A couple of weeks ago I posted a survey by TAVA, the transgender veterans association, and they are especially needing to hear from crossdressers. I know you’re out there, so please do respond to the survey!
Monday, December 31, 2007
Happy almost 2008 everyone!
This morning I posted an entry in my blog-born-blog about how (and why) I used the words transsexual, transgender and queer throughout my book Whipping Girl. Some people had issues/disagreements with my use of these terms, so I felt some clarification was in order. The post can be found here.
It touches on some of the same issues as Jenn's recent post, so I thought it would be of general interest to folks here. Also, I decided not to post the entire text here (just the link) as it is about 2000 words long and I didn't want to be a space hog...enjoy!
Sunday, December 30, 2007
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times... so was 2007 for the trans community, what with ENDA. Jacob Anderson-Minshall did a wrap-up of the year for The San Francisco Bay Times.
I'm looking forward to a long break from being quite so public; book tours are great fun, enabling you to meet tons of people who you wouldn't normally meet, but they're also exhausting because of all the travel. I'll pass the torch to Jennifer Finney Boylan, whose new book I'm Looking Through You, comes out 1/15. (Website by Betty!)
I'll be traveling to Wisconsin to teach Gender Studies - and a course in Transgender Lives - at Lawrence University, while Betty stays in Brooklyn. This will be the first time in our decade together that we'll have been separated for so long, but she is driving me there, probably visiting in February, and then coming to gather me again at the end of March. But I'm sure we'll manage, but to answer the forthcoming questions: there is no reason for us living apart besides employment issues.
All best to you all in 2008.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
This is my response to a post someone made re: my recent appearance on a radio show discussing how families can best support a transgender family member. I like the way it turned out...thought I'd share it here.
The original post is intact, including spelling and punctuation. To listen to the original radio broadcast this post refers to, click on this link: http://kboo.fm/node/5254
* * * * *
Thank you for listening to the interview, your thoughtful comments and for sharing your sense of self-identity with regards to gender identity and sexual orientation. Please see below for my response to some of the points you raised.
"--- In Women-Born-Transsexual@yahoogroups.com, 'R' wrote:
Some thoughts as to what I thought as I heard the show. Curious, why the constant use of the term transgender for everyone else?"
The reason for the use of the umbrella term "transgender" is that it is commonly utilized to address a wide-range of gender identity expression. My goal (and the point of the show) was not to define or represent a segment of the gender non-conforming population, but rather to reach out to families of individuals (particularly children) who may find themselves at many different points on the gender continuum.
I had, roughly, 15 minutes max to introduce myself, talk about the work my organization does with children and youth and then, somehow, couch it all within the framework of the show's topic. Transgender is an inclusive term that aptly describes the vast majority of our potential audience, particularly children & youth.
"Myself that's not a term which I in anyway use as part of my identity other then the fact I am lesbian therefore transgressing what society considers "normal" gender behaovour. But just because of being transex or transexual it does not make me or those friends of mine, TG."
It is my opinion that terminology is out there for people to use. My use of the word transgender in the advocacy work I do in no way implies a requirement that you identify with that word.
In order to not get bogged down in the ever-shifting sands of "PC" verbiage, I use transgender to reference people who have a gender identity that is, in some way or other, inconsistent with their assigned birth gender. That gender identity may, or may not, also be in conflict with their anatomy.
I use the term "cisgender" to reference people whose gender identity is congruent with their assigned birth gender and anatomy. I do my very best to not use words like "normal" in regards to anyone because it is simply a synonym for "conformity".
I support you in your stance that another person's use of the word "transgender" does not make you or your friends, per se, transgender.
"I was also kind of surprised to hear your talk on the typical idea of boy or girl type toys, ie barbie and GI Joe and trucks. To me the message there should have been toys are toys and both can enjoy playing with either."
I completely agree with you about toys themselves not having an innate assigned gender. And of course, I agree that children (and adults) should be allowed to choose, play with and enjoy any toy they desire. That being said, the focus of my participation on the show was to communicate with people who may have children who are gender non-conforming in some way, not to elucidate my personal beliefs regarding non-gendered toy selection. We agree on the point, but we simply disagree on what is a proper forum to discuss the point.
"For me barbies were not a huge thing in my life, same with others I know. I would have been more like a tomboy in that sense along with my child hood friend."
"Yes some kids who are trans may enjoy barbies others trucks but just the same other male listed children who are not transexual also enjoy barbies."
Nor were Barbie's a major component of my childhood. I neither longed for one, nor spent much time thinking about them. I draw no particular conclusions from that observation other than it was simply my personal experience.
On the other hand, the vast majority of female identified gender non-conforming children (age 5 & up) that we have worked with do show a distinct interest in traditionally feminine toys & objects (Barbie & Bratz dolls, Little Mermaid, jewelry, make-up, etc.) The opposite is true of male identified gender non-conforming children we have worked with.
The reality of the situation, from our perspective, is that children who are visibly gender transgressive in their interests get noticed more than children who are not. And the degree to which they get noticed is directly correlated to the societal double-standard regarding gender expression.
As you self-described, a "tomboyish" 8-year old will not set off that many alarm signals, because we allow female assigned children far more leeway in their gender expression than we do male assigned children. And tomboyish behavior in a male assigned, female-identified child will appear to others as, well...gender normative to some extent.
This is one reason why many transmen first identify as lesbian, rather than trans. Their "tomboyish-ness", while somewhat transgressive, falls within the range of tolerated female gender expression...albeit on the "more masculine, probably going to be a lesbian" side of that barbed-wire fence. Gender transgression in birth assigned boys however, is a far more anarchic act. It gets noticed immediately and is subjected to exponentially more negative cultural and familial blow-back.
My goal in doing the interview was not to express my own wide-ranging opinions on gender identity oppression, gender identity suppression, terminological misappropriation, post-op transsexual identity vs. pre-op/non-op gender expression, lesbians (as opposed to dykes, femmes, butches, queers, genderqueers, etc.), trans-dykes, trannyfags or any of the myriad other boutique identities we all encounter and embrace for ourselves. Each of those subjects (and more) are certainly worthy of their own forum and deserve to be explored in depth.
At the end of the interview, my goal was simply to have been a voice of support to parents, family, friends and allies of transgender and gender non-conforming people, particularly children and youth. To have given them something to think about with regards to loving each other and to have opened a door perhaps to families who are just now recognizing the struggle their child may be facing with regards to their gender identity.
I love having gender 201, 301, 401 and up discussions and theoretical exchanges. This radio show, in my opinion, was not the place for that discussion.
"Just my two cents
Your thoughts are worth far more than that. Thank you for them, and for providing the catalyst for me to respond. Have a rewarding and wonderful New Year.
TransActive Education & Advocacy
Friday, December 21, 2007
by Dallas Denny
[An editorial written for, but never published in, Transgender Tapestry magazine; published here with the author's permission.]
Until 1990 or so, the transgender community had little sense of its history — I suppose because we were so very busy defining ourselves. Outside of the hands of private collectors and the occasional gender-bending article or item in gay and lesbian archives, there was nothing. Even collectors had little idea of the value of something like a 1955 program book from Mme. Arthur’s cabaret in Paris, or a 1915 postcard of the famous female impersonator Julian Eltinge, or a program from the First International Symposium on Gender Identity or an issue of Virginia Prince’s early magazine Transvestia.
I remember, in fact, way back in 1993 discussing this with Ms. Bob Davis (then plain old Bob Davis) over the telephone. We decided that if we were patient, a market would develop and would determine values. Today, thanks largely to eBay and the emergence of booksellers who specialize in transgender materials, Ms. Bob and I have notions of what transgender historical materials are worth. One might expect to pay more than $400 for the Mme. Arthur’s program, for example, or $425 for an early copy of Transvestia, or $65 for an Eltinge postcard, or $50 for the rare, but rarely collected, symposium program.
