22

About this Bruce Jenner interview

Update: I’ve written a followup here and turned off the comments on this post after an inbox full of attacks. If you still wish to comment, feel free to do so on the followup post.

Screenshot 2015-04-24 11.18.11Tonight, it’s expected that Bruce Jenner will reveal they’re transgender in a two-hour interview with Diane Sawyer. For most of us trans folk, especially the ladies, this is something we’ve been dreading for quite some time.

It may be tempting to see this as a great bit of visibility for the trans community and another chance for us to talk about trans issues. It may appear we are gaining an advocate and spokesperson in the mainstream media. None of this is true, however. There is nothing positive to come from this interview tomorrow. Most of us are actually quite afraid of the world we will be living in after this evening.

(Please note that I am using the singular “they” as Jenner’s pronoun. Jenner has not yet asked us to use a different pronoun and doing so before being told what to use would be inappropriate.)

What is important to consider is where Bruce Jenner is coming from. They are a privileged white person who exists in the heart of celebritydom. They are already a household name in mainstream media…and rich. Yes, this is going to make their personal experience difficult in a way most of us could not imagine, however, this is where the problem lies. Jenner’s experience does not and will never line up with the experience of 99.99% of trans people. Everything about Jenner will be about them and not about trans people.

Jenner will never understand the fear of being fired from their job simply because they are transgender. Jenner will not have to fear violence at every turn. They will not struggle to afford treatment (hormones, surgery, etc) while fighting with insurance companies to get anything at all covered. They will not experience housing discrimination.

Jenner will literally be able to buy their way out of any experience even remotely typical for those of us in the transgender community. Jenner will be able to snap their fingers for a new wardrobe, a body guard, medical treatment, and anything else they need.

This is not the person who should be the face of our community. The face of our community should not be our most privileged and least marginalized. It should be exactly the opposite. The face of our community should be our most marginalized. Our focus should not be trickle-down in nature. We need to be lifting up from the bottom. No one should be left behind. Our focus and the face of our community should be transgender women of color.

Jenner is not equipped for these conversations, nor should they even be expected to. Even for me, it took a couple years of listening to others in my community before I felt confident enough to be having important discussions around trans issues. I needed to learn the limits of my experience and to not speak over or for those less privileged than me. I needed to learn when to elevate the voices of others and speak in ways and about things with the nuance necessary to not over-step my boundaries. This does not come automatically.

This will not be how things go with Jenner. They will immediately be treated as an expert on transgender issues by the media. Their experience will be put front and center as The Transgender Experience™ instead of just one of many ways to be transgender and experiences to have. We saw this happen recently with Zoey Tur.

Jenner is not an expert on trans issues. I don’t even consider myself to be an expert and I am involved in the community and with activism. In reality, no one can truly be an expert on trans issues because trans experiences are varied and individualistic. Being a vocal part of the trans community and speaking for trans people means having a deep understanding of this fact. It is impossible for Jenner to possess this understanding.

Going even beyond Jenner’s ability to speak for trans people, we’ve already had a glimpse of the nastiness to come from the media. It’s not pretty. Simply look at TMZ and other tabloid publications. Jenner comes with too much baggage. People are too eager to use them being transgender as another way to attack him in pursuit of a quick buck.

Much of the bullying and attacks on Jenner feel like a flashback to the 90s for me. I still have mental scars from the imagery and treatment of trans people in the 90s. Media depictions like those on Jerry Springer set me back almost two decades in figuring out who I was and how to navigate being transgender. I fear a repeat of this for transgender youth of today.

Bruce Jenner’s stardom comes with immense visibility, but visibility isn’t always positive. Each insult hurled at Jenner isn’t just an insult of Jenner, it’s an attack on all trans people. These “jokes” are at the expense of all trans people. We are the punchline. Jenner will be a magnet for transphobia and transmisogyny and while they may be able to endure it and shelter themself from it thanks to decades of experience being in the spotlight, the vast majority of the trans community cannot.

Jenner’s “journey” and this interview won’t be about transgender people and the trans community, it will be about them and all of us will be the innocent victims handed over in exchange for media profits.

Regardless of all of this, Jenner still deserves our respect. They deserve to be properly gendered however they ask us to do. But I beg for the world to not look to Jenner to speak for us.

Update: Based on a lot comments I’ve received in various places, it seems as though I completely failed to make one of my main points clear enough. I 100% support Bruce Jenner and all trans people. My issue isn’t with Bruce Jenner themself at all. It is with a society and a media that will no doubt center around their experience and their story as THE transgender story and experience. We all have different stories and experiences and they are all worth being heard. I don’t want to, in any way, imply that I don’t believe that. Bruce’s experience is just one of an infinite number of them. What I fear is what will be thrust upon Bruce and the elevation of THEIR story over all others. This will only serve to bury the stories of our most marginalized.

