Transition: A Generation of Change

A couple of amazing students put this short clip together for a class that promotes media making in the service of community.

I was honored to be a part of it, but the real props go to Rowan and her amazing family.

Italian Americans: Just Not Columbus

I love that Indigenous People’s Day is taking over, but as someone of some Italian American heritage (Sicilian American, it turns out), it would be nice to have a day of recognition. Just not Columbus, please, who enslaved a peaceful people, and by his own admission:

“[The Indians] do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane… . They would make fine servants…. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.”

But there are other Italian Americans that might fit the bill. Because I’m generally horrified that all people know about Italian Americans is the mob and pizza, here are my choices:

My top choice is Mario Cuomo. He died just as Indigenous People’s Day was getting some recognition, so the timing seems right.

Joe Petrosino, a Sicilian American, who was the first detective to really go after the Mafia & the Black Hand in particular; he was assassinated while in Italy (supposedly undercover) in 1909, and they’ve only just “solved” his murder.

Then there’s Bartolomeo Vanzetti, who was surely innocent of the crimes he was killed for but who wrote some beautiful, peaceful letters while in prison. His trial, along with Nicola Sacco’s, caused the first real anti death penalty push in the US & continues to inspire. Their judges called them racial slurs – proving they didn’t get a fair trial, whether they were guilty or not – and connects to a lot of the racialized injustice happening even today around the death penalty in particular.

Alternately, we could just have a day for eating, because Italian food.

& Honestly, living here in Wisconsin, a Lombardi Day seems like a shoo-in, and the famous coach was anti-homophobic and anti-racist in ways that the NFL could still take a lesson from. His daughter explained: “My father was way ahead of his time,” Susan Lombardi said. “He was discriminated against as a dark-skinned Italian American when he was younger, when he felt he was passed up for coaching jobs that he deserved. He felt the pain of discrimination, and so he raised his family to accept everybody, no matter what color they were or whatever their sexual orientation was.”

National Coming Out Day: For Those Not Out

The always awesome S. Bear Bergman put this up for National Coming Out
Day, and I immediately loved it, and shared it, like you do.

What surprised me was that a few people responded thinking it was sarcastic, not heartfelt. Bear said no one had interpreted that way before.

So it occurs to me that there is a subset of my readers, in particular, who take National Coming Out Day particularly hard: the crossdressers, surely, and even some (stealth) trans men and women. As groups, for the most part, they aren’t always or even often out. Sometimes they’re making sure to stay employed because of dependents. Sometimes a partner or spouse doesn’t want them to be. Sometimes it’s just easier for them not to, because they’re not the kind of people who want to explain shit all the time. (As I’ve always joked, I wrote my books so I could enjoy parties again.)

And recently I’ve been thinking about the alarming number of younger out folks who have committed suicide, and somewhat maternally wonder if maybe everyone shouldn’t be, or at the very least shouldn’t feel like they *have* to be. I still think there’s a huge difference between gays and lesbians vs. trans outness, but also, I now live in a place where the repercussions of being out are far more drastic than they might be elsewhere.

So maybe let’s remember that: all of us choose not just when and how we come out, but IF we do, and even why we might not. As per usual, let’s give ourselves some room for diversity of situation, judgment, and choices.

Love to you all whether or not you’re out. Pride doesn’t require us all to be the same.

WI Bathroom Bill

Sadly, this transphobic bathroom stupidity has arrived at our doorstep, WI. It’s time to act.

Here’s the MoveOn petition. Go sign it.

Here’s a letter draft you can email to your representatives:

I imagine you have heard of a bill proposed by Sen. Steve Nass & Rep. Jesse Kremer that will limit transgender students’ access to bathrooms that correspond to their gender identities. This bill is discriminatory and further stigmatizes transgender and intersex youth, who already face disproportionate levels of discrimination, harassment, and bias from teachers, community members, and often peers and family members.

Phone Script:Hello, my name is, and I live in city/town/district.I am calling about Proposed bill LRB 2643/1. What is your stance on this bill?I am concerned about this bill because it is seeking to discriminate against transgender and intersex students in Wisconsin. I urge you to not sign onto this bill as your constituent.

