[Trigger warning: This post deals with virulent misogyny and violence against women.]

I had a whole post planned earlier this month about my challenges trying to reconcile genderqueer-ness with being female-bodied and a feminist. And then a gunman opened fire on US Representative Gabrielle Giffords, killing six people and critically wounding her. And I locked myself in my room, scared and horrified, and wept for hours. I cried because it was a tragedy, but also because it was entirely predictable; for many of us watching the US political scene, it confirmed that fact that the question had never been whether something like this would happen, but only when.

After the shootings, there was a lot of discussion of the shooter's mental health. But in the end, it doesn't matter whether the shooter was neurotypical or not; as an internet friend of mine pointed out, even people with paranoid schizophrenia do not make things up out of thin air, but are influenced by the culture around them. And in this case, the culture is not pretty. It is no coincidence that the Democratic Congressperson who was shot in a literal extension of the US right-wing's violent rhetoric is a woman.

But why just talk about Representative Giffords? Let's talk about Hilary Clinton, or Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, or even Sarah Palin. Let's talk about the women in our entertainment who are killed off after their plot point is done, or the polytechnic students who were murdered here in Montreal 21 years ago, or, like, every feminist blogger in the history of everything, or the fact that most of the trans people who are murdered each year are women. To be a woman in this culture is to be on permanent display, and to be found wanting. And while men who hold divergent views or don't live up to expectations meet disapproval and disagreement, women who dare to transgress their patriarchy-assigned roles (which are, paradoxically, impossible to satisfy) must be put in their place. Witness the Playboy article that suggested “hate-fucking” was appropriate punishment for female politicians with whom their readers disagreed. Witness every single street harassment case where a woman's refusal of some guy's sexual advances is met with violent threats and, occasionally, action.

If you are a man, and you believe I'm blowing things out of proportion, ask your female friends what they think they should do to be safe if walking to their car in a dark garage. Compare it to what you'd do. Whether it's warranted or not, we are taught to be afraid. Constant fear is it's own kind of violence.

There are times when I think things are ok. After all, women in Western countries can drive, and work in almost any field (albeit at lower rates of pay than men), and choose who and whether to marry (most of the time), and vote, and access birth control (some of the time), and I have a number of male friends and colleagues who don't forget too often that I am actually a person too. And then my friend holds the door for me and I realize he doesn't think I'm as capable as he is, or I become suddenly aware of how short my skirt is and how high my heels are as I walk home, or a female politician I'd never even heard of is shot in broad daylight in front of hundreds of witnesses. And then that little spark of fear that never quite goes away flares up again, and I am afraid.

And so, the next time someone tells me that feminism has accomplished its goals –– or that what women really need to be successful is to make more money — I'll laugh, and laugh, and laugh. And then I'll cry, because while the punishment for being female can still be death, the work of feminism is not fucking over.

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I was three paragraphs into my article about my holidays, mainly how being "out" and/or being "stealth" affected my treatment at the hands of other party guests, when the sharp stabby abdominal pain, now 26 hours strong, finally forced me to the floor, vomiting undigested pepto-bismol and calling everyone, anyone who had access to the sort of painkillers I purposely keep away from myself lest my mental anguish ever reach such nowhere-to-run, nowhere-to-hide state of agony.

Within a few hours I found myself hooked up to an IV and subjected to tests and machinations of the medicinal. It was determined I had acute cholecystitis, an inflammation of the gallbladder. I was scheduled for surgery the next morning, just three days into the new year. I tried not to think of it so much as losing an organ (albeit a totally useless one), and instead of learning a valuable lesson in how to maintain your dignity when insisting your trans identity be respected in a medical environment.

You don't.

When I checked in I was asked what medications I was taking. I truthfully recited my hormones and their doses out of some strange sense of caution that has been cross-bred with pride for generations in hopes of appeasing me, the Monarch of Awkwardly Honest Land. I tried abdicating the throne just hours later, to no avail.

"Are you currently on any medications?"
"You don't seem so sure."
"Well, I'm on estrogen and spironolactone, for hormone replacement therapy, but I wasn't sure how relevant it was to my treatment."

Apparently it was mondo relevant, which is the equivalent of two and a half super relevants. My hormone therapy had likely agitated a pre-existing condition to the point where it required surgical intervention. I know this because three doctors, a nurse, and a surgeon told me. The only explanation I can come up with for why this fact needed to be repeated to me by various individuals over a course of two days is to shame me for trying to keep my transition a secret from the medical staff (albeit a poorly kept secret, as it was listed on my intake form), or to reprimand me for playing with nature, as many medical professionals have accused people in my position of doing. Either way you look at it, it's a hard sell. Look at it from my perspective. I'm developing the feminine features that aid in presenting my gender identity and I hastened the inevitable removal of an organ that might have ruptured and killed me. Give me some sunglasses and a clip of an 80's hit. I need to celebrate in freeze frame.