100

Why Transparent creator Jill Soloway’s Facebook post hurts so much

Before I even get started here, let me just quickly point out the fact that, as of writing this, Bruce Jenner has not, in any way, said he was transgender or that he was transitioning or anything. No amount of media speculation, obsession, or bullying can decide who Bruce Jenner is. Maybe he is trans. Maybe he’ll ask us to use female pronouns and we will welcome him to our community. Or maybe he’s not trans. It doesn’t matter. If there is something to tell, he will tell us when he is ready. His identity is his to share, not anyone else’s to determine.

That, itself, is an important enough concept to warrant its own post, but this post is about Jill Soloway, not Bruce Jenner. Everyone’s favorite cisgender (not-transgender) teller of trans stories. Jill Soloway, creator of Amazon’s Golden Globe winning Transparent. The show with everyone’s favorite “Moppa.”

I’ll admit it, up until yesterday, I was a big Transparent fan. When I first heard about the show, before it was available for streaming via Amazon Prime, I went through my normal reaction to a cisgender (male) actor, Jeffrey Tambor, playing a transgender woman. I was angry. Trans characters should be played by trans actors. And trans stories should be written and told by trans people. These are our stories to tell. Our lives and stories are not for cis entertainment or appropriation or profit.

But I watched Transparent anyway. I gave it a chance. And I liked it. A lot actually. I liked it not because of the trans story it was telling, but because it didn’t feel like it was telling a trans story. It was telling a cis story. It was telling the story of Maura’s family and how fucked they are. She was the grounded parent of three selfish adult children. Then the show won at the Golden Globes. Speeches were made by both Soloway and Tambor. Good speeches, actually, saying all the “right things.” They talked about trans people, mentioned Leelah Alcorn, etc etc. I overlooked the stuff that was problematic about the show and gave it a pass. I even vouched for it and recommended it to friends.

I regret this now.

The one time I’ve given a pass instead of sticking to my gut, I got burned.

Yesterday, Jill Soloway posted this gem to Facebook:

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Yes, that’s ally-of-the-year Jill Soloway poking fun at Bruce Jenner’s gender and the speculation of him being trans. Using being transgender as a joke. Some ally. She should know better. She should be speaking out against others doing this. Instead, she’s joining in.

Now, I’m sure straight cisgender men everywhere will go ahead and break this down for us trans people that we have no sense of humor and she’s an ally and she has a trans parent whom she supports very deeply and blah blah blah, but the reality is this shit hurts. A lot. “With friends like these” and all that. If she truly cared about trans people beyond her own “Moppa,” this post never would have happened.

Trans people are constantly the punchline to jokes. In most cases, there isn’t even a fully formed joke. The formula is little more than “trans = lolz.” Why does this relatively tame joke hurt so much? It hurts because she was supposed to be our ally. She conned many of us into trusting her, albeit begrudgingly.

When you’re transgender, you go through every day of your life with the fear that all your friends, family, and coworkers who are nice to you and “completely support” you are actually laughing at you behind your back. You never truly shake feeling like you’re their joke. Jill Soloway’s post yesterday confirms all those fears and suspicions. They are talking about you and they are laughing about your life. You are their joke. It’s not just in your head, it’s real.

Is it really so much to ask to not be a punchline? To not have our lives be a joke? To be treated be as human? If even our “friends,” can’t resit, then I guess we are just asking too much.

I learned something from Jill Soloway. I will never ever trust or give a pass to a cisgender person telling trans stories. I will never say “but she gets it!” She doesn’t. And the next cis person who comes along won’t either.

0

Transgender Day of Remembrance

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Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance. It’s a day every year where we remember the names of those who were murdered simply for being transgender. The vast majority of these people are always trans women. More specifically, trans women of color.

This year, the list is 226 names long. That may not seem like a lot considering there are seven billion people on this planet, until you start doing the math. I’m not going to break down a bunch of numbers and statistics here for you. Partly because that wouldn’t be super important at the moment and partly because I’d prefer not to reduce trans people down to a bunch of numbers. We’re actual people. The important thing to know is we are just .3% of the population, yet we are murdered at a rate higher than any other group of people. Even just looking at anti-LGBT violence, a very disproportionately high number of attacks are against the T. And, again, it’s even worse for trans women of color. A trans person is reported murdered every 32 hours in the world. Why? Because we live in a culture that sees trans people as, at best, a punchline for a joke and, at worst, inhuman.

Anyway, I’m actually going to hold up right there and keep this short. There are a lot of people out there writing much better things than I could ever hope to write. Take some time to check out the hashtags on Twitter and Tumblr.

It’s scary out there. The other day, my coworker asked me how I even leave the house every day. I didn’t have an answer.

6

The Power of Pronouns

On Tuesday, I wrote about feeling great and being very happy with where I am with transition related stuff. It was just one of those days where I felt awesome and beautiful. Every time I looked in the mirror, I loved what I saw so much. My confidence was through the roof. Unfortunately, like pretty much everyone else, we have ups and downs with our self-confidence and sometimes things happen that can shake that confidence.

