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.

Eve Screenings: Atlanta, San Diego, Sydney, Carmel

If you know anyone who is involved with any film festivals, please do let them know about And Then There Was Eve.

September 30 – October 1, 2017 • 11 AM
Sydney Transgender International Film Festival

Sydney, Austraila (time TBA)
http://cinewest.org/welcome/?p=10168

October 1, 2017 • 11 AM
Out on Film / Atlanta’s LGBT Film Festival
Landmark Midtown Art Cinema, 931 Monroe Drive, Atlanta GA 30308
http://www.outonfilm.org/andthentherewaseve

October 7, 2017 • 3:30 PM
San Diego International Film Festival
Regal Theater Horton Plaza, San Diego, CA
https://secure.sdiff.com/e/passes-2017/preview
October 8, 2017 • 2:30 PM
San Diego International Film Festival
ArcLight Cinemas/UTC, San Diego, CA
https://secure.sdiff.com/e/passes-2017/preview
October 18-22, 2017 • Time TBA

Carmel International Film Festival

Carmel, CA
http://carmelfilmfest.com/films/#tab-1-tab

Rachel, SAG, and a Request

Hey all

As you know, my wife got her first part in a movie last summer, which premiered a month or so again at Los Angeles Film Festival, where it also won its category.

She is right now in Las Vegas at work on her second film.

That’s where you all come in: she needs to join SAG, the actors’ union because she’s now gotten two movies (and those in addition to when she was on All My Children back in the day). It’s a $3000 fee to join the first time, and frankly, after many months of her working sporadically, we just don’t have that kind of cash around. If you can donate, please do, and thank you so much to everyone who already has, and to Darya, who started the fundraiser.

(In)Visible: Rachel in the LA Times

I love this so much.

Rache was interviewed in the LA Times to talk about Eve – and to talk about trans visibility, especially vis a vis Bomer being cast as a trans woman. Here are my favorite bits:

She’d wrestled with the idea of transitioning, changing her gender presentation to align with her internal sense of gender identity, but she realized that opportunities for trans actors were, essentially, nonexistent.

“I figured I could either play a dead hooker that the cops made a ‘meat and potatoes’ joke about, or I could play a live hooker that the cops made a ‘meat and potatoes’ joke about,” Crowl said. “And there really was nothing else.”

and

Crowl even resembles Eve (or, perhaps, Eve resembles Crowl) in the most cursory of ways: in acerbic one-liners; off-beat, lanky swagger; and a warmth that she exudes, even toward strangers, as one might an old friend. (Crowl often opts for an introductory hug rather than a handshake because, she says, “Life’s too short.”)

and

From the get-go, Bloch — as well as the rest of her production team — was intent on finding an actress who, like Eve, was “a woman of transgender experience” (as Crowl and her friends like to say — woman first; transgender second, like an auxiliary modifier).

And yes, there’s a bit about her “thoughtful, incisive non fiction” writer of a wife, too.

Thanks to the journalist for not just seeing the “compare/contrast essay” here but in seeing that my wife’s amazing work and story were a great way to tell it.

June 18th

Get your tickets while you can and we’ll see you in LA in 11 days!

For the record, this is, as far as I can tell, only the second film to ever have a trans woman play a trans woman, and thus, a HUGE DEAL. (The first one was the amazing Tangerine, which I highly recommend.)

And Then There Was Eve Tickets On Sale

If you’re going to be in or near LA on 6/18, or just really really really want to attend the world premiere of my wife’s movie, you can now buy your tickets!

“Extraordinary Breakout Performance”

You saw the trailer here yesterday, but the rest of the news about my wife’s film is this: it will have its world premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival on Sunday, June 18th.

If you can come, please do. I will most definitely be there.

The blurb/review on the ticket page describes says the film features “an extraordinary breakout performance from Rachel Crowl” (and some other nice things too).

Here’s the full blurb:

Alyssa, a successful photographer, wakes one morning to find her apartment ransacked and her husband mysteriously missing. Left without even a photograph to offer the police, she turns to his colleague Eve, a talented jazz pianist with a flirtatious charm and disarming grace. Eve helps her confront her husband’s longtime struggle with depression and to, over time, accept his absence. While getting to know this woman through such unusual circumstances, Alyssa is surprised to find herself falling in love again.
 
Featuring an extraordinary breakout performance from Rachel Crowl and an evocative jazz score by Robert Lydecker, Savannah Bloch’s directorial debut is insightful and original, both an engaging psychological thriller and a uniquely frank depiction of the difficulty of retaining one’s own identity within the confines of a romantic relationship.

Medium

I decided to try out having a presence on Medium.

“I stand with trans people.”

I did a talk for Rainbow Over Wisconsin last night – a local org that helps fund LGBTQ projects in northeastern wisco. Here’s what I said.

