First Trans Delegation: 2004

Homemade pins, made by Babs Siperstein and Monica Helms, for the first trans delegation in 2004. Much thanks to Christina for supplying the image.

Yesterday, for the trans/GNC and LGBTQ caucuses, the Jane Fee award was given to Babs (Barbara) Siperstein, who died last year.

This year, there are 35+ trans /GNC delegates to the DNC, and they, of course, are standing on the shoulders of giants.

Jane Fee was the solo trans delegate, at age 73 – the first ever out trans delegate- to the DNC in 2000.

By 2004, there were 7 trans delegates:

Monica Helms (who also created and designed the trans pride flag and TAVA, the first trans veterans org)

Vanessa Edwards Foster, who created the trans lobbying org, NTAC

Barbara Siperstein, who was so awesome she now has a law named after her

Kathy Padilla, who helped pass Philly’s trans rights law

Melissa Sklarz, who has been a moving force in NYC trans rights since forever, and

Christina Ocasio (whose current focus is her awesome music).

They were joined by trans journalist Roslyn Manley and by Mara Keisling of NCTE, who has gone every year in one role or another.

Stay tuned for more info about the current crop of trans/GNC delegates, info about their races, and how you can support them.

Covid Wash: New Piece on Patreon

I’m not managing to write very much – same thoughts over & over, to be honest, most days – but a kind gesture by a friend causes me to write this piece. Here’s an excerpt (and a new photo taken by my very talented wife).

https://www.patreon.com/posts/39531710

There are moments in this pandemic when the enormity of it all hits you for a second. It’s usually, for me, a banal moment when I’m telling my cat she has already had dinner or I’m trying to find a lighter or I’m pulling wet laundry out of the washing machine. My heart feels cold for a minute. My breath stops. An overwhelming feeling of nausea and dismay washes over me in a wave, a series of waves. I feel as if I’m about to vanish in a puff of smoke and then… it’s over again, and my hand is pulling on the wet towel that’s wrapped itself around the agitator. I can feel the cool sweat on my forehead or upper lip – evidence that something happened; my stomach clenches, and I cough or sigh to re start my breath because I’ve been holding it without realizing. It has passed, that feeling of dread, that panic attack, the nausea of this reality. It’s almost as if I’m not there for a minute or ten, and I don’t know how long I was gone. I don’t know why it hit just then, no matter what it was I was doing or saying or looking at. Like a wave picked me up and dropped me back down but not an ocean wave – instead a sinister wave of fear, death, panic, dread, sadness, grief, anger.

Trans Medical Care / Anxiety

I really do wish people understood the deep anxiety trans people & their families go through with medical care. I’m sitting here waiting for Rache to have a procedure done that they have to put her under for, & I’m sitting out here wondering why we don’t get to talk to any specialist about trans bodies and whether they’ve seen or worked with any before.

And this is ME, people. Empowered trans advocate and educator for 20 years and I feel absolutely powerless and have to hope & have faith. And I know my wife well enough to know that she brought it up in the most charming way possible as they prepped her. We asked ahead of time & were reassured it’s in her chart. Great, sure. But do most specialists know what that means, what trans bodies can look like?

Love to all the trans people, their partners and parents & care givers. It’s a fuck of a thing to have to worry about inexperience and/or transphobia during what should be a routine procedure.

I’m sure she’ll be fine and I’m going to take some deep breaths right now.

It is hard to love someone who you know others hate just because of who they are and how their bodies are.

& Fuck all of you who voted for Trump & these monsters who would encourage any medical personnel to not treat my beautiful wife with dignity & respect.

Black and Queer: Orgs and Individuals

I’ve been thinking a lot this month about queerness and de centering whiteness this month — someday I’ll have the energy to write more about it.

But what I have been doing is trying to focus on fundraising for some cool organizations and individuals who I personally know are doing great work. So here’s my short list. Donate if you can.

