7 Things I Want To See In 2014

1.      Regular, everyday femme-y clothes that are made for DMAB people’s bodies available for sale somewhere

I would really like to be able to buy my partner everyday clothes that I know are made to fit and look good on their body in styles that they like.

2.      Information available about sexual/reproductive health that is written and intended for people with non-binary genders

I would like to be able to find information about the health and function of my reproductive organs and my options for birth control/sterilization that do not assume that I am female, having sex with men and want children, or that I’m happy and comfortable with the anatomy that I’ve got.

3.      More gender neutral public restrooms

Quite a few of the independent restaurants and coffee shops in my town have gender neutral bathrooms, but I’d love to see this become a more common practice.

4.      More mainstream acceptance of gender neutral pronouns

I would like to see articles about genderqueer and non-binary people where our preferred pronouns are not in quotation marks when they are used throughout the article. I’d like to reasonably be able to expect people to refer to me by my preferred pronouns without lecturing me about English grammar first.

5.      Better medical access and legal protections for trans* people in the South

After my partner’s experience trying to find a doctor who would prescribe them hormones in our state I’m really kind of irritated by how difficult it is to access proper medical care as a trans* person in the South. For example, the current WPATH standards of care state that hormones should be prescribed on an informed consent model, however where I live most doctors still want a letter from a therapist before they will prescribe hormones, if they’ll even agree to see you at all.

It is also still completely legal to fire or not hire someone because they are trans* in the state where I live which can make finding and keeping employment here anything from uncomfortable to impossible.

6.      All my favorite trans folks at the Philly Trans Health Conference

I’m really excited for the Philly Trans Health Conference this year and I hope to see all of my friends who don’t live nearby at the conference this year, especially those who couldn’t make it last year!

7.      A more vengeful Transgender Day of Remembrance

For the 2014 TDOR I’d like to see a little less hopelessness and mourning and a little more anger and outrage. I’d like to see a little more energy put toward fighting to protect the living and demanding that violence against transgender people end. I’d like to see people plan marches and rallies demanding justice and safety for trans* people rather than just solemn candlelight vigils remembering their deaths.

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Work, Gender, Dysphoria And The Self-Articulation Of A Non-Binary Person

So I’m currently bussing tables in a restaurant, but next week I’m going to start hosting which means more hours, a schedule that can more easily be tailored to my liking and more money. Unfortunately it also means I have to dress up. Well, ok, not “dress up” really all that much by normal, cisgender, feminine woman standards, but I’m not a feminine cis woman.

I need this work. I really do. I’m getting by on what I make right now, but my roommate and I are looking to move out of our terrible (and by terrible I mean our landlord seems to be of the opinion that the funny pages constitute building material) apartment and in order for us to do that I will need to make more money. Unfortunately the cost of the dollars is going to be trading in my generic work uniform for clothes that make me look like a well-dressed young woman, aka the kind of clothes I never wear, ever. In the state where I live this is kind of my only option if I want to host. The gender marker on all of my legal documents is “F” and I can legally be fired for being transgender or refusing to dress like a girl on the job.

I’ve helped host a couple of times before and worse than the clothes is the attitude and behavior that is expected of me. It makes me feel like I’m developing a split personality, like I’m pulling someone else’s skin on over my own and wearing it around, trying to make people believe that I am that person. I’ve started referring to it as my “Sarah suit” (sarah is my legal first name). Wearing it is emotionally draining and just all around exhausting. It’s been a long time since the last time I tried to socialize with other people in a feminine way or conform to the social expectations of my assigned gender at all and I’d forgotten how much it took out of me, how much work it was. How it makes me feel slightly off-balance or out of sync, like the only person clapping off-beat in a room of people clapping in rhythm.

Or maybe I didn’t forget, maybe the sensation is more acute now that it exists in contrast to my nascent to find my way to an understanding of my gender without using man and woman as trail markers.

I am beginning to be able to envision my gender without having to rely on terms and ideas made out of the binary’s spare parts. Unlike earlier in my journey, when I was struggling to move away from relying on terms like “androgynous” to describe my internal sense of self, I can now, more than ever before, consistently perceive my body and self as something strange and alien, something new, something outside of and fully detached from the gender binary.

