Chicago – Things I’ve Never Done

By , November 19, 2012 1:45 pm

I was talking with a friend recently about how fun it can be to play tourist in a big city, even if you’ve lived there your whole life. Thinking about Chicago in that way made me realize there are tons of awesome things I’ve never done, and a bunch more I did as a child but want to do again as an adult. So, with that in mind, I drew up these lists:

Chicago Things I’ve Never Done (and want to)

  • Been to observation deck at the top of the Hancock (I’ve only done the Sears Tower)
  • Visit the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum (and the butterfly room in particular)
  • Attend a poetry slam at the Green Mill
  • Go on a behind-the-scens tour of a Chicago theatre and/or the Cultural Center
  • See a show at the Chicago Theater
  • See something at the Aragon or the Riviera
  • Go to the Illinois Railway Museum (because I’m secretly a six year old boy)
  • Go to the Holocaust Museum in Skokie

Chicago Things I Did As A Child (and want to do again as an adult)

  • Go on an architectural boat tour
  • Go to the Botanic Gardens
  • Go to Brookfield Zoo
  • Go to a concert at Ravinia

Chicago Things I’ve Never Done (and don’t want to)

  • Go to a Cubs game
  • Eat a Chicago hot dog

What about you? What would you add to this list?

An appropriate link: Nate Silver explains why Chicago is better than New York City

Reconsidering airport scanners

By , November 17, 2012 5:13 am

Images taken by the (older) x-ray backscatter scanners

I don’t like the TSA. I think they engage in security theater (at best) along with racism, sexism, and theft (at worst). I’ve also repeatedly refused to use the TSA scanners, opting instead for the “enhanced security pat down.” I had a few reasons for doing so: I question the safety of repeated exposures to the scanners, I don’t like supporting security theater and feel a sense of obligation to slow down the process, and (most importantly) I question how they would read trans people. After some consideration, and a lot more traveling this past year, I’m beginning to reconsider.

First, it’s worth discussing the two types of scanners used by the TSA. The older models, and the ones around which I based most of my opinions, used a (relatively) high level of radiation for their scans, displayed the naked images which made the news, and have been prohibited in the European Union. The newer models, which I’ve been seeing as I’ve traveled the last few months, use a (relatively) low level of radiation for their scans, display generic human outlines as opposed to naked pictures, and are used the world wide.

So, after flying from O’Hare to Harrisburg for a gig at Bucknell University (which went swimmingly) I decided that, for my return trip, I’d give the scanners a try should I have the option. I am beyond security, having gone through the scanners, and have no excitement to report; I went through without incident and was not flagged for additional screening.

Continue reading 'Reconsidering airport scanners'»

Trans Day of Remembrance? I want a Trans Day of ACTION

By , November 16, 2012 3:10 pm

I plan to share this piece at the Center on Halsted’s TDOR event on Sunday. I hope you can make it.

I have a confession to make: This isn’t the piece I planned to perform when Precious asked me to participate in the Transgender Day of Remembrance at the Center on Halsted. I planned to perform something I had written months ago, titled “I’m Sorry.’ I shared it on this stage at Queer is Community a few months ago, and I’ve been sharing it as part of my one-woman show, Storms Beneath Her Skin, at theatre festivals and colleges around the country.

“I’m Sorry,” the piece I planned to perform, is a list of apologies. At first, it seems sincere: “I’m sorry for making you confused, and causing you to question what male and female means.” As it progresses, the piece becomes less and less apologetic and more and more angry: “I am sorry for refusing to stand silent, for being a voice of frustration and anger and depression.” The piece is cathartic to perform, and seemed appropriate for this event. As recently as Friday, that was my planned performance.

For better or for worse, I won’t be sharing it with you tonight. Continue reading 'Trans Day of Remembrance? I want a Trans Day of ACTION'»

On the road again

By , November 12, 2012 10:45 pm

Campus Center at Smith College

I’m currently sitting at Seth Lepore’s kitchen table after a day at Smith College in Northampton, MA. This afternoon, I conducted a workshop on Trans Identity and Mental Health at Camps Center, and this evening I performed Storms Beneath Her Skin. I fly back to Chicago tomorrow (Tuesday) and then back out on Thursday to Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, where (on Friday) I conduct a Trans Allyship workshop and perform No Gender Left Behind. I then fly back to Chicago on Saturday, where I immediately drive from the airport up to Kenosha, WI for a panel discussion on trans identity.

Busy week!

