Me on Patreon

It’s high time, and in the light of the loss of Ursula Le Guin, I decided to take this little leap off a cliff by starting an account on Patreon. I can’t let my wife have all the fun, can I?

I haven’t set up goals or rewards yet as I’m curious to hear what all of you would want from me. I *do* plan on doing a video and maybe some audio recordings – cause y’all like my voice – but mostly this will be new and different kinds of writing that I don’t do as much of because my blog is so on the trans/gender tip.

Expect pieces more like this and this and this, and maybe some fiction, maybe excerpts from the two novels I have written but never quite finished, and maybe some of a fairy tale I keep kicking around, and maybe anything I’m writing that doesn’t as easily cleave to the HB brand.

Thank you in advance. It means everything to me to have people in my life who want to read what I write and who want to support me while I do.

Ursula K.

Ursula K. Le Guin died yesterday at the age of 88.

I don’t even know how to begin to process this news.

For me, she was more than Bowie or Prince – but no need to compare, either.

In Left Hand she taught us all about relational, relative gender by inventing characters who become sexed  as a result of the person they were with, so the male King of a kingdom had, in a previous relationship, given birth to her own children.

She taught me everything we all already know about trees but have failed to imagine. In Direction of the Road, she writes as an oak tree :

If they wish to see death visibly in the world, that is their business, not mine. I will not act Eternity for them. Let them not turn to the trees for death. If that is what they want to see, let them look into one another’s eyes and see it there.

And in Earthsea she taught us about power and ethics and how to live despite everything.

She taught us what it means to only ever be a ‘bad man’ because we are women; that is, she uses the ‘bad man’ idea to explain that we are all of us people, but some of us are automatically bad at being what we are supposed to be because of gender and its caste.

She also told a senior editor at Harcourt that he’d created an anthology of new writing that was more like a locker room and so didn’t blurb it. 

Her clarity of mind – that bright, steady, lamp of intellect she yielded alternately like a laser or a search light – made so much visible that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

Such a huge loss, such an inspiration, influence, mentor-from-a-distance; she taught me how to hold my head up as a woman who writes and that has been invaluable.

#metoo Read Up

Let me get out of the way that I’m one of those horrid feminists who not only works with men but who works to bring men into feminist movement. In addition to men of course being part of the problem, by act or omission, they also desperately need freeing from gender. We all do.

I’ve been wishing lately, in the midst of all of the articles and op-eds about sexual assault, that women all over the world might just publish the direct messages, chats, conversations in women’s groups, and transcripts of phone calls that have been happening for months now, the ones that start “shit this week has been triggering” and “okay the Ansari story is exactly it” and the like. But we won’t. We shouldn’t have to.

Because it’s all already out there, as Lindy West just pointed out in the NYT. So many things, so many. We have been talking amongst ourselves lately for months but we’ve also been talking about this amongst ourselves for decades (and before that, we were pointedly not discussing it but trying to keep other women away from those men, when we knew them). Women recommend these books to each other all the time and give them to each other as presents sometimes to say #metoo to teach other but also to say #yesallwomen but rarely do we give them to the men in our lives.

I suspect that most of my closest male friends have not read one book that’s explicitly feminist, and I’m what some might call a humorless feminist, so the men I’m close to are generally of the more enlightened variety. But even among them, I suspect there are very few who have read any of the books on that list or any other books by women and about women.

So guys, READ UP, would you? Almost any woman you know would be happy* to recommend one and most would even be happy to discuss it with you, but with one giant caveat:

You Can’t Be a Jerk About It.

Here’s How: (6 Easy Steps! A Listicle! Learn things about women while investing almost no time!)

  1. Read to understand, not to disagree. No looking for the holes in the arguments.
  2. Read it as if you were a woman. That is, try to imagine you were assigned one at birth and raised one or transitioned or whatever version of woman  you can imagine yourself being most easily.
  3. Try to remember that most of the is lit is written by white women and reflects all of the privilege and self-selection that implies.
  4. don’t think about your sister/wife/girlfriend/mother/daughter because your relationship with them is likely already stepped in a fuckton of male privilege you probably don’t recognize. That is, you already think of them as women, which is really the root of the whole damn problem.
  5. Tell a woman who might be willing to talk to you about it that you’re ignorant af but really want to understand how you could have grown up in a culture where you failed to notice that more than half the population is scared to say no, or hi, or to speak to men they don’t know or to men they do know except when they’re drunk or angry or men they thought they knew and trusted only to find out how wrong they were.
  6. Also, don’t discuss it. Highlight things that confuse or perplex you and ask her to explain them. Don’t talk. Listen. Quietly. Without objection.
  7. When you’re done, start over with a new book and maybe with a new woman (dependent on how likely you followed the previous 6 instructions).

This is how you learn things, guys, by learning things. Read books written by women in whatever genre you prefer: it’s all in there, in one form or another, in one book or another.

You might even find a new favorite writer. (Really. I actually like some male writers, no kidding, but only if I can relate to their lives.) (OK, that’s a joke. I like a lot of writers I have absolutely nothing in common with. That’s kind of the whole point of reading, to understand other people’s lives and so live in the world with compassion.)

Start now, please.

