Category: trans

Guest Author: Loree Cook-Daniels, Scaring Ourselves to Death

Posted by – August 27, 2015

I read a beautiful piece by Kai Cheng Thom over at XO Jane where the author starts by stating:

When I was 19, I read an article in Guernica magazine stating that the average life span of a transgender person is 23 years old. The article confirmed what I had already known for about a decade: I was doomed to a nasty, short, and miserable life. I was going to be poor, maybe homeless, definitely unemployable. I was going to be subjected to emotional and sexual violence (and in fact, I already had been), and then I was going to die, probably brutally murdered. They would print the wrong name on my grave. You know, the good old transgender story.

Kai Cheng Thom is right. It has become too much of the standard narrative of transness, and, as I pointed out years go, the focus on death in this community – especially as an outreach tool directed at cisgender people – has always bothered me. When I saw this piece, I realized this is too important not to mention.

We’re Scaring Ourselves to Death, by Loree Cook Daniels

In 1994, anti-gay crusader Paul Cameron published a paper claiming that the average life expectancy of gay men was 43, a full 30 years less than the national average life expectancy of U.S. men. He argued the life expectancy disparity was evidence of how unhealthy the gay lifestyle is. (A much-less quoted statistic from the same paper found that lesbians were 487 times more likely to die of murder, suicide, or accidents than straight women.) The statistic spread like wildfire, and was even repeated publicly by top government officials. It very well may have slowed progress toward LGBT equality.

I think of that history and cringe every time my Facebook newsfeed repeats the new “statistic” that the average lifespan for trans women of color (or Black transwomen, depending on the source) is 35. Not only is the statistic false, but it can be fatally dangerous. The difference is, this time we’re doing the damage to ourselves.

There is not and never has been a comprehensive list of people in the U.S. who are gay and/or trans. As far as I know, there are not and never have been any nationally representative studies following all gay men and/or all trans people from birth to death to determine the timing and cause of every death. Given those facts, where are these “statistics” on life expectancy coming from?

In Cameron’s case, the stats came from gay community newspapers’ obituaries. These obituaries – particularly in 1994, at the height of the AIDS epidemic – were of known/out LGBT people who some other (usually) LGBT person had reported to the newspaper. Given the ageism of the LGBT community – younger activists often have little or no contact with old LGBT people – and the fact that older generations are still less likely to be out, very few of these obituaries mentioned the deaths of old people. So the deaths that were listed tended to be of young and middle-aged people, resulting in a very low average life expectancy.

When I first heard the 35 years old life expectancy figure, I asked the person who offered it where it came from. She told me she had heard it at the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference. When I inquired further, she said it came from someone who had averaged all the ages of everyone listed on the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) website. This site lists people who are believed to have been murdered. Although any murder is horrible, the truth of the matter is that the vast majority of us – including transwomen of color — die of something other than murder: heart disease, cancer, dementia, accidents, etc. Scientists who have done long-term follow-up of known transgender people have not found that we are more likely to die young.

Murder, on the other hand, is mostly a young people’s phenomena. In the U.S., the average age at which all murders take place is in the 30s, exactly in line with the average age of trans people who are murdered.

Why does this matter? Because we are scaring ourselves to death. I can’t count how many times my Facebook feed has included responses like, “I feel hopeless” or “I feel suicidal” from someone reacting to the 35-year “statistic” or the seemingly endless repetition of the details of every single trans death that has been identified this year. Again, the murders are horrible. But scaring each other into feeling hopeless is not helpful. Most of us will live a long time, and we need to have hope to heal our past traumas, invest in our future, and have enough energy to help each other through the rough spots. We can ask for our allies’ help without using tactics that harm the very people we’re trying to help?

