What is a woman? I ask myself as I ramble around my head seeking some kind of internal validation or something. What is a woman, the usual unimaginative stuff floods in, stereotypes, juxtapositions, you name it, I try with futility to drill into this question with a view to gaining some kind of understanding, insight or ammunition against life, not bullets, but a point, a defence, a question, yeh ammunition in the face of ‘those types of questions’ I may or may not get asked throughout the day. If nothing else, having answers to these types of questions provides me with a ‘ropa dope’ type retort sat in the back of my mind should anyone question me, quiz me, ridicule me or otherwise.
Some may say why do you need this type of peaceful weapon of mass confusion, a weapon that can only spin people around that much they don’t know what day it is. THE REASON IS SIMPLE … because spinning around is what I feel each day, I feel the constant questions, some spoken and others unspoken, the ones pending and the ones assigned to trash. I need retorts to defend myself, I don’t question their manifestation or their alignment to one side or the other or the middle so I feel the need to, at least have something to reply with if/when asked ‘those’ questions. Let’s face it, being asked if you are a man or a woman, or worse knowing people are asking this in their minds is quite simply RUDE and yes I understand a common instinct. I wouldn’t dare ask a person who just happened to be a female if they are a man or a woman, nor would I ask a person who is male if they are a woman or a man …. wtf what has that got to do with me and why the hell do I need to know anyway! So why does this common instinct prevail in society to wonder, quiz, second guess or otherwise if a trans person is a woman or a man? What’s the gain and more importantly has the person asking the question every asked it of themselves let alone understood what their own definition or man or woman is, or indeed how do they define themselves. Try it try, try and define yourself, properly and with justification. Then ask yourself are you a man or a woman or something else.
So as a transperson I look for these big ass questions, the ‘What is a woman’ type questions, so I can use them as a retort to the seeking questions or ridicule I may or may not encounter in the outside world.
The journey begins I Google the definition of woman ….
- an adult human female.
- a female person associated with a particular place, activity, or occupation.
- a female worker or employee
- a female who is paid to clean someone’s house and carry out other domestic duties.
- a man’s wife, girlfriend, or lover.
AND NO I didn’t make the last two up, Google it yourself.
I then see an article in the New Yorker magazine ranks the highest to the search query ‘What is a woman’ so I click that, it’s too dry for me and didn’t engage me at all, but I stumble upon the name Laverne Cox as I scan through – I had no idea who she was. I read she is famous and trans, I Google her, she’s won awards for acting and appears in a hit TV show called Orange is the new Black (something about a prison). I don’t watch a lot of TV unless it’s documentaries and stuff, all the same Laverne did an MTV TV show about trans youth called the T Word, I couldn’t find it to watch on youtube but a Ted Talk came up featuring a trans woman that appeared on the same T Word MTV show, her talk was very interesting, moving and thought provoking, but still for some reason it didn’t satisfy that itch to find an answer to that killer question nor some truth to my trans existence, I hadn’t been quenched.
A few Ted talks later, some good, some touching, some about ‘my journey’ etc etc I came across something that truly told it as it is. Ok I still haven’t got the killer question but I have a massive bomb of a piece of material in the back of my mind and a presentation that asks lots of questions, tells it as it is, is artistic, entertaining, heart wrenching, powerful, angry and yes unique in every way.
Enter Nina Arsenault … The transgender conversation has just begun
“20 minutes of shear genius ending in an explosion and then the fall out”.
Nina is and I quote –
Nina Arsenault (born January 20, 1974) is a Canadian performance artist, freelance writer, and former sex trade worker who works in theatre, dance, video, photography and visual art. Her works have been called profoundly moving, absolutely unforgettable, brutally honest, a spiritual gift and as stunning as they are ruthless. The artworks, which are graphic as well as philosophical, illuminate uncomfortable truths about sex, gender, religion, and technology.
Think what you like about Nina, she is unique, moving, unforgettable, honest and gifted. Some may say she is living her life as a piece of art, this Ted talk could have been a piece of her art, yes, it could be made up … if it was made up then, wow she nails it, but I believe it wasn’t as much performance as a real account of how she feels deep down. Irrespective, to me the emotion, the questions she asks, the torment, the fragility and the strength, the knowledge of the way trans people ‘really’ live speaks more volumes about the way I’ve felt and still feel more than anything I could write or you would have time to read. Being concise isn’t my strong suit so I couldn’t sum up being trans any better than Nina – especially in the later half of it, the half where her points truly start to be made.
So what is a woman? Who cares? Call yourself what you wish, doesn’t matter what you have between your legs, what you want, who you sleep with, who you like, what you wear, it’s the fusion of your life experiences, mind and spirit that makes you whatever you are today, being called a woman or a man is irrelevant.
We are all simply people and it’s a miracle we are all still here today!