No really, that’s their name, “An OK Podcast.”
Well, they had me on their podcast and you should listen.
When I was told that November was Transgender Awareness Month, I was strangely caught unaware of that fact. I guess when you are transgender, every month is technically Transgender Awareness Month. The only way that it wouldn’t, would arguably be if you lacked any sense of self-awareness. This of course sets up far more jokes than could be covered in this column. The editors of The Gayly asked me to write something special about my experiences as a special feature for the paper, but I didn’t feel that would be right as I am an absolutely terrible role model. This is proven by the fact that I have an entire side business buying cigarettes for pre-teens. I guess instead for TAM, I should talk about things that affect all trans people, both trans-male and trans-female. There’s quite a few things that you should probably learn about trans people that would not only raise your awareness of issues facing people such as myself, but provide for you a whole new set of topics to talk about with strangers at a party when you have absolutely nothing in common with them to talk about. Hey, talking about transgender people is going to be more interesting trying to fake interest in talking about their job in accounting.
The number of people identifying as Transgender is estimated to be between .3 to 1% of the population. This means about 1 million Americans are transgender. And they all have OkCupid profiles.
The first gender reassignment surgery was performed in 1931 in Germany. The first person to have a surgery performed was named “Dora-R”, having surgery shortly before the famed Lili Elbe also had surgery performed in Germany the same year. So 1930’s Germany produced Nazis and Gender Reassignment Surgery. Why right-wing conservatives haven’t gone nuts over this fact is beyond me.
The Compton’s Cafeteria Riot predates Stonewall by three years. In the 1960’s, because transpeople were not welcome in gay bars in San Francisco, they would meet at Compton’s Cafeteria. Since cross-dressing was against the law, they were often harassed by the local police and not welcomed by the owners. One night in August 1966, when a police officer attempted to arrest one, she threw her coffee at him, setting off a riot which resulted in a trashed restaurant, police reinforcements, and the legitimate claim that trans-people are ‘straight outta Compton(‘s)’. A smaller riot occurred in 1959 in Los Angeles at a place called Cooper’s Donuts, but you can’t force a joke about Gangster Rap out of that.
One of the reasons the Stonewall Inn was raided was because it was one of the few bars that allowed transgender people in. Most bars during the time didn’t allow transpeople and drag queens in because cross-dressing was against the law in those days. A transvestite literally hit a cop over the head with her purse. Nothing I can say is funner than the image of a queen dressed like Marilyn Monroe smacking a cop with her purse yelling, “Pig.”
41% of all transgender people have reported attempting suicide at some point. This is not a funny statistic at all.
Transpeople are twice as unlikely to be unemployed. Again, this is not a very amusing statistic. At one point, I actually considered de-transitioning long enough to find a job at one point. Thank God I found a job that I have had plenty of support at.
Transpeople are four times more likely to be homeless than the general population. The majority of homeless transpeople have been harassed by shelter staff or denied access to shelters altogether. You have to be a special kind of ass to make a homeless persons life extra miserable just because they are trans.
19% of transpeople have been refused medical care for being trans. Remember that oath doctors take? “Do no harm?” That includes harm through neglect and refusal to help. You can’t swear to heal people unless you think they’re icky. One in five trans people don’t go to doctors because they have been harassed by medical providers. 29% have reported that they have had to teach their doctors about trans health issues. NEVER go to a doctor that you have to explain how to treat you. I don’t trust mechanics that I have to explain car repair to.
Half of all anti-LGBTQ homicide victims are transgender. These are just the homicides committed that are clearly based about gender and sexuality. It’s sad to note that only 31 states have laws that cover sexual orientation in their hate crimes laws. Only 16 cover gender identity. Only 16 states are required to collect statistics based around sexual orientation hate crimes. This means that not only are a significant number of states not protecting LGBTQ people, most of them don’t even think it’s worth tracking.
Only 61% of all Fortune 500 businesses have a trans inclusive policy. 91% have a lesbian, bisexual, or gay inclusive policy. Only 28% of them actually pay for gender reassignment surgery in their insurance policies, while 67% offer same-sex partner benefits. I’m not pointing this out to make this a “LGB versus T” argument, but there is a clear gap in the level of benefits offered. To be fair, in the past four years, the number of major employers covering gender surgeries has grown from 49 to 340.
