Childhood Relics and the Importance of Trans People

My bedI am at my father’s house in the Midwest this week helping my siblings take care of Dad while his live-in caregiver is out of town. It’s not always easy to be here.  There are many reminders of my former self, my female self, in this house.  My father, for example, who has dementia, still sees me as his daughter and calls me by my female name even though I have medically and socially transitioned to male.  I’ve written about this before.

The majority of the physical reminders of my previous life are in my bedroom, the room where I slept, dressed and did my homework while I was growing up in the 1960s and ’70s.  And as with almost all the other times I’ve come home since I left the Midwest in 1986, I am staying in my childhood bedroom right now.  The former light fixture, a white, basket-ball sized glass globe dotted with yellow daisies, has been replaced with a ceiling fan, the orange curtains finally disintegrated a few years ago, the bed has been upgraded a number of times and the color of the walls has been changed.  Relics from my former life, however, especially from my childhood, are still around.  Some of these items are stashed in boxes in the closet whereas others are sitting out on the bookshelves in plain sight, like this white ceramic unicorn.

White Unicorn I think I leave this sitting out where I can see it because that causes me to reflect on my childhood, and for some reason my mind seems to want to go through that exercise.  I guess I’m still trying to make sense of it all or to connect to emotions that I wasn’t allowing myself to feel at the time. But in these past few days, a recent blog post has me wondering about the significance of this unicorn in a different way. Continue reading

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Matt Kailey – We Lost You Too Soon

MattKaileyI am shocked and saddened to have learned of the death of trans activist, author and teacher, Matt Kailey, who passed away from heart failure in his sleep over the weekend.  Matt was tireless in his work for our community.  With humor, intelligence, thoughtfulness and a strong, articulate voice, he used different avenues to provide valuable advice and information to trans people and to educate society about trans issues.  His is a huge loss to our community. On a more personal level, he was a kind, decent human being and I will miss him.  Rest in peace, Brother.

Click the links to Matt’s blog, Tranifesto, and his books: Just Add Hormones My Child is TransgenderTeeny Weenies

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Oh, Boston – One Year Later

On Monday, April 21st, the Boston Athletic Association will manage the 118th running of the oldest annual marathon in the world, the Boston Marathon.  


In this week leading up to the race, the city of Boston has been remembering the one-year anniversary of the marathon bombing, the murder of MIT Officer Sean Collier, the shoot-out in Watertown and the subsequent lock-down and manhunt for one of the bombing suspects.   Stories from injured survivors, relatives of those killed, first responders, runners and eye witnesses to the events have been told in numerous media outlets during the past week.  For me, these stories and activities have stirred up many of the emotions I felt while it was all unfolding one year ago, so I have decided to republish the blog post I wrote at that time.

You might ask, what does this have to do with the overall subject of this blog, being trans?  There are trans folks who run.  Come tomorrow morning, when Boston runs again, at least one trans man, a friend of mine, will be running in the Boston Marathon. He couldn’t run last year because of an injury, but he was at the finish line as a spectator when the bombs went off.  He wrote earlier this week, “It’s hard to believe it has been a full year. I still startle at loud noises and look twice when someone puts a back pack down. This may be what is my ‘normal’ now. But I did walk down Boylston St on Sunday and didn’t cry so I guess that’s a start.”

Run strong, my friend, and all you runners.  Boston Strong.  

Continue reading

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Fear and Loathing in Public Bathrooms, or How I Learned to Hold My Pee

This essay is excerpted from the book Gender Failure by Ivan E. Coyote and Rae Spoon, out now from Arsenal Pulp Press.

I can hold my pee for hours. Nearly all day. It’s a skill I developed out of necessity, after years of navigating public washrooms. I hold it for as long as I can, until I can get myself to the theatre or the green room or my hotel room, or home. Using a public washroom is a very last resort for me. I try to use the wheelchair-accessible, gender-neutral facilities whenever possible, always after a thorough search of the area to make sure no one in an actual wheelchair or with mobility issues is en route. I always hold my breath a little on the way out though, hoping there isn’t an angry person leaning on crutches waiting there when I exit. This has never happened yet, but I still worry. Sometimes I rehearse a little speech as I pee quickly and wash my hands, just to be prepared. I would say something like, I apologize for inconveniencing you by using the washroom that is accessible to disabled people, but we live in a world that is not able to make room enough for trans people to pee in safety, and after many years of tribulation in women’s washrooms, I have taken to using the only place provided for people of all genders.

But I have never had to say any of this. Yet. Once at an airport, I was stopped by a janitor on my way out who reprimanded me for using a bathroom that wasn’t meant for me, and I calmly explained to him that I was a transgender person, and that this was the only place I felt safe in, and then I noted that there were no disabled people lined up outside the washroom door, or parents with small children waiting to use the change table.

