Getting it Half Right: What to Do (and Not to Do) When Your Client Says You’re a Transphobic Therapist

agender, cicssexism, cis entitlement, cisgender, fatphobia, gatekeeping, gender specialist, genderfluid, genderqueer, mental illness, saneism, therapist, transgender, transphobia

Trigger Warning: discussion of bad therapy, transphobia in clinical practice, fatphobia, saneism, suicidal ideation, homophobia

I’m continuing the story of how I called out Former Therapist #1 for his transphobic gender policing and gatekeeping. I am really pissed at him right now, because he has done so much to take away my ability to work with other providers. I’m putting our exchange here and then some of my feelings about it in footnotes.

Let this be something that other providers can learn from, so that other people don’t have to deal with this pain.

I’m not the only one dealing with or writing about this. Check out this lovely example of therapeutic invalidation (plus an intersection with fatphobia) from Rooster Tails Comic:

The lady who ran out on me then came back in with another person.... it felt like I was in a job interview. So weird.Source: http://www.roostertailscomic.com/comic/happy-mental-health-awareness-week/

Two weeks after I sent a letter to Former Therapist #1 about his mistreatment, I got this email from him:

5/30/14

Hello [Birth name],[1]

I didn’t want too much time to go by before I acknowledged your much appreciated letter I received.  I have been doing a lot of thinking and reflecting on your letter.  I’m planning to send you a response soon.  I’m consulting my colleges [sic] and other gender specialists as well.  I didn’t want you to think my delay was in any way me ignoring or rejecting your letter.  I want to acknowledge the courage and integrity you displayed in your letter with a response that is as thoughtful and respectful as I can make it.

Thank you again for the letter.  I will send my response as soon as it is ready.[2]

[Former Therapist #1], LICSW

I replied almost immediately:

5/30/14

My name is [real name]. I hoped that you would know not to call me by my birth name at this point.

Are you talking with anyone who’s actually trans*?

Also, I am now seeing [current therapist]. If you talk with any providers, I recommend talking with her. She is the only provider I have seen who has been gender affirming. If she has the time and energy, she would be a great resource.

I received no reply to this email. It was early on in my trying out new names and pronouns, and his misgendering hurt a lot. I especially was appalled that he did it in email, after such a gender-relevant letter. Four days later, I sent him another email:

6/3/14

Hi,

[Current therapist] says that she’d welcome a call from you.

[Real name]

It was at the moment of his misgendering me as his first interaction with this letter—that moment when I 100% gave up on him as a therapist. I was just done. This time, he replied on the same day:

6/3/14

[Real name],

I have placed a call to her today, left a message,  and will consult with her further.  Also my apologies for wrong naming you in my last email.  I realized the mistake right after I sent it, but still no excuse.[3]

[Former therapist #1], LICSW

I received this letter about a month after I sent my own letter to Former Therapist #1.

Dear [real name],

Thank you so much for your thoughtful and courageously honest letter. I have read and reread it multiple times, consulted with some of my fellow colleagues,[4] and done some deep personal and professional reflection before responding in order to give your letter the respect and consideration you disserve [sic].[5]

First, I feel deeply sorry for the pain and suffering you have endured during your treatment with me. One of the guiding principles of my practice as a gender specialist[6] and a therapist is the basic human right of self-identification. Upon reflection, I now realize that I did not respect or encourage that right in our work together.[7] I also feel very sorry for the lingering gender binary prejudice that you felt in our recent work.[8] Eliminating prejudice in all forms continues to be one of the primary goals in my practice. For all these things, and any other moments of pain and suffering you have experienced during our work together, I am truly sorry.

In your letter you offered advice on how I could improve my future work in the gender field. I have taken this advice to heart. I have begun a thorough review of previous and current gender work in my practice, with a focus on improving quality of care.[9] Thank you for suggesting consultation with [current therapist]. We have already exchanged messages, and, with your consent, we will be in further consultation in the coming weeks. Since gender is such an evolving field of study, ongoing education and training to keep my skills current is obviously necessary.[10] I appreciate your sincere wish for me to rise to the challenge you have initiated with your letter. My hope is that I can and will rise to the challenge in my ongoing work.[11]

I am very happy to hear that you have found a therapist whom you feel very comfortable with. I am also happy to see that your right to self-identify is not only being respected, but encouraged.[12] I hope this leads to higher levels of self-affirmation for you.[13] I wish you the best of luck and hope you continue this courageous journey you are on.[14]

With respect and appreciation,

[Former Therapist #1]

A critique by which other therapists may be advised…

  • Always gender your clients appropriately, and apologize if you do not.
  • Vehement apologies for malpractice are always welcome. They do not, of course, erase the damages of said mistreatment. But they at least are a step in the right direction.
  • They are much more sincere and effective when they come with a plan for changing or avoiding the errant behavior in the future—which this one did. At least for some of the problems here.
  • It shouldn’t have to take deep reflection to help you realize how much you wronged someone. If it does, you should note that that is evidence of a long journey ahead. (This therapist didn’t recognize that the level of reflection required for him to realize how hugely he’d messed up was evidence of the level of work he needs to do.)
  • They should be led by the injured party’s wishes—so listen carefully to what the problem is. (This one only did that halfway.)
  • Any kind of social change should be led by the people directly affected by the oppression. (This therapist only consulted with other clinicians—so that did not happen here.)
  • Be humble about your own knowledge and impact, especially if you aren’t a part of the oppressed group. (This therapist showed humility by reflecting and making changes—but he did not show humility by still claiming expertise in gender.)
  • Feel free to wish someone the best, but be careful that you maintain boundaries while doing so. (This therapist slightly crossed a few lines here.)

