Obligatory end of summer update

Whoa, so I haven’t been around here in, like, forever. I’ve been splitting my time between working on a paper and actually having a social life for the first time in about a year. On Monday it’ll be back to having no life: I start my new job and then after a week of orientation it’s back to school. After taking part in the book discussion group earlier this summer, my professor–who has turned into something of a mentor this past year–gave me permission to sign up for her graduate seminar in Advanced Metaphysics in the fall, which will be focusing on feminist metaphysics this semester. I just got approved for that class on Monday by UNL’s Graduate Studies department, so I dropped my Spinoza class. Here’s the new schedule:

  • Intro to Physical Anthropology
  • Ethical Theory
  • Advanced Metaphysics
  • Fiction Writing
  • Writing Theory for Consultants (job-related)

In addition, I’m still volunteering at the LGBTQA Resource Center, so it should be a pretty busy semester. I’ll probably either end up killing myself or coming out totally prepared for grad school. My Philosophy of Language professor has been helping me with my paper. I’ve decided to write on the reappropriation of the word ‘queer’. Specifically, I want to explore how a word which started its modern life as a pejorative could end up changing connotations due to a conscious effort among
a specific language community. I suspect it has something to do with how much a word is needed to perform a particular job. Professor Dowell sent me some information about a conference coming up in November in Memphis that she said my paper would go over well at, so I think I’ll be submitting it.

Also, I had my almost-three-month hormone check-up on Wednesday. I switched doctors and am now going to Planned Parenthood. The doctor I was seeing at UNMC is more qualified, but it’s just easier to grab a 5-minute bus ride to Planned Parenthood than to venture up to Omaha at the asscrack of dawn, especially with how busy I’ll be this semester. They did more blood tests, and I’ll find out next week if they’re going to do anything with my doses. I have been noticing some significant changes already. The most exciting is that I’ve started developing breasts. They’re painfully sensitive and nearly microscopic, but progress is progress. Also, my body hair has started to diminish and grow more slowly. My skin also seems smoother and generally healthier, but I’m not sure how much of that is the hormones and how much is the fact that I recently started a new skin-care regimen. I’ve also started getting ma’amed a lot on the phone, which is a big plus. And today when I went to the pharmacy to refill my sleeping pills, which are prescribed under my full male name, the pharmacist asked if I was picking them up for someone else, which made me feel good.

Finally, on the dating front, I’ve met a lady whom I think seems like quite the winner. We seem to have quite a bit in common, and she is incredibly sweet and caring. The main problem is that she lives in Omaha and my piece-of-shit car probably isn’t fit to travel the highways. Also, she’s allergic to cats, which could be an issue…

Anyway, I’ll try not to disappear for weeks on end again. I realize that a lot of my friends come here to keep up with what’s going on in my life, which is nice, but I may be kinda busy for a while. I’ll still try to keep you folks posted.

Book discussion group and other philosophy jazz

So I haven’t been posting here for a while because I got invited to join a book discussion group one of my philosophy professors has put together with her grad students and I’ve been busy doing reading for that. Honestly, it’s kind of intimidating, since I’m just an undergraduate and probably not as smart as everyone else there, but I figured I would try it out since I’ve decided that I want to pursue a Ph.D. in Philosophy. The book we are discussing is Judith Butler’s Bodies That Matter, which is an incredibly interesting read. Not sure how much I agree with her, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

One thing that came up during the discussion that makes me want to reread the introduction came from a woman I’ve had a class with named Clare. I had read Butler as arguing that our classification of people based on sex leads to two groups: those who are “people”, i.e., those who fit into the category of “normally sexed”, and those who are categorized as “not normally sexed”, who are culturally unintelligible. Clare, on the other hand, thought Butler split people into three groups, with the “culturally unintelligible” as people outside the “masculine/feminine” spectrum. We never quite figured out who was right, so I’m going to go back and re-read that bit.

Another thing that came up is something I feel strongly about. I’m only going to bring it up here because I’m thinking of using the idea for a writing sample for graduate school applications; I’m not going in-depth because I haven’t properly fleshed it out yet. Anyway, we were discussing the nature of language as well as trying to get to the central focus of humanity’s collective worldview, and I proposed that the answer was control. Everything we do is an attempt to control our environment, which drive has been the primary moving force behind all of human history. It’s similar to Foucault’s notion of power, but slightly more nuanced. I haven’t yet figured it all out, but I’ll try to post more as I do.

Another idea I’m playing with is a pragmatic account of hate speech and its relevance for radical word reclamation/reappropriation. I’m waiting for some articles I ordered through interlibrary loan to get here (they weren’t available online). Once I get the details set in stone I’ll post more.

A woman’s personality is a direct function of her looks

So, for the past two days I’ve been seeing this promotional poll on Facebook:

Which do you think fits me?

