Sunday, December 18, 2011

Why HRC, GLAAD and TLC’s advocacy hurts the transgender community

Today I got an email from the Human Rights Campaign saying, "Tell ABC: Your new comedy is no laughing matter." It's about this new television show called "Work It." HRC says,

As part of their winter line-up, ABC is releasing a new comedy called "Work It," featuring two men who dress as women in order to get jobs. The problem is that the premise reinforces false, hurtful stereotypes about transgender people. This kind of programming only mocks those who don't adhere to society's gender norms. Tell ABC's president to can "Work It" now.

The link in HRC's email goes to a petition asking ABC "not to air a show that reinforces negative and damaging stereotypes about transgender people." On their website, HRC says that their president Joe Solomonese "contacted ABC Entertainment Group President Paul Lee today to request a meeting to discuss the very real challenges transgender Americans face in the work place – with the goal of ensuring “Work It” can be a light-hearted comedy that doesn’t belittle or mock these obstacles; or reinforce negative and potentially damaging stereotypes."

With a little googling, I found a trailer for the new series, and articles at The Wrap and the Hollywood Reporter. These both said that not only HRC, but the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Discrimination were up in arms about the new show.

On GLAAD's website, I found a blog post attempting to explain "Why ABC's New Sitcom Work It Hurts the Transgender Community." That blog post linked to a Huffington Post article by Mark Daniel Snyder of the Transgender Law Center saying, "We owe it to our constituents to speak out anywhere we see an injustice, no matter how big or how small."

I don't particularly feel that this show is harmful to transgender people. I'll explain my reaction in more detail later, but for now I want to focus on the advocacy messages.

Note that in the HRC website and email, and the statements in the media, we do not hear from a single trans person. HRC president Joe Solomonese is not transgender, and I'm pretty sure that neither is GLAAD Acting President Mike Thompson or Matt Kane, their Associate Director of Entertainment Media. The transgender Huffington Post bloggers who've discussed this issue, Emerson Whitney and Mark Daniel Snyder, are both female-to-male, as is Transgender Law Center Executive Director Masen Davis, quoted in the Advocate.

It took a lot of digging to find any public statements by male-to-female transgender people, and there was a negative one by Kelli Busey and one withholding judgment by Jillian Page. The only expert on transgender workplace diversity I know of, Jillian Weiss, has produced a single tweet, "@kellibusey I like your guest post on care2."

What I find a lot more disturbing than yet another crappy sitcom is reading pronouncements by a bunch of gay men and FTMs about what MTF transgender people feel and think and want, at best referencing yet another problematic convenience-sample survey, without a single MTF voice to be heard. Do Joe Solomonese and Matt Kane and Mark Daniel Snyder know any MTFs? Emerson Whitney at least quoted Kelli Busey; why couldn't Mike Thompson or Mason Davis?

I'll tell you what hurts the transgender community. It's the pretense that we are united by anything other than the hatred we get from outside. It's the idea that we all care about the same things, feel the same way, react the same way. It's the constant stream of shoddy convenience-sample survey reports that allow some gay guy who read The Celluloid Closet or some FTM who read Marjorie Garber to set themselves up as authorities about What Hurts the Community. It's the idea that this is a problem ABC can solve by meeting with Joe Solomonese instead of, say, an actual transgender person, maybe even an actor or producer.

I'm thinking of starting a petition.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and Don't be Trans

History is being made today for the lesbian, gay, bi, and respective non-heterosexual communities the US Military policy Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) officially is repealed. Everyone is celebrating, and I'm celebrating too, but I have to admit I'm more jaded than joyful. Today as the LGB military is coming out, trans* military is being left out.

As an activist rooted in the anti-war/anti-military movement, even I recognize the significance of the USA's largest employer (the federal government) removing a grossly discriminatory policy that theoretically places sexually queer people on equal footing with non-queer people. That's a big deal. And I think it is an even bigger deal that this momentously important event for the "LGBT" community completely leaves off  the T. One would like to believe that if high schools can create gender identity and expression inclusive policies then congress can too, but apparently not. An early Department of Defense report on DADT, referenced by several blogs and articles, stated: “Transgender and transsexual individuals are not permitted to join the Military Services. The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has no effect on these policies.”  After media attention the report was removed from the government's website. According to the US Military, trans* people are "unfit to serve" primarily (categorically) because of our good friend, Gender Identity Disorder. As mentally ill people, trans* communities are not medically fit to serve.

A common thought about DADT, or now in this case with trans* people in the military, is that the "military problem" isn't really a problem because it is better if our people don't join up - it's better to protect our precious queers. I can't help but think this sometimes... or most of the time... but I force myself to remember that there are people out there who actually like the military - (like a pre-teen Midwest GenderQueer who associated fighter pilots with a desirable yet (continually) unobtainable masculinity - thank you Top Gun).  My freshman year of college I met a guy who was determined to have a military career; he said it was his calling. He was also gay. This was years before I came out but even a "straight girl" could see how problematic the situation was. I remember asking him why he wanted a job where he would have to hide who he was his entire life. He looked very sad, yet very determined and said "It's not ideal, but I can do it." Now he doesn't have to, but no such luck if it were me.

Revisiting the "military problem," in my experience people think that it is easy to fix: If you don't like the military, then don't join. This is the number one pillar upholding the classist, global mirage that choosing to join the military is always a choice.  Speaking strictly for America, our economic system promotes dependency and servitude towards positions in power. We tell our people to succeed, but don't enable them to do it. With jobs disappearing and public funds being non-existent, we're left with a mass population of the under-educated, unsupported, and unemployed. Our trans* community is especially vulnerable because, like other oppressed groups, we are more likely to be poor, unemployed/underemployed, and more likely to lack personal and/or societal support and resources. In other words, we are a population in need and in comes the secure, sturdy military to solve all our problems. I have personally known several young trans* folks who can't pay for groceries let alone for college; who may struggle to get a job because they are gender non-conforming; sometimes they are trying to escape an unaccepting home;  maybe they are desperate to get money to transition; they are people willing to give up everything to get a better life, and that's exactly what they do by joining up. It was not a choice for them. They felt they had no other options, and perhaps they didn't. Being  trans* in the military has it's own unique issues that no one talks about. A fascinating  2008 study by Transgender American Veterans Association (TAVA) showed that all military branches have trans* people, the Army being highest at 38%. If you're trans* in the military you live in fear of being outed (resulting in losing your job, your home, and/or friends and chosen family). You can't transition in any form, medical or otherwise, and rigidly sexist uniform codes forbid expressing your actual gender (you can even be court-martialed for "cross-dressing"). If you've taken hormones or had surgery before enlisting but don't report it (which you wouldn't because it would keep you from being admitted) you will be discharged when it was inevitably found out in your records.  The military has no protections against harassment over gender expression or perceived gender and if you went to complain to a higher up (that is, if it wasn't the higher up who was harassing you) their solution is to tell you that "if you aren't trans, you have nothing to worry about." You also can not confide in religious or medical personnel because, as military employees, they are not required to practice confidentiality on the subject. Quiet the opposite. In the TAVA survey, 40% of the trans*military personnel stated they were unhappy with their lives.

