Warm(ish) Welcome

I read an article in Slate recently, by the author of Stiltsville, who was surprised to find herself described in a review of one of her books as “a recent transplant” as she’s been living in the midwest for 12 years, 10 of them in Madison.

It was this section of her article that rang (sadly) true for me:

Midwesterners are wary of prying—they consider it impolite, even unfriendly—and they don’t readily reveal personal information. Which means they exist comfortably at a certain remove that can take years—and I mean years—to breach. When my family gets together in Florida, we share a meal, heatedly discuss current events, then retire to separate bedrooms to catch up on email. When my husband’s extended family gets together, it’s an all-day family-fest. They might not talk about much, but they truly enjoy just being together. To a coastal-hearted misanthrope like myself, it’s mind-blowing. But spending time not saying much of anything with family is one thing—doing it with acquaintances is another thing entirely.

I might find, say, having dinner with acquaintances, where the topics range from the weather to the menu, disappointing. Exhausting and depressing, even. But acquaintances are acquaintances, no matter where you live. The trouble here is the trouble everywhere: how to find close friends, how to really connect. And though I appreciate Midwestern civility (a departure from Miami, for example, where in an afternoon one might witness a fight at a traffic light, have one’s cart rammed at the store, then be persistently ignored by a waiter), I continue to wrestle with the barriers of it.

When you are both an introvert and a “coastie” (as we’re called), there’s real trouble. I generally know when I like people and feel that I can trust them, and in NYC, at least among my group of friends, sexual peccadilloes, money woes, medical diagnoses and trashy humor are conversation starters; I can’t recall ever talking much about the weather — although it may be that midwesterners talk more about the weather because there is so much more weather here (a recent day featured not just snow, sleet, rain, and hail, but thunder, lightning, and tornadoes).

That doesn’t mean there aren’t others like me; for starters, there are other transplants, other “coasties” who leap right in too. And there are most definitely midwesterners who are the NYC pilgrim sort, and who obviously understand, and even like, slightly brassier manners. In an odd way, as depressing as it was, this article was incredibly useful to me as well; I’ve felt like a bit of an outsider, but in the context she’s given me, I’m doing just fine.

But I hate to break it to her that Danskos are quite hip in NYC, especially since we all walk and stand so much more,which leads me to wonder if standing in subways close enough that we can smell each other breaks the ice much more easily than always being cocooned and enveloped in your own private car and your own private smells. I, for one, think we underestimate being both social and animals.

DOL Adds Gender Identity to EEOC

Good to see.

TLDEF applauds the United States Department of Labor’s announcement yesterday that it has taken steps to protect its transgender workers from employment discrimination. The Department of Labor added gender identity as a protected category in its equal employment opportunity statement. The policy applies to all hiring, promotion and disciplinary practices for the approximately 17,000 employees of the Department of Labor.

“Whether in private or public employment, what matters is not who you are, but how you do your job,” said TLDEF executive director Michael Silverman. “The Department of Labor now joins the many public and private employers that have recognized that discrimination is bad business. We applaud Labor Secretary Hilda Solis for her leadership on this issue.”

Transgender people face tremendous discrimination in the workplace. In a recent survey, 47% of transgender people reported being fired, or denied a job or promotion, just because of who they are. In a recent case, TLDEF filed a lawsuit on behalf of a transgender man who was fired from a male-only job solely because he is transgender.

“Employers like the Department of Labor set an example for other employers to follow. It is a great day when diversity is embraced and discrimination is rejected in the workplace,” added Silverman.

Required ID to Vote Suppresses Votes

This whole idea of requiring people to present photo ID to vote is bad news indeed for a lot of kinds of people, but especially for transgender ones, who, in exchange for expressing their right to vote, will have to deal with harassment, denial of suffrage, and lack of representation.

Because what exactly it takes to get a gender marker in your lived gender if you are trans varies from state to state.

But more important, as Alex Blaze points out, the whole idea is to suppress the vote of people who are most likely to be intimidated by needing an ID card & by the voting process in general.

Oh Cancer, Up Yours: RIP Poly Styrene

Poly Styrene, most known as the lead for X Ray Spex, died at the age of 53 of breast/spinal cancer. She was an inspiration to me, more riot grrrl than the riot grrrls, and famous too for shaving her head long before Sinead O’Connor did. She was a trained opera singer. She was an early critic of plastic consumer culture — thus her name. Their song Oh Bondage, Up Yours has always been one of my favorites, a rallying cry; the voice-over at the start of the song intones:

Some say little girls should be seen and not heard.


ATM Blog

Just discovered the blog American Trans Man, which, according to its description, is:

written by a FTM trans scientist who supplies information about different biological and genetic aspects of being transgender with a focus on the transmasculine.

I’m especially pleased there’s a focus on trans science.