Being Legit

Posted by – August 25, 2015

The SCOTUS ruling on same sex marriage is huge because people can finally marry yay! but there are so many other innumerable things. Today I went to get a new passport and they ask for the name of your spouse. Before the ruling, because we are both legally female and our marriage was only legal through loophole, I don’t know what would have happened or what the correct thing to do would have been: naming her could have been seen as fraud, and not naming her might have been, too. That was the weird place we were in before. Would they have rejected my application? Would the county clerk get twitchy? Maybe I would have had to go home and get our marriage certificate (proving we’re married) and her name change papers (proving she was the man I married).

What was nice today is that I just filled it out. 

Someday someone will fill it out and not even think about it afterwards.

 

Blowback, or The Jenner Effect

Posted by – August 22, 2015

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?

Guest Author: Ashley Altadonna, Letter to Myself 10 Years Later

Posted by – August 21, 2015

I’ve put Ashley Altadonna’s writing on this blog before and this piece, in particular, is so amazing. It’s also so great to hear from trans women and men 10 or more years post transition; so often trans community is made up of people who are about to transition, transitioning, or only have recently, so getting some perspective from those who are further along the road and deeper into their lives post transition is particularly useful, and Ashley is particularly heartfelt. 

Dear Ashley,

Congratulations on reaching this next step in your gender journey! I am so proud of you! I wanted to give you a little heads up on what’s coming your way over the next decade. You never quite made it to Eagle Scout, but you know, ”Always be prepared.”

You are going to love and hurt and laugh and cry more than you ever imagined you were capable of. For the first few weeks, maybe even months you’ll feel sort of like an imposter, like everyday is Halloween and you’re the only one dressed up. It’s sort of exciting getting to be a whole new person but eventually that feeling will fade and you’ll just be you again, only the real you this time.

Lady friends will give you a ton of clothing and make-up advice early on. In fact, most of your friends will take your transition amazingly well, except for one from high school, who after hanging out with you twice as Ashley, will stop talking to you completely, and you’ll never really know why. That other friend, the one who told you that you’d be a social outcast and that people would throw bricks through your windows…he’ll come out as gay six years later.

Your family is very supportive. Even your 78 year-old Grandma tells you she loves you no matter what. True, your father has some difficulties with your new gender at first. He’ll be nervous about you meeting his side of the family, which in turn makes you nervous. When you finally do, it’s fine. Your cousin will tell you she cried for the boy you used to be. You will tell her you envied her girlhood growing up.

You will talk to you ex-girlfriend, the one you first came out to. She tells you, that after she told her mother about your transition, her mother said it was almost like the boy you used to be died. You will feel that way too, like you sort of killed yourself, to live. You will grieve for the guy you were at times.

A few months later it actually will be Halloween. You’ll be a friend’s party. Some drunken dudes will debate your gender right in front of you, questioning whether you’re a “woman or a man”. (They will not be the last people to do this, btw). You’ll be about to tell them they can just ask you when one of them will grab your breasts, laugh and say, “Oh my God, I can’t tell!” You will know what it feels like to be objectified.

You’ll go to a club for 80’s night. While dancing you’ll see a girl you used to have a crush on. She asks you why you’re dressed like that. You tell her you are transgender. She’ll say, “Thank God I never went out with you!” Another night at the same club you will be very drunk and a guy will pull you by the arm down on a couch next to him and his friend. You’re surprised by the force he uses. He’ll ask you if you do this all the time, or if tonight was just “something for fun”. You tell him you do this all the time. He’ll say, “You’re pretty cute!” as he slides his arm around you. Your friends will pull you away and tell you it’s time to go.

Both gentlemen and assholes will hit you on. You will face harassment and mockery from random strangers on the street, honking car horns, and indecipherable words yelled at you from speeding cars. In one particularly frightening instance, a middle aged asshole on a motorcycle will pull up to you as you’re waiting for a bus, tell you he’s, “seen you around the neighborhood,” and ask you if you’ve been “fixed”. He will proposition you for anal sex. You will actually fear for your safety.

