Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Transgender Day of Rememberance 2007

Well it's late and I just got home from a long afternoon in downtown DC. My reason for being there was to attend a Day of Rememberance service held in front of the Whitman Walker Clinic.

For me, memorializing our loved ones and friends was about not letting their spirit and influence on our lives go unforgotten. Additionally its about living and moving forward.  We learn and grow from those before us and never forget the tragic loss of having them leave us too soon. With our trans brothers and sisters though, it's because of ignorance and hate that they have left us in body, yet never in spirit.

I feel even more compelled to help in organizing Baltimore's Day of Rememberance next year.

I'm emotional tapped out at this point!

There was some uplifting from my travels today. Even though I was tooling around in drab mode, I ran into several friends including my friend Kay. Kay moved away from DC in 2005 and just recently moved back. Needless to say I'm excited. Locally, on a scale of androgyne and transition, she was someone I looked up to. I aspired to be like Kay.  Many noted trans-activist and leaders were on hand and I personally met Rev Drew Phoenix  who was just trying to quietly attend the service. My friend Donna introduced me to Mara Keisling, the Executive Director of NCTE. There is a genuine humility in both of their voices. 

Not much more than the desire to reflect.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Ah, yes.. What's a little "T" amongst friends?

For those who read John Aravosis' Swiss Cheese piece in Salon you can spare yourselves the repeat. For those less "fortunate", I've linked it above.

Mr Aravosis proffers an opinion that the LGB(T) community as a whole wants ENDA with or without the gender identity provisions.

However, the piece is titled " How did the T get in LGBT?" His entire assertion is that the T does not belong in with LGB. Mr Aravosis chooses to use the Wikipedia version of the LGBT history. We all know the hours of painstaking fact checking and vetting that done there..... Hell, Dan Rather did more vetting on his "Bush's National Guard " piece.... Let's actually review some facts.

1.) The T came first

The "T" in the LGBT Movement...
It's a hot August night in San Francisco in 1966 -- three years before the famed Stonewall. Compton's Cafeteria, in the seedy Tenderloin district, is hopping with its usual assortment of transgender people, young street hustlers, and down-and-out regulars. The management, annoyed by the noisy crowd at one table, calls the police. When a surly cop, accustomed to manhandling Compton's clientele, attempts to arrest one of the queens, she throws her coffee in his face. Mayhem erupts -- windows break, furniture flies through the air. Police reinforcements arrive, and the fighting spills into the street. For the first time, the drag queens band together to fight back, getting the better of the cops, whom they kick and stomp with their high-heeled shoes and beat with their heavy purses. For everyone at Compton's that night, one thing was certain -- things would never be the same again. This act of resistance was a dramatic turning point for the transgender community, and the beginning of a new human rights struggle that continues to this very day. For almost 40 years, it was an almost-forgotten footnote until the recent film documentary Screaming Queens recovered the story for today's audiences.

Somewhere in the early 70's the movement to "mainstream" homosexuality started rolling. The idea that all gay men wore panties and all lesbians had hairy armpits and drove semis were stereotypes that had to be buried.And rightfully so. However,this resulted the sweeping the Queens and Fairies under the Yellow Brick Road.

A good yet brief history of the Trans/HRC schism can be read here

2.) Not all gay men are Will Truman.....

Gender identity protects effeminate gay men and butch lesbians as much, if not more that transgendered persons. While within certain demographics of the gay community, the white collared Tom Ford wannabes ( "Not that there's anything wrong with that....."), and the Angelina Jolie'd Lipstick Lesbians anything non conforming in presentation draws negative attention to themselves. We trans folks do the same with the "French Maid" and " Sissy Sluts". Yet what of the Jack McFarlands? the Nancy Boys, Tomboys, Chapstick Lesbians, Dykes, Bulls or not, and your garden variety Queers? Yes Queer. Isn't THAT the common thread we share?

We are a Union of Queer Folk.

Let's really discuss his premise here. How DID the T get in LGBT?

His argument of incremental rights has been floated by many supporting a non gender identity version of ENDA. The talking points go like this "Civil rights legislation -- hell, all legislation -- is a series of compromises. You rarely get everything you want, nor do you get it all at once. Blacks, for example, won the right to vote in 1870. Women didn't get that same right until 1920".

Mr Aravosis' explanation of incremental rights would have meant that blacks and women were in the same fight for voting rights in the 1870 and that someone in Congress decided to eliminate women from The Fifteenth Amendment.

Based on his "logic", incremental rights would have actually worked like this:

"Light skinned Blacks, for example, won the right to vote in 1870. Dark skinned blacks didn't get that same right until 1920."

For Mr Aravosis, any ENDA is better than no ENDA is a cover for his transphobia.
That "I started asking friends and colleagues, ranging from senior members of the gay political/journalistic establishment to apolitical friends around the country to the tens of thousands of daily readers of my blog" and "if they thought we should pass ENDA this year even without gender identity. Everyone felt bad about taking gender identity out of ENDA, everyone supported transgender rights, and everyone told me "pass it anyway." The final quotation marks are his. As if everyone one of them replied with exactly that answer.
Hmmm? I can see this conversation now, over Martinis at Halo.

"Trans folk are nice enough people though, even if they are riding on our shirt tails. "
" Of course I like transgender people, some of my best friends are transgendered."