[1] I very clearly said in my letter that I am now trying a different name, and expressed profanity at the use of my birth name.

[2] The rest of this email made me feel relatively warm and glad that he was doing this work.

[3] If he realized the mistake right after he sent it, then why didn’t he send another email correcting himself and apologizing? I find it depressing to think that this person thinks that he can regularly work with trans people.

[4] I specifically said in my letter that he should consult with trans community members, and that, given the quality of “gender specialists” in the area, I wasn’t sure that they would be a good resource.

So the fact that he consulted with colleagues—I’ve met most of them, and most of them are gender tools—isn’t really that helpful. But I suppose it’s a small credit to them that they recognized he had mistreated me.

[5] I asked him to think deeply, and I’m glad that he did this. I am a little nonplussed that it took such deep thinking and consultation to realize how messed up he’d been. But at least he realized it.

[6] My current therapist says to be very wary of anyone who labels themselves a “gender specialist.” “Anyone can do it, and it shows that they’re trying to claim expertise in who you are.” The fact that he still thinks he can claim this label after me sending him a letter like that is pretty appalling. It’s kind of like claiming the word “ally” instead of having it be applied to you—except with direct clinical consequences.

Former Therapist #1, you are not a gender specialist. Not at all. You are not an expert or specialist in who I am. And you, as a white, straight, cis man, certainly do not know what gender-based oppression is like and clearly have not taken the time you need to attempt understanding from people who do have lived experience with it.

[7] For the most part, a pretty good apology! At least, he said sorry a lot and explained how he’s trying to fix it.

[8] I think he missed the point of what I had experienced in our more recent work. I had told him that his commenting on “reevaluating” my gender showed how much further he needed to go in his understanding of gender. I told him that no one except me gets to evaluate my gender. He didn’t really address this in my letter.

I had also noted that he had projected ideas about what my gender was onto me—not necessarily binary prejudice. Extra apologies aren’t a bad thing, necessarily, but I am concerned that he is still stuck to the gatekeeper model of trans care, and he didn’t address that in his letter.

[9] I am so glad that he is doing this! I asked him to look into it and he says that he is. Wow. I’m not sure many people would take this to heart like that.

[10] This feels like a veiled “you non-binary people are so new” comment. Just because the Standards of Care only recently started to recognize us doesn’t mean that we only recently “evolved.”I know that he was referencing a field of study—but we are people, not a field of study, and we’ve been around for a while.

When I first started seeing him, I needed him to have cultural competency and awareness of non-binary people then—six years ago, not just now.

[11] I was truly uncertain as to whether he would take up this challenge or not. And I don’t know if he has, really, or if he just said he did. I am glad that the therapist I knew, who was committed in ideals to eliminating prejudice, if not always in practice, is trying to put his ideals into practice now.

I only wish that he was listening more carefully to me, and to other community members, more than his fellow quack “gender specialists.”

But I am glad that he has taken this to heart and trying to make changes. That is so important and goes a little ways towards helping me feel a little less wounded by all of this. (Although I still have a lot of trauma and trust issues with providers, thanks to him and others.)

The fact that we had such a close and long therapeutic relationship I hope helped for him to reflect and take this seriously—and the fact that I could leverage that feels really important and good.

[12] I appreciated this part of his wishes.

[13] This starts to get… I don’t know—like he’s back to being my therapist again? I really can’t imagine anyone except a therapist saying that in this way.

[14] There are so many things that he could be referencing in terms of “courageous journey.” Does he mean my journey for healing mental-health wise? Does he mean my transition?

When people talk about “courageous journeys” to trans people, they often are talking about transitions. If he meant my mental health journey, it again feels a little weird-are-you-my-therapist-or-not-boundary crossing. I suppose that boundary is also crossed with referencing transition, but there’s so much more in there with transition.

If he meant my transition—well, whew! I mean, there are a few awkward things about that. One is that it’s pretty patronizing for him as a cis person to call my journey a courageous one. Even if it is, even if does require a lot of courage.

It’s especially galling given how he’s already tried to shut down that journey before. I imagine that’s why he said it—he wanted to say, “Hey, I’m trying to affirm who you are now.”

But that ship has sailed, bro. You missed that opportunity. It’s a little late now.

And saying that you hope I continue it now—it implies that I’m considering discontinuing it. The only way I’ve really considered doing that is by suicide. And I’m sure you didn’t really mean, I hope you don’t kill yourself. But maybe you did. I don’t really know, because this was so vague.

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Guess what? Discrimination is more awkward.

