Transgender Allies
GLSEN Goes to the Super Bowl

You’ve probably seen the ThinkB4YouSpeak ads put out by GLSEN (rock-dwellers: the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) to discourage the use of phrases like “that’s so gay” in popular culture. These ads point out how senseless and potentially hurtful it is to use “gay” as a synonym for “dumb.” Some ads do this by putting the person who says “that’s so gay” in a gay person’s shoes (thank you, Hilary Duff) while some simply speak out against it (thank you, NBA). It’s true that a lot of queer people do this themselves in an effort to “take back the word,” but the practice can definitely contribute to feelings of isolation and worthlessness to queer youth, especially uncertain and potentially closeted youth who don’t have a network of queer friends reminding them it’s okay to be gay.

Thanks to airtime generously donated by Grazie Media (you can add your signature to GLSEN’s thank-you note here), GLSEN was able to air new PSA’s including the ones above AT THE ACTUAL SUPER BOWL. According to GLSEN’s webpage about this project, some 800,000 spectators in both the stadium and the surrounding parking lots saw these on the stadium’s big screen. Anti-gay groups—including everyone’s favorite, Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church—protested the airing of the ads and even went to the Super Bowl to form a picket line, which apparently didn’t get too much attention from the sports fans. If you don’t care because you want to fight homophobia, care because much homophobia is rooted in gender stereotypes (a boy teased for “acting gay” is usually really being teased for “acting” feminine), which hurts our community too. If THAT doesn’t interest you, care because the most-shared and most-commented-on status GLSEN posted about the Super Bowl is actually about a transgender woman who joined the counter protest.

 

The status, which you can see in full on GLSEN’s Facebook page, shows a photo of the woman holding a sign that reads “I’m transgendered. I’m prettier than all of the WBC and God still loves me” and hails her as an ally. The post adds that “a couple of football fans came up to the trans woman and prayed with her in support of the counter protest directly in front of the anti-gay picket.” Right now, there are 73 comments about how beautiful and strong this woman is. The community has chosen to focus on this individual’s strength over anything else. I don’t know if GLSEN is moderating comments, but I couldn’t find a shred of transphobia in any of them. There can be a lot of in-fighting in the queer community, but I like this example of the fact that we can really come together in the face of hatred.

Revisiting My Roots…?

Sooo I’ve fallen off the face of the planet—again—and now I’m back—again—until I decide that I’m not sure what I should be writing about—again. My initial goal in starting this blog was to help people who had little to no experience in the trans world, and didn’t know about any resources that could help them become more comfortable with the community, the vocabulary, and even the concept. I wanted to do this because I was once frustratingly unable to grasp the reality of being transgender, and when I was able to admit this to myself and actively seek help understanding, I was met with more questions than answers.

To be specific: I went to my first ever transgender allies workshop/discussion at a transgender rights conference and met a whole bunch of people who didn’t really know how to define or describe their partners/parents/kids/friends and, in many cases, themselves because of it (am I still a lesbian?). I got into a long conversation with a parent about existing resources—websites were the most accessible, but there were no question-and-answer or networking sites, no routinely updated newsfeeds, that weren’t out of Facebook or something similar. What if— she asked my young English major aspiring writer self—SOMEONE were to start a blog addressing common issues new allies were facing? People could connect about similar experiences via the comment feature; relative anonymity would provide comfort but moderated comments would provide safety.

I started on Blogger. I wrote about conferences and vocabulary, about employment laws, about respecting your partner’s identity without sacrificing your own. The problem was nobody read it. Someone convinced me to move to Tumblr, insisted it would guarantee readers. The readers are here, but the new allies, it seems, are not; in fact, my first few readers scolded me for oversimplifying things, which is of course the point of an introduction—to be simple. I’ve changed my approach and received a lot more positive feedback—but now I feel I’ve lost sight of my original intent and am ‘preaching to the choir.’ Who’s helping the newest allies? Where are they looking for that help?

I’ve thought about tagging some posts for new allies, while others are news or shared experiences or so on. I’ve thought about starting a separate blog altogether to avoid boring the people that follow this one, too—but wouldn’t it be more beneficial for new allies to be able to interact with the community? I know ultimately I’ll keep writing for both new and experienced allies, so perhaps it doesn’t even matter. I was just wondering if anyone had any suggestions for ways I could reach out to new allies and help connect all of us in new ways.