As I develop this more fully formed sense of my gender the experience of trying to pass as anything else becomes more acutely uncomfortable. Formerly, before I knew that there were more than two genders, my dysphoria was a vaguer sense of unease. Now it is becoming ever more particular and specific, I can say what exactly makes me feel dysphoric and what does not, but it also seems that those things that do make me feel dysphoric trigger a stronger reaction than they used to. I can’t really be sure if this is because I am so infrequently exposed to them that I have lost some tolerance that I used to have for them when these things were a more regular part of my life or if it is because I now I have an alternative to compare those things to; I know just how good I can have it without those things in my life.

“That was dysphoria?” 8 signs and symptoms of indirect gender dysphoria » Zinnia Jones

“That was dysphoria?” 8 signs and symptoms of indirect gender dysphoria » Zinnia Jones.

I stumbled across the post linked above a week or so ago while looking for a quick and easy definition of “dysphoria” (spoiler alert: no such thing exists). After quickly skimming the post I was shocked. Nearly everything the author mentions in her post sounded like things I had heard my partner say before they started hormones, and just like the author says, all of these feelings evaporated when my partner began hormones even though it was never apparent to either of us until after they began HRT that these feelings were in any way related to their gender.

I think this post is a really, really important read for all trans* people, my partner and I both believed that they were completely alone in their experience until I found this post.

This is What Support Looks Like

If a friend or family member asks you to support them through their transition and/or coming out process they are asking for a whole lot more than the words “I support you and your decision”. When we talk about supporting transgender people we are talking about tangible things that cisgender friends and family members can do to help make life easier for the trans* people they care about.

We know that you love us, and that you care about us, but we also know that you may not know how to do that in a way that is good for us. Supporting your trans* friend or family member is much more than just loving them or telling them you support them. Being supportive of a transgender person in your life is a pro-active thing and it is something that you have to be taught how to do. Most people are not brought up learning how to be respectful and supportive of trans* people, most people are not even brought up knowing what the word “transgender” even means. Not knowing what to do or how to help your friend or family member is perfectly normal and ok, but it is very important that you make an effort to learn. Coming out as transgender can be very painful and isolating for many people because of the reactions of their friends and family. The best way to demonstrate your love and support for the trans* person in your life is to take this very seriously and educate yourself so that you can be there for them in a way that is truly helpful during this potentially difficult time.

Supporting the trans* person in your life means being their ally in this struggle. And it is a struggle. It may be difficult for you to see it that way at first, because as a cisgender person, the ways in which our society is difficult or dangerous for trans* people will probably be invisible to you. They will be things that you don’t ever have to think about, things that you take for granted, like being able to safely and fearlessly use a public restroom. Its tiny things like that, that, in the life of a transgender person can become monumental battles full of fear, stress and anxiety. This is just one example of what we call cisgender privilege. Cisgender privilege is all of the little (and big) ways our society is set up to favor cisgender people, because really, everyone should be able to safely use public restrooms, but throughout most of this country that is not the reality for trans* people. For more examples of the ways that our society is set up to favor cis people over trans* people see The Cisgender Privilege Checklist. The purpose of this list is not to make you feel guilty for the ways in which your life is easier than a transgender person’s , but to help you understand and empathize with the daily unjust struggles of the trans* person in your life.

How To Be An Ally To Transgender People:

Ask people about their preferred pronouns. Do your best to remember to use said pronouns to refer to the person in question, if you slip up just apologize and move on.

Call people by the name they ask you to call them. Do not ask them about their “real name” or their “old name”. If you knew them before they changed their name do not continue to refer to them by that name after you have been informed that they have changed their name.

Do not out someone as transgender to other people without their explicit permission. This is just not your decision to make, and the results can range from mildly uncomfortable and awkward to incredibly dangerous. Outing someone can mean that they lose their job or it can put them at risk for serious violence. Don’t do it.

