Stop Playing Dress-Up With My Oppression

Uncategorized

CONTENT NOTE: fabulousphobia, non-binary erasure, femmephobia, transphobia, appropriation, assault, suicide, unemployment

Source: http://www.cityonahillpress.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/QFS3.jpg?w=582

[Image description: A stage covered in glittery confetti (which is also falling through the air) has humans dressed in colorful clothes and balloons behind the confetti in the foreground.]

Well, now I understand why people talk about drag shows as violent.

I am not a costume.

I am not your exotic fabulosity.

I am not a joke.

My gender isn’t something to be played with by people who have better genders to put on when the sun rises. My life is not your dress-up.

But my oppression has become a mannequin for your fashion show.

You might get high off the crowd’s love, but no one cheers me on when I show up at the office in an orange trenchcoat.

When I get dressed, it’s not a moment to broaden my horizons.

No, when I get dressed, it’s a fucking panic attack.

My clothes are not a performance. My gender is not a farce. This isn’t a show that will be over at the end of the night.

This is me.

I am real.

This is not cis voyeurism into trans experience. This is my daily life.

My outfits are not fabulous for your commodification or appropriation. Fabulous has become so over- and wrongly- used (do you say I am fabulous when I show up in court as myself?) that I say it isn’t my word at all. It’s yours.

I am rad, but because I am me. For me, my outfits are quotidian, and every one I wear, whether it’s Carhartts and plaid or feather boas and striped socks, is me. All of them are fabulous.

I am not only fabulous sometimes. There is no “fabulous” uniform. I am not fabulous today and drab tomorrow. I am both fabulous and boring every day.

I may panic more when getting dressed, but I don’t need your objectification of my gender expression making that harder.

It is me,

it is mine,

I am whole.

Don’t make that struggle yours by wearing my clothes as a costume and laughing at how open-minded you are. Laughing at how silly you look in all

that

glitter,

all those bright colors.

Why is it that you get more support for looking like me for one night than I do in my entire lifetime?

If you really want to take up the mantle with us, try working to end our suicide or unemployment or assault rates.

Not wearing our clothes.

If you cared about that half as much as you did about us looking fabulous, we’d be in a fucking different place by now.

Think about that before your next drag show, your next fashion show, your next roundup of performed gender.

Who is this for?

Why are you doing this?

What reasons are helpful?

Which ones hurt?

And let me just be. I shouldn’t have to see myself paraded every which way, every sashay, myself snatched in every laugh and cheer.

This is for you.

You do this for fun. To joke at ridiculous and strangeness, what you see as an exaggeration.

I do this to live.

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A Valentine for My Community

chronic illness, community, crazy, disability, genderfluid, genderqueer, mental illness, non-binary, resilience, self-care, sick, trans, transgender, transphobia, Valentine's Day

Source: https://img0.etsystatic.com/000/1/5289670/il_340x270.196259270.jpg

TW: transphobia, ableism, abuse, trauma, denial of self

Valentine’s Day has never been my favorite holiday. OK, I’ve absolutely hated it. But I wanted to use today to send out a valentine to my fam, to my community. I want to thank you for being alive and being you, every day. I want to thank you for having the courage to find yourself and be yourself, despite all odds. Even when it doesn’t seem like you have a choice, thank you for going down that path anyway. Thank you for holding and nurturing your selves, your real selves, even when it feels so hard to do it.

Thank you for holding each other up, for reaching out to others again and again. Thank you for writing and building community, as you can, if you can. Choosing to be ourselves in this world is choosing to stand up to a lifetime, a society’s worth of abuse and trauma and no no nos.

But again and again, we claim ourselves. We take ourselves from the clutches of a world that likes to determine who we are for us, and we wrap our selves in blankets, hold our selves close, watch our selves grow.

Whether or not you are involved with someone else this year, and however that relationship is, take the time to celebrate the love for yourself that has gotten you this far, and the love for yourself that will get you through. Because that is the strength and beauty and toughness of our community: self-love, even when mixed with shame, even when it’s hard to find, even when we don’t have it—finding our selves, being our selves, is self-love, despite it all.

Happy Valentine’s Day. Thank you for being here. Thank you for holding on enough to be here.

We will thrive someday. We can thrive.

Always remember yourself, OK?

Why FAAB Non-Binary People Must Recognize Transmisogyny

agender, faab, femininity, femme, femmephobia, gender expression, genderfluid, genderqueer, maab, masculinity, non-binary, non-binary erasure, transmisogyny, transphobia

Trigger Warning: transmisogyny, transphobia, non-binary erasure, violence against trans people

NOTE: I know not everyone uses the words “masculinity” and “femininity” for themselves (I don’t), but for the sake of brevity I’m using them here.

themanicpixienightmaregirl:themanicpixienightmaregirl:Hey Nightmare Girls, this is going to be the first t-shirt. Eh?http://www.cafepress.com/manicpixienightmaregirls

Source: http://themanicpixienightmaregirl.tumblr.com/post/109631076432/themanicpixienightmaregirl

A few weeks ago, I saw a MAAB student start wearing some new clothes to school–a sparkly striped pink, purple, and blue shirt; a red sweatshirt with silver rhinestones. The clothes complimented their rainbow pink light-up shoes very nicely.

As I saw this student finally able to make some changes in their school wardrobe, I was excited, for sure, and scared for them, hoping it was going OK. I also realized something–I think I knew it in theory before, but it hit my gut that week.

This student wearing glitter and purple and pink and rhinestones–the censure they face is fundamentally different from the censure I face as someone who is (and is perceived as) FAAB. Transmisogyny and/or femmephobia is something that affects all MAAB people that deviate from the norms set by masculinity.

