We Remember You

A year ago these 49 people – most of them Hispanic – lost their lives for being in a gay dance club in Orlando.

We remember you and celebrate your lives.

(courtesy Our Lives magazine out of Madison, WI)

Promo Clip for And Then There Was Eve

June 18th

Get your tickets while you can and we’ll see you in LA in 11 days!

For the record, this is, as far as I can tell, only the second film to ever have a trans woman play a trans woman, and thus, a HUGE DEAL. (The first one was the amazing Tangerine, which I highly recommend.)

Guest Post by Patrick Califia

Patrick Califia posted this yesterday on Facebook, and I thought it was vital to share.

I did something today that was really important. It was embarrassing, stressful, maybe even traumatic. But it was still very important for me to make sure that I showed up so that it could happen. And I want to urge ALL of my friends who share some of my anatomy to listen to what I have to say about it.
I’m talking about getting a Pap smear.

I’ve been going to get these damn tests ever since I had access to medical care, sometime in my twenties. Back in the ’70s and ’80s, being visible as a dyke meant that I got universally shitty treatment from doctors. For some reason, gynecologists were the worst. It didn’t matter if they were men or women, either. Female doctors seemed to feel that they had to be as homophobic and mean as their male counterparts to prove they belonged in the boys’ club of medicine.

Josephine Butler referred to the speculum as “an iron penis.” She was a Victorian feminist who agitated against laws that allowed the police to confine women under suspicion of prostitution and keep them confined indefinitely. Women arrested under these laws were subjected to pelvic exams, often with dirty speculums that might have transmitted the very diseases they were accused of harboring. At the time, diagnosis of a “venereal disease” was not accurate, and there was no treatment for syphilis or gonorrhea–unless you count taking compounds made from mercury that could be life-threatening. She succeeded in arousing working-class men to support a women’s cause by using this kind of colorful rhetoric.

Today, speculums (the medical instrument that allows a doctor to open and look inside a vagina or rectum) are made out of plastic. My doctor today showed me how she could insert a flashlight into the one she was using, to illuminate my cervix. She made sure to use the smallest one that would do the job. She told me what was going to happen before she touched me, and there was no unnecessary probing or infliction of pain. I find the test painful anyway just because I don’t like it, and when the long Q-tip is taking a tissue sample from the os or opening of the cervix, it makes me feel sick to my stomach, it hurts that much.

It is even painful for me to write about my own anatomy. I don’t like the fact that I have these internal organs. I have never wanted to have this anatomy. It messes with my sense of my own gender to know that there are unwanted, female organs inside of my body. I am concerned by how many of my readers will be disgusted with me for talking about them, or see me as less of a man because I am being open about possessing them.

Still, this is my body. My body that gives me pain every day from fibromyalgia. But my body has also been with me through every part of my life, and it has never let me down. My body survived being hungry during childhood, and being abused. It survived years of queer-bashing, awful underpaind jobs, poor housing, and street harassment. My body has taken me on amazing journeys outside of the United States and within the realm of sexual exploration. My body has been like a wonderful machine, supporting my consciousness, always following my mind when it wanted to have a particular adventure. I love my body for being there for me no matter what illness, overwork, educational endeavor, or trip through the world of pleasure that befell me. I am so lucky to have a body inherited from strong people who basically walked across the United States so they could live out their religious principles. Nothing stopped them–not poverty, violent persecution, illness, malnutrition, and the crushing labor of establishing a new territory. (These people also did a lot of things I am ashamed of, but that is a topic for another article.)

How do you feel about your body? How far would you go to take care of your physical self, or what acts of gratitude would you commit to let your body know you feel grateful and loving toward your own flesh? That was what I did today.

Listen to me. Cervical cancer is an AWFUL disease. I watched my mother die of breast cancer because she found a lump in her breast and ignored it for ten years. Don’t let yourself contract a fatal disease that can be treated if it is detected early enough. That is what a Pap smear is for. It is to save your life. None of us–no matter how gender dysphoric we are–none of us deserve to have our lives shortened because we are different.

