Reform

Today was the day I taught the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, which as you all know, is depressing af and a tragic moment in American history.

I teach it because I want to teach students about women and labor history and Frances Perkins – because she was the first woman to be part of a US Cabinet (FDR’s, of course) and because she made it her life’s mission not to find out what she wanted from life but to find out what life wanted from her. She’s one of my heroes along with her own hero Al Smith.

But today, after the umpteenth school shooting and so many people just wrecked with sadness and frustration and overall outrage exhaustion, it strikes me that the real lesson from Triangle is that we don’t have to do nothing.

We don’t have to just complain on Facebook.
We don’t have to convince our friends and families.
We have to decide that enough is enough and begin to dedicate ourselves to changing the world in a way that reality becomes more tolerable for everyone.

I don’t know what to do about guns but people in 1909 didn’t know what to do about sweatshops, and once those 146 women died, they figured out how to change shit. Here’s a short list of what they changed, which included, basically, extensive changes to the fire code, working conditions, child labor laws, legalization of union organizing, votes for women, and, um, the New Deal.

Just saying. There is hope, but you have to be it. I am not sure why we are not all out in the streets refusing to work for even another minute until reform happens and children stop dying. But I do know it will take organizing like that for any change to happen. As you go about your day and worry about dinner or your job or a promotion or your vacation, try to remember that 17 more families are on that long list of families mourning young people who don’t get to grow up. I really don’t understand why every parent in this country hasn’t pulled their kid out of school or stormed the PTA to get some movement on this thing.

Find a thing to do. Reform is possible, and sadly, it’s always more possible after a tragedy. Don’t let them die in vain.

And Then There Was Eve Philly Screening 3/16

My wife’s debut role in the awesome film And Then There Was Eve will be opening the Women’s Film Festival in Philadephia on March 16th.

Get your tickets.

Support women in the arts and especially women in the arts who support other women in the arts.

Weekly Trans Roundup: 2/4-2/10/18

Since I’ll be doing most of my writing on Patreon these days (do sign up! it’s only $1/month!), I’ve decided that I’ll also do a weekly round up of some of the most trans relevant news I’ve seen in the past week.

Chelsea Manning Isn’t the Only Trans Candidate You Should Know About is a brief article about some of the other awesome trans candidates running in the US.

This cool video by Blake Cully on what it’s like to be trans and deaf.

This awesome sartorial history of pink and blue as the colors for babies from KSPS:

Another great video about Charlotte:

A video by a cis man calling for greater inclusion of trans women (at the women’s march & beyond).

Iowa City added a third gender option.

This cool story about decolonizing sexuality at a Two Spirit Pow Wow.

The announcement that a new book called The Singing Teacher’s Guide to Transgender Voices is now available.

A great article on ‘walking while trans’ about criminalization of trans identities focused primarily on the NYPD.

And sadly, the obituary of the fourth trans woman killed this year, Celine Walker, age 36, who was killed in Jacksonville, FL.

Speaking of Poly…

I just wrote a new piece for Patreon. It begins:

We recently changed our status on Facebook from ‘married’ to ‘in an open relationship’. We’re sure people want to ask but no one has yet. We’ve been kind of laying bets on who is going to ask what first.

. . .

Mostly we heard a lot of “you can’t become poly because your marriage is in crisis” and we heard that having one monogamous and one non monogamous person was impossible. Both wrong. If you want to be CNM, you can do it no matter your circumstances. We delayed our decision because of that kind of advice.  

. . .

The best description of being a CNM couple is that it’s like being part of a well loved band. We work great as a unit and people love us as that unit but sometimes, someone needs to do a solo project or a side project with other musicians. 

and it ends:

 

So that’s that. More stories to come, when I feel like telling them.

Poly Workshop at Wisconsin LGBTQ Conference

Hello all! I’ll be talking about polyamory and non monogamy at this year’s Wisconsin LGBTQ Summit. I haven’t done one of these before but it seems like a good time.

