Daily Show: Trans Special Edition

They didn’t call it that, but Friday’s episode of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah pretty much was a trans special edition: from coverage of the trans bathroom bills, to an interview with Meagan Taylor about getting arrested in Iowa, and another with Angelica Ross of TransTech, it’s a good mix of funny, serious, and info. Do check it out.

About 11 minutes in, there’s a scene where a small group of trans people ask Jessica Williams all the stupid questions they get asked was particularly satisfying. (Also, “they can go shit in their fucking hat” is now officially part of my lexicon.)

“I Am Real” – Brynn Tannehill Being Awesome

Transition: A Generation of Change

A couple of amazing students put this short clip together for a class that promotes media making in the service of community.

I was honored to be a part of it, but the real props go to Rowan and her amazing family.

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.

 

 

Blowback, or The Jenner Effect

A friend who prefers to be anon wrote this on FB a few days ago, and I thought it was important. In the midst of all the ooh la la about I Am Cait – which is doing some good, I think – there are a lot of people having conversations about transness more openly, and for those of us who are trans or who are partners to trans people – we get to hear a lot of them second-hand. 

And a lot of what people say can hurt, and I’m sure a lot of us are reeling with this kind of stuff, so to say: you are not alone. Take care of yourself. 

Conversation overhead at the next desk over (& some thoughts):

Person 1: Caitlyn Jenner, you know, I can get him wanting to be a woman…
Person 2: I always thought he looked like a woman.
Person 3: He is super feminine, too.
Person 1: Right?! I can see him dressing like a woman, but I don’t get wanting to keep dating women.
Person 3: Yeah, that doesn’t make any sense to me. Why become a woman if you’re still going to be attracted to women?
Person 2: As long as he still has his you-know-what, I guess? But then…

The conversation continued for a while; these are three folks in a different office who are always very friendly to me. This brief instance illustrates some experiences that trans people know too well and that I am often both privy to and shielded from (until/unless I disclose) because of what I look like. (I often find myself in situations where the cis people talking have no idea I’m trans and expect me to agree with them or validate them – and it always makes me wonder if they would have started talking to/with/around me at all if they “knew”):

1. Cisgender people of all stripes (this includes, sadly, many cis folks who aim/claim to be allies) feel authorized to scrutinize and weigh in on trans peoples’ narratives and bodies, and to describe trans people however they (cis people) please. In this convo, eg, using the pronoun “he” despite talking about someone – Caitlyn – who identifies as a woman, & framing Jenner’s femininity as fascinating or worthy of note (show me any woman ever on the cover of Vanity Fair who wasn’t femmed up? why is Caitlyn’s femininity more interesting than cis femininity? <– there is a long, pathologizing history of this vis a vis trans women). The implications of this Cisgender Commentary are more extreme for some trans people than others; but I can attest that this impacts all of us to some degree.

2. There are still many widespread misunderstandings and assumptions about gender / embodiment / sexuality and the relationship among the three. There is something many cisgender people find truly mind-blowing about those of us who are or have been fluid across boundaries of gender & sexuality (in all directions). These misunderstandings and confusions are often directed at or expressed about TGNC individuals (trans & gender non-conforming) in the form of anxiety. TGNC people become, really, used by straight, cis people to help them wrap their minds around the complexity of ALL of our genders and sexualities – and then we are tossed aside (still seen as the *real* misfits) once the cis person has figured out what they wanted/needed to know or discover about themselves. This happens more often, and more intensely and with higher stakes, to some trans people than others.

3. Personal note: I have become remarkably (eerily!) desensitized to everyday gender assumptions, body policing, and trans-related microaggressions – or at least to my own emotional response to them. It wasn’t until writing this down that I realized how many emotions I was just tamping down. We are saturated with gender; our society is truly obsessed with it. If I were to record every single gender-related instant over the course of the day, between bathroom selection and “sir”s and “he”s/”she”s and gendered jokes and locker rooms and how others interact with me and haircuts, the number would be extremely high. So, like many folks with gender non-conforming experience (though we experience these issues to varying degrees and in various contexts), instead of waiting for the world to change to be more inclusive of TGNC people I’ve adapted to try my best not to let these constant reminders alienate me.

