Wednesday, June 26, 2013

On being trans*, and feeling hated

NOTE 1: The text shared here are accounts of my own experiences. I DO NOT presume to speak for any trans* people other than myself.

Why I'm writing this:

About a week or two ago, I came across a story about an incident in which a person was thrown out of a trans*-friendly club in England. Many of the performers and patrons in the club didn't feel safe around this individual, so she was escorted from the premises. The person then claimed that she was thrown out of said bar for being a Lesbian, when in fact, this person was removed from this space because of numerous incidents of what's been considered hate speech by many. I won't mention this person's name (for fear of attack by this person and her colleagues), but I will include some of the person's (and others') quotes of hate speech, from a group of people that the trans* community has dubbed Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists, or TERFs for short. A new(-ish) brand of acceptable hate has now appeared in the LGBTQI community.

Where I come from, and how I came to identify as Trans*:

As a child, I grew up watching many male-bodied people inflicting verbal, mental, and physical violence upon the female-bodied people in my life. I was not abused as a child: neglected, perhaps, but never abused outright. I vowed from a very young age not to be like the boys and men around me.

As I grew into my teenage years, I began to connect the larger patterns of societal issues to a great number of cis-males and their behavior. My way of thinking has never truly connected to the experience of being "male", even though I grew up male-bodied. I was also annoyed by the pressure of society not to be a "girl", a "wimp", a "pussy". Many boys and men in my life acted, and still act, towards themselves and women in ways contrary to my way of thinking. I came to all of these concepts on my own, with almost no one but myself to tell me what was acceptable. I created my own internal code of ethics, which then grew with me and the way I perceived myself. A few times, I bent or broke some of this code, having made some mistakes in my late teens and very early twenties. These were personal, embarrassing errors in judgment that I felt horrible for (and sometimes still do), regretted, and learned from.

For many years, I had felt that I would much rather be female than male. I've always felt more "in tune" with women's issues and rights, and also with a way of life that sees beauty, grace, and kindness as ideals, not things to be looked down upon. I've always communicated with, connected with, and understood, the women in my life much better than the men.

Eventually, moving to San Francisco finally granted me the opportunity and feeling of safety to pursue and explore, in greater detail, this large and under-explored side of myself. I've now been on hormones since January, and am currently identifying as femme. I feel that "femme" is an acceptable word as well as an acceptable persona for myself, for it descibes me well without the pitfall of actually co-opting anyone's language by calling myself female. I have the love and support of my lovers, friends, and of members of my family.

I'm not huge on activism, although I try to stand with the LGBTQI community whenever I possibly can. I just want to live my own life, free from any major oppression or violence, in the way that I see fit. I'm not a Men's Rights Activist, and I can't stand the MRAs. To me, consent is sexy, so in my heart and mind, the opposite (that the lack of consent is not sexy) is also true. I get physically turned off by the idea of non-consensual sex, so there is no way I would push a person to have sex who doesn't want to have sex with me. I'm not looking to abuse, threaten, demean, derail, diffuse, rape, assault, co-opt, intrude, or otherwise invade upon ANY women and/or their safe spaces. I just want to live my own life and go my own way.

This is why I take issue with TERFs. TERFs seem to be yet another group of people with hateful words. They don't know a thing about my life experiences, or about me as a person, yet seem to be on a systematic crusade to generalize, demonize, and stigmatize the term "trans* woman", and by extension, my freedom to exist as the person I choose to be.


TERFs call for safe spaces for women. They want these spaces free from those they consider to be men, which includes trans* women. I see the necessity of having a safe space. My personal stance on the issue is this: I do not want to be around, and will go out of my way to avoid, a group of any people that have great hostility and vitriol towards who I believe myself to be. I try not to put myself into a situation where people (female, male or otherwise) could conceivably commit physical and/or emotional violence against me. I also don't want to make my own personal space unsafe by "invading" what others consider their safe space.

I also agree with the notion that gender stereotypes are a social construct, and understand that TERFs do not hold to this way of life. I would love to live in a world the patriarchal structure didn't define male-oriented roles and behaviours as "strong" and female-oriented roles and behaviours as "weak", a world where a person's actions were not construed as defined by gender, but that's not the world I live in. And since I live in the actual world, and not a vacuum, I pay attention to, but don't hold to, the "strong / weak" structure. I strive to have the personal freedom to take on the roles and behaviours I choose for myself, and truly make them my own, in ways that suit my own life.

One of the many reasons I decline to specifically call myself a lesbian or a woman, is because I'm ethically unwilling to co-opt terms used by another group of people. But it seems that many TERFs want to dangerously lump all trans* women into the same category, regardless of each individual's beliefs, opinions, or ideals.

As an aside, don't forget that most TERFs tend to believe that anyone who has, or has had, a penis is automatically a rapist, because of course, all P-I-V sex (whether consensual or not, pleasurable for women or not) is construed as rape.

The following are actual quotes from TERFs, complete with some bully-associated language.

