Me, 4/26, FORGE in Milwaukee

I’m going to be speaking at FORGE in Milwaukee in late April and if you sign up to come you can get a free copy of my book in whatever format you choose. Here’s the info:

We would call it March Madness but it’s carefully thought out:  Come to FORGE’s March 22nd meeting and you can receive Helen Boyd’s book She’s Not the Man I Married: My Life with a Transgender Husband.  Read it, share it, talk about it with your friends, and then join us at the April 26, 2014 meeting to discuss it with the author herself!

Anyone planning to attend April’s meeting with Helen Boyd is encouraged to pick up their book on March 22, 2014.  We encourage people who have never attended a FORGE meeting before to join us for this exciting community-based book discussion.  [If you cannot pick up your copy on March 22, contact michael (tgwarrior [at] forge-forward [dot] org) to make arrangements.]

Share this opportunity with your friends, partner(s), colleagues, and family as one way of expanding knowledge about relationship dynamics and partner issues.

Note: Both bound, paper copies and electronic versions will be available.

I’m so excited about doing this and looking forward to meeting you all.

“Making Trans Parents Visible” – co-authored by me

So this is cool: the article I co-authored with a colleague (Beth Haines) and a former student (Alex Ajayi) has been published in Feminism & Psychology, and is now available online.

Here’s the abstract:

This article explores the self-reported parenting challenges of 50 transgender parents based on an online survey of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans parents in the United States. Many trans parents transitioned after forming a family, whereas others had children after or even during transition. They coordinated their transition with parenting responsibilities, and carefully managed their visibility in parenting settings to protect their children. This analysis focuses on the challenges that trans parents faced at the intersection of their parenting and trans identities. Although trans parents share many of the concerns of cisgender parents, they also face unique challenges that must often be navigated without extensive support. Revealing these challenges increases trans parents’ visibility in society, and could help therapists and school administrators become more sensitive to the intersectional identities of trans people and the stressors unique to trans parenting.

Some of the other articles from the same special issue on trans include:

  • What makes a man? Thomas Beatie, embodiment, and ‘mundane transphobia’
  • Trans men and friendships: A Foucauldian discourse analysis
  • Who watches the watchmen? A critical perspective on the theorization of trans people and clinicians

Neat.

Sir Barbie

Hello my geeky feminist readers – check this out:

It’s a kickstarter by my friend Jim Rodda, who is exactly the kind of guy you’d expect to create armor for Barbie.

So donate, & help Barbie kick some dragon ass. He’s at $2536 & I want to see him hit his goal of $5k before the week ends, so get the word out.

Why Hygiene is Education

There’s an awesome article up at Jezebel called “What Life is Like When Getting Your Period Means Being Shunned” that goes into detail about the nature of “red tents” – that is, the practice of women removing themselves from the family home while they’re menstruating.

But then this line just screamed at me:

“They had struggled for years without toilets, but when they began to menstruate, it got too difficult. It was easier to drop out.”

Because this is one of those examples of why *just* providing girls with an education doesn’t always work. There is all the other stuff – expectations of them doing chores at home, concerns about chastity, desirability, finances, sexual harassment and violence, but over and above that, there is the simple issue of hygiene.

The quote in context:

The specific health impacts of poor menstrual hygiene have been little explored. Anecdotally, the use of unhygienic menstrual protection has been linked to reproductive tract infections such as bacterial vaginosis and vulvovaginal candidiasis, as well as secondary infertility, urinary tract infections and anaemia. Yet a 2013 survey of existing research literature found that evidence to support any link between poor menstrual hygiene and these conditions was “weak and contradictory”. “Raising awareness regarding menstruation and hygienic practices,” the authors wrote in their conclusion, “has remained largely a neglected area in terms of research, despite its increasing popularity amongst public health organisations.”

There are other costs. A PlanIndia study in 2010 found that 23 per cent of Indian girls dropped out of school permanently when they reached puberty, and that girls missed school for an average five days a month each for the lack of decent sanitation or menstrual products. Their schools had no toilets or disgusting ones, or there was no privacy. They had struggled for years without toilets, but when they began to menstruate, it got too difficult. It was easier to drop out.