Someone asked me recently why it is that gay people are so political, and I said, “you’re kidding, right?”

Our lives are legislated, our existence is debated, our relationships are suspect, and we are still, to this day, likely to drop our partner’s hand on the street, in bars; we worry about kissing each other on New Year’s Eve, and we have to prove ourselves before we are assumed to be good people, good parents, good teachers or lawyers or accountants. Every time some institution recognizes our worth – as the Supreme Court did a few years ago – a hundred objections are raised everywhere all over this country, saying we can’t be married, we can’t be good, we can’t be moral.

But we know that’s all wrong, that they don’t know us.

And they don’t. Those who do know us, support us. There are straight allies in this room no doubt, and in all of our lives: people who have seen what we are and who we are and support our right to exist, to thrive, to choose our families and professions, to walk home at night safely.

Right now we’re seeing those objections – that backlash – everywhere. And I worry mostly about what it means to be us.

The day after the election I had beautiful young queer kids come up and ask me if it might make more sense to be closeted. Worse yet, I said I didn’t know, that that was an individual choice, that if you feel scared, it’s okay to hide a little more.

But what’s funny is that my own impulse was to be more visibly queer, to be more out there, to not shut up. I feel like so many queer people I know have come to me quietly and said, “I’m just waiting for someone to say something” or that they are so tuned in to the sideways glances that they feel like they’re walking around with their fists clenched. My jaw some days is like a vise. A lot of us are feeling it – anger, but if not anger, rage. Sadness, exhaustion, fatigue. They keep trying, you know? To legislate bathrooms and “religious freedom” – by which they mean the legal right to discriminate against us, of course – and to make us feel as if expecting to be treated like a person, to not live in fear, is too big an ask, that we are somehow supposed to be grateful for being treated only a little like 2nd class citizens.

But it’s better now, right? Straight people tell me. For some of us, it is.

But we still stop holding hands when we walk down the street and see a stranger.

And you know? What we need to do is hold tighter, as a recent ad out of Australia put it. We need to hold hands more often, not less. We need bigger buttons, more rainbow flags, more trans pride, more bisexual visibility. We need more of us in the public sphere, not less.

Because when that student asked me that I remembered what it was like when I was 17, in 1986, when people were dying and queers were throwing bricks through Wall Street windows and putting red handprints all over New York City in order to make the point that the lack of funding, the lack of care, for those with HIV, was killing us, and that those who did nothing had blood on their hands.

We were so tentative then, and yet also so angry and so full of love for our communities.

[[ a little bit here about being liminally queer, being that girl in HS for the gay boys, the first days on Christopher Street even in the early 90s ]]

It’s what sustains us. We’re such an amazing group of people. The twinks and the bears and the softball lesbians and the butches and the queens and all of us. We have so many genders, so many versions of smart, so many kinds of fabulous, so much creativity and life and humor. We have so much to us, and a culture of living in the world and making things beautiful even while people hate us.

But what I worry about is who’s getting left behind. Queer identified youth are still getting kicked out of their homes. Trans youth are still being denied healthcare that enables them to be who they are. Trans women are still not getting jobs, they are still living on disability and hustling to pay the rent. Those of us who are gender-y get the cops called on us when we need to pee. I worry that those of us who have jobs, who are white, who have health insurance, and maybe a 401K, don’t remember how insecure life can be when you’re younger. We know that we’re here for them, but I worry that they don’t, and I worry, now that at long last we got to breathe a sigh of relief with Obergefell, that we forget all of the rest of us.

In gender studies, I often teach this idea of “asking the other question” – which means, simply, that we look at what’s not obvious. We see homophobia, say, but we have to ask too: what about racism? We see homophobia, but what about transphobia, misogyny, transmisogyny? Do we pay attention to the ways that those of us who have more intersections – more reasons for people to deny us jobs or housing or healthcare – manage to live? Do we know what life is like for a single black trans woman of color, at all?

I ask because I’ve been doing trans work for a very long time. Almost two decades. When the word transgender was barely a thing.

[[ more here about how I started to do this work, where we came from, what it was like, etc ]]

Now we see Laverne Cox and Janet Mock and Jazz Jennings – two of our most amazing trans women are women of color, I’d like to point out – and love that they can be who they are doing what they do. But trans women, you know, still die too much, and even when they live, they die too young. Trans kids who don’t have supportive families have a 41% risk of suicide. 41%. I have that number written on my bathroom mirror so I don’t forget it.

