RIP Ben Barres

Ben Barres was a personal hero of mine. He was the person who convinced me, by words and deeds, that trans people are an important tool in the feminist toolkit, precisely because they have lived aware of gender on both sides of the (binary) fence.

I added an article he wrote for Nature about the lack of diversity in the sciences to the Intro to Gender Studies class I teach at Lawrence. I’m glad to have introduced his work to many, many students over the years, and to have passed on his recommendations for how to be truly inclusive in the sciences.

He was the lead client in TLDEF’s amicus brief in support of Gavin Grimm’s suit, according to TLDEF’s ED Jillian Weiss.

He studied glial cells in a search for a cure – or more understanding – of diseases like Parkinson’s & Alzhimer’s. After being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer – which sadly & famously is a cruel & fast cancer – he made sure anyone who needed one got a letter of recommendation.

Standford’s tribute, and his friend Marc Tessier-Levigne’s tribute, tell you so much more about this brilliant, just man.

I never got to meet him and only admired him from a distance. Love to his family, friends, and colleagues.

Actual Censorship

Liberal snowflakes ask white folks not to use the N word.  Students object to “scholars” who come to campuses to promote white supremacy, transphobia, and homophobia. Trans and GNC people want correct pronouns used for themselves.

And yet, none of this was censorship. Cultural battlegrounds, yes. Not censorship.

As if to provide a history lesson, the CDC has just been given a list of words NOT to use by HHS. They are:

  • vulnerable
  • entitlement
  • diversity
  • transgender
  • fetus
  • evidence-based
  • science-based

It does matter why these were chosen and speaks to the increasing stupidification of US politics and the hateful, anti intellectual, anti science, anti humanitarian impulses of our current WH.

But the point I want to make is this: this is actual censorship. When a government agency “recommends” words to use and not use, when they restrict how reports are written, when any population is singled out to be disappeared via language, you’re dealing with actual censorship.

Just to clarify.

The Return of The December Project

This year, because US politics have become so acrimonious, we decided to bring back The December Project – the brainchild of Jenny Boylan, who understood how many of us are lonely and hurting during the holiday season.

Privately and locally, Dylan Scholinski and I have both continued to make ourselves available to trans community folks who need someone to talk to, even if it’s just someone to say “Merry Christmas” or to listen.

So here’s how it works: you email me (helenboyd@myhusbandbetty.com) or Dylan (sentamentalistudios@gmail.com) with a little bit about yourself and we will write you back and arrange a time to call and talk.

Important things:

    1. We do this because we do.
    2. No one is making any money.
    3. Your information will remain with us. Everything you say to us is confidential.
    4. We are not trained counselors. We are just friendly people who like to meet new people and to listen and who will judge nothing about you – not your identity, your sexuality, or anything else.
    5. If you are suicidal, we ask instead that you call a suicide hotline: 1-800-273-8255.
    6. Trans LifeLine is of course also always available (& we are so thankful for them): 877-565-8860.
    7. There are also moms who are willing to be your mom for the holidays. You can find these lovely folks here: http://www.yourholidaymom.com/

Stay well out there.

27 Trans Deaths in the US in 2017 #saytheirnames #tdor

I’ve been seeing a lot of different numbers for this year’s death roll for TDOR, most of them ending with 24. The actual number is 28.

There are 27 here on this list.

One of the people who seems to be consistently left off most lists  is a trans person named Phoenix (aka Pepper) who was killed while in prison in OH.

Here’s the complete list:

  1. India Monroe, 29, was murdered on Dec. 21, 2016 in Newport News, Virginia
  2. Mesha Caldwell, 41, Canton, Mississippi
  3. Sean Ryan Hake, 23, Sharon, Pennsylvania
  4. Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, 28, Sioux Falls, South Dakota
  5. JoJo Striker, 23, Toledo, Ohio
  6. Tiara Richmond, also known as Keke Collier, 24, Chicago
  7. Chyna Gibson, also known as Chyna Doll Dupree, 31, New Orleans
  8. Ciara McElveen, 26, New Orleans
  9. Jaquarrius Holland, 18, Monroe, Louisiana
  10. Alphonza Watson, 38, Baltimore, Maryland
  11. Chay Reed, 28, Miami
  12. Kenneth Bostick, 59, Manhattan
  13. Sherrell Faulkner, 46, Charlotte, North Carolina
  14. Kenne McFadden, 27,  San Antonio
  15. Kendra Marie Adams, 28, Ithaca, NY
  16. Ava Le’Ray Barrin, 17, Athens, Georgia
  17. Ebony Morgan, 28, Lynchburg, Virginia
  18. Tee Tee Dangerfield, 32, Atlanta, Georgia
  19. Gwynevere River Song, 26, Waxahachie, Texas
  20. Kiwi Herring, 30, was killed during an altercation with police on August 22
  21. Pepper K. Aka Phoenix, 33, Columbus, Ohio
  22. Kashmire Nazier Redd, 28, was fatally stabbed by his partner on September 5
  23. Derricka Banner, 26, Charlotte, North Carolina
  24. Scout Schultz, 21, was shot and killed by Georgia Tech campus police on September 16
  25. Ally Steinfeld, 17, was stabbed to death in Missouri in early September
  26. Stephanie Montez, 47, Robstown, Texas
  27. Candace Towns, 30, Macon, Georgia

Say their names.