In retrospect, I should have done better planning for November. A lot of schools have events around the Transgender Day of Remembrance in November, and I think I could have picked up a few more November gigs had I gone in with that in mind. No worries, though, and it’s a learning experience for next year.

Continue reading 'On the road again'»

Quick Walgreens update

By , November 6, 2012 12:15 pm

Walgreens.com did, in fact, change my name on their site. Still cranky about the whole thing, but relieved the name change went through.

Walgreens makes me cranky

By , November 5, 2012 5:56 pm

Here’s the whole Walgreens story that I just sent to Consumerst:

As a lifelong Chicago resident, I’m also a lifelong Walgreens customer. (Walgreens was founded in Chicago in 1901, and is still an Illinois-based company.) I’m also transgender, and legally changed my name from a male name . Years ago, long before I transitioned, I signed up for a Walgreens online account so that I could print photos. I just moved a few doors down from a Walgreens and, wanting to print some new photos, I thought I’d reactivate the account. I’d signed up for the account in my old (male) name, which absolutely is not Walgreens’ fault. But when I tried to change my account name, things began to get frustrating.

First, I tried to change the name through the online interface. No dice. Their FAQ (http://www.walgreens.com/topic/help/accounthelp/account_help_main.jsp#YourAccount) said I needed to call their online service number, 1-877-250-5823. Well, it almost said that. Specifically, it said:

Q: My marital status has changed. How do I update my name?
A: To update your name, please call Customer Service, toll-free, at 1-877-250-5823. For security purposes, a name change cannot be done online.Apparently, in the world of Walgreens, name changes only stem from marriage.

So I called the number. The wait time was actually pretty short, but when I asked about changing my name I was told I could only change my last name. Not my first name. Period. She wasn’t able to make such a change in their system, even when I explained the situation to her.

At this point, I was in near tears. (This has been a long day, I’m under the weather, and the idiot on the phone was rude. I didn’t include this parenthetical to Consumerist, but it’s worth mentioning here.) This may not seem like a big deal to someone who either isn’t transgender, or who isn’t familiar with trans issues, but being called the wrong name or the wrong pronoun is incredibly hurtful and offensive. I don’t want to have to worry about what a store employee will know about my history when I pick up photos or a prescription.

I tried their online Live Chat help, which actually resulted in the name change. (At least in theory. Vicki F said it could take up to 48 hours to propagate through the system.)

I’m not happy with the situation, as I think I should have been able to change my name online to begin with. But IF the name change actually goes through, they won’t have lost a customer over such a simple issue of respect.

Too queer for Kinky Boots

By , November 4, 2012 9:00 pm

This afternoon, I saw Kinky Boots in downtown Chicago with my mom and some family friends. It was the final Chicago performance before the show heads to Broadway, and it has been getting solid reviews. The musical – based on the 2005 movie, based on the true story (PDF warning) – follows the revitalization of a failing shoe company as it switches over to producing “kinky boots” (apparently a real term in the UK) for drag performers. Kinky Boots had music by Cyndi Lauper and a book by Harvey Fierstein, neither exactly artistic slouches.

The show had fantastic costumes, great sets, and very good performances all around. It didn’t have really catchy tunes (three hours after leaving, I’d be pressed to hum even one) but it was supposed to be a feel-good story musical comedy, so it shouldn’t be too faulted on that regard. For all the production value, however, I had a pretty lousy time as an audience member and left feeling very disappointed.

I’ll take part of the blame for that disappointment; I am not the musical’s target audience. I am more liberal, more educated about gender issues, and certainly more  queer than the mainstream musical-attending audience. If I wanted to see drag performers (which I generally do not…) I should have made a night of it in Boystown, not gone to the Loop to pay $100 a seat. (To be fair, my mom paid for the seat.) Kinky Boots felt in some ways similar to The Cosby Show or Will and Grace, in that it will undoubtedly help normalize a minority community to mainstream America, but also isn’t agreatrepresentation of that community. It’s a step forward, and certainly better than nothing, but not exactly “authentic.”

All of those issues, however, are at least to some extent my own. It was the more fundamental political problems with the show that really left a sour taste in my mouth.

Continue reading 'Too queer for Kinky Boots'»

I voted. Shut up.

By , November 2, 2012 4:02 pm

This afternoon I went downtown to reregister with my new address, and to vote. It took about an hour, start to finish, which – for the length of the line and number of people there – wasn’t too bad. I voted for Green candidates wherever I could, against judges wherever I could, against restricting teacher pension, and for a campaign finance reform amendment. Quite honestly, the only vote I cast which I expect to be on the winning team will be for Schakowsky, who I love.

