Lammily’s a doll based on the average measurements of a 19 year old woman, taken from the CDC’s data.
I have a friend who gives me awesome haircuts, like this one, when I’m in NYC, and I realized recently I’ve never mentioned his work here on my blog, and should. Why? He’s about as trans friendly as trans friendly gets, having done drag himself for a gazillion years. And he really really really loves making people look fantastic.
<< And this is his card, which really explains his whole thing on its own without me blathering on, but of course, do let him know I sent you: alexandercolby(at)gmail(dot)com.
(if you’re wondering about the post’s title, you really need to watch this.)
Calpernia Addams – the “Callie Adams” Jared Leto thanked from the stage at the Oscars – wrote a piece about trans people, representation, and Hollywood that I think is worth reading.
Jared Leto was kind enough to mention me in his 2014 Independent Spirit Awards acceptance speech (as part of a typically “Jared” list of people involved in the film alongside random notable people) and next he really surprised me by thanking me in his Oscar acceptance speech.
As I’ve said before, my job was to sit down with him and answer lots of questions about what it’s like to be trans, and to make a recording of me reading his lines from the script. From there, Jared did Jared’s thing: a brilliant, eccentric artist created his own performance of a movie character. A movie character who happens to be some form of trans, in this case. Some of his follow up speeches left something to be desired when it came to speaking well on the issues facing his movie character, especially against the backdrops of current politics and social movements. I suppose it’s doubly rare to be a gifted artist AND a great political speaker. But personally, I thought Rayon seemed like a nice person and a real human being. I’ve known people like Rayon.
Anyone who’s followed my 11 years in Hollywood knows that I’ve always advocated for trans people to play trans roles. But I also refuse to shoot down powerful people who take steps to bring human trans portrayals to the screen, even if they are played by a non-trans female (Felicity Huffman in Transamerica, Hilary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry) or a non-trans male (Lee Pace in Soldier’s Girl, Jared in Dallas Buyers Club). To all indications, Georges du Fresne was not a trans child when he played “Ludovic” in Ma Vie En Rose, but that incredible film continues to resonate with trans people and families of trans children. Good and important portrayals can come from non-trans actors. That may be an inconvenient truth, but there you have it.
Sure, I’d love to get these roles as an actress with a history of transition, or see them go to other trans actors. Heck, I’d love to play non-trans roles! But I’m not so short-sighted that I’ll destroy allies and advocates. Even less than perfect allies, if I think the overall contribution is beneficial. This is a view that comes from long actual experience and familiarity with the business. Some small but vocal groups will disagree; that’s just the nature of contentious issues. You can do your thing and I’ll do mine. There are many ways to contribute.
But beware: the same logic that leaves zero room for a non-trans actor to try a trans role will then be used to mandate that trans actors should not be able to play non-trans roles. And that would piss me off.
Leto’s “Rayon” is not the rock upon which I’d make my last stand concerning this issue. His performance is just an inspiration for this discussion. I advocate for positive portrayals and opportunities for trans people in the media. Some people are displeased that this particular portrayal, “Rayon”, is another trans sex worker role. Another trans addict role. Another trans “mystical advisor/comic relief” role. Another “trans person punished in the end” role. Those are indeed over represented portrayals, and I do want more balance… Soon! But I have known people like Rayon. She is not a made-up grab bag of random hateful attributes. She’s a portrayal of an uncomfortable segment of the trans experience that a few TLGB folks would rather be erased and not discussed. I think many of the haters hate Rayon because she isn’t beautiful, she isn’t passable, she isn’t gender binary, she isn’t 2014-political. And when I see that elitist hypocrisy, I’m inclined to push back and write essays like this.
It’s hard being trans, more so in the era and circumstances of Dallas Buyers Club. I’ve known plenty of trans sex workers, self-medicators, wise teachers, hilarious weirdos and people taken before their time due to violence and lack of healthcare. I’ve known trans people very much like Rayon, and maybe if some people got up from their remote-activism-devices (computer screens and smartphones) and left their ivory towers and privilege-bubbles, they’d meet a few people like Rayon face-to-face, too.
Then they could see that a human portrayal of this real segment of the trans community is a good thing. Even if it’s by a non-trans person.
Please do hire trans actors for ANY role, especially trans roles. But please don’t shoot trans people in the foot by attacking allies willing to open the door for us as we approach equality.