I also believe that repealing DADT won't change much for your average LGB (or perceived to be LGB) military employee. It's against military law to harass, beat, and rape people, but it still happens; and like everywhere in society it is extremely under-reported and often left without any reprisal. Rules changing doesn't mean that people change, and people are who you see every day. Just like any place of business (and it is a business) without an aggressive campaign of combined education and no-tolerance policies the military will never be a safe place for anyone, "gay" or not. We must continue to address the military industrial complex for what it is, as an institutional system of oppression that preys upon our poor, our young, our disenfranchised, and our communities of color. It is a presence that manipulates the global society in order to serve a small percentage, and that is the top 1% of the US elite.

What bothers me more than the issues within the military is the greater "LGB" community's reaction, or lack their of, to the exclusion of trans* communities. I'm so glad today is here so I won't be invited to another "Yay DADT! All Our Problems are Over!" facebook event; after months of it I'm fed up. Yes, we should be celebrating, but its downright lousy to rub it in trans people's faces saying "we don't have to worry anymore" and "problem solved." If you're going to go that far you might as well just call today what it is, yet another "We Forgot You, Again" day, or "We Matter More" day. And yes, I do have to remind people that our problems are not over. I'm not a downer, I'm an activist. I'm not bitter, I'm fucking furious. The LGB community knows what it's like to be ignored, passed over, discriminated against, but that doesn't mean they aren't capable of  taking their rights and privileges for granted. The LGB community makes strides with the help of the trans* community, the trans* community is booted out, and what should be our joy becomes a part of our pain. But in of every disappointment there is room for action. It holds me together when people do speak out and recognize that we are not done yet. We must continue to work, continue to fight, and never be satisfied until we all are equal.

I've heard today described as "the light at the end of the tunnel." If this is your truth, I celebrate joyously for you. And as you reach that light at the end of the tunnel, I hope you remember that some of us have been left behind and we are still working in the dark.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

The curious incident of the healthy transwoman

by Angus "Andrea" Grieve-Smith

I've noticed that transgender health researchers tend to focus on people with health problems, and that makes sense. Consequently, I've often felt a bit guilty talking about transgender health issues. I don't have a sexually transmitted disease, the worst thing I'm addicted to is sugar, I've never been bashed, and I'm not depressed or suicidal. So why should I talk about my health? Why would any researcher want to study someone like me?

The answer comes from Sherlock Holmes, in the story "The Silver Blaze":

Gregory ( Scotland Yard detective): "Is there any other point to which you
would wish to draw my attention?"
Holmes: "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time ."
Gregory: "The dog did nothing in the night-time ."
Holmes: "That was the curious incident."

There's a fancy word for this: negative evidence. Often, the absence of a salient event can tell you more about the causes of a problem than a hundred events.

I see this all the time in my computer consulting business. If a customer is not getting an image on their computer monitor, it could be caused by a fault in the motherboard, the video card, the video cable, or the monitor. I can turn on the computer and get a blank screen a hundred times, but that doesn't help me figure out which component is causing the problem.

If I can get a picture even once, however, I can isolate the problem. If I hook the computer up to a different monitor and the display comes on, I know that the monitor is the problem. If I put in a different video card, I know the customer needs a new video card.

This method can work with transgender health as well. We are a diverse group, and there may be something in family background or upbringing that can make the difference between health and sickness.

There are many choices that we make in our lives, and those choices may affect our health. We need to know the consequences of those choices. Even if that knowledge doesn't ultimately change our decisions, it can prepare us and allow us to plan better.

That is why we need to hear about a whole range of transgender people, not just those that the researchers were able to track down.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The consequences of sampling bias

By Angus "Andrea" Grieve-Smith

I wanted to go into a bit more detail about something I've mentioned before: that the use of non-representative samples can cause problems down the line. To illustrate this, I want to examine the claims of health disparities that Emilia Dunham lists in her Bay Windows article.

  1. Transgender people take more hormones and have have more surgeries than average.

  2. Transgender people smoke at a 30% prevalence rate, and use other substances to cope with the stress from discrimination.

  3. We’re more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety, and more likely to live with HIV.

  4. 61 - 64% of transgender people have been physically or sexually assaulted.

  5. 41% of transgender people have attempted suicide.

  6. All these percentages skyrocket for transgender people of color and low-income folks.

  7. A startling 1 in 5 transgender people have experienced complete refusal of services from healthcare providers.

  8. If transgender people aren’t referred to with correct names or pronouns or are treated with coldness, they may avoid the office.

Of these statements, only the last one is an existential statement. All the others are statements of prevalence or likelihood that are not generalizable without a representative sample. In my impression, some of them are more likely to be true of the entire transgender population than others. There are chains of causation from transgender actions to these disparities, and the chains are not all the same. Here are some possible causal chains. They are not the only possible ones, but they are the ones that seem likely to me.

First there are the inherent consequences of transgender actions: more hormones and surgery. If you're only concerned with transpeople who choose to take hormones and undergo surgery, then of course this is true. But if you believe that not all transpeople choose hormones or surgery, and you don't know how many do, then you have no way of knowing how great these disparities are.

Then there is harassment based on perceptible differences: physical and sexual assault. A lot of this has to do with passing - as one gender or another, not necessarily the one you prefer. The passing does not have to be total: a transperson can avoid a lot of harassment simply by avoiding being noticed. However, note that there is a feedback loop here regarding socioeconomic status: wealthier transpeople can afford higher quality hormones, surgery, hair removal or attachment, clothes, padding, cosmetics and training that can give them (us) a better chance of passing as the target gender.

There is also discrimination based on records or perceptible differences: refusal of healthcare service. There can also be housing, consumer and job discrimination, which can affect some of the factors below.

A transgender person has a number of potential reactions to the harassment or discrimination described above, including: avoidance of healthcare providers, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, suicide attempts. Out of fear of discovery, many transpeople engage in hidden sexual activities, where there is a greater risk of HIV infection.

Completing the vicious cycle I described above are the consequences of poverty, which may in turn result from discrimination: there is greater likelihood of harassment and discrimination (and the consequences that follow from that harassment and discrimination) and sex work (which increases the likelihood of HIV infection).

