Posts Tagged ‘transwoman

14
Feb
14

A Winter Memory

InATreeAloneThis evening I went for a walk in the snow, at dusk into the darkening night.

The world reducing to icy blue landscapes highlighted by grey shadows.

Orange house light spilling onto drifting lawns. Wooded patches reducing in detail, fading into black.

As I walked through the neighborhood, blowing sleet stinging my cheeks, icy wind whistling. I approached the edges and I remembered.

The trees.

Unbidden and in a flash, the memory that floated through my mind on the flickering shadows was of being a hidden trans girl of 12 or 13 in the little village of Marstons Mills on the sandy spit of Cape Cod.

Dressing up alone. Barricaded in my room. Bursting at my teenage seems. Desperate to be honest and out in the world. Afraid of anyone knowing.

So it was to the woods. On snowy, blustery days, much like this. The days when a timid teenage trans girl could count on all the watchful watchers staying snug and secure, away in their homes.

Carefully, in my room, I would dress underneath. A secreted skirt from stored away clothes. Stockings stolen from my mom’s dresser drawers. Whatever odd items I could acquire, awkwardly arranged.

On top of this, wet winter, cold weather clothes. Bulky layers that keep the wind out and secrets in.

I would go outside. Down the street, around the block, to the edge of the neighborhoods. To the woods by the pond.

Deep into the shadows I’d go. Just out of sight, just beyond the edges of the spilling orange light. Out through the scrub pines and the bramble.

And there I’d strip off my layers. Peeling away the winter weather androgyny. Down to the summery girl underneath.

And in those white wooded patches, snow stinging my nearly naked legs, wind biting through my too-thin dress. For a few moments I was exposed. Unhidden. Out in the world.

With only the trees for company.

I always was nervous of being caught. Or hopeful of it perhaps. Of no longer needing to hide. Of having my secret stripped away, very like those warm winter layers.

But I was clever at my lies. I was too good at hiding my secrets just beyond the edge of the woods, or in my bedroom after school.

For a few moments though, I was out of my room. Out of the house. Standing shivering in the stinging wind. Just a scared young girl, happy to be without a mask, in the shadows of the woods.

The stinging, shivering, punishing cold acceptable payment for the price I supposed I needed to pay. A manifestation of the guilt and the shame I manufactured for my imagined sins. But for all that, as well a glorious reminder of being alive. Unavoidably aware and awake to the moment.

Eventually, all too soon really, I’d begin to put the layers back on. Replace the damnable disguise. Slowly, even against the cold. Savoring the danger of being exposed. Caught out in my carefully crafted lies.

Once again, bundled up and secrets hidden, I’d trudge back out of the snowy woods. Pretend to be a boy. My secrets sufficiently safe.

The trees never told a soul.

But every so often, when the wind whips and the sleet stings. When I walk through the dusk into the darkening night. They whisper to me on the wind.

And even though I no longer hide, no longer cover my secrets in androgynous layers. Though I celebrate the woman that girl has become. The trees remember the time before.

And I do too.

SummeryGrrl

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.
05
Nov
13

Tammy’s Twist – A Trans-Tastic Evening Of Comedy

Come on everybody!

Let’s TWIST!!!

 

twistcomic

Hi there! It’s Lorelei, you know, the weird tall woman who writes a newspaper column called “Ask A Transwoman” and purports to be a bona-fide pageant queen. (It’s true! Honest! Miss Trans New England 2009!! W00t!!) The Transproviser her very-own self!!

Anyway, the other thing I do, and did for years and years before I became the fabulous transgender activist I am today, is Improv and Comedy! This is relevant because I’m co-hosting a show in NYC next Saturday with the amazing trans stand-up comic Tammy Twotone. And I’m really hoping you, my dear faithful readers, will go!! Or if it’s totally unrealistic for you to make it, maybe you could encourage your friends to go.

SingingTandLcropBut why is this so important, besides being a super-funny night of some of the best comedy on the freaking planet?!?! It’s important because this is what we’re always talking about. It’s transpeople making our own media. Telling our own stories (and jokes!). We’re not waiting for Hollywood and the rest of the entertainment industry to catch up, we’re doing it ourselves.

And we bring a heck of a lot of talent to the table. Tammy has been doing standup for decades. Perfecting her craft and paying her dues, until she got to the point where she has finally been trusted with producing her own show. This show.

