Posts Tagged ‘community

25
Feb
14

Arizona’s SB1062 Would Have Dangerous Consequences, Faces Backlash or “The Arizona GOP continues to get things very, very wrong.”

The state of Arizona, or at least its legislature, is once again on the anti-queer bandwagon. After last year’s embarrassing fiasco where they attempted to legislate where trans people are allowed to void their bladders, one might have hoped they had learned their lesson. But, the GOP being who it is, they’ve opted to turn their queerphobia up to eleven with their latest jab at the LGBTQ community, SB1062.

SB1062, an amendment to the state’s current statutes on “the free exercise of religion,” codifies a person or company’s right to refuse service to anyone on the basis of their religion without fear of reprisal from government agencies and regardless of any local ordinances to the contrary. It appears to stem from a string of recent incidents around the country where businesses have been sanctioned for refusing service to queer individuals. It’s been approved by both chambers of the Arizona legislature, and it current awaits a signature from GOP Gov. Jan Brewer, who has given little indication of her position on the legislation.

 Previously, this statute granted this right to refuse service based upon religious objection only to any “religious assembly or institution”, but the revised statute would read:

“Person” includes a religious assembly or institution ANY INDIVIDUAL, ASSOCIATION, PARTNERSHIP, CORPORATION, CHURCH, RELIGIOUS ASSEMBLY OR INSTITUTION, ESTATE, TRUST, FOUNDATION OR OTHER LEGAL ENTITY.

This grants the ability of essentially organization, business, or person to access the particular protections of this statute (because really, there aren’t many things that don’t fall into those categories. The particulars of the statute read as such:

41-1493.01. Free exercise of religion protected; definition

4 A. Free exercise of religion is a fundamental right that applies in this state even if laws, rules or other government actions are facially neutral.

7 B. Except as provided in subsection C of this section, state action shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.

The key portion of that pile of legalese is “even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.” Rules of general applicability is a term that stems from a landmark Supreme Court case involving the free exercise of religion clause of the First Amendment, known as Employment Division, Department of Human Resources vs Smith. In it, the Court ruled that a person could not claim exception from a law based upon one’s religious beliefs if the law created rules that were of “general applicability”, that is-that they weren’t particularly targeted to religion or specific religious groups. This means that, as a general rule, people cannot claim exemption from things like employment, housing, or healthcare non-discrimination laws simply because of their particular religious beliefs. However, the proposed Arizona law would specifically enshrine the right of people within that state to ignore essentially ANY state law if they can ground it in their particular religious convictions.

So, what are the implications of a law like this? It means a corporation can adopt a particular religious doctrine and use it to deny service to LGBT individuals. It means religious hospitals can refuse to treat LGBT people. It means perfectly legal “No Gays Allowed” signs on businesses owned by anti-queer religious people. It means pharmacies being able to legally refuse to fill HIV meds, birth control, emergency contraception, and hormones for trans people if the pharmacy or it’s owners have specific religious views.  It could be interpreted to mean that police officers wouldn’t be required to assist LGBT individuals if their personal religious beliefs would be violated in doing so. It would absolutely mean that religious doctors or other healthcare professionals could deny life-saving pregnancy termination procedures to women if it violates their religious beliefs. Given that many racial hate groups use religion to justify their racism, it could mean that companies or organizations could use this law to refuse service to racial minorities Taken to extremes, it could even be used as a potential defense in violent hate crimes (after all, the Bible makes clear that homosexuality [along with lots of other things] is punishable by death), or as a justification for legalized spousal rape or beating (since there’s justification for both in the Bible).

Not surprisingly, the bill has received a huge amount of backlash from everything from feminist and LGBT activists concerned about how the law will be used, to business owners who are concerned that it will have wide reaching effects of tourism in Arizona (a large force in their economy). George Takei wrote a length missive calling for a boycott of Arizona if the bill is signed, and that call has been echoed loudly in the LGBT community. The mayors of Arizona’s largest cities, both of their sitting Senators, and a large contingent of their members of Congress have called of Gov. Brewer to veto the bill. Leaders of the state’s largest business groups wrote to Brewer imploring veto, concerned about opening businesses to potential litigation and having the state branded an unfriendly place for visitors. And in just the last few days, even three member of the state legislature who voted in favor of the bill have come forward urging a veto on the measure, calling passage of the measure a “mistake.’

In the wake of this much pressure, it seems somewhat unlikely that Gov. Brewer would be willing to sign the legislation into law. However, the fact that the bill hit the governor’s desk at all is a very disturbing reminder of to just what lengths the GOP is willing to go to attack the LGBT community. Unfortunately, this is also far from an isolated incident. Similar bills attempting to enshrine the legal right to discriminate using a smoke-screen of religious liberty have been introduced in Ohio ,Idaho, Mississippi, and several other states recently, though none have yet progressed as far as the legislation in Arizona.

Despite the progress made in areas like marriage equality, the fight for equal rights and equal protections for LGBT individuals is FAR from over, and it appears that this new round of “religious objection” legislation represents the Republicans’ next volley in the pushback against the progress that has been made in the movement for equality for queer people.

