Tuesday, September 1, 2009

"What pronoun do you prefer?"

I was at a "mocktail" party for one of the seminars I'm in this semester the other night, the primary objective being to meet everyone in the class and get to know them outside of class. Most of the class is made up of freshmen, but there was another sophomore that I had seen around campus. I immediately drifted over. We'd had brief conversations at the student center before, so introductions were not required. As I approached, the first question I heard was, "So, what pronouns do you prefer?"

I don't think I've heard a better pick-up line in my life.

Okay, so, it wasn't a pick-up line, as we are both quite happily taken, but if we hadn't been, it would have been perfect. It was, however, an amazing introductory line, not only because it would have fostered an amazing conversation between us if I hadn't been dragged away by my professor, but because it seemed so wonderfully polite and considerate.

I know it was probably the first thing ze asked because I am, quite clearly, a big ol' queer. But I thought of how smoothly the ensuing conversation went. It didn't feel awkward or clumsy at all, as I've always been told it would be if we all had to ask people what pronouns they preferred at the time of introduction. It actually worked as a gateway of connection between us. I wouldn't normally have sought interaction with hir, merely because I didn't think we'd have much in common (and because I'm notoriously shy around strangers). But with that one simple question, we now have a bond, and not just because we are both transgender but because we both see a need for there to be a bit more etiquette in the world!

So why haven't we started this trend? Why haven't we enforced this in Miss Manners? Why is the subject of pronouns not addressed in introductions where we address the issue of what to call someone by name? It seems like the two would go hand in hand, as both are vital components of communication.

Well, for one, we assume that we can determine the preferred pronoun simply by looking (this is nothing that you don't already know). We assess the way someone dresses, keeps themselves, speaks, etc. and from that, we assume that we know their gender and, subsequently, what pronouns to use when referencing them.

How hard would it be to simply ask this question at introduction? For starters, most people don't see a need for it, because of the aforementioned aesthetic assumptions (gosh, look at that alliteration!). This would also legitimize transgender behavior and identity, and gods forbid we expand the binary! Next thing you know, they'll be letting those queers get married to each other! AND THEN PEOPLE WITH VAGINAS WILL BE ABLE TO VOTE!

Me? I still haven't moved past the issue of having gender pronouns at all. In the ideal world I've constructed in my mind, everyone would go by "he" and that would be that. But, of course, this is my quixotic dream and this would never happen because all the women would be pissed that we're taking on the male pronoun and all the men would be pissed because then they'd say they would be gay because everyone would be a man and the transgenders would be mad because they'd think that the binary they worked so hard to dismantle was just put back together by the patriarchy with duct tape and slammed into the backs of their heads. In my perfect world, "he" is not a male pronoun, it is just a pronoun, with no connotations whatsoever, but until I get that magic wand that lets me do as I please (it's been on back order for about 18 years, but I swear, it'll be here), this is not going to happen.

... and my response to the question? "Neither, really. But if you have to, 'he' will do nicely." Because I'm a he-man woman-hater.

GENDERGENDERGENDERGENDER. It's everywhere, it's inescapable, it's ALIVE! RUN, DON'T WALK, TO YOUR NEAREST GENDERQUEER BOMB SHELTER! I feel like gender was this atomic bomb that someone dropped on the entire world and although the worst has passed, we're still dealing with the ramifications that give the continuing generations third arms and crossed eyes. And it sucks. Sucks sucks sucks.

I will most certainly be returning to this post to make it less of a manic ramble with no direction, but for right now, Winston Churchill calls for my attention.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Revamp!

Sort of.

So, as you can see, the blog finally has a name. I thought it was appropriate, being as I feel like I'm constantly saying those four dreadful words to society:

"We need to talk.

It's just not the same between us anymore, Society. We used to get along so well, but the more I learn about your not-so-deep-but-pretty-dark secrets, the less I think we're going to work.

I know you can change. I've seen it happen before. You just need some help, and I'm going to be there for you every step of the way. But you have to at least try, okay?"

Anyway, I've been gone for a while, I know. No blog posts, scarce vlog updates, barely any Twitter action... I'm lazy. I apologize.

There are two videos coming up really soon (one even tonight, perhaps). Twitter will get more attention when I've convinced myself that Twitter is necessary. This blog... well, it's hanging on by the skin of its teeth, but it will survive! I promise.

Thank you for being a loyal reader (or a brand new one!). I love you all!

- J

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Want a $100 gift card to EdenFantasys.com?

I don't know why you wouldn't!

No, I didn't hand my blog over to spammers. This is 100% legit, and I want it. Bad.

Go here: http://www.edencafe.com/2009/08/news-and-stuff-and-giveaways/ to see the myriad ways that you can enter the giveaway.

WARNING: EdenFantasys.com is NOT safe for work/school. It's the most tasteful sex toy website I've ever seen, but still, I don't think your boss/teacher/mom/grandma would appreciate walking by and seeing a dildo shaped like a unicorn horn on your screen.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Sean Dorsey's "Uncovered"

Last night was incredible. Beautiful. Astonishing. Enlightening. Encouraging. Inspiring. Wonderful. Fun.

With nothing more than bus fare and text message directions, Katie and I embarked on a journey into NYC. Our intention was to see the HOT! Festival premiere of Sean Dorsey's "Uncovered." More than anything, though, I was ecstatic to see Kate Bornstein perform one of her newest pieces at the prologue to the show.

To be entirely honest with you, I had no idea who Sean Dorsey was. I didn't really know what his show was going to be like; I'll admit, I wasn't really concerned. I was going to see Kate Bornstein. I was going to be in the same room as Kate Bornstein, and having been just a few months shy of seeing her at SMCM, I was beyond thrilled.

I had no idea what to expect. I had never even heard of Dixon Place before. How big is the theater? How many people are going to be there? Will I get to meet Kate? What will I say if I do? I tried to get myself out of my old habit of babbling incoherently at people who are more important than me. I told myself I would be calm and personable and not make an ass of myself. I also told myself that I probably would anyway, so don't worry too much about it.

