When I got the license I was Elizabeth. Same when I was born. But filling out the forms now, writing the name Elizabeth and checking the female box made my heart hurt. I was conscious of what I was and what I wasn't. I was once again aware of my body. I pulled my sleeves down so my arm hair wasn't visible. I limited my speaking so my low voice wasn't so obvious. I kept my jacket on so my flat chest wouldn't be noticed. I went backwards.

The woman behind the counter looked at my documents, said "Elizabeth?", did a slight double take, shook her head and stamped my forms. I received my Social Security card ten days later in the mail. Today I went to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to get a PA drivers license. I woke up this morning and almost backed out, but forced myself to brave the scrutiny for the second time in as many weeks. I got there and realized that transgenderism aside, I was perhaps the most normal person in the building. I could fill out a form, I could write a check, I didn't talk to myself, I didn't seem crazy, I could get a license. Self-consciously, I responded to Elizabeth, checked the box marked Female, and walked out with a valid ID. My identity may not have been validated, but at least I learned that every so often I can let go of my self consciousness. Maybe it was like coming out, maybe I was simply ignored. Either way, sometimes people simply don't care.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Explicit Content?

Remember when Ellen came out on her sitcom? Remember how such a basic act earned her a parental warning? Probably the tamest, cleanest TV show on television and it got a warning that it contained explicit content. That was over 10 years ago. I had hoped things had changed.

I have long been a fan of Law and Order in all its forms. I have religiously watched Law and Order SVU since its inception. Some are a bit boring, some a bit over the top and some are downright excessive. But I had never before seen a warning for explicit content until last night. The story went like this--there is an attempted murder of a repo man in a strip-club parking lot. Benson and Stabler eventually meet the man's estranged wife and his 13-year-old transgendered child who becomes the prime suspect. The trans guy from the L Word makes an appearance as well as some other trans folks.

I think the story line was good and for the most part very sensitive. The only fault I give them is trying to fit too much in the episode. My question is--What's the deal with the parental warning??? I've seen date rape and sexual abuse graphically depicted on this show. Certain scenes have made me change the channel or look away, and this was tame in comparison.

Check out this interview about the making of the episode. Although I might make a few changes to TV Guide's language, I am pleased to see Law and Order doing such decent background research. This is an episode I would have consumed with every fiber of my being had I seen it when i was a kid. Although I am pleased to see a show talking about these issues in a fairly normal and straightforward way, I am saddened to know that NBC considers this explicit. Although things have certainly changed in the past ten years, it remains a fact that the more things change, the more they stay the same.