A New Safe Space in Chicago, or “Service, space, and community? What a concept!”

Chicago House opens nation’s first transgender housing.

My hat is off to some really wonderful people in Chicago today. Chicago House has pulled out all the stops to set up a safe living space for at-risk trans people in the greater Chicago area called the TransLife Center. It’s part of a larger organization effort they’ve titled the TransLife Project to improve the lives of transgender individuals in Chicago. As many of you may know, housing security is a huge concern for transgender people, and we suffer from a much higher-than-average rate of homelessness. Although Chicago House is primarily a organization geared towards caring for those with HIV/AIDS, they have recently expanded their efforts with the trans community at the urging of activists within their troup. The TLC will be a space where trans people can live safely if they are need as they get on their feet (transitional housing), as well as get access to employment services and health care. I think this will be a huge boon to the community of Chicago.

I think it would be fantastic to see groups in other cities follow this model and make sure that vulnerable trans people do not fall through the cracks and end up on the street or worse. The rates of suicide and homicide for the transgender community are very high, and homelessness only increases those risks.

Kudos to you, Chicago House, for all your hard work!

GOP Move to Ban Rainbow Flag, or “Republicans will find any excuse to be a jerk to the queer community.”

Louisiana Republican Introduces Bill To Ban LGBT Rainbow Flag From Public Buildings | ThinkProgress.

Here we go again. A in Louisiana war veteran saw a picture of a Pride Flag being hoisted after the DOMA Supreme Court decision, and decided he was offended. This seemed so important to a Parish-Councilman that he decided to write legislation banning all “non-governmental” flags.

What really gets me here is that the GOP is trying to walk this back as “not against the gays.” But the words used by the offended veteran are:

 

I did not go overseas and fight for our country so that we could come back and be subject to something like that. Several of us feel that the flying of this flag is a poke in the eye of a way of life.

To me that reads of “I didn’t serve in the military and fight for our country to come back and have to see people being queer in public. Seeing that flag flying grosses us out.”

I have a great deal of respect for military personnel and the sacrifices they make. However, it doesn’t make your viewpoints any more valid or important than anyone else’s. People were hoisting the Pride Flag as a victory celebration for one of the biggest steps forward for our community in the history of this country. No other flags were taken down for the ceremony, and the Pride Flag wasn’t flown above any US flags.

Really, doesn’t Louisiana have more pressing issues than the Pride Flag? It sounds like just another excuse to kick dirt in the face of the LGBTQ community.

The Religious Right Kicks Trans People Again, or “Seriously, can you all just take your bigoted bullshit and fuck off now?”

Pastors argue against ‘transgender’ on human rights ordinance | News – Home.

I know this is just a lot of the same tired bullshit we hear again and again and again every time someone has the audacity to think that maybe trans people ought to be treated like human beings. But I feel it’s important to continually call this bullshit out and make it clear that it’s unacceptable and ensure that they are held accountable for their intolerant bigotry and hate-spreading.

Basically, the religious folks down in Miami-Dade are up in arms and spewing transphobic nonsense because the Miami-Dade County Commission would like to include gender identity in their human right ordinance. So, in essence, they don’t feel like transgender individuals are entitled to having their human rights protected.

From the article:

“Now you so confused you don’t know what you are that you’ve got to go — you’s a woman, you going into the men’s bathroom. You’s a man, you’re going into the women’s bathroom,” said Elder James Smith with the Apostolic Revival Center. “No, I don’t respect that.”

Sorry, Elder Smith, but I don’t respect using one’s religion and influence in the community to push narrow-minded hateful views on every around you. Despite what you might think, transgender people are ACTUALLY people, and we are deserving of equal treatment and protection under the law.

On the flip-side, I give some major points to the Miami-Dade County Commission for pushing forward with adding protections for trans people in their county! Way to go!

Some Horrible Science Journalism, or “You shouldn’t write about science and medicine if you don’t have a basic grasp for how science works.”

Autism May Start in The Gut, Study Finds – Autism Center – Everyday Health.

So basically, the above article is a pile of horseshit that completely perverts the study that was actually done. I’m absolutely disgusted and enraged reading it.