We got off to a bit of a late start, having hit major traffic getting into the city. It was 7:00 when we stepped off the bus and into Port Authority, and, as such, my heart was racing. The show started at 8:00, we still had to get our tickets at the box office, and we were still faced with battling the NY Subway system for a 30 minute train ride. When my phone read 7:15 in the subway station, I thought for sure I was going to have a heart attack. Not to mention that my blood sugar was skyrocketing, from stress and excitement and the grilled cheese sandwich I ate before getting on the bus, so I had to pee like a racehorse on the bus, and then again when we were waiting for the subway. (It became a joke after a while; I'd turn to Katie and all I'd have to say was, "Guess what?" and she'd sigh and say, "Again?!")

Somehow, miraculously, we made it to Delancey St. at 7:30. Dixon Place was just a half of a block away. We walked toward it, though I saw a lot of very impeccably dressed young people walking in the opposite direction. "I think we're going the wrong way," I said. "All those people look like they should be going to Dixon Place." But, we were right, as was made evident by a 6'4" bald man who flamboyantly threw the door open as we started to pass and said, "Looking for Dixon Place? This is it!" Eagerly, I bounded in like an addict into a pharmacy.

We turned right immediately upon entering the door and went down a short hallway. Then, we turned left, and we were no longer on Earth. We were in the den of decadent debauchery. A bar to the left was tended to by a bearded man covered in tattoos and piercings that made him almost unrecognizable (as if I knew who he was in the first place). Past the bar was a small lounge-type area. Chairs were scattered around haphazardly, each looking like they came from individual yard sales. Some wooden folding chairs, a black bar stool, one wicker chair, and two "normal" restaurant-type chairs. I didn't even notice that there were chairs at all at first, because I was looking at the walls...

The walls were hypnotizing. Pictures hung from nails in the wall like proud family portraits; portraits of a "tribal tranny family," as Kate might say. I recognized some faces; Margaret Cho the most prominent of them all. But most were names unknown to me. Still, looking at the faces, the naked bodies, the chests covered in sequins and glitter, the legs coated in fishnet... I felt like I knew them. I knew the transman standing naked, with the skull of an animal covering his genitals, rendering them ambiguous. I knew the heavily make-upped drag queen, toting peacock feathers on her head and looking more beautiful than any exotic bird I'd ever seen. I felt like they were my family. It was like walking into your own home after an awful vacation--except I'd never been inside this place before.

We made our way to the line waiting for the box office to open. I wanted so desperately to speak to the people standing in front of us. They were family, too. I felt like the unborn child, a stranger to these relatives, but one who would be welcomed with open arms and loving hearts as soon as he was born.

I never got up the nerve to say something. Instead, I turned to Katie and rambled about something unimportant, probably involving me having to use the bathroom again. The box office opened shortly afterward and in return for my name I was given two "ADMIT ONE" tickets, like the ones you get at carnivals that you trade in exchange for your turn on a ride. For some reason, this was incredibly endearing to me. It felt like we were getting tickets to the carnival side show, but instead of being the normalfolk coming to stare at the freaks, we were other freaks coming to awe at freakishness that we only dreamed of attaining.

Katie and I sat in two wooden folding chairs, chatting and nervously checking our cell phones. Suddenly, I felt all too normal. My uninked skin and holeless face felt pure and virginal. I couldn't have looked more normal if I'd tried, and believe me, I wasn't trying. But... it felt good. If I, the one who always felt like the sore thumb for being unconventional, felt like a sore thumb for being too normal, I knew I was in the right place.

Someone announced that we were about to enter the theatre. "I'm going to take your ticket and shake your hand," she said and headed to the door marked "PERFORMANCE SPACE." She wasn't kidding, either. When I approached her, she took my ticket with one hand and shook my hand with the other. "Welcome to Dixon Place," she said. My heart went up in flames and I felt it all the way from my head to my toes.

We descended the stairway to the black box theater. On one side, the wall was covered with a mural depicting poor village life in, what appeared to be, a South American village, bearing the words, "Indigenous cultures for 100." Then, we made a sharp right and we were entering the theater. Katie was suddenly at my side, and, on the other side was... Kate Bornstein.

OhmygodholyshitkatebornsteinisrightnexttomesheisRIGHTNEXTOMEFUCKwhatdoidowhatdoidojustgotoaseatjustkeepwalkingFUCKINGWALKWALKWALKWALK*

*direct quote from my brain

There was no stage. There were no risers, bleachers, or fixed seats. Just three groups of folding chairs, in rows of two, in front of the stage, on stage left and on stage right. The stage was an open part of the floor where no chairs sat... save one: a metal chair with intricate floral pattern of ironwork, painted white and sitting beside a white glass sidetable with notecards and a lamp sitting on it. A spotlight shone on the chair and table, and instantly I knew who was supposed to be sitting there.

Katie and I sat and I punched her in the arm until she paid attention to me. "That's Kate Bornstein," I whispered, glancing deliberately toward Kate, who was bending to speak to Barbara Carellas--HOLYSHITTHATSBARBARACARELLASOHHOLYFUCKME*

*direct quote from my brain

"Go say something!" Katie hissed back. I froze. What the fuck was I going to say? "Hi, Kate, you don't know me, but I Twitterstalk the shit out of you. You were at my school last year but I wasn't there but I've read your books and you saved my life and you had lunch with my girlfriend. How are you?"

... Actually, that is kind of what I said.

Kate came to the middle of the stage and addressed the audience: "Is there anybody here from Twitter?" Kate had mentioned she might do a "tweet-up" at the show, and I tweeted at her that I was going to try to make it in for the show and I was excited to see her (because I am a stalker). My hand shot into the air before I could tell it to behave itself. Kate smiled to me and went to her table, grabbing something before coming over to me. "What's your name?" she asked me as she handed me one of her infamous "Get Out of Hell Free" cards. I told her my Twitter username and her smile grew. "You said you might be coming, I'm so glad you made it!" I could have died, right there. Just melted into a puddle of gender goo and been mopped away with the sweat that Sean and his dancers would shed later in their performance.

