Power Leveling

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

— Bene Gesserit litany against fear

So a week ago I’m standing outside a bar in NW Portland, about as scared as I’ve ever been in my life. (See prior entries for scale.) Inside there’s a meetup group, a whole gaggle of lesbians from the Internet who have gotten together to get drunk and talk. I desperately wish to make more friends. But I’m terrified of going in there, introducing myself, and sitting down for a drink. It doesn’t help that I don’t see any other trans girls in there. I look like a boy in a dress. I know I can’t back down. I will feel like shit if I do.

I trade some panicked text messages with my ex, and she convinces me to step up and take my chances. I do. It is painful. And awkward. Terrible, really. But eventually I feel not so self-conscious. The whisky helps a lot with that. Some nice women from Seattle make an effort to make me feel safe and included. I spend a pleasant, but no more than that, two hours in their company. It’s too far out of my zone to be truly comfortable. At the end I go home, drained and shaken and glad I went.

I feel like shit for the next three days. Tired, withdrawn, nervous. You can’t do this stuff for free.

I’m looking for another group to go to, to do this again. And again, and again. As many times as it takes until I can do it without needing someone to reassure me. As many times as it takes until I can do it with grace.


Beaverton’s Greatest Hits

Since I started wearing skirts in public, I have become a connoisseur of strange looks from straight people. Here are my favorites. 
The Silent Walleye 
The “I’m Not Staring” 
The “I’m Confused” 

The Eager Ally 

The Double-take
The Abrupt Silence 
The Nervous Smile

Trans* Unity Day!

As I promised last year (holy shit, last year!) I am celebrating Trans Unity Day again. Those of you who have your own blogs, I encourage you to write your own posts on this as well.

Last year was an amazing year for us. We made smashing progress on all fronts, and are more visible to the general population than ever. And while most people think of us as some kind of exotic super-queer double-fags, lots of cis (gay and straight) folks nod politely when we’re in the room, but wouldn’t invite us and never fuck us, and nobody wants their kids to grow up to be one of us…most people don’t want the government discriminating against us. Or employers. Or landlords.

A solid majority of Americans, including 93% of Catholics(!) and 86% of Republicans(!!) think we should have the same basic legal protections and rights as anyone else. This is stunning. Up to 75% of Americans support workplace discrimination protections, and large majorities can give essentially accurate descriptions of what the word transgender means.

This is better news than I could have ever believed was possible. It means that we’re winning. It means that people are making the jump, realizing that we’re human, just like them. It means that we have to keep fighting, because we need to solidify our gains before the backlash starts.

So today I urge you all to re-dedicate yourselves to the cause of gender equity in all forms. Male, female, other, nongendered; cis, trans, gay, straight. None of us are free from gender stigma until all of our gender configurations are considered legitimate and of equal worth to anyone else’s.

Separatism is not the way. Division holds us back. We’re all worthwhile. Last year I wrote about how transsexual separatists undermine the cause for equality. I’d like to this to grow beyond that spat, and make this a day for all people to celebrate their gender, find joy in who they are, and reaffirm their commitment to justice in all forms. We embrace each other and celebrate our diversity and our unity, and we will make a world safe for the kids who come behind us.

I’ll be writing about this next year, and every year. We will win.

On Allies

I don’t need them. I don’t want them. If you call yourself an ally, good for you. Gold star. Please fuck off.

What I need are friends, and I have those. I’m always willing to make more. But I choose them. They do not appoint themselves. When I see people call themselves allies, I shrink away. Only recently have I been able to put my finger on why.

It’s fucking demeaning to have a stranger walk up and declare themselves your ally. Even in the best of intentions, it hurts. It presumes that I can’t find my own people to watch my back, that I need self-proclamed allies to help me. It erases my chioce to have, or not have, a relationship with you, because you have declared the shape our relationship from the outset, without negotiations, on the basis of me being queer alone.

And I fucking hate you for it.

Don’t be an ally. Be a friend. I know, I know, being a friend is harder; you have to see me as a person. Or maybe we don’t click. Maybe you can’t stand me. That’s fine. Sometimes people don’t work together. You don’t have to be a Friend to All Trannies. What you can do instead is just try not to be an asshole. Vote for our rights when they’re on the chopping block. And for fuck’s sake, don’t out us to your friends to show how open minded you are for hanging out with trans people. 