At the time, you’re still working at the bank and bookstore. The bank will transfer you to a different branch, one with a single user bathroom just so no one has to share the restroom with you. Human resources will also create a policy where no one is allowed to talk about “personal business” on the job, out of fear that someone will say something offensive, and you’ll sue the company. They will forget to mention this to you, so you’ll assume that everyone at your new branch hates you. Who knows? Maybe they do.

At the bookstore the difference is like night and day. Your bosses and co-workers are very welcoming to your new gender identity. For the most part they politely ask questions, and tell you how great you look. You use the women’s restroom everyday and no one cares. Eventually, your transition is a non-issue. You’ll quit the bank 3 months later ‘cause who needs that stress?

A few years later you end up working for a nationally renowned feminist, progressive sex toy store. Your job is fun and you get to help people have better, healthier sex lives. You also help a ton of trans & genderqueer customers get the products they need to be and feel better about themselves. You convince your bosses to start carrying more products for trans ladies and even teach some classes on transitioning.

You’ll wait in longer lines for the bathroom. You’ll never know what to do with your hair or reliably find shoes in your size. You never stop biting your nails no matter how many times you try and give up and try again. You’ll learn to try on every item of clothing when you go shopping, because a size 14 in one brand does not mean a size 14 in another. You will know the torture of high heels and stabbing pain of broken underwire bras. You will try to learn to follow while slow dancing and suck at it.

You will eventually play onstage and have band again. When you see a picture of yourself from the show you’ll be struck by how similar you look to the female rocker you revered in high school and college.

You will be excited for your first Pride event only to have an older butch lesbian tell you, upon trying to enter a “lesbian-only” space that you don’t, “really count as a woman” and will refuse to let you in. This notion of “womyn-born-womyn” only spaces and the belief that trans women are somehow “fake women” will be archaic notions long before you began to transition, but are still sadly a thing 10 years later.

You’ll witness a rapid revolution of trans rights and activism, seeing trans folks gracing the covers of magazines, starring in TV shows, being granted benefits, and opportunities that you thought would be impossible just a few years before. At the same time, trans women (especially those of color) will continue to be killed at a rate much higher than the national average. Politicians will keep introducing discriminatory bills, and blocking legal protections for jobs, housing, healthcare and more. You’ll wonder why your friends and family aren’t more appalled and motivated to help, but you’ll come to realize they are dealing with their own struggles and causes, and this one is yours.

You end up making some short films about gender and your transition and they will play at LGBT film festivals all over the Europe, Australia, and the U.S. Your films will be picked up for distribution. You even start a film company, Tall Lady Pictures. You’ll share phone calls, emails and even Christmas cards with a wonderful trans woman from North Carolina you’ve never met, but sincerely hope to one day.

Actually, you meet a lot of trans women after transitioning, and find even though they are nice people; you find you have little in common with them besides your gender identities. You feel a connection to a few, but they tend to move away or go stealth and stop talking to you. A lot of times you’ll feel alone. Other trans ladies tell you that you inspired them and that they look up to you.   You’re grateful to have helped them while wishing more folks had been there for you.

You will question you femininity a lot. Like a TON. You will doubt your looks and your ability to be female more than you care to admit. You know part of this is the impossible standards society sets for women, but that doesn’t help. Every time someone misgenders you it makes it that much worse, especially when those people have known you as Ashley for years. Struggling with body image and feeling like you aren’t feminine enough to be considered female, is probably be the hardest, most frustrating part of your transition and the part nobody really prepared you for.

Your girlfriend, however, will be your blessing through all of this. She is always there for you, supportive and incredible. She is your best friend, who makes you laugh like nobody else. She comforts you when you are sad. She takes care of you when you are sick. Sometimes she gets jealous of the attention your transition receives. You are able to understand her needs better than when you were a guy, because you know the irrationality of hormone-based mood swings and feeling upset for no real reason. You two will travel the U.S. and Europe together. In Paris you’ll want to propose to her, but you’ll wait another year.

You’ll finally get married after 7 years of dating. Your father will walk you down the aisle. Your brother will make you cry with his best man speech. Marriage equality is another 4 years in the making, so you marry as man and wife; though essentially you have a legal “gay marriage”.

