Posts Tagged ‘hate crimes

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!!!

26
Apr
12

An encounter on the street in Any-City USA

The following exchange just happened.

A voice from behind startles me as I’m walking home from CVS around dusk.  It’s undecipherable, recognizable by tone as being a greeting or compliment of some kind.  I jump slightly, but try to hide my surprise.

“Hey.”  I say, as a youngish man neatly dressed in “urban” styled sportswear and cap, passes me on my right.

Walking in the same direction he falls into step just ahead of me.

I stand up straight.  Head high, proud.  I carefully keep my gait confident and relaxed looking.  Carefully cover up any visible nervousness.  A long-practiced routine.

Looking back at me he says, “You have pretty, long, blonde hair.”

“Thanks.”  I acknowledge cheerfully.

“Are you gay?”

“I’m… Queer.”  Why do I make that distinction?  I speak the language and I know there is no fine distinction in this version of English.

Beat.  Still walking.

“You like to dress up like a woman?”

“Actually, I am a woman.  I’m a transgender woman, I’m just a little butched up today.”

Actually, I’m not really, I’m just not all that ‘femmed’ up.  Jeans, beat-up Chucks and my long, military styled, Activist Coat.

“You like big Puerto Rican dick?”

“I have no idea actually.”

“You have a place of your own?”

“No, I live with roommates.”

Beat.  Still walking.  Still trying to seem as relaxed as possible without breaking stride.  Smiling damnit.

“You want to find a place?  Go out in the woods somewhere and suck my dick?”

I chuckle intentionally, determinedly not sounding nervous or thrown, like it’s somehow terribly amusing and charming.

“No thank you.  I appreciate the offer.  But I’ve got work to get on to.”

We go several awkward steps in silence.  While he pulls ahead slightly; I’m still not breaking my stride or changing my manner, trying to seem completely affable.

Thankfully, as we approach the actual woods, the man stops and enters an apartment building door.  I keep going.  Smiling damnit, smiling.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

This sort of thing is something that happens to me, unfortunately, fairly regularly when I go out and about in the world.  Especially in the city, though I don’t really believe it’s exclusively a city phenomenon, I just walk more in a city.  There is more opportunity to encounter strangers on the street.

It is worth noting here that I do not feel as if there is anyone to protect me, but me.  Especially when I’m out by myself.  Which is often.

I have never had strangers come to my aid.  And almost every time I’ve contacted the police for help I have either been harassed or much, much worse.

So, it’s the magic number Me and whatever tools I have at my disposal.  Which is mainly my wits and experience with all sorts of different people in all sorts of settings.

It’s a tricky situation on a number of levels.  On one level, it’s very dangerous feeling when it happens.  I’m a transgender woman, alone.  And though my size tends to give me a level of protection, it’s a double-edged sword.  My size can easily make someone feel threatened.

My experience is that the sort of person who would make comments like this on the street, tends to have some dangerous insecurities that can suddenly turn hostile.  I have to be very careful to keep everything on the level of light banter.  As a tall person, I can’t afford to show any hostility.  If I can hold it together, my height alone will make them think twice about starting something.  But hostility on my part can far too easily cause the encounter to spiral out of control into real physical violence.

Which I definitely want to avoid.

So I put on the act.  Easy-going attitude and confident, but unconcerned poise.  I never break my stride though.  And never show a real reaction.  Not a bit of nervousness or unease.  Amused but not laughing at.

Also, on another level, and this is rather a sad one.  More often than not, the only ‘positive’ attention I get from men is of this sort.  The only ones who tell me I’m pretty or who actively flirt with me, follow it up by asking if I’d like to suck their dick.

Online, they send me a picture of it.

It’s not that I think all men are like this.  I’ve met a few who are sweet and charming, and I have to believe there are some who even find me attractive.  Sadly, they have not thus far been especially forthcoming.

So there’s this weirdly mixed feeling.  I’m scared.  I’m deeply offended.  And at the same time, I’m oddly pleased that a man actually finds me pretty.

And that’s usually where I summon the smile from.  The one that keeps things light and keeps me from getting killed or ‘just’ beaten up.

The asshole gets to go home and think it’s perfectly okay to speak to a transwoman (or probably ANY woman) like that.  And I just get to go home.  Alive.

The brain blender flips on to ‘High’.   My guts churn.

