Me, Trans Ally

Our Lives magazine came to the awards ceremony when I received my Activist award from Fair Wisconsin, and asked me to write a little something based on my remarks that night. So I did, and it’s in this month’s issue.

This is the fourth year and the fourth time I’ve taught a Transgender Lives course at Lawrence University in Appleton. We always spend a week of the course specifically on violence against trans people—the kind of transphobia and gender panic that cause people to be so brutal. And every year, the week before we start that section, I tell my students that we only have to wait a little while before a new case of trans violence is reported. I can say that on Thursday, and by the time we’re beginning the section the following Tuesday, I’ve been proven right. There is always one. Last year Chanel Larkin was murdered right here in Milwaukee. I want to see a year where it’s not true, and another and another, and hopefully, eventually, I will only teach that section of Trans Lives as history.

Go read the whole thing. It’s a cool magazine.

Pride and Memory

One of the things I find interesting about teaching (and being aunt to) people who are around 20 years old is that most of them did not grow up in a world where no one they knew was gay. For folks of my generation and older, it was assumed that no one was gay, and when someone came out, it was a surprise, and very difficult. It is hard to explain exactly how “deviant” homosexuality was considered, especially when it was criminal and considered a mental disorder. You can get some idea from a documentary like Stonewall Uprising, but still, it’s difficult to get across.

But in 1973 – the same year homosexuality was taken out of the DSM – 32 LGBTQ people burned to death in an intentional fire caused by arson. A molotov cocktail was thrown into a building that housed a gay bar and the local meeting place of the MCC church. There were 60 or so people in the room, and half of them found a way out, but the other half died in the fire.

What’s more horrifying are the stories and jokes – yes, jokes – told about the fire after the fact. I won’t repeat them here but if you have stomach enough, you can read them here.

And that’s the part of the story that sobered me up. I remember fruit jokes. The ones I heard weren’t about this fire, and maybe weren’t about anyone in particular. But I remember the kinds of jokes that were told, how dehumanizing they were. It’s almost hard to remember, but a story like this one makes it a little clearer what this has all been about.

It’s been an amazing pride month for me as a New Yorker, that’s for damn sure. 42 years after Stonewall, New York has made marriage equality happen. But still, there were some bodies in that fire that weren’t claimed, and it’s not that long ago that families of men dying of AIDS pretended they had no sons.

So yes, there’s been huge amounts of progress. HUGE. But I don’t want us to forget, either, how it used to be: that’s why the riots at Compton’s and Stonewall happened, after all.

Two Tune Tuesday: Tears for Fears

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“Everybody Wants to Rule the World” is permanently a summer song for me, maybe because that’s when it came out or when it got a lot of airtime or because of the video, I don’t know. Some songs just go with seasons, too.

The lyrics of “Head Over Heels” always struck me as bittersweet and maybe a little (emotionally) masochistic.

I wanted to be with you alone and talk about the weather
But traditions I can trace against the child in your face
Won’t escape my attention
You keep your distance with a system of touch and gentle persuasion
I’m lost in admiration, could I need you this much
Oh, you’re wasting my time, you’re just, just, just wasting time

Something happens and I’m head over heels
I never find out till I’m head over heels
Ah, don’t take my heart, don’t break my heart
Don’t, don’t, don’t throw it away

Apparently summer’s finally here if these are the songs I find myself humming.

Am I Really Writing a Post about Bras? Well Yes I Am.

Bras are actually the kind of thing I get asked about quite a lot because I work with women who weren’t dragged to Macy’s by mom the first time she noticed they had visible nipples, like I was. (Believe me, some things trans women should be thankful for.) I really like this queer guide to bras: great for butches, ladies with smaller breasts, and there are some useful lists, like this one on the kinds of bras it’s good to have in your possession:

1) A racerback (or convertible, which is good ’cause it also goes strapless in case tube tops come back)
2) For under white shirts, a bra that matches your skin tone
3) Regular black bra for everyday use
4) Sports bra for sports and/or gender panic

A blog post about bras that actually uses the term “gender panic”: excellent.

Similarly, she explains the differences between types of bra cups: Demi-Cup, Balconette, Contour Cup, Soft Cup, Padded, Push-Up, Minimizer, Molded Cups, Plunge. I’m partial to demis and Balconettes, myself. She mentions that they’re good for skinny girls, which is not exactly accurate: my feeling is that they’re better for certain kinds of breasts, but you’ll only know once you wear them. I find they’re sexy and create enough cleavage but not too much: I don’t wear pushups unless I need somewhere to rest my chin.

Continue reading “Am I Really Writing a Post about Bras? Well Yes I Am.”

Apologies for Autoplay

For whatever reason, my embedded players are shooting straight to autoplay and I have no idea why. From what I can tell from their forums, they’d removed autoplay and there was a lot of pushback from users, so now they seem to have “over fixed” the problem, and it’s ONLY able to auto play.

I won’t be posting new playlists until they fix this option, & will disable the ones on my page for now (& only provide links, so you can still go listen to the music).