***EDIT/NOTE/WHATEVER—I WILL respond to things in my inbox, I just wrote this before I got online and will probably not have time to respond today. I’m not ignoring you. Sorry. :-/

This makes me feel a little better about the people who think there are only two genders. Like, you know, my graduate counseling class. >_<

This makes me feel a little better about the people who think there are only two genders. Like, you know, my graduate counseling class. >_<

Check this out. And, if you can, help out and share information! Here is an example of a chance to change things.

artoftransliness:

http://tgeu.org/call-ICD11

Greetings from GATE - Global Action for Trans* Equality!


As you may or may not know, the World Health Organization (WHO) has started the process of reviewing the International Classification of Diseases (known as ICD-10), with the goal of publishing…

You are who you are. Labels, like clothes, can be used as a tool to express who you are. No two people wear the same outfit in the exact same way; their bodies naturally fill that outfit differently, their skin or hair colors complement it differently, their energy naturally moves it differently, and the person can choose different shoes, accessories, and so on to accentuate it differently.
Other people don&#8217;t get to pick your labels or how you tailor them to fit you; you do. It&#8217;s your style, your identity, and your expression.
queersecrets:

[image: several pink hello kitty sweaters for young girls. text: “I worry that since I’m a FtM who likes wearing girls clothes, that maybe I’m just gender-queer.”] 

You are who you are. Labels, like clothes, can be used as a tool to express who you are. No two people wear the same outfit in the exact same way; their bodies naturally fill that outfit differently, their skin or hair colors complement it differently, their energy naturally moves it differently, and the person can choose different shoes, accessories, and so on to accentuate it differently.

Other people don’t get to pick your labels or how you tailor them to fit you; you do. It’s your style, your identity, and your expression.

queersecrets:

[image: several pink hello kitty sweaters for young girls. text: “I worry that since I’m a FtM who likes wearing girls clothes, that maybe I’m just gender-queer.”] 

Educating the Educators

This is a REALLY LONG post, but, it’s a fun story. Plus, long posts are okay if you’ve gone on a months-long hiatus, right?

Today, I tore apart a class of future Student Affairs professionals for silencing people who don’t fit into the gender binary. It was beautiful, but it made me realize how much work we have left to do, even among the people who claim to be on our side. It was a group presentation on how gender roles can affect college students. Some quotes from their handout:

·       Sex: “refers to the biological difference between male and female.”

·       Gender: “a socially constructed distinction between male and female.”

·       “Sex and gender are inseparable; those who are sexual males are normally perceived as gendered men and sexual females are normally perceived as gendered women.”

I am ripping my hair out.

The entire presentation talked about gender using the terms ‘male’ and ‘female,’ and never, even once, acknowledged the possibility of something else. Most of the class was spent getting classmates to talk about times they have been restricted because of their gender. You know, Mommy always made me curl my hair in grade school, that kind of thing. Then, at the end of the presentation, someone mentioned that SOME people ACTUALLY think that gender is fluid, and that genders beyond male and female exist. *GASP* They presented this idea by showing a youtube montage of newscasters freaking out about a couple raising a baby without a gender shoved down its throat, and asked us if we thought this was a bad idea.

I’d had enough, and announced I was going to talk now and had three things to say.

One—even this clip about a baby being raised outside the binary shows how much power the binary has over us. All the clips were ranting about ‘his or her’ parents when the reality is it is THEY who are imposing THEIR politics on this child. Some of you have probably never heard of this, but one in every who-knows-how-many babies are actually born with genitalia that are not distinguishable as male or female, or have characteristics of both—and nine times out of ten, that baby is operated on, without the parents’ knowledge or consent, in order to make them appear more ‘normal.’ Those babies never get a chance; this one does. For all any of us know, this child isn’t even male or female to begin with; sex is NOT a binary.

Two—since sex is not a binary, it stands to reason that gender is not a binary either. Viewing it as a binary silences countless voices you could learn from. I didn’t say anything during our conversation because I haven’t been told I’m not feminine enough; I’ve been told I’m not masculine enough to claim the gender I do. Most of you will look at me and label me as a woman, and that’s your problem, not mine. In reality, I don’t identify as a woman OR a man; I am something called genderqueer, and there are a hundred other words I could throw at you if we had time. Tons of people exist outside the gender binary and are silenced by gender assumptions—like the ones you’ve all presented in this class which is supposed to be ABOUT gender assumptions. I don’t mean to call you out, but no one in your group even MENTIONED transgender or gender variant people in your presentation ABOUT GENDER. Maybe women are less valued than men, but gender variant people are invisible in general society.

