Tranny Drinking Games

Last night, the very lovely Crystal Frost was filming a documentary about transfolks that she’s been working on for the past year and a half. She prepared specific questions for me and Betty, good questions, about my erotica, about sexuality, about GLBT politics. I wasn’t surprised; the first time I met Crystal, at FanFair last year, we both instantly seemed to know that we understood each other. It had something to do with the fact that she had brought her boyfriend, and that I was not your average wife. She is a gay man in guy mode, and appreciated my inclusion of gay CDs in my book.
Quite to our surprise, we got the red carpet treatment when we arrived. Ina, Silver Swan’s hostess, saw us first, and then Crystal waved us over: we would be next up for our interview. We didn’t even have time to get a drink. We powdered our noses and reapplied our lipstick, and we were off. At the very end of the interview, off camera, I said to Crystal, “I don’t know who most of these people are; I’ve never seen them here before”. “Camera whores”, she whispered back.
After the interview, Betty and I went in for a drink and found a quiet table in back to talk. Unfortunately, the back room at Ina’s has lived up to the reputation of back rooms everywhere, and is now where the working girls set up trade. One of our CD friends was there, who chatted amiably with us about Betty’s next performance. The minute she walked away, an older chaser took her chair. He immediately explained he was confused by the place, and asked Betty if she was a boy. Although we knew what he was asking (effectively “do you have a penis?”) we didn’t clarify anything for him. He backtracked, pointing at me, “You’ve always been a woman, right?” and then went back to questioning Betty, who of course — as she always does — clarified that we were married. “So would you go on a date with me?” he asked in response. We’re still always dumbfounded by that. We tried to clarify. Betty: “We’re monogamous.” Me: “We met when she was still a boy, and got married, and we’re still married, happily.” Still confusion. Betty finally clarified, “we only have sex with each other, and we like it that way. We”e more like lesbians.” It took the L word to finally get that bulb to light over his head. “Don’t you think lesbians are the reason this place exists?” he said, “If these guys had been able to get dates, they wouldn’t have to do this.” “Uh, no,” I tried to explain. Betty chimed in with the usual ‘sex and gender’ clarification, and when she finished, he asked if we’d be interested in a threesome. “Oh wow,” I said, looking right at him, “we’ve never been asked that before.” I had him. “I’m kidding,” I said, “We get asked that every time we come here, and we always say no.”
At that moment, the very lovely Ina came up and told us we were urgently wanted outside. A big kiss to Ina for that bit of genius; I suppose I had started to look like I was going to hit him.
The night became more bizarre. Betty and I saw someone who looked vaguely familiar and she turned out to be Mona Rae Mason, who is currently interviewing transfolk for her Transgender Project. I stood outside and talked to Crystal’s producer for a while, about gender stereotypes and the way outsiders responded to transness; I got the feeling she was a woman who had seen a lot of the world and wouldn’t have been surprised by much. They moved the shooting inside and all the girls who didn’t want to be caught on film came outside. I chatted with a Silver Swan regular decked out in all white: white corset, hose, heels, – and not much else. I kept thinking about Diane Frank, one of our message board regulars who finds that kind of oversexed slutty outfit abhorrent, and trying not to laugh.
Eventually I went inside and sat next to Betty who was drinking a Corona and had bought me a white wine. “She took a sip,” Betty said, pointing to a tranny sitting catty corner from me. Apparently she’d needed a prop when the camera had come her way, and my wine glass was within reach. “I already gave her what-for,” Betty explained.
I tapped the tranny in question. “Hi, I’m Betty’s wife, I heard you drank my wine.” “Oh, sorry,” she giggled. She asked if it was our first time at the Swan, so I explained I’d done some of the research for my book there more than two years ago. She wanted to know why she’d never seen me there before then. “We don’t come that often; we tend to hang out in lesbian spaces.” “Lesbian?” she clarified. I nodded. She swiveled on her chair and stopped speaking to me altogether.
In the meantime, the camera had found its way to our corner of the bar to shoot a t-girl putting on makeup, so Betty and I took a drink, as per the rules of the Tranny Documentary Drinking Game. Ina brought another girl over to the camera and encouraged her to “do a kick.â” The girl complied. “Oh do it again,” someone else said.
And suddenly I could see the video tape cover to Mondo Tranny. We left soon after. I didn’t have to wonder anymore if the whole talk show modus operandi when covering trans subjects really is the producers’ fault; from where I sat, the trans community was more than willing to play into stereotypes, and no-one had to tell them to, not even egg them on.
That said, I have hope editing will make this a good documentary, anyway.