Just…just don’t be a shithead. Seriously. That’s all I want. That’s all I need.

It Happened in a Room Full of People

A few days ago, a trans woman was brutally beaten in a Baltimore McDonald’s. The video at this link isn’t so much graphic as it is viscerally disturbing. There’s no blood, but the victim does start to have a seizure at towards the end. The victim has been identified as a trans woman named Chrissy Lee Polis. I haven’t been able to find out more about her condition, other than no death announcement has been made, so she presumably is still alive.

When I first saw the video, it horrified me in a way I didn’t expect. I’ve never been triggered before. I wonder if that’s what it feels like. After I finished crying, I felt numb and empty. While watching the video I kept thinking Why doesn’t she fight back? Please fight back. Please get up. But she can’t, because she’s scared, and hurt, outnumbered, and for most of the ordeal, alone.

And that’s what really gets me. She shouldn’t have been alone. This happened in a room full of people. Two women viciously beat another to within an inch of her life, and in a room full of spectators, the only help that Chrissy got was a brief, half-hearted intervention by what appears to be the store manager (who may have retreated to call in the police), and a brave yet ineffectual stand made by an old woman. In a room full of people, the only two who decided to help were the man with a profit motive, and a woman who was so old she couldn’t do more than say “stop” in a firm tone of voice.

This is why I haven’t cross-dressed in public yet. The furthest I’ve gone was a walk around the block in my ladyboots at 3 AM, to be sure that nobody would see me. I should feel safe in San Francisco, and I’ve seen plenty of trans people out and about.  But last week, a trans woman got severely beaten at the 16th street BART stop, a stop that I pass through regularly. So when I see this video of what happened in Baltimore, and I read about what happened right here in San Francisco, I get scared. If I was on the ground, getting kicked, would it be any different for me?

I told my cis friend about this video when she came home. She’s usually pretty good. But this time it felt like she immediately tried to minimize it, saying that the cameraman taking pictures and putting it online could help find the perpetrators, that the bystanders didn’t want to get hurt and we can’t blame them for that, and so on. She says I shouldn’t demonize them until I have more info.

But I’m not angry yet. I’m in shock. I’m freaked out. I haven’t gotten to anger because I’m still coming to grips with the fact that this happened in a room full of people.

People who, individually, may have had their reasons. People who, individually, might be able to make a good excuse. People who, if they tried hard enough, could explain why an old lady had more guts and compassion than they did.

It happened in a room full of people.

UPDATE: Chrissy speaks to the Baltimore Sun about the attack. She appears to be in good health and recovering well. It appears that the seizures were a problem she had experience with before and was anticipating after she got hit a few times. This is not meant to excuse the girls for beating her into a seizure, or in any way minimize the severity of the attack. She mentions coughing up blood on the McDonald’s glass door. She says she is afraid of going outside now. (h/t to my lovely commenter Alexa who posts the link below)

UPDATE 2: The cis friend I mentioned saw the video for the first time. She wasn’t able to finish it. I think it may be unfair of me to act like she was blowing the whole thing off now. When I first told her about it, my description of the video was a bit hazy and vague; I was still reeling from the shock. Now that she’s seen it, she is just as horrified as I am, which, in a sick kind of way, is reassuring.

Happy Transgender Unity Day!

These charming people are participating in a letter writing campaign today, in which they write letters and emails to their representatives insisting that they are not transgendered, but transsexuals, and that they will not put up with the colonialist tyranny of the transgendered any more! They have no truck with the (presumed to be dubious) “sociopolitical” agenda of those who would attack the hallowed gender binary. And so they are declaring March 22nd to be Transsexual Independence Day, and wish it to be known to all that from this day forth, the T is irrevocably sundered from the LGB!

Feh, I say. Feh.

If you look through their site, you’ll see it’s a pretty good example of transsexual separatists, and what is wrong with them. Separatists like to draw a lot of hard lines between them and the wider trans community, and then say that the people on the other side of the line aren’t as good as them and are oppressing them as well. They reject most modern gender theory, tend to be older, and tend to really get freaked out when lines become fuzzy or boundaries blurred.