I know from personal experience, from friends' anecdotes and from online reading that these disparities do not affect all transgender people. Some people do not choose hormones, some do not choose surgery. Some never take publicly visible transgender actions, and others pass well enough, so they are never harassed or discriminated against. Some are able to deal with the harassment or discrimination they experience without resorting to depression, anxiety or substance abuse, or attempting suicide (which is not a judgment against those who are unable). Some are able to avoid unprotected sex. Some are wealthy enough to avoid the consequences of poverty.

Here's the problem with sampling: Dunham and other researchers have no way of knowing for sure whether they've oversampled from those who choose hormones and/or surgery; those who take publicly visible transgender actions; those who don't pass enough of the time to avoid harassment or discrimination; those who already have tendencies towards depression, anxiety, substance abuse, suicide or casual sex, for unrelated reasons; and those who have lower incomes. After all, these are precisely the populations that public health researchers are more likely to come into contact with. Without representative samples, they can never prove that these disparities exist to the extent that they claim.

Now I want you to imagine that these researchers actually have been oversampling these higher-risk populations. On one level the consequences are minimal: if these are the populations with the greatest need, then it's just another way to spend public health dollars on the people who need them the most. But on the image level and the credibility level, there are problems.

I've seen on the Web and on television that some people have a stereotype of "tranny" that combines all these factors: a drug-addicted, unpassable, mentally ill hooker with bad plastic surgery. Some people use that stereotype to justify harassment and discrimination against transgender people, and some family members fight against accepting their relative's transgender feelings because they fear that this will be their fate. These kinds of unsupported survey results feed into those stereotypes.

What if at some point someone does succeed in doing a representative survey, and finds that the drug-addicted, cigarette-smoking sex workers are a small portion of the transgender population, and that the average transgender person is a drug- and disease-free, well-adjusted, successful computer technician making $60,000 a year? What if all the transgender health money was actually better spent on overlapping programs that would serve the needy population just as well? I think someone might feel cheated, and I think there might be a backlash.

There's also the possibility that we might be missing out on some valuable information. What if we found that there were people who had the exact same background, and the exact same transgender feelings, but one group became drug-addicted HIV-positive sex workers and the other became successful computer technicians? We could examine the populations and see what made the difference between health and sickness. It might not be the obvious solution.

This is why we need representative sampling, and this is why you need to comment on the proposal and tell that to Secretary Sebelius.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Just Stop, OUT!Wear

Ugh. An LGBT clothing retailer is selling WBW t-shirts, which stands for "women born women" which is a policy used by spaces that exclude trans women, such as Michigan Women's Festival.

Ugh. How awful. How insensitive, and shitty, and irresponsible, and yes, I'm going to say it, how TRANSPHOBIC.

Just cut it out.

Bug them on their FB page, or via their website.

What complete bullshit.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

DC Trans Coalition Findings

from the DC Trans Coalition:

Washington, DC – The DC Trans Coalition today released summary findings from the first phase of its ongoing Needs Assessment Project, which found that transgender, transsexual, and gender non-conforming people in the District of Columbia – regardless of race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status – have serious concerns about their safety as they go about their everyday lives. Other findings include severe underemployment, and major difficulties accessing adequate healthcare.

“This needs assessment is the first study of its kind in DC in over a decade, and is the first trans needs study in the nation to deploy community mapping as a research technique,” said Elijah Edelman, one of the needs assessment coordinators. Over 100 trans residents in DC participated in a series of roundtable discussions where they mapped Washington, DC as a trans city, and suggested questions for the survey portion of the study. “The maps create a qualitative picture of DC that a survey simply can’t provide, and the discussion around their creation will help us craft a survey that truly investigates the community’s concerns,” Edelman said.

The mapping exercise also identified places where trans people spend their time and access resources across the city. The study found that while over half of participants mapped areas commonly referred to as sex work “strolls,” many participants mentioned these not as places where they seek income, but rather as places where they interact with their friends. “Roundtable participants overwhelmingly described the strolls as places where – despite the high chances of facing harassment or arrest – trans people go to look out for their friends, distribute resources, and support one another,” said Sadie Ryanne Vashti, a DCTC organizer. “We are concerned that some of the central places where trans people build communities are also some of the most heavily policed areas in the city, thanks to policies like the ‘Prostitution Free Zones,’” Vashti added.

The DC Trans Coalition has received a grant from the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law to conduct the survey phase of the Needs Assessment Project. DCTC is actively soliciting additional funding to support the research and economic empowerment components of this project. Donations are fully tax-deductible thanks to the fiscal sponsorship of AGREAA – The Association for Gender Research, Education, Academia and Action.

To download the summary findings from phase one of the DC Trans Needs Assessment, or to donate to the project, visit

(You can find them on Facebook as well, of course.)

Saturday, July 02, 2011

A critical opportunity in transgender research

By Angus "Andrea" Grieve-Smith

The Department of Health and Human Services has just made a big announcement: they will begin collecting data on LGBT issues, including transgender issues. The goal is to document disparities in health care, as well as plain old disparities in health, so that they can be addressed in the future. The plan is to have two roundtables on "gender identity data collection" with "key experts" this summer and fall, and then the "Data Council" will present a strategy next spring. The department will also collect public comment in various ways, one being through a website called, which is currently down.

If done right, this could be a tremendous help to understanding transgender issues. "The first step is to make sure we are asking the right questions," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told the Washington Post. "Sound data collection takes careful planning to ensure that accurate and actionable data is being recorded." As I've written before, current research on transgender feelings and actions is severely hampered by the lack of any kind of representative sample. Just to give you a quick sense, here are ten very basic questions that nobody knows the answer to:

  • How many transgender people are there?

  • How common are the various transgender thoughts, feelings and beliefs?

  • How common are transgender actions like cross-dressing, body modifications, and "soft mods" like shaving?

  • How common are transgender name and pronoun changes?

  • How common are part-time cross-living and full time transition?

  • How often are sexual activities part of transgender activities?

  • How common are diseases and destructive habits among transgender populations?

  • How many transgender people are in long-term relationships?

  • How often are various subgroups targeted by violence and discrimination?

  • How satisfied are transsexuals twenty, thirty or forty years post-transition?

Unfortunately, transgender research is dominated by two camps, the pathologists who make unfounded generalizations based on case studies of their own patients, and the social service providers who make unfounded generalizations based on service recipients, Internet surveys and word of mouth. Neither of them seem to have understood the idea that while convenience samples can provide the basis for many useful existential statements, prevalence statements based on unrepresentative samples are worthless.