#LeelahAlcorn, agedner, ally, cisgender, cissexism, genderqueer, non-binary, resilience, suicidal ideation, transgender, transphobia, youth rights

MASSIVE TRIGGER WARNING: suicide, transphobia, cissexism, discrimination, #LeelahAlcorn

Why do our babies have to die?

Why do we live in a world where little trans kids want to die rather than live their lives?

Who is making it so unbearable for us to be alive?

We are just trying to be ourselves. We are just looking for respect, dignity, our true truths of ourselves.

We keep on dying for people to maintain their ideas, their boxes, their order of things, their wrong order of things.

They say, we would rather you die and us stay in our boxes. We would rather you die, because you don’t follow these whimsical Willy Wonka rules that never fit anyone anyway.

We would rather you die than us feel uncomfortable.

I want to live in a world where anyone, child, teenager, adult, someone who has thousands of wrinkles—where anyone realizing that their gender doesn’t fit these rules doesn’t want to die. Where every single person who realize they’re trans or something like it—where death doesn’t seem like a better solution than facing the trauma. Where it no longer seems like nearly everyone trans I know has thought about suicide, or attempted it.

When that has happened, it’s not a matter of an individual problem. Unless you think oppression is a series of coincidences.

I want to live in a world where we are welcomed and held with open arms by everyone, where our trueness of self is celebrated.

I don’t want us to die for the sake of cis people’s fear—their fear of discovering their own selves, their fear of toes getting over the line, their stupid fucking fear of gender being awkward.

Well, of course it’s awkward. It’s a coercive system that forces people into a rigid set of unnatural rules that governs nearly everything that someone does in order to maintain an oppressive hierarchy.

I’d call that awkward, maybe. Maybe discrimination is more awkward than your discomfort. Maybe suicide is.

If someone not fitting your idea of what their gender “should” be is awkward, just think about how it might feel when they’re dead.

Do you feel less awkward, now that we’re not in front of your face anymore?

This is why I can’t stop talking about trans deaths. I refuse to let us fade away. I refuse to let our deaths make us disappear.

We are here. We are here. We are here. We will be here, here, here until we rise like a glittery sun, until our fierce power and beauty spreads across the world.

We must keep on. We must move forward. We must get up every day and live, live. Because we are stunning. We are beautiful. We are handsome and dapper and kinky and funky and fabulous.

We give a gift to the world that they do not want to accept, but it is a gift nonetheless. It is freedom.

That discomfort they’re feeling? It’s the beginnings of freedom.

Of course, we aren’t here for them, though they should be grateful for us. We are here for ourselves, we are here for our communities, we are here for the glittery gorgeous right to be who we are and be safe.

Pride and love will keep us alive.

Source: http://randomflyingpigeons.deviantart.com/art/Tie-Dyed-Trans-Pride-275151732

PLEASE CALL the Trans Lifeline if you need it: 877-565-8860 in the US http://www.translifeline.org/

It’s not about you…

#LeelahAlcorn, agender, ally, cis entitlement, cisgender, cissexism, coming out, ftm, genderfluid, genderqueer, mental health system, mental illness, mtf, non-binary, parents of trans people, privilege, pronouns, saneism, solidarity, suicidal ideation, therapist, therapy, trans children, trans men, trans women, transgender, transition, transphobia, youth rights

TRIGGER WARNING: family abuse, suicide, transphobia, transmisogyny, #LeelahAlcorn

“I’ve watched as parents get supported for struggling, and failing, to cope with their child being transgender. I’ve seen parents talk about deliberately misgendering their child for months on end because it was too hard for them. Parents who used non-binary pronouns, despite not having a gender neutral child, because they didn’t feel ready to switch over to the pronouns their child preferred. One common thread through all these conversations is “I need…”

“You know what? It’s not about you!

“We don’t get to pick the kids we raise. We don’t get to choose their height, their hair colour, their IQ, their skills, their goals, or their gender. It’s that simple. I couldn’t pick singing skills and you can’t pick gender. And it doesn’t matter if you think you were raising a boy and instead, whoops, she’s a girl… or vice versa… or neither… or both.

“…The benchmark for being a good, supportive parent to a trans child is not “well I didn’t kick him/her/them out”. If you can’t manage to use your child’s preferred name and pronouns, you are not a supportive parent.

Because I'm Fabulous

I remember being pregnant with my children, feeling as their gentle flutters progressed into full belly flops on my bladder and painful karate kicks against the backs of my ribs. Back then I had no clue what my children would be like; they were more like ideas than real people. I’d sit in my rocking chair with my hands clasped gently over my stomach and wonder who they’d be. Dreaming of children who loved singing as much as me; envisioning singing rounds, our voices weaving together in harmony.

Then they were born. Short, chubby, bald people who looked a lot more like Winston Churchill than either their Dad or myself. People that screamed randomly, pooped on themselves, and considered “gah” to be an entire conversation. I still had no idea what they were like except loud, messy, and highly uncoordinated. They slowly evolved into their own people. Emma was colicky and had a desperate need to be…

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THIS JUST IN: Therapists Nationwide Control Clients’ Genitalia in Practices Sanctioned and Required by DSM

ableism, agender, ally, cis entitlement, cissexism, dehumanization, dysphoria, gatekeeper model, gender fluid, gender specialist, genderfluid, genderqueer, saneism, therapist, transgender, transition, transphobia

TRIGGER WARNING: bad therapy, gatekeeping model of trans care, gatekeeping apologism, staying closeted, cis entitlement

To the “trans ally” who said that it is good for everyone to talk to a therapist, just a few times, just to make sure… To all the “trans allies” and others who seem to think that gatekeeping is a good idea.

