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 What you did is called “deadnaming” – basically, using a name that is dead, no longer valid, done, over.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.

Adieu Holly Boswell, Beautiful Soul

One of the gentlest, most loving, most fierce souls I have known died this past weekend at the age of 66. I don’t know what of; I only know that for 66 short years, the world was a better place and still will be as a result of who she was and how she was.

When we met, just glanced at each other across the room, it was one of those kismet moments of “i get you” and we talked. And talked and talked and talked; Holly and I talked whenever we saw each other, nearly couldn’t stop. I don’t know that I was so extraordinarily special in that, because she was so open and so welcoming and so goddamned beautiful I’m sure a lot of people found themselves wanting to be known when they were in her presence. She could see you, see you for your pain, for your fear, for your beauty. As my wife put it, “She was the first trans woman I met who was utterly confident in her skin and her example has fed my soul from now to the end of days.”

When I first started going to trans conferences, the lingo was all CDs this and TSs that, FTM and MTF, binaries upon binaries, “real” transsexuals vs. I don’t know what. It was at a time when trans women would tell my wife she wasn’t a woman if she expected to stay with me after transition, that “real” trans women didn’t do that. We didn’t feel we fit in well as our queer artsy selves because there was so much prescription to being trans then, so much, with exclusive camps that left anyone who wanted to express a gender without changing their genitals with nowhere to be.

But where you could be was with Holly, and her company more than made up for the folks for whom you were too non-doctrinaire. If you think it was controversial to be “non op” now, it was a million times more then, but she held her ground with grace and a knowing smile.

She invented the trans symbol because she was too much and too many things to be restricted to one gender. She wanted all of her many selves present all the time. She was the first person I knew who embraced a non binary identity. She wrote The Trangender Alternative in 1991. Here’s an interview I did with her back in 2006.

I adored her. I will miss her. I will value how much she made us welcome and how much she validated any emotion, any gender, any pain; she took it all in and transformed it, light in her eyes and an impish smile all surrounded by that beautiful, beautiful hair.

Faerie child, I will miss you. I think, I hope, I told you how much you meant to me, but I’m sure you knew it even if I didn’t. Because you were that good.

New to Antifa? Let Me Explain.

So there’s a lot out there about antifa right now and the first time people see a group of them there’s often a little fear… as there was Sunday night at a rally I helped organize. They wear black. Sometimes they cover their faces.

Here’s the thing: the antifa are an organized group, much like FOI or the Panthers, that came out of radical politics with an understanding, especially, that the police work for the state and not for the most marginalized and certainly not for anyone who is challenging the status quo. In Charlottesville, for instance, Cornel West has reported that the police stood back and let white nationalists attack the counter protestors, even the clergy assembled, and what kept them safe – kept them from being “crushed like cockroaches” was a line of antifa who got between them and the Nazi shitheads. BLM activists formed a second line protecting the rest of the counter protesters.

And as much as we all decry violence, we all (should) know by now who is bringing the fight. It’s not the “alt left” as the (p)Resident said, but the Nazis. Rachel Maddow made it clear last night exactly what it meant for him to say what he said.

Antifa came to exist specifically because Hitler managed to divide the organized Left from itself. So instead of identifying as socialists or anarchists or whatever specific version of the Left, whoever was still around after Hitler decimated Europe opted instead to create an inclusive Left where people could be, simply, against fascism.

As we all should be. You know, the world went to war to stop Nazis and Fascists already, and that we’re even having this conversation or dealing with this again is disgusting.

But we are. The current version of the antifa returned because of the rise of white nationalist politics in Europe (National Front, esp) and White Nationalist/Supremacist groups in the US. We met them at punk shows in the 70s and 80s first, where they often showed up to threaten the most marginalized in those queer, working class spaces: black people, queers, drag queens, etc. I once saw an anarchist punch a fascist shithead for feeling up a woman in a mosh pit, no kidding. Same as now, the fascists came to cause violence, and the antifa were there to protect people who sometimes didn’t even know they were under attack.

So yeah. Don’t be down on antifa. They’re the good guys. If you haven’t been paying attention, the bigots have been attacking an awful lot of us when they get the chance, which is why antifa has become necessary again.

 

Paisley Currah on the WH’s Rescinding of LGBTQ Protections

from Paisley Currah, in response to the news that the WH is looking to remove LGBTQ protections from healthcare:

“Don’t believe everything you read about the Trump’s administration’s inability to govern. In the regulatory arena, Trump is really getting things done–look what’s happening at the EPA. There’s also Sessions’ stated intention of ending the Justice Department’s oversight of post-Ferguson reforms regarding excessive fines and fees. When it comes to trans people, they are viciously efficient. They’ve rescinded the Obama administration’s Title IX guidance on trans students. Trump tweeted that the Defense Department’s policy on trans service members would be reversed. And now they’re planning to get rid of rules–of critical importance to trans people–that ban discrimination based on gender identity under the Affordable Health Care Act. The Justice Department is also deciding whether or not to support Obama-era rules that used the Prison Rape Elimination Act to protect transgender prisoners from violence. And there’s still a bunch more policy changes out there awaiting the eye of Sauron. Trump/Pence have 3.5 more years to do a lot of damage.’

