Gender Diversity Talk (by me)

It starts about 10 minutes in.

Working Women

This is my grandma. She was a janitor for a building in midtown, a proud 32 B/J union member, a single mom, and a survivor of domestic violence. The only day she called in sick to work was the day my sister Kathy graduated from NYU because she was the first in our family to do so.

My mother worked as a bank teller, as a cashier, in my sister’s bakery, all while raising 6 children and a grandchild. I don’t remember her ever sitting down when I was a child.

My eldest sister was the first professional woman I knew. She used to come home and hang her dry cleaning in the front hall, and those clothes always seemed to me like a passport out of the shitty part-time jobs the women in my family often had. She has supported nearly every single member of my family financially at one time or another.

My second sister owned her own bakery – working there was my part time job through high school and into college – and went on to get numerous degrees and just returned, at 53, to law school. She raised three kids solo, and now she specializes in disability rights.

My first jobs were babysitting, a newspaper route – I was one of only two girls who delivered papers, a baker’s assistant, a video store clerk, a writing tutor, a canvasser for environmental/consumer legislation, an admin, and now, an educator.

We have never been paid a dollar for a dollar’s work. 

To the working class women in my family, and in my world: thank you.

 

 

 

Dandara dos Santos, Or, Why I Don’t Quit

A former student expressed some fatigue and frustration on FB today while they were once again explaining how binary gender is a social construction. I said: try doing it for another 25 years.

It’s two decades nearly doing trans work for me, but almost 30 as a feminist.

Around the same time, a video of a trans woman (TW, please don’t watch it but do read the story) being savagely beaten while her attackers laughed was also making the rounds.

Dandara dos Santos was dragged from her home and dumped in a wheelbarrow before being rolled to a back alley and beaten to death amid cheers and laughter.”

And that’s why. I don’t know how anyone can read that sentence and ever, ever stop trying to educate people. It’s the least I can do.

Rest in peace, Dandara dos Santos. May your attackers rot in jail, may your family find peace, and may whatever divinity you believed in welcome you home.

Int’l Women’s Day Teach In at Lawrence

Just as with February 17th, when a National Strike was called, tomorrow is the Day Without A Woman. A few of my colleagues and I agreed that education is more in our wheelhouse, so we created a day-long Teach In that includes members of our community, faculty, students, and staff doing presentations on various aspects of women’s political issues.

 

So pleased. If you’re in the Appleton area, this event is open to the public.

Parents of Trans Kids

(I’m looking for the artist’s name. Haven’t found it yet. If anyone out there tracks this person down, please let me know.)

update 2PM: Here are the original designs, all being used to raise funds in the UK for trans youth orgs.

WI State Detransitioning Trans Employees

Imagine, married folks, how it would feel if you got a cheery email from your university or from the state you live in telling you that due to some clerical reorganization, you and your spouse, and all married people in the state, had been re-set in their files to SINGLE and that, in order to be reclassified again as married, you had to provide documentation of your marriage as well as scientific evidence, say DNA, to prove you aren’t related.

IMAGINE.

That’s exactly what the state of Wisconsin is currently doing to trans state employees: reverting their gender markers to the gender they were assigned at birth and asking for “additional documentation” to change the gender marker back.

Cary Gabriel Costello, who works at UW Milwaukee, just got that email. You can read Costello’s description of this event on his blog TransFusion.

This is happening to people who have ALREADY transitioned, who have legally been their gender for years, and who had been entirely accepted as that gender legally, professionally, and medically. ETF is requiring them to do three things:

1 – The employee must notify ETF (Employee Trust Fund, the state’s administrative board) directly, providing their old and new names, old and new gender markers, ETF ID number, and a declaration that they are gender transitioning. (Previously, employees notified HR at their place of employment, and employer HR staff changed the gender marker directly in the benefits system. But now ETF will centralize control over implementing transitions, and maintain a database of gender transitioners. In essence, we are being required to register with the state.)

2 – Trans people are required to provide “proof of identity,” such as a driver’s license or military ID showing the new name and gender marker. (This is the easiest one for people who have already transitioned.)

3 – Trans people must produce “proof of gender.” These options include (a) a correctly gendered passport, (b) a court order – often requiring proof of genital surgery, such as in WI, or (c) a birth certificate which is correctly gendered.

THIS IS NUTS, folks. It’s creepy, it’s the worst governmental intrusion, and it’s turning the clock back on trans rights and identity a decade.

Please stay informed. As I know more, you will too.

Crossdressers on NPR

It’s so rare to see a good story about crossdresser culture these days, but Veronica Vera, as ever, leads the way in this story from NPR.

