Category: trans

Lab-grown Vaginas

Posted by – April 10, 2014

For real, folks. Not only can they grow them but they can implant them.

A tissue sample and a biodegradable scaffold were used to grow vaginas in the right size and shape for each woman as well as being a tissue match.

They all reported normal levels of “desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction” and painless intercourse.

Experts said the study, published in the Lancet, was the latest example of the power of regenerative medicine.

So awesome.

New Trans Relationship

Posted by – April 10, 2014

So this Dear Abby letter is a few kinds of great:

Dear Abby: I’m a divorced woman with grown children. I have always supported gay rights and thought of myself as straight. But a few months ago, I met a woman, “Stephanie.”

We hit it off immediately, and I was shocked to learn she’s a transgender woman who was born male. We have spent a lot of time together and are falling in love. Stephanie will be having surgery soon to complete the transgender process.

I have been surprised and disappointed by the lack of support from my family and friends, whom I always thought were open-minded. Some have voiced support, but have shown no interest in meeting her and seem uncomfortable hearing about her.

I’m excited about this relationship and would have thought my family and friends would be happy for me, as I have been alone for a long time. But now I find myself refraining from mentioning Stephanie in conversation.

How can I discuss her with others? We are taking things slowly and not jumping into anything, yet we can definitely see ourselves spending the rest of our lives together. We have already faced disapproving strangers and handled it well.

– Loves My Friend in Ohio

Dear Loves: It appears Stephanie isn’t the only one in your relationship who is in transition. Both of you are, and because it is new to those around you, they may not understand it – which is why they are uncomfortable.

The fact that Stephanie is transgender should not be mentioned right off the bat. It is not the most important thing about her, and it should not be her defining characteristic. Discuss the matter with your friend and ask how she would like to be introduced and referred to. It’s only logical that this will vary according to how close these people are to you.

What do you think? Did she cover all the bases?

Christie Lee Littleton (Van de Putte) Dies

Posted by – April 9, 2014

She did remarry after the case that made her famous, which was only recently overturned by the Nikki Araguz case.

Her case brought a public spotlight onto the injustice of judges ruling on gender transition and marriage rights.

I’m glad at least to know that she saw so much change before she died.

“They” – by Ivan Coyote

Posted by – April 4, 2014

“Just a thought: I would like to phase out the use of the term “prefers the pronoun” she or he or they, (or any other) and replace it with “uses the pronoun”. I prefer chicken to duck. I prefer a window seat. But I use the pronoun they. When someone writes that a person “prefers” a particular pronoun, it infers that there is a choice there for everyone, whether to respect that wish or not, and that the person with the pronoun “preference” would be okay with the middle seat or the duck of their identity being respected. Not true. For some (if not most) gender variant and/or trans folks, not having their pronoun respected is hurtful and constantly correcting people is exhausting and alienating. So I vow to change my language. People don’t prefer their chosen pronoun, they use it. My only choice is to be mindful and respectful of others or to be thoughtless, and even cruel. This is not to say I get it right all the time every time, but that is my aim. Saying things like “but I find it so hard to remember because we grew up together” is a cop out. If you grew up together then you owe it to the person to do better by them. And if you want to try the “but the they pronoun is so awkward” angle with me, then I would ask you to think about how your struggle compares to the battles trans people have to fight every day.”

- Ivan Coyote, author of Missed Her, Bow Grip, and One in Every Crowd

Casa Valentina

Posted by – April 1, 2014

So we were just in New York, and one of the awesome things we did was meet the cast and crew of Harvey Fierstein’s new play Casa Valentina.

We didn’t get to see the whole thing – just a few key scenes – but I am so looking forward to seeing the whole of it.

And it opens to audiences tonight. I have no doubt the reception will be great.

But here’s the thing: we were invited to come see a rehearsal to advise. One of the actors contacted me a few weeks back – when I was already scheduled to be in NYC – and asked that we come because a bunch of the cast were reading or had read my books.

& Mare Winningham – who plays the wife of one of the crossdressers – said really nice things about them. She was so welcoming and cool to us.

Anyway, it was an awesome experience all around, & I only wish I could have stayed in town a day longer to catch the first night of previews tonight, but alas, the class I’m teaching started today, too.

I’m hoping to get a group together to go see it when we’re next in town, because from what I can tell, this is a gorgeous play – honest (maybe in ways some people won’t like) but compassionate, by which I mean: the wife is a real person.

Me, 4/26, FORGE in Milwaukee

Posted by – March 31, 2014

I’m going to be speaking at FORGE in Milwaukee in late April and if you sign up to come you can get a free copy of my book in whatever format you choose. Here’s the info:

We would call it March Madness but it’s carefully thought out:  Come to FORGE’s March 22nd meeting and you can receive Helen Boyd’s book She’s Not the Man I Married: My Life with a Transgender Husband.  Read it, share it, talk about it with your friends, and then join us at the April 26, 2014 meeting to discuss it with the author herself!

