Triggery (But Funny?)

Posted by – May 28, 2014

I found it kind of stunning, either way. Pretty much the truth of it, as disturbing as it is.

It reminds me of that Margaret Atwood quote that’s circulating a lot- here’s a paraphrase: when men are asked why they’re afraid of women, they say women may laugh at them, but when women are asked why they’re afraid of women, they say men may kill them.

Elliot Rodger

Posted by – May 25, 2014

Elliot Rodger was still a virgin at 22, and he was angry that he was because too often, men’s value is in their ability to “get women”. There are a lot of good articles out already – Slate’s & The Belle Jar‘s & Jess Zimmerman’s in Medium’s Archipelago are standouts – all of which have pointed out that Rodger was not a madman because he didn’t need to be. He only had to be a man, full of entitlement and male privilege – entitled to women’s bodies and to sex. His connections to various groups who persist in thinking that “game” is what convinces women to have sex with men, and that women are only attracted to jerks – never to a “perfect gentleman” as Rodger thought he was – has been well documented, despite those groups and online communities having scrubbed any and all of his posts. I assume they don’t want to be held responsible for failing to recognize someone who wasn’t just blowing off steam but planning to kill.

And what always strikes me about these kinds of complaints is the thing that I had to explain to my wife as she was transitioning: there are men who can yell that they want to do you across a crowded street and it’s a compliment, even if totally inappropriate, and there are others who can shake your hand politely who fill you with caution if not fear.

When I have made this observation (here on my blog and elsewhere), invariably someone who is male – or who used to be – says something about how the real difference is whether or not the man is attractive or handsome or whether the come-on is welcome.

That is not the case.

As Jess Zimmerman points out in parentheses:

“If women‘s mysterious disinterest drives you to consider murdering them, consider that you may be terrifying. Women are smart enough to notice that you’re the kind of guy who’s driven to blood rage by simple rejection.”

And I would add, not only do women pick up on someone who hates them enough to threaten or commit violence; they can, too, pick up on a more subtle and less violent misogyny as well. And that is what I feel is the difference between the men I’ve just mentioned: using “gentlemanly” manners to cover a deeply felt hostility or hatred toward women will not work.

And as someone who has hung out with kinky folks – for whom fulfilling a woman’s fantasy of rape, degradation, or humiliation is not uncommon – I know there are men who respect and adore women enough that even these difficult fantasies do not change their respect for the women they top.

By no means am I saying that only when men respect women enough do they “get” to exert power over them; that is the illusion, not the fact. The fact is that what comes first – what gains a man privilege into a woman’s trust – is their respect and understanding that only once their misogyny is something they have become aware of, worked on, realized and acknowledged does it go away.

It strikes me that this is not unlike racism, or transphobia, or ableism or any of the other kinds of blind hatreds are culture teaches us. And we are all taught them; women in a patriarchy can also be misogynists who do not trust or like or respect other women the same way that even gay men can hate themselves and other gay men because we are all raised in the stink of homophobia.

But the thing about Elliott Rodger is this: so many men who want to date or have sex with or marry women figure it out. They realize they love their moms or their sisters or their daughters and realize the women they are dating or sleeping with or marrying deserve the same respect as the women they know and love. Gay men, on the other hand, especially those who live in a very intense masculine homosocial environments, can express a misogyny that is raw and unchecked. That is, they haven’t had to do the work necessary to realize that women are awesome. Those gay men, I might add, are very, very rare, and getting rarer by the day. The only time their misogyny is still apparent is in the disrespectful, violent attitudes they occasionally express toward trans women, which many, many people have witnessed in these recent uproars about RuPaul and Trannyshack.

What I’m saying, ultimately, is that people – not just women – are wise enough to pick up on someone who hates you for who you are. The white kid who loves rap but who hates black people will never feel welcome by blacks socially. Gay men and lesbians often know when someone who is truly a homophobe is in their midst.

And women, like all of these other groups, know deeply when a man hates them for being women. They may not know it enough to articulate it, but they know it enough to keep their distance.

No amount of chivalry or good manners or “game” will perfume over the stink of that kind of misogyny. In this time when we hear a lot of talk about how accepted gay people are, or how “post racial” we are, or when we hear a gay man talk about how much he really loves trans people but doesn’t want his language policed, we might do well to remember what Elliot Rodger accidentally taught us: that it’s only in owning and dismantling these kinds of systemic, taught, culture-wide hatreds that we free ourselves of them.

Agender Portraits

Posted by – May 23, 2014

Portraits of younger people who don’t identify as any gender, who use terms like “neutrois” to describe themselves. Most seem to use “they” pronouns.

