the tax collector

I surprised myself yesterday, when sitting to write, I forgot that I had written about 5 more pages of the section – forgot because I would get to one part that was such a mess I would go “Oh God” and stop reading on. What is written after it is doable.

And yesterday was one of those rough days. I felt like the most productive thing I had done was find something useful in the garbage. That is not true, but it felt like that. I got a lot accomplished, just not the things I had wanted and the whole day just felt like it was being reluctantly pulled from a dark room.

In the news there is a story of a girl who got beaten so badly she had seizures. She was attacked by two other girls in a crowded McDonald’s and everybody watched and no one helped. No weapons were involved. The girls used their hands and feet. After the story broke, it took a day for the details to catch up with it. The girl who was beaten was 23 and transgendered.

Being transgendered is different from being a transvestite which is something most people don’t really know. Someone who is transgendered may be biologically one sex, but psychologically and reactively the other. I say “reactively” because while there is great debate over the validity of the psychological differences between the sexes (nature versus nurture thing) there is increasing evidence that there are neurobiological differences between the sexes and between sexual identities. For example, numerous studies have been done in which they have found that a straight woman and a gay man have the same parts of their brain light up when looking at pictures of attractive men.

It is an oversimplification to say that someone who is transgendered is, say, a woman trapped in a man’s body. For many transgendered people, they do not identify with either male or female in the way it is represented in their culture, they just know that they are neither one. More and more evidence is being found that our sexual identities are a mix of culture, biological and neurobiological traits. With hermaphodites, the definition has been expanded from the traditional concept of someone with sexual organs of both genders to those who have DNA structures that are uniquely balanced between the sexes but may lack the ahhhhh…double set of equipment. The DNA makes strange things happen in the brain.

Transgendered persons have often been referred to as the 3rd sex.

In America, young as we are, the concept of transgender is new. It has been politicized, romanticized, stigmatized and had its own brief run as a trend. Being the way we are, we have latched on to the concept of “that must mean you want to be a boy” and a whole industry of surgical and chemical sex change has sprung up. An industry noted for its lack of preparing the patient for the reality of the choice. It used to be that patients were required to go through extensive testing, psychological and physical, before they were approved for treatment. Now, they have billboards in some cities that offer the services of plastic surgeons to any one who can afford it.

For the unfortunate who leap to the surgical/chemical change without adequate preparation they are left with some permanent challenges and no help. The gay community, which embraces the pre-op trans person, rejects the same person if they go through the surgical change but they their change and choice makes them “straight.” The straight world, of course, has not been kind to post-operative transgendered persons.

Patients are not told of the effects of the hormone treatments. That for women who transition to men the testosterone treatments that are a life long requirement cause an early and severe onset of osteoporosis. All in all, the transgendered in America are not allowed to be transgendered, in the name of supporting them their support systems demand that they choose. You cannot imagine, it is hard to find a relating sympathy for someone who lives a life in which they are so uncomfortable in their own body that often death is the only choice they see as freedom. To look in the mirror each day and see something alien to you and yet wedded to you is a kind of psychological torture that few know. Perhaps those with inoperable facial tumours or disfigurments have a clue. It is a complex subject. And of course, those who do not understand or have any desire to attempt to understand any of this, see fit to kick the bejeesus out of the person in front of an audience who is frozen in complacency.

In Pakistan, a very conservative, Muslim country, they are getting ready to change the national IDs to offer three choices for gender. It seems kind of odd, a sort of “What the F—?” moment for the western world when we hear about this (excluding indigenous tribes who, without the benefit of grants and studies, have managed to recognize and value the third sex for eons, but we advanced civilizations are a bit slow that way). But you have to understand that for centuries, actually, since the beginning of time the transgendered have both been recognized and had a cultural role to play that was valued. They had roles at the royal courts as bodyguards, entertainers, advisors and confidants. In Saudi Arabia, they are the guards of the prophet Muhammed’s tomb because they are considered, as a whole, exemplary devotees of the faith.

In modern times they have experienced more prejudice and exclusion. They are found mostly as entertainers, prostitutes or beggars. The Pakistani government, for many complex and some simple reasons, is making the move to legally recognize them as their own gender and is setting aside a set number of government positions for the transgendered.

Jobs where their “talents” will be used well, for the transgendered in the Middle East do also have their own sub-culture that emphasizes entertainment and almost, courtesan-like training (and fyi, courtesans traditional have nothing to so with sex on “business” level, they are different from concubines and more like geishas).

The main position they are desired for?

Tax collector.

Pakistan employs them as tax collectors and they go out in small groups to the houses of tax scofflaws and knock on their doors demanding they pay. If the person refuses they create a scene on their front steps until they give in and pay the monies owed.

It is not a perfect world, but it is for damn sure an interesting one.

c.2011. Cassandra Tribe. All Rights Reserved.

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About cassandratribe

"There are few artists that can do what Cassandra Tribe does. Whether with her poetry, her videos or her blog, Cassandra examines the truths that most of us can never come close to realizing and shows it for what it is, both beautiful and frightening at the same time. She exposes our inner-most workings like the cross-section of a powerful but flawed machine, our gears and springs, nuts and bolts removed and laid out before us. She is a true artist. Her new video, Requiem for a God, is the latest example of Cassandra's willingness to tear open and examine the very things that make us human. Shooting the film entirely by herself, she also eliminates all the little excuses we come up with to keep us from ourselves and our truth. You see, even when she's not trying to be, Cassandra Tribe is a beacon of truth and humanity in this darkest of worlds." (Michael E. Quigg, The Culture Network, June 2009)
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