HRC Apologizes to the Trans Community

By , September 23, 2014 4:40 pm

(I realize this post is slightly dated, as HRC President Chad Griffin gave his speech almost a month ago. Still, I figured that – like his apology – this post would be better late than never.)

Southern Comfort is one of the biggest trans conferences in the US, and the 2014 event took place earlier this month. The keynote speech was delivered on September 5 by Chad Griffin, the President of HRC.

Wait, what?

The HRC, the largest LGB-and-sometimes-T political advocacy group in the US, has an…ahem…troubled history when it comes to the trans community. TransGriot has two in-depth pieces that go over the details, one from 2007 and a followup from 2013, but here are some key points:

  • The HRC came out of the gay rights movement of the 1970s, which was pushing for mainstream acceptance, often at the expense of trans folks
  • Elizabeth Birch (HRC Executive Director from ’95-’04) once said a trans-inclusive ENDA would happen over her “dead body”
  • Since then, the HRC has consistently done a poor job of pushing for trans-inclusive ENDA legislation, even after Birch left
  • More recently, the HRC asked a trans activist to take down their trans flag at a march

Needless to say, many – myself included – are skeptical anytime the HRC says they’re going to support the trans community. So why the heck would the president of HRC be delivering the keynote at a trans conference? Well, because he stood on the stage at Southern Comfort and apologized to the trans community, on behalf of the HRC, and pledged to do better.

Should we believe him? Even if we do believe his apology, should the apology change anything?

Continue reading 'HRC Apologizes to the Trans Community'»

Signal Boost: ONE DAY ONLY: Award-winning Documentary “Kidnapped for Christ” Comes to Chicago

By , September 9, 2014 10:36 am

I got an email about this and thought I’d share. I’ve heard nothing but good things about this documentary, and this seems like an awesome (inexpensive) way to see it and learn more about it.

Local bridge-building organization The Marin Foundation partners with Level Ground– creators of the world’s first faith-based LGBTQ film festival– to bring you the ONE DAY ONLY Chicago stop on the 2014 Level Ground Road Show!

One of the year’s most talked-about documentaries, Kidnapped for Christ - which won the Audience Award for Best Feature Documentary at the 2014 Slamdance Film Festival- to be feature presentation on Saturday, September 13th, followed by dialogue with director and producer Kate Logan.
Renowned film critic Josh Larsen, co-host of FilmSpotting, will lead a collaborative workshop exploring scenes from notable LGBTQ-themed films, and discussing how the art of cinema can foster empathy.
The evening will include a concert by award-winning musician Derek Webb, and local artists Hello Industry, followed by an evening reception sponsored by Lagunitas Brewing and Blackberry Market.

Continue reading 'Signal Boost: ONE DAY ONLY: Award-winning Documentary “Kidnapped for Christ” Comes to Chicago'»

Signal Boost: Academic looking for trans participants in a study

By , August 5, 2014 5:23 pm

Yesterday I received an email from Lilia Berkovich, a student at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, asking for my help in finding trans research subjects. She wrote, in part:

I’m currently recruiting participants for my dissertation, which is a qualitative study looking at the relationship between gender identity and role models among transgender individuals. The purpose of my study is to explore transgender individuals’ perceptions of the manner in which their role models are related to the development of their gender identity. I plan on recruiting transgender individuals to participate in 60-90 minute long interviews.

Participants will be compensated for their travelling expenses, and provided with a 20$ Walgreens/Jewel gift card.

That’s honestly a cool topic, and one that deserves good study. At the same time, I’ve posted before about how I feel about these emails: I understand the importance of research around trans topics, but think that – far too often – researchers don’t give a lot of thought to the actual lived experiences of trans people before they craft their research projects. So, as I promised myself I would when faced with a request like this, I asked Lilia my four questions:

  1. How were trans people involved in the creation of this research project?
  2. How will trans people be involved in reviewing your conclusions?
  3. How will you ensure this research accurately captures the racial and class diversity in the trans community?
  4. How do you imagine this research will improve the lives of trans people?

