Medium

I decided to try out having a presence on Medium.

Baby and Bathwater

There is a tendency, I think, for those of us whose goal is creating a world that is a little more self aware of sexism, racism, transphobia, and the rest, to dismiss writers and artists based on a single opinion, utterance, work of art, song, etc.

  • Is all of Kate Bornstein’s work necessarily discredited because she defended the use of the T word?
  • Is all of Dan Savage’s work for shit because of his denial of bisexual existence and/or his transphobia? 
  • Is there any delicacy in recognizing that there was a moment in time in which being “trans amorous” was a radical and trans-positive position? 

I think about this stuff because a lot of what I’ve written over the years could be interpreted as transphobic now, or, at the very least, problematic. Some of it was at the time, too. I am not, nor have I ever been, a ‘respect your elders’ sort of person, but I’m also pretty turned off by the complete lack of historical context some seem to exist in, as if fine-tuned arguments about the nature of transphobia haven’t been happening all along: As if we didn’t debate ‘transgender’ vs ‘transgendered’. As if no one has ever called themselves a transvestite proudly. As if…

To some degree, it’s one of the reasons I feel myself not wanting to write another book about anything trans related; for starters, I think it was useful for a cis feminist liminally trans type like myself to do the work that I did at the time, but now? I think transness is in good hands for the most part, although I’m happy to pipe in when and where it’s needed.

But mostly I feel myself stymied by the idea that anything I might put into the public sphere now would be so roundly shot down on a technicality that it’s really just not worth the effort. I prefer hanging out in this tiny corner of the internet doing my thing, being read by folks who appreciate what I do, and talking to people one on one who might need some help finding resources or the like.

I’m tired of people who have opinions but who don’t do anything or create anything or legislate anything. I feel more much occupied by the work and much less interested in the debate.

Maybe it’s an older vs. younger activist sort of thing and I’m officially middle-aged, but from here on in I feel like I’m going to be asking a lot more questions of critics far and wide: well, what have you done? Who have you helped? Have you created, or tried creating, anything of lasting value? In a sense it’s an age-old problem: This doesn’t satisfy, says the critic; So what have you got? says the artist.

And out goes the bathwater, baby and all.

Help for Grammar Nerds: AP Stylebook Adds “They” as Singular Pronoun

The headline along is enough to make some grammar nerds fidget nervously: AP Stylebook Embraces ‘They’ as Singular, Gender-Neutral Pronoun.

I was watching some grammar nerds – and yes, I count myself as one – discuss the difficulty of this.

Two points: (1) You already do this all the time: “I wonder who left their phone behind. I bet they’ll really want it back.” You know the phone doesn’t belong to a group, and if you don’t know this person’s gender, ‘they’ is an easy default. Someone objected that there is a difference in spoken (informal) verses written (formal) writing, to which I can only reply: either respecting people’s identities is important enough to change some grammar rules or it isn’t. I think it is.

(2) The real issue, I’ll insist, is whether or not you actually respect and acknowledge the multiply- or non-gendered as REAL. If you’re having trouble calling a single person by the pronouns “they”, it may be because you don’t actually believe in their gender identity as multiple or not gendered or non binary.

In which case, that’s the thing to work on. Once you respect multiply or non gendered people as legit identities, “they” as a singular pronoun is pretty obviously the most pragmatic solution to the English language’s lack of a gender neutral singular pronoun.

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.

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.

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.

RIP Lady Chablis

Heartbreaking news from Monica Roberts: The Lady Chablis, aka The Doll, aka Brenda Dale Knox, had died at the young age of 59. She became famous by playing herself in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, after which she wrote her amazing autobiography Hiding My Candy.

When I first started teaching Trans Lives as a class, there was a huge lack of work by or about trans women of color. Ditto for those who transition out of drag identities. Hers was both: an important book that talked about her upbringing, about the South, about race, about what it meant to become a woman after working as a professional drag queen. Its entire sensibility differed from all the other narratives by white trans women (and men) – it brought a sense of humor, a stunning fighting instinct, and so much dignity in the face of too much difficulty.

This woman has long been a heroine of mine, and I’m sad to see that she’s died younger than she might have. Still, I’m sure she was always surprised that a million things along the way didn’t kill her, either.

Thank you, Lady Chablis, for all the pleasure and beauty and glamour you brought so many. You will be missed.

Support Trans Writers

My friend Tom Leger over at Topside Press is doing a cool thing: he helped create a one-week workshop for emerging trans women writers with two well-known authors – Sarah Schulman and Casey Plett – and because it’s sliding scale they’re raising funds to offset the difference for those who can’t afford it.

This is an awesome way to support trans writers.

Donate if you can. (The budget info is here, if you need to know that sort of thing before donating.)

Read more about it here.

Finally, here’s an essay by Zoey Wolfe about why writing is important to her.

 

Two Good Things

Here are two good things that are now/newly available:

The documentary about Kate Bornstein, Kate Bornstein is a Queer & Pleasant Danger, is now available for purchase by high schools and universities. (I did an interview with her for this blog back in 2006.)

