Guest Author: Jessica Michelle Polacek

(My friend Jessica has been doing some awesome queer history of Wisconsin on Facebook, but this summary was too good to not pass on. – hbk)

Wisconsin LGBTQ

Continuing our celebration of LGBTQ history on the last day of Milwaukee Pride, here are some other facts about my home state:

1. Milwaukee had its own version of Stonewall, eight years earlier at the Black Nite Bar

2. LGBTQ recorded history in Wisconsin dates to an 1894 arrest in Black River Falls

3. In 1976, just months before Harvey Milk, James Yeadon defeated 13 other candidates and was elected to public office as an openly gay man – twice!

4. Wisconsin was the first state to pass LGBTQ anti-discrimination laws which came through the help of religious leaders

5. Emmanuel UCC in Oconomowoc was the first open and affirming church in the state

6. Opened in 1968 by June Brehm, This Is It, one of Milwaukee’s beloved gay bars, is one of the oldest in the country

7. Wisconsin was the first state to have three openly LGBTQ elected officials in the US Congress – Tammy Baldwin, Steve C. Gundersen and Mark Pocan

8. Congressman Steve C. Gunderson was unwillingly outed on the floor of the US House of Representatives — then reelected in spite of this

9. Milwaukee was home to some infamous ‘drag wars’ in the 1980s between clubs Two-Nineteen and LaCage

10. Milwaukee has been dubbed an ‘underappreciated gay Mecca’ with more than 100 years of LGBTQ history

11. Nationally acclaimed Gay Peoples Union started right here in Wisconsin

Wisconsin has a rich, colorful and often positive LGBTQ heritage. Just one more reason to celebrate Pride. 

Guest Author: Ariela Rosa

A partner recently sent me this piece she’d written for a contest and I was struck not just by the writing style but by the deep urge, as ever, to get a partner’s truth you in the world. Enjoy.

Transition in 2000 Words – by Ariela Rosa

May 24, 2022

I wanted to say I appreciate R’s commitment to building community and giving everyone a voice. Their style in leading with heart, reaffirming that the conversation is a safe space, and being open to everyone’s inputs is so appreciated. 

I stop to ask R, my spouse, if he has changed his pronouns.

“Oh yeah,” they say. “I was encouraging people at work to put their pronouns in their email signatures, so I started by putting mine. And when I went to put “he/him,” it felt wrong. So I just put they/them.”

This casual decision completely devastates me.

They came out as trans two years ago, 16 years into our relationship. I could not promise that our marriage would last through all the changes, but I of course wanted to treat them with dignity and respect, starting with the most basic of the basics: calling them what they wanted to be called. So I’d been checking in constantly about pronouns. They promised they’d let me know when they were ready, but suddenly I find out that I’ve been misgendering my spouse without knowing it.

I am angry at us both. Once again they’ve made a decision without letting me in, but also I want to get this right, and because I had no warning there is no way for me to not fuck this up over and over.

Saying “they” makes my heart ache for me.

Accidentally uttering “he” makes my heart ache for them.

December 23, 2021

“Hey, I got this for you for Christmas. I know it’s not much, but…”

I’d bought a few pairs of earrings that reminded me of my husband spouse. One set was two halves of an avocado with smiling faces painted onto the pits. I paid for his lobe piercings two weeks ago, crying later that day about this step in his evolving womanhood. Buying the earrings is my way of manning up.

I get on a plane to Utah the next day. I was tired of asking a dysphoric person to hold me through my tears as if I were the one suffering and needed to be someone else’s problem for a while. I also needed to know if I felt better with or without him.

The trip did not help me figure this out.

He called on Christmas Day to thank me. I sobbed.

January 2022

My friend sends me back from Utah with a gift certificate to Sephora. “I want R. to go to somewhere where they will take care of him and treat him with respect.”

What a thoughtful gift; I am happy and know he’ll love it. But also, I’m so angry; I feel a responsibility to go with him so I can shake my cis privilege at everyone and ensure that he will be treated right. But that also means seeing him glow in his foundation and eyeliner, watching “him” fade further away.

He shares that he’s afraid of looking like a man in a dress.

But what’s wrong with being a man in a dress? I could totally handle that! I tell myself to shut the fuck up; what awful thoughts. If there is a hell, then I’m sure I belong there.

We have fun for once; I’m proud that I was able to ignore the lump in my throat the whole time.

Back in the car, he cried. “They made me feel so valid,” he said. I tried extra hard to smile in spite of myself.

September 2020

My spouse’s summertime online affair came to an abrupt end when I found the transcripts of him and his partner sexting the other week. I had suspected the affair from the beginning, but I felt an extra sting when I realized that the other person had treated my husband like a woman when I felt I couldn’t. He even gave this person his chosen name while telling me he wasn’t ready to make that change yet. The potent mix of rage, guilt, and despair boiling all over my body makes me want to tear off my own skin.

Perhaps it is because I feel so much loss, pain, and eroding trust that I decide to finally confide in one of my best friends about R. being trans, hoping to lean on someone else for a while.

I do not tell her about the affair.


I stop her and explain sternly that my spouse being trans isn’t doing anything to me, and that she can’t be mad at someone just for being trans.

I do not lean on her for support.

October 2020

“Well, do you WANT to buy girl’s clothes?” I ask.

“I guess I should,” he replies.

“Cool beans. I will take you to Torrid, and we will get you a dressing room. And if someone dares to say something I’ll fuck ’em up.”

We find some vibrant skirts and blouses. I choose many of the options, insisting that he try everything because he has no idea what he’ll like. He is too shy to ask the sales associate for help, so I do.

“Hey you,” I say with as much non-nonchalant confidence as I can muster, “My husband wants to try on these clothes.”

