Category: trans

Thoughts on the Orlando shooting

By , June 13, 2016 11:50 am

There is something surreal, in moments like this, about being a privileged member of an oppressed minority. 

I can breeze through airport security with white privilege and passing privilege. I can walk into an ER with insurance and the self-possessed attitude of one who is used to receiving respect from medical professionals. I can claim, with no small amount of pride, a long list of close friends and family who have stuck with me since I transitioned. I am one who grew up surrounded by privilege, who has never worried about housing or employment, has never sought refuge in bars or clubs from society’s hate or rejection, one to whom the dangers of being trans often seem distant or removed; hypothetical.

In reality, however, my life has always been at risk. It’s been at risk for self-inflicted injury or harm, it’s been at risk for familial rejection, and it’s been at risk for violence, abuse, or death at the hands of those who would label me pervert, freak, man in a dress, or worse.

I stand atop a tower of privileges, those I’m mindful of and those I am likely unaware of. But that tower is never stable, and could topple at any moment. The best I can do is to attempt to find firm footing, help others do the same, and to call upon those who enjoy even greater privilege than I to build bridges and shore up foundations, to tie their lives to mine so that we may all move toward equality together, as one. And, of course, I must be mindful of those with less privilege than I, to ensure that my fears or worries don’t blind me to those who are even less stable than I.

Continue reading 'Thoughts on the Orlando shooting'»

Washington’s Letter to the Hebrew Congregation at Newport

By , February 18, 2016 10:33 am

From Washington’s Letter to the Hebrew Congregation at Newport, August 21, 1790:

It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

Read it carefully, and then reread it. Washington is saying that the time of mere tolerance (“toleration”) – where one group can decide whether or not another deserves rights – is over. The country Washington was working to build “requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens.”

It is undeniably worth applying a sizeable grain of salt to anything written on the topics of equality by the Founding Fathers. Most (all?) of them were sexist, racist, and classist. Nevertheless, they laid an impressive foundation on which to build a truly equal and equitable society.

I’m reminded of this passage as the news continues to come about South Dakota’s anti-trans bill, about the person in Washington who – by all accounts – took advantage of pro-trans laws, and the seemingly endless stream of anti-trans, anti-woman, anti-POC, anti-immigrant, anti-poor, anti- anti- anti- news from around the country.

“It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights…”

My existence cannot depend on mere tolerance from cis people. The existence of PoC cannot depend on mere tolerance from white people. The existence of the poor cannot depend on mere tolerance from the wealthy.

Washington – slaveholder, sexist, classist as he was – nevertheless hinted at a fundamental truth we are still striving to reach over two hundred years later.

Let us speak no more of toleration as if our rights should be subject to the indulgence of those with more power and privilege.

Creating Change, The LGBTQ movement, and the long game

By , January 29, 2016 11:49 am

Creating Change, the largest LGBTQ conference in the country, was in Chicago recently. There were a few dramatic moments, to say the least. In short, there was about a protest a day: At the Latinx Institute, at the Panel on Trans-Attracted Men, and – most notably and most reported – at the reception hosted by A Wider Bridge, “the pro-Israel organization that builds bridges between Israelis and LGBTQ North Americans and allies.” A few articles on the conference for your reading pleasure (I don’t agree with everything these articles say, but I’ve gotten something from each of them): LGBTQ Jews: Let’s Stop Talking About IsraelIn Praise of Discomfort: Learning From Dr. King and Confronting PinkwashingWe Can All Learn from Creating Change 2016. And The Task Force’s Rea Carey on the Protest That Rocked Her Conference.

There’s one more article making the rounds titled “Special Snowflake Syndrome is ruining the progressive LGBTQ movement.” I’m not going to link to it because I think it’s, on the whole, condescending; feel free to Google it if you’re interested. For all that the article does poorly, I DO think there’s a kernel of value in it: Far too many LGBTQ activists are eager to call out rather than call in. There is an utter inability to assume good intent or to try and find a common ground. And there is little room for a plurality of opinions. Either you agree with me or you’re the enemy. Continue reading 'Creating Change, The LGBTQ movement, and the long game'»

Signal Boost: How it Is To be Miss Tobi

By , October 20, 2015 2:16 pm

Got an email about this short (3 minute) YouTube video about Miss Tobi, a trans artist in Berlin. Enjoy!

