Tag Archives: LGBT

The Rhetoric of Trans According to Popular Culture

Trigger Warning: This post discusses suicide and violence toward trans people.

This week the Williams Institute at UCLA released further analysis from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey conducted a couple of years ago with the National Task Force (formerly NGLTF). The point of analysis? Transgender suicide attempts, which the survey found had occurred in forty-one percent of the more than 6,000 responses. This would mean that suicide ideation—thinking about suicide or considering suicide—would be even higher (but these data weren’t captured in the survey itself). The Williams Institute analysts, Ann Haas, Philip Rogers, and Jody Herman (a dear friend of mine), looked at other correlations in the data in order to find any drivers for suicide attempts. You can read their full analysis at the link above.

In the context of this month’s completely inappropriate article in Grantland.com, in which an aspiring sportswriter outed a trans woman and in which that outing led to her suicide, it was declared by Bill Simmons, Grantland’s Editor-in-Chief, that they should have known better than to run the article in part because trans people have “an appallingly high rate of suicide.” I would argue that these carefully analyzed data show the reverse emphasis to be true—that transpeople are exposed to repeated instances of rejection, alienation, harassment, threats, and violence, and that suicidal ideation and attempts are a direct consequence of such stress. In other words, transgender and gender non-conforming people suffer from an appallingly high rate of abuse, including invasive journalism, as it turns out.

Given these data, I feel compelled to trace out some of the narratives and rhetoric around transition and about the trans community that lend to this sense of disrespect, vulnerability, and hopelessness. Read More…

Excerpt: Synergy

This summer I am thrilled to get some feedback on my novel-in-progress at Lambda Literary Foundation’s Emerging Writers Workshop. I sent them the first twenty-five pages of the manuscript about four gender non-conforming people from different moments in time. It’s non-genre, it’s not a humor book, and it’s not a memoir. It’s a stretch for me, and an exciting project, but then again, I came up with it in my own head, so hopefully I’d have some interest in my own damn work. I should also add that it needs a ton of work — in this first draft I was messing around with point-of-view and tense, trying to figure out where the tone of the book intersected with the narration. But here’s the first chapter, in case anyone is interested:

Alex, Baltimore, 2004

Enough moisture collects at my temples that it streaks down the sides of my face, but I can’t stop running or break form to wipe my head. I tell myself that tomorrow I’ll remember my bandana. Now I’m four miles from home and have one more to go before it’s time to turn around. The sun has hit that angry angle after daybreak and I squint to block it out even a little. I’ve probably got about 90 minutes left before my shift at the pier. For the sake of predictability I take the same route six days a week: out the back door of my crappy apartment at the edge of a mostly empty commercial district, past sloping colonial-era pavers and a junkyard, down toward the revitalized harbor, then back again. As far and as fast as I can run, and even though it’s always quiet behind me when I turn around, I always have the sense I’m being chased.

Nobody can find out I wasn’t born male.

To keep my secret, I stay as thin as I can. Hence the hellacious running routine. Jogging hates me, and the feeling is mutual. Read More…

Why It’s a Pain in the Ass to Be Trans in a Small Town, Or A Simple List of Stuff People Have Said to Me

  1. walla walla upholstery signHey, did you see that article in the newspaper about that transgendered couple?
  2. Hey, do you know the transsexual couple in the paper today?
  3. Oh my God, was that you in the paper today about being trans?
  4. Hey, there’s a high school student/college student/totally grown adult who is starting to transition. Could you talk to them? I mean, I haven’t talked to them yet to find out if they’d like you to do that, but you know, could you do that?
  5. I’m a great ally, but I’m not really out about being an ally. So please don’t go telling people I think it’s okay to be trans, all right?
  6. That’s a nice idea and all, but you know this isn’t DC, right?
  7. You sure talk about being trans a lot. Like, aren’t you happy just being a man?
  8. You might have a hard time finding a job here, because you’re overqualified. You know, that happens to men.
  9. What was your old name?
  10. Do you know the pregnant man?
  11. Hey, did you hear the pregnant man is getting divorced?
  12. Did you make that baby with Susanne?
  13. Does it bother you that your baby isn’t related to you?
  14. Why do all trans men have such crazy facial hair?
  15. Do you mourn the old you?
  16. Do you ever think about going back to being a woman?
  17. I was just wondering, do you have phantom breast sensations?
  18. Hey, do you know <<INSERT FAMOUS TRANS PERSON’S NAME HERE>>?
  19. Does it feel weird to take your shirt off in the pool?
  20. I understand how hard it is to find a doctor in town. My mom had <<INSERT DISEASE HERE>> and she had to drive to Seattle to find a specialist.
  21. Is it like, totally weird living in a small town?
  22. Are you interested in giving the newspaper an interview about being trans in Walla Walla?

