Crossdressers on NPR

It’s so rare to see a good story about crossdresser culture these days, but Veronica Vera, as ever, leads the way in this story from NPR.

I love that there’s a wife interviewed as well:

In fact, Pat came to Miss Vera’s Finishing School with the support of his wife of 15 years. She asked that we refer to her by her middle name, Leigh — because she too is concerned about potential scorn. Leigh says she sees how becoming Bianca lifts the weight of the world off her husband’s shoulders.

“It’s definitely a stress release for him,” she says. “It definitely helps him have more balance in his life. And all of that is good. It’s good for me as his wife. It’s good for my children.”

Leigh says she’s more concerned about her husband being judged than being judged herself.

She uses her middle name – which is precisely how I became Helen back in the day.

When We Rise #whenwerise

You really should be watching this series.

It’s not perfect, but it’s really, really good, and gets at some of the ways life was.

You can watch the first two episodes online, and catch the third and fourth tonight and tomorrow.

It’s really what we all need right now: to see what resistance looks like, what it had to look like, and how people brought their best fight, their best selves, and found alliance even within communities that had a great deal to argue about amongst themselves. But moreso: things were just starting to really improve just at the moment when the horror that was the AIDS crisis hit. Sound familiar? It should. We’re living through a similar historic moment right now.

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.

Unerased: New Resource on Trans Murders

Mic has introduced a new resource for tracking the murders of trans people. It includes murders in the US since 2010, only, but it does a little more digging into the statistics and how transness is “negotiated” not just by the reporting of these crimes but also by their representation in obituaries, the press, court cases, etc.

The actual database includes not just numbers but faces, info on rulings (if there is one), and can be filtered for year, age, race, gender, circumstances of death, and outcome.

The occasional pullquotes throughout are sobering, like this one: “People who kill black trans women and femmes are usually convicted of lesser charges than those who kill people of other trans identities.

And this, from Shannon Minter: “Other factors contribute to underreporting. Minter said that while murders of trans women are visible and documented to some extent, those of transgender men may be harder to track. ‘I also think there’s a lot of unreported violence against transgender men that gets recorded just as violence against women,’ he said.”

And all of this is far more troublesome because the statistics are already so high, and yet:

But it’s difficult to know the full scale of the problem. When a transgender person is killed, each step in the process of accounting for their death risks erasing that person’s gender identity. Many can’t spare the expense of having their names and gender markers updated on government documents. Law enforcement and coroner’s offices are not trained to identify transgender victims. Immediate family members who reject a trans person’s identity often withhold it from authorities. When the press learns of these murders, local reporters often don’t have the knowledge or information to investigate whether the victims were trans. The United States Census does not track transgender people, and while the FBI added gender identity as a category in its annual self-reported hate crimes report in 2014, the agency does not track gender identity along with its homicide statistics.

Please take care of each other out there.

Trans Actors, Trans Stories, Trans Lives

More than a decade ago, the most talented actor I’ve ever known gave up acting. She needed to transition, and her acting career was the hardest thing she had to give up, but she didn’t want to be a pony show, a novelty, gag casting. She had played so many amazing roles – Henry V, Algernon, The Chocolate Cream Soldier, even Larry Foreman – and despite what people think about acting, playing men on stage requires a lot of gender. She couldn’t grow her nails or her hair or go on hormones that would change her face or physique too much. She squeaked by for a few years by starting her own theatre company with friends and colleagues, and without much of a thought, came out as trans in The New York Times while doing so.

(Honestly, I still remember when she came home from doing the photo and interview for the story, because I remember saying, “You did what?” “I came out.” “In The Times?” “Well I figured since your book is in Walmart, how much more out could I get?” Turns out: quite a lot more.)

So when Jeffrey Tambor said this at the Emmys last night, I thought two things: I am glad things are changing so that people like my wife don’t feel that they have to give up their careers in order to be who they are.

Now, listen to me. … I’m not going to say this beautifully. But to you people out there, you producers and network owners, and agents, and you creative sparks, please give transgender talent a chance. Give them auditions. Give them their story. Do that. And also, one more thing: I would not be unhappy were I the last cisgender male to play a female transgender on television. We have work to do. I love you.

I also thought: those of us who come to work with you and know your stories almost always become your biggest supporters, and that doesn’t surprise me even a little.