The new century has brought increased interest in transgender historical materials. Year 2000 started out with a bang, as the new nonprofit Gender Education & Advocacy (formerly the American Educational Gender Information Service) sought proposals from other nonprofit agencies to receive its National Transgender Library & Archive (see Tapestry #109 for an article about the disposition of this collection; it went, after a rigorous decision-making process, to the University of Michigan). Also in 2000, Rikki Swin, under the auspices of the Rikki Swin Foundation, purchased the private collections of early transgender activists Virginia Prince and Betty Ann Lind and the archives of the International Foundation for Gender Education. Swin subsequently purchased a personal collection from Ariadne Kane, one of the founders of Fantasia Fair and another early transgender activist.
At the 2001 IFGE conference in Chicago, attendees were whisked in chartered busses from their hotel to a building in the center city, where they trudged up three steep flights of steps to view the purported future home of Swin’s collection, (A Rikki Swin Foundation press release claimed the building had been purchased by Swin for some three million dollars). The rooms were empty, but guests were assured the collections were stored elsewhere in the building.
At least one person I know (Ken Dollarhide, if you must know) say they actually saw the shelved collections. Swin took out full-page ads on the outside cover of this magazine, prominently featuring her expensive building, paid for the expenses of medical professionals at various transgender conferences, and then—nothing.
By nothing, I mean nothing. No one seemed to know what had happened to Swin or her institute. The building had reportedly been emptied, the collections vanished. The RSI phone number has long been out of service.
Considerably later, Swin reportedly resurfaced in Victoria, British Columbia—for the geographically challenged, Canada’s westernmost province. I managed to suss this out by working my network of acquaintances. It’s probably true (I trust my network), but for the past five years, there has been no official word from Ms. Swin about her foundation or about the collections she has acquired. No word about our history, in other words.
Certainly, Swin isn’t in possession of all of our history—there are other collections, after all—but she does possess a significant part of it—most importantly, personal papers of Virginia Prince and Betty Ann Lind which document the history of early transgender organizations and of which there are no other copies. She has been absolutely irresponsible by not keeping the community informed of the collection’s condition and whereabouts. It could, for all we know, be poorly stored, shredded, or lost.
Ms. Swin, where is our history?
Note from the author:
According to Aaron Devor, the collection has arrived at Victoria University in British Columbia.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
I received a wonderful present yesterday, a CD recording by Alexander James Adams, who used to be Heather Alexander. As Heather, he had a 20-year career as a professional musician.
His "transitional" recording Winter Tide is a great holiday compilation, with him singing all the parts. He recorded the female parts before the hormones changed his voice, then went back and harmonized with himself.
As a singer myself, I love this CD, and as a transman, I have other reasons for admiring Alexander's work! Here's a sample of the lyrics, I suspect this song was chosen because it's how Alexander views his transition process:
It's in every one of us to be wise
Find your heart, open up both your eyes
We can all know everything
Without ever knowing why
It's in every one of us to be wise,
by and by
You can order this CD on the following page on Alexander/Heather's website. Don't click on the sidebar link for ordering CD's; this one is too new to appear on the list yet. You can order from this page on his site.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
New Transgender Veterans Survey
Immediate release. Please post this everywhere.
Transgender American Veterans Association
Contact: Monica F. Helms, President
A new survey has been created to achieve a more accurate picture of the state of the transgender American veteran population. Many of the issues facing transgender veterans are no different than those facing the rest of the transgender community. However negotiating healthcare thru the Veterans Administration and dealing with the Department of Defense poses its own unique set of challenges. This survey is also for those transgender people who are still serving in the military and those veterans who identify and are diagnosed as intersex.
The detailed survey of 117 short questions only takes between ten and twenty minutes of your time and it is the first of its kind to be undertaken. Many of the questions have several choices to them, but just a few will take multiple answers. A large percentage of the questions are a simple “Yes/No.” Some require a written response. While transgender veterans who do not, or have not ever used the VA for their medical needs, can skip that entire section.
The survey can be accessed at:
TAVA would appreciate as many transgender/intersex veterans and active duty service members to take this survey as possible. If anyone knows of a transgender veteran who does not have access to a computer, then please help them log on at a local library or community center so TAVA can obtain their responses as well. The answers to this survey will not only help veterans’ organizations in providing assistance to their transgender members, but it will benefit other organizations from the answers not having to do with the military. Since there are no questions about personal contact information, this survey is completely confidential. For additional inquiries about this survey, please contact the Transgender American Veterans Association at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or go to our web site at www.tavausa.org.
Founded in 2003, the Transgender American Veterans Association (TAVA) is a 501(c)3 organization that acts proactively with other concerned civil rights and human rights organizations to ensure that transgender veterans will receive appropriate care for their medical conditions in accordance with the Veterans Health Administration’s Customer Service Standards promise to “treat you with courtesy and dignity . . . as the first class citizen that you are.” Further, TAVA will help in educating the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) and the Department of Defense (DoD) on issues regarding fair and equal treatment of transgender individuals. Also, TAVA will help the general transgender community when deemed appropriate and within the IRS guidelines.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Sunday, December 02, 2007
The Gender Identity Project (GIP) Center here in NYC has created a 20-minute film called Transgender Basics. It's not necessarily thorough - it's only 20 minutes! - but it does cover what it needs to for an introduction to the idea. You can view it on the Center's website.
Saturday, December 01, 2007
cross-posted from gendertalk.com
The Washington Blade published a story, "Experts question HRC's ENDA survey", in which an HRC survey methodology is denounced as obviously biased. If you'll recall, in the 11th hour of the US House maneuvers that led to the passage of a trans-exclusive ENDA, HRC announced the results of their poll showing that 68% of GLBT folks supported passing a trans-less ENDA. This survey is exposed as prejudiced.
Clearly, this is evidence of less-than-ideal behavior at HRC. Fortunately, none of the rest of us have ever behaved less than ideally, so we can all rise up in righteous indignation. How dare they!
Any movement such as ours is bound to run into such snags. The question is, what are we going to do about it? Are we going to maintain our pressure on HRC to do the right thing, while looking forward to, and strategizing over, how we can ALL get the results we want, or are we going to watch as our hard-won movement disintegrates into self-righteous polarization?
I just hate to see the GLBT community - my community! - being torn apart by this. The women's movement foundered in the 70's over stuff like this, and suffered great setbacks thereafter. We need to keep looking forward, put our energy into progress, not recrimination, or else, guess what?
We've been divided and conquered.
This past year has seen tremendous gains in visibility and recognition of the legitimate needs of all people of diverse gender expression and identity. Let's not blow it like Bush did, wasting the gift of public support by going on the attack against the wrong folks. Instead, let's build on the good that has happened, while keeping up the pressure on HRC - and the money behind them - to do the right thing. There's a lot of education yet to be done, and we can't do it while we're frothing at the missteps, or even betrayals, of allies.
Cross posted from MHB, as well as that newfangled Jenniferboylan.net. This is perhaps more personal than a lot of the material we present here, but maybe this story of family, time, and change will shine a light on stories other than my own.
Saw my sister last week for the first time in seven years. You can read about that here.
That first night ended with my dancing with my sweetie and my good friend at a wedding reception to Sister Sledge's "We Are Family".
I got all my sisters with me.
And I thought about how not all of my Sisters are my sister. And that some of my sisters are not even women.
(Jenny pauses on the Millenium Bridge above the Thames in an Unnamed European City, with the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben visible in the background.)
We walked home through the lovely city and slept the sleep of the dead.
Then we went to Ireland, where I met all of the folks I'd hung out with ten years ago, when I was visiting faculty at UCC. And they were all generous and sweet. I can tell you that Ireland is a strange mixture of the progressive and the regressive, so i wasn't sure what to expect.