Here’s an absolutely breath-taking and tear-jerking story about a remarkable nun who works with the trans community in and around New Orleans. She is what my Catholic has always been about, to be honest, and she is absolutely one of the best examples I know of that when Catholics are cool, they’re cooler than most. My friend Quince Mountain writes that this story is
“for me at least, refreshing in that it’s not about the awful things the church does to queer/trans folks. It acknowledges those things, but shows how someone working underground has found ways to help trans folks where others could not. For many, the church is such a roadblock. And we only hear about the baddies. Orthodox Russian nationalists, protestant Ugandan haters, etc. At best, we get a quip from the pope. But here’s someone doing substantive lifelong work, and she would not be able to do it without support from the church. “
Some awesome segments:
If one is new to the trans experience, a room like this might feel unsettling. It might leave one lying in bed that night asking uncomfortable questions for the first time about who or what one really is, things that might have always seemed certain and fixed and clear. Trans people represent a threat in a society anxious to keep its basic categories stable; they experience violence at rates far higher than the general population. But sit there a while, as in any room, and the stories become just stories. The people become people. For Monica, sitting at those tables in those support groups is being among family.
Pope Francis I has shifted the Vatican’s tone on sexual diversity somewhat; further Christmas condemnations seem unlikely to be coming from him. “Who am I to judge?” he famously asked with regard to good-willed gay people. The mother church of his Jesuit order in Rome held a much-publicized funeral in January for a murdered homeless trans woman, though he has yet to speak about living transgender people specifically.
There is a lot more to the Catholic Church than ponderings emanating from the Vatican. Williamson says, in his experience, “the Catholic Church is one of the most affirming groups toward LGBT people” — in the pews, he means, not the hierarchy. A study by the Public Religion Research Institute found that U.S. Catholics affirm a rather vague statement about transgender rights at a rate somewhat higher than the national average.
James Whitehead is a theologian who teaches at Loyola University in Chicago. In recent years he and his wife, Evelyn, a psychologist, have devoted themselves to understanding the transgender experience in Catholic terms. They had been studying lesbian and gay issues for years, and as they sought out trans people it struck them how familiar the arc of their lives seemed.
“This is the same old story,” he says. “The kind of transition that trans people are talking about is very similar to the journey of faith through darkness and desert that people have been making for thousands of years.” He has found, in his teaching and writing, that when he describes trans experience to Catholics in terms of a spiritual journey, a light goes on, and they get it.
Hints and echoes of what we now speak of as gender transition lie scattered throughout Christian tradition. An Ethiopian eunuch is the first person baptized in the Book of Acts, and the third-century theologian Origen castrated himself after reading Jesus’ remark about those “who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.” Stories of ancient ascetics recall women “surpassing” their gender through spiritual advancement, or by simply disguising themselves as men. In the Middle Ages, St. Joan of Arc was executed for refusing to stop cross-dressing; legends circulated of a female pope, also named Joan, who was also killed for gender-bending. Medieval mystics sometimes referred to Jesus as a mother and saw visions of milk dripping from his breast. The Catholic Church as a whole, led by a hierarchy of costumed men, is traditionally referred to as She and as the Bride of Christ.
The resonance goes beyond appearances. “Catholic tradition is all about the dignity of the human person,” says Edward Poliandro, an advocate for LGBT Catholics and their families in New York City. “Transgender people have a particular prophetic mission just to live and to challenge society simply by saying, ‘I’m a person.’”
I spoke at a Catholic university, Saint Norbert’s, a few weeks ago, and I intend to write a little about that experience… but not yet. In the meantime, just go read about Sister Monica. She will renew your faith – Catholic or not.
From the show’s description:
This week on Latino USA, we talk about all things Queer—from Anthony Romero, the first gay director of the ACLU, to the practice of “pumping,” or black market silicone injections, in the trans community. We hear two stories about growing up and transitioning genders. We learn about the plight of LGBTQ detained immigrants. We investigate the paranormal in Laredo, Texas. Maria Hinojosa gets a surfing lesson in New York, of all places. We hear from a gay man who ran for class president at UNC. And we check in on the protests in Venezuela.
So rare to hear these perspectives, especially on immigration issues.
This feel obligatory.
He didn’t say “transgender” but he did thank one “Callie Addams” who is, of course, the very amazing Calpernia Addams, who helped Leto with the part, and who is a (trans) woman.