I try to maintain a light heart and a bit of wit about the issues that trans people face. I joke about everything from the issues of using public restrooms (“We just want to pee, we’re not scouting for a remodeling project.”), to dating (“Sex is easy, dating is hard. Sex is five minutes on Craigslist and someone who’s ashamed of themselves.”), to gender (“The hardest thing about becoming a woman is the 30% pay cut.”). Finding humor in these issues I find is a necessary thing. When you face a lifetime of abuse, discrimination, and marginalization, you have to be able to laugh at it or you will go insane. I’m not the type to rage and scream on the internet and find enemies everywhere I turn, though I do recognize that not just transgender but lesbian, gays, and bisexuals all face a constant uphill battle for equality. With transgender people starting to emerge publicly in positive roles, I find that it’s important that people look beyond the fights over words like “tranny” and “shemale”. It’s easy to get lost in the debates over if being attracted to a transwoman makes you less of a lesbian, or a if transman is just a butch lesbian who’s betrayed womynhood. Lecturing people about proper pronoun usage, or trying to convince them that we’re not some variation of drag king or queen, can be a distraction from some of the very real issues trans people face. That’s why Transgender Awareness Month is a thing that should exist. Even people in the LGBTQ community at large have so many misunderstandings about trans people, and don’t understand the issues unique to us.
I’m never going to ask for special treatment, to argue that I have it harder than anyone else; Hell, I’ve been relatively lucky compared to many LGBTQ people. However, as long as transmen and women face such disproportionate levels of discrimination that goes beyond pronouns and bathrooms, it’s going to keep coming up.
No one is equal til everyone is equal. And by equal, I mean we all get to be sassy, attractive black transwomen.
A version of this article originally appeared in the November 2014 edition of The Gayly
I was the baby of the family, the youngest of three. This meant that by the time it got around to me, my parents had either gotten it right or had given up in the face of futility. Of course it was usually futility; I was a rotten brat of a child. I was supposed to be the smartest of the three too. This meant that I was going to be the one who was the most successful. There was the benefit of having the best education, of having parents who had experience with other kids, and having things laid out for me already. Nope. Still a petulant little brat, and sometimes even at this age I can still be one (though these days it’s a different “B-word” I’m called).
It wasn’t until recently that I realized that I’m also a middle child. Ah, the middle child. The older child get’s the benefit of having parents who have doted over their newness and the parent’s joy of sharing “firsts”. The younger has the benefit of experienced parents, and get to have the joy of rebelling against the set family ways. The middle kid though, they get kind of screwed. Either the parents are busy doting over the novelty of new things with the oldest, or trying to reign in the youngest to notice the middle kid, just kind of sitting there trying to be the balancing act between the two.
Of course, being a writer about transgender issues, I’m clearly using all this as an allegory about being transgender. You see, I’ve been living as a woman for about 7 years now, though I knew I was trans for about five years before that. I was of course one of those who grew up in an environment where it wasn’t easy to express that part of my life. There weren’t a lot of role models, much less good role models. Far too much of my exposure to trans people was either through that circus side show called Jerry Springer, or either movies and tv shows where they were the butt of jokes or freakish psychopaths. It’s no wonder that so many people even today think of them as people who mutilate their bodies, have some sort of sexual fetish, or are severely mentally disturbed. I assure you, my mental hang ups are related to entirely different issues than being trans. Hell, I got better after coming out! Only once the depression of never being able to find myself through other means overwhelmed my denial was I finally able to come out. By that point, there was already a growing presence of trans people in the media that wasn’t completely negative, and levels of acceptance spreading throughout the country.
In the decades before me, others had endured harassment, humiliation, and social stigma that resulted in building a community I found through the Wild West days of the internet. Back in the days of dial up modems and AOL cd’s trans people were gathering in groups on the web helping each other out. Okay, it’s a lot of the same thing it is today, lot’s of fawning over each others progress pictures and trying to find a cheap place to get size 13 shoes. But, that was unheard of back then! Because communities like that were built, trans people were able to organize and gain the attention of the greater LGBT community at large while at the same time, people like me were able to learn that we were not alone out there. People like Calpurnia Addams, Julia Seranno, Donna Rose, and Kate Bornstein built a legacy off of the foundations that people like Christine Jorgensen and Renee Richards started. Because of the tragedies people like Brandon Teena and Gwen Araujo suffered, people began to see us as people and not freaks. Thanks to them, and several supportive people who have been part of my life, I was able to finally gather the strength to overcome my own fears and transition. Those are my older trans siblings. Of course, because of them, I got the benefit of having supportive social circles. I found a job that had a not only a written policy of non-discrimination against trans people that allowed me to transition, but they also helped pay for the overwhelming costs of transitioning. Man, I miss that job. Okay…my bank account misses that job.
