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I’m not an expert on anything. I used to be a quasi-expert on usability analysis, and then I left the field and in the meantime, it emerged as its own real subject area with doctorate programs and certifications and I’m far enough back now that I’m not even in the dust. I write books, because I’m somewhat good with words, but I don’t consider myself an expert in writing, per se. I tend to take a commonsense approach to most topics, I try to get involved beyond the standard dabble when the issue resonates with me, and I’m no longer surprised that a Catholic girl raised to be a conservative republican has somehow become instead a progressive man who doesn’t attend any church. What I am pretty good at doing—though again, not an expert—is spotting contradictions in culture and rhetoric, and I think I owe my skill to some badass teachers from my youth, and my own tendency to complain.
So that said, I am not an expert on protesting. I don’t know the intellectual lexicon of the protest theorist, or whatever they call themselves (all due deference to protest theorists). I’ve been involved in organizing protests for twenty-two years, was taught specific protest tactics and de-escalation techniques by some of the women who invented them, and have personally taught three dozen people how to eat fire. I’ve gone to some of the biggest protests ever seen in Washington, DC, and been one of three people holding signs on a street corner when nobody else cared enough to show up. So along the way I’ve heard some things that are a kind of best practices regarding protests, namely: Read More…
I meant to construct a web site to announce this, and I meant to announce it with more pomp and circumstance, or fanfare, or something, but whatever, I’m busy and you all know how to respond to a call for submissions. So, without further ado: I’m honored to announce that I’ll be editing a nonfiction anthology entitled Bad Dates: Hilarious Tales of Queer and Trans Romance Gone Wrong. We’re talking mortifying but funny, like flipping off a person on the subway who cut in front of you and then realizing they’re your blind date for that night. Or learning the date you thought was a fellow vegan has brought you to a pit barbecue fest, or the old school queer standard, winding up on a date with your ex’s other ex and trying not to let the conversation get swamped into shared tales of those relationships. Submissions should be:
- In .doc, .docx, or .rtf format, using standard manuscript format
- Maximum of 5,000 words, but shoot for 3,000-4,500 (and yes, 5,100 words is over the maximum)
- Free of sexism, trans misogyny, homophobia, racism, classism, ableism, just generally not douchey or reliant on offensive stereotypes of people on the margins
- Showing your name and contact information (which is in the standard manuscript format, but whatever, it bears repeating)
- Focused on queer and/or trans people as the main characters in the story
- True stories that happened in actual life, or like, we can’t call the book nonfiction
- Funny or have a humorous aspect to the story, or else the subtitle won’t be very accurate
No reprints, please. Unpublished work only.
Submitters should also include in their submission a maximum three-sentence bio with any relevant publishing credits. Submissions are due by February 14, 2015, because… oh come on, I don’t need to explain why that’s the deadline, right? Please send in your best work! I’m so excited to read your stories. Submit your stories to:
Yesterday at 1:22pm, after coming into the office from lunch I had to deal with someone at my syringe exchange and in the process I received a needle stick injury. I am not going to write about the details of how that happened, certainly not online, but enough people have heard about my injury that there’s little sense in not talking about it at all. I’ve known ever since working for this nonprofit that working in the exchange carried some risks, and I’m proud that after fifteen years in operation, this is the first accident in the program.
However, if I thought there was a readily accessible and understandable protocol for dealing with needle stick injuries that I could work through in the hours after the injury, when it is most critical to get care, I was sorely mistaken. For a town known to have a great number of medical personnel and a nursing program, I had to work through six different care organizations and several staff who were close to incompetent, who had poor patient listening skills, and little cultural competence. Here is what happened after I washed my wound out in my office rest room.
I called the health department, saying I had a needle stick event and needed to talk to the infectious disease nurse, who knows me professionally because of my position at the nonprofit. She told me that I needed to contact Occupational Health at the hospital beause those are the folks who deal with needle sticks that have occurred in the workplace. I pulled up their web page and called the number at 1:30pm, eight minutes after the event, and got a recording saying their normal working hours were 8:30am until noon and 1:00pm until 5:00pm, but I could leave a message and they would call me the next day. I hung up and called again. Same thing. I texted Susanne, knowing she would be in class until 2:20pm.
