On Thursday, August 28, 2014, Andrew Cray, a transgender and LGBT health policy expert and former NCTE legal fellow, passed away. Andrew was among the LGBT movement’s most effective advocates behind the fights to end transgender insurance exclusions in several states. His selfless contributions at organizations like the Center for American Progress, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and the National LGBT Health Coalition put the LGBT health policy agenda on a course for rapid change. Working alongside Andrew was only made brighter by his optimism and kind-heartedness. All of us at the National Center for Transgender Equality celebrate Andrew, his work, and his generous commitment in the service of LGBT people across the country.
A celebration of Andrew Cray’s life will be held on Saturday, August 30th, 2014 at St. Thomas Church, 1772 Church St., NW, Washington, DC. Services will begin at 1:00 PM to be followed by a repast. All are invited to join the celebration and to bring photos of Andrew to the service.
Really, you have to hear some of these exchanges between 7th Circuit Court judge Richard Posner and the two lawyers arguing for keeping the ban on same sex marriages in Indiana and Wisconsin. Really, listen. The guy just won’t let up, and keeps asking for evidence for what or whom same sex marriage harms, and he gets a whole lot of nothing as answers.
Amazing stuff. Tradition isn’t a good enough reason, of course, and that argument was defeated both by Loving v. Virginia and in the Goodridge decision.
And honestly, they don’t seem to have any evidence whatsoever that Posner thinks offsets the harm done to the children of same sex couples.
This is, by the way, the same court that shot down WI’s attempt to deny transgender inmates medically prescribed treatments by way of hormones, and the appeal for this case was turned down later by SCOTUS.
No really, stick with me. A former student sent me this short interview with Tristan Taormino about feminist porn and was surprised to hear that 1 in 3 porn viewers are women. Surprised, because that’s an amazingly high percentage, & surprising, because as a feminist who has always been pro porn, that seems like a significant shift in the sexual/cultural landscape. But you can’t underestimate ease of access and privacy, and I suspect that being able to view porn on a home computer or mobile device makes it easy enough that women – who might otherwise not want to go to the kinds of places you have traditionally been able to see or buy porn – has made a huge change in things, much as VCRs did back in the day.
As a result: feminist porn, where labor is treated fairly (yes, labor – sex work IS work) and where maybe we need to rewrite the story.
Almost simultaneously, a friend sent me this link to female spec fic writer Kameron Hurley talking about what it’s like to write female characters, and especially why she writes female characters who are soldiers and warriors. And while I think her initial example – of those scaly llamas – confuses the subject a bit, she’s basically saying that we see writers write women as the women who have always been written and that those of us who are women even participate in this because This Is How Women Are Written. If you write them any other way, there will be objections, right? We must believe it is exceptional and rare for women to be in power, or violent, because that is not the story about women that has been told time and time again.
This interview and this blog post intersect in a cool way, no? If you always present women (and men, for that matter) as the same kind of sexual beings they have always been in porn, you get the same porn. But what happens when women are portrayed as dominant, as multiply orgasmic, as physically strong? What happens when men care for or love deeply the women they have sex with, and that is apparent in porn? What if men are shown to forego or postpone their own desire in order to make sure the woman is satisfied? What happens?
Well, you can watch feminist porn and see for yourself that llamas aren’t scaly. That’s what happens. Maybe, in fact, we’ll get around to seeing human sexuality &desire on screen that’s far more what we know sex to be.
Well it made me laugh.
What’s funnier is that I’ve seen people do this and often they don’t even realize they are.
So I’ve been writing again and feel, simultaneously, like I’m disappearing. It’s a thing. It’s gotten worse as I’ve gotten older, but the feeling is this: I go to things and talk to people and make plans and I’m not there. I’ve heard everything and enjoyed the company and the food and the jokes, all of it. But it’s as if there’s a whirring sound in my head the whole time, the way it can feel when you’re trying to listen to quiet music in a loud bar, and it’s not any one voice but the murmur of all the voices that prevents you from really hearing the band.
It’s as if the whirring gets louder and louder gradually, over time, sometimes over days, sometimes minutes, sometimes months, as the urge to write in a focused way comes over me. I don’t write every day the way they tell writers they should. That is, I write something every day, no doubt, but it’s emails or blog posts or other bullshit that doesn’t actually count.
Which is why I was taken aback by this snippet form an article about memoir and status updates by Dani Shapiro:
I haven’t unburdened myself, or softly and earnestly confessed. Quite the opposite. In order to write a memoir, I’ve sat still inside the swirling vortex of my own complicated history like a piece of old driftwood, battered by the sea. I’ve waited—sometimes patiently, sometimes in despair—for the story under pressure of concealment to reveal itself to me.