Even more, to the trans people who have to put up with this BS in therapy, and who start to believe it, too.

To my younger self, who believed that a therapist knew more about who I was than I did—keeping me away from myself for six more years because of a “gender specialist.”

To all the people who stay away from their true selves longer because a therapist “knew best.”

Gatekeepers are not here by our own consent or for our own good. The only person who needs to make sure that we fully understand medical decisions we make about our bodies is our doctor. And they simply are there to tell us what effects this might have on our body.

We then make the decision about what’s best for us.

In no way is it benign or helpful for us to be FORCED to go to therapy about it. Not only are we forced to go to therapy, but the decision is taken entirely out of our own hands. In a space where therapists aren’t even supposed to give us a hug, they are supposed to decide what we are able to do with our bodies. That is horrible therapeutic practice.

In a space where physical touch is forbidden, therapists still reach into our genitalia and into our chests and force them to stay a certain way. In no universe is that therapeutic. In all universes is that traumatizing.

And cis people, in general, you have no fucking clue what you’re talking about when it comes to being trans. I don’t care how many trans friends or lovers you have. You still have no fucking clue BECAUSE YOU AREN’T TRANS.

And because you have no fucking clue, you have NO RIGHT TO AN OPINION on this subject, or any subject when it comes to trans people. Fine, think your thoughts in your mind. But your opinion can never trump the opinions of THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE TO LIVE WITH IT.

You have no right to tell me what you think about a therapist being able to tell me what secondary sex characteristics I should have.

The only person who gets to decide what to do with my body is me. Every. Single. Time.

You are a rotten feminist if you think otherwise.

The gatekeeper model of trans “care” has traumatized trans people since its inception. We have been given access to medical transition based on curiosity, based on research, based on paternalism, based on saneism, based on how well we wear a dress, how well we wear our cuff links, how well we walk with a swagger or a swish.

Only in the past few years have non-binary people even made the list on standards of care. It’s certainly not only in the past few years that we’ve existed.

Only in the past year has our trans-ness been designated “dysphoria” and not a disorder. Only this year have we been told that we aren’t crazy simply because we are trans.

How do you think that a system that produces so much suffering for trans people is BENEVOLENT? How could that be? The only way you would think that is if you didn’t experience this sort of trauma at the hands of providers. Clearly, you haven’t.

Providers in general, as a system and as most individuals, enact these power trips every single time. It’s enough to send you to….

Oh. Therapy. Womp wooomp.

Doctors do not have our best interests at heart. Therapists do not have our best interests at heart. They are on power trips, large or small—at least on the trip of authority. They are not here to help us. They simply stand in the way of us and the care we need.

Yes, there are individual exceptions. But if you are attempting to get something you need from a provider for any period of time (for more reasons than medical transition—but that’s a story for another time), you will quickly come to this conclusion.

So why is it again that my THERAPIST gets to decide whether I cut off my boobs or not??? Why do YOU, cis person, think it is acceptable that a therapist can decide this for a trans person?

Could it be that society dictates that cis people always have a right to trans bodies—to gawk at, to experiment on, to decide what gender we are, to decide what’s appropriate for our “freakish” selves? Could it be, perhaps, that SOME CIS ENTITLEMENT has gotten in your way?

Consider that it is a possibility… and then get your hands off of my crotch. I like to keep it to myself, thank you very much.

Part 5: Some Groups and Organizations that Center/Include Trans People of Color

#blacklivesmatter, activism, ally, cissexism, non-binary, non-binary people of color, racism, solidarity, transgender, transgender people of color, transphobia, white supremacy

TRIGGER WARNING: racism in queer and trans communities, prison-industrial complex

See this post (“White Silence and Black Deaths”) for an introduction to the many parts of this post. I feel almost embarrassed to be signal boosting these rad organizations on my blog–they already have so much wider of an audience. However, if you are able to monetarily or otherwise support these organizations, or to signal boost for donations (especially during this month that’s often so focused on fundraising)–please do! And, of course, if you don’t know about these folks already, you should check them out!

Audre Lorde Project:

“The Audre Lorde Project is a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Two Spirit, Trans and Gender Non-Conforming People of Color community organizing center, focusing on the New York City area. Through mobilization, education and capacity-building, we work for community wellness and progressive social and economic justice. Committed to struggling across differences, we seek to responsibly reflect, represent and serve our various communities.”

Black and Pink:

“Black & Pink is an open family of LGBTQ prisoners and “free world” allies who support each other. Our work toward the abolition of the prison industrial complex is rooted in the experience of currently and formerly incarcerated people. We are outraged by the specific violence of the prison industrial complex against LGBTQ people, and respond through advocacy, education, direct service, and organizing.” Find an incarcerated LGBTQ pen pal—the waiting list is long!

