“Preferred” Pronoun

Every once in a while when I’m doing Trans 101 I have this split second where I’m saying something standard that all of a sudden rings in my ears as blatantly false. Tonight it was this whole “preferred pronoun” business, which strikes me as kind of goofy.

It’s an accurate pronoun. Not preferred. Preference is like whether you like chocolate or vanilla ice cream. We don’t use it often to talk about queer sexual orientations anymore, so why use it for pronouns?



Lou Reed: Sex and Gender Songs

Lou Reed wrote a song about undergoing electroshock therapy because his parents thought he was gay. It was called “Kill Your Sons.”

He wrote “Candy Says” about Candy Darling, one of the Warhol Factory’s out trans women. (There were quite a few trans women involved in Warhol’s stuff, including – Ms. Darling, Holly Woodlawn, Jackie Curtis & Jayne County.)

He wrote “Walk on the Wild Side” which inspired a ton of trans people to say “Wait, what? That’s possible?” when it came to gender transformation.

He wrote “Coney Island Baby” – and the whole of that collection of songs – for a trans girlfriend of his named Rachel.

Then of course there’s “Venus in Furs”, too, which is a whole other thing altogether, but certainly of interest to a certain subset of y’all.


Domestic Partner Benefits Considered By WI State Supreme Court

So this happened in Wisconsin today: arguments were made to & for Wisconsin’s domestic partner benefits & registry.

At issue is whether domestic partnerships create a legal status that is “substantially similar” to marriage and therefore violate the state’s 2006 constitutional ban on gay marriage.

Gov. Jim Doyle signed the state’s domestic partnership registry into law as part of the 2009-2011 biennial budget. Domestic partnerships grant same-sex couples limited benefits, including visitation rights in hospitals and the right to inherit each other’s assets.

Julaine Appling, the executive director of Wisconsin Family Action, a socially conservative organization that opposes homosexuality, unsuccessfully petitioned the Supreme Court to take jurisdiction in an original action in 2009. The domestic partner registry has since been ruled constitutional by Dane County Judge Daniel Moeser, with that decision upheld by a state appeals court.

The appeals court ruled that, when considering eligibility requirements, formation requirements, rights, obligations, and termination requirements, “the ‘legal status’ of a domestic partnership is not ‘substantially similar’ to the ‘legal status’ of marriage.”

The idea is this: domestic partner benefits offer a few basic rights to same sex couples which come nowhere near what marriage bestows, but these wingnuts have taken the case to court in order to prove that even something as simple as hospital visitation “mimics” marriage which is expressly forbidden by the state’s super-DOMA.

Of course the problem is that Wisconsin has a super DOMA in the first place, and it can’t be challenged, even, until 2015.

Honestly, the whole fracas is embarrassing, especially now that it’s obvious which way the wind is blowing, but these conservative wingnuts are digging their heels in deeper now that it’s apparent they are losing the war (even if/when they win the battles).


Honestly, it’s like living in the Dark Ages, but cheers to my friends Kathy & Ann who are willing to stand up for their rights.

Trans Oriented / Trans Attracted

Call me old school, but I still prefer Trans Am. BUT, check it out! Straight dude comes out as straight! No, as a trans inclusive straight guy.

I’ve had enough of this shaming. It’s created a disgusting culture of trans-attracted men using trans women for sex but never forming a committed relationship with them. Most trans-attracted men are only trans-attracted at night. Then, during the day, they run back to their heteronormative relationships with cis-women of whom they are not ashamed.  Even men who are in committed relationships with trans women will often tell those women that they could never introduce them to their friends or family. Imagine a woman who has been to hell and back trying to transition into who she really is only to be told by her lover that he is ashamed to be with her.

I’ve had enough of this shaming, too, so may there be legions right behind him.

GLB not T?

So here’s a bunch of interesting reading on that old horse of whether gay and trans politics are bedfellows, allied, or not – a series of pieces in the NYT (the NYT!) from people like Susan Stryker and Laverne Cox and Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore (who is, by the by, currently on tour).

From Susan Stryker:

Remember that in 1969, rebellion and resistance by the queens and hair fairies of Christopher Street transformed a police raid at the Stonewall Inn into a defiant act of “gay liberation.” Twenty years later, “queer” politics included transgender as another version of what it called “antiheteronormativity.” The ’90s version of “queer” morphed into the L.G.B.T. community of recent years — an abbreviation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender — and for transfolk, it was politically invaluable to be part of that coalition. It still is.

From John Corvino:

But sometimes the answer is no: It does not always make sense to try to align sexual orientation and gender identity in one coalition. Each group has distinctive needs and challenges. By jumbling them all together into one alphabet soup — L.G.B.T.Q.I.T.S.L.F.A.A.*, anyone? — we run the risk of covering or erasing people’s experiences, especially those who are already most marginalized.

*In case you were wondering, it stands for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, two-spirit, leather-fetish, asexual and allies.” Even I had to ask about some of the letters.

