Year: 2013

Dear Brandon: 20 Years Ago Today…

Posted by – December 31, 2013

20 years ago tonight Brandon Teena was murdered. Two friends, Lisa Lambert and Philip DeVine, were killed with him.

20 years ago the trans community protested that Brandon was not killed because he was a “lesbian” but because of his gender identity, which in turn triggered the organizing and anger of the contemporary trans community.

20 years after his death, so much has changed — much of it for the good, but so, so much still needs changing. Guys like him — living on the outskirts of mainstream society, with little parental support, so little money, who (want to) transition at a young ago but who have almost no access to good, trans-friendly healthcare — are still under-represented and under-served.

We still don’t have a non-discrimination law that protects trans people from employment, housing, or other forms of discrimination. There is, in part due to his murder, a hate crimes law which included gender identity.

Despite the fact that trans people still face enormous levels of violence and discrimination, more and more are coming out; more and more are getting involved in what VP Biden called “the civil rights issue of our times”. More and more allies who aren’t trans are paying attention. All of which is great, but still.

He would have turned 41 this year. I wish he had.

 

 

Five Questions With: Danielle Askini, Gender Justice League

Posted by – December 30, 2013

I met activist and Gender Justice League founder Danielle Askini a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. She was then, and remains to this day, one of my favorite trans activists and educators.

1. Tell me something about how you started Gender Justice League, and why, what you do as an organization.

The idea behind Gender Justice League was really to build on what I had come to learn from other organizations I had participated in the past such as GSA Network (where I was National Program Director) and Outright, Maine – Where I was a youth activist. Really the idea is to bring the community together through community building, social and community education events, and then to recruit and train Trans and gender non-conforming folks as leaders to engage in community wide education and training and then advocacy work both on a one-to-one level and a policy level – such as removing Trans health insurance exclusions.  The idea is really to start by building a community that is connected, informed, and educated and then develop our skills to organize, educate, and influence cultural change. As an organization what we have done has greatly varied, we have done things like hold Trans Pride Seattle – which brought together about 2,200 people in June – by far the largest single event by and for Trans folks in Seattle, we got King County Public Health and all HIV Prevention Providers to agree to both serve Trans women but also include images, messaging, and information about Trans women in HIV prevention materials, we also held a community gathering to discuss Fighting Trans Misogyny that was incredibly well attended. This is all outside of our internal training on grant writing, meeting facilitation, web/social media networking and advocacy training.  I’m so excited for all we have yet to do in the next year or two as we launch our speaker’s bureau and education plan, partner with University of Washington for a Transgender Medicine class for medical students, social workers, and nurses, and many many more things!

2.. We were talking recently about the intersection of community and politics, specifically when it comes to trans people. Do you think one has to come before the other?

I think this is a really interesting question!  As someone who transitioned in Maine — Portland specifically, a “city” of only 65,000 people — there was not a huge Trans community that was active when I fist came out. Over time, more and more trans folks and gender queer folks came out — but most identified as trans men/trans masculine which left me feeling a bit isolated.  My activism in Portland was really focused on “LGBT” activism and youth in foster care activism (I spent my Junior year homeless, and my senior year in foster care) — but it was extremely isolating to be the ONLY trans woman around in many instances. There was a sense of ‘community’ to some degree — but often I didn’t really feel “seen”. Portland is a tricky example, as everyone watched me transition quite publicly (it’s a small town) and to many, I would forever be that “Gay boi / drag queen!” that they had seen in high profile shows; this often invisible my identity as a woman. That is not to say that I wasn’t deeply effective or influential, I think even though I was young, in college, and often busy — I was of a vanguard that pushed the largely L & G leaders to include Gender Identity and Expression in Maine’s 2005 non-discrimination law. I think community is vital — but I found my community online at that time! Now, I walk out my door and have dozens of friends which is amazing. I certainly think having a solid online community through livejournal was vital to my early activism — a place to vent, get resources/connect, and feel ‘seen’. For folks who are not in major cities — the internet has really revolutionized that process. So that is to say — find a community online, do online activism, find strength where you can no matter what — but doing activism everywhere is vital!  I think that was the key for me, finding community online, doing activism even when I felt isolated and alone as a very young trans woman.