He did recognize the millions of deaths of the AIDS crisis and that he felt in solidarity with all those who are judged for “who they are and who they love”.
That doesn’t mean everyone will be happy, but the friends I do have in Hollywood – including Calpernia – seem pleased.
Also, he thanked his mom, who had him & his brother before finishing high school, which strikes me as damn feminist of him. Single moms, you raise good sons.
(I’m not really huge on movies, so I haven’t even seen Dallas Buyers Club, to be honest.)
An old friend I went to high school with got married in NYC today, and he posted this awesome photo of him & his groom. It made me smile every time it came across my Facebook feed, so I thought I’d share it withall of you.
Congratulations, Dominic & Neil!
via the DC city blog:
Mayor Gray Announces Steps to Protect GLBT Community from Discrimination in Health Care
(WASHINGTON, DC) – Today, the District of Columbia advanced the rights of the city’s transgender community by prohibiting discrimination in health insurance based on gender identity and expression. Mayor Vincent C. Gray announced the Department of Insurance, Securities, and Banking (DISB) is issuing a bulletin to District health insurance companies addressing the application of anti-discrimination provisions in the insurance code, including recognizing gender dysphoria, or gender identity disorder, as a recognized medical condition.
“Last March, the District began the process of removing exclusions in health insurance on the basis of gender identity or expression. Through the hard work of my Office of GLBT Affairs and a multi-agency working group lead by my Chief of Staff, Chris Murphy, we have today taken the necessary steps to completely eliminate these exclusions,” said Mayor Gray. “Today, the District takes a major step towards leveling the playing field for individuals diagnosed with gender dysphoria. These residents should not have to pay exorbitant out-of-pocket expenses for medically necessary treatment when those without gender dysphoria do not. Today’s actions bring us closer to being One City that values and protects the health of all of our residents.”
This action follows DISB’s March 15, 2013 bulletin notifying health insurers to remove language that discriminated on the basis of gender identity and expression from their policies and permit those with gender dysphoria to obtain medically necessary benefits. Today’s action goes one step further in protecting this community’s health insurance rights by affirming that gender dysphoria is a recognized medical condition and thereby treatment, including gender reassignment surgeries, is a covered benefit. To view the full bulletin, click here: http://disb.dc.gov/publication/disb-bulletin-13-ib-01-3013-revised-prohibition-discrimination-health-insurance-based
“This action places the District at the forefront of advancing the rights of transgender individuals,” Mayor Gray said. “It also fully implements the District’s Human Rights Act by incorporating gender identity and expression as protected classes in the District’s health insurance laws.” More
Uganda outlaws homosexuality, and a Ugandan newspaper publishes a list of gay people.
When this happened in 2010, gay activist David Kato was bludgeoned to death.
Red Pepper’s move is similar to that of a now defunct paper called Rolling Stone (no relation to the U.S. music magazine), which published a list of Uganda’s “Top 100 Homos” in 2010. It was a call to action: “Hang Them” read the issue’s cover. About three months later, Ugandan activist David Kato who was among the paper’s Top 100, was bludgeoned to death. In response, Rolling Stone publisher Giles Muhame said, “This looks like any other crime. I have no regrets about the story. We were just exposing people who were doing wrong.”
I can’t even begin to imagine the fear and determination in the hearts and minds of the people in that list today, and their families, and friends.
The US should start accepting anyone who wants to leave RIGHT NOW.
Really, a recent NPR music segment asked people to describe their life in 6 songs, and one of the people whose stories and choices they featured happens to be trans.
I love that there’s no other commentary besides the reflection on the part of the trans person who wrote, about the Beatles’ “Within You Without You” that “growing up transgender, it made me question my perception of reality (at age 12). And introduced me to Indian music.”
And that’s it, the only mention, with a lovely photo of her.
Journalists, this is how you do it, in case you’re wondering. A person’s trans identity should only be mentioned if it’s relevant to the trans person.
I’m going to be speaking and running a panel on family and partners of trans people at the Trans*Literate Conference that will take place in NY on March 29th & 30th. It’s a trans symposium out of Hunter College, and this year’s keynote will be Dylan Scholinski, which to me means: yay, I get to hang out with Dylan! He’s awesome.
But otherwise it sounds like there will be a lot of great workshops for social workers, therapists, and other people who work with trans people and their families. According to the website,
the Trans*Literate symposium will educate, inform, and expand dialogue on the topic of working clinically with the transgender communities and understanding transgender experienced through psychoanalytic theory. Mental health clinicians are invited to submit proposals for workshops, papers, and presentations on the topic of how issues related to trans* experience has informed complicated, and illuminated their work in individual, group, and family clinical practice.