Three—sometimes, gender and sex ARE binary concepts, but are not at all related. T—, when you said you had to shovel snow while your sister had to cook breakfast every day, it made me think of my partner. When he was a girl, he had to do things like that too. Yes. I said that. When he transitioned to being a man, his parents taught him how to mow the lawn because that’s what real men do. My partner is accepted as a man by everyone who comes into contact with him because that’s how he presents; we call it “passing” and he is lucky enough to do it consistently. But my partner is female. That’s a binary identity in which sex and gender are not traditionally linked. And that’s only one way gender complicates sexuality. He doesn’t identify with words like queer or straight because all of those words immediately suggest a sex and gender that match for the person using them. Likewise, I don’t identify as a lesbian anymore, because that suggests I am a woman and date women, not a gender-variant person who dates other gender-variant people.

I wanted to share my experiences with you all because, someday, you are going to be working at colleges with gender variant people. You won’t even know they’re in the room sometimes, but we’re everywhere. And, if you all talk the way you talked tonight, you are going to be silencing those students the way that I felt silenced during this class.

This, of course, is a paraphrase; I was more candid and less articulate in class, I’m sure, but I did cover every point mentioned above— some better than others.

My classroom was dead silent. All eyes were on me, but not in a look-at-the-freak way; in a oh-wow-I-never-thought way.

My professor, who’s pretty fantastic, chided me for not speaking up sooner. I tried to explain that I’d waited on purpose—if I’d just jumped in ranting about feeling oppressed, everyone would’ve been defensive, and the class wouldn’t have had the opportunity to SEE how the silencing works. But she wasn’t satisfied with that and informed me I would be talking more about my experiences next week.

Can’t wait.

Sorry.

Not dead. Just. Um. Life. I’ll be up and running again soon!

366) Sometimes I feel like I will never be man enough for my partner.

1.) It’s not about being man enough, it’s about being YOU enough. If you can’t be yourself, then the love isn’t healthy and/or the sex isn’t fun.

2.) The only person who gets to define what kind of, or how much of, a man you are is you.

The Bi/Trans/Pans Debate: Why Respecting Everyone Matters

 I have a lot of queer friends. We have a lot of interesting conversations about identity and legality and how crazy the world is. I recently got to witness a conversation that exemplified, at least to us, why this whole bi-trans debate (you know; does the term ‘bisexual’ negate transfolk and uphold the gender binary?) is really unnecessary. The setup: a lesbian, a bisexual, a pansexual and a transsexual (all terms used generally) walk into the room (we were not at a bar, but you can pretend). The lesbian and bisexual are dating, are both female, and are very affectionate; whenever they get caught in a PDA moment, someone inevitably goes “ewwwwww, lesbians!” At first it was funny, but after a while, the bisexual friend in question starting voicing how this actually made her feel uncomfortable and overlooked because it entirely undermined her bisexual identity. And some people were like, oh right. Our bad. But some other people were like, get over it, you’re a lesbian right now.

Cue the pansexual (female presenting) and transsexual (male presenting), who are also dating and are also fairly affectionate, but get less teasing from the general group. During one of THEIR recent PDA moments, the bisexual friend interjected, “ewwwwww, breeders!” Everyone laughed, but the pansexual girl, who may or may not actually be me, was like, oh hell no. Saying that entirely undermines my queer identity. And people were like, oh right. Our bad.

The bisexual friend said nothing, just let it sink it. One by one, the members of our little group realized that if we’re going to respect one queer’s preferred identity label, we’re going to have to respect another’s, too. We haven’t had our next group get-together yet, but I’m willing to bet there will be far fewer lesbian jokes aimed at my clever bisexual friend.

Moral of the story: There is no queer hierarchy, no right or wrong way to be who you are. We all identify differently because that difference makes us beautiful; respecting that difference makes our friendships beautiful. Don’t overlook identities you don’t understand; you never know when it’s going to come back to you.