My wife commented:  I feel like I’m so encased in protective carbonite at this point, I barely hear the dog-whistles, the micro-agressions, the idiocy, the ignorance, and sometimes the hate.

Don’t get me wrong, I pass (still) and that makes a huge difference (mostly). I 
know it shields me. But as trans-issues become brighter under the media spotlight and I see people I know on TV and hear people talk earnestly about it (mostly in ignorance but I’ll take the earnestness)… I just want to put another layer of carbonite on.

I can’t be the only person who transitioned years and years ago who thinks this, right?

And I added: I realized people wanted to ask me (often wildly inappropriate) questions, which is kind of how I became who I am. Because I never wanted, still don’t want, any earnest-but-otherwise-good-but clueless cis person to ask them if they’re sure they’re not crazy, about their genitals, to comment on how they might pass better, or the rest. I love you all. It’s been a rough couple of months, & while I want to believe Cait has started a conversation, the blowback feels pretty menacing right now.

So how are you, my lovely readers, dealing with all of this?

S onewall: the Movie (Because It’s Missing the T)

Again, I’ve been doing this a long time, so here’s the shorthand:

If, as a director, you want to make a movie about a young gay man who has been kicked out of his Kansas home by his Christian parents for being gay who then, in turn, comes to NYC & becomes a queer radical, make that awesome movie. It’s needed.

Just don’t, um, call it Stonewall. It can even be about that era, or that particular guy’s experience in the uprising, but calling it Stonewall implies it is about the whole of the event, not just one person’s experience in it.

  • This isn’t hard. If you’re going to make a movie about one of the most important moments of queer liberation – globally! – then maybe try to get the history right.
  • The burden is on the filmmaker to get it right.
  • Gay white men did an awful lot for queer liberation, actually, and there are plenty of stories to tell about them, including at Stonewall and during it. They just weren’t the ones who threw the first brick.
  • Hiring a few trans people to work on the film would have been great. Also black and latinx actors.

Miss Major explains the rest, as far as I’m concerned.

People aren’t upset just because of this movie; they’re upset because this has been happening since 1970 when Silvia Rivera was first asked not to speak at the 1st anniversary of Stonewall, the very 1st PRIDE. And you would think that perhaps someone might do their research and realize how incredibly frustrating it has been for the trans community to experience this erasure, especially after being dumped from legislation that benefited the LG and not the T. That is, there’s a history to the history.

I think I’m most disturbed by the idea that the director and screenwriter were surprised by this backlash and calls for a boycott. There are about 800 people who do trans history and advocacy who could have warned them, and maybe they were warned and dismissed the warning. That said, I’ve also seen them called out for using the word “transvestite” which – although it’s not used anymore – was, in fact, the word used by Rivera and Johnson, whose organization was called STAR, after all, for Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries. While I’m at it, there’s this:

What people fail to realize is that the Stonewall was not a drag queen bar. It was a white male bar for middle-class males to pick up young boys of different races. Very few drag queens were allowed in there, because if they had allowed drag queens into the club, it would have brought the club down. That would have brought more problems to the club. It’s the way the Mafia thought, and so did the patrons. So the queens who were allowed in basically had inside connections. I used to go there to pick up drugs to take somewhere else. I had connections.

[From Rivera’s piece “Queens in Exile, the Forgotten Ones,” in J. Nestle, ed., Genderqueer: Voices from Beyond the Sexual Binary, at pp. 67-85 (2002).]

 

Does all this mean the movie will suck? Maybe not. It does mean that I won’t go see it.

Kathleen Dunn Show – Done!

Our radio interview on WPR’s The Kathleen Dunn Show is now up & available for listening or downloading. It’s a call-in show and we got a lot of good questions. Ms. Dunn was, and is, a great interviewer.

