Everybody Know I’m a Motherfuckin’ Monster!

Posted: 12/20/2010 in Girl Stuff, Queer, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I’d like to think that for the most part I deal pretty well with the kind of things that people presume about me, but there are just some days when I am just not about that. The other day I ran across a blog entry that I guess was about a book signing that the author attended for Kate Bornstein. The title of the blog was “The transgender narrative is fending off suicide.” I didn’t bother reading beyond around the second sentence because how can I be expected to give someone who is willing to reduce my life to a desperate attempt not to kill myself the time of day? I’m well aware that I’ve got a fifty percent chance of trying to kill myself in my lifetime, that doesn’t make it my whole life.

I absolutely refuse to be anyone’s tragic, pitiable figure. As a certain comic book character who occupies a special place in my life once said, “I’m nobody’s fucking cartoon.” There’s a lot of people who are disappointed by that. A great many people who want me to be their cartoon; whether it’s as some kind sexual fetish, a statement against something, or someone who needs saving of any kind. I’m going to retain the right to define my own narrative, and it has fuck all with suicide. Shocking, I know. The thing is that yes; I’m a transwoman, but it’s only a portion of my identity and it’s a portion of my identity that I have a very fierce pride about.

Initially, I started this blog using the subtitle of “Une Femme Sous Construction” (A Woman Under Construction) because I was still trying to come to terms with my identity as a woman. Shortly before I started this account, I came across an arresting series of photographs taken at a Real Girl factory of the various parts of the dolls under construction. It struck a chord in me, initially because of the fragility of my self identification and the sometimes feeling that femininity is all just a construction in service of men. Instead of shying away from it, I decided to embrace it and used it as my very first station ident as well as the inspiration for the title of the blog itself. One of the reasons I chose to embrace the photos and the metaphor was how much it eerily recalled the opening credits of Ghost in the Shell, which depict the assembly of Motoko Kusanagi’s android body.

It’s been almost exactly a decade since I first encountered her and my relationship with her has done nothing but deepen and crystallize since that fateful night I crowded around the TV with a clutch of friends to be properly introduced to the concept of “anime” beyond the Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball of our childhoods. As I’m sure long time followers of my writing have noticed, I’ve tied my identity and aspirations tightly to the pop figures I feel the most affinity for ever since I started The Invisibles five years ago, but I’ve recently come to the inescapable conclusion that there’s been something far subtler operating in my subconscious for a very long time.

It’s no surprise that we trans people have have some pretty serious feelings about our bodies, but how that manifests itself can be pretty stunning. In one of my usual eerie moments of self discovery, it occurred to me that my identification with the Monster High doll Frankie Stein was part of a much larger and older fascination with what I can only describe as the Frankenstein Girl. Pygmallion from the perspective of the construct, I suppose. Either way, I realized that my fascination with the Frankenstein Girl was one and the same as my fascination with Motoko Kusanagi the cyborg assembled out of various customized artificial parts, which really seemed to come together to point to the idea that it was a coping mechanism developed before I even knew that I was a trans woman. The very same morning I read an article reblogged over Tumblr about someone who- as a child- strongly identified with Puff the Magic Dragon because of the ease of interpreting the story as being about a child being cured of autism through his adventures with the eponymous dragon and the final piece fell into place.

It’s fairly disconcerting that I find comfort in identifying with a woman who was constructed from the parts of several corpses, but at the same time it’s fairly astounding to think about how perceptive the human mind is from a young age. My mind knew my body was wrong and for years it was trying to tell me.

You can interpret the phenomenon in any number of ways, but it seems undeniable to me that our minds struggle to find and communicate to us a new narrative to explain what we are to ourselves, and that narrative is definitely not suicide. I choose to see my own experience as my subconscious telling me that I can make my body whatever I want it to be. Interestingly enough, the author of the book series that the Monster High toys are based on- Lisi Harrison- seems to have deployed Frankie Stein for basically this purpose, as I found in a review of the series:

After being created by her father Viktor, who also implants 15 years of knowledge, social mores, behaviour, customs and a bucket-load of 21st century popular culture into her brain, Viktor delivers to his daughter what might just be the most damaging message of all.  A message that’s unfortunately all too common in today’s society. Although described as an otherworldly beauty with a few supernatural gifts up her sleeve, Viktor tells Frankie her individuality will not be so easily accepted by the locals. Lest she be hunted down and burned at the stake, Frankie is given a closet full of unfashionable clothing and heavy-duty makeup to conceal her freakish figure. He tells her to be proud of who she is, just as long as she wears concealer (to cover up her skin, described as a delightful shade of mint).

Shocked at such a negative message, Frankie finds herself confused by the latest copy of Teen Vogue, which encourages young girls to celebrate who they really are, imperfections and all. Rather than heed her parents advice (who are really just acting in concern for their daughter’s safety), Frankie understands that she’s “supposed to love her body just the way it was…Natural was in.”

Unfortunately for Frankie, after ignoring her parent’s warnings, she steps out into public without covering up her seams, bolts and skin, and is met by a hysterical gaggle of teenage girls. They alert the authorities, and the area is put on red alert. Frankie has no option but to blend in and fade into suburban life.

What I love about this series is that unlike the Twilight monsters, who are described as achingly beautiful, sparkly, agile, strong, hyper-intelligent and oozing sexual appeal, the monsters in Monster High are so brutally insecure of their natural appearance and abilities that they go to extreme lengths to hide their true identities.

At last, we seem to stumble upon the transgender narrative as if by accident. Frankie’s story may have been written in response to the social pressures facing ostensibly cisgender teenage girls, but it rings perhaps even more true to trans people. Through no fault of her own, Frankie is thrust into a situation where she must either hide her true identity at a high personal price, or present herself to the world as she really is and live under the constant threat of violence and murder. This is not the story of a young woman fending off suicide. It’s the story of a young woman who makes the radical decision to present herself to the world as she truly is in the face of incredible adversity. That’s my narrative, as chosen by me.

  1. Kelly says:

    Your attempt to portray yourself is moving, to be sure, but I find it sad that you direct this negative feeling toward a statement you did not understand. Looking into the truth of a sentiment is being educated – instead you begin by ridiculing someone without any consideration of what their blog title meant in the first place, assuming it to be one thing while still complaining about people who see you and make assumptions about what they see without looking deeper.
    I might have lost some respect for you, Emma.

    • emmahouxbois says:

      A statement I didn’t understand? Oh I understood that statement very well. It was someone who thought it was okay to speak for me and define my entire existence as something that it is not. I really do not care what the sentiment behind it was. It was arrogant and false. It is not my job to look deeper into the sentiments behind people’s ignorant statements. It’s their responsibility to check themselves.

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