Category: trans

NYT Gets Tipton Wrong

Posted by – January 25, 2015

The NYT reviwed Nellie McKay’s show about Billy Tipton. The title of the review is “Exploring a Jazzman and Gender Identity” which is all well & good, but the subtitle, “Nellie McKay Plays the Drag King Billy Tipton at 54 Below,” is what made me roll my eyes.

I mean, really? Tipton lived his entire life as a man, so much so that all three of his wives had no idea he was assigned female at birth. He died at home to avoid going to the hospital so that his secret might not be uncovered.

That is NOT the behavior or life experience or someone who was doing drag.

That doesn’t mean that passing women – that is, masculine women who lived in the world as men – were all trans. I’m sure plenty weren’t – that despite being taken for male by others and appreciating some of the advantages of passing as a straight man and not as a lesbian provided – that they were comfortable being women. Their wives and lovers often knew even if no one else did.

But Tipton? Nothing I’ve ever read about him convinces me he knew himself to be a woman – even as a woman who passed as a man.

I don’t know what the show is like but I know the image of McKay in an oversized suit struck me as comic and playful – clownish, you might say – in a way that upset me. The name of the show is “A Girl Named Bill.” And that makes me sad and tired and angry.

I don’t really know what her take is as I haven’t seen it, but the historical record – including Middlebrook’s bio – keep regendering Tipton using female pronouns. It doesn’t seem right.

Tipton lived his whole life as male and used male pronouns for himself when he was alive. Without getting into a taxonomical bullshit argument about the differences between passing women and drag kinds and trans men, can we all, maybe, just maybe, respect the pronouns he did use and the life he lived and not re-gender him based on what gender he was assigned at birth, to stop making his life some kind of curiosity, some stupid gender experiment or performance?

His gender probably allowed him a career in jazz that he wouldn’t have had otherwise. And that’s all. His life wasn’t lived so someone could come along and make some kind of feminist point with it. It just was. And if we come to know that jazz was too sexist for a woman to make it in as a result, we can thank him for that without disrespecting his life choices.

 

UCBoulder Call for Workshops

Posted by – January 12, 2015

The good folks at University of Colorado @ Boulder are gearing up for their next TRANSforming Gender conference – to be held in March 2015 – and are accepting workshop proposals until the end of this month.

 

SOFFA Jill Soloway

Posted by – January 11, 2015

Jill Soloway just gave an acceptance speech that was awesome in recognizing Leelah Alcorn, all the trans people who die too young, her parent/moppa, and the larger trans community.

Kick ASS.

Go cis allies!

8:40PM, Edited to add- Jeffrey Tambour thanks the trans community for courage, inspiration, patience, and for letting the cast and crew of Transparent be part of the change while thanking, by name, Jenny Boylan, Rhys Ernst, and Zachary Drucker.

 

Afterword: Partners

Posted by – January 10, 2015

So, partners, I’m finishing up an Afterword for a book of writings by us, and what I want to know is this:

  • What is it essential that I mention?
  • What are the things that no one ever says about us?
  • What don’t we get credit for?
  • What do we need from the larger trans community?

Be quick about your answers; I’m nearly done already.

Great New Resource for Grief

Posted by – January 2, 2015

There’s a new PDF up at FORGE’s site for self care in the aftermath of a tragedy. It’s got some great stuff, including the immediate list of self care (am I eating? sleeping? have i relaxed?) as well as ways to contend with grief in positive, life affirming ways – by calling someone, or taking someone out for coffee, or just holding someone’s hand. There are also tips on longer-range things to do, such as kinds of activism you might engage in.

We are an awesome community. Take care of each other out there.

#LeelahsLaw Against Reparative Therapy

Posted by – January 2, 2015

Go, sign it.

California was the first state to make it illegal. Let’s get the rest to do as well.

#RealLiveTransAdult

Posted by – December 31, 2014

My wife is a #RealLiveTransAdult who is 45, works at at university, and would love to take your photo.

#RealLiveTransAdult, which was started by none other than the amazing Red Durkin, is making the rounds on FB and on Twitter and I’m borrowing it because there are so many people out there who would have helped Leelah and who still want to help others like her.

It’s a great response to what is heartbreaking news: this young girl who knew she was trans and whose parents dismissed her and cut her off from all possible support by pulling her out of school, taking away her phone and any/all access to the internet.

Leelah, we love you.

Sadly, her parents have now been doxxed and no doubt are already receiving hate mail. I can’t say they don’t deserve it – they do – but they were, we have to remember, acting in what they thought were the best interests of their child. They were terribly, tragically, wrong, but they were acting, too, no doubt, on the advice of Christian therapists and other people who Still Don’t Get It, people who think that if you are stern enough, or determined enough, you can force your child to be some other way, to be not trans.

