Riki Wilchins on the TG spectrum

from Riki Wilchins’ Gender Queer :

“Transgender was intended as an umbrella term, then a name of inclusion. But umbrellas don’t work well when one group holds them up. Today, trans activism is often focused on the problems (bathroom access, name change, workplace transition, and hate crimes) faced by those who have been most active in its success: postoperative male-to-female transexuals (any similarity to the author is purely coincidental).

Yet there is little being done today to address the needs of drag people, butches, cross-dressers, transexuals who do not seek surgery, or (besides the Intersex Society of North America) intersexuals. Cross-dressers especially have suffered from lack of representation, although they number in the millions and experience severe problems associated with child custody, job discrimination, hate crimes, and punitive divorce precedents.

Thus has transgender, a voice that originated from the margins, begun to produce its own marginalized voices. And in part because – as an identity organized around “transgression” – there is a growing debate over who is “most transgressive.” How does one decide such questions? For instance, as one transexual put it, “I’m not this part-time. I can’t hang my body in the closet and pass on Monday.” There is no doubt, from one perspective, that cross-dressers enjoy some advantages. They are large in numbers, most only dress occasionally, and they can do so in the privacy of their own homes. Does that mean they would live that way if they had a choice? Does it really make them “less transgressive”?

In fact, nobody wants men in dresses. There are no “out” cross-dressers, and almost no political organization wants them or wants to speak in their name. “A man in a dress” is the original “absurd result” that judges, juries, even legislators try to avoid at all costs when rendering verdicts or crafting laws. “Men in dresses” isn’t the next hit movie: It’s a punch line in the next joke.

Among genderqueer youth, it is no longer rare to hear complaints of being frozen out of transgender groups because they don’t want to change their bodies. In an identity that favors transexuals, changing one’s body has become a litmus test for transgression. . . .

Since trans activists have loudly and justifiably complained about being “most transgressive” and about being consigned to the bottom rung of gay and feminist concerns, so it is doubly unfortunate to see them developing hierarchies of their own, in which transpeople must compete for legitimacy and in which their own margins soemtimes go unrecognized. Indeed, like assertions over who has more “privilege,” debates over who is most “transgressive” are a form of reverse discrimination that seeks to confer status based on who has it worst. Which is to say, debates over identity are always divisive and never conclusive. They are divisive because at heart they are about conferring status, always a zero-sum game. For one person to win, another must lose. They are inconclusive because there are no objective criteria by which to decide. Winning such debates is always a function of who sets the rules and who gets to judge. And since postsurgical transexuals are most often in a position to judge, at the moment, the rules tend to favor their life experiences . . .

There is no denying that after a persistent 10-year struggle, the T in LGBT is here to stay. Will the new gay embrace of transgender be successful? Will gay organizations actually devote any real resources to transgender, and if so, will they give us anything more than transexual rights? On this, the jury is still out. Although a few organizations have led the way, most organizations have not brought to bear anything like real muscle, and what muscle there is continues to be channeled into “gender identity” and transexual concerns. In the meantime, butches, queens, fairies, high femmes, tomboys, sissy boys and cross-dressers have completely vanished from civil discourse. They are never mentioned in public statements by any major progressive organization. For political purposes, they have ceased to exist. Gender itself remains invisible as a progressive issue. If it is mentioned at all, it is carefully confined to transgender. . . . With gender stretched out across the whole surface of individuals’ relations with society, maybe it’s time to quit attacking the problem piecemeal, waiting for the next issue to appear on the front page of the New York Times. Maybe it’s time to acknowledge gender stereotypes as a problem we all share, a central concern, a way to come together: a human rights issue for us all.”

Breast Cancer

Since so many CDs buy breast forms originally intended for women who lose their breasts due to breast cancer, I thought it appropriate to get some of you to click on the Breast Cancer site & so raise money for mammograms and breast cancer research.

So click away, ladies!

Girl Talk magazine

HB & Gina LanceThere is a GREAT, full color, glossy magazines for MTF TG people that I love – called Girl Talk . It’s not a ‘support’ type magazine but rather just upbeat & positive & features great professional photos of people who look amazing. The range is CD to TS – and has features on beauty (of course), interviews (with people like Eddie Izzard), advice, etc. Basically, a ‘lifestyle’ magazine for the TG crowd.