Seems like it’s going to be very, very useful to mental health practitioners. You DO have to register to attend (although some small # of walk-ins will be welcome).
The other day I posted and commented on an article about the way language is used in the LGBTQ+ communities, specifically about the way gay men often insist that “tranny” is not a slur even though they would never be called one.
That is, by the way, my rule of thumb, and a good one for allies to remember: if it’s something someone would say to you before threatening you, you get to use it. If it isn’t, you don’t.
But the article talked about how drag queens return to being members of the gay male community when they get out of their femme gear, and a friend of mine protested, saying:
Great article, but I don’t really agree with this line: “When drag queens remove the trappings of their dramatized personas, they become once again a part of the gay rights movement and leave real transgender people to suffer the consequences.” Drag queens have always been a part of the gay right’s movement–they led at the Stonewall riots, and they’ve taught us to fight with our wits. I’m not denying that the language used on Ru-Paul’s drag race isn’t harmful to the T-community, but let’s not denigrate the important role that the queens have played in gay civil rights either.
And he is entirely right. Drag queens had a significant part in taking crossdressing laws off the books, which was an important step in decriminalizing homosexuality and of course transness itself. They were at Stonewall, and at Compton’s.
But here’s the thing: some drag queens identify as trans themselves. Others don’t. RuPaul, for instance, doesn’t, and yet he keeps speaking up about how tranny isn’t derogatory or a slur.
I loved this article – which is a trans allied one, not the usual “gays don’t need trans people” bullshit that used to get spouted regularly (and probalby still does, I just stopped reading them).
This is the part I liked the most:
Just last week, actress Gabourey Sidibe repeatedly used the slur “tranny” while on Arsenio Hall’s show. Sidibe, an outspoken supporter of gay rights, was stunned to find out that the slur was considered offensive, and she quickly apologized for her error.
But then, something interesting happened. Stories published on several media forums, including the Advocate Magazine online and Instinct Magazine online, posed the question of whether we are being too sensitive about a word that is commonly used in the gay community.
Numerous gay men and women then weighed in on whether the trans slur was, in fact, a slur. A large percentage of the commenters agreed that the media and the gay community were being too harsh on the popular TV actress. One commenter even said it could not be considered a negative term if popular shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race used the term in a comedic and even an affectionate way.
These comments are evidence that even the gay community does not understand and are often the cause of discrimination against transgender people. In case you weren’t aware, the drag queens on RuPaul’s Drag Race are the reason people like Sidibe are clueless about trans slurs. Those drag queens are gay men who continually abuse a term that damages trans people. Just like “that’s so gay” is often meant to be humorous, comically calling someone a “tranny” may garner a few laughs, but it unintentionally demeans a group of people.
When drag queens remove the trappings of their dramatized personas, they become once again a part of the gay rights movement and leave real transgender people to suffer the consequences.
Although the discrimination against trans people by the gay community is unintentional, it is the reason the “T” should be removed from the LGBT. Gay men often use the slur because they believe it’s a part of their collective community vocabulary. Just as we take liberties by using our own gay slurs as we chose, we mistakenly use the slurs aimed at trans people and whose objections are brushed off as political sensitivity.
And it’s good to see. As many of you know, or may have noticed, I stopped using “the T word” quite a long time ago exactly because it is, too often, a word assumed to be okay within the LGBTQ+ as a whole. But it’s not. The rule – that you should only use a word if it’s something you might hear from someone threatening you – is a good one. So I stopped, despite how much the transverse is my own, and despite being a member of the trans community. And believe me, I am assumed to be trans way more often than most of the cis gay men out there who use it.
I just read this lovely article about Debbie & Brian McCloskey – “He Wears a Dress, She’s Fine with That” out of LA Weekly. Made me almost sentimental about when we came out as that kind of couple, and it makes me happy to see other partners who get it. (Though she does seem to have read the *wrong* book by the wife of a CD!)
“It wouldn’t matter what you wore. You could wear a cheese costume every day, and what difference does it make? It doesn’t change who he is. And if wearing a cheese costume makes him as happy as wearing this dress does, I’m not gonna stand in his way and demand that he conform to some arbitrary standard.”
Exactly. I wish them both every happiness.