Guest Author: Jolie Laide on TDOR

This is a guest post by my friend Jolie Laide, who blogs at Dances With Gender.

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance — an occasion that honestly I have very mixed feelings about.

Not that we shouldn’t remember our dead. On the contrary. At least 23 transgender/non-binary people have been killed so far this year in the U.S. As usual, almost all of them were trans women, the vast majority were WOC (mostly black trans woman), a number of them were street sex workers. I point out the latter not to denigrate sex work, rather that they were so marginalized by society that the only way for them to survive was to engage in a highly risky profession.

A partial list of our dead from around the world is on the TDOR website. Many of them were killed with extreme brutality — what criminologists refer to as “overkill,” which is an indicator of extreme rage and hatred toward the victim.

There were undoubtedly more. Usually they were people who couldn’t afford to change their name and gender on their legal ID — or lived in states where social conservatives intentionally passed laws to make it difficult/impossible to do — and consequently when their bodies are found, they usually suffer the final indignity of being misnamed and misgendered by the police and the media. It’s only through people who knew them that we learn who they really were.

They deserve one final recognition as their proper selves.

#SayTheirNames
Mesha Caldwell, 41
Sean Hake, 23
Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, 28
JoJo Striker, 23
Tiara Richmond, also known as Keke Collier, 24
Chyna Gibson, 31
Ciara McElveen, 26
Jaquarrius Holland, 18
Alphonza Watson, 38
Chay Reed, 28
Kenneth Bostick, 59
Sherrell Faulkner, 46
Kenne McFadden, 27
Kendra Marie Adams, 28
Ava Le’Ray Barrin, 17
Ebony Morgan, 28
TeeTee Dangerfield, 32
Gwynevere River Song, 26
Kiwi Herring, 30
Kashmire Nazier Redd, 28
Derricka Banner, 26
Scout Schultz, 21
Ally Steinfeld, 17
Stephanie Montez, 47
Candace Towns, 30

OTOH, for years TDOR was the only time trans people were publicly recognized. If you were gay or lesbian, you had Gay Pride — an event, even if less and less political over the years, still has an attitude of celebration and defiance. As gay writer Joe Jervis summed it up in his must-read essay about the value of Pride: “They wish we were invisible. We’re not. Let’s dance.”

For us, not so much. Pre-Laverne Cox, pre-Janet Mock, pre-Caitlyn Jenner, the only public occasion for trans people was one marking our persecution and deaths. Fortunately, that’s changing with the  Transgender Day of Visibility, on March 31, which is intended to celebrate living members of the transgender community, has been gaining traction, as has Trans Awareness Week, which is the week directly preceding TDOR.

As Daye Pope eloquently said:

“Transgender people are real, and vibrant, and powerful, and beautiful, and resilient, and enough. Despite every obstacle stacked against us we rewrite the rules, beat the odds, defy expectations. I believe with all my heart that we have a bright future, because we will build it together.”

So today mourn our dead, tomorrow fight like hell for the living. In March, celebrate our fabulous selves.

They wish we were invisible. We’re not. Let’s dance.

Election 2017: #theresistanceistrans

We are up to 7 Transgender Candidates Elected!

  1. Danica Roem was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates. Her adversary consistently misgendered her, but when asked how she felt about Bob, she said, “I don’t attack my constituents. Bob is my constituent now.”
  2. Andrea Jenkins of Minneapolis, Minnesota on the City Council is the first out trans black woman to be elected to public office.
  3. Phillipe Cunningham of Minneapolis, Minnesota on the City Council is the first out trans black man elected to a city council.
  4. Lisa Middleton was elected to the City Council in Palm Springs, California.
  5. Tyler Titus was elected to the Erie School Board in Pennsylvania.
  6. Gerri Cannon won a School Board seat in Somersworth, New Hampshire. She plans to run for a state rep seat.
  7. Stephe Koontz won a seat on Doraville, Georgia City Council – BY 6 VOTES.

BY 6 VOTES!! So please, never think yours doesn’t count, especially in local elections.

Punching Back

The DOJ reversal is a punch in the gut for trans people, so if you know any, please be nice to them today / this week & make sure they’re managing.

Whether this action is legal or not, the message just sent from the White House is that trans people don’t matter.

& they do, they do, YOU DO.

