The December Project is Coming

As with previous year, I’ll be participating in The December Project, the brainchild of Jennifer Finney Boylan, who, because of all the email she gets and all the sadness she sees on FB, decided that we, as a community, need to find ways to make the holiday season a little easier on us all. She enlisted four of us — JFB herself, me, Dylan Scholinski, and NCTE’s Mara Keisling — to call anyone who wanted to hear a friendly voice.

This year there will be a few changes – for starters, Jenny Boylan won’t be able to organize things this year (due to moving and a super booked December), but the rest of us will, and we’ll have a few happy additions to help us do our work: Brynne Tannehill & Allyson Robinson, for starters.

So stay tuned. We’re getting the thing organized so that we can get it up and running for December, but know that we’re here, and we care about each and every one of you, even if we don’t even know your names yet.

In the meantime, if you’re in a bad way and need to talk, there is this amazing new Trans Lifeline service as well as other call lines:

  • Trans Lifeline can be reached at 877-565-8860.
  • For LGBT youth (ages 24 and younger) contemplating suicide, the Trevor Project Lifeline can be reached at 1-866-7386.
  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 can also be reached 24 hours a day by people of all ages and identities.

Love and thanks for the honor and privilege of working for and in this amazing trans community.

On Robin Williams & Giving Thanks

Robin Williams was in my dreams last night.

Robin Williams was in a movie, maybe, in my dreams last night.

He was playing someone like himself or like one of so many characters he played – like Perry Williams in The Fisher King – a disappointed but joyful romantic of sorts, wound up and anxious but reluctantly hopeful.

And he was with a woman – I don’t know who, but the kind of actress who could play against his manic energy with something like bemused compassion – and she had finally told him she was his.

Their figures were framed by a mountain range, romantic, sunny, cold. Every word they said could be seen by the breath that encased it. I think they were the Grand Tetons, because my brain has its own sense of humor. I don’t think she said anything but waited, instead, for him to understand that they were for each other, and he did, and he realized it the way only he could have acted that scene – with a dizzying monologue about how he had always wanted and always known and disappointment had taunted him and kicked him but fuck you disappointment and he looked at her and pulled her shirt up and exclaimed, loudly, “boobies!” with that kind of barbaric yawp that he was such a master of.

There are still a lot of days when I think about him, his life’s work, all that joy and enthusiasm he kept throwing up against despair. He must have terrified so many people all his life – I don’t mean most people, who just laughed at his antics and didn’t seem to know he was a depressive – how could anyone not have known? That look in his eyes all the time – he looked like a good, honest kid who has just discovered how cruel people can be, how depraved the world is – and it is. It’s as if his whole career was about that second of realization, of knowing how beautiful it can all be and delighting in it only to realize cars hit dogs and deer and people act in the shittiest ways most when they’re scared. It’s only as a kid you realize how fragile and beautiful a bird is and that you probably know someone who seems perfectly normal who would kill one just because they can.

There are days when the burden of enthusiasm is too much for me; I can’t imagine what the weight he carried was like if he had to conjure such amazing energy and fun against it. I have always felt fortunate that I can live in the world something like sober most of the time and that I have never needed a whole lot of illusion for what is and what isn’t, what can and can’t be. I had a Buddhist once tell me I was a natural Taoist; the world is bad and that’s just how it is: people kill birds because they can, and beat children, and rape women, and bash queers, and all of what they do is about suffering and feeling insubstantial and alone and scared, and everything the rest of us do in response is, too.

You can’t really teach gender studies – which is, after all, the study of oppression – and not go through life knowing exactly how fucked up things are. They are. It’s not okay, and it’s never going to be okay. Sometimes, in darker moments, I expect that things are going to get worse as our resources become scarce, but then, too, I know we will see remarkable acts of kindness and generosity at times when you’d expect the opposite. Look at every hurricane, tsunami, bombing: you see extraordinary acts of love and the heroic. You see what Mister Roger’s mom called “the helpers”. Disasters are some of the only times that people can actually live as hugely, as passionately and compassionately as they want to all the time. Most of us aren’t Robin Williams; we are self conscious and want to fit in, keep our jobs, not freak out the neighbors. We want quiet kinds of joy, maybe a contented happiness, instead of the extremes that lead to or are expressions of depression and euphoria.