3. I think of you as a radical activist, and I mean that as a compliment. Tell me something about how you think of trans rights in the light of other social justice issues. More

Jailed for Life for Stealing a Coat

Posted by – December 27, 2013

There’s something very wrong going on.

A shocking new study by the American Civil Liberties Union has found that more than 3,200 people nationwide are serving life terms without parole for nonviolent offenses. Of those prisoners, 80 percent are behind bars for drug-related convictions. Sixty-five percent are African-American, 18 percent are white, and 16 percent are Latino…

Go read the full article/interview on NPR.

This kind of issue is exactly why feminists have been using intersectional analysis for years now – to look not just at gender and how it oppresses people of all genders, but how race, class, and other axes of identity cause one person to go to rehab and another to be sentenced to life in prison – for the same “offense”.

I don’t know where to start to fix it, but I’m very pleased that the ACLU did this study – the full title of which is A Living Death: Life Without Parole for Nonviolence Offenses – so that maybe we can start to examine how and why we are imprisoning people for life who did so little wrong.

Trans Marriage Precedent

Posted by – December 26, 2013

I was so excited to read this I got shivers. A couple in Indiana got divorced after the husband transitioned to female, and were working out an amicable agreement when a circuit court judge rejected their divorce petition on the grounds that the marriage became illegal due to her transition.

But Indiana’s Court of Appeals said: not so fast.

The court ruled the marriage must be dissolved through traditional means because at the time of their wedding Davis and Summers fully complied with Indiana’s marriage law, which reads, “Only a female may marry a male. Only a male may marry a female.”

This is GREAT news, and great precedent, for those of us living in states with a ban on same sex marriages whose marriages were entered into before transition.

That is, ME. It’s great news for us and for couples like us.

 

 

Merry Betty Christmas!

Posted by – December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas.

Posted by – December 25, 2013

music.alt.xmas.cheer

Posted by – December 24, 2013

Slicing Up Eyeballs Christmas Mix 2013 by Slicing Up Eyeballs on Mixcloud

Turing Officially Pardoned

Posted by – December 24, 2013

Well that’s overdue, but Merry Christmas Eve! Queen Elizabeth has finally officially pardoned Alan Turing. He was convicted of being a homosexual despite his amazing work breaking the Enigma Code during WWII.

 

Five Questions With: The GENDER Book’s Creative Team

Posted by – December 23, 2013

Three years ago, Mel, Robin, and Jay noticed a ton of discrimination and just a general lack of education around gender. They asked themselves “why isn’t there just a book you can hand your therapist and say here, read page 29 and you will understand, see you next week.”  They thought there should be a resource you can read in one sitting. It should be illustrated and as fun as a kid’s book while going into some real depth and true stories. The book should help people come out and educate their friends and family. Surely a book like that exists, right? Except it didn’t, so they made one: it’s called The GENDER Book, and it has a Kickstarter.

1) You explain a little about why the book came into existence – as that thing you could hand to a therapist & say, “see page 42”. Do you feel like it turned out to be that book?

Mel- Absolutely! It’s more a tool you carry around in your back pocket than a read-it-once-and-forget-it kind of book. We’ve found so many creative ways to use it for education, but my favorite is just like you mentioned- using it as a shortcut to a mutual understanding. Once we agree on the basic terms, we can talk about all the fun, juicy, personal stuff. That’s the real beauty and value in a book like this to me. It takes the burden off the trans* community to do the 101 educating work over and over again. Instead, they can use this as a fun, easy to understand primer to elevate the discussion and get past those initial hiccups to understanding so that real connection can happen.

Robin- Yes that and MORE! Plenty of people who know a lot about gender have read the book and learned something they didn’t know. Since we have leaders using the book’s images for their presentations on gender or allyship, they have come back to us and said that many people commented on they hadn’t seen the common thread through the spectrum of gender.. they are used to their boxes.. but really gender can be fluid not just in presentation but how community works together and that is a living educational experience many people haven’t had but we have here in Houston

Jay – the GENDER book has proven to be a definite starting point for those kinds of clinical conversations, which is what our intention always was: to generate an accessible primer that could leave folks with the basics to do their own personal work of data gathering to then connect through conversations that once may have been difficult to have.