She opens a room without hesitation and with a warm smile. Turns out I didn’t need to beat up anyone today. Lucky her.

I ask what he thinks. Turns out a shirt I had chosen was less than flattering. If he wants my opinion, I will gladly give it to him. But I also will encourage him to buy the damn thing if he disagrees.

“Yeah, hell no, ick.” I breathe a sigh of relief. We throw it aside and laugh.

July 2020

After making passionate love, we cuddle in bed as a stream of afternoon sunlight shines through the window and onto our nakedness. I cry while I caress his chest hair, which glistens from the light and the sweat of our sex. He is going to shave his chest for the first time today, and with laser starting next month I know that this is the last time I will ever feel this part of him.

His hair is so coarse, long, full, curly. We used to make jokes about the possibility of his chest hair poking through his t-shirts, making him and the shirt one and giving him super powers.

He won’t feel like my person without this hair.

He holds me tight, giving me this last chance even though it kills him. I apologize.

When he finally goes to the bathroom, I sob and scream into my pillow until I fall asleep.

June 2022

R. is having a bad dysphoria day.

I just want to gouge out my own eyes. I feel like a fraud. In my head I imagine people referring to me as ‘he’ but then I feel like I’m referring to myself that way and it makes me feel like I’m lying if I keep misgendering myself. I feel lost and can’t function.

I should be there to help them through this, but my deadlines don’t care. So I work while I listen, trying hard to understand something that I know I never will.

I know. It’s ok. I think I just need to say it. Sometimes just sharing things with you helps.

I feel guilty for missing the man they need to get rid of to feel right.

Spring 2022

“Oh wow! And you’re okay with that?” This seems to be the chief question during the public phase of my spouse’s coming out.

“I mean, we’re a work in progress,” I giggle because I don’t know how else to respond. “Anyway, he hasn’t changed pronouns yet, but I’ll let you know when.”

What I really want to say is fuck you. I don’t think I get to choose or “okay” the core of my spouse’s self, assholes.

Or is everyone asking whether I want to stay married? This seems like a terribly invasive question that I can’t even answer for myself yet.

“It’s so great that you are supporting him—oh, I mean her? Is that right?” They look for me to assure them that they are indeed not transphobic. But I don’t have energy to help anyone else.

Instead of expecting me to take care of them or make them comfortable, why doesn’t anyone ever just ask me what I need?

Today that online group for partners of trans folks posted a meme: “As a trans person you don’t transition to become a different person. You transition to stop pretending to be someone you’re not!”

This stings. I know it’s correct. I also know that I fell in love with the person my spouse was pretending to be. I miss that person every day. I write this in response to the original poster.

“My wife is trans,” OP replies. “I tend to focus on how much happier she is.”

Dismissed again.

June 2020

“I’m gonna order some books on gender and sexuality,” he mutters while I’m in the middle of a Zoom meeting. There is maybe six inches of space between the back of my chair and the side of his. Our second room barely accommodates our desks, but I’m insistent that we separate our work space from the rest of the house so they don’t meld together. This work from home thing is temporary anyway.

I wave him away so that I can pay attention.

The books arrive a few days later. One book in the pile… is a gender workbook?

“Babe, are you questioning your gender?”

He doesn’t look at me when he says yes.

The floor has fallen out beneath me.

“I can’t do this! Of course you can transition and I will always support you, but I cannot be your wife! We need to divorce NOW. Seriously, what the fuck! 16 years! After everything we’ve gone though, you didn’t tell me?! 16 fucking years!”

“I didn’t know either.”

When R. was five, a bunch of her cousins visited her apartment, and her first instinct was to pick up some cans to join the girls in playing restaurant. The room fell silent: every adult whipped their head around, instilling deep shame into her as they said “boys don’t play like that.”

That’s when he was born.

So I know he’s right: how could he have known?

But how do I reconcile falling in love with a mask?  I’m grieving him while she is alive; I grieve him even though he wasn’t right. I don’t understand my reality or my feelings.

It doesn’t take long for her to peak through and for him to start fading away, though in the quiet phase of the transition he comes back sometimes to keep up appearances for those who do not yet know.

I envy my friends for getting to keep him for just a little longer.

June 2004

We met through a mutual friend when we were 17 and 19. I was about to graduate high school and was pretty sure I didn’t have a future, so I had stopped dreaming by the time he came along.

But being with him made dreaming seem possible.

After talking each other’s ears off for a week over the phone, we met for pizza, walking across the Harlem Bridge to the Bronx. On the way back, we stopped in the middle of the bridge to enjoy the light breeze and cloudless sky. We held hands while watching the late afternoon sun bounce along the water.

Something felt so familiar in this moment, like I’d known him before and would know him again. I already could not picture my life without him.

“Hey, I just want you to know… I can’t predict what will happen with us, but no matter what, I will always be your friend.”

Guest Author: KS on Queer Pain

Queer Pain and Queer (Self)Destruction

An Honest Perspective on Mental Illness and Addiction

Recently, I made several realizations about myself. Vulnerable, scary realizations that I want to have known but am also scared for people to know. I am afraid it will change how people will see me, yet it feels necessary to share. Perhaps through my experiences, my pain, I can help someone through theirs. I could wait for National Coming Out Day, but I’m too queer for that. (Yes, yes I KNOW queerness is not a competition. Please don’t bite my head off, it’s tongue-in-cheek). So here it goes. One: I am mentally ill. Two: I am an addict. These are two facts I have always known about myself, but I’ve always perceived them at an arm’s length – adjectives, descriptors of behavior. I always thought, yes, I deal with mental illness that flares up from time to time. Yes, I have addictive behaviors. But no, I am not someone who is mentally ill or an addict. Those identities are too close, too vulnerable, and ultimately, too shameful. However, if I don’t acknowledge them as aspects of who I am, I can’t see how deeply they affect me, or how tied with my queer experience, it has led to a particular kind of queer pain and self-destruction.