The basic finding of the ACTUAL research is that there a decrease in the diversity of intestinal flora in people on the autism spectrum, and the researchers believe that it may play a part in why autistics suffer from a lot gastrointestinal disturbances. What the article implies, however, is that somehow a change in intestinal flora is RESPONSIBLE and CAUSATIVE of the autism, and that perhaps by fixing this problem, we could cure autism. This is NEVER discussed by the researchers in their publication, and it doesn’t even make sense from a medical/science standpoint.

I have a lot anger and frustration at science journalism in the US, particularly when it comes to medical research. There is a constant tendency to over-read the research findings, draw false implications, and fail to understand the extremely basic premise that correlation does not equal causation. It’s a sensational form of journalism, and it’s wholly inappropriate for medical journalism. The public as a whole does not have the background to read the research itself, and when the data is sensationalized, you can create all kinds of public health scares and complications for the medical community.

But with autism, I think there’s an even bigger problem. Parents are often desperate for any explanation for why their children are autistic, and it’s already incredibly challenging to sift through the huge piles of information out there. Sadly, much of the information is misleading bordering on out-and-out falsified bullshit. Articles like this only add to that complication. And it really takes away from the fact that this IS a pretty major step forward. There are a number of unusual physical maladies that plague the ASD community, and GI problems are chief among them. If this research leads to a way to reduce just the GI problems that we have, that’s a wonderful thing and it will improve our lives. There’s no need to dig deep for false hope for some sort of miracle cure to come out of it.

When it come to science journalism, let’s stick to facts and appropriate conclusions and not twist the words of the researchers to fit the narrative you’re looking for.

The Geek World Has Lost a Great, or “The most important computer inventor you’ve never heard of has passed.”

Doug Engelbart, inventor of computer mouse, dies at 88 | Technology | guardian.co.uk.

Even if you’re a mega-nerd, you may not have ever heard of Doug Engelbart. He wasn’t a Silicon Valley billionaire like Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, or Bill Gates. But his work is partially responsible for my ability to sit here and write this blog.

Engelbart’s most famous invention is the computer mouse, which he patented in 1979- nearly 15 years before it would become commercially available. It went on, of course, to become one of the most important input devices for computer technology for decades. He was also one of the earliest pioneers to consider the graphical user interface, and was an active researcher for the ARAPANET project that would later become the Internet as we know it.

Engelbart’s personal research philosophy was both simple and admirable. He desires to harness technology to solve complex problems and improve the lives of others. He spent most of his career working to improve the ways that people interact with machines. Because he was such a modest man, he spent much of his life in obscurity, despite his significant contributions to the world of modern computing. It wasn’t until the late 1990’s that he began to receive recognition for his work, which include a Lemelson-MIT prize, the Turing Award, the National Medal of Technology, and Lovelace Medal.

Dr Engelbart was 88 when he passed. The geek world has lost one its humblest stars today.

SB5 Rises from the Grave, or “Rick Perry really loves fetuses and hates women.”

Rick Perry Calls Second Special Session To Pass Abortion Restrictions.

Alright, so the title might be a little political hyperbole, but only just. After the heroic, body-wrecking filibuster of Sen. Wendy Davis prevented the passage of the insanely over-reaching Texas abortion legislation know as SB5, Governor Rick Perry is going to call the legislators back for ANOTHER special session and to try this again. Sadly, the law allows Perry to do this over and over again until he gets what he wants. In the end, SB5 will likely become law in Texas, because Gov. Rick seems to think trampling women’s rights and violating Roe v. Wade is more important fixing the myriad of problems in Texas.

My only hope is that enough voters in Texas are paying attention to this ridiculous sideshow, and might be willing to help throw these jerks out on their cans come election time.

A girl can dream, right?

But seriously, I think Wendy Davis has done a fantastic job of galvanizing women and progressives in Texas and it might be enough to get some changes down there.

And of course, there’s also the hope that the generally more sane Federal court system will quash this garbage before it has the chance to harm anyone.

Anyway, I still stand with Wendy, and her efforts on behalf of Texas women are to cheered as loudly as we can manage.

Geeks vs Nerds, or “Perhaps an end to this debate once and for all?”

The Difference Between A Geek And A Nerd [Infographic] | Popular Science.

So I have the word “nerd” right in the title of my blog, and that’s always been the term that I’ve preferred for my part of this nifty little subculture I inhabit. But I’ve never objected to be referred to as a geek, either. I just always felt like “nerd” fit me a lot better, and I’m not sure I can rightly tell you why.