I can be nonchalant about it now because I survived the operation and have eaten my first big ass bowl of ice cream sans kaopectate, but at the time I was scared and in the most pain I'd ever felt in my life and what I really needed from my medical caregivers was reassurance and information and maybe a bedpan so I wouldn't need a dose of morphine to make it to and from the damn toilet. I didn't need to be blamed, however subtly, for what you perceive to be a misjudgment in body chemistry. I have a doctor, a therapist, and two clinics to make sure I don't walk on a landmine in my journey to grow into body and mind I'm comfortable with (and tame a unicorn, if applicable). Just shut up and take this ticking time bomb out of me before I die and your billing department has no one to bill for all this morphine I've consumed.

Is what I wish I said.

Instead I remained silent. Because I was in pain. Because I was terrified I wouldn't live through the operation, or denied it at the last moment because I couldn't pay, because I was trans, because my maniacal and delirious laughter at my first dose of morphine might suggest that I was just faking it all along. I let the doctors and surgeon say this shit to my face without so much as an eye roll of assertiveness. I didn't want to become one of those trans women left to die in the hospital that I had read about as I was first coming out and deciding if being happy with myself was worth my life (which it totally is, yanno, before we get too dark and depressing). And I didn't. They did the operation and I survived and here I am dancing to "I'm Not Your Toy" by La Roux in a friend's chair, which many will agree is the opposite of "dead in a hospital". My plan to be spineless in the face of criticism with the hopes of receiving the treatment that will save my life succeeded.

While I really need to focus on kicking the shit out of myself while I'm down, I will take a moment to say I wasn't in much of a position to advocate for myself, after you factor in the drugs being pumped into my bloodstream, the hunger and thirst from not being able to stomach anything without pain for over a day, and the pain and terror I was in. I can't stand up for myself and be curled in the fetal position on my girlfriend's lap, crying because deep down I'm worried I'll never see her again. But god damn it if I won't self-flagellate myself in hopes I can in the future.

When asked "if I had any questions" about the surgery, I asked how big a gall bladder was. I wasn't going to be any good for myself.

That's probably why I brought backup.

Throughout my hospital stay, my partner, my bff and their boyfriend all stayed with me in shifts so I wouldn't be alone. They impressed upon the nurses what name and pronoun I should go by, and corrected them when I was mis-identified. Eventually, all the nurses came to name and gender me properly, even the ones my visitors had no contact with. And unlike the anesthesiologist, who asked me when I was having "my transgender surgery" minutes before she put me under, no nurse asked me the details of my transition or operation status (though that might be because I was wearing a fucking hospital gown and that question could be answered with just a pinch of the fabric). While likely that this is due in part to nature of nurse profession and philsophy, which is to treat people rather than the illness or something like that I'm not a nurse so I wouldn't really know, I couldn't bring myself to overlook the importance of having people who validate my gender identity close to me during the process.

An uplifting and potentially informative ending to this ordeal? No angsty socratic questioning and letting the commenters sort it out? Yes, it's a new TCMV, for a new BTB, for a new year.

If you end up going to the hospital, bring your friends. Or bring your enemies, even, if they'll stand behind you and insist on you being treated with respect by medical caregivers. You, like me, might find yourself too racked with fear to stand up for yourself when going mono e mono with the doctors, but if you've got a posse you might be able to get them to give you that respect in a public setting.

Or maybe this won't apply to you. Maybe when you get checked into the ER or have your appendix removed, you'll stand where I laid down and contend for your rights. Or maybe the work of this current generation of activists can make it so you won't have to.

Or you do what I did, and cleverly time your exploding internal organ to coincide in the same week as your court date to change your name, and have your friends drag your vicodin'd, sutured and glued ass to lean shakily before the judge who approves your name change so when you go to your follow up appointment later in the month, you can make the hospital put your correct name and gender on file.*

*If you have forms from your physician who attests that you've completely transitioned to your current gender even though I haven't had bottom surgery SHHHHHHHHH don't tell anyone!

So add this to your collection of horror stories slash uplifting real life lessons involving trans persyns for when you find yourself in a similar situation and want to know what to expect.

And for those of you looking forward to my holiday essay and disappointed that it's not being posted, spoiler alert: I was treated better by people who read me as cis lesbian than those who read me as trans, even if those people had known me for years. BIG SURPRISE YEAH THAT REQUIRES A WHOLE TWO PAGE OP/ED.

BTB needs a lot of work for the new year. We need more contributors, more multimedia, more everything. There's a lot of shit going on. The blog, much like myself, needs some time to reach battle operational.

Then it's back to the fray.

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