Archive for the 'transgender' Category

19
Nov
13

Preserving the Transgender Day of Remembrance: A memorial for our dead

Our Transgender DeadTonight I went to the Transgender Day of Remembrance memorial in Boston. The city where this sad tradition was started in honour of Rita Hester, a local transgender woman who was murdered in 1998. And honestly, I’m having kind of a hard time. TDoR is always difficult for me. Surprisingly, I haven’t cried yet. But I usually do and I can feel the tears at the back of my eyes.

I go to a lot of trans events. And as a rule, I really try in my own work and activism to focus on the positives. I think it’s important for people to hear the good things about being trans. For trans people themselves to be given hope and even perhaps a little bit of joy in our shared experience.

But TDoR is a different thing. Transgender Day of Remembrance is the time to remember our struggles. To speak the names of our dead. To remind ourselves that no matter how far we have come, there is still a vast mountain to climb.

For the past couple of weeks I have been wanting to write something about Transgender Day of Remembrance, but not known what it is I should write about. Something that was said to me by a friend before the memorial tonight planted the seed though. I mentioned how difficult I often find TDoR to be. He responded with something to the effect that they were going to try and be a little more positive this year. So many people were being “triggered”.

It’s not the first time I have heard discussion of how people have a hard time coming to TDoR events. They’d rather celebrate life than focus on all this death. Talk about moving forward, rather than dwell on the past. I even hear more and more people every year, people I care about and love, talk about simply not going anymore because it’s just too depressing or they feel they’ve moved on with their own lives and transitions.

It all got me to thinking, and here’s the thing. I’m not sure I think it’s the worst thing that people find Transgender Day of Remembrance “triggering” or depressing. It should be “triggering”*. It is depressing. We are reading the names of trans people; transsexual, transgender and gender variant; whose lives have been tragically cut short.

These are our sisters and brothers. This is our family. But for little more than luck or accident of circumstance and privilege any of our names could be on that list. We need to remember that first and foremost, this is a memorial service. Transgender Day of Remembrance is for mourning our dead. Remembering each of these lives, so the deaths of our sisters and brothers do not go unmemorialized.

We take note of the available details surrounding their deaths. Every year as the names are being read, I make it a point to focus. To truly hear each name, take note of where they died and if it is available, their ages and the circumstances of their deaths. Realize this is more than just words being read. These were vital, vibrant lives ended.

And though I keep referring to these people as “our sisters and brothers who have died”. Let me be more specific and more frank. These are primarily our sisters, transwomen of colour, more often than not; who have not merely died, but were murdered. It’s important to keep that fact in mind.

It’s far, far too easy to become numb to these memorials. To go through the motions, because by now it’s a valuable community tradition that many of us have gotten used to. But let us not forget what this is about.

It is about pain and tragedy. The loss of human lives to the spectre of blind hate and pervasive ignorance. This IS dark. This IS painful. That is as it should be.

It is NOT a time for celebration. Unless it’s an Irish style Wake for the dead, cocktail parties are not an appropriate event. It is also not an LGBT “Holiday”. Though these deaths represent a common point for trans people and our allies to come together over. Let’s not forget these are trans deaths. This one is Big T, little lgb. If you have not involved trans people as leadership in your Transgender Day of Remembrance event, you’re doing it wrong. And if you have forgotten trans people of colour, specifically trans women of colour, you probably haven’t even gotten the point.

And yes, I think it’s important for all of us, no matter where we are in our transitions, to be there.

The rest of the year, let us focus on moving forward. Tell our stories about how it can be wonderful to be trans and proud. Work on coming together, building our community up. Laugh and sing and dance even!!

But this one day. Let this be for our dead. Plan on being upset. Don’t try to fight the tears. Really listen to the names. Whether it’s in a voice strong and powerful or quavering with sadness, read out the manner, place and date of their murders. And also, try to step back and let our trans sisters of colour be our face and our voice. Truly think about how we can stand together, but still give focus where it needs to go.

We acknowledge death so we may remember why it is so important for us to live! Why it is so vital that we never give up the fight!!

With our tears we water the garden of our future.

  • My use of the word “triggering” here, with parentheses added for emphasis, is not meant to criticize those for whom the word trigger has a stronger, more medical meaning. For instance, folks suffering from moderate to severe PTSD, or victims of violence, often with resulting panic attacks. It is instead directed at the growing usage, co-option if you will, of the word to indicate things that folks simply find deeply upsetting or difficult or that they prefer to avoid. It is also worth noting that the people I hear expressing a desire to avoid these memorials are not the folks I know who suffer from these genuinely distressing issues.
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11
Mar
13

“She’s Got A D!%k” A TransComic Analysis

So, if you’re trans, by this point in the news and social media cycle, you will have heard about the Justin Timberlake starring trailer for a faux romantic comedy called “She’s Got A D!%k” on Saturday Night Live this past weekend. And you probably already have, or are trying to form, an opinion.