Survey: By & For

There’s a new cool survey out for – and more importantly, by – trans people. Non trans people can take it too: it examines attitudes about self, gender, & relationships. The researcher explains:

My advisor and I are painfully aware that most surveys in psychology are not inclusive of—or even recognizing of—trans spectrum identities because we ourselves have trans spectrum identities. Specifically, I am genderqueer and Professor Tate is a transgender woman (who is also genderqueer as butch-presenting). Thus, we do not see ourselves and our experiences represented very well in the status quo of psychology research. We are therefore personally as well as professionally motivated to change the way psychology studies transgender and genderqueer identities. Yet, we need your help to do this well. We need our voices to be heard.

More below the break.

Continue reading “Survey: By & For”

Texas Marriage Law

Monica Roberts has been covering a proposed bill call SB 723; her most recent update is here. It’s in the Senate, & what it will do is make it illegal to use a court order about name/gender change to apply for a marriage license. The only reason it’s been proposed is to mess with the legal marriages of trans women to men, such as in the Nikki Araguz.

If you live in TX, call your senators now and tell them to kill this bill. List below the break.

Continue reading “Texas Marriage Law”

McDonald’s Employees

There is a petition at change.org which is calling for the McDonald’s employees who stood by, laughed, and videotaped the violent attack on a trans woman be held responsible.

I have no idea what kind of precedent that might be, but a law like this is long overdue.

Not at all ironically, it is in Maryland that a recent non-discrimination law recently went down in flames because gender identity was added to the bill and legislators, as per usual, were presented with the bullshit argument that somehow “men in dresses” would be hiding out in ladies’ room inflicting violence. THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A CASE OF THIS HAPPENING, and as we can all see here, it is transpeople who require protection and safety from transphobic bigots. The Democratic Senators who backed out of supporting the bill – even after confirming their support – should be ashamed of themselves.

Community Activist Award!

Fair Wisconsin, the large LGBTQA organization in the state, has decided I deserve an award as an activist; I am honestly humbled and ridiculously pleased.

ACTIVIST: Helen Boyd
Author of My Husband Betty and She’s Not the Man I Married: My Life with a Transgender Husband, Helen Boyd is a nationally recognized and trusted voice on issues concerning gender and has championed gender equality for years. She lives in Appleton with her partner Rachel Crowl and teaches gender studies at Lawrence University.

I’ve won as part of their Education Fund Leadership Awards, for which there is a reception on May 4th in Milwaukee. I hope you can join me and Rachel, FAIR and the other honorees that evening.

West Michigan Trans

There are plans afoot for an educational/outreach conference for West Michigan. Here is their call for organizers:

Call For Organizers: Transgender Education Collaboration of West Michigan (2011-2012)

A collaborative plan for educating West Michigan about transgender, gender variant, and intersex issues

Why?There is a need for education about Transgendered, gender variant, and intersex issues in West Michigan.

How? LGBT and educational related groups will be able to educate & advocate on transgender, gender variant, and intersex issues by creating a conference/awareness week with speakers, workshops, and other activities.

What Can You Do? Email M Kelley at mattkelley39@gmail.com if you would like to get involved, would be interested in speaking, know organizations willing to join the collaboration, or want to contribute somehow to this happening. It is my hope that together we can begin to change West Michigan.

Please copy + re-post widely.

Two Tune Tuesday: Theme Songs

In the light of some upcoming news, I thought I’d post two songs today that are ones I really do hum to myself when I need them, when my spine isn’t feeling as tall as I’d like.

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

I first heard “Stand!” as performed by World Party with Sinead O’Connor as guest vocalist at the old New Ritz (which was once Studio 54): a better introduction to a song you couldn’t have asked for.

Continue reading “Two Tune Tuesday: Theme Songs”

Passing Privilege and Maine Politics

Last week, Jennifer Finney Boylan spoke to the Maine legislature over gender inclusion in Maine’s non discrimination laws. She writes:

Yesterday, I spoke to the Maine legislature’s Judiciary committee. A bill has been proposed to “exempt” transgender people from protections under the Maine Human Rights Act, which went into effect six years ago. Currently, Maine protects GLBT people from discrimination, and this includes a so called “public accommodations” provision of the very sort that was, in part, the deal breaker in the Maryland law that was shelved last week. (Although I should make it clear that the Maine law has been on the books for six years without problem, and the proposed legislation is to REMOVE the protection for trans people; Maryland currently has no such provisions and the shelved legislation would have put these protections into place.)

She made some lovely remarks to the Maine legislature’s judiciary committee, which she’s reprinted in full on her blog, but the issue that comes up is that of passing privilege: how people are more than ready to have trans people who pass in their transitioned gender protected and welcomed in gender-specific spaces, but that the people who don’t pass are suspect.

That’s obviously a problem, since it’s exactly the trans people (and cis people, for that matter) who don’t have “acceptable” or culturally legible genders that need the protection most. No one asks for anyone’s ID on the way into a public bathroom after all; we are carded by our gender expression, and if our gender isnt normative, there’s often trouble, whether the person is trans, butch or some other gender that doesn’t stick closely enough to “man” or “woman”.

A quick thanks to Boylan for the heads up and for speaking up, too.