Anyone planning to attend April’s meeting with Helen Boyd is encouraged to pick up their book on March 22, 2014.  We encourage people who have never attended a FORGE meeting before to join us for this exciting community-based book discussion.  [If you cannot pick up your copy on March 22, contact michael (tgwarrior [at] forge-forward [dot] org) to make arrangements.]

Share this opportunity with your friends, partner(s), colleagues, and family as one way of expanding knowledge about relationship dynamics and partner issues.

Note: Both bound, paper copies and electronic versions will be available.

I’m so excited about doing this and looking forward to meeting you all.

“Making Trans Parents Visible” – co-authored by me

Posted by – March 18, 2014

So this is cool: the article I co-authored with a colleague (Beth Haines) and a former student (Alex Ajayi) has been published in Feminism & Psychology, and is now available online.

Here’s the abstract:

This article explores the self-reported parenting challenges of 50 transgender parents based on an online survey of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans parents in the United States. Many trans parents transitioned after forming a family, whereas others had children after or even during transition. They coordinated their transition with parenting responsibilities, and carefully managed their visibility in parenting settings to protect their children. This analysis focuses on the challenges that trans parents faced at the intersection of their parenting and trans identities. Although trans parents share many of the concerns of cisgender parents, they also face unique challenges that must often be navigated without extensive support. Revealing these challenges increases trans parents’ visibility in society, and could help therapists and school administrators become more sensitive to the intersectional identities of trans people and the stressors unique to trans parenting.

Some of the other articles from the same special issue on trans include:

  • What makes a man? Thomas Beatie, embodiment, and ‘mundane transphobia’
  • Trans men and friendships: A Foucauldian discourse analysis
  • Who watches the watchmen? A critical perspective on the theorization of trans people and clinicians

Neat.

Transitioned Couple

Posted by – March 11, 2014

They’re awesome, no?

(via LGBTQ Nation)

Trans + Language

Posted by – March 9, 2014

Here’s a cool article about pronouns and etiquette in the shifting landscape that is Genderland. She interviewed me (though I didn’t make the cut) and many, many others for this piece. Still, Susan Stryker, Don Kulick, and Mara Keisling are quoted. I’d say the only thing she got wrong was referring to “sex-change surgery” but she mentions it only to point out that only changing someone’s pronouns because of it is bad practice.

Many of the words on the Facebook list, such as “trans*” (the asterisk indicates a “wildcard” search term, so the word means, basically, “trans-anything”), “genderqueer,” “gender questioning,” or “neutrois,” come largely from younger people and online forums and suggest a much more fluid approach to gender. For newcomers, as the various media guides suggest, they may be puzzling. “Most of America probably hasn’t experienced those words yet, and some of those just are very new,” said Mara Keisling, founding executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.

What surprises me is that there’s anyone who is surprised by a list of 50+ gender options. You could easily have a list of 100.

Calpernia Addams on Acting, Trans, and Representation

Posted by – March 5, 2014

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.

Trans Catholic

Posted by – March 4, 2014

Here’s an absolutely breath-taking and tear-jerking story about a remarkable nun who works with the trans community in and around New Orleans. She is what my Catholic has always been about, to be honest, and she is absolutely one of the best examples I know of that when Catholics are cool, they’re cooler than most. My friend Quince Mountain writes that this story is

“for me at least, refreshing in that it’s not about the awful things the church does to queer/trans folks.  It acknowledges those things, but shows how someone working underground has found ways to help trans folks where others could not.  For many, the church is such a roadblock.  And we only hear about the baddies.  Orthodox Russian nationalists, protestant Ugandan haters, etc.  At best, we get a quip from the pope.  But here’s someone doing substantive lifelong work, and she would not be able to do it without support from the church. “

Some awesome segments:

If one is new to the trans experience, a room like this might feel unsettling. It might leave one lying in bed that night asking uncomfortable questions for the first time about who or what one really is, things that might have always seemed certain and fixed and clear. Trans people represent a threat in a society anxious to keep its basic categories stable; they experience violence at rates far higher than the general population. But sit there a while, as in any room, and the stories become just stories. The people become people. For Monica, sitting at those tables in those support groups is being among family.

and

Pope Francis I has shifted the Vatican’s tone on sexual diversity somewhat; further Christmas condemnations seem unlikely to be coming from him. “Who am I to judge?” he famously asked with regard to good-willed gay people. The mother church of his Jesuit order in Rome held a much-publicized funeral in January for a murdered homeless trans woman, though he has yet to speak about living transgender people specifically.

