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helenboydhelen boyd is the author of My Husband Betty (Thunder's Mouth, 2004) and She's Not the Man I Married (Seal Press, 2007).

#ToHellwiththeNFL

Posted by – July 26, 2014

Ruby Rose Redone

Posted by – July 23, 2014

via HuffPo, where the words Ruby Rose – the model/DJ in the video – posted on her Facebook also appear:

You know what needs to stop just as much as homophobia, bullying within the LGBT Community… A ‘bisexual’ isn’t just greedy.. ‘Pansexual’ exists and isn’t a cop out.. ‘Straight’ people can be gay huge advocates and blessings to the community… you can identify as trans without surgery, you can be gender fluid… in fact guess what… you can be whoever you are and like whoever you like and WE should spread the love and acceptance we constantly say we don’t receive.

Yep.

Eric Garner’s Death

Posted by – July 19, 2014

Eric Garner

Eric Garner’s death is hard to watch but it happened on video. I’m glad someone was there to film it, because you can hear for yourself that he’s saying he can’t breathe. You can see the officer pushing his face into the ground. You can see there are four men on top of him.

Eric Garner had just broken up a fight. The details are still unclear but he asks the police to please leave him alone several times, and reacts with frustration when they want to cuff him. To me, he did nothing that looked dangerous or even threatening – frustrated, yes. But I can’t see any intent to harm anyone.

Four of them were on him, and I assume they justify that because he was 350 lbs.

Oh god, it’s heartbreaking, and he was only 43. He had 6 kids.

He’d been arrested previously for selling untaxed cigarettes, and says at the start that they’re always messing with him and asks them to stop and to leave him alone.

This punishment does not fit the crime.We have got to stop treating people who commit minor crimes like they’re animals. We have to break down this stereotype of black men as a constant, physical, violent threat.

Love to his wife and children and everyone who loved him.

Obama Adds Protections

Posted by – July 18, 2014

President Obama will sign executive orders to grant employees working for federal contractors and federal workers freedom from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

That is, he’s doing what Congress – the House, specifically – has not done by not yet having passed ENDA.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, praised Obama for “showing strong leadership taking this historic action to advance equality in our country.”

But, Baldwin emphasized, Congress still must act. “The fight to pass on to the next generation an America that is more equal not less does not end with the president’s signature,” she said. “We have more work to do. Every American deserves the freedom to work free from discrimination and last year the Senate found common ground, passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act with strong bipartisan support. I will continue to call on the House to put progress ahead of politics and give the Senate-passed ENDA an up or down vote because this legislation provides workplace protections that millions more Americans need and deserve today.”

I’m not convinced Congress will act, however, so at least there’s something in place now.

Weird Al Has a Big Dictionary

Posted by – July 17, 2014

Clever, clever, clever: and his grammar’s all on, too. Also, I’d like to thank him for providing a guilt-free, child-friendly version of one of the catchiest tracks of recent years.

“Just Like That” (Those Oprah Guests)

Posted by – July 15, 2014

Oh, Oprah. She did one of her “Where Are They Now?” editions and it turns out Christine, a woman who had been in a marriage in which both husband and wife would come out as a gay, later met a woman named Jacki.

Jacki and Christine fell in love. Awesome.

Jacki transitioned to male. Also awesome.

But while being interviewed on the show they said that Jacki transitioned in order to marry Christine, and so they “looked into transgender” and found out that “just like that” their marriage would guarantee that Christine would receive Jacki’s pension and social security.

Just like that.

M guess is that the story is being wildly misrepresented: that in fact Jacki already had some gender stuff going on, a latent or not so latent need to transition, and in these days of defeated DOMAs and lifted bans and stays on ceremonies and the murky, uneven status of same sex marriages, they thought transiton + marriage would guarantee them certain rights they could not be as sure of as a same sex couple.

The first red flag for me: Did anyone notice that Christine says Jacki is “the most authentic person I know”? I mean, is that not in the “things cis people say about trans people” list?

