Friday Philosophy: Not a pretty girl

She arose silently from her bed and walked to the bathroom.  She stopped to stare at herself in the mirror.

Sh was old.  Sometimes she wondered how that had happen, but she had been aware that she was not aging all that gracefully for quite a few years.  Daily stress can do that to a person.

So can 44 years of being on testosterone.

Now, even 17 years later, the effects of that were still there in the face that looked back..  Nothing was going to undo that…except maybe thousands of dollars of facial reconstruction.  That was money she would never have.  So she made do with the rationalization that she hadn’t wanted to stop recognizing herself anyway.

And nothing was going to change the fact that she was 6’4″ tall.

Friday’s child…..Born a little ugly

Friday’s child…. Good looks passed her by..oh

Friday’s child…..Makes something look like nothing

Friday’s child…..Am I..ya

Is life only about being eye candy for someone else?

In the newer version of the nursery rhyme, isn’t Friday’s child supposed to be loving and giving?  And isn’t that important at all?

There was a recent exchange in a diary about the rights of transfolk…or the lack of same…which included some very ugly words.  The only thing uglier which I saw at the time were the thoughts that the words were expressing.  While it might be easier to just try to blow it off as one individual who can be ignored, the sad fact is that he is not alone.  Therein lies the sadness.  This is the place from which the pain wells up.

A gay man expressed his love and support for transpeople…but.  There was a very large BUT attached.

He proceeded to relate a story about “a middle aged, hideous tranny.”  During the course of his ripping her apart (or as he called her, “him”), the following words spilled out as well.

I have known transgendered people who really were born with the wrong genitals…they looked it, spoke it, acted it and when their surgeries were complete, they at least looked like the genders they aspired to be.

Meaning:  They passed.

Deconstruction:  They were socially acceptable because of their appearance, irrespective of their value in any other way.

I can understand why many people are simply freaked out by seeing a 6 foot 4, 56 year old man with stringy, balding hair

Meaning:  It makes me uncomfortable to see tall women, large women, old women or balding women.

Personally I have some admiration for Lisa Leslie, who is 6’5″, and Queen Latifah, who is…what’s the word?…hulking.


No person can ever be a successful woman if she has thinning hair, like restaurateur Lidia Bastianich, let alone bald ala Sinead O’Connor or Persis Khambatta.  God forbid any woman ever lose her hair through taking chemo to treat cancer.


And why do they ever allow older women who are, shall we say, not exactly pretty out in public, like my biological mother or my academic mother, Emmy Noether.


Deconstruction:  It’s actually transwomen who I can tell are transwomen who make me uncomfortable.  The world should be about my comfort rather than about theirs.

A man in a dress making a lot of people around him feel uncomfrotable[sic]–just because HE thinks he’s woman–is not going to win rights for anyone. And, quite frankly, while I know many transgendered people who merely corrected a wrong nature inflicted on them have gone on to live relatively normal lives, big, hulking TRANNIES who don’t look like women and never will, are trying to latch themselves into the gay and lesbian fight for recognition and dragging us down, but because we believe in rights for everyone, we take your burden…but sometimes your battles are nonsense, and your not gender confused, but just fucking crazy and that won’t help anyone, including those who are truly biologically disposed to being the opposite sex and shame on you for that!

There isn’t much that can be said to that.  At least there is nothing that will be understood by the person who said it.

Looksism can be a very hideous monster.  It is especially so when it comes up in reference to transwomen.  What words are ever going to penetrate the walls built by someone whose total valuation of people…make that women…comes down to how good they look.

For transwomen this can be an especially dangerous game, since if we look too good, pass as being “real women” too well, we are accused of trying to fool people about who we are…and at that stage, if our histories are ever discovered, we often becomes targets of retribution, often violent retribution.

It really is fairly simple as far as I am concerned.  I transitioned when I was 44.  I didn’t do so in order to become a movie starlet or a beauty queen or a even a hooker.  I transitioned to be a middle-aged ex-hippie college professor with a bit of wear and tear.

The fact is that when I transitioned I looked somewhat like my mother and a little bit like my father.  That’s the way it works for most people.  

Should whether or not I deserve equal rights and a modicum of respect really be dependent on your aesthetic appreciation…or lack thereof?  Is that, at long last, the measure of a woman?

As a gay man, I accept not everyone will accept me and my partner as a real couple….but even they will accept us more readily as a couple, than some of you who want to parade as the opposite sex….because your not! Your happiness lies on a psychologist’s couch, not at the end of a scalpel and a K-Mart dress!

Rant on.  Perhaps some folks will hear your words and realize just how wrong their own thinking is.  Maybe you will do more for our cause with your evil thoughts than all the good ones I will ever muster.



Not a pretty girl

nor an attractive woman

just a hope

of being

a handsome

old lady

I have been

resigned to this

for decades

But quality lies

in the heart

and the mind

not on the skin

Your proclamation

of love and support

for transfolk

rings as hollow

as hollow can be

Ugly lives down deep

–Robyn Elaine Serven

–January 16, 2009



Skip to comment form

    • Robyn on January 17, 2009 at 00:05

    …and I wish that I had the power to sy it better, but some subjects are just way more difficult than others. Perhaps some day I will get beyond that.  Being almost 61 years old however, I am not going to promise that will happen.

    It’s possible that better words will congeal in the comments.  But I can’t promise that either.

  1. You would have fought your whole life against/for something.

    Might as well make it about the toughest thing there is,

    Keep yer left up!

    (as well as your spirits!)