Black Transmen, Inc.

“Black Transmen Inc.® is the 1st National Non-Profit Organization of African American transmen solely focused on acknowledgment, social advocacy and empowering transmen with resources to aid in a healthy female to male transition. Black Transmen Inc. programs provide all female to male transmen and SLGBTQI individuals with necessary tools to secure identity and equality within our society regardless of race, creed, color, religion, sexual identity or sexual expression.”

Body Image 4 Justice:

“Formed in 2013, BodyImage4Justice (BI4J) aims to bring the LGBTQ community together through the common cause and interest of body image, health and wellness. We focus on empowerment and social justice for the trans community through events, workshops, political action, advocacy, and other activities that further our mission and support the health and well-being of community members. BI4J recognizes the complexity of our community, and the way that multiple identities impact our experience of health, body image, and wellness. We are building collaborative relationships with other LGBTQ organizations to support our mutual goals and improve awareness of and access to health care and health-promoting resources. We work to make the connection between body image and health explicit and visible in our communities.”

Brown Boi Project:

“We work for Gender Justice, which means we are not satisfied with the traditional expectations of masculinity and femininity; they tend to box us in and make embodying femininity negative in our culture. Instead, we are fighting with others to build healthy and affirming ideas around gender. We are talking about our responsibilities and privilege as masculine people, and we are working hard to change the power dynamics in our relationships, families, and communities. We believe that by investing in the lives of feminine-identified people – especially womyn, girls, and trans folks – we will shift the balance of power. We are striving for the day when all brown bois can embody non-oppressive masculinities rooted in honor, community, and empowerment of others.”

Brown Grrlz Project:

“The Brown Grrlz Project brings womyn together regardless to class, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, sexual identification, religion or culture. The Brown Grrlz Project is dedicated to challenging the way that hegemonic society defines and oppresses womyn of color. We do so by creating intentional spaces where we act as authors of our own experience and are valued and recognized, by affirming and sharing science and knowledge. We also provide support for traumatic outcomes of oppression through community building, community based education, creating healing spaces and hosting skill shares. We affirm our value through creating spaces for us to celebrate ourselves and our dedication to building a society beyond exclusion.”

Sylvia Rivera Law Project:

“The Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP) works to guarantee that all people are free to self-determine their gender identity and expression, regardless of income or race, and without facing harassment, discrimination, or violence. SRLP is a collective organization founded on the understanding that gender self-determination is inextricably intertwined with racial, social and economic justice. Therefore, we seek to increase the political voice and visibility of low-income people and people of color who are transgender, intersex, or gender non-conforming. SRLP works to improve access to respectful and affirming social, health, and legal services for our communities. We believe that in order to create meaningful political participation and leadership, we must have access to basic means of survival and safety from violence.”

Trans Justice Funding Project:

“The Trans Justice Funding Project is a community-led funding initiative supporting grassroots, trans justice groups run by and for trans people.”

Trans People of Color Coalition:

“The intersections of race, gender, sexuality and class impact the lives of transpeople of color in complex and unique ways. Our voices have often been ignored, appropriated, marginalized, or silenced. TPOCC seeks to break that cycle and empower our community by building a pipeline of activists and advocates to engage and connect with one another to create a holistic movement of support, resources, and education by and for transpeople of color.”

Part 4: Ignacio Rivera, Ngọc Loan Trần, and Fabian Romero

cissexism, coming out, communities of care, hate crimes, hate crimes legislation, imperialism, non-binary, non-binary people of color, prison-industrial complex, racism, transgender, transgender people of color, transphobia, white supremacy

TRIGGER WARNING: colonization, racism, imperialism, racism in queer and trans communities, disproportionate incarceration of people of color, hate crimes

See this post (“White Silence and Black Deaths”) for an introduction to the many parts of this post. I feel almost embarrassed to be signal boosting these rad people on my blog–they already have so much wider of an audience. But they are wonderful people to learn from. If you don’t know about these folks already, you should check them out!

Ignacio Rivera:

Ignacio Rivera is a pretty fabulous activist who writes about all sorts of issues. Check out their blog. In this article they say:

“The New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project states that the major perpetrators of hate-based violence towards LGBT people are young white men, and a close second are men of African descent.  The Prison industrial complex is overflowing with people of color, men of color; Black and Brown men to be exact. It is duly noted that people of color get tougher and longer sentencing then their white counterparts. Who will feel the brunt of hate crimes legislation?

“Okay, you may think, ‘Who cares! If they do the crime, they must do the time.’ My point in this matter is not to deflect from the heinous crimes that hate-based offenders perpetrate, but that in helping to ‘free’ one marginalized group we cannot oppress another. Just as Mathew Shepard’s mother fought to take the death penalty off the table for one of her own son’s killers, we must not contribute to preserving the prison industrial complex. The system further damages broken people, especially people of color, and greatly falters on rehabilitation. We continue to look wholly to systems that oppress us for definitive help.

Ngọc Loan Trần:

This is an excerpt from this piece on their blog:

“my struggle is for building love.