 

 (Author’s note:  This is a significant simplification of the case law here, interpreted and explained by a scientist, not a lawyer.)

22
Feb
14

An Empty Gesture for Trans Students, or “Why the new VHSL policy on transgender student athletes helps no one.”

Policies about transgender students have been in the headlines for months, largely due to the signing and subsequent backlash against California’s AB1266, which significantly advanced protections and freedoms for transgender students throughout the state. Recently, the Virginia State High School League (VHSL), the state’s governing body for high school athletics, announced new rules that they claim allow the inclusion of transgender athletes on teams of their identified gender. They’ve pretty quick to congratulate themselves for being so progressive, and the mainstream press has given them a lot of credit for updating their policies for “inclusiveness”.

Unfortunately, either no one in the VHSL did even the slightest bit of research about trans issues, or the entire rule was designed to give the appearance of inclusiveness without actually making real changes. You see, the rule requires that students have undergone gender confirmation surgery (specifically genital surgery) in order to participate. The rule reads as follows:

Virginia High School League rules and regulations allow transgender student-athlete participation under the following conditions:

A. A student-athlete will compete in the gender of their birth certificate unless they have undergone sex reassignment.

B. A student-athlete who has undergone sex reassignment is eligible to compete in the reassigned gender when:

1. The student-athlete has undergone sex reassignment before puberty, or

2. The student-athlete has undergone sex reassignment after puberty under all of the following conditions:

a. Surgical anatomical changes have been completed, including external genitalia changes and gonadectomy.

b. Hormonal therapy appropriate for the assigned sex has been administered in a verifiable manner and for a sufficient length of time to minimize gender-related advantages in sports competition.

c. If a student-athlete stops taking hormonal treatment, they will be required to participate in the sport consistent with their birth gender.

C. A student-athlete seeking to participate as a result of sex reassignment must access the VHSL eligibility appeals process.

[Emphasis Mine]

 

That’s a pretty huge problem for many reasons. The largest of these is the current Standards of Care of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH). The Standards of Care function as the guiding documents for pretty much all health professionals involved in trans medical care, and their guidelines for surgery are very specific (and almost no surgeon is willing to go against them). They read:

Criteria for metoidioplasty or phalloplasty

in FtM patients and for vaginoplasty in MtF

patients:

1. Persistent, well-documented gender dys-

phoria;

2. Capacity to make a fully informed decision

and to consent for treatment;

3. Age of majority in a given country;

4. If significant medical or mental health

concerns are present, they must be well

controlled;

5. 12 continuous months of hormone therapy

as appropriate to the patient’s gender

goals (unless hormones are not clinically

indicated for the individual).

6. 12 continuous months of living in a gender

role that is congruent with the patient’s

identity

[Emphasis mine]

In the US, the age of majority is 18. Last time I checked, there weren’t exactly a ton of 18-year-olds running around high schools- just a few seniors with really early birthdays. That’s not very many students who have even a glimmer of hope of meeting all the criteria of this policy. Given that genital surgery has quite a long recovery period (stretching months after the surgery), I don’t quite see how this policy is going allow pretty much ANY trans students to participate in high school sports in Virginia. If the members of the VHSL had bothered to ask a practitioner specializing in trans health, or to even just read the WPATH Standards of Care, they’d have been aware of this fact.

As a corollary, this policy isn’t even based upon anything approaching actual medical science. Last time I checked, the mere presence of a penis didn’t make you run faster, jump higher, or give one any other advantage in athletics. Hormonal transition, particularly in adolescents, fundamentally alters body phenotype and shuts down sex hormone production in the gonads, meaning there’s no competitive advantage is gained by simply HAVING your birth gonads. The changes in response to hormone are particularly rapid and profound in adolescents, so any arguments about requiring GCS to mitigate “competitive advantage” are pretty much scientifically bunk.

Furthermore, even IF the WPATH criteria didn’t preclude minors from having GCS, it remains an extraordinarily expensive medical procedure that is rarely covered by insurance, and only a minority of trans people will complete it in their lifetime, let alone someone still under the care of their parents. Lastly, this policy is horrifically ignorant just what a major decisions having GCS is for a trans person. Not only is it very invasive and full of risks, but it has a lifetime of physical consequences, and it puts a permanent end to a person’s ability to have biological children. It’s a decision that full-grown adults in their 30s struggle with, and it’s complete unreasonable to expect a teenager to make such a decision simply to play a game.

And really, what we’re talking about is high school sports, a bunch of teenager playing a game…not big-money college athletics or professional/world-class athletes. High school sports are supposed to be primarily about learning team-work, sportsmanship, keeping teenagers physically active, and providing a factor to drive student body unity. (Yes, I’m aware that lots of people take them FAR more seriously than that, but that’s another essay topic entirely). At the end of the day, the stakes are embarrassingly small to be this paranoid about someone having a competitive advantage, or to deny trans students the opportunity to participate in an activity that gives them the opportunity to integrate with cisgender peers.