NCTE & TLDEF are already preparing to take the DOJ to court over this, but in the meantime, NCTE’s Mara Keisling adds:

We’ll take more punches like this before this is through, but it will end and we will prevail. And remember, this disgraceful administration cannot change the law. They can only refuse to do their jobs and enforce the law. The law still protects us. And we will win this guidance and regulations and memos all back in a few years. It hurts, and we’ll need to fight together, but we will win.

And she’s right, we will. Stay strong, folks, as I’m sure there is more bad news coming and it seems the RP has decided that trans people are a soft target, which is both despicable and mean.

If you voted for these monsters, shame on you.

TLDEF Needs Your Input: Public Accommodation Discrimination Survey

from TLDEF: Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund is preparing an amicus brief to the United States Supreme Court in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. That case raises the question of religious and other exemptions to non-discrimination laws. We are looking for input from our transgender community, and specifically those who have experienced discrimination in places of public accommodation. Your voice will play a vital role in helping to stand up for the rights of trans individuals in this country.

Here’s the survey. 

Eve Screenings: Atlanta, San Diego, Sydney, Carmel

If you know anyone who is involved with any film festivals, please do let them know about And Then There Was Eve.

September 30 – October 1, 2017 • 11 AM
Sydney Transgender International Film Festival

Sydney, Austraila (time TBA)
http://cinewest.org/welcome/?p=10168

October 1, 2017 • 11 AM
Out on Film / Atlanta’s LGBT Film Festival
Landmark Midtown Art Cinema, 931 Monroe Drive, Atlanta GA 30308
http://www.outonfilm.org/andthentherewaseve

October 7, 2017 • 3:30 PM
San Diego International Film Festival
Regal Theater Horton Plaza, San Diego, CA
https://secure.sdiff.com/e/passes-2017/preview
October 8, 2017 • 2:30 PM
San Diego International Film Festival
ArcLight Cinemas/UTC, San Diego, CA
https://secure.sdiff.com/e/passes-2017/preview
October 18-22, 2017 • Time TBA

Carmel International Film Festival

Carmel, CA
http://carmelfilmfest.com/films/#tab-1-tab

Why You Don’t Deadname Someone

To my awesome old friend/colleague/relative/acquaintance who just just used my wife’s former name in a private message/conversation/post on FB: Please don’t do that. What you did is called “deadnaming” – basically, using a name that is dead, no longer valid, done, over.

I know you’re on board and cool with her transition and know her to be a woman. I know you are caught up and not transphobic and are happy that she is happy and that we’re happy. I know that you are thrilled for her success and knocked out by her beauty. I know you have read my books but do try to keep in mind they are very, very old now, and that things that were true, language that was okay, are not true or okay anymore.

And I know you care deeply for us both.

Which is why I have to say: please don’t use her old name. It effectively re-genders her into a past self that was an unhappy one for her. It throws me back to a time when my relationship, my marriage, and my expectations were steeped in straight privilege. We have both done a great deal of work to adjust to make our lives into what they are now, so your moment of nostalgia undoes that, emotionally, in a quick second.

That is, you were thinking about you and not, actually, about us.

If you really feel the need to be nostalgic about her old self, perhaps do it with someone else who is not as close to her, or to us; do it with other people who don’t know any trans people at all. That is, if you must do it, which: just don’t.

Any reference to her past self can be done just like that: “I loved working with her before” and “I’m so glad I got to know her then, as much as I love knowing her now”, or, if absolutely necessary, follow my own lead and use “Rachel 1.0” to refer to that person. And please don’t assume it’s “more okay” to do with me than with her: studies have shown that partners of trans people also have to contend with the discrimination our loved ones experience. If it isn’t clear yet, let me say: I take this trans shit seriously every single minute of my life.

So if you must, when you must, except don’t anyway because you really don’t need to. She is and always was Rachel; it just took some effort to make that visible. In my work, I do have to refer to her past self because I write and teach about the process that is a marriage’s transition. But most of the time I find it just isn’t necessary: my wife has always been a woman, and although you thought you knew someone you thought of as a man, that was not the real her. It never was. I have come to understand that more deeply than you can probably ever understand, so I have to ask you to trust me on this: it hurts to hear or read that name.

With much love and respect,
Helen

Serano on Free Speech and the Limits of Tolerance

As ever, Julia Serano with a remarkably clear-eyed piece on the limits of tolerance and the underlying power structures and cultural context.

I loved this especially:

“But what about the suppression of my speech as a young trans person? Back then, trans people had some allies, to be sure, but they (like us) constituted a tiny minority of the population. And I can tell you first hand that the “more speech” strategy actually does far more harm than good when greater numbers of people hate your minority group than accept you. In such cases, calls for “more speech” simply enable and promote hate speech against you, rather than mitigating it.”