The second is that Julia Serano’s Whipping Girl garnered a second edition, for which she wrote a new preface, and garnered a new cover (gone with the pink one!). I did an interview with her back in 2007 when it first came out, if you want to check that out.

 

Fun Home Lecture

fun home

A few days ago I gave a lecture on Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel Fun Home for the first year students at Lawrence, and while I dme and oscaron’t have a video, I do have this audio, so if you’re interested in some of the LGBTQ history that’s tucked away in the book, or in the basics of queer theory, do give it a listen.

WI Book Fest – Resources

Awi book fest trio (2)s promised, a few of the resources I promised to people who came to the Love, Always reading yesterday at A Room of One’s Own.

My online group for partners of trans people: https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/engender_partners/info

Our online forum for trans people and their partners, friends, family, and allies: http://www.myhusbandbetty.com/community/index.php

You also might want to check my posts tagged resources and/or trans partners.
(Photo credit to Violet Wang)

Saturday! WI Book Fest Reading

Excited to be reading at the Wisconsin Book Festival for the second time tomorrow, once again joined by my awesome writer friend Miriam Hall & Shawnee Parens. We’ll be reading from Love, Always, the book by Transgress Press that is composed of pieces written by the partners of trans people. I wrote the Afterword, so that’s what I’ll be reading.

3PM at Madison’s Room of One’s Own Bookstore

from Between the World and Me

“I have raised you to respect every human being as singular, and you must extend that same respect into the past. Slavery is not an indefinable mass of flesh. It is a particular, specific, enslaved woman, whose mind is active as your own, whose range of feeling is as vast as your own; who prefers the way the light falls in one particular spot in the woods, who enjoys fishing where the water eddies in a nearby stream, who loves her mother in her own complicated way, thinks her sister talks too loud, has a favorite cousin, a favorite season, who excels at dressmaking and knows, inside herself, that she is as intelligent and capable as anyone. ‘Slavery’ is this same woman born in a world that loudly proclaims its love of freedom and inscribes this love in its essential texts, a world in which these same professsors hold this woman a slave, hold her mother a slave, her father a slave, her daughter a slave, and when this woman peers back into the generations all she sees is the enslaved. She can hope for more. She can imagine some future for her grandchildren. But when she died, the world – which is really the only world she can ever know – ends. For this woman, enslavement is not a parable. It is damnation. It is the never-ending night. And the length of that night is most of our history.”

from Between the World and Me, Ta Nehisi Coates, p. 69-70.

WI Book Festival Reading of Love, Always

I’ll be reading from the Love, Always anthology with my friend Miriam Hall and another contributor, Shawnee Parens, on 10/24 at 3PM at A Room of One’s Own bookstore.

Excited.

Here from New York?

I was interviewed for an article titled “My Husband Is Now My Wife” for New York magazine recently, and while the online version isn’t up yet, the issue is out.

So if you’ve shown up here as a result of it, some info:

Here are My Husband Betty and She’s Not the Man I Married, my first two books.

Ever After, the third that I’m currently writing, I haven’t sold yet, and am still seeking an agent & publisher for it.

Please feel free to search this site for whatever resources you’re seeking: this blog is more than a decade old and it there’s a lot to find, but here are the basics:

  1. our message boards (the mHB forums)
  2. the private partners list I run and moderate
  3. my letter to a wife who just found out

There’s a recent interview with me in SalonDan Savage’s podcast where he asked me about how often crossdressers transition, and of course, feel free to contact me (helenbkramer@gmail.com) if you have a question.

 

 

Fun Home: The Musical

I have to admit first that I don’t like musicals. Never have. I don’t understand them as a genre or as a medium.

But of course Fun Home the book has a special place in my heart – I’ll be doing a lecture for all the first-year students on the novel in early November – so I really had to see it.

Two things stuck out to me: her father was played by a heavier set, frumpier kind of guy than I thought was accurate. None of her drawings of her father struck me that way – instead, I saw a slender, muscular guy who was still in the prime of his life, even if he was (of course) closeted and a jerk of a dad. I felt like the choice disappeared his sexuality more than it might have. That said, he was still fantastic – amazing actor, singer, everything else. But I wanted to see the guy in the very 70s cut-off denim shorts; it strikes me that his story is very different otherwise.

The song I expected to make me cry – “Ring of Keys” – was not the one that did. It was “Telephone Wire” that got me – that desire to connect with him, that knowledge that she both does, and doesn’t. Or does as much as is possible, considering him.

What was really remarkable was the presence of Bechdel-the-artist onstage the whole time. As much as her voice and her text are part of the book, you’re very rarely aware of her presence otherwise, or made aware of it, and that in the musical she is always onstage, always watching her own memories unfold, occasionally commenting on them (physically or verbally) made it, in a sense, a play about the artist creating the book. The book has that in it, but it brought that post-modern quality to the front in a very direct, very accessible way.

