Justice Alito’s Wrong

A reporter just called me and asked me to respond to this quote:

JUSTICE ALITO: Well, how do you account for the fact that, as far as I’m aware, until the end of the 20th century, there never was a nation or a culture that recognized marriage between two people of the same sex? Now, can we infer from that that those nations and those cultures all thought that there was some rational, practical purpose for defining marriage in that way or is it your argument that they were all operating independently based solely on irrational stereotypes and prejudice?

Silly, silly man. Of course there have been, both nations and cultures, who have married people of the same sex. Some of those people weren’t of the same gender, but that’s not what he said now, is it? I expect SCOTUS justices to be exacting in their language, and if doesn’t know the difference between sex and gender, he has no business making such blanket statements.

I’ll let you know if the article comes out.

Anti Cop?

One of the issues that always comes up when police brutality becomes visible – as it has been consistently for this past year – and especially when that police brutality is expressed racially – is that somehow being for justice and against racism makes a person anti-cop.

I grew up white working class so I grew up with men (and maybe some women) who became cops. They were good guys, brave guys, often guys who weren’t scared of a whole lot. They have my unending respect for being willing to step up and try to do some good in the world. Some of my crossdressing friends are police officers or are in other law enforcement. I went to HS with a federal agent whose job scares the fuck out of me, but I’m glad he’s the kind of smart, brave man who can do it.

I’ve worked with the Appleton PD on quite a few occasions. A few of them I count as friends but certainly as colleagues in community building. We throw everything, as a culture, that we don’t want to deal with at them – racism, poverty, domestic violence, addiction, theft, and – as was pointed out to me recently – all of the mental health issues our system isn’t acknowledging, much less dealing with. They are given precious few resources to “solve” a whole swath of problems, and if we listened to compassionate police more about what is needed, we’d hear a lot about educational opportunity, community participation, access to mental health services, even social justice. They know it. They see it.

But I really really dislike having it assumed that as someone whose heart breaks over the broken spine of a young, poor, disenfranchised man of color in Baltimore that somehow I don’t care about cops. I’ve personally had both good experiences — I am, after all, white, currently middle class & newly middle aged — and not so good ones (because I am also queer, female, and have been, many times in my life, a protestor). That is, I am assumed to be on the side of law & order because of some of my identity, and assumed to be suspect because of other parts of myself.

Freddie Gray had pretty much of nothing about him that told the cops he might be on the side of law & order. We create these binaries of identity, assume kinds of legitimacy or don’t, but the issue is that we tend to put an awful lot of muscle and guns and power on the side of those who have more power.

To me the issue isn’t the cops the same way the issue isn’t the media. Both are reflections of our current systems of order and power – who, in a nutshell, is assumed to be okay, who is assumed to be a good citizen, who might be given a second chance, and who gets the benefit of the doubt.

The thing is, poor people live in public. Their lives are, as a result, seen more easily, examined more closely, judged more often. Mental health issues go untreated – even undiagnosed. Addiction likewise.

And so we send in the cops to clean up the messes we’ve created, created not because we’re bad people, not because we’re Republican or Democrats, but that we’ve created in letting these systems that assume some people are okay and some people aren’t, often based on their gender or orientation or race or immigration status.

But no, the fault is not often with the police except for when they – as their own community – protect and defend practices that prey on the least of us. And the least of us, in the US, are still black and poor with less access to good educations, who are often living in families rife with addiction, mental health, disability, and untreated and undiagnosed medical conditions. And maybe it’s because sometimes it’s obvious to me that the only thing separating me and them, my family’s ancestors from theirs, is the color of my skin.

Stay safe, Baltimore: and by that I mean not just the protestors but the police too.

Today I Want: Thoughts on Baltimore

Today I want for more of us to see what I see in black men. There is something so humble and simultaneously proud, the kind of humble that living in a system that tells you to keep your head down and your mouth shut, the kind of humble poor people have, and yet, too, I see the pride, the fire of dignity that has to be kept nearly invisible from most, a fire like the pilot light of a gas stove, full of power to destroy but full of power too, to lead and to defend.

Today I wish I could remove the gauze on the eyes of so many white people I know, who see thugs where there are only scamps, who see anger where there is only frustration and sadness. There is something to spending your 20s in Harlem as a young, stupid, white woman; the way older black men just laughed quietly when I was getting hit on and didn’t know it; the young teenagers eager to prove themselves by asking a terrified white girl whose dick she was there to suck; the young boys with those big eyes and big ears and big brains who have a snowball’s chance in hell of using any of those to live in the world and make it more awesome. We’ve all lost, for so many years, so much of this human potential because white people can’t get past being afraid.

Maybe it’s having grown up working class and white, raised by a grandma who was in a janitor’s union, but there is something about black men — who never get to be men and yet who are despite everything.

Stay safe, Baltimore.

Important “Stealth” Voice

I put “stealth” in quotes because it bothers me as a term; it implies a kind of sneakiness that has nothing to do with the goals of the women and men who live their lives who no one knows are trans. They are men and women, they are happy or unhappy, but they are not lying or deceiving anyone.