So, really, what can we conclude? Either the VHSL is woefully ignorant about trans issues and far too lazy to actually research a topic before issuing a rule that affects an already heavily discriminated-against student population, or they were seeking the praise and hoping to appear “progressive” and “forward-thinking” without actually making any changes that would allow trans athletes to participate. In either case, it’s a big disappointment for trans students in Virginia, who deserve much better than this sad, lip-service-at-best policy.

09
Jan
14

5 Things You Should Stop Doing To Your Post-Transition Trans Friends, or “Some things your trans friends might be too polite to ask you to stop doing.”

So, here I am falling into another terrible blogger cliche, and using the age-old internet crutch: the list article. There are all kinds of wonderful lists about things you shouldn’t say to trans people. Like this one from Matt Kailey at Tranifesto, and this one from Justin Cascio at One in Six Trans Men. But those are general, all purpose, “these are the things that make you look like a total asshole” lists…this is an area that I don’t think has been covered very much. While the medical part of transition can go on for years and years (depending on hormones, surgical choices, etc), there comes a point relatively quickly where the rest of transition is essentially complete. For me, that point really hit when my name change occurred. I was already living full-time at that point, and it really marked the point where the bulk of the “journey” portion of transition was over. When that point hits, it’s time to think about how you approach certain conversational topics with your trans friend(s), as the reality of the situation is often rather different than it as a few months (or a year or two) before.For those of you who have been awesome enough to stick by a trans friend through transition, or who met a new friend during an early stage of transition, the evolution of conversation can be difficult once they reach what I tend to call “post-transition”. Sometimes things that really were supportive and helpful early on start to feel a little overwrought or repetitive as time goes on.  So, with that in mind, here are 5 things you should definitely stop doing to your post-transition trans friends:

1. Stop introducing them as, or referring to them as your “trans*” friend. I know…when it’s early in transition, and we’re either not feeling terribly confident about our appearance or having difficulty “blending in”, it can feel necessary to give people a heads-up to avoid potential awkwardness. It’s still not exactly a great thing to do to even then, but I’ll give it a bit of a pass. But seriously, let go once things are settled down! I know it can feel like you’re embracing their identity and demonstrating your support by talking about (or introducing) them as your “totally awesome trans* friend,” but it’s kinda like introducing someone as your “totally awesome circumcised friend.” You’re sharing private information about our genitals to a stranger.  Not everyone in the world needs to know that we’re trans, and it really should be our decision when and how we disclose it.

2. Stop asking about “how things are going with the whole [transition/hormone/etc] thing” every time you see us. Again, this is one of those things that I know you probably feel is being really supportive. But we reach a point where we get tired of talking about transition-related stuff every time we see friends. It starts to feel like it’s biggest thing our friends see about us (which I’m sure it actually isn’t, but still). Once someone is living full-time and on hormones, there’s usually not a ton of day-to-day (or even month-to- month) news. Do you really want to hear “well, I think my breasts grew like a millimeter or two, and I have like 3% less body hair” every time we talk?

3. Stop telling us how brave you think we are for transitioning every time you see us. Honestly, it’d be nice if people would give this up after the initial “coming out” conversation. Once again, I KNOW this meant to convey support, but I’ll be perfectly honest…I don’t generally think of myself as brave. I think of myself as doing what I had to do to survive, and I’ve had other trans people echo this sentiment. I understand that from the outside, you might see it as a very brave act. I think it’s a perfectly fine (and often encouraging) sentiment to express right after someone comes out. But when it happens half a dozen (or more) times, it starts to feel like (for me at least) like I’m battling something like cancer. In any case, it’s definitely not something you need to declare every time you see us.

4. Stop commenting about “how far we’ve come along.” And definitely stop giving them a serious appraising look every time you see them. This is especially the case if you’re saying things like “Gosh, you look just like a real girl!” I know that personally, this makes me feel like I’m being examined and scrutinized, which is absolutely panic-inducing. Plus, it has a subtle hint to it that you previously thought they looked badly (or at least worse than they do now). It’s much better to let us point out the changes we’re excited about (if there are any) than to suggest that you were examining them looking for the changes that might have occurred.

5. Stop asking us what the “next step” is in our transition. This is one of those things that I think people say in order to demonstrate that they’re interested in this big thing going on in our lives. But for a lot of us, once the metaphorical dust has settled (i.e. we’re living full-time, our names are changed, etc), it’s just kind of…life. We might not be taking any more “steps” at all, or any other steps might be a long way off. In either case, it can make us feel a bit like “crikey, isn’t this enough?”. The early stages of social and medical transition are a whirlwind of change and process, and once we get through, we’re often burned out on thinking/talking about the process itself. Again, let US broach this subject if there is, indeed, a next step coming up for us.

So you’re saying “Shit, I’m so used to talking about the gender/transition stuff…now what do I talk about?” If you have a brain fart about what else to say/do in place of the above, try one of the following:

1. Tell them they look amazing (without qualifiers). By this I mean not “You look amazing for someone born a man!” or “You look so good for a trans woman!” and so on. Just give a sincere, unqualified compliment (i.e. “Wow, you look fantastic!” or “Gosh, your hair is gorgeous!”). It’s a nice little boost to our confidence without reminders that you’re thinking about our gender identity.