Her responses, as well as contact info to participate (should you so choose) are below. Continue reading 'Signal Boost: Academic looking for trans participants in a study'»

Logitech can suck it

By , July 31, 2014 4:41 pm

About a year ago I purchased a Logitech Bluetooth keyboard for my Android tablet. The keyboard was totally acceptable – even pretty good – until the beginning of this past summer, when a few keys stopped working. I, being the savvy consumer that I am, went to look at their warranty page. Low and behold, I was covered by a three year warranty ensuring the product would be free from “from defects in material and workmanship.” So I filed a warranty claim.

Logitech and I went back and forth for a few weeks, them asking for the serial number, a copy of the receipt, all reasonable information for a warranty claim.  At long last, they said….no. They said they would not be honoring the warranty because I had purchased the keyboard through Amazon, an “unauthorized reseller,” and the warranty didn’t apply. I asked that they please specify where in the warranty it requires purchasing from an “authorized reseller,” and they said:

The warranty is intended for authorized sellers and does not need to be shown on the the warranty policy.
The warranty is not transferrable and if the seller is not authorized, the warranty is not carried over to the second degree purchaser.

Classy. Continue reading 'Logitech can suck it'»

Thoughts on The White House’s non-response ‘response’ to the Petition on Non-Binary Genders

By , July 13, 2014 8:45 pm

In 2011, the White House opened We The People, a site where people can petition the Obama administration and vote on (“sign”) what petitions they think deserve a response. For the most part, the responses have been tepid at best. For example, Gil Kerlikowske, the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, was chosen to respond to a petition on marijuana legalization when the holder of that office is legally bound to oppose the legalization of any and all currently illegal drugs. (The White House does deserve some credit for humorously responding to a petition demanding the US build a Death Star.) Check out this January 2013 article at The Atlantic for more thoughts on the petition site itself.

This past week, Roy Austin, the Deputy Assistant to the President for the Office of Urban Affairs, Justice, and Opportunity in the Domestic Policy Council (wow, what a long and ridiculous title) responded to a petition requesting the US Government to Legally Recognize Non-Binary Genders. The petition notes that Australia and New Zealand both allow for some sort of non-binary gender marker on passports, and requests that the Obama Administration…

…legally recognize genders outside of the male-female binary (such as agender, pangender, genderfluid, and others) and provide an option for these genders on all legal documents and records.

Not surprisingly, the response was a carefully bureaucratic attempt to seem supportive without actually providing any language of, y’know, support. In particular, there’s nothing that could be easily quoted to use against the administration by conservative news outlets or politicians. Lets examine the response paragraph by paragraph. Continue reading 'Thoughts on The White House’s non-response ‘response’ to the Petition on Non-Binary Genders'»

Responding to “15 Women Say Why They Don’t Need Feminism”

By , July 12, 2014 12:14 am

Someone recently tagged me on Facebook to make me aware of this list on Buzzfeed (tellingly, with the URL ending in “/i-do-not-think-it-means-what-you-think-it-means.”) The friend tagged me specifically because they disagreed with the list, and figured I would too. They were correct.

So, point by point, a response and refutation. All emphasis (underlines/italics/etc) are from the original post.

1.”I don’t need feminism because I don’t want to politicize my gender.”

That’s a lovely sentiment, but others are going to politicize it for you, whether you like it or not. From the Hobby Lobby ruling, giving your boss additional ability to control your healthcare, to politicians attempting to define “legitimate rape” that your body can “shut down,” to politicians rejecting the idea that you deserve equal pay for an equal job, your gender is going to be politicized. So while it’s a noble idea to want to stay above the fray, it’s also a naive and ultimately harmful one. In a world where the political becomes personal, the personal must be political.

2. I don’t need feminism because I am NOTVictim.

I don’t need the civil rights movement because I’m not a person of color. I don’t need to combat Islamophobia because I’m not a Muslim. There is an inherent selfishness in saying “This issue doesn’t directly impact me, so it’s unimportant.” And – in the vein of “The only moral abortion is my abortion” – it’s easy to forget how issues of feminism might impact you until they do impact you.

Continue reading 'Responding to “15 Women Say Why They Don’t Need Feminism”'»

Philly Trans Health Conference drinking game

By , July 10, 2014 3:52 pm

This is a modified version of the performance piece I debuted at PTHC 2014’s Blender performance evening.

The Philadelphia Trans Health Conference is always a blast: Seeing old friends, meeting new ones, attending workshops, going out to party late into the night… There are tons of reasons we all come back year after year, and why – according to a recent #PTHC tweet – Philly Trans Health has grown from ~130 attendees in its first year to over 3,000 this year.