As for myself, I spent years studying improv and sketch comedy at Second City in Chicago and LA. Performing with a number of different groups, and on any stage I could get up on, all over the country. I was also the showroom manager at The Hollywood Improv for several years, studying and getting to know some of the greatest comics working today. (As well as a lot of the not-so-greatest…  Gods help me.)RedDurkinNY

Beyond that, we also have the amazingly funny and smart trans comic (TransComic?) Red Durkin joining us. For my money, Red is one of the best up and coming comics working today. Trans or otherwise.

Tammy, Red and I all come from pretty different comedy backgrounds, so it’s not often you will see the three of us sharing one stage like this. This is special. And not just because of our collective transness! We also have quite a line-up of cis LGBQ comics joining us as well as some totally straight cisfolks! (CisComics?) They bring credits as diverse as “The Chappelle Show”, “Louie”, MTV and even freakin’ Nick At Night!!

But for this to be successful we need to pack the house! Show ‘em we’re not just awesome, but we’re a viable market. Trust me, if there’s one thing The Industry values above all else, it’s the ability to bring a crowd!

Now is the time to stop talking about how there needs to be more transpeople being represented. We will be representing loud and proud this coming Saturday, 10pm at The Broadway Comedy Club in NYC!!!  All you have to do is show up!! (And buy a ticket and two drinks of course.)

See you there!!

The Broadway Comedy Club 318 West 53rd St., New York, NY 10010

Tammy Twotone, – Producer/Host

Lorelei Erisis -Second City, LA Improv

Coleen Scriven – NYC Fringe Festival

Kim Deshields -Nick at Nites’ Funniest Mom

Rick Crom – ‘Louis’, ‘Chapelle Show’

Micah Sherman -Second City

Red Durkin -PrettyQueer.Com

Harrison Greenbaum -MTV Comedians to Watch

Emma Willmann

Danny Palmer

Stacy Kendro

The Silent Opera

Tickets are $12 and can be purchased at the door. There is a 2 drink Min.

For res. call 212-757-2323

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

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

06
Sep
12

Why the Michelle Kosilek ruling is not a terrible, horrible, awful thing (even though she might be).

It’s been quite a week for me.  Without getting into details not relevant to the subject of this post, suffice to say it was one filled with all kinds of trans community related drama.  So when I got home tonight and noticed there was some sort of controversy raging around a transgender inmate here in Massachusetts, I’ll be honest, I did everything I could to ignore it.  I’m just about on trans-issue overload as it is.

I made dinner, chatted with my roommates, watched part of a documentary about Johnny Carson until it stopped working.  Then watched some stuff about the great Improv director and teacher Del Close.

Then I made the mistake of going over to Facebook.

Why, oh why do I do these things?  Of course all the drama was right there, flooding my feed.  There were even a couple of messages from my Mother in my inbox, practically begging for my opinion.  So, finally, mainly for my Mom and because, okay, I’m a transgender advice columnist, so it’s sort of what I do…  I broke down and started surfing stories about Michelle Kosilek a convicted killer incarcerated right here in Massachusetts for the 1990 murder of her wife.

Kosilek, I should note for clarity, is also a transgender woman.

This is not the first time I’ve encountered her story.  Kosilek started her male to female gender transition while in the custody of the State 12 years ago.  She has also mutilated herself genitally and twice attempted suicide.  Without going into too many details, what is important to know is that her Doctor diagnosed SRS (Sex Reassignment Surgery) to be a medical necessity in her case.  A Federal Judge agreed with this earlier today and ordered the surgery to be provided by the State.

It will be completely unsurprising to anyone who has ever turned on the TV, Radio or Internet, or spoken to other human beings about anything out of the ordinary, and most especially about issues related to transgender folks, that this decision has caused a storm of controversy.

Those are the facts you need to know up front.  And yes, you can bet I have an opinion all my own.

I will say that the controversy seems to break down along much less partisan lines than I usually see in trans related debates.  I have seen both trans- and cisgender people who are shocked and appalled by this taxpayer funded freeloading surgery.  And I have seen both cis- and transgender folks agreeing that this is a reasonable and progressive decision by the court.

Everybody though seems to agree that it’s a very uncomfortable controversy.  “Wicked” uncomfortable even, this being Massachusetts.  I mean, look, this a person who killed their wife and is serving life in prison for the crime.  Not a nice individual.  A criminal.  A murderer!!  And if I’m going to go ahead and be really bitchy and judgmental about it (hell, I am a Pageant Queen, I’m allowed bitchiness occasionally…), kinda friggin’ creepy looking.  I mean, those eyes….