Pretty awesome, and pretty much where I’d be if i were 19 now.

 

Matt Kailey’s Death

Posted by – May 20, 2014

I just got the news from Max Wolf Valerio. Matt Kailey died over the weekend, on Saturday, in his sleep, of a heart attack or heart failure.

I met Matt at few years back when I spoke in Denver and have taught his book Just Add Hormones and regularly read Tranifesto, his blog, especially his Ask Matt series, which were direct answers to questions he’s been asked.

He was such a good guy, so sweet, so caring, and so not into the arguments and infighting and all the rest.

I have to say it’s almost too hard to believe right now, but Matt, we will miss your voice of reason and that kind, kind face of yours.

 

Reporting on Trans Issues

Posted by – May 20, 2014

HRC posted an article about the protection of LGBT youth inspired by the horrific story out of CT in which a trans teenager was jailed and housed with adults and later put in solitary confinement. She had not been charged, and certainly has not been charged with a felony – which is when teenagers are sometimes housed with adults.

But my point is not that story in itself. My point is that HRC posted an article about it in which they wrote: “The details surfaced in an op-ed in the New York Times by Harvey Fierstein this weekend.”

Which I suppose is where HRC first read about it, or maybe they felt free to report on it because it had finally hit a major news outlet. But that’s a factual inaccuracy.

Parker Molloy first reported on this case back in early April. In The Advocate, and not in some tiny anything. And while Fierstein’s writing is effective as ever and makes a powerful argument, laying the blame squarely on all of us who would let a young trans kid suffer the kinds of crimes she did while none of her assailants were ever charged with anything, sometimes it gets a little exhausting that the only person who can get the attention of HRC is someone like Fierstein. (And by that I do not mean a cis gay man. I mean a gay playwright of his status.)

It has been this way for a long time; that is, this is not anything new. I’ve been reporting on trans issues for more than a decade and I am not even a little surprised. But there are times, occasionally, where I feel the need to point out how frustrating it is that trans* is still, for the most part, an afterthought.

Anyway. We should, as a community, care about the feminine gay boys and the trans girls and the tomboys, no matter their identity and no matter which form of “gender variance” they’re expressing. There’s a child who is the person she is, and she’s been treated like shit her whole life, and sometimes, well sometimes, it gets a little frustrating that who says what about it becomes more important than the saying itself.

Happy Retirement Prof. Bacon

Posted by – May 19, 2014

I just wanted to wish Meredith Bacon a happy retirement. She is an awesome lady.

The Faculty Senate president at the University of Nebraska at Omaha completed a third one-year term Wednesday, but not consecutively — and now under a different name from the first two terms.

“Two as Wally,” the out­going president said, “and one as Meredith.”

Meredith Bacon, formerly known as Walter M. Bacon Jr., is believed to be the first transgender person in America elected as a college or university faculty leader.

She not only is stepping away from the leadership position but also is retiring after 38 years as a UNO political science professor.

“Leaving the students, that’s the worst part about retiring,” she said. “But my health is not good enough to be as good a teacher as I need to be.”

(via omaha.com)

Advice to a Wife

Posted by – May 17, 2014

I get a letter every once in a not-too-rare while from a wife who has just found out her husband is going to transition. Sometimes he is already starting to, sometimes he is still deciding and she expects he will, and sometimes he isn’t at all but she is convinced he will – eventually.

And I don’t know what to say, really, to any of them, besides: the loss is huge and it never really goes away, but like with mourning, you feel it less often, if not less acutely.

I tell them it’s not for everyone, that it’s okay if you feel like you have to go, because sometimes going and not being angry and not making the person you love miserable with your anger is the better thing to do.

I tell them about the online support group I still have and run.

But mostly I don’t think any of this advice is useful, except otherwise to say: you’re not crazy for being sad or angry or confused or bewildered or — well, full of despair. And I can and do say, as well, that no, there isn’t much out there for us, and it’s very unlikely you’ll ever meet a therapist who can help much. They’re not prepared for us – not the gender therapists, not trans people, not really anyone.

I wish I could do or say more. I wish there was a checklist.

There isn’t.

If you’re a partner and have some advice or something that someone told you to help you figure out if you could stay or go, I’d love to hear it. Feel free to email me privately with words I can post here, or just go ahead and post it yourself.

#KissIn

Posted by – May 15, 2014

Apparently homophobes are freaked out by the image of Michael Sam kissing his boyfriend when he got the good news, so Michael Signorile started a campaign to make same sex smooching a lot more visible.