It’s hard to see sometimes because trans people seem to be made of steel. They amaze me regularly with their ability to hide their fear and their worries. But once gay marriage became a thing, and all those bathroom bans were proposed, I watched my beautiful wife go from being a huge, charismatic, creative, ridiculously flirtatious human being get kind of quiet. She didn’t say anything at first. But then we were in an airport in NY and there was a line for the ladies’ room and she came back to me paler than pale. They stared at me, she said. Like I wasn’t supposed to be there. That hasn’t happened in a long time. It hadn’t. But as I sat and held her hand while she calmed down, I looked up and noticed that in our little corner of the airport, many of the flights were headed to North Carolina. They were debating HB2 at the time and I knew that wasn’t a coincidence.

Let me drop some facts: trans women are women. Trans women do not assault people in bathrooms. This is not about women’s safety – hell, it’s not even about bathrooms. And trans people have been part of the LGBTQ community since the very beginning, and they worked with gays and lesbians on every major issue – marriage, HIV care, adoption, non discrimination laws – that we have fought for and won. Believe me, I can recommend books. Check out Susan Stryker’s Transgender History for starters. She’s a historian who ran the LGBTQ Archives in San Francisco for years, and she’s queer, too.

What is true is that, at that time, trans people hid themselves. They “woodworked” as it came to be called. They transitioned and moved sometimes clear across the country and started life again. So for decades, many of us doing this work didn’t know we knew trans people. We knew the visible ones, the drag queens that would go on to transition, the butches who did. But they were always with us, always fighting side by side, always working for laws that helped and communities that kept us as safe as we could be. Do you know Reed Erickson’s story? You should. He was a trans guy who funded most of the major research on gay and lesbian lives for decades. He inherited some money and he used it to create our history.

What about Lou Sullivan, who started FTM International, and who was one of the first gay identified trans men? Imagine the heat he took about being both trans and gay back in the 70s. He fought for a trans man’s right to transition despite being same sex attracted – which at the time was largely discouraged by medical gatekeepers – they didn’t want to create more gays and lesbians so they routinely turned down transitions for people who knew they would be once they transitioned – and he helped create the LGBT Historical Society. He died of AIDS in 91, and he grew up in Milwaukee. There’s a new book about him that just got published.

Sandy Stone helped start “women’s music” – by which I mean lesbian music – at Olivia Records.

Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P Johnson – the P is for ‘pay it no mind’ – a Latina and black woman – were at Stonewall and were reported to start the whole thing off. Holly Woodlawn – one of Warhol’s Factory – was there too.

Ben Barres is a neurobiologist who works for greater diversity – especially opportunity for women – in the sciences. He tells a story about how people still come up to tell him that his work is better than his sister’s, and is a champion for women’s intellectual prowess.

Phyllis Frye is the first out transgender judge appointed in Texas, and believe me she’s fighting SB6.

Alan Hart, Jamison Green, Sarah McBride, Miss Major, Monica Roberts, Riki Wilchins, Allyson Robsinson, the Wachowski sisters… do you know their names? Do you know how many trans people do the good work of increasing visibility for all LGBTQ Americans, not just the trans ones? How many make art for us, music, do research, run companies? There are so many. Some put in decades as gay or lesbian even before they transitioned, and their commitment to the whole of this community has never wavered, not for a minute. Not even when they’ve been told to stand down and step aside, not even when they were told to wait for their rights, that sexual orientation was a more pressing matter than gender.

It’s easier to see the entertainers, the actors and models and athletes, especially. And every year for Transgender Day of Remembrance we see how many trans lives have been cut short – how many die of murder, of the kinds of extreme violence that sicken you even to read about? It’s a necessity – we need to know that this kind of violence is still happening, all the time, around us, but it makes me sad that a lot gays and lesbians only know a list of the dead and … Catilyn Jenner. Because behind every single famous trans person there are hundreds of trans people living their lives, creating families, making a living. And some of the most confident of them are shaken right now by all of this backlash which is focused on them and them only.

So while you see trans people keeping it together, right now, they need all of us behind them. We need to have their backs. They need us to tell bullies where to shove it. They need bathrooms that are safe, schools that are safe, jobs that are safe. They need those of us in the LGB to get over it already. It’s not better for all of us yet. The rates of unemployment, violence, unequal education, all of it – are still very much an issue for trans people, and every time one of these damn bathroom laws gets proposed – there are a dozen in the works right now – beautiful, proud, gigantically queer and awesome women like my wife go quiet.

Which is, you know, why I get louder. Let’s all chime in. I support trans people.

The future is trans. The future is queer. The future is us.

Thank you.

Gender Diversity Talk (by me)

It starts about 10 minutes in.

Int’l Women’s Day Teach In at Lawrence

Just as with February 17th, when a National Strike was called, tomorrow is the Day Without A Woman. A few of my colleagues and I agreed that education is more in our wheelhouse, so we created a day-long Teach In that includes members of our community, faculty, students, and staff doing presentations on various aspects of women’s political issues.