At this point it looks like the roundtables will be heavily influenced by social service providers who only pay lip service to the limitations of their research. The Plan says, "While HHS is in the beginning stages of developing data collection on gender identity, many researchers (e.g., Williams Institute at the University of California Los Angeles and the Center for Population Research in LGBT Health at the Fenway Institute) have been working on such data collection for several years." The Williams Institute produces reports like "Bias in the Workplace" (PDF), an important summary of numerous studies investigating workplace discrimination that repeatedly acknowledges that the studies are based on convenience samples - and then goes ahead and repeats percentage results as though they meant something.

The Fenway Institute employs transgender health advocate Emilia Dunham as a Program Associate, and she also hosted a webinar on the issue. It seems quite likely that she will be one of the experts at the roundtables. But in an otherwise solid article for Bay Windows presenting these changes at Health and Human Services, Dunham uncritically repeated several of these unsupported percentages.

There is a very short list of Experts who I think should be on these Roundtables. The strongest research into transgender issues has been qualitative research: listening, reading and introspection, finding existential statements but not making unsupported claims of prevalence. I've said before that the best qualitative researcher in the transgender community is Helen Boyd, author of My Husband Betty and host of this Group Blog. At Helen's recommendation I've also read a few things by Raven Kaldera that have been pretty good, particularly his post on female transvestites (which has somehow disappeared from his website).

There is only one person out there who has ever collected data from a representative sample of any transgender community, and that's Niklas Långström of the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. He's not focused on the transgender community, and he's associated with the pathologist Kenneth Zucker (who is not someone we want involved), but he does know how to do a national survey, and it would be worth every penny for HHS to fly him over from Stockholm for the Roundtables.

If they can't get Långström, then I want to be on that Roundtable. I don't have a degree in psychology or public health, but I did take an elementary course in statistics, and I learned what you have to do in order to make a generalization. But what matters more than any qualification is that I care about doing this right. If they can't find anyone else who does, I want to be there.

Am I missing anyone? Are you doing quality quantitative research? Please let me know.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The closet corrodes your soul

Cross-posted from my personal trans blog.

I’ve talked before about the value of being out of the closet – the global political value. But being out can be valuable in a more direct, immediate way. It can save us from the closet.

When I first started cross-dressing, I knew that it was not acceptable. I had heard so many people making fun of transvestites that I didn’t think that anyone would value or support me if I told them I was one. For over a year I did my cross-dressing in secrecy and isolation.

One day my mother came into my room and said, “This closet is a mess! I’ve given you so many chances to clean it up. Now I’m going to do it.”

I said, “Okay, Mom, but just don’t open the top drawer.”

“What’s in the top drawer?”

“Just don’t look in it.”

“Angus, what’s in the top drawer?”

After a few more rounds of this, I told her. Her response was not as bad as it could have been (the horror stories we’ve heard about teenagers being rejected by their parents, thrown out of the house, beaten, or even killed), but it was not encouraging. I won’t go into too much detail, since she apologized for it many years ago, but she was ashamed of me, and worried that I might be gay. She insisted that I go to therapy, which was probably a good idea, but I didn’t even mention cross-dressing to the first therapist. The second one was helpful in various ways, but not with regards to this issue.

I avoided talking to my mom about cross-dressing after that, until I came out in general. That meant that I was pretty much alone in the closet for another fourteen years. And that time was hell. I don’t know which was worse, the feeling of shame when I cross-dressed, or the feeling of relief when I purged. Every time the topic came up in general conversations with anyone other than my mother I had to remain silent, afraid that I would be ostracized if anyone found out. The chronic fear of being found out was a source of discomfort throughout my teen and college years.

Since I’ve come out, I know that there is a group of people that I can rely on, who have shown me that they support me no matter what I’m wearing. I don’t need to feel ashamed around them. Even if I don’t feel comfortable telling absolutely everyone, it’s still liberating to know that there are many people who don’t judge me for my gender expression.

Unfortunately, it took a long time for me to feel comfortable coming out. I had to tell one person at a time, until I knew that there were enough people who supported me. This is why one of my goals is to encourage widespread, open, vocal support of non-conforming gender expression, so that the teenagers of tomorrow can live outside the closet.

A simple thing you can do for trans people (whether you're trans too, or not) is to say something supportive every time the topic comes up. You can do this for gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, cyclists, or any disenfranchised group. You might want to have a handy phrase or two ready ahead of time. And if you can’t think of anything supportive to say, educate yourself!

Tenured radical on Chaz

Claire Potter at Tenured Radical on Chaz Bono and Transition

Famous people live in bubbles; the children of famous people also live in bubbles, and benefit much less from the experience.  Witness Chaz, the only child of Salvatore "Sonny" Bono and Cherilyn Sarkisian, otherwise known as Cher. One of the many criticisms that will doubtless emerge about Chaz Bono's revised history that centers his gender transition and his new life as an embodied man will be some version of this: how can a person who has had access to every possible advantage represent himself as an average transman?  To this I have two answers: Everyone's life is worth saving, no matter how rich his parents are, and; One of the ways that rich people are different is that their books get published and distributed widely when other, equally good or better, books do not.  Get used to it.

Timed to come out together, Transition and Becoming Chaz, tell Chaz's story about his journey to a fully male identity.  They are part of an activist project, in which Chaz hopes to use his fame to reach out to other people who may be struggling with their own or a loved one's gender transition and promote tolerance towards queerly gendered people.  They are also a long-term public relations project, through which Chaz has struggled to represent himself rather than be represented by the tabloid press.  Together, for those of us who are more up to speed on trans politics and trans studies, these newly released accounts of Bono tell us less about the world of gender politics and gender transition technology than they tell us about the world of celebrity.

However, those who simply take celebrity for granted and know bupkis about transgender or transsexual lives, may learn some things they need to know.  For example:
Kids who grow up into people who want to transition have very active inner lives that are gendered differently from the way their bodies present.

Puberty stinks even worse for trans people than it does for cisgendered people.

People who transition from female to male may initially come out as butch lesbians (but not all butch lesbians identify as trans.)

Parents often do not respond well to gender transition.

Girlfriends who appear to be on board with gender transition can still be self-centered and mean.  Sometimes they bail out.

Injectable testosterone works faster than Androgel.

Lots of psychotherapy is recommended. 

Having lots of gay friends doesn't necessarily make a person sophisticated when it comes to actually having a queer kid.  (Cher is an excellent example of this:  did I say that lots of psychotherapy is recommended?  And Sonny, who seemed not to care that he had a queer kid, cosponsored the Defense of Marriage Act.)