I wanted to say that I voted for two reasons: First, to reiterate my positions and my tepid support for Obama. Second, and more importantly, to talk about the vitriol which appeared when I said I might not vote. Because if there’s one thing that convinces someone to change their argument, it’s to accuse them of being lazy, undemocratic, ungrateful, and whiney.

My comments policy is pretty clear: My blog is a dictatorship. I get to decide what appears here and what doesn’t. Sometimes, my posts have prompted awesome discussion. That’s been especially true where people are polite and respectful. Sometimes, like with this post, I disable comments entirely to stand on my soapbox and talk about whatever the hell I want.

Erica, who had the only sensible comment on my previous post, talked me down from my ledge. As I ultimately told her, I don’t feel great about voting. I don’t feel like my voice will particularly be heard, or that my vote has made a huge impact. But I would have felt worse not voting.

We often talk about voting for the lesser of two evils. This year, voting itself felt like the lesser of two evils.

In which I consider not voting

By , October 31, 2012 11:55 am

Election day in the United States is less than a week away. Nate Silver, of the fabulous 538 blog, pegs President Obama at a 77% chance of winning the election, and the democrats at a 90% chance of retaining majority in the Senate, but that doesn’t mean Democrats can afford to be complacent. Those numbers are based on looking at multiple polls conducted by different firms, and change every day. Just about four years ago, I stood in Grant Park on election night, with hundreds of thousands of others, to watch Obama deliver his victory speech. From a post I wrote at 3AM, November 5, 2008:

His [Obama's] ability to go through history and call out moments without being overbearing was poetry.  (He mentioned the New Deal, a “generation’s greatness,” a “preacher from Alabama who took us to the mountain top,” and more.) His refrains of (of course) “Yes we can,” and the call-and-response effect on the audience. Talking about building bridges and forging alliances and working together.

Just incredible.

It made me glad to have donated money and made almost 100 phone calls over the past week. (And even better that the two states I called the most, Indiana and Colorado, both went for Obama.) That I have a Obama bumper sticker on my car, and a button on my jacket. I feel really hokey and more than a little silly saying it, but it made me proud to be an American.

This year, I question whether or not I’m going to vote at all.

What a difference four years makes.

Continue reading 'In which I consider not voting'»

The Blue Rose – a queer fairy tale

By , October 18, 2012 12:36 pm

Note: I work with high school students, directing a ~15-20 minute story adaptation every spring. For the last few years, I’ve been trying to find a good LGBT story to work with them, but nothing felt exactly right. I had the support of the both artistic director and my fellow teachers, but  the theatre isn’t LGBT-focused; I needed something that would work well on its own merits. A co-teacher pointed me to The Blue Rose, the original of which is available online. There are other versions out there, if you Google them. As you can see, it didn’t need many tweaks to function really beautifully.  

Sharing this with my students was an incredible experience, one I wasn’t anticipating. First, I’ve worked with many of them for years. They knew I’d been looking for an LGBT story. When I said I’d found one, the entire class buzzed with excitement – they were excited about an LGBT story, too. When they actually read through it – particularly the song near the end – it sent chills down my spine. I am so eager to work with them on this, and wanted to share the draft version with you. I know how hard it was for me to find a good LGBT fairy tale, so hopefully this will be of use to someone else. So here it is!

The Blue Rose
By Maurice Baring
Adapted by Rebecca Kling

Once upon a time there lived a wise and kindly Emperor, whose daughter was remarkable for her perfect beauty. Her smile was the most captivating in all the world; her eyes were as bright as brown onyxes; and when you heard her laugh it was like listening to a tinkling stream, or to the chimes of a silver bell. Moreover, the Emperor’s daughter was as wise as she was beautiful, and she recited the verse of the great poets better than anyone in the land. The Emperor was old in years; his son was married and had begotten a son; he was, therefore, quite happy about the succession to the throne, but he wished before he died to see his daughter wedded to someone who should be worthy of her.

Many suitors presented themselves at the palace, as soon as it became known that the Emperor desired a son-in-law, but when they reached the palace, they were met by the Lord Chamberlain, who told them the Emperor’s daughter had placed a condition upon her suitors: Only the one who found and brought back the Blue Rose should marry his daughter. The suitors were much puzzled by this order. What was the Blue Rose, and where was it to be found? In all, a hundred and fifty suitors had presented themselves, and out of these, fifty at once put away from them all thought of winning the hand of the Emperor’s daughter, since they considered the condition imposed to be absurd. Continue reading 'The Blue Rose – a queer fairy tale'»

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