“my struggle is for those of us who cannot fit colonial identities but take the risk anyways, to learn the ways our bodies are erased through description to learn the ways to create for our own. it is for those of us who grow out our hair for our moms. it is for those of us who sacrifice and grow through our hurt. it is for those of us who are sensitive, vulnerable but not ready to leave family, skin, and blood for some white narrative on what queer chosen families need to be. it is for those of us who stay, stay through tears and snot and sore throats from arguing not against but for our families.

Fabian Romero:

“In my urgency, I want movements that prioritize femme people, trans women, trans people of color, two spirit people, Indigenous, fat people, folks with disability, sex trade workers, survivors of sexual violence and create environments where accountability is given more merit than quick forms of discipline or punishment. I want to be in a movement where calling in and and out are both respected and where we acknowledge that the people most punished for calling out others are often times also the ones that must yell in order to be heard. I want accessible spaces that allow vulnerability, because let’s face it in our own spaces we mimic white classist ableist codes of conduct that often times prioritize looking strong over being whole. I believe it is possible to still be powerful in our messy processes and know that it is possible although hard to hold this contradiction. We need this space. I urge you to see your sites of marginalizations as your power outside of systems of power, we are inherently good and to also hold your privileges with the same passion as you do your oppressions.”—from their blog

Part 2: Monica Roberts, Dr. Kortney Ziegler, and Black Girl Dangerous

#blacklivesmatter, activism, ally, appropriation, cissexism, ftm, mtf, queer people of color, racism, trans people of color, transgender, transphobia, white supremacy

TRIGGER WARNING: racism in the trans community, violence against trans people of color, criminalization of trans people of color, cultural appropriation

See this post (“White Silence and Black Deaths”) for an introduction to the many parts of this post. I feel almost embarrassed to be signal boosting these rad people on my blog–they already have so much wider of an audience. But they are wonderful people to learn from. If you don’t know about these folks already, you should check them out!

Transgriot:

Monica Roberts on racist attacks within the trans community against Janet Mock and Laverne Cox in her article “Why You All So ‘Scurred’ of Black Trans People Owning Their Power?”

“We have been asking for years to be included in trans leadership ranks that look like a Republican Party convention and you keep ignoring or dismissing our concerns and requests to do so.  We are suffering with a 26% unemployment rate in Black Transworld and near genocidal levels of anti-trans violence being aimed at us that needs to be dealt with now, not 5, 10 or 50 years from now.

For the last 61 years the trans narrative has centered on whiteness.  The transfeminine one has like in the parent society, white transwomen being the penultimate in beauty and femininity while Black transwomen are belittled, denigrated and murdered along with our trans Latina sisters.

“…I am Black first, trans second.  If I had any doubts about where I stand in that regard as a member of the trans community, I get a reminder of it every time I call out the bigoted and racist bull feces that occasionally pops up in our trans community ranks and you angrily hiss back I’m ‘angry’ or ‘playing the race card’ for simply for being willing to call your unacknowledged white privileged behinds out.

“…It was past time for Black transpeople to close ranks, lift each other up as white transpeople have done for the last six decades, have those trans conversations in our Black SGL and cis communities, and do the education because we are the people best suited to discuss trans issues in our community.

“…If you fear the rise of the New Black Transwoman and the New Black Transman because of your unacknowledged privilege, have several seats.  You can #bemad and #staymad about it.

“We would rather work together to build community with our white trans brothers and sisters and our cis, bi  and SGL allies to advance our common goal of human rights for all.  

“But we Black transpeople will no longer do so as a disrespected junior partner that you throw under the bus every time our opponents wave an opportunity in front of your noses to get your lost platinum white privilege levels back.
Dr. Kortney Ziegler:

He has his own blog (linked above) and here is an article that was also published on The Advocate. It’s called “The Peculiarity of Black Trans Male Privilege:”

“Although I’m less likely to be sexually assaulted because of the ways in which I present my gender, this privilege is in exchange for becoming a visible target of racist practices designed to police young black manhood. Policies such as “stop and frisk” and the sanctioned citizen killings of young black men like Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis have forced me to learn new ways to manage my body to attract the least amount of attention. I am constantly learning new social cues to present myself as less threatening, less aggressive, and less criminal, to challenge the irrational fear of black masculinity that can literally end my life.”

Black Girl Dangerous

This is on Black Girl Dangerous, which posts articles by queer and trans people of color. From a conversation between Mia McKenzie and Janani Balasubramanian…

Mia: “At that moment I sort of realized how much queerness is blackness, and the ways that we express queerness, that’s a Black vernacular.  That’s a way that’s very very connected to Black culture, and the ways that queer culture has just sort of taken as it will from Black culture without a lot of acknowledgement of Black culture, just completely appropriated from it.  And not only without acknowledgement of it, but without even respect for it.  You can have the same person, like a Black woman in the inner city saying something or dressing in a particular way, having a certain way of expressing herself. You can take that exact same expression and put it on a white gay man and it’s so much more acceptable.”

Janani: “And marketable.”