The first I heard about this sketch myself was just this evening, on a Facebook thread in which my opinion as a Second City trained Sketch Comic and Improviser was solicited. And I resisted reading any of the comments before I watched, so I could get a fresh take on it.

What I got was at least two good chuckles, one of which was a Eugene Levy reference, which, was really just spot-on. Also, a couple of “Awwws.” And the thought, that afterwards I read reflected in various comments, that, gosh, I’d really like to actually see this movie!! It would probably even become a guilty favourite.

There has already been at least one pretty insightful blog post by a transperson, written by Antonia D’orsay who is the Executive Director of This Is How. And though I don’t agree with everything Ms. D’orsay has to say about the subject, it is well worth a read for it’s pretty in-depth analysis of the deeper issues.

So, that being the case, I’ll stick with looking at the sketch from the point of view of a comedy professional who also happens to be trans.

I could break down the technical details of the sketch for hours, but basically what you need to know is, despite the title of the movie, it’s not really a sketch about trans people. Or rather more specifically, the subject of trans people is incidental to the main joke. That joke being, how formulaic romantic comedies are.

Take one “meet cute”. Flavour with any randomly contrived conflict (spin the magic wheel and it lands on…. “Woman with a penis”) that’s only ever really a matter of characters being honest with each other. Add a pinch of concerned authority figure (Eugene Levy!). Stir in a quirky friend (The magic wheel lands on…. “Funny black guy”). Separate the obviously meant to be together couple for a really unacceptably dumb reason (the aforementioned penis), that makes the audience want to scream at how dumb they’re being. Bake for 70 minutes or so and then let the characters finally get over the contrived conflict and get together.

Que the audience reacting with, “Awwwwwwwwwww, that was sooooooo cute!!”

Heck, if anything was offensive, my pick would be the borderline stereotyped black character. Not that I think anyone will complain. It worked and was funny. Which sounds simplistic, I know. But my experience with what people will or will not be offended by in comedy is that’s usually where the safe side of the line lies.

I'm ready for my close-up Mr. Michaels!

I’m ready for my close-up Mr. Michaels!

As for it being a cis woman playing trans . Yes, this usually bothers me in lots of other things. However, the requirements of sketch comedy are such that it is common for members of an ensemble to play all sorts of characters they quite clearly aren’t. And I thought that the lovely and talented Nasim Pedrad did an excellent and rather sympathetic job. So, while Lorne Michaels is more than welcome to call me anytime he needs an authentic trans person (Please call me Mr. Michaels!!! Please, please, pretty please with a token trans woman on top!!!), the only way I’d have a problem with this is if they actually made this movie for reals. In which case, it damned well better be a trans actress playing the part!

Finally, I have to say that I find it to be a fairly positive thing that mainstream comedy shows like SNL feel their audience is familiar enough with trans people to use us as a comedic reference in a way that isn’t just the old “hairy guy in a dress” trope that was already a standard when Milton Berle was using it (yeah, I’m looking at you Craig Ferguson!). This may not seem at first blush to be so significant or even positive, but I assure you it is. Comedy, especially sketch comedy, tends to play to the reference level of its audience. So, for a show as broadly appealing as SNL to produce a sketch with this level of sophistication in its reference to transgender people and our lives, it has to be assumed that the bulk of the unwashed masses will actually, “get it”.

So, there you go. I liked it. It was okay, not great, but well done and funny. And possibly even slightly positive!

Possibly. Maybe. I hope.

11
Dec
12

Help me get my beard cleared for my 40th Birthday (at the end of the world)

Shelter from the rainRecently a couple of very good friends of mine decided to start an online fundraising campaign to help me raise money to finally, finally have the procedure I have been waiting all these years to have.  A campaign called, “Friend Lorelei Feeling Fabulous At Forty”.  I am frankly in awe of the wonderfulness of my friends.  I realize I am a very lucky woman.

But, as the saying goes, “The Lord (substitute here: Friends On The Internet) helps those who help themselves.”  So I thought it was only proper to tell you all a little bit about why I’ve wanted this procedure so badly.  As well as the slightly extraordinary coincidence coinciding with my, gulp, 40th Birthday.

I’ll start with this procedure my good friends are helping to raise money for and which perhaps you, dear reader, would consider helping with.  As you have probably figured out by now by your careful powers of deduction, I am in fact a transgender woman.  And as a transgender woman, I know there’s one question I get asked more than any other.  “Have you had ‘the surgery’ yet?”  Or, as it’s sadly more often phrased, “Have you, ummmm, cut it off?”  Which I presume to be referring to SRS (or GRS or GCS or whatever the current vogue for the surgical procedure once known as a “Sex Change Operation” happens to be).

The funny thing is, realistically, this is the least of my concerns.  Very few people actually get intimate enough with me for the state of my genitalia to be a concern.  And those who do are pretty much already going to be hip enough to deal well with what they find.  And frankly, though I may get that surgery someday, it’s so far out of my reach as an independent artist and writer, that I resigned myself to the fact that it may never happen when I decided to start my transition.  Honestly too, I’m reasonably comfortable with my body.  The hormones have done wonderful things to it and everything, even my genitalia, works in exciting new ways.  I feel like a woman, I’m shaped like a woman and when I look in the mirror, I see myself now.  And I know I AM a woman.

