Here’s the always awesome Ignacio Rivera with a few reasons why it’s important, and I’ll add myself that having published some scholarship on trans issues, the last survey provided much needed data and continues to be cited in necessary ways.
People ask me why I love crossdressers. Here’s one reason:
What a beautiful short piece on the community, the nature of confidence, and all with a history and knowledge of how it used to be and how what trans people are doing no more than, and no less than, what everyone is trying to do.
Stud, butch, AG, masculine of center – these are some of the terms people use to talk about their identities in this documentary by Nnekah Onuorah that I have to find a way to see. Short of that, this article by Carolyn Wysinger over at the always-amazing Autostraddle covers a lot of the terrain:
When I left the theater the very first thing that I did was hop on Facebook to proclaim The Same Difference as the best film about black butchness that I had ever seen and I’ve seen all of them — all two of them. There has literally been only two films that give audiences the opportunities to view images of black studs/butches/AG’s/doms and talk about their experiences. The Same Difference approaches the subject in a bit of a different way. The film wasn’t initially conceived as a film about black butches. Nneka’s original concept was to simply start conversations about gender and stereotypes. She went into it openly inviting women of different ages and ethnicities to panel discussions about some of the “rules” presented. The film ultimately found its own way landing on black butchness. For a black masculine of center woman such as myself it felt perfect because it is very rare that we are represented in any form of media deconstructing gender outside of juxtaposing femmes. The goal was to allow those with different opinions about gender and stereotypes to have discussions and get to the root of these stereotypes.
There is so little visibility for masculine of center folks, much less so for those who are black. The Aggressives, which came out in 2005 by director Daniel Peddle was criticized because it was made by someone outside of this community – even if it was one of the very first documentaries that gave voice and visibility to AGs.
I know it’s not something we like to talk about as a community, but I thought this piece about deciding whether or not to have genital surgery was useful. I’d put the “it’s personal” section a lot higher on the list, but the article does point out that what was once a requirement is starting not to be in a (very) few countries, in order to change gender markers on US passports, etc.
Because it is so deeply personal, this decision should be up to the individual, not health insurance companies, not gatekeepers, not governments. There are so many people who are unable to afford surgery that there’s really not much “choice” involved – finances dictate. But even if surgery were readily accessible and affordable, it should never feel like or be a requirement for anyone.
I really shouldn’t be surprised by the self righteous morality being expressed over the Ashley Madison hack, but I am.
Sometimes I think we’re maybe about to get our shit together as a species and then something like that happens and it’s like we’re back in the Puritan era shaming other people about what they do (or don’t do) when it comes to sex. Ask asexual people how often they feel judged for not wanting sex; ask monogamous people how difficult it can be; ask poly people how much they’re judged. We are all of us in glass houses.
But at least Dan Savage has something good to say:
There are a lot of people out there who have good cause to cheat. Men and women trapped in sexless marriages, men and women trapped in loveless marriages, men and women who have essentially been abandoned sexually and/or emotionally by spouses they aren’t in a position to leave—either because their spouses are economically dependent on them (or vice versa) or because they may have children who are dependent on both partners.
Mary Elizabeth Williams is making sense here, too:
The Ashley Madison hackers have written, “Too bad for those men, they’re cheating dirtbags and deserve no such discretion.” But yeah, I think cheating dirtbags do. I think that just because you make a lot more money than I do doesn’t mean you deserve to be outed. I think just because you had sex with someone who’s not your wife on your last business trip, you not are accountable to anyone but your wife. Because where does this line of “Let’s drag you into the public square and pelt you” get drawn? Is it OK to out someone as a cheat? Is it only OK if he’s a high-ranking businessman? Is it then OK to make fun of a woman executive when her “crotch intensive” shopping list is leaked? Where does it stop? I don’t know, maybe we just put cameras on all the public toilets and then wait to collectively judge the next person who gets food poisoning. How would that be? Sounds fun, right? Or maybe instead we could try being grown-ups. And maybe we could remember that we all have private lives; we all have sex lives, and as long as they’re consensual, they’re nobody else’s damn business. Not Gawker’s. Not Twitter’s. Not mine.