Autostraddle (signal boost):

Also, Autostraddle has an article that highlights 50 zines by queer (and trans) people of color: http://www.autostraddle.com/50-zines-by-queer-people-of-color-184692/

Trans Lives as a Corny TV Show

agender, cissexism, coming out, dehumanization, gender fluid, genderqueer, media, media justice, misgendering, trans representation, transgender, transphobia, TV

TRIGGER WARNING: We don’t live in a world with accurate media representation of trans people. If our invisibility and/or abysmal media representation triggers you, this piece may not be fab to read. Also, mention of misgendering and discriminatory transitions in schools/workplaces.

Wouldn’t it be kind of rad if a TV show portrayed trans lives, coming out and being out and living trans lives, in a suspense/drama style? It would have to happen in an alternate universe, where enough people cared enough about trans lives to want to consume the challenges we face in a popcorn-crunching, candy-gnashing thriller manner, complete with suspenseful music. Let’s be real, our lives are ripe for consuming and processing conflict and strife, overcoming challenges, and all the other stuff of slightly tacky TV.

I mean, it wouldn’t have to be tacky TV, but that’s how I’m imagining it right now… This could be a break scene in between a suspenseful moment of a person who has been birth-named after announcing their real name:

[SCENE: A darkened room. Two figures enter the room in dark trench coats, with large-brimmed black hats over their eyes, and sunglasses. They lean towards each other slightly and use low voices.]

Person 1: How’s the name change procedure going in Workplace A?

Person 2: The usual. She just got birth-named.

Person 1: It’s time to bring on the special forces.

Person 2: No, let’s start with the Initial Surge Plan—education.

Person 1: Well, be quick about it. Lives are on the line. In School J, we’re already taking executive action.

Person 2: I know what’s at stake. Godspeed.

Person 1: Godspeed to you, too.

The whole show would be interspersed with lush, close-up, dramatic scenes of basic trans lives and challenges. I’m sure a lot of it would be related to trans oppression, but I think I would particularly enjoy this show if it also talked about the daily struggle to make coffee in the morning, cook eggs with your sweetie, floss your teeth, tie your shoes, and get off of the computer in a timely enough manner to get to bed.

[SCENE: Back in the darkened room.]

Person 1: Bed at midnight again?

Person 2: I know, and zie has to get up at 5am.

Person 1: What kind of state are trans lives coming to?

I mean, for real, sometimes that stuff is a daily struggle. I was talking with my mom earlier today, who just doesn’t get a lot of this. She was trying to tell me to have a more positive attitude about the discrimination I’m facing, because my attitude is the one thing I can change. I told her that for many trans people, getting through the day is an accomplishment. She did come around a bit then and congratulated me on getting through my day.

Of course, trans representation in the media is often on cheesy TV shows, but it certainly is not usually as humanizing or sympathetic. Or it doesn’t portray us as alive or happy for very long. We need a show on our own terms, a show that displays all of these things, complete with cheesy music and a tinny intro tune. The range of our lives, on a weekly corny TV drama.

Or not. But at least I would be laughing in the back of the theater.

Non-Binary Social Transition

"passing", activism, agender, cissexism, coming out, dehumanization, dysphoria, gender fluid, genderfluid, genderqueer, misgendering, non-binary, pronouns, transgender, transphobia

TW: transphobia, binarism, coming out

You all, being out is exhausting some days. It is a hard, long, heartbreaking slog. I remember when I was first finding words for my gender and reading about how rainbowgenderpunk wore name and pronoun tags everywhere, insisting that people respect their gender identity.

I was completely impressed and astonished at how rainbowgenderpunk went out into the world every day, insisting on being recognized for themself. Some trans people do not have this choice–some trans people simply do not pass as a cis person of either binary gender. They can’t revoke their own passing privilege with a nametag–they just live it, every day.

I pass as a gender-non-conforming cis woman, most of the time. It’s a wrong assumption, but it’s what people see when they see me: a queer woman. Just typing that makes me feel dysphoric. Coming out has meant dismantling that assumption whenever I am able/comfortable. And, the longer I am out, the more I clarify my gender in a larger amount of places and with more people. The longer I am out, the more I have the courage and confidence to insist on my right pronouns with people who already know them.

Now that I have been out publicly for a whole… hm, 3 or 4 months, I have to say that the excitement has worn off. The glow, if there was any, is gone. The apprehension and anxiety of “Will they accept me?” has changed to the apprehension and anxiety of “Should I be the ‘good trans person’ or the ‘angry trans person’ today?” The question is never, “Will my voice be heard and respected today?” This has become my real life, and it’s hard to swallow.

A friend of mine asked me this weekend, “Do you want to fight?” I said “no” with the core of my being. No, I do not want to fight. I do not want to fight for a space in this world where I can be myself. I do not want to fight, but I have no choice. I must fight, in almost every space I am, every minute of every day. I have some havens, unlike many trans people. I have friends who are totally affirming–I’ve ditched the ones that aren’t. But outside of that small circle, the world erases my existence over and over, and I am pushing so hard to keep myself intact.