I have lost track of how many butch dykes, gender-queer people, and transmen I have taken for their first Pap smear. I have held people’s hands while they cried because they hated the test so much. I have gotten them high before the test and taken them home for consoling sex after it happened. I have listened to stories of childhood abuse so awful it would scorch your soul to listen to it. We are singled out for humiliation and mistreatment because people think if they break us or beat us down, we will stop trying to “act like men.” Of course, it doesn’t work, the only thing they can do is make us shut up about how we feel toward our own genders. We can never stop feeling the way that we do.

Coming out as a trans person was the hardest thing I have ever done. I felt more ashamed of myself for being trans than I had ever felt about being gay or even being a sadomasochist. I think in part this was because I could not explain WHY I felt this way. I had to confront a lot of negative messages I heard about myself as I was growing up to be able to replace that shame with pride and self-validation. it may seem ironic to you, but one of the ways I know that I was able to accept myself as a man and publicly come out as trans is the medical test I got today.

Maybe it took five minutes, maybe it was ten, I lost track of time. I disassociated. Writing about it now is one of the ways I can come back into my adult self and feel like I am okay in the present. Why would I encourage anybody else to go through something that was this upsetting?

Because I want you to save your own life.

Yes, it is that simple. Please save your own life. Okay, so you don’t feel happy or comfortable in the body that you got when you were born. I understand that. And, at the same time, if we are going to be activists for life, building community, that life needs to be as long as possible. Goddess knows that 80 or 100 years is not enough to shift public ignorance and malevolence toward sex- and gender-minority people. But in the 63 years I have been alive, I have seen HUGE social change. That is the reward of activism. You get to find out that standing up to “the system” works. So it’s worth it to stick around, my younger friends. It really is.

And if you need somebody to get you to the appointment, be your advocate while you get examined, and soothe your fears or your upset after it is over, you know how to find me. I care about how it feels to be violated by a medical procedure. But it’s worth it. Because none of us deserve to die in pain just because we are differently-gendered. Right, my brothers and non-sisters? Take care of the body that you live in now, because that body has been through a lot, and needs somebody (you) to be loving toward it.
Finally, I want to thank my doctor at Outside In for making this experience as simple and non-traumatic as possible. She is a saint as far as I am concerned. I look at her tired face and wonder how much human misery she witnesses every day, at a clinic that specializes in homeless people and trans folks. And so I think somebody should just tell her, job well done. You made it possible for me to do this, and I am so grateful to be touched by medical hands that are not full of hatred. Blessings upon you and your house.

RIP Diane Torr

I just showed students in a Gender Variance course some of Diane Torr’s magic in her Drag King workshop from Venus Boyz.

I knew this news was coming but it’s still heartbreaking: so many of the true trailblazers from the early days of genderfuck and drag are heading for the exits.

Diane Torr, thank you so much. Even knowing you existed at one point in my history was more than I needed to get through a day.

She died May 31st in Glasgow. Thank you for everything you were, everything you did, everyone you helped along the way.

And Then There Was Eve Tickets On Sale

If you’re going to be in or near LA on 6/18, or just really really really want to attend the world premiere of my wife’s movie, you can now buy your tickets!

A Year

Last year on May 19th, my mom died at the age of 86 on what would have been my father’s 88th birthday.

Here they are being about as much as a 1950s couple from Brooklyn it is possible to be.

I miss them both so much.

Leslie Feinberg

It’s so much harder to read, read about, and teach Stone Butch Blues than it used to be.

I still miss Leslie Feinberg being in the world, such a spirit of fight and determination and work and brains. Working class hero and writer that you were, Leslie, and I will always miss your presence in my world.

But I will say: it is so nice, too, to spend the time with hir words. At least that.

We watched this talk, in which all of their wisdom & warmth is apparent:

“If the weatherman said it’s going to be hot and hot and hot and then it’s going to be cold I would have had no idea how to dress.”

RIP Sandra Cole

I’ve just gotten the news today that Sandra Cole, who many of you know from Fantasia Fair, died today surrounded by loving friends and family.

She was a kind woman who did a great deal of work for wives and partners of crossdressers and transitioning women over the years, running the first workshops and support spaces for us when I entered the scene in 2003.

She dedicated all of her trans books a few years back to the University of Michigan and to the Kinsey Center, adding to the vast collection donated by Dallas Denny.

Thank you so much for your empathy, dear lady.