>Add personal reasons against bill here.<

Continue Reading

To the Guys

In case anyone’s interested, here are my remarks from last night’s event.

(before video) Hi! I’m Helen Boyd and I teach gender studies here at Lawrence. I was inspired to make this video after hearing from a few male friends who were surprised that I think about my safety all the time, and I knew, from talking to women all of my life, that I was not alone in being vigilant.

(then we showed the video)

(after) When women complain about being catcalled, this is why. Too often we don’t feel safe and a catcall reminds us that we’re attracting attention – wanted or unwanted. & Sometimes it feels safer to be less noticeable when we’re out.

That phrase, “safe enough”, came out of a conversation I had with a gay man about what it’s like to walk past a guy on the street. You never know how he’s going to respond, or what’s going to happen. The safety concerns aren’t just women’s. The violence some of us worry about isn’t just sexual violence. It’s gay bashing. It’s transphobia. It’s racism.

The thing is, even if you’re not that guy, you probably know that guy. It’s not that you’d even know who he is, either, which is why everything you say or do when you’re only with other guys matters. Jokes about crazy bitches, gay men, all of that. When you don’t stand up in the little situations, the guys who would hurt gay men and trans people and women get permission. They think you hate us all too because of the jokes you tell or listen to without objecting.

Someone isn’t taking no for an answer, or is freaking out because a gay guy is crushed out on you, or because a trans woman is hot. It seems to me sometimes that it’s you guys who are afraid — afraid of losing face, of being gay, of wanting kinds of sex that other people don’t think is normal. And I know, too, you’re not supposed to be afraid and you’re not supposed to admit it even when you are. I’m a New Yorker and a punk rock kid and a professional activist – I make a living not being afraid of stuff. I get it. But something is wrong out there, something about the ways even the good guys don’t stand up, don’t step up, don’t tell that one guy in their crowd he’s ruining it for all of you. And believe me when I tell you he is – in communities where women feel safe and respected, they have a lot more sex, but in this culture, right now, women are so scared they give you the wrong number because they think a “no” will result in violence.

So what I’m asking of you, really, is to think about what you don’t think about when you walk home at night drunk. I’m asking you to think why you’d ever want to have sex with someone who wasn’t totally into you. I’m asking you to remember that someone else’s gender and sexual orientation is none of your goddamned business. I’m also telling you that not being an asshole doesn’t make you a miracle. Raise your own bar.

You’re going to be hearing some statistics next, and there are two things I need to underline: One is that all sexual violence is underreported, across the board. The other is that men are not just perpetrators, but victims – they are assaulted by men AND women, and they don’t report even more than women don’t. This isn’t about your mother or your sister or your best friend who is a woman. It’s about you, too.

So come join us in gender studies. Find out how many genders there are, how many kinds of sex exist, and how men who are married to feminists self report way better sex lives than men who aren’t. & Thanks for being here.

Here’s some local video coverage of the event, too.

Undergrad Men & Sexual Assault

Despite my reputation as a humorless feminist, I’ve been working with a small group of undergrad men (& one female student!) on a group called M.A.R.S. – Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault. We have a huge – huger than predicted or expected – event happening tomorrow night where we’ll be showing that short clip on safety and I’ll be speaking super-briefly.

And it’s been amazing, to be honest. I know a lot of you roll your eyes at this kind of thing, and I know an awful lot of queer women, especially, who just can’t and won’t work with the guys, & all for very good reasons. But I like guys. Always have. In so many ways. So this work was really right up my alley, especially as I got to partner with a local community leader, my friend Shannon Kenevan, and the local sexual assault center, SACC. I’m the faculty advisor to Lawrence’s feminist group, DFC, too, so it really brought a lot of worlds together for me.

There are staff and other faculty on board who have been helping organize, too, and of course we needed funding and meetings and space and all of the many things that have to come together. Joe Samalin of Breakthrough is coming to speak as well – so this event draws from campus, local, statewide, and national talent.

But mostly I’m just thankful to be able to do what I do, to know such amazing, inspired, angry young people who want to make a difference, but most especially I’m thankful for all of the women who have stood up to tell their stories and worked to dismantle rape culture from the ground up.