#defendcville

these white men, these fascists, these nazis and white supremacists

so many snowflakes with their pitchforks and fire chanting blood and soil

you embarrass yourselves.

what you are is obvious to the rest of us: insecure cowards who don’t have anything to them, invisible pricks of arrogance and revulsion.

white people of any decency need to speak up, act up, get angry, and yell these little shits back into their neanderthal caves. we need them back on their leashes, muzzled and harmless. this is our fight, white folks, our newest civil war. these are people we know, bold enough to go unmasked because they know being a white supremacist is not going to cost them their jobs or their families or anything at all.

there have to be consequences.

i know black people are not surprised, but maybe, just maybe, the white folks who didn’t understand how deeply entrenched racism is in this country get it now.

i’m so sorry it’s come to this. we fought a war against this bullshit at least once if not a dozen times, and yet here we are again.

those students who held their ground around that statue are the heroes of the hour.

 

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.

Dire Predictions

I’ve been sitting on this article for a day or two because it honestly depressed the shit out of me, so if you’re feeling especially overwhelmed by the grief and dread of the political landscape right now, you might want to put this aside for when you’ve got more fight in you.

Briefly, it’s an argument that the appointment of Gorsuch – and the likeliness that Kennedy or Ginsberg will retire – and what a Gorsuch Court (ugh, those words) will mean for LGBTQ rights.

In a nutshell: an ongoing onslaught of cases that will interpret any big wins for gay rights in the narrowest ways as possible – such as what just happened in Texas – with a simultaneous liberal (by which I mean generous) interpretation of the RFRA which will keep states, employers, and cities from enforcing non discrimination rulings because a religious person’s right to discriminate – against women who get abortions or go on birth control, against gay people, trans people, etc. – will be upheld instead.

It’s all depressing AF.

But that, combined with Jamelle Bouie’s recent piece on how this wished-for impeachment will do us little good, tells us something slightly less pessimistic: we are going to fight on every small stage we can. It will change the look and the landscape of LGBTQ politics, and women’s politics, as the intended result of current Republican rule is to disappear both national identity and so called “big government”.

So the one thing I have to ask myself, and ask others who are like me, is that we have got to snap the fuck out of it. I’ve been walking around in a haze for months, feeling like I’m in a dreadful and unsought alternate reality. Honestly, I’ve even been watching Star Trek because they always seem to find a way out of theirs. But this new reality is not going away. People aren’t going to eventually just “be okay” with gay people and trans people or with women’s rights.

White capitalist supremacist patriarchy is baring its teeth all over the country in small and violent ways, and we know it is.

We are going to have to demand that our good liberal friends radicalize, and fast. We are going to need people who are made of steel to help create safe places and welcoming communities in small ways all over this country.

Ultimately, there is this: we have not entirely undone all the cultural work that was done. People are still far more accepting of LGBTQ lives than they were before Obama’s presidency, and far far more than they were before Clinton’s. That is, for those who have lived through it, this will not be worse. It will be what we already knew and what we fought hard to change.

But for younger people, who dream of a new and different world where everyone has autonomy and respect from others, this is going to be challenging. What I need to say to them – and what we need to keep saying – is that we have done this before and we can do it again. We had joy and beauty and celebration the whole time. But we have got to stop blaming millennials for everything, and we have to get the Boomers to care as much as they did before they had houses and 401k plans. (Gen X will keep doing what we’ve always been doing, sighing and slogging through.) We need to find ways to work together.

I have not yet decided where to direct my own efforts but I do know that I am done feeling sad and angry and now I just want to get to work. Join me.

 

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.

Guest Post by Patrick Califia

Patrick Califia posted this yesterday on Facebook, and I thought it was vital to share.

I did something today that was really important. It was embarrassing, stressful, maybe even traumatic. But it was still very important for me to make sure that I showed up so that it could happen. And I want to urge ALL of my friends who share some of my anatomy to listen to what I have to say about it.
I’m talking about getting a Pap smear.

I’ve been going to get these damn tests ever since I had access to medical care, sometime in my twenties. Back in the ’70s and ’80s, being visible as a dyke meant that I got universally shitty treatment from doctors. For some reason, gynecologists were the worst. It didn’t matter if they were men or women, either. Female doctors seemed to feel that they had to be as homophobic and mean as their male counterparts to prove they belonged in the boys’ club of medicine.

Josephine Butler referred to the speculum as “an iron penis.” She was a Victorian feminist who agitated against laws that allowed the police to confine women under suspicion of prostitution and keep them confined indefinitely. Women arrested under these laws were subjected to pelvic exams, often with dirty speculums that might have transmitted the very diseases they were accused of harboring. At the time, diagnosis of a “venereal disease” was not accurate, and there was no treatment for syphilis or gonorrhea–unless you count taking compounds made from mercury that could be life-threatening. She succeeded in arousing working-class men to support a women’s cause by using this kind of colorful rhetoric.