Which maybe it will, for them. I hope it provides them the stability and recognition of their relationship everyone deserves.

What bothers me, of course, is the way it’s been framed as the “shocking steps” one couple took. Not shocking. When people try to gain the legal rights afforded others, it’s not shocking at all. It’s entirely normal and should be totally expected. And if transition itself is still shocking to anyone — holy crap, come out from under your rock.

The problem is that many, many trans people have found their marriages declared legally null over the years – and it is far more likely for a marriage like theirs, in which both people’s sex declared at birth is the same. The status of my own marriage — which is the type that is legally upheld by the courts because we had different sexes listed on our birth certificates and got married long before my wife took the legal or medical or even social steps to transition — still makes me nervous precisely because of all of the legal details of the status of some marriages in this country.

What I suspect – and what I don’t know for sure – is that Jacki is one of very many people whose gender was already masculine of center, before meeting Christine, and whose life as a masculine woman often brought a ton of bullshit – barred entry to the ladies’ room, issues with clothes shopping, misgendering, etc. Dealing with that, plus his love for Christine maybe encouraged him to legally change his gender precisely because living with a non normative gender can be such a pain in the ass legally and otherwise. That is, there are plenty of people for whom a legal transition to male is not a huge undertaking because they are already men in so many ways. My wife’s legal transition was definitely influenced by the fact that it was getting more and more difficult for her to deal with TSA and other boneheads who had the right to judge whether or not her gender on her ID sufficiently matched her gender in person. So despite leaving for years as a woman with a male ID, we went through the legal hullabaloo to get hers changed.

The way they are presenting their story reminds me of the woman who claimed being stung by a bee caused her to transition (and who, in all fairness, said the anaphylactic shock set off a hormonal reaction, etc. etc.).

You don’t need a reason, folks. You’re trans and transition because you are.

You’re in love and want to be married because you are and you do.

Let’s please stop making excuses for gaining recognition for our lives, identities, relationships and families.

On Our 13th Anniversary

Posted by – July 14, 2014

So today my wife & I put up photos celebrating our 13 years married. We met 16 years ago, in fact, but weddings & marriage are what “counts” right? I’ll save that diatribe for another day.

& Here is the thing that I didn’t bother to say on Facebook but that I really need to say: anyone who think it isn’t difficult to survive a transition can stick it. It is. It’s about the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and we two had a surfeit of love to start with. But the inherent narcissism of the thing caused her to disappear some, to focus more on the “me” than on the “us”, and that pretty much caused me to do the same in turn. As with other couples who wind up in situations that are full of one-sided caretaking, it can take a long time to get things righted, back into balance. And sometimes there’s a lot of anger and resentment and frustration while you’re trying to do that.

My wife is a beautiful woman. That I prefer to be around people who understand I chose to marry a man and will always carry some sadness about that loss seems obvious. For many people – heterosexual people, for the most part – they just see one queer couple as if they are like any other queer couple. We are still together and still happy so that’s that, right? Yeah, no. When a lesbian marries the woman she loves, she gets to be who she is and be with who she loves. And when a straight woman unwittingly marries a woman, she doesn’t. She get to be with who she loves – albeit in a slightly different form – but she really doesn’t get to be who she is. I feel lucky to have been queer enough to pull this off, but not a week goes by that I don’t miss the man I married. I loved him, after all. I married him. And I’m glad this 2.0 version was enough to keep the soul of that person in the world so I could share my life with her.

I assume I feel a lot like people who mourn the death of a loved one very deeply, who stay sad for years and years. I know you’re out there. For some, even the loss of a pet can be sad forever, and who knows why, or why we bond so deeply with some things and not with others, or why we have a hard time adjusting to some changes and not others. I am not good with change; I never have been. My hair, yes. My life, who I love, where I live, what I eat? About those things I am about as conservative as a person can get. I want the familiar; I want what feels like home.