Anyway, I highly recommend it. You can check out a preview online.

October 11th: National Coming Out Day

I read an FAQ at the Human Rights’ Campaign’s website yesterday about Nat’l Coming Out Day, and was quite pleased to see that ‘transvestite’ made their short list of transgender categories.

http://www.hrc.org/ncop/faqs.asp

What occurred to me is that it would be great if crossdressers could really rally to coming out to someone this year: a wife, if she doesn’t know yet; children or parents, or more likely, a friend. Even if you’re not ready for that, you could come out to a stranger: go buy those size 11 pumps and tell the clerk at Payless (or Kenneth Cole) they’re for you!

Of course there are a million reasons to come out (a bunch of them are in the FAQ above) but I think the best reason is it can make YOU feel better. In the long run, of course, every crossdresser who comes out makes some other crossdresser’s life a little bit easier. (Shoot, look at how liberating Eddie Izzard’s being out has been for so many of us! But more on him some other time.)

So what do you think? Will you come out to someone this October 11th?

Eddie Izzard

You *have* all heard of Eddie Izzard by now, haven’t you?

He’s a comedian & actor who happens to be a transvestite, and who performs – as he did last night here in New York – in heels, skirt, & makeup. He’s done a couple of routines about being a transvestite as well – the famous one about “executive transvestites” and “weirdo transvestites” is a favorite of mine, but last night he did a whole routine based on how much superheroes & transvestites have in common:

“Both superheroes and tranvestites have to change before they help…” but then mimed a whole scene where a kid gets hurt and the tranvestite takes so long to get there (because it takes him 20 min to put on his makeup) he only arrives in time to trace the body outline with his lipliner!

He’s brilliantly funny about this stuff, a kind of comedic ambassador for transvestites everywhere!! (He’s also an incredibly talented actor, as well).

Anyway find out if he’s touring near you, and about his other adventures, at his official website, www.eddieizzard.com

and here’s the NY Times review of his show.

Lacey Leigh’s new book

I’ve been reading Lacey Leigh’s newest book, 7 Secrets of Successful Crossdressers, and it’s wonderful, all about purging shame and living life out in the open. For those of you who don’t know her, her previous book, Out & About: The Emancipated Crossdresser, is a great book, full of useful info, safety tips, and is full of humor & a positive attitude. I recommend it highly, and 7 Secrets builds on where Out & About left off!

You can check out more about Lacey at her website, www.laceyleigh.com.

Fall Appearances

Helen and Becca
Me with Becca of the En Femme Getaway:

Betty & I will be going to two events this October:

Fantasia Fair, a transgendered festival held in Provincetown, MA, October 19th thru October 26th. I will be doing a reading from My Husband Betty on Thursday, October 23rd at 3PM .

The Eureka En Femme Getaway, a vacation held in Eureka Springs, AR, from October 30th to November 2nd.

We both hope you can join us at either one of these events! We are planning more readings for the Winter and Spring months, but if any of you have suggestions, let me know!

How To Tell Your Wife

I was recently asked by a CD how he should tell his wife on a mailing list I’m on, & since this is definitely one my most “Frequently Asked Questions” I thought I’d post the ’10 Guidelines For Telling Your Wife or Girlfriend” here. It always makes me so happy to know a CD wants to tell his wife. I know the urge is a little bit selfish on the part of the CDer, but it’s also a great sign of the respect & love he has for his wife.

After that, there is no simple answer. There is no guarantee she’ll deal well with the new info, or accept you. That said, I still think it’s worth it.

The things I’ve learned in doing the research are that:

1) The sooner a man tells his wife the better. Before marriage is best, but still – the sooner the better.

2) Know what your CDing means to you, so you can talk to her about it in some intelligent, sensitive way. If after you tell her, every answer afterward is “I don’t know” she’ll freak out. Be prepared for the ‘Are you gay?’ and ‘Do you want to be a woman?’ questions, & don’t get upset when she asks them.

3) Does she know gay & lesbian people? Any close friends or family members? Does she have any firsthand experience of discrimination or feeling ‘different’? How does she feel about being a woman, herself (ie is she a feminist, traditionally feminine, tomboyish, etc?) But keep in mind her general open-mindedness or political liberalness might go right out the window on this issue.