Blog Re-Design

We re-designed the blog about a week ago so it would be more mobile-friendly. Most everything is still here but in slightly different places; if you can’t find something, ask.

In the meantime, I was curious, so I went & looked up the very first version of my blog / this site, from march 2003.

The blog got added later the same year (which makes mine the oldest blog on trans issues still in existence, I think, but I’m happy enough to be corrected).

Here’s 2008, & then what it looked like right before this re-design.

Feel free to leave me some feedback.

Cecile Richards

Her mama, of course, was Gov. Ann Richards, and apparently these guys have forgotten how often she handed them their asses on a plate.

As much as I appreciate everyone pointing out how many amazing services Planned Parenthood provides, it seems we’ve lost sight of the fact that abortion is legal and a legitimate health need for many, many American women.

Here are some other clips NPR collected from the testimony.

WI Book Festival Reading of Love, Always

I’ll be reading from the Love, Always anthology with my friend Miriam Hall and another contributor, Shawnee Parens, on 10/24 at 3PM at A Room of One’s Own bookstore.

Excited.

She’s The Woman I Married

There is something star-crossed about trans couples sometimes,” Boyd says when I meet up with her a few days later. “I was very much in love with my husband, and I will always miss being married to that person. The thing that helped me around it a little bit was realizing I was never married to him, I was married to somebody who looked like him and who I could project all that himness onto, but when I go back and look at our wedding photos, it’s like, ‘She was making such a valiant effort to look like a man, like a groom.’ I never married a guy, I married a woman.” – Helen Boyd

from New York magazine’s article “My Husband is Now My Wife” by Alex Morris, online today. 

Here from New York?

I was interviewed for an article titled “My Husband Is Now My Wife” for New York magazine recently, and while the online version isn’t up yet, the issue is out.

So if you’ve shown up here as a result of it, some info:

Here are My Husband Betty and She’s Not the Man I Married, my first two books.

Ever After, the third that I’m currently writing, I haven’t sold yet, and am still seeking an agent & publisher for it.

Please feel free to search this site for whatever resources you’re seeking: this blog is more than a decade old and it there’s a lot to find, but here are the basics:

  1. our message boards (the mHB forums)
  2. the private partners list I run and moderate
  3. my letter to a wife who just found out

There’s a recent interview with me in SalonDan Savage’s podcast where he asked me about how often crossdressers transition, and of course, feel free to contact me (helenbkramer@gmail.com) if you have a question.

 

 

No Ads

I’ve removed any and all ads that were on this site with some hope that that might get me through some of the more porn-sensitive “net nannys” and filter systems used. I regularly hear from readers that they can’t access this blog when they’re at Panera or the local hospital or at work, so I thought I’d give this a shot.

I was never very good at figuring out how to get Google Ads to filter their content and which ads wound up on my site and frankly, it was never worth very much anyway, especially not since FB when people stopped coming to the actual blog to read my stuff. I’m not sure if people realize how much ad revenue went down even for tiny blogs like mine as a result of FB, but it did.

Anyway, if you’re a regular reader or user of the MHB boards, I do always appreciate donations to cover the cost of hosting and the like. 

 

U.S. Trans Survey (Closes 9/21)

If you haven’t yet taken NCTE’s current trans survey, get to it! It will close on Monday, 9/21, & it’s important they hear all your voices.

By *all*, I mean especially those who tend not to do online surveys or who are otherwise often cut out by mainstream trans representation:

  • those who have stayed married
  • crossdressers who identify as trans*
  • genderqueer individuals
  • older trans people
  • trans people of color

Please, folks, this is your chance to get counted. If you tried before and it didn’t work, do try again: they’ve got a fitter system in place.

 

Woman’s Rights Man

Because I’ll be teaching him Tuesday, I thought I’d share this piece by Douglass on why he was for women’s suffrage:

“At this distance of time from that convention at Rochester, and in view of the present position of the question, it is hard to realize the moral courage it required to launch this unwelcome movement. Any man can be brave when the danger is over, go to the front when there is no resistance, rejoice when the battle is fought and the victory is won; but it is not so easy to venture upon a field untried with one-half the whole world against you, as these women did.