As the trans community has changed, and awesome memoirs like Jake and Diane Anderson-Minshall’s memoir have been written, I feel more and more like I’m just supposed to be okay with this. And you know what? I’m still really not. I’m still trying to find my way in this post transition marriage, still trying to find the man I loved in the woman I live with, and some days it’s brutally hard. What sucks even more is that it’s obvious to me and everyone that my wife is a remarkable, talented, beautiful, sexy woman. She is funny and brilliant and loving and still one of the brightest lights I have ever been near. And she still adores me. So the guilt I feel some days that I can’t seem to love her the same way I loved him is back-breaking. But there it is. I can’t. I try. I fail. Over and over again, I fail. And she would tell you – tell anyone, really – that I have more than once told her that she deserves to be with someone who loves her as the woman she is and not for the man she once was. But she doesn’t want someone else. She wants me. And that’s amazing, and awesome, and fills me with gratitude and love that I can’t even contain, but it feels me with guilt, too: guilt because I worry I don’t, guilt because I worry that she is hanging around for that magical day when I feel about her how I felt about him.

So when I hear Janet Mock say that you can’t say trans women were ever men – that Janet Mock herself was born a girl – I wonder where partners wind up. I was recently talking to the filmmaker Ashley Altadonna who reassured me when she said Mock’s new paradigm didn’t thrill her, either, that her struggle – to realize she was a woman, to find the medical care needed, to come out to friends and family, to suffer some rejection and some awesome acceptance – is too much a part of her to think of herself as always having been a woman. She said it kind of sidestepped all of what it means to be trans, to be herself.

There are days I am still overwhelmed by how awesomely liberating it is as the partner of a trans person to hear a brutally honest trans person admit to something like that. For Ashley, transition was a BFD. For me, and for most partners, it is too. And while I don’t think Mock was trying to diminish or belittle or make invisible the struggles trans people and their partners go through – because that is so not her gig – I have lived so long with a woman people see as a woman and in a place where no one ever knew her as a man that I know what it means for people to see my marriage as if it is between two cis woman, where no one was ever male and no one was ever het and no one ever transitioned. And it denies way, way too much of who I am and how I am.

(For the record, this is part of the upcoming book.)

ENDA Support Pulled by LGBTQ+ Groups

Posted by – July 9, 2014

Yes, you read that right. Numerous LGBTQ+ groups have pulled their support for ENDA due to the pending legislation’s religious exemption. Those exemptions have always been a source of discord, but in s post Hobby Lobby world, it’s easy to see why many are concerned.

Celebrate Appleton’s NDO!

Posted by – July 8, 2014

As I’ve already mentioned here, Appleton passed a gender identity & expression non-discrimination ordinance a few weeks ago, very much thanks to the awesome work of Fair Wisconsin. As I didn’t do any fundraising for June, I would love to congratulate and thank FW for their efforts.

Please, if you would, join me in donating to the Fair Wisconsin Education Fund, which is the board I serve on.

(And yes, it’s tax deductible!)

 

The Ethic of Queer Toughness

Posted by – July 7, 2014

I’ve just read Jack Halberstam’s manifesto on queer toughness – “You’re Triggering Me! The Neo Liberal Rhetoric of Harm, Danger, and Trauma” – and I’m watching it gather appreciative re-postings across a queer internet that is exhausted by recent language wars (the “tranny” debates) as well as by the academic circles equally exhausted by the expectations for and encouraged use of trigger warnings.

And while there is a lot of good stuff here – I’ll get to that – I was put off by how dismissive it felt to me. Bits like this:

“What does it mean when younger people who are benefitting from several generations now of queer social activism by people in their 40s and 50s (who in their childhoods had no recourse to anti-bullying campaigns or social services or multiple representations of other queer people building lives) feel abused, traumatized, abandoned, misrecognized, beaten, bashed and damaged? These younger folks, with their gay-straight alliances, their supportive parents and their new right to marry regularly issue calls for ‘safe space.’”