Which is a point I have had to make over and over again, as one of that “tiny minority” – at any given point in time, there is a person who can defend a said group or idea against another 10,000 who condemn it and an additional 10,000 who agree with the ideas but can’t argue them effectively. This has been the case for trans rights for decades now — so much so that I’m often happily surprised now when I see other cis people who are able and willing to make these points so I don’t have to anymore.

Laverne Cox Narrates Trans Struggle #ACLU

“Resistance is our birthright.”

Found here.

Rachel, SAG, and a Request

Hey all

As you know, my wife got her first part in a movie last summer, which premiered a month or so again at Los Angeles Film Festival, where it also won its category.

She is right now in Las Vegas at work on her second film.

That’s where you all come in: she needs to join SAG, the actors’ union because she’s now gotten two movies (and those in addition to when she was on All My Children back in the day). It’s a $3000 fee to join the first time, and frankly, after many months of her working sporadically, we just don’t have that kind of cash around. If you can donate, please do, and thank you so much to everyone who already has, and to Darya, who started the fundraiser.

Trans Soldiers

There is nothing more inspiring and heart-breaking than someone who is willing to put their life on the line for a democratic ideal that has yet to recognize them as full and equal citizens, whether those citizens are black, native, female, queer, or trans.

Thank you all for your service.

(If anyone would like their photo added, please feel free to send it to me.)

No Matter What He Tweets

I wish everyone else was reading my Facebook feed today: thoughtful statements by young folks, calls out for the voices of trans military vets by advocates, queer partners of trans people refusing to stand down, unapologetic statements of solidarity by gay men, anger and fear for us by straight lefties.

The world changed. He can’t change it back. We will not have it.

That’s why I’m crying in-between mumblings of motherfucker: trans folks, you have won the argument. I swear you have.

In the meantime, please support trans orgs that are doing good work, like TLDEF and NCTE.

(In)Visible: Rachel in the LA Times

I love this so much.

Rache was interviewed in the LA Times to talk about Eve – and to talk about trans visibility, especially vis a vis Bomer being cast as a trans woman. Here are my favorite bits:

She’d wrestled with the idea of transitioning, changing her gender presentation to align with her internal sense of gender identity, but she realized that opportunities for trans actors were, essentially, nonexistent.

“I figured I could either play a dead hooker that the cops made a ‘meat and potatoes’ joke about, or I could play a live hooker that the cops made a ‘meat and potatoes’ joke about,” Crowl said. “And there really was nothing else.”

and

Crowl even resembles Eve (or, perhaps, Eve resembles Crowl) in the most cursory of ways: in acerbic one-liners; off-beat, lanky swagger; and a warmth that she exudes, even toward strangers, as one might an old friend. (Crowl often opts for an introductory hug rather than a handshake because, she says, “Life’s too short.”)

and

From the get-go, Bloch — as well as the rest of her production team — was intent on finding an actress who, like Eve, was “a woman of transgender experience” (as Crowl and her friends like to say — woman first; transgender second, like an auxiliary modifier).

And yes, there’s a bit about her “thoughtful, incisive non fiction” writer of a wife, too.

Thanks to the journalist for not just seeing the “compare/contrast essay” here but in seeing that my wife’s amazing work and story were a great way to tell it.

RIP Aleshia Brevard

She transitioned in 1958 at the age of 21 and went on to be a Playboy bunny and appear in 8 movies, did numerous TV appearances, and was otherwise a glamorous, beautiful woman.

Here’s a cool interview with her.

Eve Review

There have been a few reviews of And Then There Was Eve, but this one, in particular, by Reggie Peralta, gets it right when it says:

Crowl, on the other hand, portrays Eve as remarkably well-adjusted after being so coldly rejected by her wife in what is a surprising but welcome departure from most transgender dramas. Whereas most such movies zero in on problems directly arising from their characters’ struggles to transition, Eve is unique in that she seems to have transitioned perfectly fine and is in a position to help Alyssa overcome her illness. This is a far cry from the guilty liberal idea so deeply entrenched in much of cinema (and that I described in my review of They Will Have To Kill us First) that transgender people, like other minority groups, are eternal victims of eternal problems and that there is not much one can really do besides patronize and pity them. In a cultural milieu where the word “empowering” is tossed like confetti at the smallest achievement, Crowl’s Eve genuinely is.

To be honest, I’m very proud of this from a kind of selfish point of view, precisely because I did consult on the script and because the writers listened – and, to be fair, had a holistic view of the transition from the get-go.

She seems to have transitioned perfectly fine. It’s her wife who hasn’t.

June 18th

Get your tickets while you can and we’ll see you in LA in 11 days!

For the record, this is, as far as I can tell, only the second film to ever have a trans woman play a trans woman, and thus, a HUGE DEAL. (The first one was the amazing Tangerine, which I highly recommend.)