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

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. Continue Reading

US Trans Survey Starts Today #USTransSurvey

us trans survey

Go take it. Tell your friends to take it.

Knowledge is Power.

Tamara Dominguez #HerNameWasTamara

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

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

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.

Continue Reading

HuffPo, & An Invitation

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.

Bernie Sanders Shows Us How It’s Done

(For the record, I’m only going to comment here about how Sanders responded to the shutdown of his speech in Seattle. I’m not interested in talking about activist tactics (but I think they were right), but more in how white allies respond to criticism.)

Honestly, I’m so impressed to see any politician respond exactly how he should have to being protested and shut down: he conceded the stage, listened, and responded with a remarkable statement about what is needed in order to do something about the systemic, structural, economic, carcerel racism in this country. But of course Sanders is more than a politician; he’s an old school radical who’s been arrested for his views and actions in the past.

I’m sure it was incredibly frustrating but you know? Black activists are furious for a reason, and it’s embarrassing to me that more of us aren’t with the disregard we have for the bodies and lives of people who have created so, so much beauty and music and labor and theory. Honestly. Love black people as much as you love black culture is exactly right.

More tomorrow on misplaced outrage and purity politics.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Signed Copies

I haven’t kept my own books in stock for a long while but I have some at the moment, so if you’ve ever wanted a signed copy this is a chance to get one.

Pick the book:

Short & Sweet

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?

#mileofmusic 3 Starts Today

I’m excited. This whole city becomes an entirely different place for four days – well, it really has for nearly the past month – so much music, so many more people, so much of everything. The 3rd Mile of Music has officially begun.

It’s a really great festival & I really really want to see more people come into town for it.

My picks? Artists I discovered previous years, like Charlie Parr and Swear & Shake and Pop Goes the Evil.

Groups I wanted to see last year but didn’t manage to: Bruiser Queen and The Noble Thiefs, for starters.

& Then all sorts of everything else. The best thing is just wandering down the Ave and wandering into places that music is wafting out of.

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

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

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

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

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.

“Peak Sex Shaming” & the AM Hack

I really shouldn’t be surprised by the self righteous morality being expressed over the Ashley Madison hack, but I am.

Sometimes I think we’re maybe about to get our shit together as a species and then something like that happens and it’s like we’re back in the Puritan era shaming other people about what they do (or don’t do) when it comes to sex. Ask asexual people how often they feel judged for not wanting sex; ask monogamous people how difficult it can be; ask poly people how much they’re judged. We are all of us in glass houses.

But at least Dan Savage has something good to say:

There are a lot of people out there who have good cause to cheat. Men and women trapped in sexless marriages, men and women trapped in loveless marriages, men and women who have essentially been abandoned sexually and/or emotionally by spouses they aren’t in a position to leave—either because their spouses are economically dependent on them (or vice versa) or because they may have children who are dependent on both partners.

Mary Elizabeth Williams is making sense here, too:

The Ashley Madison hackers have written, “Too bad for those men, they’re cheating dirtbags and deserve no such discretion.” But yeah, I think cheating dirtbags do. I think that just because you make a lot more money than I do doesn’t mean you deserve to be outed. I think just because you had sex with someone who’s not your wife on your last business trip, you not are accountable to anyone but your wife. Because where does this line of “Let’s drag you into the public square and pelt you” get drawn? Is it OK to out someone as a cheat? Is it only OK if he’s a high-ranking businessman? Is it then OK to make fun of a woman executive when her “crotch intensive” shopping list is leaked? Where does it stop? I don’t know, maybe we just put cameras on all the public toilets and then wait to collectively judge the next person who gets food poisoning. How would that be? Sounds fun, right? Or maybe instead we could try being grown-ups. And maybe we could remember that we all have private lives; we all have sex lives, and as long as they’re consensual, they’re nobody else’s damn business. Not Gawker’s. Not Twitter’s. Not mine.

Every single time we, as a culture, get up on our moral high horses to condemn whoever it is without asking a few essential questions: did we assume monogamy or did we know that was the agreement? Marriage does not automatically imply it, not even a little, and throughout history some cultures more than others have assumed marriage was a social contract, not necessarily a sexual one. There have always been swingers and ‘agreements’ and looking the other way. There is not always a victim when a married person is having sex with someone who isn’t their spouse.

If there was an agreement to be monogamous, then what are the details? When my wife decided she had too low a libido and zero interest in sex anymore, plenty of people would have declared that a deal-breaker and would have gotten a divorce. End of story. I knew she still loved me, and I – after I got it through my head that her lack of libido had nothing whatsoever to do with me or how much she liked me – still loved her. Monogamy, of course, implies actual sex happening between the two parties who are agreeing to be monogamous, and once someone cuts off sex entirely, that contract is due for renegotiation. Continue Reading

Traveling While Trans: Help Meagan Taylor

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

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

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.

EEOC Ruling

So what does this recent EEOC ruling mean? It means that sexual orientation discrimination is now considered sex discrimination, because the gender of you and the gender of who you love means it’s about gender, not orientation, per se.

The first time we saw this in any significant way was when Hawaii’s Baehr v Lewin case left the door open for civil unions back in 1993 (causing, some might argue, the whole DOMA movement at the federal and state levels).

This EEOC ruling is *not* binding in courts, but the EEOC investigates a lot of workplace cases and the courts, in turn, often defer to EEOC rulings precisely because the EEOC has more experience and expertise as their mission is to uphold the Civil Rights Act of 1064.

NCTE adds:

The argument that gender identity, but not sexual orientation, is already covered by Title VII and other sex discrimination laws has sometimes been asserted as a reason to cut gender identity out of LGBT nondiscrimination bills at the state or local level. In fact, all forms of anti-LGBT nondiscrimination are inherently gender-based—and yet we still urgently need legislation to make clear beyond doubt, once and for all, that LGBT people are protected. The EEOC’s underscores that the entire LGBT community is in the same boat in that regard.

Which is NCTE’s way of saying that the EEOC ruling may help, but it does not (yet) invalidate the need for ENDA.

To the Wife Who Just Found Out

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.