Then who were we, for I count myself in, who did this thing? We were few in numbers, moderate in resources, and very little known in the world. The most that we had to commend us was a firm conviction that we were in the right, and a firm faith that the right must ultimately prevail. But the case was well considered. Let no man imagine that the step was taken recklessly and thoughtlessly. Mrs. Stanton had dwelt upon it at least six years before she declared it in the Rochester convention. Walking with her from the house of Joseph and Thankful Southwick, two of the noblest people I ever knew, Mrs. Stanton, with an earnestness that I shall never forget, unfolded her view on this woman question precisely as she had in this Council. This was six and forty years ago, and it was not until six years after, that she ventured to make her formal, pronounced and startling demand for the ballot. She had, as I have said, considered well, and knew something of what would be the cost of the reform she was inaugurating. She knew the ridicule, the rivalry, the criticism and the bitter aspersions which she and her co-laborers would have to meet and to endure. But she saw more clearly than most of us that the vital point to be made prominent, and the one that included all others, was the ballot, and she bravely said the word. It was not only necessary to break the silence of woman and make her voice heard, but she must have a clear, palpable and comprehensive measure set before her, one worthy of her highest ambition and her best exertions, and hence the ballot was brought to the front.

There are few facts in my humble history to which I look back with more satisfaction than to the fact, recorded in the history of the woman-suffrage movement, that I was sufficiently enlightened at that early day, and when only a few years from slavery, to support your resolution for woman suffrage. I have done very little in this world in which to glory except this one act—and I certainly glory in that. When I ran away form slavery, it was for myself; when I advocated emancipation, it was for my people; but when I stood up for the rights of woman, self was out of the question, and I found a little nobility in the act.”

It’s that bit at the end, which I’ve cited before, which is the best argument for being an inclusive social justice ally – a little nobility is where it’s at.

The Trevor Project: SEPT 10TH IS SUICIDE PREVENTION DAY

Dear Friends,

Today, on September 10th, people around the world will take action to raise awareness as part of World Suicide Prevention Day. At The Trevor Project, we fight this fight 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The statistics are staggering: the risk of suicide for lesbian, gay, bisexual, or questioning youth is three to four times higher than their straight peers. Even more heartbreaking, the risk of suicide for transgender youth is even higher.

With your support, we can help prevent suicide. This past year, we reached nearly 200,000 youth through our crisis intervention and suicide prevention services. Our amazing staff and volunteers worked hard to answer more calls on our Trevor Lifeline, take more chats and text messages on TrevorChat and TrevorText, and support more members on TrevorSpace, our safe social media platform for LGBTQ youth and allies. So today, thanks to their efforts and supporters like you, more LGBTQ youth than ever before were able to turn to The Trevor Project—even in their darkest moments.

We are so proud to be making this impact, but our fight is far from over. Last year, the demand for our services was higher than we could meet. So, starting this year, in response to increased demand for our digital services, we are launching important new initiatives to help bolster our prevention efforts. These initiatives include the expansion of hours for TrevorText, the introduction of a critical suicide prevention research effort, and the launch of a more interactive and mobile-friendly version of TrevorSpace.

Take action today, on World Suicide Prevention Day, and help us keep this important work moving forward. Please advocate and raise awareness about our efforts, educate your community about the challenges LGBTQ youth face, or help provide crisis services through volunteering with The Trevor Project. Most importantly, so that we can continue the life-saving work that we do, please donate to The Trevor Project and consider making a regular contribution through one of our monthly or annual giving programs. We rely on you, our supporters, to directly impact our LGBTQ youth, their educators, parents, friends, and allies.

Help save even more LGBTQ lives on World Suicide Prevention Day.

