On Caitlyn Jenner, NY Times Linkbait, and HOW IS THIS HARD???

Off topic to pregnancy, eating disorders, weight gain, recovery... but very ON topic to another of my favorite categories, feminism:

What Makes a Woman?
by Elinor Burkett

Oh, NY Times Sunday Review, no.

This strikes me as one of the most mean-spirited op-ed contributions I've read in some time. I mean, good lord.

First off, we're not even going to get into the repeated, incorrect use of the name "Bruce" in this op-ed, and we're not even going to address the horrible analogy between transgenderism and some fictional person transitioning from white to black.  We're not even going to waste the space. (But just quickly:  o_O)

After painting a dismissive picture of Caitlyn Jenner's general entrĂ©e to the world, the piece begins with this assertion: 

People who haven’t lived their whole lives as women, whether Ms. Jenner or Mr. Summers, shouldn’t get to define us.

Sure, Larry Summers of Harvard, I follow for this argument.  Larry Summers was essentially arguing that tiny ladybrains aren't equipped to handle complex maths and sciences, because apparently it's 1950 and colleges are for Mrs. and Early Childhood Education degrees.

But with regard to Caitlyn Jenner, Burkett seems to be deliberately misunderstanding transgenderism.   Jenner's statement to Diane Sawyer about her brain wasn't rooted in science, and Jenner isn't at the head of an internationally lauded research institution, nor is Caitlyn Jenner is not the neuroscientist quoted later in the piece.  Caitlyn Jenner is a celebrity, and a transwoman, and she was speaking to Sawyer about emotion and lived experience, not about the physical structure of neurons and grey matter.

Just for starters, as a delayed amuse-bouche if you will, that feels more worthy of one of XO Jane's embarrassing clickbait entries than it does the NYT (well, maybe not lately, now that I think about it), the author calls Caitlyn Jenner a man:

And as much as I recognize and endorse the right of men to throw off the mantle of maleness, they cannot stake their claim to dignity as transgender people by trampling on mine as a woman.

A transgender woman is not a man.  A cisgender woman is not a man.  A transgender woman is a woman.  A cisgender woman is a woman.  How is this hard?

Moving on from there to more esoteric concerns than questions of socio-linguistic respect (because my pregnancy hormones will make my head pop off if I think any further about how easy it is to get man/woman right in a discussion of transgender people)...

Their truth is not my truth. Their female identities are not my female identity.

Yeah, no kidding.  And my female identity isn't your female identity either.  How is this hard?  (And how did this get space in the NYT Op-Ed page?  This is as bad as when they let Sofia Vergara's ex bully-pulpit her about their cryopreserved embryos.)

Furthermore, Burkett reeeeeeally missed the flashing-lights memo that's everywhere about how demeaning it is to insist on cisnormative beauty/handsomeness standards to qualify as a "successful" trans person.  This is what approximately 65% of her argument is staked on: That it's taken as read that we should reward only traditional standards of appearance, rather than remember that not all transpeople have access to the treatments and procedures that Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox, etc., have availed themselves of.  (A point on which Cox was very concise and poetic recently, to great social media effect; I saw it everywhere. If Burkett had been paying attention to anything trans before picking up Vanity Fair, I suspect she would've seen it, too.)

Look.  I fully acknowledge that I am not a first-wave feminist.  Nor am I really a second-wave feminist.  Having been born in the early '80's, I'm in that weird sandwich generation that wasn't always concerned with intersectionality (assuming you got started on your feminism young, as I did) but also didn't have to scour ads for "help wanted - female." I acknowledge that.  (Because, again, it's not hard: my lived experience is not Burkett's lived experience. Yet somehow we're both women.  How is this hard?)

But that there are ciswomen out there who have gone through the wringer of early feminism does not make transwomen any less women.  And the idea that speaking to one's lived experience as a transwoman somehow "undermine[s] almost a century of hard-fought arguments that the very definition of female is a social construct that has subordinated us," is like saying the strawberries for the shortcake are moldy, so we have to throw the burgers out.  Transgenderism is only possible because the very definition of any gender is a social contract that subordinates people.