Mr Aravosis, I don't care if you're trans phobic. I'm use to transphobia from 80% of the population, just please drop the "Holier than Thou" and "Song and Dance"

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Example of Character

Some of us may be aware that Donna Rose, a well known member of the trans community and a Board member at HRC has resigned. Having read HRC's stance on ENDA and its decision to oppose immediate markup of the bill, and Joe Solomonese's speech at SCC in September, I found her convictions refreshing.

While HRC is now scrambling to recover, PassENDAnow, and this latest statement from Joe Solomonese both are pushing for full support of an inclusive ENDA, not the Barney Frank proposed and Nancy Pelosi supported "Cert's" bill, " Two, two, two bill's in one". Is this too late to regain support from the trans community? Were they always onboard and just looking for a way to delay the markup in order to truly garner the votes needed?

I say it doesn't matter. Anything short of an immediate rebuke to Rep. Frank's proposal and a call to action from the entire GLBT community in support of that position is unacceptable. It says they would be willing to "sell" us out. It draws into question their only recent conversion to include transgender rights.

People , this is nothing new for HRC, the HALF Rights Campaign.

The ironic thing is it is all a moot point. The current administration will veto it. Our solidarity would encourge those wavering on passage to have the courage the next time it is introduced. Yet movement on this bill was to show force and unity from the GLBT community.

And HRC flinched.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Where is the L-O-V-E?

As I geared up for my 4th SCC, I had the opportunity to reflect on my personal journey of the last 4 years.

By 2003, I had come to terms with the fact I was transgendered. Even though I could not quantify the cause, I accepted it as part of my nature. It had been since the tender age of 6. Years of guilt and shame had taken its toll and I was ready for a change. Many things had transpired in the preceding year. My last relationship(HST i.e. hostage taking situation....) had ended in miserable failure. I was finally on my own, and, as I found to be later, on my way. New job, new income status, and new freedom allowed me to express this identity in a safer environment.

As these planets all came into alignment I found less than a harmonic convergance. The more exposed I was to the multivalent construal known as transgenderism, the less shielded I was to its stark divisions. I knew I was transgendered, however which subset did I belong to?

Communication and language are tools mankind has developed to express a point of view as to allow another person to understand it. For the purpose of my assessment I choose to define three subsets as following; transsexual (both op and non-op), androgynous ( including gender queers and crossdressers who dress for gender identity expression), and transvestites ( to include any fetish based or emotionally driven cross gendered expression through attire/clothing). At the core to each of these BROAD subsets is HOW gender and its expression relates to THEM.

[Please note: A crossdresser is ANYONE who wears clothing of their opposite physical sex. Transgender is an umbrella term used to describe ANYONE with a gender identity or expression that is at odds with society's binary gender construct]

To the transsexual, its is an innate sense knowing they who they are gender wise, its the body which is incongruent to this defined sense of self.

To the androgynous, its a sense of two genders.Sometimes singularly expressed, and sometimes jointly expressed. Yet typically never just one gender identity as defined by society's binary constructs.

To the transvestite, its a sense of fulfillment to an aspect of their gender definitions through the wearing of garments typically associated to the opposite physical sex. The fullfillment can be sexual in nature and it can be emotional too.

And therein, as the Bard would tell us, lays the rub.

Some transsexuals feel detached or wish to detach themselves from other transgendered individuals because their sense of self is, at least at the point they affirmed their status as transsexual, innate, permanant and quite clear. They were born with the right mind, its just the body which lagged behind. Anyone with less than the same feeling or sense of self could possible cause society at large to demean their situation. (Like its stereotypical TG characters in such movies as Dressed to Kill or Silence of the Lambs) Not dressing within a binarily defined gender contruct ( gender queer/fuck, or androgynous) or dressing in a fetish way can be seen as destructive to them and they need to blend in and be accepted. For many the ultimate goal is to fit into mainstream society and allow themselves to finally just live.

Some androgynous people consider and classify themselves as transgendered because in society's collective vocabulary, they have no accurate word to define themselves. They feel more bi-gendered variant that transvestites and less inconguent in their gender -physicality relationship than transsexuals. They see fetish based crossdressing involving intimate appearal or the lack there of(exposed body parts) in online photo albums as a threat to their legitimacy.

And, some transvestites, content on living with their gender which is in sync with their physical sex, will think in terms of their sense of self and do not possess the capacity to reasonably empathize beyond that contrust. To no fault of their own. How can white Americans truly understand personal biasses afflected upon black Americans. They lack a certain perspective. They are no less ridiculed by society than any other transgendered person however.

I have found, at times, a deep and dark distain for each other by some of us within all of these three subsets. However it seems to be strongest between the two extremes, transsexuals and transvestites. Transgender has been called an umbrella term . Yet I see it more like a covered bus stop. We're all in it together, however none of us want to look at or communicate with each other.

So this beg's to ask the question.

Where is the Love?

At a national level, most of the activism is directed to provide acceptance for those actively living and expressing, on a full time basis, a gender expression inconguent to their natal physicality. This means transsexuals both op and non-op or those 24/7.

At the local level most of the support mechanisms are gears towards the transvestites and provide a social outlet in addition to any emotional support provided.

While both of those two extremes benefit in small part to the actions taken on behalf of the other, there seems to be no middle ground and I certainly fail to see all of us holding hands and singing KumBayah anytime soon.

Which leaves us with the androgynous. You know us, chameleons as we are, we partied with the jocks and the stoners......