I told her I was going to SMCM but, unfortunately, was not there to see her performance last year. I mentioned that my girlfriend had been there, though, and had, later, asked for Barbara to come down this past Fall semester and give a workshop. Kate asked if I'd like to be introduced to Barbara. "But I have so many questions for you!" was what would have come out of my mouth if I was feeling brave (or intoxicated), but I couldn't stop shaking, so I said, "Sure!" Kate brought me over to Barbara and introduced me as "JD from Twitter," which gave me a twitter in my stomach and my heart, being introduced as my male persona in real life. I told her who I was and where I was from and who I was dating and, immediately, we began a conversation about my lovely girl. We talked basically just about her the whole time, and then I told her that I was a Twitter stalker of Kate's. She laughed and told me there was a line between avid fan and stalker and that I was not the latter, as she'd had a run-in with a Twitter stalker and, thankfully, I did not identify with any of the characteristics that she described of her stalker.

We went back to our seats shortly after because I was afraid that prolonged exposure would cause me to slip into the realm of high which would mean I would never shut the fuck up and I'd start saying things that nobody needed to hear.

Shortly after, one of the important people from Dixon Place walked out and gave a short introduction to Dixon Place and the HOT! Fest, and passed around a construction hat into which she asked for donations. Apparently, the reason I'd never heard of them before was because they had been moving from temporary location to temporary location and just settled on Chrystie St. in January. I had planned to give money, but somehow, the hat never made its way over to us. Then, another important person came out to speak, and I could not tell you what he/she/ze said because all I was thinking was that Kate was about to start.

And start she did. And it was incredible. Her piece was a commentary alongside a PowerPoint presentation about the evolution of the face of the trans community, from middle-aged MtF to young FtM. "How did this happen?" she asked. Her piece included video/audio clips from old drag queens/crossdressers/genderbenders who I'd never heard of but have noted in my head to Google and read up on when I have more time. It was cute, complete with distorted drawings of little Dutch people who just looked like figurines from the Little People playsets you have in your youth. And educational, for those of us interested in this sort of stuff.

A short intermission later (indicated by the lights coming up and Queen blasting from the speakers) and it was time for Sean. The lights went down. A voice came through the speakers, telling a story about having a Norman Rockwell "Diary for a Young Girl." Lights up, and Sean was on stage. I didn't know that he was Sean until I looked at the program and saw that this introduction would be danced by Sean and another man, Brian Fischer, and that this was an intro, an excerpt from Sean's own life, not Lou Sullivan's, the main focus of "Uncovered."

I don't know what I was expecting but I was not expecting what I saw. I didn't know that Sean Dorsey was trans; I honestly had no idea that the show was about a trans person at all. I was expecting Sean Dorsey to be a bald, somewhat aged but gracefully gay man with thick appendages and a crooked nose. Sean Dorsey is, in actuality, one of the most beautiful people I've ever seen.

I watched him and his partner dance out the story of Sean abandoning his "Diary for a Young Girl" for a second-hand "Diary for a Young Boy" at a pawn shop. He reads the entries of the young boy, and realizes that this young man has no more of a clue what he's doing than young Sean did--and they share an attraction to George Michael. Sean plays himself and Brian Fischer plays the young man (and occasionally George Michael). The struggle they get into, when Sean wants desperately to cling to that image of a young man, that childhood that he never had because he was expected to be a "Young Girl," is heartbreaking, and heightens the relief and comedic value of the two realizing that they have more in common than they thought.

This piece ended and so began the pieces dedicated to Lou Sullivan, the first openly gay transman who fought the system and transitioned despite the medical field's resistance to grant him his rights to surgery. Lou was told that he couldn't be trans if he was attracted to men; transitioning was (and, in some ways, still is) considered to be an extension of homosexuality--why would a "normal" "straight" girl want to change her gender to become a gay man? It was unheard of. But, thankfully, Lou persevered and was granted the body he desired. 

Unfortunately, Lou was also the first transman to publicly die from AIDS. One of the saddest and most touching moments of the dance is when Sean's voice reads Lou's last diary entry, while Sean dances out Lou's only feeling of regret: not having more time to enjoy the body he longed and fought for. If there was anyone in that room not crying at that moment, they must have fallen asleep.

I watched the dance with intensity, not allowing myself to drift off into the dead zone of my brain, focusing solely on what was going on in front of me. The four dancers walked onto the stage in white brief underwear and white tanktops. After this dance, just two dancers remained on the stage: Sean and Brian. Brian took the hem of Sean's shirt in his hands and began to lift it. I watched it slide up Sean's flat belly, over his diaphragm, and he lifted his arms to allow it over his head. He was whiter than snow as I watched his bare chest heave with breath quickened by his art.

Under the spotlights, his scars gleamed like diamonds in the dark. They are beautiful. He is beautiful. I wanted to walk up to him and touch them, feel their pink smoothness in contrast to the flesh around them. I wanted to pull him to me and rest my head against the flatness of his chest. I wanted to have him in my arms, to feel him there, a corporeal form, a survivor, real living proof that I can pull through this. Just a touch to know that he truly exists. That all of these blogs and vlogs and Twitters are more than just pictures on the internet. What I would have given to just shake his hand, to know that I won't always be a ghost. That I can and will inhabit something that is real. That this isn't just a fantasy in my head. I wanted him to prove to me I'm not making this up after all.

I was at the brink of tears through the rest of the show, so Lou's death was just the thing to push me over the edge and send me frantically scrambling for something to wipe my tears on. After the show, we were encouraged to stay and talk to the dancers, but I couldn't. If I had, I would have unloaded all of my mental shit ontop of them, and if they didn't drag me out for being a security risk, I would never have shut up and everyone would have hated me anyway. Besides, while I know that Katie enjoyed the show, I didn't think she wanted to hang around and chat. She already looked completely lost when I was babbling at Kate and Barbara, I'd feel bad.

