Warm(ish) Welcome

I read an article in Slate recently, by the author of Stiltsville, who was surprised to find herself described in a review of one of her books as “a recent transplant” as she’s been living in the midwest for 12 years, 10 of them in Madison.

It was this section of her article that rang (sadly) true for me:

Midwesterners are wary of prying—they consider it impolite, even unfriendly—and they don’t readily reveal personal information. Which means they exist comfortably at a certain remove that can take years—and I mean years—to breach. When my family gets together in Florida, we share a meal, heatedly discuss current events, then retire to separate bedrooms to catch up on email. When my husband’s extended family gets together, it’s an all-day family-fest. They might not talk about much, but they truly enjoy just being together. To a coastal-hearted misanthrope like myself, it’s mind-blowing. But spending time not saying much of anything with family is one thing—doing it with acquaintances is another thing entirely.

I might find, say, having dinner with acquaintances, where the topics range from the weather to the menu, disappointing. Exhausting and depressing, even. But acquaintances are acquaintances, no matter where you live. The trouble here is the trouble everywhere: how to find close friends, how to really connect. And though I appreciate Midwestern civility (a departure from Miami, for example, where in an afternoon one might witness a fight at a traffic light, have one’s cart rammed at the store, then be persistently ignored by a waiter), I continue to wrestle with the barriers of it.

When you are both an introvert and a “coastie” (as we’re called), there’s real trouble. I generally know when I like people and feel that I can trust them, and in NYC, at least among my group of friends, sexual peccadilloes, money woes, medical diagnoses and trashy humor are conversation starters; I can’t recall ever talking much about the weather — although it may be that midwesterners talk more about the weather because there is so much more weather here (a recent day featured not just snow, sleet, rain, and hail, but thunder, lightning, and tornadoes).

That doesn’t mean there aren’t others like me; for starters, there are other transplants, other “coasties” who leap right in too. And there are most definitely midwesterners who are the NYC pilgrim sort, and who obviously understand, and even like, slightly brassier manners. In an odd way, as depressing as it was, this article was incredibly useful to me as well; I’ve felt like a bit of an outsider, but in the context she’s given me, I’m doing just fine.

But I hate to break it to her that Danskos are quite hip in NYC, especially since we all walk and stand so much more,which leads me to wonder if standing in subways close enough that we can smell each other breaks the ice much more easily than always being cocooned and enveloped in your own private car and your own private smells. I, for one, think we underestimate being both social and animals.

DOL Adds Gender Identity to EEOC

Good to see.

TLDEF applauds the United States Department of Labor’s announcement yesterday that it has taken steps to protect its transgender workers from employment discrimination. The Department of Labor added gender identity as a protected category in its equal employment opportunity statement. The policy applies to all hiring, promotion and disciplinary practices for the approximately 17,000 employees of the Department of Labor.

“Whether in private or public employment, what matters is not who you are, but how you do your job,” said TLDEF executive director Michael Silverman. “The Department of Labor now joins the many public and private employers that have recognized that discrimination is bad business. We applaud Labor Secretary Hilda Solis for her leadership on this issue.”

Transgender people face tremendous discrimination in the workplace. In a recent survey, 47% of transgender people reported being fired, or denied a job or promotion, just because of who they are. In a recent case, TLDEF filed a lawsuit on behalf of a transgender man who was fired from a male-only job solely because he is transgender.

“Employers like the Department of Labor set an example for other employers to follow. It is a great day when diversity is embraced and discrimination is rejected in the workplace,” added Silverman.

Pakistan Allows Third Gender

Pakistan has recently adopted a new law that allows people who don’t identify as male or female to choose another gender on identity documents.

Allows is the key word. They don’t require it. It seems like a good thing – not just for those who are third gender, but for those during transition, and for those who don’t have passing privilege.

If only we could manage something similar here.

Feline Godspeed

That’s my little goober on a better day; today he has surgery to get his leg removed because it’s got cancer. Keep us all in your thoughts.

Required ID to Vote Suppresses Votes

This whole idea of requiring people to present photo ID to vote is bad news indeed for a lot of kinds of people, but especially for transgender ones, who, in exchange for expressing their right to vote, will have to deal with harassment, denial of suffrage, and lack of representation.

Because what exactly it takes to get a gender marker in your lived gender if you are trans varies from state to state.

But more important, as Alex Blaze points out, the whole idea is to suppress the vote of people who are most likely to be intimidated by needing an ID card & by the voting process in general.

Teen Connection: LGBTQ Youth

A few days ago, some of the teens of the Fox Valley sat down for a talk about LGBTQ issues in high school: bullying, suicide, coming out, gender, sexuality. It’s a cool piece that also highlights some of the safe spaces for youth here.

Watch the full episode. See more Teen Connection.

I was very impressed.

Oh Cancer, Up Yours: RIP Poly Styrene

Poly Styrene, most known as the lead for X Ray Spex, died at the age of 53 of breast/spinal cancer. She was an inspiration to me, more riot grrrl than the riot grrrls, and famous too for shaving her head long before Sinead O’Connor did. She was a trained opera singer. She was an early critic of plastic consumer culture — thus her name. Their song Oh Bondage, Up Yours has always been one of my favorites, a rallying cry; the voice-over at the start of the song intones:

Some say little girls should be seen and not heard.


ATM Blog

Just discovered the blog American Trans Man, which, according to its description, is:

written by a FTM trans scientist who supplies information about different biological and genetic aspects of being transgender with a focus on the transmasculine.

I’m especially pleased there’s a focus on trans science.

Survey: By & For

There’s a new cool survey out for – and more importantly, by – trans people. Non trans people can take it too: it examines attitudes about self, gender, & relationships. The researcher explains:

My advisor and I are painfully aware that most surveys in psychology are not inclusive of—or even recognizing of—trans spectrum identities because we ourselves have trans spectrum identities. Specifically, I am genderqueer and Professor Tate is a transgender woman (who is also genderqueer as butch-presenting). Thus, we do not see ourselves and our experiences represented very well in the status quo of psychology research. We are therefore personally as well as professionally motivated to change the way psychology studies transgender and genderqueer identities. Yet, we need your help to do this well. We need our voices to be heard.

More below the break.

Continue reading “Survey: By & For”