An article was published in the Windy City Times today about an open letter from former Center on Halsted staffers alleging a “toxic” work environment, and laying the blame at the feed of CEO Tico Valle. As someone who has complained often and loudly about the Center, I think it’s awesome that so many people spoke out. In response to the article, I emailed the CoH Board Chair Duane DesParte at [email protected]:
I was incredibly disappointed to read your quote in the recent Windy City Times article on past employees alleging a toxic work environment. You said, “I’ve been involved with the Center for many years, and I’ve been on the board for the past six years. I interact with Tico regularly—many on our board interact with Tico regularly, through various committee [projects], various events—and we interact with the staff regularly. That’s certainly not our experience. We certainly respect the input, but it’s contrary to what we’ve experienced.”
While I believe you have had a positive relationship with with Tico, it seems willfully obstinate to hold Tico in such high regard in the face of overwhelming opposition. As a member of Chicago’s LGBT community, I know of very few community members who enjoy visiting the Center on Halsted, specifically due to the culture Tico has created. Likewise, I know of no community members or CoH employees who have had positive working relationships with Tico. That he has a good relationship with the board is laudable, but utterly beside the points that the open letter was attempting to address.
Convening the executive committee and discussing things with HR is, quite frankly, too little too late. This has been an ongoing issue, as indicated by the Center’s high turnover rate and difficulty retaining top talent, not to mention the utter lack of respect many in the queer community have for the Center.
So, bluntly, I ask: What are you going to do about it? What forms of accountability will take place? How will you respond to frustration, not only from former employees, but from the community you purport to serve?
WIth hope for the future,
I just got off the phone with a friend-of-a-friend who is working with a large city’s school district on trans inclusion (not Chicago, alas). Specifically, she works in their software development and data management and is trying to figure out how to move from the old M/F system of defining students’ sexes to something more trans affirming, while still meeting federal and state reporting requirements. Oy. Here was the brainstorming we came up with:
For the backend, tweak the ‘Sex’ field to be labeled as ‘Sex (as listed on birth certificate).’ This is something that a lot of reporting requires, so it can’t simply be removed or replaced with Gender Identity, as much as it’d be awesome if it could. In addition, add Gender Identity and Preferred Pronoun fields.
To pair with the form changes, we came up with some very draft-y school district policy language, saying “It is the policy of this school district to use a student’s gender identity and preferred pronoun for any and all gendered or sex-segregated situations, e.g. bathrooms, locker rooms, sports teams, etc. Parents will be notified and consulted should it be impossible to use the student’s gender identity (e.g. for federally mandated reporting, which requires using the sex listed on a student’s birth certificate) or if it is unclear how to best serve that student (e.g. for placement in sex education classes).”
What do people think of this as recommendations? It’s still imperfect, but seems to cover all the important bases while bringing parents in for situations that aren’t already covered.
By now, Elinor Burkett’s op-ed at the New York Times, What Makes A Woman?, has been making the rounds. Those more familiar with trans identity, and how feminism has and hasn’t been an ally to the trans community, have reacted with appropriate disappointment and disgust. In the best response I’ve seen, Jaclyn Friedman wrote, “Womanhood is not an exclusive club. So many people are in it, and we are all so very different from one another. We shouldn’t imagine any of us hold the keys to womanhood.” Those less familiar with trans identity, even many people who would consider themselves allies to the trans community, shared Burkett’s op-ed on Twitter and Facebook with notes like “How interesting!” or “She raises some good points!”
Burkett’s op-ed raises no new perspectives, and is steeped in the same stodgy feminism (so-called) that has spent decades marginalizing and sidelining issues of race, class, sexuality, gender identity and expression, and more. Jaclyn’s piece covers much of what I wanted to say, so I’d suggest you go read it. But, below, I’ll touch on a few other thoughts.
Continue reading 'A Recipe For Womanhood'»
Another year, another Philadelphia Trans Health Conference
gone by. With so many things packed into 72 hours – workshops and panels and parties and new friends and old friends and people you wanted to see but couldn’t and people you didn’t want to see but still ran into – it’s difficult to take a step back and try to fit everything into one blog post. But I’m gonna try!
Continue reading 'Philadelphia Trans Health Conference 2015 – thoughts and reflections'»
Tools for the Casual Activist, a bilingual evening of workshops co-hosted by the Trans Oral History Project that is part of this year’s United Latino Pride. Below are details in Spanish and English.
Herramientas Para Los Activistas Casuales
Todo los días la gente crea el mundo y nosotros también podemos cambiarlo.
Miercoles, Junio 9th 6-9pm
Youth Services Project (3942 West North Ave)
Embajadores de Arco Iris 101
Un conversación de como enfrentar la ignorancia de colegas de trabajo, extraños, y/o familia con herramientas básicas de educación y practicando con situaciones reales.
Creando Aceptacion Hacia las Personas Trans
Aprenda más sobre los temas que enfrenta la comunidad trans a través del arte de contar historias y aprenda estrategias para ser un(a) mejor aliado(a) con el proyecto de Historias Orales Trans.