But wow does his memory make me want to live harder and happier and with far more defiance in defense of what I know to be right. With joy and wild enthusiasm, wild, untamed, amazing enthusiasm, I would like to be able to live in the world as that child who can see how amazingly, stunningly, unbelievably beautiful every single thing is but who knows how all of those things are only ever tentative when they’re not momentary.

That kitten you hold in the palm of your hand will be the cat you will bury if life goes according to plan, Neil Gaiman once wrote. Whose plan? What plan? What the fuck kind of plan is that?

I woke up this morning stuck somewhere between a sob and a laugh. The holidays are upon us. I miss the innocent, joyful ones I used to have. I have no family nearby but for my wife this year; no lover; two of my friends I’ll spend Thanksgiving with are very ill; a third won’t be around because his parents are. And that’s it, isn’t it? I know there are people who have so many things – their parents still alive, their spouses’ parents, beautiful children, heterosexual privilege – and I can’t imagine it anymore. I had a couple of years like that, when I was partnered and then married and everyone I loved was still alive. Some days it makes me want to try again, to go back to being heterosexual so that I can have again the luxury of complaining about having to spend time with my family. Now? It breaks my heart that I can’t, not just because of geography but because my family of origin is estranged within itself, and my family of choice is everywhere all over the globe.

I’ll go to a north Wisconsin town and drink with writers and queer friends. I’ll get into a hot tub, maybe, if I can get past my own self consciousness and feel safe enough to do so, and I will feel very, very lucky and full of gratitude that there are people whose sense of thanks includes me.

I wish all the same to all of you out there. Boobies, like the dream Robin Williams said. Let your joy fly in the face of your disappointment.

No Justice, No Peace: UVA & Marisa Alexander

A first year student was gang raped at UVA, and it took a Rolling Stone article (TW) to get anyone to pay attention.

It turns out UVA doesn’t even expel people who have admitted to rape.

Those of us who teach gender studies are assumed to be pessimistic at best and paranoid at worst, but you read two facts like that and wow, we’re just right.

Or you read that Marisa Alexander – the woman who fired a warning shot because she feared for her own life after her husband barged through a door she had locked herself behind and grabbed her by the neck – and all that 9 days after she’d given birth – was convicted and given 20 years in prison. She managed to plea down to 3, but why is she serving any time at all? She didn’t, mind you, kill or injure anyone.

Jeff Severs, a friend of a friend, after reading Wilson’s testimony about Mike Brown – which is something like a compendium of the racist imagination of black bodies as monstrous – wrote that “Brown’s body is bound to bear so horribly, impossibly much”.

As was that student’s, as was Marisa Alexander’s, and in none of these cases is there any justice, any condemnation of the objectification and othering of these bodies and the lives they carry.

I hate being right. I hate that my view of the world as unjust-by-design is so obviously, patently true. You can explain away Grand Jury history (well, actually, you can’t) or you can point up the peculiarities of the criminal justice system, but really, when university administrators are ignoring rape confessions and a woman who was defending herself is found guilty and given 20 years to serve – and who was, mind you, statistically more likely to die at her partner’s hands precisely because she was pregnant or had just given birth – that is, she had a better reason for self-defense than most, and far more than Darren Wilson ever needed – you have to know this system was designed to keep most of us in our places.

Bill Hicks was right, too, except they don’t even bother to tell you to pick up the gun anymore. They don’t have to.

No Justice, No Peace

We knew, but we hoped. America never finds an armed white man guilty of killing an unarmed black man. There are a few, rare exceptions – Jordan Davis’ killer got time – but not usually.

It’s so heartbreaking.

But if you think the system didn’t work, and that’s what lead to this travesty of injustice, maybe you just don’t realize that this IS the system, how it was designed to keep black people scared for their lives, to control white allies, to keep all of the interlocking systems of oppression well-oiled.

This wasn’t a miscarriage of justice. This was exactly how it was designed to go. And don’t you forget it.

#TDOR

tdor 2014Update: found here.

I don’t know where this comic comes from, so I’m asking forgivness from its creator for putting it up without express permission. I’m happy to take it down if necessary, but wow, it hit me between the eyes. We don’t see stuff from family/partners for TDOR, and this is just heartwrenching and beautiful.

