Video of the Cornell Event

My hair is awesomely blue and this is all new work I’m reading. I start about 17 minutes in but you really should watch Ryka Aoki. After me is Ely Shipley and they are both wonderful poets and people.

(CW: I tell a terrible story about the death of a kitten, so if you don’t want to hear that, it’s at about 20:00, or just skip 1:15 & go to my next piece.)

Rain Valdez: In Support of Trace and Van

The first time I met Jeffrey Tambor in 2015, it was at the table read for the 1st episode of season 2 of Transparent. He shook my hand, asked what I did and welcomed me to the family.

My 2nd encounter with Jeffrey was at the LGBT center for Trans Pride. I was manning the Transparent casting booth along side Zackary Drucker and Rhys Ernst. I had been there the whole day. The cast members including Jeffrey Tambor, Alexandra Billings, Trace Lysette, Amy Landecker and Melora Hardin had come to visit the booth later that afternoon after an actors workshop that was scheduled earlier that day. They came for support and to greet and take photos with the heart of the show. The trans community.

Upon seeing me at his arrival Jeffrey walked straight up to me, hugged me tight around my waist and planted a kiss right on my lips. I was a little thrown but thought nothing of it because I was just happy to be working on this show that celebrated my identity and made a point to uplift me so many ways. 

During season 2, Trace and I bonded very quickly. I knew that we would be lifelong friends after we had coffee and shared stories of our paths into our womanhood and navigating the movie and TV industry as actors and then having the a similar turning point of being out and proud trans actresses. Shortly after the infamous “Yasss Queen” kitchen scene was shot, I was dropping Trace home from work and a night out with girlfriends. It was just the two of us in my car and I had asked her if she had any more scenes to shoot this season. So we got to talking about the show. This is when she confided in me about what Jeffrey had done to her at work and what Alexandra Billings had over heard him say to her, “Trace, I want to attack you. Sexually.” She also revealed to me that when no one else was looking, he got closer to her, planted his feet on top of hers and started humping her leg to a point where she could feel his genitals on her skin. I was mortified and asked if she was ok. She even warned me to stay clear of him, which I made a point to do moving forward. But at the time I didn’t know what I could do. At the time I was just an assistant and I was taught to be grateful to have a job. I was also afraid to lose my job. I now regret reducing myself to a powerless assistant. Sometimes my transness allows people to take away my qualifications, offering me the lowest paying job, even though I had been a Producer at post facilities for many years before I joined Transparent. But I was grateful because I was being seen. I was grateful because I knew what this show meant for my community and our future jobs. And I’ll continue to stand behind it but I’m not gonna pretend that I was safe. I’m not gonna pretend that I didn’t protect myself by keeping my distance because I knew something was wrong.

I’m not at all too surprised that I woke up Tuesday morning to a Hollywood Reporter article empathizing with the perpetrator Jeffrey Tambor and vilifying the accusers, Trace and Van. Hollywood has historically made a culture out of vilifying and shaming trans women. Reducing us to butt of the jokes and fetishes. Only this time it’s not just happening in the storytelling. It’s happening for reals. But not today, Satan. And not ever. You want to get together with your bro Seth Abramovitch at the Hollywood Reporter and play victim and slut shame the women who accused you of your abhorrent behaviors? Well, go head. Have your pity party. We know who the real slut is. It is you, Jeffrey Tambor, the predator, and always have been since my earliest encounters with you. I want to declare again that I believe my sisters Trace and Van I continue to stand with them 100% and I will do anything I can to help stop the vilifying because we’re done with that. We’re done with the lies and no pity party article is going to change that.

How It Feels

Another new piece up on Patreon, and this one came about in an interesting way: what I wanted was to make a list of things I want to write about, things I want to describe so that anyone else experiencing them might feel less shame about them.

Instead I wound up with the list itself becoming the piece.