But as always, people were "relieved" that "it was only me." My dear old friend whom I think I call Eoin in She's Not There-- my drinking buddy, a professor at UCC was lovely to me. I think it works like this: plenty of people , including him, can't quite get their minds around the whole transgender business. But that wasn't necessary. He saw it was me, and his love for me, and mine for him, was unchanged. And so we picked right up where we left off. He got his pronouns wrong, once, and he apologised profusely, which was hardly necessary.
It made me think about how we always think that if others can simply feel what we feel, know what we know, the light will go on and they'll feel compassion and sympathy and understanding for us. But over time I've come to accept that most non-trans people can never know or feel that. But what CAN happen is that some people are simply given to being compassionate or loving, or can at least be coaxed into being so, and that is a more realisitic, if less satisfying goal to shoot for. And so it was.
There was a saying that Eoin used to say to me. He'd pause, usually after a drink, a cigar in hand, and look at the ceiling, and say, with satisfaction: "is there anything quite like it?" And several times he said this to me once more, and we all laughed.
I gave my lecture the next day, a little nervous that my jokes and schtik which are tuned to an American audience would fall flat-- but I seemed to make the leap, and I had that Irish audience well in hand. At the end, great applause (my friend Eoin said I received "a standing ovulation.") And a handful of Irish trans people came up to me afterwards and said Thanks.
(Herself on the college green at University College, Cork)
Later I got an email from someone who'd come all the way from Dublin to see the talk, but who couldn't bring herself to make contact with me in person; too scary, too much fear. And I was moved by that, deeply, remembering what it was like to be afraid, back in the day, to have your cover blown.
That night we went to a pub I used to go to where there was a "session" on. I was looking forward to a few drinks and seeing some fiddle bows waving through the air and listening to the music going deedle deedle dee. I'd gone to this same pub ten years ago and had hung out there (and elsewhere) with a big crowd of musicians then. So I was looking forward to hearing the music.
Only: I found out that day that the guys at the session would be the SAME GUYS who used to be there. So I was feeling very nervous, because like: would they recognize me? Would they be freaked out? I didn't really want to go into it with them, but I don't know. I wasn't sure what it'd be like.
It was kind of like the panics I used to find myself in back in transition, seven years ago. I'd forgotten a little bit what this was like.
And there, into the pub, strode my old friends. I avoided eye contact with them at first because I didn't want to weird anybody out. But eventually some of them said hello-- and clearly didn't remember me-- which was fine.
And then they started to play. It was a DADGAD guitar player, a guy playing Irish box (button accordion) two fiddle players, and a four string banjoist. And the notes came just about as fast and free and wild as you could hear them, jigs and reels and hornpipes, and the pints of Murphys and Beamish flowed. My old friend Johnny, the guitar player, even threw his head back and sang a few songs. Hearing that old familiar voice, in this place, with all the changes in me and them, was incredibly moving. I remembered sitting on that stool in 1998, with the Irish rain coming down outside, a pint in my hand, listening to Johnny sing and feeling the mournfulness of my soul, not knowing how I would survive my life, feeling the twin strains of terrible sadness and yet also the hope for joy inherent in all that old Irish music.
AT one point Johnny sang a song of his called Albatross:
Albatross, O Albatross I wish that I were you.
Finally I leaned forward to Johnny and asked him to play a song he used to play ten years ago-- it was called "The Wobbling Man." And he paused and gave me a hard look, and said, "No one has asked for that song in a long, long time." (OBI-Wan Kenobi? now that is a name I have not heard in a long time.) I said I used to come in and listen to the band, many years ago. And he nodded, and he said he thought he couldn't remember it. Noodled around for a while, talked to the other musicians. Then he started to play it, and sing it.
"I laughed unknowingly when I was a boy.
The Wobbling Man was like a toy.
You'd wind him up and watch him go,
And watch him wobble to and fro.
But soon I learned to laugh no more,
I'd hear the key turn in the door,
The silence came, no one would talk,
Around on eggshells we would walk."
Well, this is a song about Johnny's alcoholic father. But as I listened to it, it struck me as a song about dear departed James Finney Boylan too. The Wobbling Man. My eyes filled with tears and they hung on my lashes.
Johnny couldn't quite remember the whole song, but they played it. Then he said, you know, back in the time when we played that tune. They were happy days.
(Barely visible shot of the boys playing guitar and box accordion at the session)
It was time for Deedie and I to leave, so we nodded to the band, and headed out. And they all looked at us hard, their eyes bright, and Johnny said what he used to say at the end of a session, back in the day, "Safe home."
Did they know? Did they remember? Does it matter?
And so Deedie and I walked back to the hotel through the wet streets, arm in arm, as the Irish rain came down.
Momma, momma, I can't but cry
I'll wash the salt tears from my eyes
Your time has come, you've found your peace,
From the Wobbling Man you've been released.
There is a glass of Guinness in front of me in this photo of herself in the pub. I raise it to all of you and wish you safe home too.
Friday, November 30, 2007
According to Perez Hilton, Calpernia Addams is going to be the star of her own new reality show, where she gets to choose from among eight bachelors.
MTV’s GLBT channel, Logo, will be airing a reality dating show starring a transgender woman as the lead!
Transamerican Love Story is centered on transgender activist and actress Calpernia Addams.
The show follows Calpernia as she whittles down a group of eight bachelors, living together in a Los Angeles-area home, with the help of her best friend and fellow transgender activist Andrea James.
So what do we think of that? Really, I'm not sure what I think, though I do wish Calpernia well in the endeavor, & that she picks a guy who doesn't suck.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Word is that the Matthew Shepard Act -- the hate crimes legislation which does include gender identity/orientation -- is in danger of being dropped from a "must-pass" defense funding bill. (Piggy-backing it on the defense bill was intended to force Bush into signing it.) However, now that the House and Senate are reconciling their versions of the bill, anti-LGBT conservatives are trying to strip the hates crimes provisions. (Meanwhile, anti-war liberal oppose the overall bill because parts of it support Bush's efforts to continue the war in Iraq.)
Time to call your Congress critters and let them know you support the hate crimes stipulations and want to keep them in the bill (even if you oppose the overall bill).
BTW, it will be interesting to see if HRC -- whose strategy this was -- will count "no" votes against liberal politicians who've been gay-friendly in the past -- the way they put blackmarks against the representives who voted against ENDA for not being inclusive enough.
Yesterday Donna Rose and Jamison Green, the last two trans folk on HRC's Business Council -- which compiles the group's Corporate Equality Index. -- resigned in protest. (Rose had previously resigned her seat on HRC's board over it's support for an ENDA that excluded gender identity protections.) As Rose and Green explain:
Recent HRC policy decisions – to actively support a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that excludes our transgender brothers and sisters as well as gender-variant lesbian, gay, and bisexual people – have placed us in an untenable position. On November 8, the day after the ENDA vote in the House of Representatives, we requested an opportunity to meet personally with HRC President Joe Solmonese to share our concerns and to discuss HRC’s strategy for addressing recent legislative shortcomings before making a decision to stay or go. As the only transgender representatives on the Business Council our community expects us to have some influence, or at least to receive the courtesy of a consultation. Almost 3 weeks have passed since that request and we have heard nothing in response. This lack of response speaks volumes, so we feel compelled to take this stand today.
If you're on an advisory council and you can't get the time of day with the organization you're advising for three weeks, then it's clear they don't give a shit about you or those you represent. It's time for HRC to drop the pretense that they represent transgender interests.
That said, I'm not one of those folks screaming "put HRC out of business." While it might be emotionally satisfying, it's a waste of effort better spent elsewhere. Fact is, HRC isn't going away. We'll probably have to work with them -- I ran across the wonderful phrase "antagonistic cooperation" that describes my approach to future dealings with them -- but we don't have to support them. Sometimes they might even do things that benefit us -- like the video messages they produced for the Transgender Day of Remembrance. But we'll sure as hell should watch our backs when allied with them.