What was lost – a big loss for me – were all the literary references, the drawings of the places, the books and their visible titles, the queer literary history. I don’t think there’s a mention of either Proust or Wilde, and no, I have no idea how they might have pulled that off, but it disappointed this geek a little.

Still, as per Playbill, Lisa Kron says: “There’s a deep river of yearning that flows through Alison’s book that made it ripe for translation into the musical form. This is a family that is profoundly alienated from their own powerful emotions. But because music is such an efficient emotional delivery system, we could it it to convey the oceans of feeling swirling below the surface of this checked-out family at the same time the dialogue and lyrics are showing us how little access they have to any of that feeling.”

And THAT, it does, and does amazingly well.

 

Guest Author: Zoe Dolan, ‘Transgender Cinderella’

What an awesome little excerpt from my friend and author Zoe Dolan’s book about what it’s like to date as a trans woman. Probably NSFW, and not for the faint hearted.

Once I was living as female, but before sex change surgery, my dreams were bounded by what I came to identify as the Cinderella Syndrome. I loved to go dancing, since on the dancefloor I could sink into the beat and movement around me. Men would come and go, drifting toward me and away, and sometimes closer and closer until we were dancing with our hips together. I felt the heat of their breaths upon my skin and the beads of sweat on the back of their necks as I ran my hands along their spines and floated up into a kiss.

But I always dreaded what I sought most: a moment of intimacy. At that point my coach would turn back into a pumpkin and my gown would disappear in an instant.

When I was studying abroad in Leiden, Holland, during law school, I met a handsome Italian whom I’ll call Adriano. At a get-together with other students, he stared across the room at me the whole evening. I tried to ignore what was happening, to no avail. I could not sustain conversation with whomever I was talking to. After a few minutes I got up to leave; but he intercepted me. The next thing I knew, I was in a conversation with him, trying to catch the breath he was taking away.

Adriano was tall and broad-shouldered, with curly dark brown hair and clear golden brown eyes. He spoke fluent English with a slight Italian accent. He had recently decided on law as an undergraduate major. He had the opportunity to come check out the Netherlands and thought he’d take the adventure north to broaden his mind. Basically, he was perfect. Continue reading “Guest Author: Zoe Dolan, ‘Transgender Cinderella’”

Stone Butch Blues Free Download for Feinberg’s Birthday

In order to celebrate the birthday of Leslie Feinberg on this day 1st September, a free .pdf of their most celebrated book Stone Butch Blues is being made available free of charge to whoever wishes to access it. Now a very popular text on many gender and sexualities courses, Leslie’s partner – Professor Minnie Bruce Platt – wants to make the book freely available.

In life, Leslie was an activist and advocate for the rights of LGBTQ people. Their communist values and their belief in open and free access to information are celebrated with the launch of this free eBook.

(via Sinclair Sexsmith, the ever awesome)

“Politically Correct” Means What?

Because my last guest author used the term “political correctness” I feel the need to comment on it. I won’t edit to that degree, but I do like to clarify why I don’t, and won’t, use this term.

I remember when ‘politically correct’ started being used. It was a term meant to deride activists and other progressives who didn’t want to be called things that were pejorative, racist, insulting or otherwise unfortunate.

You know, like adult women not wanting to be called girls, and black people not wanting to be called the N word.

We were, then as now, derided for being oversensitive, pushy, and annoying for insisting on being called things that brought us respect and didn’t identify us only in the context of white-het-capitalist-racist patriarchy. Nutty, I know.

In the classroom I’ve noticed it is a term that has somehow become neutral, that even progressive students use it casually to mean things like “language policing” or the like. When students and colleagues do use it neutrally, I often ask them to define it, first: what do we mean when we say it, and what makes it a bad thing, exactly? To call marginalized, oppressed people things that don’t further marginalize and oppress them? I mean, how is that not cool?

So I’m pleased to see this piece by Julia Serano outlining some of its current usage. She says:

In other words, “political correctness” is merely a pejorative wielded by those who wish to protect the status quo. But of course, the status quo is always evolving. The proverbial line in the sand that determines which words or ideas are acceptable within civil discourse and which ones are deemed to be beyond the pale is constantly shifting over time.

The key words here are ‘civil discourse’ by which we mean both what’s considered polite and what we, as a citizenry, consider appropriate.

& That is all it is – no more & no less. Some of us are trying to evolve culture into something that looks a little more humane, a little more fair, and a little less deadly, and believe that language can and does shape reality.

HuffPo, & An Invitation

I’m pretty sure most people don’t realize this, but HuffPo doesn’t pay writers. Like EVER, like any of them. People who write for HuffPo do reserve their rights, however.

And because I’m a professional writer who believes writers should get paid, because we’re professionals like everyone else, I don’t like to read things there.

They are, however, pretty willing to publish some good trans stuff. So here’s an offer for those of you who publish there: let me crosspost your work so that a bunch of people who won’t read, click on, or link to HuffPo articles can still read you. They’ll still make all the ad dollars from whoever clicks on their version, & I won’t make a dime.

Just send me your text & voila, I’ll put it up here.