NYT Gets Tipton Wrong

The NYT reviwed Nellie McKay’s show about Billy Tipton. The title of the review is “Exploring a Jazzman and Gender Identity” which is all well & good, but the subtitle, “Nellie McKay Plays the Drag King Billy Tipton at 54 Below,” is what made me roll my eyes.

I mean, really? Tipton lived his entire life as a man, so much so that all three of his wives had no idea he was assigned female at birth. He died at home to avoid going to the hospital so that his secret might not be uncovered.

That is NOT the behavior or life experience or someone who was doing drag.

That doesn’t mean that passing women – that is, masculine women who lived in the world as men – were all trans. I’m sure plenty weren’t – that despite being taken for male by others and appreciating some of the advantages of passing as a straight man and not as a lesbian provided – that they were comfortable being women. Their wives and lovers often knew even if no one else did.

But Tipton? Nothing I’ve ever read about him convinces me he knew himself to be a woman – even as a woman who passed as a man.

I don’t know what the show is like but I know the image of McKay in an oversized suit struck me as comic and playful – clownish, you might say – in a way that upset me. The name of the show is “A Girl Named Bill.” And that makes me sad and tired and angry.

I don’t really know what her take is as I haven’t seen it, but the historical record – including Middlebrook’s bio – keep regendering Tipton using female pronouns. It doesn’t seem right.

Tipton lived his whole life as male and used male pronouns for himself when he was alive. Without getting into a taxonomical bullshit argument about the differences between passing women and drag kinds and trans men, can we all, maybe, just maybe, respect the pronouns he did use and the life he lived and not re-gender him based on what gender he was assigned at birth, to stop making his life some kind of curiosity, some stupid gender experiment or performance?

His gender probably allowed him a career in jazz that he wouldn’t have had otherwise. And that’s all. His life wasn’t lived so someone could come along and make some kind of feminist point with it. It just was. And if we come to know that jazz was too sexist for a woman to make it in as a result, we can thank him for that without disrespecting his life choices.

 

UCBoulder Call for Workshops

The good folks at University of Colorado @ Boulder are gearing up for their next TRANSforming Gender conference – to be held in March 2015 – and are accepting workshop proposals until the end of this month.

 

SOFFA Jill Soloway

Jill Soloway just gave an acceptance speech that was awesome in recognizing Leelah Alcorn, all the trans people who die too young, her parent/moppa, and the larger trans community.

Kick ASS.

Go cis allies!

8:40PM, Edited to add– Jeffrey Tambour thanks the trans community for courage, inspiration, patience, and for letting the cast and crew of Transparent be part of the change while thanking, by name, Jenny Boylan, Rhys Ernst, and Zachary Drucker.

 

Afterword: Partners

So, partners, I’m finishing up an Afterword for a book of writings by us, and what I want to know is this:

  • What is it essential that I mention?
  • What are the things that no one ever says about us?
  • What don’t we get credit for?
  • What do we need from the larger trans community?

Be quick about your answers; I’m nearly done already.

Emma Holten’s Consent

Here’s a smart piece about consent and revenge porn, in which a woman who was a victim of it decided to get new photos taken & publish them herself in order to establish her own agency & autonomy.

She doesn’t advise it for everyone, but she does say some smart things about the nature of sexualization and objectification. Such as:

Then, suddenly, I noticed that this dynamic – sexualisation against her will – was everywhere. Take ‘creepshots’, a global phenomenon which entails photographing women without their knowledge or consent, in order to share them in a sexual context online. On similar sites, people link to Facebook pages asking if anyone can hack or find more pictures of the girl. Here, again, women are used as objects whose lack of consent, of participation, provides the reason and allure of their sexualisation.

This dynamic is a commonplace online and is a concrete manifestation of a larger discourse around the female body, the notion that it is erotic to sexualise someone who is unaware. We all know the tropes: the sexy teacher/student/nurse/waiter/bartender/doctor. All jobs, if staffed by women, can be sexualised. What is sexy is not the job, not even the woman, but the fact that while the woman is just doing her job you are secretly sexualising her. She has become public property by simply being?

Do go read the whole thing. She is straightforward, pro sex, and thoughtful. It won’t solve the problem, but it feels empowered — dignity in the face of a shitty, sexist world.

Great New Resource for Grief

There’s a new PDF up at FORGE’s site for self care in the aftermath of a tragedy. It’s got some great stuff, including the immediate list of self care (am I eating? sleeping? have i relaxed?) as well as ways to contend with grief in positive, life affirming ways – by calling someone, or taking someone out for coffee, or just holding someone’s hand. There are also tips on longer-range things to do, such as kinds of activism you might engage in.

We are an awesome community. Take care of each other out there.

#LeelahsLaw Against Reparative Therapy

Go, sign it.

California was the first state to make it illegal. Let’s get the rest to do as well.