Goodbye, Eric Holder

Posted by – October 1, 2014

Wow am I going to miss him.

Me, Blogging, Not Really

Posted by – September 23, 2014

I seem to be taking a break from blogging – an unintentional one. And I expect that the minute I announce this, and apologize, I will be overrun with the need to blog.

Or not.

Stay tuned.

Welcome Back Lawrentians

Posted by – September 14, 2014

Students are back, and the incoming class (of 2018) has moved in. Lawrence starts another fall term tomorrow.

& Really, it is always nice when the campus goes from being a ghost town to feeling vibrant and busy again.

I hope we all have an amazing, productive, fun year.

Happy Birthday, Louis CK

Posted by – September 12, 2014

“You just do that now. That’s just a new thing you do. Until you & your shitty ankle both die.”

(I’ve never heard anything more true about aging.)

#neverforget?

Posted by – September 11, 2014

I don’t like this “never forget” business.
As if forgetting were possible.
Sounds like a desire for vengeance trussed up as memory and nationalism.
We don’t forget. Can’t.

I think this is more of what we forget – the stunning beauty of that view:

World Trade Center 1 in New York City

And how goddamn beautiful is that? I get a little high just looking at that clip, remembering what it was like to sit on those metal steps a hundred floors above the ground and look down between my feet through glass, to lean my head on the glass just lightly, to feel the cool of it against my skin as everything spun a little with vertigo. It was an amazing thing. I used to go there sometimes just to sit, right there in the clouds, higher than most birds even flew, like Jack on a concrete beanstalk.

What we forget is that we, as humans, are capable of doing things for the sheer fucking beauty of them, for the joy, for the accomplishment, for the divine, for the proof that despite what we believe, impossible things are possible. We do things to feel like we are the stuff of dreams, that we invent our own restrictions with fear and no magic. That observation deck was magic. It was hard to even feel like there was a building under you when you were up there because you couldn’t see any of the thing, like you were standing on a floor that was magically staying aloft. In a good wind the buildings would “sway back and forth up to 12 inches at the top.” So you really could move a foot in the air just standing up there.

Or, as John Dos Passos once wrote about New York City: “This city is full of people wanting inconceivable things. Look at it.” But they say no one reads him anymore. Well, they should. & Manhattan Transfer, where that quote is from, is a good enough place to start.

Remember the beauty, the aspiration, the dreamers, the sinners. That’s the stuff terror wants us to forget.

New York Article on Martine Rothblatt

Posted by – September 8, 2014

So this is the cover of this week’s New York magazine about CEO Martine Rothblatt: her in a masculine suit, shoes, even a blue button down, hair pulled back. What’s more interesting is that she was not “butched up” for this shot but defines herself as not binary, and has echoed a lot of genderqueer sentiment:

Hence, the legal division of people into males and females is as wrong as the legal division of people into black and white races.” Instead, she suggested people might better express their gender and sexual identities on a spectrum…

Because of course this woman is someone who was declared male at birth. And the whole “used to be a man” phrase is getting old and even, I’d argue, a little passe. For someone like Rothblatt, who did spend a considerable number of years in the world as a man, that point might be relevant. Relevant why? Because there is such a death of female CEOs and even the ones there are don’t get paid nearly as much as the male ones. From the aricle:

On a recent list of America’s 200 highest-paid CEOs, only 11 were women, and their median pay was $1.6 million less than their male peers.

So yes, there’s even income inequality at the very highest levels of pay. She is also still married to her wife of 33 years who stayed with her through transition and describes herself as “Martine-sexual” (which sounds amazingly familiar, as I used “bettysexual” forever & ever). Here’s a bit I found amazing, and it’s kind of tossed off in the telling of the story of how Rothblatt came to create her company:

Raising money from her friends was easy. Martine’s transgendered status may even have been an asset, for it burnished her status as self-made, a pioneer.

And I just LOVE that, the idea (finally!) that trans is perhaps an ASSET, that it implies an individual’s ability not just to be self-made, but to be determined. Overall, interesting article about a highly eccentric person – eccentric because she’s rich, natch – and some passing mention of cyborgs and AI and the robot she made of her wife.

Death of a Child

Posted by – September 3, 2014

Don’t look away and don’t stop reading.

Another child this year has been abused and ultimately killed for being himself. His parents thought he was gay. He did play with dolls. So his parents beat him to death and tortured him for a long while before that.

