Class + Trans*

Here’s a nice piece about economics and class, specifically in the US, when it comes to trans people and transition. It’s written by a woman whose sister is transitioning to female.

She ends the piece:

In a perfect world, an individual’s trans*ition would be marked by celebration, dedicated to their instinctive disconnection from their bodies and/or the societal binaries that surround us, and without cost (or, at least, fully-funded). But this isn’t a perfect world.

Ours is a species dominated by cost. And so far, I don’t see any feasible way around it. So, what does that mean? It means either biting the bullet and paying through the nose for procedures that would (hopefully) mean harmony of mind and body, or going without.

What is more difficult is that many trans people cannot get to the point they want without significant medical intervention, and if they always register as trans, will deal with untold amounts of discrimination. It’s frustrating, but true.

Moreso, even if someone can find a way to scrape up the money to have genital surgery and the like, that may mean they are sacrificing something else – going back to school, having kids, buying a home, or whatever other things most people would do with upwards of $20k. Which means that trans people, as a class, are bound to be poorer than their peers — much like women often are.

Proof Needed?

So here’s a weird story: a/n (assumedly cis) woman found the wrong gender marker on her birth certficate and so went to have it changed because she needed to renew her license. She was required to get a copy of her birth record from Vital Record Services where she was told “she’d have to receive Pap exam and deliver to them proof of her reproductive organs”.

“She said I needed to go have a PAP exam, have a doctor write a note verifying you’re a woman, and bring it back-– notarized,” Grimes told FOX 5.

Considering the woman was a mother, she should have just brought in her children.

That said, there *are* women born women who don’t have cervices (that is, the thing a PAP is done on) or uteri. Maybe she was born with sealed labia or a large clitoris, or maybe the M was a clerical error.

The point is: this is stupidly invasive, and makes the bullshit trans people go through that much more apparent to those of us with cis privilege who – accept if we get pregnant in certain states – are rarely forced to show anyone our genitals in order to get the right paperwork signed.

The Night a Feminist Army…

… of loud angry bitches beat the GOP, is the full title. I absolutely love this article about what happened in Texas the night of the 25th. I stayed up and watched it as the midnight hour drew near and passed; I was watching when the time stamp was changed on the vote; I was watching when the “At what point?” question was asked – which should, imho, go down in history as AT LEAST as significant as the “Have you, at long last, no decency?” that was asked during HUAC).

It was an insane thing to see but a proud, proud thing to watch.

A feminist army of loud angry bitches. We need more of them.

SCOTUS: DOMA Sucks and So Does Prop 8

Which many of us knew already, but which the SCOTUS has now, finally, ruled on.

So DOMA is no longer Constitutional – equal protection and all that – and the previous ruling that Prop 8 was unconstitutional has been upheld, too.

It’s a good day to be same sex married.

Even for those of us who are same sex married with hetero privilege – we got married when she was still a boy one – it’s a huge relief. It’s not just about the law – it’s about the message: our marriage is equal.

(The rest of us who live in suck states with DOMAs or superDOMAs in the state constitutions have to move next. That includes Wisconsin.)

RIP Richard Matheson

I’m not a real science fiction junkie, but I am a Twilight Zone nerd; those shows were some of the first ways I started thinking about things in a more complicated, maybe even existential, way. & Matheson wrote some of the best of them: Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (which was in both the TV series and in the movie), The Invaders (one of the very few TV shows with no dialogue at all), Little Girl Lost (which is basis for Poltergeist), Death Ship (super creepy, and starting Jack Klugman), and to me, the very special Once Upon a Time, which starred none other than Buster Keaton.

Here’s one of my all-time favorites, A World of Difference. It brought what Pirandello was after to the American TV audience, imho.

You can watch all of the episodes he wrote or which were based on his stories for free on hulu.

