Friday, December 20, 2013

A New Political Woman

i am not proud
of being a woman and having lived
as a man

to hide behind
white cis male privilege
wearing a man's face and body

feeling disgusted

i look in the mirror
and see
blood red bathwater

--Polina Smutko

No More Pants Roles For Her

In Santa Fe--the “City Different”--we celebrate difference, or so we say. Well, what could be more different than a natural born woman strapped at birth with a freakin' useless cock, or a natural born man saddled with a bleedin' pussy?

Polina Smutko's childhood would make an almost classic example of how not to raise a Trans child. The things that should have been lavished upon her—love, respect, ample support for her humanity, especially given the quirk of biology with which she was endowed (she was born with a penis)—were not given, even stintingly.

Afraid they were raising a pervert, Polina's parents forcibly reared her as a little boy, even encouraging her and her brother to have fist fights to reinforce her alleged maleness, turning the siblings on each other like two cocks in the ring. The enforced violence didn't “make a man of her”--how could it? But, damn if she's not a fighter, and a tough-minded one.

Someone else can tell you more details of her tortured adolescence, the descent into depressions, delusions, even psychosis—they're important to tell. The relationships lost, jobs and cities let go of, the tumult and disruptions, the regrets of not breaking free of the shaming bonds that kept her living a corrosive lie. “I missed out on being a young woman, I missed out on a lot.” Another correspondent can tell a more complete chronicle of the thoughts of suicide, the grim statistics around suicide attempts: 1.6% in the general population as contrasted with 41% of the Trans community. And as Polina has reminded me, this too is a form of violence.

"I thought I would be alone and unemployable."

But what turned my head in her direction when I heard her remarks at The State of Female Justice in New Mexico panel, was that simultaneous with commencing to live life openly as a mature woman only nine months ago, an activist was wholly born--welcome to the fold, Polina, darling! In addition to being a lecturer for the Speakers Bureau of the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico, she has an ambitious To-Do List for us here in Santa Fe, which I'm honored to present to you--and hot damn, if every single item on the list doesn't make perfect sense, isn't totally doable, and wouldn't be a blast to help manifest!

Mayoral Candidates, Yes You, We Need to Have A Little Chat

As Bushee, Gonzales and Dimas, all know, there's a T in the LGBTQ constituency. When we talk about inclusion and intersectionality, as it sometimes behooves us to do, there is no one more prepared to break those things down for you than Polina Smutko. And do so with a whole lot of grace. She's not so hard to find, she's the Director of Collections at the Folk Art Museum, a museum that is not only an International Site of Conscience, but that has been a supportive workplace for Polina throughout her metamorphosis. “You know, I've been a woman all my life, “ Polina told me. “Transition isn't really the right word. It's more of a sloughing off a gender that's been forced upon you. It's a getting rid of all the manifestations of that, rather than becoming.”

Woman With a Plan—Seven Areas of Needed Attention

Polina sez: Awareness of who we are in the community. We have a cultural competency training we would like to bring to the various agencies of the city government: police, fire, EMTs, hospital workers. We've done it a number of times already and we know it to be an effective training.

Polina sez: Education in the Schools. We want children to be taught that we're people. We want “Trans-friendly” schools as they have in Portland, San Francisco and now Los Angeles, California. These are schools in which Trans kids are treated as their proper gender, not on the basis of their genitals. This means access to facilities—locker rooms, etcetera. It's very important. Those people now growing up will one day have children. There is a 1% chance that those children will be Trans. It's important that they respect, love and not reject the child, and not subject the child to abuse. If the schools are treating the children with respect, then they have a chance.

Polina sez: Violence. 50% of all LGBT violence is against Trans people, however 90% of that violence is against Trans women, and 70 % against Trans women of color. So you know it's out there and happening. We want to become more aware of what's happening.

Polina sez: We want gender-neutral restrooms in all city buildings. We already have them at Santa Fe Community College, specifically separate facilities from men's rooms and women's rooms. It's more than symbolic, it's practical, and the city can probably get ADA funds to finance their construction. Arizona tried to ban us from using public restrooms entirely!

Polina sez: Trans prisoners are currently assigned to prison based on the genitals they possess. But it's not safe for Trans women to be put in with men. It's not safe, they are assaulted. And it's just as bad in the jails. (Most Trans prisoners are in for prostitution.)

Polina sez. We want an awareness campaign in New Mexico
similar to the one in DC. We want signs splashed on bus stops and at airports, a whole PR campaign. We want to use local people as much as we can.

“Those that went before me that were brave...I should have been that brave, been there with them to fight that fight.” --Polina Smutko

Who amongst us hasn't had a similar regret? All we have is now.


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