But there is one thing.  One loathsome wretched thing that reminds me everyday that I have not always been gendered thus.  That reminds me of all those years spent trying to pretend I was a boy.  That can still knock me down and pull me out when I am feeling good about being the woman I knew myself to be.

I still have to shave everyday.

And I hate it.  Everyday I wake up and reach a hand to my face to wipe the sleep from my eyes and I feel stubble.  Scratchy stubble.

The hormones have even reduced the once fairly thick hair that covered my body to almost nothing.  Requiring increasingly less maintenance every year.  Not a lot more than any woman.  But my beard is unfazed.  I’m not even lucky enough to have alight beard.  No, it’s thick and it grows fast.  Back when I used to occasionally let it have it’s way, I could practically sneeze and find a full beard.  In all seriousness I could grow a thick, mountain man beard in around two weeks.

I was 6’4” with a full beard by the time I was a sophomore in High School.  I hated it.  When other boys were pretending to shave still-clean chins, I was trying to simply ignore the hair sprouting all over my face.  I had that first beard for at least a year and I can still remember the first time I shaved it off.  My face had physically changed in that year of rampant, testosterone-fueled puberty.  When I looked in the mirror after removing all that hair, I saw a stranger.  I literally did not recognize the face looking back at me.  It was radically different from the last time I saw it.  Though I knew reasonably that it was my own reflection, I would not connect with it again, I would not see myself again until I began my transition years later.

This pain, I share with you.

Much is rebalanced now.  I see myself in that brutal mirror.  The woman I am.  But that woman still has to spend 20 minutes everyday just scraping the fresh hair off of her face with a never-ending series of increasingly dull and unjustifiably expensive razor blades.  And it hurts like hell.

Simply LoreleiNot just emotionally either.  It is physically very painful..  Not only do I have a very heavy beard, but I have very, very sensitive skin.  And I shave much, much closer than an average man would ever bother doing.  I have to shave twice in fact to get smooth enough and invisible enough to pass muster and not have to worry about too much returning stubble by evening.  I shave first with the grain, and then re-lather to shave again, against the grain.

It is, as I said, intensely painful.  Like dragging fire across my face to begin everyday.  And there is always blood.  Often lots of it

After years of experimentation, I have discovered that I have to shave before I shower if I’m to go on with the day not looking like an extra in a zombie movie.  The only thing that stops all the blood and soothes my blazing face somewhat is a good warm shower and my face in the spray for at last a few minutes.

If I’m lucky, my face will not be too red and irritated looking when I get out.  If I’m really lucky, there won’t be some nick or cut that keeps bleeding all day.  Drying up into an ugly scab only to start bleeding again while I’m out and about.  Prompting strangers to tell me I have blood pouring down my face.  Always fun.

In point of fact, this routine adds a solid 3 hours to every morning of everyday for me.  2 hours if there’s an emergency….  I have to wait at least an hour after I wake up for the sleep swelling of my face to subside enough for me to be able to get that really clean shave I mentioned.  Shave too soon and there’s stubble half way through the day!

Then there’s the razors.  Really the only one that does the trick well enough with not too much blood and irritation is the Gillette Mach 3.  But the blades are crazy expensive!  $15 minimum for a 5 pack!  And if I use a blade more than twice, the quality degrades fast, while the pain and blood amps right up.  Gods forbid I get cocky and use a cheap disposable thing in an emergency.  We’re talking real horrorshow blood oh my droogies.

This need to shave everyday seeps into every aspect of my life.  I rarely date, because I’m afraid to go home with a man.  I’m terrified of waking up in the morning covered in stubble in a strange bed.  Or worse of having to exit quickly in the dress I had on, with an unshaven mug on the bus.

Jungle LoreleiIf I’m out at night I feel like Cinderella.  I have to get home before the stubble pokes through my makeup and I turn into a pumpkin.  Even worse, for someone who loves saying yes to adventures.  My need to shave and have a hot shower afterwards severely limits my ability to just go!  I must make sure, no matter where I rest my head, that there are shaving and showering facilities available in the morning.

Still not done though.  Because my beard is so heavy, there is a “beard blue” hue to my face that can only be hidden by careful and fairly thick makeup.  I can never just throw on a little lipstick and mascara and be done.  I have found that a little makeup, with out the beard cover and foundation, makes me look, for lack of a better description, like a bad crossdresser.

So it’s lots of makeup or none at all.  And none at all has it’s own consequences.  With none at all, you can see the slight redness and irritation from shaving and that hint of “beard blue” under the skin.  And at 6’4”, well, it’s a good thing I’m okay with being Out as trans….

And not that “passing” is all that important to me.  I know I can be a beautiful woman without having to “pass”.  But there are some days where I would like to blend in a little bit better.  When I’d like to just be read as an average, if very tall girl, out and about.

