Five Questions With… Rosalyne Blumenstein

Posted by – August 31, 2005

Rosalyne Blumenstein is the formerRosalyne Blumenstein directer of the Gender Identity Project at the GLBT Center in Manhattan, and is the author of Branded T.

1. You emphasize the non-inclusion of bisexual and transpeople in your book Branded T by writing it “GLbt.” Do you think this still holds true – are bisexuals and Ts still left out of the majority of “gay activism”?

I currently live in LA. In June they have their Pride Weekend. It is called Gay Pride, need I say more? …Well I will anyway.

I think we have gone backwards just like the larger system. I believe there to be a parallel process going on with the way in which government is running things and the way in which our social movements are following. Here’s the deal and my swing on it. (Not that I know anything… opinions are like assholes – everyone has one, well mostly everyone has one).

Again this is only my opinion.

I believe everyone should be able to live they way they want, experience some semblance of freedom, love, be loved, feel fulfilled, dream, and be on a journey. However, within the gay agenda it is all about mimicking a Christian heterosexist mentality. Mind you, take this apart there is nothing wrong with Christian…having a certain belief system and having faith which is grand and extremely helpful in life…

And as far as Heterosexuality is concerned, there is nothing wrong with someone who identifies as male loving someone who identifies as female. I for one would love to be in another relationship with a man. Right now I would love to be in a relationship with someone breathing let alone what damn gender they identify as.

But from my understanding of a sexual minority movement it‘s about many different kinds of loves, not just the sanctity of marriage. It’s about not buying into just the white picket fence and the 2.3 kids.

So the Gay Agenda has become about wanting the same things everybody else wants which is not a bad thing but is not the voice of the whole queer movement. In fact most voices that are silenced within the movement are those

  • that are either getting their ass kicked on the streets because they don’t blend
  • or those with little power within the political system
  • or those that care less about identity politics, they just want to be, live, have great sex, explore, be.

So the gay agenda doesn’t give voice to all concerned. Well maybe these groupings get some quality TV time during Pride since that is what media wants to show and that is what the larger gay movement does want to be viewed as. I think it is all about oppression and many times the oppressed (gay community) become the oppressors (the rest of us that don’t identify as gay).

So in answer to your question my dear I think B and T folk within the gay movement have the opportunity to participate within the movement but in the larger scheme of things and what is portrayed to the Universe is Gay= LGBT.

2. I really loved your phrase “heterosexual woman of trans experience.” As the partner of someone who is trans, it’s given me a handle on the idea of “historical identity.” How did you come to think of yourself this way?

The phrase just made sense to me. Basically I am hetero since I am really attracted to men, masculine folks. However, because I know that it can be much deeper than that I would not throw an aggressive, butch, or any kind of person that kicked up that attraction that I have out of bed.

It has just been men that I have been sexually intimate with but that doesn’t mean I am not open to other things. And why I say of TS experience is because that is a part of my cultural history that has sculpted me into who I am today. I am not transsexual but I have a transsexual history and that is a component of me that I want to celebrate and own but it is only a small part of all that I am. When you transition young you get to go through a different kind of puberty and your experiences and interactions in life with others is very different. There are pros and cons to all of it. I began to explore this part of me in the 70s so I have had the time to just live life in this role although the role keeps changing. In the 80s I would’ve never told people I had a trans history so I am quite grateful to have worked through some of the shame and not hold on to the false privilege of always passing as non-trans.

3. What do you think was your single best victory during your time at the GLbt Center in Manhattan?

Having the opportunity on some small level to community organize and see people become empowered and watch them take this work further than I could ever dreamed possible. I remember being at City Hall with an eclectic bunch of people with trans identities and many were testifying to get a basic human rights bill passed. As I looked around I knew I had the opportunity to connect to many of these leaders. I felt in some small way that this selfish greedy bitch (me) was now a nurturer and that was not who I thought I would ever become. I remember seeing many of my sisters that came from the streets there. They stood proud and they spoke and I felt like I had a little bit to do with them being there although there were and are now many community organizers that are a lot smarter than me I and doing incredible work for the communities.