There is a lot more to the Catholic Church than ponderings emanating from the Vatican. Williamson says, in his experience, “the Catholic Church is one of the most affirming groups toward LGBT people” — in the pews, he means, not the hierarchy. A study by the Public Religion Research Institute found that U.S. Catholics affirm a rather vague statement about transgender rights at a rate somewhat higher than the national average.

James Whitehead is a theologian who teaches at Loyola University in Chicago. In recent years he and his wife, Evelyn, a psychologist, have devoted themselves to understanding the transgender experience in Catholic terms. They had been studying lesbian and gay issues for years, and as they sought out trans people it struck them how familiar the arc of their lives seemed.

“This is the same old story,” he says. “The kind of transition that trans people are talking about is very similar to the journey of faith through darkness and desert that people have been making for thousands of years.” He has found, in his teaching and writing, that when he describes trans experience to Catholics in terms of a spiritual journey, a light goes on, and they get it.

Hints and echoes of what we now speak of as gender transition lie scattered throughout Christian tradition. An Ethiopian eunuch is the first person baptized in the Book of Acts, and the third-century theologian Origen castrated himself after reading Jesus’ remark about those “who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.” Stories of ancient ascetics recall women “surpassing” their gender through spiritual advancement, or by simply disguising themselves as men. In the Middle Ages, St. Joan of Arc was executed for refusing to stop cross-dressing; legends circulated of a female pope, also named Joan, who was also killed for gender-bending. Medieval mystics sometimes referred to Jesus as a mother and saw visions of milk dripping from his breast. The Catholic Church as a whole, led by a hierarchy of costumed men, is traditionally referred to as She and as the Bride of Christ.

The resonance goes beyond appearances. “Catholic tradition is all about the dignity of the human person,” says Edward Poliandro, an advocate for LGBT Catholics and their families in New York City. “Transgender people have a particular prophetic mission just to live and to challenge society simply by saying, ‘I’m a person.’”

I spoke at a Catholic university, Saint Norbert’s, a few weeks ago, and I intend to write a little about that experience… but not yet. In the meantime, just go read about Sister Monica. She will renew your faith – Catholic or not.

Jared Leto Wins the Oscar

Posted by – March 2, 2014

This feel obligatory.

He didn’t say “transgender” but he did thank one “Callie Addams” who is, of course, the very amazing Calpernia Addams, who helped Leto with the part, and who is a (trans) woman.

He did recognize the millions of deaths of the AIDS crisis and that he felt in solidarity with all those who are judged for “who they are and who they love”.

That doesn’t mean everyone will be happy, but the friends I do have in Hollywood – including Calpernia – seem pleased.

Also, he thanked his mom, who had him & his brother before finishing high school, which strikes me as damn feminist of him. Single moms, you raise good sons.

(I’m not really huge on movies, so I haven’t even seen Dallas Buyers Club, to be honest.)

Trans as Adjective (really)

Posted by – February 25, 2014

Really, a recent NPR music segment asked people to describe their life in 6 songs, and one of the people whose stories and choices they featured happens to be trans.

I love that there’s no other commentary besides the reflection on the part of the trans person who wrote, about the Beatles’ “Within You Without You” that “growing up transgender, it made me question my perception of reality (at age 12). And introduced me to Indian music.”

And that’s it, the only mention, with a lovely photo of her.

Journalists, this is how you do it, in case you’re wondering. A person’s trans identity should only be mentioned if it’s relevant to the trans person.

Trans*Literate Conference – NYC, 3/29 & 30

Posted by – February 24, 2014

I’m going to be speaking and running a panel on family and partners of trans people at the Trans*Literate Conference that will take place in NY on March 29th & 30th. It’s a trans symposium out of Hunter College, and this year’s keynote will be Dylan Scholinski, which to me means: yay, I get to hang out with Dylan! He’s awesome.

But otherwise it sounds like there will be a lot of great workshops for social workers, therapists, and other people who work with trans people and their families. According to the website,

the Trans*Literate symposium will educate, inform, and expand dialogue on the topic of working clinically with the transgender communities and understanding transgender experienced through psychoanalytic theory. Mental health clinicians are invited to submit proposals for workshops, papers, and presentations on the topic of how issues related to trans* experience has informed complicated, and illuminated their work in individual, group, and family clinical practice.

Seems like it’s going to be very, very useful to mental health practitioners. You DO have to register to attend (although some small # of walk-ins will be welcome).

But… Drag Queens.

Posted by – February 23, 2014

The other day I posted and commented on an article about the way language is used in the LGBTQ+ communities, specifically about the way gay men often insist that “tranny” is not a slur even though they would never be called one.

That is, by the way, my rule of thumb, and a good one for allies to remember: if it’s something someone would say to you before threatening you, you get to use it. If it isn’t, you don’t.