Five Questions With… Gwen Smith

gwen smithGwen Smith, Transmissions columnist and originator of the Remembering Our Dead project, answers five questions. Thanks, Gwen, for being willing.
1) Since you’re famous for having created the TG Day of Remembrance, what do you think is the best thing to come out of this holiday?
When I began the Remembering Our Dead Project, out of which the Transgender Day of Remembrance was born, I did it with the full knowledge that I was but one voice crying out in what seemed to be a wilderness.
I’ve long been pleasantly surprised to have been proven wrong about that, and to see the event has become as big as it has. Last year there were 212 events that I know of. There was an event in the small town I live in, that I had no direct hand in: it sprung up on its own. I simply never expected it to grow like it has.
As such, I’d have to say that the best thing to come out of this is a moment where we are all together, showing our strength, and that our community can truly be as one.
Continue reading “Five Questions With… Gwen Smith”

Why Bother?

Some days I wonder why I keep arguing about feminism on the message boards, especially when I should be working on my next book.
But then I turn on the television for ten minutes – 10 minutes of PBS – and there’s a public service announcement co-funded by Liz Claiborne that states that one 1 in 5 teenage girls is sexually or emotionally abused by their boyfriends.
So I did a little research and discovered a website dedicated to preventing relationship abuse called Love is Not Abuse.

And in its statistics section, this is what I found:

  • 1 in 3 teenagers report knowing a friend or peer who has been hit, punched, kicked, slapped, choked or physically hurt by their partner. (Liz Claiborne Inc. study on teen dating abuse conducted by Teenage Research Unlimited, February 2005.)
  • Nearly 1 in 5 teenage girls who have been in a relationship said a boyfriend had threatened violence or self-harm if presented with a break-up. (Liz Claiborne Inc. study)
  • 13% of teenage girls who said they have been in a relationship report being physically hurt or hit. (Liz Claiborne Inc. study)
  • 1 in 4 teenage girls who have been in relationships reveal they have been pressured to perform oral sex or engage in intercourse. (Liz Claiborne Inc. study.)
  • More than 1 in 4 teenage girls in a relationship (26%) report enduring repeated verbal abuse. (Liz Claiborne Inc. study.)
  • 80% of teens regard verbal abuse as a “serious issue” for their age group. (Liz Claiborne Inc. study.)
  • If trapped in an abusive relationship, 73% of teens said they would turn to a friend for help; but only 33% who have been in or known about an abusive relationship said they have told anyone about it. (Liz Claiborne Inc. study.)
  • Twenty-four percent of 14 to 17-year-olds know at least one student who has been the victim of dating violence, yet 81% of parents either believe teen dating violence is not an issue or admit they don’t know if it is an issue. (Survey commissioned by the Empower Program, sponsored by Liz Claiborne Inc. and conducted by Knowledge Networks, Social Control, Verbal Abuse, and Violence Among Teenagers, December 2000)
  • Less than 25% of teens say they have discussed dating violence with their parents. (Liz Claiborne Inc. study of teens 13-17 conducted by Applied Research and Consulting LLC, Spring 2000)
  • 89% of teens between the ages of 13 and 18 say they have been in dating relationships; forty percent of teenage girls age 14 to 17 report knowing someone their age who has been hit or beaten by a boyfriend. (Children Now/Kaiser Permanente poll, December 1995)
  • Nearly 80% of girls who have been physically abused in their intimate relationships continue to date their abuser. (City of New York, Teen Relationship Abuse Fact Sheet, March 1998)
  • Of the women between the ages 15-19 murdered each year, 30% are killed by their husband or boyfriend. (City of New York, Teen Relationship Abuse Fact Sheet, March 1998)
  • That’s why I keep arguing. While it may not seem that discussions as to whether or not women can use their sexuality as a kind of power have any relevance to the above statistics, I think they do. There is a tendency in the world in general to gloss over the actual lives of women, and instead fixate on the exception. Ironically, I think that comes out of an optimistic impulse: we don’t really want to believe that women’s lives can be so horrible only because they’re women.
    But there’s something really wrong here. Women’s lives have not gotten better because they can show some cleavage and get some guy to buy them a drink. When a married tranny argues with me that getting yourself bought a drink or turning a man’s head is power, I often wonder if they think first to ask their wives why they don’t use their sexuality as power. After all, a lot of us are attractive women. But we’re also smart. And we don’t use that power for a reason – and it’s not because we don’t think we have it. It’s because once you use it, there’s this raft of assumptions about who and what you are. Most of us, frankly, just want to get through a day on our skills or our brains and really don’t need our tits to help out.
    These arguments are not abstractions for me. I’m not arguing for the hell of it – I’d rather be writing. But I have very little patience for people who want to and willfully try to believe in something that makes them feel better instead of dealing with what’s really going on in the world. And I acknowledge that I get especially impatient when that person occasionally dresses as a woman, but remains somewhat oblivious of the reality of most women’s lives.