The old guard is going, one at a time, and I hope we have done all the interviews and collected all the resources and said all the thank yous to these first helpers of trans community.

 

 

The First Year Without

I was going to wait to post this on the first anniversary of my mother’s death, but I know so many of you out there who are missing your moms today – whether it’s your first mother’s day without her or your 20th – so I wanted to share this to say: I see you. I know. I’m not really sure how I’ve survived this year but you fellow sufferers have been particularly helpful. A special big bunch of love to Ade & Hanna for having been so tender with me.

You don’t always make the best decisions in the wake of a death. Sometimes you have sex with someone you’ll never have sex with again because it seems like he right thing to do. You might drink too much. You might spend too much money on clothes or dye your hair a new color or get a tattoo. You might decide you’re working in the wrong industry all together and quit your job or move clear across the country.

You might sit in your room at 3AM and watch Deep Space 9 for 4 hours solid.

You might wonder about that guy you dumped 25 years ago and wonder, too, how it was you managed to keep sleeping with him despite your inability to agree with him about anything and realize you haven’t had sex that good since then. Nearly, in some instances, but not.

You might surprise yourself by spending an hour digging out your middle school yearbook only to remember when you’re shoulder deep in boxes sitting half in and half out of your closet that you lost that particular yearbook years ago.

You might wonder if your mom got buried with that ring she found that she was convinced he’d bought her for Christmas that year but that you were convinced he’d bought for their 60th anniversary which he didn’t make it to.

You wonder whether or not you will be younger or older than your mother when she gave up on living.

You wonder how it is she didn’t remember the entire year after her husband died, and you wonder if you’ll remember this year that’s now ending. You are pretty sure you don’t want to.

You stop dead in the street when you see a cardinal in a tree. You try to remember what that means and in what culture it means it. It’s a sign that your loved one is nearby, but is that in some symbolic sense, or is the cardinal supposed to be some reincarnated version of your loved one? Are cardinals always representatives of dead people, or are they just birds sometimes? Because I live where they live so either I’m being plagued by dead people or it’s just spring where I live.

You eat whatever you feel like eating. A muffin for dinner seems reasonable. A turkey pot pie for breakfast is also reasonable.

You work out in a regimented, unenthusiastic way but discover after four weeks that you can actually do 100 pushups, that it worked, but you don’t really care of feel any sense of accomplishment.

You feel disposable.

You wonder when someone tells you that you look beautiful whether or not they can tell you’re dead inside, too, or if being dead inside is part of what makes you beautiful.

You remember every disappointment, every betrayal; every loss from a death reminds you of 15 other losses; that guy who said he’d be there for you but who wasn’t there for you once you weren’t sleeping with him, OR the guy who was there for you but who wasn’t after he realized you wanted to sleep with him.

You save muffin wrappers for your old cat who has discovered an explicable joy in muffin wrapper licking.

You drink too much.

You wonder if you think about your mom being dead too much, enough, or not enough. You wonder if you have unresolved feelings about her even though you’ve spent most of your life realizing unresolved feelings for her.

You think about the joy on her face when she gave you your first bike.

You think about that really terrible jacket she gave you for Christmas one year, a jacket so horrendous you checked the tag on the present in hopes that you’d mistakenly opened someone else’s present because please god let no one who loves me think I would like that horrible jacket. You remember your sister watching you try to surreptitiously check the tag from across the room and how she tried to stifle her laughter while you calmly put the jacket back in the box and hoped that no one else saw any of that.

You wonder if that guidance counselor who asked your mother if you were in a cult because you were wearing African mask earrings is still asking parents stupid shit like that. Your mother bought you the earrings, of course.

You wonder if you will ever stop feeling sad.

You wonder if the friends who are there for you are there because they like you or because they feel bad for you.

You wonder if people who really like and admire you are just deluded and whether their feelings for you would be the same if they knew how you spend your time alone.

You wonder if now, with both parents dead, there is some astonishing reality about yourself you are about to uncover. You hope there is. You hope there isn’t.

You think about calling or emailing someone who really let you down to give them what-for.

You listlessly scroll down Facebook liking everything and posting dumb comments or you listlessly scroll down Facebook wondering why people spend so much time on really dumb shit.

You wake up, as if from a trance, after watching 20 minutes of goat videos. You do not feel better, but you are sure you do like goats.