Today, speculums (the medical instrument that allows a doctor to open and look inside a vagina or rectum) are made out of plastic. My doctor today showed me how she could insert a flashlight into the one she was using, to illuminate my cervix. She made sure to use the smallest one that would do the job. She told me what was going to happen before she touched me, and there was no unnecessary probing or infliction of pain. I find the test painful anyway just because I don’t like it, and when the long Q-tip is taking a tissue sample from the os or opening of the cervix, it makes me feel sick to my stomach, it hurts that much.

It is even painful for me to write about my own anatomy. I don’t like the fact that I have these internal organs. I have never wanted to have this anatomy. It messes with my sense of my own gender to know that there are unwanted, female organs inside of my body. I am concerned by how many of my readers will be disgusted with me for talking about them, or see me as less of a man because I am being open about possessing them.

Still, this is my body. My body that gives me pain every day from fibromyalgia. But my body has also been with me through every part of my life, and it has never let me down. My body survived being hungry during childhood, and being abused. It survived years of queer-bashing, awful underpaind jobs, poor housing, and street harassment. My body has taken me on amazing journeys outside of the United States and within the realm of sexual exploration. My body has been like a wonderful machine, supporting my consciousness, always following my mind when it wanted to have a particular adventure. I love my body for being there for me no matter what illness, overwork, educational endeavor, or trip through the world of pleasure that befell me. I am so lucky to have a body inherited from strong people who basically walked across the United States so they could live out their religious principles. Nothing stopped them–not poverty, violent persecution, illness, malnutrition, and the crushing labor of establishing a new territory. (These people also did a lot of things I am ashamed of, but that is a topic for another article.)

How do you feel about your body? How far would you go to take care of your physical self, or what acts of gratitude would you commit to let your body know you feel grateful and loving toward your own flesh? That was what I did today.

Listen to me. Cervical cancer is an AWFUL disease. I watched my mother die of breast cancer because she found a lump in her breast and ignored it for ten years. Don’t let yourself contract a fatal disease that can be treated if it is detected early enough. That is what a Pap smear is for. It is to save your life. None of us–no matter how gender dysphoric we are–none of us deserve to have our lives shortened because we are different.

I have lost track of how many butch dykes, gender-queer people, and transmen I have taken for their first Pap smear. I have held people’s hands while they cried because they hated the test so much. I have gotten them high before the test and taken them home for consoling sex after it happened. I have listened to stories of childhood abuse so awful it would scorch your soul to listen to it. We are singled out for humiliation and mistreatment because people think if they break us or beat us down, we will stop trying to “act like men.” Of course, it doesn’t work, the only thing they can do is make us shut up about how we feel toward our own genders. We can never stop feeling the way that we do.

Coming out as a trans person was the hardest thing I have ever done. I felt more ashamed of myself for being trans than I had ever felt about being gay or even being a sadomasochist. I think in part this was because I could not explain WHY I felt this way. I had to confront a lot of negative messages I heard about myself as I was growing up to be able to replace that shame with pride and self-validation. it may seem ironic to you, but one of the ways I know that I was able to accept myself as a man and publicly come out as trans is the medical test I got today.

Maybe it took five minutes, maybe it was ten, I lost track of time. I disassociated. Writing about it now is one of the ways I can come back into my adult self and feel like I am okay in the present. Why would I encourage anybody else to go through something that was this upsetting?

Because I want you to save your own life.

Yes, it is that simple. Please save your own life. Okay, so you don’t feel happy or comfortable in the body that you got when you were born. I understand that. And, at the same time, if we are going to be activists for life, building community, that life needs to be as long as possible. Goddess knows that 80 or 100 years is not enough to shift public ignorance and malevolence toward sex- and gender-minority people. But in the 63 years I have been alive, I have seen HUGE social change. That is the reward of activism. You get to find out that standing up to “the system” works. So it’s worth it to stick around, my younger friends. It really is.

And if you need somebody to get you to the appointment, be your advocate while you get examined, and soothe your fears or your upset after it is over, you know how to find me. I care about how it feels to be violated by a medical procedure. But it’s worth it. Because none of us deserve to die in pain just because we are differently-gendered. Right, my brothers and non-sisters? Take care of the body that you live in now, because that body has been through a lot, and needs somebody (you) to be loving toward it.
Finally, I want to thank my doctor at Outside In for making this experience as simple and non-traumatic as possible. She is a saint as far as I am concerned. I look at her tired face and wonder how much human misery she witnesses every day, at a clinic that specializes in homeless people and trans folks. And so I think somebody should just tell her, job well done. You made it possible for me to do this, and I am so grateful to be touched by medical hands that are not full of hatred. Blessings upon you and your house.

RIP Diane Torr

I just showed students in a Gender Variance course some of Diane Torr’s magic in her Drag King workshop from Venus Boyz.

I knew this news was coming but it’s still heartbreaking: so many of the true trailblazers from the early days of genderfuck and drag are heading for the exits.

Diane Torr, thank you so much. Even knowing you existed at one point in my history was more than I needed to get through a day.

She died May 31st in Glasgow. Thank you for everything you were, everything you did, everyone you helped along the way.