They are one group whose voices are not heard precisely because they can’t be, so I’m more than super thrilled to have been directed to this one, by one of my readers, who is smart and funny and warm and angry. It’s really great stuff. Like this piece:

Many years ago, I read a throw-away line from someone on an internet forum: “Early transitioners face discrimination before transition, and assimilate afterwards. It’s the opposite for late transitioners.” This rang really true for me. As a child, and most especially as a teen, I really copped it from all angles because of my complete inability to hide my gender identity. My parents, classmates, teachers… It reached something of a crescendo around transition, where I spent a year or so being visibly trans, then faded away as I assimilated. I think the converse happens for people who are able to cope as teens. They get by, are even stratospherically successful like Cate. But the consequences of this success are that they’ll have much more difficulty assimilating post-transition. They’ll often be visibly trans the rest of their lives, or simply have so much baggage from before transition that they can’t get past.

and this:

So more on me. I had a pretty rough childhood due to gender stuff. As a result I’m estranged from my parents and most of my siblings. I haven’t seen or talked to my parents in more than twenty years. My mum passed away a couple of years ago (I didn’t go to the funeral) and I was relieved more than sad. Relieved that the one sibling who I do maintain vague contact will give up on his periodic attempts to reconcile the family.

Anyway, like a surprisingly large number of queer kids I got in trouble as a teen, had a couple of babies, and did the shotgun wedding thing. Like most queer kids in that situation it didn’t stick. Getting married only postponed the inevitable, and then only by a couple of years. I divorced and transitioned at 23, went back to uni, got my shit in a pile and made a decent life for myself.

I just hope she keeps writing.

Partner’s Blues

Here’s a smart piece about dating someone who is still uncomfortable with their own gender issues, who embraces and then rejects them, and how one partner tried to come to terms with that – but didn’t.


The wall I’m talking about is plastered together with our society’s definitions of a man, a woman, a person, and a relationship. You’ve probably hit this wall, too, perhaps without recognizing it. Women may have hit it when trying to assert their desires in relationships. Men may have hit it when trying to be emotionally vulnerable with their partners. And while it would be so easy to say I was just physically incapable of a romantic relationship with a self-identified woman, I find it more likely that this wall divided Ryan and I from each other and blocked my view of a future between us.

Even now, it’s blocking my story from you, the reader, because the right words to describe Ryan and me and our relationship simply don’t exist. There’s no word for someone who usually lives as a man but feels more like a woman but really is neither or both or somewhere in between. There’s no word for the sexual orientation of someone who accidentally fell in love with a woman in the process of falling in love with a man. Instead, I’m forced to leave you with a muddled mix of he’s and she’s and no answers.

This approach/avoidance thing is not uncommon, of course, but when you’re trying to date someone who is doing it… well, partners call it “the roller coaster”.

You can get more of a sense of this experience in Linda Thompson’s sympathetic piece about being married to Jenner, in the early stages when the star athlete was beginning to approach the idea of being trans.

Why I Didn’t Even Watch

I know B. Jenner is exciting and trans people are exciting and – well, not so much for me. As I was saying to my wife recently, I wish the only people who did work on trans people found them incredibly boring and ordinary — otherwise the whole “look at this weird exotic thing” happens and it always depresses me.

Aside from the obvious tropes, Allyson Robinson wrote a good piece about why she didn’t watch, which I’m going to summarize: 1) Jenner coming out doesn’t change the work that needs to be done, 2) If anything, Jenner coming out has just increased the work to be done, and 3) the media is a poor tool for the work because it is always, always based on consumerism and advertising dollars. But do go read the whole thing as she makes key points on each of these issues, and her analysis of the usefulness connects right back to why the Trans Documentary Drinking Game exists in the first place.

Also, there’s this: Jenner’s a Republican, and I can honestly say that is disheartening even if it’s not surprising; there are quite a lot of trans Republicans out there, and I think they’re pretty much deluded that the Republican party will be open to defending trans rights — especially at this moment in time where nearly a dozen Republicans have drafted bills that encourage people to report trans people for using the “wrong” bathroom in public places, with some of them offering as much as a $4k bounty.

Wealthy celebrity athletes and reality shows don’t interest me much either.

But mostly, what Robinson says: there’s work to be done and there will be more as a result. So I’m glad for Jenner and glad for anyone whose families come around a little and glad for new allies who will help in the future, but in the meantime: back to it.

B. Jenner

We love you, and welcome you with open arms, & know that being #famouswhiletrans is its own level of difficult.

Me & My Ball #michfest

Lisa Vogel announced yesterday that the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, now in its 40th year, will depart the stage this year; the 40th will be the last.

An event that has empowered so many women, one of the last amazing coming-to-consciouness feminist events, is shutting down because they can’t just take the one tiny leap of admitting trans women openly and willingly.

Trans women will no doubt be blamed for the end of this event, when really, as Autumn Sandeen put it, “…trans womyn have attended MichFest for many years — trans womyn who identify themselves as womyn-born-womyn. She doesn’t have to change the change the womyn-born-womyn intention, she just needs to say ‘Trans womyn who identify as womyn-born-womyn are welcome at MichFest.’”

But they couldn’t, and didn’t: If me and my ball don’t pitch, me and my ball don’t play.

Heartbreaking that after all these years and all this dialogue, their answer was to give up and shut the doors.


We’re off to NYC for a few days to participate in kinship ritual (my nephew’s getting married) & will be back in WI Monday night.

In the meantime, check out this interview with none other than Catharane A. MacKinnon on trans inclusion, wherein she states, “Simone de Beauvoir said one is not born, one becomes a woman. Now we’re supposed to care how, as if being a woman suddenly became a turf to be defended.” Great stuff.

Then too there’s this trailer for a new documentary about non-binary gender traditions.