You wonder if your cats can tell when the dead are visiting and simply choose not to notice them or inform you that they are present. Occasionally you are certain they can see the ghost of your loved one right behind your head because they are obviously staring at something that is just to the left of your right ear.

You assume that other people maybe don’t have as much sexual regret in their lives or that they have a lot more or that for some people sadness doesn’t mean reexamining your sexual orientation, your sexual choices, or excoriating yourself for not sleeping with that very cute woman when you could have. She wanted you. You were scared she wanted a girlfriend. You couldn’t be her girlfriend so you didn’t sleep with her but you wonder if you should have anyway and whether you really should stop considering every last ethical ramification of every possible flirtation, crush, or love affair you’ve ever had.

You wonder if there is anyone in the world who might understand how it feels to hear your mom’s voice on your voicemail still, her beautiful singsongy way of talking, the message she left you only a week or so before she died. You are still amazed at how much she radiated happiness on the phone even when she wasn’t, and how, when you were a kid, she could go from screaming about what a mess this place is to answering the phone with the joy and melody of a bluebird as if she had become a different person in that split second.

You realize you will never hear her say anything new again to you. She won’t see any of the new clothes you just ordered online. But you’re happy she did see that you finally found the perfect raincoat and that a year later you still love it.

You wonder if anyone knows that you kept your hair blue for a year because it was the last color she saw it. No one would have noticed if you’d worn black every day. You know she would appreciate you taking the time to live out this Catholic rite even if it was with blue hair instead of black clothes. You know she would especially like that because she especially liked you.

You wonder if you remember the rosary and if it really would make you feel any better as she insisted it would so many times in your life. Your grandmother did, too, and you wonder how long she’s been dead because once you’re mourning your parents every ghost of your life pays a short visit at least once. It feels like there’s a party but everyone at it is a dead person you’re only remembering.  You don’t even bother to try to find the rosary she left you.

Here is the blanket my grandma crocheted. Here are my mom’s pajamas I wore when I slept in her assisted living facility with her. Here is my father’s sweater which is still surprisingly cooler than almost every other sweater I own.

You don’t clean the catboxes as often as you should and you don’t clean the house ever except for every once in a while when you realize you have to clean something because you have no idea what is clean and what isn’t. You do the bare minimum which is even less than what the bare minimum used to be.

You take a lot of baths or you forget to bathe for days at a time and then having to try to remember when you last took a bath as if the difference between 3 or 4 days ago is somehow not negligible. If you realize it’s only been 3 you decide you can wait another day. You come to all the same conclusions a day later because memory is no longer your strong suit and you walk around on a lot of Wednesdays thinking it’s Tuesday and vice versa.

You become certain that taking a probiotic/vitamin C/valerian/fish oil/whatever really has made a difference in your health.

You say “I hate children” with a hint of rage even though you don’t actually mean it and regret it for weeks and wonder if you should explain that you really don’t to the person you said it to or if that would be protesting too much. It’s not children, anyway, it’s how sticky they are and how the world revolves around them that you hate. You decide to explain what mourning is like to that person who you told you hated children to so that they can realize you’re just full blown crazy. You add a smiley face to the email as if that will make you seem less crazy though the opposite is probably true.

You wonder again about unresolved issues.

You can’t seem to fake a smile or even work up the energy for anger, your most stalwart emotion. You feel mean and unapologetically so except the next day when you wish you could be a nicer more upbeat person.

You realize no one wants to have sex with a sad person, not even you.

You wonder why so many people like Klingons so much when they’re just so patriarchal.

Robin Williams was once told that coke makes you more like yourself and so asked, “but what if you’re an asshole?”  Mourning is the same as coke, then.

You know you’re fine especially when you aren’t at all.

I still don’t know how to do this, to live in a world where the woman with the brightest voice and the brightest smile who was fearful in a way that made her so old and yet gave you a glimpse into how she must have been when she was 7 is dead. I am still in that room with her, sitting and holding hands with her, the TV on or off, the trees and flowers blooming outside as she lay dying in the spring. She loved spring so much but the sun on her face almost hurt her skin at the end, and the cool breeze was an affront that no sweater could ameliorate.

