SoCo Keynote: Jenn Burleton


One Community, One Family

by Jenn Burleton, TransActive Education & Advocacy, Portland, OR

Thank you to the organizers of this amazing conference and in particular, Cat Turner, Lola Fleck and Elaine Martin. And I must thank my longtime friend, Mariette Pathy Allen. My life has been truly blessed as a result of knowing her and sharing many adventures with her…some of which are suitable for sharing with the whole family.

When Cat Turner called back in January and invited me to come to Atlanta I was of course, very honored. I was also surprised. After all, we’d never met. I’d never attended a previous Southern Comfort Conference and I am not, in my opinion anyway, one of the gender community heavy hitters.
Continue reading “SoCo Keynote: Jenn Burleton”

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.

Victoria Arellano

I just happened to be catching up on my Feministing reading when I discovered a post by Jessica Hoffman about the death of trans inmate Victoria Arellano (or Arrelano) who was denied her AIDS medication and then Hoffman followed up her post wondering why this death hasn’t been covered.

It’s interesting time as just recently I’ve been bothered by a recent article in The Boston Globe about a doctor who transitioned with much of her life in tact – ironic since Arellano didn’t wind up with even her life in tact. Big article, no article.

& They say there’s no such thing as privilege.

Mind you, my complaints about the way various media outlets cover trans issues aren’t directed at the trans people who are often featured in these articles: their intentions are for the most part good, & they are trying, in their own way, to raise awareness of trans issues in general, all of which is much needed. It’s not that it was a terrible article in terms of The Big Picture, but I’m tired of journalists/media writing a piece that is pretty much like every other piece about a trans person (choosing someone professional, white, with a traditional narrative including surgery & the like) & presenting it as if it’s a revelation.

It’s not a revelation. I’d like to get the bar set a little higher, & to start pressuring media to cover more types of trans people, in more situations, with more of the kinds of issues that come up. Like what does a person like Betty, or others like her, do about the ID issue? What do people do when their license says one thing but they can’t get their passport changed? What are the issues for young transitioners, who are going to be dealing with discrimination from the outset of their careers? How is the expectation of not getting divorced changing what kinds of legal issues couples face? How does transness come into play with legal issues? What happens if a recent medical student comes out before she has a practice or an income or a family & established community?

I could go on. I won’t. Like I said, this is good for general use, but as someone who is “in the field” & who works with the media on a regular basis, I also feel I have a responsibility to pay attention to the way media coverage ISN’T changing at all, & how the struggle to represent the diversity of trans experience, from within the trans community, is or isn’t being reflected by the media, & maybe keeping an eye toward changing that, somehow.

Trans Couples: Adrien & Elena

I’m going to tell you the story of me, Adrien an FtM transman, and my partner, Elena a free-spirited, open-minded, adventurous, bi-sexual genetic woman. Y’all get ready, because some parts of it are scandalous. OK, here we go.

When Elena and I first met, I think it was late 1998, we just really hit it off, the way you do. The meeting that stood out was at the state fair, for a friend’s birthday. We were there with lots of friends and acquaintances and between us there was that magnetic energy – we were more interested in each other than anyone else and for reasons soon to be disclosed, this wasn’t entirely appropriate. Soon after that night at the fair, we met again at a party, a lesbian party. At this point on the timeline of my transition, I was just getting into the transgender vocabulary and ideas and was definitely starting to recognize myself as trans, but I was pre-everything with only some glimmerings that chest surgery might be something feasible for me. So, I was still living at home in the bosom of the lesbian community, but starting to scratch the itch that would bring my time there to its end. At present, we still have many gay and lesbian friends, but some have dropped out of our lives as well. Since the beginning of our relationship, we always found that we felt more aligned with our straight couple friends and I definitely do not call myself a lesbian any more. Elena’s relationship and sexual history includes men and women but at the time we met, she was identified as lesbian and had a female partner. But back to the story…

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Coal Country

Betty & I are spending some time with my family today & Monday; we plan to be back sometime on Tuesday. We’re going to coal country, where my mother’s peeps are from, as it’s my grandaunt’s 85th birthday – yes, she’s my grandaunt Helen, there really is only one page in the Polish baby names book – while my parents are up north for a visit, too. We’ll go revisit some of the places they brought me as a kid, but with my sister’s kids, who’ve grown up going to that region on their summer holidays and tromping around what they call “the bush” (otherwise known as the woods) the same as I did.