The only silver lining is that we found this out now -- when the stakes were only symbolic. Which gives us time build other alliances -- not to mention getting better about our own lobbying efforts.
Monday, November 26, 2007
After speaking briefly at nearly every San Francisco TDOR event since its inception, last year I was invited to speak at the San Jose, CA event with Sylvia Guerrero, which was very sweet. This year I was asked back to San Francisco, and instead the typical "couple of minutes-worth" most speakers have, I was given about 15 minutes, which I considered a great honor. JoAnne Keatley and Yavante M. Thomas-Guess were the chief organizers, and they wanted me to do double duty, first speaking about the history of the event, and then (after some other speakers) setting the tone for the reading of the names. I decided to write out my remarks, and afterward Robert Haaland asked if I could email a copy of the speech to him, which I did. Imagine my surprise yesterday when Helen Boyd asked me to post the link to the speech on this blog! I had no idea it had been published by The Sentinel, with photos from the event and the candlelight march that followed the ceremony at the San Francisco LGBT Center. I had to ask Helen to send me the link first! So here it is, if you want to take a look: http://www.sanfranciscosentinel.com/?p=7230 You can tell where the second part comes in, where I stop talking about political implications and start talking about the experience of death. Right after that they read the names. It was very moving. I can't actually say I hope you enjoy reading this piece, but I did want to share it with you.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
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.
Friday, November 23, 2007
Thursday night, 11/29, there's going to be a crossdressing event at the LGBT Center in NYC. Rachel Kramer Bussel’s Crossdressing: Erotic Stories book is the reason for the gathering. I’ll be reading, as will Miss Vera, amongst others.
* Where: LGBT Center, West 13th Street, NYwww.gaycenter.org
* When: Thurday 11/29, 7PM
Do come! It should be a fun night!
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
The Transgender Day of Remembrance fills so many of us with fear and sadness, and while I think it’s a vital part of the trans community’s consciousness raising, I also think we need to celebrate who we are, the victories we’ve had, both personally and as a community.
My goal in posting this is to allow people to post whatever it is about their own past year that has increased their pride, happiness, or visibility as a trans person, partner, friend or family member of a trans person, so I’ll start, since mine is easy: it’s been a pleasure and an honor to have published my 2nd book about being married to Betty, to have seen our relationship not just weather the complications of our life but thrive, and to see Betty become even more of the person she needs to be.
This year, in particular, it seems like the perfect precursor for American trans, since it’s the day before Thanksgiving.
So, your turn:
For this year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance, FORGE, a group out of Wisconsin, has released two new handouts. One is about keeping yourself safe as a trans person - or really as any person. It includes tips like wearing clothes that aren’t restrictive and making sure you carry a cellphone.
But more impressively, at least to me, is a document on the friends, family, & partners of trans people who have been the victims of violence either against trans people or for defending trans people or for being partnered to trans people - and in one case, only for being assumed to be gender variant.
I’m especially pleased to see a group create this printout as I have been, in the past, told that I can’t use the word “we” when talking about TDOR precisely because I’m not trans. But as the FORGE document more than indicates, those of us who are partners or SOFFAs are also at risk when transphobia walks the streets.
Have a safe Day of Remembrance. Honor the lives of those who we have lost, and tomorrow, celebrate all of your own victories and those of other trans people in your life. We have a lot to celebrate as a community as well, despite the violence and hate that is sometimes directed our way. I’ll post tomorrow to allow anyone to add their own personal victories, as well.
Monday, November 19, 2007
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.
Just wanted to let you know that I just posted a short piece on Feministing.com that discusses the myth of transgender "deception" in the context of tomorrow's Transgender Day of Remembrance.
Friday, November 16, 2007
If you haven’t seen it yet, Mara Keisling’s appearance on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal last week is worth viewing, and apparently isn’t going to be online forever, so do go watch it within the next week of so.
(You want the 11/10/2007 show.)
My favorite bit is when the woman calls to talk about how the founding fathers were Christian, & how Mara shouldn’t be allowed to talk at all, & Mara drinks her coffee stone-faced like Buster Keaton, the smile only showing at the very corners of her mouth, after which she explains, again, that the Bill in fact exempts religious institutions. (It’s at about 1:17 or so.)
& As one caller put it, I agree with him: Mara is a brilliant woman, and I’m happy to see her doing advocacy. That anyone said, “you can’t be a full person if you have to hide all the love in your life,” on Washington Journalis amazing, but I’m pleased as punch it was someone talking about LGBT rights.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
By Monica F. Helms
Friday, November 09, 2007
Of course Bush has already said he intends to veto whatever version comes his way. Still, this may be another opportunity for more education.
In the meantime, Mara Keisling of NCTE will be on C-SPAN tomorrow morning at 7:45 AM, & if you miss it, you can catch it on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal site.
Staying up watching a documentary about the space program. From my childhood.
Where did the time go? Why didn't I enjoy my adventures more? Or maybe I did, but in retrospect, it's lost in the blur of days, weeks, months and decades.
Did I really "live" through that? Did I really experience watching men walk on the moon? Did I really hear my 6th grade teacher tell us that President Kennedy had been shot?
What was it like when everyone saw me only as a little boy? What was it like to "be" a boy? I can't remember...but then again, I never really knew.
The first time I felt anything like what I imagine boys feel was when I...ummm....well, sort of had my first sexual experience. I was alone.
Even then, it wasn't something I felt right about. It was something of a nightmare. Girls did not have THAT happen to their bodies. It was then I finally realized I wasn't going to simply grow up to be a girl. That was when the prayers for a magical happy ending...ended.
Where did it all go? Why have I led the life I have? What have I forgotten, and what do I remember...and how did I choose which was which?
These are the things I think about late at night. These are the questions that keep me going day after day. Is there something ahead of me that will utilize these past experiences? Is there something that will let me know my life has mattered in some way?
I don't know. But I believe I will find those answers.
I sense that your life has been filled with many of these same questions regarding the past. I believe that your present is the brick and mortar for the treasure of a life that you are building.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
ENDA will be voted on tomorrow, without the Baldwin Amendment.
& Apparently the decision to go ahead was based on HRC surveying 500 LGBT people across the country as to whether or not they should go ahead even though transgender people were included.
As if the 500 organizations that already said NOT to go ahead don't count at all.
What really pisses me off is that this is how the question was worded:
"This proposal would make it illegal to fire gay, lesbian and bisexual workers because of their sexual orientation. This proposal does not include people who are transgender. Would you favor or oppose this proposal moving forward?"No mention that the Tammy Baldwin variation isn't just inclusive of transgender identities, but of GENDER IDENTITY. No mention that the inclusive ENDA would also protect gays and lesbians whose genders aren't normative. That is, no mention of the butches and queens, sissies and bulldaggers. Apparently there to be hung out to dry along with the trans population. So now we can hear that a woman wasn't fired for being a lesbian, oh no; she was fired because she's just too masculine, of course.
Feh. Or, as a friend of mine comments when HRC comes up, "You expect anything from an organization that can't even put GAY in its name?"
(Sources: PageOneQ, Gay.com, The Advocate, The Associated Press)
When I introduced the subject of transgender identity to the class, one of my students told a story about a guy he saw when he was out fishing with a friend one day: they were at the end of a pier, fishing, like you do, when a 60-something year old guy got out of his car in a tiny bikini, walked the length of the pier, & then got back in his car & drove away.
& What the student wanted to know was whether or not that was illegal, specifically because there were children around.
In most cases, I explained, it isn’t, unless of course the bikini didn’t cover everything it was supposed to, in which case he was publicly indecent.