*Okay, I’m only kidding. Don’t ask a woman to volunteer for this bullshit. Find one who is willing to work with you and PAY HER to educate your ignorant ass.  

Rest in Power Erica Garner

They knew she would die a few days ago when her brain activity stopped, after being in a coma, after the heart attack brought on by asthma, four months after the birth of her son.

But after, more than anything else, the brutal murder of her father Eric Garner by the NYPD.

His death has been the hardest for me – maybe because NYC, maybe because he was the father of six like my dad was, maybe because there’s a million sweet men selling loosies or cutting some corners at a bodega; they’re the guys who keep NYC running, you know? All of those guys. The ones who let you hang out because you’ve gotten jumpy with some drunk mofo yelling shit at you on the street.

& Just fuck it all that she lost him, and that she lost him like that. No one has to wonder why she poured her heart into activism after that.

What do we do now? How do you respond to such a beautiful, loyal daughter’s call to arms? Maybe we can do something about the high mortality rate of black mothers. Maybe we keep calling for an end to the lawful murder of black people by those who are supposed to serve & protect.

Maybe we do something, dammit, something big and real and full of that heart of hers that felt so much and loved so much and hurt so much it broke.

RIP Ben Barres

Ben Barres was a personal hero of mine. He was the person who convinced me, by words and deeds, that trans people are an important tool in the feminist toolkit, precisely because they have lived aware of gender on both sides of the (binary) fence.

I added an article he wrote for Nature about the lack of diversity in the sciences to the Intro to Gender Studies class I teach at Lawrence. I’m glad to have introduced his work to many, many students over the years, and to have passed on his recommendations for how to be truly inclusive in the sciences.

He was the lead client in TLDEF’s amicus brief in support of Gavin Grimm’s suit, according to TLDEF’s ED Jillian Weiss.

He studied glial cells in a search for a cure – or more understanding – of diseases like Parkinson’s & Alzhimer’s. After being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer – which sadly & famously is a cruel & fast cancer – he made sure anyone who needed one got a letter of recommendation.

Standford’s tribute, and his friend Marc Tessier-Levigne’s tribute, tell you so much more about this brilliant, just man.

I never got to meet him and only admired him from a distance. Love to his family, friends, and colleagues.

Brenda Tracy #settheexpectation

TW: sexual assault, violence

Brenda Tracy is an incredibly gifted, heartfelt speaker who talks to men about the gang rape she experienced. A local group, Voices of Men, invited her to do seven events in NE Wisconsin. My wife Rachel Crowl made this video of her visit.

A huge thanks to the students of MARS, a group I helped create, for organizing her evening at Lawrence. I am regularly happily astonished by how dedicated younger men are to stopping violence against women and wanting to be the kind of men who step into the kinds of men who take women for granted.

Blog Troubles & Redesign

… there have been issues with my blog recently so as you’ll notice, right now it’s in the most stripped down, plain version. My lovely tech goddess, otherwise known as my wife, is working on it.

If there’s anything in particular that I should definitely keep, feel free to let me know in the comments.

Actual Censorship

Liberal snowflakes ask white folks not to use the N word.  Students object to “scholars” who come to campuses to promote white supremacy, transphobia, and homophobia. Trans and GNC people want correct pronouns used for themselves.

And yet, none of this was censorship. Cultural battlegrounds, yes. Not censorship.

As if to provide a history lesson, the CDC has just been given a list of words NOT to use by HHS. They are:

  • vulnerable
  • entitlement
  • diversity
  • transgender
  • fetus
  • evidence-based
  • science-based

It does matter why these were chosen and speaks to the increasing stupidification of US politics and the hateful, anti intellectual, anti science, anti humanitarian impulses of our current WH.

But the point I want to make is this: this is actual censorship. When a government agency “recommends” words to use and not use, when they restrict how reports are written, when any population is singled out to be disappeared via language, you’re dealing with actual censorship.

Just to clarify.

Thank You Black Voters

So Doug Jones won, which is the least of what should have happened, but what didn’t happen is that white folks are still not getting it – not in the way they vote, and not in a lot of reactions on Facebook.

One friend posted a celebration of the black women who made this happen only to be reprimanded by a white man who wanted to celebrate everyone. #alllivesmatter much?

There’s a lot of “thank you, Alabama!” when it was really the black voting population who need to be thanked.

Because this guy wasn’t just racist, he was sexist and abusive and tranphobic and homophobic and didn’t understand or honor the separation of church and state.

We can thank the Dems. We can be thankful to Doug Jones, and for Doug Jones and his commitment to civil rights.

But to me, I can’t help but feel that black voters came out to honor the memory and secure that much more justice for those four little girls.

And for me, to excoriate racist Jeff Sessions, who left this seat empty when he joined the WH.

So yes, it’s a giant win because Dems never win in Alabama, and one did tonight. But really, my fellow white folks, let’s please honor the black people – and especially the black women – who we owe this to. And let’s listen to them a lot more often, and a lot harder, and remind our local and state and national Dems that over and over again black voters get it right and white voters often do not and we need to learn from that. Because the Dems aren’t going to turn this around until we trust black voters and black intellectuals and black pundits and theorists and writers and even, yes, black celebrities.

Because I am just goddamned tired of you ignoring the truth of every damn election in this country.