So we’re in. We’ve been representing for years & years now, but it’s nice to get to take a part in something bigger.

Cat Hero

Posted by – May 14, 2014

(via Dangerous Minds)

45.

Posted by – May 13, 2014

I’m turning 45 today, as is my wife, and I have a lot to say about the ordeal, but mostly I’m amazed at how much you still don’t know even four decades in. As I said elsewhere: you know enough to know what kind of jerk you are, but not enough to stop being it.

If you’d like to help us celebrate, do feel free to donate $45 to one of our favorite causes:

So have at it. And do listen to some Stevie Wonder, because it’s his birthday too.

 

Prinsesa

Posted by – May 12, 2014

I just had someone point out this book Prinsesa: The Boy Who Dreamed of Being a Princess to me. I don’t know it, haven’t read it, but was wondering if anyone out there has. Here’s the blurb:

After a small earthquake, 6-year old Jojo and his 8-year old sister Malaya are enjoying listening to Daddy’s story about the Singkil princess of the Philippines. The princess was brave and unafraid as she and the prince dance together to find their way around the falling trees of a tremor. But Daddy seems uncomfortable when Jojo says he dreams of being a princess too. How should Daddy respond? In an age of hateful bullying and advances for LGBT and gender nonconforming people, there’s no easy way to understand what these struggles mean unless you put a face to them. What better face is there to look at than that of an innocent child who is full of wonder at the world?” In the end, the story shows that whatever issues children need to deal with, they’ll be okay as long as they have loving and supportive adults in their corner. A portion of the proceeds will be used to fund and distribute the companion short film.

There are so few children’s books about gender variance and diversity so it’s nice to see a new one.

If anyone out there reads it and wants to write a brief review, I’d be happy to post it here.

Gender Troubles Mother’s Day

Posted by – May 11, 2014

Here’s an astonishing little piece about death, queerness, and re-reading Butler‘s Gender Trouble:

“Tell her you forgive her,” she says, “I promise you she will die.”

I hang up and go back into the bedroom. Back to the borscht-feeding. My mother, all 89 pounds of her, is swathed in diapers and is sickly white, her eyes following each spoonful of borscht as it approaches her mouth.

“Mom, I forgive you.” Her eyes track up to my face. “I forgive you, Mom, I forgive you. ” Either I am saying this repeatedly to make sure she hears me and thus dies swiftly or because it feels good to say. I touch her skeletal leg through the pilly blanket.

She kind of whisper-struggle-intonates, “This must be very hard for you,” and I lose it, raining tears into the borscht. “You are a better person than I am,” she says, then falls back into unconsciousness for another week, and dies.

Maybe I am rereading Gender Trouble as an escape from this, from the memory of this. I could be thinking about Gender Trouble so I don’t have to think about how thin her arms were at the end, how our arms have always resembled each other’s. And about how much I want to stick a needle full of testosterone in my ass and balloon into fleshliness to escape any lingering resemblance to this wraith.

But this is not why I reread Gender Trouble.

Really, really beautiful. Do read the whole of it, if not today, then eventually.

The Seatbelt Crew

Posted by – May 7, 2014

(via Storypick)

Subscribe to This Blog

Posted by – May 1, 2014

My last database of email subscriptions is corrupt, so I’m starting again. If you want to subcribe, you should be able to input your email up here on the right side.

The good thing is that this subscription widget is attached to WordPress’ works, not an independent widget, so it should be more reliable.

 

Context, Culture, Community

Posted by – April 30, 2014

Here are two amazing pieces written as a response to the recent uproar about the use of the term “tranny” but also due to the one caused by a series of articles about Leto playing Rayon and the potrayal of trans women in mainstream media.

The first, by Jen Richards, takes an intersectional, intergenerational approach to looking at the conflict that happened between Parker Molloy (whose work I admire) and Calpernia Addams (whose work I have admired for a long time), and about whom Jen Richards writes:

Her story is not an unusual one for trans women, particularly those of us who came of age before the dominance of social media. The clubs I first went to were gay ones, and the lines between fag, queen, tranny and crossdresser were not always apparent, certainly not to anyone on the outside. In those contexts, differences within the group mattered less than the shared safe space.

For Addams and her followers, Molloy’s criticisms of Jared Leto and RuPaul, her fixation on language and general focus on victimhood, is emblematic of a view of trans women that is, if not inaccessible, at least not understandable. Many of these trans women have carved out unique paths through transition, often outside of a community context, and some young straight trans women may not have ever identified as gay men. Others bend gender and sexuality in ways that exist comfortably outside of the binary and heteronormative view that Addams represents.

