Race Matters

I’m going to be teaching Cornel West’s Race Matters next year, to first year students, and was compiling some links for my colleagues, but thought you all might appreciate them too:

Here are a couple of good link for alternative writers on race.These are my regular reads.

(The “Three Kinds of White Racists” is the best, to me, but might upset people who are not ready to admit to being racist.)

& Abagond talks about the Bechdel Test for race, which is a nice connection to Fun Home (the post explains The Bechdel Test in the first place, too).


IMHO, most white people are clueless and in denial about their own racism, and like gender discrimination, racism is a problem for all of us – not just black people. So let’s get our act together, shall we?


I moderated a panel of four local trans people for an event initially scheduled for TDOR. They were all amazing: well spoken, focused, honest, heartfelt. I didn’t really have to do much as a moderator, to be honest, but did talk some about being an ally. I chose questions. Afterwards, a mom asked me how she could become a better ally for her son; we’ll have lunch.

I walked away from the event simultaneous thinking two things: (1) I wonder how many hours I have logged talking about trans issues? How many, if I compiled them all? I started my blog in 2003, and My Husband Betty came out in 2004, so that’s nearly 10 years of lectures, moderating panels, doing readings, attending conferences, doing trainings and workshops and more recently, teaching classes. There is trans content in every gender studies course I teach. How many parties have I spent explaining trans issues? If I compiled those hours, how many would there be?

And that’s just the speaking part of it. If I added the hours I have spent writing about trans issues, in emails, my blogs, press releases, the books (of course), and added in the responses to emails from trans people and their partners, the message boards I host, the online support groups… how many more?

The second thought was: (2) how did this happen?

I can’t say I really know.
I can say that I’m very proud of the work I’ve done.
What is surprising is that if I had ever decided to do this work I wouldn’t have thought it was possible. I was a writer, sure, but one who was often too shy to do readings much. I was a queer ally, but I never felt I had a perspective on LGB issues that wasn’t covered by someone else. And now, somehow, I have done all this talking and writing about trans issues.

And you know? The only thing that makes any sense is that it’s all been love. Not for my spouse only. Tonight, as with every time I see trans people speak on their own behalf, I am overwhelmed with it. It’s a profound and nearly religious experience for me. But it’s so satisfying just to stand up and say NO. Stop the hurt. Stop the discrimination. Just stop. And to say to allies: help me stop it.

It may all have been something of an accident — a gradual, amazing accident — but it is very lovely to be able to say: I am proud of what I’ve done. And amazingly satisfied that it used to be like a cry in the wilderness, and now? Now everyone knows trans people exist, at the very least. That wasn’t true even when I started this work. Most liberal people know they face untold discrimination and difficulties.

It is eminently satisfying to say that the feeling that we (as a community) were tiling at windmills when I started has become something else entirely.

And then, walking home by myself afterwards, just thinking THANK YOU to the universe for helping me find a place where I could be of use to a great many people, and where my skills have made a difference. It’s profoundly satisfying.

Kind of my late Thanksgiving blessing, I guess, & maybe sentimental or even maudlin, but it’s all true, too.

Got Milk?

“. . . let that bullet destroy every closet door in the country.” – Harvey Milk, speaking of his own future assassination & what our response to it should be. He was killed 34 years ago today.

My friend David Metille (muh till) posted this on Facebook. It is perfect.

34 years ago today, Harvey Milk was assassinated. He was only 48 years old, but he had managed to change the world.

From a taped recording made November 11, 1978 to be played in the event of his assassination:

“This is Harvey Milk speaking from the camera store on the evening of Friday, November 18. This is to be played only in the event of my death by assassination. I fully realize that a perso
n who stands for what I stand for, an activist, a gay activist, becomes a target or the potential target for somebody who is insecure, terrified, afraid, or very disturbed themselves. Knowing that I could be assassinated at any moment, any time, I feel it’s important that some people know my thoughts. And so the following are my thoughts, my wishes, and my desires, whatever, and I’d like to pass them on and have them played for the appropriate people.