20
May
11

An open response to Gregory Kane of the Washington Examiner

The following blog entry began, as these “Open Letters” often do, as a reaction to a piece of venomous anti-trans bile I stumbled across in the wilds of the internets. I find that I start to write a “comment” and as the word-count climbs I realize I have much more to say than is appropriate for that kind of forum. Thankfully, I have a blog of my own.
I had been intentionally refraining from writing anything about the recent beating in a Baltimore McDonald’s of a woman named Chrissy Lee Polis, who as it happens is also transsexual. The reason for this is that I felt much had been said about the incident already. Her tragedy had been claimed and counter-claimed by various people and groups all purporting to know just what this woman was going through and using the publicity generated by this tragedy as fuel for their own fires.
I don’t judge necessarily, I’m a politician and an activist I know how it works. Some of these have been noble causes. Some not so much. But for myself, I decided to stay mostly silent.
It seemed to me that most everyone was forgetting that there is a woman who has been hurt and scared at the center of all this. A woman who has had all shreds of anonymity ripped away from her by sudden and unasked for internet celebrity. Who can no longer walk around her own neighborhood without being recognized and “outed” as transsexual.
And I suppose by writing this now; I am perhaps no different than anyone who has written about this horrifying incident before me. I offer only the small justification that I do not claim to have any more personal knowledge of Ms. Polis’ personal feelings than anyone else. Only that I recognize her ordeal as one which has sadly been shared by countless other transpeople who have suffered similarly, if less publicly. It is for all those of my sisters and brothers who suffered thus that I speak up now.
Also, as a blogger and a newspaper columnist myself, I felt compelled to respond to the column entitled: “’Hate crime’ justice is no justice at all” by Gregory Kane of the Washington Examiner. Perhaps I have not yet been nominated for a Pulitzer, as Mr. Kane has, but I try to be as well informed and balanced in my opinions and writing as I am able. And I found Mr. Kane’s bigoted and pointedly mean column to be quite lacking in these qualities.
This then is my response to him. I hope that he reads it.

Dear Mr. Kane,

You sir, are an ass.
However you have inadvertently provided an almost pitch perfect example of why hate crime protections for and education about transpeople are absolutely necessary. The sneering manner in which you refer to Chrissy Lee Polis as a “woman” and insist on the fairly pointed usage of male pronouns throughout, indicates to me that you neither know, nor care about the struggles of those who are not so fortunate as yourself. Who have not been lucky enough to be born in a body they were comfortable with. Who were “gendered” in a way they found discordant with their own self-knowledge. Who, in the attempt to align their own public identities with that self-knowledge, often find themselves marginalized, hated and abused with little available recourse.
Ill-informed hatred like that you spew forth from this column is the very engine that drives this abuse. Yours are the words that justify the beatings.
That said, I am going to assume by the fact you have been nominated for a Pulitzer, that you are an intelligent man. And I would like to point out to you, and to those of your readers who might be similarly misinformed, exactly why hate crime protections are called for and indeed vitally needed.
It is not, as you seem to assume, to achieve more excessive criminal punishments than are already called for. In point of fact if most crimes against transpeople were simply punished with the same severity as are similar crimes against most everyone else, it would be a step in the right direction. As it is, even the most heinous crimes, murder for example, when committed against transgender, transsexual and intersex folks, are often punished with little more than a slap on the wrist.
We are not looking for more stringent punishments than those against non-transpeople. We are simply hoping for some degree of equity with anyone else.
A sentiment which was, I believe, shared by the wise Founders of this country. In the interest of brevity I’ll refrain from direct quotes and assume you’re familiar with a rather important document called, “The Declaration of Independence”. At least I hope you are.
The real reason we need Hate Crime protections have little to do with the whinging “political correctness” you accuse us of. It has everything to do with being counted.
This evening I attended a meeting of local activists in which one member was presenting information on the recent beating of the woman you refer to in your column, Chrissy Lee Polis. Who I would like to remind you is more than just fodder for another week’s column, to be sneered at and denigrated. She is a real flesh and blood person. And a citizen of these United States who has been brutalized while others simply stood by and watched. (How Un-American is that!?!?!)
The person giving this presentation admitted that there was precious little in the way of hard information or statistics to be found regarding crime and discrimination against transpeople. Even the F.B.I. came up flat. This is because as a community we are often not counted. Ignored even in the national census. There are few crime statistics because the way the system in this country is set up, the only crimes against minority groups that are counted, tracked and dealt with are those which are registered as Hate Crimes. Everything from funding to prevent such violence to programs to help the victims, are determined by these numbers.
Without Hate Crime protections we may as well not even exist as far as some law enforcement and governmental bodies are concerned. Without Hate Crime protections, as well as other basic Civil Rights which we are also fighting for, we will continue to be beaten, killed, denied basic dignities and generally pushed to the margins of society.
And that sir is why we are standing up in ever increasing numbers to demand that we be treated with the same dignity as anyone else. Why we ask for Hate Crime Preventions and Anti-Discrimination Laws. Why I get so angry when I see men like you, men who have power, privilege and position; belittling and demeaning people like Chrissy Lee Polis and myself who have to watch our backs every minute of the day and fight for every step up we can get.
Think about that the next time you settle into your chair and begin another column with a full stomach and an unharmed body. And thank God for your great good luck.