In 2013, over 15 years after you first came out as transgender, you will finally have your gender confirmation surgery. You are eternally grateful to all the friends, family, therapists, doctors and organizations that helped you reach this milestone.

In preparing for surgery, you will undergo more awkward/embarrassing situations than you could’ve ever imagined. You’ll spend hours on hold and fighting with insurance companies. When the day of your surgery arrives, you’re so nervous you can’t stop shaking as they prepare to wheel you into the ER.

Your surgery is a complete success. You at last have the lady parts you always wanted. You will in no way regret your decision to have surgery, and bonus: the female rock star you idolized will email to congratulate you! You know this isn’t the end of your transition. In reality, it feels like the beginning of the rest of your life.

Love you lady,

Ashley

 

Guest Author: Zoe Dolan, When Political Correctness Hits Below The Belt

Posted by – August 20, 2015

Here’s a controversial piece from Zoe Dolan, lawyer, author, and friend, in a smart piece about why, when it cones to dating – amongst other things – talking about genital surgery is important. I have always reserved the right to talk about these things with trans people and with trans partners because I do a lot of work around sex and relationships, but I stopped a few years ago in any public forums because of the ridiculous obsession – especially with penises – when trans stuff comes up. (I’ll be posting something a bit later about the term “political correctness” because I really, really can’t stand it.)

The conversation goes like this:

Him: Do you mind if I ask you a personal question?

Me: Yes, I have a vagina. Yes, I have a clitoris, and also labia majora and labia minora. Yes, I feel sensation and I can have orgasms — both vaginal and clitoral. And yes, I self-lubricate; but who ever said no to a little coconut oil?

Him: Wow. That’s amazing. Thank you for being so open. I’ve been curious but afraid to ask.

I’ve written before, and I maintain: my view is that there’s no shame in the human body. We all have one.

Nevertheless, a politically correct script of deflection dominates public discourse when it comes to sex change surgery. This condescension shames people into believing that questions arising out of natural curiosity are somehow overly intrusive, and that inquiring about the medical aspects of being transgender is wrong.

Take, for example, John Oliver’s Transgender 101 that recently went viral.

The monologue began with a discussion of “dumb mistakes” that the media make. His point was, apparently, that “[i]t is no more okay to ask transgender people about their sex organs than it would be to ask Jimmy Carter whether or not he’s circumcised.”

He concluded, “[T]heir decision on this matter is, medically speaking, none of your [bleep]ing business.”

While the privacy that others may choose deserves respect, there is fallacy in the proposition that everyone should know better than to pursue understanding of a subject to which they have yet to be exposed. More

US Trans Survey Starts Today #USTransSurvey

Posted by – August 19, 2015

us trans survey

Go take it. Tell your friends to take it.

http://www.ustranssurvey.org/

Knowledge is Power.

Tamara Dominguez #HerNameWasTamara

Posted by – August 18, 2015

tamara dominguezI wish I’d known her. She seems like she was a beautiful person, and it’s very obvious she was well-loved. Her friend Rendon spoke for the family.

“He doesn’t know she has family. She had her mom. She had her nephews, brothers, and sisters that person didn’t think about what he did,” Rendon said.

The family is trying to raise funds to bury their loved one. Donations can be made by calling 816-745-2904.

I can’t share the details because they break my heart. Last night, learning this news, I just crumpled. For those of you who don’t understand any of this violence, here’s a brief piece in Time about it. I don’t know that it explains anything at all to anyone who is sane and not full of hate.

I’m worried about all of you these days. Please be careful out there. Let someone know who you’re seeing and when.

#saytheirnames – Three Trans Deaths This Past Weekend

Posted by – August 17, 2015

I mean to distract you from your online bickering for a moment.

This weekend, three trans people of color were reported murdered – one in Arizona, one in Detroit, one in North Carolina. They had nothing else in common from what I can tell, but for being at that fatal intersection of identity that is being black and trans.