What I looked like yesterday

What I looked like yesterday

After work yesterday, I had to run over to the vet real quick to fill a prescription for our oldest cat since it turns out Hattie, the new one, has intestinal parasites and we need to treat all three of the cats in case she had already spread it. Anyway, I’d been having a reasonably good self-confidence day. I wasn’t looking as good as Tuesday, but I liked the way I looked, cute even. I was rocking some new pants I had gotten over the weekend, my Against Me! shirt, some cute dangly earrings, and a pony tail. I had sort of a rough afternoon thanks to getting sucked into an argument I wasn’t originally a part of, but I was starting to get over it.

It took a little while for them to fill the prescription at the vet and I was chatting with the two receptionists while I was waiting. They asked how Hattie was and everything felt normal. I wasn’t thinking about “how do these people see me?” I was just happy feeling like an average and unremarkable person. They were both being super friendly and I felt totally like they unquestionably saw me the same as any other pet-obsessed woman who walks in their door. Everything was going fine until the one receptionist referred to me as “he.” There was no coming back after that, even when the other receptionist continued to properly gender me.

I’ve written before about how it feels when someone willfully misgenders, but this is a bit different than that. In a lot of ways, it’s actually worse when it’s completely unintentional and the person doesn’t even realize they’re misgendering you. It means when they look at you, they, for whatever reason, see a man. No matter the fact that I have boobs, a woman’s hairstyle, makeup, nails painted, jewelry, and women’s clothes, they still unquestionably see a man. This wasn’t an “I’m not sure what this person is so I’m going to avoid gendering in either direction” confusion, this was a straight up “you’re a man” situation.

Did this person do this on purpose or to hurt me? Nope, not even close. They were incredibly friendly and nice to me, just like they are every other time I’ve been there. This is a person who looked at me and saw nothing but a man.

Another photo of what I looked like yesterday

Another photo of what I looked like yesterday

I’ve gotten to the point where when I look in the mirror, I no longer see a man staring back at me. I see the woman that I am nearly 100% of the time. I may pick out countless features that bother me or look manly to me, but when I just look at me as a whole, I see a woman. When someone else doesn’t see this, it cuts through so much. Am I deluding myself? Do I not really look how I think I do? Is it still that obvious? Are people only humoring me when they do properly gender me? I say it time and time again, but I don’t care about “passing.” I don’t care if people read me as transgender, in fact, I generally prefer that. What I do care about, though, is being seen as a woman. Being misgendered like this tells me that at least some people don’t see me as I see myself and as I want to be seen. It’s very shaking to my confidence in my ability to leave the house and simply live my life as a person without having to be treated as some sort of “other.”

Over the weekend, in addition to #YesAllWomen, there was another hashtag going around. #CisGaze was being used as a way for trans people to sound off about the aggressions, microaggressions, transphobia, and transmisogyny we deal with on a day to day basis. I made a few of submissions myself, among them was this one:

Here’s the thing, misgendering someone is never cool, whether they’re trans or cis, pass or don’t pass, look like your definition of their gender or not, or whether they express themselves femininely, masculinely, or androgynously. It’s just not cool and it hurts. I happen to look very much like a woman and I dress very much like a woman. There is no question when looking at me that I want to be seen as a woman…since, you know, I am a woman.

It may not seem like it’s that big of a deal. What’s it matter what one person says or does without even thinking? They didn’t do it on purpose. There are thousand ways to dismiss it, but it does matter. It’s a constant reminder that the world doesn’t see you as you. It separates you out from the rest of society as saying “you’re different” and “you’re not who you say you are.” “Your gender and your identity are up to my discretion.”

EDIT: I meant to mention this and totally forgot before publishing. If you’re not sure what pronouns to use for someone, ask. Really, this is okay. Just don’t say “hey, are you a man or a woman?” Instead, something like “I’m sorry, I didn’t want to assume, but what pronouns do you use?” works just fine.

10

How not to be an ally. Or how Piers Morgan is an ass. Or, no, I never was was a man.

Janet Mock on Piers Morgan discussing Redefining Realness

See the problem here?

Last night, Piers Morgan invited transgender activist and all-around awesome person Janet Mock on his show for a segment to discuss her new book Redefining RealnessIn promos for the segment and throughout the segment itself, Piers Morgan repeatedly sensationalized Janet’s story, referred to her as having previously been a man, and discussed her genitals. So much wrongness here. After the segment, he was repeatedly called out for the things he said and responded by doubling-down on his words and even calling those upset by him “stupid” and “dimwits,” all the while trying to maintain that he is an ally. He topped it all off with a threat to “deal with her” on tonight’s show.

For the record, I don’t think Piers Morgan is transphobic, per se, but the words he said were, indeed, transphobic and full of privilege. Rather than approach trans issues without bias as a true journalist should approach any story, he chose sensationalism and the same path taken time and again by the media. When called-out for the incorrect and hurtful things he said, he didn’t apologize like a respectable, open-minded, and accepting person would. He continued to speak from a place of privilege and even tried to play the victim. He called names and dismissed.

