#saytheirnames – Three Trans Deaths This Past Weekend

I mean to distract you from your online bickering for a moment.

This weekend, three trans people of color were reported murdered – one in Arizona, one in Detroit, one in North Carolina. They had nothing else in common from what I can tell, but for being at that fatal intersection of identity that is being black and trans.

The murders this year in the US are already greater than the total number for 2014.

The deaths are always gruesome, cold-blooded, but often intimate and overkill. And when I hear a new report I think: this is never just transphobia at work, but racism and patriarchy, too – patriarchy because violence is still seen as some kind of legitimate response to a threat. Look at the “but he was threatening” defenses of armed cops who have killed unarmed people. These murders are the worst excesses of patriarchy.

Then I read something like this piece, about feminists trying to get at questions of gender construction – what is gender, how we define it, how we “make sense” of the gender of trans people as feminists who only defined gender as a system of oppression. Like many feminists of my era, my reluctance toward femininity comes from a suspicion that women are raised to be feminine because it makes us less powerful, easier to ignore, easier not to hire or promote. It makes us happier to be at home with children instead of in the workplace.

But for trans women, femininity can mean life. Survival. Acceptance. Their version of gendered oppression – and mind you, they’re already also dealing with sexism – means that the one thing the world has told them is that femininity is not theirs to have and that femininity will keep them alive.

It’s not really that complicated, and it’s not a theoretical point. Women, trans women, women of color – there may be variations on the ways we’re told to be, but the fact is that we are told to be a certain way, and the punishment for not being that way is death.

Say Their Names.

  1. Shade Schuler.
  2. Papi Edwards.
  3. Lamia Beard.
  4. Ty Underwood.
  5. Yasmine Payne.
  6. Taja Gabrielle de Jesus.
  7. Penny Proud.
  8. Kristina Gomez Reinwald.
  9. London Chanel.
  10. Mercedes Williamson.
  11. India Clarke.
  12. K.C. Haggard.
  13. Amber Monroe.
  14. Kandis Capri.
  15. Ashton O’Hara
  16. Elisha Walker

This is not a theoretical argument about gender. This is not about Caitlyn Jenner. This is not about femininity. This is about life, and about these terrific losses.

My heart is so broken all the time and I look up and see the arguments and lateral violence and theoretical discussions and I don’t know what more to say but SHUT THE FUCK UP and notice. Please, folks. Stop busying yourself with the ideas and find real-world ways to stop the violence.

Guest Author: Darya Teesewell, “Hollywood Takes Care of its Own,” Unless You are Trans

In response to my HuffPo post, we have our first crosspost, by my friend Darya:

A young trans friend of mine in the Hollywood film industry, a union member, spoke to me recently about a conversation she had when she asked an individual representing the Motion Picture Industry Health Plan about health care for herself. She began with the most basic question; will they pay for hormones? The answer was a flat and simple no.

Page 63 of the Active MPI health plan states that “gender change” is excluded from coverage. Some of us would argue that we aren’t “changing” so much as “restoring” genders, but let that be, for now. On her own, my friend found that that there was another plan available to union members, an HMO, that did indeed cover all aspects of trans health care including Gender Reconfirming Surgery with an excellent provider in Arizona.

Even then, she found she had problems with representatives of the provider depending on where the offices were located. The Hollywood/Los Angeles office was helpful and knowledgeable, while other offices seemed perplexed, as if she were requesting something no one had ever heard of before.

If you are a trans person seeking health care, you are no stranger to this. In spite of a groundbreaking state law in California that prohibits insurers from excluding trans-related care from health plans, many insurers still push back against providing it, subtly, or not-so-subtly.

Continue Reading

HuffPo, & An Invitation

I’m pretty sure most people don’t realize this, but HuffPo doesn’t pay writers. Like EVER, like any of them. People who write for HuffPo do reserve their rights, however.

And because I’m a professional writer who believes writers should get paid, because we’re professionals like everyone else, I don’t like to read things there.

They are, however, pretty willing to publish some good trans stuff. So here’s an offer for those of you who publish there: let me crosspost your work so that a bunch of people who won’t read, click on, or link to HuffPo articles can still read you. They’ll still make all the ad dollars from whoever clicks on their version, & I won’t make a dime.