I love that there’s a wife interviewed as well:

In fact, Pat came to Miss Vera’s Finishing School with the support of his wife of 15 years. She asked that we refer to her by her middle name, Leigh — because she too is concerned about potential scorn. Leigh says she sees how becoming Bianca lifts the weight of the world off her husband’s shoulders.

“It’s definitely a stress release for him,” she says. “It definitely helps him have more balance in his life. And all of that is good. It’s good for me as his wife. It’s good for my children.”

Leigh says she’s more concerned about her husband being judged than being judged herself.

She uses her middle name – which is precisely how I became Helen back in the day.

This Is Compassion: Hansen Unplugged

What a remarkable thing: compassion without understanding, without needing an explanation, without fear. Just one man, looking at the situation, and trying to see this young man for who he is while also seeing how unfair it is for the young women he was forced to compete against.

But the way it ends is so simply put, so kind:

But Mack Beggs is not the problem so many people make him out to be. He’s a child simply looking for his place in the world, and a chance to compete in the world.

Do we really not have the simple decency to allow him at least that? Because it seems to me it’s the very least we can do.

Here’s the full transcript:

I would have thought in 2017 – or maybe I just hoped in 2017 – we would be done arguing about birth certificates… but obviously we’re not.

Seventeen-year old Mack Beggs, a junior at Euless Trinity who was born a girl and is now in the process of becoming a boy, wins the girls’ state wrestling tournament Saturday. So the argument has started again.

Mack wanted to wrestle against the boys. The UIL says he had to wrestle the girls. And that’s not fair for anybody involved in this argument.

Mack has been taking testosterone and it shows. There’s a reason we have rules in sports against steroids, and it was an incredibly unfair advantage for him. It was also unfair to the girls who had to wrestle him.

The question is, “When does a girl become a boy, and when does a boy become a girl?” or “When can you play games against those you identify with and not what a piece of paper says you are?”

That answer is way above my pay grade. But someone has to find a better answer than what we’re being given now.

As I said when I wrote about Missouri football player Michael Sam, I’m not always comfortable when a man tells me he’s gay. I don’t understand his world. But I do understand he’s a part of mine. And I am saying the same thing now about Mack Beggs.

Transitioning is a struggle I cannot imagine. It is a journey I could not make… and it is a life that too many cannot live.

The problems that Mack Beggs is facing and dealing with now remind me again that I don’t have any problems. He needs our support, and he does not need a group of old men in Austin telling him who to wrestle because of a genetic mix-up at birth.

We have argued long enough about birth certificates. It’s an argument that needs to end. You don’t have to understand – I myself don’t understand. But Mack Beggs is not the problem so many people make him out to be. He’s a child simply looking for his place in the world, and a chance to compete in the world.

Do we really not have the simple decency to allow him at least that? Because it seems to me it’s the very least we can do.

More of this.

Hold Tight

I am not sure straight folks even know how often we do this when we don’t feel safe.

Amicus Brief

A remarkable document, signed by 101 trans individuals – some celebrities (Jen Richards, Laverne Cox, Zachary Drucker, the Wachowski sisters), activists (Beck Bailey, Diego Sanchez, Jamison Green), professors (Ben Barres, Jenny Boylan, Paisley Currah), and lawyers (Zoe Dolan, Mik Kincaid, Jillian Weiss) – was filed today in favor of trans use of bathrooms re: Gavin Grimm’s SCOTUS case.

SUMMARY OF ARGUMENT
Bathroom restrictions are proxy battles for who is considered fully human. If you can’t use a public facility safely, how can you be an active member of the community? How can you be a citizen if the message of your own government is that you don’t belong? And what are you without community or citizenship? – Ms. Jen Richards, 40, Writer, Actress and Producer

Amici respectfully submit that the decision of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals should be affirmed for the reasons set forth in the Brief for Respondent. Amici further submit this brief to highlight for the Court the perspectives and experiences of transgender individuals who are vulnerable to the pernicious effects of Petitioner’s proposed interpretation of Title IX. Amici offer their personal stories to illustrate that they, like other Americans, strive to contribute to their communities, raise healthy, loving families and succeed professionally. Amici also detail the support that they have received from their families, friends, schools and employers, which has helped them to achieve their full potential. Amici believe that their ability to contribute to society and lead lives of “equal dignity in the eyes of the law,” Obergefell v. Hodges, 135 S. Ct. 2584, 2608 (2015), would be upended by Petitioner’s interpretation of Title IX, which would humiliate and discriminate against them on the basis of sex.