She was already in mourning the whole time I was waiting to be.

I am pretty sure I don’t know how to do this and probably never will. I am also sure I will be doing this for the rest of my life in one way or another.

“Extraordinary Breakout Performance”

You saw the trailer here yesterday, but the rest of the news about my wife’s film is this: it will have its world premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival on Sunday, June 18th.

If you can come, please do. I will most definitely be there.

The blurb/review on the ticket page describes says the film features “an extraordinary breakout performance from Rachel Crowl” (and some other nice things too).

Here’s the full blurb:

Alyssa, a successful photographer, wakes one morning to find her apartment ransacked and her husband mysteriously missing. Left without even a photograph to offer the police, she turns to his colleague Eve, a talented jazz pianist with a flirtatious charm and disarming grace. Eve helps her confront her husband’s longtime struggle with depression and to, over time, accept his absence. While getting to know this woman through such unusual circumstances, Alyssa is surprised to find herself falling in love again.
 
Featuring an extraordinary breakout performance from Rachel Crowl and an evocative jazz score by Robert Lydecker, Savannah Bloch’s directorial debut is insightful and original, both an engaging psychological thriller and a uniquely frank depiction of the difficulty of retaining one’s own identity within the confines of a romantic relationship.

And Then There Was Eve Trailer

You, Take Care

Hey, all. The news that’s coming down about what will probably happen tomorrow prompts me to write. Tomorrow may be a difficult day for many of us in the LGBTQ+ community.

It’s more likely that you’ve heard the new healthcare plan could define sexual assault, domestic violence, having had a c-section, and post-partum depression as pre existing conditions. Surprising to no one is that these pre existing conditions focus morbidly on women’s health. An insurance company could deny you coverage – not just a claim, COVERAGE.

What you may not have heard about is that that the “religious liberty” EO, which may or may not be like the draft we first saw in February, which will sanction discrimination against LGBTQ+ people if a person’s belief system warrants it, will be signed. (I can’t use his name.) I don’t really even know what that means but I do know it will be a dog whistle to all the haters out there. Keep yourselves safe. Keep track of each other. Know that you are loved and valuable and essential to the world.

Please don’t minimize what this means. Please don’t read sources that make your heart pound. Please do take some time out for yourself, play with pets, eat good food, listen to music, whatever it is you do to feel a little better and better loved and more centered in the world. BUT DEFINITELY CALL YOUR GODDAMN REPRESENTATIVES AND SAY NO.

 

Please call your representative bright and early tomorrow morning. (202) 224-3121, give the switchboard your zip code, and ask your representative to vote no on the AHCA and against the “Religious Freedom” EO.

Thursday will likely be a very hard day for LGBTQ+ people. Please don’t argue or minimize what this EO means. Please do tell us you love us. Please do call your reps and publicly state that you stand with LGBTQ people.

We are ready to fight, but we are also scared tonight. But we are, also, us = and as ever, full of fight and fear and love and steadfastness.  Love to each and every one of you.

 

A Tale of Two Americas

Two pieces of news. First, the Dems re-introduce the Equality Act:

Democrats including House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer are gathering Tuesday morning at the Capitol’s Rayburn Room to announce the re-introduction of the Equality Act, which would ban anti-LGBT discrimination nationwide….

… but VP Pence could be the only winner:

President Donald Trump has invited conservative leaders to the White House on Thursday for what they expect will be the ceremonial signing of a long-awaited—and highly controversial—executive order on religious liberty, according to multiple people familiar with the situation.

(Please, if you haven’t sent a check to the ACLU recently, please do. They are our best bet to fight this hateful idea. )

I’m a little astonished at how we are so obviously, as a nation, going in two different directions at once. The basic rights that have not yet been granted to LGBTQ Americans are still up for argument.

Medium

I decided to try out having a presence on Medium.

Tomboys, Gender Non Conformity, & Trans Identity

A few more thoughts about that NYT tomboy article, the various rebuttals, and my post from yesterday.

I have to own that I wanted that mom to be right. For starters, because the world is transphobic and I am too – not because I mean to be but because it’s so easy to be so. It’s how the world is structured.