So, while GRS might be the end all and be all for other transwomen to be able to feel truly like a woman (and I do get that), for me, not having to shave, not having that daily and painful reminder would be a huge step to being able to just be me.  To be the woman I am, doing the things I do, with a lot more time to do them!

So, this is why my friends, who have heard this all first hand at one point or another, have launched this campaign to raise funds for me to finally afford to have laser clearance done on my face.  It’s not that much really if all the people I have affected with my work and my activism can pitch in a couple of bucks.  I would really appreciate it.  And it would indeed help me to do even more of what I do!  Saving the world with a clean face!!

As for saving the world….  Well, that’s why my friends have timed this around my 40th Birthday.  You see, the day I turn Forty (shudder) is December 21st, 2012.  Just a couple of weeks from now.  And as it happens, it’s also the day the Mayans predicted would be the end of the world.

And hey, maybe it is.  Or maybe it’s just the start of a new chapter.  One in which Lorelei finally gets to feel as fabulous as people often tell me I am!

So please, if you are able to, click through the link to the fundraising page below.  Spread it around to your own contacts if you feel so inclined.  It just takes a minute or two and a few dollars each from everyone who reads this to help me reach the goal of $4000.  And save my world.

I love you all!

Slainte Chugat!!!

Friend Lorelei Feeling Fabulous at Forty

27
Nov
12

Killer Kosilek, Part Deux!

Well hello dear internetizens!  As many of you will have noted, a few weeks back I wrote a blog about Michelle Kosilek, the transsexual woman and murederer who won her case to have her GRS provided for her while incarcerated for life, which I concluded with a plea for folks not to add fuel to the media fire.  And although the story has died down just a bit, it seems that the embers keep bursting back into full flame.  With the ensuing roaring pyres of comment threads that you might expect.

Well, at least I know I’ll never be a transgender issues writer who finds herself lacking for material…  Just today I ran a across a fresh thread of vitriol spewing off the posting of a spanking new opinion piece about the case from the blog of a Boston area radio station.

And either because I’m apparently a masochist or I’m just an idiot who likes to stress myself out unnecessarily, I read through the comment thread and the piece it sprang from.

Basically, I saw nothing new.  But since it seems the flames from this unpleasantly ongoing case will not die down, I was inspired to sit down and write out a couple of things worth considering, in addition to what I have written previously.

To begin with, do any of you realize how much the state is paying to fight this?  I’ll give you a hint.  The surgery costs in most ranges I’ve seen reported go from a low-end of $7,000 (the most likely, bare-minimum cost that the prison system would provide) to a high-end of $20,000 (unlikely that an inmate will get the ‘premium’ surgery).

Also, Kosileks lawyers had offered to waive their fees, which are substantial, if the state did not appeal. Since an appeal was called for by some important folks in high positions, it proceeded before the lawyers could even meet. Therefor negating the fee waiver.

How much are those fees? Right now, including out of pocket costs for Kosileks legal team (paying experts, etc.), they stand at around $800,000 altogether, of which $644,573 would have been waived.

But that’s not all!!  Since this appeal is apparently going through, that means we, as taxpayers are not only on the hook for previous costs, we’re going to have to foot the bill for even more!  I believe the proper internet lolspeak expression to insert here would be: FACEPALM.

So, who does this benefit?  Well, Scott Brown for one.  Soon to be former Senator Brown was one of the loudest voices calling for the condemnation of this decision and for the State to begin appeals.  Brown, it might be noted, was in the middle of very tough fight (that we now know he lost) to hold on to his Senate seat.  And this sort of issue was just the perfect thing to fire up his base of support.  If you doubt me, go check the comment threads about how this is, “… an example of why the right hate liberals.”  Also, see all the comments from folks saying they are liberal but don’t support this.  Nothing like firing up that swing vote.  In fact Brown desperately needed it.  Interestingly, it should be noted (again) that the judge who made this decision is himself quite conservative and a Reagan appointee!

But, you say, what about Governor Patrick?  He backed the decision to appeal.  And he’s even been a vocal supporter of trans rights!  Good point.  Same idea though.  As the defacto top Dem in Massachusetts, Patrick needed to look tough and appeal to those same, “I’m a liberal, but don’t support this” swing voters for the party to come out on top in this very important election year.

Want more?  Okay.  Remember the Drug Lab Scandal?  You know, the one that was going to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in overturned convictions and force the state to retry all those cases?  Yeah, that one.  How long has it been since you heard about that?  Want to take a wild guess about which juicy, issue and opinion-triggering story kicked it out of the headlines?

Given the topic of this blog, you can probably guess.

I could go on about ratings and page-views and other behind the dirty scenes media tricks and tropes, but you seem like intelligent folks, I’ll let you make that leap yourself.  I could also mention how there are a lot of people who are very upset about the passage of the recent Trans Civil Rights Law in Massachusetts, who are gearing up to fight us on the remaining issue of Public Accommodations.  And how stirring up all of this incidental anti-trans sentiment is very useful to them.  How this issue lets them get under the skin of otherwise very well-meaning folks.