I have never considered myself a candidate. I have always considered myself part of a movement, part of a candidacy. I considered the movement the candidate. I think that there’s a distinction between those who use the movement and those who are part of the movement. I think I was always part of the movement. I wish I had time to explain everything I did. Almost everything was done with an eye on the gay movement.

I ask for the movement to continue, for the movement to grow, because last week I got a phone call from Altoona, Pennsylvania, and my election gave somebody else, one more person, hope. And after all, that’s what this is all about. It’s not about personal gain, not about ego, not about power — it’s about giving those young people out there in the Altoona, Pennsylvanias, hope. You gotta give them hope.

The other aspect of this tape is the business of what should happen if there is an assassination. I cannot prevent some people from feeling angry and frustrated and mad, but I hope they will take that frustration and that madness and instead of demonstrating or anything of that type, I would hope they would take the power and I would hope that five, ten, one hundred, a thousand would rise. I would like to see every gay doctor come out, every gay lawyer, every gay architect come out, stand up and let that world know. That would do more to end prejudice overnight than anybody would imagine. I urge them to do that, urge them to come out. Only that way will we start to achieve our rights.

If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door in the country.”

Thanks, Harvey.

None Here

Deli Man Trailer from Erik Anjou on Vimeo.

Sadly, Appleton doesn’t have a deli, not a real one, anyway, & I haven’t seen any in other parts of the state, but I can’t say I’ve looked too carefully, either.

WI does have supper clubs, which are cool like delis in an entirely different way.

AIS, CAH, Sequential Hermpaphroditism, & Reciprocal Copulation

This is a great short article on the ambiguities of sex as expressed by humans, mammals, fish and various other creatures, and covers topics like chromosomal variety, embryonic sex determination, and reproductive strategies. It’s a nice Sex 101 – and by that I don’t mean sex as in f*cking, but sex as in male/female. A lot of reasonably smart and educated people seem to think that gender is variable but sex is “natural” and binary when in fact that’s not nearly as true either.

You’ve had your turkey. Now get your learning back on.

Happy Thanksgiving!

To you & yours. I hope everyone is having a good day, whether it’s full of family and friends

or whether you’re sitting down to a quiet TV dinner on your own.

A Brief History of Trans

GLAAD did this. It’s pretty cool. It focuses mainly on highly visible, media kind of things at the end (otherthan legislation), but otherwise, interesting stuff. Lots missing, of course, but the idea wasn’t to be comprehensive – just to give a broad outline of trans history.

Also cool is this slideshow of 50 trans people – it covers at least a few people who are not traditional transitioners (which is nice to see).

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2012

Here’s what I’ve got this year: I want this day to go the fuck away. Not because it’s not valuable and intentional and useful. It is all of those things. It serves a useful function. It helps people understand the very pervasive discrimination trans people are up against.

It’s just that there are all these people I love in my life who happen to be trans and it breaks my heart to see this very real reminder that somehow we are so upset by transness that we allow this kind of violence to persist.

I don’t want to remember someone for being trans and being killed. I want to remember people I miss because I miss something about them – their smile or their voice or their kindness of their love of trains.

But another year passes, and another TDOR comes and goes, and I think instead of all the radical, amazing activists I know who happen to be trans, and of all the amazing artists and musicians and writers I know who happen to be trans, and of all the amazing, boring people living perfectly mundane great lives post transition who no one knows are trans and I think: YES.

So that’s why we have the Transgender Day of Remembrance: to get the attention of all the people out there who don’t realize what the hell is going on out there. For me it is a day to remember why it is I chose this work, or why it chose me, and why I keep choosing it.

Post Irony

I was thinking recently, as a friend was posting her thoughts about Prometheus on Facebook while watching that movie, that I wonder if we have forgotten how to like things because they’re good.