It’s not up on the website yet, but here’s the description:

Poly 101

Polyamorous or consensual non-monogamous relationships have never been uncommon in queer community, but they are starting to be more widely understood and practiced. Come learn some of the basics of what it means to be poly, hear answers to some of the most pressing questions about jealousy, commitment, and making love less like pie.

Monogamous, single, ace, queer, trans, poly, NM… everybody is welcome.

February 24th in Milwaukee.

Here’s a good article if you want to educate yourself a little before then.

2nd Patreon Goal Met

So what’s exciting about this whole Patreon thing is that I feel like people are signing up to read me as a writer and not just me as trans advocate. And that feels good.

I hit my 2nd goal of 25 patrons which means I have to make a video. Come join and you’ll get to see it.

Another thing: this site is having some kind of Malware issue, but my webmistress, my wife, is in the middle of dealing with both (1) having totaled our car last week – she’s fine, and (2) moving to Ashland to start her hear with Oregon Shakespeare Festival — without said car, obviously. She’ll check into it as soon as she can, but in the meantime, you may need to bypass the blog and use direct links to my various things.

Sorry about that. Repairs on the way.

1st Patreon Goal Met

So the whole Patreon thing is exciting. I wish I’d done this year ago.

I promised that if I got a dozen followers I’d post a short piece on the Art of Aspiration & Resistance I’m working on, a manifesto of sorts, and I did and it’s up.

Here’s an excerpt:

Yet someone thought to take a time lapse of the way the light plays with the stained glass of DC’s National Cathedral. Who did that and why? Who built it and why? What happens to me when I watch, when you do? What happens in our brains, to our eyes? Do the tense lines in our faces relax, do our pets sigh nearby, do our breaths get a little deeper so we can take a minute to think or not to think, depending? What faith once did – provide beauty and aspiration and art and peace – seems to be missing from so many lives. So much faith seems to be about hate these days.

My intention, then, is to dig in, to go back to a time when I didn’t know what to do with this great desire for beauty, when I didn’t even know it was that, to dig into the other great yearnings I’ve learned how to name, for the erotic, for power, for peace, for friendship, for something I hesitate to call communion. Love, meaning, life. Once again I have no choice but to lean on Art, but Art in her most eternal form, the only real response there can ever be to despair.

Because I know how hard I’m fighting that beast and I assume others are too. How do you live with a big sensitive soul in a time when everything seems awash in ignorance and violence, with the one rolling into the other, joining forces and gaining speed? How do we build a culture that says no even as the rest is trying to kill us? And how do we stop it from killing us not just spiritually but actually?

Come join me!

Me on Patreon

It’s high time, and in the light of the loss of Ursula Le Guin, I decided to take this little leap off a cliff by starting an account on Patreon. I can’t let my wife have all the fun, can I?

I haven’t set up goals or rewards yet as I’m curious to hear what all of you would want from me. I *do* plan on doing a video and maybe some audio recordings – cause y’all like my voice – but mostly this will be new and different kinds of writing that I don’t do as much of because my blog is so on the trans/gender tip.

Expect pieces more like this and this and this, and maybe some fiction, maybe excerpts from the two novels I have written but never quite finished, and maybe some of a fairy tale I keep kicking around, and maybe anything I’m writing that doesn’t as easily cleave to the HB brand.

Thank you in advance. It means everything to me to have people in my life who want to read what I write and who want to support me while I do.

Ursula K.

Ursula K. Le Guin died yesterday at the age of 88.

I don’t even know how to begin to process this news.

For me, she was more than Bowie or Prince – but no need to compare, either.

In Left Hand she taught us all about relational, relative gender by inventing characters who become sexed  as a result of the person they were with, so the male King of a kingdom had, in a previous relationship, given birth to her own children.

She taught me everything we all already know about trees but have failed to imagine. In Direction of the Road, she writes as an oak tree :

If they wish to see death visibly in the world, that is their business, not mine. I will not act Eternity for them. Let them not turn to the trees for death. If that is what they want to see, let them look into one another’s eyes and see it there.