Every single time we, as a culture, get up on our moral high horses to condemn whoever it is without asking a few essential questions: did we assume monogamy or did we know that was the agreement? Marriage does not automatically imply it, not even a little, and throughout history some cultures more than others have assumed marriage was a social contract, not necessarily a sexual one. There have always been swingers and ‘agreements’ and looking the other way. There is not always a victim when a married person is having sex with someone who isn’t their spouse.
If there was an agreement to be monogamous, then what are the details? When my wife decided she had too low a libido and zero interest in sex anymore, plenty of people would have declared that a deal-breaker and would have gotten a divorce. End of story. I knew she still loved me, and I – after I got it through my head that her lack of libido had nothing whatsoever to do with me or how much she liked me – still loved her. Monogamy, of course, implies actual sex happening between the two parties who are agreeing to be monogamous, and once someone cuts off sex entirely, that contract is due for renegotiation. More
Meagan Taylor is from St. Louis and was traveling in Des Moines when hotel employees called the police on her and a friend who were sharing a room.
They arrested her because her legal name doesn’t match the one she gave them and because she was carrying her prescription in an unmarked container. (Wait, is that a crime now?!)
She’s being kept in solitary because transphobia. Don’t get me started on how they performed the pat-down.
Funds are being raised to make sure she can post bail and for ongoing legal issues this arrest will cause. A protest has already happened and pressure will be kept up to get the hotel to issue an apology and a refund.
I’ve been getting quite a few requests for this link, so I thought it was about time to put it up again:
It’s open to all kinds of partners: wives of crossdressers, partners of people considering transition, partners of people who have transitioned, those who just found out, those who have known for years, those who fall anywhere on the line of being more or less accepting. Often people come on and read through past bios of other partners and start up one-on-one correspondences, but we have a lot of conversations as a group, too, that may be useful to new people. We talk about sex and anger and depression and all the related stuff being experienced by us and by our trans beloveds.
You will, if you join, send in a short bio about yourself and your situation.
So what does this recent EEOC ruling mean? It means that sexual orientation discrimination is now considered sex discrimination, because the gender of you and the gender of who you love means it’s about gender, not orientation, per se.
The first time we saw this in any significant way was when Hawaii’s Baehr v Lewin case left the door open for civil unions back in 1993 (causing, some might argue, the whole DOMA movement at the federal and state levels).
This EEOC ruling is *not* binding in courts, but the EEOC investigates a lot of workplace cases and the courts, in turn, often defer to EEOC rulings precisely because the EEOC has more experience and expertise as their mission is to uphold the Civil Rights Act of 1064.
The argument that gender identity, but not sexual orientation, is already covered by Title VII and other sex discrimination laws has sometimes been asserted as a reason to cut gender identity out of LGBT nondiscrimination bills at the state or local level. In fact, all forms of anti-LGBT nondiscrimination are inherently gender-based—and yet we still urgently need legislation to make clear beyond doubt, once and for all, that LGBT people are protected. The EEOC’s underscores that the entire LGBT community is in the same boat in that regard.
Which is NCTE’s way of saying that the EEOC ruling may help, but it does not (yet) invalidate the need for ENDA.
I read this piece in the LA Times by the ex wife of a transitioned trans woman yesterday – and read all of the amazing commentary about it on my Facebook page by trans people and trans partners – and woke up this morning and started writing this long overdue letter to the wife who just found out.
It starts like this:
To the wife who has just learned her partner is transgender,
I don’t know you. I get emails from women like you all the time, though, and I’m never quite sure what to say to you. I wish I didn’t need to work so that I could hop a flight every single time one of you contacts me and find somewhere to talk and cry and drink and curse for a night into the wee hours. I don’t think there is any substitute for being able to talk long and hard with someone else who has been where you’ve been. I didn’t have anyone like that myself, which is one of the many reasons I started doing this work. You’re alone, and you’re scared, and there’s so little information, and no one, but no one, in your life, has any way of understanding what is about to happen. Sometimes others can make it worse, and sometimes they provide enough support – which is amazing especially when they don’t understand – to get you through the hour, the day, the week.