So that’s what the whirring is: the sound of the swirling vortex of my own complicated history.
Exactly. In person, or on the phone, or whenever you might see me, if I seem tuned out, I’m not exactly. I’m just listening to the whirring, trying to quiet it temporarily so I can be present, but often, I will be failing altogether.
When communities experience fear, harassment and brutality simply because of who they are or how they look, we are failing as a nation. In light of the recent events in Missouri, it is clearer than ever that there is something profoundly wrong in our country.
The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community cannot be silent at this moment, because LGBT people come from all races, creeds, faiths and backgrounds, and because all movements of equality are deeply connected. We are all part of the fabric of this nation and the promise of liberty and justice for all is yet to be fulfilled. The LGBT community stands with the family of Michael Brown, who was gunned down in Ferguson, Missouri. We stand with the mothers and fathers of young Black men and women who fear for the safety of their children each time they leave their homes. We call on the national and local media to be responsible and steadfast in their coverage of this story and others like it–racialized killings that have marred this nation since the beginning of its history. We call on policy makers on all levels of American government not to shrink from action, and we are deeply grateful to Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice for their immediate commitment to a thorough investigation.
At this moment, we are inspired by the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies … but the silence of our friends.”
You can see the full list of the signatories at the site.
It’s at times like this, on nights like this, your brain scrambles for some sense, tries to find some order, some belief, some kind of light. But it’s been such a hard week – one of the kindest, gentlest men who raised us all, despite his own pain, died – and tonight, thinking about why and god can we just go back in time so someone could help and instead, we have the photos and reports from Ferguson.
And then your heart just sinks. An Appleton police car drives by my house, as one does almost every night, and instead of feeling safe in this peaceful little town I feel afraid. I know some of the cops here, you know? And they’re nice guys. And I bet the guys in Ferguson are too, and yet look at what’s been happening there this week, what’s been happening all over the US this month – Mike Brown was the fourth unarmed black man killed in this country in the past month by police – and you wonder how any of this happens.
But you know how. I mean, I teach how. This is institutionalized racism. There’s no way around it. All of the reports of what happened the night Mike Brown got shot – even the “official” ones that don’t smell right – tell me there was something happening there, an abuse of power, a moment of hate and fear that became the death of this young man.
You watch the Anonymous video and it sends chills up your limbs. I agree with them. I am secretly happy someone is doing something, and wonder, too, what happened to the FOI Act, and why it doesn’t seem to work anymore. But Anonymous terrifies me, too. That’s a lot of power. An awful lot of power. And people who have and want and use that much power really worry me, no matter how much I agree with their politics.
So what do you do on a night like this one, when the clown who might have made some sense of the violence going on in Missouri is gone? What do you do when the smartest, most compassionate people are speechless, astonished by the brutality of it all? As my friend Loree Cook-Daniels asked: As human beings, do we want to pay and arm some people to kill other people? Do we have an answer to that that makes any sense? Because sadly, I think our answer is yes. It shouldn’t be.
I don’t know. I know it’s always darkest before the dawn, and that there have been times in recent history, in recent memory, that have felt something like this, when the world seems to have gone especially dim and humanity seems especially cruel. I know there have been nights like this before, weeks like it, and I know there will be again.
So all I can do is feel thankful I am not having gas canisters lobbed onto my front lawn, that I have the luxury of even thinking tonight in a way that no one in Ferguson really can right now. All of my privilege, all of my luck, all of my security is mine tonight no matter how scared of the world I might feel.
Tonight is a night, one of those nights, when the wolves feel like they’re at the door. And all I can do is make sure the doors are locked, read the news reports, look for some sense of shared confusion and hope from my friends, and at long last, listen. There’s this song, one of the prettiest songs I know, and I’m just going to keep singing it to myself tonight while the people of Ferguson and the people of Iraq try to stay alive.
Hang in there, folks.
It’s good news to hear that Thomas Beatie can get legally divorced from his wife – why? Because a previous court decided that in Arizona, where he’s trying to get divorce & where same sex marriage is not recognized, his marriage wasn’t a legal marriage due to his gender – and specifically, due to the fact that he was capable of giving birth, which he did three times.
This is good news for trans people – his gender markers were changed in his home state in HI & are now recognized as male in AZ – but it’s also good for feminists who are concerned that the ability to give birth could have crept into the definition of female.
So, yes. Maybe not good news for them, but as a result of a legal divorce, Beatie will also, I’d imagine, may have to pay court-ordered child support and/or alimony, which is another good reason that their marriage was recognized as legal. Without that legal status, they couldn’t get divorced, and without divorce, no court could require child support.