The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth. For more information visit TheTrevorProject.org
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call the Trevor Lifeline: 1-866-488-7386

Guest Author: Michaela Ivri Mendelsohn, My Top Manager is a Transwoman

I first met Kristy after she had been working for a month at one of my El Pollo Loco restaurants in Thousand Oaks, California. Kristy is a tall dark haired Latina, transwoman in her late twenties.  While observing her, the first thing I noticed was a caring and good natured attitude with our customers.  She was our first transgender employee and I was anxious to meet her. The manager who hired her put her front and center at the cash register, which is where she belongs. She is great with customers. As we got to know each other she told me the story of what had happened at a previous job with Taco Bell.  Kristy had worked at a Taco Bell in the Ventura County area. Though she clearly identified as a woman, the manager told her she must use the men’s bathroom. While using the bathroom one day, she was sexually molested by a customer. Her employer’s response was to tell her, she could use the women’s room but only when no other women are inside. One time, while using the women’s restroom, a female customer entered after Kristy was inside. This customer complained to her husband about a man dressed as a woman in the ladies room. Her husband pressured store management into firing Kristy. Unfortunately, her story is not unique. I have heard so many stories just like hers from other transwomen.

The basic need for any transgender person to get a foothold in this world is to have a decent job. Today transwomen are more than twice as likely to be living in poverty. There are considerable barriers both social and legal to obtaining a job as well as to transition while on the job. More than 3 of 5 transgender persons work in states that have no protection for gender identity in the workplace. Based on six studies done between 1996 and 2006, 20 to 57 percent of transgender respondents said they experience employment discrimination, including being fired, denied a promotion or harassed. Though even more difficult to measure, transgender people also face considerable barriers in the job application process.  Even in California, which has laws in place against gender discrimination in the workplace, transgender workers are often treated at best as second class citizens.

In Kristy’s situation, over a year had gone by and it was past the statute to file a lawsuit. I was disappointed.  I wanted Kristy to have justice. We also need high profile lawsuits to let employers know there will be severe punishment for gender discrimination in the workplace. In the end though, it is possible that the transgender success stories told by employers, will bring about the greatest change.  Kristy has done extremely well with us. Our customers adore her. Today she is the general manager of our busiest restaurant and I could not be more proud of her. In fact the restaurant she manages is ranked number two our of over 400 units in the El Pollo Loco chain for quality and customer service. We are now at six trans-employees and growing. Two others have made it into management. I am quite certain there will more success stories to follow.

Fun Home: The Musical

I have to admit first that I don’t like musicals. Never have. I don’t understand them as a genre or as a medium.

But of course Fun Home the book has a special place in my heart – I’ll be doing a lecture for all the first-year students on the novel in early November – so I really had to see it.

Two things stuck out to me: her father was played by a heavier set, frumpier kind of guy than I thought was accurate. None of her drawings of her father struck me that way – instead, I saw a slender, muscular guy who was still in the prime of his life, even if he was (of course) closeted and a jerk of a dad. I felt like the choice disappeared his sexuality more than it might have. That said, he was still fantastic – amazing actor, singer, everything else. But I wanted to see the guy in the very 70s cut-off denim shorts; it strikes me that his story is very different otherwise.

The song I expected to make me cry – “Ring of Keys” – was not the one that did. It was “Telephone Wire” that got me – that desire to connect with him, that knowledge that she both does, and doesn’t. Or does as much as is possible, considering him.

What was really remarkable was the presence of Bechdel-the-artist onstage the whole time. As much as her voice and her text are part of the book, you’re very rarely aware of her presence otherwise, or made aware of it, and that in the musical she is always onstage, always watching her own memories unfold, occasionally commenting on them (physically or verbally) made it, in a sense, a play about the artist creating the book. The book has that in it, but it brought that post-modern quality to the front in a very direct, very accessible way.

What was lost – a big loss for me – were all the literary references, the drawings of the places, the books and their visible titles, the queer literary history. I don’t think there’s a mention of either Proust or Wilde, and no, I have no idea how they might have pulled that off, but it disappointed this geek a little.

Still, as per Playbill, Lisa Kron says: “There’s a deep river of yearning that flows through Alison’s book that made it ripe for translation into the musical form. This is a family that is profoundly alienated from their own powerful emotions. But because music is such an efficient emotional delivery system, we could it it to convey the oceans of feeling swirling below the surface of this checked-out family at the same time the dialogue and lyrics are showing us how little access they have to any of that feeling.”