Some days that’s what it feels like – that that’s all you can manage, like recovering alchoholics do – one day at a time.
The funny thing about it is that I know you’re fine otherwise. You’re taking the kids where they need to go and visiting with neighbors and going out with your friends and taking in a movie with your trans spouse, maybe. You’re trying new recipes and getting your butt to yoga and doing all of the things you normally do. But that sense of isolation is there, and it keeps growing. That sense that you don’t know what you want to do, or what you should do, and whether those two choices have anything to do with each other.
You know you need to stand up for yourself and your needs. And you know you want to, and do, love your spouse and be supportive and awesome.
The problem is that those two choices don’t often feel like they can exist together.
There’s a few more pages and I hope I know where I’m going, but you know, books are always out to surprise you, especially the ones you write yourself.
I wrote this short piece about the term “transgendered” and because Jenny Boylan and I had discussed it in the past, asked her to add her own thoughts. So my piece, then her postscript, and it’s crossposted on JFB’s blog.
by Helen Boyd:
I’m well aware that the term “transgendered” is objected to by some for a variety of reasons. Most of us who did use it once upon a time have dropped it; Jenny Boylan, for instance, changed all of the instances of “transgendered” in her 10th anniversary edition of She’s Not There to “transgender” instead. I haven’t used it on my blog or in my writing for years.
But here’s the thing: interpreting any use of it as some kind of bad faith politics is also a mistake, because it was an acceptable form for many years. The reason some of us chose it – and again, I’ll cite Boylan and me, along with theorists like McKenna and Kessler – was for grammatical reasons.
Adding an “ed” to a verb is a common way to come up with a past participle in English, and past participles then function as adjectives. If you ice your tea, for instance, afterwards you’ve iced your tea, and so wound up with “iced tea”. It’s not complicated. You can do it with a lot of verbs – different verbs become adjectives/past participles in different ways – when you break a toy, it becomes a broken toy, because broke is, for whatever reasons, the past tense of “break”.
Some of these uses have become problematic, but the one I see cited most is “colored” of course, which was used to talk about African Americans and others marginalized by the color of their skin. It’s no longer acceptable because it implied that white people, for instance, have no color – but of course we do. That said, there are neutral ways you can use colored: you could, of course, color a picture in a coloring book, and so wind up with a colored picture.
It was the same idea. Gender is a verb. You can gender an infant (“It’s a girl!”) or degender a pronoun (“My pronoun is “they” because I identify as genderqueer.”) The logic then was that you could transgender something; you can find it used as a verb (“transgendering”) in the work of McKenna & Kessler, who did some of the first, best work on degendering and on trans issues – work that influences the likes of Kate Bornstein, for instance. And while it strikes an odd note now, for the people who were first writing about these issues, no one knew what the grammar was; we were making it up as we went along. So, if “gender” could be a verb, and made into a past participle (“Most children are gendered by others when they’re born”) and so into an adjective: transgendered.
That’s all. It was a grammatical choice. It was neutral. That it’s now seen as implying more than that – the same way colored came to – is how this community has chosen to interpret it. As I said before, most of us who did use it don’t anymore because of the way its interpretation changed. “Transgendering” in McKenna & Kessler struck me as odd, too, when I first read them, but there is no doubt their work is trans affirming and trans inclusive.
So, if you would, don’t automatically judge the author of a work that uses this term. It has fallen out of fashion but it’s still in an awful lot of literature by people who were (1) trans themselves, and (2) trans positive. When people use it now it’s often because they’ve seen it elsewhere; it takes time for bad usages to work their way out of the lexicon, just as it takes a long time for some words to work their way in.
Postscript by Jennifer Finney Boylan:
I agreed to write a few words on this topic for my old friend Helen Boyd, whom I would also like to say, has been doing work to support the loved ones of trans people longer than anyone else I know about. Our books— her “My Husband Betty,” and my “She’s Not There” were published within a few months of each other in 2003, and since then as authors we have kind of been like a pair of babies born in the same hospital. It has been an honor to me to share a bookshelf with her for these many years.