But I also thought: it’s a shame that this student’s first encounter with someone (presumably) trans was so sucky & inappropriate. As the student said, there was no issue with a guy wanting to wear a bikini. He just didn’t feel it was appropriate for the person to parade himself, with no attempt at passing, in front of kids, in such skimpy clothes.
Obviously this guy was within his rights, but still: it makes a lousy first impression, especially the lack of concern about his surroundings. It just comes off as kind of pervy & inappropriate.
There were two individuals invited to deliver a luncheon keynote address to the attendees of the Southern Comfort Conference in Atlanta, Georgia this past September. One of those individuals is a major heavy hitter in the LGB"T" leadership hierarchy (if there is such a thing.)
He played a primary role in arranging the nationally televised debate with most of the major Democratic candidates for President on the LOGO Network. He personally sat on the panel alongside Melissa Etheridge and Jonathan Capehart and asked questions of Hillary Clinton, Barak Obama, John Edwards, Dennis Kucinich, Bill Richardson, Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel. He even managed in the course of the 2-hour debate to ask the candidates a question about a transgender issue. Just one question.
The other keynote speaker was me, a relative unknown in the LGB"T" leadership hierarchy (if there is such a thing.)
I was given the honor of presenting the Saturday luncheon keynote as a result of my role in founding TransYouth Family Advocates, an organization working with children, youth and families and my work as the director of the YouTube film, "Out Of The Shadows".
I'm not one of the people who gets invited to sit at VIP tables, or interviewed by The Blade, The Village Voice, The Advocate or Curve. I'll probably never sit beside Melissa Etheridge or Ellen DeGeneres discussing LGB"T" issues. The organization I work with as Executive Director, TransActive Education & Advocacy, does not have a recognizable logo that graces bumper stickers, t-shirts, coffee mugs, posters, banners or storefronts. I don't claim to speak for anyone other than the children, youth and families with whom we directly work at the grassroots level.
Unlike the other keynote speaker, I wasn't in the slightest demand prior to my keynote address, and really, in very little demand after my keynote address. There weren't many people, and certainly very few heavy-hitters in the LGB"T" leadership hierarchy (if there is such a thing) queuing up to speak with me or ask my opinion of issues related to the trans community.
The other keynote speaker presented his message to a packed house on Friday. Everyone knew that what he had to say was important. It was significant. It was, after all, coming from the very lips of one of the heavy-hitters in the LGB"T" leadership hierarchy (there IS such a thing).
I presented to a somewhat less than packed house at the Saturday luncheon.
I'm not saying that those who were there weren't entertained, moved or challenged by what I had to say. Many of them told me they were. It's just that, by the time I got up to speak, I had already been preceded by another of the heavy-hitters in the LGB"T" leadership hierarchy (there IS such a thing) and perhaps everyone thought that she was, in fact, the keynote speaker and simply left when she was through. Or...perhaps they left because they had no earthly idea who I was (not being a heavy-hitter in the LGB"T" leadership hierarchy), and therefore, what could I possibly have to say that be would worth hearing?
Now, please understand that I'm not complaining about the audience size. I was honored and thrilled to speak to those who were there and I believe we all shared a moment at the conference that we will not soon forget.
And I am most assuredly not complaining about not being considered a heavy-hitter in the LGB"T" leadership hierarchy...and yes, there is one. Let me just say that MANY of the people considered to be in that hierarchy deserve their positions of leadership.
It's time though for me to speak out about the major difference between Friday's keynote speaker, Mr. Joe Solmonese of the Human Rights Coalition (a heavy-hitter in the LGB"T" leadership hierarchy) and Jenn Burleton (me), a mere gnat on the windshield of the LGB"T" bus.
The major difference between us is that one of us stood in front of nearly 1,000 conference attendees and lied about their personal and organizational commitment to transgender inclusive rights legislation. I want to be absolutely clear in that. ONE OF US LIED....
One of us sold out not only the adult attendees at that conference, many of whom have jobs that are going to hang in the balance of the lie that was told to them, but one of us lied, in absentia, to all of the transgender and gender non-conforming children and youth who keep hoping that they have a future in this country. The speaker that lied sold out our children and youth in order to maintain "access to power" and to solidify their position as a heavy-hitter in the LGBT leadership hierarchy...at least with a certain member of Congress from the state of Massachusetts.
Shame on that person. Shame on those organizations who stood with that person under the guise of moving forward incrementally. Our children are dying, in part because they don't see a future for them as transgender adults...and using transgender employment rights as a bargaining chip is the worst kind of betrayal.
That individual not only has the pink slips of countless unemployed trans adults on their hands, they will have the blood of too many trans youth and adults on their hands because those people see, yet again, that when the time comes for some equal rights heavy lifting, a few of the heavy-hitters in the LGB"T" leadership hierarchy take a smokescreen break.
In case you haven't guessed by now, the liar wasn't me. Being the lightweight I am, I was far too busy clinging to the windshield.
Monday, November 05, 2007
I keep thinking that at some point in life I will cease being surprised by things about myself. Or more specifically, there will be no more surprises. I suppose when my time comes...it will probably be my final surprise.
Today, as I was fixing a snack for my gal and I one of my favorite films of all time came on TV.
"The Magnificent Seven" was a watershed experience in my life. It was released when I was 6 years old, not too long after my awareness of the conflict between my true gender identity and the body I was traveling through life in. It was not only a terrific action film, it was a morality play about standing up to overwhelming odds in order to do the right thing. It was about a few dedicated people overcoming racial prejudice, the strong abusing the weak and standing up to your fears in order to find your true nature. It was a valuable bit of imagery for me to see at that point in my life.
It was also the first time I remember seeing Steve McQueen on screen. I didn't realize it at the time, but he was my first crush...infatuation...boyfriend. In fact, I didn't realize it until a few weeks ago. And that's about, oh, a 47 year delay between 'love' at first sight and actually understanding what was going on.
In those days, as my infatuation with Steve grew more pronounced, so did my internalized homophobia, though it wasn't called that at the time. Almost everyone felt uncomfortable with the very idea of same-sex attraction, so there was no need to give a specific name to society's collective prejudice.
I told myself that I just really admired his 'acting' or that he was just so 'cool'. You know, the words so-called straight guys use when they are trying to explain why they really, really like something about some other guy.
I told myself that right through grade school, junior high school and high school. I 'admired' him in "The Great Escape", "The Cincinnati Kid", "The Sand Pebbles", and "Bullit". I still 'admired' him in one of his final films in 1980, "Tom Horn". Though several years after my transition, I remained unable to openly acknowledge my physical and emotional attraction to him as anything other than admiration. You see...in my mind, liking a boy "that way" still meant that I was, in some way, gay. And in my mind, that meant that I would always somehow be a boy.
Which brings me to my revelation.
As I prepared our snack while watching the film in the background, I began recanting to my partner, for what must have been the 50th time, my obsession with Steve...err....Mr. McQueen. As always, she listened politely, letting me ramble on.
"I realize now that Steve McQueen was the first male I had a crush on when I was a little girl!" I said in mid-stir of tuna salad.
Suddenly, I went silent. My partner asked me if everything was alright. I told her yes and went back to stirring the tuna.
Everything was alright...but it wasn't the same. I wanted to tell her what had just occurred, but I realized there would be little point. It was one of those moments that only certain people can understand. It was a trans-centric experience.
It was the first time I had ever said the words "when I was a little girl" without it having been a calculated re-gendering of my childhood experiences. It was simply the way I remembered it. It was finally, the reality of who I am meeting up with who I was.
I don't expect many people to understand what that felt like. As much as they want to think they "get it", it's the kind of thing no cisgender person will ever be able to truly understand. They will nod and try to empathize, but it's simply so far removed from their life experience as to be incomprehensible.