Thank you, LaBelle, whoever you are.

Leslie Feinberg, Hero, Has Died

It doesn’t matter if you know it’s coming – the death of someone you admire is never, ever expected.

I can’t begin to say how much I admired Feinberg. One of the best things to have happen to me, like ever, was having Feinberg tell me they liked my work. That’s the kind of thing that still sustains me, to this day.

Oh, to all of you trans elders and butches and femmes who loved Leslie as a friend or lover, my heart goes to you, and especially to Minnie Bruce Pratt.

I’m pretty sure ze didn’t believe in heaven, but everything ze ever did here on earth made this place a little more in its image.

What a remarkable, heartfelt, compassionate, dedicated, consistent life of activism, writing, and speaking.

We will miss you more than anyone can say or anyone even realizes.

Lunch @ Lawrence

I am not sure exactly how this happened, but on Friday I’ll be speaking at a lunch at Lawrence as part of a series called Lunch at Lawrence, and I’ll be talking about same sex marriage – focusing primarily on how quickly it all happened, explaining what key rulings and cultural shifts were in place to allow it to happen, and generally demonstrating what kind of thing we do in Gender Studies in general.

Here’s the blurb:

“How Marriage Changed: Gay Rights and Same Sex Marriage”
In the summer of 2014, Wisconsin’s Defense of Marriage Act was declared unconstitutional, such as with many other DOMAs across the U.S. The ruling reflects a change in both the culture and definition of marriage. Helen Boyd Kramer will explore how and why the gay rights movement “chose” marriage as a key civil right and how the changes in marriage set the stage for this significant shift.

You do have to register for the event.

Dylan Scholinski @LU for TDOR #translivesmatter


Dylan Scholinski, the author of The Last Time I Wore a Dress, will speak at Lawrence University for the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20th. His talk will be on the importance of recognizing gender non conformity, transgender and queer youth, suicide, and the redemptive power of art.

After his talk there will be a vigil in memory of those who have died due to transphobic violence.

This event is free and open to the public. Trans/queer community members are especially welcome.

where: Lawrence University, Appleton, WI – 121 Youngchild Hall
when: Thursday, 11/20, 7PM

On Facebook.

On Lawrence University’s calendar.

This event is brought to you by LU’s Gender Studies Department, Wellness, and GLOW.

Come On Already, NYC

Honestly, we need someone to do groundbreaking stuff – don’t let Iowa beat you to it again, okay? Shoot, NYS has already beaten you to it.

A proposed law that would allow individuals to change the sex on their birth certificate without having gender reassignment surgery would ease the barrier to basic services such as health care, housing and jobs, transgender advocates said.

Testimony happened on Monday, 11/10, that helped explain why surgery should not be a requirement to change your birth certificate in NYC.

Trans Media History: The Love Boat

Mackenzie Phillips played a trans woman in 1982 on Season 5, Episode 15 of The Love Boat.

And guess what? It doesn’t suck. It’s quite sympathetic, actually.

Lindsey, from the mHB boards, brought it to my attention. Here are some notes from Lindsey, a member of the boards: The big reveal is around the 20:00 mark. Explanation/Confrontation at the 22:00 mark. Discussion with the Captain around the 30:00 mark. Apologies around the 38:00 mark.

I’m sure I did see this because I watched it every single week with my grandmother. After, we watched Fantasy Island.

I would have been 13. I wonder if this had an influence. It really is sympathetic & kind of matter of fact, & it’s also interesting because it addresses an ally/friend’s issue sympathetically, too – initial shock, but knowing better, & having to realize it, etc.

I’m not surprised but I really remember the show as painfully heteronormative, but no one is even freaked out about being attracted to her/having hit on her, either. It doesn’t even come up.

(Also, um, Donna Pescow: my first Hollywood crush.)

Trans Actors?

