T Shirt

I don’t often wear trans shirts when I’m with Betty – no need to out her casually, she does enough outreach for one trans person – but Betty was sick this past week & so I was walking to my sister’s wear my NCTE “T” shirt (the old one – I don’t have the new one yet.)

Then someone on our boards asked if people would say yes if someone asked them if they were transgender.

And it made me wonder how often people think I’m trans – because of the t-shirts, the various places I post, the relative absence of partners in trans circles, and especially in LGBT circles. I think I mentioned here how two people I met at USC had assumed I was the partner of an FTM since the queer-identified partners of MTFs seem to be few & far-between – okay, practically non-existant.

It’s made me think of the days I was an honorary lesbian, which I am, still, kinda, depending on who’s deciding what I am.

I never told people I wasn’t a lesbian – unless the person was who wanted to sleep with me or a person who I wanted to sleep with – and in the same way I don’t think I’d care to clarify that I’m not trans if someone thought I was.

Maybe I should get a shirt that says GVETGI = Gender Variant Enough To Get It.

The Trip to SC, Pt. 2

What a trip! I haven’t had so much fun without Betty since before I met her, and while I’m sad she wasn’t there to enjoy it all, I also know that she wouldn’t have found the train much fun at all (& so might have ruined it for me, ahem). But I was early for my train, & so hung around the ass-end of Penn Station for a while (that would be the 8th avenue side, of course), talking to guys trying to bum change and cigarettes. I don’t know why I like those guys; I must’ve been a hobo in a past life. But the guy I talked to was originally from New Orleans, and it’s hard not to have a good conversation with an older brother from NOLA, imho. In exchange for a cigarette, he said he’d buy me a drink next time we’re both down that way.

On the way down I was seated next to an older man who carried only his Bible, which was a “welcome to the south” a little early for me. He was a minister from Greenville, SC, it turns out, & his stop was the one after mine, so we were stuck with each other for the duration. He slept mostly, and I got very good at climbing over his napping legs.

But I ate dinner with a man and his 15 year old son on the way down; the guy was originally from the east coast, a professor and scientist, who knew Ben Barres when he was at Stanford, but who’d moved to VA and was traveling back to VA with his son after a short sojourn in NY. They were both really nice, and I had a great chat with them despite getting a little drunk on the half-bottle of wine I had ordered (which I had ordered in order to put myself to sleep). Continue reading “The Trip to SC, Pt. 2”

FTM Newsletters

If there’s an FTM or an FTM organization out there that would like a bunch of copies of the FTM Newsletter, let me know. The issues I have are #s 38 & 39, 41 & 42, 45 & 46, 48 & 49.

First come, first served.

Trans History Timeline

I’ve been putting together a Trans History Timeline for my Transgender Lives class. The idea was to give them an idea of the events that lead up to the modern Transgender Movement (such as it is).

  • 1910 Magnus Hirschfeld coins “transvestite” and “transsexual”
  • 1919 Hirschfeld’s Institute for Sexual Research given housing
  • 1930 Lili Elbe undergoes five surgeries, the fifth of which kills her in 1931
  • 1933 Institute for Sexual Research burned by Nazis
  • 1939 – 1945 WWII
  • 1945 Michael Dillon has first FTM surgeries
  • 1951 Roberta Cowell transitions in the UK
  • 1952 Christine Jorgensen headline, “Ex-GI Becomes Blonde Bombshell”
  • 1959 Virginia Prince starts Transvestia
  • 1961 VP starts Heels & Hose (12 crossdressers!)
  • 1964 Reed Erickson founds the Erickson Institute
  • 1966 Harry Benjamin publishes The Transsexual Phenomenon
  • 1966 Compton’s Cafeteria Riots, SF
  • 1969 Ist Gender Symposia (becomes HBIGDA)
  • 1969 Stonewall, NYC
  • 1973 First Introduction of ENDA (US)
  • 1975 Fantasia Fair starts in Provincetown, founded by Ariadne Kane
  • 1976 Tri-Ess formed
  • 1976 Crossdressing becomes legal in SF
  • 1977 HBIGDA becomes an org
  • 1979 Sandy Stone leaves Olivia Records due to attacks in Janice Raymond’s The Transsexual Empire
  • 1980 Crossdressing becomes legal in Houston, TX (due to Phyllis Frye’s efforts)
  • 1986 FTM Int’l started by Lou Sullivan
  • 1987 IFGE formed
  • 1990 AEGIS started by Dallas Denny
  • 1993 Mosaic web browser
  • 1994 Death of Brandon Teena / Netscape web browser
  • 1995 “All FTM Conference of the Americas” organized by Jamison Green & Jason Cromwell (with grant from Dallas Denny)