4) I’d recommend not hitting her with all of it at once – that is, tell her a story about yourself as a kid, putting on your mom’s nylons or whatever your first childhood experience was. Make sure you bring this up in a quiet time between you, conversationally, & you give her time to tell some childhood stories of her own. (In general, the ‘announcement’ method isn’t very good, it has to be more of a conversation, as unconfrontational as it can be.) Or, you can say you’ve been thinking about doing some female character for Halloween (please not a hooker or slut! Wonder Woman, an Amazon, some cool woman or heroine is usually better!) & see how she reacts. If she wants to play Charlie Chaplin to your Louise Brooks… you know she can ‘play’.

That doesn’t mean you can stop there. She needs to know the whole of it. I’m just saying it might be a good conversation starter. Eventually you will have to explain why you didn’t tell her sooner, apologize for not having done so, and be clear that you understand you screwed up.

5) This one’s personal: letting your fear & vulnerability about how scared you are of her acceptance worked like a charm in our case! All women differ, though – sometimes a woman might freak out if you come off as too feminine, or ‘soft’ – it depends on her. If she thinks it’s great you can cry at sad movies, then she might appreciate how much it means to you/hard hard it is for you to tell her. Not in a ‘woe is me’ kind of way – but just so she knows you’re sharing something about yourself that you wouldn’t trust most people to know.

6) After you tell her, don’t bring it up again until SHE does. In the meantime, read some books about women (not glamor magazines, biographies of famous women, or gender theory, or whatever. I just read “Am I A Woman?” by Cynthia Eller & recommend that.)

7) If she is accepting, make sure it’s fun for her and not all about you! Let her take the lead in figuring out how it can be. That is, if you suggest she be Charlie Chaplin for Halloween, she’ll just feel bad – but if she decides to, it might be totally empowering for her! Alternately, I’ve now heard of three happy younger couples who all went, for their first Halloween together, as “starlets.” You both get to glam up & feel sexy –

8) If she’s freaked out by it, drop the subject & wait wait wait to bring it up again. Don’t wait forever, but do give her time to sort out her own emotions about it. Be sensitive – if she seems like she needs to talk, ask her if she wants to. But don’t start the conversation with “So have you made up your mind about my crossdressing?” but more with something like “Do you have any questions?” Don’t assume crossdressing is what she wants to talk about. She may be wanting to discuss your little problem with leaving your dirty clothes outside the hamper.

9) Know your wife, make sure you keep up all the other romantic things you do for/with her. Bring her flowers, buy her gifts, & be less inhibited about telling her how much she means to you. Don’t lay it on too thick – just tell her how you feel about her, honestly. You CDs are all romantics, imho, so let it out!! Re-emphasize your non-CD life together, even if she is totally accepting! (as I like to put it, I don’t mind having a girlfriend, too, but I still always want my husband!)

10) Listen until your ears bleed. You have “known” a CD all your life – but this is probably the first time she’s met one! So it will take her time to get the idea wrapped around her head. In fact, when you first tell her, what you’re telling her may not even ‘register’ at some level. She won’t have any idea in the beginning that this is a permanent thing. Expect phases of anger, sadness, fury,disappointment. Try to remember that if you, as a CD, sometimes wish you weren’t a CD, she’ll have similar feelings.

P.S. If the husband needs to stay in the closet, so that she can’t tell anyone either, make sure she knows there are other wives of CDs who she can get to know & let off some steam with.

Book Progress!!!

So, Helen just received her “pass pages” which is basically the book all laid out and everything but printed on regular paper. Now she gets to go through it with a fine-tooth comb. One more step to final publication!

Anyhoo, I’m just super proud of her and wanted to announce to all!

GenderPAC

As I mentioned, Betty & I got to see Mariette Pathy Allen’s new book while at a GenderPAC event – a small party/outreach/fundraiser. GenderPAC is the ‘Gender Public Advocacy Coalition,’ an organization which works to end discrimination and violence caused by gender stereotypes. Riki Wilchins, author of Read My Lips: Sexual Subversion and the End of Gender is the executive director.

