Are We Circus Elephants?

Have you ever seen circus elephants? These big magnificent animals who are capable of lifting hundreds of pounds and 'knocking over tall buildings' are teathered to a small stake in the ground. Do you ever wonder why they just don't pull up the stake and run away?

Well, when they were just little baby elephants, the circus would teather them, not to a small stake, but to a hugh pole in the ground. So, as weak little baby elephants, they did not have the strenght to pull the pole free. They soon learned that their movement was limited by the length of their chains. Once they felt the tension from the chain being stretched tight, they stopped and backed up. This limitation remained imposed in their minds even after they reached adulthood. At a time in their life when they could easily pull the stake out of the ground and escape, they docilely stop when they feel the tension of the chain.

Is this the same thing that society does those of us who are transgendered? Our chains of conformity were determined by the genetialia we displayed at birth. This determined how we were raised, how we were treated, how we were expected to act and how we were expected to dress. As babies, children, teenagers, we might have felt some differences, but most of us were not strong enough to overcome those chains. Some who did, like Gwen Araujo, paid a heavy price for breaking those chains.

So here we are as adults. Some of us have broken free and live, with or without SRS, 24/7 as women. But I suspect most of us, are still chained to some degreee. Oh, I've broken a few links and stretched the shackles enough that I can slip my foot out, dress and go out and interact with the world as a women, but at the end of the day, I slip my foot back into the shackle and chains of conformity.

Despite having tasted the freedom of being female, of womenhood, I/we are unable, or unwilling to break my chains. Does this make me/you a circus elephant?

Comments

Alysyn said…
Stacie...I think you've stumbled upon a very interesting and crucial consideration, but you should elaborate on it. Define the context(s) of these chains you've presented. Are they representative of just the genetically produced physicalities or are you referring to roles being portrayed as a result? How are they analogous to those restraints used on the "oliphaunts" and where does it exactly apply to your life as a means of giving an example? I'm not actually clear on where your focus is.

I'd love to hear further thought from you on this...

With love,
Aly
Stacie said…
Wellll, if I knew where I was going with this, I'd be there already. The circus elephant metaphor just came in tangentially as I was trying to write something else. It seemed so appropriate that I came down this path and have yet to finish writing what I originally started.

I say Chains of Conformity because most of us are chained to society's preception of male and female. We are raised to fit into the role that matches our genetials. By the time we become adults, most of us stay in this role. Some of us never dress, some only dress occasionally, and a few transition to living 24/7. The first link of the chain was our genitials. Then family, friends and society add additional links as we grow up.

I think the personal cost of breaking our chains is what keeps most of us in our birth sex. For me, the pain and cost to my family out weighs my desire to live 24/7, so I keep my chains on. I can slip them off when the desire arises, but I have just not reached the point in my life where I have to / want to make that kind of decision. That is not to say that it won't happen in the future. The following link http://www.mask.org.za/printpage.php?id=944 is to an article about someone who finally transitioned at 80 years of age. Perhaps better late than never?? For others, the pain of being in the wrong gender is so overwhelming, they are able to break their chains.

So I guess the point of my commentary is that most of us are like circus elephants because we remain chained to the role our birth sex and society assigned us. We slip them off once in awhile and run free, but sooner or later, we come slinking back and put our shackles back on.
Lauren Thomas said…
Stacie,

I understand your analogy and if we were not human beings able to think on our own, yes we would be like your elephants. However, as human beings we have the ability to make choices about the way we live, and although society may not fully understand our needs, we also have the ability to educate and make society aware. In my opinion much of this has to do with how strong is the need, and to what lengths we are willing to go to meet our needs. This all may go back to setting limits. Each of us has different needs, based on different situations, and so we set our limits. For some this might mean SRS or being 24/7,(pulling the stake from the ground) while for others the need may not be as great or as urgent, the situation may be more restrictive, and the limits are set for the moment (Taking the chain out as far as it will go).

We may not be elephants, but you have to admit some of us are well conditioned!