Just send me your text & voila, I’ll put it up here.

Bernie Sanders Shows Us How It’s Done

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

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

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

More tomorrow on misplaced outrage and purity politics.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Signed Copies

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

Pick the book:

Short & Sweet

Maybe I’ve been doing this too long, but in preparing to do a presentation for a local organization this week, all I keep thinking is that I want to walk in and say “trans women are women, trans men are men, and some people are neither or both. Don’t worry about their genitals, their socialization, or anything except whatever services you’re providing for them. Ask everyone what name & pronoun they prefer for themselves, and then use them.”

</end Trans 101>

& Obviously, I know it’s not that simple, but it really kind of is, isn’t it?

#mileofmusic 3 Starts Today

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the always awesome Ignacio Rivera with a few reasons why it’s important, and I’ll add myself that having published some scholarship on trans issues, the last survey provided much needed data and continues to be cited in necessary ways.

CiCi on Crossdressing and Owning It

People ask me why I love crossdressers. Here’s one reason:

What a beautiful short piece on the community, the nature of confidence, and all with a history and knowledge of how it used to be and how what trans people are doing no more than, and no less than, what everyone is trying to do.

Really gorgeous.

Same Difference: Docu About Black Masculinity

Stud, butch, AG, masculine of center – these are some of the terms people use to talk about their identities in this documentary by Nnekah Onuorah that I have to find a way to see. Short of that, this article by Carolyn Wysinger over at the always-amazing Autostraddle covers a lot of the terrain:

When I left the theater the very first thing that I did was hop on Facebook to proclaim The Same Difference as the best film about black butchness that I had ever seen and I’ve seen all of them — all two of them. There has literally been only two films that give audiences the opportunities to view images of black studs/butches/AG’s/doms and talk about their experiences. The Same Difference approaches the subject in a bit of a different way. The film wasn’t initially conceived as a film about black butches. Nneka’s original concept was to simply start conversations about gender and stereotypes. She went into it openly inviting women of different ages and ethnicities to panel discussions about some of the “rules” presented. The film ultimately found its own way landing on black butchness. For a black masculine of center woman such as myself it felt perfect because it is very rare that we are represented in any form of media deconstructing gender outside of juxtaposing femmes. The goal was to allow those with different opinions about gender and stereotypes to have discussions and get to the root of these stereotypes.

There is so little visibility for masculine of center folks, much less so for those who are black. The Aggressives, which came out in 2005 by director Daniel Peddle was criticized because it was made by someone outside of this community – even if it was one of the very first documentaries that gave voice and visibility to AGs.

Bottom Surgery

I know it’s not something we like to talk about as a community, but I thought this piece about deciding whether or not to have genital surgery was useful. I’d put the “it’s personal” section a lot higher on the list, but the article does point out that what was once a requirement is starting not to be in a (very) few countries, in order to change gender markers on US passports, etc.

Because it is so deeply personal, this decision should be up to the individual, not health insurance companies, not gatekeepers, not governments. There are so many people who are unable to afford surgery that there’s really not much “choice” involved – finances dictate. But even if surgery were readily accessible and affordable, it should never feel like or be a requirement for anyone.

“Peak Sex Shaming” & the AM Hack

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

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

But at least Dan Savage has something good to say:

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

Mary Elizabeth Williams is making sense here, too:

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

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

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

Traveling While Trans: Help Meagan Taylor

Meagan Taylor is from St. Louis and was traveling in Des Moines when hotel employees called the police on her and a friend who were sharing a room.

They arrested her because her legal name doesn’t match the one she gave them and because she was carrying her prescription in an unmarked container. (Wait, is that a crime now?!)

She’s being kept in solitary because transphobia. Don’t get me started on how they performed the pat-down.

Funds are being raised to make sure she can post bail and for ongoing legal issues this arrest will cause. A protest has already happened and pressure will be kept up to get the hotel to issue an apology and a refund.