He narrowed his eyes at me. Then he said, “Okay, but next time you should …”

I waited for him to finish. Instead, he shook his head and motioned down the empty hallway with his mop handle that I should be off, that this conversation was now over.

(Read the rest of the essay here.)

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2013 in Review on American Trans Man

Hello folks and happy New Year!

Yes, I’m still here, although it’s true that I haven’t posted in a long time.  There are still several blog posts on my “to do” list. The problem is that they are crowded out by many other items.

Despite my meager postings in 2013, this blog still received some attention last year, thanks to you, readers.   The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog which will tell you all about it.

Here’s an excerpt:

Madison Square Garden can seat 20,000 people for a concert. This blog was viewed about 69,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Madison Square Garden, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Reblog: All You Need to Know to Support Your Transgender Friend

An excellent piece posted by Dillan DiGiovanni on July 31, 2013:

I wrote this because I was asked to write it. People tell me that they really want to know how they can better support someone who is transgender, so I’m happy to share some of my experience …

Read the rest of Dillan’s post by clicking here –>

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Why Dustin Hoffman Still Got It Wrong

220px-Tootsie_impOn July 6, Jill Pantozzi of The Mary Sue posted a video from the American Film Institute’s archives that has since gone viral.  In the clip of an interview conducted last year, actor Dustin Hoffman talks with quite a bit of emotion, choking up even, about a revelation he experienced while made up as a woman during a screen test for the film Tootsie. Hoffman recounted:

“…When we got to that point and looked at it on-screen, I was shocked that I wasn’t more attractive. And I said, ‘Now you have me looking like a woman. Now make me a beautiful woman.’ Because I thought I should be beautiful. If I was going to be a woman, I would want to be as beautiful as possible.  And they said to me, ‘That’s as good as it gets. That’s as beautiful as we can getcha, Charlie.’ 

And it was at that moment that I had an epiphany, and I went home and started crying, talking to my wife, and I said, ‘I have to make this picture,’ and she said, ‘Why?’ And I said, ‘Because I think I am an interesting woman when I look at myself on-screen, and I know that if I met myself at a party, I would never talk to that character because she doesn’t fulfill, physically, the demands that we’re brought up to think women have to have in order for us to ask them out.”

As the YouTube version of this interview climbs toward 4.5 million views, Hoffman is being applauded throughout the media for copping to his shallowness.  For example, during a Boston radio show this morning, one female and two male disc jockeys lauded Hoffman for breaking into tears during the interview and admitting that, prior to his epiphany, he had based a woman’s worth on unfair standards of beauty.

That would be great if Dustin Hoffman truly deserved these accolades, but he doesn’t, in my opinion, and I’ll give you two reasons why.

First, Hoffman’s views about women didn’t really evolve with his revelation – they only shifted a little bit, as evidenced by a remark he made prior to choking up over himself:

“I did go to Columbia and I asked them if they would spend the money to do makeup tests so that I could look like a woman. … I just somehow intuitively felt that unless I could walk down the streets of New York dressed as a woman and not have people turn and say, ‘Who’s that guy in drag?’ or turn for any reason, you know, ‘Who’s that freak?’ Unless I could do that, I didn’t want to make the film…”

Who’s that freak?

Right.  So Mr. Hoffman can have an epiphany over the judgement of a woman’s date-worthiness that’s based on her perceived beauty, but if she’s not feminine enough, and I wonder how many trans and non-trans women he would put into that category, she is not only ineligible to be considered for a date, but she is relegated to the “freak show”?

That’s the first place Mr. Hoffman still got it wrong.  The second comes at the end of the quote given above,

“I think I am an interesting woman when I look at myself on-screen, and I know that if I met myself at a party, I would never talk to that character because she doesn’t fulfill, physically, the demands that we’re brought up to think women have to have in order for us to ask them out.  …  There are too many interesting women I have not had the experience to know in this life because I have been brainwashed.”

The demands that he was brought up to think women have to have in order for him to ask them out because he had been brainwashed…   There are plenty of men who, similar to Hoffman, are exposed throughout their lives to the sexist standards of beauty and femininity that society imposes upon women, yet who ask out women of all types of physicality and gender expression.  But if Hoffman doesn’t, it’s not his fault because he was brainwashed?

With all due respect, Dustin Hoffman won’t get my applause for his epiphany until he takes some responsibility for himself, stops acting as though he had no choice when he snubbed women who didn’t meet his requirements of beauty, and understands that he shouldn’t classify women as freaks when they don’t fall under his standards of femininity.

–ATM

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