Those norms are stricter, with less room to move, than the norms set by femininity. Although FAAB people who deviate from those norms still face problems (for sure!) masculinity in FAAB people is more accepted and met with less violence than femininity in MAAB people.

With my body as it currently is, and in the queer-friendly area where I live, I can express my gender in a much wider range than someone who is or is perceived as MAAB, without as intense of a risk of violence.

Now, do I struggle with tons of shit and transphobia? Of course I do! Do I always feel comfortable with the way people are perceiving me? No–on days when I wear a dress, I hate when people think I’m a girl. Do I feel like I have a license to express my gender how I truly want to, all the time? No, definitely not–my gender expression, in some of its forms, is outside the realms of acceptability.

But, as long as I am seen as FAAB, it is much less likely to bring physical violence my way. Even if I leave the house in fairy wings, a leather jacket, plaid pants, glittery platforms, and a big straw hat. I may be laughed at, sure, ostracized, yes, deemed unprofessional–the marginalizations are real, and why I don’t always express my gender all the ways I’d like to.

But it’s still safer. It’s still safer. It’s still safer.

FAAB people, I know we are not a monolithic category. We have a huge range of experiences. If we are perceived as MAAB but also express a lot of femininity, we might even experience different pieces of femmephobia that feel a lot like transmisogyny, even if it’s different.

(Personally, although I’m neither a femme man nor a butch woman, if I had to choose I’d rather be perceived as a femme man. It’s not what I want to be perceived as, but given the options most people think of, it’s the better possibility. But I have to admit that one reason (among many) I’m nervous about taking medical steps for that to happen is all of the extra violence that will be thrown my way.)

We FAAB people come from all sorts of experiences, and we still need to recognize all forms of transmisogyny. It’s real. It’s killing our siblings at very high rates. It may feel like the unique problems of non-binary erasure are affecting us all equally. They’re not. They’re not in 1001 ways (this isn’t even going into how race, class, ability, nationality, etc. affect people). But one big way is the way in which femininity on MAAB (and MAAB-appearing) bodies is reviled and exterminiated.

Honor our siblings who are well aware of this, for whom this is their daily life, for whom this is their deaths, our siblings who wear pink and purple and glitter and rhinestones and light-up shoes anyway. Listen to their stories.

And call out transmisogyny when you see it, again and again. Act in solidarity with our MAAB siblings. Work towards love, for everyone, again and again, and again.

It’s how we’ll all get free.

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.

A Name and Pronoun Game for All Your Introductory Needs!

agender, gender fluid, genderqueer, group activities, misgendering, non-binary, pronouns, teaching, transgender

I’ve been wanting to post this week, but I have been away and haven’t had the time… until now!

As someone who works in an elementary school, I have learned a great many ways to greet others in songs, chants, and dances. This is one of my favorites. I have adapted it as a way to practice names and pronouns with a new group of youngsters…. or oldsters, if they are so inclined! A lot of people might think it’s cheesy at first, but once they get started, there is a distinct possibility that they’ll like it. Sometimes people just need to take off their cool shirts, as an old boss of mine used to tell me.

I am trying to figure out ways to make it accessible to more people. I know that I could make modifications on the spot doing this game, because accessibility for everyone at all times is difficult with so many conflicting needs, but if anyone has suggestions, I’d love them too.

Feel free to use this with family, friends, classes, camp, work–anywhere, really!

___________________________________________________________________________


The Pronouning Jam

Make a circle in which everyone is facing each other. Before beginning, if the group is unfamiliar with the concept of asking for people’s pronouns, make sure that you preteach this concept. Ask why we ask for people’s pronouns, what can happen if we don’t, and why we think that a lot of people don’t do this yet. Talk about what we can do to make that happen more. Brainstorm a number of pronouns that people use. 

The person who begins the greeting says their first name and pronouns, people say/act out the greeting for that person as they are able, and then the group moves to the next person in the circle. The words in brackets will vary for each person in the circle.

Person being greeted: My name is [first name] and my pronouns are [pronouns]!

Whole group:
Hey there, [first name]–
[pronoun] is/are a real cool cat.
[Pronoun] got a little of this
and a little of that.
So don’t be afraid
of the pronouning jam.
Just speak up and pronoun
as fast as you can!

At this point, the group, depending on ability to stand/needs of the group to let out energy, should be standing. For the [pronoun pronoun, pronoun pronoun] sections, group members should point their arms in the direction mentioned, with their palms facing, and then make circular motions with their palms.

Whole group:
[Pronoun] north!
[Pronoun, pronoun]
[Pronoun] south!
[Pronoun, pronoun]
[Pronoun] east!
[Pronoun, pronoun]
[Pronoun] west!
[Pronoun, pronoun]

The group then moves on to the next person.

I get all these fill-in-the-blanks might be a little confusing. For a real-life example I’ll plug in my own self:

Me: My name is Capt. Glittertoes and I use they/them/their pronouns.

Whole group:
Hey there, Capt. Glittertoes—
they’re a real cool cat.
They got a little of this
and a little of that.
So don’t be afraid
of the pronouning jam.
Just speak up and pronoun
as fast as you can!

They/them/their north!
They/them/their, they/them/their
They/them/their south!
They/them/their, they/them/their
They/them/their east!
They/them/their, they/them/their
They/them/their west!
They/them/their, they/them/their

___________________________________________________________________________


I want to note that this would not have been possible without the teacher I worked with a year ago teaching such catchy greetings! It is essentially a rewritten form of that greeting. Similar versions are Google-able. Here’s one: http://teachersites.schoolworld.com/webpages/kdenman/index.cfm?subpage=993540

Well, whaddaya think? Can this catch on outside of second grade? Even if it doesn’t, we need pronoun greetings in ultra-gender-imposing elementary school! I hope this one is adequate… we’ll find out next year, I hope!