Having lots of psychotherapy, a big book contract, and the admiration of thousands of transmen doesn't mean that when people call you fat, weird and ugly; or make sexist, homophobic and transphobic jokes at your expense, it doesn't hurt.  A lot. (Editorial clarification:  Chaz has always been attractive, but in his new incarnation has an inner confidence and a sunny smile that makes him about as good or better looking as any other middle-aged Italian American guy.)

OK, so for those of you who knew fewer than five of the things I listed above, you should go read the book. If you have limited time, are only interested in the FTM part of Chaz's life story, and are curious about the nature of celebrity, I would say watch the movie.  The first two-thirds of the book are a revision of Chaz's coming-out-as-a-lesbian story (which someone of my age might recall was pretty awful) that accounts for his male identity.  It also includes a survey of Chaz's descent into drug abuse, which is a cautionary tale worth reading.  Having known several people who became addicted to drugs like Vicodin and Oxycontin, this actually can happen to anyone. Chaz was getting legal scrips for so much high-dosage Oxy that he had to go to a hospital pharmacy to get them filled, and even the pharmacists did not bat an eye, much less call the DEA or the California medical licensing board.

I am not sure whether it will matter to you, but:  there are better books about trans lives out there, and if you follow the links in this post, you will find them.  Chaz speaks only for himself but, in trying to reach a far broader audience (in what has to be a rudimentary general education project if it is to succeed in Omaha as well as in Los Angeles), the book tends not to be very aware of its own limitations.  Chief among these are the essentialist story it tells about gender, the book's main preoccupation; and its failure to address class, age and race. 

Transitioning to a male body and a male social identity are quite different experiences for different people, as are the life histories that lead up to these transitions.  Although there are common themes, transmen have very different life stories, as do transwomen.  Generation matters: there are a significant number of people, particularly very young ones, for whom challenging gender as a system of power means living between or outside categories as a genderqueer person.  So Chaz's story is the 100-level course.  If you want the 200 level course, go to Susan Stryker and Stephen Whittle, The Transgender Studies Reader (Routledge:  2006); if you want a better memoir, and one that tells the MTF story where our heroine gets to keep the girl and the kids, my favorite is Jennifer Finney Boylan, She's Not There:  A Life In Two Genders (Broadway Books, 2003).

Which brings us to class.  While having access to lots of money hasn't made Chaz's life a happy one (one might argue the opposite, in fact), the book has nothing to say about the vast number of trans kids who are entirely without resources, even to feed, clothe or house themselves.  It is a sad fact that most people in America are poor, whether they are gender normative or not.  It is a sadder fact that vast numbers of gender non-conforming youth are bullied at school, abused by their families, and end up on the streets fending for themselves.  Many of these kids, particular male-bodied trans kids, are sex workers, as their foremothers were.

It is also the case that Chaz appears to be choosing trans children as his issue, having been a neglected and abused child himself, and it may be that as an activist he begins to hone in on the cross-class dimensions of this issue as well as the surgical abuse of intersexed children. Childhood was a bad time for Chaz, and while his boyishness is the part of that story that is central to the book, he was alternately cherished and neglected.  He  suffered emotional abuse from one nanny in particular, who terrorized him when his mother was absent for large stretches of time. While we don't get details about his upbringing that stray far from the gender story, Chaz seems to go out of his way to understand and account for his parents' lapses, and being a victim of the press himself, is probably kinder to them than they deserve. 

One result of parental neglect was that Sonny and Cher failed to notice that their child went to any number of schools but didn't really learn to do anything except to be a public person:  everything else he has taught himself.  In a way this doesn't seem odd, given Sonny and Cher's route to success.  Cher was singing professionally at 16 when she teamed up with her 27 year-old partner, and my guess is that one or both were high school dropouts. Chaz was repeatedly pulled out of school by Cher to accommodate her career, and allowed to make his own decisions about whether and where he attended school (this meant living in New York with friends and attending the High School for Performing Arts) by the time he was fourteen.  While Chaz returned to college in mid-life, his only real work -- other than three years of trying to break into the music business -- has been to use his celebrity to do political advocacy, mostly for GLBT rights.

Don't imagine that Transition will give you many insights into the inner life of a transman the way lesser-known, but more complex, autobiographies like Jamison Green's Becoming a Visible Man (Vanderbilt,  2004) and Max Wolf Valerio's The Testosterone Files (Seal Press, 2006) will.  The story Chaz has to tell is a carefully crafted one that is intended to educate, but not to reveal much about who he really is or what he really feels. Because of this, the most affecting moments are not in the book, but in Becoming Chaz when we watch Bono watching his mother in the well-orchestrated television appearances and interviews that are designed to voice her support for him.  And yet, even then, she can't seem to bring herself to refer to Chaz with male pronouns.  Like, ever.  Which is a little strange given the fact that she is an actress.  The expression on Chaz's face as Cher "forgets" her lines, over and over, is unforgettable, as is his rush to forgive her for doing so.  Nothing in the book is so ambivalent or complex as these moments when gender is temporarily displaced by the drama of the celebrity child.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Almost a Transgender Role Model

Here's a cross post from my blog,

I really wanted Chaz Bono to be a transgender hero. By sharing his transition in his film, “Becoming Chaz,” and in his memoir, “Transition: The Story of How I became a Man,” he is offering gender-questioning people an intimate entry into his personal experience. With his fame, he is raising much-needed awareness about a marginalized population. But as I, a writer releasing my own transmasculine memoir on the same day as Bono, follow the coverage of his story, I feel like I’m watching a slow-motion media train wreck.

The New York Times article, “The Reluctant Transgender Role Model,” by Cintra Wilson, is the latest troubling piece. Wilson, in what must be an attempt at humor, investigates Bono’s motivations with questions about celebrity damage, gender-bent Oedipal revenge, and reclaiming childhood attention. I imagine Wilson aims to connect with skeptical mainstream readers, but those types of questions push well past curious and cynical to downright ridiculous.

In a cultural climate that forces transgender people to explain themselves at every turn, I cannot be too surprised that Bono plays into another story of overcoming pain and suffering, of transition as the last resort of the suicidal. As a transgender person, I find this narrative exhausting and self-victimizing. Why do we, as trans people, need to keep proving how awful our lives are in order for people to accept us? What if we modified our bodies, not “amputated” parts of them as Wilson so crudely states, because we thought our lives were so beautiful that we wanted to experience them in a vehicle that allowed us our deepest comfort and truest self-expression?