Plus... you know... I'm terrified to come out. Terrified of telling the people that I know that I might become someone else. Asking them to refer to me by new pronouns... honestly, it just feels so petty to me. Would I be happier if they did? Probably. But am I miserable now? No. Asking them to completely change the way they think of me just seems unnecessary to me. I imagine the whispers of how ridiculous I am and, "Oh, what, she's a lesbian, and then she's an atheist, and now she's a *man?* Next she'll be a nudist. Ho-hum." Do I care what people think of me? No. But do I care about my friends not taking me seriously and, potentially, making a complete and total ass of myself to them? Yes. Yesyesyesyes.

We left Dixon Place and I felt my heart sobbing quietly to itself while we walked away. I am still tethered there, and always will be. Aside from it being an amazing art venue, it might possibly be the first place where I've felt 100% safe to be myself. And, goddamn, does that feel good.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Thought-provoking quote #3

For example, for me, a woman to say I am uncomfortable around men is fine, but for me a white person to say the same thing about oh, any race, would make me a racist, but they are both prejudiced views.

From July 14, 2009's post by Jamie Royce on Stuff Queer People Need to Know

This reminds me of something else that's been eating away at me recently. There was a story recently in the news about a controversial jury decision regarding the killing of a gay man, Terrance Hauser, in Illinois by his neighbor, Joseph Biedermann. Biedermannn claims that, while at Hauser's house for a drink, Hauser sexually assaulted and physically threatened him with a 14 inch blade. Biedermann, supposedly in self defense, stabbed Hauser 61 times in various places. (Read the full story here)

The controversy lies in the alleged "gay panic defense" that Biedermann and his lawyer used to get Biedermann acquitted of first-degree murder. People are pissed because this guy is getting away with murder based on the jury's inherent homophobia.

Normally, I'd be all over this shit. "Get the motherfucker and string him up like a pinata!" But some other people's comments have made me rethink everything...

Let's change the situation from Joseph Biedermann to Joanne Biedermann. Joanne goes to her neighbor Terrance's house for a drink and she is sexually assaulted and physically threatened with a 14-inch blade by him. Joanne, in her panic and violation, stabs the shit out of Hauser. She is later acquitted of first degree murder.

...

How did that story make you feel? Because it kind of made me want to shake Joanne's hand, and then I got a little nauseous because I realized I was being a sexist prick.

I'm not saying that Biedermann's story is true. There are many loopholes in his story. But, also, if it was Joanne's story, I wouldn't say she made it up at all, and I don't think many others would, either. We'd all shake our heads at the depravity of Man and give Joanne a gold star for sticking up for herself. But since Joseph Biedermann is Joseph Biedermann, we call him a homophobic, homicidal inbred.

This says many a thing about our conceptions, perceptions, and the ramifications of gender.

1.) Joanne Biedermann's story tugs at our heart strings only because she is a woman. Therefore, she MUST be a victim. Joseph Biedermann is a MAN, and clearly, men are NEVER victims of sexual violence.

2.) Joanne, as a woman, must be weak, vulnerable, and, apparently, incapable of holding her liquor. "That poor girl," we say, "Just trying to be a friendly neighbor and look what happens." Joseph, as a REAL MAN, should know better than to drink himself under the table.

3.) Joanne is also unable to control herself and her emotions get the best of her. Clearly, in her rage, confusion, and violation, she couldn't stop herself from mutilating her attacker's body. Joseph is able to be logical and should have incapacitated Hauser, then picked up the phone and called 911 to help him survive. Men are never overtaken by their emotions. Men don't even have emotions.

4.) Terrance Hauser, as a supposedly gay man, is clearly the victim because he is a gay man who's been killed by a straight man. Because gay men are incapable of being sexual predators. Clearly, possessing an attraction to other men automatically absolves you from being capable of committing a crime, especially against a straight man.

Did Biedermann make it all up to get out of being found guilty of a hate crime? I don't know. As Michael Rowe put it, "Only two people know what really happened in that apartment on Hassell Road in Hoffman Estates." One of them is dead, and we already know what the other has said.

The point I'm trying to make here, while I ramble like a fucking lunatic, is that there are so many more ramifications and implications of gender than just who holds the door on the way into the library. Just changing the gender of the defendant in a murder trial changes the way we think about it. Changing the variable from the color of someone's skin to the organ they have between their legs automatically changes prejudiced hate speech to a statement of safety and precaution.

I'm all for fucking political correctness, but maybe we need to step back and realize when we're being prejudiced and we don't even realize it.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Great Quote #2

But that doesn't mean I have always really been a girl. It just means I would like to be. Why can't people understand that? Maybe if I lived in a different culture I would be fine being a boy. I don't know exactly why I want to be a girl, I just do. If I have to lie to people and say I have always been a girl to become one then I will, but my point is, I don't think I should have to. I think the way I feel is valid. And that's my point. It doesn't mean it would come naturally to me. I will have to learn to walk like a girl, talk like a girl, act like a girl, think like a girl. Because I'm not a girl right now. I'm bi-gendered. More towards male. More of a boy. But the way my personal gender makeup is, I know I'd be happier as a girl. I choose to be a girl.


From etransgender.com

Really reiterates the point from my "I am not transgender" post. And it's comforting to see that others understand and share this frustration with me. Someone1 is one of those people that I was talking about--someone who is changing their body not to match their mind but to match what the world is telling them that their body should be.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Something to chew on:

"[...] [G]ender is a way of seeing: black-and-white glasses through which we view a Technicolor world."
- Riki Wilchins, "It's Your Gender, Stupid!"

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Clothing

I hate shopping for clothes.

Now, don't get me wrong, I fucking love shopping. It is one of the few ways that I conform to my gender role. I can spend hours in a shopping mall, and I don't care what that says about me, I love spending money on myself. I like to think of it as expensive narcissism more than femininity.

But clothes shopping, though one of my favorites, is a constant frustration for me.

Why? Because nothing fits me. No, this isn't going to be an "omg i'm so fat & every1 else is so skinny" post. I couldn't give less of a shit about my weight if I tried.

My gripe with clothing is (surprise!) gender-related. Go into a store and look at the different sections for different genders. Clearly, there have to be separated sections because certain pieces of clothing have to be tailored differently to fit each sex's body shapes. But look at the styles, too. Very few styles overlap.