However, they never got to experience having the positive role models on tv. They never got to experience the benefits of sympathetic families and communities. There was never the amount of medical, psychological, and legal support that I got to experience just a few years later. Of course that means that with the ever growing acceptance trans people have, I’ll never get to have what those younger and earlier in their transition get to have. Those are my younger siblings.
Because they don’t face the same levels of bullying, ostracism, medical misunderstanding that even I did, they don’t understand what it was like just a few years before. Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying it’s all Brady Bunch sing-a-long’s and Hallmark Cards for young LGBT people, but the world they live in, isn’t even the world of just ten years ago when I fully came to terms with who I was. There is still violence against LGBT people, there are still unfair laws, there is still a long way to go, but trust me, it’s come a long way. However, you have to understand, the very idea of letting your eight year old child decide they were a girl and letting them dress as one would have gotten them taken away by Child Welfare Services just a few years ago. When I was eight, liking anything that wasn’t G.I. Joe or He-Man would have gotten you strange looks from everyone. I remember when the hippie parents down the street let their daughter give me a Care Bear for my birthday. Mother of God! You know what would have happened if the other kids in Cub Scouts found out? Ass beatings. Hours of ass beating. For them of course. I was kind of a short fused and mean kid. Of course today, we hold parents who would let their kids go against gender norms up as paragons of virtue.
Being the middle child, I get to sit here in the middle seat of this mini-van we call social progress. I have to deal with my older sibling, all prim and proper, doing all the things that’s expected of them on one side. They’re tough, mature, responsible, and more than a little jealous of the kid on the other side of me, my petulant and impatient younger sibling, all dressed in black and listening to The Cure on their iPhone. The oldest can’t seem to understand why the baby get’s so upset about unfair rules and unkind words. They had to put up with it and dealt with stuff worse than that! The little brat should just grow up! The youngest of course thinks the oldest is being a mamma’s kid and a suck up. They say they don’t want to be liked by the cool kids at school like the oldest does (but they really do). Instead of trying to get everyone to like them, the youngster is telling us all about the latest counter culture and cutting edge ideas using words that no one in the rest of the car understands. My older sibling looks at me like I’m supposed know what the kid is talking about. I just shrug my shoulders too. I only caught half of what the kid is talking about. I try to keep the two from killing each other and ruining the whole trip for everybody. Both of them keep wanting me to take their side in the arguments and fights, but it’s hard to do when they’re both wrong so much of the time. I just want to sit here and read my book, is that too much to ask?!
I’m the middle child of the transgender struggle for acceptance. I was never part of those first attempts at acceptance. The idea that we had to conform to be welcomed. The idea that we had to keep our mouths shut and suffer in silence through our existence. Though now, I’m too far along to be angered at every perceived slight. I can see where the younger folks are coming from with their sense of being offended, but I often just can’t see it being something to get worked up about. At the same time, I won’t benefit from the ability to accept myself at a younger age, to have the freedoms to be who I should have been sooner. I think the older ones can be a bit too jaded and cynical, but the younger a bit too naive or entitled. Honestly, I could go either way with so much of what they want to fight about with each other and the world at large. Most days, I’m just happy to be here. In the end, I get to be the middle-child. The one who just wants every one to quit yelling at each other and fighting and try to just get my own little thing done. I love my siblings, they’re my family. But like all family, they can annoy the crap out of you sometimes.