It’s a remarkable document, worth reading in full.

When We Rise #whenwerise

You really should be watching this series.

It’s not perfect, but it’s really, really good, and gets at some of the ways life was.

You can watch the first two episodes online, and catch the third and fourth tonight and tomorrow.

It’s really what we all need right now: to see what resistance looks like, what it had to look like, and how people brought their best fight, their best selves, and found alliance even within communities that had a great deal to argue about amongst themselves. But moreso: things were just starting to really improve just at the moment when the horror that was the AIDS crisis hit. Sound familiar? It should. We’re living through a similar historic moment right now.

Sit to Stand Up: TX’s SB6

This is pretty cool.

Trans Guidance Ruling: Actual Facts

While doing a short talk on 21st Century gender today, I felt I had to say something about the news that the WH will not be supporting trans students’ bathroom use.

Here’s a few things we know:

All of which, added up, means that this tiny, marginalized, misunderstood minority of trans people need safe access to bathrooms, that they need bathrooms to get an education, that there is little risk to cisgender students when trans students use the bathroom, and that this whole idea that this is about preventing violence against women or children is completely fucking ridiculous, unfounded, and frankly, insulting to every woman and every feminist and every survivor (including the male ones) of sexual violence in this goddamned country.

Here’s NCTE’s FAQ on what the withdrawal of guidance means.

Love to all the trans people out there. I’m with you.

Donate.

PayPal now has a cool option to create a donate link, so I did:

https://www.paypal.me/helenboydbooks

Recently I surprised a friend who was under the (incorrect) assumption that professors make a lot of money. They don’t. I’m not working for a non-profit, so I don’t get paid that way either. And while I’m happy that I get to do a lot of events of various kinds, even educators need to pay their bills.

So if you like what I do, consider donating.

Here’s a short list of what I do on the regular:

And here’s an idea of what I do in the space of a month:

  • Talkback for tonight’s performance of Hydrogen Jukebox at Lawrence.
  • Next Friday a cultural competency lecture on gender diversity, also at Lawrence
  • Next Saturday a workshop on trans advocacy for trans families at the WI LGBTQ Summit
  • I’ll be around to answer questions at an ‘I Am Jazz’ reading at the Appleton Public Library
  • A few weeks later, I’ll do the keynote for a fundraiser for Rainbow Over Wisconsin.

Obviously when I do talk for organizations and companies, they pay me, but when I work for LGBTQ events, educational resources, or trans specific orgs, I don’t charge.

 

To You

To all you beauties out there, you courageous resisters, you brick in hand angry queerios, you who are frightened but putting your boots on anyway, and for all of you, too, who are scared to death or who can’t stop crying and who are pretty sure you really can’t do this:

Remember your body. It’s going to be fucking with you. Every little fault line you’ve got, every weakness, whether it’s a lousy appetite or bad sinuses or a serious chronic condition. Your body is going to be yelling at you. Just remember your body feels all of the feels for you. None of us us are getting very good sleep, food has gone bland, and nothing is funny. It’s okay. It’s a hard time.

However you do it, take care of your beautiful selves. You can take it. I promise you can. We’re all going to feel physically bad because we are worrying about a lot. Engage your brain when that feels better. Indulge your body when that does. Honestly, I find myself shouting with tears in my eyes. There will be no consistency of emotion, no way to process, everything is coming at us too fast. That’s intentional on their part, but we’re complicated the way all beautiful things are: you can be furious and terrified at the same time, broken by the gorgeousness of a sunset and full of rage simultaneously.

If there is anything we can do, it’s feel deeply. That’s where our politics come from. Drink deeply. Love deeply. Allow this historical moment to find how intense your emotions can be, to find where that stark skeletal core of you is.

You are made of the sternest stuff, I promise. Keep on. Almost everyone around you feels the same way right now, unaware of what you might say, scared you might start crying while you’re laughing, unable to take even the slightest reprimand or even teasing from a friend but also desperate for it. You want to hug everyone even when you want to be alone, under the covers, with the vice of your choice. Take that time when you need it too. Eat all the motherfucking chocolate. Buy the good vibrator (but don’t be surprised, either, if your libido is on overdrive or dead in the water, or, on alternating days, both.)

We can do this. It’s okay to be scared when you’re sad, okay to be angry when you’re confused, okay to be tired every single minute of the day.For my fellow punk rockers out there: this is our time. We know how to do this. Live on rage, keep it moving forward, invent anything you need. DIY and fuck the lot of them. We got this.

Fight for the person next to you who maybe isn’t as strong or just isn’t up to it right now. They’ll do the same for you. Love to you all.