Why? Why can't you get a pair of shorts that look identical to men's shorts but in women's sizes? Sure, both sections have cargo shorts, but the women's shorts are going to be less baggy and, usually, shorter. I don't like my shorts above my knee and I like to have a lot of room in them. Hence, I shop in the men's section, not because I am male but because the women's section doesn't cater to my desires.

But then, I run into another problem. I have hips. Everyone has hips, but because my body is engineered for childbirth, mine are wider than my penis'd counterparts. Men's shorts do not accommodate my hips. So, I buy a pair that is 2 sizes too big and then must invest in a belt, which then causes me to shop in the men's department because all of the women's belts are sparkly, rhinestone'd, and/or adorned with butterflies, which then causes me to have to get the smallest size belt, which is STILL too big, and create my own extra hole so that it will make my shorts fit me.

Don't even get my started on shirts. I'm just getting to the point in my life where my narrow shoulders and I are making amends. I'm going to find whoever started the "let's wear our t-shirts so big they look like hospital gowns" fad and beat the shit out of him because now, even an extra small men's t-shirt looks like a dress on me. I sure as hell can't shop in the women's department because I'm not interested in a.) showing off my cleavage, b.) pastel colors, c.) bunches/ruffles/frills, or d.) squeezing into a shirt like its made of spandex. I want to be able to breathe but I don't want to look like I'm swimming in my dad's old clothing.

Jeans are a fucking debacle because, again, there is this assumption that because I have a vagina, I have this overwhelming urge to squeeze into skin tight denim and appear as though my jeans are painted on. Denim is merciless when it comes to my hips so men's jeans are out of the question. When I finally find a women's pair that is loose enough, they're about a foot too long and I'm so close to ripping my hair out of my head, I don't even give a shit about buying new pants at all anymore.

American Eagle is the best place I've found for my dilemma, but even they have their faults. Their X-Small button up shirts fit my shoulders, but again, my hips aren't accommodated, as the shirt doesn't widen toward the bottom like a women's shirt would. They're fine to wear unbuttoned but otherwise, I'm out of luck.

So, all griping and complaining aside, why is clothing still gendered? As I said, I understand that, biologically, males and females have different body structures (trust me, my hips remind me of this every day). But why, when a pair of girl's jeans are modeled like men's jeans, they're called "Boyfriend" jeans? Why is the entire women's section of Modell's a swamp of pastels and flowers? Why can't I find a plaid button down shirt in the women's department that isn't sparkly and ruffled? Why, in 2009, are we still pinned to the wall with little labels on our clothing based on our genitals?

Where the hell is my genderqueer department store?

Friday, June 12, 2009

I am not transgendered

That's right, you heard me. I am breaking my association with the term "transgender." No longer will I consider myself to be "transgender(ed)," nor do I want people to refer to me as such.

I haven't had a chance to get into a real gender rant on here, which is a shame, but I guess now is as good a time as any. This is a good gateway into my anti-binary tirade.

So. Why not "transgender?"

Referring to myself as "transgendered" implies and requires that I believe in that which we call the "gender binary." Which I do not. By claiming that I am "transgressing" societal laws and expectations of gender, I am accepting and putting my faith in the binary. I do not and will not ever allow that to happen.

This has been the big thing that has been confusing the shit out of me ever since I first thought I might be "different." I've always been simultaneously disgusted and jealous of the male body. When I look at the tan, buff guys that most teenaged girls croon and swoon over, I was crooning and swooning because I wanted to look like that. Why? I thought it was because I wanted to be a man, and I did, but for all the wrong reasons.

I thought that being a man would make me feel normal. I thought that my body had to match my insides in that, well, I act like a man, so I should look like one in order to fit in.

This, I realize now, is bullshit.

Why should I feel like I need to have a penis in order to be who I want to be? I like my body. I like what I've got. Why the hell should I feel like a stranger in a body that I am perfectly happy with? Because of the gender binary.

The gender binary tells us that you are either one thing or another and whichever side you ascribe to has certain expectations and limitations. If you are male, you don't wear a dress, you don't paint your nails, you don't shave your legs, and you have a certain name that announces that you are male. If you are female, you shave your legs, you wear make-up, you wear a dress to be formal, and you, too, have a name that announces what is swinging (or not) between your legs.

Yes, yes, I know, things have gotten more lenient as the times go by. But we are still stuck in this "check one of two boxes" system of oppression and bullshit. Why shouldn't someone with a penis be able to wear a dress and high heels and not be called a "drag queen" or "fairy" or "faggot?" Why can't he just be himself and who gives a fuck who or how he fucks?

By society's standards, I act like a man. Therefore, I must not have breasts and have a penis. SURPRISE. This could not be further from the truth, and maybe I'm okay with that.

Clearly, I am not discrediting transgendered people who undergo surgery. Whatever you need to do to feel confident in your own skin, you do it. But I just wonder how much of it is societal pressure? How many people who have dished out $15,000+ on sexual reassignment surgery just because the rest of the world decided that their body didn't fit who they were on the inside.

How many people would not have had to do that if we didn't still ascribe to the ideals of a dual-gender only system? If it was socially acceptable for someone with a penis to be sensitive, giggly, and wear pink. If it was socially acceptable for someone with a vagina to be hairy, never wear a dress, and be expected to pick up heavy objects.

Society was --and still is-- telling me that in order to be me, I need to inject hormones and have my breasts surgically removed. It's something that I'm still struggling with. Every day, I flip flop back and forth. Sometimes, I'm a confident anti-binary tyrant. Other times, I'm minutes away from making appointments to start hormone therapy.

It feels like things would be so much easier. I wouldn't have to deal with half the shit I get if my outside matched my inside. My unshaven legs would not be the talk of my old high school when I come home from college. My "dykey" haircut would no longer be just that--"dykey." I would not be expected to do or say half or most of the things that I am expected to because of my body parts.

