Beth 'pidge' Flanagan's blog. Open source queer.

Monthly Archives: November 2013


“Hey, I have, I dunno, a weird question. It’s about your blog.”

Oh shit. I’m on the phone with a friend of mine. One of my “open source friends”. They tend to be the group I discuss being trans with the least, mainly because, well, it just never comes up. I think “Oh crap. This is going to be ‘THE OP’ question. I know it. It’s going to have something to do with cut off penises…”

“Okayyyyy…. shoot?”

“So, this whole Bradley Manning thing….”

“You mean Chelsea…”

“Yeah, Chelsea. Do you think they’re just doing this to get an easier time in prison.”

I stifle a snort and couch my next words carefully, wanting to really make him understand it.

“Um…. the likeliness of her being treated well in a men’s prison during transition is highly unlikely. I mean, you do realize that she’ll most likely be kept in a guys jail and denied medical treatment for this. If she’s “lucky”, she’ll get some limited medical care and they’ll put her in adseg which means she’ll be a little less likely to be raped but she’ll be in a cage, alone. for 23 our of 24 hours. If she’s unlucky, well… it’s genpop, which increases her risk of violence, but she’d at least have time out of cell. I wouldn’t imagine anyone wanting to do this expecting better treatment. She’ll likely get much worse treatment.”

“Oh…. ok. I didn’t realize”

We continue our conversation but this part of it sticks into my head. This is not a non-intelligent person I’m talking to but the simple reality is, the lives of trans women are so far from what the dominant culture even thinks about, that cisgender folks just have no clue about our lives. Here is this really smart guy asking me a question that I’ve known the answer to for 20 years because what the general public knows about our lives is limited to what sensationalistic crap they catch from TV or from cisqueers using our lives for entertainment fodder (yes, I’m looking at you Hedwig. And you Ticked off Tr*****s.)

The reason I bring this up is because this week is both the Trans Day of Remembrance and apparently, Trans Awareness Week. At least 238 transwomen were murdered this year. This is only the murders. Not the assaults. Not the rapes. Not the suicides. Murders. Considering that there aren’t a whole lot of us floating about, this number is appalling and it is probably at the low end. I’m sure many more have been killed this year, that they’ve been lost to the count either through non-reporting or misgendering. The vast majority of these women are poor and/or women of color  That’s not to say that violence doesn’t happen to white trans women. It does. But white trans women tend to be shielded from the worst of the violence.

TDoR is old news for me. I went to the memorials for a few years and stopped going when I watched some transdude mispronounce Gwen Araujo’s name. I never went back to another one. It was almost always something that seemed run by and for female cis queers and trans dudes, even though they aren’t the ones being murdered. It seemed to be a way for white cisqueers and trans guys to make themselves feel better for not giving a shit about trans women during the rest of the year. “Hey, for one night a year, we *care*. Just as long as you died a horribly violent death.” Yeah, I’m cynical.

For me, it was insulting. The people most effected should be the ones taking center stage. So they can mourn. It’s their communities being decimated by violence. So, I mourn TDoR in my own private way and try to avoid TDoR memorials (or, ugh, dance parties? REALLY? Who came up with that bright idea? Certainly not a trans woman.)

That said, this week is also something called “Trans Awareness Week.” I didn’t get the memo on this from the Cabal of Trans Folks until late, but apparently, we’re supposed to a. Let folks know we’re trans and b. Give folks 24 hours to ask all the stupid questions they could want without fear of us ripping their heads off. Personally, I can see letting folks know you’re trans being important. Like, if you’re friends with one, you’re less likely tosay, vote in favor of restricting the bathroom use of transkids in California schools.

Or murder us. I mean, hey, I know some of the folks who follow this blog, but maybe there is some craphead out there who goes out on a date, and after finding out his date is trans, thinks that the appropriate response is to murder her. Who knows, right? It’s the internet after all.

The second part of all of this I find kind of silly. Like, there is no universal trans chick experience. It’s not like we have a hive mind, so really, you ask 10 of us the same question, you’ll get 20 different answers. And, to be frank, I hate being Google for stupid “What do they do with the penis after they chop it off?” questions. It all feels horribly self-absorbed and my desire to participate in it is very limited. Besides, I would hope that I’m approachable enough that people felt ok with asking me questions.

But… that said. 238 women. My sisters. Women like me. They will never wake up, never see another sunrise. All because someone refused to see their humanity and passed a death sentence on them. Guilty of being some trans thing. So, if people needing to ask the “dumb questions” helps them, then sure. Fine. I’ll answer whatever dumb or not dumb question people have about my life if it means that person will make me a promise.

Here is the cost of me answering questions. I want everyone who reads this to do something to make the lives of trans women better. It could be as simple as saying something when people say transphobic shit or as complex as saying that you won’t consider the trans status of your dating partners or as obvious as saying you’ll fight for trans inclusion in your work insurance policies (many places do not include treatment for trans issues in their insurance policy, at least in the US).