2) Can you give me a partial list of identities that you cover? Were there any you hadn’t heard of before you started working on it? More

Interview with Yours Truly

Posted by – December 21, 2013

I haven’t done one of these in forever and a day, but here’s a brief interview with me by a very lovely crossdresser named Vivienne who asked me a bunch of questions. I answered most of them.

Here are the questions I did answer:

  1. It’s been several years since She’s Not the Man I Married was published. For those of us who don’t know the latest, could you give us a brief update on where things are with Betty’s transgender journey? … Does this mean hormones and surgery, or something short of that? Legal gender change?

  2. I completely understand your desire to write My Husband Betty, but did you realise or suspect at the time the impact it would have on you? Did you foresee that it would become part of your identity, at least your public one? And is that OK?

  3. What are your plans for your next book?

  4. What else do you write about which isn’t to do with gender? From my point of view, you seem like someone with a point to make, and I suspect you would have made it in a different area if the cards had fallen a little differently. I just wonder what that area might have been.

  5. I admit to feelings of envy when I read your books and realise how open you are to the idea of Betty’s transgender status. I suspect that a question you get asked frequently by crossdressers is: “How can I get my wife to be more like you?”

  6. But my question to you is this: has your acceptance of Betty ever led to problems? Have you been the subject of hostility for your views? …Why do you consider yourself a pain in the ass?

  7. What’s the most difficult thing for you about having a trans husband?

  8. What’s the best thing for you about having a trans husband?

  9. What advice would you give to a woman (perhaps a wife) whose partner has just told her about his crossdressing for the first time?

  10. A theme of my blog has become my (qualified) acceptance of the Freund-Blanchard autogynephilia model. I wondered what your current view about this hypothesis is (you touch on it in My Husband Betty, but I wondered if your views have evolved). … Old men? You mean scientists? Or perhaps priests?

  11. Most crossdressers insist they are straight men attracted to women. Yet some gay men crossdress. What’s your take on that?

  12. What famous person would you most like to meet and why?

Do go read the whole thing. It’s a very smart blog.

Freedom Writers

Posted by – December 10, 2013

I was talking to my mom about Nelson Mandela yesterday, & she reminded me that when I was a young whippersnapper, maybe around 17, I got her to write letters to the South African government to free him. She added, “we wrote one for that lady, too” by whom she mean Aung San Suu Kyi.

I don’t know how much letters do, but I do know that you feel like less of a schmo if you actually do stuff like this.

Five Questions With… ?

Posted by – December 10, 2013

I just sent out two sets of interview questions – one to an activist I like, the other to a few people who’ve made a book – and it occurred to me that I don’t do these very often anymore, but I still like to.

So who else should I interview? Thoughts?

Free Nelson Mandela

Posted by – December 9, 2013

I’ve waited a bit to post this song & video because it’s so celebratory it didn’t seem quite right on the day of Mr. Mandela’s death, but now, maybe it’s time.

This song & video were recorded in 1985 and charted in the UK & was played heavily in Africa. It was most definitely a favorite of any ska fans, recorded as it was by “The Special AKA” – a group of people from The Specials and other ska bands of the time, bands who were intent not just on mixing musical styles but in making sure the bands themselves were diverse.

& It was always such a happy, inspiring, determined song.

It’s hard to explain what it was like the day I turned on the radio to hear some of my favorite DJs crying on the air with the good news that he had, in fact, finally been freed. They played it over & over & over again.

Along with this song by Jesus Jones, it’s one of the very few that really do put me right back in that time & place, but the two times, in some ways, so distinct: 1985 still awash in Reagan/Thatcher, & music was still great. By 1990 you could feel it was all changing: in some ways, “Right Here, Right Now” was the end of optimism, and the stage would soon be set for Nirvana & a much more cynical time. But first, of course, Mandela was freed, we’d optimistically elect Bill Clinton, and the Wall fell.