My Online Group for Partners

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


It’s open to all kinds of partners: wives of crossdressers, partners of people considering transition, partners of people who have transitioned, those who just found out, those who have known for years, those who fall anywhere on the line of being more or less accepting. Often people come on and read through past bios of other partners and start up one-on-one correspondences, but we have a lot of conversations as a group, too, that may be useful to new people. We talk about sex and anger and depression and all the related stuff being experienced by us and by our trans beloveds.

You will, if you join, send in a short bio about yourself and your situation.

EEOC Ruling

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

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

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

NCTE adds:

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

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

To the Wife Who Just Found Out

I read this piece in the LA Times by the ex wife of a transitioned trans woman yesterday – and read all of the amazing commentary about it on my Facebook page by trans people and trans partners – and woke up this morning and started writing this long overdue letter to the wife who just found out.

It starts like this:

To the wife who has just learned her partner is transgender,

I don’t know you. I get emails from women like you all the time, though, and I’m never quite sure what to say to you. I wish I didn’t need to work so that I could hop a flight every single time one of you contacts me and find somewhere to talk and cry and drink and curse for a night into the wee hours. I don’t think there is any substitute for being able to talk long and hard with someone else who has been where you’ve been. I didn’t have anyone like that myself, which is one of the many reasons I started doing this work. You’re alone, and you’re scared, and there’s so little information, and no one, but no one, in your life, has any way of understanding what is about to happen. Sometimes others can make it worse, and sometimes they provide enough support – which is amazing especially when they don’t understand – to get you through the hour, the day, the week.

Some days that’s what it feels like – that that’s all you can manage, like recovering alchoholics do – one day at a time.

The funny thing about it is that I know you’re fine otherwise. You’re taking the kids where they need to go and visiting with neighbors and going out with your friends and taking in a movie with your trans spouse, maybe. You’re trying new recipes and getting your butt to yoga and doing all of the things you normally do. But that sense of isolation is there, and it keeps growing. That sense that you don’t know what you want to do, or what you should do, and whether those two choices have anything to do with each other.

You know you need to stand up for yourself and your needs. And you know you want to, and do, love your spouse and be supportive and awesome.

The problem is that those two choices don’t often feel like they can exist together.

There’s a few more pages and I hope I know where I’m going, but you know, books are always out to surprise you, especially the ones you write yourself.

About “Transgendered”: Some History & Grammar

I wrote this short piece about the term “transgendered” and because Jenny Boylan and I had discussed it in the past, asked her to add her own thoughts. So my piece, then her postscript, and it’s crossposted on JFB’s blog.

by Helen Boyd:

I’m well aware that the term “transgendered” is objected to by some for a variety of reasons. Most of us who did use it once upon a time have dropped it; Jenny Boylan, for instance, changed all of the instances of “transgendered” in her 10th anniversary edition of She’s Not There to “transgender” instead. I haven’t used it on my blog or in my writing for years.

But here’s the thing: interpreting any use of it as some kind of bad faith politics is also a mistake, because it was an acceptable form for many years. The reason some of us chose it – and again, I’ll cite Boylan and me, along with theorists like McKenna and Kessler – was for grammatical reasons.

Adding an “ed” to a verb is a common way to come up with a past participle in English, and past participles then function as adjectives. If you ice your tea, for instance, afterwards you’ve iced your tea, and so wound up with “iced tea”. It’s not complicated. You can do it with a lot of verbs – different verbs become adjectives/past participles in different ways – when you break a toy, it becomes a broken toy, because broke is, for whatever reasons, the past tense of “break”.

Some of these uses have become problematic, but the one I see cited most is “colored” of course, which was used to talk about African Americans and others marginalized by the color of their skin. It’s no longer acceptable because it implied that white people, for instance, have no color – but of course we do. That said, there are neutral ways you can use colored: you could, of course, color a picture in a coloring book, and so wind up with a colored picture.

It was the same idea. Gender is a verb. You can gender an infant (“It’s a girl!”) or degender a pronoun (“My pronoun is “they” because I identify as genderqueer.”) The logic then was that you could transgender something; you can find it used as a verb (“transgendering”) in the work of McKenna & Kessler, who did some of the first, best work on degendering and on trans issues – work that influences the likes of Kate Bornstein, for instance. And while it strikes an odd note now, for the people who were first writing about these issues, no one knew what the grammar was; we were making it up as we went along. So, if “gender” could be a verb, and made into a past participle (“Most children are gendered by others when they’re born”) and so into an adjective: transgendered.