For example, some folks immediately objected to my using ‘he’ pronouns for this child, but only trans people objected to the child being referred to as ‘she’. And I think that’s precisely because most people still think biology is destiny, and thinking the child’s gender assignment at birth is more natural than the child being trans is, basically, transphobic.

Any assumption that the child being a trans boy is a worse or ‘less real’ outcome than the child being a tomboy is also transphobic.

While all of that may or may not have caused me to be cheering on this tomboy, it’s way more than that, too.

What was disappointing about that article is the way she presented trans and GNC as if they are mutually exclusive opponents of some kind. They are not.

The thing is, I want company. I’ve been gender non conforming in one way or another for most of my life; even when I was as feminine as I could manage – and I tried, I swear I tried – I was often assumed to be a lesbian. These days, when people know that me or my wife is trans, they assume I’m the trans one — though I’m honestly never clear which direction they think I’ve gone/am going in, to be honest. I’m personally thankful that the trans movement has made my own liminally trans/GNC gender a little more legible, but as a result I face another dilemma: people assume I’m trans because I’m GNC.

And that’s the nut of why I and so many others wanted that mom to be both honest and right: because gender non conformity is policed all the time, and it seems sad that the only way to convince others that your gender non conforming behavior or appearance is real is to identify as trans yourself. Gender stereotypes and gender role enforcement are bullshit for everyone whether you’re trans or not trans. A trans woman feeling forced to be stereotypically feminine is as bullshit as a non trans woman who experiences the same patriarchal pressure.

Here’s the thing: I know I’m not trans. Some crossdressers know they aren’t. For the same reasons we trust trans people to know their own gender identities, we know what ours are too. And mine just isn’t binary or nameable or whatever. Sometimes I like Ursula LeGuin’s “bad man” idea. Other times I remember I produce more testosterone than most people born with ovaries. I also choose not to identify as trans because I am married to my wife, who did transition, and who lives with a world of bullshit that I do not. That is, I don’t identify as trans because I respect the authority of the people who I know to be trans, and I am sure my experience is nothing like theirs. That is, I have cis(sexual) privilege, despite not being normatively gendered.

I really shouldn’t even have to explain that but I feel, often, that I do. I’m not trans because I’m not, just as my wife is trans because she is.

But right now my gender identity (GNC) and her gender identity (trans) are supposed to be part of the same big trans umbrella. Originally the word transgender was meant to be an inclusive term that included transsexual people (along with many others) but transgender has since supplanted transsexual and now that it’s been shortened to trans that’s even more true.

To explain: the definition of transsexual was, in the first place, meant to describe people who had pursued medical/legal/social transition. Transgender was supposed to enlarge and expand that, to include those who couldn’t medically transition or to cover those who were socially dysphoric but not body dysphoric, etc. So it’s awesome that we have an expanded sense of what trans is except that it really isn’t. The thing is, almost every visible trans person is not only transitioned, but they are usually and often binary transitioners (meaning they go from people who are assigned one gender at birth who live as the “opposite” gender after transition). As a result, transgender often effectively means transsexual, even though we don’t use the latter term much at all anymore. The umbrella has collapsed, where every other version of trans that isn’t transition has become ‘less than’.

As many genderqueer, non binary, gender fluid, gender non conforming people, crossdressers, drag queens, sissies and tomboys will tell you: when we don’t claim big umbrella trans it’s because trans is also policed, and only those who choose either binary or medical/legal/social transition are considered truly trans. As another piece explains well, it’s really as if cis/trans has become the next binary, or an emerging binary, except that I’m not entirely sure who’s supposed to be on which side.

So that’s why I don’t identify as trans. I use “gendery” because it seems more accurate. I have a lot of gender(s), and some of them are visible and available all the time and some of them come and go. I was a tomboy as a kid.

What we’re left with, really, is a problem, and perhaps the biggest unspoken wish when I was reading that tomboy article: not only do I want company, but I want to BE, and so do a whole bunch of people like me. And while it’s true that many trans people are open to the idea of others being GNC, I’m not really sure we’re considered real, not by anyone, actually, trans or cis alike.

The reality is that trans people are FAR more comfortable with gender non conforming people than cis people are. There is no trans agenda that “encourages” children to transition. But I’d argue that transphobia is itself the reason that people may want gender non conforming children to transition or for adults who are NB to “choose one or the other” (as if there are only two). Trans/cis is not a particularly useful binary for those of us who aren’t either, exactly; I’ve written before about being cissexual but not cisgender.