This is not how to be an ally to an oppressed group. When you are truly an ally, you stop talking and listen. You recognize your mistakes and your privilege (privilege isn’t bad by default, but it’s important to recognize that being cisgender gives you exactly seventeen metric shit-ton of privilege). You apologize when you are wrong. You realize it is not your place to speak for those to whom you are an ally. Your role is to allow them to speak and boost the volume and power of their voices, not yours. If a member of an oppressed group says your words are problematic, you don’t have the right to dispute that. You don’t get to define what is and is not transphobic or bigoted. This is not just for trans issues, this goes for any form of oppression and inequality. The oppressive group and members of the oppressive group do not get to define the oppression or decide what is hurtful and problematic.

Most of all, as an ally, you treat others with respect and as human beings. You accept that they have a different lived experience which you may not be able to understand and you should not claim to have any authority to speak about or define.

Mistakes happen, it’s okay. For the most part, people will forgive you if you accept that you made a mistake, apologize, and try to be better going forward. Unfortunately, people consistently refuse to take ownership of their mistakes. Instead they deflect and dismiss. This has been happening a lot recently: Joss Whedon, Katie Couric, Jared Leto, Grantland, and even jokes about Justin Bieber’s mugshots. The list goes on and on, but these are just things which stand out from 2014 alone and I’m not even including things related to political issues and legislation.

To get back to Morgan’s specific claims that Janet Mock and other trans women were formerly men, I have to just stand up and say…

No, I was never a man. Not now, not ever.

For 29 years, I wanted to be one and I tried really hard to be one, but I just wasn’t a man. To most people, I identified myself as a man, it’s how I wanted them to see me at the time. To many who were closer to me, however, I was a little more open about not really knowing what I was. I knew I wasn’t a man, but I didn’t want to accept what being a woman meant (i.e. transition). Instead, I allowed myself to exist in the in-between. Being transgender and living as such in this world is scary and dangerous. I didn’t think I could handle it. I didn’t want to try.

However, the thing with trying to be something you’re not is that it rarely works out. It’s difficult. It involves a lot of lies. It was exhausting. As much as I wanted to relate to men and my male friends and feel like them, I just didn’t and couldn’t. I didn’t feel like one of them and I didn’t see myself as one of them. I wasn’t one of them. I wasn’t happy at all. I hated myself.

I wasn’t born a boy (or even a man…which is odd to pop out as a fully formed man). It was a role pushed upon me.

None of this was simply just something I felt, but it was a deep-seeded internal sense of who I was that was conflicting with how the world saw me and who I was expected to be. Back then, I wanted to be what the world wanted from me. I wanted to be a man. I didn’t want to be a woman. I was living a lie and pursuing my desires to just be what everyone wanted from me and said I was. This was the lie. This was the deception.

When I finally realized I needed to let that go and accept the person I truly was, my internal discontent withered away. I allowed myself to be free and found internal happiness.

Trying to be something I wasn’t nearly drove me to suicide. If I ever was a boy or a man, why did trying to live as one nearly kill me?

47

No, misgendering me is not okay or justifiable. Yes, this is a big deal.

Pronoun Name Tags

Hello Pronouns Stickers from www.storeenvy.com

I’m not going to sugarcoat this one, okay? Are you ready?

It is never okay to misgender me. It is not okay to call me by my birth name. It is not okay to refer to me using masculine pronouns. It is not okay to describe me as being anyone’s son, brother, or husband. It not okay to call me “man,” “dude,” “guy,” “bro,” or anything else of the sort. Nope. Not okay.

This is not negotiable. There is no discussion to be had about this. Just don’t do it, okay? It doesn’t matter if you are talking about the past before I transitioned and was pretending to be a man, it’s still not okay. I always have been and always will be Amelia.

I get it, mistakes happen and you will likely slip at some point. I understand this and I don’t blame you for an honest mistake—just correct yourself without making a big deal about it, no apology necessary. If you’ve known me for a long time, it may take some time to get used to it and undo the muscle memory of referring to me as you used to. This is not what we are talking about. I can tell the difference between an honest mistake and you simply not giving a damn and having no respect for me. And if you’re doing it on purpose or maliciously, yeah, I can definitely tell.

To you, it may not seem like it’s a big deal, but it is a huge deal for me. When you misgender me you are telling me…

You don’t actually see me as a woman

If you are able to look right at me and gender me as a man, you very clearly don’t see me as a woman. I’m sure you have absolutely no issue calling other women by female pronouns, so why am I different? Am I not a woman like they are? Be honest, I’m just a man to you, aren’t I?

Not that it would be at all okay to misgender me if I didn’t, but I even look like a woman. Yeah, I don’t pass 100% (nor do I want to), but I look a heck of a lot more like a woman than I do a man. Even if you still need time to change the way you see me, looking at me should guide you to the right pronouns.

If you are unable or unwilling to see me as a woman, then you are are unable or unwilling to see me as the person I actually am. If this is the case, I am likely going to be unable or unwilling to continue our friendship.