So, as you can see, the question reads, “Which Chubby Stick name fits your personality best?” Chubby Stick is a lip balm made by Clinique, so obviously this poll is aimed at the lady-types. Anyway, the thing that’s got me pissed off is the last option, which also seems to be the most popular. I see no way in which it could be extrapolated onto a personality type. It’s obviously a reference to a woman’s figure, which has absolutely nothing to do with her personality. The fact that the female Facebookers are responding that this matches their personality kind of makes me sad. It’s like the misogynist brainwashing is so complete a woman can’t separate her dreams, likes, dislikes, intelligence, ambition, etc. from her figure.

Why do we have to be like this? I’ll admit, I’ve been guilty plenty of times of assuming things about a person just because of how they look, but still, it’s something I try to change about myself and I think the world would be better if more people fought it. Someone’s figure is completely out of their control, and last I knew there was no known link between a woman’s curvosity and her personality. It’s like saying my gorgeous, curly locks say something more about me than the fact that I have really good genes. Incredibly ridiculous.

Also, I’m kinda irked about trying to jam people into really vague personality types based on clever names. Something about that bothers me, but I’ve always been confused by the personality typing craze. Completely unscientific.

Women and science

So being a major nerd for social progress, girls/women overcoming barriers, and science, this article on Jezebel brought a major tear to my eye. Totally embarrassing. In case you’re too lazy to click and read it, let me sum it up for you: an all-girl team just won the FIRST 2012 Championship with a device meant to help pasteurize milk in Nicaragua. Apparently Nicaraguan women don’t have easy access to clean milk, which results in all sorts of nastiness for them. Well, now they can drink their milk with peace of mind, thanks to an intrepid young band of femmy pioneers. Totally awesome.

This has got me thinking about that other article I wrote about about women in gaming. It seems like the STEM field is a major boy’s club. In fact, when I was talking to my doctor about starting life as a woman, the first thing she asked was, “Well, you’re not in any math or computer science classes, are you?” And she’s an MD! Why is it that STEM is such a boy’s club? I know, I know, there’s the whole stereotype of men being more logical while women are more about their feelings, but still, this is the 21st century. Shouldn’t we be past that by now?

I know I don’t really have room to talk since I opted not to go into STEM even though I am both interested in it and very good at it. I am thinking of going to grad school for philosophy of science, but it’s not really the same thing. However, one of my major concerns when it comes to going into a STEM field is the fact that I’m a trans lesbian, which is a triple whammy in that area: gay, transgender, and a woman. Really, I want to study physics and computer science, but I chickened out because I’m a wuss like that. My mistake. I now wish I could go back and start over and be a pioneering queer trans woman in a straight dude’s world, but I really don’t feel like being stuck as an undergraduate for another couple of years. My dad is talking about starting his own web-based software company and wants me on board as a designer, so maybe I can use that as an in to the world of computer science.

Anyway, enough about me, here’s why women should get into the hard sciences: women think differently from men. I know it’s probably not biological–it’s probably got more to do with social conditioning than anything like genes or innate neural differences–but still, the fact remains that there are usually marked differences between the ways in which women approach problems and the ways in which men do. If we only have one type of person trying to solve these problems, we’re only going to get on type of solution, when there may be other, possibly better, solutions waiting in the wings for someone with the right mindset to bring them into the open. It’d be best for the world of science–and the world in general–if we had as many different types of people as possible working on these issues.

Let’s make the world better. We can start by encouraging women and minorities to get into the STEM fields.

Argentina is “lightyears ahead of the vast majority of countries” in the fight for trans rights

So as I was perusing Google+ instead of working on my novel, I stumbled upon this completely, totally, mind-bogglingly amazing news on Trans News Daily’s feed: In Argentina, trans people can now legally change their genders on government documents without any sort of psychiatric, medical, or judicial procedures! This is simply amazing. I remember in 2007, shortly after I came out to my close friends and family, New Jersey passed similar legislation for driver’s licenses, but this is even bigger. This is a federal law.

From the article:

“The fact that there are no medical requirements at all — no surgery, no hormone treatment and no diagnosis — is a real game changer and completely unique in the world. It is light years ahead of the vast majority of countries, including the U.S., and significantly ahead of even the most advanced countries,” said [Justus] Eisfeld [of Global Action for Trans Equality], who researched the laws of the 47 countries for the Council of Europe’s human rights commission.

Something like this makes me feel like not all is lost. Sure, it’s not the U.S. we’re talking about, but hopefully this helps spur other countries to action. Maybe I’ll actually live long enough to see true trans equality in my own country. This is truly one of the biggest wins ever. I had planned on doing some sort of analysis, but I’m simply speechless.

Taking away the hurdles to overcome and hoops to jump through can only spell good news for millions of trans Argentinians. Who knows, maybe one day we won’t even need gender identifiers on legal documentation. I think that’s probably the next thing for Argentina to aim for. One more step and they’ll be well on their way to liberation.

As for you American legislators: what the fuck y’all waiting for? Get with the times! Don’t let Argentina show us up!