I was diagnosed with clinical depression and a generalized anxiety disorder at the age of seventeen. After not being able to sleep well for months, a constant feeling of pain in the pit of my stomach, and a horrific panic attack, I finally convinced my mother to take me to the doctor. I walked out of the visit with a prescription to Wellbutrin and something to help me sleep. In the car, my mother and I agreed not to tell my father about the anti-depressant. He was always leery of any substance that could alter how you feel, and thus alter your soul. Only god should be able to do that. When we told him the doctor had given me something to help me sleep, he, the man who probably genetically passed down these illnesses to me, stated warily I don’t trust those things. It took me months to tell him about the antidepressants. My pain could not be fixed by their prayer, and eventually I started cognitive behavioral therapy – as I side note, I recommend CBT to everybody. It is incredible and truly saved (and continues to save) my life. My journey with initially uncovering my mental illness and eventually coming out is deep and painful, and a story I will share another day. My initial diagnosis was that it was something temporary, a hiccup that 6 weeks of meds would help me get over. 4 years of CBT, a stint in the mental ward, and a suicide attempt later, I came to realize mental illness would be something I would be carrying with me for the rest of my life.

Hiding my mental illness was never something I wanted to, or felt the need to do. When comfortable enough around someone and the topic comes up, I openly discuss my journey, my struggles, and how I’ve gotten to where I am today (which is to say: still alive). Despite this openness, I always saw mental illness as something I dealt with, but not a deep aspect of who I am. Perhaps I had the hopes that someday I could get over it and just function like a normal (neurotypical) person for once, even though I simultaneously knew depression and anxiety would be things I dealt with for the rest of my life. I am unsure why this distinction felt important – perhaps I felt as though I was more in control of myself if I am just dealing with a problem versus a chronic illness. If I am mentally ill, then it is a part of me. It is ingrained into the grooves of my brain and there is fear and uncertainty there, and that unpredictability and lack of control is terrifying to me. If I am mentally ill, it may win some day. This thought rests heavy in my heart. Heavy and hard and true. It dips into the pit of my stomach and presses down on my chest until I pause, breathe deep, and choose to keep going. Instead of looking at the endless miles of life ahead of me, I look down, and take one step at a time. I can’t control the road in front of me, but I can control my next step, so I keep on going, step by step. 

Life is overwhelming sometimes, but I will keep fighting like hell to stay alive despite having a heart that feels too much. I have galaxies in my chest and the universe in my belly and my body cannot contain the vast penetrating emotions I feel. Some days, my seams are popping and I risk falling apart. The only way to describe existing like this is exhausting. I am constantly tired and the world demands too much of me. I have my toolbelt of coping mechanisms to help me keep going, to recharge my battery so I can face another day. Face another week. Keep marching one step at a time until before I know it, I am in an upswing and the world is beautiful and light once again. Since I feel so deeply and intensely, carrying an unnameable hurt behind my ribcage, I have dedicated my life to kindness and gentleness. The world, with its sharp edges and hard surfaces, damages those who are easily bruised. Damages those who are tender and refuse to harden to the pain of life. I refuse to be another abrasive surface. The balm to my aching soul is love, so all I want to do is pour out love love love. I want kindness and gentleness to radiate around me, to extend a softness into the world that is not seen frequently enough, because when I am soft to others, I also create a space of softness for myself. 

Yet sometimes I am unable to extend this energy to the world. When I swing low, I do not have the energy to put anything out; I retreat inward and attempt to take the small steps I need to take until I get better again. It is in these spaces that I crave the gentleness and kindness I normally give out to the world, but I often don’t receive it. More accurately, I should say, I am unable to receive it. In those spaces, I am unable to reach out. I know I have resources and people who love me, and try as I may, as of right now I am simply unable to reach out. How do I articulate the weight and depth of emotion pressing on my soul? How can anyone help lift that? Perhaps it is my ardent refusal to be a burden to anybody, to be nothing but supportive because I know what it feels like to not be supported. In the early stages of my mental illness when I reached out to my parents and my church leaders crying for help, it was dismissed. I needed to lay my cares on god, that’s all. It wasn’t working, but I must have been not trying hard enough. Not holy enough. It is also difficult for me to reach out due to the pride I carry in being the strong one; I cannot be weak for anyone. I am also afraid that I am all too much for people. How can I even lay that burden on someone? It’s not fair to them. They didn’t ask for it. They may not have the energy for it, and in my weakest points, I cannot stand that rejection.

I am usually able to make my way out of these lows. I do deep breathing, I ground myself, I read over my list of things that make life beautiful and my list of things I believe as fundamental truths about the world. I write poetry, listen to music, and drug myself to sleep. Usually, when I wake up, things are more bearable. I continue to do tender self-care – I take a shower, make a meal from scratch, read, go for a walk. I write more poetry. If I am feeling particularly brave, I call a friend just to chat for a bit. The path out of my lows is not always as simple and beautiful as that; self-care requires energy that sometimes I can’t even muster. Sometimes, the addict in me turns to escape. Run away from all of the feelings, even if for just a moment. I like doing drugs – various drugs enhance experiences in a variety of beautiful ways. However, there’s a difference between doing drugs with friends to loosen up, chat, and enjoy the evening versus getting high in a desperate attempt to light up my pleasure centers and numb the pain. And sometimes I just want to keep going and going, blast myself out of this galaxy, blast myself out of existence, but sadly with drugs, you always return. 