You don’t respect me as a friend, equal, or person 

respecttranspeopleIf you knew me before transition, you should have no trouble understanding how big of a deal it was to come out as transgender. Whether I told you one-on-one or you found out via Facebook, I put my emotional well-being at your mercy. And when I came out to you, I very clearly asked that you refer to me only as Amelia and with female pronouns. I was clear about this. When you do not refer to me as such, you are making it clear you don’t respect me. I told you this was important to me and you ignored that.

Even when you are discussing the past, you are talking about me and I am and always have been a woman. You may have known me by a different name, but that was still me, a woman.

You don’t care what feelings you trigger for me

This is a really big deal for me. When you don’t refer to me as a woman, it’s yet another reminder that the world doesn’t see me as one. It’s a reminder that I’m different from other women. It’s a reminder of a life I didn’t have and the mistakes I made trying to deal with that. It’s a trigger of all the dysphoria I used to feel, how miserable I used to be, and how much I hated myself. It makes me question how I look and whether or not this was worth it. The next time I look in a mirror, I will spend ten minutes picking apart all my flaws and obsessing over the masculine-looking features of my face and body. I look at the size of my hands, feet, and shoulders. I look at my lack of hips or discernible waist. I look at my hairline. I look at my shape of my brow. I look at my giant nose. I look at my Adam’s apple. I look at my long torso and short, stubby legs. I look at all these things and I pick myself apart. Most of these things, I can’t change and the ones I can change require painful and expensive surgery.

On a good day, a really good day, I can shake this pretty quickly. But most days, these feelings linger for hours. Sometimes they linger for days.

When you misgender me, you don’t care that I may end up crying in the bathroom or curled up in a corner somewhere hating myself. Is it your responsibility to walk on eggshells and coddle my emotions? No. But it is your responsibility to not be a dick to your friend, acquaintance, or coworker. Transition isn’t an instant cure-all, these feelings and vulnerabilities don’t just go away. They are still easily triggered. I may not still think about suicide every day, but it still does happen from time to time.

You don’t think what you say matters

Maybe it’s unfortunate for you, but the words you say do matter and how you treat me matters. Maybe I don’t actually care what you think, maybe I do. Either way, your words and actions can still be triggering (see above).

When you refuse to see me as a woman, this isn’t just isolated to an interaction between you and me. It’s actually much bigger than that. When you refer to me as a man and I don’t stop you and correct you, other people think this is okay. They think they can call me a man too and it doesn’t matter. This puts an onus on me to say something and correct you every time. Often, this is difficult to do without making it a big deal, it disrupts conversation, is extremely awkward, and makes me look like a sensitive bitch.

When you don’t care enough to gender me properly, you send a message to other people that it’s okay not to respect transgender people. You are saying it’s not necessary to respect our genders and identities. I don’t blame you for the transphobia in the world, but you are being complacent in it. You are contributing to an attitude and a world that doesn’t think I’m a person.

When you speak of the past and use my birth name and male pronouns, you are confusing others who may not know I’m trans or who may not quite grasp it all. You make it harder for other people to see me as a woman.

You are making light of my transition and what it means to be transgender

When you don’t gender me as I have asked you to, you are indicating to me that you have no idea how difficult transition can be. Transition meant risking my marriage, job, friendships, family, and everything I have. My emotional well-being and life will likely always be on the line. I risk my safety just by leaving the house each day.

Every time I go to the bathroom—which is roughly hourly thanks to my hormones—I spend an extra few minutes “fixing” myself. I make sure my hair looks as good as I can get it, my clothes are sitting on me just right, and my makeup is doing what I need it to. I do this every time and I don’t do it for me. I do it for you. I do it to make it easier for people to see me as a woman.

When you refuse to gender me properly, you are saying none of this matters and it’s not a big deal. You don’t care about how much I used to want to kill myself every day, everything I did to get to where I am now, and what I still have to do and deal with. You may not have noticed, but the world doesn’t exactly accept transgender people much. Every day is a fight for trans people and it’s not easy. If you can’t do this one simple thing, it’s clear to me that you don’t respect our lives.

I’m not asking you for a lot, really. I’m asking for you to refer to me as a woman. That’s it.

You think my identity is yours to define

When you gender me as a man, you’re telling me you don’t respect my right to define my identity. You are telling me my gender and identity are whatever you say they are. I don’t get say over my life and how I live it, instead it’s you who gets to dictate the person I am.

You think it’s okay to out me as transgender to a room full of people

Depending on the setting, it’s possible, maybe even likely, there are other people in the room who don’t know me or know my past. Maybe this is the first time they met me or maybe they’ve met me a couple times, but don’t know anything about my life prior to transition. I know it sounds absurd, but there are some people in this world who don’t know I’m transgender.