Neither of us, I think, could have predicted how much progress would have been made on behalf of trans people (and their loved ones) when we first started writing our books. It has been amazing and heartening, and I am sure that, while downplaying our own individual roles in this movement, we would both still agree that one of the galvanizing forces in this progress has been the courage of individuals who stepped forward and told their stories, at a time when there was no public language for talking about trans issues.
I used “transgendered” back in the day because because—as Helen notes, “gender” is a verb, unlike “gay” for instance. (A bicycle, for instance, is gendered; but a bicycle cannot be “gayed,” at least not unless you start singing it show tunes.) Plus, it’s the word my own therapist used; I did not know when I began that I could challenge the discourse. I was very polite back then.
I did begin to hear about trans peoples’ restlessness with the term within a few years after my own book (which I abbreviate as SNoT) was published. I pushed back for a while against the criticism (being a professor of English), but finally came to accept that “transgender” or “trans” really had become the acceptable parlance by the middle of the last decade. I did indeed change the words in the 10th anniversary edition of SNoT, even when many other things about that book that I wish I’d said differently remained unaltered.
In thinking about language, and the way it morphs, I sometimes think about the new landscaping that was put in at the school where I used to teach. They put the new lawn in after a period of construction, but didn’t put the paths in until the following year. The reason? The architects wanted to see where people would walk, before they made the sidewalks. And so, after a year of seeing the natural paths formed by the shoes of people using the space, the paths were put in along those lines. I think language is like this too— it can take a while to figure out where the paths go, especially when we are finding a new route across uncharted territory.
I’d also note that no one is harder on the trans community than the trans community itself. We are relentless in our desire to tell others that They Are Doing It Wrong; that being trans is not That but This; that living in our world demands constant vigilance and apology and fury. As someone involved in this work for fifteen years now, I understand the urgency of being seen (and spoken of) in the terms which we define. But I also feel that we would all benefit from a little more love, starting with the love we might show each other. There is no one right way of being trans, and there is no one right path to tread. This is true not only in our language, but in our hearts as well— the place where that language finds its source.
In the new prologue to SNoT, I also recalled the story of the author James Thurber, who was told at a party in Paris how much funnier his stories were in French than English. “Yes, I know,” said Thurber. “They do tend to lose something in the original.”
Holly came from Miami, F.L.A.hitchhiked her way across the U.S.A.
Plucked her eyebrows on the way.
Shaved her legs and then he was a she.
She says, ‘Hey, babe, take a walk on the wild side.’
– Lou Reed, “Walk on the Wild Side”
It achieved its goal of $50k already, but in case you want to be able to tell this trans elder she’s loved, this is your chance.
They managed to arrest that racist, violent motherfucker without killing him but a dude who sold loose cigarettes & a child who was playing with a toy gun had to be killed.
Nine people were killed while in a church and while praying. A five year old knew to play dead in order to save her own life.
But yeah, it’s not racism.
Take the fucking confederate flag down already. It’s not a symbol of history or pride or Southern culture; it’s a banner of hate and violence.
Love to the families and friends and lovers of those who were killed in Charleston and to the black communities of Charleston.
Today is the start of Ramadan.One fourth of the world observes this Muslim fast, and I miss being in a culture where I could regularly witness the very happy fast-breaking at sundown; having grown up in a faith that fasts, I always felt especially sympathetic to the guys who worked in restaurants and delis and the like.
Social scientists estimate that 15 to 30 percent, or, “[a]s many as 600,000 to 1.2 million slaves” in antebellum America were Muslims. 46 percent of the slaves in the antebellum South were kidnapped from Africa’s western regions, which boasted “significant numbers of Muslims”.
So of course significant numbers of slaves were Muslim, and they were practicing, too:
In addition to abstaining from food and drink, enslaved Muslims held holy month prayers in slave quarters, and put together iftars – meals at sundown to break the fast – that brought observing Muslims together. These prayers and iftars violated slave codes restricting assembly of any kind.
