I decided to try out having a presence on Medium.
There is a tendency, I think, for those of us whose goal is creating a world that is a little more self aware of sexism, racism, transphobia, and the rest, to dismiss writers and artists based on a single opinion, utterance, work of art, song, etc.
- Is all of Kate Bornstein’s work necessarily discredited because she defended the use of the T word?
- Is all of Dan Savage’s work for shit because of his denial of bisexual existence and/or his transphobia?
- Is there any delicacy in recognizing that there was a moment in time in which being “trans amorous” was a radical and trans-positive position?
I think about this stuff because a lot of what I’ve written over the years could be interpreted as transphobic now, or, at the very least, problematic. Some of it was at the time, too. I am not, nor have I ever been, a ‘respect your elders’ sort of person, but I’m also pretty turned off by the complete lack of historical context some seem to exist in, as if fine-tuned arguments about the nature of transphobia haven’t been happening all along: As if we didn’t debate ‘transgender’ vs ‘transgendered’. As if no one has ever called themselves a transvestite proudly. As if…
To some degree, it’s one of the reasons I feel myself not wanting to write another book about anything trans related; for starters, I think it was useful for a cis feminist liminally trans type like myself to do the work that I did at the time, but now? I think transness is in good hands for the most part, although I’m happy to pipe in when and where it’s needed.
But mostly I feel myself stymied by the idea that anything I might put into the public sphere now would be so roundly shot down on a technicality that it’s really just not worth the effort. I prefer hanging out in this tiny corner of the internet doing my thing, being read by folks who appreciate what I do, and talking to people one on one who might need some help finding resources or the like.
I’m tired of people who have opinions but who don’t do anything or create anything or legislate anything. I feel more much occupied by the work and much less interested in the debate.
Maybe it’s an older vs. younger activist sort of thing and I’m officially middle-aged, but from here on in I feel like I’m going to be asking a lot more questions of critics far and wide: well, what have you done? Who have you helped? Have you created, or tried creating, anything of lasting value? In a sense it’s an age-old problem: This doesn’t satisfy, says the critic; So what have you got? says the artist.
And out goes the bathwater, baby and all.
The headline along is enough to make some grammar nerds fidget nervously: AP Stylebook Embraces ‘They’ as Singular, Gender-Neutral Pronoun.
I was watching some grammar nerds – and yes, I count myself as one – discuss the difficulty of this.
Two points: (1) You already do this all the time: “I wonder who left their phone behind. I bet they’ll really want it back.” You know the phone doesn’t belong to a group, and if you don’t know this person’s gender, ‘they’ is an easy default. Someone objected that there is a difference in spoken (informal) verses written (formal) writing, to which I can only reply: either respecting people’s identities is important enough to change some grammar rules or it isn’t. I think it is.
(2) The real issue, I’ll insist, is whether or not you actually respect and acknowledge the multiply- or non-gendered as REAL. If you’re having trouble calling a single person by the pronouns “they”, it may be because you don’t actually believe in their gender identity as multiple or not gendered or non binary.
In which case, that’s the thing to work on. Once you respect multiply or non gendered people as legit identities, “they” as a singular pronoun is pretty obviously the most pragmatic solution to the English language’s lack of a gender neutral singular pronoun.
The always awesome Bear Bergman started Flamingo Rampant a while back, which is a micro press that publishes beautiful LGBTQ books for kids.
Right now they’re raining money to publish the next set of books and they need your help. Donate if you can, or buy books.
These are a great, great gift for any LGBTQ child or family that you know.
(I am not the poet. The poet is someone called e.c.c. Just found this one re-posted on a friend’s FB, & e.c.c.’s tumblr said you could share as long as they’re credited. So they are.)
Since you mention it, I think I will start that race war.
I could’ve swung either way? But now I’m definitely spending
the next 4 years converting your daughters to lesbianism;
I’m gonna eat all your guns. Swallow them lock stock and barrel
and spit bullet casings onto the dinner table;
I’ll give birth to an army of mixed-race babies.