I don't know if it will last, but for one short moment I felt like who I am was completely connected to who I was, and it felt amazing and...different.
Thanks Steve. I truly did have the coolest boyfriend ever...even if it took me 47 years to realize it.
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 - partner/friend/ally of (predominantly) FTM (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.
- 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).
Sunday, November 04, 2007
"Things are getting very strange for women these days. More and more often we see young heterosexual women carving their bodies into porno Barbie dolls and lesbian women altering themselves into transmen. Our distorted cultural norms are making women feel compelled to use medical advances to change themselves, instead of working to change the world. This is one story, showing one possible scary future. I am hopeful that this story will foster discussion about female body modification and medical ethics."
Transgender historian and academic, Susan Stryker, describes it this way:
"The film expresses a long-familiar anti-transgender polemic: the idea that transsexuals are anti-gay, anti-feminist political reactionaries who collude with repressive social and cultural power; furthermore, that transsexuals are complicit in the non-consensual bodily violation of women."
The film was removed from the Frameline Film Festival (the largest LGBT film festival in the world) after a petition drive. The organizers of the petition drive said this:
"We, the multigendered LGBT community and its allies, declare that there is no space for hatred and transphobia in our community institutions. We reject the notion that transsexuality is anti-feminist or anti-gay. We demand that our community artists be held accountable for the messages that they deliver, and that artistic projects not be allowed to hide under the mask of "sparking dialogue" when the intention is actually to divide and demonize. We further ask that Frameline's LGBT Film Festival and other LGBT institutions refuse to show the hateful movie "The Gendercator," which makes no attempt to engage in actual dialogue. We assert that the dialogue that most urgently needs to happen is not around the validity of trans people, but instead around the double standards that trans-related material continues to endure within our own community."
I have little doubt that the position of The Gendercator in the lineup was planned. It's played JUST AFTER the gender section of the Festival. How's that for a little back door transphobia? Take a guess who's on the selection committee? Keep reading.....
Recently in another post, Tom, a gay man, asked me why I was so angry. It's not just this movie. It's not just us being stripped from ENDA. It's not that we have to protest to be included in ENDA. It's not that we don't get access to our legislators, then get blamed for not advocating enough.
I'm pissed off because we have to protest and complain about our place in this community. Whether it be ENDA, or the Matthew Shepard act, or a film festival, we have to put up a fight to be respected and included. I'm pissed that a supposed "GLBT" film festival would have the gall to put the creator of The Gendercator, Catherine Crouch, on the selection committee. In short, I'm pissed because I feel like a goddamn stepchild. My place in this community should not be up for debate. I have a rightful place in this community. I have stood beside my brothers and sisters in the GLBT community and fought for marriage equality. Transgender heroes like Sylvia Rivera have paid with her flesh, for our right to stand in this community, side by side, with gays and lesbians.
I had someone say to me that the beneficiary of the Indianapolis LGBT film festival, Indiana Youth Group, shouldn't suffer because of this "adult swizzle of this." If I had an African American film festival that featured "Birth of a Nation" and "The Jazz Singer" hosted by Ted Danson in blackface, would giving the money collected to the NAACP make the movies any less racist? What kind of credibility would the NAACP have after taking part in such an event? Would I have any credibility in the African American community by saying, "I'm not racist, I just helped a black guy yesterday"?!?
You want to have a film festival that's centered around radical feminism, and include "The Gendercator," be my guest. But don't you dare call this a GLBT film festival... unless the T, in GLBT, stands for transphobia.
For those of you in the Indiana area, I'm planning a protest of the premiere night. Please email me for more details.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
I lost a friend yesterday.
He wasn't my best friend, or my oldest friend. He wasn't a drinking buddy, golf partner, wingman, school chum, former lover, next door neighbor or casual acquaintance. He was just my friend.
Ian was a special guy. Everyone knew that. You could see it. You could feel it. And if he let down his guard a little, you became even more aware of how remarkable he was.
I've always thought of myself as a pretty smart gal. Quick with a quip...know a little bit about a lot of things...informed just enough to have an opinion on just about everything. But I always suspected that Ian knew something I didn't. I believe Ian was smarter than me, and I don't say that out loud about too many people.
Ian was taller than I am. Taller than most people, in fact. As a result of that, I think he always slouched a little bit, to try and not take up too much space, or stand out anymore than necessary.
Ian had better hair than I do. It was long and wavy. He looked much more like a rock star than I do...and I have, in fact, been a rock star at various times in my life. Ian would have been completely at home on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine with a smokin' hot, candy apple red Gibson Les Paul in hand. Except for the fact that he was painfully shy.
Ian was painfully many things. Painfully intelligent. Painfully sensitive. Painfully aware of the world he lived in. Painfully different. Painfully inquisitive. Painfully lonely. Painfully courageous. Painfully transgender.
Ian was also deeply loved. His mother, herself an unassuming yet confident woman, loved her son with all her heart. She loved him precisely for who he was, not in spite of who he was. She loved him for being her child. And she worked hard to prepare this world for Ian, because it was clear in so many ways that no matter how hard she and others tried, Ian was not prepared for the world.
Ian's father loved his son too. It was harder for him to come to grips with having a son, rather than a daughter, but he tried his best. And through it all, he loved Ian.
And Ian's younger brother loved him. He loved Ian the way most younger brothers love an older sibling. It wasn't all hugs and kisses...but it was always love and support. He loved Ian no matter what his friends might think or say. He loved Ian for looking out for him. He loved Ian for showing him that people come in all different kinds of packages, and that is a good thing.
Ian's brother loved him...and I love Ian's brother for that.
I didn't know Ian for all that long. And we didn't spend much time together. We did, after all, live more than 2,000 miles apart. But we understood each other.
Ian and I walked simultaneously through much the same space and since Ian was shy, the fact that not many words needed to be exchanged was an added bonus. As with all things, we didn't share everything in common...in fact, on the surface we couldn't have been more different.
I'm older, Ian was...well...less older. I'm a transwoman, Ian was a transman. We both were raised in the snowy cold Midwest, though I came from a dysfunctional, poverty stricken family while Ian came from a loving, nuclear upper middle class family.
Ian was a gifted student. I was, let's just say, less than gifted at the whole attending school thing. Ian had the support of his family and extended family and friends while I had none of that.
Ian had what most other people would consider to be a future. I'm not sure you would have found many people with the same feelings about me at his age.
And yet...here I am writing about my friend Ian while he is...lost.
I didn't misplace my friend. I didn't lose track of him in the woods while we were hiking, or forget where I set him down while I was cleaning house. But I lost him just the same.
Ian was 16 years old. Ian was a transman. Ian committed suicide on Monday.
We all need to find forgiveness in our hearts. We all need to realize that each of us is not just special, but irreplaceable and valuable. We all need to recognize that perfection is unattainable, because there is no standard to measure ourselves against. We are unique....we are already perfect.
We need to forgive ourselves for being transgender. I think if Ian had been able to do that, my friend might not have gotten so lost that he just disappeared.
There are so many children and youth like Ian that can be saved. But like the oxygen masks on an airplane, we must first save ourselves before we can save our children.
This year, on the Transgender Day of Remembrance, I'm going to rededicate myself to saving myself, so I can save others. It's an appropriate day to do that for all of us. But it's especially appropriate for me...
You see...November 20th is my birthday.
I loved you Ian. I always will.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
So I read The First Man-Made Man by Pagan Kennedy not long ago, and I’m going to ‘fess up: this book really bothered me. The research seemed solid. The topic was interesting & book-worthy. But it was also somewhat repetitive, and I felt the plot arch was mis-played; you find out too much of the story upfront, & so there isn’t so much story to keep up the second half of the book.