When you misgender me, you’re outing me as trans to them. You are taking away my right to control that information to the best of my ability. Maybe I don’t want these people to know. Maybe this isn’t how I want them to find out. Maybe I do want them to know, but I’m not in the mood to field questions at the time. Maybe my wife is with me and I don’t want her to have to field questions. It’s not your right to put me or my wife in that position.

You don’t get to tell people I’m transgender. You have no right to do this and I don’t take it lightly. Do you know how these people will react? Are you sure you’re not putting my physical safety at risk?

I may not pass completely, but I like to think I don’t grossly stand out as transgender in a room full of people (this is a pretty huge privilege I have and I’m extremely grateful for it). Even without you outing me, I may not have any say in the matter, especially if I have to actually open my mouth and take part in conversation. Still, neither you nor I can determine how someone will read me when they look at me. They may not see me as transgender and may, in fact, simply see me as a woman. You have no right to take that away from me.

I have said over and over again, I want people to know I’m transgender. I want to be out, open, and visible about it, but this does not make it okay for you to be the one to out me. I have the right to out myself as I see fit. I also have the right to not out myself if I deem my safety to be at risk or I’m simply not in the mood to deal with being everyone’s ambassador to the transgender community (a role I typically enjoy).

I don’t get to clock out from  being trans, but sometimes I just want to interact with a room full of people like any other woman would. I have that right.

Simply put, gendering me properly is a big deal. 

If you are incapable or unwilling to gender me properly, it tells me a lot about what you think of me and transgender people as a whole. This is a big deal for me and I am not okay with you misgendering me, nor will I listen to your attempts to justify it. It is never okay. Ever.

0

I will run my spring marathon to raise money in support of defending California’s School Success and Opportunity Act

School Success and Opportunity Act / AB1266

School Success and Opportunity Act / AB1266And again, I’m blogging on a day I planned to take off…

The Richmond Marathon is still a few days away and there’s a small chance I’m also going to run the Rehoboth Beach Marathon in three weeks as well, but I’m already thinking about my spring marathon. I don’t know yet what the race will be, but I’m hoping to qualify for Boston there. Maybe I’ll keep it at home and run the New Jersey Marathon? We’ll see. Regardless of which race I run, I had already decided I wanted to run for a cause bigger than myself and bigger than qualifying for Boston. I was already pretty set on running to raise money for a trans rights organization, but I wasn’t sure which one yet or how to go about it.

Then…it happened. Privacy for All Students announced they have enough signatures to put a repeal of California’s School Success and Opportunity Act (AB1266) on the ballot in 2014. For those unfamiliar with the School Success and Opportunity Act, it mandates that transgender students be included in the school activities for their identified gender and not their assigned (at birth) sex. It also protects their right to use appropriate facilities. This bill makes California the first state to enact such a law, but it cannot be overstated just how important AB1266 is for trans youth and as a step forward for all trans people.

It is not surprising that there has been conservative opposition to this law and the next year will be a long and bitter fight to educate California voters against the lies spread in the name of repealing this law. Just take a look at the Pacific Justice Institute’s disgusting video targeting a 16-year-old trans girl in Colorado and using her as the face of their smear campaign. With many conservative and anti-gay groups starting to accept defeat on stopping marriage equality, they are now turning towards trans people and, more specifically, transgender youth. We are their next target and it’s going to be ugly. Very, very ugly.

Transphobia from Privacy for all Students

This is what Privacy for All Students and Pacific Justice Institute think trans women do in the bathroom

This will be an all-hands-on-deck fight. The transgender community will need the help of every LGBT organization and every ally we have. In the coming year, I will be calling on everyone I know to speak up against the transphobia, hate, and fear-mongering that will undoubtedly blanket much of California and the nation in this fight. I’ll ask for you to educate those around you and to fight alongside the trans community. Please read this for an excellent primer on how to respond regarding trans women using the women’s room and hit up my resource list for a ton more information.

Now, to get back to my spring marathon, I have decided I will run whatever race it is I decide on in support of the transgender youth in California who need this law to stay in place. I will start a fundraising campaign to raise money for the fight. At this point it remains to be seen just who will be leading this fight, but I imagine that the organizations like Transgender Law Center and National Center for Transgender Equality will be at the center of it. Regardless, I hope to use my running as a way to support my community and the trans youth in California.

While it’s still early, I don’t yet know what race I’m running or exactly who the money will go to, I am writing about this now to hold myself accountable for making this happen. Once I figure both of these out, you will be hearing much more about this. Even if I only raise a few hundred dollars (I’m hoping for a couple thousand though), this will happen. And we will win this fight!

4

In regards to PJI’s transphobic video attacking a minor

Does anyone know who I need to credit for this? I've seen it around the internet a lot, but I can't find the creator.

Does anyone know who I need to credit for this? I’ve seen it around the internet a lot, but I can’t find the creator.

Today was supposed to be a day off from blogging, but I’m kind of steaming over here about this and there’s just too much for a Twitter rant. I’m going to avoid going into detail about the background to this story, but if you want to read up on it, you can check here or head over to Transadvocate and read the amazing work Cristan Williams is doing on this (she’s just been…wow).