Apologies for anyone who was unpleasantly surprised (as I was).

Friday Cat Blog: Aeneas.

Look at those eyes, would you?

What a beauty. Rest in Peace, SpideyCat.

The other day I really saw the pile of prescriptions and pill bottles,the syringes, the plastic bags and pages of Discharge Instructions. My poor boy went through a lot of meds in a dozen weeks. That was when the tumor on his leg really went nuts, & we had to decide to amputate or not. We did, which is probably what gave us the two months we had with him. I think it might have been quicker otherwise, because it was an aggressive cancer.

But it was in late December that he first had a thing on his leg, and because it appeared so overnight, we thought it was a sprain. We didn’t even wait to take him to the vet. We did x-rays, blood tests. The blood work turned up nothing weird – which, interestingly, it never really did. Our vet here couldn’t find anything, so I sent the x-rays and blood work to a vet friend in NJ and she didn’t find anything either. Because it turned up out of the blue, it looked like a sprain, and everything you read about cats & sprains is that they take a long time to get better, because cats tend not to rest. Now, I feel stupid for waiting as long as we did for this thing that wasn’t a sprain to heal. We iced it, and it got smaller; other days it was bigger, which is what you’d expect of a sprain on a patient who couldn’t be told not to jump up on the sink. I feel stupid for not realizing it wasn’t a sprain sooner, but then I think that even if we had caught it sooner, there was probably another in him ready to go.

Still, it’s hard not to wonder if we could have done anything differently. Really, really hard. & That’s the thing about parenting, furry critter or human: you do your best, & sometimes that’s not enough, & the powerlessness & pain that causes is pretty fucking tremendous.

So I’m happy the 6 months is over, but terrifically angry the 11 years is. It’s very hard to find balance in that equation. He put me to bed every single night – climbed up when I got into bed and got under the covers to be petted and when I was just dropping off he would leave quietly, stepping around my head or Rachel’s. I’d hear the soft thump of him jumping from bed to floor, and go to sleep smiling. Every single night for 11 years until the last few months. How do you not miss that kind of gentle loyalty & affection? It is especially hard because Endymion was always Rachel’s cat, as is Aurora. Aeneas was entirely mine. Of course I take care of the other two, but it’s not the same. I used to call Aeneas my shadow, my heart, my momma’s boy. He was my own Great Stone Face, my tiny Buster Keaton. He loved me so much – sat on my desk next to me for hours, usually in my inbox, which he didn’t really fit in.

Because they don’t speak, you always have a flawless, empathetic relationship with them, sensing moods but never knowing. He was such a stoic – the vets were regularly amazed over these past months at how high a pain tolerance he had, & how much poking he tolerated, too – and I cried on him too many times. He’s been my deepest friend for all these years, when others were busy, or perplexed, or judgmental, or too tired, when I didn’t want advice but only company. Trans people out there know what I’m talking about, and so do all of you others who have been through it in one way or another, who know what it’s like to come home at the end of a day whether you’re 14 or 40 and feel like you just don’t fit into the human race very well. These furry kids remind us that if you have food, a place to live, and someone warm to sleep near, or even two out of three, life is good.

When I didn’t even know how I felt or what I was thinking, he made me laugh and smile. He was a sweet, sweet kid. Some days, I have longed to be the kind of person who can live in shallower water, but Aeneas made swimming in the deep currents something like joyful.

Obama in New York for Pride

He’s there, of course, because Albany’s just about to make same sex marriage legal in New York State. Here’s a selection from what he said to an audience at the Sheraton:

What makes America great is not just the scale of our skyscrapers, or our military might, or the size of our GDP.  What makes us great is the character of our people.  Yes, we are rugged individualists and we are self-reliant, and that’s part of what makes us Americans.  We don’t like being told what to do.

But what also makes us who we are is we’ve got faith in the future and we recognize that that future is shared — the notion that I’m my brother’s keeper, I’m my sister’s keeper.  My life is richer and stronger when everybody in the country has some measure of security; everybody has got a fair shot at the American Dream.  That’s what makes us great.  That’s our vision for America.

It’s not a vision of a small America.  It’s a vision of a big America; a compassionate America; and a bold and optimistic America.  And it’s a vision where we’re living within our means, but we’re still investing in our future.  And everybody is making sacrifices, but nobody bears all the burden.  An America where we live up to the idea that no matter who we are, no matter what we look like, we are connected to one another.

That’s what led many of us to fight so hard, to knock on so many doors and maybe harangue some of our friends — this belief that it was up to each of us to perfect this union.  It was our work to make sure that we were living up to a simple American value:  We’re all created equal.  We’re all created equal.

Continue reading “Obama in New York for Pride”

Methodist Trial

I don’t really understand why LGBTQs have anything to do with religions that condemn them. This week, in a nearby town, a Methodist minster went on trial for two things: being a practicing self-avowed homosexual and marrying a same sex couple.