I drove to the emergency department, got a bracelet, and was ushered back to a bed by 1:50pm. I texted the president of my board who offered to join me. I accepted. The nurse on my case told me her computer said to send me to urgent care because they are associated with the occupational health department. She cut the bracelet off my wrist and I drove half a block to urgent care. My board president met me there. At 2:30pm they brought me back and a nurse took my vitals. She was concerned that my blood pressure was 148 over 90, but I said given the circumstances it wasn’t going to get much better. I tried to relax; but my BP readings were just borderline high, which is atypical for me.
The doctor came in and asked what happened. I told him I run a syringe exchange and that I received a needle stick injury through my rubber glove. He asked me the name of the “source patient,” science-speak for the owner/user of the syringe. I said I didn’t know his name as this is a confidential program. This began a strange discussion in which I outlined: Read More…
Here’s an old short story of mine about another lesbian bar from upstate New York. Those of you who recall My Bar may find the setting somewhat familiar. I hope you enjoy it.
8 Ball, by Everett Maroon
It’s about the size of a typical urban efficiency apartment, with a faded certificate of occupancy stuck on the wall by the front door, probably with some bouncer’s chewing gum, announcing it is fit to legally house 35 people. Thirty-five dyke pygmies, maybe, but not 35 wide-assed people. Smoke hangs next to the low ceiling, hovering around the light over the small and slanted pool table, a cheap but efficient way of adding a dramatic atmosphere to both the serious and poseur sharks who swim underneath it. Most of the patrons use pool-playing as a tried and true method of picking up dates, but this usually leads to them slamming the stick into the cue ball too hard, ricocheting the shot out of the hole and ending in a staccato set of swears as they express their “disappointment.”
My friends and I have just entered the place for the third time in five days because one of them has a new crush on a townie who usually hangs out here. Usually, however, being the relative term that it is, has not included any of these three nights, and has led directly to my frustration at winding up in this dump once again, cheap beer or no cheap beer.
The bouncer, a woman who seems to value herself based on her ability to be serious throughout all moments of the day and night, claps a meaty hand on Joselyn, the friend with the crush. “How’s it goin’, Jos,” she says, deep-throated and completely absent of any hint of a smile. She is the female version of the Michelin man, having obviously taken the name of her profession to heart. For over these three engaging encounters at My Bar, I have witnessed no fewer than six, count them six, bar fights, the resolution of each ending with her not man-handling the offenders (for that would never happen in a lesbian bar), but by bumping into them and pushing them out the door.
“Great,” says the newly named “Jos,” and we head inside. My Bar, doing its part to encourage patronage of a classically poor community, has no cover. Small rodents didn’t even bother to come inside in the dead of winter, so the owners justifiably decided against asking for any kind of entry fee. Read More…
Honestly, I have a lot of other things to get to this week, and within that, a lot of other pieces to write. But I have been so ubiquitously harassed by national-level Democrats that hey, I’ll take some time out this afternoon to respond to their litany of email.
Dear Representative Pelosi—
Perhaps there was a time in my life when receiving an email from the former Speaker of the House would have been at least a little thrilling, but the bloom is off the rose now. I don’t really even think you care about me, what with all of your messages—which are too many, honestly, it’s getting embarrassing—addressed to me as <FRIEND:VALUE!>. It feels half-hearted, Representative Pelosi. I know you are well networked in the legislative scene over on Capitol Hill. I used to see you around town from time to time when I still lived there. Okay; that’s a lie, it was Dennis Kucinich whom I saw, and mostly at the Greek restaurant on Pennsylvania SE that has sadly closed down. What I don’t understand, however, is how with all of your knowledge and connections and wealthy campaign contacts, you haven’t come across anyone who has mentioned even in passing that the Democratic National Committee’s strategy on getting donations for these midterms is abysmally bad. Here are the subject lines of just a few of the HUNDREDS of messages I’ve received these past few months:
- painful loss
- we. fell. short.
