A Closed World

The above link is a short indie computer game about being queer (and also to some extent trans*) and I absolutely recommend that you play it!

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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.

Thoughts

I have a strange gender, an alien gender, a feral gender. My gender has not been domesticated, cannot be domesticated. Not by a culture that does not recognize its existence. Not in a language that has no words to describe it.

If they do not acknowledge us, they will never have words for us. If they never have words for us, they will never know us and if they never know us, then they cannot assimilate us.

And there lies the danger in articulation. The clearer we become to ourselves, the clearer we become to them.

I have no desire to give them the  few, precious words we have, to see them used to co-opt the selves and identities so many of us have struggled long and hard to carve out, but there is also danger in remaining unarticulated. Without words, we remain forever intangible and unknowable, even to ourselves.

To me my gender feels stormy, chaotic, restless, roiling like its just itching to burst out of me, or like a seedling, new, young and full of potential, but  not fully formed, not whole, not grown. it feels like a tangled ball of yarn or a small, empty room with blank white walls. I want my gender to feel whole one day, I want to be able to feel whole living as my gender and I want the words to find that wholeness.

I wish we had a secret language, only for our ears, one in which we could define and come to know ourselves, but that they could never use to hold us. Maybe, and perhaps more realistically, what I mean is that I wish for adjectives and not nouns. The dominant culture here (white, western, capitalist culture) puts so much emphasis on labels and naming and so we seem to fixate on those things in our exploration of our genders as well, but what good does it do you to name a thing that you cannot describe? Trying to name myself didn’t do me any good, so I stopped trying. But I still need language to explore my gender, just language developed with different priorities in mind. Language that is intended to facilitate communication and understanding of what it feels like to be non-binary/genderqueer amongst genderqueer and non-binary people. language for talking to us about us in a way that de-centers labels and bodies and focuses more on exploring the depth and complexity of our genders as we experience them internally.

‘You’re Too Pretty to Be Gay’ Is Not a Compliment | Anita Dolce Vita

Via Huffington Post

In her HuffPost blog post “The Assumption of Heterosexuality When You’re a Feminine Lesbian,” femme blogger Megan Evans mentions that gay men often tell her that she is “too pretty to be gay.” Megan’s experience resonates with me because some people find it necessary to “educate” me about how, in their expert opinion, my sexual orientation is not congruent with my physical appearance. I have also been told that I’m “too pretty to be a lesbian” and other versions of that assertion, such as, “But you’re pretty; you shouldn’t have a hard time finding a boyfriend,” or, “You don’t look gay.” Most people who spew such nonsense expect me to delight in their backhanded praise and are surprised when I inform them that telling someone that she is too pretty to be a lesbian is actually not a compliment. Believing that there is a point on some arbitrary scale at which a woman is too attractive to be gay is based on the assumption that heterosexual women are inherently better-looking, and that’s just plain homophobic.

To be clear, I am not writing this piece to toot my own horn. This is not one of those tortured-pretty-girl, Samantha Brick-type posts. I do not think that some peoples’ beliefs that I am too pretty to be gay are based on how “beautiful” I am according to some superficial measure of what is deemed aesthetically pleasing by the dominant culture. In fact, as a biracial woman, society is constantly bombarding me with messages that my hair, lips, and thighs are not as desirable as Pam Anderson types with lighter skin; straight, blonde hair; and an unattainable figure. Rather, I believe that people are often confused by my femininity, because the prevailing stereotype is that lesbians are simply not feminine. Just think back to last year, when Florida’s former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll stated, in response to claims that she was involved in a lesbian affair, “Black women that look like me don’t engage in relationships like that.” The lack of femme visibility, as Evans documents in her blog post, as well as homophobia, misogyny, gender norms, and heteronormativity contribute to this stereotype. When feminine lesbians challenge existing stereotypes that all lesbians are masculine, it short-circuits peoples’ brains.

But let’s look at one of the roots of this stereotype a bit more. In 2008 CoverGirl cosmetics signed Ellen DeGeneres as one of their spokesmodels. While CoverGirl considers DeGeneres to be attractive enough to represent their brand and join the ranks of other famous CoverGirls like Sofia Vergara, Rihanna, and Christie Brinkley, people often say that DeGeneres “looks gay,” and that her more feminine wife, Portia de Rossi, is “too pretty to be a lesbian.” So why is it that some people believe that DeGeneres looks like a lesbian, but her wife does not fit the mold? Why would some people think that DeGeneres is “attractive enough” to be a CoverGirl but still consider her beauty substandard enough to clearly mark her as gay?

I would argue that the answer is found in Ellen’s short hair and masculine-inspired wardrobe. Society frowns upon female masculinity. If lesbians are believed to be more masculine than their heterosexual counterparts, and society views female masculinity as unattractive, then people might conclude that heterosexual women are better-looking.