From what I read previously, it was important to him to see this ruling happen. Good for him, good for us, good for the children of trans marriages.
I got the good news today.
Yay, Kate! What a relief. What a wonderful, wonderful thing.
I wish I were even a little surprised it was an apparent suicide. But he did so, so much good in his fight against depression. So much. So many great roles, so many of my favorite movies, so, so much.
I wish genius talent didn’t suffer so much, but god, they do so often.
I am surprised I’m crying, but he’s been making me laugh and think for nearly the whole of my life.
So I guess now is the right time to admit that I never missed an episode of Mork & Mindy when it first aired. Yes, that makes me old. But I didn’t miss one single show for the first two seasons, and not many after that. And it was his routine a year after 9/11 that made me feel like something might be okay again eventually.
Thanks, Mr. Williams, for making it all suck less while you were here. Carpe Diem, indeed.
Wisconsin’s Attorney General Van Hollen is against same sex marriage. He was the one who put a halt to the marriages that were taking after a WI court declared WI’s super DOMA unconstitutional, and he has vowed to keep same sex couples from marrying no matter what the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals rules.
That is, he insists on defending a marriage ban that was already struck down by a WI court, and he can, because he’s Attorney General.
Wisconsin Unites for Marriage has a petition up which will let him know that same sex couples should be able to marry.
Last year’s Mile of Music festival here in Appleton was such a huge success they’re doing it again and it started yesterday: I’ve already seen Charlie Parr (who knocked my socks off last year), Los Colognes (who reminded everyone of Dire Straits), Belle Adair (although I didn’t get to see their whole set) and some of Geri X, The Crowe Brothers, and Boom Forest.
Will be going to as much as I can today again: The Mutts most definitely, Swear and Shake (from Brooklyn!), Cereus Bright, Langhorne Slim, Bonesetters, Thriftones, Bruiser Queen, The Blakes, and maybe Pop Goes the Evil.
And no, I hadn’t heard of most of these bands, but I hadn’t heard of Those Darlins last year when I saw them and they became a permanent part of my music library.
(The interview with the guy at 2:00 is especially cool.)
I have been accused, in the past, of being a ‘handmaiden’ to trans politics (really) or of being biased.
What I am a handmaiden to is representing both sides of an argument with respect; discovering where and when someone is theorizing a person’s sexuality as if their humanity were not important, and in underlining any attempt to fetishize, pathologize, or other the complaints made by people when they are being presented in belittling, dehumanizing ways.
That’s what I didn’t like about that New Yorker article. It took a lot of ideas – ideas that aren’t wholly without merit, I might add – and presented them as if the people who object to them are just a bunch of angry nutjobs.
Julia Serano wrote an open letter about the article, in which she said:
But what really bothers me is that your mainstream readers (most of whom have little-to-no prior knowledge about radical feminism or transgender activism) will most likely not see through the article’s journalistic-ish veneer, and will assume that it represents an “objective” and “unbiased” presentation of the situation. And they will assume that transgender activists are mean people and completely out of control, because they have not been offered any evidence to suggest otherwise. And the insinuations that Goldberg makes throughout her article — that trans people act irrationally, are sexually deviant, and potentially dangerous — will seem to have “truthiness” to your readers, because the media has been propagating these very stereotypes of us for almost half a century. And when your readers do eventually meet a real-life trans person, perhaps they will misgender them, or dismiss them as a “pervert,” and justify those acts by referencing a New Yorker article they once read.
As I’ve said before and as I will say many times again, people do not even realize the depth of their own transphobic views. They don’t realize that these definitional framings of gender are both false and so, so, so not objective. I have had arguments with myself and other deeply felt and thought feminists over the years and examined all of these ideas, such as Blanchard’s, to the point of pain.
What I have realized, ultimately, is that I dislike the radfem take on women not because it’s radical, or because it dehumanizes trans women (although those help). It’s that it fails to take it’s own standpoint into the analysis, fails to realize that the definition of gender as a class of oppression – one I don’t disagree with – is highly, highly subjective.
That is, I don’t like their stuff because it’s cracking bad theory. Anyway.
As ever, more to come.
I’m still on the road so this won’t be complete, but it’s sad to see such a biased article on the divisions between trans identity and feminist politics, especially by a major magazine that could have done worlds better.
My main complaints?
- few and buried quotes by trans people
- nothing from trans inclusive (cis) feminists
- fairly useless bits from Blanchard
- in general, poor framing of the definitional debate involved.
I’ll write more at length at a later date.