NOTE 2: TRIGGER WARNING. Hateful words, spoken by others. Read at your own risk:

Trans* women are men, and therefore exactly the same as MRAs:
"SCAMs (Surgically and Chemically Altered Males) are nothing more than MRAs (Men's Rights Activists) in dresses."
"Trans is the shit stain on the underpants of MRAs. You are the same people, bros."
"Transwomen are Men. What are you gonna do about it?"
(As an insult:) "Sorry for your dick."

Trans* women and any supporters are rapists or rape apologists (see above), and trans* women are forcing women to have sex with them:
"Telling lesbians that 'transwomen are women' promotes rape culture"
"This prick... demands lesbians fuck men. That makes him... wait for it... A RAPE SUPPORTER"
"PIV is in no way a natural human practice... a woman's vagina isn't meant to be penetrated at all, but only meant to expel a baby."

Trans* women are automatically anti-gay and anti-lesbian:
"Trans is homophobic."

Real women, and not trans* women (because they are men), are incapable of violence:
"They expect we'll be shocked to see statistics about them being killed, and don't realize, some of us wish they would ALL be dead."
"I'm one of those bad, shameful feminists who wish we could all just kill the fuckers (men)."

Trans* women want to destroy the identity of cis-women:
"The goal of 'trans' whacktivists is to ERASE 'woman' from reality"

And don't forget the TERF that is completely against the misogynistic practice of judging people based on their attractiveness - except, of course, when THEY judge trans* women based on their attractiveness:
"I can't think of anyone on the planet less 'fuckable' as a group than 'trans women'... Straight men don't want them. Lesbians don't want them... They're no more attractive to me than a lump of coal."

Some TERFs are just outright trolls:
"Dear Internet TransActivists - Most of you are giant losers who can barely function in reality. BEST OF LUCK!"

Now that I've done this, I'm sure it's only a matter of time before I get trolled by the TERFs for speaking my mind. Let's see how long it takes.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Welcome to Trollville!

I'm highly amused by it, so I thought I'd share this ongoing mini-saga of the past few days.

I posted a thank you a few days ago on my Bambi Meets Godzilla video page for getting 100,000 hits. A day later, I get this response:

Round 1:

Sunday, 11:29 AM:
alphayourface: "That's desperate comment, don't you think? It's a bit transparent when a wounded person tries to pretend he doesn't care that everyone hates him (>.<)"

Well, that first part was almost a sentence. I responded, and maybe I shouldn't have, it was something like...

KindredCoda: "It's she, not 'he'. And I don't feed the trolls."

Then I deleted their douchebag comment (leaving all the others that were negative on my page)  and blocked the person. Of course, you can probably guessed what happened next. Same person, new account:

Round 2:

Sunday, 9:15 PM:
iHateBeingRich: "Wth. LOL. I wrote a comment saying that this guy seems insecure for trying to get negative attention, & what does he do? He deletes a comment that's truthful & people agree with (insecure much? - called it!) then just message to me say that you don't feed trolls?" (I deleted the original, but the rest said something about my gender being debatable, blah blah blah. Gee, I didn't see that comment from the domain of the narrow mind coming at ALL).

Again, I was baited. I told them in no uncertain terms that the reason I removed their comment was because they were being a colossal dickhead troll, and that I had left all of the other negative comments alone. I also informed them that I'd block every future post the troll would no doubt make. I found out afterwards how to make the comments on all my video pages approve-only, and still letting all other comments through.

Round 3:

I got this message a few hours ago:

Monday, 8:13 PM:
iHateBeingRich: "got you kicked off the front page; good enough for me"

I think each person's front page is personalized anyway, so if what this person says is even true (doubtful), and if they had that ability (even more doubtful), I didn't even know I was ON the front page. Also, since I didn't know, I didn't care. I wasn't interested in getting tons of hits, it was a fluke that I found any audience, and my likes and dislikes are about even in numbers. That only means half of everyone hates my video. :-) I must have done something right though, because my video is just hitting 200,000 hits by the time I post this, and I'm thankful. But I'm not going to take abuse from some neanderthal I've never even met.


My next response: None. The only thing that actually perturbs me about this whole thing is why some people like to be negative, why they delight in trying (and failing) to torment others. It's probably because they're so pathetic, they really don't have anything better to do.

I've also learned that in this world, you can't tell morons that they're morons. It's a bit like talking to a goldfish, and telling it not to swim in a certain pattern. It doesn't have the capacity to understand or listen.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

One month...

...or, four weeks, really. It's been 28 days since I've started hormones, to be exact. Given that a specified amount of time has gone by, as many people do, I'm feeling the urge be introspective.

Do I feel any different? Well, yes and no.

I haven't noticed any overt physical changes, although a partner has told me that my skin seems softer. There was some excitement a few days ago, when I had a small pain in my right chest muscle, but it turns out I had just pulled a muscle. I feel impatient looking into the mirror, seeing no change and a stubbly man staring back at me, but that's just my impatience. Some people start to see physical changes over a period of two months, some over a few years, some never. It's strange to wait to go through puberty all over again.