  1. The Okra Project, a grassroots collective that combats food insecurity in the black transgender community, has launched two mental health recovery funds to provide black trans men and women sessions with a licensed black therapist, free of cost. Donate via their PayPal to either the Tony McDade fund (for black trans men) or the Nina Pop fund.
  2. Monica Roberts is the Trans Griot, and she has been reporting on issues of black trans identity for decades. Here is a direct link to her blog. On the right is her tip jar. Use it often and generously.
  3. The Audre Lorde Project is a community organizing center focused on the needs of LGBT, GNC, Two Spirit POC. Donate here.
  4. Brown Girl Recovery is a peer support, trauma focused organization “dedicated to community healing for femmes and folks of color” in the Bronx and uptown NYC.
  5. SHEBA (Sisters Helping Each other Battle Adversity) is a group of 20 African American trans women that meets biweekly for leadership development, health promotion activities, and social support. They are supported by Diverse & Resilient, and you can donate through them.

100,000.

100,000.

The New York Times has their front page ready for tomorrow, when we hit that number: six columns of names, places, some brief phrase culled from the person’s obituary. There are no images, just names. It’s powerful and provocative and is the first thing I’ve seen that tries to present to us what we’re living through.

I wish they had given their entire Sunday paper over to the whole of it, to print every single one of these 100,000 names, with the sparest of details – name, place, phrase – and if they had, the Sunday edition of The New York Times would be 100 pages long  — and have nothing in it but them. 

I wish they had because I think we need to understand, to try to understand, to try to grapple with what we are living through. 

This is the equivalent of one person dying every minute of every day for 70 days straight. 

This is the equivalent of a person dying every second of every hour of every day for a month. 

When do we get to mourn as a nation?

When will people stop arguing about wearing masks?

When will people take a minute to realize what has happened, how many families are grieving, how many lives are lost?

When do we stop caring about how bored we are?

For 20 years we have recited the names of the nearly 4000 who died that Tuesday in NY & PA. It takes nearly 4 hours.

 This list would take nearly 100 hours to read, or 4 days, reading non stop.

How will we grieve this? What is even possible? Since our minds can’t make sense of it, there is no ritual that would satisfy the requirements of loss at so great a scale. We can’t make sure every family, every person who was lost, finally gets their memorial, their moment in time, their celebration of life. No, the reality is that they have died watery deaths – no body, no memorial, no gathering, no last rites.

And that is not the beginning of what is horrible about any of this.

Today I will not murk the loss and sadness and grief with finger pointing or mockery of our leadership. I will do that on another day, at another time, and I sure as fuck will do that in November.

Right now I just want to contemplate what it means to live in a culture where a hundred thousand families can’t grieve with each other and instead we’re arguing about masks and so called freedom, where healthcare workers are being accused of villainy or conspiracy. 

Right now I just want to say: turn it off. Turn off all the social media. Forget the sarcasm, and the clever “coronavirus likes this” image, the innumerable clever gifs, the everything. But my god, especially the funny. This is no time for scoring a point or having the right emoticon.

This is only a time for grief: collective, wailing, keening, uncategorizable, overwhelming grief.

Sit with it. Light a candle. Say a prayer. Pet a cat. Throw a ball. But remember, with the whole of you, how many people are missing that person they said the prayer for, the pet they loved together, the games they saw together.

We will, I predict, become 80x more callous than we are today if we don’t. 

So sit with it. Let your humanity light up a minute of your life. For once in your life, be uncomfortable. Try to reconcile the irreconcilable and fail. Imagine the one loss, or two, or twelve that you’ve experienced. Remember in your guts how it felt, in your head. 

There is no way for us to reconcile this loss, to respect it, to grieve it. We could be silent for a month, not talk for a month, maybe. We could light 100,000 candles and still not understand, because every grief, every loss, is inconsolable. Anyone who has lost someone important knows this; everyone who has cried and not slept or slept too much or drank too much or not eaten or eaten too much knows this. 

We all know what this loss means, what it is, why it hurts, or we all could, if we stopped, stopped everything, stopped arguing, stopped posting, stopped worrying.

Grieve with me. 

Take those four days – the days it would take to read their names out loud – and just grieve. 