Reading this independence declaration and the comment thread below it can provide evidence of several unsavory assumptions:

  • There are ONLY TWO GENDERS, and transsexuals happen to have the wrong one.
  • People who are really trans will naturally seek surgical correction; those who don’t see genital surgery are faking it for political reasons.
  • Transsexuals have a “correctable medical condition,” and that, by implication, there is a correct and incorrect way to be trans and those who do not seek their solution are incorrect.
  • That “correction” is necessary to go on and function as a useful member of society, and that those who don’t do it their way are, by implication, not useful.
  • That transgendered people are trying to co-opt some kind of monolithic ur-trans narrative, that we’re poisoning it and forcing the “classic” transsexuals out in the cold.

The underlaying themes of these assumptions are division, fear, and an insistence that some modes of gender are inherently more legitimate and deserving of recognition than others. Separatists, by all appearances, are retrograde thowbacks who are bitter at being left in the dust. Thankfully not all, or even most (as far as I can tell) self-identified transsexuals believe this tripe. Trans men in particular seem less likely to insist in surgery. So far as I can tell the people in my generation are quite comfortable with the transgender umbrella (which is starting to move towards an even more inclusive “trans*” label, anyhow), and see the value in cooperation, non-judgmental discourse, and allowing each of our brothers and sisters to find their own path.

And so to those of you who value unity, who seek understanding and mutual aid, who know that there are many ways to be a woman and many ways to be a man, I say that today is a day of celebration!

Happy Transgender Unity Day! This day, every year, we will celebrate our triumph over the forces of division and bitterness. Those of us who continue to seek the full surgical route will be supported and loved as they seek to find the self-comfort and relief from dysphoria we all crave; those of us who don’t will be equally loved and looked after as they chart their own course. Together, we will continue fighting for a new world, where everyone can explore gender in peace, safety, and love.

Mark your calenders. I’ll be doing a bigger event next year.

Vocabulary Quiz

Being queer in 21st century America is like living in a vocabulary quiz. This is particularly true of those of us on the gender non-conformist side of things, because the vocab used to describe our situation is so new and fluid. I’ve encountered queer theory bloggers asserting, as if it were a commonly understood fact, that MTF and FTM are outdated and “broken” terms. This surprised the hell out of me because I didn’t get the memo and we never voted on it down at the local Hivemind Meeting. Sometime later I encountered AMAB and AFAB for the first time and when I asked what they meant I was informed in quite a snippy manner that I should refer to Google for that question. Google shrugged and said “All Mods Are Bastards?” I later found out they mean “assigned male at birth” and “assigned female at birth,” and I’m still not clear on if AMAB and AFAB are supposed to replace or compliment MTF and FTM.

And here’s the point: I don’t care one way or the other. Just in the 3 years I’ve been aware of my queerness, the vocabulary has expanded and developed and marched on. The acronym for the LGBT community has occasionally been expanded to as many as eleven (!!) letters: LGGBTTQQIAA, or some combination thereof. Recently, QUILTBAG has been half-jokingly suggested as an alternative. (Queer Undecided Intersexed Lesbian Trans* Bi Asexual Gay/Genderqueer) Probably the weirdest mutation of the vernacular that I’ve seen so far was someone who claimed to be a cisgendered person in a transsexed body, which sounds like a transexual in denial to me, but maybe there’s something I missed.

Given the constant flux and advances in theory,  it seems foolish to settle on one mode of speaking as the correct one, and to set up witch hunts for anyone who fails to follow the most bleeding edge lexicon. And yet that’s exactly what I’ve seen some people do. I think this is unreasonable. Not everyone has the time, energy, or inclination to keep up with these things. More importantly, as much as it pains my English major heart to say it, a lot of this shit doesn’t fucking matter. Take for instance “trans woman” vs. “transwoman.” The current consensus, so far as such a chimerical fancy can exist, is that the first way is the preferred way. The thinking is that trans women are just another kind of woman, not an exotic new creature, and so “trans” should be applied as an adjective, not grafted on to form a new word. I happen to agree with this, and it is my preferred form of identifying what I am in text. However, if someone else wants to use transwoman, I’m probably not going to stop a conversation dead just to lecture them. And I’m certianly not going to tell them it’s offensive. Because it’s not. The fact that one of us gets murdered every three days is offensive.

So how about we all relax, be cool, and recognize that some of us talk differently than others, and that within reasonable boundaries, that’s okay? Once we’ve gotten rid of systemic discrimination, then we can waste all our energy on stupid vocabulary quizzes.