I’ve been watching the British version of Sherlock lately, which is, in my opinion, startlingly good: the acting is spotless, the dialogue intelligent and funny, the visuals modern and hip. It is not unbelievable, transcendent art, but it is good.

And it’s struck me that there is so little that is.

But then – the hipster that still resides in me scoffs at my old-age earnestness. There is plenty of good art being made, all over the place. Still, we decide to like certain things for their badness, don’t we? I am tired of liking bad things because I’m supposed to: the Coen Brothers, for instance, leave me cold. So does Tarantino. In another time, they both would have been considered second-rate, but now, they are icons — all because they are masters of post-modern irony.

There’s a passage in Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, which I recently had the pleasure of teaching, where she cites two pre-war poems in all their idyllic sweetness and wonders if it’s possible that anyone could ever hum such things and mean them. And since she is the Grand Dame of Irony, I wonder if these sweeps in the ironic, the nihilistic, aren’t just a moment in time, and that perhaps we can get back to earnestness, and commitment, and creating beautiful things to be beautiful, and not as some statement about how full of crap beautiful things can be.

And they can be. I’m a punk still at heart, and deeply suspicious of what is handed to us as culture, and the canon even moreso.

But it wasn’t until reading this piece by Christy Wampole that located what I find most problematic about irony, and it’s its privilege. It’s smelly, snarky, all too diffident privilege:

Where can we find other examples of nonironic living? What does it look like? Nonironic models include very young children, elderly people, deeply religious people, people with severe mental or physical disabilities, people who have suffered, and those from economically or politically challenged places where seriousness is the governing state of mind. My friend Robert Pogue Harrison put it this way in a recent conversation: “Wherever the real imposes itself, it tends to dissipate the fogs of irony.”

First world problem, in a nutshell. For people who have enough, or maybe who have too much.

I have often joked that I am only ever misunderstood by people who don’t seem to understand how earnest I am; for a long time I have had difficulty communicating with some people because they don’t seem to speak without irony, or hear without it.

But Wampole has asked what I think are a good set of questions for anyone who intends to live with more actual earnestness, with enthusiasm and – dare I say it? – meaning.

What would it take to overcome the cultural pull of irony? Moving away from the ironic involves saying what you mean, meaning what you say and considering seriousness and forthrightness as expressive possibilities, despite the inherent risks. It means undertaking the cultivation of sincerity, humility and self-effacement, and demoting the frivolous and the kitschy on our collective scale of values. It might also consist of an honest self-inventory.

Here is a start: Look around your living space. Do you surround yourself with things you really like or things you like only because they are absurd? Listen to your own speech. Ask yourself: Do I communicate primarily through inside jokes and pop culture references? What percentage of my speech is meaningful? How much hyperbolic language do I use? Do I feign indifference? Look at your clothes. What parts of your wardrobe could be described as costume-like, derivative or reminiscent of some specific style archetype (the secretary, the hobo, the flapper, yourself as a child)? In other words, do your clothes refer to something else or only to themselves? Do you attempt to look intentionally nerdy, awkward or ugly? In other words, is your style an anti-style? The most important question: How would it feel to change yourself quietly, offline, without public display, from within?

And now I know, at least, in which direction my New Year’s resolutions will be pointing. Unironically, of course.

ENDA Update

Finally, someone new to take on ENDA!

A Colorado congressman who’s set to become the most senior openly gay member of the U.S. House is pledging to take the lead on perhaps the most high-profile piece of pro-LGBT legislation: the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) said during a Washington Blade interview on Tuesday that he intends to become the chief sponsor of ENDA following the retirement of gay Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who’s championed the bill since 2007.
“I plan on introducing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in the next session,” Polis said. “Across our country, gays and lesbians face discrimination in the workplace and lose their jobs and their livelihood. It’s wrong and it’s got to end. People shouldn’t be fired in this country just because of who they date in their private life.”