I was teaching Jamison Green’s Becoming a Visible Man at the time, which is why it ends where it does, but I’ve been adding to it since, & will continue to do so.

Cold Case

I was talking to my mother the night before TDOR, about all the stuff trans people often need to do, the legal stuff, the ID changes, sometimes the medical issues, and she mentioned that she was really touched by a recent Cold Case show she’d seen. I haven’t seen it yet, though I’m a fan of the show and watch it pretty often. The story was about an FTM in the 1960s who at the time was assumed to have committed suicide but who, in fact, was dead before he hit the water. Thus, the re-opening of his “cold case.”

My mom didn’t call him an FTM; she doesn’t have that language yet. What she said was, “She was a girl who was really a boy.” And I had a moment where I wasn’t sure if she meant an FTM or MTF, but once again, my mom impressed me; he was an FTM, &, to her mind, “really a boy.”

Which is of course the opposite usage of most people who throw their “reallys” around when talking about trans people, which strikes me as too cool.

But what she wanted to know was whether things were better now, and she was asking me this the night before TDOR. And I told her for some people it is, but the violence against trans people is still too up-close & personal. She thought people should be taught to keep their hands to themselves, at the very least. But I did also tell her about FORGE’s document, about us allies and partners and family being recognized as also often being the victims of violence, and she said, “of course.” She said she’d light her candle on the 20th, too.

Yeah. My mom rocks.

Scholarships for T Students

The Point Foundation’s next application season begins January 2nd, 2008, & they are actively seeking trans candidates for scholarships. From The Point Foundation:

“With Point Foundation, the “T” in LGBT is not just an afterthought. They really mean it,” states Point Scholar Ben Singer. Point Foundation (Point) is the nation’s largest LGBT scholarship organization. Point provides financial support, mentorship, and hope to meritorious students who have been marginalized due to sexual orientation, gender expression, or gender identity. Point is currently supporting 84 undergraduate and graduate college students with an average scholarship amount of $13,600 annually. Of its 84 current scholars 10% identify as transgender (7 FtM, 1 MtF). Additionally, Point’s Alumni Association is comprised of 26 alumni, 3 of which are members of the Transgender community (3 FtM). While Point Foundation is pleased to support this many Transgender scholars, it is not enough. “The applicant pool in 2007 consisted of only 4% Transgender identified candidates. We need to get the word out that this support is available,” urges Joanne Herman, member of Point’s National Board of Regents. Please visit our website at www.pointfoundation.org for more information and help us spread the word.

What They Call Me

The issue of whether or not the term SOFFA (Significant Others, Friends, Family & Allies) is used throughout the trans community to describe people like me came up recently in an online discussion group, so I thought I’d share here a list of the terms that are used. Keep in mind this list is drawn from my own experience online & in person, in co-moderating partner support groups at conferences, & in my various conversations with others “like me” in the trans universe.

Historically speaking, it was pretty apparent especially when I first went online as a trans partner, nine years ago or so, that if I found “SOFFA” support I would be quite on my own as a historically-heterosexual female partner of an emerging MTF, & was often directed to more Tri-Ess type organizations when/if I did find them.