And THAT, it does, and does amazingly well.

 

Guest Author: Zoe Dolan, ‘Transgender Cinderella’

What an awesome little excerpt from my friend and author Zoe Dolan’s book about what it’s like to date as a trans woman. Probably NSFW, and not for the faint hearted.

Once I was living as female, but before sex change surgery, my dreams were bounded by what I came to identify as the Cinderella Syndrome. I loved to go dancing, since on the dancefloor I could sink into the beat and movement around me. Men would come and go, drifting toward me and away, and sometimes closer and closer until we were dancing with our hips together. I felt the heat of their breaths upon my skin and the beads of sweat on the back of their necks as I ran my hands along their spines and floated up into a kiss.

But I always dreaded what I sought most: a moment of intimacy. At that point my coach would turn back into a pumpkin and my gown would disappear in an instant.

When I was studying abroad in Leiden, Holland, during law school, I met a handsome Italian whom I’ll call Adriano. At a get-together with other students, he stared across the room at me the whole evening. I tried to ignore what was happening, to no avail. I could not sustain conversation with whomever I was talking to. After a few minutes I got up to leave; but he intercepted me. The next thing I knew, I was in a conversation with him, trying to catch the breath he was taking away.

Adriano was tall and broad-shouldered, with curly dark brown hair and clear golden brown eyes. He spoke fluent English with a slight Italian accent. He had recently decided on law as an undergraduate major. He had the opportunity to come check out the Netherlands and thought he’d take the adventure north to broaden his mind. Basically, he was perfect. Continue Reading

Stone Butch Blues Free Download for Feinberg’s Birthday

In order to celebrate the birthday of Leslie Feinberg on this day 1st September, a free .pdf of their most celebrated book Stone Butch Blues is being made available free of charge to whoever wishes to access it. Now a very popular text on many gender and sexualities courses, Leslie’s partner – Professor Minnie Bruce Platt – wants to make the book freely available.

In life, Leslie was an activist and advocate for the rights of LGBTQ people. Their communist values and their belief in open and free access to information are celebrated with the launch of this free eBook.

(via Sinclair Sexsmith, the ever awesome)

Guest Author: Darya Teesewell, Hollywood ‘Takes Care of its Own,’ Unless You are Trans, Part 2

Recently I blogged about some of the challenges that trans people who live out here in Hollywood, a.k.a. America’s Liberal Dream Factory, face when it comes to health care.

Let me underline exactly what those challenges mean. First, let’s look at the big, broad, macro level of Hollywood optics. I’ll use two celebrity examples; let’s make it clear that since I know nothing of their own health care needs or realities, the “examples” are purely hypothetical.

Eddie Redmayne is a talented actor who will appear in the film The Danish Girl as Lili Elbe, one of the modern world’s first transsexual women. Mr. Redmayne is, as far as I know, a cisgender (meaning non-trans) man. If the film was made under Hollywood-based Screen Actors Guild agreements, Mr. Redmayne would most likely qualify for the Motion Picture Health Plan. So we have a cisgender man playing a transsexual woman in a big-budget blockbuster movie who qualifies for his male-oriented health care because…well…he’s human, and a man.

Laverne Cox is an award-winning actress who has appeared on Orange is the New Black, and is an outspoken, eloquent advocate for rights of trans people. Let’s say she made a film, or worked on a T.V. series under the Hollywood SAG agreement and had enough hours to qualify for health care. She might qualify, but the plan would still be able to refuse her trans-specific health care, in spite of her humanity and legal status as a woman.

Not being an idiot, I don’t think that’s likely to happen, and really, Ms. Cox’s health care is none of my damn business. But let’s make a theoretical comparison to Mr. Redmayne; Laverne would be a trans woman playing a part (trans or not) in a movie or series with contracts that include coverage under the same plan, but whether she gets trans-specific health care is completely up to the administrators of the plan. If the administrators decide that her care was part of that two-word exception “gender change”, they would be within their rights to refuse her.

Mr. Redmayne, playing a trans woman: no problem. Ms. Cox, a real trans woman: we’ll get back to you. Continue Reading