What does it mean? It means that things have changed, but the sad reality is that despite GSAs and supportive parents and the right to marry, LGBTQ+ youth still have awfully high rates of suicide, depression, and substance abuse. They are still hurting, and to my mind, the need for safe space is exactly that – a growing desire to feel safe. Because as much as it is true that the kind of repression, violence, bashings, and outright invisibility of an older generation is no longer typical (although it is not, by any means, non existent), there is still a lot of pain out there, and continuing to look on important debates about identity, trauma, and community identity as whining or complaining or with accusations of being “thin skinned” or “over reactive” are – at best – belittling and disrespectful.

There, I’ve said it. As the old adage about privilege goes: when you step on someone’s foot and they complain, you don’t then tell them that they should be wearing better shoes or that they must have weak feet. No, you just apologize. It does not mean, however, that you should stop dancing, or walking, or stomping, or whatever it was you were doing when you stepped on that person’s foot. You just apologize if, in the process of doing your thing, you unintentionally hurt someone. It is this inability, in my opinion, that causes a great deal of the trouble. Bad apologies are not, per se, apologies. They are explanations. In a sense, then, what I’m saying is that people should not get so upset about all the yelling. Yelling and anger are outcomes of hurt and out of the frustration of not being heard, and, I would argue, about feeling a great deal of things that are confusing and unsettling and scary. The debates and hostilities, even over language policing, are growing pains, maybe of the integration of trans* into the larger LGBTQ+, but also of a younger generation growing up while an older generation starts to feel a little dated, and are both necessary and important.

That said: the reason this piece is spreading like wildfire (while being simultaneously parodied) is because it is much needed push back from queer and academic quarters for increased demands around sensitivity around trauma; much needed because, as Halberstam points out,

“as LGBT communities make ‘safety’ into a top priority (and that during an era of militaristic investment in security regimes) and ground their quest for safety in competitive narratives about trauma, the fight against aggressive new forms of exploitation, global capitalism and corrupt political systems falls by the way side.”

But my thoughts on how we move from this very personal sense of hurt which this upcoming generation is being excoriated for expressing – and how or even why it could and should be transformed into political action and solidarity – will have to wait for another day.

Fireworks from the Eye of a Drone

Posted by – July 5, 2014

(Or, what we can really do with technology instead of killing people & other living things.)

via GearJunkie

4th.

Posted by – July 4, 2014

hijabi superheroes (2)Happy 4th of July to one & all!

(For more about this Captain America, check io9′s post about the artist and the drawings.)

Tiffany Edwards

Posted by – July 3, 2014

Tiffany Edwards was the fourth trans woman of color killed this June. She was also the fourth trans woman murdered in Ohio in the past 16 months.

Her suspected killer, however, turned himself in this morning to police. His mom had prayed he would.

What’s astonishing about the news clip and brief interview with the suspect’s uncle is his idea that this was not a hate crime. The uncle refers to Tiffany as a gay boy (ugh), and from what he says, I’m not really convinced that he equates homo- and transphobia with hate at all.

Just as with other “diversity” issues out there, there is a frequent misunderstanding that hate can only be based on race or ethnicity or religion, and that sexual orientation and gender identity aren’t categories. Maybe it’s because we took so long to pass the Matthew Shepard Act; maybe it’s because these kinds of crimes, and this kind of hate, is so commonplace, and legitimized by panic defenses.

But either way, perhaps some justice for Tiffany Edwards will happen. None that will make any sense, though. She was beautiful and 28 and didn’t live to see the July after Pride month.

Love to her friends and family.

Me in Our Lives

Posted by – July 2, 2014

I did a gig for FORGE in Milwaukee recently and Connie North wrote a piece about what I had to say for Our Lives magazine out of Madison. Here are a couple of good snippets, but the article as a whole summarizes some of my recent thinking on these issues:

In 2007, she and Betty “transitioned together” and are about to celebrate their eleventh wedding anniversary. In her words, “Relationships last as long as the people in them wake up and decide to be in the relationship that day.”

