Subject: parrotlike
Date: Tue 27 Jul 1999 - 17:13:30 BST

Jake Hale has commented that the "parrotlike" nature of most trans-narratives
gets to him. He sees films of trans people telling their stories and hears
the same point again and again, polished chestnuts.

In "Peripheral Visions" (a great book), Bateson talks about how we read
lives. She suggests that in the retelling of a life, the ends define the
means, that we tell our stories in a way that defines our point. We know the
outcome of the story, so we edit the tale to fit that outcome.

"I don't feel it is necessary to know exactly what I am.
The main interest in life and work is to become something else
that you were not in the beginning.
If you knew when you began a book what you would say at the end,
do you think you would have the courage to write it?
What is true for writing and for a love relationship is also true for life.
The game is worthwhile insofar as we don't know what will be the end."
        Michel Foucault, interviewed by Rux Martin

I know one young transwoman who set herself the assignment to write an
autobiography in the voice she had as she grew up -- maybe a chapter at four,
one at eight, one at 12 and so on. I marveled just thinking of that
challenge: could I ever just let myself be those ages, devoid of the words,
thoughts, ideas (and yes, rationalizations) that I hold now?

This "parrotlike" posture, where we tell the stories an agreed upon way and
tend to dismiss, shout down or negate the narratives that don't fit easily,
that challenge what we believe, is one of the worst parts of the trans
community. We can only claim unity though our shared stories, claim identity
though shared beliefs, so we enforce those stories and beliefs in a way that
keeps them parrotlike.

I remember once when a friend was telling a story at a support meeting. "I
felt this," they said, to which another tranny immediately jumped in "That's
wrong!" After the meeting I heard a stream of bitterness -- "Who the hell
are they to tell me the way I feel is wrong?" I suspect that this
enforcement of parrotlike stories may account for much tranny burn.

I remember posting on the newsgroups about the fact that genital
reconstruction doesn't change anyone's life. It may give you ground to
change your own life, to be more confident, more sexual, more safe, but it
those are changes you have to make after having GRS. I had a transsexual, a
few years post-op, write me and thank me for saying what I said. She said
she had transitioned, had surgery and still felt alienated and isolated, but
when she tried to talk about that she was shouted down by people who had a
great investment in believing in the magic power of surgery.

I was talking about identify politics with the leader of a local organization
for gay and lesbians of color, and I asked him if the purpose of the
organization was to develop black voices or to develop a black voice. Did
they want many voices with many views, or did they want to develop one shared
viewpoint? He said that was an interesting question.

I love tranny narratives, and I listen to lots of them. I cruise the web or
go to conferences, and what I read, what I hear tends to be an amazing
consistency in narrative. I get excited when I hear a fresh new voice, like
Danielle in Texas
 ( ), because no matter
how they challenge me, they offer me new insight into who I am.

Too often though, I hear these voices drowned out by parrotlike stories,
people saying "that's wrong" to the feelings or beliefs of other people. I
know the one thing many of us hate in going to trans-conferences is having
people assume that we are like them, and then being unable to hear our unique
stories, to find differences and commonalties. I often feel more erased in
the trans-communuity than I do in the world at large which has less
investment in defending their own preconceptions, which hasn't swallowed any
parrotlike pronouncements.

I know I only speak for myself. I love the sig line of Lolita Wolf, an SM

. . . speaking only for lolita, of course!

We each speak only for ourselves, but some of us are able to channel many
voices. This is probably the mark of a good writer, because it's important
to let the voices stand on their own, no matter what the authors beliefs are.

We have an investment in the stories people tell about people like us, no
doubt. I read another review of the Sebastian Coe movie ( ) to find out how trans
people will be portrayed. Rachel Pollack tells the story about an aunt who,
whenever there was news about a murderer, asked "So, was he Jewish?" and was
relieved when the killer was goyim.

I believe that the only way we can get new thought about transpeople is to
have new stories, but that the enforcement of parrotlike tales, be that
blatant or subtle, tends to stop finding new ways to talk about what it means
to be trans in this culture, to talk about the many ways to be trans.

How much does the parrotlike nature of a community which is only bound
together with common stories create trannyburn in people who feel their own
stories are denied and erased in ways that feel nasty & cruel?



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