It’ll be four generations in two cars, which to me is always a lovely, if complicated, experience.

Since I’ll be in coal country, I’ll be thinking about those trapped Utah miners & their families, of course. This bullshit cowboy mining should be illegal, by the way. I’m sure John L. Lewis is turning in his grave now that they’re even stripping the pillars. Greedy bastards. Please keep in mind, folks, that while trapped miners are always a good “human interest” though tragic news story, we don’t often hear about the accidents that just kill miners outright – not here, or in China, or in India.

Bathrooms in Arizona, Letters to The Advocate

Michele DeLaFreniere, a trans woman in Arizona, is suing a bar that kept her from entering.

The bar’s owner objects to having been quoted as saying he doesn’t want “her kind” in the place, but does admit that he’s blocked trans women from coming to the bar because of the bathroom issue: trans women were being harassed in the men’s room, and female bar patrons didn’t want the trans women in the women’s restroom.

As the story was reported in The Advocate, Anderson told the AP, “There was no place I could put these people.”

Two letters to the editor about the issue weigh in on the side of keeping women’s restrooms free of trans women, one calling them “men” and the other calling them “‘women’.”

Yet another “women’s space” issue, but I’m not sure the best answer is simply to insist that trans women use the ladies’ rooms. Education, unisex bathrooms, – surely there are more intermediate ways of handling this instead of just telling women – who may be ignorant but also fearful, for good reason, of sharing bathroom space with people they view as male. Convincing women raised female that trans women are not male requires a hell of a lot of education, which will take time, so what do we do in the meanwhile?

(My thanks to Joanne Herman for the heads-up.)

(Xposted to Trans Group Blog.)

Trans Couples: Mark and Violet

I was like an addict trying desperately to find love, or even the perfect relationship. But I always fell short and was disappointed. Little did I know it was never the relationship; it was the image in the mirror that made no sense. I was the one that needed to change. I was lost, I felt broken, it wasn’t until I was 38 years old when my life finally took a right turn. I met the most amazing female. She was different, not like the other girls I had known. She was special, something about her allowed me to be myself. She was straight and had lived with men all her life. Yet, she was curious about girls, having had a few encounters in the past, but nothing too serious. Continue reading “Trans Couples: Mark and Violet”

Wrong Side of a Good Thing

I read this great article about Diane & Jake Anderson-Minshall, who just co-wrote their first mystery novel, Blind Curves, and this line stopped me short:

“I would say Susannah was my wife, and they’d tell me she would have to contact them,” Diane says. “Now I say Jacob is my husband and it’s immediately accepted.”

Because Diane is, of course, talking about the difference in how their relationship is perceived by others now that they’re “straight.” I’m pretty certain they don’t think of themselves as straight, of course, but they are legally married now, and wow – it surprised me how much that one sentence stuck in my craw. I feel like I’m on the wrong side of the equation, even if I know full-well how difficult it is for partners like Diane and other lesbian-identified women to “give up” having others perceive them as lesbians.

But still. Damn.

The Graduate

Recently in our forums, Nettie jokingly made a reference to the “Class of 2007” – meaning those who would be transitioning in 2007 – and in the context of our experience talking to people at IFGE, & in the light of a review of She’s Not the Man I Married someone sent me which criticized the book for not having an “ending,” I’ve been thinking recently that perhaps one of the most slippery aspects of the slippery slope is that transition provides an ending, and maybe even closure. The thing is: from what post-transition trans women tell me, that’s not necessarily true, but for anyone who’s been suffering all their lives with their trans feelings, it sure does seem like one hell of an attractive idea.

So while I very much tried to communicate in the new book that I may be waiting for the sound of a shoe that may never drop, folks don’t seem to understand that sometimes there isn’t so much of an “ending” as instead a “being finished.” But I also wonder if there’s anything that crossdressers or middle path types might do to accomplish more of a feeling of closure that transition brings trans women. I know CDI throws “debutante parties” – which seems like a great way to come out – which might work for plenty of CDs, especially since deb parties come with pretty party clothes. But what about middle path types? Do they send out a press release? Because no matter how many times we tell people that Betty is where she is, people persist in believing Betty will want to transition medically or legally or both. & You know, she might. She might in a year from now, & she might 10 years from now, or 20. But the whole idea of having other people tell you you’re not “done” until transition is a huge aggravation for us both.