Article origionally appeared in the November 2014 edition of The Gayly
One of the things that I think makes me a terrible transgender person, is that I have a hard time accepting the tropes and cliches of my culture and community. Among these tropes that I loathe is the obsession with clothing. To give you an idea of how much I loathe it, the closest thing I have to a “Designer Label” is Eddie Bauer thermals I get at Sam’s Club. That’s right, I don’t even shop at the haute coture warehouse stores. Jewelry? Do leather cuffs count and hemp bracelets count? Only if you’re transitioning into Johnny Depp. Obsessive levels of feminist activism? I barely comprehend gender equality issues. I would go so far as to say that I get about as far as being pro-choice, but then I waffle about the complications of that too. However, I think the one trope of being transgender I hate the most is the lamenting of being transgender. Not the trope of de-transitioning and then calling other trans people mentally ill and perverts, instead I’m talking about the cliche of lamenting not being born the gender I identify mentally as.
I think I just heard a few select transgender bloggers and activists heads explode.
Somewhere in the formation of the trans community identity, the idea we are supposed to mourn who we are on some level became ingrained. It’s almost like we’re Jewish or Catholic or something. Imagine how bad it must be being a Jewish trans woman. Oy vey, all that guilt! Trans people are taught to mourn for the childhoods they never had, or the children they will never get to bear. They wail for not being uber-feminine or tall butch men. Ash is heaped for experiences impossible to have. Hair shirts are worn to punish themselves for the things they could never had or were lost.
Basically, trans people have almost formed a cult around lamenting being who they are and their lives.
No wonder so many of us are no fun at parties. We train ourselves to be miserable.
I’ve never bought into this trope because I’ve had so many other things in my life get completely fucked up, that to mourn being transgender would make me so emo, I would form an angst singularity from which no Morissey could escape.
Let me explain; as a kid, I had my dad die while on a Boy Scout trip with me, a week later my mom told me she had stage “write your will” breast cancer, and a month after that, moved to a strange new town where I knew no one. That was my summer when I turned 13. That was the worst summer of my life. Though to be fair, that was the most interesting “What I Did on My Summer Vacation” I ever wrote. In one fell swoop, I lost the only person I truly ever considered my hero and role model, my mom began to emotionally fade away, I was torn away from my few friends and lost much of my faith in God. This happened around the time when I began to feel that my sexuality and gender wasn’t normal, that I felt so awkward, shunned, and out of control that my parents thought about sending me away to a Catholic boarding school. I was so bullied that I had to hide during my lunch breaks in the counselors office. For as smart as all the tests said I was, I was so miserable that I failed 7th Grade English and ended up in summer school that year. I had gotten fat, I had a rotten temper, my brother picked on me mercilessly, I couldn’t concentrate in school (undiagnosed ADHD) and hated being compared to other students who I was clearly brighter than, but clearly failing to compete with. I wanted to so badly be a soldier and assert my dominance I day dreamed of a fascist take over of America where I would thrive because my talents were finally recognized and I could exact my revenge on those around me.
Yeah, I was just a Marilyn Manson album and a few violent video games away from being a school shooter.
I spent most of my teenage years listening to other kids bitch about how unfair their dads treated them, when I just wanted to have mine back. I hated my brother lashing out in his emotional frustration at my mother, and my mother no joke asking me one day, “Just hit your brother for me please. He’s scared of you, and it’ll make him stop.” I remember my mom fluctuating between healthy and sick because of the chemo. My mom so much wanted to avoid the bad she would disengage from creating conflict and even parenting in a way. I hated seeing her cry when she thought about my dad. I would retreat into my room so I wouldn’t have to deal with my brother fighting with my mom.
I’ve rarely told this story, even to my army of therapists. When the cancer came back in force, and that combined with the chemo began to take my mom’s mind and health away, it became so much worse. One time, it was just me and my mom at the house, and I heard her just wail, “KERRY! COME HELP ME!!” I dashed out of my room and found that she had fallen to the ground and couldn’t pick herself up. I helped her up and hugged her while she wept in fear and embarrassment. I think that was the first time my mom felt smaller than me, even though I had a good four or five inches and a hundred pounds on her. A month or two later one evening, it was just me and her in the house again. I was watching something late at night when I heard my mom calling out, “KERRY! COME HERE!!” I rushed into her room where she was curled up in bed with her sheets pulled up around her, eyes wild with terror. “Kerry! Get your hamster!” She literally cried.
“Mom, what are you talking about,” I asked in terrified bewilderment.
“There! Get your hamster! It got out!” She pointed to the corner of the room. There sat a bathtub handle with brown suction clamps on it. She thought the rubber clamps were my hamster.