Responses tomorrow.

Illegal Urination

Arizona, the state that brought us a ban on Ethnic Studies and some of the most extreme anti-immigrant laws in the nation, now has crafted a bill that would make using the “wrong” restroom–read, one that does not comport with the letter on one’s birth certificate–a misdemeanor, punishable by a multi-thousand dollar fine and up to six months in jail. The language in the bill reads almost opposite as the non-discriminatory language found in jursidictions around the country that protect trans-identified and gender nonconforming people from harassment when accessing public facilities:

All entities covered under the Act, as amended, shall allow individuals the right to use gender-specific restrooms and other gender-specific facilities such as dressing rooms, homeless shelters, and group homes that are consistent with their gender identity or expression (Washington, DC Office of Human Rights, District of Columbia Municipal Regulations (DCMR) entitled “Compliance Rules and Regulations Regarding Gender Identity or Expression.” Title 4, Chapter 8, amended October 26, 2006)

Instead, Arizona’s proposed language requires people to use the bathroom that comports with the sex marker on their birth certificate. This is troubling for many reasons, including in no particular order:

  1. Arizona has no legislative control over other states’ departments of vital statistics, the organizations that generally are in charge of granting and validating birth and death certificates. Some states, like New Jersey, grant new birth certificates with a letter of sex-reassignment surgery, while others only amend previously created birth certificates. It’s unclear if this proposed law would “accept” such amendments over the original certificate. And then some states, like Ohio, never amend or re-release birth certificates for any reason. So any trans individual from Ohio needing to urinate in Arizona should what, cross the state line first? Ask a kind neighbor for use of their private bathroom? Read More…

Transition Hindsight

I wrote this for an FTM group over on LiveJournal, and thought I should repost it here.

I transitioned nearly eight years ago. Well, more accurately, I started my transition a little less than eight years ago. I’m pretty sure I’ll never stop transitioning, because I keep coming on things that I’d been socialized female for, most recently, body changes as one ages.

In the beginning it was really rough. I had so much self doubt, I was in an emotionally volatile relationship, a ton of stress at work, and the overwhelming fear that I was about to ruin my life. So here are the things that I wish I knew at the time. That said, everybody’s transition is different, so this is by no means a set of instructions. But for me I wish I knew:

1. Nobody gets to tell you you’re doing it wrong. I mean, they may tell you you’re not a “real” transsexual but that’s their issue. Fine to ask for opinions and advice from people — the more conversations you have, the more you will see the range of gender expression, decisionmaking around medical, legal & social transition, and the more lessons from others you’ll get exposed to. But please, don’t let the voice of inauthenticity stay in your head, because it has this way of never admitting it’s wrong. If you want to take it slow, go low- or no-hormones, or go as fast as you safely can, that is your decision. Read More…

Coral Reef Therapy

coral reef hawaii fishI’ve known, abstractly at least, that I’ve wanted to go snorkeling since I stood waist-high in the crystal clear water of Puerto Rico, way back in 1983. Seeing tropical fish up close, in their own environment, was captivating to newly minted teenager me. But we didn’t have much time on the island during that vacation, and didn’t get around to snorkeling.

I told myself that I was too clumsy for something that would require breathing a different way, plus hand-flipper coordination. I’d probably concuss myself on a reef, get into an altercation with an eel, or worse. I satisfied myself with episodes of Blue Planet and short-lived glances at tiny tiger fish in local mall aquariums. But by the time we booked our trip to the big island of Hawaii, I’d promised myself to strap on a mask and fins and check out a nearby coral reef.

And now I’m addicted to snorkeling. That didn’t take long.

Water fills up my ear canals and then all I can hear is the sound of my own breathing through the snorkel tube. Other than the taste of briny water on my tongue, I stop noticing all of my senses but my sight. There’s a bright yellow angel fish, nipping plankton off of the coral ridge. A dark black, blue striped fish darts in front of me, followed by a school of them. A silvery fish that looks like a living dagger hovers near the surface, as if she can’t wait to evolve to a land-walking biology. Sea urchins that range from dark purple to bright pink nestle in the pockets of the reef, and now I can’t imagine eating one cut in half.