Coming Out as a Bisexual Man

It’s so rare to read a coming out narrative by someone coming out as bi, much less as a bisexual man, but this one covers a lot of interesting ground, including why it took him so long to come out. But these two paragraphs – and sexual orientation and self determination, and about the fluidity of orientation over time, are particularly fascinating:

If you search the internet for “self-identified bisexual men,” you mostly get results questioning (or validating the question, which is almost as bad) of whether they even exist. Even Savage validated this bullshit at one point, though he doesn’t seem to be doing so any more, and since he’s Dan Savage, maybe I want to forgive him more than I should. It’s hard for me to read these things without wanting to break out into tears — it’s taken me a long time to figure out my identity, and to have someone casually take that away from me as if I’m lying…that isn’t ok. Just to pretend that the question of whether bisexual men exist is a legitimate one to ask is abhorrent — to come to the conclusion that we don’t is nothing less than a self-aggrandizing denial of reality. I know who I am now, and who I’ve always been, and no one has the right to take that away from me. No one ever has the right to tell anyone else who to be.

It’s certainly possible for a person to change their position on the spectrum over time. When talking about this with a friend of mine who only recently came out as gay, he freely admitted that earlier in his life, he had absolutely been attracted to both genders, and was never forcing it for the sake of acceptance. As time has gone on, he’s become less attracted to women, and more to men (he currently put himself at a 5 on the Kinsey Scale, but said that in 6 years it’s likely he will have moved even further). That’s not the case for me, though. I’m not “transitioning” to being gay — I will always, always, ALWAYS be attracted to women. I can’t express strongly enough that the day I stop being attracted to either gender is the day my heart stops beating. I’m at the exact same point on the Kinsey Scale (a 2) that I always was. For anyone to insist that I’m just pretending to be one or the other for the sake of acceptance is the height of arrogance and idiocy.

Do read the rest of it.

Coy Mathis Wins

At long last, great news: Coy Mathis was being discriminated against when her school stopped allowing her to use the girls’ room as she had been all along.

According to TLDEF:

This is the first ruling in the nation holding that transgender students must be allowed to use bathrooms that match who they are, and the most comprehensive ruling ever supporting the rights of transgender people to access bathrooms without harassment or discrimination.

Great, GREAT news.

Allyson Robinson Fired from OutServe

A mere nine months into her position, Allyson Robinson was forced to step down as a result of what Bilerico is calling a “board coup”. There does seem to be evidence of board manipulation, but more than anything is the evidence that quite a few other board members – now a third of the board – have resigned in protest.

Because trans military were not included in DADT, and the US military still doesn’t accept openly service trans people, Robinson’s leadership was necessary. We in the trans community will keep watching this closely to see what happened, and where the organization – and the political mission of trans inclusion in the US military – will go from here.

Allyson is both a friend and colleague, and I have no doubt she will go on to do even more amazing things than she has already.

Fund Seattle’s Trans Pride

It hasn’t happened since 1997, and now Seattle is having a Trans Pride March & Rally, but they need a little bit more funding.

From their website:

Why Give to this Campaign:
Gender Justice League was excited to receive a $15,292.00 grant from the City of Seattle’s Neighborhoods Department match-grant program on April 15th for Trans* Pride Seattle! However, to receive these funds we must raise half of this amount by our event date of June 28th, 2013! With your help we can do it! Double your money by donating, for every dollar you give up to $7,500, the City of Seattle will give us two dollars!! Please check out our video, visit the Trans* Pride Seattle website, and share this campaign with your friends, families, and allies!

Even a small donation will help, so help if you can.

Welcome Newbies

I’m noticing a lot of newbies reading and commenting here, so I just wanted to say hello, and maybe add a caveat: this blog is 10 years old, & there’s plenty I’ve written here that I don’t even agree with anymore. So do keep that in mind as you read, or not. I don’t like editing/changing history, so I leave it as is, but do please ask for an update if you find yourself reading an old post & wondering why I’m such an asshole.

Otherwise, welcome!

