If not genetics, what criteria, if any, should we use to determine a person’s gender?
I believe the only criteria by which you can determine a person’s gender is the person's decision. There are a lot of theories out there. Most of them are biology-based. Some are psychology-based. The good thing about gender is that really, we do have an option.
Do you think humans have an inherent need to identify themselves as a specific gender as opposed to being genderless individuals with both male and female characteristics?
There certainly is a cultural pressure to have a specific gender. Do I think there is an inherent need to? Apparently not. More and more people are claiming that they are gender-free, or that they are gender-queer. I’m not. I’m an old school tranny. I know I’m not a man and I know I’m not a woman. That doesn’t mean I don’t claim a gender. I claim the gender, trans.
Do you think that in the future, gender will become as mixed up as race is becoming in America?
I sure hope so. I think that is what the last 20 years of queer and postmodern theory has kicked off. More and more countries are allowing a third gender on legal and government documents. Argentina just took a huge step forward. They will no longer require a doctor’s note to change your gender. You just have to fill out a form, and the health care system will take care of the hormone replacement therapy and any surgery the person requires. They will honor a person’s wishes, which is so freaking humane.
What do you think of prisoners in the U.S. who want the government to pay for their sexual reassignment surgery?
I know the level of agony that comes with pre-op transsexual people. If someone is in that much agony, yeah, I think it is cruel and unusual punishment to deny them that.
In your experience, how important do you think it is for pre-op, male-to-female transsexuals to have the surgery? Do some transsexuals prefer to have both breasts and a penis?
Ha ha. I don’t know. I’ve never done a survey. I know both coexist happily together and sometimes not so happily. There is always an insistence within a marginalized group that one faction of the group is more “real” than another faction. Some of my best friends are post-op transsexuals and some are chicks with dicks. We are all delightful.
This is a conundrum built into the philosophy of Scientology. I had heard about the notion that we are immortal, spiritual beings through Zen Buddhism prior to getting into Scientology. A number of religious groups believe that we are not so much our bodies. We are spiritual beings. That part of Scientology fit in with what I was already coming to understand, or at least believe in and hope for.
The conundrum that is built into Scientology stems from L. Ron Hubbard’s homophobia, misogyny, and what we now call trans-phobia. It doesn’t make sense. You can’t have it both ways. Either we are immortal spiritual beings, and as such we have no gender, or you are a suppressive person if you start fucking someone of the same gender, or if you switch your gender. You can’t have it both ways. It is kind of along the lines of “doublethink,” in George Orwell’s 1984, in which you hold two, completely opposite thoughts in your mind simultaneously.
That is only one example of how the philosophy of institutional Scientology keeps you off guard, and keeps you saying, “Well I guess.” The rule in Scientology was, if you are gay, you are a suppressive person, and you are completely and irredeemably evil. Period. What the fuck difference should it make if we are in fact spiritual beings with no gender? It doesn’t make sense, except that it falls into Hubbard’s homophobia, which was a common sentiment of his day.
In one scene in the book, you are on the Sea Org’s Flagship, and after a particularly promiscuous New Year's Eve party, L. Ron. Hubbard offered incentives for the crew members to get married. In Scientology, is there a stigma against premarital sex?
There are levels of Scientology. In the most exalted level of Scientology today, and back then, which is called the Sea Organization, now there is a ban on premarital sex, and, as I understand, there are forced abortions or they kick you out. Things have changed since I was there. It has been heading that way. The current chairman of the board, COB as he likes to style himself, David Miscavige, seems to be doing to Scientology pretty much what Peter did to Christianity. He is ritualizing it. Any hope for a nice version of Scientology is being stamped out by his rule.
The night before your sex reassignment surgery, did you do anything special with your penis to commemorate the good times you had together?