After those last few sentences, I am sure it comes to no one’s surprise that I have realized I am an addict. However, if you know who I am, you might be surprised. I keep it well contained, as I have a crippling sense of responsibility and thrive in stability. A high functioning addict. A nighttime and weekend addict. My sense of responsibility and commitment to stability keeps me in check, and for that, I am grateful. I am not the type of addict who doesn’t know how to stop. Sometimes I have a hard time stopping, but I know my limits and know I need to return to normalcy so I can function in the daytime and maintain my life. However, with addiction, it’s not just drugs. I get addicted to hobbies, people, concepts, and habits. I obsess and can’t stop thinking about something, or all I want to do is that one thing and nothing else. It consumes me. Again, I am not consumed to the point where the stability in my life is threatened, but the behavior is still there. Thus, I am an addict.

My addiction and mental illness are inextricably connected, as it is with most people who experience both things. Life is so incredibly difficult for me, I strive to hold on to all things light, beautiful, and fill me with a sense of peace. I also strive to find anything that can pull me from my deep oozing dread, which leads to addictive behavior. If I can find one thing that puts a spark in me, I become obsessed. Sometimes I latch onto a healthy behavior, and other times, not so healthy (Who even decides what is a healthy behavior and what isn’t? Wonders the person who toes the line of a K-hole every other Friday night because they took it a little too far). Sometimes even actively destructive. Boy am I a sucker for a good self-destructive habit – there’s something cathartic about destroying my body in various ways like my mental illness destroys my soul. 

The thing is, I am hesitant to even be so honest. I don’t want people to worry about me. I don’t want sympathetic stares and “Are you okay?” even though some days I also so desperately crave that. I find my catharsis in self-destructive behaviors, but I don’t want people to become aware of my damage and hurt because they witness my self-destructive behaviors. I want them to see me in my normal behavior, see through my walls and ask me if I’m okay then. I so desperately want to be seen and held, yet I simultaneously refuse to be seen or held. If I don’t feel completely safe around someone, I will never be honest. I will never let them in. I will lie and keep on going, desperate to be helped but refusing almost all help because there are so few people I actually feel safe around. And even fewer people I would feel comfortable burdening with my pain. I firmly believe this complex stems from queer trauma. Those who I thought loved me the most rejected me when I revealed my true self. So I protect my truest, most vulnerable self at all costs. If my family and my god whom I thought loved me entirely, completely, and deeply turned their backs when I opened up my most vulnerable self, how can I trust anyone? This thought pattern I know is a lie – I am surrounded by friends and chosen family who love me completely, but there’s a part of me so scared of completely opening up because I have been betrayed so deeply. Here rests the kernel of truth, the most painful spot. Here is where mental illness grows into queer pain and an inability to reach out for help, which leads to queer self destruction. I know this is something I can overcome, but I will probably spend the rest of my life figuring out how. 

The scariest realization I had throughout all of this thinking is, as I mentioned earlier, the fact that I may not win my battle with mental illness. I am mentally ill, and perhaps one day it will overtake me. Perhaps one day, I will not have the strength to overcome the intensity of the bad or the simple exhaustion of living. I so desperately hope I die of old age. I so desperately hope I keep on living, but it is also so exhausting. I am motivated to keep fighting by my commitment to doing no harm. Other motivators are holding onto the wonderful beauty of life, the crazy happenstance of existence. However, I may not win. I feel freed in accepting this fact, not weighed down by the length of the road ahead of me. Please, do not fret; I still have plenty of energy to fight yet. Decades hopefully, especially with continued treatment. And maybe I will overcome and die of old age, but if I am going to be completely honest, it may also be the case that someday life will be all too much. However, I’ll keep fighting my hardest to hold onto life, to experience every glorious second and extend as much love and joy and kindness to this world as I can until then. 

Many writings on mental illness end with some neat resolution, like “it gets better” or “never give up!” and I struggle to stop writing until I come up with a neat resolution myself. But I can’t, because at least right now, I’m not certain of that happy ending. It feels too neat for the reality of life. Instead, I’ll make my motto “fight like hell, there’s no turning back”. 

To all my queers, mentally ill folks, and addicts: fight like hell, there’s no turning back.

(The original can be found here.)

Guest Author: Joie de Vivre #TDOV2021

Today is the annual Trans Day of Visibility, and for trans folks (and our non-binary/gender non-conforming siblings) its both the best of times and the worst of times.

I mostly post about the latter because the effort to eradicate — and I don’t use that word lightly — trans people from public life is hateful, alarming and requiring direct action to combat. The on-going hate-crimes murders of trans people, usually almost all trans women, usually almost all women of color, usually the vast majority Black trans women. The demonization of trans (girl) athletes — because it’s almost always trans women/girls who are targeted — by an unholy alliance between social conservatives and purported “feminists,” who are really Feminist-Approriately Reactionary Transphobes. (Because if you’re “feminism” aligned you with the Immoral Minority, then you’re doing feminism wrong.) State legislatures proposing — and passing — laws to criminalize providing trans-related healthcare to trans kids, to allow doctors to deny healthcare in general to trans patients.

Like the attack on voting rights, even when they fail these efforts are meant to intimidate us. They force us and our allies to expend time on effort that could go to more worthy purposes — such as reducing the shockingly high rates of suicide among trans teens. In a 2018 study, 85% of trans teens reported “seriously considering suicide,” while over half of them attempted suicide. Because life is that fucking tough for them. In another study, 78% of respondents reported being harassed, 35% attacked and 12% sexually assaulted. Trans adults have suicide rate comparable only to combat vets suffering PTSD, because yes, life is that fucking hard for too many of us as well. I only post about a fraction of this stuff, not only for my own sanity, but to prevent myself from becoming Janie One Note. Trust me, there’s a lot of other things that I’d rather be posting about. So if you know a trans/non-binary/gender non-conforming person, today is a really good day to show them some love, because although there’s now a lot of good things happening, there’s still all too much threatening and scary stuff going down.