Not On Our Watch

Apparently the news is reporting there were 250 people at an event I helped organize tonight, on the spur of the moment, in freezing cold weather, with absolutely no list of speakers or musical acts or anything.

For those who don’t know, I decided to do this while I was stuck in Detroit waiting for my flight here, having just been in NYC where everyone is worried; it is a city of immigrants, after all. After seeing so many other rallies planned for today, at SFO, SeaTac, JFK, Dulles, O’Hare, etc., I posted that I’d host a vigil at 7 on the LU chapel steps. I really assumed about 5 people would show up who happened to see it. I managed to message someone at the local paper about it and tagged a few people on my post who I thought might be interested.

But while I was on the plane — first stuck on the tarmac being de-iced and then flying — my colleague Jason created an event on FB and started inviting people. When I got home (finally!) at 6PM, folks had spread the invite far & wide – 1k people were invited! – and so many showed up. Again, I had no plan, except that Jason & I would speak & give out some info, & honestly, everyone else did the rest: folks made signs and brought enough candles to go around. Anyone I saw who I knew had spoken in public before I tapped to talk, and I otherwise opened the floor to anyone who wanted to speak or sing.

Chants started. “This Land Is Your Land” was sung. So was “If I Had a Hammer”. So were a few other songs I don’t know the names of. A local musician, a minister, LU students, a green bay teacher, employees of a local refugee relief org, a recent immigrant, a student here on a visa – all volunteered to speak. People read poetry. One student read a poem she’d written about her mom.

I’m flabbergasted and encouraged and grateful to live in this community that so spontaneously responded to what was just a need on my part, a need to stand up, in public, and say NO to this illegal and shitty treatment of people but to say NO too to an abuse of the ethics and founding idea of this country: that we are all immigrants, children of immigrants, grandkids of immigrants, and that yes, IMMIGRANTS GET THE JOB DONE.

Thank you so much, all of you, for not complaining about the chaos but by using your voices to make this what it was supposed to be: a public outpouring and coming together for all of us here who just needed to say NOT ON MY WATCH.

Love to you all tonight.
Stay tuned. This is only the beginning.

Not a Temper Tantrum

 

Yesterday, I saw that a relative of mine had posted this just as I was putting my photos of the Madison rally up. I was full of love and confidence and strength, so seeing this was like a punch in the gut. So I wrote this person a letter. 

I saw your post today when I got back from the Madison march and it was like a punch to the gut. Because you’re family, and because I think you are both people who believe in love and kindness and charity, I really want to explain, if I can, what this was all about.

To me, yesterday was such a thing of beauty, and it makes me sad that you live in such a way that you can’t see it or feel it. It was like the very best church, the best picnic, the best party, all rolled into one.

I’m not sure I can ever relate how scary it’s been if you don’t feel that too. But for us, Trump is at best a bully, the kind you might have had to deal with yourselves in school and the kind you’d never want your kids to have to deal with. The stuff he’s said, the way he made fun of that reporter: I think it brought a lot of us back to a person or a time in our lives when we were made to feel afraid for being who we were. Maybe we knew what other people were making fun of. Maybe we didn’t even understand why we were being targeted. But we know the feeling of being afraid and alone in the face of a violent, mean bully, and we know how it feels to shake while you try to stand up for yourself.

And yesterday was a day when all of our friends showed up in that abandoned hallway where we’d been cornered, a day when that one kind teacher you could count on sent the bully away.

We know he’s not going anywhere. We know the bully is in charge now. We know a lot of us are going to get hurt, feel scared, and have our lunch money stolen.

In a sense, that’s all it was: just a brief pause to remind ourselves that eventually, enough of the kids who have been bullied do band together and punch back.

I’m glad if you’ve never needed that.

I’m glad for you if you’ve never experienced that.

I’m glad if it’s something none of your kids has ever faced.

I’m not going to get into the politics but I am going to say one thing: in everything I’ve been reading it seems obvious that we are all getting different information, that fake news sources are out there confirming the most extreme of what we all believe. But my request is this: don’t just laugh at us. Don’t just mock our fear and our anger. Find out what it is. Find out why we’re scared, who stands to lose rights, who is worried about their health insurance, whose marriage may be at risk, whose bodies, whose choices. We are not scared of nothing: queer folks, black folks, disabled folks, trans folks, immigrants – we face fear all the time. This is scarier than usual.