She finds the “get on board or decide to go” message that partners frequently hear to be overly simplistic given how significantly someone’s transition affects those closest to them. Boyd asserts that when their partners transition, many partners must grieve the loss of the person with whom they first entered into the relationship, noting that a partner does not necessarily share the sense of inauthenticity a trans* individual may experience before transitioning. She also shares her own process of working through profound anger when Betty transitioned. Calling this “spiritual/psychological work,” Boyd speaks of learning not to blame Betty for her transition since it is not something people choose.

I appreciate Boyd’s attention to the intense hurt that exists in trans* communities—communities that she insists include the people who love trans* individuals. Instead of converting that hurt to horizontal anger that we take out on each other, she asked us to focus on changing external factors, like institutionalized discrimination, which cause great harm to trans* people and their allies and put a lot of pressure on the relationships that include trans* partners. She also reminded us that service and compassion are the heart of social justice activism.

You can read it in the full PDF of the issue, and it’s on page 28.

 

Shakespeare Rewrite

Posted by – July 1, 2014

Some are born great

Some achieve greatness

And some have greatness given to them through systemic inequality

– from dearnonacepeople.tumblr.com, via buzzfeed, and h/t to Bri

Obama Issues Executive Order to Protect Trans Employees

Posted by – July 1, 2014

Obama:

“I’ve repeatedly called on Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act,” Obama said. “Right now, there are more states that let same-sex couples get married than there are states who prohibit discrimination against their LGBT workers.  We have laws that say Americans can’t be fired on the basis of the color of their skin or their religion, or because they have a disability. But every day, millions of Americans go to work worried that they could lose their job -– not because of anything they’ve done.”

“I know, it’s terrible,” Obama continued, as a baby in the audience began to cry. “It’s upsetting. It is wrong.”

Obama also cited a long list of LGBT accomplishments during his remarks, drawing cheers from the energetic crowd. In particular, the president repeated his calls for LGBT-rights activists to direct their energy and resources toward other “injustices,” including progressive causes such as raising the minimum wage, youth homelessness, equal pay and eliminating racial and religious discrimination.

“Dr. King said an ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ And that means that we’ve got to be able to set up a community that extends beyond our own particular narrow interests; we’ve got to make sure that we’re reaching out to others who need our help as well,” Obama said. “That’s how we continue our nation’s march towards justice and equality.  That’s how we build a more perfect union –- a country where no matter what you look like, where you come from, what your last name is, who you love, you’ve got a chance to make it if you try. You guys have shown what can happen when people of goodwill organize and stand up for what’s right. And we’ve got to make sure that that’s not applied just one place, in one circumstance, in one time. That’s part of the journey that makes America the greatest country on Earth.”

Whenever I ask my students whether it’s legal to fire someone for being gay in this country, they look at me like I’m crazy. Because it is crazy, and it’s absurdly short-sighted and long overdue.

 

 

Just Call Me Che?

Posted by – June 30, 2014

To close out Pride month, I wanted to talk a little bit about this essay by Quince Mountain about a thing Laverne Cox said. What she said was:

Loving trans people is a revolutionary act.

And this bugged Quince Mountain, who is trans, and who thinks he is pretty lovable, and that trans people are, too, in general, no more or no less than anyone else. He writes:

But what does it mean, that loving me is a revolutionary act? Is it so difficult for someone to love me? Does my transness make me so untouchable that I can only hope for the mercy — and the favor — that someone might bestow upon me with their warmth? Is my self-esteem so far diminished that I can believe that someone’s love for me must be a special category of love, that it’s somehow more difficult, more important, more intentional, than other kinds of love?

So what does it mean, to love a trans person? Trans people are no more or less lovable than non trans people. They are not, by dint of being trans, any more brave, or thoughtful about gender, or feminist, or even interesting. That is, there isn’t much about transness that confers awesome amounts of lovability. There’s also nothing about transness that diminishes a person’s lovability, either.

But does it take a tremendous act of courage to love a trans person? No.

Does transness provide special challenges to how you might love a person? Yes.