She was found guilty of the marriage – mostly because there’s a record of it happening, & her having officiated – but she was found not guilty of homosexuality because despite admitting publicly that she lives with her wife, she hasn’t actually admitted she has sex with her. Honestly, they asked her about genital contact – which did at least inspire groans from the witnesses, and she refused to answer.

What kind of bullshit is that? Oh, wait: then again, we live in a culture where a politician has to resign because of a sex scandal in which he didn’t actually have sex with anyone but his wife.

I understand the need for a connection/relationship with the divine, but I don’t get trying to find it through organized religion. Then again, I decided the Church couldn’t possibly be messengers of divine anything if they thought my having a vagina kept me from being holy enough to be a priest — and that, especially in the light of all the female saints: it just didn’t make any sense. I was raised by Jesuits, after all.

I just don’t get it. I am glad others want to fight this fight, but it definitely isn’t mine. That said, I have long thought that if Jesus were alive today, he’d be hanging out with trans street hustlers of color who are homeless in our nation’s cities.

WI Next to Defund Planned Parenthood

Good news Monday, bad news Tuesday night: Walker is planning on de-funding Wisconsin’s Planned Parenthood, taking a note from Indiana’s governor.

First: this has nothing to do with money. The cost of additional pregnancies, cancer care, & the like, will absolutely cost more, and the governor of Indiana has already said that publicly.

Second: the government already doesn’t pay for abortions.

Tiresome, hateful, short-sighted, and arrogant bullshit.

Two Tune Tuesday: Grief, Grace, & Hope

This Week’s Playlist!

Friday night I listened to the Buckley; I knew Aeneas was going soon, & wow did I not want to let him go, but Buckley’s voice is so beautiful in this one; it’s more a cri de coeur than a song. Then yesterday, out of nowhere, I heard Matt Johnson’s voice in my head, found myself humming this song which I haven’t listened to in a long, long time:

In our lives we hunger for those we cannot touch
All the thoughts unuttered and all the feelings unexpressed
Play upon our hearts like the mist upon our breath

It seems a particular good song for summer solstice, too, seasonal in its grief.

Fair Wisconsin: Wisconsin Court Upholds Domestic Partnerships

via Lambda Legal: Applying v. Doyle case summation, and the document of the actual ruling.

(Madison, Wisconsin, Monday, June 20, 2011) – Today, the Circuit Court, Branch 11 in Dane County Wisconsin upheld as constitutional the state’s Domestic Partner Registry.

Wisconsin Circuit Court Judge Daniel R. Moeser wrote, “Ultimately, it is clear that Chapter 770 does not violate the Marriage Amendment because it does not create a legal status for domestic partners that is identical or substantially similar to that of marriage. The state does not recognize domestic partnership in a way that even remotely resembles how the state recognizes marriage. Moreover, domestic partners’ have far fewer legal rights, duties, and liabilities in comparison to the legal rights, duties, and liabilities of spouses.”

“The law is clear—the domestic partnership law does not violate the Wisconsin constitution,” said Christopher Clark, Senior Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal’s Midwest Regional Office based in Chicago. “The research the court provided in its ruling today is a showcase of material proving that the proponents of the antigay marriage amendment repeatedly told voters in 2006 that the Marriage Amendment would not ban domestic partnership benefits.”

In June 2009, Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle signed domestic partnerships into law, granting limited but important legal protections to same-sex couples, including hospital visitation and the ability to take a family medical leave to care for a sick or injured partner. Wisconsin Family Action, an antigay group, brought a lawsuit in Dane County Circuit Court arguing that the domestic partnership law is a violation of Wisconsin’s constitutional amendment banning marriage equality. Shortly thereafter, Lambda Legal successfully moved to intervene in the lawsuit on behalf of Fair Wisconsin and five same-sex couples.

“We are pleased that the Court upheld the limited protections provided by domestic partnerships because they are essential in allowing committed same-sex couples to care for each other in times of need,” said Katie Belanger, Executive Director of Fair Wisconsin. This is an exciting day for Wisconsin. Domestic partnerships marked our state’s first step toward full equality in nearly 30 years. Judge Moeser’s decision will ensure that we can continue advancing equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Wisconsinites in the years ahead.”

Woohoo! Good news for Wisconsin!

Catullus’ Passer Mortuus Est

It’s one of the most beautiful love poems ever written.

Lugete, o Veneres Cupidinesque,
et quantum est hominum venustiorum:
passer mortuus est meae puellae
passer, deliciae meae puellae,
quem plus illa oculis suis amabat.
nam mellitus erat suamque norat
ipsam tam bene quam puella matrem,
nec sese a gremio illius movebat,
sed circumsiliens modo huc modo illuc
ad solam dominam usque pipiabat.
qui nunc it per iter tenebricosum
illuc, unde negant redire quemquam.
at vobis male sit, malae tenebrae
Orci, quae omnia bella devoratis:
tam bellum mihi passerem abstulistis.
o factum male! o miselle passer!
tua nunc opera meae puellae
flendo turgiduli rubent ocelli.

I’ll explain why I posted this today some other time.