Well done, Tina Vazquez. Well done, Bitch Media.
It has been said that feminism has failed the transgender community. It’s hard to disagree. Trans women have been weathering a storm of hate and abuse in the name of feminism for decades now and for the most part, cisgender feminists have failed to speak out about it or push against it.
Although some of us have, of course. & Some of us have been here for quite a long while.
A Texas court handed down a ruling on the Araguz case the other day that basically undid the travesty of the Littleton case from back in 1999, so it’s exciting that this court decided Nikki Araguz was in fact a woman and that she was legally, heterosexually married to her husband at the time of his death.
The appeals court said more expert testimony on this issue is needed as the only such testimony presented was an affidavit by one of Nikki Araguz’s doctors, who wrote that she was medically and psychologically female as a result of her compliance with the standards of care adopted by the World Professional Association of Transgender Health.
The three-judge panel also wrote that changes made in 2009 to the Texas Family Code that allowed transgendered people to use proof of their sex change to get a marriage license legislatively overruled a previous court decision that had been used as legal precedent in such cases.
So today’s my mom’s 84th birthday. I’m so happy she is still with us because there have been some real health concerns the past few years, moreso since my dad died.
& I’ve decided, because she has often reminded me that I have always had great taste in friends, that I want to start a new tradition: to thank the people who have really been amazingly good to me, or for me, in the year past.
See the thing is I really had a spell there where I realized having good friends is not something I could take for granted. That is, my good taste, or my great luck, in choosing good friends took a wild vacation and left me in the lurch. I got hurt badly, and that has been such a rare occurrence in my life that on top of being hurtful it was disorienting and disquieting in a way I’m only now coming back from.
More gratitude is often a good answer to self pity, I’ve found, so let me say thank you to some people for being kind beyond measure, or sweet in some specific way, or who have just been rock solid in the last year or so and reminded me that faith in people may sometimes be misplaced but only in the specifics – not in principle.
All of my Sarahs, Celia, Jen, my sisters, my brother in law Ian, Mary, Erica, Darya, Lynne, Quince, Coby, Maurice, and Alex. My wife, of course, and my mom, with whom I’ve always had an amazing friendship, a particularly cool bond that only the youngest of a very large family gets, I think. I’m sure I forgot someone or many someones, and if I did, I’m sorry.
There’s this saying: let life bring me people I can help. Well, these are the people who got handed my mess of a self and who saw they could, and did.
I posted the news of the verdict on Facebook and wound up writing about it off & on all night. As I explained to a friend, sometimes a particular case just reminds you of how lamentable a loss of life can be, & this one is that, for me. His poor parents.
So despite the fact that the jury hung on the top charge not because anyone thought he was totally innocent but more because some wanted first degree and others, manslaughter, I still see a travesty here. This young man is dead because this guy thought shooting into a car full of teenagers was a legitimate response to someone’s music being too loud.
I just keep thinking that there should be some addition of guilt because this situation never had to happen at all. It’s different from winding up in a situation where you feel threatened. He could have just left them alone. Just so much fucking privilege on his part. I’m glad he’s doing time but it’s so, so sad that he wasn’t actually convicted of killing that man. It’s just such a painful reminder that young black men’s lives are always on the line. He was in a car listening to music with his friends, you know? & He died because someone else decided that was unacceptable. I understand there are always legal issues but you know, sometimes there just shouldn’t be, and absolute disregard for others’ right to LIVE should be accounted for. Just sad tonight that white people persist in seeing young brothers as scary. & that we live in a culture that validates that fear instead of insisting on an end to this racist bullshit.
I’m not blaming the jury. As white people we really have to start owning this shit. Quit grasping your bag tighter, and locking your car doors when you see a black person, and all of the rest of this crap that we do, all the time, because we don’t examine our privilege. And so racism persists, and an environment where young black men are always suspect, for no reason other than that we suspect them, all the time, no matter what they’re doing.
& It tires me in a bone-deep kind of way, of knowing I’m guilty of it as well as the next person. But we can’t keep pretending that this atmosphere isn’t rancid, that it criminalizes some people no matter what. I hate it, & just wanted to renew my commitment to not shutting the hell up about skin privilege and the way it creates an unjust environment. I can’t afford to think of myself as innocent because when I do, someone else becomes guilty for no fucking reason at all. We have to do more to stop the criminalization of young black men. Whatever we can, whenever we can.