Sunday, 8 August 2010

Be Advised!

Okay. I'm going to lay down a little truth about writing poetry here. A point that is often overlooked, but is very important. It is not the kind of thing that necessarily makes one popular with other writers - writers being a somewhat narcissistic breed - but I feel it needs saying. You may want to sit back for this one.

If you are going to write a poem about something, do some fucking research on it first.

This goes double if the poem you are writing is about the experience of someone from a marginalised group.

Because there is nothing worse than being at a gig, hearing someone say 'And now - Transsexual Builder!' and then cringing as you hear some well-meaning but fundamentally ignorant cis person publicly fumble their way through a poem which manages to be partly a decent stab at imagining what it might be like to experience harrassment and abuse from people for not conforming to gender expectations, but then arses it all up by constantly referring to the rather complex procedure of gender reassignment surgery as 'having your willy chopped off.'

This kind of mistake has never been easier to avoid, people. You see, there is a magic machine called the internet, on which is stored the sum total of human knowledge, and a sizeable proportion of the sum total of funny cat pictures. Finding out the truth about what surgical treatment for gender incongruence involves might, in the past, have required you to wade through long and complex tomes in university libraries, but now, a mere few minutes' googling will provide you with all the information you need. You don't even have to have your own computer - you can get down the library and use the PCs there. Admittedly you will have to have the guts to be seen in public looking up information about GRS ops - but if you haven't got the basic writer's courage (and professionalism) to research your goddam material you shouldn't be writing anyway.

And it should not be the responsibility of gender-incongruent people to educate your privileged ass on the things you should be researching yourself in order to be a decent fucking writer, but because I am a helpful little Willow Rosenberg tribute act, sit back, strap in, and join me for a thrilling whirligig ride through the incredible world of knowing what the fuck you are talking about.

The two most common forms of gender reassignment surgery are phalloplasty, the creation of a penis, performed on trans men who undergo surgery, and vaginoplasty (NB: link NSFW if you work somewhere that doesn't like vaginas), the construction of a vagina, performed on some trans women who undergo surgery. The latter of these procedures does not involve something as simple as 'chopping off a willy.' It is in fact a mystery to me how any adult human, with a basic understanding of how plastic surgery works in general, could imagine this is all that's involved. What, do you imagine it functions as a straight swap? Do you think trans women have their bits removed, and those bits are then put in a sling and carried, by the magical gender reassignment stork, to the nearest trans man's place of residence? 'Look, darling, a penis was left on our doorstep in the middle of the night! Now we can fuck!' Jesus wept.

Like most plastic surgeries, gender reassignment surgery involves the repurposing of the existing tissue. It would be a fucking incredibly wasteful procedure if it didn't. A few moments' thought and a layperson's understanding of the basics of plastic surgery would lead one to realise how obvious this is. A few minutes' googling, as pointed out above, would actually help you find out what's what. But hey, who cares about that when you've thought up soooo many funny little rhymes about people having their willies chopped off? Oh, and that hilarious bit at the end of your poem about the leftover bits of willy being used to make Big Macs? Ha ha ha ha ha ha that's not funny either, you big pathetic failed human you. You stay classy, there.

(Note: I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on television. When I'm talking about the surgeries involved in gender-reassignment here, I'm simplifying a vast and complicated body of knowledge. There are other procedures involved beyond these two basic ones, there is the whole business of hormones, which I haven't even gone into, there's the fact that not all trans people choose to have surgery on their genitals - there's a massive, massive load of other issues, procedures, and aftercare stuff involved. But you know how you can find out about all that stuff? Google. Or whichever search engine you prefer to use. The internet exists. It is your friend. Use it.)

(Other note: aside from 'Transsexual Builder' and a similarly witless poem based on the oh-so-relevant Cher vehicle 'Mask', the gig was okay. In fact, listening to the douchery kind of spurred me on to finally get around to reading Criminally Fragile, which I've been wussing out of reading at gigs for aaaaages. It is not 'all good', though. I came this close to walking out, but figured an alternative view was needed. Ooooh, look at me being all brave and that. Yeah, right.

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