This beautiful young person is dead and her parents, who are, no doubt, grieving the loss of this beautiful child, are getting hate spewed at them by people who know better.

The only way through this and the only way to get through to people is love.

If you are alone and suicidal, you can call The Trevor Project at 866-488-7386 or the newly-minted Trans Lifeline at (877) 565-8860.

#blacklivesmatter

Posted by – December 9, 2014

Oh, #alllivesmatter people, please, just listen for a minute.

For those of us in communities that are targeted for violence – from both people who hate us and often the police who are supposed to serve and protect us – we’re aware that our lives are supposed to matter. We know our own lives matter.

But for LGBTQ people, that is not often the case.

For trans people, it is rarely the case.

For Hispanic people, it is rarely the case.

For black people, it is almost never the case.

The reason #alllivesmatter is an insulting response to a racial problem is because it whitewashes the problem. Being more humane doesn’t work; racial prejudices and homophobia go so deep historically, personally, unconsciously, that unless we pay special attention to the kinds of hatred that fuels the killings of trans women and black men, trans women of color in particular, young black men in particular, our systems don’t get any better.

Look, the hippies tried loving everyone and that was a long time ago, and if the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner teach us anything, it’s that people refusing to call our national race problem a race problem is part of it.

Please. Of course #alllivesmatter. But as Orwell once wrote, the problem is that some lives matter a hell of a lot more than others, which is why we need to highlight that #blacklivesmatter and #translivesmatter and #queerlivesmatter.

Step away from your white privilege. We are part of a system that kills black men and imprisons them and throws them away. “Universalizing” is exactly what disappears black lives in the first place.

The December Project 2014

Posted by – December 5, 2014

Hello there!  For the fourth year in a row, we are doing THE DECEMBER PROJECT.  The plan is simple.  If you are trans– or if you love someone who is trans– and you need a friendly voice, email us and we will call you on the phone.

Jennifer Finney Boylan began this project in 2011 because she had been thinking about how hard the holidays can be for people– but they can be especially hard for trans people and their families.  Charles Dickens had it right when, in the CHRISTMAS CAROL, he suggested that it’s Christmas, not Halloween, that’s the most haunted of holidays.  Our memories are heightened at this time of year– we think back to our childhood, to our many struggles.  For some of us it’s a time when we’re acutely aware of how cut off we are from those we love.  The world is full of transgender people who are unable to see their children, their parents, their loved ones, all because of the simple fact of who they are.

We cannot undo all the hurt in the world.  But what we can do is CALL YOU ON THE PHONE and remind you that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.  You don’t have to be in crisis to take advantage of this project.  All you have to do is want a friendly voice.

The project this year will be run by five people – four to make calls, and one to organize the emails. Dylan Scholinski, director of Sent(a)mental Studios; Helen Boyd, Professor at Lawrence University; Allyson Robinson, pastor-teacher, and Brynn Tannehill, journalist and educator. We are two trans women, a trans man, and a spouse of a trans woman.  Between the four of us, we have heard many different kinds of trans narratives.  If we can help you, we would be glad to do so. Our fifth person, who will receive your emails and get the right ones to us callers, is Donna Levinsohn, a lawyer and old, trusted friend of Helen’s who has been involved in trans activism for years.

How do you get us to call you? By emailing decemberproj@gmail.com. If (1) you have a particular preference to talk to one or the other of us, let us know– although I can’t guarantee that you’ll always hear from the person you request.  Also (2) please tell us the time of day and the date you’d be free for a call; you might want to give us a couple of options.  And of course, (3) tell us your phone number.  WE WILL KEEP YOUR CONTACT INFORMATION ABSOLUTELY CONFIDENTIAL.

We will start with calls as soon as possible after December 1, and keep this going until New Years.

Sound good?  I hope so.  We hope we can help, even if just a little.

Three other caveats I should mention at the end here:

1) First, no one in the December Project gets a dime out of it.  This is a shoestring operation, largely consisting of four people trading phone numbers.  If you want to support our causes, you can let us know, and we’ll tell you how to give.  But this is not about that.

2) If you are in serious crisis, please bypass us and go directly to the national suicide prevention lifeline: 1-800-273-8255. WE ARE NOT TRAINED AS THERAPISTS or as counsellors for individuals in crisis.  If you need something more serious than a “friendly voice,’ please call the lifeline.