I don’t know when my four days will happen, but that’s what I’m going to do: no talking, only fasting, only prayer. I think I’ll start the morning after we officially hit 100,000 so that I can tie up loose ends and put up an automatic reply to my email and a note on Facebook because those are the concessions the living demand. 

Join me. Let the world go dark for a minute for these, our one hundred thousand dead.

https://www.patreon.com/posts/100-000-37460266  

Introducing: Tenterhooks

As many of you veterans of the mHB boards know, they flatlined a while back and Rachel and I decided we just couldn’t bring them back. We’ve both given so many hours moderating them over the years; I did, especially, — since 2003! — and I needed instead to focus on my own career, other projects, etc. I do a lot of writing now at Patreon, if you want to come follow me over there.

Perhaps one day I’ll write up a piece about what they were and have been in a way that does them justice.

But for now, some awesome folks from the mHB boards who especially missed them as a result of Covid-19 have created their own.

Tenterhooks: an online community for trans people, gender non conforming people, & their partners. I think their comment policy really does explain the gist of the place, too.

I’ve become a member (though I’ve yet to post) and a few of us also get together for a zoom chat weekly if that’s something you might like.

Heartsick in Wisco

i don’t know if i can explain how heartsick i am today. having watched italy and new york, having cried so many times, the one good thing was that Evers helped Wisconsin do the right thing.

and you know, it worked. it really fucking worked.

and yet here we are, about to undo all of that good. healthcare workers be damned. everyone’s grandma, diabetic friend, the kids, black people, workers…. everyone be damned because the wisconsin supreme court is bought & paid for, heartless, arguing the letter (badly) & not the spirit of the law.

the comments on Appeton’s city hall paged are horrific. my dear friend Vered was just called an “it” for supporting the city & county’s interim ruling.

i can take stupid. i can’t take heartless. between the people sermonzing about drinking and the tavern league throwing bartenders into the fire, i’m exhausted. hell & the deep blue sea.

this is all going to take longer and be so much worse than it needed to be and it is very hard to be a big hearted person today.

honestly, being a sane person in wisconsin is like being the loved one of an alcoholic.you can’t save them, you can’t help them, & all you can do is remind yourself of that over & over again. the sad thing is, you can put a cap back on a bottle, but you can’t put a lid on a virus.

i really just don’t understand why people are full of rage at being told not to cough on people. or why they don’t understand being a carrier while well. or. or. or. hateful & stupid are a wicked combination.

i know, i know: look for the helpers. but holy shit we are all exhausted.

i know so many good people will continue to stay home, wear masks. i know a lot of business owners will continue only curbside. i know many of us will keep doing what we can.

& that’s that. we are two countries.

Pay.Fucking.Attention.

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.

From the Rubble: Notes on How To Do This (or Not)

There are things I could be doing, like re organizing my house or doing a spring cleaning; I could be exercising every day or teaching myself to make scones. I could try on all my clothes and get rid of things that don’t fit or are ripped or stained. I could create a podcast or make videos with my partner or create anything, but anything, useful.

I could be distracting myself with bad TV or clever memes or parody songs that replace the original lyrics with lyrics about Covid. 

I could be sewing masks but I can’t sew and I could be prepping a syllabus and online teaching resources but I’m not teaching this spring. 

I am pretty certain I will be leaving social media in a minute; the joking all seems inappropriate, and I’m sick of this culture that laughs and snarks at everything, that craves distraction above all else. We’ve done it a million times with school shootings and hurricanes and it’s all stupid. Sorry, but it is.

We need to sit with this grief, with the grief of people having to die alone who shouldn’t be dying at all. 

Maybe just I do, and a few of you out there who are more meditative, the people who are scared, the people who need to breathe in this new reality. We have let too many moments pass where we got angry and posted things and made jokes and went back to Netflix. We’ve let school aged children die and done nothing. 

This whole culture is a death cult with no appreciation for grief. 

And I’m done, I’m stepping out of it. I need instead to slow down, to find what genuinely brings me joy.