I know, I know, fight it, man, just give 'em the ol' "Fuck You!" and don't conform! But it's not that easy. Not when I'm surrounded by all these images of attractive guys, scruffy guys with solid jawlines and broad shoulders, and I'm told that THIS is a real man.

I don't even know what the flying fuck a "real" man is on the inside, anyway. Does he drink beer, fart a lot, and beat his girlfriend? Does he hold open doors and lay his jacket over puddles for ladies to step over? What about someone who acts like a "real man" but doesn't have a penis? "Oh, shit," says the Binary. "We didn't think of that, did we?"

If there was no binary, would I be so fucking distraught?

I am not a woman. I am not a man. I am a human with certain organs that do not define what I do or who I am.

Fuck gender.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Trans-Inclusive ENDA: Is it that hard?

One of the big scandals in the surge for equal rights has been the inclusion of the T in GLBT. I hate to call this a "scandal" because that word, to me, exoticizes and otherizes a group of people within a group of exoticized and otherized people. Maybe "debacle" is a better word... debandal? scandacle?

In any case, one of the big "scandacles" in the past years has been the struggle for protection against workplace discrimination. In 2007, an ENDA bill was presented to Congress that included protection for every part of the GLBT spectrum--including transgender people. Then, some advocates for ENDA got nervous that such a momentous bill wouldn't get passed, and immediately had gender identity dropped from the ENDA bill.

This move in itself was enough to set the transgender community ablaze, and I'm no exception. Since when is it okay to sacrifice one portion of a community just so the others will be able to reap the benefits of a victory? How fucked up is it that there is a hierarchy within a minority group? Clearly, the GLB community is getting the upperhand, and always has. GLB identity has managed to rise from the depths of sexual perversion but transgenderism is still just a naughty nighttime fantasy of men in sparkling high heels and the Dykes on Bikes.

Barney Frank, a Democratic congressman from Massachusetts, and an openly gay man, joined in the celebration of a non-inclusive ENDA in 2007. His response to the outrage was like that of a parent to a spoiled child whining about the expensive toy that ze didn't get for Christmas:

The question facing us – the LGBT community and the tens of millions of others who are active supporters of our fight against prejudice – is whether we should pass up the chance to adopt a very good bill because it has one major gap. I believe that it would be a grave error to let this opportunity to pass a sexual orientation nondiscrimination bill go forward, not simply because it is one of the most important advances we’ll have made in securing civil rights for Americans in decades, but because moving forward on this bill now will also better serve the ultimate goal of including people who are transgender than simply accepting total defeat today.


"Stop raining on our parade, Transgender Community, you'll get your turn eventually. Now bask in my glory as I resist employment discrimination, whilst you still have to dress gender appropriate at a job interview for fear of being rejected."

But, in researching all of this, it leads me to wonder... Should "GLBT" drop the "T"?

I've often wondered this before but it has never really occurred to me until now. What are the ties between the GLB and the T community? I used to argue this, saying that, more often than not, a member of the T community was once a member of the GLB community and the decision to transcend traditional gender roles should not inhibit hir from continuing to associate with the community ze was once part of. But, there are plenty of TG/TS/GQ (transgender/transsexual/gender-queer) people who were never and will never be part of the GLB community, whether it's because they retain their heterosexuality in their gender-transgression or because they reject the gender binary altogether. If you denounce the existence of "male" and "female" in the societal sense, you are, in effect, denouncing the existence of "gay" and "straight," as these terms rely solely on conceptions of sex and gender.

Additionally, the logistics of the two groups don't align well at all. The GLB community is focused around a group of people based off of their sexual orientation. The T community has worked for years and years to convince the rest of society that their rallying point has nothing to do with sexual orientation (back to the fetishization of transpeople that I snarkily mentioned earlier). The T community is about self-expression. The T community rallies around the point that everyone involved does not conform to societal expectations placed upon them based on their genitals. Which does, in effect, tie them back to sexuality--GLB people are also not conforming to societal expectations placed upon them based on their genitals. It's that age-old SAT question: If a T is not a GLB, but a GLB is a T, and the government doesn't believe in any of them, then who the hell are we? So, the logical explanation is just for everyone to identify as transgendered. The end.

I'm kidding (sort of). I'm also running around in circles here, I know. But this is why the issue is still debated today. It's so goddamn complicated.

Which is why I love the word "queer." It's so encompassing (for more, there's a post on the word 'queer' a few posts down).

What prompted me to post this was that a trans-inclusive ENDA is slated to be presented to congress sometime in the near future (more, better details here). I'll try to be a little more helpful as updates on this become available. But, until then, keep your eyes and ears peeled, and don't forget to nag the shit out of your political leaders!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Hate is not a family value

Yesterday dealt a serious blow to the community, but as somebody at the D.C. rally said, this is just a minor setback. We are, by no means, backing down from this fight.

I won't reiterate what every other blogger is saying. But wow, the rally in Dupont Circle yesterday was absolutely amazing. It was breathtaking to see the circle fill up with people, all coming together to fight for what we all know is right. It was phenomenal.

I was waiting with baited breath to hear the decision of the court yesterday. Tyson, president of our campus Gay/Straight Alliance and my token gay male buddy, sent me a link to watch the footage live on CNN.com. I was in the library at the time and, thus, had really shitty internet, so I raced back to my room, only to fiddle with my Flash player and plugins until 12:59PM, when I finally got the video to work. 'This is it,' I thought as I gripped the sides of my wooden dormroom chair. 'It's been a great morning and this is going to make it even better.'

I watched in silence for a minute or so, not being able to get the sound to work. The swarm of people standing outside the courthouse was astonishing to me, though I had no idea what I had or hadn't missed. Then, I saw people beginning to file away. "What happened?" I literally shouted at my computer screen. "Where are you going?"

The sound kicked in, and I heard a reporter: "Ma'am, why are you so upset?" he was asking somebody off-camera. The mysteriously downtrodden woman went on to explain that she was still considered married, but nobody else was allowed to get married now, and she didn't think that was fair.