For instance, the Virginia Slave Code of 1723 considered the assembly of five slaves as an “unlawful and tumultuous meeting”, convened to plot rebellion attempts. Every state in the south codified similar laws barring slave assemblages, which disparately impacted enslaved African Muslims observing the Holy Month.
Therefore, practicing Islam and observing Ramadan and its fundamental rituals, for enslaved Muslims in antebellum America, necessitated the violation of slave codes. This exposed them to barbaric punishment, injury, and oftentimes, even death. However, the courage to observe the holy month while bonded, and in the face of grave risk, highlights the supreme piety of many enslaved Muslims.
And while this all makes perfect sense, it had never occurred to me, certainly. Do go read the rest of the piece by Khaled O Beydoun. American cultural and religious diversity continues to amaze me; so many things we consider “imported” in recent history – Islam and Socialism, for starters – have really been part of the American fabric for more than a hundred years. It does make you think about who has framed the narrative of America, and why.
Melissa Harris Perry asked and it turns out Dolezal does self-identify as black. I’m done and can’t take this seriously anymore.
Here’s a great book about passing and African American experience: better to learn a thing than to continue wondering what is up with this woman.
An old and dear friend wrote to me about the Rachel Dolezal issue; she was the partner of a trans person at one point, is allied to the trans community, and is also one of the most awesome feminists I know. The way she broke down the arguments for why Dolezal can’t be black go like this:
(1) she didn’t forge her identity through being raised in a minority group,
(2) she can switch back to the privileged group whenever she likes, and
(3) Finally, she is relying on stereotypes when appropriating “blackness”
Her question to me was: how is this not what some trans women do? And in some ways, my answer is to focus on the “some”. Because if something is going to be true for transness, then it should hold up – even, in this case, for all trans women (who are going from a high status identity to a lower status identity, such as someone would be doing in going from white to black).
(1) Trans women aren’t raised and socialized girls and women EXCEPT that plenty are. There are lots of trans girls who come out young enough that plenty are, AND once trans women live as women they are re-socialized as women, AND, as I’ve often argued, trans women may live in the world as people identified as men by others, but they’re not really men, either. They sometimes manage good lives as men, even, but it doesn’t mean they are. What do I mean by that? It means that I don’t know cis men who struggle every day whose genders feel horribly wrong to them and who crave femininity sometimes precisely because they’ve had to repress any expression of it and who have to work out their own complicated love of women. That is, a trans woman is still a woman even if she hasn’t transitioned; she’s just living in the world as a man and there is often a world of suffering tied up in that.
(2) Well, not really. Some trans women can; some do; some detransition for various reasons. But the whole point of things like the Standards of Care were to keep people from transitioning who shouldn’t, and some people realize that in fact transition isn’t the answer to their issue at all, that there is some other issue that gender has gotten mixed up in. Of course, too, many trans women can’t just become men again; too many years on hormones, surgical choices, etc., would cause them to have to transition again, not back, really. It’s not like trans women take off a pair of earrings and become men again. Transitioning is a complicated process and isn’t easily undone; most people who I’ve known have detransitioned do so because they needed to – out of financial need, needs of dependents, unemployability, to keep a marriage together.
(3) Lots of cis women rely on stereotypes to be women (cough Kardashians cough). So if stereotypes of femininity are acceptable for cis women, why aren’t they okay for trans women? One of the reasons feminists keep trying to push the images of women to include more and more types is so that there is no wrong way to be a woman. There isn’t. It doesn’t mean that some of the types degrade and stereotype and pigeonhole women; Disney can stuff it with their damn princesses already. But I don’t get to judge how any woman “does” womanness and I don’t want other women judging the way I do mine.