Continue reading “ENDA Update”

The Bullet We Dodged

Romney explains why Obama won by saying he gave gifts to various minority constituencies:

“With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest, was a big gift,” he said. “Free contraceptives were very big with young college-aged women. And then, finally, Obamacare also made a difference for them, because as you know, anybody now 26 years of age and younger was now going to be part of their parents’ plan, and that was a big gift to young people. They turned out in large numbers, a larger share in this election even than in 2008.”

The president’s health care plan, he added, was also a useful tool in mobilizing African-American and Hispanic voters. Though Mr. Romney won the white vote with 59 percent, according to exit polls, minorities coalesced around the president in overwhelming numbers — 93 percent of blacks and 71 percent of Hispanics voted to re-elect Mr. Obama.

You can imagine for somebody making $25,000 or $30,000 or $35,000 a year, being told you’re now going to get free health care, particularly if you don’t have it, getting free health care worth, what, $10,000 per family, in perpetuity, I mean, this is huge,” he said. “Likewise with Hispanic voters, free health care was a big plus. But in addition with regards to Hispanic voters, the amnesty for children of illegals, the so-called Dream Act kids, was a huge plus for that voting group.”

Bold is mine.

This guy is so deep in deep pockets he doesn’t seem to know the difference between doing stuff for the citizens of the country you lead and “giving gifts”. I am flabbergasted. Doesn’t it sound like he *just* realized that $10k in health insurance is huge to a family making $25-35k? It does to me.

Wow did we dodge a bullet. Wow. He’s talking about constituencies as if they’re lobbyists. Unbelievable.

HONY Fundraiser

There’s a photographer in New York who wanders around the city photographing people; he calls his work “Humans of New York” and they are very, very cool photos.

Cat on Head Man is a recent favorite.

HONY is doing a 10-day fundraiser for the victims of Hurricane Sandy, the proceeds of which will go to a charity called Tunnel to Towers that is located in Staten Island – started by the family of a firefighter who died on 9/11. They have been doing really great work in the past few weeks.

So, give if you can.

LGBTQ Korean-American Stories

This seems like a cool project, so I told an old friend I’d post it here:

I am reaching out to you again to seek support for Dari Project’s goal of publishing a bilingual book of stories of the Korean American Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender/Questioning (LGBTQ) community.

Theresa and I have made a commitment to help Dari Project (?? ??) to raising $1,000 by the November 30th deadline.  $10, $20, $50, $100 or any other amount you can donate will go towards the publication of this much needed resource in our community.

Just click on the link to donate:  http://www.crowdrise.com/dariproject/fundraiser/hjlee

While you are visiting the site to make a donation or just to check out, please spend the time to read the heart-aching stories of the Dari Project Coordinators:

Halmunee (???; grandma): Check the remarkable story Elena Chang and her grandmother’s love and acceptance of Elena in this Youtube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKlVKnN-RLU&feature=plcp

Mark: Mark writes about why we need visibility/resources for LGBTQ individuals in Korean American community.

Remember that the deadline is NOVEMBER 30, so make your tax-deductible (receipt via email instantly) donation TODAY!

BTW, when you make the donation online via CrowdRise link (http://www.crowdrise.com/dariproject/fundraiser/hjlee), you have the option to adjust the Optional Processing Fee (which is set to default $10) to any amount you want or none.

Please forward this to anyone who may be interested in supporting this project.  Thank you!

Where Dreams Come From

simon garb where dreams come from

This was drawn by a young artist I know named Simon Garb. He’s 11, and ridiculously funny and cool.

(Please do not share without making sure he is credited.)

Congratulations, Senator(-elect) Baldwin!

& Wow did we need to keep Glass-Steagall. & We need it back.

But it was also a striking affirmation of Ms. Baldwin, 50, a soft-spoken but unflinching seven-term congresswoman who won over voters in her native state without moderating the starkly progressive views — including lonely votes against the invasion of Iraq and the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, a law that curbed commercial banks — that routinely rank her among the most liberal lawmakers in the country.