On multiple occasions I have heard butch-identified women who are in butch/femme relationships state that people often think of their femme partners as the more attractive one in the couple. dapperQ, a fashion and empowerment website for the unconventionally masculine at which I am Managing Editor, continually receives emails from readers who are tired of being told that they would look better if they just wore a dress. And remember when that high school picture of a blonde, long-haired Rachel Maddow surfaced? The Internet was flooded with comments about how hot Maddow “used to be.” The message: If you are a woman and cut off your hair and dress more masculine, then you look gayer and therefore less beautiful. What an awful message!

Nevertheless, there are plenty of people, including me, who find female masculinity beautiful. I actually prefer to date women who lean toward the androgynous side on the masculine-feminine spectrum. For example, my fiancée happens to sport more of a Rachel Maddow/Ellen DeGeneres look and does not wear dresses, heels, or makeup. I think she’s gorgeous! And no, this does not mean that I should just be with a man if I find androgyny or masculinity attractive. (In a subsequent post, I will discuss how simply dressing masculine does not change your sex.)

Ultimately, female beauty is defined by what men find attractive and is offered for the male gaze, which marginalizes women and reduces us to body parts, as author Dan Pearce discusses in his piece “Worthless Women and the Men Who Make Them.” Thus, when someone tells me something ridiculous like “but you’re pretty; you shouldn’t have a hard time finding a boyfriend” upon discovering that I am gay, they are essentially telling me that they believe that lesbians are too ugly to find a man. News flash: Women don’t become lesbians because they cannot land a boyfriend. Furthermore, women, both feminine and masculine, are beautiful despite what men think of them. Standards of beauty rooted in misogyny are destructive not just to lesbians but to all women (and men).

Roadblocks

LGBT Psychiatry Clinic: Hello, we’re returning your call.

My Partner: Hi! I’m calling… Um, well, because I want to start on hormone replacement therapy. I’m a trans person!

LGBT Psychiatry Clinic: Okay, and what can we do for you?

My Partner: Well, I’ll take whatever you can do to get me started on that.

LGBT Psychiatry Clinic: ….

My Partner: I guess… Ideally I’d like to begin an estrogen regimen, you know, with regular check-ins. I was recommended to call here by Dr. XXXXXXX.

LGBT Psychiatry Clinic: Is she your primary care physician?

My Partner: No. I don’t have a doctor.

LGBT Psychiatry Clinic: So how can I help you?

My Partner: Wait, I’m sorry. Is this the MCV LGBT Psychiatry Clinic?

LGBT Psychiatry Clinic: Yes it is.

My Partner: Oh. Well… As I understand it, the first thing I would need to get a prescription would be a letter from a psychiatrist or counselor..?

LGBT Psychiatry Clinic: ….

My Partner: Is that something that you do here?

LGBT Psychiatry Clinic: No, we don’t provide evaluations for sexual reassignment or hormone replacement treatments.

My Partner: Oh. Sooo… Why is there a letter T in your LGBT?

LGBT Psychiatry Clinic: If you’re experiencing any anxiety or depression relating to your sexuality, we have counselors who will see you for that.

My Partner: ….

My Partner: Now that you mention it.

How Does It Feel to Be Southern and LGBTQ After the SCOTUS Decisions?

Reblogged from The Huffington Post

I am a white, queer woman who lives in the rural South. I work for a multiracial, Southern LGBTQ organization. That means that the Supreme Court decisions relating to the Voting Rights Act (VRA), affirmative action, the Indian Child Welfare Act, the Fifth Amendment, Prop 8, and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) all affect me. Why?

Because I live in a part of this country where my family and community have no basic protections at all. Google the word “gay” and the town I live in, “Goldsboro, N.C.,” and notice how many hits you get: zero. That’s right. There are no LGBT community centers, no clinics, and no advocacy groups within an hour of us. There are also no basic protections for work, safety, or families in most of our Southern states.

But you know what living without those basic protections reminds you? That justice is not an individual or single-issue need. The working-poor black communities down my street, and the farm workers outside in the heat 10 miles away, lack all kinds of basic protections too. We need a strong and vibrant LGBTQ movement that will not quit until we are a fierce and crucial team within the league of people in this country who are playing to win justice for everyone.

So the group I work with, Southerners on New Ground (SONG), made this video, called “Marry the Movement”:

We made it because we believe that the real victory in DOMA and Prop 8 being struck down is the victory of thousands of LGBTQ people and our allies who have changed the culture of this country, not just its policies and laws. We also know, because we live it every single day, that there is so much more to be done for LGBTQ justice in this country. We cannot be whole as an LGBTQ community while some of us have every privilege under the law and thousands of us do not because we are living in the South, or because we are transgender, or because we are undocumented, or black and poor.

We know that in times like these, LGBTQ people need each other, and that we must turn to each other in the spirit of our collective survival. There is still much work to be done in order to bring the reality of true justice home to the South and the whole country, so join me (and SONG) in “Marrying the Movement” until every LGBTQ person has full dignity, safety, and liberation.

A Feminist Guide to Gay Male Misogyny

This is great. Hard to summarize, but really great. And I’d say that its relevent to all men, not just gay men. He does a great job of demonstrating how misogyny impacts men and how they rely on it to prove their masculinity in a way that is universally detrimental. Simple, concise, and insightful!