It’s also the best of times. Like for many other minorities, the existential terror of The Former Guy’s administration is now gone. The current administration has our backs, and they’re walking the walk. They’re rolling back the hateful policies of the prior administration. The Biden administration became to the first to celebrate Transgender Day of Visibility, while also today the Pentagon reversed the military’s trans ban. That’s a big Joe Biden Deal. (Even if presidential executive orders mean my rights are at the whim of who’s in power.) The love shown to Elliot Page shown when he came out. The increasing visibility of, and support for, trans men, who’ve traditionally flown under the radar (for better or worse).

Dr. Rachel Levine getting confirmed by the Senate as Assistant Secretary of Health — the first trans person to do so. Dr. Levine’s accomplishment is a double victory, because like a lot of later-in-life transitioners, including myself, she’s “visibly trans” due to the unwanted changes testosterone wreaked on her body. Previously the high-profile trans woman activists, like Laverne Cox and Janet Mock were less threatening: they fit the cisgender heterosexual norms of beauty, they’re attracted to men. Which is not to knock their activism, far from it. But life is different when you look like, well Laverne Cox. I still regularly get “sirred” by store cashiers and others. I’ve resigned myself to always being “sirred” on the phone. I’ve learned to let roll off my back since it’s often not worth correcting them, but for part of me it’s still always another slice in the death of a thousand cuts. (If you don’t think pronouns are important, try misgendering a cisgender person’s pet.) I don’t know Dr. Levine’s sexual orientation, but since she was married to a woman (the married didn’t survive transition), I suspect that like many later-in-life transitioners, including myself, she’s attracted to women. (Sexuality attraction being independent from gender identity.)

Dr. Levine doesn’t really have a choice whether she’s visibly trans. Myself, I blend in more often than I’d hoped for, and for the most part I’m treated as the woman I am. But I still choose to be visible for those who can’t be. (Yes, I’m one of the examples that yes, it does get better, and I have enough privileges to be visible.) But I’m hoping that being trans ends up being the third or fourth most-interesting thing about me. That said, not everyone can be, or wants to be visible. (If you don’t think you know any trans people, trust me you do.) There are many reasons. Some don’t feel safe doing so, some are trying to keep jobs or preserve marriages, some feel it’s nobody else’s damn business. But regardless of the reason, it’s totally cool, and they’re just as trans (or non-binary or gender non-conforming), just as valid, as those who are out. But in the spirit of visibility, I’d encourage you to check out FORGE’s series of short videos where trans/non-binary/gender non-conforming folx share their experiences and feelings about being seen. In particular my friends Helen Boyd and Rachel Crowl. (Helen is an incisive thinker about gender, an amazing writer, and fierce advocate — buy her books!, and check out her Trans 101 talk. Rachel is a bad-ass actor, musician and photographer who got stellar reviews for co-starring in an award-winning indie film, and at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival — cast her!)

To my trans sisters and non-binary, and gender non-conforming sisters, brothers and siblings, to their partners (who are too often unsung heroes), to their families, and our fierce allies, I see you, I love you, I celebrate you. I’d also like to give a shout out to all those on the trans spectrum who don’t socially transition and therefore never go public for various reasons (most don’t feel the need to transition and are happy being “just a crossdresser” etc.), and often are deeply, deeply closeted—there’s probably 10 of them for every public transitioner, making them the vast dark matter of the trans universe. Unfortunately many of them are looked down upon not only by society at large, but also too often by other trans people. Yes, I see you, and yes, you’re “real enough” too. To quote Helen, you’re amazing and you’re awesome. Love to you all. Don’t let the bastards get you down.


My friend Lynne wrote this piece for Facebook. I agree with every word.


I’m pretty sure from some of the comments I’ve seen in the past week that there are many people who don’t live in Wisconsin who have literally no idea what’s going on here.

“But they’re just following the laws,” they say.

Oh, you mean the laws they created using one of the most gerrymandered states in US history, which is being sustained and supported by a far-right-wing judiciary that’s made it clear they will side again and again with a legislative branch elected by a false majority?

Wisconsin does not have one person, one vote, not by a long shot. It’s a laboratory for vote suppression, denial of human rights, and efficient, legal means of seizing control of the organs of state.

See, that’s the deal. Everything the Republicans have done is legal, even the obscene ways they got into power. But what they’ve done is wrong and is explicitly intended solely to maintain the dominance of a small number of white, wealthy, “Christian” men.

What’s happening in Wisconsin is going to happen in other states, where it isn’t already being played out. (Yo, Tejas, what up, bitches?)

Voter suppression is the least of it. Claiming, “Well, it’s not nice, but it’s legal, and we’ll just have to get our people back in office at the next election” is really fucking clueless. You can’t get your people back in office when the districts were literally and blatantly constructed to ensure Republicans would be elected.

You think, “Oh, Wisconsin, nice cheese and beer. Polite ex-Germans. Pretty scenery.” You’re an ignorant fool. Wisconsin is the single most racist state by many statistical measures.

Liberal white people really need to drive around Milwaukee , maybe spend a dollar to buy a goddamn clue. This is not the nice, liberal, trying-harder-to-be-decent place it was 20 years ago.

Conservative white people should do it, too, to get some good ideas on how to keep down the racial minorities in their own states. Pick up some tips from the prison system here so they can ensure their underclasses stay sufficiently cowed.

They (the Republicans headed by Vos and Fitzgerald) don’t even pretend to hide what they’re doing any more, and their literal last minute (and successful) efforts to strip the governorship of important powers solely because a Democrat had been elected was disgusting, obscene, and completely legal.