Don’t demand “ally cookies”. Basically what this means is that you should not expect to be constantly praised and applauded for being an ally or for being one of the “good cis people”. Your motivation for being an ally should not come from the fact that you need to feel appreciated and recognized it should come from a desire to do good and right injustices. Choosing not to participate in the oppression of  trans* people does not make you a superhero, it just makes you a decent human being. You shouldn’t expect to be rewarded for being a good person, you should just be a good person for the sake of being a good person. It should be its own reward.

Don’t make it about you. The point here is that transgender people should be at the center of transgender issues and conversations about them, not cis people. Allies need to be mindful of this. What this means is that you, as a cisgender person, should not dominate conversations on transgender issues. The whole world is a platform for you to speak about your opinions, when it comes to transgender issues you should take a backseat and listen. Let trans* people speak from their own experiences instead of telling them what you think about trans* issues. This also means that you generally should not insert yourself into trans* people’s conversations and offer your opinion without being asked.

Listen. Listen to the transgender people in your life when they talk about their feelings and lived experiences as trans* people. Our culture tells transgender people that they are wrong, that they are freaks and that they are mentally ill, it constantly tells them that their experiences and the way that they perceive the world and themselves is invalid. Be someone who can listen, empathize and validate your friend of family member.

Educate yourself. Do not expect your transgender friend or family member to be your walking encylopedia. Its super exhausting for trans* people to have to be constantly educating other people about ourselves, if you can do some of that legwork yourself we really do appreciate it! Remember, the internet is your oyster. Read stuff, the internet is full of resources. PFLAG is a great place to start, but try to keep in mind the importance of prioritizing the voices of transgender people in your reading. If you can find things that are written about trans* people by trans* people those are the things you want to be reading.

Learn the Lingo. Learn the words that transgender people use to refer to themselves. Learn which ones your friend or family member prefers. Learn which words are generally considered disrespectful and should not be used at all.

Speak out. Call out discrimination and transphobia where you see it, especially if you are with your transgender friend or family  member, they may not feel safe or comfortable speaking up, so it can be wonderfully helpful and supportive when someone with the social leverage to silence bigotry speaks out against it.

Why It Is Important To Be An Ally To Transgender People:

– Because 234 transgender people where murdered in 2013. Most of them were trans women.

– Because in many states it is still perfectly legal to fire or not hire someone because they are transgender.

– Because trans people, especially trans-feminine people, experience astronomically high rates of harassment and violence.

– Because according to “Injustice At Every Turn” the report on the National Transgender Discrimination Survey…

  • Transgender people are four times more likely to live in poverty.
  • Transgender people experience unemployment at twice the rate of the general population, with rates for people of color up to four times the national unemployment rate.
  • 90% of transgender people report experiencing harassment, mistreatment or discrimination on the job.
  • 22% of respondents who have interacted with police reported harassment by police, with much higher rates reported by people of color.  Almost half of the respondents (46%) reported being uncomfortable seeking police assistance.
  • 41% of respondents reported attempting suicide, compared to 1.6% of the general population.

Transgender people, particularly transgender women of color, face shockingly high rates of murder, homelessness, and incarceration. Most states and countries offer no legal protections in housing, employment, health care, and other areas where individuals experience discrimination based on their gender identity or expression. (from: GLAAD’s Transgender 101)

Words To Know:

Transgender: a person who does not identify as the gender they were assigned at birth.

Genderqueer/non-binary: a subcategory of trans* people who do not identify fully (or at all) with either of the two binary genders (male and female). There are many types of non-binary trans* people, many of whom have more specific terms that they use to describe themselves.

Note: “genderqueer” is also used as a stand alone identity, an umbrella term, and is not always viewed as being under the transgender umbrella or interchangeable with “non-binary” by all people who use it to identify themselves. If you meet/know someone who identifies as genderqueer it may be best to politely ask them what the term means to them and how they use it.

Gender binary: the cultural belief that there are only to genders and the enforcement of that  belief (the gender binary does not exist in all cultures for more info google: fa’afafine, kathoey, hijra or muxe).

Gender identity: one’s internal sense of their own gender.

Gender expression: the ways a person outwardly expresses their gender (hair, clothes, mannerisms, etc).