& From Mattilda:

The gay movement would like us to think that gay marriage will give everyone housing and health care; that openly gay soldiers pressing buttons in Nevada to obliterate Somali villages means homophobia is on the wane; that strengthening the criminal legal system through hate crime legislation will bring murdered queers back to life. This is what we lose when we think of identity as an endpoint – just add “gay” (or even less acceptable terms like “queer” or “trans”) to any oppressive institution, and suddenly you have the new civil rights struggle. Gay marriage, gays in the military, gay members of Congress, gay priests, gay cops — what’s next?

So while a lot of my readers may be very familiar with all of these arguments, it’s a good introduction to the idea – and to the ideas of category & alliance – for newbies.

Alison Bechdel!

Tomorrow, Alison Bechdel is speaking at Lawrence as part of our convocation series. We’re currently teaching Fun Home in Freshmen Studies, so it’s a very, very cool thing that she’s coming to speak, and I am very much looking forward to it.

I spent my young 20s reading Dykes to Watch Out For in The Voice – and that was at a time when I was regularly clocked as a dyke and friends were coming out around me, so she is very much part of my own personal queer history.

HUD Backs Trans Couple

So this is cool news: a trans person and her partner were evicted from their housing, and…

 More than a year later, the Justice Department followed through on filing the case, which seeks any injunction restoring the couple’s housing, barring discrimination against them, and awarding them unspecified money damages.

     Transgender Equality’s director of policy Harper Jean Tobin said in an email that she was not aware of any other case in which the HUD has gone to court over anti-transgender discrimination.

     “The U.S. Departments of Justice and Education recently settled an administrative complaint brought under Title IX by a transgender student in California – the case was investigated by the two departments but the settlement kept it from ever going to court,” Tobin wrote.

Although every time I read a similar story I’m still always stuck thinking about how exactly stupid it is that, as a country, it’s still okay to deny people housing (or anything else) based on their genders.

Coming Out Straight?

Really, has it come to this? Lifelong lesbian moves to SF & starts dating & having sex with men.

Except the title’s all wrong since it’s part of a series about bisexuality, in fact.

Still, I loved this:

As if the hot boi in the bow tie and suspenders would suddenly leap up and pronounce me a fraud between Le Tigre mashups.

Because of course that hot boi in the bow tie could very well be a fraud in ‘not queer enough’ sense she’s making reference to, and really, who cares anymore? Does anyone care? & Yes, I know they do. I know lesbians who married men who got endless shit about it, got called sellouts & worse. I know that to some people I am not queer enough & never will be.

But it’s so, so tiresome, all of us always explaining and defending our authenticity. So how’s this: what if we all just leave labels out of it & have sex with who we want?

I know, that’s just nuts, isn’t it?

Coming Out Ace

Okay, so they’ve made asexuality sound cool by shortening it to Ace – as Eddie Izzard would say, “well done there.” Because the culture at large tends to think of asexuality as kind of boring otherwise, right? So many preconceptions for those of us who are sexual, so many new ways of seeing.

As I’ve often admitted, it’s a hard one for me to understand. I understand celibacy – and even choosing celibacy. I wrote a column about not having sex as a feminist a few years back for Jezebel, even. And I especially love the kinds of distinctions that asexual people are bringing to the table – distinctions between sexual and romantic attraction, for instance. As with the kink community, some things that are central or vitally important to one community can be useful to a lot of others, so that we can all think about things in more complex ways that actually describe – as opposed to prescribe – out experiences and identities.

With that, here’s one “coming out as ace” advice page, and here’s another, and here’s a coming out story by someone else who identifies as asexual.

(Also,  I want especially to thank the students here at Lawrence, many of them involved with GLOW, who have been willing to explain, describe, and answer dumb questions from their sex positive prof. You know who you are.)


Getting Thanks

I just wanted to say: there is rarely anything that makes me as happy as hearing a thank you from a reader, especially a wife or partner, for my books. It’s entirely humbling, but it is the kind of thing that I look at when I’m worried about everything or down about everything and I can think: well someone’s day sucked a little less because of what I wrote and published.

And that is not even something I thought would happen and certainly never expected but am still regularly very, very proud of.

American Women Dying Younger Than Their Moms?

This is upsetting but important reading: American women are dying at younger ages than their mothers.

For some Americans, the reality is far worse than the national statistics suggest. In particular, growing health disadvantages have disproportionately impacted women over the past three decades, especially those without a high-school diploma or who live in the South or West. In March, a study published by the University of Wisconsin researchers David Kindig and Erika Cheng found that in nearly half of U.S. counties, female mortality rates actually increased between 1992 and 2006, compared to just 3 percent of counties that saw male mortality increase over the same period.

“I was shocked, actually,” Kindig said. “So we went back and did the numbers again, and it came back the same. It’s overwhelming.”

Kindig’s findings were echoed in a July report from University of Washington researcher Chris Murray, which found that inequality in women’s health outcomes steadily increased between 1985 and 2010, with female life expectancy stagnating or declining in 45 percent of U.S. counties. Taken together, the two studies underscore a disturbing trend: While advancements in medicine and technology have prolonged U.S. life expectancy and decreased premature deaths overall, women in parts of the country have been left behind, and in some cases, they are dying younger than they were a generation before. The worst part is no one knows why.

No one knows why.