The differences between nerds and geeks a topic of relatively frequent debate, and I think PopSci has given us a really good take on the matter (really, who better to trust on this subject than PopSci?). The basic idea is that “nerds” are more interested in ideas and geeks are more interested in tangible stuff. If a a career analogy helps, nerds appear to be more of the scientist/mathematician type, whereas geeks are more the IT/Coder/Computer people. I suppose that fits, as we tend to call people computer geeks more so than computer nerds.

For what it’s worth, I think I really fall easily into both catagories. I’m a published scientist, and actively pursing my PhD. And I like to write and talk about ideas about feminism, queer life, and all kinds of other stuff here on TNF. But I also love my gadgets, which is attested to by the piles of gear in my studio and the multitude of apple devices you’d find in my messenger bag. I still I think I lean a little more to the nerd end, but I suppose this blog could have just as reasonably been TransGeekFeminist (but that just doesn’t sound as good anyway!).

I don’t think this little post from PopSci is going be the final battleground in defining what it is to be a geek vs a nerd,  but it ranks among the best and most sensical ways to give clear identity to each term I’ve heard yet, if you’re into the that kind of thing. But geek or nerd, we’re still all the same community, and I think it’d do us all some good to remember that.

“Transsexual” Pornography and The Allure of the “Shemale,” or “How I stopped being angry at TG porn stars and wanted to hug Bailey Jay.”

Before I dive into the dicey subject, let me make a few key disclaimers. The overall social acceptability of porn and the feminist positions on porn are subjects for many many articles, and better written authors than myself have tackled them. I may have something to say on the subject at a later date, but for now, I’m restricting strictly to the subject of porn that falls very generally in the category of “transsexual”. Furthermore, my inclusion of words that I know to be offensive (and that I am offended by) is a conscious choice…they are unavoidable in the this particular subject. Also, I know this particularly article is very heavily focused on transwomen, and I apologize for that. While I’m aware of a growing amount of porn involving trans-men, I just don’t have any experience with how people perceive it.  Finally, I’d like to reiterate my primary disclaimer on this blog…this is a work of my own opinion, and I make no claims as to how the rest of the trans (or any other community I am a part of) may feel.

As I’ve talked about before, one of the things the things that trans folks seem to have to struggle most constantly against is the ton of stereotypes about us. I’ve discussed why that is before, so I’ll not rehash that here. But a key source of these stereotypes is porn, particularly when it comes our sexuality. Don’t get me wrong, all kinds of weird views of ALL women’s sexuality get propagated through skin flicks. But let’s face it…cis-gendered straight women are just a lot more numerous. That gives them at least a little more leverage in combating their stereotypes. Most people who attracted to FAAB women will probably have sex with a few of them over their lifetime. Just given our numbers, a lot fewer people will have an intimate experience with a transwoman.; that means a lot fewer chances to fight these stereotypes directly.

I have a number of beefs with CONTENT of TG porn. The biggest one is the sheer amount of it that is mind-blowingly transphobic. A common theme seems to be “straight” men being “tricked” into a sexual encounter with a transwoman. This just reinforces a number of ridiculous views about transwomen being frauds and manipulators, out to “dupe” straight men. Of course, there is also the language problem. Terms like “shemale”, “hermaphrodite”, “he-she”, “dickgirl”, “trap”, and the ubiquitous “tranny” are common in the titles as well as the dialogue of TG porn, which gives validation to the usage of these hateful, offensive terms. Lastly, there’s penetration problem. So much of trans-related porn features men being penetrated in some way by the actresses dick. My issue here is twofold. It perpetuates the male fantasy of the top transwoman. While I know that top transwomen exist, in my experience they are definitely the exception and not the norm. I know that I personally find the idea of penetrating anyone pretty awful and likely to induce a horrible bout of dysphoria, and I’ve heard that sentiment echoed by a lot of the transwomen I know. A quick glance at the casual encounters section of your local craigslist is all you need to see just how popular this fantasy is (More on that in a minute). Granted, I’m not interested in men for ANY intimate purpose, but the sheer number of times I’ve been approached in person or online by a man interested in blowing me or being fucked by me is astounding, and I know I’m not alone in this. But in all honesty, it’s my second objection to this situation that really grates on me. All of this presses into people’s minds that transwomen are a danger to men’s sexualities, that we are all out for your precious virgin bums, that we are trying to turn you all GAY. While that seems to be the sort of thing that gets a lot of men off, it’s also the sort of thing that many men find TERRIFYING. And terrified men are often violent men. And violent, terrified men murder transwomen. Again, other articles here discuss the ridiculous notion that being attracted to a transwoman makes you gay, so we’ll not recover that ground. But so many men are scared that even thinking we’re pretty is turning them gay…the idea that we all really like buggering the shit out of “helpless” dudes makes the situation a hundred times worse.