A couple days ago, the Pacific Justice Institute released a horribly, but not unsurprisingly so, transphobic video in an attack against a transgender child in Colorado. A child! I held off on watching it at first, but then…I went against my better judgment and now I’m about ready to flip all the tables. All of them.

Here’s the video:

There are so many things wrong in this video that it’s hard to know where to start, but let me just try to rattle off what I can here…

  • The misgendering. Oh, the misgendering! – Stop calling her a boy! She’s not a boy, she is a girl. Trans women and trans girls are women and girls. Trans men and trans boys are men and boys. This is so very simple and basic, but no, people refuse respect this. If she was a boy, she’d use the boys’ room, but that’s the whole point, she’s a girl and doesn’t belong in the boys’ room! She belongs in the girls room!
  • What are you doing in the bathroom that your “private parts are no longer private?!?!” – No, seriously, tell me. This is not rhetorical. I don’t even understand what you are trying to say here. There are stalls…with doors…and the doors close…and they lock. Why are your private parts out and on display outside of these stalls? Are you worried that she’ going to climb over the walls of the bathroom stalls to sneak a peak? Crawl under? Like, I can’t even figure this one out.Oh! I got it! I’m an idiot! I forgot about our x-ray vision! Us trans folk have many super powers…x-ray vision, the ability to feast on your soul, the power to turn you gay just by staring into you eyes. You better watch the fuck out! Ain’t no stall door gonna save you from our eyes!
  • You’re spending a lot of time talking about people’s privacy here, but did you stop and realize you’re PUBLICLY TALKING ABOUT A CHILD’S ACTUAL LIFE!? – Where is her privacy? She’s even had her name posted publicly through this. Her privacy has been completely violated and her real life has been made public on an international level. Do you not get that? Do you not understand that you’ve literally driven this girl to being on suicide watch? Suicide.
  • And on that note, you’ve made A CHILD the face of your campaign against trans people! – I shouldn’t even have to elaborate here, but, again, we are talking about a child here. A minor. And you are obsessed with her. In fact, you seem to be really obsessed with the genitalia of a lot of children. You keep mentioning their “private parts.” You know, they’re not so private when you’re openly talking about them. Why are you so obsessed with them? Under any other circumstance, would you not accuse anyone else speaking this much about a child’s genitals to be a pedophile?
  • In what manner is this girl not “respecting” others? Simply by existing? – The video consistently comes back to the idea of not respecting others, but does not ever attempt to actually explain how she is disrespecting anyone. The reality here is that PJI considers her very existence to be disrespectful to them. 
  • Trans kids and trans people are not confused…at all! – We know our genders. When a trans child says they are a boy or a girl, they are not just making this up. They are communicating their reality to you.
  • Trans people and trans kids are not fucking sexual predators!  – Trans people do not have any interest in anything in the bathroom other than using the toilet, washing their hands, maybe fixing their hair/makeup, and getting the fuck out. That’s it. Period. There are no buts here. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but trans people and trans kids have no interest in you. The fact that you see trans people as uncontrollable sexual predators who cannot be trusted to use a bathroom that does not correspond to their assigned-at-birth sex says much more about you than anyone else. Are you that afraid of trans people not being able to leave others alone in the bathroom because you wouldn’t be able to do that?
  • People being transgender is not your fucking problem! – The only thing you need to do is get the fuck over it. That’s it. Trans people exist. It’s all but guaranteed that you’ve interacted with many of us and not even known about it. We are people just like you. We don’t want to be treated differently or like we’re special from anyone else. Why do you insist we can’t be treated the same?
  • Your slight bit of feeling uncomfortable because of your bigotry does not trump our right to have a safe place to use the bathroom! – For trans girls and trans women, the men’s room is not safe for us. We are beaten, raped, and murdered all too often when being forced to use the men’s room. You are not a victim here. You are not being violated or raped or beaten up or murdered or anything by trans people.
2

Using the gym while trans

A story broke yesterday of a transgender woman being banned from using the women’s locker room at an LA Fitness in California after the gym learned she was transgender. While this is clear discrimination, it’s unfortunately not at all surprising to me. I’m sure the gym has absolutely no issue with treating trans women exactly the same as all their other clients when it comes to monthly fees, but when it comes to actually providing the same services and facilities, they just can’t seem to see us the same way.

I just found out about this story earlier this morning, but I find it interesting this story broke when it did since I was thinking a lot about this very thing last night on my run. With the colder weather coming in and winter approaching, hitting the gym for some treadmill runs may be unavoidable soon. I typically don’t mind running in the cold, even when it’s only in the upper teens or low twenties out, but when it’s raining or exceptionally icy, sometimes it can be just a bit too much for me. I don’t even think I’ve used my gym membership half a dozen times this whole year. I really hate the treadmill and I have little interest in any of the other equipment there. However, it’s nice to know I have the option when I need it so I continue to pay my cheap $20/month membership for Retro Fitness.

