River+Bay

I just got back to Appleton after driving from here to LA with my wife. I left her there to act. To leap. To take another jump at the acting career she left behind when she transitioned. As she puts it, she made a deal with the universe: that it could have her acting career if she could sort out a decent life as a woman.

And it did, for a very long time. The film she made this summer, And Then There Was Eve, re-lit her spark, so we figured out a way to get her back to LA so she could see what she could see. We had so many kind people in our lives – not least of which is the musician Cory Chisel, who for reasons I can’t explain seems to like us – contribute to the fund that made it possible.

We’ve always lived a little on the knife’s edge but this would be a little more than usual: usually we leap between gigs, when a job has ceased to be, or when something else (trauma, transition) opened that metaphorical window where a door used to be. But this time, we got to leap because there are so many in our lives who wanted to help. A local magazine just did one of the finest stories about us I’ve ever read — which, if you notice, doesn’t mention our genders or sexuality or transness at all, which is so goddamn awesome I can’t even begin to tell you. A special thanks to Justus Poehls and David Aragon for such beautiful work.

At one point in our interview, Helen joked, “Every story begins with Rachel, and ends with Rachel, and she’s the whole middle of the story . . . I just occasionally show up.” They lovingly jostle, but it’s apparent after spending just a little while with them that the mettle of their relationship was forged in some serious hellfire. At another point, getting up to grab a drink, Rachel laughingly noted after a bit of repartee, “We have lots of ways to tell each other to fuck off.” Through the haze of their edgy humor, there’s this rare, almost tangible sense of their solidarity.

And for that? 2016 brought so much sadness and fear and isolation, even, too, but it also brought us all this love and kindness and cheer from so many people, from every stage of our lives.

Thank you. We are happy to be able to cheer whoever we can with our antics, our love, and the endless story of our ongoing relationship with each other, with gender, with life.

Onto 2017. Happy New Year.

LGBTQ Books for Kids

The always awesome Bear Bergman started Flamingo Rampant a while back, which is a micro press that publishes beautiful LGBTQ books for kids.

Here’s a bunch of them.

Right now they’re raining money to publish the next set of books and they need your help. Donate if you can, or buy books.

These are a great, great gift for any LGBTQ child or family that you know.

For Aleppo

There are times a tragedy is too great, the violence too unspeakable, for me to make any sense of it. There is none. So I retreat in the ways Catholicism taught me to, to be quiet and solitary and, simply, to challenge myself to feel more deeply, not less.

This song, the only kind of prayer I’ve ever felt in my bones, gets me there.

For all the souls who lost their lives in Aleppo yesterday, last week, in the past year.

Unerased: New Resource on Trans Murders

Mic has introduced a new resource for tracking the murders of trans people. It includes murders in the US since 2010, only, but it does a little more digging into the statistics and how transness is “negotiated” not just by the reporting of these crimes but also by their representation in obituaries, the press, court cases, etc.

The actual database includes not just numbers but faces, info on rulings (if there is one), and can be filtered for year, age, race, gender, circumstances of death, and outcome.

The occasional pullquotes throughout are sobering, like this one: “People who kill black trans women and femmes are usually convicted of lesser charges than those who kill people of other trans identities.

And this, from Shannon Minter: “Other factors contribute to underreporting. Minter said that while murders of trans women are visible and documented to some extent, those of transgender men may be harder to track. ‘I also think there’s a lot of unreported violence against transgender men that gets recorded just as violence against women,’ he said.”

And all of this is far more troublesome because the statistics are already so high, and yet:

But it’s difficult to know the full scale of the problem. When a transgender person is killed, each step in the process of accounting for their death risks erasing that person’s gender identity. Many can’t spare the expense of having their names and gender markers updated on government documents. Law enforcement and coroner’s offices are not trained to identify transgender victims. Immediate family members who reject a trans person’s identity often withhold it from authorities. When the press learns of these murders, local reporters often don’t have the knowledge or information to investigate whether the victims were trans. The United States Census does not track transgender people, and while the FBI added gender identity as a category in its annual self-reported hate crimes report in 2014, the agency does not track gender identity along with its homicide statistics.

Please take care of each other out there.

US Trans Survey Now Out

Today, the most recent US survey of trans people is out.
Tune in at 1PM EST for a live launch event. Register to watch it.