With fathers from every continent and genders to outnumber the stars,
my legion of hapa babies will be intersectional as fuck
and your swastikas will not be enough to save you,
because real talk, you didn’t stop the future from coming.
You just delayed our coronation.
We have the same deviant haircuts we had yesterday;
we are still getting gay-married like nobody’s business
because it’s still nobody’s business;
there’s a Muslim kid in Kansas who has already written the schematic
for the robot that will steal your job in manufacturing,
and that robot? Will also be gay, so get used to it:
we didn’t manifest the mountain by speaking its name,
the buildings here are not on your side just because
you make them spray-painted accomplices.
These walls do not have genders and they all think you suck.
Even the earth found common ground with us in the way
you bootstrap across us both,
oh yeah: there will be signs, and rainbow-colored drum circles,
and folks arguing ideology until even I want to punch them
but I won’t, because they’re my family,
in that blood-of-the-covenant sense.
If you’ve never loved someone like that
you cannot outwaltz us, we have all the good dancers anyway.
I’ll confess I don’t know if I’m alive right now;
I haven’t heard my heart beat in days,
I keep holding my breath for the moment the plane goes down
and I have to save enough oxygen to get my friends through.
But I finally found the argument against suicide and it’s us.
We’re the effigies that haunt America’s nights harder
the longer they spend burning us,
we are scaring the shit out of people by spreading,
by refusing to die: what are we but a fire?
We know everything we do is so the kids after us
will be able to follow something towards safety;
what can I call us but lighthouse,
of course I’m terrified. Of course I’m a shroud.
And of course it’s not fair but rest assured,
anxious America, you brought your fists to a glitter fight.
This is a taco truck rally and all you have is cole slaw.
You cannot deport our minds; we won’t
hold funerals for our potential. We have always been
what makes America great.
There’s a little message to all of the LGBTQ+ people at the beginning of this one, around 2:47-5:30 or so.
Heartbreaking news from Monica Roberts: The Lady Chablis, aka The Doll, aka Brenda Dale Knox, had died at the young age of 59. She became famous by playing herself in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, after which she wrote her amazing autobiography Hiding My Candy.
When I first started teaching Trans Lives as a class, there was a huge lack of work by or about trans women of color. Ditto for those who transition out of drag identities. Hers was both: an important book that talked about her upbringing, about the South, about race, about what it meant to become a woman after working as a professional drag queen. Its entire sensibility differed from all the other narratives by white trans women (and men) – it brought a sense of humor, a stunning fighting instinct, and so much dignity in the face of too much difficulty.
This woman has long been a heroine of mine, and I’m sad to see that she’s died younger than she might have. Still, I’m sure she was always surprised that a million things along the way didn’t kill her, either.
Thank you, Lady Chablis, for all the pleasure and beauty and glamour you brought so many. You will be missed.
My friend Tom Leger over at Topside Press is doing a cool thing: he helped create a one-week workshop for emerging trans women writers with two well-known authors – Sarah Schulman and Casey Plett – and because it’s sliding scale they’re raising funds to offset the difference for those who can’t afford it.
This is an awesome way to support trans writers.
Read more about it here.
Finally, here’s an essay by Zoey Wolfe about why writing is important to her.
Here are two good things that are now/newly available:
The documentary about Kate Bornstein, Kate Bornstein is a Queer & Pleasant Danger, is now available for purchase by high schools and universities. (I did an interview with her for this blog back in 2006.)
The second is that Julia Serano’s Whipping Girl garnered a second edition, for which she wrote a new preface, and garnered a new cover (gone with the pink one!). I did an interview with her back in 2007 when it first came out, if you want to check that out.
A few days ago I gave a lecture on Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel Fun Home for the first year students at Lawrence, and while I don’t have a video, I do have this audio, so if you’re interested in some of the LGBTQ history that’s tucked away in the book, or in the basics of queer theory, do give it a listen.