Friday, November 30, 2007

The Dating Game

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

Once more into the breach

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.

As if we weren't clear where we stood with HRC...

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

Transgender Day of Remembrance in San Francisco, 11-20-2007

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: 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

Cold Case

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

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

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

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

Yeah. My mom rocks.

Friday, November 23, 2007

NYC: Crossdressing Erotica Reading

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,
* When: Thurday 11/29, 7PM

Do come! It should be a fun night!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Remember We're Living 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:

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2007

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

Scholarships for T Students

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

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

There's Something About "Deception"

Hi everyone,

Just wanted to let you know that I just posted a short piece on that discusses the myth of transgender "deception" in the context of tomorrow's Transgender Day of Remembrance.


Friday, November 16, 2007

Mara Keisling on C-SPAN

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

The Forgotten Veterans: by Monica Helms

The Forgotten Veterans
By Monica F. Helms

Veterans Day is one the three most important days in this country when it comes to patriotism and pride. At the eleventh minute, of the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month, we start the day honoring all the veterans who have served this country, both in peace and in war. Today, we have 26 million military veterans in America, but sadly, we lose 1500 WWII each day and a similar number of Korean War veterans as well. Soon, the Vietnam War veterans will pass away in similar numbers.

The men and women who fought in those wars over the last 230-plus years came from every diverse background this country has ever known. People from every race, religion, ethnicity, economic status, social status and sexual orientation have fought, been wounded or died for this country. A current example of sexual orientation is the first person wounded in the current war in Iraq. Eric Alva lost a leg in the very early days of the war and then came out as being gay after his discharge.

Amongst the wide diversity of people who have served this country, Transgender Americans have been an important part of the military since the Revolutionary War. The word “transgender” has come to mean “Anyone who crosses the gender lines, regardless of whether it is temporary or permanent.” has the definition as, “Noun: A person appearing or attempting to be a member of the opposite sex, as a transsexual or habitual cross-dresser,” and, “Adjective: Being, pertaining to, or characteristic of a transgender or transgenders: the transgender movement.”

We have found that in the early part of American history, women could easily fight as men because they didn’t have to go through a physical exam before enlisting. That changed during the Spanish American War. Some of the women who did fight in those early wars indeed returned to a life as a woman, but many did not.

In the early and middle parts of the 20th Century, we found that most of the transgender veterans who served at that time started life as boys, but became women in the years after the wars had ended. Others crossdressed throughout their lives and even did so while serving in the military. In the middle 20th Century and early 21st Century, women began serving more frequently and even in combat roles where they could not previously serve. We started seeing more women who later became men after those wars were over.

One of the notable examples of a woman who fought as a man was Deborah Sampson, a tall woman for her day, served in the Revolutionary War as Robert Shurtliff and even became wounded. Another person was Lucy Brewer, who started her early adult life as a prostitute, but served as a Marine on board of the USS Constitution in the War of 1812. After the War, she appeared as a man several times. Around 400 women served as men in the Civil War, for both sides. Some continued their lives as men after the war.

One of the most interesting stories is that of Cathy Williams, a slave who changed her name to William Cathey and served two years as a Buffalo Solider before she told a doctor she was a woman. She did as well as her male counterparts, surviving the harsh conditions of the desert Southwest.

As the understanding of transgenderism improved, stories of thousands of transgender people who served this country in the military surfaced. The famous writer, B-movie producer and crossdresser, Ed Wood, fought in the Battle of Guadalcanal. The first known transsexual, Christine Jorgensen, spent eleven months in the Army and when she came back from Denmark after her surgery in 1952, the headlines in the paper read, “GI becomes Blonde Bombshell.” The headlines knocked the explosion of the first hydrogen bomb off the front page. Later, Eisenhower even invited her to the White House.

We know of many transgender people who have fought in every late 20th Century and 21st Century wars we have been in. I have a friend, Jane Fee, who served during WWII. I served during the Vietnam War, in the Navy, on two submarines. We know of another transgender person who headed a special anti-terrorist unit for the Army and even reported to the Vice President.

Transgender people have been in every war, served in every branch of the service, have achieved every rank and have been awarded every medal this country has, including the Congressional Medal of Honor. We have done every job the military has, served in every base, port, ship, drove every vehicle, operated every weapon, flown every aircraft and served in every hospital the American military has. We have done our part to preserve the freedom of everyone in this country. If you ask us, we will tell you that we are veterans first, who just happen to be transgender people. And, we are proud to have served this great country.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Senate ENDA

Interestingly, Ted Kennedy is sponsoring ENDA in the Senate, and even more interestingly, the Senate version will also exclude gender identity.

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

ENDA Passes (the House)

The version of ENDA without gender identity passed the House today, just a few minutes ago.

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,, The Advocate, The Associated Press)

So Here's a Problem

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.

So, thoughts?

A Tale Of Two Keynotes

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 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.

Jenn Burleton
Portland, OR

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 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 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.

What They Call Me

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

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

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

  • SO - most often used to describe the female partner of a CD or MTF of CDing experience
  • SOFFA - 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.

Other notes:

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

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Transphobia On Film, Hoosier Style

Transphobia in moviesAt times, I really get down about being the T part of GLBT. Yesterday was definitely one of those times. I learned that "The Gendercator" will be playing at our local GLBT film festival. If you're not familiar with the film, I'll let the creator of the film explain it.
"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.