Here’s the first clue: maybe a goddamned binary won’t work, because they never do.

I don’t want to feel forced to identify as trans in order for my gender to be recognized, and neither should any kid. So maybe instead of diagnosing this child, we should be thinking instead about how we make space for children and for people who are traditionally gendered or binary, those who are gender non conforming, and for those who are legally/medically trans. We can call it the gender trifecta. Trinities are always cooler than binaries anyway.

The thing is, this girl exists. This tomboy. The NYT author may have been lying or in denial or just transphobic, but even if this particular child is not a tomboy and is trans, that doesn’t mean that other tomboy isn’t out there. She is.

I was her. She is me. That child may also grow up to be a man, a gender normative woman, or any number of other gender choices. What I hope she won’t be is hostile to trans people of any stripe: this is not a contest between; it’s a distinction among. That child is the reason I’m a loud and proud trans advocate; not because I don’t believe in trans people, but because I do: I live right next door.

(much thanks to Paisley Currah and Erica Foley for providing the space and pressure to work out these ideas.)

Happy Earth Day? From an Urban Green

I’ve never really figured out how I’m supposed to love Mother Earth and am suspicious of anything as awesome as a planet being gendered, of course. That’s human silliness.

I first became green when I volunteered for NYC’s Earth Day, in Central Park, in 1990. I’d taken a great environmental biology class – and read the amazing Economy of Nature by Ricklefs – and that was that. IIRC, I sold my ‘staff’ t-shirt so I could get into Wetlands that night, an awesome little performance space that I still miss. In a year or so I was working at NYPIRG, where we organized for recycling laws, the 5-cent deposit on cans & bottles, against disposability and for environmental economic justice. (Harlem, for instance, got a water treatment plant but it also got a park to go with it, at least.)

My point, however, is this: there is sometimes an assumption that greens or environmentalists have to be crunchy hippie types. That you have to be a vegetarian. That you must own things made out of hemp, or you must be a stoner, or like folk music, or like hiking, or crystals. You can’t wear makeup or smoke cigarettes or, even, live in a goddamned city, even though city dwellers have far smaller carbon footprints than those who don’t. It honestly pisses me off that people who go hiking and live in the suburbs and drive their asses everywhere are considered greener than people in cities. I am for mass transit and trains because they’re green, and I didn’t get my license until I was 42 because I refused to participate in car culture and all of the noxious bullshit it brings.

Even now I am more worried about the ways the poor will experience environmental degradation, that the coastal cities will flood, that indigenous people who live on flood plains or islands will become refugees, that the rates of cancer will go up, that the kinds of natural disasters will become so common that we will cease recovering from them and live in places that are half broken from whatever tornado/hurricane came through last. As far as I can tell, the Rockaways and Long Island never totally recovered from Sandy, and I’m not sure anyone outside of NY knows that, or if anyone inside NY wants to admit it.

And then there’s the water table, which honestly, I can’t even think about some days because what’s coming scares me.

I do believe that some science and technology will help; humans are ingenious. But I worry too that these technologies will benefit only the wealthiest, as they often do.

I am skeptical of a lot of science, all the biases human beings bring to it, the ways we still don’t have enough women or people of color doing the work. It enrages me, to be honest, because we really do need all hands on deck, and the very best of the best, which we don’t get when we skew toward white men getting all the jobs.

So instead maybe of Marching for Science or celebrating the Earth, think of Earth Day this way: you’re marching for rationalism, for education, for creative genius; you’re marching for respect for people and cultures and health; you’re marching today for water and air that won’t kill you, for elephants and polar bears and giraffes. But to me, mostly, you’ve marching against riots over resources, for the poor, for the chance at justice.

I am not cheerful today, or optimistic. But I will be present because I have to be. You should too.

 

Dismayed: Tomboys in the NYT

So many people, including me, read that NYT piece about the mom who was proud of her GNC child who she described as a tomboy – a girl who is masculine but female-identified. Yay, gender non conformity! Yay tomboys!