Here are some of intitial findings, about bathrooms:

  • 59% have avoided bathrooms in the last year because they feared confrontations in public restrooms at work, at school, or in other places.
  • 12% report that they have been harassed, attacked, or sexually assaulted in a bathroom in the last year.
  • 31% have avoided drinking or eating so that they did not need to use the restroom in the last year.
  • 24% report that someone told them they were using the wrong restroom or questioned their presence in the restroom in the last year.
  • 9% report being denied access to the appropriate restroom in the last year.

  • 8% report having a kidney or urinary tract infection, or another kidney-related medical issue, from avoiding restrooms in the last year.

A recording of the event will be made available after the launch for those who are unable to watch live.

love notes for america

A colleague from Boston published a horrible letter sent to a mosque there – I’m not going to reprint it, but it was filthy and evil – and my immediate thought was to send them a letter of love, of welcome, of inclusion.

And I mentioned that. And another colleague ran with the idea and created this amazing website that provides you with the places that have received this hateful letter and others like it. She’ll send a postcard for you if you’re out of stamps, even.

So in these days where the constant question is: what more can I do? Here’s another answer. I’ve already sent out a bunch.

Thankful

This year it is a little harder to be thankful because of the worry in my heart and in my head. I’ve had nightmares for weeks now, and I see how utterly deflated and shattered so many people I love look. The joking on Facebook and in person all feels a little hollow, a little forced, but I’m glad for it all the time. So let me do this little thing, take the moment to see what is, what isn’t yet, what may never be.

I am thankful tonight to have been invited to a thanksgiving dinner by queer friends with their families. I am thankful to have a too-full belly, a warm house, a life companion, and four bundles of fur who share my home. I am thankful I will see more people I care about on Saturday.

I am thankful for the right to dissent.

I am thankful for the social justice activists in my life, especially the elders who haven’t lost hope and who know how to buckle down and get things done. I’m thankful for those younger than me, their energy and fire and keen sense of justice.

I am thankful for those who went to Standing Rock to support the Protectors, and I am very, very thankful for the Protectors.

I am thankful to have time to sit down and think about what I’m thankful for, that I am not so overworked that all I can do with my time off is sleep and eat.

I am thankful to have people in my life who look to me to help them through, and I am thankful for those who get me through in turn.

I am thankful for the love and support people have shown my wife as she embraces a new adventure.

I am thankful to have the memory of the decent people who raised me, my mother and father and grandmother, all of whom I miss every family holiday, but in whose memory I try to make the world a little less mean and a little less scary. I am thankful that both my parents exited this world while Obama was president, and that they were the kind of people who were overjoyed that we had managed such a remarkable thing.

I am thankful for anyone and everyone who has made room for me at their table in this place where I have no family but my wife. I am thankful for everyone who is gracious in being alone or lonely this holiday, and my heart goes out to you. I am thankful to the older man who walked by my house today, who I wished a happy thankgiving to, and who looked at the heart in my window and smiled and winked back at me.

I am thankful for all of you who have had to gather your resources and senses in the past few weeks, who have tried to understand what happened, who have called on me and others like us not to give in to despair. I am thankful for every hug offered or requested.

There are so many things to be thankful for. May we all remember in these coming months that we have enough for everyone to have a little peace and a little joy.

Happy Thanksgiving, all.

Poetry: Revenge by e.c.c.

(I am not the poet. The poet is someone called e.c.c. Just found this one re-posted on a friend’s FB, & e.c.c.’s tumblr said you could share as long as they’re credited. So they are.)

Revenge

Since you mention it, I think I will start that race war.

I could’ve swung either way? But now I’m definitely spending
the next 4 years converting your daughters to lesbianism;
I’m gonna eat all your guns. Swallow them lock stock and barrel
and spit bullet casings onto the dinner table;

I’ll give birth to an army of mixed-race babies.
With fathers from every continent and genders to outnumber the stars,
my legion of hapa babies will be intersectional as fuck
and your swastikas will not be enough to save you,

because real talk, you didn’t stop the future from coming.
You just delayed our coronation.
We have the same deviant haircuts we had yesterday;
we are still getting gay-married like nobody’s business
because it’s still nobody’s business;
there’s a Muslim kid in Kansas who has already written the schematic
for the robot that will steal your job in manufacturing,
and that robot? Will also be gay, so get used to it:

we didn’t manifest the mountain by speaking its name,
the buildings here are not on your side just because
you make them spray-painted accomplices.
These walls do not have genders and they all think you suck.
Even the earth found common ground with us in the way
you bootstrap across us both,

oh yeah: there will be signs, and rainbow-colored drum circles,
and folks arguing ideology until even I want to punch them
but I won’t, because they’re my family,
in that blood-of-the-covenant sense.
If you’ve never loved someone like that
you cannot outwaltz us, we have all the good dancers anyway.