Ha ha. You mean, did I choke the turkey? Ah, no. By the time I got to my hospital bed in Trinidad, Colorado, I had been on hormone injections for almost a year, and you know what they say about eunuchs and their sex drive. You have to stoke your own furnace. It doesn’t come as naturally as it did when I was a boy and had all that boy equipment, and all those boy hormones. You really don’t think about that. That is not a big deal, which is why eunuchs were chosen to watch over harems. Eunuchs fucked every one of those wives if they wanted to. The sultan just did not want anyone else fathering his kids. There is still a sex drive even after your balls are cut off, but I wasn’t interested in that. At that point, for me, it was more of a spiritual journey. I had come to terms with the body part of the journey and I was leaving that in the surgeon’s hands.
I did do something, though. I was wearing a labrys, which is a double-headed battle axe, which was taken on by lesbians in the 1980s to symbolize the lesbian movement. I wore a labrys around my neck. Before I went into surgery — I’m a cutter — I cut myself with a razor blade, then dipped both sides of the labrys in my blood. That was my ritual.
Yeah, but the line isn’t so much between the fetish community and the gay and lesbian community as it is between straight versus queer. I don’t mean straight equals heterosexual, and queer equals homosexual. I’m using queer in the sense of being sex-positive and being just fine with any measure of gender anarchy. Straight, meaning a person doesn’t really want to talk about sex; they think it is no one's business but their own. That is a valid viewpoint. It is just when they try to enforce it on other people, then you have puritans. Straight would also include various degrees of trans-phobia, which is certainly present in both the fetish community and the LGBT community. I look for queer gatherings. If something bills itself as queer-friendly, I am totally fucking there. And, will someone come up to me at these places and say, “Hey, you still got your dick?” Yeah. And is that rude and terrible? Yeah. Does it hurt and make me cry? Yeah, but that’s the world we live in.
One of the more surprising parts of the book was when you received a negative reaction after performing at a conference on women’s rights. Why do you think feminists originally had such a strong aversion to you, and do you think you have since been embraced by the feminist community?
I have been more embraced by the feminist community since then. I think originally, feminism put a lot of its power base and stock in the biological essence of what a woman is. And trans, coming along in the mid to late 1980s when I was coming out, started to chip away at that notion of what makes a woman, and that was threatening. It took me six months to realize that claiming that I was a woman was as silly as anything else. Letting go of that was a big life lesson for me, which I repeated later when my lover of two years went through a gender change and became a guy. I had to let go of the notion that I was a lesbian. As we explore the outer limits of our sexuality, we get to these scary places where we let go of what is near and dear to us in terms of identity. And identity is so closely linked with desire.
Is there any obligation for transsexuals to tell potential sex partners that they were born a different gender?
No. I don’t think there is any such obligation. It is a decision every trans person comes face-to-face with. We all answer according to whatever it is we need to make life more worth living. I’ve come to the point where, yeah, I tell people but you can find that out in any library. But would I demand that of other trans people? Of course not. Trans-people have many good reasons for not coming out, including survival.
In terms of you being attracted to a trans man because he comes across as a woman, that is on you. That is not on the trans man. A real good thing to ask if you see that there is some ambiguity, which allows everyone some grace in the matter, is, “Excuse me, but what is your pronoun of choice?” He may say, “Oh, I like male pronouns. I like ‘he’ and ‘him.’” Then know that if you are going to have sex with that person, it is going to be a guy. No matter what the parts are, there is going to be a whole lot of guy involved in that sex. If you yourself are a guy, you are having homosexual sex.
Toward the end of the book, you give the advice to your daughter, “Never fuck anyone you wouldn’t want to be.” Can you elaborate on that?
No. I didn’t elaborate on it in the book and I’m not going to elaborate on it now. It was a piece of advice I learned from a guy while I was doing the book tour for Gender Outlaw. He told me that his grandmother gave him that advice on her deathbed. That is where that advice came from and yep, the lady was right.
Did you have any fear of writing about the Church of Scientology?
My big fear was that they would come after me, so I set out to write about them in a manner I would not mind them writing about me. If they want to tell the truth about me, the way they experienced it, great. I tried my very best to not be mean to them, and judging by their lack of retribution, I think they kind of agree with me, or at least their lawyers said, “Hey, there is nothing you can hit this tranny with for saying. She is just telling her truth of what happened to her.” I am proud of what I wrote.