It’s called How It Feels (My Brain is Against Me)

Here’s 4-7:

4. To be post traumatic

5. To be a depressive living in a blindly optimistic world

6. To be deep hearted and loyal in a shallow place

7. To fail

There are 20. It’s up on Patreon. 

Fuck Gender.

I read this piece at Cornell this past Thursday (along with a few other things):

 

I’ve recently been reading Lou Sullivan’s biography and I’m having trouble with it because some of it cuts too close to the bone for me.

I’m not sure how he came to understand he was a gay man when there was little or no awareness of either gay men or trans men, but he did, and I’m astonished by that. I’ve been hanging out on the edges of gender dysphoria my whole life but never really named it that. Genderqueer, gender neutral, genderfuck: these were the words I started using to talk about myself back in 1985.

There’s a photo of me in masculine drag from when I was 16 and found out I would have been named Doug had I been assigned male at birth. My nickname in high school was The Gentleman – not because of my class, but because I opened doors and took care of women in ways that more closely resembled gentle masculinity than anything else.

I feel sexiest when I feel like Adam Ant or Rufus Wainwright. Feminine forms of sexy have never, ever appealed to me – not when I was skinny, not when I was fat, not when I was an hourglass. I’ve spent a lifetime trying to make curves straight lines with little success. Only now that I’m older and lose muscle mass at an alarming rate have my jeans started to fit my hips in ways I don’t hate.

I have always resisted identifying as trans, maybe because I grew up raised my 2nd wave feminists who wanted to get rid of gender for good and feminist reasons. Maybe because I grew up in an era of trans activism where people who needed medical and legal intervention really, really, really needed the healthcare industry and the legal precedents to be recognized as people at all. Priorities, you know?

Read the rest on Patreon.

Men.

“What I’ve come to notice is that all these kids are rehearsing and projecting.  trying it on. Rehearsing their masculinity. Projecting their experimental versions of it. And wordlessly looking for cues the whole time. Not just from each other, but from older people around them, especially the men. Which can be heartbreaking to witness, to tell you the truth. Because the feedback they get is so damn unhelpful. If it’s well-meant it’s often feeble and half-hearted. Because good men don’t always stick their necks out and make an effort.” Tim Winton

Pretty regularly I post something about a shooter or other violent offender being a cis het white guy, as no doubt many of us do, and almost invariably, I get a PM from some young man or other who decides to confront me about how much I hate men.

It always strikes me as funny because I love men, for the most part. I’m charmed by them, I’ve almost exclusively dated them, and in general, I’ve chosen men as some of my best and closest friends. Many of my heroes and mentors have been white men. As an angry, somewhat masculine woman, that has also been terrifically complicated, but it’s still true. My oldest friend used to joke, when we were still teenagers, that I could never, ever raise a boy because I’d be too indulgent of his bullshit.

But they can’t be excused and we can’t fail to see, when we look at the political landscape, a lot of cishet white guys running shit. They’re the ones leading the march against women and trying to derail or curtain women’s health care – and yes, that includes abortion, and that always includes abortion – they’re the ones running cop shops that take out young black men on the regular; they’re the ones foamin at the mouth about gay rights, too. They are definitely ones getting away with rape and domestic violence and yes, they are the ones shooting up schools.

It’s the kind of thing it’s impossible not to unsee once you see it.

I don’t think it has much to do with any individual man. I think it has everything to do with how we raise men and what we expect of them, but moreso, it has everything to do with what they expect.

Read the rest on Patreon.

 

Interview

I promised my Patreon readers that I’d make a video or two if I met my patronage goals. This short video was made during a meeting of my Working Artists Collective of Appleton, a small group I put together to accomplish my goals – or admit to others that I hadn’t. A few of us are using it to replace deadlines and to otherwise motivate ourselves.

This short interview was filmed by friend Lynne, with minor editing by my wife. The person interviewing me is Vered, Appleton City Council member and the first out trans official elected in the state of WI.

Enjoy.

Here’s my friend Jon Hakes’ page, and here’s Julia Serano’s.