I feel less inclined towards visual sexual stimulation than before, but that's been on the decline anyway. When I do watch (and I'm now even more selective than I used to be), my imagination almost always puts me in the body of the woman in the video.

I feel somewhat more empathetic. I find myself crying a bit more, and not being able to control it as easily. There's also been stress from other factors, and I feel less able to simply cope with the stress than I used to.

Planning to do more to help myself feel more authentic is in the works, and I'll continue to do so in various small ways, but for now, I feel like I'm in a holding pattern. Living some more life is the only cure for this impatience.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Bambi Meets Godzilla: The Making of The Re-Creation

I think the first time I saw Marv Newland's animated short "Bambi Meets Godzilla" on the big screen was in 1996-ish at the (now gone) Harwan Theatre in Mount Ephraim, NJ, shown before a midnight movie. I loved the short, thought it was fun, but thought the film looked incredibly beat up and could either use a re-make or a restoration.

Fast forward to late November 2012. Having completed a few small video editing projects using Sony Vegas, and being prone to geeky projects just for the fun of it, I decided to try my hand at re-doing this classic animation via computer.

I started out by finding the best possible material, which in this case was a video from Vimeo. Watching the video, as well as a dozen other copies scattered around the Internet, I noticed that all of them were skewed, as if the film was recorded looking up at a movie screen at an angle. I also found out that the video downloaded from Vimeo ran at 25 frames per second, as opposed to the 23.976/24 fps frame rate commonly used in the US. Since each frame of the original video was from a full intact frame of film, I then had the basis for my project, which I decided I would render in a 4:3 aspect ratio at 4K (2880 x 2160).

I desaturated and deskewed the video, and saved the finished project to a new file to have something to work from. From there, I output the video as a series of images, then used those images to copy the look and feel of the credits via Photoshop, using the same typefaces (mostly Helvetica and Futura) as the original. I ended up with 17 image files.

I then printed out individual frames of the original elements, used tracing paper to trace them, then scanned the traced images at 1200 dpi. From there, I overlaid each of the frames into the project, using the original film as my template. I had to take a few liberties with the new version, the largest being that my images are stationary, and the images in the original film unintentionally moved around a bit from frame to frame.

Once I was done drawing and overlaying the image of the field of grass and flowers, and animating all of the credits and Godzilla's foot, I was a bit burned out on the arduous process and took a break for a month or two.

I started up again in February 2013 by finishing the most difficult part of the project: animating Bambi. Bambi's animation consists of about 27 unique animated frames (yes, including the squished Bambi), used in different sequences throughout the film. I printed out the Bambi images, six to a page, then traced only the portions of the animation that differed from each frame before it, and scanned those in. I then used Photoshop to clean up and piece together my scanned images.

After that, it was simply a matter of assembling the frames in the correct order. Each piece of animation lasts for about three frames of film on average, but there were also many variations and anomalies in the original film as well. I went frame by frame and dropped each image in, again using the original video as a template.

Once the entire animation process was complete, I rendered my finished project to individual images (again at 2880 x 2160). I imported the image sequence back into Vegas at 23.976 fps, then got to work on the audio, which I decided I would redo in 48 kHz, 24-bit, 5.1 surround.

I again used the Vimeo video as my template for the audio. Since the audio, running with the 25fps video, also ran at that speed, I had to slow the audio down to the correct speed/pitch before I could use it.

I went on a hunt, looking for the same pre-1969 recording of the excerpt from Rossini's William Tell Overture that matched the one used in the film, but couldn't find it. I instead used a more recent version from a CD, and used Acid Pro to stretch and match up that audio with the original version's timing. 

For the final chord, consisting of a certain famous song played at half-speed, I found a 96 kHz, 24-bit 5.1 version of the song, and simply changed the sampling rate to half (48 kHz), getting the correct sampling resolution and roughly the required speed all at once.

I used Vegas again to replace the original audio, expanding the new William Tell audio to 5.1 by adding a small amount reverb to the rear channels, and then dropping in the other song as-is for the final chord. I thought of adding some outdoorsy sound effects or of adding a projector sound to the rear channels, but decided against it, because I wanted to leave the audio as close to the original as possible, while still adding a new dimension of sound to the proceedings.

Somewhere in this, I also decided the resultant 4K image was TOO sharp, and so I used Vegas to add a tiny bit of film grain, gaussian blur, and scratches before the final render.

Then, it was finally time for said render. I wanted to output the image to YouTube at 4K, but my hardware and software has some serious limitations, so 1080p is the best I could do for now. YouTube also only plays in stereo, so what you hear on the video is a 2-channel mixdown of the 5.1.

As I now have all of these files, someday I'd like to output the files to a DCP (digital cinema package) at 4K with 5.1 sound... but that's for another day.

EDIT: As of July 14, 2013, the render is in full 4K (2880 x 2160)!

Special Thanks:
Rhi - for being my cheering section through the process
Jeannie and Jeff - for more cheering, and for the use of the all-in-one printer-scanner