Continue reading 'Signal Boost – United Latino Pride: Tools for the Causal Activist'»
FOX 32 News Chicago
Link to the Fox Chicago page.
I’m mostly happy with how it went. I wish I’d had the presence of mind to express why “born a boy” is problematic language, and to (before the interview) explain I’d rather not share my birth name. Also, I would have liked to explicitly mention my race and class privilege. But, on the whole, I’m proud of it.
(Other than the freeze frame they chose makes me look either exhausted, stones, or both…)
Hey all! I’m scheduled to be on Fox Chicago’s Good Day Chicago on Monday, 4/27 to discuss transgender identity. Hope you can tune in!
These notes came from a workshop on Writing Trans Experiences, hosted by the Trans Bodies, Trans Selves crew, that I helped facilitate at Creating Change 2015 in Denver, CO. I’d love more suggestions and opinions, if people have them!
General Writing Tips
- The way to get better at writing is is to Do It. You won’t become better by not doing something.
- Think about Showing versus Telling
- How can you allow an audience to come to their own conclusions, rather than hitting them over the head with what’s going on?
- Makes your work a collaborative experience with the reader.
- Give yourself time to walk away before looking at your work. You don’t need to finish a piece and immediately reread it or critique it.
- Find collaborators. You have permission to get help, whether it’s someone to provide feedback, a writing partner, or simply someone to keep you company while you work.
- How do you sit down and start writing? Thoughts from workshop participants
- The physical act of writing has value and can be cathartic
- Journaling in long-hand, ‘working’ on a keyboard?
- Google Docs, WordPress, apps and software on computers and tablets
- Turn off spellcheck and grammar check and just write! Editing is for later!
- Study playlists, cinema scores (great for focusing on a specific tone while writing)
- No distractions
- Long-handing versus typing?
- There are tools to help writing
- Music in the background?
- You’re allowed to make notes and come back to a certain section later
- For example, [INSERT LONGER CHARACTER DESCRIPTION HERE] or [FIGURE OUT HOW THIS WILL WORK]
- Find a specific clothing or location or food/drink to help get your juices flowing
Continue reading 'Writing Trans Experiences'»
I legally changed my name in July, 2009. I still haven’t updated my birth certificate to Rebecca Rodin Kling. I had gender reassignment surgery in December, 2013. In Illinois, this gave me the ability to change the gender marker on my birth certificate. I haven’t done that, either.
I’ve been teling myself that the delays were out of laziness or simply prioritizing more pressing matters. I’m not applying for jobs or undergoing background checks, so having a birth certificate with my old name isn’t – logistically speaking – a big deal. I’m not planning to get married anytime soon, so the gender marker on my birth certificate isn’t exactly standing in the way of any life goals.
Updating my birth certificate in on my ‘to-do,’ sitting below a reminder to water my plants every week and above a note about planning a trip to visit a friend this summer. And yet, for the past five and a half years, my birth certificate – the original, reading Jared Daniel Kling (M) – has sat in a filing cabinet in my mom’s basement in Skokie.
I was in Los Angeles for much of January, performing Something Something New Vagina at a small theater in North Hollywood. I ended each performane with a post-show Q&A, as I do with all my shows. Someone asked a question about how easy it was to change my birth certificate from M to F, and whether it shows the old gender marker or not. I was forced to admit that I haven’t actually updated my birth certificate and, for the first time, I realized I’ve been delaying doing so for deeper reasons than simple laziness. There’s an aspect of updating that document that feels very final, and like it somehow cuts me off from a past I’ve been working for almost a decade, the course of my transition, to move beyond. Continue reading 'Resisting being ‘done’ transitioning'»
I saw a trans person comment on this link, a new NBC segment featuring Janet Mock, and imply that Mock only cares about trans PoC. Specifically, that person said, “I wonder how many times she’ll reference Trans Men/Women of Color — as if that’s all there is in our community??”
Here’s my response:
I’m disappointed to see this comment. Undoubtedly, trans people of all gender expressions, ages, classes, sexualities, and every other possible category experience both explicit and implicit discrimination in our society. We face issues with employment, housing, sex and relationships, and simply walking down the street safely.
And yet, to overlook or deny the impact race has on that discrimination seems – at best – naive.
You make an implicit accusation against Janet, that she’s only speaking on behalf of trans PoC, or only using her position in the media spotlight to work for their success. Certainly, white trans people deserve attention and recognition. I say this as a white trans person; I don’t want my story to be overlooked or forgotten, or the hardships I’ve faced to be erased. But PoC – as a population – have it worse at every step of the way. Educationally, socially, when it comes to employment, when it comes to the criminal justice system; PoC have the deck stacked against them. In turn, white trans folks benefit from that stacked deck. No, this doesn’t mean white trans people have it easy. But we have it ever-so-slightly (and often very significantly) less hard. Continue reading 'Racism within the trans community'»