You might ask, well then, if men are so scared of being gay, and of transwomen, why is there so much trans porn? Why is this “shemale” stuff so popular? The answer is right there in the question…because men are afraid of being gay (or bi). There’s no denying that we live in a society where women have a much greater freedom to explore their same-gender sexual interests than men (again, a topic for later article perhaps). There’s the old joke that a woman can screw a hundred girls when she’s in college, and still be “just experimenting”. But if a guy even touches some other guy’s dick once, he’s gay for life. I think this isn’t just a societal view, but a concept that men have internalized. I think a lot of men DO have same-gender sexual curiosities, but feel that exploring it would risk turning them permanent homosexual. So, what would make sucking dick ok? Well, if a girl had a dick, it would be “less gay”! And the analogy extends for anal sex. It’s a way of abrogating responsibility for their curiosity about cock. So now, the “shemale” (a beautiful woman with huge porn-star breasts and a big, functional cock) becomes an object of fantasy, which is then reinforced through porn. Next thing you know, said man is approaching any trans woman he can find in real life or online, asking to suck her dick. I think this same desire to shirk responsibility for dick-curiosity is expressed by the (so I’m told by a number of sex-worker friends) extremely common male request for “forced” bisexuality play. Because if the pretty lady is “making” you do it, you aren’t responsible!

Don’t get me wrong, in many ways, I feel bad for these guys. It’s not entirely their fault…society has hand-cuffed them, and the homosocial male culture has warped THEIR brains too. They’d be a lot happier and healthier if they could just explore their sexual desires as they wish without all the worries about the views of their sexual orientation. Everyone is damaged by rigid sexual binarism. If people could just accept the spectrum of sexual orientation, and not be so hung up on labels…yeah, I know. I’m dreaming.

Because of the damage I feel is caused by trans porn, I’ve personally struggled with my views of trans porn actresses for a long time. On the one hand, I’m firmly of the opinion that women have the right to do whatever they like with their bodies, including producing pornography. I also try my very best not to pass judgement on how people express their sexuality as long as they aren’t harming others non-consensually. I also recognize the difficulties that most transwomen face with secure employment and financing transition, and how that leads so many of us into sex work. But part of me has always felt a little betrayed by what they’re doing. Trans porn actresses are often very attractive and frequently intelligent and well-spoken, and if they could be visible doing almost ANYTHING else, I feel like they could be doing so much to help improve the image of our community. And since we do struggle so hard against the stereotypes that so many media types portray about us, it stings to see “one of our own” helping to cement those stereotypes.

But then a funny thing happened to me. I was reading one of my favorite trans blogs, wehappytrans, and I saw they had filmed one of their famous 7 questions segments with Bailey Jay, who is quite possibly the best known trans porn actress around. I was expecting to be angry or irritated. But I’ll be completely honest, I got a rude awakening. She turned out to be smart, and charming. She quoted Kate Bornstein. I related to her. She called out transwomen for their anger and cattiness towards each other. I felt guilty. I cried. And by the end I wanted to just give her a big hug. While I don’t necessarily agree with her career choice, I can very much get behind what she’s saying, and I’ve let go of my negative feelings towards the adult actresses in the trans community. We ALL have a hard enough time as it is, without tearing each other down. There are better ways to fix these problems. While I’m sure she will never see this, Bailey deserves a big thank you from me for sharing so much of herself in her 7Q video, and changing my views so thoroughly. So here it is: Thank you, Bailey Jay, for giving me an emotional smack upside the head and opening my eyes.

Even an opinionated pain-in-the-ass like me can have her point of view rocked.

Bailey’s 7 Questions on WeHappyTrans