If you doubt this, look at any of the threads on this topic and read the comments from people who say they have no problem with transgender people, but then go on to throw around ugly slurs and misconceptions, deliberately use the wrong pronouns and generally question the whole validity of transsexualism, transgender people and the medical need for Gender Reassignment Surgery.  Oh, and that’s not even getting into the folks who go on to compare transgender folks to pedophiles.

It’s all given a very thin veneer of, “This is not about transgender people, it’s about a killer.”  But as a writer, media analyst and member of the media myself, I can tell you pretty comfortably that the broad generalizations that follow easily give the lie to this excuse.

And yes, trust me, the headline on the piece that inspired this blog is pretty leading.  I write headlines, I know.  The author is deliberately putting you in a mind to question the validity of gender reassignment surgery.  As someone who writes a regular opinion column myself, I stand her no judgment for that.  But readers need to be aware, it’s not a journalism piece, it’s an opinion piece.  Frankly that’s what the headline is supposed to do.

So, what am I saying?  I’m saying, come to your own conclusions.  Read my previous piece about the case itself if you want to hear a reasonable argument from a bona-fide transgender person.  But please think, ask questions.  Ask yourself, who stands to benefit and what are they trying to get you to think?  And most importantly, what are they trying to get you NOT to think about?

Slainte!

17
Nov
12

Santa Monica Boulevard Through Hollwood

As I sit  here in my room in Springfield, MA, typing these words, I have tears running down my face.  It’s the week when we observe the Transgender Day Of Remembrance and I’ve just read another news story about a transgender woman who was murdered.  Honestly, I read a lot of these types of stories.  Not just this week, but all year.  I’m an activist, a speaker on transgender issues and I write a regular column (and this blog) about transgender lives and people.  These stories are always sad to me, but some very specific stories always hit me particularly hard because they bring the horror so very close to home for me.

I wouldn’t say I’m jaded, I’m not.  But you read so many stories of horror and violence and even for someone constantly reminding others that we are human, other people with lives and loves; there is a distance to the stories that necessarily desensitizes them.  An intentional distance that makes it possible sometimes to simply get through the day and do the work that needs doing.

But every so often, like just now, I read a story of violence committed against a transgender woman in Hollywood.  Specifically the strip of Santa Monica from Crescent Heights Boulevard in West Hollywood to Vermont Avenue in East Hollywood.  And it tears my heart out.

Because this was my neighborhood.  90% of my life in Hollywood was lived out against the backdrop of this very strip.

I worked, played, performed and drank at The Improv and The Second City in West Hollywood and lived for several years, first by the intersection of Highland and Santa Monica, a block or so from, what some locals refer to as, “The Tranny Taco Stand” (and the LA Gay and Lesbian Center) where Transgender Sex Workers would often congregate at night.  Then by the intersection of Santa Monica and Normandie, which roughly bracketed the other end of the stroll informally/formally designated by the LAPD as the Trans Sex Worker Strip.

I was not an average Angeleno by a lot of respects.  For one thing, besides my ethnically Irish disdain for the sun, I lived in LA for 8 years without a car.  I walked, biked and took the bus everywhere I needed to go.  I was also very good at “scamming rides”, sometimes with virtual strangers.

I did not, as many Angelenos do, see the city as a blur through the car window.  I knew it from close up, the pavement under my feet.  The people I passed by, aware of me, as I was aware of them.  I closely interacted with the city, I knew it’s smells and patterns and the other denizens.  It is how I prefer to know the world.  I’m a writer and a storyteller, I live for and actively soak up the details.

And it was also during this period that the man I was still trying to be was actively ripping apart at the seams and I finally began my own transition.  It was where I went, in a very short span, from actively repressing my gender issues to occasional cross-dresser to part-time, transitioning transwoman to “Full-Time” Me.

And so very much of that journey was so intimately tied to this strip of geography.

For one thing, I have always been fascinated by the underbelly of The City.  The red-light, sex worker districts, the ghettoes and the decaying downtowns.  The City that lives when all the “good, decent folks” have gone home to their houses in the suburbs.  The City of Night, to borrow a phrase from John Rechy.

I’ve wandered the “Combat Zone” in Boston at the very end of it’s days.  Known the darkened streets of some of Chicago’s more ill-advised neighborhoods.  Lived in a dilapidated Movie Studio at the very boundaries of New Orleans Lower 9th Ward, after Katrina.

So it should be little surprise that I was drawn to Santa Monica Boulevard running through Hollywood, like a moth to a flame.  Even before I found myself living in that area, I would walk the strip from West Hollywood to Highland late at night.  Fascinated, wanting desperately to figure a way to talk to the transwomen I saw there.  To connect with them somehow.  Or as I later discovered, really to connect with myself.