But, for all the fantastic opportunities Philly Trans Health provides – opportunities to learn, to socialize, to grow as activists and educators and allies – I think it’s missing something big. Something important. Something we could all benefit from. And so I present to you, the 2014 Blender audience, the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference drinking game. I can’t imagine this is a complete list, and I encourage you to add your own rules.

In the meantime, here’s what I’ve come up with, by myself and with friends. Lets start off easy:

  • Have some apple juice in honor of all the amazing and adorable baby queers and translings you see wandering around the conference.
  • Take a refined sip of wine for every asymmetrical haircut you spot.
  • Enjoy a drink of your choice for every person you meet who you’d like to bang.
  • Take an extra drink if you’ve already banged them.
  • Finish your drink if you think you’ve banged them, but can’t quite remember… (What did you do at the after party last year, anyway?)
  • Take an extra sip for every packet of lube, condom grab bag, or female condom you took from a display table. Bonus drinks if you know how to use the female condom correctly, and finish your drink if you winced when I called it a “female” condom instead of a “receptive” condom.
  • Take a shot of Jamison for the first Pride tattoo you spot, with a sip for every one thereafter.
  • Take a drink of cheap wine every time you spot the following phrases:
    • Self care
    • Intersectionality
    • Trigger warning
    • Overlapping systems of oppression
  • Treat yourself to a shot of espresso for every 8:45AM workshop you said you were gonna make, but slept through.
  • Speaking of sleep and your hotel room, and a jigger of Kaluah to your espresso for every person in your hotel room above and beyond what you told the front desk when you checked in.

Continue reading 'Philly Trans Health Conference drinking game'»

The psychology of emails

By , July 8, 2014 12:43 pm

A big part of how I book gigs at colleges and universities is through cold-emailing. That is, I find people’s contact info on school websites – emails for student groups, faculty, and professors – and email them info about my workshops and performances.* There’s a general pattern to how these emails go, assuming there’s any sort of response at all:

  1. I send an initial email
  2. They express interest
  3. I email more info
  4. We email back and forth about details and specifics
  5. We schedule a gig and sign a contract

Of course, there’s a big percentage drop-off at each step of the way. I don’t have the exact numbers but I’d ballpark it that, of the ~10,000 emails I’ve sent in the past few years, I’ve received perhaps 50 gigs. (That’s 0.5%, which is still impressively high for cold-calling/emailing. Of course, I’m still in steps 3 and 4 perhaps a hundred different people from that list of 10,000, hoping to move them to step 5.)

Continue reading 'The psychology of emails'»

3AM epiphany on the road

By , June 4, 2014 4:42 pm

I’m currently in Cincinnati, at the 2014 Cincinnati Fringe Festival. My current show, Something Something New Vagina, is going well.  It’s definitely still a work in progress, but I feel pretty good about the content and sharing it in front of an audience has been incredibly valuable as I move forward with the material. Even though some of the script is from pieces I’ve performed before, most of it is new. So I’ve had solid houses, very positive reviews, and good audience buzz. Likewise, CincyFringe is perhaps my favorite Fringe festival of the five I’ve participated in (Chicago, Kansas City, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, and Cincinnati). It’s well organized, run by awesome (and competent!) people, has strong community support, and I like a lot of my fellow artists. I was really excited to come here, even if I was drained from a spring of being on the road.

So why have I been feeling shitty all Fringe? Continue reading '3AM epiphany on the road'»

50 Shades of Ick

By , May 24, 2014 2:20 pm

I did it: I read 50 Shades of Grey. At least, I read most of it. I couldn’t make myself read every single line of every single page, but I got through the trilogy. I forced myself to read ‘em because I wanted to be able to talk at least somewhat intelligently when they came up in conversation, and to respond from my own personal opinions (and not just what I’ve heard others say about them).

They were pretty bad.

The writing was mediocre. It wasn’t the worst writing I’ve ever read, but certainly far from the best. It was self indulgent and repetitious, though. Lots of “my nipples elongated” and “he cupped my sex” (seriously, those specific phrases) and the like. But before I get to what worried me about the books – worried me as a feminist and as someone who enjoys BDSM – I want to talk about the few things I did like.

Continue reading '50 Shades of Ick'»

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