We know already that better-educated girls are less likely to die in childbirth or of HIV/AIDS, are more likely to use contraception, are more likely to know about good child nutrition, and generally have a better chance of a healthy and productive life. As such, any sign that school dropouts are linked to menstrual hygiene should have government officials in education, development, empowerment and health rushing to build safe toilets and talk loudly and frankly about periods – if they weren’t as hampered by taboo as those women in their petticoats performing rituals to right imaginary fault.

I’ve been teaching feminist theory this past winter and so am always thinking about why it is that so many people seem to think feminism is now unnecessary or unneeded. And while I am astonished that anyone could say that kind of thing about women in the global north — especially with these misogynist politicians passing draconian rules and laws – but the global south still faces other issues.

CFP: Letters From Our Partners

Call for Submissions: Letters From Our Partners
Deadline: April 1, 2014
Word Limit: 2500
Publisher: Transgress Press
Contact: jess@iamsocialjustice.com

Letters From Our Partners, inspired by the 2011 Lambda Literary Finalist Letters For My Brothers: Transitional Wisdom in Retrospect, is an anthology of letters written by partners/spouses of trans* people to their trans* partner(s). We are looking for personal stories from partners who are or have been in a relationship with trans men, trans women, and/or non-binary trans* people.
We are interested in stories related to but not limited to:

• Personal Identity: How is or has your identity been challenged or supported by your partner(s)’s identity? What gender roles and expressions have evolved through these relationships? Has your self perception of your own gender or identity evolved or changed? What about your perception of gender outside your relationship?

• Relationship Disclosure: How has your relationship(s) impacted personal, community, family, work, etc., based relationships, roles, etc.? Do you or your partner(s) disclose your partner(s)’s trans status to people you know in these different circles? What has their reaction been?

• Physical Embodiment: Has your partner(s) chosen to access medical transition? If so, how has this medical transition affected your relationship? Have differences in hormones impacted your relationship emotionally, mentally, spiritually, sexually, etc? How has your partner(s)’s desire or lack thereof for surgical procedures affected your relationship dynamics, your gender role as a partner, or your identity?

• Identity Disclosure: What was/is your partner(s)’s coming out process like personally, professionally, etc? How has this disclosure impacted your life as his/her/their partner?

• Relationship Dynamics: What changes have occurred in your relationship and across relationships? Have you shifted from monogamy to polyamory, or vice versa? Did you ever consider ending your relationship? Have you raised children? Have you connected with or distanced yourselves from extended family? Were these changes related to your partner(s)’s transition or trans status? If so, how?

• Support System: As a partner how have you found support? What supports did or do you need? At what point(s) in your relationship did you need the most support? Has this support brought about success in your relationship or your life? If so, how?

• Self Care: How do you manage your own needs as a partner? Has your own identity ever contradicted or complicated your partner(s)’s social, medical, or internal gender transition? If so, how do you manage this contradiction?

• Identity Intersection(s): How does class, race, ability, religion, education access, immigration, military service, family status, gender expression, gender identity, sexual orientation, and physical embodiment and the like also come up regarding you and your partner(s) before, during, and after a gender transition process or lack thereof?
About the editors:

Jessica Pettitt is a social justice educator and works to connect people to the solution to their problems. As the queer wife of a transman and co-parent to two mutts, Jess calls Northern California home. In between traveling from campus to campus and organization to organization, she also serves as a reader and editor for a lot of publications and has published several articles herself including a reflection journal. The second and third edition of this journal and a huge facilitation guide for this resource will be published within the year.

Jordon Johnson, M.S.W., M.A., is the Coordinator for the McKinley Community PLACE MATTERS team, which seeks to change systems that perpetuate environmental health disparities related to the impacts of institutional racism and multi-generational trauma, by empowering participating communities within the county to impact equitable policy change. He has taught courses in Social Work and American Studies in universities throughout New Mexico. He is currently a PhD Candidate in American Studies at the University of New Mexico.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Public Names & Private Lives

Interesting piece in the NYT by a porn star about the disctinction between public and private. She says some interesting things that reflect my own experience having a pen name very, very well.