I’ll confess I don’t know if I’m alive right now;
I haven’t heard my heart beat in days,
I keep holding my breath for the moment the plane goes down
and I have to save enough oxygen to get my friends through.
But I finally found the argument against suicide and it’s us.
We’re the effigies that haunt America’s nights harder
the longer they spend burning us,
we are scaring the shit out of people by spreading,
by refusing to die: what are we but a fire?
We know everything we do is so the kids after us
will be able to follow something towards safety;
what can I call us but lighthouse,

of course I’m terrified. Of course I’m a shroud.
And of course it’s not fair but rest assured,
anxious America, you brought your fists to a glitter fight.
This is a taco truck rally and all you have is cole slaw.
You cannot deport our minds; we won’t
hold funerals for our potential. We have always been
what makes America great.

-e.c.c.

Guest Author: Gwen Smith, TDOR’s Founder

From Gwen Smith, who founded Transgender Day of Remembrance back in 1999:

I Remember.

The 20th of November is a day set aside to honor those who we have lost due to anti-trans violence and hatred.

This year, we honor roughly 300 people from around the world. There’s likely many others we do not know, erased by their killers, and further erased by police, media, families, and others.

Anti-trans violence affects us all, trans or not. We need everyone to stand against it. Our right to exist is on the line. Anti-trans violence is also anti-black. It is also anti-sex worker. It is also anti-woman. Be intersectional.

In the U.S., we face a rollback on our rights, and face future laws against us, in the name of “safety.” We need to stand up & fight for *our* safety, our right to exist, our protections. We need to not let those we’ve lost die in vain.

In the United States, there have been as many as 27 known anti-trans murders since the last Transgender Day or remembrance.

• Monica Loera of Austin, Texas. Murdered 22 January, 2016.
• Jasmine Sierra of Bakersfield, California. Murdered 22 January, 2016.
• Kayden Clarke of Mesa, Arizona. Murdered 4 February, 2016.
• Veronica Banks Cano of San Antonio, Texas. Murdered 19 February, 2016.
• Maya Young of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Murdered 21 February, 2016.
• Demarkis Stansberry of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Murdered 27 February, 2016.
• Kedarie/Kandicee Johnson of Burlington, Iowa. Murdered 2 March, 2016.
• Quartney Davia Dawsonn-Yochum of Los Angeles, California. Murdered 23 March, 2016.
• Shante Isaac of Houston, Texas. Murdered on 10 April, 2016.
• Keyonna Blakeney of Rockville, Maryland. Murdered on 16 April, 2016.
• Tyreece Walker of Wichita, Kansa. Murdered on 1 May, 2016.
• Mercedes Successful of Haines City, Florida. Murdered on 15 May, 2016.
• Amos Beede of Burlington, Vermont. Murdered on 25 May, 2016.
• Goddess Diamond of New Orleans, Louisiana. Murdered on 5 June, 2016.
• Deeniquia Dodds of Washington D.C. Murdered on 13 July, 2016.
• Dee Whigam of Shubuta, Mississippi. Murdered on 23 July, 2016.
• Skye Mockabee of Cleveland, Ohio. Murdered on 30 July, 2016.
• Erykah Tijerina of El Paso, Texas. Murdered on 8 August, 2016.
• Rae’Lynn Thomas of Columbus, Ohio. Murdered on 10 August, 2016.
• Lexxi T. Sironen of Waterville, Minnesota. Murdered on 6 September, 2016.
• T.T. of Chicago, Illinois. Murdered on 11 September, 2016.
• Crystal Edmonds of Baltimore, Maryland. Murdered on 16 September, 2016.
• Jazz Alford of North Carolina. Murdered in Birmingham, Alabama on 23 September, 2016.
• Brandi Bledsoe of Cleveland, Ohio. Murdered on 12 October, 2016.
• Sierra Bush/Simon Bush/Sierra Simon of Idaho City, Idaho. Murdered on 22 October, 2016.
• Noony Norwood of Richmond, Virginia. Murdered on 5 November, 2016.