But the article talked about how drag queens return to being members of the gay male community when they get out of their femme gear, and a friend of mine protested, saying:

Great article, but I don’t really agree with this line: “When drag queens remove the trappings of their dramatized personas, they become once again a part of the gay rights movement and leave real transgender people to suffer the consequences.” Drag queens have always been a part of the gay right’s movement–they led at the Stonewall riots, and they’ve taught us to fight with our wits. I’m not denying that the language used on Ru-Paul’s drag race isn’t harmful to the T-community, but let’s not denigrate the important role that the queens have played in gay civil rights either.

And he is entirely right. Drag queens had a significant part in taking crossdressing laws off the books, which was an important step in decriminalizing homosexuality and of course transness itself. They were at Stonewall, and at Compton’s.

But here’s the thing: some drag queens identify as trans themselves. Others don’t. RuPaul, for instance, doesn’t, and yet he keeps speaking up about how tranny isn’t derogatory or a slur.

More

Whose Community Can Say What?

Posted by – February 22, 2014

I loved this article – which is a trans allied one, not the usual “gays don’t need trans people” bullshit that used to get spouted regularly (and probalby still does, I just stopped reading them).

This is the part I liked the most:

Just last week, actress Gabourey Sidibe repeatedly used the slur “tranny” while on Arsenio Hall’s show. Sidibe, an outspoken supporter of gay rights, was stunned to find out that the slur was considered offensive, and she quickly apologized for her error.

But then, something interesting happened. Stories published on several media forums, including the Advocate Magazine online and Instinct Magazine online, posed the question of whether we are being too sensitive about a word that is commonly used in the gay community.

Numerous gay men and women then weighed in on whether the trans slur was, in fact, a slur. A large percentage of the commenters agreed that the media and the gay community were being too harsh on the popular TV actress. One commenter even said it could not be considered a negative term if popular shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race used the term in a comedic and even an affectionate way.

These comments are evidence that even the gay community does not understand and are often the cause of discrimination against transgender people. In case you weren’t aware, the drag queens on RuPaul’s Drag Race are the reason people like Sidibe are clueless about trans slurs. Those drag queens are gay men who continually abuse a term that damages trans people. Just like “that’s so gay” is often meant to be humorous, comically calling someone a “tranny” may garner a few laughs, but it unintentionally demeans a group of people.

When drag queens remove the trappings of their dramatized personas, they become once again a part of the gay rights movement and leave real transgender people to suffer the consequences.

Although the discrimination against trans people by the gay community is unintentional, it is the reason the “T” should be removed from the LGBT. Gay men often use the slur because they believe it’s a part of their collective community vocabulary. Just as we take liberties by using our own gay slurs as we chose, we mistakenly use the slurs aimed at trans people and whose objections are brushed off as political sensitivity.

And it’s good to see. As many of you know, or may have noticed, I stopped using “the T word” quite a long time ago exactly because it is, too often, a word assumed to be okay within the LGBTQ+ as a whole. But it’s not. The rule – that you should only use a word if it’s something you might hear from someone threatening you – is a good one. So I stopped, despite how much the transverse is my own, and despite being a member of the trans community. And believe me, I am assumed to be trans way more often than most of the cis gay men out there who use it.

Today: Trans* 101 @ SNC

Posted by – February 21, 2014

Trans Inclusive Feminist Article

Posted by – February 18, 2014

Well done, Tina Vazquez. Well done, Bitch Media.

It has been said that feminism has failed the transgender community. It’s hard to disagree. Trans women have been weathering a storm of hate and abuse in the name of feminism for decades now and for the most part, cisgender feminists have failed to speak out about it or push against it.


Although some of us have, of course.
& Some of us have been here for quite a long while.

Littleton Undone

Posted by – February 18, 2014

A Texas court handed down a ruling on the Araguz case the other day that basically undid the travesty of the Littleton case from back in 1999, so it’s exciting that this court decided Nikki Araguz was in fact a woman and that she was legally, heterosexually married to her husband at the time of his death.

The appeals court said more expert testimony on this issue is needed as the only such testimony presented was an affidavit by one of Nikki Araguz’s doctors, who wrote that she was medically and psychologically female as a result of her compliance with the standards of care adopted by the World Professional Association of Transgender Health.

The three-judge panel also wrote that changes made in 2009 to the Texas Family Code that allowed transgendered people to use proof of their sex change to get a marriage license legislatively overruled a previous court decision that had been used as legal precedent in such cases.

Congratulations, Nikki!

Um, Wow. Pat Robertson Says Love Your Transgender Child.

Posted by – February 16, 2014

PlanetTransgender has transcribed some of his comments:

“I don’t think if somebody is a true transgender, we should condemn them. I mean, that’s just the way it is.”

and

“The guy’s 30 years old. I mean, he’s an adult. So, what can you do except love him. Alright,” Robertson added.

I hope Christian parents listen.

(h/t to Naomi, who blogs here.)