Bono reiterates the standard transgender narrative of identifying as a male since childhood, using as evidence gender stereotypes like “playing sports” to reinforce his case. Once again, it’s hard to blame Bono. The criteria for Gender Identity Disorder (GID) in the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders refers to gender stereotypes in its diagnosis. Although the article claims GID was only classified as a mental disorder until 1999, this is incorrect. A diagnosis of GID is still required for many trans people seeking gender reassignment surgery, and reinforcing gender stereotypes is the necessary proof. While I cannot question Bono’s experience, I can challenge his facts and make it absolutely clear that his experience isn’t shared by all of us.

Bono says, “There’s a gender in your brain and a gender in your body. For 99 percent of people, those things are in alignment. For transgender people, they’re mismatched. That’s all it is. It’s not complicated, it’s not a neurosis. It’s a mix-up. It’s a birth defect, like a cleft palate.”

First I’d like to know where Bono confirmed the gender in your brain and gender in your body theory. Sure, researchers are looking for hard proof of transsexualism, but they are having about as much success as they are in finding a definitive “gay gene” or “gay brain” structure in homosexuals. The nature vs. nurture debate will continue in gay and lesbian research circles just like the essentialist vs. cultural construction debate will continue in gender research circles. To fall completely to one pole as Bono does with essentialism is to ignore the very complicated topic of gender presentations, expressions, embodiments, roles, and identities as lived in our culture. To Bono’s claim of mismatched alignment for transgender people, this is a gross misrepresentation of all of us.

“Transgender,” in its most common usage, is as an all-encompassing term and self-defined identity available to anyone who doesn’t fit into the man or woman boxes. Transsexuals (female-to-male/FTM like Bono; or male-to female/MTF) are the most well-known group under the transgender umbrella. But there are many trans people who live and identify outside of the stifling constraints of the gender binary. Some pursue hormones without surgery; some pursue surgery without hormones; some choose only to adopt a new name; some use the gender-neutral pronouns “ze” and “hir”; some use self-identifying words that encompass both man and woman, like genderqueer or gender fluid.

Therefore, the conclusion of Wilson’s article relating to diversity is correct, except that Bono actually reiterates the black and white of gender identification by wedding himself completely to the notion of a woman becoming a man. He may offer an alternative understanding of black and white, but as for ushering in a complete wheel of gender (not sexuality as Wilson mistakenly writes) into the mainstream, Technicolor Bono is not.

It’s time for an understanding of transgender experiences and identities to reach mainstream audiences. Bono is, with his celebrity bullhorn, an ideal candidate to be a transgender role model, but after I read that he once had a tolerance for women that he no longer has, he cannot be my hero. I do hope that his story is the starting point, an impetus to expand the conversation beyond sensationalism, gender stereotypes, and the Fashion & Style pages. But this poorly fact-checked article by Cinta Wilson makes me nervous that many will now claim to know about transgender people, and about me, because they read or saw something about Cher’s kid.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

TX Trans Marriage Bill

Monica Roberts has been covering a proposed bill call SB 723; her most recent update is here. It's in the Senate, & what it will do is make it illegal to use a court order about name/gender change to apply for a marriage license. The only reason it's been proposed is to mess with the legal marriages of trans women to men, such as in the Nikki Araguz.

If you live in TX, call your senators now and tell them to kill this bill. List below the break.

Mario Gallegos (512) 463-0106

Wendy Davis (512) 463-0110

Rodney G. Ellis (512) 463-0113

Kirk Watson (512) 463-0114

John Whitmire (512) 463-0115

Carlos I. Uresti (512) 463-0119

Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (512) 463-0120

Judith Zaffirini (512) 463-0121

Royce West (512) 463-0123

Leticia R. Van de Putte (512) 463-0126

Eduardo A. (Eddie) Lucio, Jr. (512) 463-0127

José R. Rodríguez (512) 463-0129

Survey:: By & For

There's a new cool survey out for - and more importantly, by - trans people. Non trans people can take it too: it examines attitudes about self, gender, & relationships. The researcher explains:

My advisor and I are painfully aware that most surveys in psychology are not inclusive of—or even recognizing of—trans spectrum identities because we ourselves have trans spectrum identities. Specifically, I am genderqueer and Professor Tate is a transgender woman (who is also genderqueer as butch-presenting). Thus, we do not see ourselves and our experiences represented very well in the status quo of psychology research. We are therefore personally as well as professionally motivated to change the way psychology studies transgender and genderqueer identities. Yet, we need your help to do this well. We need our voices to be heard.

For all the info and a link to the survey.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

West Michigan Trans

There are plans afoot for an educational/outreach conference for West Michigan. Here is their call for organizers:

Call For Organizers: Transgender Education Collaboration of West Michigan (2011-2012)

A collaborative plan for educating West Michigan about transgender, gender variant, and intersex issues

Why?There is a need for education about Transgendered, gender variant, and intersex issues in West Michigan.

How? LGBT and educational related groups will be able to educate & advocate on transgender, gender variant, and intersex issues by creating a conference/awareness week with speakers, workshops, and other activities.

What Can You Do? Email M Kelley at if you would like to get involved, would be interested in speaking, know organizations willing to join the collaboration, or want to contribute somehow to this happening. It is my hope that together we can begin to change West Michigan.

Please copy + re-post widely.

Monday, April 18, 2011

As Goes Maine, so goes---?

Here's a cross post from my blog,

Yesterday, I spoke to the Maine legislature’s Judiciary committee. A bill has been proposed to “exempt” transgender people from protections under the Maine Human Rights Act, which went into effect six years ago. Currently, Maine protects GLBT people from discrimination, and this includes a so called “public accommodations” provision of the very sort that was, in part, the deal breaker in the Maryland law that was shelved last week. (Although I should make it clear that the Maine law has been on the books for six years without problem, and the proposed legislation is to REMOVE the protection for trans people; Maryland currently has no such provisions and the shelved legislation would have put these protections into place.) (You can scroll down for a youtube of my testimony to the committee; I've included a transcript at the bottom of this too.)

There’s a lot to say about my day at the State House, but the thing I was really left with was how much the bill–and the overall acceptance of trans people is about passing.

A supporter of the bill (remember that “supporting” means being against trans rights; “opposing” means being for them) said as much. One of the Senators asked, “If a trans person has had surgery, and appears to be female in every sense, how would you be able to know they were in violation of the law?” And the supporter of the bill–another Republican legislator–said, “Well, if I have no way of telling, the person wouldn’t be in violation.” He then looked around and said, “I mean, if you can’t tell, what’s the difference?”

Cindy Redmond, another supporter of the bill, said more bluntly, “I’m not saying that all transgenders are wacky because they’re not, there’s lots of very nice transgenders,” Redmond said. “But there are a few, and what happens if one of those has used this law to be able to go into a female bathroom for the purpose of perpetration?”