Because I’m tired of seeing people like me get killed.
Because I never want to see another Rita Hester.
ecause I never want to see another Angie Zapata.
Because trans women of color are at an insanely high risk of being the victim of violence.
Because over the past 7 years, about 1,300 trans people have been murdered in 59 countries, the majority of those women being trans women of color.

Because this needs to stop.

Girl and a half.

“Hrmmm…. that doesn’t quite feel normal?”

I don’t want to hear this right now. Out of all the things I could have wanted to hear as I lie there while some guy I’ve just met not 20 minutes ago gropes about my breasts, that short phrase knots my stomach even more than it already is.

I’m in my new doctors office. I have to go to get my refill of estrogen and do the whole annual checkup. I always kind of dread going to a new doctor, especially when they’re not specifically knowledgeable in trans health care.

“When was the last time you had your period?”
“Uh, I never had one.”
Look of shock “Uh, why?”
“Because I lack a uterus…”

Then comes the whole explanation and then I have to do the 30 minute “Trans Healthcare for Doctors” spiel. Yes, I need breast exams. Yes, I know my estrogen intake.

This new doc was actually pretty ok. He admitted he had no clue. Ok, that’s a good start. We go through the standard questions and then it’s time for the once over exam. Yeah, sure, breast exam, whatevs.

“Yeah… I don’t think this should feel like this. Do you have a history of breast cancer in your family?”

Oh fuck. Oh shit. No, this isn’t happening to me. “Uh, not that I know of? I don’t speak to them anymore, so, I don’t exactly know what we die of other than black lung disease, alcoholism and emphysema”

“Well, I’d feel better if you get a mammogram. You’re a little young to start them, but with your estrogen intake, I’d rather be a bit cautious. Plus with your supernumerary nipples, there is evidence of a slight increased risk for breast cancer, even though this is probably just a cyst.”

Ok, don’t panic. It’s probably the same “hormonally active breasts” your last doc found…. it’s ok… probabl… wait. superwhatisit nipples? I sit there trying not to panic, trying not to think of having to have the breasts I spent years growing slashed off in a blink of an eye as I scan my 25 year old, little used Latin. Super…. numerary. Wait, did this doc just tell me I have extra boobs? What. The. Hell?

“Uh… supernumerary nipples? What do you mean by that?”

“This mole. And this one, right there under your armpit. They’re extra nipples.”

“Now, this lump is probably nothing to worry about. It’s most likely a cyst. But, I’m going to write you a script to go get a mammogram.”

We go through the rest of the exam, with my head bouncing between absolute panic and being somewhat amused. Extra boobs. I can’t help but imagine that I’m the dominant part of an in utero twin absorption. Does this make me the good twin or the evil twin? Will my now absorbed twin, one day try to regain control? For fucks sakes, please, don’t let this be cancer. Cool, it’s like being a character in geek love. Or a dog. How many nipples do dogs and cats have? Fuck, if it’s cancer, I don’t want to go through that. Not now. Please. Fuck, not one but two extra boobs. I’m like super girl and a half or something. Fuck. Cancer.


I end up trudging out and going to work, ignoring the script in my bag. I’ll deal with it later I tell myself. Like, never. Because if I don’t get it checked out, then it can’t be cancer, or something like that. Don’t ciswomen get the whole breast health thing drilled into their skulls? We don’t. I’m kind of surprised that more transwomen don’t die of this. Oh, right. Too busy getting murdered or not having health care.

Besides, this is probably just the foot of my absorbed twin that he’s feeling. Yeah. One day, this little version of me will twist herself free from my breast and I’ll have a mini-me. Or, I’ll have cancer and then will get my boobs lopped off. Or I’ll have cancer and die. Or. or.

I’m bad at taking care of myself sometimes. Ok, a lot of the time. Doctors and dentists and the health care profession in general stress me out and when I can avoid them I will. I refused to go to the hospital when I broke my collar bone and dislocated three ribs (popped the ribs back in place myself and slung myself with the collarbone). But shit. Breast lump. Fuck fuck fuck.  I mention it on facebook. And then disappear into work. A week later I get a message from a friend of mine (we will call her S. )who knows me all too well.

“Did you go get your mammogram yet?”

“Uh. No, got busy.”

“Beth, Don’t fuck around with this.”

“Uh, I won’t. Swear. I just got busy.”

“By next week… ok?”

“Ok, mom.”

Fuck, don’t make me deal with this, S I just want to write code, get my release out, maybe go out for drinks. I don’t want to think about dying. I don’t have the bandwidth. I just dealt with Edward dying, I don’t want to deal with this shit. I know. I’ll think about the damn extra nipples, because then I can at least say I’m thinking in the general bodily area and maybe then I can squirm up the courage to go to the boob squishing van.

A week later.

“Did you go yet?”

“No, the mammogram van is coming next week.”

“Beth, dammit, just go!”

“I will, I will, I swear! I’ve made an appointment”

I didn’t. But shit, if I don’t go now, I’m lying and I don’t lie (I take it as a matter of pride that I don’t lie, except during poker and practical jokes). I make the appointment, dreading each day until it comes.