So just for the sake of it, here’s some other terms & the way (in my experience) they breakdown in use:

  • SO – most often used to describe the female partner of a CD or MTF of CDing experience
  • SOFFA – short for “Significant Other, Friend, Family or Ally” and is used  predominantly in the FTM community. (note: it is not pronounced like the furniture, but like the O in hot)
  • partner – seems to be used by both
  • chaser/admirer – again, out of MTF spaces, for (mostly) the guys who date/seek out sex with CDs or pre op/non op MTFs. “chaser” is the pejorative; “admirer” is used when their attention is appreciated by the trans person in question.
  • trans-am(orous), transsensual – terms that come out of the FTM universe, for women who date/seek out sex/relationships with FTMs – often intentionally *not* used by FTMs due to the fetishistic connotation, though I find it’s quite a radical idea to describe women who desire MTFs (there aren’t so many of us, so fetishization doesn’t seem to be an issue!)
  • Of recent coinage, which some partners seem to respond to, is NQAL (pronounced “nickel”)- for Not Quite a Lesbian. Used by those of us who either are lesbians but are with FTMs who are stealth, & also by female partners who are heterosexual but are viewed as lesbians when our MTFs transition/crossdress.

Other notes:

  • One of the reasons I don’t use SOFFA is exactly because lumping together those who date/partner with trans people is already such a mixed bag of people, & because the term can be off-putting to allies who aren’t dating trans people to be seen as only being there for the sexual/romantic partnerships. Also, because there is a big difference between an ally who is trans am & the partner of an MTF or FTM who is transitioning after years of a long term relationship. (The mutual scorn can be palpable.)
  • As support group practice (at least at the LGBT center in manhattan) has dictated, putting the parents/family of trans people in the same room with partners/admirers/trans-am people is pretty disastrous as well.
  • PFLAG’s trans support is referred to as TNET, though I often just use TFLAG (for families of trans).

The good news in all this verbal soup is that there are more & more of us everyday!

On ENDA, on National Coming Out Day

This is the text of the talk I gave in Denver on Tuesday. It probably won’t surprise anyone that I’ve been busting at the seams wanting to have a say in all of the dialogue going on about ENDA. At least I don’t think it should surprise anyone, not by now.


First, let me thank Ed and Jordan and all the students who asked them to bring me here. It’s a pleasure to be here in celebration of National Coming Out Day, a pleasure to see all of you gathered, celebrating who you are. Thanks to all the crossdressers, the gays, the lesbians, the genderqueers, the trans men & women, MTF and FTM, & to their partners. Thanks to all of you who are family, or friends, or allies, for being here.

Betty and I have been on tour a lot this year because I had a book published in March, and we’ve gotten a chance, once again, to meet a lot of people and to talk to a lot of trans people and partners, and this year, we’ve met more gay and lesbian people who aren’t trans than we did before. And it’s been a pleasure all around in hearing people’s stories of their own gender variance, or the stories of how they came out to loved ones, or of their first big crush or the moment when they realized they were trans or gay or lesbian or how they came to understand the first identity they understood themselves to be was not quite accurate in the long run. What I love to hear the most is about how queer people find one identity fits for a while and then not at all; like Oliver Wendell Holmes’ chambered nautilus, queer people build themselves bigger chambers, bigger categories, labels that are not so confining, over time.

That’s how it’s been for us, certainly. By the time people get used to what we’re calling ourselves our identities have shifted a little, changed usually by experiences we never expected and wouldn’t trade for anything. Continue reading “On ENDA, on National Coming Out Day”

Indian FTMs

An article predominantly about lesbians and FTMs in India (despite the photo of MTFs dancing) appeared in The Hindu, India’s national paper. The West is blamed for intolerant attitudes:

The hostility to alternate sexualities, LesBIT activists say, is a modern phenomenon. Evidence of lesbian, bisexual and transgender relationships can be found in Vedic literature, tantra, Sufi poetry, and in the ancient sculptures o f Konark and Khajuraho. The criminalisation of gay, lesbian and transgender sexuality is, however, a product of the Victorian morality of British colonialism. What is interesting is that while homosexual marriages are today legally recognised in the United Kingdom, they continue to be criminalised in India.

That is, the Hjira may be evidence of a tolerant past, but their existence doesn’t prove a tolerant present.