I had the oblivious attitude of a very tall, white skinned person, used to being perceived as male.  And also, a definite disregard/active neglect for my safety.  I carried so much guilt for so very long, I think sometimes I wanted to be punished, to be hurt.  To commit a sort of a “soft-suicide”.

Let me be very clear, I do not/did not actively believe there was/is anything wrong or in need of “punishment” about being trans.  And I am extremely fortunate to have been able to come out the other side of these feelings to a bright new world, physically unhurt, if a little bruised and battered psychologically.  But intellectual belief and subconscious fucked-up-edness can be two totally different things.

As I passed through my own journey, finally accepting myself, deciding to do something about it and then breaking through my own self-imposed barriers of identity, Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood was my backdrop.

I went from being a furtive tourist to a part of the landscape.  Though I had little direct interaction with these transwomen who were also living out their lives in this same geography, when I began transitioning myself, I came to greatly value the little nods of recognition.  The eye contact we would make in passing that said, “I know”. 

As I began to recognize specific people, transwomen who lived in my neighborhood, who waited for the same bus with me, those little acknowledgements where the first time I began to feel myself part of a community.  Part of a family.  These were my sisters.

I don’t want to appear to place myself all that far apart from them either.  I was not merely a tourist.  I did my own small share of sex work.  Not much, as I was always skittish of sex work and extremely fortunate to have a network of support and people who took care of me.  I never had to work the street.  I did a little as a dominatrix and mostly as a dominatrix’s assistant.  But don’t let anyone’s semantics fool you, it was sex work nonetheless.

And though I had to work through a lot of repressively puritan issues myself (I am a Yankee Girl from Cape Cod…), I have neither regret, nor shame.  It was part of my own journey and I have many friends who are proud to be sex workers and own it as their profession of choice.

I also know that, while some actively choose it, sex work is often the last option left between starvation and survival for many women, especially transgender women.  It baffles me when I hear folks in my community expressing disdain for our sex worker sisters.  When I know they know as well as I do, the massively institutional discrimination we face.  How much harder it is for us to find employment, housing and support, just to live our lives.

And I well understand the fetishization of trans bodies .  The cold looks that turn us all into sex objects, that imagines there must be an access price for our sexuality, whether we have done/are doing sex work or not.  I will readily admit, I have been guilty of the same.

But these are our sisters.  These trans women I came to noddingly know, the community of the streets.  The trans women who lived and worked in and around my old neighborhood through Hollywood, on Santa Monica Boulevard were the first to acknowledge me as ME.  They accepted me far more readily and unquestioningly, on the basis of little more than a nod and a glance, than did many more “respectable” members of our community, by whom I often felt judged.

So, this is why, when I read these stories of violence, it is the ones from my old neighborhood, East to West Hollwood; Santa Monica Boulevard; South of Sunset and North of Melrose, that are the stories that tear me apart.

Every murdered trans woman I see on the news from that area, every time I hear about another attack, I look at the picture and I think, “Did I know her?”  “Was she the woman who would smile at me when I would ride the #4 bus home from work late at night?”

These are not just stories.  Not merely news items or statistics.  These are our sisters.

There, but for nothing more than blind good luck, go I.
Here is the post I was reading when I began this piece, from the excellent blog, Planetransgender:  “LAPD Task Force Looking For The Western Transgender Murderer

03
Nov
12

My Mom, Joe Biden and I all agree, Transgender Discrimination is the ‘Civil Rights Issue of Our Time’

The Vice President of the United States of America giving my Mom a great big bear hug!

So, as many of you might know, my incredibly adorable and emotionally opinionated, old hippie Mom made quite a splash this week.  She had the chance opportunity to meet Vice President Joe Biden, who was coming out of the Democratic Party Headquarters in Sarasota Florida when he spotted my Mom’s big blue eyes and made a bee-line to her to give her a big old bear hug!  It was just serendipity that my Mom was next door at her hairdressers when VP Biden was in town.  She didn’t even know the Dem Headquarters were in that building!

But when my Mom saw the Secret Service guys and found out who they were there to protect, she put on a fresh coat of lipstick and talked her way through the checkpoints.  We’re a lot alike that way.  It’s little coincidence that I became a genuine Pageant Queen (Miss Trans New England 2009), or that I’ve got a lot of opinions myself, that I am never afraid to say and say it LOUD!  It’s just how I was raised.

The further details of this encounter are easy to find.  The last time I googled, “Biden + Transgender” the results were hovering around one and a half million, with over 600 ‘news’ hits.  Suffice it to say though that my Mom, when she had the opportunity to say a few words to the Vice President of The United States of America, spoke of her transgender daughter and the imperative need to help transgender people achieve full civil rights!

My Mom posing proudly with her blonde curly locked transgender daughter.

I know that the resulting statement from Biden that “Transgender Discrimination Is ‘The Civil Rights Issue Of Our Time’” was somewhat surprising for most of the world to hear. In fact he is not far from correct in his statement.  Though even as a trans woman whose main focus is on the struggle for FULL Transgender Equality, I would remind folks that the fight for trans rights is ultimately about a fight for Human Rights for all who are oppressed.  Even so, it was surprising for most of the world to hear the VP make such a strong statement in support of transgender people.