Wilchins and others spoke about their mission and their current projects: 1) Workplace Fairness – in which GPAC helps corporations add gender protections to their EEO policies; 2) Public Education & Violence Prevention – which involves lobbying, press releases (which draw the media’s attention to violence against transgender people, which is why most of us even heard about the rash of killings in DC recently ), and works on changing laws in order to protect transgender people, and 3) GenderYouth – which is rallying support at colleges and high schools to end the bullying, harassment, & discrimination that is too often part of school life.

Obviously, crossdressers stand to benefit from their efforts. Because most CDs are not out, and so cannot help do their share in terms of helping eduate the public, the best way to support GPAC might be to donate money. Those of you who work for corporations might talk to someone at your company about adding gender protections to your EEO. & you don’t have to out yourself to do any of this! So go read the website, write a check, spread the word!

Mariette Pathy Allen’s new book

Last night Betty & I went to a GenderPAC event (more on GPAC & the meeting tomorrow), which was hosted by the lovely & talented Mariette Pathy Allen, the photographer. If you don’t know her book Transformations, you should: it’s a document of crossdressers. The photographs are their lives, on the page, interspersed with their own words. It was the first book my husband gave me about crossdressing, and I especially loved that there are wives and girlfriends in the book as well – also in their own words. I recommend it highly.

As luck would have it, Ms. Allen’s new book was delivered just in time for the gathering, & we were able to look at a copy. It is GORGEOUS. The photos are of the entire tg spectrum: mtf, ftm, and her photography is more gorgeous even than it was in Transformations.

The new book is called The Gender Frontier, and you can check out some of the photographs that appear in it here.

Yahoo! group

I thought perhaps some of you might prefer a mailing list instead of message boards, like myself, so I set up a Yahoo! group

Join the mailing list here!

My idea is that the group will be focused on issues and ideas I bring up in the book, but mostly it’ll be moderated as a serious discussion group – not for makeup tips or a dating service. Before the book is out, I’ll use it as a way of communicating updates, etc.

9/11: To The Wives and Partners

In honor of the families and friends of those mourning a loved one today, and especially for the wives and girlfriends and partners who lost someone, this sonnet by Edna St. Vincent Millay:

Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the time;
The old snows melt from every mountain-side,
And last year’s leaves are smoke in every lane;
But last year’s bitter love must remain
Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughs abide.
There are a hundred places where I fear
To go, – so with his memory they brim.
And entering with relief some quiet place
Where never fell his foot or shone his face
I say, “There is no memory of him here!”
And so stand stricken, so remembering him.

NYC: Trans Theatre Festival

for those of you in the NYC area, there is a trans theatre festival going on in two spaces in the east village, through Saturday, September 13th:

check here for more details:
Stages 2003

Lisa Jackson rocks!

lisa jackson's bday songBetty & I went to a mixed trans night recently (FTM & MTF) at a lesbian bar called Meow Mix, and we saw trans- musician Lisa Jackson perform. It was my second time hearing her sing, and for the second time I was especially struck by one of her songs, called “Fabulously Done.”

^ Minerva, Betty, Zoe and Flawless Mother Sabrina are the ones in this photo, singing one of Lisa’s songs to Lisa as part of the celebration.

If trans- folks (esp MTFs) are looking for an anthem, girls – this is it!

Read these lyrics:
The make up and the clothes I wear,
The fancy do and the underwear,
It’s a mystery, you see, to anyone who’s not like me.

So please retract those words of hate
‘Cause I’m the boy you used to date.
Yes I’m your lover and I’m your son. I’m your brother; we’ve just begun.

Somehow around the age of 8
I learned that I should hate
The fairies and the queers-you know they’re just so fucking weird.
But little did my siblings know that I was putting on a little show
I
n the mirror of the bathroom as my mother ran the vacuum.

I’m not the only one. I’m not the only one
Who wants to be painted, and pretty, and shining and fabulously done.

It has taken some 20 years
For me to learn to ignore the fear
That there are people who will hate you, and people who will shame you.
But be the first to cast your stone, ’cause I would rather be all alone.
Yes If I am gonna be living, then I am gonna be giving all I can.

I told that girl, but that girl went away.
And I told my brother, but my brother thinks I’m gay.
I told my sister, but my sister could not hear.
And I told the world, ’cause I am tired of this fear.

Buy her CD! or at least find out more about her at www.lisajacksononline.com

Has anyone else out there seen her perform? What did you think?