The day of the appointment, I drive the motorcycle in. There it sits. A bus sized, pink ribbon monstrosity. The thing that is going to tell me if I live or die. I eye it, like the thin letter a high school senior gets from that university they applied to but don’t think they got accepted to. Fuck, I just won’t go. Then I’ll never know and none of this will be real. I head into work, knowing that the bus in the parking lot has an appointment with my name on it. I head down at my allotted time. Squish. Zap. Done. Ok, that didn’t suck nearly as bad as I thought. And then I wait….

A week later, the doc calls. I go in again, trying hard not to vomit. It’s going to be cancer, I know it.

“Good news, it’s a cyst, like I thought. I still want to do an ultrasound to make absolutely sure, but, yeah, it’s just a biggish one”

I breath a sigh of relief. And then go back to thinking about this kind of weird thing I’ve now found out about my freakshow of a body. I decide that I like the absorbed twin explanation and that I’m going to name her after that friend of mine who rode my ass to go get my mammogram. I think she’d appreciate the humor.

Oh Dublin… I may have been wrong about you….

So. Dublin.

I was hating on you for a while. I really was. Somewhere within all my grumpy dislike for you, I wanted to like you, but I couldn’t find a reason. Then, I went to this party… and there was this woman… and a conversation… and now my heads all spinny and getting Dublin (and her and our conversation) out of my head has been difficult. So, let me tell you the story…

Friday, my last day in Dublin, I actually hopped in to go visit the local work office and talk to the locals. It was typical work and I headed on out of there, planning to go to the one thing that night I thought that I *might* have fun at. The local anarchist space was having a queer zombie dance party. Like, ok, right there, you’ve pretty much hit the head on what can drag me out of my shell to go socialize. Zombies? Queer? Anarchist? I’m there. You could call it an anarchist queer zombie root canal and I would be the first in line.

And I pretty much was. Like, suuuuper early. Oh, crap, I forgot. Queer standard time. People show up 2 hours after things start. Oh well, I’ll be social, drink tea, smoke, and chat. And I did just that, which I’m pretty proud of myself for doing. A lot of times, I’ll find a corner and read, just to be around people, without having to have too much interaction.

A few hours in, I’m hanging out when in walks…

ok, let me back up here. I apparently have a “type”. My adopted family and I have discussed how I really do have a type and it’s not like this standard, boring, “type”. It’s very specific and I don’t even try to make excuses for it. It just is what it is. And no, I’ll not be describing my type, because it’s really not a hard and fast type, it’s more a tendancy…. anyhow…

In walks my type. But, zombiefied. I, being the sauve bitch I am, immediately run outside to smoke and get as faaaar away as possible. Yeah, that’s how I roll! I run away. Introverts FTW!

I spend the night avoiding her, because well, it’s my last night. What’s the point, right? I can just convince myself that she’s vapid and I would hate her if I talked to her, because, hellllo, airplane, 12 hours?

I’m hanging out with someone, smoking cigarettes. Everyone is fascinated by my pre-rolled American Spirits. I end up chatting with this woman I lent my lucky 2 dollar bill to, when who walks up? The cute zombie woman. Oh. yeah, of course they’d know each other…. Ok, Beth, don’t panic. Remember. Vapid. She’d probably not going to be someone you’d be interested in. And then the worst thing that could possibly happen, happened.

She started talking with me.

I’m not a shallow critter. I don’t care if I find you attractive. If you can’t hold my interest (which most people can’t), pft, not interested, even remotely.  We started chatting politics, specifically the diaspora. We talked about cultural trauma, plastic paddyism, RD Laing…. She explained “the Gathering” which I’m still 20 shades of “eww” over (I have a lot of thoughts on this, but nothing coherent yet). We talked about language. We talked about food politics. I think I stunned a few folks in that I had more irish language competency than they would have expected an american to have. We started talking irish politics. Ok, ok, now I’m kinda interested. And then, like, the most awful thing happened ever….

We started talking early irish law.

Those of you who know me well, in real life, know, that all you have to do is start discussing early irish legal structures and, hell, you could be the corpse of Richard Nixon and I’d sit there starry eyed. It’s intellectual foreplay for me. (I’ve been looking for an original copy of Corpus Iuris Hibernici for YEARS.) And here is this… this… zombified, adorable woman, talking about one of the few subjects I rarely get the chance to dork out on (believe it or not, I don’t have a lot of chances to discuss early irish laws surrounding property rights during a divorce with beautiful women… I know, surprise, right?).

I stuck around for the rest of the night, just so I could listen to her, just so I could hear every single damn word out of her mouth, just so I could drink the last few hours of Dublin in and maybe have it make up for the past few days. I ended up getting back to my hotel at 4:30 in the morning, barely awake, hopping a flight, getting to my airbnb place and sleeping 13 hours the next day. I still don’t know if she was single, or queer, or interested and not a damn bit of me cares. For a whole of 5 hours, I got to listen to someone I found insanely attractive make my brain light up with talk of early irish caste systems.

So, Dublin. I’m still not sure what to make of you. You’re kind of like that ex of mine who I thought I hated but I ended up adoring. I’m willing to give you another try. Especially if I get to hang out with her again.

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