Worse yet is this:

Other researchers have pointed out the correlation between education rates and declining female health outcomes. The most shocking study, published in August 2012 by the journal Health Affairs, found that life expectancy for white female high-school dropouts has fallen dramatically over the past 18 years. These women are now expected to die five years earlier than the generation before them—a radical decline that is virtually unheard of in the world of modern medicine. In fact, the only parallel is the spike in Russian male mortality after the fall of the Soviet Union, which has primarily been attributed to rising alcohol consumption and accidental death rates.

“It’s unprecedented in American history to see a drop in life expectancy of such magnitude over such a short time period,” said Jay Olshansky, the lead author of the study. “I don’t know why it happened so rapidly among this subgroup. Something is different for the lives of poor people today that is worse than it was before.”

It’s horrifying that this is the case in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, but yes, let’s shut down the government because poor women need pap smears.

Genderqueer ID’d

It’s such a rare thing, to find a news story about someone who identifies as genderqueer. Usually, the news tories are full of what I like to call “traditional trassexual people” – meaning, those who follow a traditional path, going from one gender to “the other”.

“So for me, genderqueer is just a … different label for how I express my gender in a way that to me is not man or woman.”

Evnen dropped the pronouns “she” and “her” for personal identification, preferring the use of “they” or “them.” Emily became Ev.

Identifying as genderqueer didn’t change Evnen, but it was liberating.

“I just finally had a word that I could use to describe myself,” they — Evnen — said. “It gave me a little bit more space to kind of explore and play, and wear ties more frequently.”

They are surrounded by a community of family and friends, both in Cambridge, Mass., where they now live, and in their hometown of Lincoln, to which they return frequently, most recently to have wisdom teeth removed.

Evnen’s father, Richard, gets it.

“I also believe that a person’s gender and their identity that springs forth from that gender contains elements of both genders. It’s sort of a slider,” he said. “Some people are maybe more to one end of that spectrum than the other. Some people are more in the middle.”

Thanks for the Lincoln Journal Star & the journalist JoAnne Young for getting it right. Even those Young used “she” pronouns, she did so only because that pronoun was relevant to the story, and switched to Ev’s preferred gender neutral pronouns as soon as that was out of the way.

TIL: Ashley Altadonna’s Top 30, Part 3

The problem isn’t just trans exclusion. It’s gender exclusion. Feminism is for everyone:


People sometimes ask me when I knew I was transgender.  Usually I say around the time puberty set in and the differences between me and the girls I knew began to become more apparent.  I can recall wanting to play with the girls as far back as elementary school.  However, the girls at recess didn’t have much interest in an awkward geeky boy hanging around.

I have always considered myself a feminist.  By feminist I mean someone who believes women are just as equal to men and deserve the same rights and respect.  As I began to experience my own womanhood, feminism became even more important to me.  I am very fortunate to have some seriously stellar lady friends in my life that have been instrumental in my development as a female.  These inspiring women go all the way back to high school and have helped see me through college and my transition.

With all this awesome girl power and female bonding going on around me, I was seriously taken aback when I learned that there are a number of women and radical feminists who refuse to recognize transwomen as women. What is confounding about many of these women is that while they don’t believe that “biology equals destiny”, yet they judge transwomen on what we have/had between our legs.  They claim that we were raised with male privilege and no amount of hormones, electrolysis, or surgery will make us “real women”.

A big matter of contention among this crowd tends to be the issue of transwomen in “women only” spaces.  By their reasoning transwomen are invading (and some…ahem, Janice Raymond…have gone as far as saying “raping”) women’s bodies, safety, and comfort when transwomen dare to be part of female groups and activities.  Yet a lot of these women will welcome trans-masculine people openly into their organizations and events.  This is trans-misogyny plain and simple.

Transwomen have a lot to offer feminism and indeed it is crucial that transwomen be part of the feminist conversation.  Those who denounce transwomen as fake and refuse to recognize our femininity are like those girls elementary school who wouldn’t let “boys” be part of their game.

I love her take on this, too:


I have read that some individuals take issue with trans folks because we supposedly “reinforce the idea of a gender binary”.  Their view is that through our transitions trans individuals are somehow trying to fashion themselves into an idealized image of what a “real” man or woman should be, and therefore supporting the notion that men and women should look and act a certain way.  This is notion is flat out ridiculous.

While it is true that for many trans folks attempting to gain access to hormone therapies and surgeries, portraying themselves as overly feminine or masculine is a means of dealing with gatekeepers.  This does not mean that we are reinforcing the gender binary. Instead, this is an unfair burden placed upon trans folks to work within the restrictions imposed by the Standards of Care.

What really debunks this concept is that it holds trans people to a higher standard than cisgender individuals.  If a transwoman is reinforcing the gender binary by wearing make-up and a dress then by the same thinking ANY woman wearing make-up and feminine attire would be reinforcing the gender binary.  Any man who chooses to sport a tie would be reinforcing the gender binary as well.  In other words, if trans people are reinforcing the binary, then we all are.

Because well, yes, we all are, we all do. We make concessions to binary gender because it’s fucking easier, and there’s no good reason trans people have some special mission to deconstruct the binary so that cis people can be liberated from it.