2. Ask them about something new or exciting in their lives not related to transition. Did your friend start a new job recently? Meet a new partner? Get a new cat? Finish a degree? Take a Hawaiian vacation? Take up the art of blind-folded flower arranging? They’re your friend, so hopefully you know about SOMETHING in their lives other than the fact that they’ve been going through transition. Everyone loves the chance to gush about the new thing they’re excited about, and it’s a reminder that you see them as a whole person.

3. Give them a genuine, unhesitating gesture of affection. Hugs are good, if you’re the hugging sort. Gentle shoulder touch, friendly punch-in-the-arm, air kisses, or intricate secret-society handshake are also options if they’re the sort of thing you and your friend are comfortable with. I definitely don’t advocate UNWANTED affection of any kind (seriously, they’re your friend…you should know what kinds of friendly affection they find acceptable/unacceptable). The genuine, unhesitating part is important! Even the best, most accepting of allies/friends can get a little weird/uncomfortable about how physical interactions with their trans friends work post-transition, and we can definitely sense that hesitation (or at least I can). Unhesitating affection signals a degree of acceptance that isn’t always easy to express through words.

Final note: This is not the sort of list that is meant to AT ALL belittle or insult the allies of trans people, so please don’t take it the wrong way and send me hate mail. Allies deserve a bajillion thank-yous for standing by us, and there’s zero implication here that doing any of these five things makes you a bad person…it’s just an opportunity to point out some things that can help make better allies (and friends).

07
Jan
14

Toronto Story About Transgender Locker Room Harasser is a Hoax, or “How a Toronto Star journalist fails at integrity (and journalism).”

Toronto newspaper pushes trans hoax, claims no duty to fact check | The Transadvocate.

So, over the weekend, the Toronto Star’s Ethics columnist published a response to a email from a “senior woman” claiming she was harassed by a “a “man” claiming to be transgender, who had not yet begun physical treatments” (their quotes not mine) while using the locker room at her local YMCA. This columnist then provided what was, by most accounts, a very trans-friendly and open-minded response, going so far as to point out that “transgender women, regardless of their status regarding surgical intervention, have the absolute right to use the women’s change room.”
I read this piece over the weekend in my usual perusal of the headlines for possible commentary, was shocked to hear about the initial claim, but generally pleased with how the writer handled with question.

However, the talented Cristan Williams over at TransAdvocate decided to investigate further and actually called all of the Toronto area YMCAs to see if such an incident had actually occurred. In news that comes a no shock to pretty much anyone…none of them had any idea what she was talking about! Upon contacting the columnist, he responded that it was not his responsibility to verify the accounts he’s given and essentially shirked all responsibility for fact-checking his piece.

Here’s the issue with that notion. While I understand that what he’s writing is functionally an advice column, the piece pretty specifically brings up a VERY sensitive issue, which is cis people’s fear of being harassed by trans or “trans-posing” people in locker rooms and bathrooms. It’s not as though the letter was asking for advice in how to deal with a boss who’s stealing, or a spouse who’s unfaithful…this is a story that the potential to do real harm to the trans community. One of the largest arguments made against allowing trans people to use public restrooms and locker rooms of their identified genders is precisely the fear that this hoax of a story hits on and propagates. It’s ammo for the right-wingers to curtail our basic human rights, and he had an absolute responsibility to do at least a basic fact check of the circumstances before letting such a tale go to press in a major newspaper. Failing the author’s responsibility to fact check, the editor also had a responsibility to ensure all i’s had been dotted before allowing such a potentially inflammatory yarn make it to print.

I also happened to notice that while the story’s headline at least manages to properly refer to the alleged harasser (and apparently non-existent) harasser proper as a “transgender woman”, the URL very definitely says “transgender man”. It’s a microaggression, but still definitely another black mark against the Star in this situation.

I’d like to be able to give the Toronto Star and this columnist the benefit of the doubt on this, but given the way all stories involving trans people are sensationalized for readership throughout the media, I’m finding that difficult. Toronto Star, you owe us a correction, and an apology.

06
Jan
14

Queer Girls on the Autism Spectrum, or “Why it’s awesome to hear other’s discussing the unique challenges at the intersection of queer and ASD.”

Body as a Second Language: Navigating Queer Girl Culture on the Autism Spectrum | Autostraddle.

As I’ve mentioned a few times throughout this blog (including right here in the about section), I’m both queer and on the autism spectrum. And while I’ve certainly discussed both of these items extensively, I’ve always found it challenging to discuss how they can intersect. I’ve hunted around the blogosphere a bit over the last year or so for other queer folks on the spectrum, but while there seem to be a fair number of trans folks in the ASD world, queer women are a little less common, and there are even fewer (read: almost none) writing about how their experiences with autism and queer life interact.