“Mom, I haven’t had a hamster in like a year.” My last hamster died over a year earlier and I never had gotten another.
She groaned and shut her eyes. It was like she shrank two inches right there in front of me. There was no doubt she was becoming delusional and weak. She knew she was dying. In that moment, I think she knew how weak she had become, how frail and helpless. Then she said something to me, I don’t think I have even told my sister, and would never share with my brother, no matter how much we dislike each other to this day. “Don’t tell your brother about this.” It wasn’t but two months later that my mother was essentially comatose in a hospice bed, being eaten alive by cancer. One Friday, while I was in class at the local community college, the English professor told me to call home immediately about my mom. I knew what it was about. My mom had died. I sat through the rest of the class, though I don’t remember what it was about. I then left since it was my last class and drove home to meet with the people who had gathered there as they do when someone dies.
I didn’t go with my brother and sister to the funeral parlor to plan the burial. I went to my National Guard drill instead that Saturday. I let the other guys in my unit fuck with me like they always did, hazing me because they knew I wasn’t the macho alpha like they were or ever would be. That Sunday, we buried my mom. I didn’t cry. I don’t think I’ve ever cried over my mom dying.
To this day, I still have that grief. I still keep from my brother the secret that my my mom, didn’t like my brother, that she might not have loved him anymore. No matter how much we still dislike each other, I could never tell him that. How could I? While I was awoken by my Scoutmaster to be told my dad had a heart attack and died that summer that I was so miserable, and needed that man who had come to every play, who came to every talent show, drove me to every talent competition and field trip, the one who sat down one evening with me on the floor to write down a list of things I was good at, only to be left bewildered and helpless when I broke the pen before I wrote anything down and fled the room; at least I didn’t watch him die right in front of me like my brother did.
This all was before I was 19 years old.
I lost both my parents, lost my brother, felt loathed by my aunt and uncle who thumped their Southern Baptist bibles at me. I had failed Army basic training the first time I tried, despite it being my life’s dream to be a soldier just like my dad. By the time I was 25, I had drank my way out of college twice, became disowned by my relatives, started doing drugs, and realized that I would never be an Army officer, or even a good soldier. I hadn’t even fully accepted that I was transgender, and I had had every good thing, every hope, every dream I had ripped away from me or shattered due to my own failures or fate. I still can’t form healthy emotional relationships. I’m terrified of loneliness. There is an unshakable feeling in the back of my mind that I have that I was born to suffer, that goes back almost twenty five years.
And yet, I think I’ve cried over being transgender once in my life.
I think it was after a bout of heavy drinking and one of my first times out dressed as a woman, and being stared at like a freak by a guy at the gay bar. That was it. That was the only time I think I have ever cried about it.
I’ve felt trapped by my body. I know that the likelihood of me finding someone to spend the rest of my life with diminishes every year. I’ll probably never be famous like Laverne Cox. I’ll never be as sexy as Bailey Jay. I’ve got big man hands. My hairline’s receded some. My shoulders are broad and my feet are huge. I get “sir’d” on the phone regularly. By now I’m functionally sterile, and I have no sperm on ice. This means I’ll never have biological children of my own. I doubt I can ever afford surgery, and I know I can never become pregnant because the science won’t ever be there for me. I’ll never get to go to prom. Never got to play with dolls. Cheerleader? Forget about it. Mother? Doubt it. Feminine and graceful? Hardly.
As miserable as these things make me from time to time, I don’t and refuse to wear them as a millstone around my neck. Even if I was never trans, or were “cured” of it, that doesn’t change what has already happened to me. The loss of my family, the missed opportunities, the faded dreams. It’s just another burden in my hand.
The pain of all these events has made me jaded, cynical, and honestly sometimes a bit cruel. However. Because of all of it, I know that I can say that I’m tough as fucking nails, and enjoy the good things I have so much. Because of all of this, I have the good friends that I do. I have stories that top most anyone’s at the bar. People talking shit just amuse the fuck out of me, because my life is one long string of “Been there, done that.” Hell, I probably did most of it before I was 23. I’m old and grizzled, and not easily impressed anymore. I’m also not dead.