 

So pleased. If you’re in the Appleton area, this event is open to the public.

Donate.

PayPal now has a cool option to create a donate link, so I did:

https://www.paypal.me/helenboydbooks

Recently I surprised a friend who was under the (incorrect) assumption that professors make a lot of money. They don’t. I’m not working for a non-profit, so I don’t get paid that way either. And while I’m happy that I get to do a lot of events of various kinds, even educators need to pay their bills.

So if you like what I do, consider donating.

Here’s a short list of what I do on the regular:

And here’s an idea of what I do in the space of a month:

  • Talkback for tonight’s performance of Hydrogen Jukebox at Lawrence.
  • Next Friday a cultural competency lecture on gender diversity, also at Lawrence
  • Next Saturday a workshop on trans advocacy for trans families at the WI LGBTQ Summit
  • I’ll be around to answer questions at an ‘I Am Jazz’ reading at the Appleton Public Library
  • A few weeks later, I’ll do the keynote for a fundraiser for Rainbow Over Wisconsin.

Obviously when I do talk for organizations and companies, they pay me, but when I work for LGBTQ events, educational resources, or trans specific orgs, I don’t charge.

 

Not On Our Watch

Apparently the news is reporting there were 250 people at an event I helped organize tonight, on the spur of the moment, in freezing cold weather, with absolutely no list of speakers or musical acts or anything.

For those who don’t know, I decided to do this while I was stuck in Detroit waiting for my flight here, having just been in NYC where everyone is worried; it is a city of immigrants, after all. After seeing so many other rallies planned for today, at SFO, SeaTac, JFK, Dulles, O’Hare, etc., I posted that I’d host a vigil at 7 on the LU chapel steps. I really assumed about 5 people would show up who happened to see it. I managed to message someone at the local paper about it and tagged a few people on my post who I thought might be interested.

But while I was on the plane — first stuck on the tarmac being de-iced and then flying — my colleague Jason created an event on FB and started inviting people. When I got home (finally!) at 6PM, folks had spread the invite far & wide – 1k people were invited! – and so many showed up. Again, I had no plan, except that Jason & I would speak & give out some info, & honestly, everyone else did the rest: folks made signs and brought enough candles to go around. Anyone I saw who I knew had spoken in public before I tapped to talk, and I otherwise opened the floor to anyone who wanted to speak or sing.

Chants started. “This Land Is Your Land” was sung. So was “If I Had a Hammer”. So were a few other songs I don’t know the names of. A local musician, a minister, LU students, a green bay teacher, employees of a local refugee relief org, a recent immigrant, a student here on a visa – all volunteered to speak. People read poetry. One student read a poem she’d written about her mom.

I’m flabbergasted and encouraged and grateful to live in this community that so spontaneously responded to what was just a need on my part, a need to stand up, in public, and say NO to this illegal and shitty treatment of people but to say NO too to an abuse of the ethics and founding idea of this country: that we are all immigrants, children of immigrants, grandkids of immigrants, and that yes, IMMIGRANTS GET THE JOB DONE.

Thank you so much, all of you, for not complaining about the chaos but by using your voices to make this what it was supposed to be: a public outpouring and coming together for all of us here who just needed to say NOT ON MY WATCH.

Love to you all tonight.
Stay tuned. This is only the beginning.

WI LGBTQ Summit: 2/25 in Milwaukee

I’ll be doing a workshop at the Wisconsin LGBTQ Summit in Milwaukee on February 25th. My session description goes like so:

Trans Advocacy for Trans Families
As a non-trans trans advocate, Helen Boyd has been educating trans and non-trans people alike for many years on issues of concern to the trans community. Topics will include: Trans 101 education, political activism, community membership, safe spaces. Special attention will be given to the diversity within the trans community – including partners, parents, and kids of trans people, as well as GNC and non-binary identities.

Helen Boyd is the author of two books about life with a trans partner, My Husband Betty and She’s Not the Man I Married. She’s been writing a blog about gender and trans issues for more than a decade, has spoken at numerous conferences, and currently teaches gender studies at Lawrence University.

Do register in time to reserve your spot. Other workshops include:

  • Violence in the LGBTQ Community
  • Intersectionality of Ethnicity & Gender: Where We Are Now, and Where We Need to Be
  • Queering the Environmental Justice Movement
  • LGBTQ Rights, School, Bullying, Law Enforcement, and You
  • Challenges and Gifts of LGBTQ Seniors
  • The Many Ways of Celebrating LGBTQ Spiritual and Religious Diversity

River+Bay

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

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

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

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

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

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

Onto 2017. Happy New Year.

Help Fund My Wife’s Next Step

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

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

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

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

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

This Year’s Fun Home Lecture

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