So, I was both surprised and delighted to come across this wonderful (and quite comprehensive) piece from Emily Brooks on Autostraddle. I’m certainly not going to rob Emily of much-deserved page views by quoting large swaths of her article, but a few things really hit home for me (and gave me a sense of being not such an outlier). This bit in particularly feels like it came right from my own head:

Picking someone up not only requires recognizing flirtation in others and being aware of what signals you’re sending, but also the confidence to keep interacting after years of disappointment, combating the weight of past social failure. In some ways, I’ve got less practical knowledge than people half my age.

I hope a piece like this starts a dialogue on autism spectrum folks within the queer community and inspires more of us to share our stories and unique experiences, and perhaps helps some neurotypical folks gain some insight into the unique frustrations faces by queer autistic women.

 

 

04
Jan
14

On Stealth in the Trans Community, or “How I accidently slipped into invisiblity, nearly lost myself, and came out wiser for it.”

The concept of stealth is oft-debated and fairly controversial topic within the trans community. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept, the general connotation is the idea of living one’s life without disclosing or acknowledging their pre-transition life. In the most classic sense of the term, it generally refers to a transwoman who- after GCS- does everything possible to erase evidence that she had ever been male-assigned and never discloses it again, often asking family to lie/conceal their pre-transition life, and/or otherwise completely cutting off from those who had known them before transition. As the trans community has evolved, the notions of just what exactly is and is not “stealth” have become far grayer. Can a non-op transwoman go stealth? Is it stealth if you deny your trans status to everyone but your romantic partner? What about simply blending in and not explicitly mentioning one’s trans status to casual acquaintances? Perhaps most importantly, given how trans people are treated in society, is going stealth really such a bad thing? I previously discussed the problem of disclosure to one’s sexual partners, but this issue is far thornier, and my views have definitely evolved as I’ve moved through my own transition.

Defining what exactly “IS stealth” is complicated, and the breadth of opinion within the community appears to be fairly wide. For me, I tend to put the dividing line at “active deception”…that is, you venture into “living stealth” when you’re starting to actively lie. Again, I know there’s some gray area here, after all, most would argue that an lie of omission is still a lie. But, to me, I don’t feel that we have any requirement to disclose pretty much anything about ourselves (and I mean ANY of us, cis or trans) to complete strangers or casual acquaintances. Quite simply, everyone is entitled to keep private what they feel is personal, private information.  The wonderful folks over at TransAdvocate did quite a fantastic series on stealth over the summer that hit on a lot of my general feelings on the matter, and this piece from Cristan Williams hits the nail right on the head. She writes:

Not telling the grocery sacker that you’re trans is not stealth. Trying to get your parents to lie to your new boyfriend is being stealth. Not telling every co-worker in the building that you’re trans is not being stealth. Not telling your best friend is being stealth.

There are tend to be generally two major camps of opinion regarding the acceptability of going stealth: those who believe it’s a completely reasonable thing to do given the current climate of transphobia, and those who hold that stealth is a betrayal of the queer (particularly trans) community. For those who hold to the acceptability of stealth, one of the primary arguments is often that being trans is mostly a medical problem, and once that problem (one’s incongruent assigned-at-birth sex) is corrected, there’s no longer any need to identify or come out as trans. Other simply argue that if you have the ability to do so (owing to one’s attractiveness, ability obtain GCS, etc), then why should you? One the other side, there are many who believe that slipping into a stealth life deprives the trans community of much needed visibility. After all, many of the large gains in LGB acceptance are due to the visibility and personal relationships that LGB folks have developed, and this has been born out in numerous polls. Additionally, some argue that the trans community is often the only support available for trans people- especially early on their transition, and that the voices of those who have successfully transitioned are sorely needed as examples and role-models for those just starting out, and therefore to “turn your back” on the community that supported you is unacceptable. Of course, the arguments on both sides of this issue go considerably further, but that’s pretty much the gist of it.

For me, I spent much of the early part of my transition firmly in the “stealth is not okay” camp. I’m definitely not at all ashamed of being a trans woman, and I feel that being visible and vocal IS the best way for us to make progress for our teeny-tiny majority. Of course, it’s also an easy thing to say when almost everyone around you has known you before and through your transition. I was lucky enough to have very supportive friends who stuck with me, so I didn’t really encounter the choice to not disclose my trans status. Even new people in the early days who only knew me in a female presentation were always aware that I’m trans right off the bat. I’m not going to say that I ran around in public wearing a giant “HEY EVERYBODY, I’M TRANSGENDER” sign, but as I’ve mentioned before…I don’t think not telling every single stranger has anything to do with stealth (after all, no one tells every stranger in the street about what their genitals look like!).