3) For the moment we are content with this project consisting of only a few of us;  in past years, we have been a little overwhelmed (and yes, deeply touched) by the many, many of you who have wanted to join us.  While we thank you for your grace and your love, it’s also overwhelming for us to sort through the requests; we hope you’ll understand if we ask that folks writing us be primarily those who want a call. There are many ways you can get involved in your own community, and we heartily encourage everyone who wants to spread some love around to do so in their own way, starting right at home.

Thanks so much!  Wishing you all the best for a positive, hopeful, loving holiday season!

Sincerely,

Helen Boyd, on behalf of the December Project

Tidy Your Room, Kai

Posted by – December 2, 2014

Yes, it’s real.

The December Project is Coming

Posted by – November 27, 2014

As with previous year, I’ll be participating in The December Project, the brainchild of Jennifer Finney Boylan, who, because of all the email she gets and all the sadness she sees on FB, decided that we, as a community, need to find ways to make the holiday season a little easier on us all. She enlisted four of us — JFB herself, me, Dylan Scholinski, and NCTE’s Mara Keisling — to call anyone who wanted to hear a friendly voice.

This year there will be a few changes – for starters, Jenny Boylan won’t be able to organize things this year (due to moving and a super booked December), but the rest of us will, and we’ll have a few happy additions to help us do our work: Brynne Tannehill & Allyson Robinson, for starters.

So stay tuned. We’re getting the thing organized so that we can get it up and running for December, but know that we’re here, and we care about each and every one of you, even if we don’t even know your names yet.

In the meantime, if you’re in a bad way and need to talk, there is this amazing new Trans Lifeline service as well as other call lines:

  • Trans Lifeline can be reached at 877-565-8860.
  • For LGBT youth (ages 24 and younger) contemplating suicide, the Trevor Project Lifeline can be reached at 1-866-7386.
  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 can also be reached 24 hours a day by people of all ages and identities.

Love and thanks for the honor and privilege of working for and in this amazing trans community.

#TDOR

Posted by – November 20, 2014

tdor 2014Update: found here.

I don’t know where this comic comes from, so I’m asking forgivness from its creator for putting it up without express permission. I’m happy to take it down if necessary, but wow, it hit me between the eyes. We don’t see stuff from family/partners for TDOR, and this is just heartwrenching and beautiful.

Thank you, LaBelle, whoever you are.

Dylan Scholinski @LU for TDOR #translivesmatter

Posted by – November 13, 2014


Dylan Scholinski, the author of The Last Time I Wore a Dress, will speak at Lawrence University for the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20th. His talk will be on the importance of recognizing gender non conformity, transgender and queer youth, suicide, and the redemptive power of art.

After his talk there will be a vigil in memory of those who have died due to transphobic violence.

This event is free and open to the public. Trans/queer community members are especially welcome.

where: Lawrence University, Appleton, WI – 121 Youngchild Hall
when: Thursday, 11/20, 7PM

On Facebook.

On Lawrence University’s calendar.

This event is brought to you by LU’s Gender Studies Department, Wellness, and GLOW.

Come On Already, NYC

Posted by – November 12, 2014

Honestly, we need someone to do groundbreaking stuff – don’t let Iowa beat you to it again, okay? Shoot, NYS has already beaten you to it.


A proposed law that would allow individuals to change the sex on their birth certificate without having gender reassignment surgery would ease the barrier to basic services such as health care, housing and jobs, transgender advocates said.

Testimony happened on Monday, 11/10, that helped explain why surgery should not be a requirement to change your birth certificate in NYC.

Trans Media History: The Love Boat

Posted by – November 9, 2014

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.)

Trans Actors?

Posted by – November 8, 2014

A guest post from my good friend Darya Teesewell, who has worked in Hollywood for a very long time, and who had a few things to say about the news that Elle Fanning will be playing a trans guy (and Eddie Redmayne a trans woman):

So both Elle Fanning and Eddie Redmayne will be playing Transgender characters in new films.Both fine actors and I’m sure the Directors felt they were sound choices, but really, it’s time to kick up a bitch about this; why not make a bolder choice and cast trans actors, and while we’re at it, hire a trans writer or two. There also many trans below-the line workers who hide themselves, but that’s another topic. I’ve spent 40 years in “The Industry” and detest parts of of as intensely as I love and respect the magic that happens when they unintentionally create art.

Honestly, intra-trans bitch fights frustrate the fuck out of me, but this is not that. This is about daring an industry to ignore the iPhone-swiping little Fucks who protect the bottom line(I can say that as a below the line grunt) and get in on a wave that has begun to build thanks to people like Shadi Petosky , Zackary Drucker, Rhys Ernst, Lana Wachowski and Laverne Cox, and pioneers before them like Calpernia Sarah Addams , Candis Cayne and A’leisha Brevard.