Every night when I go to bed my 5 year old miracle of a cat – she was gifted me by the universe so I could withstand the pain of my mother’s death – cuddles with me, purrs so loudly I can feel it in my organs, and cleans my face. I cry, she cleans. She teaches me what it means to be near someone, to hold their feelings. She is, luckily, a big strong cat, our house panther, who plays otherwise all day. One of my students would marry her if she were human, and for good reason. She knows how to live and how to love and how to pay attention to how people are doing. I really couldn’t be more lucky.

On the other hand I live with a partner who makes me laugh and who appreciates long hours of no talking. She is there in an entirely different way: she goes to get things. She makes art. She reads the news. She lets me sleep and she reads on the couch. We have been together 20 years and I am thankful for that, too: we are not ironing out how to be together. We have been together through so many things and we know how we are, how we argue, who gets impatient with what. She remembers to buy kielbasa because it’s a stupid pleasure that makes me happy. 

I have these things, this wife, these cats, this home, books, Sims, writing. I have gummi bears and girl scout cookies, a freezer full of bread. I have tea and milk and too many clothes. I really do wonder why I have so many clothes. 

I have these things: my secular faith in science and smart people, my love for my hometown, earnestness, food, and music. I have the ability to sit still, to be quiet, to listen to the robins at 4am singing, singing so loud then, talking to each other across the street like the Italians singing across courtyards.

And yes, I have Netflix. I am rewatching the original CSI because it’s familiar and because, to be honest, it’s an entire show about scientists trying to find the truth and bring some justice. I know all the science is terrible, promise: I really just needed some Gil Grissom in my life.  

I know so many of you are frantic and beside yourself with fear and anxiety and boredom and what I’m trying to say, with love, is that distraction and snark may not help at all and may, in fact, be making things worse. Not for all of you. Some of you, who work in the trenches with queer grief, at hospitals, in other places where life and death are constant and immutable, need whatever glamour and humor you can find. 

I’m not surprised to hear from so many friends that cooking is what’s keeping them sane, that sharing a meal with family is what works for them. In today’s update, Cuomo talked about the Italian family dinner, and joked too that it’s never been about the food. I grew up like that too: we had family meals every night that everyone was expected to join. We took no phone calls, watched no TV; sometimes music, on the radio, but low so conversation could take center stage. I’m thankful for it; those traditions grounded me in ways I didn’t acknowledge at the time, and more than once, like Cuomo, I resented them for what I was missing because I had to eat with my family, the same way we’re all resenting all the things we were supposed to do that we’re not doing anymore because of Covid. But like that family meal, this invitation to slow down and shut up and feel things could be a way to grow roots, to find out that you are far more than you know yourself to be. 

What I’m encouraging you to do is this: make a list. Read a book that’s beyond your usual. Watch documentaries. Learn things. Cook, sew, walk. 

But try to live in a way, for a minute, that respects the grief in the world right now. Thousands of souls in this country alone, and thousands in other places are already gone. All the overcrowded cities of the world will be inundated with grief. Find a space in your life, or a time in the day, to sit with that, to feel that sadness, to send whatever love you have for the world back into it. 

If you truly need to be distracted, go ahead. But I want to ask you if you’ve even asked yourself if you do, or if you’re just caught up in a culture that demands it. Really, genuinely ask yourself if your anxiety isn’t worse because of it. Ask yourself if spending time doing yoga, or cooking, or reading, or just staring out the goddamn window at the robins and squirrels isn’t what you need more. Just try something else. Self care is not about disposable feelings, after all; it’s about the big deep revelations that change the way you live, what you value, who you love, how you love them. It’s about creating an existence that is humane, whole, and compassionate. 

Calamity like this brings potent change. I am not very good at change and so I need more time to think, to ready myself, to let go of the old expectations. Things can’t go on the way they’ve been going. The idea that we all want to go back to normal – this normal that includes laughing at ridiculous, hateful, ignorant people, this normal that lets marginalized people die, this normal that provides no guarantee of healthcare, this normal that measures our value by the size of our bank accounts. 

Well fuck that normal we’ve left behind. It wasn’t good or healthy for any of us. Pick from the rubble what’s real, what holds you, what brings out your best self. Leave the rest behind.