Mara Keisling’s Lessons for Activists

Mara Keisling of NCTE spoke here at Lawrence a little over a week ago and she talked not just about trans issues and policy and legislation, but also about the importance of white people talking about racism and about what kinds of things are required of an activist.

She presented this list:

1. Have a worldview. Know what is right and wrong for you.

2. Be intentional. Don’t just do things the easy way.

3. Remember that you are in service with your activism.

4. You have to love the people you serve. If you don’t love them, you can’t serve them.

5. Respect other people’s work.

6. Know your superpower.

7. You can’t be amazing unless you are amazed.

And I found the list pretty astonishing. I’m certainly not perfect at it, but it does summarize so much of what I’ve been thinking these past few years about my own work.

I’ve got #s 1 & 4 down, at least. I’m pretty good at #s 3, 5, & 6. #s 2 & 7 are my weakest. I wonder, if you’re an activist, how these measure up for you.

Two Tune Tuesday: Theme Songs

In the light of some upcoming news, I thought I’d post two songs today that are ones I really do hum to myself when I need them, when my spine isn’t feeling as tall as I’d like.

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

I first heard “Stand!” as performed by World Party with Sinead O’Connor as guest vocalist at the old New Ritz (which was once Studio 54): a better introduction to a song you couldn’t have asked for.

Continue reading “Two Tune Tuesday: Theme Songs”

New MVA Policy Detrimental to Trans Marylanders

Equality Maryland is Maryland’s largest LGBT civil rights organization. They recently sent out this information about the proposed changes to the rules for changing gender on MD driver’s licenses.

The Maryland Vehicle Administration (MVA) is currently considering an update to their policy regarding changing the gender marker on a driver’s license. The new policy would go into effect on January 1, 2010.

The current policy allows for a change to the gender marker, so long as an applicant is able to provide a physician’s or psychologist’s report to confirm that the applicant is in active treatment. The MVA requires annual re-evaluations until the applicant meets requirements for permanent gender change. The primary criterion for a permanent change is for the person to have undergone SRS or sex reassignment surgery.

If you’re a resident of Maryland, you can bug the governor of Maryland to keep this proposal from happening.

Continue reading “New MVA Policy Detrimental to Trans Marylanders”

Queer the Census

As usual, The Task Force rocks. People may or may not know that the upcoming US Census will not be counting us, & so they’ve created a sticker with which you can seal your census after you fill it out. It looks like this: and you can order yours through The Task Force’s Credo page.

ENDA Introduced in Senate Today

The gender-inclusive version of ENDA is going to be introduced in the Senate today, & we REALLY REALLY need this, & so REALLY REALLY need you to contact your senators.

PFLAG has a tidy little letter to send to your senators.


Everything is Amazing, Nobody is Happy

Honestly, this is the way I feel about Obama being president:

and within the LGBT community especially, as if I’m surrounded by people who can’t give it a minute to get back from space.

In five months:

  • Lily Ledbetter
  • funding the UNFPA
  • children’s health insurance
  • troops to Afghanistan
  • stem cell research funded
  • lifting Cuban travel restrictions
  • Kathleen Sebelius
  • signing the UN document decriminalizing homosexuality
  • creation of White House Council on Women & Girls
  • created Post for Int’l Women’s Issues
  • same sex partner benefits for Federal employees

Plenty to do, but all of these things were pipe dreams before.

In Defense of Autumn

Autumn Sandeen used to cull stories for the Transgender News Yahoo Group; she’s been blogging for forever, and not long ago became a key poster and moderator at Pam’s House Blend.

Recently, people have given her holy hell for shutting down the use of the words cisgender and cissexual because they were being used in the context of an argument that was only estranging members of the LGBT community from each other (& I’m not linking to all the posts about it intentionally as I have done so before and had my say otherwise).

The Trans-Ponder podcasters Jayna and Mila called  for some perspective this past Sunday night when it came to Autumn, particularly, citing the invaluable work that she has done on behalf of the trans community, and explained that even if you think someone’s wrong – in what opinion they hold, or in terms of something they’ve done – you don’t need to let the anger cause you to throw out the baby with the bathwater. (Their thoughts on the subject start around 53 minutes into Podcast #129.)