Cisgender: someone who identifies as the gender they were assigned at birth; anyone who is not transgender. (for why this term is important please read: Semantics, Gender and “Cis”)

Ally: an ally is a member of a privileged class of people who acts against the oppression of people who do not share that privilege (ex: a cisgender person who advocates for and supports transgender people in the fight against their oppression).

Dysphoria: aka “gender dysphoria” a feeling something like a mix of distress, discomfort and anxiety because of the difference between one’s gender identity and one’s physical body and/or the way one is perceived and treated by others. What triggers feelings of dysphoria varies from person to person and the level of dysphoria a person experiences can range from mild to severe.

Practical Decisions

My partner and I were talking the other day about them possibly changing their name. Their birth name, which they currently go by, is decidedly a male name there’s really no getting around it. However, they’ve never really had a problem with it and have never expressed any real interest in changing it. They’re only thinking about it now, because they realize that at some point in the future their name alone will be enough to out them if they don’t change it, and that could be problematic at the very least.

This got me thinking about something that I’ve heard several other non-binary people talk about: the steps non-binary people take as part of their transition that are motivated more by practical needs (such as safety and the ability to decide who you come out to and when) more than by personal desire or dysphoria. For my partner these are things like changing their name and legal gender, for other people its things like using the pronouns “he” or “she” instead of their preferred gender neutral ones.

These practical decisions we make to protect ourselves and make our lives easier also force us to accept binary categorizations of our genders that make us invisible as non-binary people. I’m definitely not advocating against making these compromises, (we make them for our physical safety, our job security, and other very real things we need to survive) but I do lament the fact that we live in a world where they are necessary. I also wanted to write about this because its something I’d really like to have a conversation about with other non-binary people at some point.

Vigils Are Not Enough

I struggle with the Trans Day of Remembrance. I’ve been going every year for the last several years and this year was no exception, but to honest, I struggle with the TDoR. I struggle with vigils in general. By nature, I do not mourn quietly and I do not pray for peace or love or understanding. I cannot muster any gratitude for the fact that the dead are in a better place, only sorrow for their loss, rage for the injustice, fear for my own loved ones and bitter hatred for their killers.

I understand that not everyone feels this way. I understand that for a lot of folks the Transgender Day of Remembrance brings catharsis and healing, but I do not understand how you can hear that 238 trans* people were murdered this year, more than last year, and then listen to the gruesome brutality of murder after murder after murder be described to you and not be overwhelmed with silent rage while you sit quietly in your pew. I do not understand how lighting candles can be enough. I didn’t express this yesterday because I wanted to be respectful of other people’s feelings and needs surrounding something as painful and personal as this, but it does need to be said.

The deaths of our people make me furious. They make me rage inside and I want to harness this fury and use it to grind the bones of those who would hurt my people into dust. When they hurt us, kill us, threaten us I want to fight, I want revenge, I want to scream myself hoarse. To me, vigils feel helpless, vigils feel like defeat, and I love too many trans* people too dearly for vigils to ever be enough for me. I do not want to simply remember my dead, I want to avenge them. And I want to fight to keep the living alive.

I remember the first year I ever attended the TDoR memorial service and one of my best friends made me promise that if they were ever murdered for being transgender that I would make sure that cities burned as their funeral pyre. Knowing full well that this was not by any means within my power to guarantee, I promised. I promised because the request was not entirely literal (though with anarchists these things are always a tiny bit literal in some small, wishful, optimistic way), but the meaning was clear enough: “don’t stand around with candles reminding each other what a wonderful person I was, fight back. Fight to avenge me and fight to keep yourselves alive.” I promised because I believe that if you want peace you have to fight for justice, not pray for it. I promised, because if that’s how our deaths were memorialized then maybe they would stop killing us.

I certainly pray (or, I would if praying was a thing that I did) for a day when I don’t have to worry about our safety and I don’t have to be ready for a fight every time my partner and I leave the house, but until then I will carry my knife with me every time we go out in public, because I will rot in prison until I die before I will sit in a church and hear them read off my partner’s name.