So in some senses, Mandela’s death after his years as South Africa’s president and as a world ambassador at the age of 95 is really unexpected — because in 1985, it seemed far more likely he would die in jail far short of his 95th birthday. The world is so much better off that he didn’t.

Godspeed Mr. Mandela.

Cleveland Trans Murders

Posted by – December 8, 2013

Two violent murders of trans people happened in two days in Cleveland.

  • Brittany Stergis, 22, was found shot in her car.
  • Betty Skinner, 52, was found dead in her apartment, apparently of head injuries.

Neither has been labeled a hate crime (yet?), and Cleveland police are still looking for information. Their # is 216-623-5464.

Stay safe out there.

Because No-one Is Perfect.

Posted by – December 6, 2013

(via Upworthy)

Defense Attorney Reveals Culture’s Transphobia

Posted by – December 5, 2013

First: At least some justice has been served in the case of Amanda Gonzalez-Andujar, who was killed in March 2010. So at least there has been some justice for another trans woman who was killed by a tranphobic, violent man. Up to 40 years in prison for Rasheen Everett, who apparently was violent toward his girlfriends who weren’t trans, too.

But it was the defense attorney’s transphobic bullshit that really irked me. During the sentencing hearing, as Everett was facing a sentence of 29 years to life, his defense attorney asked:

“Shouldn’t that [sentence] be reserved for people who are guilty of killing certain classes of individuals?” he reportedly asked, adding, “Who is the victim in this case? Is the victim a person in the higher end of the community?”

And then he pointed to Gonzalez-Andujar’s own history, as if, somehow, killing someone who’d had some shit happen in their own life somehow made this violent murder “less bad”. The attorney also referred to Gonzalez-Andujar as “he”.

But Queens Supreme Court Justice Richard Buchter, who described Everett as “coldhearted and violent menace to society,” didn’t take too kindly to Scarpa’s argument. “This court believes every human life in sacred,” he said. “It’s not easy living as a transgender, and I commend the family for supporting her.”

Well done, Justice Butchter.

Two Tune Tuesday: Soft Cell

Posted by – December 3, 2013

They were one of my favorite bands:

I finally got to see them live, too, many, many, many years after I’d memorized all the lyrics to all their songs, & Marc gave me a hug after.

You can watch for about 15 minutes before you work out why I loved them: sleaze, eyeliner, & camp.

(via Dangerous Minds)

Tom Daley’s Not Gay

Posted by – December 3, 2013

I don’t know (or care, really) who Tom Daley is, but here’s the thing: all day they’ve been saying he’s gay, when he says he “still fancies girls” but is happy to be in a relationship currently with a man. To me that means he’s bisexual, or pansexual, or has another word for himself, but “gay” isn’t it.

He never uses the word gay in his video (or homosexual, or any synonym for either).

So, yeah. This is why people don’t think bi people exist – because when they do come out, even if they clearly do not call themselves gay, everyone assumes they’re gay.

It tires me, the way gayness eclipses any other possible sexuality. Cranky queer het that I am.

World AIDS Day

Posted by – December 1, 2013

This is the kind of thing I find myself teaching, or referring to, because I teach things that touch on the history of sexuality and on LGBTQ issues. It’s very hard to get across what it was like to younger people who grew up in an era when people lived long, full, otherwise healthy lives despite AIDS. But now it’s gotten to the point where unprotected anal sex is on the rise, again, which means the rates of infection are going up (again).

I have covered wars, before the epidemic began and since. They are all ugly and painful and unjust, but for me, nothing has matched the dread I felt while walking through the Castro, the Village, or Dupont Circle at the height of the AIDS epidemic. It could seem as if a neutron bomb had exploded: the buildings stood; cars were parked along the roadside; there were newsstands and shops and planes flying overhead. But the people on the street were dying. The Castro was lined with thirty-year-old men who walked, when they could, with canes or by leaning on the arms of their slightly healthier lovers and friends. Wheelchairs filled the sidewalks. San Francisco had become a city of cadavers.

& Honestly, we can do better than that.

It’s World AIDS Day. Get tested, play safe.

Vaginal Knitting

Posted by – November 29, 2013

I can’t really say how much I love this.

(via Gawker)