A guest post from my good friend Darya Teesewell, who has worked in Hollywood for a very long time, and who had a few things to say about the news that Elle Fanning will be playing a trans guy (and Eddie Redmayne a trans woman):

So both Elle Fanning and Eddie Redmayne will be playing Transgender characters in new films.Both fine actors and I’m sure the Directors felt they were sound choices, but really, it’s time to kick up a bitch about this; why not make a bolder choice and cast trans actors, and while we’re at it, hire a trans writer or two. There also many trans below-the line workers who hide themselves, but that’s another topic. I’ve spent 40 years in “The Industry” and detest parts of of as intensely as I love and respect the magic that happens when they unintentionally create art.

Honestly, intra-trans bitch fights frustrate the fuck out of me, but this is not that. This is about daring an industry to ignore the iPhone-swiping little Fucks who protect the bottom line(I can say that as a below the line grunt) and get in on a wave that has begun to build thanks to people like Shadi Petosky , Zackary Drucker, Rhys Ernst, Lana Wachowski and Laverne Cox, and pioneers before them like Calpernia Sarah Addams , Candis Cayne and A’leisha Brevard.

Both actors, no doubt, would do a superb job in these parts, but it really is exactly like the 1950’s bullshit that had Mexicans playing Japanese (Ricardo Montalban), Europeans playing Native Americans, Mexicans, Asians (Mickey Rooney-*shudder*) and whatever the studio wanted.The bold Directors and producers were the ones who hired authentically. I just found out today that Paul Newman was producing a film in the 60’s in which a male running coach falls in love with one of his runners. The studios wanted to make the runner a woman, and he told them shove it. The bold choice lost again to the studio fucks.

Film is a grimy, tedious ruthless business that occasionally, like alchemy, turns that lead in gold in the form of images and performances. The hacks won’t hear this message, but the Artists will; cast a trans woman to play a trans woman and let’s see what magic happens.The guys in their Teslas who have to answer to boards will fret; they want a bankable name, multi-pic pac, wings to Gotham, Boffo numbers, but they just fucked all that up this summer, didn’t they? Time for bold choices.

I understand: if I’m artist, and you tell me who I should cast in my movie, I’m going to resent that; but if you are a fellow artist asking if I’m settling for a safe choice over a bold one, that’s a valid question.

Below the line is another conversation for another time; this is not an LGBT friendly industry, in spite of what a few high profile jobs might have people think.

Being silent does nothing.Time to call Bullshit, and it is indeed Bullshit.

I will add one more thing: why can’t women play women and men, men? Why do cis people always think trans women should be played by cis men? It perpetuates this idea that trans women are *really* men, and they’re not. Let’s move on, folks, can we?

Please, Please Vote. Please.

I’m starting to get a kind of sick feeling about Wednesday and I don’t like it. No, I didn’t do nearly as much as I should have but you can bet your ass I’ll show up to vote.

And what I’m worried about is that I’ll see the same pathetic numbers for voter turnout – especially voter turnout for young people – that I see every year.

And every year it breaks my damn heart that people die for the right to vote and yet people in the US just don’t bother to.

Why? I don’t know. I remember hearing a lot of “If voting worked, it wouldn’t be legal” more-radical-than-thou bullshit when I was a Green activist in NYC.

I know some people don’t feel sufficiently informed and honestly, if you know anything about any goddamn celebrity and you don’t know who you’d prefer to govern your life, your right to choice, your healthcare, your education, and pretty much every aspect of the rest of your life, your priorities are out of order.

The concentration of power in this country is becoming scary. I look at the bright, earnest young people I teach and I hope they are paying attention enough to realize that VOTING MATTERS.

Go do it. Even if you don’t feel informed. The first few times I voted, I didn’t either, and I always left the polls feeling guilty that I hadn’t done my homework. And I still never do as much as I want to, but you learn a little every year until how you vote and who you vote for starts to feel like something you know.

 

Vote!

Tomorrow is Election Day, so here’s some important info about voting in WI:

  • YOU DON’T NEED AN ID TO VOTE TOMORROW.
  • You can register to vote at your polling place – all you need is proof of residency (WI license, bank statement, recent utility bill, other government document with your address on it). That proof can be paper or electronic.
  • The governorship is a BIG DEAL. Governors who are successful often go on to run for President, and Walker looks like he wants to. If he is voted out now, that will be way less likely.
  • When women and black voters get to the polls in hefty numbers, Democrats win.
  • Call your local Democratic office if you need a ride to the polls.