I was livid. I had been so anxious, so excited, so... hopeful. All for nothing. Upstairs, Tyson was screaming in his room. My first response? A bitter Facebook status. This turned out to be the right way to go, because within minutes I had at least 15 responses, one of which told me that there was going to be a protest in D.C. that night. Without question, I raced up to Tyson's room and knocked on the door, right below the Post-It note that read, in ink that was probably still wet, "I hate you, California!" Tyson opened the door. "Dupont tonight?" he asked. "Dupont tonight," I replied.

We headed for the Metro station at 5 and made it into D.C. by 7:30. We visited Lambda Rising (which turned out to be more porn and less pride, much to my dismay) and the HRC store (which I have my own moral reservations about, but anyway...). When we passed the circle after emerging from the Metro, there were a few people scattered around the fountain. We couldn't tell who was there for the rally, except for the ones with signs and posters.

When we went back at 8:15, it had filled up like the ladies' room at intermission (oh theatre jokes). Tyson and I immediately pulled out our rainbow flags and held them up, which garnered much attention. We were interviewed for a blog (which can be found here!) and had our picture taken for various websites/publications (coming home that night, we received many text messages saying something akin to: "I JUST SAW YOU ON TV!").

The speakers at the protest were absolutely phenomenal (this is a great video of the highlights from each speaker). I was hoarse from screaming by the end of the night.

I feel so privileged to be able to take part in something this monumental. For those of you that can, get out to a protest and show your support for equal rights for all. For those who can't get out to a rally, write to your senators, congresspeople, and the president and tell them that separate is not and never will be equal!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

A week or so ago, St. Mary's College of Maryland hosted an annual event called "Take Back the Night." Students of all genders were encouraged to gather together to raise awareness of sexual assault and domestic abuse. The name of the event is indicative of its intent: for females to reclaim the night as theirs, instead of a time when they are supposed to fear for their safety and stay indoors.

I sat in the rec room of the Lewis Quad suites and had my mind blown by incredible speakers, dancers, and poets. What struck me most was the invitation for victims to stand up and tell their stories. I was floored and entranced by the five women, students at my college, students who I have taken classes with, eaten meals with, waved to on The Path, who got up and bravely told their stories of abuse, heartbreak, and injustice. Sexual assault is something that, unfortunately, never rings loudest until it hits home. Until you can put a familiar face onto it.

Just today, my partner Sarah sent me a NY Times article that her roommate sent to her. Just from reading the headline, "Is Rape Serious?" I knew I was going to read something that would boil my blood.

I was not wrong. I have never been more angry, appalled, and disappointed with my country than I was after reading this article (and this is including the Swine Flu pandemic which just makes me want to take a baseball bat to my own face).

Did you know that it takes up to one full year to process the evidence presented when a rape is reported?

Did you know that this is only when the "rape kit" (the evidence gathered from the victim's body) is actually used as evidence.

"... in Los Angeles County, there were at last count 12,669 rape kits sitting in police storage facilities. More than 450 of these kits had sat around for more than 10 years, and in many cases, the statute of limitations had expired."


This is unacceptable. How in the hell does our criminal justice system find it appropriate that DNA evidence--evidence that can definitively prove the identity of a rapist--presented in a rape case is not considered to be a top priority? How and when did rape become the least of our worries, and who decided this because I've got one hell of a bone to pick with them.

"Solomon Moore, a colleague of [the author] at The Times, last year wrote about a 43-year-old legal secretary who was raped repeatedly in her home in Los Angeles as her son slept in another room. The attacker forced the woman to clean herself in an attempt to destroy the evidence.

Tim Marcia, the detective on the case, thought this meant that the perpetrator was a habitual offender who would strike again. Mr. Marcia rushed the rape kit to the crime lab but was told to expect a delay of more than one year.

So Mr. Marcia personally drove the kit 350 miles to deliver it to the state lab in Sacramento. Even there, the backlog resulted in a four-month delay — but then it produced a “cold hit,” a match in a database of the DNA of previous offenders.

Yet in the months while the rape kit sat on a shelf, the suspect had allegedly struck twice more. Police said he broke into the homes of a pregnant woman and a 17-year-old girl, sexually assaulting each of them."


This is not okay.

What disturbs me the most about this is that this article was published yesterday. Yesterday. Maybe I'm not as informed as I think I am, but why has it taken until April 2009 for somebody to stand up and say, "Something's fishy here." Why have bigger precautions not been taken? Hell, where is the federal mandate that requires rape kits to be tested within a week of being obtained? Where the fuck are our priorities?

Speak up. Speak out. Forward this article to all your friends, get in contact with your government, and let them know that this is not okay.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Self-Identification Form

So, like the good broke college student that I am, I've spent this, the Friday night of my spring break, filling out job applications for the summer.

Whilst pursuing these endeavors, I made a crack to my best friend about applying to Hallmark, which prides itself on being a fine upstanding Christian establishment, and how hiring me, a queer transgendered anarchist lesbian, would probably go against all of its principles.

Enclosed within the application were three additional papers: one about submitting to a background check, another about living in California (which is irrelevant to me) and another that is called a Self-Indentification Form.

The Self-Identification Form is what I'm here to talk about. The form begins with a disclaimer about the company's non-discrimination clause, which thankfully includes "sexual orientation" and "gender identity." So far, I'm impressed.

Then, the paragraph after that explains that the company allows its employees to self-identify their gender and ethnicity, instead of having to rely on what is stated on birth certificates and driver's licenses. Now, I'm beyond impressed; I'm ecstatic.

After that comes the actual process of self-identifying. The form starts with gender, and is formatted like so:

What is your gender? (Please check only one box)
_ Female _ Male

Um... I'm confused.

...

No, really, that's my answer. I'm confused. What the hell do I check when what gender I am is just as mercurial as what pair of underwear I'm going to put on in the morning? This is almost harder than having to deal with whatever label they slap on you as soon as they pull you out and slap you on the ass. If I check one, I'm lying. If I check the other, I'm still lying. And, not for nothing, when you're an in-the-closet transgender whose mother insists on looking over every job application before submittal, checking "Male" when you've got a vagina raises more than just a couple eyebrows.