Maybe it would be easier to navigate the dissolving boundaries between public and private spaces if we all had a variety of names with which to signal the aspects of ourselves currently on display.

and

The strangers who call me Jessica at publicity appearances lean in far too close. They hiss it as if they have top-secret information. All they’re doing is letting me know that they had 30 seconds to spend on Google and no sense of propriety — which may sound funny coming from a woman who flagrantly disregards it herself.

and

My stage name is less about withholding parts of myself or maintaining privacy than it is a symbol of the idea that I am more than just my job or any other isolated slice of my identity.


and still:

The whole kerfuffle doesn’t need to be as dramatic as people seem to think. For me, choosing a stage name felt less like concealing my identity (especially since I’d just turned over my Social Security number to strangers) and more like deciding on a user name for any Internet service or website.

In my case having a pen name which is not the same as my legal name has done one additional thing: gives me something in common with the community I work for. I am regularly asked (1) what my “real name” is – it’s the one I just told you when I introduced myself, thanks, or I would have said something else – which trans people get all the time and which is rude no matter who is asking, or why. Similarly, I hear (2) “were you embarrassed that everyone knows so much about you?” – um, yeah, no, but like every other human being, I do prefer talking about myself over having other people talk about me in negative, gossipy ways, which is part of the huge reason trans people don’t tell you their former name, because they don’t want you going off and gossiping about it to someone else, or worse yet, using it like they’re “in” and then, finally, (3) “does anyone still call you G?” and yes, some do, but until or unless I ask you to, please call me the name I introduced myself to you with, or, See #1.

Helen’s my real name. It happens to be my legal middle name. I am not “hiding” anything but instead trying to have a tiny bit of personal life and am not, always, The Helen Boyd Show. I’m sure both me and Stoya occasionally like to be at home, eating a can of soup, wondering when we’re going to get around to doing our taxes.

Transitioned Couple

They’re awesome, no?

(via LGBTQ Nation)

Genders and Terminology

Vis a vis yesterday’s post about language and labels and pronouns, there’s this awesome set of photos of LGBTQ* identified people with the ways they identify.

  • Queer Power Bottom Princess
  • Trans Queer Parent
  • Rural Queer
  • Queer Femme
  • Queer Butch Trans Top
  • Gay Masculine of Center
  • Daddy Femme Dyke Dom Queen
  • Inbetweener
  • Cisgenderqueer Feminist Butch Queen
  • Provocateur Lesbian Dandy

That last one is too awesome.So what’s yours? If I were to think about it, I think I’d wind up somewhere near Pansexual Queer Tomboy. Het Dyke. Depends on the Day.

 

Trans + Language

Here’s a cool article about pronouns and etiquette in the shifting landscape that is Genderland. She interviewed me (though I didn’t make the cut) and many, many others for this piece. Still, Susan Stryker, Don Kulick, and Mara Keisling are quoted. I’d say the only thing she got wrong was referring to “sex-change surgery” but she mentions it only to point out that only changing someone’s pronouns because of it is bad practice.

Many of the words on the Facebook list, such as “trans*” (the asterisk indicates a “wildcard” search term, so the word means, basically, “trans-anything”), “genderqueer,” “gender questioning,” or “neutrois,” come largely from younger people and online forums and suggest a much more fluid approach to gender. For newcomers, as the various media guides suggest, they may be puzzling. “Most of America probably hasn’t experienced those words yet, and some of those just are very new,” said Mara Keisling, founding executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.

What surprises me is that there’s anyone who is surprised by a list of 50+ gender options. You could easily have a list of 100.

A Real Doll

Lammily’s a doll based on the average measurements of a 19 year old woman, taken from the CDC’s data.

Go help fund the making of this doll! Awesome.

Hairdresser on Fire

snipIII have a friend who gives me awesome haircuts, like this one, when I’m in NYC, and I realized recently I’ve never mentioned his work here on my blog, and should. Why? He’s about as trans friendly as trans friendly gets, having done drag himself for a gazillion years. And he really really really loves making people look fantastic.

<<  And this is his card, which really explains his whole thing on its own without me blathering on, but of course, do let him know I sent you: alexandercolby(at)gmail(dot)com.

(if you’re wondering about the post’s title, you really need to watch this.)

Calpernia Addams on Acting, Trans, and Representation

Calpernia Addams – the “Callie Adams” Jared Leto thanked from the stage at the Oscars – wrote a piece about trans people, representation, and Hollywood that I think is worth reading.