Before 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez was allegedly beaten to death by his mother and her boyfriend, they doused him with pepper spray, forced him to eat his own vomit and locked him in a cabinet with a sock stuffed in his mouth to muffle his screams, according to court records made public Monday. . .  Fernandez and Aguirre deliberately tortured the boy to death, hiding their tracks with forged doctor’s notes and lies to authorities, Deputy Dist. Atty. Jonathan Hatami told the grand jury. “For eight straight months, he was abused, beaten and tortured more severely than many prisoners of war,” Hatami said. The abuse worsened in the months leading up to Gabriel’s death, according to testimony from two of his siblings, both of whom are minors. They said Gabriel was forced to eat cat feces, rotten spinach and his own vomit. He slept in a locked cabinet and wasn’t let out to go to the bathroom. Fernandez and Aguirre called Gabriel gay, punished him when he played with dolls and forced him to wear girls’ clothes to school, the siblings said.

Doused him with pepper spray.

Forced him to eat his own vomit.

These aren’t sane people. But the horrifying thing to me is that since I have been paying attention, which is now more than a decade, there has been at least one story like this a year, if not more than one. That is, Gabriel’s story is not an anomaly. It’s a fact — a fact of a homophobic, transphobic culture. In the ellipses above, here’s the text that originally appeared:

Sworn grand jury testimony provided a graphic examination of the abuse that the Antelope Valley boy allegedly suffered before his death in May of 2013. The incident prompted calls for sweeping reforms to the troubled Los Angeles County foster-care system because child welfare workers failed to remove the boy. Officials have taken steps to fire two social workers and two supervisors, while others involved in the case received letters of warning or reprimand.

And yes, people should be fired for failing to save this child, and the parents should be punished for first-degree murder — no one can argue that their intentions weren’t obvious, planned, and carried through — but in the meantime, how do we save a culture that is this depraved, this homophobic, this transphobic?

We saw a young man get beaten on video by his family last week – and while that story has had a good turn, and I’m happy to see it – the violence and hatred expressed by his family is exactly the same hatred that killed this child.

So what’s to be done? I actually worried about putting up the video link last week, knowing how many of my friends and readers have had to face these kinds of responses from parents and friends and family. For some it never becomes physically violence, but the outright rejection and hatred can be just as intense.

I don’t really know what the solution is, but here’s one thing I’m going to say: this is where all the sentimental grandstanding about how much some people SAY they love the children and care for children and want the best for children find themselves coughing up their sleeves. Maybe spend a few minutes less worried about gay marriage and much, much more about sickening child abuse. And every time you hear a joke about someone not being man enough? Remember this child, and  that he maybe wouldn’t be dead if someone who knew his parents had argued with them more about their bullshit.

#WhatTransLooksLike

Posted by – September 1, 2014

So this is a really cool thing: HuffPo asked people to upload photos of their trans selves with the hashtag #WhatTransLooksLike and they’ve got a ton of them up.

Here’s a single image of 400 of these photos.

It’s the kind of project I wish I’d thought of myself: I have had the amazing luck to meet more trans people than most, & I’ve often thought that if most people met more trans people, they would be as engaged in fighting for trans rights as I am. Do look at these faces – all of this beauty & self respect & pride & cool. How could you not?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Headshot

Posted by – August 31, 2014

ghbk headshot 2014 smallerMy wife took it, of course.

Andrew Cray – Sad News

Posted by – August 29, 2014

andrew crayfrom NCTE:

On Thursday, August 28, 2014, Andrew Cray, a transgender and LGBT health policy expert and former NCTE legal fellow, passed away. Andrew was among the LGBT movement’s most effective advocates behind the fights to end transgender insurance exclusions in several states. His selfless contributions at organizations like the Center for American Progress, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and the National LGBT Health Coalition put the LGBT health policy agenda on a course for rapid change. Working alongside Andrew was only made brighter by his optimism and kind-heartedness. All of us at the National Center for Transgender Equality celebrate Andrew, his work, and his generous commitment in the service of LGBT people across the country.

A celebration of Andrew Cray’s life will be held on Saturday, August 30th, 2014 at St. Thomas Church, 1772 Church St., NW, Washington, DC. Services will begin at 1:00 PM to be followed by a repast. All are invited to join the celebration and to bring photos of Andrew to the service.

Judge Richard Posner

Posted by – August 27, 2014

Really, you have to hear some of these exchanges between 7th Circuit Court judge Richard Posner and the two lawyers arguing for keeping the ban on same sex marriages in Indiana and Wisconsin. Really, listen. The guy just won’t let up, and keeps asking for evidence for what or whom same sex marriage harms, and he gets a whole lot of nothing as answers.

Amazing stuff. Tradition isn’t a good enough reason, of course, and that argument was defeated both by Loving v. Virginia and in the Goodridge decision.

And honestly, they don’t seem to have any evidence whatsoever that Posner thinks offsets the harm done to the children of same sex couples.