The murders this year in the US are already greater than the total number for 2014.

The deaths are always gruesome, cold-blooded, but often intimate and overkill. And when I hear a new report I think: this is never just transphobia at work, but racism and patriarchy, too – patriarchy because violence is still seen as some kind of legitimate response to a threat. Look at the “but he was threatening” defenses of armed cops who have killed unarmed people. These murders are the worst excesses of patriarchy.

Then I read something like this piece, about feminists trying to get at questions of gender construction – what is gender, how we define it, how we “make sense” of the gender of trans people as feminists who only defined gender as a system of oppression. Like many feminists of my era, my reluctance toward femininity comes from a suspicion that women are raised to be feminine because it makes us less powerful, easier to ignore, easier not to hire or promote. It makes us happier to be at home with children instead of in the workplace.

But for trans women, femininity can mean life. Survival. Acceptance. Their version of gendered oppression – and mind you, they’re already also dealing with sexism – means that the one thing the world has told them is that femininity is not theirs to have and that femininity will keep them alive.

It’s not really that complicated, and it’s not a theoretical point. Women, trans women, women of color – there may be variations on the ways we’re told to be, but the fact is that we are told to be a certain way, and the punishment for not being that way is death.

Say Their Names.

  1. Shade Schuler.
  2. Papi Edwards.
  3. Lamia Beard.
  4. Ty Underwood.
  5. Yasmine Payne.
  6. Taja Gabrielle de Jesus.
  7. Penny Proud.
  8. Kristina Gomez Reinwald.
  9. London Chanel.
  10. Mercedes Williamson.
  11. India Clarke.
  12. K.C. Haggard.
  13. Amber Monroe.
  14. Kandis Capri.
  15. Ashton O’Hara
  16. Elisha Walker

This is not a theoretical argument about gender. This is not about Caitlyn Jenner. This is not about femininity. This is about life, and about these terrific losses.

My heart is so broken all the time and I look up and see the arguments and lateral violence and theoretical discussions and I don’t know what more to say but SHUT THE FUCK UP and notice. Please, folks. Stop busying yourself with the ideas and find real-world ways to stop the violence.

Guest Author: Darya Teesewell, “Hollywood Takes Care of its Own,” Unless You are Trans

Posted by – August 14, 2015

In response to my HuffPo post, we have our first crosspost, by my friend Darya:

A young trans friend of mine in the Hollywood film industry, a union member, spoke to me recently about a conversation she had when she asked an individual representing the Motion Picture Industry Health Plan about health care for herself. She began with the most basic question; will they pay for hormones? The answer was a flat and simple no.

Page 63 of the Active MPI health plan states that “gender change” is excluded from coverage. Some of us would argue that we aren’t “changing” so much as “restoring” genders, but let that be, for now. On her own, my friend found that that there was another plan available to union members, an HMO, that did indeed cover all aspects of trans health care including Gender Reconfirming Surgery with an excellent provider in Arizona.

Even then, she found she had problems with representatives of the provider depending on where the offices were located. The Hollywood/Los Angeles office was helpful and knowledgeable, while other offices seemed perplexed, as if she were requesting something no one had ever heard of before.

If you are a trans person seeking health care, you are no stranger to this. In spite of a groundbreaking state law in California that prohibits insurers from excluding trans-related care from health plans, many insurers still push back against providing it, subtly, or not-so-subtly.

More

HuffPo, & An Invitation

Posted by – August 14, 2015

I’m pretty sure most people don’t realize this, but HuffPo doesn’t pay writers. Like EVER, like any of them. People who write for HuffPo do reserve their rights, however.

And because I’m a professional writer who believes writers should get paid, because we’re professionals like everyone else, I don’t like to read things there.

They are, however, pretty willing to publish some good trans stuff. So here’s an offer for those of you who publish there: let me crosspost your work so that a bunch of people who won’t read, click on, or link to HuffPo articles can still read you. They’ll still make all the ad dollars from whoever clicks on their version, & I won’t make a dime.