You don't even have to agree that "vagina" is an exclusionary term (in the context Burkett discusses, I don't think it is), or think pro-choice groups should omit the word "woman" from their mission statements (I don't think they should), or hold an opinion about whether The Vagina Monologues could stand updating with a transwoman's story or read as a period piece (I vote period piece) to understand that equality and respect are not zero-sum.

As a parting thought:

Many women I know, of all ages and races, speak privately about how insulting we find the language trans activists use to explain themselves.

Ms. Burkett, I think you need to meet some new women, because I know plenty who agree with your cohort, but I know plenty who don't, too.

Someone find me a gif of somebody screaming to the sky, "HOW IS THIS HARD?!"


Pregnancy Weight Gain, Post-Eating Disorder

Pregnancy weight gain.  From what I hear, it's not particularly comfortable for a lot of people, eating disorder history or no.  But I think we'd be kidding ourselves if we said that ED history doesn't potentially level up the challenge.

During my first trimester, initially I lost weight (once the 10 lbs. of free fluid from OHSS finally cleared out of my abdomen) and ended up almost even, a little over baseline.  Now about four weeks into my second trimester, I seem to have hit a weight gain stride.

So that's been interesting.

It spurs an intimately familiar thought pattern:  "I gained X.  That means I'm going to gain X+infinity."  Except that's not how it works.  That's never how it works.  But it's reminiscent of ED thought patterns.  "They want me to gain X.  I know I'm not going to stop at X.  I'm just going to keep gaining and gaining and it'll be totally out of my control. You'll see.  I can't trust my body.  It has no idea what it's doing. I have to keep it under control."

The concrete difference here is that I have no desire to control in a disordered way.  During my eating disordered years, even when I wasn't engaging in disordered behavior, the trap of wanting to was always ready to spring.   But now it's not so much as lurking underfoot.  I mean, thank goodness, don't get me wrong.  But color me surprised.

Anyway.  For now, I'm just rolling along doing what I'm doing.  I passed the early glucose challenge test (with PCOS you take one around 14-16 weeks, in addition to the normal one later on).  We had a normal anatomy scan a week ago (for some reason my practice does two, the next one at the standard 20-22 weeks).  Everything's clearly going okay so far.  (Except the heartburn.  It can fuck right off.)

So really I'm back, in this new strange way, to a very familiar spot:  Trust your body.  It can do this.  You can do this.  Other people have done this! And they did just fine!  The more things change...


Onward (and Upward on the Scale)

First and foremost, thanks for the well wishes both here and elsewhere, everyone.  They really mean a lot  ^_^

I appear to have hit that early second trimester phase of "What do you mean I just ate breakfast? No, no, I'm sure it's lunchtime. I'm so very sure." I've also reached the stage where I'm meant to gain on average a pound a week from here on out (weird completely not weird how those coincide).

The eating isn't a problem, pleasantly, maybe because I'm still very much in the phase of "don't eat every two hours? get horribly nauseous."  And the scale number right now isn't so much of a problem.  But if I'm at 15 weeks on Friday, thinking about a pound a week from here on out is daunting, I'm not gonna lie.

It's actually quite comforting to be connected with other women* who have come through the other side of infertility** and have the exact same reaction, with no eating disorder history at all.  Yes, this is hard won for all of us, but yes, it's still an uneasy if joyful adjustment -- in the way it probably is for most pregnant people, and that's comforting all over again.

Having said that, this seems like a time when I would be well served to employ some of those CBT coping skills I have cultivated over years and years and thousands of dollars worth of therapy.

* If you google Then Comes Family you'll find us.  It's far from just infertility-centric.  It's the entire spectrum of family and community, in pretty much every flavor you can think of.  

** "for now," my mind always supplies, "you've come through it for now."  Shut up, asshole.


Team Pink

If it seems like I haven't been around much the past couple of months, it's because I painted myself into a bit of a corner by mentioning IVF.

Much as I love my longtime readers (luff you), a good number of you know more or less who I am in real life, so I straddle that weird line of internet pseudo-anonymity, within a certain infinitesimally small circle.

Basically what I am saying is, our IVF cycle was successful, and I didn't want people in real life to know until we hit the second trimester.  Because when you go through infertility, it is next to impossible to just sit back and assume that everything's going to go all right from here, that you get to keep this wonderful change in your world.

We hit the second trimester a week ago.  We're having a girl.  We're unspeakably excited.