I wish I could choose when to turn on my fight, at least, but that is not an option. I wish I could find a job where I was physically and mentally safe. Maybe that will happen. Settling into non-binary social transition means apprehensive faces on the people that have heard about you, but don’t know what to do with you. It means faces that have turned from friendly warmth, from asking how you are doing and how your job is going, to an “Um, hi.” Coming out means being seen as angry when you ask for people to call you by the right words. Coming out means no matter how good a worker you are, how fancy your resume, you will be unemployable.

Because coming out as non-binary means coming out as a revolutionary. There is no other option. I am radical, and I care about our movement, but I want to take off the cloak once in a while. I want to just be me.

Here, though, we are revolutionaries, day in and day out. We are revolutionaries when we insist on respect, over, and over, and over. We insist daily on what others have for granted. We are revolutionaries, too, when we simply keep on breathing. We are revolutionaries by being here in this world, this world that has erased us over and over into dust, still stuck in rubbery threads to the page. We are revolutionaries when we stay stuck to that page no matter how they try to brush us off. When we slowly, slowly, piece ourselves together from the indentations that were left by those that came before.

We are, too, revolutionaries if we never come out. Coming out–and then being out–is the hardest shit, sometimes, a lot of the time. Being yourself and alive inside of your skin–no one even knowing–that is a radical act. Because once you are out, you can never stop fighting.

Who are you when you transition to “neither” or to “both”? What are the social expectations for non-binary people? We talk about transitioning to male or female and what the jarring disorientation of that looks like–but what happens when we insist on non-binary gender?

Our experiences vary even more widely than for binary social transition. Please feel free to share your own stories, here or on your own blogs. Keep on going, keep on going, whether you only live on the private insides of your skin or you wear a nametag every day or you wake up fully visible as trans or non-binary. You are giving love to yourself and love to your community every time you wake up.

Thank you. The world does not thank you, but I do. Thank you for sticking tight to the pages of the world, and filling in the painstaking drawings of our lives, again and again and again.

…And stay tuned for Part II, where we get out of the downer end of things and into some highlights of my own coming-out process. AKA “In Which Coming Out Is Actually OK Sometimes.”

Happy Genderqueer-oween!

agender, cissexism, dysphoria, fashion, genderfluid, genderqueer, glitter, Halloween, non-binary, transgender

TW: binary clothes shopping experience, suppression of gender expression at work

I was certain for weeks that I wanted to be a ninja turtle for Halloween. I haven’t actually seen Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in a long time, but somehow all the new-movie advertising reached the insides of my pop-culture-insulated cave, and I remembered them and thought they were cool. A random person at a party informed me I was Donatello, as I chose “bookish” as the best adjective for me. A teacher I used to work with offered up one of her kid’s old ninja turtle shells. Things were set. I haven’t had an opportunity to wear a costume in a few years, so I was pretty excited.

Then this past Extra Hellish Week rolled around, and I didn’t have time to find a costume until today. I haven’t been expressing anything particularly frilly at work, because I don’t want anyone saying, “See?? I told you you were a girl!” It might sound odd, but even though I only sometimes wear “boyish” things, and never really identify as masculine or butch (or feminine or femme for that matter), and certainly don’t want to be seen as a butch woman, I’d rather be read as gender non-conforming in some way than not at all—even though, right now, I’d probably more consistently say that if I had to be perceived in a binary fashion, “fancy boy” would be what I’d prefer.

The result, though, of suppressing all other expressions at work except “dapper,” “bookish,” “flashy,” and, sometimes, “surfer dude,”—basically, suppressing my fairy/pansy self and my glam “lady” side—is that I have become increasingly desperate to express those parts of myself whenever I can. Usually meaning, whenever I care less about if people see me as a girl, or if I feel like most people around me won’t make assumptions about my gender.

So I suppose that I shouldn’t have been too surprised this morning when I woke up, and after the usual half-hour of what-to-wear panic, I determined that I wanted to be something frillier for Halloween. By the time I got off of work, I knew I wanted to buy all the flouncy, sparkly fabrics on Halloween sale at the fabric store, and safety-pin them together. (I haven’t sewed anything since our pillow-sewing project in seventh grade.)

After walking through the girls’ section and sheepishly trying on too-tight XL Frozen and My Little Pony shirts, and bemoaning the fact that people only seem to put glitter on “girls’” clothing, I wandered through the too-cute toddler dresses and high tops, wishing myself baby-sized again. By the time I tried on a girls’ pink flouncy dress that didn’t button in the back, and saw at least 30 princess Halloween dresses, I knew what I wanted to be: a fairy princess. The problem was, I wanted to be this 20 years too late, according to society. At the Halloween store, they even had a unicorn costume! And a RAINBOW FAIRY costume! But only for people 8 years old and under, or for very small others.

I am just small enough to be tempted by some of these costumes, but no luck. I am still cobbling together some sort of costume (I vetoed the LED-light tutu because it was $30, and I did get some girls’ rainbow fairy wings), but it’s looking like my dreams of full fairy-princess glory will have to be put off for some other time. Why do “women’s” fancy dresses come only in darker, more “dignified” colors? What, may I ask, is wrong with bright pink, lavender, and tulle? I am here to demand glittery clothes in all sizes! Go glitter or go home!

Just some basic fashion questions here on Genderqueer-oween. If you celebrate, hope you all have a genderfabulous evening!