Don’t believe me? Milwaukee is only opening 5 voting locations tomorrow instead of the usual 180. That number is not a typo.

Guess what color people live there who tend to vote Democrat? Hint: not Anglos.

But it’s wrong. Everything happening here is wrong, and plenty of liberals in other states are acting as though it’s business as usual, everyone gets to vote in fair and balanced elections, and things will be “back to normal” Real Soon Now.

Wisconsin is their laboratory and their burying ground for American ideals of equality and access to justice.

I moved here from a colonial state (New Mexico), which routinely surprised me with its level of corruption, but my home has nothing on this wasteland where roam Republic monsters, reprehensible, disgusting Nazi wannabes.

For those of you who don’t know, I used to be a rich, white guy, so I’m pretty sure I understand white guy thinking reasonably well.

I was/am Unitarian, so I’m really liberal, but I have guns and motorcycles and literally give away (open source) all my intellectual creations, so it’s not like I’m claiming I understand modern conservatism. At the individual level, I certainly understand some kinds of systemic oppression, because I learned very, very early that being an atheist was a good way to get a beating.

Now I’m an accidentally queer, kinda rich (social capitalist), atheist woman with no formal education living in a 1930s Germany wannabe state. I’m not kidding around here. Wisconsin is fuckedup, and those of you who don’t live here remind me of people who don’t believe the New Mexicans have to routinely deal with a country where people don’t think they’re part of the United States.

Pay. Fucking. Attention. What’s happening in Wisconsin is wrong, and I’m not just talking about the Republican attempts to control the current election. Wisconsin has basically become what Idaho would look like if it were successful.

I’m not going to enjoy saying, “I told you so” in the future, so I’ll do it now.

Either help, or STFU and get out of the fucking way while we take back our republican democracy.

Witness: Rachel See at SCOTUS

My friend Rachel See of NCTE was in the courtroom today and wrote this compelling observation about what it was like.:

I don’t think I’ll be able to forget the look I saw from the bench. Near the start of the first case, Justice Kavanaugh looked up from whatever he was reading and seemed to stare straight at me. Straight through me. I met his gaze for a few moments, and then I realized that Aimee Stephens was sitting immediately behind me.

I don’t know what was running through Justice Kavanaugh’s mind. He asked a single question this morning, about whether the statute used the literal or the ordinary meaning of the word “sex”. I feel incapable of reading those tea leaves.

But in those few lingering moments, feeling his gaze upon me, I felt literally judged, as a trans woman, by a man in a position to affect the lives of me and my family and friends and the 1.4 million trans adults in America. A man with the power to declare, as Justice Sotomayor suggests the Court should say, that “invidious discrimination” against LGBT people must stop now, and that courts can and should use the broad language of Title VII to do so. But also a man with the power to declare, as our adversaries would have him say, that sex assigned at birth is destiny, and that an employer can dictate where you pee. And, by extension, someone with the power to declare that “invidious discrimination” against LGBT people will be permitted by the law, and even be encouraged in the name of “religious freedom”.

It is the most-uncomfortable I’ve ever felt in a courtroom. My heart goes out to Aimee Stephens, who felt the true focus of that gaze and the scrutiny of the Court and the media and all the vile hatred that we see on Twitter and “in the comments”. Aimee looked so tired this afternoon; who wouldn’t be tired, under all that scrutiny? I can’t imagine what she’s been through these past months, and I am in awe at her quiet strength and perseverance.

For all the discomfort I felt from Justice Kavanaugh’s scrutiny, the message I want to deliver to my trans and nonbinary friends is that you are seen by people who love you. You are seen by people who look upon you with friendship, with compassion, with love. By your chosen family, by allies, by people who will fight for all of us. In a few months we may very well lose at the Supreme Court; win or lose on these cases, the fight will continue. And we will not be alone, because we exist. We are seen. We are loved.

Guest Author: Jolie Laide on TDOR

This is a guest post by my friend Jolie Laide, who blogs at Dances With Gender.

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance — an occasion that honestly I have very mixed feelings about.

Not that we shouldn’t remember our dead. On the contrary. At least 23 transgender/non-binary people have been killed so far this year in the U.S. As usual, almost all of them were trans women, the vast majority were WOC (mostly black trans woman), a number of them were street sex workers. I point out the latter not to denigrate sex work, rather that they were so marginalized by society that the only way for them to survive was to engage in a highly risky profession.

A partial list of our dead from around the world is on the TDOR website. Many of them were killed with extreme brutality — what criminologists refer to as “overkill,” which is an indicator of extreme rage and hatred toward the victim.

There were undoubtedly more. Usually they were people who couldn’t afford to change their name and gender on their legal ID — or lived in states where social conservatives intentionally passed laws to make it difficult/impossible to do — and consequently when their bodies are found, they usually suffer the final indignity of being misnamed and misgendered by the police and the media. It’s only through people who knew them that we learn who they really were.

They deserve one final recognition as their proper selves.

Mesha Caldwell, 41
Sean Hake, 23
Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, 28
JoJo Striker, 23
Tiara Richmond, also known as Keke Collier, 24
Chyna Gibson, 31
Ciara McElveen, 26
Jaquarrius Holland, 18
Alphonza Watson, 38
Chay Reed, 28
Kenneth Bostick, 59
Sherrell Faulkner, 46
Kenne McFadden, 27
Kendra Marie Adams, 28
Ava Le’Ray Barrin, 17
Ebony Morgan, 28
TeeTee Dangerfield, 32
Gwynevere River Song, 26
Kiwi Herring, 30
Kashmire Nazier Redd, 28
Derricka Banner, 26
Scout Schultz, 21
Ally Steinfeld, 17
Stephanie Montez, 47
Candace Towns, 30

OTOH, for years TDOR was the only time trans people were publicly recognized. If you were gay or lesbian, you had Gay Pride — an event, even if less and less political over the years, still has an attitude of celebration and defiance. As gay writer Joe Jervis summed it up in his must-read essay about the value of Pride: “They wish we were invisible. We’re not. Let’s dance.”