As it turns out, the chance to get a fresh start can give you quite a shift in perspective. When I left my full-time career job to return to University for my PhD, I suddenly found myself in an environment where nobody knew anything about me. A few of the faculty were aware, as I hadn’t yet finished changing my name, but other than that I was just some random, shy new girl to everyone else. For the first few weeks, I was DEAD sure everyone knew I was trans and that I was totally delusional about this “fresh start” business. But, as I slowly drew up the courage to converse with classmates (particularly the other girls in my program), I realized that I had quietly slid into cis-assumption. And, I have to admit…it was really, really nice. No Trans 101, no awkward stairs while people try to pick out the incongruencies that would give aware my birth sex, no avoidant or hesitant conversations. At times, I’d begin to wonder if someone had finally picked up on something that would get me clocked, but then I’d be feeling unwell and someone would ask if it was my ‘time of the month”, or something along those lines. I even once made a major slip and mentioned my complete avoidance of Catholic hospitals because of my fear of being left to die, to which my wonderful classmate said “Well, it’s not like you HAVE to tell them that you’re gay!”. So as the weeks stretched into months, the idea that I HAD to tell everyone that I’m a trans woman slowly drifted to background…it became easier to just skip around the potential issues and make the small revisions to my personal history to make it congruent with what they perceive of me. Initially, I chalked it up to “oh, well, I don’t know these people! It’s none of their business!”. Once I got to know a few people better, I told myself that I was just protecting myself…life was already stressful enough in grad school, why should I risk making it worse by coming out? About two-thirds of the way into the semester, it really hit me- I had edged into the gray outer reaches of stealth. While I’m not asking anyone to lie for me, I am being revisionist about my personal history for the sake of “passing”, and that’s definitely active deception.

Again, I just kinda put it to the back of my mind for a long while, as I had numerous other personal stresses to deal with at the time. For the a good portion of the semester, I had actually put pretty much ALL thoughts about trans/queer/feminist issues and most of my activist tendencies on hold so I could focus completely on brutally difficult core classes in my PhD program. However, as I reached the last few weeks of Fall semester and my brain gradually unfogged from the extreme studying, I realized how much I missed all of that…which in turn led me to serious examine my being semi-stealth when it comes school. I have to admit now, that I’m bothered by my behavior. Sure, I’m being visible for queer women (which is, of course, important!) as a whole, but my stealthy-ness isn’t do a damn thing for the trans community, and that’s not at all like me. I feel like I’m bending to will of cis-society, being a “good” trans girl by not making a fuss and quietly going about my business. Furthermore, it really started to erode my personal identity…I wasn’t being ME; I was being the person that society wanted to be. And it happened EASILY…it’s the path of least resistance in many sense. And as I said, I even enjoyed to an extent. It’s forced a major shift in my perceptions of stealth and those who choose it.

I still definitely want people to not be stealth…I do think it’s harmful on a personal level, and I’ve now personally experienced how easily it can start to erode your own identity. But even more, I want to live in a world where no one ever feels like they HAVE to go stealth, where trans people are just as loved and accepted as anyone else. I’ve previously harbored some pretty negative feelings about stealth trans people, and certainly made some fairly negative statements about them. And for that, I’m sorry. Being trans is among the most difficult situations that can be thrust upon a person, and anyone who manages to survive it and live a life that makes them happy should be celebrated…even if they choose to distance themselves from our community. If stealth is way that makes your life happy and livable, I support you. If being out and proud is what makes you happy, I support you and stand with you. To that end, I’m ready to start being more visible. I’m ready to shake people’s perceptions of what a trans woman is, and to be a success story in the sciences that we really need. I’m scared to death to do it, but I know it’s only way to really do what I set to do when made the decision to transition: to live my life genuinely as the real me.

25
Dec
13

Happy Holidays, or “I’m not quite dead!”

So, my hiatus from blogging lasted considerably longer than I had hoped. In the first few weeks of my first semester of graduate school, I had sincerely hoped that I’d find a comparatively normal work-life balance. Sadly, that turned out to just not be the case, and I needed to remain completely focused on classwork and research for the entirety of the semester. But, now that hoops have been jumped through (which I’ll talk about in a later post), I’m looking forward to making time for regular posts once again. I already have several new pieces underway, plus a year-end review!

In the mean time, I just wanted to share send wishings of Happy Holidays to everyone, and particularly to those who are either forced to spend time with unaccepting family, or simply have no one at all because of their choice to live genuinely (in whatever way that might be relevant to you). I’m having a bit of a challenging holiday myself, and I just wanted everyone to know that they’re not forgotten, and that there’s more love in the world than just the kind that comes from blood family.

So Happy Holidays to my trans sisters and brothers, my LGBTQIA+ compatriots, my fellow feminist warriors, all the allies of the world, nerds everywhere, my chosen family, and the members of my blood family who DO support and accept me me.

Remember always that you are loved, and worthy of love.

-TheTNF

07
Aug
13

ABC News Editor De-Transitions (maybe), or “There, and back again: a case of tragic media sensationalism.”

Transgender News Editor Says He’s Not Transgender Anymore – Dawn Ennis Becomes Don Ennis Again – Cosmopolitan.

 

If you read my little corner of the interwebs with any regularity, you might be a little shocked to see me linking to a story from Cosmopolitan. Hell, I’m shocked to BE linking a story from Cosmo. But, as this story pretty fresh in the headlines, this is actually the only piece so far that seems to cover all the facts AND isn’t incredibly transphobic. So, +1 in the good column for Cosmo for once.  As I read and researched this particular story, I was weary of even writing a commentary. But it’s one of those thing that’s just entirely too visible and has the potential to do a lot of harm to just stick my head in the sand over.