- Friend we’re BEGGING
- B O E H N E R wins
- all hope is lost
The content in the actual email isn’t any better. Read More…
My first move toward transition was to explore online, mostly on LiveJournal, MySpace, and a now-defunct bulletin board called strap-on.org. It was split into discussion rooms that resembled the identity politics of the new millennium—a POC exclusive space, a transgender umbrella board, an area to talk about popular culture and feminism, a space for survivors of violence, a femme area, as well as specific discussion rooms for BDSM, a wide open anything goes space, and I can’t even remember what else. If a dozen years earlier I’d gotten obsessed with online gaming (known as MUDs), now I was headlong in the waters of my own subjectivity. It was fascinating, in that terrifying way. I was nothing but my persona. But wait, I was my persona? I had to ask large questions of myself that were way more vulnerable-making than the entirety that had come before. I was afraid of my own narcissism, but my foray into hyperspace was already a leap, and I couldn’t force myself backwards because I falling somewhere very deep.
Then real people emerged from the brightly lit pixels on my screen. I drove five hours to New York City to meet people I would never have to see in the material world again if I didn’t want to (read: if I was a big transgender flop). That went okay, even as it provided evidence that I was very much out of the politically correct loop for how to interact with other trans people. I struggled in my romantic relationship with a person who was himself transitioning and who was strangely territorial about the process. He declared that I wasn’t allowed to go to DCATS, the transmasculine group in DC, even if he’d gone only to a couple of meetings himself. So I stayed away. But I learned of another group that met in Glen Burnie, Maryland, of all places. It was way too suburban for my boyfriend to be caught dead there, so I drove out the dark highways to a Friendly’s restaurant, and met half a dozen trans men who liked to chat over fried clams and sundaes. And that is where I met Kitt Kling. Read More…
A few years ago I wrote a blog post about offensive Halloween costumes and how they send the wrong message to children, mocking people who look different or who come from communities on the margins. The commercialization of Halloween, like the commercialization of every American “holiday” is so focused on profit that there is little left to authentically celebrate. But Halloween has seen a surge in popularity in pop culture and it seems like every year the offensiveness quotient is ramped up another notch or two. Despite campaigns against appropriation for Halloween, there are far more instances of using other cultures as dress up or as object of mockery than resistance against such moments.
Halloween also puts pressure on parents to buy the best, most professional costumes possible lest their class status appear too low. A casual glance at children’s costumes on the Web reveals that if one looks for something beyond a plastic costume and mask, prices start in the mid-$30s and range past $100. This puts children in the position of announcing their parents’ financial resources just to participate in the evening’s festivities (unless they’re in a very cold weather region and the costumes are tucked under coats, perhaps).
Then there’s the fear. Trick-or-treating, once the duty and delight of kids when I was a child, has declined due to concerns about tampered candy and nighttime predators. Parents who do let their kids go door to door follow them around on the sidewalk, or children are corralled into events that take place at the local YMCA or city block. And while I may love kids, I cannot handle having 3,000 small costumed children banging into each other and screaming over the last Snickers mini-bar.
There may still be some glory left in what was once a harvest holiday. If neighbors can agree to have some candy and entertain kids for a few hours, one can get to know those neighbors a little better and get to know the neighborhood more. If children are encouraged to share their candy, get out and walk around and laugh with their friends and family, I see a glimmer of fun in the experience. But certainly there is a lot to wade through to get past the hype, blinking skulls, fake spider webbing, and plush DisneyTM/Sesame Street/PowerRangers/Transformers costumes to get to the fun.
And hooray, Columbus Day is next week. Don’t get me started on that one.