How (Not) To Be An Ally

My patience for snark is really, really low these days, but I still found some of the gems in “8 Ways Not To Be An “Ally”: A Non-Comprehensive List” pretty useful.

But I’m still going to re-articulate them for those who don’t understand irony. I’ve put her comments in italics, and tried to articulate in my earnest, non-snarky way, why this list is so vital. I’ve also added one of my own.

1. Assume one act of solidarity makes you an ally forever means fighting oppression is an ongoing, day to day struggle that doesn’t come with much resolution if any. One day the world is not going to just be better. Which means that you, as an ally, need to keep doing whatever work you do to minimize racism, sexism, homphobia, etc.

2. Make everything about your feelings, or, it’s not about you. The best way to go about this is to shut up and listen. That’s all. Stop talking so much. Listen. Pretend you don’t have an opinion and that other people’s lived experiences are actually as valid as your own. It’s a nutty idea, I know, but it’s true. People who live with marginalization are often – shocker! – at least as smart as you, if not smarter.

3.  Date ’em all will not, in any way, make you an ally automatically. In fact, it could instead mean that you’re a fetishizing, exploitive, clueless jerk. (Trans admirers take special note here, please.)

4. Don’t see race/gender/disability/etc. is a good way of eliminating someone’s identity and specifically an identity which – because of the sexist, racist, transphobic, ablesist culture we live in, tends to essentialize a person due to that marginalization. Not seeing that aspect of them is belittling and really only lets you off the hook, free from your white liberal guilt. That is, it does nothing for people who are marginalized, but everything for people who aren’t.

5. Don’t try any harder, or, try until you succeed, not just until your white liberal guilt is assuaged. See above. Continue reading “How (Not) To Be An Ally”

Five Questions With… Joy Ladin

I had the chance recently to ask Joy Ladin, the author of Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey Between Genders, a few questions. What followed was a conversation about transition, marriage, separation, spirituality and religion.

1)      I was a little surprised that there wasn’t more about theology, and specifically Judaism, in your story. Is there a reason you shied away from addressing the issue of transness & religion head on?

I don’t feel I shied away from talking about transness and religion; I talk quite directly about how Judaism, particularly the Torah, and Jewish communal norms, affected my sense of my gender identity when I was growing up, and the course of my transition after. But my intention in the book was to talk about trans identity and its consequences in very personal terms, rather than to reflect about general issues. As I say in the book, I grew up in a family that barely practiced Judaism; being Jewish was an ethnicity, not a religion, for us. I was religious, but I more or less invented the Judaism I practiced, based on my reading of the Torah and scattershot study of Judaism. I wasn’t interested in theology; I was interested in God, with whom I have had an intense relationship from early childhood to the present. Since the book was finished, I written a number of pieces that are part of the fledgling but growing discourse of trans Jewish theology, but I hadn’t done any of that when I wrote the book. What issues did you want me to address that weren’t in the book? I’d be happy to address them now.

** Fair enough. I guess because your employment was at an Orthodox school, and so many people seem desperate to disprove some of the Torah’s verdicts on gender and sexuality, I expected a specific take. I’d be curious to know what the themes are of the pieces you’re writing now about trans Jewish theology.