For us, not so much. Pre-Laverne Cox, pre-Janet Mock, pre-Caitlyn Jenner, the only public occasion for trans people was one marking our persecution and deaths. Fortunately, that’s changing with the  Transgender Day of Visibility, on March 31, which is intended to celebrate living members of the transgender community, has been gaining traction, as has Trans Awareness Week, which is the week directly preceding TDOR.

As Daye Pope eloquently said:

“Transgender people are real, and vibrant, and powerful, and beautiful, and resilient, and enough. Despite every obstacle stacked against us we rewrite the rules, beat the odds, defy expectations. I believe with all my heart that we have a bright future, because we will build it together.”

So today mourn our dead, tomorrow fight like hell for the living. In March, celebrate our fabulous selves.

They wish we were invisible. We’re not. Let’s dance.

Paisley Currah on the WH’s Rescinding of LGBTQ Protections

from Paisley Currah, in response to the news that the WH is looking to remove LGBTQ protections from healthcare:

“Don’t believe everything you read about the Trump’s administration’s inability to govern. In the regulatory arena, Trump is really getting things done–look what’s happening at the EPA. There’s also Sessions’ stated intention of ending the Justice Department’s oversight of post-Ferguson reforms regarding excessive fines and fees. When it comes to trans people, they are viciously efficient. They’ve rescinded the Obama administration’s Title IX guidance on trans students. Trump tweeted that the Defense Department’s policy on trans service members would be reversed. And now they’re planning to get rid of rules–of critical importance to trans people–that ban discrimination based on gender identity under the Affordable Health Care Act. The Justice Department is also deciding whether or not to support Obama-era rules that used the Prison Rape Elimination Act to protect transgender prisoners from violence. And there’s still a bunch more policy changes out there awaiting the eye of Sauron. Trump/Pence have 3.5 more years to do a lot of damage.’

Guest Post by Patrick Califia

Patrick Califia posted this yesterday on Facebook, and I thought it was vital to share.

I did something today that was really important. It was embarrassing, stressful, maybe even traumatic. But it was still very important for me to make sure that I showed up so that it could happen. And I want to urge ALL of my friends who share some of my anatomy to listen to what I have to say about it.
I’m talking about getting a Pap smear.

I’ve been going to get these damn tests ever since I had access to medical care, sometime in my twenties. Back in the ’70s and ’80s, being visible as a dyke meant that I got universally shitty treatment from doctors. For some reason, gynecologists were the worst. It didn’t matter if they were men or women, either. Female doctors seemed to feel that they had to be as homophobic and mean as their male counterparts to prove they belonged in the boys’ club of medicine.

Josephine Butler referred to the speculum as “an iron penis.” She was a Victorian feminist who agitated against laws that allowed the police to confine women under suspicion of prostitution and keep them confined indefinitely. Women arrested under these laws were subjected to pelvic exams, often with dirty speculums that might have transmitted the very diseases they were accused of harboring. At the time, diagnosis of a “venereal disease” was not accurate, and there was no treatment for syphilis or gonorrhea–unless you count taking compounds made from mercury that could be life-threatening. She succeeded in arousing working-class men to support a women’s cause by using this kind of colorful rhetoric.

Today, speculums (the medical instrument that allows a doctor to open and look inside a vagina or rectum) are made out of plastic. My doctor today showed me how she could insert a flashlight into the one she was using, to illuminate my cervix. She made sure to use the smallest one that would do the job. She told me what was going to happen before she touched me, and there was no unnecessary probing or infliction of pain. I find the test painful anyway just because I don’t like it, and when the long Q-tip is taking a tissue sample from the os or opening of the cervix, it makes me feel sick to my stomach, it hurts that much.

It is even painful for me to write about my own anatomy. I don’t like the fact that I have these internal organs. I have never wanted to have this anatomy. It messes with my sense of my own gender to know that there are unwanted, female organs inside of my body. I am concerned by how many of my readers will be disgusted with me for talking about them, or see me as less of a man because I am being open about possessing them.

Still, this is my body. My body that gives me pain every day from fibromyalgia. But my body has also been with me through every part of my life, and it has never let me down. My body survived being hungry during childhood, and being abused. It survived years of queer-bashing, awful underpaind jobs, poor housing, and street harassment. My body has taken me on amazing journeys outside of the United States and within the realm of sexual exploration. My body has been like a wonderful machine, supporting my consciousness, always following my mind when it wanted to have a particular adventure. I love my body for being there for me no matter what illness, overwork, educational endeavor, or trip through the world of pleasure that befell me. I am so lucky to have a body inherited from strong people who basically walked across the United States so they could live out their religious principles. Nothing stopped them–not poverty, violent persecution, illness, malnutrition, and the crushing labor of establishing a new territory. (These people also did a lot of things I am ashamed of, but that is a topic for another article.)

How do you feel about your body? How far would you go to take care of your physical self, or what acts of gratitude would you commit to let your body know you feel grateful and loving toward your own flesh? That was what I did today.

Listen to me. Cervical cancer is an AWFUL disease. I watched my mother die of breast cancer because she found a lump in her breast and ignored it for ten years. Don’t let yourself contract a fatal disease that can be treated if it is detected early enough. That is what a Pap smear is for. It is to save your life. None of us–no matter how gender dysphoric we are–none of us deserve to have our lives shortened because we are different.