Does the existing discrimination against trans people make it difficult for people who love trans people to say so? Yes. But he asks, specifically:

(And that, somehow, I would want, and not be exhausted by, this fraught and special love?)

Which is where the conundrums of partners begin. I get that he doesn’t want anyone doing him any favors by loving him or by feeling obliged to love him. Fair enough. But at the same time, partners are often in a pretty limited space: we’re not supposed to love trans people despite their transness (because that would be transphobic), or because of it (because that’s fetishizing), then how can I articulate my love for my wife? Because I can not possibly argue that her transness is irrelevant to our relationship or my feelings for her; I suspect I would love this same person if she weren’t trans, but it’s also unlikely I would have dated the woman she is now because femmes are not who I date, generally speaking.

But even if those who go through transition with a partner are a special case – grandfather clause required – then what about someone who loves someone trans long after transition? When they’re at peace with their transness? Cox has often pointed out she doesn’t “pass” – is that different from loving a trans person who does? I would imagine it would be. There would be far more stress on a couple if one person was routinely at risk of discrimination, just as there would be if one half of a couple were disabled or black – that is, no matter the cause for discrimination.

So yeah, Quince says it’s my problem, not his, or my wife’s, or any other trans person’s. I think he’s right. I don’t think I deserve a special medal for not being a transphobic jerk and I certainly don’t think it makes me some kind of uber Feminist, either. But are there days when it feels like it takes a revolutionary amount of courage? There sure the hell are, just as I expect there are days when being trans requires that much, too.

But no more, and no less.

 

 

One Good Thing #SCOTUS

Posted by – June 30, 2014

Okay, there was one ruling that was actually a good one: California passed a law a while back preventing ex-gay therapies. It was challenged, as expected, but SCOTUS smacked down the challenge, so the law stands, as does the ruling of the 9th Circuit Court which stated that ex-gay therapies are well outside of the scientific mainstream.

Hobby Lobbied

Posted by – June 30, 2014

There’s a part of me that wishes we could all go back to bed and pretend it’s Sunday night so that there would still be a chance these awful rulings wouldn’t have been handed down by the Supreme Court today, but they were.

The first is that labor unions can’t collect dues automatically from the workers they represent in negotiations with the management. It will decimate labor unions and workers’ rights.

The second is that corporations don’t have to cover contraception. The fear is that this will allow corporations to decide what kind of healthcare they have to insure. What’s happened is this: we are not talking about an individual being able to choose based on religious exemptions. We’re talking about a corporation being able to. As Justice Ginsberg put it:

In a decision of startling breadth, the Court holds that commercial enterprises, including corporations, along with partnerships and sole proprietorships, can opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.

Theoretically, then, a corporation could not provide pre natal care, trans health care, etc. If the company is owned by Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, they could deny all access to modern medicine because that’s their religious beliefs. Also, “contraception” isn’t just the pill; it’s also the shot (Depo-Provera), the ring (Nuvaring), contraceptive implants (IUD), diaphragms, cervical caps and permanent contraceptive methods, like tubal ligation. I haven’t read yet if it includes vasectomies, but it should (and I’m guessing doesn’t, because patriarchy).

The fear is a slippery slope where religious exemptions are claimed in order to deny LGBTQ+ people employment or marriage benefits. Why should they have to cover my wife’s health insurance if they believe my marriage is immoral and against their religious beliefs?

Here are some of Justice Ginsberg’s best quotes in her dissent, some of the major issues, and a brief synopsis of her grounds for it.

The good news, if there is any good news, is that most corporations will continue to cover contraception because financially, speaking, birth control is way easier to pay for than pregnancy.

Happy Pride: Sylvia Rivera, 1973

Posted by – June 29, 2014

y’all better quiet down! from reina july on Vimeo.

41 years ago, and she’s talking to a gay and lesbian audience about trans* women in prison, revolution, and the middle class whiteness of gay liberation.

(Courtesy of my friend Darya Teesewell, who is writing some painful and honest pieces about doing sex work while trans for FourCulture magazine.)