But that’s not what bothered me so much: the tone of the book was remarkably condescending. The interview with the monk at the end just felt like a dick joke. & A lot of the time, the narration made me so uncomfortable I really just wanted to read the actual manuscript the first trans man wrote, instead. (Although from what I hear, no one seems to know if a copy exists at all anymore, or not.)
Don’t get me wrong: this is a valuable & interesting book & really gets at how remarkably new the tech was; I especially enjoyed the section on the early practitioners of plastic surgery. But it just felt to me that the author never really believed he was a guy at all, which strikes me as a remarkably unsympathetic way to write about not just transness, but about a trans man who was so inexorably alone as a trans person. Michael Dillon strikes me as a remarkable soul who had a tremendous amount of integrity and bravery, and frankly, this book gives you just enough about him to know that the book didn’t do him justice.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
So sometimes when I'm on Wikipedia, I search using my own name to see if anyone is referencing anything I've written. For the longest time, the only result was on the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival page where my essay Bending Over Backwards: an Introduction to the Issue of Trans Woman-Inclusion is cited. But today, a second result came up: the Colbert Report page. After searching through it (it's a *humongous* webpage) I found myself mentioned under Criticisms of the show:
Jokes targeting transgender people, particularly transwomen, are a recurrent theme in Colbert’s repertoire. Examples of this include warnings about gender-variant pandas, suggesting that a woman guest was a “she-male,” and a reference to “trannies” as “dangerous characters” from whom soldiers need to be protected.
Despite the obviously satirical nature of the show, members of the trans community have spoken out about these and other perceived negative impacts of Colbert’s show;there has been no response from Colbert himself. The transphobic jokes often rely on the myth of the deceptive transwoman who lures heterosexual men into danger. Author Julia Serano has described how many in the media use this image as a plot twist, and how this portrayal affects transwomen’s lives.
btw, that reference is to the web version of my essay Skirt Chasers: Why The Media Depicts the Trans Revolution in Lipstick and Heels.
I'm glad people are talking about this, because I'm sick of screaming at the TV screen every time he evokes trannies. It's particularly frustrating because I otherwise love his show...
One final question: does one get a Colbert bump for being mentioned on his Wikipedia site?
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
To be honest, I'm having trouble juggling all of the various anti-trans controversies these days. The ENDA issue has of course (for good reason) been the focus of much of the trans community's energy. Then there's the whole Bailey/Dreger debacle (which I am currently writing madly about). And now, unfortunately, it seems like SF's upcoming Gendercator screening has been orchestrated so that there is little room for an actual community dialogue (which was supposedly the original point in doing the screening). Anyway, here's the forwarded post:
Please attend transphobic filmmaker event this Friday in SF!
Supporters of ENDA have threatened to exclude transgender people from employment protections. Every other month, a letter runs in the local LGBT newspaper expressing disdain and disgust for transgender people. At last summer’s “Transforming Community” event in the SF LGBT Center, a gay man walked into trans community space and began distributing flyers against “Transsexual Mutilation,” claiming he simply wanted to start “dialogue.”
And this Friday at 6:30 p.m, Center Women Presents at the SF LGBT Center will be hosting the Midwestern filmmaker whose most recent statements equate gender transition with violence, social ease, and political apathy. These positions have been framed as a “difference of opinion” in the SF community. It is incredibly important that you attend this event and speak your truth. You may need to get there early. You may need to buy tickets for friends. You may need to bring copies of her statements. And you may need to brace yourself for a frustrating evening. But please, do not allow a transphobic outsider to the community frame what an actual respectful dialogue about community tensions looks like.
On Friday, Oct 26 at 6:30 p.m., Center Women Presents will show Catherine Crouch’s “The Gendercator,” the film that SF’s Frameline decided to pull last summer after community concerns about Crouch’s public statements against trans people and, for those who saw the film, the depiction of trans people as coercive right-wing anti-gay villains whose very existence was a threat to queers. If you missed the Frameline film fest uproar, Crouch's original publicity said that "lesbians alter themselves into transmen" ... "instead of working to change the world." She then clarified that to say she "never mentioned" trans people--just women who take hormones and have surgery in order to be read as male. Of course, all of this was said, she explained, to "spark dialogue."
Shortly afterward, the LA film fest pulled “The Gendercator” from its scheduled program and showed the film by itself along with a panel; this event, said Crouch, was “unsafe,” because it allowed people an open forum to challenge her and her ideas. Subsequent events have decided not to include Crouch on their panels due to her divisive positions. Friday’s “Center Women” event in San Francisco while initially well-intentioned-- has made great efforts to make sure Crouch feels “safe,” and during the process for this panel, organizers expressed concern for Crouch’s safety and respect. To that end, they have added a full panel of speakers to address everything from censorship to Crouch’s full body of film work – and not just that pesky topic of transgender marginalization within our own communities. Additionally, questions will be "randomly drawn,” increasing the chance for transgender ally “censorship” and discouraging any emotional members of the public from adequately expressing themselves. Crouch’s damaging public statements (which I’ve included below) are considered by many of the panelists and organizers to be irrelevant.
Again, it is incredibly important that you attend this event and speak your truth – this is our Center and our community, and if it takes civil disobedience or printed materials to be heard, it is important for that to happen. It is also important that you go to witness and document the event and not allow history to be distorted, as Crouch’s “revised statements” keep attempting to do. Like all communities, not every trans person agrees with Frameline’s decision to pull the film last summer, and not every lesbian or queer woman is sympathetic to Crouch’s positions. Some have emphasized that pulling the film was “censorship,” while others believe the film and Crouch’s statements are not transphobic. Others say that Crouch has valid positions because they do know one or two people who fit her criticism of an entire population. Such sentiments, however, ignore the real issues: our SF community frequently does respectfully and productively criticize one another without resorting to hateful rhetoric; there is also the undeniable reality that we would not be bending over backwards to give a safe space and an open mic to anybody who made similar anti-gay or anti-lesbian statements. Although Crouch keeps revising who she “meant” to target, the issue is not who or what she meant, but the ethics of judging people’s lives and bodies as cowardly or not queer enough--especially in our own venues.
Below are Crouch’s most recent public statements. From CatherineCrouch.com:Director’s Note - Things are getting very strange for women these
days. Barbie dolls and lesbian women altering themselves into
transmen. Our distorted cultural norms are making women feel compelled to use medical advances to change themselves, instead of working to change the world. This is one story, showing one possible scary future. I am hopeful that this movie will foster discussion about female body modification and medical ethics.
This remark is not about transpeople. It is about women. My
understanding of transsexuality is that it is a rare condition, a medical condition of gender dysphoria. A person’s exterior body does not match their interior sense of self, causing serious social, sexual, and mental problems. This person is a transsexual, not a woman or a man. My statement was not meant to question the validity of this condition, but to call attention to the increasing number of young women who are taking testosterone or undergoing voluntary mastectomies to enhance their masculinity. These are women who formerly identified, or would be considered by the lesbian community, as butch lesbians. If we situate this in terms of the larger culture’s misogyny, it seems to be a rejection of the female part of the masculine female. Why does a woman do this? Most often, the reasons given are: to avoid harassment, rape and ridicule as a gender variant. It seems to me that what is also going on, but has not been explicitly addressed, is the desire to avoid being perceived by the world at large as female. Or to avoid the label of lesbian. Some may do this because it enables their sexual fantasies.
From a Movie magazine interview:
What I said was that cultural norms are making women feel compelled to use medical advances to change themselves instead of working to change the world. This remark is not about the trans people. It’s about women. My statement never referred to transsexuals, but some took it upon themselves to assume it was all about them. It seems to me that what is also going on but is not explicitly addressed, is a desire to avoid being perceived by the world at large as being female, or to avoid the label lesbian. But I think we need to acknowledge that it has become a trend among some young people who formerly identified as, or would be considered by the lesbian community, as butch lesbians. The rigid binary of a larger culture enables this violence and harassment of the masculine woman or effeminate male. It’s harmful to everyone, that their safety and identity is defined by conformity to this Ken and Barbie model. This is what The Gendercator is all about.