Dallas Denny said a long time ago that we tend to “eat our own” and in an interview with her a few years back, she clarified, in response to my 3rd question, the ideas she was trying to express when it came to trans community politics.

As someone who has taken heat for lots of things over the years, and someone who has seen even the champions of particularly useful ideas about trans subjectivity take heat for her own ideas, it makes me sad to see Autumn suffer so much. It is not easy work to build bridges within the LGBT, & Autumn has, in my opinion, done an extraordinarily good job of it. I’d like to see her keep doing that cool work, and even if she occasionally takes a mis-step — as we all do — the benefit of what she does far outweighs the mistakes she’s made.

I guess I’d ask, too, that people try to pay attention to the ratio of what they do to what they criticize. I’ve noticed that many people online who have the time & energy to work up a head of steam over what some other activist has said or done don’t necessarily spend as much time on positive activism as they do on the fine critiquing of others’ work. I am not saying that critics don’t do anything; I AM saying that anger & criticism sometimes are best-served by doing more instead of talking more. I say that as someone who has put my foot firmly in my mouth instead of doing something positive to fix what I saw as a problem. (As Betty and I like to joke about that one support group member who is constantly yammering on & on & on & repeating the same issues they always bring up, try not to be the person who seems to be saying, “I’d listen but I’m too busy talking.”)

In a nutshell: I’d like to thank Autumn Sandeen publicly for the work she has done, and to thank all the numerous people who keep working to build bridges within our communities.

ENDA 2009

Here’s a Washington Blade article about Barney Frank which discusses his opinions on this year’s efforts to get a gender-inclusive ENDA passed:

Frank said transgender activists and allies have been lobbying lawmakers to support the gender identity provisions, and he’s “more optimistic” that ENDA would pass with such a provision. But Frank stopped short of saying he was certain the bill would pass with the gender identity provisions.

“There’s no certainty in politics,” he said. “People got to lobby hard. And not lobbying Nancy Pelosi, or me, or [Reps.] Tammy [Baldwin] or George Miller — they should be calling their own representatives. I’m optimistic, but it’s not a done deal.”

& Jillian Weiss will be writing a series of articles at her Transgender Workplace Diversity blog in order to answer these questions:

  • How should gender identity be defined?
  • Does “gender identity” language protect employees other than transgender people?
  • What are the scope of the exemptions from coverage included in the bill?
  • Who supports ENDA, and why?
  • Who opposes ENDA, and why?
  • What education do Members of Congress need?
  • What should I tell my Congressperson?
  • How will the relationship between transgender advocates and the wider LGBT advocacy community play out in this go-round?
  • What has been the experience of organizations in jurisdictions with current gender identity protections?
  • What types of issues have come up with transgender workers in the workplace?
  • Is ENDA beneficial, detrimental, or neutral for the organizations that it covers?

…which will give us all more information & talking points when contacting our Representatives, as Frank says we should, so you should look up now so you’ll be ready. (On the top left side, you can put in your zip code & get the contact info for your Rep.)

Poland’s Transgender Activist History

I love the idea of gathering individual countries’ histories with trans activism. Here’s Poland’s, written by
Wiktor “Latarnik” Dynarski (as far as I can tell(. Has anyone seen / written / compiled ones about other countries?

Transfer to Heaven (Via Text Messages)

I love this idea.
Love and mourning can be such interesting inspirations for art, and in her case, activism.

Trans Equality & the Feds

NCTE asks:

What would federal policy look like if transgender people were fully and fairly included? Over the past months and years, NCTE has compiled a list of 112 separate policies that directly impact the lives of transgender people and our families that need to be added, removed or changed. Our latest publication, “Transgender Equality and the Federal Government” outlines each of these issues. We expect that some of these policies can be changed in the short term, while others will require long term activism. Some of the issues here will be at the forefront of NCTE’s work in the coming year and in other areas, our partners in this work will be the ones to lead, with our support.

You can read that document online, or check out in .pdf format.