Holding aside the insulting assumption that trans people are somehow more likely to “perpetrate” than straight people, Redmond’s comment here really gets to the heart of the matter. “Wacky” here appears to be a synonym for “not-passable.” Among other things.

I have seen this prejudice against “not-passable” people both within and without the trans community. The fact, of course, is that “passability,” like all forms of “beauty,” is more or less a genetic roll of the dice–it has nothing to do with what is in a person’s heart.

Anyway, EQME did a fine job of assembling its witnesses; while the proponents for the bill seemed limited, largely, to a few right-wing religious nuts–and the governor–the opponents included a Sheriff, a school principal, the father of a 13 year trans girl, and a well-regarded endocrinologist from Boston. I think I was the fifth witness, and the first trans person to come to the podium. The legislators treated me with respect and dignity.

Here’s a copy of my own remarks to the committee. You’ll be struck, perhaps, by their brevity, but we were given a very clear three minute time limit, and my reading of this testimony came out almost exactly at that length.

The committee now goes to ‘working session’, and we’ll see whether the bill makes it out of committee and onto the floor.

(This is part 3 of 4 videos documenting the hearing. Anyone crazy enough to want to watch the whole thing can do so by checking out the videos at the very end of this long post. In particular, part 1 is worth watching; in it, Rep. Fredette proposes the bill, is grilled by the committee; a second legislator speaks for the bill; and then Jennifer Levi of EqualityMaine speaks eloquently in opposition. Her testimony continues in part 2.)

Testimony of Jennifer Finney Boylan, Belgrade, Kennebec County

Speaking in Opposition to LD 1046, 
”An Act to Amend the Application of the Maine Human Rights Act Regarding Public Accommodations”
 before the Joint Standing Committee on the Judiciary.

April 12, 2011

Senator Hastings, Representative Nass, and distinguished members of the judiciary committee:

My name is Jennifer Finney Boylan. I live in the town of Belgrade Lakes, in Kennebec County. I have been married since 1988, and am the mother of two teenage sons, both of them on the honor roll at Kents Hill School. I am the author of twelve books and have been Professor of English at Colby College for twenty-three years.

I’m also transgender. In the year 2000, in consultation with a therapist, a social worker, an endocrinologist, and my minister, I carefully went through the complex process of going from male to female. It was a terribly difficult journey, but in the end, I was able to complete that transition and at last live my life with honesty and authenticity.

I know that the lives of transgender people can be hard to understand. A report issued last week by the University of California suggests that less than .3 percent of the population of the United States is transgender. With numbers that small, it’s understandable that the issues that trans people struggle with are not easily grasped. But it’s worth noting that transgender Mainers are citizens too. We pay taxes, we do our jobs, and yes, like other people, we occasionally need to use the restroom.

Gender, as it turns out, is complicated. I honestly wish that this were not the case, and that the world were simpler, but it is the case, as scientists and neurologists have made abundantly clear. And the consequence of this fact is that some of us– who already lead difficult and complex lives– need to rely on the rest of you—good-hearted, intelligent Maine citizens—to look out for us, to protect our dignity and our safety.

Fortunately, you can do just that by rejecting this cruel and vague bill, which would make businesses responsible for checking the sex of people using their facilities. By saying no to a law that would marginalize people already at risk for discrimination and prejudice.

In short: Transgender Mainers should not be exempted from the protections of the Maine Human Rights Law, for the very simple reason that we too are human.

Thank you.

(Part I one of the testimony.)

(Part II)

(Part IV, concluding testimony.)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Discrimination Suit: Man Enough

A man whose job it was to make sure men in recovery don't switch their urine for someone else's got fired because he wasn't born with a penis.

TLDEF brought the case, which has now been reported in The New York Times.

So here's how you tell this is discrimination: if a man who had lost his penis in an accident had this job, no one would have fired him for being penis-less. If a man who had hypospadias & had to pee sitting down had this job, likewise. If a man who had a penis that required a catheter for him to pee had this job, he wouldn't have been fired.

THUS: El'Jai Devoureau was fired for being trans. As a culture, we still haven't worked out how wholly incorrect this "genitals at birth determine gender for a lifetime" idea is.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


ENDA has been re-introduced in the House as of today, according to NCTE and TLDEF. More updates as they come through.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Rebecca Juro Show Is Live Tonight At 7pm Eastern With Guest HRC Press Secretary Michael Cole-Schwartz

On this week’s Rebecca Juro Show we welcome Human Rights Campaign Press Secretary Michael Cole-Schwartz. We’ll talk with Michael about HRC’s advocacy of LGBT rights, where they are now and where they’re going. There’s been a lot of discussion about HRC’s past and their history with the trans and grassroots communities, but on this show we’re going to talk about the future. Can HRC and the trans and grassroots activist communities ever work together effectively or is that no longer possible? Where is HRC on ENDA now and what can we expect to see from them on the effort in the future? What’s the most urgent goal now in the post-DADT era? ENDA? DOMA? Something else? We’ll explore those questions and more tonight!

It’s the Rebecca Juro Show, 7-9pm eastern! Be there or you’ll miss good stuff!

Live Show Feed:

Studio Call-In Line: 928-277-4921

Podcast Homepage:
Podcast RSS Feed:

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

RIP: Julie Anne Johnson

For those of you in the Chicago area, especially those who helped put together the Be-All, my condolences on the loss of activist Julie Anne Johnson. She was a cool lady & liked trains more than I do, even. The Chicago Tribune carried her obituary.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Threats to “Women’s Rights” Step on Trans Toes

The recent legislative and funding threats to abortion rights, sexual assault, and sexual health (aka Planned Parenthood) have been described as an attack on women's health. I do not agree with this... at least not in full. I have been getting a surge of petition and action emails from the sexual health organizations I work with, and I've been working hard to get the word out. The problem is that in order for me to spread the word I have to change the word being spread - one word in particular, the word woman.

I am a survivor of sexual assault. I need health care specific to a female assigned sex. I am also not a woman. I can't help but find it frustrating when issues that affect me are, pretty much without exception, stated to be only for women. To be clear, I do not feel any discomfort being associated with women in any sense due to some masculine hang up or personal insecurity. Its just the simple reality that I am not a woman, and therefore I feel I should not be considered one in order to be included in legislation, or in this case, activist work. I wanted to re-blog an activist call from an inclusive femme blog about sexual health that, in theory, spoke to my experience. However I soon realized that the caption only discussed women. I felt really invalidated and as I replaced each "women" with "people" I felt even less included and more alone. Its like showing up to a rally for your rights only to be met a the door and told, "This doesn't involve you." No, I am not a woman, but these are my rights too and I'm willing to fight for them.