Just send me your text & voila, I’ll put it up here.

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

Posted by – August 11, 2015

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.

Short & Sweet

Posted by – August 10, 2015

Maybe I’ve been doing this too long, but in preparing to do a presentation for a local organization this week, all I keep thinking is that I want to walk in and say “trans women are women, trans men are men, and some people are neither or both. Don’t worry about their genitals, their socialization, or anything except whatever services you’re providing for them. Ask everyone what name & pronoun they prefer for themselves, and then use them.”

</end Trans 101>

& Obviously, I know it’s not that simple, but it really kind of is, isn’t it?

2015 U.S. Trans Survey Is Coming August 19th

Posted by – July 30, 2015

Here’s the always awesome Ignacio Rivera with a few reasons why it’s important, and I’ll add myself that having published some scholarship on trans issues, the last survey provided much needed data and continues to be cited in necessary ways.

CiCi on Crossdressing and Owning It

Posted by – July 25, 2015

People ask me why I love crossdressers. Here’s one reason:

What a beautiful short piece on the community, the nature of confidence, and all with a history and knowledge of how it used to be and how what trans people are doing no more than, and no less than, what everyone is trying to do.

Really gorgeous.

Same Difference: Docu About Black Masculinity

Posted by – July 23, 2015

Stud, butch, AG, masculine of center – these are some of the terms people use to talk about their identities in this documentary by Nnekah Onuorah that I have to find a way to see. Short of that, this article by Carolyn Wysinger over at the always-amazing Autostraddle covers a lot of the terrain:

When I left the theater the very first thing that I did was hop on Facebook to proclaim The Same Difference as the best film about black butchness that I had ever seen and I’ve seen all of them — all two of them. There has literally been only two films that give audiences the opportunities to view images of black studs/butches/AG’s/doms and talk about their experiences. The Same Difference approaches the subject in a bit of a different way. The film wasn’t initially conceived as a film about black butches. Nneka’s original concept was to simply start conversations about gender and stereotypes. She went into it openly inviting women of different ages and ethnicities to panel discussions about some of the “rules” presented. The film ultimately found its own way landing on black butchness. For a black masculine of center woman such as myself it felt perfect because it is very rare that we are represented in any form of media deconstructing gender outside of juxtaposing femmes. The goal was to allow those with different opinions about gender and stereotypes to have discussions and get to the root of these stereotypes.

There is so little visibility for masculine of center folks, much less so for those who are black. The Aggressives, which came out in 2005 by director Daniel Peddle was criticized because it was made by someone outside of this community – even if it was one of the very first documentaries that gave voice and visibility to AGs.

Bottom Surgery

Posted by – July 21, 2015

I know it’s not something we like to talk about as a community, but I thought this piece about deciding whether or not to have genital surgery was useful. I’d put the “it’s personal” section a lot higher on the list, but the article does point out that what was once a requirement is starting not to be in a (very) few countries, in order to change gender markers on US passports, etc.

Because it is so deeply personal, this decision should be up to the individual, not health insurance companies, not gatekeepers, not governments. There are so many people who are unable to afford surgery that there’s really not much “choice” involved – finances dictate. But even if surgery were readily accessible and affordable, it should never feel like or be a requirement for anyone.

Traveling While Trans: Help Meagan Taylor

Posted by – July 20, 2015

Meagan Taylor is from St. Louis and was traveling in Des Moines when hotel employees called the police on her and a friend who were sharing a room.

They arrested her because her legal name doesn’t match the one she gave them and because she was carrying her prescription in an unmarked container. (Wait, is that a crime now?!)

She’s being kept in solitary because transphobia. Don’t get me started on how they performed the pat-down.

Funds are being raised to make sure she can post bail and for ongoing legal issues this arrest will cause. A protest has already happened and pressure will be kept up to get the hotel to issue an apology and a refund.