(update 7/17/05: Lisa Jackson’s website is now: http://www.lisajacksonandgirlfriday.com)

National Coming Out Day – Oct 11th

I read an FAQ at the Human Rights’ Campaign’s website yesterday about Nat’l Coming Out Day, and was quite pleased to see that ‘transvestite’ made their short list of transgender categories.

http://www.hrc.org/ncop/faqs.asp

What occurred to me is that it would be great if crossdressers could really rally to coming out to someone this year: a wife, if she doesn’t know yet; children or parents, or more likely, a friend. Even if you’re not ready for that, you could come out to a stranger: go buy those size 11 pumps and tell the clerk at Payless (or Kenneth Cole) they’re for you!

Of course there are a million reasons to come out (a bunch of them are in the FAQ above) but I think the best reason is it can make YOU feel better. In the long run, of course, every crossdresser who comes out makes some other crossdresser’s life a little bit easier. (Shoot, look at how liberating Eddie Izzard’s being out has been for so many of us! But more on him some other time.)

So what do you think? Will you come out to someone this October 11th?

Changes

Hey all, Betty here. We’re in the midst of updating the site. We’ve added this shiny new blog interface for Helen to use and keep y’all up to date with the book and other things.

The forums are still here. Just down for the moment.

Betty

On This, Black Wednesday

When the word came in that Tom Daschle was worried, I knew we were in for it. I couldn’t help but think: now he’s worried? He didn’t worry when all the Democratic Senators (himself included) voted for war in Iraq. He didn’t worry when the Dems didn’t bother to make a big issue of corporate thievery, nor did he listen to Ralph Nader when Ralph – good citizen that he is – handed the Democratic Party the real issues on a plate. No, Tom Daschle didn’t worry until he realized his political ambitions might be thwarted. Now he’s worrying, and now it’s too late. There’s no need to worry now.

We’ll be going to war with Iraq. The working-class sons and daughters who enlisted in order to get college tuition will die, as will thousands of Iraqi citizens who are already dying of the harsh embargos we’ve had on that country. We voted for war because we’re scared – scared of terrorists, scared of paying too much for gas. There is no single American – not one – that believes we’re going to Iraq in order to oust a nasty dictator. There is no-one so naïve. Bush’s approval ratings – and his party’s election night coup – is a reflection of Americans’ state of mind. They will have gas for their SUVs. They will not take no for an answer.

Besides, war is good for the economy, and really it’s the only way a Republican President has ever made the economy work. They’re not innovators; they’re tribal leaders, paid assassins. They know how to beat the drums, how to instill fear, how to package it all with a wallop of Good Christian Values and unquestioning Patriotism. (Did someone say Jingoism? Not me.)

We do not have a culture of compassion. We do when the cruel hand of Nature comes down & splits the land in two. We do when the cruel hand of Fundamentalism flies planes into our buildings and kills innocents. We do, too, when a family member is sick, when Sharon Osborne shares her diagnosis, when Tom divorces Nicole. When the violins swell, and the tissues are passed around, Americans are good at sympathy.

For a Christian nation, it’s especially ironic that we have no ability to understand that our lives – how we live on a day to day basis – are the real test. That’s where we fail miserably. We choose cheap gas over Iraqi children’s lives; we choose cheap clothes over Philippino women’s rights; we choose charity instead of any solution to share our piece of the pie. I don’t think these are actual conscious choices per se. We have no ability to think abstractly, to connect the dots. We never ask if private school vouchers undercut our democracy, or whether we can do without one more disposable whatever in order to save our ground water.

I’m beginning to see it’s not a lack of education (as I used to believe), or a lack of values. We believe in doing what we should for one’s neighbors, in generosity, in those basic Christian values politicians love to harp on about. Where we fail – where it’s easiest to fail – is in actually living those values, in considering, with each & every decision we make, whether or not our choices have impact elsewhere. I do not stand a distance apart to throw these stones; I throw them from my own glass house. Sure, I don’t own a car but that’s because I live in NYC where public transit gets me everywhere I need to go. To boot, I’m not a Christian and have no urge or dictum to live by Christian values. This country that just voted for war, does. They believe in Jesus, in the life he lived, in the forgiveness he showed others, in his radical acceptance and love of the cast-offs. They believe, they say, in peace.

But peace is an abstraction, and cheap gas is not.