Cynthia Nicole

Human Rights Watch is asking Honduras authorities to investigate the murder or transgender activist Cynthia Nicole, who was murdered on January 9th, 2009.

As a leader in Colectivo Violeta – an organization working to defend the rights and health of transgender people since 1995 – Nicole had a long record of outreach work on rights with transgender sex workers in Tegucigalpa. She provided information about HIV/AIDS and human rights, and represented her community at various national conferences and before the media.

“The transgender community is terrified,” said Indyra Mendoza, director of the Honduran lesbian and feminist organization Cattrachas. “But these attacks will not silence the community in Honduras, and we will continue to work to ensure that the rights of transgender people are recognized and protected.”

Apparently this violence has been going on for years, with little or no response from Honduran authorities.

1st Trans Officer of State Dems

From National Stonewall Democrats:

Washington, DC – Today, the Stonewall Democrats congratulated Laura Calvo upon her election as Treasurer of the Democratic Party of Oregon. Calvo, a seasoned Democratic operative, becomes the first openly-transgender officer of a state Democratic party. A member of the Board of Directors for National Stonewall Democrats, Calvo also serves as Chair of the Oregon Stonewall Democrats and as Treasurer of the Multnomah County Democrats. Multnomah County, which includes the city of Portland, is the largest county in the state of Oregon.

Continue reading “1st Trans Officer of State Dems”

Day 2

It only seems right that I should blog from the LGBT bloggers’ initiative, even though the schedule leaves precious little time.

Last night was the introductory mixer at the HRC offices – which are very fancy & chic, in case you haven’t seen them, I know I wasn’t the only one who thought “so that’s where the money goes” – and I got to meet a few staffers, as well as Allyson Robinson, the new(ish) trans outreach coordinator for HRC. I also met my roommate (more about her lovely self at another time) and the organizer of the initiative, as well as James from, who was very very cold (since he’s from FL), Alex Blaze of Bilerico.

& I met Pam Spaulding briefly when I hung up her jacket for her. (It’s a glamorous life.) So far it’s been fun, but wow do the days start early! It’s downright unnatural to be up this time of day.

Trans Activism in the Heartland

Ann at Feministing posted about this really good article from The American Prospect about trans activism in the heartland and a companion article about gay activism’s slow adoption of trans issues.

Many would view the politically red heart of the country as a harsh, unwelcoming, and vaguely dangerous place for the transgender community. When we think of states like Nebraska and Wyoming, we don’t think of M.J. — we think of people like Brandon Teena and Matthew Shepard, both killed in vicious, nationally publicized hate crimes. But the truth of the matter is far more interesting, inspiring, and instructive. Away from the coasts and the urban havens, a vibrant transgender-rights movement is slowly emerging across the mountain and plains states. Through increased visibility, community building, legislative outreach, and face-to-face public education in churches, schools, and neighborhoods, trans people are building a foundation for equality in some of the nation’s most conservative regions.

(A big thank you to the women at Feministing for their coverage of transgender issues. They do a great job of it, and it’s such a relief to see my fellow feminists speak up about trans stuff.)

People who here we’re from New York often assume things are better here, but if you take a look at the Transgender Day of Remembrance lists, you’ll see how many trans people were murdered in big cities, including San Francisco (Ruby Rodriquez, 2007) and New York (Sanesha Stewart, 2008). The assumption that big liberal cities are “safer” is fine until you run into that one asshole.

Stay safe, people.

RIP “Foole”

George Carlin died tonight, in LA, at the age of 71. I don’t even know what to say: he is probably Betty’s all time favorite comedian & one of mine as well. There are so many of us who grew up influenced by his worldview, but more than that, by his observations on the ridiculousness of human behavior. In a good way.

My favorite bit of his, which I refer to more often than I would have ever expected, is from a routine he did not too long ago, where he’s talking about the whole “save the planet” activism, & then points out, “The planet will be fine. We’re the ones who are going somewhere. The planet’s going to shake us off like a bad case of fleas.”

Indeed. Thanks for a lifetime of laughing so hard my sides hurt, Mr. Carlin. Maybe they’ll give you that ass, at long last, in the heaven you never believed in.