Traditional Judaism doesn’t directly address transgender identity. There is the prohibition against cross-dressing in Deuteronomy, which I discuss in my memoir, rabbinic prohibitions against doing anything that would impair male fertility that are taken by many Orthodox rabbis as prohibiting male-to-female transition, and a brief discussion in the Talmud about how to integrate intersex Jews into Jewish law and community. Strikingly, the rabbis WANT to include intersex Jews, and reinterpret the law to make that possible. Yeshiva University made Orthodox Jewish history when it allowed me to return to teaching after transition, but that was clearly in response to secular law rather than a desire to be a trend-setter in terms of Orthodox Judaism. However, there are many trans Jews living in the Orthodox Jews. Most are in hiding, but many are “out” to their rabbis, who are privately empathetic. I have recently heard of one Orthodox community whose rabbi has explicitly welcomed a trans member, and the Orthodox world is in the midst of an intense discussion of how to respond to LGBTQ Jews in their midst who can no longer be quietly ignored or exiled. There are now several organizations, including Eshel and Keshet, of which I am a board member, working toward full inclusion of LGBTQ Jews in the Jewish world.  I think it’s a time of difficult but positive change. My work on trans Jewish theology is still preliminary, but you can hear some of my thinking in this podcast of my talk to rabbinical students and their teachers at the Jewish Theological Society, and read some in this essay, written for the first Jewish Trans Gathering last fall in Berkeley, CA. I discuss the intersection of trans and Jewish identity more generally in this podcast of my conversation with Lilith editor Susan Weidman Schneider at last fall’s  DC JCC Jewish Book Festival.

Also, there is this conversation with Rev. Shay Kearns which took place at the Encountering Sacred Texts panel at the 2012 Philadelphia Trans Health Conference – in conversation with Rev. Shay Kearns: Part 1 and Part 2.

2)      Betty has commented that she thinks she wound up an actor in order to find some kind of man she might be able to be (but didn’t). I’m wondering if the conservative gender roles assigned by religion now seem like a bulwark against your own sense of gender incongruence.

As I discuss in the book, I found in teaching literature as a profession – a vocation – in which I could feel close to people in a way that seemed to me to temporarily transcend gender. As I said in the book, I’m not and have never been an Orthodox Jew, or a practitioner of any conservative or traditional form of Judaism. I commute to the Orthodox world, because I teach at an Orthodox Jewish university, but I don’t live the way my students live, and my gender identity and expression have nothing to do with theirs, or with Orthodox Judaism’s gender roles. I’ve never looked to Judaism for guidance about my gender identity or expression either when living as a man or now that I’m living as myself. Continue reading “Five Questions With… Joy Ladin”

ATP: Association of Transgender Professionals

A press release about the launch of ATP crossed my desk the other day, which read in part:

New York, NY, June 7, 2013 – The Association of Transgender Professionals (ATP), was formally dedicated this week, according to ATP Executive Director, Denise Norris and endorsed by a national advisory board of voluntary leaders and allies.

The association is intended primarily to serve people who have, had or will have non-conforming gender expressions/identities and seek to advance their professional careers.

The goal of this group is to encourage the networking and mentoring which strengthens careers and promotes the next generation of leaders.

To learn more about the Association of Transgender Professionals and its vision and goals, please visit and view an introductory video on You Tube.

It seems they’ve also received a Calamus challenge grant for $25k, which means that every dollar donated will be matched by Calamus.

Good luck to you, ATP!

Minus Dad

I wanted to send my love out to all of you – which includes me – who don’t have a dad to celebrate this year.

Some days, Facebook just feels like a plague of shitty, happy people.

Still, I will spend mine on a bike, in the sun, & call my mother, as all those things would have made my dad happiest. (I will leave the eating of cured meats to my siblings.)

& Now I will get back to my marathon screenings of Mad Men. More on that another day.

Trans Elders

Although the language seems a little dated (“transgendered” and “T-girls” most especially) these seem like worthwhile studies and good for anyone providing medical services for trans people, especially an aging population.

The transgendered population confronts a myriad of difficulties which hospice must also address.  Socially, transgendered folk, gentle folk, find themselves relegated to a near-netherworld existence.  Forced to society’s fringes they feel isolated, even abandoned, by family and friends.  They may find their friendships restricted to a “gay-friendly” environment or to other ‘T-girls’.  Many T-girls succumb to a personal economic collapse with a loss of job, loss of insurance, and even a homeless existence.

I like “gentle folk”. While it’s not always true, you get a sense of who Dr. Killeen “met” by reading these studies. At least I do.