Topics included: Caitlyn Jenner (of course), including that misguided NYT piece from yesterday (I won’t link to it), trans youth, why we don’t answer questions about genitals, family, but mostly it was about trans partners and what it’s like to go through transitioned while married.

So, yeah.

Us, Kathleen Dunn, Monday: WPR

Betty & I will be on The Kathleen Dunn Show on WPR this coming Monday at 2PM CST.

Mad Us: The End of Mad Men

Mad Men isn’t about Joan or Peggy or Don or Betty or Roger or feminism or the 60s or NYC or advertising; it’s not about drinking or smoking or the clothes or the era.

It’s about mid-life and it’s for anyone who has woken up unhappy in some unnamable way after the age of 30. It’s for anyone who grew up knowing they were in for a bright future who woke up with a lot of things they wanted and some they didn’t and tried to get out from under this tremendous sense of disappointment. It’s for anyone who expected to live fiercely and die young who didn’t.

Don Draper is in his mid 30s when the show starts in 1960; it ends late in 1970. It is that decade – the decade of the midlife crisis, the U-curve. It’s the decade when you start to look around or are still in the middle of busily building your life – getting that job, the place to live, kids, spouse. It’s when you finally come up for air after aspiring to so much, of becoming an adult of whatever kind you are or avoiding becoming one altogether.

Is that all there is my friends? is what you ask. I have done these things, read these books, started my life, found love, lost it, found it again, with the same person or a new one, maybe settled for stable over passionate.

It is when your body first starts to tell you that maybe you drink too much or need to quit smoking but you don’t really feel old yet; it’s not until your 40s that you realize that perhaps that stiff knee is only going to get stiffer with time, that it’s never going to feel wholly better.

As a woman it’s the moment you realize you have probably already been the most attractive the culture will allow you to be – which has nothing whatsoever to do with how attractive you are, of course – but it’s also the moment when you realize you have some small authority in whatever your world.

You think about the plans you made and didn’t achieve and the ones you did and your friends’ plans and what they did and didn’t do. It’s when your friend who always wanted to be a writer becomes one and then realizes they got into it for all the wrong reasons or they got into it for the right reasons but those weren’t the ones that made them successful. It’s when the people who make money realize they need meaning and the people who have lived in the moment and for meaning realize they need some money.

It’s when you wonder if you should have married that guy you didn’t marry or whether that woman you did marry was the right one. It’s the decade when you realize you have young children and that your life is about them now, not so much about you, but it’s also the decade when you realize it never was about them but really about you – what you wanted to be as a parent and what you actually are. It’s about sitting on what it means not to be a parent when you realize you’re never going to be one.

It’s when you buy a metaphorical red sports car or dye your hair red or start running marathons even though you never have before.

That decade is when the sex you had in your 20s starts to look unnecessarily athletic and oddly unfocused. It’s when you wonder if you actually knew what turned you on and what didn’t and whether you actually ever experienced an orgasm the way you have more recently. It’s when you realize that getting older physically isn’t so much about your looks or gravity or love handles but about the quality of your skin. You look at young people and wonder if they know how dewy and newborn they look and why you didn’t realize that when it was true about you.

It’s the decade when people divide themselves into two groups – of those who have lost parents and those who haven’t, and the former group gets bigger every day, every month, and you wish it wouldn’t have to.

Mad Men is about all the bad choices that turned out to be great ones and the great ones that turned out to be delusions and the unwitting way you start to live more carefully even if you don’t intend to. It’s about being in love with the person you don’t have and resenting the person who loves you the most. It’s when wild celebrations start to hum with sadness and when sad things start to make you happy in ineffable ways.

Mad Men is about the people who give up everything to grasp some brass ring, about how things you know are going to go away actually do find a way to go away no matter how much you want to keep them. It’s about telling yourself that someone, somewhere has to be perfectly happy with the choices they’ve made and telling yourself that someone somewhere is a smug asshole who has only ever hurt other people.

It’s about owning what you’re ashamed of and what others shame you for; it’s about how you live out the ways that you’re broken.

It’s about how you let go of what you once had.