And in Earthsea she taught us about power and ethics and how to live despite everything.

She taught us what it means to only ever be a ‘bad man’ because we are women; that is, she uses the ‘bad man’ idea to explain that we are all of us people, but some of us are automatically bad at being what we are supposed to be because of gender and its caste.

She also told a senior editor at Harcourt that he’d created an anthology of new writing that was more like a locker room and so didn’t blurb it. 

Her clarity of mind – that bright, steady, lamp of intellect she yielded alternately like a laser or a search light – made so much visible that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

Such a huge loss, such an inspiration, influence, mentor-from-a-distance; she taught me how to hold my head up as a woman who writes and that has been invaluable.

#metoo Read Up

Let me get out of the way that I’m one of those horrid feminists who not only works with men but who works to bring men into feminist movement. In addition to men of course being part of the problem, by act or omission, they also desperately need freeing from gender. We all do.

I’ve been wishing lately, in the midst of all of the articles and op-eds about sexual assault, that women all over the world might just publish the direct messages, chats, conversations in women’s groups, and transcripts of phone calls that have been happening for months now, the ones that start “shit this week has been triggering” and “okay the Ansari story is exactly it” and the like. But we won’t. We shouldn’t have to.

Because it’s all already out there, as Lindy West just pointed out in the NYT. So many things, so many. We have been talking amongst ourselves lately for months but we’ve also been talking about this amongst ourselves for decades (and before that, we were pointedly not discussing it but trying to keep other women away from those men, when we knew them). Women recommend these books to each other all the time and give them to each other as presents sometimes to say #metoo to teach other but also to say #yesallwomen but rarely do we give them to the men in our lives.

I suspect that most of my closest male friends have not read one book that’s explicitly feminist, and I’m what some might call a humorless feminist, so the men I’m close to are generally of the more enlightened variety. But even among them, I suspect there are very few who have read any of the books on that list or any other books by women and about women.

So guys, READ UP, would you? Almost any woman you know would be happy* to recommend one and most would even be happy to discuss it with you, but with one giant caveat:

You Can’t Be a Jerk About It.

Here’s How: (6 Easy Steps! A Listicle! Learn things about women while investing almost no time!)

  1. Read to understand, not to disagree. No looking for the holes in the arguments.
  2. Read it as if you were a woman. That is, try to imagine you were assigned one at birth and raised one or transitioned or whatever version of woman  you can imagine yourself being most easily.
  3. Try to remember that most of the is lit is written by white women and reflects all of the privilege and self-selection that implies.
  4. don’t think about your sister/wife/girlfriend/mother/daughter because your relationship with them is likely already stepped in a fuckton of male privilege you probably don’t recognize. That is, you already think of them as women, which is really the root of the whole damn problem.
  5. Tell a woman who might be willing to talk to you about it that you’re ignorant af but really want to understand how you could have grown up in a culture where you failed to notice that more than half the population is scared to say no, or hi, or to speak to men they don’t know or to men they do know except when they’re drunk or angry or men they thought they knew and trusted only to find out how wrong they were.
  6. Also, don’t discuss it. Highlight things that confuse or perplex you and ask her to explain them. Don’t talk. Listen. Quietly. Without objection.
  7. When you’re done, start over with a new book and maybe with a new woman (dependent on how likely you followed the previous 6 instructions).

This is how you learn things, guys, by learning things. Read books written by women in whatever genre you prefer: it’s all in there, in one form or another, in one book or another.

You might even find a new favorite writer. (Really. I actually like some male writers, no kidding, but only if I can relate to their lives.) (OK, that’s a joke. I like a lot of writers I have absolutely nothing in common with. That’s kind of the whole point of reading, to understand other people’s lives and so live in the world with compassion.)

Start now, please.

*Okay, I’m only kidding. Don’t ask a woman to volunteer for this bullshit. Find one who is willing to work with you and PAY HER to educate your ignorant ass.  