With Love and Respect,

Lauren
Adarabeth Veau said…
wow ... 80 years ... wow ...

Thank you Stacie for your analogy ... I enjoyed it and have wondered too about the tethers that bind us or propel us in one direction or another ... however, I think the links you speak of can also be safe haven and in a sense, a protectorate from true miscalculation ...

Marlena expressed this earlier on regarding limits with 'Blonde John' ... and as I have always been one to really push boundaries it was a poignant reminder about 'going too far' ...

My links, my family, my work, even my genitalia at current are also my comfort zone and despite the 'slipping' off of the chains of conformity (God knows conformity is something I am very uncomfortable with) which I not only adore but need, without them, the redefinition of self may indeed be the final link that promotes or saves from a miscalculation ...

Where are those magic pills when u need them?

I sometimes wish life were simpler, but then it is the complexity that is the spice in my stew, and it is the links that you speak of that also help me figure it all out ...

At least eventually I hope too ...

Till then - if I am going to be a baby elephant on a tether - pulling on the links to test them, then at least I will get to wear my tutu and perform ... just dont feed me any peanuts ...
Stacie said…
Yes, Lauren, being thinking sentinent human beings, we have the ability to slip those chains off, and/or put them back on. Unlike real elephants, we constantly test the bonds to see how far they stretch. And Adarabeth, I like what you said of them also being a protectorate when we have them on. I never thought of it that way. I guess the chains can also provide some level of security against the unknown of living 24/7, but perhaps more importantly, protect our family and love ones from the hurt they might feel if we break our bonds and leave them.

So now (LOL)we become performing elephants in the circus?? I mean chained or unchained, I want to be a good looking elephant! Even when my foot is shackled, my toenails are polished, my legs are shaved and usually encased in hose and heels- we gotta have our little fethishes. And let's not forget the chains and shackle. No rusty old chains here! They better be made out of jewelry grade metal, plus this girl wants them shackles encrusted with some diamonds or other high quality stones. We want to be well conditioned good looking elephants!
Alysyn said…
Forgive my initial ignorance. I was just apprised of the cultural obstacles you face, and while I understand the angst you feel regarding the strictures they place upon you in an obligatory sense, I also commend you for being conscious of them and their importance.

Yes, I agree that we can easily, from early in life, become conditioned to consider ourselves to be defined by the sum total of our physicality. In my own experience I have discovered, within the realm of Christianity, the contradictory mindset of regarding ourselves as heavenly minded with a low priority as to the importance of our "tents" (which is how Paul referred to our earthly bodies)compared to the condition of our soul and motivation in life; only to discover myself condemned by these same loved ones as "perverse" and "fallen" because I dared modify my physicality to increase the viability of my souls condition. Having been, and still to this day being, strongly adherent to my God and his precepts, as well as involved in ministry, I made a conscious effort to uproot that stake holding me at bay.

Thank you, Stacie, for this very transpicious analogy...
annette said…
This is a very interesting analogy. I would imagine that the vast majority of us within this community carry shackles with us to some degree. To be truly free we would have to wear what we wanted round the clock irrespective of what anyone else thought. I was thinking last night that the only person who would be truly free of her shackles would be a successful post-op transsexual. Well, almost free.

The recent First Event fashion show was emcee'd by a lovely tall slim post op woman who'd successfully transitioned a few years ago. She had it all. A secure job. House. Friends. Good long term relationship. Very feminine facial features and a beautiful voice. Definitely a role model for anyone following in her footsteps toward full time womanhood. A friend of mine mentioned something, in passing, that I hadn't noticed at the time. She frequently wore gloves when in public. I found a picture of her in my photo album from a few years back and she did, in fact, have large hands and probably felt self conscious about them. Her plastic surgeon had done a magnificent job feminizing her face. Her SRS had gone smoothly. But as far as I know, hand reconstruction surgery wasn't an option. What does this mean? I guess even the very best of us in the community still carry little metal shavings from the shackles that we've sawed off.

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