She has played down the historic nature of her win, befitting a race where Ms. Baldwin’s sexual orientation played little role. At her victory speech here on Tuesday, Ms. Baldwin did not get around to talking about it until halfway through, saying she was “well aware” that her victory was a milestone for gay rights.

After the enormous applause — the loudest of the night — died down, she added: “But I didn’t run to make history. I ran to make a difference.”

^ From the NYT article about her and her win.

Help for Oceanside

Oceanside, NY, is my hometown.

The personal reports I have been hearing from friends going home to help parents clean up after the storm, from my brother and other friends and their relatives who are still in town, are heart-breaking. One of my friends went home to throw out almost every family photo album — because they were stored in the basement. Even once people re-build and cleanup, so many things will have been lost forever.

Do help if you can. From the makers of the video: “Hurricane Sandy destroyed our beautiful town, but not our amazing spirit! If you would like to help you can contact Oceanside Community Service http://www.schoolhousegreen.org/OSIDECOMMUNITYSERVICE.html or send checks made out to Oceanside Community Service and send them to 145A Merle Ave. Oceanside, NY 11572.”

If you do, tell them the Kramers sent you.

Here’s some more raw footage of the day after Sandy.

And a huge thank you to Oceanside, CA, our sister city, who mobilized to raise funds.

Beatie Divorce

Sadly, the Beaties filed for divorce in March. That is sad news for them and their children, but the ramifications of this divorce and the legal precedent it could set might be sad for a lot more people. Here’s the problem:

Unexpectedly, on June 26, 2012, Judge Douglas Gerlach, the Maricopa County Superior Court judge overseeing the matter, vacated the final trial date and put the divorce on hold. The judge backpedaled from what seemed to be the course for a normal divorce case to issuing a Nunc Pro Tunc Order challenging the jurisdiction and validity of the Beaties’ marriage and Thomas’ male identity. Due to the fact that Thomas chose to use his reproductive organs and give birth to his children, the judge potentially sees their marriage as a same-sex union.

That a judge might seek to annul a marriage between a trans and cis person is not new news. That has happened before – too many times. The difference here is the issue of how Beatie’s legal maleness is being challenged precisely because he gave birth to his own children. And while essentialists the world over locate female-ness in the ability to give birth, there are too many reproductive technologies available (and more coming!) which will further distance birth from being female.

Of course same sex marriage legalization everywhere would resolve an awful lot of this pretty much overnight. But until then, trans people have to face the idea that a government can legally declare their sex invalid based on their roles as spouses and parents.

Because many of us are very, very worried – and feminists should be especially – if we start setting legal precedent by pairing childbirth and femaleness.

LGBT Voting: 90% for Obama

CMI Election Poll:

• 90% of Gays and Lesbians Vote for Barack Obama

• LGBTs are second only to the African American community in support for President Obama

The Community Marketing & Insights (CMI) pre-election poll showed that 90% of gay men and lesbians voted for Barack Obama.

The election poll of 6,625 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) United States citizens was administered November 2-4, 2012 and responses were received from all 50 states. LGBTs represent an estimated 5% of United States voters and an overwhelming majority supported the coalition that produced Barack Obama’s victory.

90% support for Obama was seen in all Battleground States. The LGBT percentage was just below the level that Obama received from the African American community.

Demonstrating the importance of the election, 95% of LGBTs indicated that they would vote in the election and 41% indicated that the had already voted before election day.

Final data indicated that 90% supported Barack Obama, 6% for Mitt Romney and 4% a third party candidate.

41% of gays and lesbians gave money to the Obama campaign.

Me @ Wisconsin Book Fest

I’ll be doing a reading with my friend & fellow trans partner Miriam Hall tonight at A Room of One’s Own bookstore in Madison for the Wisconsin Book Festival. If you’re anywhere nearby, please do come. We start at 5:30PM.

I will also be on WORT out of Madison on Friday morning around 8:30 AM on a show called The Buzz.