PSA: Not “A Transgender”

by Cary Gabriel Costello

Rest in Power Erica Garner

They knew she would die a few days ago when her brain activity stopped, after being in a coma, after the heart attack brought on by asthma, four months after the birth of her son.

But after, more than anything else, the brutal murder of her father Eric Garner by the NYPD.

His death has been the hardest for me – maybe because NYC, maybe because he was the father of six like my dad was, maybe because there’s a million sweet men selling loosies or cutting some corners at a bodega; they’re the guys who keep NYC running, you know? All of those guys. The ones who let you hang out because you’ve gotten jumpy with some drunk mofo yelling shit at you on the street.

& Just fuck it all that she lost him, and that she lost him like that. No one has to wonder why she poured her heart into activism after that.

What do we do now? How do you respond to such a beautiful, loyal daughter’s call to arms? Maybe we can do something about the high mortality rate of black mothers. Maybe we keep calling for an end to the lawful murder of black people by those who are supposed to serve & protect.

Maybe we do something, dammit, something big and real and full of that heart of hers that felt so much and loved so much and hurt so much it broke.

RIP Ben Barres

Ben Barres was a personal hero of mine. He was the person who convinced me, by words and deeds, that trans people are an important tool in the feminist toolkit, precisely because they have lived aware of gender on both sides of the (binary) fence.

I added an article he wrote for Nature about the lack of diversity in the sciences to the Intro to Gender Studies class I teach at Lawrence. I’m glad to have introduced his work to many, many students over the years, and to have passed on his recommendations for how to be truly inclusive in the sciences.

He was the lead client in TLDEF’s amicus brief in support of Gavin Grimm’s suit, according to TLDEF’s ED Jillian Weiss.

He studied glial cells in a search for a cure – or more understanding – of diseases like Parkinson’s & Alzhimer’s. After being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer – which sadly & famously is a cruel & fast cancer – he made sure anyone who needed one got a letter of recommendation.

Standford’s tribute, and his friend Marc Tessier-Levigne’s tribute, tell you so much more about this brilliant, just man.

I never got to meet him and only admired him from a distance. Love to his family, friends, and colleagues.

Brenda Tracy #settheexpectation

TW: sexual assault, violence

Brenda Tracy is an incredibly gifted, heartfelt speaker who talks to men about the gang rape she experienced. A local group, Voices of Men, invited her to do seven events in NE Wisconsin. My wife Rachel Crowl made this video of her visit.

A huge thanks to the students of MARS, a group I helped create, for organizing her evening at Lawrence. I am regularly happily astonished by how dedicated younger men are to stopping violence against women and wanting to be the kind of men who step into the kinds of men who take women for granted.

Blog Troubles & Redesign

… there have been issues with my blog recently so as you’ll notice, right now it’s in the most stripped down, plain version. My lovely tech goddess, otherwise known as my wife, is working on it.

If there’s anything in particular that I should definitely keep, feel free to let me know in the comments.

Actual Censorship

Liberal snowflakes ask white folks not to use the N word.  Students object to “scholars” who come to campuses to promote white supremacy, transphobia, and homophobia. Trans and GNC people want correct pronouns used for themselves.

And yet, none of this was censorship. Cultural battlegrounds, yes. Not censorship.

As if to provide a history lesson, the CDC has just been given a list of words NOT to use by HHS. They are:

  • vulnerable
  • entitlement
  • diversity
  • transgender
  • fetus
  • evidence-based
  • science-based

It does matter why these were chosen and speaks to the increasing stupidification of US politics and the hateful, anti intellectual, anti science, anti humanitarian impulses of our current WH.

But the point I want to make is this: this is actual censorship. When a government agency “recommends” words to use and not use, when they restrict how reports are written, when any population is singled out to be disappeared via language, you’re dealing with actual censorship.

Just to clarify.

Thank You Black Voters

So Doug Jones won, which is the least of what should have happened, but what didn’t happen is that white folks are still not getting it – not in the way they vote, and not in a lot of reactions on Facebook.