The second article, by Cristan Williams on TransAdvocate, does a linguistic, historical review of the usage of the term “tranny” that is just – GREAT. It reviews various appearances of the word from 1985 onward, with sources such as Law & Order, a review of Hedwig, to the use by the “Tranny Roadshow” in 2005. It closes with the following questions:

  • What impact does an obviously very popular context of framing the trans experience (tranny) have on social justice movements?
  • When the majority clearly associates “tranny” with the sex industry while the gay and drag community associates the term with performance and partying, will this affect the ability of the GLBT community to communicate well? 

I would ask one more: is it possible for us within the trans community to use this term but simultaneously object to its usage in a mainstream context? It was always “insider” language for me – never a term I used outside of trans contexts – and a term I have since stopped using altogether, precisely because I am not trans.

These two together are really, really good stuff, giving us not just context, but history and a stronger sense of the struggle of a community to come to terms (oh! I said it!) with its own language and diversity.
The one thing I am sure of: these dust-ups hurt the people involved in them. What doesn’t help is name-calling, condescension, and a too-quick willingness to condemn the very people who are trying to move shit forward.

 

White House Issues New Guidelines for Sexual Assault on College Campuses

Posted by – April 29, 2014

Wow is this overdue, but very, very welcome.

“The American people have kind of woken up to the fact that we’ve got a serious problem when 20 percent of coeds say they’ve been sexually assaulted,” said Representative Jackie Speier, Democrat of California.

Lawmakers and the White House have condemned the assaults on campuses, but the federal government has largely left it up to college officials and the local authorities. Congress last year passed the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act, which requires domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking cases be disclosed in annual campus crime statistics. But victims’ advocates say that does not go far enough.

And a federal law from decades ago that requires colleges and universities to disclose information about crime on and around their campuses, including sex offenses, is rarely enforced, critics say . . .

Last year, the agency fined Yale University $165,000 for failing to disclose four sexual offenses involving force over several years. Eastern Michigan University paid $350,000 in 2008 for failing to sound a campus alert after a student was sexually assaulted and murdered. The department also reach a settlement last year with the University of Montana at Missoula after investigating the university’s sexual-misconduct policies and finding them woefully inadequate.

Under the new crackdown, the White House will urge colleges and universities to conduct “climate surveys,”  in which participants  anonymously report their experiences with unwanted physical contact, sexual assault or rape, and how their schools responded. Some lawmakers would like to see such surveys mandatory and to possibly make federal funds like Pell grants contingent on their being carried out . . .

Ms. Speier would like to see the government do more, liked requiring schools to post Title 9 rights and where students should go if raped.

Under the White House plan, the federal government would also help colleges and universities gain a better understanding of their obligations to protect students and their legal rights.

20% of coeds.  That’s disturbing. (Also, can we stop using the term “coed”? It’s anachronistic, at best, at this point, if not just sexist.)

NC Clergy Bring It

Posted by – April 28, 2014

Oh, this is all kinds of awesome.

“The core protection of the First Amendment is that government may not regulate religious beliefs or take sides in religious controversies,” says Jonathan Martel, a partner at Arnold & Porter LLP. “Marriage performed by clergy is a spiritual exercise and expression of faith essential to the values and continuity of the religion that government may regulate only where it has a compelling interest.”

Growing numbers of faith traditions, including those represented among the plaintiffs, bless the marriages of same-sex couples. “As senior minister, I am often asked to perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples in my congregation. My denomination – the United Church of Christ – authorizes me to perform these ceremonies. But Amendment One denies my religious freedom by prohibiting me from exercising this right,” says Rev. Joe Hoffman, Senior Minister of First Congregational United Church of Christ in Asheville and a plaintiff in the case.

Amendment One is, of course, the law barring same sex marriages in NC.

“Farewell ‘Tranny’”

Posted by – April 27, 2014

An old friend of mine, sometimes known as Minerva Steele, wrote a piece on Facebook about his own, queer relationship with the demise of the word “tranny” and the surrounding culture of language policing. I wanted to share it because his opinion is, at this point, one that is not often heard from but one that’s still needed. Often, in any social movement, it is the angriest, most militant voices heard from most often, and, as he said in conversation, voices like his often aren’t heard from “because we don’t care enough to be angry; we already see transpeople as our sisters and brothers and just go on our merry way.” I would add not only that, but there are plenty out there who lived at the edges of subcultures where all of these identities mixed and were valued and respected, even if there were differences in language and worldview. I hate the idea of shutting down people whose identities come with some historical and individual complexity only because the new paradigm doesn’t fit their experience very well.