So that’s, in a sense, Part 2 of my other answer: these are all specific issues and doing a comparison based on general ideas/theories of identity just don’t hold up. There are too many exceptions. In saying any of this, I’m not insisting on any basic truth of transness, or any basic truth of race; I think these are lovely and complicated ideas that can’t easily be “boiled down” to any easy equations. That’s what I love most about what I do: sometimes there is no right answer, and you have to hold, and let be, contradictory conclusions. That’s okay. I think we all often have a tendency to want to nail down the correct, succinct answer, but for anyone who is interested in race and gender and class what is eternally fascinating is how exactly complex and mysterious these interactions between facets of our identities can be.
One thing that has become clear with the news that Dolezal once sued Howard University for discriminating against her as a white person: Dolezal is unlikely to be a good bet as a standard bearer for anyone wanting to win an argument about much of anything; as more of her story comes out, the more apparent it is that there are some seriously dysfunctional family dynamics going on, too. Personally, I’m most upset at the way she trampled all over what is an allies’ first and best rule: you use your privilege to figure out a way to help end oppression, and you don’t do so by ‘becoming’ the oppressed but by recognizing and checking your privilege. I don’t know what Dolezal’s intentions are, but that’s not really a difficult rule to understand.
Otherwise, here’s a good article on Slate as to why it isn’t crazy to compare the two but that breaks down why it doesn’t work, and another that covers a lot of good stuff on identity, belonging, “passing”, and binaries, amongst other things, by the awesome Kai Green.
Complicate that conversation. Think past binaries. Trouble categories. Hold contradiction. People who know what to think all the time are often the dumbest among us.
As much as I joked yesterday that America just found out, via Spokane, that race is a social construction, I meant it to be only that: a joke. It has lead to a lot of people actually talking about what race IS and specifically what blackness is, and to me, that’s a long overdue conversation where maybe some white people will learn a little more about paper bag tests and colorism, “passing” as a means to survival, marrying up to have lighter children than their parents, etc. There are amazing histories and books full of information and deep knowledge about what it means to be black.
But that this whole idea that she is “transracial” is just upsetting to me. First, I always discourage comparisons between race and gender because they never, ever hold up. Gender is constructed by very different discourses of being, through different bodies and histories. Race – especially race in america – is constructed through specific historical contexts (slavery, for starters). Even the movements toward liberation are different. Look at how differently the term “passing” is used, for instance — which is one of the main reasons I hate using the term when it comes to gender.
Here are a few reasons this bothers me: (1) we’re having a conversation about race, finally, at long last. It seems at best disrespectful to make it about anything else when we are so, so overdue in talking about race in the US.
(2) It’s pretty clear that Dolezal doesn’t identify as black.
Ezra believes the only reason his sister would change her identity was due to the racism she claimed to have encountered at Howard University, where she graduated with her master’s degree in fine art in 2002.
Rachel, he added, would often complain that she was treated poorly as one of only a few white students on a mostly black campus.
“She used to tell us that teachers treated her differently than other people and a lot of them acted like they didn’t want her there,” Ezra said. “Because of her work in African-American art, they thought she was a black student during her application, but they ended up with a white person.”
(3) Why are white people so quick to defend what she’s done when they don’t know her? White privilege, again. When those in your own gang are behaving badly, it shouldn’t take someone from some other group to point that out. When I work with men on issues of violence against women, my most frequent refrain is that the good guys have GOT to stop defending the bad guy in their midst. Their best work is to call out the bad guys, to use their own male privilege to confront the people whose actions are oppressing others. White people have to call this woman out for exploiting and mocking the experiences and identities of black people. More
A friend who owns a queer- and feminist-friendly shop just told me he’s been having a hard time getting copies of My Husband Betty, so I checked the Amazon listings for them, where “collectible” and new copies are selling from $27-77.50. Yes. $77.50 for a new copy of My Husband Betty. Don’t you suddenly feel lucky for owning one already?!
I have no idea why they aren’t in stock and in talking to my publishers/distributors found out there is a plan to bring them back into print but there is no date for them to do so just now.
So, folks, do me a favor: buy the electronic editions, Kindle or what-have-you. Any other copies bought or sold (used, “collectible”, and “new”) don’t make me a single thin dime right now, & believe me, they don’t pay me a ton even when they do.