T Shirt

I don’t often wear trans shirts when I’m with Betty – no need to out her casually, she does enough outreach for one trans person – but Betty was sick this past week & so I was walking to my sister’s wear my NCTE “T” shirt (the old one – I don’t have the new one yet.)

Then someone on our boards asked if people would say yes if someone asked them if they were transgender.

And it made me wonder how often people think I’m trans – because of the t-shirts, the various places I post, the relative absence of partners in trans circles, and especially in LGBT circles. I think I mentioned here how two people I met at USC had assumed I was the partner of an FTM since the queer-identified partners of MTFs seem to be few & far-between – okay, practically non-existant.

It’s made me think of the days I was an honorary lesbian, which I am, still, kinda, depending on who’s deciding what I am.

I never told people I wasn’t a lesbian – unless the person was who wanted to sleep with me or a person who I wanted to sleep with – and in the same way I don’t think I’d care to clarify that I’m not trans if someone thought I was.

Maybe I should get a shirt that says GVETGI = Gender Variant Enough To Get It.

NC Robo-Calls

I was recently in the running in a “Top Ten Female Bloggers” contest sponsored by, which, as it turns out, is the organization that seems to be behind some baffling robo-calls to voters in NC (amongst other places).

Now Women’s Voices is plunging North Carolina into the same confusion. State officials tell Facing South they are still receiving calls from frustrated and confused voters, wondering why “Lamont Williams” is offering to send them a “voter registration packet” after the deadline for mail-in registration for the primaries has passed.

In correspondence with North Carolina election officials, Women’s Voices founder and President Page Gardner merely said that the disruptive timing was an “unfortunate coincidence” — a strange alibi for a group with their level of resources and sophistication.

There are other questions about Women’s Voices’ outreach efforts. Although the group purports to be targeting “unmarried women,” their calls and mailings don’t fit the profile. Kevin Farmer in Durham, who first recorded the call, is a white male. Many of the recipients are African-American; Rev. Nelson Johnson, who is a married, male and African-American, reported that his house was called four times by the mysterious “Lamont Williams.”

Please let anyone you know in North Carolina that these robo-calls are probably illegal & contain misleading information. How much WVWV’s intent is to buck up Clinton’s chances in the primary remain to be seen, but in a state where something like 45% of the voters are African-American, sending voters confusing and wrong information is anti-democratic. If it’s intentional, then I’d call it racist, too.

White feminists, you’re really fucking up here.

(via Daily Kos).

The Trip to SC, Pt. 5 (conclusion)

After dinner, Jasmyne Cannick spoke about race + homophobia. I’m going to summarize some of her comments in another post so that they might be available for trans groups doing outreach into racial minority communities. But she was good, funny, and yet she didn’t turn down the heat when it came to asking white LGBT people to pay attention to the ways they exclude black LGBT people.

The evening ended with drinks at our hotel, conversation, food, goofing around, gossip updates, flirting – and of course with me packing to catch an 11:56 PM train. I got hugs from some pretty lovely people, exchanged info with a bunch of others, and got on the train feeling renewed and re-invigorated. I want to thank Lisa Johnson again for having me at this conference, and I hope it can become a tradition for the college.

& So I waited for a cab to take me the short distance to the station, & at the station I got to fill a bunch of novice train travelers in on Amtrak. We boarded, and I slept, and then I wrote most of what you’ve been reading.

On the trip back, I met another man and his son over breakfast, except the son was only four and was learning everything with big blue eyes; after he saw me peel my banana, he kept half a finger on his own until his pop wasn’t paying attention, and then, lickety-split, he had his peeled too and broken in half.

“Are you going to eat that?” his father asked.

“No.” he said, still examining the banana peel in tres partes.

Love kids who aren’t my own.

Now it’s raining out; the raindrops coating windows on one side of the train and not the other. A woman across the aisle from me sleeps with her mouth slack, glasses askew. Penn Station in an hour, and home, and kittoi, and Betty.

ENDA Links

For more reading about ENDA than you might ever want, I’ve put together a bunch of the articles, essays, & blog posts on the topic since it was introduced in April, below the break:

Continue reading “ENDA Links”