It’s about when you want others to be happy because someone should be.

It’s when you stop competing with everyone else and realize you’ve never cared about anyone’s opinion but your own, anyway.

Mad Men
is a story about growing up and growing old, about the deep faith of cynics and the cheap virtue of idealists.

It’s painfully American and remarkably well dressed. It’s about happiness being that thing you have until you need more happiness. It’s about knowing which is the temporary bandage and which is the permanent wound.

It’s about knowing that that is all there is and that’s more than you ever dreamed was possible.

So let’s keep dancing.

Mad Max: Fury Road

In case the MRA guys calling for a boycott of the movie isn’t a good enough reason for you, I saw it last night and loved it. Maybe it will come as a surprise that I tend to like fast movies with a lot of explosions – but I do. It’s beyond that, though: the art of it is occasionally striking, the attention to detail is intense, and there were actually a couple of scenes that made me tear up. The world building strikes me as pretty damn complete, too.

& Of course Theron is unbelievable, but so is Hardy as Mad Max. Really, the dude grunts better, in character, than any other action hero I’ve ever seen. Not that that’s a high bar, but still.

Mostly it’s a dystopian vision of a movie – strong female characters, interesting commentary on patriarchal violence, and environmentalism.

Also, the MRA guys hate it. As a (male) friend of mine wrote, “I mean, I just kinda wanna give them each a cookie and pinch their cheeks, and tell them that they’re big, strong men and their mommies really did love them, and that it’s gonna be okay.”

But if you don’t believe me, go check out The Mary Sue review.

Tina Fey is a Miracle

I know she’s a comedian & all, but this still took guts:

& Honestly, to hell with Spanx.

Trans Media History: The Love Boat

Mackenzie Phillips played a trans woman in 1982 on Season 5, Episode 15 of The Love Boat.

And guess what? It doesn’t suck. It’s quite sympathetic, actually.

Lindsey, from the mHB boards, brought it to my attention. Here are some notes from Lindsey, a member of the boards: The big reveal is around the 20:00 mark. Explanation/Confrontation at the 22:00 mark. Discussion with the Captain around the 30:00 mark. Apologies around the 38:00 mark.

I’m sure I did see this because I watched it every single week with my grandmother. After, we watched Fantasy Island.

I would have been 13. I wonder if this had an influence. It really is sympathetic & kind of matter of fact, & it’s also interesting because it addresses an ally/friend’s issue sympathetically, too – initial shock, but knowing better, & having to realize it, etc.

I’m not surprised but I really remember the show as painfully heteronormative, but no one is even freaked out about being attracted to her/having hit on her, either. It doesn’t even come up.

(Also, um, Donna Pescow: my first Hollywood crush.)

Ruby Rose Redone

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.

Reporting on Trans Issues

HRC posted an article about the protection of LGBT youth inspired by the horrific story out of CT in which a trans teenager was jailed and housed with adults and later put in solitary confinement. She had not been charged, and certainly has not been charged with a felony – which is when teenagers are sometimes housed with adults.

But my point is not that story in itself. My point is that HRC posted an article about it in which they wrote: “The details surfaced in an op-ed in the New York Times by Harvey Fierstein this weekend.”

Which I suppose is where HRC first read about it, or maybe they felt free to report on it because it had finally hit a major news outlet. But that’s a factual inaccuracy.

Parker Molloy first reported on this case back in early April. In The Advocate, and not in some tiny anything. And while Fierstein’s writing is effective as ever and makes a powerful argument, laying the blame squarely on all of us who would let a young trans kid suffer the kinds of crimes she did while none of her assailants were ever charged with anything, sometimes it gets a little exhausting that the only person who can get the attention of HRC is someone like Fierstein. (And by that I do not mean a cis gay man. I mean a gay playwright of his status.)

It has been this way for a long time; that is, this is not anything new. I’ve been reporting on trans issues for more than a decade and I am not even a little surprised. But there are times, occasionally, where I feel the need to point out how frustrating it is that trans* is still, for the most part, an afterthought.

