Eli Green is a self-described ‘genderwarrior’ and ‘social-justice & gender-junkie.’ Also an academic, activist, educator, author and researcher who focuses largely on addressing gender based systems of oppressio, Eli Green resides in New York City, working with trans and queer youth, and traveling around the country speaking at conferences and leading educational trainings. Current projects include working towards a doctorate in Human Sexuality, running Trans-Academics.org and working on the publication of the Community Needs Assessment Survey results.
1) www.Trans-Academics.org was one of the first sites I found that gathered resources for academics on trans issues. Do you find most academics interested in trans issues are trans themselves? If they are, is that necessarily a positive or negative thing?
I think that the majority of people who are doing positive trans research and academia right now are personally involved in the trans community – be it because they are personally trans identified, or that their partners, friends or family are trans-identified. This is not necessarily a good or bad thing – but it does have its pros and cons. For instance, if only transpeople are the ones doing trans research, it may be considered by some to be of lesser quality, (however inaccurate), or the research may be particularly slanted towards validating one type of trans experience. On the pro-side, gender diverse people are hopefully more invested in doing research that is respectful of all trans experiences, have access to a greater diversity of respondents, and have greater buy-in from research participants.
There does also seem to be a growing interest in trans related themes by cisgendered people. Gender diversity appears to be the next up and coming thing in academic and media circles. It seems like overnight there are about 15 new documentaries in the works, lots more books being published, and just more general recognition of gender diversity. I am not sure if it is because people are looking for the next best thing to make money off of, or if it is because educational efforts are paying off and people are truly interested in gender diversity. Either way, I think that as long as the end results are sensitive and trans-positive, it can be an important human rights stepping stone.
2) You work more directly with trans youth than most of us in the trans community. How ‘in touch’ with the needs of the upcoming generation do you think most of the information circulating in the trans community is? Are we getting it right at all?
I would say that as a whole â€“ we are pretty out of touch with a majority of trans youth- particularly urban youth of color. The most visible trans youth are usually white college youth, or the very young (white) media stories that we have seen in the past year. These youth are generally much more privileged, and the challenges that they face are radically different from our urban youth of color. At this point, beyond Paris Is Burning, these youth go almost completely unrecognized and unconsidered in our trans narratives, research and community organizing efforts. This is upsetting in many ways, partially because these youth have the greatest need and are often unable to advocate for themselves on a large scale due to the oppressions that they face (and as such are being virtually ignored), but also because their lives are probably most similar to our Stonewall brothers and sisters who fought so hard for the rights that we do have.
With trans-activism being a relatively new movement, we necessarily spend most of our time trying to successfully advocate for changes for ourselves personally with the hope that the changes will make the world a better place for gender diverse people in general. There are definitely some great youth focused projects out there trying to address issues such as creating a system for youth to access to hormones, trying to change the family court systems to be more trans-friendly, and to educate parents about gender diversity. However, I think that we as adults are so busy trying to get our own needs met sometimes, that we forget that the trickle-down effect is one of the least effective methods of meeting an entire communities needs.
3) I personally get annoyed that nearly every time the subjects of transness and feminism get brought up, someone has to mention Janice Raymond, or the Michigan Music Fest, when orgs like NOW and other independent feminists are quite trans-friendly. Do you think we’ll ever stop hearing about Janice Raymond?
In light of the recent conversations about MWMF, I think that Lisa Vogel could be considered the new Janice Raymond! There will always be feminists like Janice Raymond or Lisa Vogel, and they will always be vocal. I think that we focus so much on Raymond and MWMF because it seems like they should be small battles that we can win â€“ because in a better place, all feminist movements should be the number one ally of trans-activism. If anyone should be able to understand gender-based oppression, it should be Janice Raymond and Lisa Vogel. Perhaps these conversations are so prevalent within our communities because of the fear that if we canâ€™t win within these feminist circles, then where can we win? The good news is that there seems to be a fast growing number of people (feminists and otherwise) who get the idea that ending oppression against women is inextricably linked to ending gender-based oppression for all, and sooner or later this will no longer be an issue.
4) Tell us about the “Trans Enough Blues” survey is and why you decided to do it. What were your findings?
â€œTrans Enough Bluesâ€ was a project of the heart. I was at a time where I was feeling really rejected by various trans communities for identifying as genderqueer and not transitioning. I knew that there had to be other transpeople out there who felt the same way. Rather than join a support group, or go to therapy â€“ I took it out of my own context and turned it into a survey. I wanted to know who these other people were, if they were feeling the same way that I was and if so, I wanted to bring it to everyoneâ€™s attention and do some consciousness-raising work around it.
The results were not unsurprising. 67% of 280 respondents who self-identified as having experienced feeling â€œnot trans-enoughâ€ were female-bodied. While I have no evidence to prove this, I think this is because women are socialized to question their identities and places in the world. The top five reasons chosen for feeling â€œnot trans-enoughâ€ related not having hormonally transitioned/surgery, generally insecurity in chosen identities, and social pressures from the trans community. I think that these are all signs that the trans community needs to engage in self-reflection and discussion about our internalized transphobias.
5) Just looking at your resume exhausts me. How have you managed to do so much? What keeps you motivated? Have you ever felt cynical or defeated when working on trans or feminist issues?
*Laughs* A lot of caffeine, white zinfandel, and great friends who answer my tech support calls 24 hours a day! I always find it amusing that people find me to be so productive, when anyone who knows me (or is waiting for something from me) can attest that I am often a huge procrastinator -as you know first hand! Interestingly, most of my best work has come from times where I was bored or procrastinating on another project, and I start a side-project. Trans-Academics.org was definitely one of those side projects, and has turned out to be one of my greatest successes. Oddly enough, I think that it is the side projects that keep me going. When I get frustrated with one area, I switch to a new project to try to keep from burning out.
There have been a lot of times when I am burnt-out, misanthropic and generally just jaded â€“ after all, trans-activism at times seems like more of a class 5 rock climbing trail than an uphill battle. When things get really bad, I think about Tylique Mitchell. He was a trans youth who I worked with who was very brutally murdered a little less than a year ago. Then I think about all of the other transpeople who have died under similar circumstances before him â€“ and I realize that we as a community and individuals cannot afford to be defeated. We are fighting for our lives, and the lives of those we love.