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Joni Weiss Interview #2

Joni Weiss Interview #2

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Published by: Scratch Hunter on Nov 29, 2010
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01/14/2013

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Joni Weiss interview 2I've got some of the threads that we wanted to follow up on last time, do you have anythat you want to follow up on, specifically? I've got feminism, gender issues coming andgoing, the significance of the internet?Ok! Well, feminism was kind of the only thing I really took notes on, but I mean, I've gotone other thing. One thing that I wanted to talk about just a little bit was the… what Isee as the interaction between sexual orientation and gender identity and the closet,being in the closet and coming out and the whole self discovery thing, because it wasreally kind of mind boggling for me.Ok. We also wanted to talk about emotional reactions, and if you're comfortable withthat being caught, we love to catch stuff like that, because it adds that human elementto it.I'm fine.If you want we can stop still, but that is kind of stuff that we'd love to get.Are you recording yet?Yup!Oh we are? Ok.So we're good to go.(arranging the space, muttering)ok, I'm ready!Well thanks for joining us again Joni, it's great to see you again! So we had somethreads we didn't get to finish up on in your last interview, and one of those threads wasfeminism, and you have some thoughts on the significance of that in your experience.Do you want to talk on that a little bit?Sure. I have been aware, I think, since before I started the transition that a lot of,especially, well, primarily, Male to Female transexuals like myself, are not seen ascapable of being of value in feminism, of embracing the values of feminism. And I justwant to talk about that because to me feminism is really, really close to my heart. Mymom was a feminist, my grandmother was a feminist, and I was raised to… my mominstilled the values of feminism in me especially, particularly the equality of the sexes
 
and that a woman can be the householder, that the roles, the male and female rolesdon't have to be the way they were traditionally, the way society when I was growing upbelieved them to be. So my mother was a tomboy, and it's just… so anyway, back totransgender people being feminist, I recently was accused of - via a lesbian friend ofmine - of not being, of being anti-feminist because of the way I present myselfsometimes. And it just made me, it took me back, and I was like… how could you thinkthat I'm not a feminist just because I present the way I do? It doesn't mean I'm notcapable of being feminist.So what is it about your presentation that she thought was anti-feminist?It's basically when those of us who are Male to Female transexuals start to transition,we start to embrace more color, more… you know we put more emphasis on ourclothes, what we wear, we like to wear very feminine clothes, some people, not all, butsome of us wear high heels, beautiful heels of different kinds, and dresses, and thingslike that, and it's not just the clothes, but as we transition we embrace the female role,the more traditional female roles in society. Not all of us, I mean I'm generalizing. And Ihave an answer to that, and that is that, well, one of my friends in the adult transgendergroup had explained it to me recently and I thought her explanation was really prettygood. She said, "We live our whole life being told that we can't wear lace, we can't wearsatin, we can't wear heels, we can't wear make-up, we can't be feminine in any way,shape or form. And once we get the green light, once we are free, we just totally run forit. We embrace it, we enjoy it, we love it, we play in the female sandbox." You know?And some people stay there their whole lives. And I think most of us at some point afterour transition kind of normalize more. You know? And we take what we like about… just like you take what you like about being male, like masculine, and discard what youdon't want, what you don't feel fits you. And I think as time goes on during on during ourtransition, I think most of us, we find that which works for us, and we find what doesn'twork for us, just like any woman growing up would. And the other thing is that being afeminist has nothing really to do with how I present myself. And it has nothing to do withoccasionally appreciating when somebody opens the door for me. It has nothing to dowith that. It has more to do with, to me, in my mind, feminism has to do with valuing thefeminine, and the feminine spirit, valuing the feminine nature of human beings, andregardless of gender, and regardless of genitalia, and it has to do with not judgingpeople and putting people in boxes on the basis of their genitalia, on the basis of theirgender, on the basis of what they have on their driver's license, or the basis of how theypresent themselves. So to me, I am a feminist, because I believe strongly in the factthat we are all inherently equal. And so there is no… all the divisions that we have,divisions of labor, and divisions of roles in society, are all man-made. That's my wholething about feminism. And that's what I wanted to talk about.It sounds like it's a question of who gets to define what feminism means?
 
Yes! And I think it's an elusive concept. I think that different people have different ideasof what feminism is. It's just that I have a reaction when I hear people saying that we inthe transgender community, that we are not capable of understanding feminism. And itgets back to the other thing that we don't see as much today that people who transitionbefore I did, ran into issues with women who make the distinction between transgenderwomen and women-born-women, and to the extent that we're not one of them - thatdoesn't happen as much anymore, but it used to happen a lot. Apparently. From what Ihear. I think it might be sort of a leftover thing… I think it's really based onmisunderstandings about who we are. People see us start to transition, and they seeus… you know, when we go on hormones, medically, physically, we're going throughpuberty again. So when we're female to male, or male to female, once we start thehormones, we're going through puberty again, with all the emotions, and all the thingsthat occupy the attention of somebody who's going through changes like that. Ourbodies are changing, and we have new opportunities that we didn't have before.So do you think that that opinion that was shared by your friend is something that hasundergone some evolution in the past few years, ten years?Well, I think probably just in the last… I'm not sure. Because my transition, I startedtransitioning two and a half years ago, and I wasn't really aware of the community beforethen. So from what I understand, and from my experience, things are changing
now 
, soit's something that's still… there is a difference between people like me who transitionlater in life, so I transitioned, started to transition when I was 51, and I'm 53 now. A lot ofthe people in the adult transgender group are between late 30s and 60s, you know. Sowe went through a whole period where many of the people in this group married, went inthrough the military, maybe went on missions, had children, and tried all that time - allthat time we tried our best to be the good male person, or female as the case may be,and we lived quite a bit of our lives(break)So many people in my age range, in the adult transgender group, went through quite afew life experiences, very invested in the role of being, of presenting as male, or theirbirth gender, and you know, we come into our transitions with a lot of baggage from ourcurrent life. So by contrast, many of the younger people, and I'm talking about theyoungest people who are aware of their gender that we see on TV, you know, like 5, 6, 7years old that we've seen on TV, to people in our youth group here, who are in theirteens, early 20s, you know, up to maybe 30, and I don't know really what the cut-off is.But the thing about them that's really so cool is that to them, they never bought into thegender binary, and I'm generalizing, of course, but they rejected the gender binary. Andmany of the kids today are starting to come out earlier and earlier in their lives, they'remore comfortable, some of them, are comfortable still kind of few in the state of Utah,

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