Today, honor those we have lost. Tomorrow and every day, fight for them and all others. Remember Our Dead. #trans #tdor #tdor2016

Trans Day of Remembrance 2016

This is an extraordinary year for trans Americans in particular: we are at a moment in time where too many hard-won battles may be reversed in the coming years by our newly-elected federal government. While we can’t say we’ve had it good, we have had better federal protections than we’d ever had before. So many are worried that so much of that will be taken away, whether it’s because the ACA will be gutted or ID laws will become more complicated or because transness itself will be re pathologized.

And I’m worried about the future. I worry that by this time next year, we will need a Trans Day of Resistance, instead.

But I did want to say this: many of you are feeling worried and scared and vulnerable in a way that you have not felt before. And for that reason I have to say: if you can’t do it this year, DON’T. Take care of yourself. Live another day. Remember another day. The violence that is part and parcel of TDOR is hard every year, but this year – with too much evidence of the kind of hate we always know is out there – it may be too much for you to manage.

Do find each other. Do reach out. Do tell the people in your lives if and when you are feeling vulnerable. As we all wake up from the shock this election caused the country and caused many of us as individuals, remember that there are millions of us out here who are also shocked, saddened, and scared for what the future may bring.

Know this: you are loved and valuable and amazing in so many, many ways.

Help Fund My Wife’s Next Step

The person you all originally met as Betty landed an acting gig in a movie called And Then There Was Eve this past summer. I wrote a little a while back about how she’d given up acting for a long time because she had to transition, and well — this movie and the current climate for trans roles has her wanting more.

I can’t begin to explain how talented she is as an actor. It’s really what she’s best at.

So she’s going to Hollywood to see what she can see, and she needs a little help paying the bills. If you can, donate.

I’m staying put in Appleton – too much work to be done here – and it will continue to be our home until at least 2020. But I am so proud of her, & as she likes to joke, we are “advanced married” so we can handle this just as we’ve handled so many things thrown our way.

We are very, very grateful for all of your support over the years, and appreciate how much gratitude comes our way for what we’ve done.

This Year’s Fun Home Lecture

There’s a little message to all of the LGBTQ+ people at the beginning of this one, around 2:47-5:30 or so.

Fuck the Fear.

Fuck the fear. I’m not having it.

It is obvious tonight that America is not ready for the future, for progress, for inclusion. America just pushed back, and hard.

I was born of the white working class and raised by my anti racist, Catholic parents who were born in the middle of the great democratic experiment known as New York City.

And I am worried about the fears of white working class people – Christians and heterosexuals, for the most part – who are scared about the changes, who are scared of people like me and my wife, who are scared of Obama and smart black people, who are scared of faggots and immigrants and Muslims.

It’s because they don’t know us. It’s because they don’t know there is a way to live, to create community and art and love and ethics and beauty despite difference. They don’t know the awesome world we live in, and instead, they live in fear of who they think we are instead of who we actually are.

I have been white and heterosexual and Christian and I was raised, like most of us are, to denigrate queer folks and non-Christians and non whites. So many of us were. What changed me? What changed any of us? It was having the opportunity to be put in situations where I realized fear was something that limited me, that made me mean in ways I didn’t want to be. It gave me faith in things that had nothing to do with my worth – my skin color, my sexuality, my dominance as a Christian American – and so I could make space to welcome more kinds of people, more kinds of living, more kinds of beauty and community.

I also know that marginalized people are who create the world, over and over again. I teach the idea that those of us who do not have dominant viewpoints know not only what we know but also what the dominant folks know: women know how men think because we have to, because it keeps us safe. Black people know how racist white people are because it can keep them alive. And what we know, all of us who live on some liminal edge in this culture, is that we are up against it all the time.

Nothing has changed. Patriarchy, white supremacy, American exceptionalism, homophobia, capitalism and its woes – all of those things were with us yesterday and are still with us today.