Anyway.  The one thing that’s for certain is that no one who cares about trans issues wants Michelle Kosilek to be our postergirl.  You can just almost picture the folks who have worked to oppose trans civil rights gleefully cackling like a Bond Villain, steepling their fingers while watching tonight’s news.

For our opponents, Michelle Kosilek must seem like the human embodiment of all the “Bathroom Panic” commercials used to scare people away from thinking critically and positively about Transgender Rights.  Either that or as sure proof of the Immanentizing of the Eschaton (go ahead, look it up, it’s a fun surf).

But what does it all really boil down to?  My dear readers who think so carefully about all things and never jump to hasty conclusions.  I can hear you asking!  What do you think Lorelei?  Is this taxpayer funded freeloading?  Enlightened legal progress?  Guide us!

Ooooooooookay, since you put it that way.

First, let me be clear, like many of you, I’m ragingly jealous!  Why should this murderer have surgery that I’m not sure I’ll EVER be able to afford myself, provided by our tax dollars?!?!?!  Why, when most insurance plans routinely deny this necessary surgery to perfectly law abiding transgender folks, should an incarcerated felon get it for free???

Well, I’ll tell you why.  Did you notice that phrase, “necessary surgery”?

Yeah, that’s really the only important thing here.  Forget the heinous crime.  Forget the super-creepiness of Kosilek herself.  And remember only that a Medical Doctor has given a diagnosis that without this life-saving surgery, an incarcerated human being under the enforced care of the State is at risk.

You see, inmates aren’t allowed to provide for their own medical treatment.  Or much of anything else for that matter.  While they are incarcerated, and Kosilek is for life, we as “The State” are required to take care of their basic needs.  We must feed them, house them, clothe them and if they are sick or broken, we have to try and fix them, make them healthy again.

For all of you who could give a Rat’s Ass about Trans Rights, this is the argument for you.  If we are a just and fair society, we must support the decision of the trained medical personnel who care for our prisoners.  If a Doctor deems a treatment necessary to the health of a person whose freedoms we have forcibly curtailed, we must not oppose that.  For that way lies a slippery slope.

If we, as laypeople, can say our taxes will not save this life.  Then where does it stop?  Wouldn’t it ease the taxpayer burden to allow those awful rapists to be consumed by cancer?  Should we really mend the broken hand of a sticky-fingered thief?  What about the junky drug dealer who contracted Hepatitis from a dirty needle before he was even arrested?  Do we save a few bucks off the ever-increasing deficit and say, “Sorry, no help for your suffering.”

No, I for one do not wish to live in a society that does not care for the least among us.  Though it could be argued that is the case already…

Michelle Kosilek’s prison appointed Doctor has deemed this a necessary procedure.  Therefor the Judge made the only ruling that was just and proper.

Not enough for you?  Okay, this next argument is for my trans-peeps who are upset that a prisoner is getting treatment they themselves have been denied.  Who hate that this heinous murderer is being handed the surgery we want so badly and so often struggle to attain.

I want you to breathe.  Listen to me.  Ready?  Receptive?

Okay.  This is legal precedent.  Which is good.

Very good.

A Federal Judge just said that a transgender/transsexual woman MUST be provided with SRS because it is a Medically Necessary Procedure.  That’s HUGE.  It opens up all kinds of avenues for good lawyers to argue that Insurance companies should cover SRS for all transgender people because a federal court has already ruled it medically necessary.  And if it’s a procedure that’s considered life saving for an inmate, then how can the insurance companies properly justify denying it to regular law-abiding folks like you and me?

And I’m quite sure if I can see this argument, there must be some of our opponents of Transgender Civil Rights out there who see the same thing and are very, very nervous about the outcome of all this.  Who will scream and fuss and cuss and do their damndest to strike this ruling down.

We may not much like our new postergirl.  If you’re like me, she may actively give you the willies!!  But we cannot have it both ways.  If we are trying to tell people that SRS is something we need.  Something we must have to be healthy, happy and whole.  Then we cannot deny the necessity of this procedure for anyone.  Even Michelle Kosilek.

So, I beg you to stop shouting at each other.  It will only make the work of our opponents in the overall struggle that much easier.  If we are already tearing at each other over this decision, they need hardly lift a finger to set us back.

I’m not asking you to like it.  I’m not even asking you to go to work tomorrow and tell all your coworkers how awesome it is that this Convicted Wife Murderer is getting SRS…

I’m just asking you to think about it carefully and rationally.  Think it all through.  And if you agree with me, then at the very least, please don’t throw any more wood on the media fire.

Thank you.

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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