Mindblowing.

This is, by the way, the same court that shot down WI’s attempt to deny transgender inmates medically prescribed treatments by way of hormones, and the appeal for this case was turned down later by SCOTUS.

Feminist Porn & Scaly Llamas

Posted by – August 25, 2014

No really, stick with me. A former student sent me this short interview with Tristan Taormino about feminist porn and was surprised to hear that 1 in 3 porn viewers are women. Surprised, because that’s an amazingly high percentage, & surprising, because as a feminist who has always been pro porn, that seems like a significant shift in the sexual/cultural landscape. But you can’t underestimate ease of access and privacy, and I suspect that being able to view porn on a home computer or mobile device makes it easy enough that women – who might otherwise not want to go to the kinds of places you have traditionally been able to see or buy porn – has made a huge change in things, much as VCRs did back in the day.

As a result: feminist porn, where labor is treated fairly (yes, labor – sex work IS work) and where maybe we need to rewrite the story.

Almost simultaneously, a friend sent me this link to female spec fic writer Kameron Hurley talking about what it’s like to write female characters, and especially why she writes female characters who are soldiers and warriors. And while I think her initial example – of those scaly llamas – confuses the subject a bit, she’s basically saying that we see writers write women as the women who have always been written and that those of us who are women even participate in this because This Is How Women Are Written. If you write them any other way, there will be objections, right? We must believe it is exceptional and rare for women to be in power, or violent, because that is not the story about women that has been told time and time again.

This interview and this blog post intersect in a cool way, no? If you always present women (and men, for that matter) as the same kind of sexual beings they have always been in porn, you get the same porn. But what happens when women are portrayed as dominant, as multiply orgasmic, as physically strong? What happens when men care for or love deeply the women they have sex with, and that is apparent in porn? What if men are shown to forego or postpone their own desire in order to make sure the woman is satisfied? What happens?

Well, you can watch feminist porn and see for yourself that llamas aren’t scaly. That’s what happens. Maybe, in fact, we’ll get around to seeing human sexuality &desire on screen that’s far more what we know sex to be.

Funny.

Posted by – August 24, 2014

Well it made me laugh.
What’s funnier is that I’ve seen people do this and often they don’t even realize they are.
Found here.

Writing Again

Posted by – August 19, 2014

So I’ve been writing again and feel, simultaneously, like I’m disappearing. It’s a thing. It’s gotten worse as I’ve gotten older, but the feeling is this: I go to things and talk to people and make plans and I’m not there. I’ve heard everything and enjoyed the company and the food and the jokes, all of it. But it’s as if there’s a whirring sound in my head the whole time, the way it can feel when you’re trying to listen to quiet music in a loud bar, and it’s not any one voice but the murmur of all the voices that prevents you from really hearing the band.

It’s as if the whirring gets louder and louder gradually, over time, sometimes over days, sometimes minutes, sometimes months, as the urge to write in a focused way comes over me. I don’t write every day the way they tell writers they should. That is, I write something every day, no doubt, but it’s emails or blog posts or other bullshit that doesn’t actually count.

Which is why I was taken aback by this snippet form an article about memoir and status updates by Dani Shapiro:

I haven’t unburdened myself, or softly and earnestly confessed. Quite the opposite. In order to write a memoir, I’ve sat still inside the swirling vortex of my own complicated history like a piece of old driftwood, battered by the sea. I’ve waited—sometimes patiently, sometimes in despair—for the story under pressure of concealment to reveal itself to me.

So that’s what the whirring is: the sound of the swirling vortex of my own complicated history.

Exactly. In person, or on the phone, or whenever you might see me, if I seem tuned out, I’m not exactly. I’m just listening to the whirring, trying to quiet it temporarily so I can be present, but often, I will be failing altogether.

LGBT Community Letter on Mike Brown

Posted by – August 18, 2014

When communities experience fear, harassment and brutality simply because of who they are or how they look, we are failing as a nation. In light of the recent events in Missouri, it is clearer than ever that there is something profoundly wrong in our country.

The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community cannot be silent at this moment, because LGBT people come from all races, creeds, faiths and backgrounds, and because all movements of equality are deeply connected. We are all part of the fabric of this nation and the promise of liberty and justice for all is yet to be fulfilled. The LGBT community stands with the family of Michael Brown, who was gunned down in Ferguson, Missouri. We stand with the mothers and fathers of young Black men and women who fear for the safety of their children each time they leave their homes. We call on the national and local media to be responsible and steadfast in their coverage of this story and others like it–racialized killings that have marred this nation since the beginning of its history. We call on policy makers on all levels of American government not to shrink from action, and we are deeply grateful to Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice for their immediate commitment to a thorough investigation.