My Online Group for Partners

Posted by – July 19, 2015

I’ve been getting quite a few requests for this link, so I thought it was about time to put it up again:

https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/engender_partners/info

It’s open to all kinds of partners: wives of crossdressers, partners of people considering transition, partners of people who have transitioned, those who just found out, those who have known for years, those who fall anywhere on the line of being more or less accepting. Often people come on and read through past bios of other partners and start up one-on-one correspondences, but we have a lot of conversations as a group, too, that may be useful to new people. We talk about sex and anger and depression and all the related stuff being experienced by us and by our trans beloveds.

You will, if you join, send in a short bio about yourself and your situation.

To the Wife Who Just Found Out

Posted by – July 16, 2015

I read this piece in the LA Times by the ex wife of a transitioned trans woman yesterday – and read all of the amazing commentary about it on my Facebook page by trans people and trans partners – and woke up this morning and started writing this long overdue letter to the wife who just found out.

It starts like this:

To the wife who has just learned her partner is transgender,

I don’t know you. I get emails from women like you all the time, though, and I’m never quite sure what to say to you. I wish I didn’t need to work so that I could hop a flight every single time one of you contacts me and find somewhere to talk and cry and drink and curse for a night into the wee hours. I don’t think there is any substitute for being able to talk long and hard with someone else who has been where you’ve been. I didn’t have anyone like that myself, which is one of the many reasons I started doing this work. You’re alone, and you’re scared, and there’s so little information, and no one, but no one, in your life, has any way of understanding what is about to happen. Sometimes others can make it worse, and sometimes they provide enough support – which is amazing especially when they don’t understand – to get you through the hour, the day, the week.

Some days that’s what it feels like – that that’s all you can manage, like recovering alchoholics do – one day at a time.

The funny thing about it is that I know you’re fine otherwise. You’re taking the kids where they need to go and visiting with neighbors and going out with your friends and taking in a movie with your trans spouse, maybe. You’re trying new recipes and getting your butt to yoga and doing all of the things you normally do. But that sense of isolation is there, and it keeps growing. That sense that you don’t know what you want to do, or what you should do, and whether those two choices have anything to do with each other.

You know you need to stand up for yourself and your needs. And you know you want to, and do, love your spouse and be supportive and awesome.

The problem is that those two choices don’t often feel like they can exist together.

There’s a few more pages and I hope I know where I’m going, but you know, books are always out to surprise you, especially the ones you write yourself.

About “Transgendered”: Some History & Grammar

Posted by – July 13, 2015

I wrote this short piece about the term “transgendered” and because Jenny Boylan and I had discussed it in the past, asked her to add her own thoughts. So my piece, then her postscript, and it’s crossposted on JFB’s blog.

by Helen Boyd:

I’m well aware that the term “transgendered” is objected to by some for a variety of reasons. Most of us who did use it once upon a time have dropped it; Jenny Boylan, for instance, changed all of the instances of “transgendered” in her 10th anniversary edition of She’s Not There to “transgender” instead. I haven’t used it on my blog or in my writing for years.

But here’s the thing: interpreting any use of it as some kind of bad faith politics is also a mistake, because it was an acceptable form for many years. The reason some of us chose it – and again, I’ll cite Boylan and me, along with theorists like McKenna and Kessler – was for grammatical reasons.

Adding an “ed” to a verb is a common way to come up with a past participle in English, and past participles then function as adjectives. If you ice your tea, for instance, afterwards you’ve iced your tea, and so wound up with “iced tea”. It’s not complicated. You can do it with a lot of verbs – different verbs become adjectives/past participles in different ways – when you break a toy, it becomes a broken toy, because broke is, for whatever reasons, the past tense of “break”.

Some of these uses have become problematic, but the one I see cited most is “colored” of course, which was used to talk about African Americans and others marginalized by the color of their skin. It’s no longer acceptable because it implied that white people, for instance, have no color – but of course we do. That said, there are neutral ways you can use colored: you could, of course, color a picture in a coloring book, and so wind up with a colored picture.