I have lost track of how many butch dykes, gender-queer people, and transmen I have taken for their first Pap smear. I have held people’s hands while they cried because they hated the test so much. I have gotten them high before the test and taken them home for consoling sex after it happened. I have listened to stories of childhood abuse so awful it would scorch your soul to listen to it. We are singled out for humiliation and mistreatment because people think if they break us or beat us down, we will stop trying to “act like men.” Of course, it doesn’t work, the only thing they can do is make us shut up about how we feel toward our own genders. We can never stop feeling the way that we do.

Coming out as a trans person was the hardest thing I have ever done. I felt more ashamed of myself for being trans than I had ever felt about being gay or even being a sadomasochist. I think in part this was because I could not explain WHY I felt this way. I had to confront a lot of negative messages I heard about myself as I was growing up to be able to replace that shame with pride and self-validation. it may seem ironic to you, but one of the ways I know that I was able to accept myself as a man and publicly come out as trans is the medical test I got today.

Maybe it took five minutes, maybe it was ten, I lost track of time. I disassociated. Writing about it now is one of the ways I can come back into my adult self and feel like I am okay in the present. Why would I encourage anybody else to go through something that was this upsetting?

Because I want you to save your own life.

Yes, it is that simple. Please save your own life. Okay, so you don’t feel happy or comfortable in the body that you got when you were born. I understand that. And, at the same time, if we are going to be activists for life, building community, that life needs to be as long as possible. Goddess knows that 80 or 100 years is not enough to shift public ignorance and malevolence toward sex- and gender-minority people. But in the 63 years I have been alive, I have seen HUGE social change. That is the reward of activism. You get to find out that standing up to “the system” works. So it’s worth it to stick around, my younger friends. It really is.

And if you need somebody to get you to the appointment, be your advocate while you get examined, and soothe your fears or your upset after it is over, you know how to find me. I care about how it feels to be violated by a medical procedure. But it’s worth it. Because none of us deserve to die in pain just because we are differently-gendered. Right, my brothers and non-sisters? Take care of the body that you live in now, because that body has been through a lot, and needs somebody (you) to be loving toward it.
Finally, I want to thank my doctor at Outside In for making this experience as simple and non-traumatic as possible. She is a saint as far as I am concerned. I look at her tired face and wonder how much human misery she witnesses every day, at a clinic that specializes in homeless people and trans folks. And so I think somebody should just tell her, job well done. You made it possible for me to do this, and I am so grateful to be touched by medical hands that are not full of hatred. Blessings upon you and your house.

Guest Author: Gwen Smith, TDOR’s Founder

From Gwen Smith, who founded Transgender Day of Remembrance back in 1999:

I Remember.

The 20th of November is a day set aside to honor those who we have lost due to anti-trans violence and hatred.

This year, we honor roughly 300 people from around the world. There’s likely many others we do not know, erased by their killers, and further erased by police, media, families, and others.

Anti-trans violence affects us all, trans or not. We need everyone to stand against it. Our right to exist is on the line. Anti-trans violence is also anti-black. It is also anti-sex worker. It is also anti-woman. Be intersectional.

In the U.S., we face a rollback on our rights, and face future laws against us, in the name of “safety.” We need to stand up & fight for *our* safety, our right to exist, our protections. We need to not let those we’ve lost die in vain.

In the United States, there have been as many as 27 known anti-trans murders since the last Transgender Day or remembrance.

• Monica Loera of Austin, Texas. Murdered 22 January, 2016.
• Jasmine Sierra of Bakersfield, California. Murdered 22 January, 2016.
• Kayden Clarke of Mesa, Arizona. Murdered 4 February, 2016.
• Veronica Banks Cano of San Antonio, Texas. Murdered 19 February, 2016.
• Maya Young of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Murdered 21 February, 2016.
• Demarkis Stansberry of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Murdered 27 February, 2016.
• Kedarie/Kandicee Johnson of Burlington, Iowa. Murdered 2 March, 2016.
• Quartney Davia Dawsonn-Yochum of Los Angeles, California. Murdered 23 March, 2016.
• Shante Isaac of Houston, Texas. Murdered on 10 April, 2016.
• Keyonna Blakeney of Rockville, Maryland. Murdered on 16 April, 2016.
• Tyreece Walker of Wichita, Kansa. Murdered on 1 May, 2016.
• Mercedes Successful of Haines City, Florida. Murdered on 15 May, 2016.
• Amos Beede of Burlington, Vermont. Murdered on 25 May, 2016.
• Goddess Diamond of New Orleans, Louisiana. Murdered on 5 June, 2016.
• Deeniquia Dodds of Washington D.C. Murdered on 13 July, 2016.
• Dee Whigam of Shubuta, Mississippi. Murdered on 23 July, 2016.
• Skye Mockabee of Cleveland, Ohio. Murdered on 30 July, 2016.
• Erykah Tijerina of El Paso, Texas. Murdered on 8 August, 2016.
• Rae’Lynn Thomas of Columbus, Ohio. Murdered on 10 August, 2016.
• Lexxi T. Sironen of Waterville, Minnesota. Murdered on 6 September, 2016.
• T.T. of Chicago, Illinois. Murdered on 11 September, 2016.
• Crystal Edmonds of Baltimore, Maryland. Murdered on 16 September, 2016.
• Jazz Alford of North Carolina. Murdered in Birmingham, Alabama on 23 September, 2016.
• Brandi Bledsoe of Cleveland, Ohio. Murdered on 12 October, 2016.
• Sierra Bush/Simon Bush/Sierra Simon of Idaho City, Idaho. Murdered on 22 October, 2016.
• Noony Norwood of Richmond, Virginia. Murdered on 5 November, 2016.

Today, honor those we have lost. Tomorrow and every day, fight for them and all others. Remember Our Dead. #trans #tdor #tdor2016