  2. looking even in my “prime” 20’s, early 30’s so what I am telling myself as I age is that at least I am not “losing my looks” so to speak to the ravages of age.

    I won’t lie. I did wish to be pretty/cute/desirable/eye candy…. I did not stop wishing as much as I more or less shrugged and told myself if my wishes were fishes the sea would all clogged up.

  3. of one of my favorite songs – Phoebe Snow singing “Either or Both.”

  4. …is a hella thing to write about.  Difficult for me to respond to, difficult topic, gack.

    It shouldn’t matter, but it does.  A lot.  

    Most transwomen I know who are 10 or so years postop — whether they’ve had SRS — mostly pass.  Partly on dignity and partly on long term estrogenic effects.  

    And of course, to anyone who hasn’t seen a transwoman…who is imagining what a trans person is or looks like…in any textual medium…one does not pass at all, ever.  The image is always the other person’s idea of “off”, to the exact degree they’re squicked.

    In civilized countries, some of them, which cover SRS, facial work is also covered, at least to a point.  

    I get your point about lookism and secondary sexual characteristics, and that is often the point that cissexual women make about the whole issue — hey, non-trans women have these issues too.  But to me, there is something unique to being clocked, and the inevitable deconstruction of ones appearance and essence which immediately follows.  It matters — in matters of employment, civil life on the simplest terms, friendship, relationships, all of it — how fast one is clocked and how deeply that deconstruction goes.  I have had the priviledge of having my face taken off and reattached, but it doesn’t mean I pass.  It means I buy ten minutes, or a month, or a year, in which to convince the other person of my humanity before they freak.  Worth every damn penny, too.  I don’t think it would be every transwoman’s choice, but in my idea of a just world, we’d all have the option.

    • Robyn on January 17, 2009 at 01:35

    …in Orange.

    • Robyn on January 17, 2009 at 01:48

  5. … and narrow options as to how to present yourself in society, imo.

    Everyone can be beautiful, I believe.  Mostly beauty is being treated as tho you’re beautiful, I’ve found.  The most physically attractive man or woman, if abused, doesn’t look beautiful.

    Reading your essay, I was reminded of that great video you posted about the witch, the pope and the village, and how beautiful I thought the narrator looked.

    Nowadays, eh, such conformity.

    What’s great about looking beautiful (had a moment or two in my 30s, lol) is how you are treated, not how you look.

    I don’t know if this comment is on point, but I’ve never seen a fellow human who could not, inherently, be physically beautiful.

    • kj on January 17, 2009 at 02:08

    member was born profoundly deaf, as i’ve mentioned before.  despite best attempts at life-long speech therapy and more information than is necessary to provide here, this lovely (and she is lovely, beautiful, tall, slender, flowing hair, huge gorgeous eyes, ‘winning’ personality, and oh yeah, smart as a whip) women still has ‘deaf speak.’  translation to most, you know, she sounds off.  mentally off.  (you know the word i’m not typing.)

    that is the closest i can come to imagine that initial ‘squick,’ and only because i’ve seen it and felt it as only an older, wants to be protective but knows she can’t, relative.

    me?  i look like my father. startles (scares!) me every single morning.

    some old poem saying is running through my head, “to be what makes us more fully human” something like that.  must google.

    • Alma on January 17, 2009 at 02:46

    I don’t think he’s even taken the time to try and understand.  As you pointed out, its about how it makes him feel, nothing rooted in anything else.

    Beauty is beautiful, and Ugliness shows truth.  I don’t think it took much digging to find that guys ugliness though.

    That picture of you at your desk is one of my favorites.  Makes me smile everytime I see it.  Your happiness, and goodness shines bright and clear.

    • kj on January 17, 2009 at 02:49


  6. …hella response on the satan.  Congrats on the rec list!  

    Sticking around there to see if the very last person to respond to one of my comments comes back, because I don’t want to leave her hanging…then I’m shutting down Camp Jessica and putting up the blog firewall :}  

    But had to pop in here to say how stunned I was to see some of the stories people came forward to tell.  A few wormy apples aside, just amazingly cool.

  7. superficial people…

    My French teacher in high school was (ahem) plain-looking.  But she was smart, a bit fierce with students who weren’t paying attention, but really great.

    I have been androgynous-looking my whole life.  Partly it’s b/c I eschew makeup (better none than makeup done badly, lol), partly it’s b/c I have a “boyish” figure.  It hasn’t gotten me into trouble, exactly, but I do get the occasional “sir” which is both amusing and annoying, but which tells me more about the speaker than they know about me.

    I cannot imagine the struggles you and jess have been through.  Just: so glad to have “met” you both, and to be able to read you, and interact with you, even if it’s via the toobz.

    Oh, and Robyn?  I think you look cute in that pic at your computer.

    • banger on January 17, 2009 at 16:24

    The whole trans and gender-bending phenomenum is, in my view, one of the keys to the much needed cultural change we all (here) want to happen. People accepting who they are despite social strictures are to be honored for what they do for the rest of us who want to come out of the cages we and our social structure has built for us. Transgendered folk point the way for any of us to really expand our limited view of human potential–we can each take that step to realize the fullness of human experience male/female and beyond male/female.

    Great post, Robyn and well written.

  8. I was educated a bit more with this great essay.

    Sadly though I also learned about how some people can be absolutely horrid when I first read it at the GOS.

    Although I rarely comment on your essays because I don`t know how to discuss or ask questions about the subject matter, I do read them often, in the hopes of becoming a better person overall.

    Thank you.

Comments have been disabled.