I still hope that I’ll meet that perfect person. Getting a better job and more money is all on me to push for it. I love my friends like family and would die for them. The family I do have still in my life, I wish I could be closer too. I don’t have much in this world, but I can look at all of it and think, “Damn, this has a story to it.” I look in the mirror some days and see a guy who needs a shave and a haircut, but most days, I see a 37 year old woman who still looks pretty decent for the shit she has been through.
I can’t lament and wail for all the things I’ve missed out on being born in a male body and living as one for almost 30 years. I don’t hate the old me. The old me sits in a trunk in the closet that I dig out from time to time to look at. That old me, is still me, just in a different wrapper. Why should I lament never getting to wear a prom dress, when I know that so many other women at birth didn’t either? I shouldn’t mourn for not having parents abandoning me, when I know that when they were here, they loved me.
Why should I cry for being transgender, when I have known for so long, that life is going to hurt at times? If it wasn’t trans, it would be something else; something that is going to happen anyway. Shitty things and raw deals are part of life. A necessary part of life. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. There’s no point in choosing to take it up like a cross because you think you are supposed to. Happy “never were’s and terrible are’s” is simply life. Giving any one more special meaning than another, doesn’t change them one bit. Acceptance of that is the first step toward healing and coming to peace with existence.
So no. I do not cry that I was never born a girl, because it’s just the life I have.
IT’S ELECTION DAY IN AMERICA!
Time for all the knuckle dragging dipshits with half a clue what they are talking about to say something on their Facebook, Twitter, blog, nationally syndicated magazine, or cable news network.
It seems like a lot of the painfully hip and jaded around this time of year seem to drag out the quotes from people they think are clever or wise, and start tossing them around as if they are some sort of wizened sage or Zen master. In all actuality, the people they are quoting are the same type of people they are….people. You know, solipsistic, myoptic, and blind to the absolutely insane contradictions that they hold onto.
The most common quote is this one from George Carlin on voting:
Ah, yes. The, “I don’t vote so I get to complain,” one. You know the “Everyone sucks, so why bother, now I get to complain even more loudly,” quote.
Well, here’s another quote by Carlin:
So maybe it’s not the politicians who suck; maybe it’s something else. Like the public. That would be a nice realistic campaign slogan for somebody: “The public sucks. Elect me.” Put the blame where it belongs: on the people. Because if everything is really the fault of politicians, where are all the bright, honest, intelligent Americans who are ready to step in and replace them? Where are these people hiding? The truth is, we don’t have people like that. Everyone’s at the mall, scratching his balls and buying sneakers with lights in them. And complaining about the politicians.
Yeah. See that. It is the publics fault because we’re too damn stupid to vote for the right people. But wait? Aren’t we supposed to avoid voting and be the clever ones?
Here’s another quote of Carlin:
Most people seem to have been indoctrinated to believe that bullshit only comes from certain places, certain sources: advertising, politics, salesmen – not true. Bullshit is everywhere. Bullshit is rampant.
Wait? Is he saying even he is full of bullshit? So why are we quoting him?
Maybe he gives his own answer:
All your chanting, marching, voting, picketing, boycotting and letter-writing will not change a thing; you will never right the wrongs of this world. The only thing your activity will accomplish is to make some of you feel better.
Oh, maybe he is saying that tossing around clever, pithy quotes by a guy who made money on being cynical, is just a way to make you feel better about yourself. More clever.
What a crock of shit.
First he says he doesn’t vote, but he says that it’s the public that causes the issue, but he is advocating that the clever don’t vote so they can feel better about themselves, but that act really is just a way to make yourself feel better because it makes you feel clever and you beat the system.
Here, let me toss out another idea for you:
Maybe you should quit listening to a guy who said this as well:
They say if you scratch a cynic, you’ll find a disappointed idealist. And I would admit, that somewhere underneath all this there’s a little flicker of a flame of idealism that would love to see it all — huish! — change. But it can’t happen that way. And incremental change — it just seems the pile of shit is too deep.
Maybe you should quit listening to a guy who gave up hope, who got tired, quit giving a shit, and kept showing up on stage getting angrier and angrier because instead of us giving a shit about the things he pointed out, we fell into the pit of misery he did. Remember how at the end he seemed to hate all of us?
Maybe that’s why. We only heard him, but we didn’t listen to him.
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