At this moment, we are inspired by the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies … but the silence of our friends.”

You can see the full list of the signatories at the site.

Ferguson

Posted by – August 14, 2014

It’s at times like this, on nights like this, your brain scrambles for some sense, tries to find some order, some belief, some kind of light. But it’s been such a hard week – one of the kindest, gentlest men who raised us all, despite his own pain, died – and tonight, thinking about why and god can we just go back in time so someone could help and instead, we have the photos and reports from Ferguson.

And then your heart just sinks. An Appleton police car drives by my house, as one does almost every night, and instead of feeling safe in this peaceful little town I feel afraid. I know some of the cops here, you know? And they’re nice guys. And I bet the guys in Ferguson are too, and yet look at what’s been happening there this week, what’s been happening all over the US this month – Mike Brown was the fourth unarmed black man killed in this country in the past month by police – and you wonder how any of this happens.

But you know how. I mean, I teach how. This is institutionalized racism. There’s no way around it. All of the reports of what happened the night Mike Brown got shot – even the “official” ones that don’t smell right – tell me there was something happening there, an abuse of power, a moment of hate and fear that became the death of this young man.

You watch the Anonymous video and it sends chills up your limbs. I agree with them. I am secretly happy someone is doing something, and wonder, too, what happened to the FOI Act, and why it doesn’t seem to work anymore. But Anonymous terrifies me, too. That’s a lot of power. An awful lot of power. And people who have and want and use that much power really worry me, no matter how much I agree with their politics.

So what do you do on a night like this one, when the clown who might have made some sense of the violence going on in Missouri is gone? What do you do when the smartest, most compassionate people are speechless, astonished by the brutality of it all? As my friend Loree Cook-Daniels asked: As human beings, do we want to pay and arm some people to kill other people? Do we have an answer to that that makes any sense? Because sadly, I think our answer is yes. It shouldn’t be.

I don’t know. I know it’s always darkest before the dawn, and that there have been times in recent history, in recent memory, that have felt something like this, when the world seems to have gone especially dim and humanity seems especially cruel. I know there have been nights like this before, weeks like it, and I know there will be again.

So all I can do is feel thankful I am not having gas canisters lobbed onto my front lawn, that I have the luxury of even thinking tonight in a way that no one in Ferguson really can right now. All of my privilege, all of my luck, all of my security is mine tonight no matter how scared of the world I might feel.

Tonight is a night, one of those nights, when the wolves feel like they’re at the door. And all I can do is make sure the doors are locked, read the news reports, look for some sense of shared confusion and hope from my friends, and at long last, listen. There’s this song, one of the prettiest songs I know, and I’m just going to keep singing it to myself tonight while the people of Ferguson and the people of Iraq try to stay alive.

Hang in there, folks.

 

 

 

Beaties Can Get Divorced

Posted by – August 14, 2014

It’s good news to hear that Thomas Beatie can get legally divorced from his wife – why? Because a previous court decided that in Arizona, where he’s trying to get divorce & where same sex marriage is not recognized, his marriage wasn’t a legal marriage due to his gender – and specifically, due to the fact that he was capable of giving birth, which he did three times.

This is good news for trans people – his gender markers were changed in his home state in HI & are now recognized as male in AZ – but it’s also good for feminists who are concerned that the ability to give birth could have crept into the definition of female.

So, yes. Maybe not good news for them, but as a result of a legal divorce, Beatie will also, I’d imagine, may have to pay court-ordered child support and/or alimony, which is another good reason that their marriage was recognized as legal. Without that legal status, they couldn’t get divorced, and without divorce, no court could require child support.

From what I read previously, it was important to him to see this ruling happen. Good for him, good for us, good for the children of trans marriages.

Kate Bornstein in Remission

Posted by – August 13, 2014

I got the good news today.

Yay, Kate! What a relief. What a wonderful, wonderful thing.

Vote!

Posted by – August 12, 2014

www.myvote.wi.gov

Godspeed Robin Williams

Posted by – August 11, 2014

I wish I were even a little surprised it was an apparent suicide. But he did so, so much good in his fight against depression. So much. So many great roles, so many of my favorite movies, so, so much.

I wish genius talent didn’t suffer so much, but god, they do so often.

I am surprised I’m crying, but he’s been making me laugh and think for nearly the whole of my life.

So I guess now is the right time to admit that I never missed an episode of Mork & Mindy when it first aired. Yes, that makes me old. But I didn’t miss one single show for the first two seasons, and not many after that.  And it was his routine a year after 9/11 that made me feel like something might be okay again eventually.

Thanks, Mr. Williams, for making it all suck less while you were here. Carpe Diem, indeed.