Jared Leto was kind enough to mention me in his 2014 Independent Spirit Awards acceptance speech (as part of a typically “Jared” list of people involved in the film alongside random notable people) and next he really surprised me by thanking me in his Oscar acceptance speech.

As I’ve said before, my job was to sit down with him and answer lots of questions about what it’s like to be trans, and to make a recording of me reading his lines from the script. From there, Jared did Jared’s thing: a brilliant, eccentric artist created his own performance of a movie character. A movie character who happens to be some form of trans, in this case. Some of his follow up speeches left something to be desired when it came to speaking well on the issues facing his movie character, especially against the backdrops of current politics and social movements. I suppose it’s doubly rare to be a gifted artist AND a great political speaker. But personally, I thought Rayon seemed like a nice person and a real human being. I’ve known people like Rayon.

Anyone who’s followed my 11 years in Hollywood knows that I’ve always advocated for trans people to play trans roles. But I also refuse to shoot down powerful people who take steps to bring human trans portrayals to the screen, even if they are played by a non-trans female (Felicity Huffman in Transamerica, Hilary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry) or a non-trans male (Lee Pace in Soldier’s Girl, Jared in Dallas Buyers Club). To all indications, Georges du Fresne was not a trans child when he played “Ludovic” in Ma Vie En Rose, but that incredible film continues to resonate with trans people and families of trans children. Good and important portrayals can come from non-trans actors. That may be an inconvenient truth, but there you have it.

Sure, I’d love to get these roles as an actress with a history of transition, or see them go to other trans actors. Heck, I’d love to play non-trans roles! But I’m not so short-sighted that I’ll destroy allies and advocates. Even less than perfect allies, if I think the overall contribution is beneficial. This is a view that comes from long actual experience and familiarity with the business. Some small but vocal groups will disagree; that’s just the nature of contentious issues. You can do your thing and I’ll do mine. There are many ways to contribute.

But beware: the same logic that leaves zero room for a non-trans actor to try a trans role will then be used to mandate that trans actors should not be able to play non-trans roles. And that would piss me off.

Leto’s “Rayon” is not the rock upon which I’d make my last stand concerning this issue. His performance is just an inspiration for this discussion. I advocate for positive portrayals and opportunities for trans people in the media. Some people are displeased that this particular portrayal, “Rayon”, is another trans sex worker role. Another trans addict role. Another trans “mystical advisor/comic relief” role. Another “trans person punished in the end” role. Those are indeed over represented portrayals, and I do want more balance… Soon! But I have known people like Rayon. She is not a made-up grab bag of random hateful attributes. She’s a portrayal of an uncomfortable segment of the trans experience that a few TLGB folks would rather be erased and not discussed. I think many of the haters hate Rayon because she isn’t beautiful, she isn’t passable, she isn’t gender binary, she isn’t 2014-political. And when I see that elitist hypocrisy, I’m inclined to push back and write essays like this.

It’s hard being trans, more so in the era and circumstances of Dallas Buyers Club. I’ve known plenty of trans sex workers, self-medicators, wise teachers, hilarious weirdos and people taken before their time due to violence and lack of healthcare. I’ve known trans people very much like Rayon, and maybe if some people got up from their remote-activism-devices (computer screens and smartphones) and left their ivory towers and privilege-bubbles, they’d meet a few people like Rayon face-to-face, too.

Then they could see that a human portrayal of this real segment of the trans community is a good thing. Even if it’s by a non-trans person.

Please do hire trans actors for ANY role, especially trans roles. But please don’t shoot trans people in the foot by attacking allies willing to open the door for us as we approach equality.

Trans Catholic

Here’s an absolutely breath-taking and tear-jerking story about a remarkable nun who works with the trans community in and around New Orleans. She is what my Catholic has always been about, to be honest, and she is absolutely one of the best examples I know of that when Catholics are cool, they’re cooler than most. My friend Quince Mountain writes that this story is

“for me at least, refreshing in that it’s not about the awful things the church does to queer/trans folks.  It acknowledges those things, but shows how someone working underground has found ways to help trans folks where others could not.  For many, the church is such a roadblock.  And we only hear about the baddies.  Orthodox Russian nationalists, protestant Ugandan haters, etc.  At best, we get a quip from the pope.  But here’s someone doing substantive lifelong work, and she would not be able to do it without support from the church. “