Recently I posted a link to a video by Alaska Thunderfuck, who appeared on the 6th season of Ru Paul’s Drag Race. It was seemingly created in response to the retirement of the “you’ve got she-mail!” segment announcement on the program, due to increased negative feedback from the trans community. The program has also ceased using the term “tranny” for the same reasons. RuPaul’s producing team was painted to be insensitive to the trans community by using these terms, inasmuch as the context in which they were being used was specifically drag queen oriented. I thought this concession to pressure was a mistake, but I see the logic of not alienating any part of their demographic, however misguided anyone might find their reasons for objection. In any case, I thought Alaska’s video was hilarious, biting and brilliant, typical of that queen and very satisfying for me personally. I posted the following link with my two cents, “I needed this. Can’t say “she-mail”, can’t say “tranny”…what the stinkin’ hell? Used to be this queer community was fun.”

A new friend of mine responded with a polite yet firm opposition,

“Please keep in mind those are slurs that get thrown at trans women on a regular basis, often with threats of violence or rape (or in addition to violent attacks or assault). Sorry to be a wet blanket on a post that might have been made in jest, but as a person who worked with and is close to the trans community, we as Cis people, need to understand those slurs are not ours to throw around for comedy’s sake.”

I sincerely respect where she’s coming from, the topic is hardly unknown to me. One of my closest friends teaches gender theory on a university level and we talk this subject constantly, but my familiarity doesn’t start there: as someone who has spent most of his life with gay, lesbian, bi, queer, drag, and all flavors of pansexual genderfuckery, I hardly come at these hot topic terms as an outsider. For decades I’ve been very comfortable referring to myself among friends and family as a “tranny,” and it’s never been anything but a term I respected and celebrated, and I’ve never thought of “she-male” as a slur…how can I when I’m clearly in that continuum myself? Perhaps I rarely bring the high drag anymore, but I’m still as queer as ever. Why queer? It’s about the best umbrella term I can settle on for anyone who’s deviated enough from the decidedly square and heteronormative model to become interesting; I honestly don’t know what the fuck I am if I really have to break the terminology down, but I stopped trying to figure it out a long time ago and I’m much happier for it…which is a lighthearted way of acknowledging the position that most of us are somewhere on the trans and/or queer spectrum, whether we can see it/recognize it/embrace it/explore it in earnest/reject it outright and deny it exists within us because we’ve been rigidly indoctrinated by exterior forces/condemn and even endanger others who oppose our mindset.

More

Us @ FORGE Milwaukee

Posted by – April 25, 2014

We’re doing a presentation and heading a discussion at FORGE Milwaukee tomorrow, Saturday April 26th, at 7PM.

The Facebook event is here.

FORGE’s longer description is here and goes like this:


Join guest speaker and author Helen Boyd for a lively reading and discussion of her book “She’s Not the Man I Married: My Life with a Transgender Husband.” Published in 2007, this book is a foundation for partners of trans people, with timeless information and thought provoking concepts from a partner-centric focus. You won’t want to miss this opportunity to engage in dialogue with Helen and other attendees, as well as hear more from the author about the book (and possibly about what has changed for her — and the trans/SOFFA community — since 2007).

[Get your free copy of the book (paper or Kindle) by attending the March 22nd social support group or contacting michael (tgwarrior [at] forge-forward [dot] org) to make arrangements.]

Helen Boyd is the author of My Husband Betty (Thunder’s Mouth, 2004) which was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award and is often referred to as the “field guide to crossdressers”. Her second book, She’s Not the Man I Married: My Life with a Transgender Husband (Seal Press, 2007), has been called “a postmodern reflection on transness” by Jennifer Finney Boylan. Her blog (en)gender can be found online at www.myhusbandbetty.com.

She hails from Brooklyn, NY, and currently lives in Appleton, WI, where she teaches Gender Studies at Lawrence University.

Open discussion is from 6:00 – 6:45pm

Open discussion is the time to connect connection with fellow Trans+ and SOFFA individuals. This gently facilitated time is especially devoted to exploring the issues you bring in – sharing your experiences and stories, asking questions, seeking referrals, gathering resources. We’ll assure this time will stay focused on your needs, and the discussion you generate.

Casa Valentina Opening

Posted by – April 24, 2014

Casa Valentina opening night 4/23/14

It was so much fun. I’ll be writing more about the play itself in the upcoming days, but for now, look at the pretty pictures.

There are more at Playbill’s site.