A school of tiger fish off in the distance, eating in such a frenzy that they generate the only cloudy portion of water I see around me. If it looked like the water was overcrowded with other snorkelers before I headed into the pool, I now have lost myself in solitude and mind-numbing beauty. And where I’m generally clumsy on the surface, I feel almost masterful under the water’s edge, able to spin and turn and control my trajectory. Read More…

Review: Roving Pack

SassafrasLowreyRecommended reading.

I finished Sassafras Lowrey’s debut novel Roving Pack last weekend and was struck when page after page of the protagonist’s diary managed to pull and push me with each bit of hys life experience. I’m at once familiar with being gender non-conforming in an urban space in the early aughts, and apart from the young genderqueer community Lowrey describes. This is a book, after all, located in a particular place (mostly Portland, Oregon) and time (late 2002 onward), and about a group of folks two trans generations younger than me. I know the situations the protagonist Click talks about–abusive and absent parents, inconsistently disbursed resources, a peer group that sometimes causes deep heartache, and living on the margins through gray markets and under-the-table agreements. I know these experiences, yes, but I’ve spent years trying to forget those struggles, so reading the universe through Click’s eyes is painful if not also somehow validating. It’s difficult to make it through late adolescence without the additional struggles Click and hyr friends have on their backs. Read More…

Ebb and Flow

A couple of weeks ago the Boy Scouts caused a stir when they concluded after a two-year assessment, to continue their ban on gay boys and men as scouts and scout leaders. Well, their ban on out gay boys and men, but whatever. On the heels of this the Internet exploded over news-certainly not sudden–that Chick-Fil-A gave substantial money to anti-gay interests, including groups who advocate for killing gay and lesbian people in Uganda, since advocating for that kind of thing on US soil is a big no-no. And while this was going on, NASA was preparing to launch its most ambitious rover mission to Mars. Certainly NASA doesn’t ban people of a queer inclination, but that’s beside the point. My point, since I’ve buried it at the end of this paragraph, is that we humans are capable of astounding progress and horrifying cruelty, and this never fails to fascinate me.

I can’t believe we are still arguing about whether global warming is real or not. Seriously, look at this glacier.

a glacier melts

Read More…

The Problem with Passing Privilege

trans logo/iconI had a great blog post almost ready to launch earlier today, really I did. It was about moving my office from one location to another clear across town, and who thinks what about it, what went wrong during the move, ending with why all of this is funny.

And then WordPress ate it. No matter how much I cursed WordPress,  I still was faced with a big blog of empty white space where once tiny words had lived. Sure, I could rewrite that post, as I’ve done before, only this blog post has decided to pop up in its place.

Instead of a trite chucklefest about who inhabits office buildings, what moving is like for a small nonprofit, and how hilarious (and nice) Walla Wallans can be in the midst of mini-crises, I’m going to write about passing privilege. I’m certainly not going for a laugh, but if you feel like having one, feel free to click on the keyword “funny” to the right and read any number of humorous experiences I’ve had. The ones where I’m in intestinal distress are the best, in my opinion.

On to the actual post. Read More…

Daniel Tosh Is Not the Problem

Daniel Tosh in some kind of dragLast week, a brouhaha erupted on the Internet after Daniel Tosh, a lackluster comic and host of Tosh.0 on Comedy Central made a joke about rape. Or rather, he attempted such a joke, knowing full well that somebody out there in the world, if not his audience, would find it unfunny and offensive. Many smart people have written about why there’s no place in comedy for jokes or comic routines on the subject of rape, others have waxed eloquent on where this moment intersects with the First Amendment, but I’d like to expand the discussion here.

The issue of what’s funny and where the boundaries of taste and appropriateness in comedy comes up often. Stephen Colbert recently apologized for likening the food industry’s infamous pink slime to transsexuals. Tracy Morgan was taken to task for saying during a stage routine that he’d kill his own son if he found out the kid was gay–when asked about the lines, he remarked:

I don’t “f*cking care if I piss off some gays, because if they can take a f*cking d**k up their ass … they can take a f*cking joke. Read More…

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