Trans and non-dysphoric?

By , October 6, 2015 3:57 pm

I got an email today with a question: Do People that identify as trans or genderqueer but don’t have dysphoria make you angry?

For some background, there’s a growing population of people who identify as trans or genderqueer but don’t experience gender dysphoria, the distressing disconnect between one’s gender identity and physical sex commonly associated with trans identity and experience.

The short answer is, no, they don’t make me angry as a population or as a general identity. Everyday Feminism has a pretty good piece on why gender dysphoria isn’t (or shouldn’t be) needed to identify as trans, and the blog GenderTerror has some additional thoughts. The Everyday Feminism article covers most of what I want to say, so you should go read it. From that article:

It’s weird that some trans people are totally on-board with making a rulebook for transness, instead of encouraging people to self-identify and declare their gender identities for themselves.

When we allow other people to make the rules, we strip away the rights of trans people to self-identify. If we tell trans people that their identities don’t belong to them, we uphold a culture where the naming of gender identities belongs to outsiders instead of ourselves.

That said, there are certainly people who identify as trans and don’t experience gender dysphoria who do make me angry, and I’m open to talking about why

Continue reading 'Trans and non-dysphoric?'»

Signal Boost: Chicago performance looking for a trans actor

By , September 24, 2015 4:26 pm

Step Up Productions is seeking Chicago-based trans actors for its upcoming production of Temperance Vs. Tolerance by Mia McCullough directed by Patrice Foster. The short play will be featured in the 3rd annual production of HoliDaze.

Character Breakdown:
Celia: A transwoman, financial advisor. The eldest sibling (Seeking early 30s -late 40s). Self- absorbed, frosty.

A side will be sent out and we would like to see one prepared monologue.

There is a stipend of $200 for the production.

Audition Date: 9/28
Audition Time: between 7pm-10pm
Non – Equity
Rehearsals will be 1-2 times per week (date contingent on actor/director availability) beginning October 11th.
Tech 11/17-11/19
Previews: 11/20, 11/21, 11/23
Opening: 11/24
(No performances 11/25-11/27)
Performances from 11/28 – 12/20. Thursday-Saturday 8pm & Sunday 2pm

Please email headshot and resume and any audition time restrictions to Tara Branham at [email protected]

Why LGBTQ Activists Are Boycotting The Chicago Premier Of ‘Stonewall’

By , September 19, 2015 6:07 pm

I know, I know, I’ve been lousy about updating this blog. I’m working on it. In the meantime, I wrote an article for Chicagoist you should check out! A brief excerpt:

Anyone with a political mindset who pays at least a little attention to Hollywood is aware that the film industry has a problem when it comes to representing anyone other than straight, white, men.

Of the top 600 grossing films from 2007 to 2013, only 1.9 percent were directed by women. In the past decade or so, over three-fourths of all speaking roles in movies went to white characters. Depictions of LGBT characters in film are scarce and often offensive, and main character roles are even scarcer.

So it seems like Roland Emmerich’s film Stonewall should be cause for celebration The soon-to-be-released movie is a fictionalized retelling of the 1969 Stonewall Riots, where gays, lesbians, drag kings and queens and transgender people fought back against a police crackdown at the Stonewall Inn.

The Stonewall Riots are often called the beginning of the Gay Rights Movement, and they absolutely deserve to be depicted on film. And the movie has a great ad campaign. The poster has a pink backdrop, six people (most of them white and none of them visibly transgender) approach the viewer with giant grins and arms draped over each others’ shoulders, and a giant slogan takes up the top two-thirds: WHERE PRIDE BEGAN. Who wouldn’t want to support that movie?

Lots of trans people (this author included), lots of people of color and our allies are refusing to support the movie.

Working with trans students, K-12?

By , June 22, 2015 3:03 pm

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.

A Recipe For Womanhood

By , June 8, 2015 4:58 pm

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'»

Philadelphia Trans Health Conference 2015 – thoughts and reflections

By , June 7, 2015 11:58 am
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'»

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