I wish I didn't have to complain because this really is an innovative step forward in the process of gender eradication. But it just hasn't gone far enough. What would really have been effective would have been if, after "What is your gender?" the form offered a line upon which one could write their preferred gender. Or, instead of "What is your gender?" they asked "What pronouns do you prefer?" and then either offered options or left a "fill in the blank" space.

In fact, let's expand the whole self-identification form itself:

What is your gender? (Optional) ____________________
What pronouns do you prefer? _____________________
What is your preferred name? _____________________

I know, I know, that's cumbersome. But gender -is- cumbersome, which is why it shouldn't exist at all! In fact, let's remake the Self-Identification Form once more, and erase the "What is your gender?" question altogether. And then let's work on erasing it from EVERY form, and every application, and every conversation we have.

Until then, I'm gonna go sit over here, stare at this paper, and figure out how to check off the space in between the two boxes.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Man, I'm looking majorly frump today. I'm putting the blame on my (unfortunately) healthy reproductive system. Okay, I guess I shouldn't say that, because there are plenty of people with unhealthy reproductive systems that would cook babies for my intact innards (though I feel like that hyperbole is somewhat counterproductive).

But really, this is such a pain, literally and figuratively. And I mean, can't I get a break? I'm not planning on using any of this junk, can't it just take a breather until the time possibly comes? Wouldn't that be just spectacular? Being able to induce menstruation at will, by way of some magical technology ("magical technology" is redundant in my opinion but I'll let it slide). I don't mind all of this stuff being in there, but I could do without the crippling pain, epidermal oil spill, energy drink-resistant fatigue and remnants of a re-enactment of the crucifixion in my pants every 28 days, thanks.

I've always threatened that I'd get a hysterectomy as soon as I could pay for it on my own. This, of course, horrified my mother. I was only half-joking at the time. Upon recent assessment of my monetary stability, I've decided that this is not going to happen for a while, and by that time, my body will have dried itself up on its own. But really, I don't hear many success stories about menopause either...

Every day this surgery thing sounds more and more appealing.

Monday, February 9, 2009

PinkPaper.com

Well, lucky you, the first rant of the blog is a double whammy. Two issues crammed together into one epic first post.

First of all, I find it so hard to believe how the most oppressed groups in a society can still be some of the most exclusive. I just created an account on PinkPaper.com, a gay news website for the UK. When registering for my account, I was asked to provide a title: Mr, Miss, Mrs, Ms, Dr, Rev, or Prof. At the top of the drop-down box was a blank space; I selected that, then continued on to fill out the rest of the form. When I clicked the "Register" button, the page reloaded. I didn't understand why. My internet wasn't on the fritz, I'd clearly pressed the right button... Then I saw it: A little red asterisk next to my "Title" (or, lack there of).

Yes, a website devoted to spreading the good word about gay issues was requiring me to choose a gendered title in order to register for their site. Which seems, to me, to be counterproductive. So, in my bitter angry wiseass genderqueer rage, I selected "Rev" and hit "Register" again. The page loaded without a hitch.

It just didn't seem right to me that a site priding itself on delivering the news of the GLBT community would reject the membership of somebody who didn't feel comfortable choosing a title that implies not only gender but emphasis on married or unmarried status. My good friend Wikipedia tells me that no country in the UK allowed same-sex marriage, though "civil partnerships" are allowed. So, what's the deal, PinkPaper.com?

Then, after calming down, I began to think more clearly, and I did a little exploring. I was stamping the label of "GLBT" on PinkPaper.com, but upon reading the About Us section of the website, I found that PinkPaper.com does not consider itself a GLBT news source--only the G, L, and B. Naturally, then, I cannot hold them responsible for being sympathetic to the T in the equation.

But scattered throughout this article about PinkPaper.com and its purpose is the word "queer." PinkPaper.com considers itself "one of the oldest queer titles." It publishes articles on "modern queer culture." Apparently, the "funniest gay cartoon strip" is entitled "Up Queer Street" and can be found within the folds of the Pink Paper.

Queer is a subjective term, as is, really, any definition you find for an "alternative lifestyle." Does "gay" mean just men who like men, or can a woman who likes women be "gay?" If so, then is "lesbian" also a legitimately interchangeable word for both homosexual men and women? And what about those tricky transgendered people? So, when PinkPaper.com calls itself a queer publication, are they marketing to just G, L, and B? Or is T automatically included? And if the former is true, is PinkPaper.com truly "queer?"

This is beginning to sound like an SAT question: If a G is not an L, but an L is a G, and a B is neither a G nor an L, then where the hell does T fit in and how do we stop this madness?

To me, "queer" includes anyone who does not believe in societally normative heterosexuality on a two-gender binary. This would include a straight male-identified man who likes to wear evening gowns, as well as a gay male-identified man who won't even set foot in a nail salon let alone even know where the nearest one is. Hell, if a straight woman wants to call herself "queer" because her best friend is gay and she stands right next to him at the Anti-Prop 8 rally, she can go right ahead as far as I'm concerned. We are in no position to be picky.

And nobody who fits under the "definition" of "queer" needs to identify as such. Some people are really uncomfortable with reclaiming words with negative connotations. I used to be one of them, and I wish I could get over my fear of the word "dyke." Male-identified woman who loves female-identified men but hates the word "queer?" That's fine. You're still welcome at my dinner table, and I'll call you whatever you like.

However, I feel like if you're going to call yourself a "queer" publication, don't ignore the part of your community that doesn't fit into your standard. The reason the transgender movement is lumped with the gay movement is because many transgendered people are also gay--or, for most, are considered gay/lesbian/bisexual because of other people's closed-mindedness. We didn't just leech onto your movement for lack of anywhere else to go; many of us were already marching in your parades before, during, and after we discovered we were our own not entirely separate entity. We're here, we're QUEER, get used to it.

In summation, PinkPaper.com, I'm hoping that sometime in the near future, when I inevitably forget my password and have to create a new account in order to access your site, I will be able to choose that blank space as my "Title" and never again come face-to-face with that wretched red asterisk.