But it wasn’t surprising to me folks!  This is the woman who raised me!  The woman who, when I was a baby and she was asked to be the featured speaker at a Feminist Rally, angrily declined when they expressed discomfort at her male-bodied child being present (In hindsight, seriously ironic…).  This is the woman who built the house I grew up in with her own freaking hands!!  And who convinced our local Rep, Speaker Of The House, “Tip” O’Neill to help her get in the program that allowed her to do so.

My Mom standing excitedly by my side moments after I won the title of Miss Trans New England.

My Mother is a woman who has never been afraid to speak her mind.  Something she also raised me to do.  A woman who, when she has something that she cares passionately about, and there’s nothing she cares more passionately about than her transgender daughter, is very good at getting people to do what she wants.  So no, I was not surprised to hear that Joe Biden, after being drawn in by my Mom’s Irish Eyes a-Smiling, said exactly what she wanted him to say!

I have been very proud of my Mom not only for being so supportive of me and working so very hard to raise me to be the person I am today.  But also for the tireless efforts she puts in to try and be a friend and ally to the whole trans community.  And when she encounters those who are alone and rejected by their own families, she never hesitates to be as much of a surrogate family member to them as health and distance allow her to be.

Though I am an only child myself, through my Mom’s Love I have found a growing network of Brothers and Sisters (and Zisters!).  Her example reminds me constantly that we are not simply a community, we are a Family!

And yes, I’m pretty much bursting with pride that my Mom, Linda Carragher Bourne, changed the world just a little bit this week.  Proud that she made the public discourse over the issue of anti-transgender discrimination just a little bit louder by getting the man who holds the second highest office in the country to amplify the heck out of it!

And with that dear readers, I duly turn my blog over to my Mom.  Who has something she would like to say directly to all of you.  I’d strongly recommend that you listen.  Not that you have any more choice in the matter than even the Vice President of The United States!

Good Evening, Friends! Hope you’re enjoying your Friday “reprieves!”

Now. We have PRECISELY FOUR DAYS until Election Day. That’s not much at ALL.

I shall be putting together a Blog very soon, but, time is of the essence, and I shall not wait one single more minute to say what needs to be said!


Yeah. Luck was with me, this week, at the Democratic Headquarters here in Sarasota. I got to “catch the eye” of Vice President Joe Biden. I got to SAY to him, basically, “Our Transgender Population, which includes SO VERY MANY Loved Ones & Friends, is NOT reaping ANY Benefits of Constitutionally Affirmed Civil Rights, HUMAN RIGHTS!”

Biden, in turn, responded that Transgender Rights is “a (or “the,” depending on which news source you are reading; personally, I can’t exactly recall. Just being honest here, Friends.) ‘Civil Rights Issue of Our Time.” It was a wonderful moment, for me, personally, for my trans daughter, my countless number of Transgender Friends! It was also, let’s be frank, kind of adorable. The Hug. The sweetness of “it all.”

K. That’s DONE now, Friends. That’s YESTERDAY’S NEWS! I cannot stress that point ENOUGH! I was blessed with the HUGE opportunity to Speak OUT for Trans Rights. I was, apparently, “heard,” evidently agreed with.

Now. This Old Granny Rabble Rouser was lucky enough to “light the match.” However, the Community Organizer, from past days, rises up in me and SHOUTS: TIME’S AWASTIN’!!! We need ACTIONS! We need them more than EVER! We need them RIGHT NOW!

I am here PLEADING with each and every one of you to whom ANY Human Rights are held dear, most especially to those who are working day & night to achieve RIGHTS for Our Precious Transgender Population (which is MUCH larger than “folks” want t’ know!), to GET OUT THERE! TO MAKE SOME NOISE! To share YOUR STORIES! Wherever, However, with the Largest “audience” that you can REACH!!! This is CRUCIAL, Peeps!

I want EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU (yes YOU!!!) to be at YOUR Local Polling Place on this coming Tuesday, with your voices, with your willingness to share YOUR TRUTHS…and, yes, with your SIGNS! The ones that will inform EVERY SINGLE “about to vote” voter that YOUR LIVES and LIVELIHOODS ARE AT STAKE in this Election.

The SOLE possibility for Transgender Rights being ANYWHERE near supported, endorsed, at the Federal Level, lies with an Obama/Biden “Win.” There is ZERO possibility for anything but fewer rights, more violence, more untethered bullying and Hatred (Hate CRIMES! Loss of LIVES!!!) if their Republican Opponents are inducted into the Office of Presidency/Vice Presidency of OUR United States. ZERO. ZIP. NADA.