It’s not often that a bonafide famous person steps into Walla Walla, much less a celebrity known for being an intelligent, interesting thinker and speaker, specifically Neil DeGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and host of the redux of Cosmos. Rather, living in a town as conservative as Walla Walla it was pretty unsurprising that Susanne and I would jump at the chance to see him give a ninety-minute talk, even if the tickets cost $50 each. The seal on the deal was the reality that we don’t go on dates all that often, what with two children under the age of three—so between presumed smart lecture on science, sitting in a hall with other less-than-Tea-Party people, and Date Night, it was a no brainer (see what I did there?) to spring for the tickets. And just like I thought would happen, we saw all manner of acquaintances and like-minded comrades. There were many school-age kids there, which was nice. At least at first.
I admit I felt some excitement rumble through the auditorium when the lights were lowered and an older man rambled onto the stage to give Dr. Tyson’s introduction. Except it wasn’t an introduction, so much as a self-congratulatory speech about bringing Dr. Tyson to Walla Walla. Of course we were all happy to see the good doctor—we’d bought $50 tickets to prove it, after all. He called up Dr. Maxood, a local cardiologist, to the stage, and then that good doctor told us about his “long shot” plan to get Dr. Tyson here to speak. I looked at my watch, mostly ignoring their remarks, but increasingly annoyed that we were listening to this and not either opening comments about the host of Cosmos nor the speaker himself. And then a third man took the conch, I mean, microphone, to tell us about his grand work raising $20,000 so that 356 local students could come and hear the lecture. Wait. Someone had to raise money for the students to attend? They weren’t simply let in? If the money hadn’t been pulled together, they wouldn’t have been let in?
Susanne and I opened up the programs we’d been handed in the lobby. While the event was a production of Main Street Studios, it was actually coordinated within the nonprofit arm of the Main Street Studios organization, which has only been in existence since late 2013. Now we had questions about how the math worked—what was Dr. Tyson paid to speak, and who got the proceeds from the speaking engagement? If Man #3 on the stage had raised $20,000 to send 356 students to the lecture (which comes to $56.18 per child, so the ticket cost plus the fee, which appears not to have been waived in order to send a higher number of students to the lecture), where did that $20K go? To the nonprofit arm of the organization or to Main Street Studios? And what are the ethics of using a nonprofit organization to support a for-profit venture, if that’s where the money went?
Feeling unsettled, Dr. Tyson at last took the stage. Things went downhill from here. Read More…
In Part 1 I outlined the HRC President’s apology to trans activists at the annual Southern Comfort conference, suggesting that looking at the entirety of trans lives would provide a better starting point for getting behind trans civil rights than staying the HRC course of a new, albeit now-trans-inclusive, ENDA bill. Beyond the general, “what do children, adults, and elders need in the way of trans rights” question, there are critical services and support systems that more vulnerable trans people also need and often don’t get, in part because they’re trans, and in part because they may have other overlapping statuses that limit their access to those services. Specifically, I am talking about trans prisoners, transgender people with moderate to severe mental illness, drug addiction, and trans sex workers. So today I’ll outline my ideas around what these vulnerable groups need that in large part, they are not getting from our society and its infrastructure. And if HRC would like to fund the programs that are in place across the nation, well, that money could make a real difference.
Trans Prisoners—Intersecting transphobia with societal hostility toward people convicted of a crime, transgender prisoners are especially vulnerable to abuse in the criminal justice system, from the earliest stages of a police investigation, through the pre-trial process, trial, sentencing, and throughout their term in the prison system. Data are incomplete but suggest that transgender prisoners are more often placed in solitary confinement, both as punishment and due to the dearth of alternatives for housing them while they serve their terms. Further, while no studies or analyses have been conducted regarding whether transgender people accused of a crime are treated fairly in the initial stages of an investigation, the CeCe McDonald case certainly highlights that extreme injustice can and does occur, and is very difficult to remediate through the criminal justice system itself. Trans people in prison are much more often than not denied hormone therapy or other trans-related health or mental health care. Organizations like the Transgender Law Center, Lambda Legal, and transgender prisoner advocacy groups are relatively underfunded and already working on these issues and could use a significant funding boost. Read More…