There was expected pushback from trans quarters – expected and valuable, even if I thought it was sometimes beside the point. I have a problem with all GNC behavior being considered trans except for the kinds, you know, that aren’t “trans enough” – and I know you crossdressers and genderqueer/GNC and enbies know what I’m talking about, when a binary trans person claims the high ground.

But I agreed that it didn’t make sense for the mom to be so “but she’s not trans” because honestly? So many GNC children DO turn out to be trans, and the mom would need to be open to whatever path her child might be on.

There was an exceptionally good piece by Zack Ford that tried to work out the separations and overlaps of GNC and trans.

That said, it’s come to light that the child has in fact talked about being and wanting to be a boy. Here’s the line:

“As she started to announce in ways both subtle and direct that she’s a boy, and ask me questions like “Why can’t boys have vaginas and girls have penises?” the ratio of heartwarming to heart-sinking has shifted.

So honestly? I’m disappointed and aggrieved that this mom is clinging to her child’s GNC identity as if it’s somehow the last outskirts of “normal” – that she is trying to keep her kid from crossing over into scary transland.

Just FUCK TRANSPHOBIA already.

But here’s the thing: even if her kid was “only a tomboy” – which he doesn’t seem to be – the child is already trans. Maybe not transition track, maybe not interested in medical, biological changes to their body, but trans – in the sense of the trans umbrella – all the same.

So let’s all get over it, shall we? These are not teams where one side “wins” later. More tomboys doesn’t mean more/better feminist future. Gender non conforming children need support no matter where they end up, but the last thing they need is a mom proving some point (which honestly, I’m not even sure what it is at this point) or a bunch of strangers diagnosing their gender for them. What we don’t need is parents lying about their kids’ gender identities because it suits them, and that’s exactly what this mom did.

For once, please, can we all try to realize that everyone’s experience of gender is different, and that we need to hear what people say about their own, and provide environments for children to be trans or GNC or whatever it is they are.

What Comes Back

It’s been a long year of so many losses, but in a sense, this start of spring, the undoing of wintry death, reminds us too of what won’t come undone just with the passage of time, that some things, and some people, will stay dead, but that other things are still on their way, incoming bits of beauty that are awaiting just the right ray of sunshine to make their appearance known to us.

My mom loved the spring because she loved trees and plants and flowers in ways that I never really understood; she could be moved to tears at the right bud on the right flower making its way through the ground. She loved babies too, of all kinds, and I regret that she never did get to see spring in Wisconsin, the baby bunnies and baby raccoons and ducklings all in the midst of this powerful, powerful green. It’s a little overwhelming for a city kid, and my allergies are a fucking wreck, but it’s still so profound every year, the way this place comes back to life after being so frozen and so cold and so gray for months and months and months.

A former student wrote to me with doubt about writing his life with a lush mother and too many bad bedrooms of his childhood. In the context of Syria, he said, who cares about my bullshit? And you know? Sometimes all we have are the human-sized losses, the ways that we can mourn what we did have and what we never had, to remember that love for each other on the day to day is the only thing that counts.

Some days I am merely thankful that my parents are not here to see what we are doing to each other in the name of freedom and peace. MOABs bring neither, but watching out for each other on a small scale might.

Keep the faith, folks. The world is already a better place than it seems to be sometimes, and so often, good things have to hibernate or disappear in order to come back.

Music: PWR BTTM

I can’t even with the news so here’s some music and cool lyrics. Sing along when the haters get you down.

[Verse 1]
There are men in every town who live to bring you down
Make themselves feel bigger making you feel small
My advice is to look incredible
As you make their lives regrettable by being your damn self
God, it’s so exhausting

[Chorus]
Curse that motherfucker who would spit upon another’s body
Who the hell gave you the right to tell me that I’m wrong
Curse every one of you who tells me that I cannot be who I want
Ain’t no fucking way you’ll fuck up my big beautiful day

[Verse 2]
There are men everywhere who cannot help but stare
When they see you ’cause they cannot understand
Within those men there are boys who have never had the choice
But to grow up and be scared to be your friend
Jesus Christ, let’s help them

[Chorus]
Curse that motherfucker who would spit upon another’s body
Who the hell gave you the right to tell me that I’m wrong
Curse every one of you who tells me that I cannot be who I want
Ain’t no fucking way you’ll fuck up my big beautiful day
My day