That’s all. It was a grammatical choice. It was neutral. That it’s now seen as implying more than that – the same way colored came to – is how this community has chosen to interpret it. As I said before, most of us who did use it don’t anymore because of the way its interpretation changed. “Transgendering” in McKenna & Kessler struck me as odd, too, when I first read them, but there is no doubt their work is trans affirming and trans inclusive.

So, if you would, don’t automatically judge the author of a work that uses this term. It has fallen out of fashion but it’s still in an awful lot of literature by people who were (1) trans themselves, and (2) trans positive. When people use it now it’s often because they’ve seen it elsewhere; it takes time for bad usages to work their way out of the lexicon, just as it takes a long time for some words to work their way in.

Postscript by Jennifer Finney Boylan:

I agreed to write a few words on this topic for my old friend Helen Boyd, whom I would also like to say, has been doing work to support the loved ones of trans people longer than anyone else I know about. Our books— her “My Husband Betty,” and my “She’s Not There” were published within a few months of each other in 2003, and since then as authors we have kind of been like a pair of babies born in the same hospital. It has been an honor to me to share a bookshelf with her for these many years.

Neither of us, I think, could have predicted how much progress would have been made on behalf of trans people (and their loved ones) when we first started writing our books. It has been amazing and heartening, and I am sure that, while downplaying our own individual roles in this movement, we would both still agree that one of the galvanizing forces in this progress has been the courage of individuals who stepped forward and told their stories, at a time when there was no public language for talking about trans issues.

I used “transgendered” back in the day because because—as Helen notes, “gender” is a verb, unlike “gay” for instance. (A bicycle, for instance, is gendered; but a bicycle cannot be “gayed,” at least not unless you start singing it show tunes.) Plus, it’s the word my own therapist used; I did not know when I began that I could challenge the discourse. I was very polite back then.

I did begin to hear about trans peoples’ restlessness with the term within a few years after my own book (which I abbreviate as SNoT) was published. I pushed back for a while against the criticism (being a professor of English), but finally came to accept that “transgender” or “trans” really had become the acceptable parlance by the middle of the last decade. I did indeed change the words in the 10th anniversary edition of SNoT, even when many other things about that book that I wish I’d said differently remained unaltered.

In thinking about language, and the way it morphs, I sometimes think about the new landscaping that was put in at the school where I used to teach. They put the new lawn in after a period of construction, but didn’t put the paths in until the following year. The reason? The architects wanted to see where people would walk, before they made the sidewalks. And so, after a year of seeing the natural paths formed by the shoes of people using the space, the paths were put in along those lines. I think language is like this too— it can take a while to figure out where the paths go, especially when we are finding a new route across uncharted territory.

I’d also note that no one is harder on the trans community than the trans community itself. We are relentless in our desire to tell others that They Are Doing It Wrong; that being trans is not That but This; that living in our world demands constant vigilance and apology and fury. As someone involved in this work for fifteen years now, I understand the urgency of being seen (and spoken of) in the terms which we define. But I also feel that we would all benefit from a little more love, starting with the love we might show each other. There is no one right way of being trans, and there is no one right path to tread. This is true not only in our language, but in our hearts as well— the place where that language finds its source.

In the new prologue to SNoT, I also recalled the story of the author James Thurber, who was told at a party in Paris how much funnier his stories were in French than English. “Yes, I know,” said Thurber. “They do tend to lose something in the original.”

Help Holly Woodlawn

Holly came from Miami, F.L.A.hitchhiked her way across the U.S.A.

Plucked her eyebrows on the way.

Shaved her legs and then he was a she.

She says, ‘Hey, babe, take a walk on the wild side.’

– Lou Reed, “Walk on the Wild Side”


She’s fighting for her life in a hospital in LA and none other than Penny Arcade started a crowdfunding effort to allow Woodlawn to return home to die.

It achieved its goal of $50k already, but in case you want to be able to tell this trans elder she’s loved, this is your chance.

John Oliver Explains Trans