Anyway. We should, as a community, care about the feminine gay boys and the trans girls and the tomboys, no matter their identity and no matter which form of “gender variance” they’re expressing. There’s a child who is the person she is, and she’s been treated like shit her whole life, and sometimes, well sometimes, it gets a little frustrating that who says what about it becomes more important than the saying itself.

Casa Valentina Opening

Casa Valentina opening night 4/23/14

It was so much fun. I’ll be writing more about the play itself in the upcoming days, but for now, look at the pretty pictures.

There are more at Playbill’s site.

The RuPaul Brouhaha

RuPaul’s Drag Race decided to stop using “she mail” for a segment on the show because trans people were upset about it – but moreso upset about an additional segment where people had to guess whether a close-up shot of a body part belonged to a cis woman or a “she male” (as the show put it).

& Today, a lot of really transphobic shit has been posted and tweeted, and by gay men. An old friend of mine who is a comedian and TV producer based in NYC posted a frustrated response on his Facebook page which he’s given me permission to reprint here.

There’s a lot of chatter in the LGBT community today about RuPaul’s Drag Race removing the “She-Mail” element of the show, due to complaints from transgender viewers. As a comedian, I have very mixed feelings about it. Not everyone appreciates satire, and many, many times, those who do not appreciate it end up unwittingly squashing the 1st Amendment rights of others. HOWEVER. As a gay man, I am utterly horrified by how aggressive some gay men and women are being toward those who are transgender over this issue. Many are going as far as to suggest we drop the T from LGBT, because we obviously “have different goals in mind.”

That is fucking disgraceful.

A gentle reminder that it was, in large part, the T in LGBT that conducted the Stonewall Riots. It was the T in LGBT that made it possible for you to get married in a big chunk of our country. It was the T in LGBT that made it possible for you to walk the streets holding hands relatively safely, as compared with 50 years ago, when that would have gotten you killed. Y’all need to slow your roll a bit here. Just because you’re now realizing that the T in LGBT has a much harder road to hoe than the rest of us does not mean you get to dismiss them. They never dismissed you. Those of you who are doing this are the exact same assholes who, if Dancing with the Stars awarded a prize called a Fag Bag, would be burning down ABC and hurling Molotov cocktails into Tom Bergeron’s house. Your brothers and sisters can feel differently about something without getting disowned. Pick your battles, and know your history. Taking a phrase off of a TV show does not constitute a legitimate reason to bury the people who gave you life.

Pick your battles and know your history. Some days those seem like unreachable goals.

Hyenas

I write memoir. Sometimes people ask me why I would publish such deeply personal things, and I never know how to answer that question. Because I can? Because I think shame is the single most limiting factor of our lives? Because I want people to know the same sense of relief I have many, many times – that relief when you read something, or see something, and you think, “maybe I’m not horrible.” But often it’s because writing about something is a way of taking control of it. Owning your own story is empowering. Having someone else tell it to shame you is not.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot today because I’ve been watching two good friends have their lives dragged through social media in horrible ways.

And I think about all of these news stories – politicians’ dick pics, barebacking requests, grindr photos – all of these things, the real world of desire and shame and love and risk and identity – and we all make jokes about them, judge them, maybe sometimes feel sorry for the parties involved.

But really, we should all ignore them. We should ignore them on the proposition that these things could happen to any one of us.

Anyway, don’t believe everything you read on the Internet, first of all. Second of all, read with compassion whenever and however you can. This current story is tragic and personal and painful, and this is all I will ever say about it.

Back off, hyenas. Even you may need to rely on the common decency of other people someday.

Calpernia Addams on Acting, Trans, and Representation

Calpernia Addams – the “Callie Adams” Jared Leto thanked from the stage at the Oscars – wrote a piece about trans people, representation, and Hollywood that I think is worth reading.

Jared Leto was kind enough to mention me in his 2014 Independent Spirit Awards acceptance speech (as part of a typically “Jared” list of people involved in the film alongside random notable people) and next he really surprised me by thanking me in his Oscar acceptance speech.