Both actors, no doubt, would do a superb job in these parts, but it really is exactly like the 1950’s bullshit that had Mexicans playing Japanese (Ricardo Montalban), Europeans playing Native Americans, Mexicans, Asians (Mickey Rooney-*shudder*) and whatever the studio wanted.The bold Directors and producers were the ones who hired authentically. I just found out today that Paul Newman was producing a film in the 60’s in which a male running coach falls in love with one of his runners. The studios wanted to make the runner a woman, and he told them shove it. The bold choice lost again to the studio fucks.

Film is a grimy, tedious ruthless business that occasionally, like alchemy, turns that lead in gold in the form of images and performances. The hacks won’t hear this message, but the Artists will; cast a trans woman to play a trans woman and let’s see what magic happens.The guys in their Teslas who have to answer to boards will fret; they want a bankable name, multi-pic pac, wings to Gotham, Boffo numbers, but they just fucked all that up this summer, didn’t they? Time for bold choices.

I understand: if I’m artist, and you tell me who I should cast in my movie, I’m going to resent that; but if you are a fellow artist asking if I’m settling for a safe choice over a bold one, that’s a valid question.

Below the line is another conversation for another time; this is not an LGBT friendly industry, in spite of what a few high profile jobs might have people think.

Being silent does nothing.Time to call Bullshit, and it is indeed Bullshit.

I will add one more thing: why can’t women play women and men, men? Why do cis people always think trans women should be played by cis men? It perpetuates this idea that trans women are *really* men, and they’re not. Let’s move on, folks, can we?

What Partners Think

Posted by – October 29, 2014

Here are a few new (to me) resources for partners:

One blog post by a trans person who was happily surprised by a relationship with a cis person, and who goes on to interview a few partners on their experience of being partnered to someone trans:

Neither Pity Nor a Fetish

And otherwise, there’s the mypartneristrans reddit.

In the first set, there’s a list of the “allowable” types of partners – “boxes”:


1. Straight cis man is with a straight trans woman because she ‘probably’ still has a penis and, therefore, ‘he’s probably actually gay’.
2. Straight cis man is with a straight trans woman AND HE IS DECEIVED.
3. Straight cis woman stays with her transitioning partner, is to be pitied.
4. Straight cis woman is with a straight trans man AND WHERE IS THE PENIS, WE MUST ASK WHERE THE PENIS IS, CAN YOU FIND IT FOR US?
5. Gay cis woman is with a straight trans man, and that’s okay, because we all knew that ‘he’ was actually a lesbian woman all along.

And I wonder where these come from. When I was coming up, only #s 2, 3, & 5 existed, and I didn’t fit into any of them very well either, unless you see me as the “to be pitied” type, which I don’t.

Always useful to see/hear more partners speak up.

HB in Pittsburgh

Posted by – October 26, 2014

Here’s a live podcast/radio show I did with Lynn Cullen while in Pittsburgh on Friday. She had just read the NYT article on trans people in women’s colleges, so I was explaining some of the language, for starters. But I found her description at YouTube cool, too:

Helen Boyd, author of “My Husband Betty” and gender studies lecturer extraordinaire for Lawrence University joins Lynn to discuss gender and trans issues. What began as a search for community has lend her to a path as a trans ally. Hopefully the world will follow her example.

Mind you, I hadn’t actually read the article before this, so I was only going on the snippets she read me.

“Trans Inside”

Posted by – October 21, 2014

Oh, allies, just STOP it: you don’t feel trans inside.

What you feel is a new awareness of the complexities of your own gender – that you are not 100% feminine, or masculine, or whatever.

& It really is great to try to relate to trans people – we do, all of us, have a pretty strong sense of our own genders if we allow ourselves to recognize it – but you do not feel “trans inside.”

I really do love that more & more people are getting hip to trans people, but it’s really painful to brace myself for all the dumb shit they’re going to say in the process.

Trust me: I’ve said all the dumb shit. But really, don’t own someone else’s oppression, okay?

& Right now, proto trans allies, learn how to apologize, and no buts, no explanations, no anything. Just “wow did I fuck that up. I’m so sorry.”

Next?

It’s Not About Her Ex: A Trans Partner’s Story

Posted by – October 16, 2014

My friend M. is a woman who was assaulted by her ex. Her ex happens to be a woman, too, of trans history. When the news of what had happened broke, her story was drowned out by all of the people who only wanted to use their story as an ideological argument. They took the focus from the personal, intimate, terrifying crime that happened and put it instead on the identity of the person who was guilty of committing it.