It was the same idea. Gender is a verb. You can gender an infant (“It’s a girl!”) or degender a pronoun (“My pronoun is “they” because I identify as genderqueer.”) The logic then was that you could transgender something; you can find it used as a verb (“transgendering”) in the work of McKenna & Kessler, who did some of the first, best work on degendering and on trans issues – work that influences the likes of Kate Bornstein, for instance. And while it strikes an odd note now, for the people who were first writing about these issues, no one knew what the grammar was; we were making it up as we went along. So, if “gender” could be a verb, and made into a past participle (“Most children are gendered by others when they’re born”) and so into an adjective: transgendered.

That’s all. It was a grammatical choice. It was neutral. That it’s now seen as implying more than that – the same way colored came to – is how this community has chosen to interpret it. As I said before, most of us who did use it don’t anymore because of the way its interpretation changed. “Transgendering” in McKenna & Kessler struck me as odd, too, when I first read them, but there is no doubt their work is trans affirming and trans inclusive.

So, if you would, don’t automatically judge the author of a work that uses this term. It has fallen out of fashion but it’s still in an awful lot of literature by people who were (1) trans themselves, and (2) trans positive. When people use it now it’s often because they’ve seen it elsewhere; it takes time for bad usages to work their way out of the lexicon, just as it takes a long time for some words to work their way in.

Postscript by Jennifer Finney Boylan:

I agreed to write a few words on this topic for my old friend Helen Boyd, whom I would also like to say, has been doing work to support the loved ones of trans people longer than anyone else I know about. Our books— her “My Husband Betty,” and my “She’s Not There” were published within a few months of each other in 2003, and since then as authors we have kind of been like a pair of babies born in the same hospital. It has been an honor to me to share a bookshelf with her for these many years.

Neither of us, I think, could have predicted how much progress would have been made on behalf of trans people (and their loved ones) when we first started writing our books. It has been amazing and heartening, and I am sure that, while downplaying our own individual roles in this movement, we would both still agree that one of the galvanizing forces in this progress has been the courage of individuals who stepped forward and told their stories, at a time when there was no public language for talking about trans issues.

I used “transgendered” back in the day because because—as Helen notes, “gender” is a verb, unlike “gay” for instance. (A bicycle, for instance, is gendered; but a bicycle cannot be “gayed,” at least not unless you start singing it show tunes.) Plus, it’s the word my own therapist used; I did not know when I began that I could challenge the discourse. I was very polite back then.

I did begin to hear about trans peoples’ restlessness with the term within a few years after my own book (which I abbreviate as SNoT) was published. I pushed back for a while against the criticism (being a professor of English), but finally came to accept that “transgender” or “trans” really had become the acceptable parlance by the middle of the last decade. I did indeed change the words in the 10th anniversary edition of SNoT, even when many other things about that book that I wish I’d said differently remained unaltered.

In thinking about language, and the way it morphs, I sometimes think about the new landscaping that was put in at the school where I used to teach. They put the new lawn in after a period of construction, but didn’t put the paths in until the following year. The reason? The architects wanted to see where people would walk, before they made the sidewalks. And so, after a year of seeing the natural paths formed by the shoes of people using the space, the paths were put in along those lines. I think language is like this too— it can take a while to figure out where the paths go, especially when we are finding a new route across uncharted territory.

I’d also note that no one is harder on the trans community than the trans community itself. We are relentless in our desire to tell others that They Are Doing It Wrong; that being trans is not That but This; that living in our world demands constant vigilance and apology and fury. As someone involved in this work for fifteen years now, I understand the urgency of being seen (and spoken of) in the terms which we define. But I also feel that we would all benefit from a little more love, starting with the love we might show each other. There is no one right way of being trans, and there is no one right path to tread. This is true not only in our language, but in our hearts as well— the place where that language finds its source.

In the new prologue to SNoT, I also recalled the story of the author James Thurber, who was told at a party in Paris how much funnier his stories were in French than English. “Yes, I know,” said Thurber. “They do tend to lose something in the original.”