Just yesterday John Aravosis said:
"Time for some crow.But according to the Washington Blade:
I wrote a few weeks back about how odd it was that George Bush's White House was being so quiet about its views on ENDA, and that it was odd that neither Bush nor his staff were even hinting at a veto. Some raised the point that formal veto threats often aren't issued until right before the vote, but still, the White House's silence struck me as odd."
"Democratic leaders announced they have decided to postpone a vote in the House of Representatives this week on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA. The announcement came several hours after the White House issued a statement saying that senor advisers have recommended that President Bush veto the gay rights measure if Congress were to pass it."Aravosis boasted that:
"I wrote repeatedly about my inkling that ENDA could very well become law this year, in spite of the naysayers who said that Bush would definitely veto, that there was no way around his veto, and that I was either naive or a liar (in addition to being a racist, misogynist, native-American hater, bigot, rich, white, transphobe, homocentrist). Well, the religious right doesn't appear as unequivocal about that veto, and neither does the White House."So much for the gay conservatives continued belief that President Bush will somehow stop his attacks against GLBT people and worry about his legacy.
But really, isn't worrying about the Presidential veto is a bit premature? For the life of me, I can't see how this would ever pass in the Senate. The Matthew Shepard Act passed by ONE VOTE, how could anyone in their right mind think that this bill has a snowball's chance in hell of passage?
Hopefully this smack in the face will wake up Congress and "conserva-queers" enough to join the rest of the community in passage of a United ENDA. Until then, crow pie anyone?
cross posted from Transadvocate.com
After a wingnut report that the White House had secretly helped draft parts of ENDA-lite (expanding religious exemptions) got pro-bigotry forces up in arms, the Bushies confirmed what pretty much everyone knew, Bush plans to veto ENDA regardless of whether it contains protections for gender identity.
So can we all agree that this year's vote is symbolic and drop the rhetoric by some pundits that insisting on an ENDA with gender identity/gender expression protections will somehow "hold hostage" LGB rights.
That said, even though tomorrow's vote is symbolic, it's still important -- laying the groundwork for a future votes when we have a president who won't vote it. So if you haven't done so, visit, call, email or fax your Congressional representative today.
Monday, October 22, 2007
The House is scheduled to vote on ENDA Wednesday. The current version leaves out protections for gender identity and gender expression -- potentially leaving a huge loophole, and not just for trans people, but also for gays, lesbians and yes... heteros. As Lamba Legal put it: employers may not be able to fire you for being gay or lesbian, but they could fire you for being too effeminate or too masculine. Fortunately, Rep. Tammy Baldwin will be submitting an amendment to restore gender identity protections to the bill. Now is the time we need to make clear that there's support for an inclusive ENDA.
Pick up the phone and dial 202-224-3121.It's the number to Congress, and your zip code will connect you to your Representative's office, where an aide will register your request. If you don't feel comfortable calling, then email them -- you can always use a pseudonym if need be (the important thing is the make clear that you vote). Congress.org has quick way to find your local representative, just enter your ZIP code and on the resulting page, click the link under "Write your elected officials."
If you're not sure what to say, here's some talking points:
- It is unprecedented for Congress to pass civil rights legislation that is not supported by the community the law is supposed to protect. Nearly 300 LGBT organizations representing over 2 million Americans actively oppose any employment nondiscrimination legislation that does not include gender identity.
- HR 3685 does NOT provide sufficient protection against discrimination for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans. As Lambda Legal, NCLR and other legal organizations in the trenches of anti-discrimination cases have pointed out, ot only does this bill completely fail to protect transgender people, but it also fails to protect lesbians, gay men, bisexual, and straight people who do not conform to gender stereotypes. Their experience in the last few years has been that this is -- and would be -- a huge loophole used by employers, their attorneys and conservative activist judges, to justify discriminatory firings.
- HR 3685 is morally and strategically wrong. Not only is it morally wrong to leave part of the LGBT community out of this bill, but it is also strategically wrong. We have learned from our work in the states that it is far easier to include gender identity in civil rights legislation the first time it is passed than it is to try to go back and add it in later.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
I am currently working on a paper (which I plan to submit to a peer-reviewed psychology journal) that challenges psychologist Ray Blanchard’s causal theory of “autogynephilia” (which has recently gained attention via J. Michael Bailey’s book The Man Who Would be Queen). This theory posits that all transsexual women who are not exclusively attracted to men transition to female because we are sexually aroused by the idea of being or becoming women. Many trans women (including myself) find this theory to be flawed because it mistakenly confuses/conflates sexual orientation, gender expression, subconscious sex and sex embodiment, and it unnecessarily sexualizes the motives of countless trans women who transition to female for reasons other than sexual arousal.
To refute the assumption that lesbian/bisexual/“asexual” trans women are the *only* transsexuals who experience pre-transition fantasies about being/becoming their identified sex, I am hoping to collect applicable narratives from the following groups:
1) FTM transsexuals: narratives that discuss/describe any pre-transition sexual fantasies you may have experienced that primarily centered on you physically being or becoming male rather than on the physique of another person.
2) MTF transsexuals who are exclusively attracted to men: narratives that discuss/describe any pre-transition sexual fantasies you may have experienced that primarily centered on you physically being or becoming female rather than on the physique of another person.
To refute the assumption that “autogynephilic” fantasies *cause* transsexuality, I am hoping to collect applicable narratives from MTF transsexuals who are lesbian, bisexual or “asexual” in orientation and who:
1) were stereotypically feminine and girl-identified as young children and transitioned during late teens/early adulthood
2) never experienced pre-transition sexual fantasies that primarily centered on physically being or becoming female
3) did experience such fantasies, but only after consciously recognizing/realizing that you wanted to be female
4) regularly engaged in such fantasies pre-transition, but then experienced a sharp decline or a complete absence in those fantasies over time. (Note: if you fall into category #4, please include any reasons/explanations as to why such fantasies no longer arouse or appeal to you).
Narratives should briefly describe the pertinent details in 1 to 4 short paragraphs. There is no need to be overly graphic or detailed - just the basic facts will suffice. Please be sure to include the age at which you first became aware of your cross-gender identity/desire to be the other sex, and the age at which you first experienced such fantasies (if applicable). Narratives that are germane to the points I wish to make will be compiled onto a single webpage that will be used as supplemental data for my article. I can assure you that YOUR NAME AND CONTACT INFO WILL NOT BE PUBLISHED OR SHARED WITH ANYONE. Obviously, other people will be reading these narratives, so be sure to omit any unimportant info that you feel might place your anonymity in jeopardy (e.g., where you live or work, names of partners, etc.)
For those interested, please send your narrative to me at email@example.com - be sure to paste the narrative into the body of the email (no attachments please). Along with the narrative, please include the following information:
1) whether you are an MTF or FTM transsexual
2) whether you are sexually oriented toward men, women, both or neither
3) a statement along the following lines: “I certify that all of the provided information is true to the best of my knowledge, and I give Julia Serano permission to permanently post this narrative on her website and to include and/or excerpt it in her forthcoming article.”
The purpose of my article is not to discount or discredit trans women who self-identify as autogynephilic, but rather to finally take into account the experiences of the many trans women for whom sexual arousal was not a primary motivation for transitioning. In other words, this study aims to clarify the psychological literature on this matter, not to distort it further. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that you be completely honest and open in the information you provide. If I have reason to suspect that any narrative I receive is fabricated, I will not include it.
Feel free to cross-post this call for narratives on any trans-focused websites/email lists at your discretion. It is also available on the web at this link: http://www.juliaserano.com/artifactualAG.html
If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks in advance!