And while I’m sure, at some basic level, the differences between us are about the differences in politics – Republicans believe charity should be a private affair, and Dems feel that a government’s job is to provide care for the least able of us – I’m not sure I understand why or how anyone could laugh at a basic American right to protest, to gather, to remind ourselves that “we the people” doesn’t mean only those of us who can work or marry or bear children, doesn’t mean only the white, the straight, and the able-bodied, but all of us.

This is written in kindness, and with a hope that I might slow down your frustration and mockery of what yesterday was. I wish you could have been there. I wish you could have felt the love and the trust and the incredible feeling of community. It was amazing.

Don’t be the dwarves in The Last Battle. Come join the rest of us in Narnia. Onwards and Upwards.

Love, me

#resist

I will be marching in Madison tomorrow.

I will be marching for the black women who raised me as a feminist. For the trans men and women with pussies and without. I will be marching for the interracial couples and families I love, for my friends in wheelchairs, for students with mental health issues. I will be marching for anyone who needs the ACA to stay alive and healthy. I will be marching for all of my LGBTQ+ family here and abroad.

I will be marching for the American heroes who have gone before me: Ida Wells and Eugene Debs, Malcolm X and Philip Randolph.

I will be marching for the trans men and women who lose their lives every year, for the Jewish Community Centers that have been dealing with bomb threats for weeks now, for the Muslim Centers who have received hate mail, for the NEH, the NEA, CPB, and the Office of Violence Against Women.

I will be marching because I can. I will march with Whitman’s barbaric yawp in my lungs.

#resist

Song of Myself, LII – Walt Whitman

The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me, he complains of my gab and my loitering.

I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.

The last scud of day holds back for me,
It flings my likeness after the rest and true as any on the shadow’d wilds,
It coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk.

I depart as air, I shake my white locks at the runaway sun,
I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.

Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.

WI LGBTQ Summit: 2/25 in Milwaukee

I’ll be doing a workshop at the Wisconsin LGBTQ Summit in Milwaukee on February 25th. My session description goes like so:

Trans Advocacy for Trans Families
As a non-trans trans advocate, Helen Boyd has been educating trans and non-trans people alike for many years on issues of concern to the trans community. Topics will include: Trans 101 education, political activism, community membership, safe spaces. Special attention will be given to the diversity within the trans community – including partners, parents, and kids of trans people, as well as GNC and non-binary identities.

Helen Boyd is the author of two books about life with a trans partner, My Husband Betty and She’s Not the Man I Married. She’s been writing a blog about gender and trans issues for more than a decade, has spoken at numerous conferences, and currently teaches gender studies at Lawrence University.

Do register in time to reserve your spot. Other workshops include:

  • Violence in the LGBTQ Community
  • Intersectionality of Ethnicity & Gender: Where We Are Now, and Where We Need to Be
  • Queering the Environmental Justice Movement
  • LGBTQ Rights, School, Bullying, Law Enforcement, and You
  • Challenges and Gifts of LGBTQ Seniors
  • The Many Ways of Celebrating LGBTQ Spiritual and Religious Diversity

The Other America

You can’t listen to the few words Joe Biden spoke when he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, with distinction, without realizing what deeply decent people we have had running this country.

At a moment when Moonlight, Fences, and Hidden Figures are in theatres.

At a moment when rights for trans people were really having an effect.

At a moment when the Pipeline protests caught the national attention and once again, Native Americans showed us how to respect our land and ourselves.

At a moment when everything seemed to be going something like right finally, when our national conversation about the prison pipeline and the deep patriotism of the Muslim parents of a fallen war hero reminded us of the worst and the best we can be as a nation — at that very moment, it all fell apart.

It hasn’t yet. The fumes of Obama’s legacy are what we’re running on now. It was only 8 years ago when the high hopes and inspired souls overjoyed so many of us; that we looked at each other with wide-eyed amazement as if to say can you believe we did this? And the rest of the world looked at the US with surprise and respect: we could be still be America. We were.

I don’t know what we’re going to become. That other America, the wretched one, the gilded mean one of bottom lines and wealthy excess, of poorer people making the groceries stretch a little longer, of a nervous middle class, what of it there still is, of people dying from medical conditions they might have survived in a more generous time.

This is going to be hard. We are going to suffer, as will the land, and the critters, and people we know and love and strangers we don’t know but might love if we knew them.

But this eight years that just passed is something for us to hang our hopes on. That other America that we’ve now all seen and experienced at least a little, a period where more people gained rights, not fewer. Where common sense actually counted. Where Black Lives Matter showed us all what the legacy of racism really means. Where some actions, and some words, convinced us all we were in this together.

So I’m going to keep saying it, as Obama did when he gave his farewell address: yes, we can.

And apparently we’re going to damn have to.