To be honest, I don’t know how my gym is going to handle my being transgender. I know the women’s locker room has changing rooms so, in theory, I could just walk in and change and no one would give me a hard time. However, when I’m running (and I guess working out, in general), I look much more androgynous than I do like a woman. While it’s getting better, I do expect that I’d get clocked at some point. And even regardless of that, when you scan your membership card, your photo pops up on the computer screen on the other side of the counter. If someone is there at the time, they’d likely see that my photo doesn’t match what I look like now.

I’ve seen some chatter on Twitter about this and it seems some people have or plan to just preemptively quit their gyms and join new ones. This is what I was specifically thinking about on my run last night. Most gyms have completely ridiculous termination fees. Even after you terminate, they make you pay for two or three more months. I don’t think that’s fair to begin with, but it’s in the contract you sign so you don’t have much room to fight it. However, when it comes to situations like this, exceptions need to be made. If you’re unwilling to provide the services you promised me, that’s on you, not me.

Since my run last night was a nice nine-miler, I had plenty of time to really think about how I would personally handle the situation. I decided what’s best for me would be to stop by the gym after work sometime when I wasn’t planning on actually using it and simply ask them to update my account accordingly. Tell them I need to change the name, billing information, gender, and photo on my account. I would also inform them that I intend on using the women’s locker room. Being upfront about it in this way can save some potential awkwardness later on. At this point, it’s on them to either tell me they have no problem with me using the women’s facilities or declare themselves as transphobic assholes. I would obviously hope for the former, but if it is the latter, I would ask for the manager and simply explain that if I am not allowed to use the appropriate facilities then they need to cancel my account without charging any fees. I would be as nice as possible about it and I wouldn’t want to immediately go the route of telling them I would dispute the charges to my credit card and get a lawyer involved if necessary, but I probably do need to be prepared for this as a possible outcome.

In the end, I don’t know how my gym will handle this, but it’s something I will be facing soon, I’m sure. Regardless of how my specific situation works out, the fact that this is even a thing trans people need to think and worry about is a problem. Trans women are women and trans men are men. It’s that simple. Me being in the men’s locker room would be MUCH more jarring and make more people uncomfortable than me being in the women’s locker room would.

6

What happened when I publicly called out long-time bigot Todd Kincannon for saying transgender people should be “put into a camp”

I really wanted to write about running today. I haven’t written about running in a little while and the promise of this blog was write about both running and trans stuff. Unfortunately, sometimes other things come up that need to be written about…

Former South Carolina GOP Executive Director Todd Kincannon is no stranger to causing controversy and spewing hate. He has a long history of this. However, this week, he has upped the ante with the suggestion that transgender people should be rounded up and put into a “camp.” This man would rather promote the same ideas has Adolf Hitler than to allow transgender people the right to live freely among the rest of society, let alone have any sort of equality. You can read a bit more about the initial exchange here and here and you can this below:

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There is no mistaking this man’s intent. This is especially vile and it comes from a former GOP official.

I immediately decided to call this bigotry out:

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I am not naive, I knew what I was walking into here, however, I did not expect the level to which I would be personally attacked. Not only did Todd Kincannon himself take the time to attack me, but a dozen or so of his followers joined in the party. They went through my tweets to find photos of me and continuously showed obsession with my genitals. This has been going for 48 hours now and has not yet come to an end.

I am tough, I can take attacks and hatred. I can stand up to bullies and fight back. I can enter a situation like this and be on the end of constant hate without being mentally or emotionally affected. These people are bullies and trolls and mean nothing to me, they cannot affect me emotionally.

However, not everyone is able to stand up to abuse online. What I’ve received this week is negligible in comparison to what others deal with. This has been a relatively small and isolated incident and is not my norm. I know people for whom this is their norm. I know people who have been publicly doxxed with their personal information shared online. I know people who have had letters sent to their jobs in an attempt to have them fired. The list of horribleness goes on and on. And that’s to mention nothing of the offline bullying youth are often on the receiving end of.

I stood up in defense of these people. I am glad to fight back. If I do nothing else but draw the fire of bullies and bigots off of those who are down, it’s worth it.

I also believe bullies, bigots, trolling, and hate speech of any kind must be challenged. At some level, these people want to get a rise out of others, it’s entertainment to them, but the real issue is deeper than that. Bullies and bigots want to silence. They want to take control over others. By “not feeding the trolls,” we give in to being silenced. We may not always be able to stand up and fight back, sometimes we must resort to simply ignoring the hate and getting friendly with the block button and we may rarely every change a bullies mind, but, when we are able to, we must stand up and refuse to be silenced.

There have been literally hundreds upon hundreds of tweets exchanged and directed towards me and others who have stood up. I could not attempt to expose them all, many of the worst tweets have already been deleted by those too cowardly to stand by their bigotry. I have selected some of the most offensive and vile and included them below (or after the jump) from those which have not yet been deleted. The photos themselves are clickable links to the actual tweets.
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