So. GET OUT THERE, Lovies! Make a NOISE! Be your SweetSWEET selves, but, BE HEARD!!! It’s, honestly, and quite tragically, Our Only Hope…

Yes. That ‘s precisely what I feel, what I (at 60) KNOW! Pretty eyes be damned. That’s simply an Old Hippie “Theater In The Streets” bit, Friends. Ya use what ya GOT. THEN! YOU ORGANIZE YOUR ASSES OFF!!!

Just. DO IT!!!

Love OUT! Fist Raised HIGH! Your Always Lin
Power To OUR People!!!! That includes ANY disenfranchised “group,” but my Heart is Specific here. I know a zillion of yours are too!!!

-Linda Carragher Bourne

Trans Rights Now!

If you’re looking for more on my Mom meeting the Vice President, check out these links to The Huffington Post, Advocate.com, my own paper, The Rainbow Times and The SF Weekly.

If you find yourself inspired to get involved in the fight for Trans Civil Rights, I strongly recommend checking out and contacting the following organizations to find out how!  The Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition and the National Center for Transgender Equality.

For much more in depth information about the discrimination that transgender people face daily, I urge you to read over the results of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey performed by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

And of course, don’t forget to get out and vote for Vice President Joe Biden and his running mate for President, Barack Obama next Tuesday!!!

24
May
12

To the boy I met tonight at Jacques.

Thank you.  I mean that absolutely sincerely.  As I meant also the compliments I paid to you.

You managed to do something for me tonight that almost no one male-indentified so far has managed to pull off.  Despite the fact that you claimed to be shy.  Despite your nervousness and your apparent lack of experience in places like we were at tonight or with girls like me.  Or perhaps because of those things….

You were brave.  You were polite.  You were cute and you made me smile.

I lead an unusual life, which you might easily have surmised.  I was perhaps stretching my star to refer to myself as “famous”.  But not by much.  I am at least internet famous.  Locally so as well.  I’m possibly even infamous in certain circles.  I am at least recognizable enough to know the experience of strangers approaching me in the street who already know my name and who I am….

And I am bold enough to be able to stand alone in front of a crowd of 10,000 people and presume that they might find me entertaining.  I am even bold enough to live my life quite in the open and very publicly as an Out Transgender Woman.  To be the woman I am, wherever I go.

It does not change the fact that I am also a shy, nervous girl.  Able to address a crowd in an urgent and powerful voice.  But afraid to speak to a cute boy at the bar.

Sometimes I just want that cute boy to take some part of the initiative.  Offer to buy me a drink.  Flirt.

And it’s not that there aren’t boys who don’t.  As I mentioned, there is a type.  The kind that is flattering enough, but that can’t ever get past my transsexual status.  Can’t just see me as an attractive woman.  Who is also trans.  They’ve got such a standard script, it’s hard not to finish their lines before they speak them themselves.

But you pulled it off.  You were able to find that line, despite your own nervousness and (I think…) inexperience with transwomen.  You were able to speak about my transness, ask your questions even.  All the while making me feel like just any average pretty girl with a handsome boy flirting with her at the bar.

It’s a fine line I ride you see.  For all my famous “queer transwoman-ness”, when it comes to boys, I’m just kind of a nervous straight girl.  Going through puberty for a second time.

I live in a weird in-between.  In a lot of ways, I have no place trying to meet men in a gay bar.  I’m a woman looking for a man.  Pretty surprisingly heterosexual for such a militantly queer woman.

And yet, “straight” bars have little more than frustration for me.  I’m too gay.  Too openly trans.  Not that I think there aren’t boys there who might find me attractive (I always hope…).  But almost all of them seem to be too afraid to even approach me.  Too afraid of their own sexuality perhaps.  Or maybe mine.  Or maybe I’m not “enough” of a woman for their friends…  Or.  Or….

I’m too straight for gay boys.  And too gay for straight boys.

It’s frustrating to put it mildly.  These are the thoughts that tear me to shreds before I fall fitfully asleep some nights.

But you pulled it off.  You found that balance.  You managed to make me feel like a beautiful woman while acknowledging me as a transwoman.

Even in the middle of a bar full of stunningly coiffed and elaborately made-up drag queens.  You made me feel fabulous.  Even though I had no makeup on, no painted armour to hide under.  You made me feel pretty.

You were brave.  You were polite.  You were cute and you made me smile.

You bought me drinks without my having to prompt you and without an overt agenda.  At least no more so than any guy buying drinks for an attractive woman!

Thank you for walking with me and thank you for your nervous banter.  I was nervous too.  And it helped.

And thank you for the sweetest goodnight kiss outside the T station so I could get back to my car.  You made me feel like the woman most boys seem to forget that I am.  Like the woman, I myself sometimes forget I am.

We might not meet again.  I can’t be sure the name you gave me was real or just yours for tonight.  But you have my card, and as you can see, if you’ve gone surfing, I really am this person I said I was.  If you’ve come this far, then these words have made their way through the 1s And 0s Post.

And so, boy I met tonight, thank you for being not a boy, but an actual man.  It’s nice to meet one.  It gives me hope.

I was really pretty desperately needing that.

Slainte!




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