So, I’ll start, as I so often to do, with the background. A few months back, Don Ennis, a producer with ABC News came out proudly and publicly as a trans woman, and announced she would now be living her life as Dawn. My heart went out to her; transitioning later in life, particularly with a very public job, is a very scary thing and she was handling it quite bravely. Overall, the media handled it fairly respectfully, and I was impressed. The story sat on my queue for commentary for a few days, but I couldn’t come up with a ton of meaningful commentary other than “Go Dawn!”, so I put my writing energies into other pieces. Well, today Dawn announced that she was returning to life as Don, and that the entire thing had been a big misdiagnosis and misunderstanding. Dawn explains in an email to colleagues that she had been suffering from a hormonal imbalance for years and that it had been triggered by being given female hormones by her mother so that she could continue a career as a child-actor. She goes on to explain that she recently suffered from a episode of transient global amnesia that took him back to a point where he hadn’t identified as female, and that following her recovery from that episode, she no longer suffered from gender dysphoria.

There are just so many things frustrating and confusing about this situation. The biggest challenge here is that the story was first covered by the New York Post, a source that I out-and-out refuse to link to because I believe it lacks anything even approaching journalistic integrity. As far as I have been able to locate through the magic of my google-fu, the full text of the email isn’t available anywhere, nor has Dawn released any official public statement. I searched high and low for a way to contact her and confirm this story directly (other than tweeting directly at her, which felt accusatory and cruel), and came up empty. So, there’s no way to verify that what the Post is reporting is even factual. Trans people make easy targets for this kind of harassment, so I place it as entirely plausable that this entire situation is a concoction of some kind designed to grab headlines and thoroughly humiliate Ms Ennis. [Note, I’m continuing to use to refer to her as female as I cannot find any secondary verification of this story). I am catagorically NOT accusing anyone of doing this, just posing it as a possibility that cannot be eliminated.

So, since I’m unwilling to take it as fact that there’s truth to the situation, the rest of my commentary here is framed in the hypothetical that the article is true. If this does turn out to be true, there’s a lot that doesn’t add up. I’m not going to tear it all apart, because I feel like there’s enough of that already going on with this story. But, I will say that experience that’s allegedly described in the email regarding “transient global amnesia” doesn’t seem to fit the literature descriptions of this condition. That, combined with some of the other pieces of her statements both when coming out and in this alleged email, point to possibility of someone who wasn’t quite prepared for the stresses and complications that living full-time entail, and retreated back from the progress she had made. She certainly wouldn’t be the first trans person to do so, and I don’t think anyone who’s lived through transition could blame her. Given that her transition and career were in a very public sphere, it may be that she felt a pressure to come up with an explanation for her de-transitioning (the most common term for returning to your birth gender after beginning transition), and thus the TGA story. Another possibility is that she doesn’t fall as firmly on the “woman” side of the spectrum of gender identity as she had initially thought, and that her time living as a woman left her continuing to feel conflicted,  her ultimate decision was to return to her male life. Again, that’s a completely legitimate experience. Once more, that kind of sudden change back may feel like it requires a lot of explanation even if you didn’t make national headlines when you came out…I can only begin to imagine the pressure she would have felt to explain herself, no matter what the “real” reason for her de-transition. Other possibilities (including that her story is 100% true) exist. Whatever the reasons and/or causes, this is ultimately her decision, and she shouldn’t HAVE to explain it to anyone (aside from, to a certain extent, her wife and children). Ultimately, transition (and by extension de-transition) are personal, medical decisions and the motivations behind them aren’t anyone’s business but our own.  Parker Marie over at Park That Car wrote a wonderful open letter to Dawn (or Don) that touches on some of these issues beautifully.

On a final note, I want to cover why stories like these are so dangerous and why they leave me so concerned and upset. Transgender people have suffered a long, difficult up-hills slog towards the very marginal acceptance we currently have in society. Many people still view our situation with skepticism at best, vitriolic disgust and violent hatred at worst. When a case like this breaks into the headlines, it grabs attention so much more than the many thousands of positive transition stories from blogs, Twitter feeds, and Facebook pages around the world. It gives the transphobic activists munition to drum up fear of us, and it endangers baby steps of progress we make each day. Transgender stories are still all too often treated a titillating “weird news” with no respect for the people or communities involved. Transgender topics remain inherently sensational, and negative stories about trans people even more so. Not a single post or article beyond the Cosmo posting and Parker’s Open letter even begin to touch on how this might affect the transgender community as a whole, or takes absolutely any steps to clarify that the experiences of Ms Ennis are an extremely unusual case and should not be extrapolated to other transgender individuals. That kind of failure just spreads more wrong or misguided ideas about the trans community and transition, which must, in turn, be debunked and disproved by our community in our writing and conversations.  The media as a whole needs to seriously examine how it treats transgender people and topics, and maybe think about treating like us actual human beings. It’s simply unacceptable that any trans related topic that makes the news continues to be reported as if it were some seedy criminal sex scandal.