As I’ve said before, my job was to sit down with him and answer lots of questions about what it’s like to be trans, and to make a recording of me reading his lines from the script. From there, Jared did Jared’s thing: a brilliant, eccentric artist created his own performance of a movie character. A movie character who happens to be some form of trans, in this case. Some of his follow up speeches left something to be desired when it came to speaking well on the issues facing his movie character, especially against the backdrops of current politics and social movements. I suppose it’s doubly rare to be a gifted artist AND a great political speaker. But personally, I thought Rayon seemed like a nice person and a real human being. I’ve known people like Rayon.

Anyone who’s followed my 11 years in Hollywood knows that I’ve always advocated for trans people to play trans roles. But I also refuse to shoot down powerful people who take steps to bring human trans portrayals to the screen, even if they are played by a non-trans female (Felicity Huffman in Transamerica, Hilary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry) or a non-trans male (Lee Pace in Soldier’s Girl, Jared in Dallas Buyers Club). To all indications, Georges du Fresne was not a trans child when he played “Ludovic” in Ma Vie En Rose, but that incredible film continues to resonate with trans people and families of trans children. Good and important portrayals can come from non-trans actors. That may be an inconvenient truth, but there you have it.

Sure, I’d love to get these roles as an actress with a history of transition, or see them go to other trans actors. Heck, I’d love to play non-trans roles! But I’m not so short-sighted that I’ll destroy allies and advocates. Even less than perfect allies, if I think the overall contribution is beneficial. This is a view that comes from long actual experience and familiarity with the business. Some small but vocal groups will disagree; that’s just the nature of contentious issues. You can do your thing and I’ll do mine. There are many ways to contribute.

But beware: the same logic that leaves zero room for a non-trans actor to try a trans role will then be used to mandate that trans actors should not be able to play non-trans roles. And that would piss me off.

Leto’s “Rayon” is not the rock upon which I’d make my last stand concerning this issue. His performance is just an inspiration for this discussion. I advocate for positive portrayals and opportunities for trans people in the media. Some people are displeased that this particular portrayal, “Rayon”, is another trans sex worker role. Another trans addict role. Another trans “mystical advisor/comic relief” role. Another “trans person punished in the end” role. Those are indeed over represented portrayals, and I do want more balance… Soon! But I have known people like Rayon. She is not a made-up grab bag of random hateful attributes. She’s a portrayal of an uncomfortable segment of the trans experience that a few TLGB folks would rather be erased and not discussed. I think many of the haters hate Rayon because she isn’t beautiful, she isn’t passable, she isn’t gender binary, she isn’t 2014-political. And when I see that elitist hypocrisy, I’m inclined to push back and write essays like this.

It’s hard being trans, more so in the era and circumstances of Dallas Buyers Club. I’ve known plenty of trans sex workers, self-medicators, wise teachers, hilarious weirdos and people taken before their time due to violence and lack of healthcare. I’ve known trans people very much like Rayon, and maybe if some people got up from their remote-activism-devices (computer screens and smartphones) and left their ivory towers and privilege-bubbles, they’d meet a few people like Rayon face-to-face, too.

Then they could see that a human portrayal of this real segment of the trans community is a good thing. Even if it’s by a non-trans person.

Please do hire trans actors for ANY role, especially trans roles. But please don’t shoot trans people in the foot by attacking allies willing to open the door for us as we approach equality.

Queer Latino/a

Here’s a cool 54 minutes about the queer experience, latino-style.

From the show’s description:

This week on Latino USA, we talk about all things Queer—from Anthony Romero, the first gay director of the ACLU, to the practice of “pumping,” or black market silicone injections, in the trans community. We hear two stories about growing up and transitioning genders. We learn about the plight of LGBTQ detained immigrants. We investigate the paranormal in Laredo, Texas. Maria Hinojosa gets a surfing lesson in New York, of all places. We hear from a gay man who ran for class president at UNC. And we check in on the protests in Venezuela.

So rare to hear these perspectives, especially on immigration issues.