I truly hope our brothers and sistas of color and those that don’t identify with either gender get to have more of a voice in this movement. Because theirs is the voice that comes from such depth and it will only broaden and generate this T movement. You know many of our leaders use those poor unfortunates that have been killed due to discrimination and usually most of those killed are people of color. I would think it would be a priority within those organizations to not only use the pictures and the stories of those murdered but to share the opportunities so that those voices are not only heard from after they are dead but while they are alive. There is so much for us all to learn.

4. Some might say that you believe the fact that transpeople need any “special” rights. After all, you worked on the street, had problems with alcohols and drugs, and now you’re an MSW. Why do transpeople need support services geared to them?

Actually I didn’t do it alone. Within the acknowledgment of BRANDED T I thank the street queens that took me in, the trans women most of color that stood in front and fought the fight without the power of false privilege.

Everyone needs role models; everyone needs mentors.

I think trans specific services led by those from within the community can be the most empowering services there are. Culturally competent non-pathologizing services are needed for all disenfranchised and oppressed groups. Yeah I made it but not without some hidden wounds and I hope it would be easier for others by making sure services are there, available, and those t folks don’t have to educate their service provider on the issues or feel like their identity is sensationalized in some way. I think everyone can grow from therapy. What a gift to have someone right there mirroring information back to you to assist you in making more informative decisions in your life. I can’t think of a better gift to give yourself except of course for…..well we won’t go there.

5. What’s Rosalyne Blumenstein doing now? In the next few years?

Have you ever heard ‘it was the best of times it was the worst of times’?

My work is not as impassioned as it used to be. However, I will say that my hospice care work has afforded me the opportunity to help those in their last stages of life, their family, as well as all the health care providers around them and this is a tremendous honor to be able to do this kind of work.

What has happened in the context of changing my full time employment from T folks (queer activism) to addiction and recovery issues/ youth issues/ and death and dying issues is I’m not constantly fighting and my identity does not come into play within the context of my professional work. I work with gang youth and addiction issues full time and part time I do hospice care. I am neither a gang-banger nor am I in my last stages of life, I think.

In not fighting the social justice movement or the LGbt movement or dealing with the pathology in our t communities because of oppression, stigma and now some semblance of having a voice and wanting to be ‘the voice,’ I’ve had the time to be more introspective and look at being a better person to those around me.

In the past within the T movement a lot of my work, although I have always cared, was around my ego and my being able to have my voice heard. The gift of passing that voice on and letting other voices be heard much louder and stronger was self-less but also selfish. I just wanted to be Rosalyne again and not have that tranny component attached to everything I do. I hope folks aren’t offended by that since I paid many dues and I just needed to be me again, just me.

On an even more personal note, mostly all the really close people to me, the ones that on some level nurtured me throughout my teenage years and young adulthood, are dead. And although I am only in my 40s I feel like I have experienced the war, came out of it with some scars but have had the opportunity to stop and smell the roses. But I think I am at my most lonely time in my life. This make one either get more spiritually connected or should I go get more anti-depressants. I chose both!

I live in Hollywood where all the (outwardly) beautiful people are and I moved here in my 40s. I have always been a looker and moving here has made me have to look even deeper than the shell since the shell is wrinkling up as we speak. And since I am a social worker I can’t afford a freaken neck or face lift (Hey wanna get up a collection for this broad)?

Seriously, I’ve had to come to a deeper place of acceptance which on some level has been the most challenging for me. I have not been in an intimate long term relationship for quite some time and there is so much competition out here. I mean I get laid here and there but nothing substantial. Would it be nice to be in an intimate relationship again? Who knows! But I know I am on some level alone, grateful, but alone.

I now have two cats that I adopted and I am officially middle age. I never freakin’ wanted to be middle-aged. On some level it is peaceful, I am humble, and I appreciate the little things.

Rosalyne’s book BRANDED T can be viewed @ www.branded-t.com.

Rosalyne can be reached for counseling and coaching in Los Angeles, and for speaking engagements, at rmblumenstein@aol.com.

You can also find my review of her book Branded T on the MHB message boards. The review also appeared in Transgender Tapestry.

2 Comments on Five Questions With… Rosalyne Blumenstein

  1. caprice says:

    the last link doesn’t work

  2. helenboyd says:

    thanks, caprice, it’s fixed now!

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