We have been lucky and willing to leap: so much so that she took a part in a film this past year, and finally, after years of not going to see theatre and really trying hard not to think about acting at all, she is back to knowing that she is better at acting than at everything else.

I’ll add another thing: when I first wrote my books, a lot of people thought I should sell the rights, but often that came with my own suspicions about letting anyone else tell our story. We knew what it was like to deal with TV producers who wanted to cast us as tragic, and we were rejected by Oprah for being a little too urban and a little too weird. And we wanted our story told not by people who would see us as foolish or crazy or sex-crazed but only by people who would tell the story itself, not sell us as exotic or exploit us. So of course we didn’t sell the film rights – how could we, in the environment that existed a decade ago? So that other piece that Tambor said, about letting trans people have their stories, is as important a part of what he said as the piece about actors. There is a reason that the best media – print, film, video – has trans people and trans family members involved.

These are good stories, and we are good storytellers, and it’s about fucking time that someone paid some attention to that.

Your Wife is Trans? And Other Boring News…

So I kinda love this brief piece on Medium which is kind of a big yawn’s take on someone’s spouse turning out to be a woman, and yet I kinda don’t like it too.

Let me explain: there have always been partners of trans people who are a-okay with their partner’s transitions. It’s not news; there doesn’t have to be tragedy; some people adjust and move on.

For others, not so much.

And sometimes when I read pieces like this one, by any partner, which flourishes the NBD as a kind of fanfare of its own, I wonder: why? Were you forced to write the piece? Do you need to point out that those pitiful wives who do have a hard time making sexual and other adjustments just aren’t as liberated and groovy as you?

Mind you, these are all things I have been accused of. I’m in a glass house here — I’ve heard many times that I am (1) a cheerleader, (2) a gatekeeper, (3) an exploitive asshole, (4) a doormat. (I’ve never worked out how I  can be all of the above, to be honest, if anyone wants to help me work that out.)

So yay! It wasn’t a big deal for you. Trans women in particular should know that it’s not impossible to transition from within a relationship. I will honestly say that my wife and I wouldn’t have made it – not only because I was already gender-y or because I’m awesome (she would say I’m both) but because my partner valued our relationship to such a degree that she was willing to include me in her decision-making around her transition.

That is, it’s not so much about winning the partner lottery for the trans woman; often it’s about the trans person considering the other person and the relationship as much as they consider themselves. And sometimes it doesn’t work out because it doesn’t; relationships don’t, a lot, and that’s okay. A big change like transition is a lot to get through together. No one has failed if it doesn’t work out.

More narratives by more partners, please. And let’s all honor each others’ stories, struggles, and lack of struggles.

Jen Richards Lays It Out

Jen Richards carefully laid out the argument for why cis men should not play trans women on Twitter recently, in response to the news that Matt Bomer took the role of a trans woman recently in a film called Anything, which is a Mark Ruffalo project.

BOO because I really like Bomer and Ruffalo but honestly, boys, it’s over. Cut it out. No more cis men playing trans women, and FFS, please get your scripts read and reviewed by trans people. Welcome to 2016.

There is so much good in her argument, but I think I loved these two points the most:

I’m not some screechy activist. I mean all this literally. It’s happening all the time. The stakes are life & death. Our women are dying.

and

Having trans people play trans people allows for more informed, subtle, authentic performance. It makes for BETTER ART, which is the point.

I’ll add, as someone who has been interested in trans stories for a hella long time, it’s awesome when new allies get on board, and awesome too when they feel inspired enough to tell trans stories. But I’m very tired of every new dude (it’s mostly dudes) who comes along and does this kind of squee about trans women and we wind up with these exploitative stories of sex workers. So I’ll say it again: if you’re new to trans lives, stories, and identities, please try to remind yourself that there is an entire community – hell, an entire infrastructure – of professional trans people out there who can help you tell these stories well.

And Then There Was Eve

As it turns out, my lovely wife auditioned for a role in a movie called And Then There Was Eve… and got it. So after a decade away from acting, she is back to doing the thing she does best.

Here’s the announcement from the movie folks on FB:

We are thrilled to announce that Rachel Crowl will play the title role in the psychological drama And Then There Was Eve. Rachel is a seasoned stage actress and multi-talented musician who brings her dynamic talent to the complicated role.

It’s very exciting, a little nerve wracking, and the kind of curve ball we hit best.