One friend posted a celebration of the black women who made this happen only to be reprimanded by a white man who wanted to celebrate everyone. #alllivesmatter much?

There’s a lot of “thank you, Alabama!” when it was really the black voting population who need to be thanked.

Because this guy wasn’t just racist, he was sexist and abusive and tranphobic and homophobic and didn’t understand or honor the separation of church and state.

We can thank the Dems. We can be thankful to Doug Jones, and for Doug Jones and his commitment to civil rights.

But to me, I can’t help but feel that black voters came out to honor the memory and secure that much more justice for those four little girls.

And for me, to excoriate racist Jeff Sessions, who left this seat empty when he joined the WH.

So yes, it’s a giant win because Dems never win in Alabama, and one did tonight. But really, my fellow white folks, let’s please honor the black people – and especially the black women – who we owe this to. And let’s listen to them a lot more often, and a lot harder, and remind our local and state and national Dems that over and over again black voters get it right and white voters often do not and we need to learn from that. Because the Dems aren’t going to turn this around until we trust black voters and black intellectuals and black pundits and theorists and writers and even, yes, black celebrities.

Because I am just goddamned tired of you ignoring the truth of every damn election in this country.

 

The Return of The December Project

This year, because US politics have become so acrimonious, we decided to bring back The December Project – the brainchild of Jenny Boylan, who understood how many of us are lonely and hurting during the holiday season.

Privately and locally, Dylan Scholinski and I have both continued to make ourselves available to trans community folks who need someone to talk to, even if it’s just someone to say “Merry Christmas” or to listen.

So here’s how it works: you email me (helenboyd@myhusbandbetty.com) or Dylan (sentamentalistudios@gmail.com) with a little bit about yourself and we will write you back and arrange a time to call and talk.

Important things:

    1. We do this because we do.
    2. No one is making any money.
    3. Your information will remain with us. Everything you say to us is confidential.
    4. We are not trained counselors. We are just friendly people who like to meet new people and to listen and who will judge nothing about you – not your identity, your sexuality, or anything else.
    5. If you are suicidal, we ask instead that you call a suicide hotline: 1-800-273-8255.
    6. Trans LifeLine is of course also always available (& we are so thankful for them): 877-565-8860.
    7. There are also moms who are willing to be your mom for the holidays. You can find these lovely folks here: http://www.yourholidaymom.com/

Stay well out there.

Pussy Bites Back, Indeed

so i feel like everything women have ever said about our lives is now unfolding in broad daylight and it’s a little weird to have been feminist this whole time & to watch the world learn of the button matt lauer had installed in his desk to lock the door from his seat, and to just say HEY THIS IS THE WORLD WE’VE BEEN LIVING IN THE WHOLE TIME. because i know men didn’t believe us.
 
honestly, some days i can’t believe it’s as bad as it is, & then i remember that it’s worse.
 
there is so much more than that fucking button. so much more. 
i am so glad these jerks are finally getting fired. FIRE THEM ALL, EVERY. SINGLE. GODDAMNED. ONE.
hey patriarchy? we’re coming for you. this is what happens when you elect a Head Pussy Grabber in Charge.

Matt Lauer’s Button

On learning that Matt Lauer had a button at his desk that allowed him to lock the door without getting up – which Anne Branigin at The Root just called “his little trapping button” – my friend Jill Barkley asked:

Who authorized the expense to have the button installed? Which men in power positions over Lauer knew about the button? Which men at equal levels of power as Lauer knew about the button? What did the guy who installed the button say out loud to his coworkers about it? What did the male members of the cleaning crew who saw the button say to their coworkers?

Basically, what I’m asking is: men who know about fucked up shit and don’t do anything to intervene, WHAT THE FUCK? I’d say pardon my language, but I’m not actually sorry.

For anyone who is shocked or surprised, I only want to say: maybe someone should have asked the contractor who put it in, or whatever asshole approved the work order, or, I DON’T KNOW, ANYONE WHO KNEW IT EXISTED AT ALL.