Slainte!
Lorelei Erisis

20
Feb
11

Time To Stand Together

I‘m going to say something here that is bound to get me in trouble.  I believe that not only do trans people of all types need to band together in a unified “transgender” movement, despite our individual differences.  I also believe we have an important place in the larger LGBT movement.  Not only that, but I believe we must find ways to support and band with larger movements for social justice and freedom all around the world.

Taking it to the streets

The time is NOW!

If we want trans rights now, we need to speak out with the strikers in Wisconsin.  If we demand our basic freedom, we need to support the free peoples of Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Yemen and Bahrain.  If we want to end oppression of trans people, we must work to end oppression wherever it may be found.  We should concern ourselves with the plight of the poor and the powerless on the streets of New York; in the mountains of Appalachia; and in the fields of Afghanistan.

If you are saying to yourself right now, “But why should I concern myself with all of these other problems?  I have my own problems.”  Then you have answered your own question.  This is the very attitude we, as transpeople are up against.  Most folks don’t hate us, they just don’t see why they should be bothered to help.  They have their own problems.  And everything they hear and read and watch encourages this individual focus.

If we have learned anything from the recent actions in the Middle East and Africa, it is that change will only ever happen when the people band together.  When we set aside individual concerns and turn out in numbers to demand freedom for all our Brothers and Sisters.  We saw it in Egypt when bands of Christians stood and protected their Muslim allies as they prayed.  We are seeing it in Wisconsin in the crowds that flood the Capital to say no to an unjust policy that will do nothing but hurt their neighbors.  We see it anywhere people help each other out, simply because there is need.

We must remember that the fight for trans rights is the fight for human rights.  We can either stand together and march towards victory or stand apart and suffer under the fists of oppression.

The time is now.  Together we may succeed.

22
Mar
10

Ticked-Off Trannies With BLOGS!!!!

Okay, now I tend to be extremely conservative about jumping on Boycott bandwagons, especially in relation to entertainment/pop-culture products or projects.  Before I was an activist of any kind, I was and am an actor, writer and comic performer.  I’ve studied and worked in comedy for most of my life and I know what a fine line it is between what is offensive and what is funny.  How often and easily that line blurs.  I like inappropriate jokes, edgy entertainment and boundary pushing art.

I am also exceptionally leery of censorship of any kind, even and especially of topics that I am personally offended by.  Restriction of free speech and artistic expression of any kind can be a very slippery slope.  We voluntarily allow far too many freedoms to be taken away from us in the name of Political Correctness and Safety.

I also believe in basic decency and politeness though.  I’m not much of a Christian, but the Bible did get it right when it said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  I believe that.  I think if we all treated each other with a bit more respect and open-mindedness the world would be a much better place.

So when I read the various Facebook posts by transgender friends and allies who were crying foul against a movie called “Ticked Off Trannies With Knives”, I was immediately on guard.  I have previously defended the use of the word “tranny” as a popular colloquialism.  I know it’s offensive, but it’s also fairly pervasive.  I feel it’s better to defuse it than allow it to be a weapon.

That said, my immediate reaction, based on my relationship with and respect for the sources of the posts was one of personal offense.  “This horrible film must be stopped!!!”  My reaction was so visceral I felt I could not trust it.  I needed to think before reacting.  So I waded into the source material with an open mind, watched the trailer and read both the blog postings against the movie and the fan support for it.

After all, the film is being featured in the much respected Tribeca Film Festival, which was started by Robert DeNiro.  I’m kind of a movie geek, so even a loosely implied connection to DeNiro is enough tom get my attention and excitement up.

The trailer immediately evoked some very emotional responses for me.  It invoked the brutal death of Angie Zapata and other transgender women.  Like a spell it conjured the horror of violence against my community.  The violence that keeps me from being able to live with the woman I love in San Diego.  Violence that I and many of my brothers, sisters and others live in fear of every day.

It tried to buddy up to me and say, “Hey, this is a movie by trannies, for trannies.”  It painted itself as a movie that felt my pain and was as angry as I am!!  A classic revenge fantasy.  Bloody.  Dangerous.  Funny too.  And maybe just a little inappropriate, but in the fine tradition of classic Blaxsploitation movies.

Blaxsploitation, if you’re not familiar was a genre of film that emerged in the early 1970’s that was often accused of portraying negative racial stereotypes and exploiting sensitive issues.  But for all that, they were some of the first films to be made primarily for black audiences with almost entirely black casts and made by black filmmakers.  For all of their faults, they are pretty amazing and groundbreaking films.

