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Goodbye to Kitt

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…

But What About Science?

NASA image of ring around the cosmosIt’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…

“That’s My Secret. Holding Still”: A Review of Zoe Whittall’s Novel Holding Still For As Long As Possible

evmaroon:

Nice review, principled criticism.

Originally posted on Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian:

holding stillReading Zoe Whittall’s Toronto-set novel Holding Still For As Long As Possible is kind of like reading a wittier, more exciting version of my urban early-to-mid-twenties queer life in the 2000s.  It was fun and nostalgic for me to jump back into this world, but it is uncanny to read a book featuring characters that are so much like you and the communities you’ve known.  I mean, in a good and a bad way: these are white, bike-riding, middle-class background, artsy, educated, FAAB queers. Unfortunately, both people of colour and trans women are pretty absent from the world of the book, although this is something that was mostly true in my experiences in similar communities in Halifax, Victoria, and London in that stage of my life.

What I’m saying is that what Whittall is doing in this book is limited, but she’s doing it really, really well.  Like, I can’t…

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Fear Weary

police quashing protests at Ferguson, Missouri(This is republished from my Medium.com account, with citations added in this version.)

In 1983, I was 13 when Halloween rolled around, and instead of worrying about the exact placement of my zombie blood on my face, I was listening to my parents talk about the Tylenol tampering cases, and how I needed to inspect my candy wrappers before I ate any of it. It was a lot of discipline for a young teenager, but the message came at such a high frequency of fear that I heeded their proscription.

In 1982, the cover of our Time Magazine subscription screamed about herpes and how many people were walking around with such a horrible, dirty virus. By 1985 the virus emergency had shifted to HIV, replete with all of the horrifying ways in which it possibly traveled to other people. (Mosquitos! Swimming pools! Soft drinks!)

The mid-to-late 1980s had us fearing crack cocaine,* the last throes of the Soviet Union, and what would happen if we elected Gov. Dukakis instead of Vice President Bush. Not a year has gone by that I can remember in my lifetime in which we didn’t have some huge bogeyman to fear as presented in the US media.

PCP. PCBs. Iraq (the first time), and then soon after, Desert Storm Illness. Terrorists, welfare recipients, inner city youth, trade unionists were all out to get us. We couldn’t even celebrate the new millennium without fearing that all of our computers were about to implode with bad programming. Read More…

Reading List of Trans YA

Yes, there are other books out there, but these are good books (my own notwithstanding)! For your edification:

Trans YA Authors

AUTHOR

GENRES

TITLES

Charlie Anders

Literary

Choir Boy

Susan Jane Bigelow

Science Fiction

The Daughter Star, Sarah’s Child

Kate Bornstein

Humor, Self-Help, Memoir

Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws

Ivan Coyote

Literary, Short Stories

One in Every Crowd, One Man’s Trash, Close to Spider Man

Calvin Gimpelvich

Urban Fantasy

Wolfmen (online graphic novel)

Nick Krieger

Memoir

Nina Here Nor There

Sassafras Lowery

Literary

Kicked Out; Roving Pack

Everett Maroon

Science fiction, Humor

The Unintentional Time Traveler

Rae Spoon

Literary

First Spring Grass Fire

 

Trans Characters

AUTHOR

GENRES

TITLES

Cris Beam

Literary

I Am J

Kristin Elizabeth Clark

Literary, Experimental

Freakboy

Tanita S. Davis

Literary

Happy Families

Kim Fu

Literary

For Today I Am a Boy

Rachel Gold

Literary

Being Emily

Bryan Katcher

Literary

Almost Perfect

s.e. smith

Magical realism

The Transformations of Tabitha Grey (forthcoming)

Ellen Wittlinger

Literary

Parrotfish

 

Dear parents, you are being lied to.

evmaroon:

Word. As someone who was quarantined along with my family for whooping cough even though we’d all been vaccinated (resulting in a more mild illness for us), I can say that anti-vaccination stances are all based on misinformation and fear. Vaccinate your kids. You may be saving a life.

Originally posted on Violent metaphors:

Standard of care.

In light of recent outbreaks of measles and other vaccine preventable illnesses, and the refusal of anti-vaccination advocates to acknowledge the problem, I thought it was past time for this post.

Dear parents,

You are being lied to. The people who claim to be acting in the best interests of your children are putting their health and even lives at risk.