We will find ways to persist, to create, to love, to keep each other safe. We will find new ways to combat suffering, to bring beauty and peace to the world.

Because the world, after all, is ours: the underdogs, the marginalized, the hated, the feared.

We know who we are. We know what it means to love deeply, to need beauty, to feel compassionately.

Those are the things that defeat fear. Those are the things that create community, that push progresss, that allow us to live with meaning, to practice love and patience and empathy.

We are it, folks. And we will prevail. Fuck fear. Love deeply, make art, create community, and ORGANIZE. We are better than their fear of us.

And the rest of you? Who voted out of fear, out of racism and misogyny and who are terrified of change, who are so awash in your own arrogance that you can’t even see our humanity? Get over yourselves; the future is coming and your goddamn vote isn’t going to stave it off much longer.

The future is ours. Try to get used to it.

I’m With Her #imwithher

Teaser Clip: And Then There Was Eve

The first teaser from Rachel’s movie And Then There Was Eve:

What’s Left To Do This Election

They just killed a young man in Wisconsin. In Menominee. He was attending college at a UW. He was Saudi. He died of his injuries.

I don’t need to be told it was a hate crime.

A father of three killed two Des Moines police officers while they sat in their cars. He was upset at the way he was treated at a game when someone stole his confederate flag.

I don’t need to be told he was white or mentally ill and had easy access to guns.

I am scared for these United States, scared for my students of color, for the visibly queer, for Jewish friends, and for women.

I am scared for what will happen no matter who wins the Presidency or how they do.

I am immobilized by the fear that there is so little I can do besides offer some sanctuary, some reassurance, that most Americans are better than this. I am immobilized by how mean the world is getting.

But lately, I’m not so sure myself that these things are true.

I am sad to see anyone talking about the “lesser or two evils” or shaming any progessives for voting for Clinton. Sometimes it is heroic to tow the line, to maintain the status quo. Sometimes it is all we have. Presidents are rarely actual Dems, rarely progressive, almost never Left, and yet there are people out there playing radical politics, more radical than thou shit, who will tell you that a vote for Clinton is a vote against the Pipleline Protestors. Newsflash: Of course it is. The President is still an American, and they are all capitalists, and now, neoliberals. This is not news, Bernie supporters. This is not news, young progressives. My entire life I’ve voted for Not the Other Guy. You’re a little spoiled; you grew up under the only president I’ve been happy to vote for, in good conscience. But Obama is the exception, not the rule.

What is news is that we are right now staring down a fascist America that does not resemble any vision of the world we want. They are burning black churches and the Klan has endorsed Trump. They don’t even need their hoods now; they’ve come out of hiding and they’ve Made America Hate Again.

& Sadly, this bullshit about emails means that Trump now has a path to victory. I’ve never read any news that made me more sick than that.

So if you want to do the radical thing: watch people’s kids if they need the time to vote. Ask all your friends directly, and without flinching, when and where they are voting. Bring a few friends with you to vote. Help them register. Bring snacks and water for people waiting on long lines, or camp chairs or coffee.

GET OUT THE VOTE. It’s the most radical thing you can do this year.

The Thing About Being Trans – Scott Turner Schofield

“The thing about being trans is, since the beginning, I haven’t known who I am, which makes it hard to be alive sometimes. To make decisions, to feel totally solid – at a core level. The Voice Of Gender echoes forever in me: “You are not what you know you are.” I do pretty well, but I doubt I’ll ever say “nuh-uh” loud enough.

Who I really am may forever be a mystery to me, but mystery is art, mystery is something I’ll never get tired of appreciating. Living in mystery is not being lost.

I don’t have to know the inventory of who I am so long as I am always someone who loves. If I love me, and I love you, and I choose love always, that’s all any of us need to know about who I am. That’s all I need to know about how to live.

The thing about being trans is, you get to have epiphanies like that.”

– Scott Turner Schofield

My Wife Tells That Story…

There’s a cool Moth-like event here in Appleton called StoryCatchers, and my wife volunteered to tell a story at its second happening because the theme was “the first time”. Some of you will recognize the story – of her going out as a woman in a denim skirt for the first time.

This is her version, in which she calls me a superhero, and is otherwise touching and hilarious and 180% her.

It’s also shown up in a new online magazine here called River + Bay.

just saying.

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(via Diana Nieves-Oake)