With that in mind, I was totally prepared to suspend my offense and possibly even be prepared to enjoy the trailer for a film that billed itself as “transploitation”. I actually kind of wanted to like it!

Geared up and angry from the invocation of transgender bashing and open minded from my love of movies like “Shaft” and “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song” I found myself immediately disappointed by what appeared to be a cast of Drag Queens being billed as “transgender”.  I found not identification and visceral vindication, but alienation and offense.

Even at that, I tried to remain open-minded.  I all too often have people asking me if “I can do Streisand”  and “What songs do you do?”  When I tell them I’m a performer.  Because I’m trans and an actor, people often assume I must be a female impersonator and it always pisses me off.  So I was prepared to dig deeper.  Maybe the movie was made by transgender filmmakers or had a transgender crew.

Nope and nope.

Turns out the movie was directed by a gay man with nary an actual transgender person* in sight.  Hardly, the Melvin Van Peebles of our community.  After very careful review and much critical thought I came to the conclusion that this movie, “Ticked Off Trannies With Knives” is not “transploitation” so much as simply, exploitation of transgender people.

Please, if you are a transgender person, an ally of transgender people or even just a lover of film, check out the links and the trailer below for yourself.  If you are as offended as I am, let the folks who organize the Tribeca film festival know how you feel about this film.

*Author’s note: I am reliably informed that in addition to the now publicized 3 transgender women in lead roles, there were also a number of trans crew members. So there’s that. Weigh that as you will. -LE 4/19

(And yes, I know the link is broken… I left it as a sign that change is possible if we speak up. Director Luna re-edited the trailer and I’ve posted it below.)

22
Jan
10

The complete text of my speech from Trans Lobby Day at The Massachusetts Statehouse

Yesterday I was honoured to be given the opportunity by Gunner Scott and the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition to tell my story of employment discrimination at the Trans Lobby Day event at The Massachusetts State House.

It was a truly marvelous gathering of Transgender people and our friends and allies including legislators and members of the clergy.  I was humbled to see so many of us turn out to represent our community by working on direct action to pass a much needed Transgender Rights Bill.

It was wonderful for me to have the chance to share a podium with so many other fine speakers.  Below is the complete text of my own speech, telling the story of my long search for employment in Massachusetts and the discrimination I faced while I was engaged in it.

Transgender Lobby Day Speech

Hello.  My name is Lorelei McLaughlin.  I am a Transgender Woman and a native New Englander.  Although I’ve lived all over the country, I was born in Northampton, grew up on Cape Cod, and graduated from Barnstable High School.  I currently live in Holyoke.

About a year and a half ago I returned to Massachusetts from Southern California.  I had lost my job, which I held for several years, due to my transition.  I moved back because I felt my physical safety was at stake, but the main reason was because of the rapidly declining health of my Nana.  I had decided to come home to Massachusetts to help take care of her.

When I moved back to Massachusetts I took to finding a job as if it was a job.  I had several differently targeted versions of my resume.  I scoured craigslist and any other local job boards I could find.  I picked up the local classified sections.  I sent out scores of applications and wrote a sheaf of cover letters for all occasions for months on end.

I could fill out all the applications I wanted and no one turned me away directly, but I could never actually talk to a hiring manager or have an actual interview.  I would walk into a place with a help wanted sign IN THE WINDOW only to be told that, well, they weren’t actually hiring right now but would be happy to put my application on file.  I couldn’t even get anyone to LOOK at my resume.

There is for me a happy-ish ending that illustrates just how bad the discrimination we face is.  I did not let myself become discouraged.  While I was looking for work, I also volunteered to help with various non-profits and community organizations.  I networked like crazy, asked everyone I met if they knew of someone that was hiring.  I was asked to serve as a Board Member of Northampton Pride but still could not even get a job bussing tables.

Finally a local psychologist, Dr. Shelley Janiczek Woodson, put out that she needed an Administrative Assistant for her expanding practice.  I jumped on it.  We exchanged emails and she asked me to come in for an interview.  She was the first person to actually interview me in the 1 1/2 years of looking.  The first person to treat me as a potential employee and actually look at my resume.  She hired me practically on the spot.

Even so, she was warned by her colleagues against hiring me.  They said it would hurt her practice to have a transgender person at the front desk.  She took a chance though and her business continues to thrive.

I found the one person in a thousand willing to look at me as a person, but I was lucky.  We need this law to help the countless other transpeople even to get their feet in the door, to be given not special opportunity, but the same opportunity as anyone else.

Thank you.

For more information on how to get involved, please visit the MTPC website and support the fine work they are doing.  Also please contact your local legislators to urge them to support H1728/S1687 “An Act Relative To Gender-Based Discrimination and Hate Crimes”.  And if you don’t live in Massachusetts yourself but know someone who does, ask them to contact their own legislators and do the same!




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