We found out it was a girl on Monday, and yes, that's pretty damn early.  This was thanks to a test called Panorama, type of NIPT (noninvasive prenatal test) that is slowly but surely becoming more widely used in prenatal care, although for the most part they're still not covered by insurance if you're under 35.  These tests look for various potential chromosomal issues -- the Trisomies, various micro-deletions, and in Panorama's case, triploidy -- including assessing the sex chromosomes.

We got Panorama not because we were in high risk categories, but because (here comes more of my entitled feeling toward healthcare) we felt we deserved to know.  Because when you go through infertility, it is next to impossible to just sit back and assume that everything's going to go all right from here, that you get to keep this wonderful change in your world.

So we know, not based on an sonographer's say-so, but on DNA, that we're having a little we nymph with two X chromosomes.

Our first anatomy scan is coming up in mid-late May, and hopefully that shows everything continuing apace.   I can't quite let myself settle into that idea.  The closer it gets, the more afraid I am.  Because when you go through infertility, it is next to impossible to just sit back and assume that everything's going to go all right from here, that you get to keep this wonderful change in your world.

In the meantime, I have a lot of thinking to do about this girl.  Knowing my family at large, and especially my in-laws, I've got to do a lot of thinking about how to talk about and healthily live in body and food.  Knowing me, I've got to do a lot of thinking about how to model assertiveness and confidence.  Knowing about the world at large, I've got to do a lot of thinking about... a lot.

But first I gotta go buy some pink stuff*, and hope to hell everything's going to go all right from here, that I get to keep this wonderful change in my world.

*she said, appalled at herself, for truly, she totally had a unisex nursery planned either way, she swears.  It's just... pink!


Flaunting My Entitled Feels: Why IVF Coverage and Mental Health Coverage Are One and the Same

Several years ago I got a little flak around the Interwebs (I mean, in the extremely limited sphere of influence I had here then; even smaller now) for asserting that I had a right to coverage for eating disorder treatment: that coverage of mental health issues ought not to be treated any differently than coverage of physical health issues.

At the time, the awesome (retired) bloggers Pepper & Paprika shared the post on their FB page (this is when FB was still social-medially [not a real phrase] relevant) and some dillweed hopped on there and called me entitled.

Damn skippy, I'm entitled.

In years past it's probably come up here that the husband's family is Jewish.  I bring this up because, if we had really wanted to, with some measure of hoop-jumping (since I'm not Jewish) we could make aliyah to Israel if we wanted.

Why might we want to?  Well, IVF is subsidized in Israel (for citizens) up to two take-home babies, up through age 42.  (This also goes for egg preservation.)

Without getting into any political debates here about the country policies in other areas, because this is not that discussion: you want to talk about a "pro-life" sort of stance?  I will point you right over there, to the country that makes it possible for the people having the most trouble bringing life into the world... to bring life into the world.

Joining Israel in the list of countries that include significant IVF coverage: Argentina, Germany, Australia, South Korea, Singapore, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, France, Italy, Finland, the U.K., Quebec... I could go on.

Guess what the average IVF cycle cost is in the U.S.?  $15-30K, when all is said and done.   We have states that "mandate" coverage, but it's laughably easy for employers to opt out of said mandate. And I can tell you firsthand that being in a state with mandated coverage means zilch for plans purchased on that state's healthcare exchange.  My plan doesn't even cover Lupron, a drug used in some IVF protocols but originally developed for prostate cancer, endometriosis, and precocious puberty.  So if the husband develops prostate cancer, I guess we're shit of out of luck?

Even though I'm getting crickets when I talk about IVF here, I'm going to keep doing it.  I went into our infertility journey certain I would never agree to IVF.  It was "just something I can't see myself going through." It needs to be talked about, and in my opinion, it needs to be normalized.

It's hard to envision this country ever rousing up more universal support for ART (assisted reproductive technologies), largely because of the increasingly vocal minority that lobbies against any kind of control over reproduction.

So the only thing for it is to keep talking about it.  You want to be pro-life?  You want more wanted children brought into this world?  Well, gee, that's exactly what the husband and I are trying to do.  We're trying to create a new life, and we can't do it the old-fashioned way. The thing is, we live in this place called the 21st century.  It's time to start collectively acting like it.