Oh, and just for the record, and to ensure that I’m thoroughly communicating where all of this has gone wrong, let’s dispel some of the notions the coverage around this story may have created. The cause of gender dyphoria/gender identity disorder is still largely unknown; we were not all given cross-gender hormones by our parents as children. We’ve also generally pretty much always felt this way; we don’t just randomly wake-up one day with gender dysphoria, nor does it just suddenly vanish one day. Inducing an episode of transient global amnesia will not “cure” gender dysphoria. Finally, transition is a complicated and difficult process and not everyone has the social, economic, or psychological resources to undertake it. Just because someone decides to not continue with transition does not invalidate their gender dysphoria, nor does it invalidate the dysphoria and transition decisions of anyone else.

If it turns out this story is just hokum, then I’m dreadfully sorry to Dawn for dragging her name through something so ugly, and I will replace this story with a lengthy evisceration of the Post as soon as I figure out what happened. If the story is legitimate, then I wish Don the best, and hope that the decisions he has made are the ones that will bring him happiness.

24
Jul
13

Violent Homophobic Rhetoric in Ontario, or “Two brave women in Kingston are calling out some cowards.”

Letters To Kingston Lesbians Contain Bizarre, Troubling Threats (PHOTOS).

Here’s one of those items that I feel like I needed to share just to give more give more light to just how incredibly disturbing this is, and to make sure people realize that these sorts of things still go on and that our work as advocates isn’t even close to done.  A lesbian couple in Kingston, Ontario recently received some very disturbing hate mail, demanding they move out of town, or face violence. The first note is a page-long demand letter, addressed to “Lesbian Bitches,” and it lays out the plan of a supposed “small but dedicated group of Kingston residents” to force all homosexuals out of the city. They claim to have a “head office in the Deep South”, and to have successfully forced out several other people in the area, and it includes some fairly ominous threats including “You are not going to be safe at home, office or anywhere else”. A followup letter came days later (I guess they were expecting these women to just pack up and leave town in a day or two.) This is a much shorter letter addressed to “lesbos” informing them that they have purchased BB guns for their children which are intended to be used to “hunt them down” because “what better targets than you.” It ends with a note that these “fun and games” will turn “deadly serious.”

I’m just sickened by this entire thing. I’d like to think that this is the work of one or a very very small handful of truly deranged homophobes, and that swift action by the Kingston Police and the RCMP will find these idiots before this actually escalates into physical violence. I’m hoping against hope that there aren’t actually any children being indoctrinated into this kind of culture of hate and violence, and it’s all just more ploy for their sick game. But the realist in me has to admit that homophobia, even the violent and aggressive kind, is still alive and well that it’s entirely possible that some underground hate group IS operating in Kingston and legitimately threatening the physical safety of the LGBT community in that area (the letters themselves are threats enough to their psychological safety, even if they’re BS).

I applaud the response of these fantastic women, who have remained defiant in the face of these threats. They’ve peacefully protested this garbage by continuing on with their lives, publicly exposing the threats made (even writing about it on HuffPo), and packing their front porch with supportive friends and neighbors. I was really moved by the last few lines of her post about the situation:

As we make a point of facing these threats publicly, we can’t ignore the corrosive effect this all has on our imagination. It’s odd to be surrounded by all the support in the real and virtual world, and yet still think suspicious, fearful thoughts about passers-by. The deluge can happen in an instant, but climate change — both the physical and the social varieties — has been building for years. It has history behind it. So relocation offers aside, we’ll stay on our front porch with our friends, to take cover and peacefully stand our ground.

It’s sad to realize that such ugly homophobia can still pop up in an area as progressive as Ontario, but it’s reassuring to know that our community remains steadfast in it’s strength to withstand these kinds of attacks. Bravo, ladies.

19
Jul
13

#16, or “Finally we have marriage quality…in the UK.”

Britain Legalizes Gay Marriage.

The United Kingdom has now become the 16th nation in the world to  legalize gay marriage. With the largely ceremonial assent of the Queen, queer couple in England and Wales may now legally wed their partners and enjoy all the legal protections afforded to spouses. The law only applies to England and Wales as the individual Parliaments of Scotland and North Ireland have a degree of self-determination under current UK law. Similar legislation has already been introduced in Scotland is is expected to pass this year; same-same marriage remains officially banned in far more conservative North Ireland.

Congratulations, all you fine Brits! I look forward to seeing photos of many happy British gay weddings over the next weeks. With each new country that embraces the notions of marriage equality, the US (the supposed Leader of the Free World) falls farther and farther behind in the human rights. Even Argentina and Brazil, two countries where Catholicism is the predominant religion and socially conservative views are popular, marriage equality has been enacted. It’s about time we see some movement on a national law to enshrine this important right into law.




A blog about nerdy things, feminist thoughts, and queer/trans life. It's full of rants, opinions, and personal stories. I don't claim to speak for absolutely anyone but myself. Read at your own risk.

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