Those of us who are partnered to trans people are used to this, to some degree. The trans person takes up all the space; they’re the ones people are interested in, who people go out of their way to validate or compliment or criticize. We disappear.

My friend needed to press charges, to see justice of some kind, to let her children know that they should never let a lover treat them like this no matter who the person is or the “reason” for it. Instead, reports about the crime disappeared her, the victim, and so the very tiniest thing I could do to help was give her a platform to tell her story.

I am embarrassed and ashamed that my fellow feminists and others have made this about everyone but the person it should have been about, and who effectively forced by friend to speak up as a trans ally instead of being able to focus on her own healing.

So here’s what she had to say:

TO all of the people who deny the personhood and womanhood of trans women,

I am the woman who was victimized by my former spouse. She recently pled guilty to two misdemeanors for domestic violence. The news about her crime has been commented on by people for whom her trans status and her genitals seem to be of utmost importance, and who want to use my ex as a way to somehow “prove” that she’s really a man and in turn that her bad behavior somehow means that all trans women are “really” men (and that all men are, in turn, incorrigibly violent and likely to rape).

My own voice has been drowned out in all this, so I wanted to say a few words.

You are so focused on history and the genitals of the person who violated me. It’s literally the loudest conversation out there, drowning out the actual victim’s story – MY STORY. It is also, GROSSLY missing the point. I’m calling you a “hate group” because your anger regarding the violence against women perpetrated by men has so taken over your brain that your hairtrigger hatred automatically pounces on ANY OPPORTUNITY to denounce trans women as men, and to denounce men for how horrible they are.

My case is not about the genitals of my wife. Her chromosomal structure and genital configuration and that she was assigned male at birth have got NOTHING TO DO with the sexual violation of my body. Why does it matter if she used her penis or even has one? WHO CARES?? You want so badly to create the “all men/penises are evil” platform, that you can’t see the anguish your comments cause me, the victim, and other victims of sexual abuse.

The CRIME here was not her gender configuration. What if she had XX chromosomes or a vagina? What if she had used a carrot? A bamboo plant? A fist, a dildo, or ANY OTHER BODY PART OR OBJECT? The CRIME was the sexual violation of my body by someone I loved, who was under the influence of alcohol. THAT should be the focus of this conversation, not the instrument used.

I’ve always supported my wife’s transition. I didn’t know her as a man for long, but it didn’t matter to me because I loved who she was and didn’t mind what form her body took: I knew that I would love her body forever. She was a gentle, sweet, vulnerable person. It’s one of the things I loved about her. She was the most considerate intimate partner I had ever had. She was a far cry from my previous marriage, where a cisgender male did indeed commit all the crimes you would attribute to a male abuser. He was all the horrible things without the alcohol.

I loved our intimate relationship. That’s what makes this crime particularly horrifying. It was something I LOVED. Something we BOTH loved. It wasn’t her genitals that caused the crime. Even during the assault, she was saying I was beautiful, over and over. She didn’t even know what she was doing. It was like she wasn’t THERE. She wasn’t angry or saying horrible things. On the contrary. But that was the real mind fuck. When I told her to stop and that we weren’t going to be doing that this time, and that she would regret it in the morning, she just said, “No I won’t”, like ‘don’t be silly’, and she didn’t stop. And she wouldn’t stop. And she kept hurting me. And hurting me. She was someone else then.

Because she would have never done this sober.

I am not saying that her addiction is an excuse, but I can’t ignore the horrible effects of it, either. Ask anyone who has had a DUI or done something else horrible while under the influence. The problem is when that usually wonderful person is dangerous when under the influence. They must be held accountable for their behavior. As far as I’m concerned, her crime began that night with her first drink.

In my case, I am deeply saddened that the LGBT and feminist communities have remained almost entirely silent about my experience. The intersectionality of this event SHOULD BE a conversation, and we should have it BECAUSE it makes us uncomfortable. Much easier to pretend it’s not there. Let’s just stay angry at all the men and people with penises! So much EASIER, RIGHT?

It’s disappointing that some people are unwilling or unable to do the emotional work it requires to process that someone they care about can be capable of something really awful. But from the experienced feminist and LGBT communities, I expected better.

The transphobic radical feminists and other transphobic people will continue to rage over the state of my wife’s genitals, and I can’t stop them. But I hope more intelligent and thoughtful people will rise to the occasion to steer the conversation to what really matters.

I want her to be accountable. I want this to never happen again. I want to forgive her. I want this story to be about forgiveness and redemption. I need it to be. I need others to let it be that, too – to be my story, my trauma, my choice, my agency.