Some awesome segments:

If one is new to the trans experience, a room like this might feel unsettling. It might leave one lying in bed that night asking uncomfortable questions for the first time about who or what one really is, things that might have always seemed certain and fixed and clear. Trans people represent a threat in a society anxious to keep its basic categories stable; they experience violence at rates far higher than the general population. But sit there a while, as in any room, and the stories become just stories. The people become people. For Monica, sitting at those tables in those support groups is being among family.

and

Pope Francis I has shifted the Vatican’s tone on sexual diversity somewhat; further Christmas condemnations seem unlikely to be coming from him. “Who am I to judge?” he famously asked with regard to good-willed gay people. The mother church of his Jesuit order in Rome held a much-publicized funeral in January for a murdered homeless trans woman, though he has yet to speak about living transgender people specifically.

There is a lot more to the Catholic Church than ponderings emanating from the Vatican. Williamson says, in his experience, “the Catholic Church is one of the most affirming groups toward LGBT people” — in the pews, he means, not the hierarchy. A study by the Public Religion Research Institute found that U.S. Catholics affirm a rather vague statement about transgender rights at a rate somewhat higher than the national average.

James Whitehead is a theologian who teaches at Loyola University in Chicago. In recent years he and his wife, Evelyn, a psychologist, have devoted themselves to understanding the transgender experience in Catholic terms. They had been studying lesbian and gay issues for years, and as they sought out trans people it struck them how familiar the arc of their lives seemed.

“This is the same old story,” he says. “The kind of transition that trans people are talking about is very similar to the journey of faith through darkness and desert that people have been making for thousands of years.” He has found, in his teaching and writing, that when he describes trans experience to Catholics in terms of a spiritual journey, a light goes on, and they get it.

Hints and echoes of what we now speak of as gender transition lie scattered throughout Christian tradition. An Ethiopian eunuch is the first person baptized in the Book of Acts, and the third-century theologian Origen castrated himself after reading Jesus’ remark about those “who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.” Stories of ancient ascetics recall women “surpassing” their gender through spiritual advancement, or by simply disguising themselves as men. In the Middle Ages, St. Joan of Arc was executed for refusing to stop cross-dressing; legends circulated of a female pope, also named Joan, who was also killed for gender-bending. Medieval mystics sometimes referred to Jesus as a mother and saw visions of milk dripping from his breast. The Catholic Church as a whole, led by a hierarchy of costumed men, is traditionally referred to as She and as the Bride of Christ.

The resonance goes beyond appearances. “Catholic tradition is all about the dignity of the human person,” says Edward Poliandro, an advocate for LGBT Catholics and their families in New York City. “Transgender people have a particular prophetic mission just to live and to challenge society simply by saying, ‘I’m a person.’”

I spoke at a Catholic university, Saint Norbert’s, a few weeks ago, and I intend to write a little about that experience… but not yet. In the meantime, just go read about Sister Monica. She will renew your faith – Catholic or not.

Queer Latino/a

Here’s a cool 54 minutes about the queer experience, latino-style.

From the show’s description:

This week on Latino USA, we talk about all things Queer—from Anthony Romero, the first gay director of the ACLU, to the practice of “pumping,” or black market silicone injections, in the trans community. We hear two stories about growing up and transitioning genders. We learn about the plight of LGBTQ detained immigrants. We investigate the paranormal in Laredo, Texas. Maria Hinojosa gets a surfing lesson in New York, of all places. We hear from a gay man who ran for class president at UNC. And we check in on the protests in Venezuela.

So rare to hear these perspectives, especially on immigration issues.

Jared Leto Wins the Oscar

This feel obligatory.

He didn’t say “transgender” but he did thank one “Callie Addams” who is, of course, the very amazing Calpernia Addams, who helped Leto with the part, and who is a (trans) woman.

He did recognize the millions of deaths of the AIDS crisis and that he felt in solidarity with all those who are judged for “who they are and who they love”.

That doesn’t mean everyone will be happy, but the friends I do have in Hollywood – including Calpernia – seem pleased.

Also, he thanked his mom, who had him & his brother before finishing high school, which strikes me as damn feminist of him. Single moms, you raise good sons.

(I’m not really huge on movies, so I haven’t even seen Dallas Buyers Club, to be honest.)