I continue to struggle to understand the opacity of people's though processes when it comes to sexual assault work. Women are not the only survivors out there. And if I, a guy, need sexual assault resources, where do I go? Everything is focused on women's health, provided by Women's Centers, and is advertised as a women's space (my city's rape crisis center is called "Women Helping Women"). What if I'm a guy who also has a female assigned body? What if a woman does not have a female assigned body? What about people who are outside the social, sexual, or gender identity binary? According to our culture, not only do resources for these survivors not exist, we, the survivors ourselves, don't exist. You might be thinking, "Ok, but abortion is still a women's issue." Or is it? Some trans guys and genderqueers can and do get pregnant, which means that sometimes they may need abortion related care and emergency contraceptives. Transguys and genderqueer folks also need to go to the gynecologist or may need birth control - things associated with "women's health" but none of us are women.

Its not that I don't understand and appreciate woman-focused language; women are a primary population here and historically activism surrounding these issues has been lead by and focused on women. But the reality is that while women are super important, transfolks, genderqueers, and (respective to sexual assault only) non-trans men are equally important. It affects our bodies just as much as the bodies of women. I am not saying that there are not challenges specific to women or that "women's rights" should never be used. I just think it should be used when its appropriate, and it this is not one of those times. wrote a nice break down of various proposed legislation oddly titled "Top 10 Shocking Attacks from the GOP's War on Women." I say oddly titled because most of the list is about the greater community, not just women. I realize that this is a spin to get readers, but this spin is highly problematic. Yes, I see the correlation of the gendered concept of women and children, but doesn't that further reinforce the cultural expectations this article is arguing against? At one point it lists sexual violence as a "gendered crime."

What is a "gendered crime?" Is this saying that rape is an attack on cultural womanhood? Because womanhood cannot be defined outside of they very stereotypes and cultural expectations we are battling. And not only women are sexually assaulted so it can't be solely a "crime" on the woman gender. Perhaps the language they are looking for is "sexualized" not "gendered," in other words assuming gender identity based on sex stereotypes. But rape isn't about sex drives it is about power via sexualized weaponry so... gah, my brain is exploding trying to make sense of this! I guess its just that people who wrote this think that rape = attacked woman, and that = problem.

Sexual health, sexual assault, children, elders, education; these are not only women's issues. These are human issues. There is a big difference between the phrase "women's rights" and "human rights" and that difference is inclusion. I don't think that saying "human rights" negates women's involvement or autonomy. Granted, I am not a woman, but I am a fellow oppressed minority and a fellow human being. Women's rights are equally as important to me as my own therefore I do not feel the need to differentiate between their rights and mine. I am not naive about the anthropomorphic system we live in but by limiting ourselves with gendered language we are promoting yet another form of oppression, except this time instead of a boys club its a girls club. Gendering political issues about our bodies feeds cultural expectations creating major obstacles to accessing health care, obtaining research, and founding/protecting legislation. I'm glad that people are talking about these topics but if we are only talking about women then we are missing a big chunk of the conversation. By de-gendering our language we can easily be inclusive and fight for everyone's rights. My body does not define my identity any more than one word changes the reality of what my body needs or has experienced. I am a man, I am a survivor. I am in need of female assigned sexual health care. I am a human being who deserves rights. And I am not the only one.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

New Trans Art & Lit Magazine

Bodies of Work, a new Art and Literature Magazine is looking for submissions.

We, the editors, are three trans artists who believe art and literature are two of the most vital parts to our world today. At this moment, there is no magazine which brings all transgender, transsexual and gender variant writers and artists to the forefront. We believe it is time to publish such a magazine!

The purpose of Bodies of Work is to publish and promote literature and art that celebrates the diverse visions and understandings of the transsexual, transgender and gender-variant international community through language and image. We want to inspire and be inspired by the innovative output of our communities and come together with trans artists of all genres in creative discourse. We want to engage and support our creative processes and learn how trans artists and writers create.

Bodies of Work will:

* Introduce a wide audience to literature and art by the trans and gender-variant community.
* Provide a unique opportunity for underrepresented writers and artists viewpoints.
* Discover and publish emerging and developing writers and artists.

Bodies of Work will be published both in print and on the web. Print costs are high, so our agenda is to build a website first and print 3 magazines a year when we have the funds.

We are currently seeking submissions for our inaugural issue! All trans and gender-variant artists, performers and writers are encouraged to submit work.


Prose and Poetry: Submit up to 8 pages of work(double-spaced, 12 pt.). It is best to send all of your work in one Microsoft Word (.doc) or text (.rtf) attachment.

Interview: We welcome interview submissions with a trans/gender variant artist/writer/performer. Up to 8 pages (double-spaced, 12 pt.)

Graphic files: Submit up to 5 visual art images or photographs. Photography and visual art should be sent using .tif files ( at least 300 dpi /300 pixels per inch resolution) or .jpeg files. Please include a short artist’s statement about the work submitted.

Songs and Sound Art: Submit up to five MP3 files. Please include a short artist’s statement about the work submitted. All sound art and music will be featured mostly on our website.

Video Art/Movies: Please send a URL to the work if it is online. If not, please send a DVD copy. Please include an artists statement about the work.

ALL submissions: Please include:A short bio (two sentences) with your name (as you want it to appear in print), email, phone, and mailing address.

Deadline for submissions to be considered for the inaugural issue will be April 10, 2011

Please send all submissions to:

Thank you! We look forward to seeing your work!

Cooper Lee Bombardier, Morty Diamond and Annie Danger

Editor Bios:

Cooper Lee Bombardier is a trans visual artist, illustrator, writer and performer. His work has shown nationally and he has performed and lectured widely across the United States. He sees touring as a thinly veiled excuse to karaoke with fine queers across America. His writing appears in several anthologies and recordings. Cooper is currently pursing a Master’s in Writing and Publishing while writing and illustrating his first novel and developing two non-fiction books. He now lives in Portland, Oregon and has never before had such curly hair.

Annie Danger is a trans artist and activist living in the San Francisco Bay Area. She works in live media with the hope to wheedle, entertain, woo, and cajole you into a smarter, stronger, more intimate dance with your hopes and your ethics. She has performed across the United States and illustrated a number of published texts as well as a wide variety of more thrilling, slapshod, and/or DIY projects. She was born and raised in Albuquerque, NM. You can find more about her at

Morty Diamond is a transsexual artist and writer living in Los Angeles, CA. He has edited two anthologies of trans writers: From the Inside Out, FTM and Beyond (Manic D Press, 2004) and Trans Love / Trans Sex (Manic D Press, forthcoming). He has also directed two films, Trannyfags and Trans Entities, focusing on sexuality within the trans community. Visit him at