    20,000 hits?

    This website and blog have received 20,000 hits in the past month alone. No wonder the cats are exhausted.

    Sleepy Friday Cats

    They’re feeling about as energetic as we are, today. But we have no boxes on the top of a file cabinet to curl up in like this.
    sleeping curledupcats
    Really makes you wonder who they were in past lives, doesn’t it? I like to think of them as well-deserved reincarnations of Emma Goldman and Eugene Debs, but that’s just me.

    Please Donate

    If anyone can donate this month, we’d really appreciate the help.
    Since I’ve been asked a few times recently if checks are okay – of course they are! There’s a snail mail address on the Donate page that’s linked to above.
    Thanks so much,

    Trans Rockers

    On Saturday night, after seeing our very own Penny play a gig at Galapagos in Williamsburg, a bunch of us from the MHB Boards went to the Trans Rock Music Explosion at the Bowery Poetry Club.
    And there, with a lovely gathering of trans and non-trans alike, a few bands that had trans members (from one to all, depending on the band) they rocked their hearts out. I didn’t get to see all of them, since we weren’t there from the start, but I did get to see Temptress, Vibralux, and Lisa Jackson + Girl Friday.
    Temptress were fun, a bar band with three women on guitar, bass, and drums, and an MTF lead singer. (One of my friends commented after they were on that there should be a law about trans bands doing more than one song from Rocky Horror, which – there should be.)
    Vibralux came in all the way from Kansas City. They reminded me of the New York Dolls in some ways – at least in terms of makeup application and slutty clothes. But they rocked – I have to give them that much. They had the energy of a midwest band in NYC, amped up with “we’re in New York!” attitude. They were a blast, and their song “Play with Balls” amused me. (The lyrics went something along the lines of “girls aren’t supposed to play with dolls/ no, girls, play with balls!” which was slutty and funny at once.)
    But, Lisa Jackson. She is getting a little angrier in her lyrics and stageshow – a turn I like very much – but her older songs, like “Beautiful Freak” and “Fabulously Done” are still close to my heart. (The lyrics to “Fabulously Done” are reprinted as the very last page of My Husband Betty, because I like them so much.) She’s what the trans-movement needs, and it’s almost pathetic that the trans conferences haven’t lined up to book her for every single trans conference in North America. She is a one-woman anthem, a powerful singer, and a great musician. To be honest, – and I don’t say this lightly – Lisa Jackson is the first tranny I’ve ever seen that made me think, “it’s good to be a chick.” Which is no small compliment, coming from me.
    Any of these bands are worth checking out, and all of them are worth supporting.
    (These events get announced – and people plan to go – via the MHB Boards as well. Folks are free to join us, or at least can come knowing there’ll be a contingent on hand.)

    Paper Tiger

    paper tiger
    There have been more images than words in my blog this week: I’ve started working on the new book this week, despite not yet having a contract. Last I heard, four publishers are interested, which is good news indeed.