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Questions Nobody Asks Me About My Novel

cover for TUTTOne of the reasons I enjoy interviews about my writing (other than the most ridiculous ego-tripping reasons, of course) is because it gives me insight into how people are interpreting my work, which is often something new or that I wasn’t creating intentionally. Sometimes an interview veers in an unexpected direction, and then I’m joyful as I get caught up talking about texts and narrative and form and extrapolating into popular culture more generally. But often there are pieces of the story that I think are glaring for readers but that never come up in conversation. So for my love of talking about textuality and literature, I thought I’d go over a few aspects of The Unintentional Time Traveler that haven’t come up in any of my Q&As.

The protagonist’s name(s)—I could answer this self-imposed question in a few different ways. First, “Jackson” is an intentional play on patrilineage, which the character winds up disrupting by choosing at the end to spend a lot of time as Jacqueline instead of in the time of Jackson’s actual life. But more important to me was the iconic use of the name “Jack” as it appears in scads of children’s literature: nursery rhymes, Jack & Jill, Jack & the Beanstalk, Jack Frost, Jack Sprat, etc. It’s almost at the level of generic marker for boys. So I wanted to create a narrative that took the mainstay name and immersed it in a novel that was focused on LGBT themes and characters. I want to see our stories and our lives within this greater mythology and literature, not apart from it. Jack was the perfect moniker to use to make this kind of a statement. And Inman is the name of a family I know from Washington, DC, but it’s also a great double entredre.  Read More…

Afterthoughts and Aftershocks: Why a Dozen Different Editors Failed Dr V

evmaroon:

Another trans voice dissatisfied with Bill Simmons’s apology on behalf of Grantland, about the death of Dr. V.

Originally posted on aoifeschatology:

If you are a trans person contemplating suicide, please visit here for information on how to find help. I’m not going to tell you it gets better; but I will assure you that your survival is important and meaningful. Please consider alternatives.

James Joyce once exclaimed that trying to cross Dublin without passing a pub would be an excellent puzzle.

Here’s a much easier one: see how long it takes to get through Bill Simmons’s reflections on Dr V before you pass by the word ‘sorry’.

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Make Time to Write

When I was an intrepid tween writer I came across a quote by Stephen King that went something like “Writers write. I meet people all the time who say they’re writers, and when I ask what they’re working on, they tell me they’ve never written a word. They’re not writers. Writers write.” Apologies to Mr. King for the paraphrasing, but that was the gist of it. What this did to my consciousness as someone who really wanted to be a writer was set an external expectation on me. If I ever stopped writing, I could no longer call myself a writer. I had to be a shark, always swimming, always moving, or poof! I’d disappear in the mist of my own failure. So I wrote and wrote, terrible stories but interesting to me, and definitely definitive in setting up the foundation of my craft. Early on I was fascinated by ordinary people in near-extreme circumstances, and the relationships between them. I submitted to summer writing programs between my high school years, getting rejected a lot and accepted a couple of times, and then I absorbed as much as I could from the other writers around me.

I saw that folks each had their own rituals for writing, their habits, good and bad, and their tendencies, like being a night owl or a midday writer. They also took on the specific task of writing differently. Some wrote and rewrote through their first draft, others plowed through and got to the nitty gritty in later drafts. One woman spent months writing backstory and plotting reveals and twists before she ever got into the manuscript, and another friend jumped in and let the words take her wherever they happened to go. There were tradeoffs for every strategy of course, but taken in aggregate they led to a literature among us. That is what literature should do—provide an avenue for people who need to tell a story of importance to someone else. If the process of writing is varied, so is the access to writing. So it behooves us who care about the characters in our heads to open a space for the writing to happen. Here are a few of my ideas, humbly offered with no expectations for agreement. Read More…

An Open Letter to National Public Radio

NPR radio national public radioThis is the second day in a row I’ve taken to the keyboard to write about the unnecessary and hurtful treatment from the media toward Chelsea Manning, the Army private who leaked government secrets about our country’s involvement in Iraq and other activities around the world. Chelsea Manning is a declared transsexual woman, which we all know now because of her public announcement to the media and the rest of us. I was bothered by several news outlets yesterday which continued to use masculine pronouns and her former first name, but most of those organizations have a history of transphobic and insensitive reporting (I’m looking at you, Daily Beast).

What I did not expect was that National Public Radio would be one of those media institutions to so ignorantly take up its reporting on Pvt. Manning’s declaration. Your position was very clearly stated by your spokesperson:

“Until Bradley Manning’s desire to have his gender changed actually physically happens, we will be using male-related pronouns to identify him.” —Anna Bross, NPR Spokesperson Read More…

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